Years after the war ended, people would talk about it. They would talk about how "they always suspected The Dark Lord had been up to something like Horcruxes." "It was just as I always suspected," said doddering old witches and wizards who, in their ancient wisdom, felt as though they should have suspected such things.
But no one really did. Even the long dead Dumbledore hadn't really suspected until the Horcruxes slapped him in the face, almost literally. Harry Potter, the savior, only because he had been one himself, hadn't heard of Horcruxes. Hadn't assumed that the prophesy was self-fulfilling because, let's face it, he was a child and what child understands psyche more complicated than "She's pretty, I'd love to have a good snog in the corridor when no one is looking."
But, it was what it was. People wanted to seem above it, in the know. They wanted to be that witch or wizard who had said it over and over, but no one would listen. No one wanted to be that witch or wizard who had been willing to follow the Dark Lord, so long as it meant they and their families wouldn't be tortured and killed.
Everyone wanted to be a hero.
Harry Potter was a hero, of sorts. The Boy Who Lived. The Boy Who Wouldn't Die. The Boy Who God Lucky. The Boy Who Was At The Right Place At The Right Time. The Boy Who Had His Mum To Thank.
Harry never felt like a hero, not really. He was great at Defense Against the Dark Arts, because, frankly, when Dark Arts kept trying to kill you for seven years, you adapt. He was okay at his job after school, Auror, though he was offered the job without any qualifications other than, "Well I sort of killed the Dark Lord so... uh... yeah."
He liked his wife okay. I mean, it was Ginny. He was never really fond of the complex she carried around, growing up the only girl in a house full of boys, and forced to act brutal and strong just to get by from day to day. It wore on her, and even at seventeen he could see her eyes and how tired they were.
At their wedding, he was twenty, she was nineteen. He thought it was the right thing to do. He loved Ginny, though how he loved her was still a mystery to him. Sometimes she was beautiful, sometimes she annoyed him like a little sister would.
He was standing in the wash room, staring at his reflection, thinking about how pale he looked. He wondered, 'should I look this pale on my wedding day? Is it only the bride that gets the rosy glow?' The door was cracked open and he heard people talking just outside the door.
"It's like James and Lily reborn, isn't it lovely?" Harry recognized the voice of someone who had introduced himself earlier. A tall drink of water, with lush blonde hair, who momentarily made Harry wonder if he wasn't a bit gay. The man with the name Charles, had said he had been an old colleague of James'.
"You don't find it a bit... Oedipus?" came the second voice.
Harry felt sick rise into his throat and he forced himself to swallow it down. It was a thought, a thought strongly unspoken by himself, and he was certain by others. Until now. He was sick and grateful at the same time.
"Run," he whispered to himself in the mirror. "Run!"
He didn't. He stood at the front of the aisle, watching Ginny walk down on the arm of Arthur and he thought, "She looks beautiful. I shouldn't do this to her. I shouldn't marry her. I should go. What's a lifetime of not being loved the way a person should be loved to a moment of embarrassment at being left at the alter. Of a few weeks of heartache before some real gentleman sweeps her off of her feet and makes her forget all about Harry Potter."
He said I Do, anyway, and he kissed her. He grinned, like he was the happiest man in the world, though he knew better. She was pregnant almost immediately, and he never told her that their first night he couldn't perform until he was thinking about that tall, blonde from the wedding.
The idea of being gay never shamed him, but the shame his wife would feel if he left her because he didn't fancy women kept his feelings at bay. It helped that they were good friends during this. Baby after baby arrived, and he no longer needed to invent excuses why they couldn't sleep together anymore. They were both too exhausted to do anything other than fall unconscious the moment the children were finally asleep.
Even when the older children finally went off to school, they still had little Al to contend with. He was bright, precocious, a child Harry thought he might have been, had he been given the chance to flourish under proper parental guidance. He was a child they had to keep their eye on at all times.
Honestly, it was the quiet of the house once Al had gone off to school that destroyed the marriage. Being friends wasn't enough for them anymore. They were still young and full of spirit. Ginny had expectations once the children were all away.
She expected to have the life she dreamed of when they first married, before the shrill crying of a newborn interrupted their honeymoon phase. Harry couldn't give her that. He had long since come to terms with that, and he had, in all these long years of raising children and trying to work as much as he could, forgotten that he hadn't shared the information with his wife.
It was just before Christmas, just before the children were due to come home, that he knew he had to tell her. He'd been at the pub with Ron and Andrew, a fellow Auror, enjoying the last few days of quiet before the children returned.
They were laughing and joking and drinking. A lot. A lot of drinking, Harry realized, after Ron had long since disapparated and he was left alone with Andrew in the nearly empty pub.
"You lot, we're closing now," said the bartender. It was a muggle pub, a preference of both Ron and Harry since even after all these years people still bothered him in public. It was nice that the bartender didn't offer to stay open late, or even his first born, to the great Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.
Andrew offered his arm to Harry, who needed a bit of help standing up. They laughed hard, the pair of them, at the idea of what they must look like, pissed and giggling and stumbling past the now-empty tables.
They made it to the alley, and Harry pressed his back to the wall in an effort to keep from falling over into the mucky slush that lined the streets. "I may vomit," Harry slurred.
Andrew snorted with laughter. "Just don't vomit when you apparate. I've done it once, not an experience I wish to relive."
Harry stared at him, trying to ignore the fact that there were two of him standing there, and he rubbed his face. He felt hot all over, despite the freezing temperatures. "You're gay, aren't you Andrew? Gay? You have a husband, right?"
Andrew frowned. "Er, yes, why?"
Harry closed one eye in an effort to help clear his vision. It helped, but only a little. "I think I'm gay. I think... I think..."
Andrew laughed and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "I think you're drunk, mate. You should probably get home to that wife of yours and sleep it off."
"We haven't shared a bed in fourteen years," Harry said. He felt the threatening sick in the back of his throat press a little harder. He was going to puke, but he was trying to hold it off as long as possible. "The only way I could get an erection on my wedding night was to picture this bloke I met at the wedding, an old friend of my dad's." His face was burning with embarrassment and his double vision suddenly started to swim.
"Harry, mate-" Andrew said helplessly.
Harry whirled around, doubled over, and unleashed the force of a dozen pints onto the side of a bin, laying haphazardly abandoned nearby. He heaved and retched so hard he felt like his eyeballs were going to explode. His stomach ached, he couldn't breathe, his face must have been blue!
After a minute, it was over. He would have been embarrassed if he hadn't still been too drunk to care. He wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand and wiped his hand off on his jeans. His vision had returned to normal, though he still felt a bit sideways.
Andrew had taken a few steps back to avoid any possible vomit contamination. He was shaking his head and staring at Harry, his eyes wide and curious.
"I'd kiss you, to prove it, if I hadn't just puked my guts out," Harry said and then laughed. "Honestly, I would."
"My husband would kill you," Andrew said in a half-whisper. "You're not joking, are you? Are you, mate? You're honest to God not joking."
Harry let out a laugh, harsh and disgusted with himself for living a lie this long. "Nope. If only I was. If only I was that stupid friend who got a bit gay when he was pissed. I haven't had sex with my wife since Al was conceived. I always had a reason to avoid such intimacies, you know. Kids acting mad, no sleep, so much to do. Now they're all gone, all away at school and my excuse of trying to catch up on rest is wearing thin. She wants my attention and I feel sick at the thought of giving it to her. Ginny is great, she's wonderful, but she's..."
"Not what you want," Andrew finished for him. "Unlucky bastard."
"Bit," Harry said with a sigh.
Out of nowhere, Andrew strode forward, grabbed Harry by the sides of his face and kissed him. He didn't just kiss him, he snogged him, with tongue and a groping hand. Harry's erection felt more like real magic than... well... real magic.
He was overcome with desire, his body hot as though he would actually catch fire, and when Andrew pulled away, Harry barely had breath left in him.
"You're gay," Andrew said. He spat on the pavement and wiped his mouth. "Would have been great, if you didn't taste like beer vomit."
"I warned you," Harry breathlessly, "but either way, sorry."
"Get a divorce, otherwise you'll die young, and no one wants to see the Boy Who Lived croak because he couldn't be gay."
Harry shook his head. "I don't know how to tell her."
"Try, 'Ginny, I'm gay. I kissed a man tonight and it was great. I'm sorry, we should get a divorce now.' It's right to the point."
"And what if she asks how long I've known?"
Andrew laughed and said, "Lie, you idiot. Tell her you've known for a while. Women say they want specifics, but that's a lie. They don't really want to know, they just want to think they know. I have six sisters, so believe me, even gay, I've figured the woman thing out."
Harry pulled his wand out of his pocket and stared down at it. "I'm too drunk to tell her tonight."
"That's for damn sure. Good luck, Harry. See you at work on Monday."
For the record, it went better than Harry could have imagined. Instead of demanding 'how long' Ginny just said, 'I know,' and then she cried. She wept, but she let Harry hold her, and she just told him she had just hoped he might get over it.
"I never really loved you, though," she said once the tears had dried a bit. She still looked so pretty to him, and he hated himself for making her cry. "I mean I love you, Harry. You're my husband, you're the father to my children. You've spent all these years being completely wonderful to me, and I wanted to love you, but I never did. I hated myself for not taking action, for just leaving you. You and I could have both been so happy, Harry, if we had just... talked."
Harry bowed his head and let out a small sigh. "I feel like the biggest fool."
"We're both foolish."
The children took it okay, Al taking it the hardest. He was angry at his father for not trying hard enough. Harry bought a house just down the street, a two minute walk, both houses open for the children to eat, sleep and play wherever they wanted.
Mostly they chose Ginny, not because they loved her more, but because that was their home. Harry didn't mind, he could walk over and see them whenever he wanted. James finished school and went to work with his uncle, Charlie Weasley, in Romania.
Harry had come out, but he hadn't really come out. He hadn't dated, aside from a couple of terrible nights with people that his co-workers had set him up with. After two years the world had accepted he was gay, but he was still lonely and still so tired.
It was the dead of winter, early February, when everything changed for the world's once savior. He was in Muggle London, wandering, the children at school, Ginny on holiday with her new husband, and he was lonely.
Most of the shops were starting to close, and Harry was just about to find a lone alley to disapparate in, when he caught sight of an old, familiar face in the window of a shop. There could be no mistaking the tall, black haired, hook-nosed man he thought long, long dead.
He swallowed, convinced that he had to be hallucinating, but curiosity forced him to open the door to the shop. There he was, Severus Snape, in all his glory. He stood there, tall and looming, looking just as ominous in a black turtle neck and heavy winter slacks.
"We're closed," he snapped at Harry.
Harry, surprised that Snape didn't seem to recognize him, or care that he was in his shop for that matter, sputtered. "I er... well, the door sign said ten, and it's only nine forty-five."
"Bugger the door sign, I'm done for the night," Snape barked.
Finally, Harry had gathered his senses and put his hands down on the desk Snape was standing behind and said, "Snape! How the hell are you alive? What are you doing in Muggle London?"
Snape froze. His pale skin grew paler, his black eyes darting around Harry frantically. "Who are you? How did you find me?" he hissed in that voice so familiar it sent waves of childhood fear running through Harry.
"Did you get amnesia? How do you not recognize me?" Harry blurted.
Snape muttered something and Harry heard the soft click of the front door lock. "Who sent you?"
"No one sent me, man," Harry said. "I was walking London and I saw you in your full Snape-ish glory standing in your shop window. What, are you in hiding? Did you fake your death?"
"Who are you?" Snape hissed again.
"How do you not recognize me?" Harry demanded. "I haven't changed save for a few extra wrinkles!"
