For full header information, see part 1
Severus did not know what was more humiliating: the fact that he was actually a little afraid of the scorpion dangling in front of his face, the knowledge that they’d taken his wand from him so easily when he had forty years of experience on them, or the déjà vu-like familiarity of being laughed at by a gang of sodding Gryffindors.
"What the – Bloody fucking hell!"
Ah, none of those, then. That it was all happening with Potter there to witness it was easily the worst part of the entire situation.
"What do you think you’re doing, Anderson?" Potter shouted.
The one closest to him, supposedly Anderson, smirked. "Just teaching this ugly know-it-all a lesson."
Potter stepped closer. "You lot are just jealous because he’s so much smarter than you. Let him go."
Anderson scoffed. "What is he, your girlfriend? Best run along before we find a poisonous little friend for you, too," he said, glancing at the scorpion he was Levitating inches from Severus’ nose.
Forcibly turning his attention away from the arachnid, which was kicking its legs and striking at empty air with its stinger, Severus looked at Potter. He just knew that underneath his flashy display of Gryffindor honor, Potter must be loving this, seeing a man he hated being taunted for sport. It would be just like a Potter to get a thrill out of it.
Strangely, though, Severus could not find a trace of suppressed delight in his face, no matter how hard he searched.
Surely the twit was not actually concerned for him?
"I won’t tell you again – Let him go!"
The boys just laughed, and Anderson inched the scorpion closer.
Then, with a rapid series of tight, controlled flicks of his wand, Potter Banished the arachnid, Disarmed the five Gryffindors, and Bound them before they even had time to stop laughing. In that moment, Severus finally understood that it was skill, not celebrity, that had given Potter such a formidable reputation as an Auror.
"You all right?" Potter asked as he handed Severus’ wand back to him.
Somewhat shaken and more than a little embarrassed that he had just been rescued by a former student from a bunch of sodding teenagers, Severus answered with a curt, "Fine."
He spun to stalk away, eager to get out of there, but stopped when Potter laid a tentative hand on his forearm. "You sure?" he asked.
Something in his gut clenched at Potter’s genuinely concerned tone. "I’m fine. Your actions are… appreciated."
Potter grinned. "You’re welcome."
"Thank you," Severus bit out. "You didn’t have to do that for me."
Potter just shrugged. "I’d have done it for anyone."
He should have been relieved, but something in him sank when he realized Potter was being completely honest: it truly had not mattered to him whom he was rescuing. It could have been anyone.
Bloody noble prat.
Just then a professor hurried up to them, robes flapping behind him, trailed by the panicked first-year who had probably gone to fetch him. "Someone care to tell me what’s going on here?" he asked, eyebrows going up when he caught sight of the five Gryffindors bound with rope.
"I did that," Potter offered, holding out the five wands. "They were ganging up on my housemate here."
Professor Abercrombie tucked the wands into a pocket and eyed him. They didn’t take Care of Magical Creatures and they weren’t Gryffindors, so Severus supposed it made sense the professor might have trouble placing them. "You’re Sam, right? Sam Harrison?"
Potter nodded. "I usually go by Harry, though."
Abercrombie turned to Severus. "And you?"
He nodded. "Anyone injured?"
"No, Professor," Potter answered.
"All right, then. I’ll deal with this lot, and you boys go find Professor Quirke, make sure she knows what happened," Abercrombie instructed. "Best stick with the truth, because she and I will be discussing this later."
As they nodded and turned to go, Severus found himself unaccountably troubled by the thought that if Potter had ever had a modicum of respect for him, it was surely overruled now.XXXXX
Blind to the rest of the game, Harry followed the twists and feints of the Seeker with rapt attention. He could almost feel his belly drop every time the girl made a nosedive.
"I should have gone out for the team," he muttered. The girl was good, but he was positive he had been better. She
certainly hadn’t been the youngest Seeker in a century.
Snape turned to him and raised an eyebrow. "It’s been… what, fifteen years since you last played?"
"Nearly eighteen," Harry said, chagrined. Maybe Snape had a point. Still… "I did play pick-up with the Weasleys every now and then."
"Pick-up with the Weasleys!" Snape said dramatically. "Pardon me; you must be in top form."
"Oh, shut up and watch the game." Crossing his arms, Harry slouched into his seat and looked for the blonde-haired Seeker. What was her name? Judy? Julie? As long as he could vicariously chase the Snitch through her, he supposed it really didn’t matter.
Snape’s silence was, unfortunately, short-lived. "Are your lessons coming more easily, then, that you wish for something to fill the idle hours?" he asked with skeptically arched eyebrow. "Or have you given up on our… special project."
"Oi, I’m doing just fine in class! Better, anyway." Merlin, but he hated it when Snape was right. "Hey, you