"Because, you moron, I'm blind. It would be obvious to anyone with half a brain," Snape growled.
It was then Harry noticed that the eyes were indeed unfocused, wandering, staring in the direction of things, not actually at the things themselves.
"Shit," Harry said. "How... I mean... was it the snake? The venom?"
"The cure," Snape said with a shrug. "And if you don't tell me who you are, I'm going to kill you on the spot. I've a free pass for murder, you know, for all of my hero work. Not to mention only two people know Severus Snape is alive. Which, frankly, is more incentive to kill you."
"It's me, Potter," Harry said, feeling his strong voice falter. Here stood the boy who killed the Dark Lord, still on the verge of crapping his pants when standing in front of his old, mean Potions Professor.
Snape froze, then, surprising Harry a great deal, threw his head back and laughed. Snape's laugh started Harry, for Harry had never heard the man laugh in the near decade he'd known him. It wasn't an unpleasant sound, but it was a foreign one.
"Of fucking course it would be Potter," Snape said, spitting Harry's last name out like a bit of gristle. "Of course, the golden boy would find my shop and walk right in."
"It's a public shop," Harry muttered. "Anyone can walk right in. Your open sign was still on and the door was unlocked."
"A mistake I won't make twice," Snape growled. "I can't kill you. I wouldn't be able to get away with that one, much to my grand dismay, but I won't hesitate in cursing you unrecognizable. It would be worth the jail time. So get out."
Harry spied a chair near the desk and flopped down into it. For some reason, he knew Snape's threat was bullshit, and he decided to call him on it. "No. I want to know what happened to you. Last time I checked, you were dying in my arms."
"Sentimental, aren't we?" Snape asked with a sneer. He stood there a minute, but quickly came to terms with the fact that Harry wasn't actually going anywhere. With a sigh, he sat. "Albus, that foolish old man, knew that the Dark Lord was going to take me out. He knew the Dark Lord's penchant for the dramatics and symbolism. Unbeknownst to me, he used a time turner, before he died, to reach the future and pump me full of anti-venom. The very anti-venom that had been created when Weasley got bit by that bloody snake. He didn't count on the anti-venom's destructive properties and it burned away the nerve endings in my eyes, rendering me blind. Mostly blind, anyway."
"Wait," Harry said, holding up a hand, "how exactly did he know when to find you? And where? And how did he possibly use a time turner to get to the future date where you died?"
"There is a lot about that stupid old man that no one will ever know. He didn't sit round his tower knitting every night, so obviously he was up to some sort of experiments. When he wasn't trying to work out the Dark Lord's nonsense, he was trying to work out how to save those he thought couldn't save themselves. He didn't stop to think that maybe death might have been a blessed release for me."
"So why, exactly, are you in Muggle London?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "Where would you be, Potter, if you were me, and found yourself alive after you thought you were going to die a Hero's death?"
Harry laughed. "Hawaii, maybe? Tahiti? Puerto Rico? Cabo, Mexico? Somewhere with a beach and warm sun, and far away from this dreary, drizzling sleet, constant fog, throngs of people who don't give a shit about anyone or anything."
Snape quirked an eyebrow. "That's awfully bitter of you, Potter?"
"Trust me, it's a long story, one you probably don't want to hear."
"You would guess right on that one," Snape said.
Harry went on to tell him the story anyway, ignoring Snape's snide comments of how he deserved it, how he always suspected Potter of being camp, of how no one would ever really feel sorry for a person as entitled as Potter acted.
Weeks later, Harry could not really be totally sure how he was going on dates with Snape. He didn't know how they had gotten past the whole, "I hate you and wish your insides would explode out of your rectum and kill you" stage of the relationship and moved on to the snogging and eventual shagging.
Four years later Harry wasn't sure how he managed to get Snape to exchange rings, and marry him in front of Harry's family and friends. He never quite got how he was told, by his constantly angry, bitter spouse, that he was loved every single day.
He never really knew how he got so lucky, but he was. With Snape, as angry and bitter and unpleasant, and frankly old as he was, he loved him. They loved each other. Harry got on better with Snape than anyone he had ever met. He finally felt like he was where he belonged.
Snape maintained the Muggle bookshop, and Harry quit his job as an Auror, since really, he wasn't as good as everyone expected him to be, and took up writing spell books and helping his spouse with the bookkeeping.
Now Harry, though happy, did have a hard time convincing his friends and family to be happy for him. Even his children, who were told for years how much they should respect and admire Snape, were a little put off by the sudden romance.
After four years, though, everyone pretty much just got over it. They got over it, they accepted it, and even tolerated Snape's comments and attitudes during the holidays.
Harry was happy. He felt like he was finally on the path he was meant to be on, he was exactly where he should be, with the person he was destined to be with. Life was, for all intents and purposes, perfect.
He was sitting with Snape in the back of the bookshop. Snape was checking over the latest of his old spells and potions books Harry had Brailled for him, and Harry was working out the weekly numbers for the shop.
"We did better this week," Harry said.
"We always do better when winter gets closer," Snape said. His fingers paused on the page and he frowned. "I'm not sure some of these spells are translating to Braille correctly."
"What do you care?" Harry asked with a yawn as he reached for the next print out. "You repeatedly tell me how magic is worthless, it's all rubbish, and you're never going to use it again, blah blah blah."
"So why bother having my books Brailled?" Snape growled, slamming the book down on the desk.
"Because you said you wished you could read them over from time to time to remember how stupid spells are," Harry said and yawned again. "I was trying to be nice."
"Ever the saint," Severus snarked.
"I'm exhausted and kind of hungry. Do you think it's too late to have Chinese delivered?"
"I'll call. Every time you order you fuck it up," Snape said. He dialed their favorite place and went to the front of the shop to order so Harry could finish the numbers and prepare the inventory order for the next week.
Harry found Snape sitting at his desk when he finished the order, and nuzzled up to him. Snape made a rare, soft sound of pleasure and kissed his spouse. "Food is on the way," he said in a low, tired voice.
Harry gave a loud, obnoxious yawn. "Thank God, I'm starved and ready to stuff my face and pass out."
"You're like a teenager. Why the hell did I marry you?"
"My teenage-like libido?" Harry asked with a grin.
Snape shoved him away and went back to the stack of papers he was reading over. Harry collapsed onto the small sofa they had under the window for customers who wanted to try out a book or two before buying, and kicked his feet up on the arm.
He laid his head back, watching his husband read, and again felt that strong wave of luck he felt every time he thought about how happy he was. He had just started to doze off when he heard a tapping on the glass of the front door.
"Don't trouble yourself, Potter, I'll interrupt my reading so you can continue your beauty sleep," Snape said as he pushed his chair back from the desk.
"How else will I keep you interested?" Harry joked sleepily.
Snape rolled his eyes and went to the door. He had his muggle money ready, but when he opened the door, he was shoved back, hitting a shelf with a loud, "oomph."
That got Harry immediately on his feet, wand drawn, but he was disarmed before he could even think straight. Three wizards and one witch strode in, shut the door and locked it. Harry didn't recognize any of them, and for the first time since he was a child, he felt truly frightened.
Harry could see his husband starting to stand up straight, holding the side of his head and blood was seeping out from under his fingers. "What the hell is going on?"
"I don't know," Harry said. "Who are you?"
"Mr Potter," the tall, black-haired wizard said, "we're here with a proposition for you."
"What are you, the wizarding mob?" Harry asked, taking a step back. "How did you find me?"
"With a lot of effort," the woman said. She was short, ginger, Scottish, with fierce green eyes and a thin, angry mouth. "You're not an easy person to find, Mr Potter."
"I prefer it that way," Harry said. "If you don't mind, I'd like my wand back. You seem to have given my husband a concussion and I'd like to tend to him."
The four glanced in unison at Snape who was still trying to shake off the pain and dizziness from the head injury.
"Our apologies," the first wizard said. He raised his wand and started a spell, but Snape, out of no where, threw a book at him, hitting him in the face and splitting his lip.
"You keep your rubbish magic off of me," Snape growled. "I'll heal on my own just fine."
The injured wizard's eyes flashed over to Harry, who was trying not to laugh. Carefully and slowly, Harry moved past the four, and took Severus' hand. "You may recognize my husband, newly resurrected Severus Snape. And I'm sure you understand why he's a bit leery of a stranger's magic."
The stranger healed his face and then conjured four chairs for him and his friends to sit. He gestured for Harry to do the same, and Harry eventually decided to bring Severus to the sofa where they both sat.
"Tell me exactly what is going on," Snape said, ignoring the seemingly dangerous strangers in their shop. "What do they look like? Any markings of any kind?"
"We work for the Ministry, Mr Snape," the wizard said. "My name is Hans Noble, and these are my co-workers, John Sport, Michael Wisk, and Apple Grey."
"Apple Grey?" Snape asked with a snort.
"If you plan on taking the piss, I have no problem cursing you stupid," Apple said, her accent strong and angry.
"I suppose I can't judge with a name like Severus Snape," he amended.
"They look like normal wizards," Harry said with a shrug. "Regular robes, not ministry issued. They're younger than I am, or so they appear, and only Noble looks put out, but I think that's because you hit him in the face with a book."
"I do admit that took me by surprise," Noble said.
"I'm quite capable with or without a wand," Snape said. "And blind or sighted."
"So it appears," he said and rubbed the sore spot on his lip with his finger. "Regardless of unpleasantries, we do have a proposition for you, Mr Potter, and we'd like you to hear us out."
"Since you've disarmed me, do I have a choice?" Harry asked.
"It was for security purposes only," Sport said, handing over the wand he'd caught when it flew out of Harry's hand.
"What makes you think I won't kill you and claim self defense?" Harry asked as he reached for the wand.
Sport seemed to hesitate for a moment before handing the wand over. "You're not that kind of man, Mr Potter. We know all about you. You're a hero of the fullest kind."
"Am I? Are you sure I didn't kill the Dark Lord for fun? Are you sure I didn't go out of my way to hurt him, to make him suffer while I laughed, because I liked seeing something living in pain?"
All four of them flinched a bit, but Noble spoke up, "What if we told you that we have the ability to go back into the past and change your future, Mr Potter?"
Both Harry and Snape visibly froze. "What do you mean?" Snape hissed.
"What if we told you that since the Dark Lord perished, the Department of Mysteries..."
"The Department of Mysteries? You're unspeakables," Snape growled. "Get out of my shop right now!"
"Hear us out, please," Noble begged.
Harry put his hand on Snape's arm. "Let them finish. I have my wand back."
"That might be some comfort to be if you weren't rubbish with your wand," Snape said. "They disarmed you without even trying."
"Please, I give you my word that we come only with a proposition and nothing else. If you don't like it, we will leave and you won't hear from us again."
"Go on," Harry said.
"The Department of Mysteries have several teams on several projects, Mr Potter, and one of those projects has been Project James and Lily."
The impact on both Severus and Harry was significant. They both found themselves holding their breaths, hands clasping for comfort.
"Go on," Snape said tersely.
"We knew about Albus Dumbledore's trips to both the past and future," Noble said, spreading his hands wide, "and we know about Mrs Granger-Weasley's involvement in the escape of Buckbeak and Sirius Black. We knew all of those things, and our team has worked out a way to covertly return to the past and destroy the Horcruxes created by the Dark Lord without him knowing. If we do this, he could be killed, and if he can be killed, there would be no need for your parents to die, Harry. They could be saved, and the entire future of the wizarding world changed with it."
"I... what?" Harry asked.
"Has this idea never occurred to you, Harry? When the destruction of the Dark Lord came to light, it was so simple. It was to us, anyway," Sport cut in. "With the capability to return to the past, we can create a new future, and avoid another war. War criminals would be tried and convinced, there would be no second war. It would be over."
"You can't just go back and kill horcruxes in secret," Harry said. "Voldemort knew I was killing them off. He'd know you were at it too, and he'd kill you."
Wisk, the seemingly eldest of them all with his brown hair lightly sprinkled with grey, reached into his robe and pulled out a large file. "We have something that might ease that fear, Mr Potter." His voice was deep and gravelly, much like Kingsley Shacklebolt. "I believe that Albus Dumbledore may have been working on how to accomplish this very thing. We believe that his original intent was to travel back into the past to kill the Dark Lord, rather than to have the work done in the present time, thus saving everyone who died from that terrible fate."
Harry suddenly felt a rush of emotion. It wasn't just for his parents, either, but for everyone he lost in the war. For Fred Weasley, for Remus and Tonks, even for little Colin's lifeless body that was carried away from the battle's wreckage.
To give Fred back to George, to give Teddy his parents back to raise him. Harry's mind was swimming. "How... I mean, how would this even work? When Hermione and I used a time turner... I don't remember how she quite explained it. It was like... like a time loop. In the present, our future selves were there, and in the future, we traveled back to help our future selves. It can't happen, because right now my parent's are dead, Dumbledore is dead, Remus and Tonks... dead. If it can happen, and already hasn't..."
"We realize that," Noble said. "It will create a time paradox, changing a little bit of the universe itself, but that doesn't mean it won't work. Perhaps, Harry, we've already tried it. Perhaps we've already gone back, and tried, and failed. Perhaps the Dark Lord has found us and killed us all and that's the end of it, and this is our terrible time loop. But perhaps it just hasn't been attempted yet."
The possibilities were almost overwhelming. "God, Severus... what do you think?"
"I think we need to talk, Potter," Snape said to him in a stern voice.
"Right," Harry breathed. "How sure are you that you can pull this off?"
The four smiled just a little, it becoming clear that Harry was indeed very interested. "I'll leave this folder here for the two of you to read over, and you'll see just how detailed Dumbledore had planned this all out. Remember, if we can accomplish this, he, too, will be amongst those who live."
"Why are you here?" Snape asked suddenly. "Why are you presenting this to us? Why do we need to be involved? Do you need Harry to come with you?"
Snape almost never called his spouse Harry. It was always Potter, or idiot boy, or husband. Never Harry, not unless he was frightened and that was so rare it was almost never. Harry squeezed his spouse's hand and looked at the Unspeakables. "He's right. Why are you here?"
"I will not agree to let Harry accompany you," Snape said firmly.
"We don't need his company," Noble said, "we need his signed permission."
"Signed permission?" Snape asked slowly. "Are you joking? Are you third years? What do you mean signed permission?"
"Harry is the last living relative in the Wizarding World related to James and Lily, and in order to go on this mission, which is essentially to resurrect James and Lily Potter from the dead, Harry must give us permission. Were we to rescue some of the other families, we would have to go to just before the moment of their deaths, and that would not bring Harry's parents back, and frankly saving James and Lily would save the most amount of people, including the Longbottoms from their fate."
"We still need to talk," Snape said.
"You have plenty of time. All of this we must carry out just before 31 October. We can use the time turner to go back into the past, but we can't go back to a different date, just back years. It's a dangerous journey, going back that far, so take your time, but remember time is limited."
"Or you can simply wait until next year," Snape growled.
Another knock on the front door of the shop startled them, and it took Harry a minute to realize it was their delivery. "Dinner," Harry said to Snape, whose hand had gone clammy for a moment.
He got up and paid the delivery person for the food and set it on the desk, not feeling hungry at all anymore. "We should call it a night."
"Expect us back in a week, Mr Potter, Mr Snape. I trust that will give you enough time to decide and we can begin preparations for our task." Everyone shook hands, trying to keep formalities as much as was possible, and then the four were gone, leaving Harry and Snape in a very tense, painful silence.
"They never bothered to detail everything you'd lose, should you agree to this, Potter," Snape said as Harry sat down next to him.
Harry frowned. "What would I lose? What are you talking about?"
"If they do this, you wake up a different person, Potter. You wake up a child raised by loving parents. You don't know what you'd lose. Your strength, perhaps? Your ability to survive in incredibly stupid situations? Your sense of humor?" He paused for a long time and then said, "Me."
"No!" Harry said, reaching for his husband, but Snape pulled away.
"Yes. Potter, do you think for even a second that your parents would let you marry me? That, being raised by James and Lily, you would cross my path again? That even if you did, you wouldn't hate me as much as your arrogant, smarmy father did? Even if you did, somehow, find me attractive, would you defy your loving, supportive parents and marry me?"
"Yes!" Harry said. He took Snape's hand against Snape's will and pulled his husband close, nuzzling his nose into Snape's neck. "Yes, I absolutely think that there is not a force on this planet to keep me from loving you, Severus. We are meant to be. I feel it in every fiber of my being, and I don't care how afraid you are that I won't love you, because I know that I will. I know that nothing will keep me from you."
"You're a fool, Potter," Snape said softly as he wrapped his arms around Harry. "A hopeless, pathetic fool."
"That's why you love me," Harry said. He put his hand on Snape's cheek and looked into his fathomless black eyes. "You won't be blind in the future. Or most likely you won't be. Doesn't that matter?"
"No," Snape said with a shrug. "I don't care about being blind or sighted. There is relatively little that I care about changing, and the idea of potentially losing the little I do care about is terrifying to me."
For Snape to admit he was terrified shook Harry to his core. "What if we could have it all, Severus? Everything. The people we love, the people we've lost, and each other. What about my mother, Snape? What about Lily?"
Snape winced in pain at the thought. "You know I would love to have her alive, Harry. She was the only one who was ever really good to me, until you. But having her returned at the expense of this..."
"I wish you'd trust me, Snape. Trust in how I feel. It's nature vs nurture, Snape, and my nature loves you. Believe me."
"What about your children?" Snape asked. "Your children won't exist in that reality, not as they are today. What about that?"
Harry winced. "I didn't think about that." He let out a breath and let his head fall to the back of the sofa. "If they are meant to be born, they will be, Severus."
"You heard what they said though, Potter," Snape argued, "they were quite clear in saying that if it works it will change the course of the universe, and may erase things in this universe that are meant to be here, and only here."
Harry shook his head. "I need you to trust me. Please. I think... think that maybe this is something that was always meant to happen. I mean, if Dumbledore..."
"Albus was insane, Harry. He was a fool, he was dangerous, and he knew it. There was a reason he kept his experiments behind closed doors and only unleashed one or two in his long, long life. Don't base your decision on whether or not Albus would have done it, because he would have done a great many things that would have likely undone the very fabric of reality."
Harry shook his head. "I just feel like this is the right thing."
"Then we are lost."
Harry's mind was made up no matter what direction the conversation took. A week later, Harry signed the piles upon piles of documents that the Unspeakables presented him. Harry and Snape poured over every note, every word written by Dumbledore and the Department of Mysteries team, and no matter how Snape tried to change Harry's mind, Harry couldn't let the idea of having everyone he loved back in his life.
It was 28 October, the team was preparing to leave, and Snape and Harry were preparing for bed. Snape was shaking visibly, and Harry was a bit petrified, but excited at the same time. He was wearing only boxers to bed, sliding under the heavy covers, and Snape was searching with his hands for something inside a hidden compartment in the wall.
Snape sneezed violently a few times as a wave of dust came out, but eventually he produced what he was looking for, his wand. He muttered a few spells, causing the room to light up with a soft green glow, and then he set the wand on the dresser and laid down next to Harry.
"What did you do?" Harry asked.
"A few protection spells I had come up with as a child," Snape said as he settled under the heavy covers. "Last ditch effort to save the one thing I have that I love."
Harry pulled Snape close to him and kissed him all over his face. "Trust me. It's you and me, Snape. You and me. There's nothing, not a force in the universe that can keep me from loving you."
"But what about the new one, Harry?"
Morning sunlight woke Harry from his deep slumber. He had somehow managed to kick the covers off in the middle of the night, and now in that October morning, he was freezing. He blindly reached down and pulled the covers around him. With a loud, jaw-cracking yawn, he rubbed his eyes and started to open them.
There was something... different, he thought. Something off. Where a plain, white wall normally sat, a watercolor painting of violets now hung. Harry blinked. Why didn't he remember that painting? When did he get it? Why would he purchase something like that?
"Severus?" Harry said, his voice hoarse from sleep. He searched with his foot for his bed occupant but found he was alone. Sitting up and rubbing his eyes, he looked around to a room he didn't recognize at all. The furniture was different, the bed covers white and downy, a mirror where there had never been one. The window was on the opposite side of the room now, and the room was a mess, far too messy for a blind man to navigate through.
It hit Harry, after a moment, after he started to wake up. It must have worked. It was different. Everything was different. And then it hit him, he remembered, not his new life, but his old life. The life with Severus. His past as an orphan, as the product of the Dursleys and a childhood constantly threatened by death and the Dark Lord.
He was confused. He swung his legs over the bed to where his slippers usually sat, but they weren't there. He still had his wedding ring on, and after inspecting it for the engraving of Severus & Harry, he slipped it into the pocket of his jeans. After a bit of searching, he found a dressing gown and braved the door to the bedroom. It led to a hall, and following the sounds of people talking, Harry found his way into a living room he didn't recognize.
There, on the sofa with a cup of tea, sat a woman he had never seen before. She was tall and thin, hair black and long, eyes dark, skin olive toned. She smiled at him and said, "Morning you. Sleep well?"
Harry choked out, "Yes... er... coffee?"
"In the kitchen," she said, nodding in the direction of another door.
Petrified, Harry burst through the kitchen door and nearly ran into a small child with olive skin, and his green eyes. It was a little girl, black curly locks pulled back, little grin missing her front two teeth.
"Hi. I'm done with my breakfast."
"Er... excellent. Good to know."
"Michael isn't up yet. Mum says he's having a lie-in since he's ill."
Having no idea who Michael was, Harry nodded and pushed past the child to the cupboard. It took him several tries to find it, but eventually sorted out where the cups were and poured himself a cup of strong, black coffee.
As Harry drank, it suddenly occurred to him that he was standing in a Muggle kitchen, with all Muggle appliances. He peered out of the kitchen window and immediately recognized central London, though he couldn't pin point exactly where he was, but he knew it was Muggle London.
"Bollocks," Harry whispered. "How did it possibly work if I don't remember any of it? How am I living a life I don't remember? I still have my ring, for fuck's sake!"
Then he remembered Snape's spell. The spell that was supposed to protect him? What if it counteracted something that the Unspeakables had done? Harry shivered, and tried to figure out how he was going to navigate through a life he didn't remember. He obviously had children that he couldn't remember, and a wife that, for the moment, was nameless.
Harry took the coffee out into the lounge and saw the woman flipping through channels on the television. "Did I tell you yesterday that mum and dad are coming for lunch?" she said.
Harry froze in almost horror. "Mum and dad?"
The woman rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you're still having a row with them. You'd think that their one wizard child would get along with them more than their squibs."
Harry's head spun. Wizard child? Squib? This woman was possibly his sister? "Er, no I... we're fine. What time lunch? Where?"
"Probably pizza or something, for the kids. We'll see if Michael is feeling better by the time they get round to London. He's going to be depressed if he spends the entire visit with his uncle sick in bed. He only sees you a couple of times a year." Her voice was the chastising voice of a sister, and it started to make sense. He felt relief for a minute, that he at least wasn't married to some strange woman.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Harry said, winging it.
"He's always sick this time of year," she said with a sigh.
Harry wished desperately that he knew her name, and suddenly, when the telephone rang, Harry thought it might be his chance to figure it out. "I've got it," he said, lunging at the contraption. "Hello?"
"Harry? Is that you, darling?" the voice was familiar, only because Harry had heard it when he suffered dementor attacks, and when the resurrection stone brought forth her shadow. It was his mum.
A hard, almost impossible lump formed in his throat. "I... er... yes. Mum, yes it's me."
"Mum? Now I really am insulted," the voice said, and Harry realized then that the voice was far to young to be his mother's. "It's Nina, you tosser. Your sister. Your wayward Muggle sister."
"Sorry," Harry choked out.
"Oh whatever, it's fine. Is Maggie awake?"
"Uh, yes, hold on," Harry said and held the phone out to the person he assumed was Maggie. "Uh... Maggie."
"What am I, your slave? Go fetch her. Is that Nina? Let me talk to her a moment about her adorable daughter."
The woman snatched the phone from Harry and, in a stupor, Harry wandered back down the hall until he found the little girl sitting at a computer desk, clicking on bright pictures of shapes. "Maggie?" he said.
The girl turned and smiled. "Uncle Harry?"
"Your mum is on the telephone line for you."
Little Maggie jumped off of the chair, but as she started to pass him, she stopped and stared at his face. "You're different, Uncle Harry. You're... you're not the same as you were when you went to bed last night. Are you okay?"
Harry felt panic rise into his face. "I'm fine, darling. Just a bit off color today."
"No. It's not that. It's something else. Are you an imposter?"
"No," Harry said, "I'm just feeling a bit lost."
"You seem lost," Maggie said. She went down the hall and Harry heard her get on the line to her mother. Now completely overwhelmed, Harry sat down in the chair Maggie had been using, and put his face in his hands. He had to get some answers. He had to get away from his sister, his niece and apparently sick nephew. He didn't want to meet his parents without even remembering who they were, or at least the names of his siblings who were apparently all squibs.
He dashed into the loo and was immediately sick. When he'd finished emptying his stomach, he went to wash his face and hands, and rinsed his mouth with mouth wash by the sink. He stared at himself, noting that though he was the same age, he looked younger. His hair was less grey, there were less wrinkles by his eyes, and his forehead was naked, unmarred by the cursed scar that had turned him into a horcrux those many years ago.
He was Harry, and yet he wasn't. He wanted to find Snape, and quickly. It was entirely possible that if Snape's counter curse had worked on Harry, it had worked on Snape too, and by-God he needed a friend right now.
When he came out, his sister was staring at him. "Are you ill, too? I don't want this crap spreading around my house. I can't afford to take off work this month, we're so busy!"
"I think I should go home," Harry blurted.
"You can't be serious, Harry!" she nearly shouted at him. "You just got here!"
"I think... I need... a wizard. A wizard doctor. I need... a floo."
There was a knock on the door and as his sister moved to answer it, Harry noticed a small pot of floo powder on the fireplace.
Harry grabbed a pinch and threw it into the flames which roared green. His sister opened the door and there stood the two people Harry wanted to meet, and the two people he was terrified to meet. James and Lily walked in. They stared, confused at Harry, as he stepped into the fireplace, and out of desperation he shouted, "Harry Potter's Home!"
His body spun and twisted and shot down the floo network until, after what seemed like an eternity, he tumbled into a small flat that smelled at least more familiar than the last home. The room was lit by the sun coming through a few windows, and he looked around to see things he recognized.
A quidditch broom in the corner, books strewn about, tea cup lying empty on tables, and a squashy sofa in front of a television. There were candles and lamps, and robes on a hook by the door. Pictures lined the walls of old mates from Hogwarts that he recognized, including the Weasley twins, and there, in one of the pictures, were Fred and George, and the picture looked recent.
Harry let out a breath. He knew he was home, and he began a desperate search, tearing apart frames of the women he saw to be his sisters, and pouring through old post and books and things. He did this for the better part of an hour before he was able to assess he had two younger sisters and a younger brother, Nina, Mabel, and Ozzie. His siblings were squibs and all held successful jobs. Nina had a son named Michael, and a husband named Brian who was a banker, it seemed. Mabel had Maggie, but didn't appear to have a husband of any kind.
Ozzie was still at University, no children, and not a lot of correspondence with Harry. Harry, it seemed played quidditch. He had robes in his closets, equipment, trophies and other paraphernalia. It wasn't a bad job, but he didn't know much about himself except that he was single, and traveled a lot.
"Fuck," Harry said into the quiet of his flat. "Fucking fuckity fuck."
He stood there swearing, stopping when the flames of his own fire place roared green and his father stepped out. Harry froze in the middle of the floor and stared at the man he'd only seen in the mirror of Erised, when his image had been pulled from Voldemort's wand, and when he had deployed the resurrection stone. He had never actually seen the man himself.
"Son?" James said as he brushed the soot from his shirt and cleaned off his glasses. "What's wrong?"
Harry's hands were trembling. He was soaking up the sound of his father's voice, and he was terrified to speak in the silence of the flat. "I just have some stuff going on."
"I suspect so, since you used magic in front of Maggie. I had to obliviate her, and Mabel is livid," James said.
"She doesn't know about magic yet?" Harry asked with wide eyes, shocked that any relation to James and Lily Potter would not know about Magic, squib or not.
James threw up his hands in defense. "I know, I know, believe me, we're on the same page, though last time we talked about it, you were on your sister's side."
Harry flushed. "I just... I mean... how old is Maggie now? Eight?"
"Ten," James said with a frown. "You were just at her birthday party last week."
"Sorry, it's been a long twenty-four hours, dad," Harry said, not used to using the word dad for anyone other than himself with his own children. He then realized that his children may not exist and he fought down panic. "I just... God... I don't even know where to begin."
James walked past Harry into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge. "Here," he said and motioned for his son to sit with him. He cracked open the tops and took a long drink before speaking again. "Son, I realize that your divorce was extremely public, and no one likes that, but it's been over a year now, and honestly it's time for you to relax."
Harry shook his head. "My divorce? Dad I... this isn't about my divorce. Frankly I don't even remember my spouse's name." Knowing he was gay, and assuming in this reality he was gay, he was afraid to use gender specific titles until he knew for sure.
"None of us really cared for Katie much, even when the two of you were dating at school, and I know you blame us for the marriage falling apart, but we did our best to get on with her, Harry, and I'm sorry we couldn't get past our differences."
Harry stared at his father for a long time. He studied this man, this man he had always wanted to know, but had never gotten the chance. "Katie," he said with a frown. "Katie Bell."
"Did she go back to Bell? I thought she was capitalizing on Potter?" he said with a sneer. "Honestly her family wasn't much to speak of before she married you."
It was snotty, and Harry was taken aback by his attitude. "Dad, I'm gay." He blurted it out, realizing that he had no real emotional ties to this man, and it was better now than never. 'Why not in our first ever conversation,' Harry thought.
James threw his head back and laughed. "Don't be an idiot, son."
"I'm not being an idiot, dad. I'm gay."
James stared at him for a very long time. "That would explain a lot," he eventually said.
Harry couldn't help but laugh. "That was my exact thought when I realized it."
"And when was that, son?"
"My wedding day," Harry said.
To Harry's great surprise, James laughed and shook his head. "You really are an idiot, aren't you. We hated that bitch you married for eleven years, and now you decide to come out. Wait until Sirius and Remus hear about this."
Harry's heart lurched. Sirius and Remus. Alive. Well. Happy? "Are they coming round any time soon?"
James shrugged. "God knows. I'll send an owl, you can tell them this barmy tale yourself. And you're going to tell your mum, she's less likely to curse something if it comes from you."
"Do you think she'll care?"
"Not for the reasons you're scared of," James said. He took another long swig of beer. "I mean who can she judge? She loves Sirius and Remus more than life itself, more than me sometimes, I think."
Harry almost spit out his beer. "Sirius and Remus are gay? A couple?"
James rolled his eyes. "Very funny."
Harry let out a little, "Haha," and tried to stamp down on the fact that there was no Remus and Tonks, there was no Teddy. He shivered. He wondered if he had a child with Katie, if that child was now at Hogwarts.
"I do hope you're still coming to lunch," James said, interrupting Harry's thoughts. "Your mother will kill you if you don't show up, and Mabel is already cross with you. It's getting harder and harder to keep it from Maggie."
"I don't think she's a squib," Harry blurted out, not sure where that came from.
James sighed. "I know, son. I've already confirmed it with Albus, but you know I'm not allowed to tell anyone else. It's just getting Mabel to agree to Hogwarts in the next year. She's already seen Maggie's magic, she just doesn't want to admit it."
"Maggie knew something was different about me today," Harry said absently. "She knew."
"Knew what?" James asked.
Harry shook his head. "Nothing. Just thinking. Dad, this might seem like an odd question, for many, many reasons... and maybe I should even know the answer to this but... where's Snape."
James' eyes widened. "Snape? That slimy git? Why the hell does it matter where he is?"
"I just... I'm curious. I have my reasons but I can't tell you... yet."
"I'm not keeping tabs on the son of a bitch who tried to sleep with my wife, twice," James barked. He drank the rest of his beer angrily. "Did he try and contact you? Is he trying to get to your mother through you, now? I'll kill that dirty, rotten-"
"Dad!" Harry said, throwing up his hands, "he didn't contact me. I just, I guess I was thinking about some stuff and I was just wondering if you knew."
"I'm not sure why it matters, but Albus is probably keeping tabs on him," James said, his voice settling down a little. "He's always keeping tabs on everyone."
Harry chuckled. "Yeah. I need to see Albus, too, though, so perhaps I'll try and set up a meeting."
"Well aren't you going to Sebastian's first Quidditch match?" James asked. "Why don't you ask him then. It's in two weeks."
"Right, yes," Harry said.
"Son, you're making me a bit nervous. Did you get a head injury you ignored?" James was staring at him, his brown eyes piercing and searching.
Harry shook his head. "It's not that. I'm sorry. I'll feel better soon. Tell mum I'll pop by tomorrow, okay. Honestly I just need to sleep this funk off and... and get some rest."
James stood up and dropped his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Son, you may be well old enough to take care of yourself and live your own life, but remember, your mum and I are always here for you. So please, if there's something going on, let us help."
Harry nodded. "I will."
James looked like he didn't quiet believe Harry, but he let it go. He went back to the floo and told Harry he'd see him the following day. When he was alone, Harry stretched out on his sofa, stared at the flames of the fire and found himself missing his husband desperately, feeling like he would tear apart the world to get him back.
The next couple of weeks, Harry moved along, trying to glide through this Stranger Harry's life without being noticed. He did end up having lunch with his mother and sisters, though the kids were at school. He was chastised for being careless, but he pushed aside all thoughts of being in a different world and just enjoyed the feeling of having a family. A mother who cared and loved him, sisters who argued and gossiped about his younger brother and his conquests at University.
He learned he did have a son, and that his sisters missed the boy a lot. He learned that his son was a quidditch prodigy just as he had been, and despite his sisters' distaste for magic, they were proud of their nephew.
They all seemed to notice, however, that Harry was a bit off. He wasn't the Harry they had known. He heard that he was more subdued, less arrogant, less angry and snotty. He was less like his father and more like his mother, and that was somewhat alarming to those closest to him.
Every time conversations turned that way, Harry would make his excuses and leave, because if they found out, they most likely wouldn't believe him, and it could end up very bad for him.
Finally his trip to Hogwarts approached, and Harry was excited in more ways than one to return to his school. Dumbledore was there, Dumbledore who may have escaped the power of the past being changed, just as Harry had. Dumbledore who had created that plan. Dumbledore, who may not know but would be most likely to believe Harry's tale and hopefully help him locate his husband.
Hogwarts hadn't changed much. It was the same school he had attended, without the battle scars left from the war. It stood tall and proud, and all of the teachers, save for Snape, welcomed the parents in for the first match of the season.
Harry walked into the Great Hall, and he was startled to see Draco Malfoy there, tossing Harry a careless wave. 'Dear God, am I friends with Malfoy?' Harry wondered as he wandered the table. It was only a moment before Ron Weasley spotted him and came running over.
"I didn't think you were going to make it. How are you, Harry?" Ron asked, pumping his hand. "Great match, eh? World come, here we come, don't you think?"
Ron, always a quidditch fanatic, didn't seem strange at all, and Harry laughed. "We'll see, I guess. I'm just glad to be on holiday right now. So much going on. How's your lot?"
Ron's eyes widened from Harry's question and he stammered a little, "Oh... er... yeah great. We're all great. Lavender's expecting again. You know, I've got five now."
"Five?" Harry said, shaking his head. "You won't be satisfied until the gingers take over, will you?"
Ron blushed. "My mum, do you remember her from school? Molly Weasley? Well she's right proud."
Harry almost blurted, "How could I forget your mum?" but he realized with his own parents, he wouldn't need a family in the Weasleys. It suddenly dawned on Harry that Ron was acting more like a fan than a friend. His heart sank. He spotted Dumbledore coming into the hall and wanted to catch him before he began speaking to the crowd.
"It was great to see you, mate. I'll be in touch, we can meet at the pub soon," he said without really thinking.
He didn't see Ron's face light up with excitement and some confusion as Harry trotted off to catch Dumbledore before he took the podium. The old man looked exactly the same, and smiled as Harry approached.
"Mr Potter, I'm so happy you could make it today," Dumbledore said.
Harry smiled, his heart soaring to see the old man alive again. "I know this might be asking too much, but I need a word, Albus. In private, as soon as you're free. It's about Severus Snape."
Albus' eyes darkened. "Go now to my office, the password is fizzing whizbee. I'll be up shortly."
Harry nodded and slipped out of the Great Hall. The gargoyle, still the same, moved aside as Harry gave the password, and Harry found himself in a room that, in his old life, he spent many a day explaining why he'd been involved in something he shouldn't have been.
He only had to wait a few minutes before Dumbledore appeared, and the old man motioned for him to have a seat. "So, Mr Potter, what is your concern? If you're here on behalf of your father, let me assure you that Mr Snape has not attempted to contact your mother since you were a young child."
"Snape is gay," Harry blurted. "I mean, well yes he loved my mum, but he's not... " Harry shook his head. "This isn't right. Albus, I'm in trouble."
Albus' eyes narrowed. "What kind of trouble?"
"The kind of trouble caused by a spell getting performed at the wrong moment," Harry said. "When something as delicate as time travel is involved."
Albus leaned forward and clasped his hands on the desk. "Explain," he commanded patiently.
Harry let out a breath. "In my world, Albus, the world I went to sleep in two weeks ago, you're dead. You're dead, my parents are dead, my best friends are Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger-Weasley. I have three children and a divorce from Ginny Weasley and I'm currently married to one Severus Snape... who kind of knew this was going to happen."
Dumbledore stared at Harry for a long time. "I'm terrified, Mr Potter. Terrified for two reasons. One, you may actually be telling the truth, and two, you, one of my favorite people, might be going insane."
"Both, I think," Harry said, and rubbed his face. "I'm not sure if things are going to go all wonky if I tell you details, but I'm willing to take the risk." He took a long, deep breath. "When I was a baby, Voldemort killed my parents. He killed my father, and then tried to kill me, but my mother took the hit. When she was dead, he turned his wand on me, but the curse rebounded and hit him."
"Love sacrifice," Dumbledore breathed.
Harry nodded. "I had a scar, right here," he said, drawing a zig-zag on his forehead where the scar one sat. "Voldemort didn't die. In fact, he left a piece of himself inside of me. A horcrux. He had more than just one, though. In my world, you had figured that out, Albus. You had figured it out and when I was seventeen, Voldemort, back in power, took over the wizarding world. Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and I found the horcruxes and destroyed them, including the one in me. And then, Voldemort died. We dueled, he lost, and the war ended.
"Snape had died, or so I thought, but you had used a time turner to save him. When I fell in love with Snape, he was living as a muggle in London, owned a bookshop and he was blind."
"Blind?" Albus asked.
Harry nodded. "Some complication with the anti-venom you gave him. But he was happy. We were happy. He was my potions professor in school! It's all... it's all wrong."
"So how did this happen, Harry?"
"Do you believe me?" Harry pressed.
"I don't know," Dumbledore said. "Frankly, unless you're not Harry Potter, I don't have any reason not to believe you."
"One night, some Unspeakables from the Department of Mysteries came into our shop and handed over a file. It was research done by you. Severus and I spent a week going over it. You had worked out, down to the minute, how someone could travel back in time and destroy all of Voldemort's horcruxes, and then he could be destroyed. He wouldn't be able to kill my parents. Everyone I cared about would be alive and well, including you. I figured because I loved Severus so much, we'd still... even after everything. He'd still..." Harry broke off his sentence, unable to continue. "I just want my husband back. Where is he?"
Dumbledore stared at Harry for a very long time. He checked his clock on the desk and then let out a sigh. "You're not polyjuiced."
"What? No!" Harry said, "Of course I'm not."
"I had to be sure," Albus said. "No charm could withstand the protections I put on my office, but Polyjuice would. We've been in here an hour."
"Albus, please. I'm terrified. I don't know what to do. I don't even know who I am in this world."
"You're Harry Potter, international Quidditch star," Albus said. "You grew up well, spoiled, and a lot like your father. You excelled in sport at Hogwarts, but not much else. You were great rivals with Draco Malfoy until seventh year, and now you two have a strong friendship. You spent most of your time with Cedric Diggory until he left school, and Ron Weasley worshiped you, but you didn't give him the time of day. Hermione Granger was in Ravenclaw and I don't recall the two of you ever talking. You're divorced from Katie Bell-Potter, you have one son, Sebastian, who is a lot like you. I didn't know you were gay."
Harry groaned and shook his head. "I miss my children, Albus. I have three, you know. James, after my father, a man I hadn't met until two weeks ago. He's tall, strong, he works in Romania with Dragons. He got into it by his uncle Charlie Weasley. My daughter Lily, she's a Healer. She's a ginger, just like her mum, and very firm. She's going to be engaged soon, I think. And then there's my son, Albus-Severus. He looks just like me, my son. He's too smart for his own good, and he's going to do great things. But... Albus, they don't exist here."
"You named your son for myself and Severus Snape?"
"Two of the greatest, bravest, strongest men I had ever known," Harry said. "He lives up to the name, my little Al. He's amazing."
Albus crossed his arms. "Harry, I don't know what to tell you. I don't know how to fix this problem, how to return this world to the world you know."
"There's no happy medium, is there?" Harry cried. "If I find a way back, you die, Albus. You die! You, my parent, even Cedric. Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black. Nymphadora Tonks... so many people. The Death Eaters, Voldemort, they took so many people I love. My God, how can I ask to sacrifice so many for so few?"
Albus shook his head. "Did I die bravely, Harry? Or like a coward?"
"You died saving Draco Malfoy from becoming a murderer," Harry said.
Albus bowed his head. "And the others?"
"Senseless deaths, Albus. Senseless."
"Every single one."
Harry went downstairs and met his son for the first time. Little Sebastian resembled Albus-Severus so strongly that Harry gasped when he saw him. He was short, the spitting image of Harry, his eyes sharply green and knowing.
He met his father with an even smile and a one-armed hug. "Glad you could make it, father. Will mother be here?"
"I don't know," Harry said, perplexed by his son's formality.
"I suspect she will, despite your presence," the boy said. "I trust the two of you won't be making a scene?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," Harry said. There was nothing about this boy that felt like his son, and his heart was breaking. "I'm proud of you."
Sebastian Potter smiled sardonically, "We shall see how long that lasts. We're playing against Gryffindor, and I've seen them on the pitch."
"I'll be proud of you no matter how well or how poorly you play," Harry insisted, shocked when he realized his son wasn't on Gryffindor..
"If that were the case, you would be an imposter," Sebastian replied.
Harry shivered and hated himself, hated the person that his parents made him. Was it worth it? Harry wasn't so sure anymore.
Sebastian, it turned out, was a Slytherin, and a damn good seeker. Slytherin won the match, and despite Harry feeling detached from his son, he was proud of him.
"Well done there, boy," Harry said as the young alternate universe version of Al came sauntering off the pitch.
The boy nodded to his father and didn't say anything as he and his teammates walked away. Harry sighed and shook his head. Dumbledore was down out of the staff seats and was staring pointedly at Harry.
Walking over, Harry tried a smile at Albus, but it fell far short. "He's good, that boy."
"Your boy," Albus said.
"He doesn't seem like my boy. He calls me father, Albus. He believed I wouldn't be proud of him had he not won this match."
"You didn't speak to him for a month when you learned he was sorted into Slytherin," Albus said. "It was only when he tried out and made team Seeker that you started speaking to him again. I believe he's terrified of you."
"My real children call me dad, or daddy," Harry said, his heart aching for them. "I send James tins of chocolate biscuits every week to keep up supply, since he says he prefers only English biscuits. Lily visits me weekly and cooks for Severus and I, because she says that we don't eat well enough, never mind that Severus' potions master skills transfers quite nicely to things in the oven. Al, he's my best friend. He's my boy. He's just like me, and I've never gone longer than a day or so without talking to him. At Hogwarts we send letters by the dozen with everything going on in our lives. He was so angry at me when Ginny and I split up, not because I was gay, but because he was afraid I would build a life without him. It took him years to believe me. Years."
Albus was staring at Harry, his eyes down and sad. He let out a small breath and put his arm on Harry's shoulder. "You're a different man here, Mr Potter."
"I've come to realize that."
"How old were you when your parents died, Harry?"
"A year and a few months," he replied. "Voldemort killed them on Halloween and I went to live with my mum's sister, Petunia. She's a muggle."
"You were raised muggle?" Albus asked, his eyebrow raising. "Honestly?"
Harry nodded and gave a helpless shrug. "They were awful to me, Albus. I slept in the cupboard under the stairs, they made me cook and clean and wear my fat cousin's hand-me-down clothes. I never received a proper Christmas or birthday present, never once, until Hagrid brought me one on my eleventh birthday, did I have a cake with my name written in icing. I hated it. I was miserable. I would spend hours upon hours dreaming about what it would be like if my parents hadn't died, if they had raised me, if I had known proper love from family.
"I vowed I would never let my children want for a single day, never let them go a minute without knowing how much I love them, no matter how cross I am, or how crazy they've driven me. I thought of how different my life would have been, how much better. By God, I never imagined I could be this wrong."
"If I didn't know you so well, Mr Potter, I'd suspect you of lying to try and gain something, but I don't think that the Harry Potter in this realm understands half of what you're talking about on any emotional level. I suspect your parents are concerned and even suspicious?"
"My dad's a bit," Harry said. "When I asked him about Snape he nearly cursed my head off."
"Snape made a go for your mother when you were quite little," Albus said with a small chuckle. "He had no chance, but your dad's always been quite possessive over your mother, and even the thought of someone coming between them is enough to send him into a violent rage. Snape felt it in the form of fist into jaw that day."
"And what about my mum? In the other world, my mum and Snape were friends, good friends. He loved her."
"Ah he did, and does, in his own way. I don't hear much from him anymore, to be honest. I can't tell you where he is, for I don't quite know it myself. I've owled someone who might be able to track him down, but last we'd spoken he was off in France for research."
"Potions?" Harry asked.
"A bit, and some other things. He's been quite the spell-master these last few years, authoring many of our texts for the school. He's done well for himself, that Severus has, though there are some of the older ones who won't forgive him for the war crimes he committed, nor will some old rivalries die."
"The Marauders," Harry said.
"When your life becomes mundane, it's hard to let go of your old glory days," Dumbledore said with a sigh. "You're back on tour next week, aren't you?"
"I think I'm going to have an injury," Harry said helplessly. "Believe me, Albus, I love flying and quidditch, but I haven't played in about twenty years other than a bit of fun with the boys. If I tried to play a match now I would only embarrass myself and make those who are suspicious more so."
The crowd had all-but disappeared, and Harry began to follow Albus towards the castle. "I'm your ally in this, Harry, so if you need me, you know where to find me."
"Can I ask you a question, Albus, even though it might come across a bit rude?"
"You may, I rather fancy rude questions."
"What, exactly, made you believe me? I mean, most people, even people who believed me to be genuine would have found me barking mad. So, why you?"
"I have two answers for that, Harry. The first is rather simple, the reason I believe you is the very reason that drove you to seek me out in the first place. The second, however, is a bit more complicated." They walked through the large doors and Albus didn't speak again until they were back in his office. They took a seat at his desk and he waved his wand, conjuring two cups of steaming tea.
"You see, Harry, the day you described waking up in your sister's flat with no recollection of how you got there, or that the world had changed, happened to me, but in a different way."
Harry's eyes widened and he froze with the tea half way to his mouth. "What?"
Albus looked up in thought, taking a few breaths to gather his words. "I didn't have the experience as you did, my boy, of waking up with memories of a different past. Mine was a bit more strange, for I remembered all of the things that happened to me from early childhood to now... except... there reaches a point in my memory where it all felt wrong. Like it was false, painted over in my mind, as though it didn't quite belong there. That morning it felt as though I was waking from a great, long sleep, though according to my bedside clock I had only gotten my usual six hours, and for a moment I wasn't sure where I was. For a moment, I remembered being in another place, one with a great deal more peace and calm than the world I'm in right now."
"Heaven," Harry whispered.
"Heaven," Dumbledore chuckled, "is a child's fairy tale, but I suppose if I did die a great hero, there might be a place for me in some Elysian Fields."
"With your sister waiting?" Harry asked.
Albus' eyes narrowed. "My sister? How did you-"
"I didn't mean to startle you, Albus," Harry said quickly. "I forget that some things I learned after your death, and probably would have never learned them if you had survived."
Albus cleared his throat, visibly shaken for a moment. "If I was not convinced before, my boy, I think you may have just done it now."
"Nothing to forgive. It's a small bit of relief that some soul on this planet knows, some soul knows and still loves me in spite of it."
Harry gave him a sad smile. "We all have things to be loved in spite of, Albus. I've killed a man. A terrible man, but a man all the same. Whether it's a stranger, a friend, an enemy... murder changes you, in ways you can't recover from. I get it, Albus, I do."
"Harry, I can't promise that Severus will be receptive to your call, if you do find him. Perhaps, as you surmise, he survived the shifting of the universe and will recognize you. If he hasn't, be warned, I don't believe you'll receive the most warm welcome."
"I have to take the risk," Harry said morosely. "Albus, my friends have new lives, my children don't exist, the family I have here aren't people I would have wanted to grow up with, and the only hope I have left for anything, for fixing it at all, is my husband. I have to try."
Harry went home later that night, back to his unfamiliar, empty flat surrounded by pictures of people he didn't know. He drank himself to sleep and dreamed of his husband.
He managed to feign an injury so severe he would be out the rest of the season, and was unfazed by the anger of his teammates and even a howler or two from some very disgruntled fans. Harry didn't care. He wasn't going to make a fool out of himself by trying to play professional quidditch, and frankly, he wanted to spend his time sitting round his flat waiting for the letter from Dumbledore's contact on Snape's whereabouts.
A week later, he was still without information and coerced into a lunch by his sister, Mabel. He wanted to decline, but there was a part of him too curious to tell her no. Her child, Michael, was in school, so the two of them met at a cafe in Muggle London.
"You're not going to disappear on me this time, are you?" she asked him as he sat down.
Harry sighed. "I said I was sorry. I have a lot going on right now."
"Wizard stuff," she said with a sneer. It reminded him of the Dursleys, and he remembered Petunia's absolute jealousy that Lily was a witch, and he wondered if maybe Mabel was acting out because of it.
"Personal stuff, actually," Harry said with a small sigh. He was brought coffee and he added sugar, taking a sip and giving a small sigh.
"Since when do you drink coffee, Harry?" Mabel asked, "Black coffee, especially."
Harry shrugged, not really caring anymore if someone found his behavior odd. "I like it this way." He drank down half the cup before speaking again. As he drank, he stared at his sister, and wondered if she was really happy. She was very pretty, tall, thick hair like Lily, but black like James'. "How are you, Mabel? Are you well?"
She seemed quite taken aback by this question and stared at him, her dark brows furrowed. "I'm fine, why?" Her voice was laced with heavy suspicion.
"Just wondering. Can't a brother worry about his sister?" Of course Harry didn't really know if he was supposed to or not. The only family he could model sibling behavior after were the Weasleys, and frankly they were quite different than a lot of people he knew.
"I don't think you've ever worried about me a day in your life, Harry," Mabel said. "Dad told me you were acting odd, and I didn't believe him until now. What is going on with you?"
Harry shrugged. "I think I've reached a point where my life before this didn't make a lot of sense, and now I'm just trying to get it back to the way it was. Do you ever feel like that? Like your life just makes absolutely no sense at all?"
Mabel stared at him for some time. "Yes, actually. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with this feeling like I'm not really meant to be here. Like my life is a mistake. Mum's terrified I'm going to try and do something stupid, but it's not about that, not about killing myself or not being able to take it. It's just... this feeling like I don't belong in this world."
Suddenly an owl flew overhead and dropped a package onto Harry's lap before disappearing. Harry looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but it seemed like no one had. Mabel looked a bit horrified, but didn't say anything as Harry tore open the packaging.
There was a small file folder, and when Harry opened it, he was met with the scowling face of his husband, Severus Snape. Snape looked the same; long, black hair, black, angry eyes, hooked nose and deep scowl. Harry instantly felt warmth creep into his stomach. He missed Severus.
The papers detailed Snape's whereabouts and cautioned anyone carrying the last name Potter to approach the man, but Harry didn't care. This was Harry's husband and if he could remember, if he held on to the life that was his before the change, he had to believe Severus had as well.
"What is that?" Mabel asked after some time.
"It's something I've been looking for since I got here," Harry said.
"Got where?" Mabel demanded.
Harry gulped down the rest of his coffee. "I think, Mabel, it would have been nice to have known you longer. I think that if there was a way to change it, to change it so maybe I wouldn't be this total, horrible ponce, and lived a life where I could love and appreciate my sisters and brother, we would have all been a lot happier."
He smiled at her before dashing off down the alley and disapparating to the small town in northern France that Snape was rumored to be living. Being a wizarding village, Harry felt no qualms about apparating right into the middle of the street, and none of the passers by seemed to take notice of him at all.
There were shops and cafes all over the place, and Harry didn't know where he was going to find Snape, but he knew that he wasn't about to give up until he did. For the better part of the afternoon, Harry went from place to place, using his sad, broken French to attempt to locate the man he once called husband.
It wasn't until the sun started to sink low into the sky that Harry found the man, sitting in the back of a small pub, scribbling away at a huge, looming tome with one hand and stuffing his face with a sandwich with the other. Harry immediately strode to the back of the bar, and without invite, he pulled the chair out and sat across from Snape.
It took a moment for Severus to recognize the bespectacled person sitting across from him, and instead of the firm embrace and warm mouth Harry expected to be on him, he found himself with the tip of a wand pressed painfully into the side of his throat.
"Potter spawn," Snape hissed, spitting a little onto Harry's cheek. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to talk to you," Harry said, trying to pull away from the wand, but Snape was having none of that.
"I know a thousand spells that would make you beg for death, and not leave a single mark on your pretty face, Potter. So go on, tell me what you want."
"You," Harry deadpanned.
Snape pulled his wand away and sat back. "I'm sorry. What?"
"God, Severus, please please tell me you remember," Harry begged. He was near tears, and this was his last hope, the only thing to keep him grounded and sane. He had lost his friends, his family, his children. He couldn't take losing his husband, too.
"I don't know what sort of sick joke you think you're playing, Potter," Snape growled, "but believe me, if you don't get the hell away from me, I will kill you. A stint in Azkaban would be very worth ridding the world of another Potter."
Harry's heart was breaking. There was no recognition in Snape's eyes. There was nothing, not a single hint in his voice that he remembered. "You did this, Snape!" Harry cried out of desperation. "You did this to me. You cast your bloody spell, and for fuck's sake, you didn't think to include yourself in it? You left me here in this hell, this nightmare, alone!"
"You're mad," Snape whispered, backing his chair up a bit. "You're absolutely mad. Do your parents know where you are? Does St Mungo's?"
Harry's hands were trembling and he put them to his face, crying out from the sheer agony of having lost literally everything that meant anything to him. "God! Why? It would have been better if you had just let me forget! Why did you do this!" Harry removed his hands from his face and stood up, leaning over the table, hysteria taking over all reason. "Why? Did you hate me? Was it all some sort of joke? Some fucked up revenge on my family after all those years?"
Snape actually looked frightened. "I have no idea what you're talking about, and I suggest you calm down and get out before I take matters into my own hands." His voice was low, and very dangerous.
"You know me!" Harry cried. "You loved me once!"
"You're out of your mind. I don't know you, I'm not complete sure what your name actually is, nor do I care. I would rather have my eyes ripped from my screaming face than be near a Potter. Get. Out."
Harry started to speak again, but then there was a crack, a bright flash, and he found himself standing at the edge of the village, alone. For one, shocked moment, he looked around and laughed. Moments later, that laugh turned into a sob and he collapsed on the ground. Everything was shattered, wrong, and not his.
He was the Boy Who Made Mistakes, but this was the first time he knew he couldn't blunder his way out of it. He had signed consent, and now he was alone in a strange world that he knew nothing about.
Harry wasn't sure how he made it home, but when he arrived there, his parents were waiting for him. They looked concerned and sat down as he fell to the sofa, his head lolling on the cushion. "What do you want?" Harry asked.
"Your father told me," Lily began. "You're gay, and if that's the problem you're having, Harry-"
"That's not my problem," Harry said. He rubbed at his face and looked at his parents. "When I was little, I hero worshiped the two of you. Every time someone told me that you, dad, were an arrogant ponce, I would fly into a rage. Every time someone told me that you, mum, were weak and silly, I'd lose my mind. I thought, no one understands what amazing people my parents are. What great things they did, how brave they always were. I always knew that being raised by you meant I would have been raised right, properly, open minded loved and cared for.
"It didn't occur to me that being raised by you would turn me into this attention-seeking ponce who shut out his siblings because they couldn't do magic. Who made them feel less because they were born different. I never thought that being sorted into Gryffindor meant that I was an arrogant prick set to become quidditch star, marry for face, not for love, and have a child who barely recognizes me. Never, in my life, did I ever think that I'd anything would make me friendly with Draco Malfoy."
"Oh Harry," Lily breathed, her hand to her mouth.
Harry shook his head. "I'm in love. I've been in love for four years, and I thought he and I had something amazing. I thought that something we had would travel through space and time, would conquer any odds set before us. Even if the very fabric of the universe shifted, our love would transcend it. I was wrong. I was wrong, and for the first time in my life, I can't fix it."
"We didn't know," James said quietly.
"You wouldn't have," Harry said. "In my world, you couldn't have known."
"What can we do, Harry?" Lily asked quietly from her place on the sofa.
"There's nothing you can do, not for me." Harry stood up and raked his hands back through his hair. Turning, he looked at his parents and felt overwhelming sadness because they were not the parents he knew in his mind, the parents that would have made his life wonderful and complete. "Love your daughters, and your son," he said finally, thinking of his own children, unmade by his desire to see the world as he thought it should be. "Love them. Be their parents. Bugger magic, dad. Bugger magic, and quidditch and spells and charms and potions. Drive a car, buy a mobile, watch television, surf the internet. Take the tube instead of a broom, walk instead of apparate. Show your other kids their life is just as good as mine. Stop worrying about my life. Stop worrying about forcing your children to let their kids go to Hogwarts. Let Maggie become a doctor instead of a Healer. Stop letting it matter so much."
He didn't even know where the words were coming from, they were just pouring out. He wondered if he was possibly tapping into the other Harry, just for a moment, letting the two combine. He felt terrible for his siblings, terrible for their feeling of being outcasts. He knew exactly what that was like, and he was horrified that any version of himself would stand for it.
His parents had no real response to him. He got a phone call from his sister though, a few days later. She said that Lily had told her everything, and she was impressed. She didn't really know who Harry was anymore, but that wasn't a good thing.
He received an invite for tea from Dumbledore shortly after that. It was nearing to Christmas, and Sebastian, it seemed, would be spending the holidays with his mum, so Harry took the opportunity to avoid his son and visit with his former Headmaster.
"I take it the visit with Snape went poorly?" Dumbledore asked as he passed the tray of biscuits to Harry.
"Not as well as I'd hoped," Harry said.
"I received correspondence," Dumbledore said and nodded to a letter sitting on the edge of the desk. "He seemed a bit put off by your appearance and asked me to make sure it didn't happen again. He's married, you know, Snape."
Harry's eyes widened. "To a man or a woman?"
"Woman. They have two children, both here at Hogwarts. She's quite nice, Harry, his wife. Works as an international Potions dealer for the Ministry. I met her a few times, lovely to chat with."
Harry's head bowed. "Maybe I've always been wrong about him."
"Maybe, Harry, and I say this because I know Severus better than most people, maybe he cast the spell on you alone because he couldn't fathom a world where he didn't love you. He couldn't fathom the time turner event having any effect on him, and he was insecure enough to make sure that you passed through it, and felt no need to cast the charm on himself."
It made perfect sense to Harry. That was absolutely something his spouse would do, and he felt rage course through him. Slamming his fist on Dumbledore's desk he shouted, "That idiot!"
"Indeed, he is a bit foolish at times."
Harry rubbed his face roughly and gulped some tea. "I can't live like this, Albus. I can't. I don't belong in this world. I don't want to be a part of it without my children, without my husband, without the people I've grown to consider family. I just... I can't."
"I realize this as well, Harry," he said softly. "There may be a way to fix it, but I can't promise anything."
Harry's eyes snapped up to Dumbledore's face. "Albus, I can't ask that of you. Asking for your help means killing you all over again."
"If it's as you say it is, Harry, if the world was altered by time travel, then I was meant to die. I still cannot shake the feeling that I'm not supposed to be here. I feel as though I'm living on borrowed time, and to me, changing what is meant to be is hardly worth an extra day in this world. If I did brave, as you said, and happy, as I believe I must have, I can't ask for more than that."
"But what about everyone else? What about Cedric Diggory, who was killed by Peter Pettigrew when he was just seventeen? A child, not alive to grow up and do all the things he was meant to do? What about Fred Weasley? My God, Fred was an amazing man. Asking the Weasleys to relive the death of one of their children... I can't do it."
"In my world, Harry, you don't give a Weasley the time of day. They're too poor and odd for your liking. Oh James and Lily were friendly with Molly and Arthur during the war, but they never considered them equals."
"My mother was muggle born, how can she think this way?"
"Being excellent at something tends to change the way you think, as does not wanting for anything material, Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. "Spending years as a wealthy, top witch changes your perspective on things."
"It's ugly," Harry said.
"Indeed. Perhaps your world is better, it sounds like the world I would have preferred when all was said and done. Don't forget, Harry, that death teaches us all something. Sometimes it teaches us that life is short. Sometimes it teaches us to cry or grieve. Sometimes it teaches us how to live without. Sometimes it teaches us to love what we have just that much more. Death isn't wrong, Harry, it's a part of life."
"What do I do, Albus? How do I fix it?"
"You have to wait," he said simply.
Harry frowned. "What do you mean I have to wait?"
"Time turners work on a specific day, Harry. We can turn back the clock, but we can't turn back the day. You said this all happened 28 October, and so we must wait, until next year and on that date, we will use my time turner and turn back the clock and kill the men who would kill Voldemort."
"How?" Harry asked with wide eyes. "They will have gone back in the Department of Mysteries. How can we possibly make it work."
"Was I not as influential in your time as I am in mine, Harry?"
"Oh well I..." Harry stammered.
Dumbledore chuckled. "I'll get you in, and the rest is up to you. The best we can hope for is that you have patience long enough to wait the many months, and that you take care to not die."
Simple instructions, and Harry was determined to keep to them. He retired from quidditch, despite many protests and salary rise offers, and even bribes. Fans mourned, opposing teams cheered, and his own team sent him hate mail.
He didn't care, there was nothing else he could do. He had to wait, and he wanted to travel. He wanted to see the world he may have grown up in if things hadn't been different. He wanted to spend time by the ocean on the beach.
He wanted to see Sirius and Remus again, which he did when he finally tracked them down in a little beach town in Mexico. They looked tanned, Remus looking healthier and happier than Harry had ever seen him.
Sirius looked his usual self, fit and grinning, embracing his godson the minute Harry walked across the sand.
"Your parents told us to expect you!" Sirius said as he pulled Harry to a little area where outdoor sofas lined a fire-pit in the sand. "How are you? We heard you retired from quidditch. So young, Harry, too young!"
"I've had enough," Harry said. He stared hard at the two people he had loved and lost, and ached to bring them back with him. If only he could. "I just wanted to spend some time with you before I'm off."
"Where to?" Remus asked.
"All over," Harry said. "I just need some time away." He suddenly felt a little choked up that he was going to have to say goodbye to them again, for good. How painful it was to be able to reach out and touch someone he loved, knowing that he had to make a choice between living the life he felt he belonged in, and letting those he loved have a life they could enjoy.
"You seem sad, Harry," Remus said softly. "It's not like you."
"Your parents said you've been going through a lot of changes," Sirius added.
"I'm sure they told you about the gay thing," Harry said, and both men nodded. "It's more than that, but we can leave it simple for now."
"Who was he?" Remus asked. "Clearly someone has broken your heart, and I'm sorry for it."
Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter."
They shared some beers, the three men, and then Sirius decided to head off for a run while Remus and Harry sat on the deck, looking out at the sun setting on the water. Harry had always felt a kinship with Remus, someone who had understood suffering and pain from a very young age.
He now felt a pressing desire to just tell Remus everything. "I miss you, Remus. You and Sirius."
"You know where to find us, you know," he answered with a chuckle.
Harry's throat tightened. "It's not that simple. Remus I... there's something I want to tell you, but you have to keep it from Sirius."
"Oh Harry, I don't know-"
"I'm in love with Severus Snape," Harry blurted.
Remus' jaw snapped shut and he stared at Harry with his wide, brown eyes. "Sorry? Is that a joke, because if it is, it isn't funny."
Harry shook his head, feeling more miserable than ever. "It's complicated, Remus. So complicated, and so painful."
"Do your parents know?" he asked with a whisper.
Harry shook his head. "I haven't told them recently, and don't plan to because before long it won't matter. The Severus Snape in this world will never love me."
"In this world? What are you on about?"
Harry licked his lips, reached into his pocket and pulled out the wedding ring that had come along with him. The simple gold band with Severus & Harry engraved on the inside, flashed in the dying light of the sun. "Severus and I were married once."
Remus was frowning. "Are you feeling alright?"
Harry opened his mouth, and suddenly the entire tale came pouring out, every last bit of it. From his childhood with the Dursleys to now. Remus was staring at him, his face blank, his eyes wide and curious. Harry didn't see doubt, but he saw confusion.
"I know you don't believe me. I wouldn't believe me if it didn't happen to me," Harry plead. "In my world, Remus, you and Sirius are dead. You're gone, and it's killing me to be sitting here with you right now, talking to you, being close enough to touch you, knowing that I might have to rewind time back to the way it was supposed to be and watch Voldemort kill you all over again. It's... " Harry broke off, his voice giving out on him, and for the first time since this all happened, he cried.
Remus, after quite some time, reached out and took the ring from Harry. He stared at the engravings, at the worn band, at the wear and tear of a ring that was never taken off. "You're telling the truth, aren't you?"
"I am," Harry said, wiping at his eyes angrily. "I wish I wasn't. I wish I wasn't sitting here telling you that in my world you had precious little time with Sirius. That he was in prison for most of my life, and that we all had a single year with him before he was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange. That you married Nymphadora Tonks, had a child with her and before that child was old enough to walk and talk, you were both killed and he grew up without any idea of who his parents were."
Remus' eyes were watery, but no tears fell. "And what about you, Harry? Your life?"
"In my world, I'm divorced from Ginny Weasley. We have three amazing children that don't exist here, and I honestly don't want to spend another moment in a world where they aren't. I'm married to Severus Snape, who was nearly killed by Voldemort, saved at the last minute by Albus' meddling with time. He's blind, he's angry, he runs a bookshop in Muggle London. I spend most of my nights doing his books and Brailling potions and spell texts for him to read, even though he's sworn off magic. He tells me I'm an idiot all the time, and I tell him he's a useless old man. We've spent every night together since our first kiss, and knowing he's here, but he's not my Severus, is killing me."
"I don't know what to say," Remus replied after a few tense moments.
"Don't say anything," Harry said. "Don't tell Sirius, don't tell my parents. Remus, I love you and Sirius and I want the world for you, but this world... it's not right."
"I understand," Remus said. "For some time now things have felt..."
"Off?" Harry asked. "I've heard that from others. My sisters, they don't exist in my world, and they've told me here that they feel like they don't belong. They think it's because my parents don't love them the way they love me. I'm certain it's because they aren't supposed to exist."
"Is there a way I can help?"
"Just live every day like there won't be another tomorrow. Maybe it won't matter when things go back to the way they were. Maybe you'll take the stolen time you had with Sirius with you to whatever realm your spirit is in. I can't be sure. All I can do is give you this knowledge so that maybe you can live life exactly the way you want it."
"Will you tell me the date, Harry?" Remus asked.
Harry shook his head. "I can't. If I do that, you might come looking for me. You might decide it's worth it and try and stop me, but I have to put things right. I'm sorry Remus."
"I understand," he said quietly.
The year passed quicker than Harry thought it would. October approached with a fierce conviction and Dumbledore contacted Harry once more to make sure they were still on. Harry had two weeks before the big date, and in that two weeks, he made a decision. He was going to see Snape again.
He went back to that little French village, and found Snape again in that little cafe, writing. He approached from behind, and without warning, he pulled his wand and whispered, "Petrificus Totalus."
Snape froze so silently, no one noticed. Harry took a seat in front of him, reached across the table and took his hand. "I'm not going to take this curse off until I'm far away from you because I can't risk dying," he said. "I'm here to tell you that in another universe, in another time line, you love me. You love me, and I love you and we're married."
Harry pulled the ring out and held it under Snape's frozen gaze. "I go to bed with you every night, and wake with you every morning, and I wouldn't have it any other way, my parents be damned. The funny thing is, you didn't trust me to still love you across all of the universes. You didn't trust that my love for you would carry through, so you tried to protect me, assuming in your foolish arrogance that your love for me would exist no matter what. You didn't count on being this man sitting here, frozen by my spell, hating me more every passing second.
"But I don't care, Severus. I don't. I know your deepest secrets, your deepest fears, and I hold them carefully. I will never stop loving you. I'm going to fix this world, I'm going back home, to you, to our home, to our family, and I hope that even just a little bit of this carries through."
With that, Harry released the spell almost exactly at the same moment as he disapparated away. He found himself standing in London. There was an icy rain falling, but he barely felt it. He found himself standing in front of the building that he and Severus, in the other world, occupied.
He closed his eyes as he stood there, picturing their warm living room, fire roaring, telly blaring reruns of Doctor Who, Snape reading and bitching about the noise level, Harry drinking coffee and snacking on left over curry. The house smelled of spices from Severus' experiments with potions and cooking. The floors creaked, the bedrooms were dusty because both men hated dusting. Harry was always leaving a shoe, or a slipper around for Severus to trip on, and Severus was constantly rearranging the bookshelves for the optimum placement of things.
When one of the kids came round, there was a lot of laughter and taking the piss, especially out of Harry. All three of his children seemed to sadistically enjoy watching Snape take his husband down a peg over any and everything, and they quite enjoyed joining in. Harry never really hated it.
He opened his eyes, his hair sticking to his forehead, his glasses wet and foggy. He walked up the steps and peered in the window, but no one was home. Against better judgment, Harry used his wand to unlock the door and he walked inside, grateful there wasn't a muggle alarm system.
By the state of things, the amount of dust coating almost every bit of furniture and knick knacks, Harry surmised that no one had been there in a long, long time. It was fitting. The idea of someone else living in his home would have driven him mad.
There weren't photos up, and Harry didn't look too hard for any. He walked straight down the hall into the bedroom he would have shared with Severus. There was a bed there, four poster, but no curtains, and there was a dresser eerily similar to the one he had with Snape.
He walked straight to the wall and felt round, delighted when he found the small secret compartment that Snape had used to store his wand and a few other things he had renounced from the wizarding world but kept around just in case.
The compartment was empty now. Harry conjured up a piece of parchment, and used his wand to jot down on it, a small note in Braille.
I don't know if this will carry over, but if it does, you were right. You were right, Severus, and I was terribly wrong. I don't want to live in a world where our love doesn't exist, and for that reason I'm willing to do whatever it takes to reach you again. One year I have spent without you and I realized I cannot go on any longer. It's this, or death. So wish me luck.
He cast a protection spell on the parchment, nothing so intricate as Snape had used, but one that might work, and he slipped it back and replaced the door. Letting out a little sigh, he closed his eyes and remembered once more, just for a minute, what he desperately hoped to return to.
On the 28th of October, it was pouring rain. Harry stood outside the Ministry in the wee hours of the morning, side-by-side with Albus Dumbledore. There wasn't a witch or wizard in sight, as the pair walked in the front doors and met with the Welcome Witch.
Badges adorning their robes, Harry and Dumbledore went down deep into the bowels of the Ministry, reaching the ninth floor with a jarring thump as the lift came to a stop. They got out, and the pair shared a look as Dumbledore reached into his robes and pulled out a very familiar, and welcome sight. Harry's- or rather James'- invisibility cloak.
"In my world," Harry said as he felt the familiar, silky fabric, "this was the only one of the Hallows I kept."
Dumbledore's eyebrows raised in surprise. "The Hallows?"
"You gave them to me, you know. All of them except the Elder Wand, which I acquired in the end."
"Did Voldemort ever get it?" Albus asked softly.
Harry chuckled. "He acquired it, but he never mastered it. It belonged to me, and was ultimately his undoing. The resurrection stone was left in the wood, I don't know if any poor, hapless fool ever came upon it. The wand, I got rid of. I kept the cloak, though. It was the only thing I had left of my father."
"Will you be able to keep loving your parents, Harry? When you return to your world?"
"I think that I will," Harry said with a shrug.
"I think this is where we must say farewell, then," Dumbledore said. "All I can really do is thank you for this borrowed time. I'm so pleased I got to know the real you, Harry. You were a joy to me as you were, but meeting you now is a treasure. Good luck."
Harry embraced the old man once more, knowing that after this he would either be dead or back in his own time line, and either way, Dumbledore would not be a part of that. He took the time turner the old man was holding gently, and he walked through the tall black door.
Knowing what to expect, even though he was disoriented, he was able to keep steady and put the cloak on. He wrapped the time turner round his neck and then began to turn. He turned and turned and turned, finally reaching the number Dumbledore had instructed.
When he let go, it started to spin and time began to race backwards. He caught glimpses and flashes of people and things. Time raced, and then suddenly came to a stop. Harry felt off balance for a moment, but when he looked around, he knew he had reached the right place.
He hunkered down in the corner and wondered exactly what it was he was going to do to be able to stop these people. Reason with them? It would be hard to use his personal discomfort as a real reason for the wizarding world to be a better place.
He could lie. He could tell them that in changing the future, he became a Dark Lord and was on the path to destroy the world. Still, Harry had a feeling that Unspeakables had a way of sorting out the truth without potions or spells.
The realization that he was going to have to kill these men hit him just as they apparated into the room. Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
One by one they were all there, armed to the teeth, ready to do business with Horcruxes and the Dark Lord himself. They were on a mission, a righteous mission, and nothing would stop them.
It took only the thought of Harry's children ceasing to exist, and the love lost between himself and Severus to gather the power for that most awful spell. The green light struck them all before they even had a chance to sort out what was going on.
It didn't take any time at all for Harry to decide what to do with the bodies. Even in his shock he remembered where the veil was, and it took no time at all to put them through. He had sort of expected a great flash, or something. Anything. He expected to be transported immediately to the present time, but that didn't happen.
No, it wouldn't, would it. He had time traveled. He had time traveled and though he had prevented Voldemort's early demise, he was still in the past. With the cloak still on, barely long enough to prevent himself from being seen, Harry rode the lift out of the Department of Mysteries, and left the Ministry.
It was still those terrible morning hours, but the streets of Wizarding London were more bare than ever. Harry realized it was because the Dark Lord was in control. The Dark Lord was at the height of his power, and no one realized that the sacrifice of one, Muggle Born Witch was going to take him down, until years later, he would be finished off.
Harry turned his face up to the sky. In this time, in this year, it was not raining. The sky was beginning to lighten, and Harry knew it was time. He found a deserted alley and there he turned the little hour glass the opposite way, just the way Dumbledore had instructed him to do so.
He prayed, to a Muggle Christian God he didn't believe in, he prayed. He prayed, closed his eyes, knelt down and let time rush forward. He stood there, crouched down, his eyes clamped shut, when he heard a voice say, "Hey you, what you doing down there?"
Harry stood up and stared. He was still holding his fist tightly, but the time turner was gone. It made sense to Harry, because the Dumbledore that existed to give it to him no longer existed now. He was in the jeans he had traveled through time in, and when he reached up to his forehead, his scar was there.
He was terrified. The wizard who called to him wasn't anyone he knew. "Sorry mate, got a bit dizzy," he said. "Do you have the time."
"Quarter past five," the wizard said. "You need help there?"
Harry shook his head. "No thanks, just going to head on home."
With that, he started to walk. Despite his hatred of the Ministry, Snape and Harry lived only a few blocks from Wizarding London, and when Harry approached the front step, he hesitated. A year would have passed, a year without him. How could it possibly be explained? Would Snape remember any of it at all?
Harry put his key in the lock and was surprised to find it worked. He stepped inside and there was Snape, having morning coffee at the table. His head snapped up and his eyes searched the room. "Who is there?"
He was still blind, Harry realized. "Please tell me you know me."
"Idiot," Snape barked. "Of course I know you. Where the hell have you been? Last I knew you were snoring away next to me, and when I wake up you've gone out? Not even a note?"
"What... what do you mean?" Harry asked.
"What do you mean, what do I mean? Were you sleep walking?"
Harry's hands were trembling as he shut the door and walked to the table. "I was... by the Ministry?"
"Oh Christ, those Unspeakables again, was it?" Snape demanded. "Obviously their idiot plan failed since there's no real difference here. Everyone's still dead, including the Dark Lord, and here we are."
Harry's tremble increased and he felt his face grow hot and prickly. "Are you having me on, Severus?"
Severus reached across the table and found Harry's forehead with the back of his hand. "Are you ill, Potter? I realize you were hoping for more from those Ministry idiots, but I didn't have much faith they could pull it off, and I thought you didn't, either."
"They... they did pull it off," Harry said, his voice shaking.
Snape started to pull his hand away, but Harry caught it, holding on tightly. In an instant, he was on his husband, touching him, clinging to him as though at any moment he would be gone again. A small sob escaped him, a sob of relief, wonder and pain.
"A year, Severus, I was there a bloody year..."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Snape demanded.
"Your stupid spell you cast last night, the spell you said was a protection spell? It wasn't, was it? It was a preservation spell!"
Snape's cheeks pinked, and his mouth turned down. It was his guilty expression and he pulled away from Harry slightly. "How did you know."
"Because you preserved me, you moron!" Harry cried. "I bloody woke up in a world I had no memory of because of your spell. I woke up in a world where I was a professional Quidditch player, had married Katie Bell, had two sisters and a brother who were squibs! My parents were alive, and they were assholes! My best friends were Cedric Diggory and Draco Malfoy, and Sirius and Remus were a couple!"
Snape sat silent for a moment, and, taking Harry by surprise, he suddenly laughed. "Are you serious? Are you bloody serious, Potter? Your parents had a bunch of squibs?"
"It's not funny!" Harry shouted, standing up and starting to pace. "It's not fucking funny, Severus! They were horrible to their children. My sisters were miserable! I was miserable. I was a fucking ponce, and no one really liked me."
"So how are we here right now?" Snape asked.
"Dumbledore believed me," Harry said, growing somewhat calmer. He sat on the back of the sofa and stared at his husband. "I went to him when I realized what you'd done. He told me that I could use the time turner to go back in time to stop the unspeakables from finishing the job. I think I caused a time paradox, but I don't care anymore."
"How did you stop them?"
"I killed them," Harry said in a dead tone. "When I realized that my children had been unmade, that my friends didn't know me, my family were horrible and my husband hated the very sight of me, I killed them."
Snape winced. "You saw me?"
"I did, you foolish man," Harry said. "You were so sure that you would still love me, you only protected yourself. You hated me. You threatened to kill me and meant it. The sight of me made you sick."
Snape rose from the table and took Harry in his arms. "I told you it was a stupid idea."
"I realize that, now," Harry said grumpily, burying his face in Snape's neck.
"I hope you learned your lesson."
Harry kissed his husband. "Which lesson?"
"To listen to me, and to not be such a stupid bitch."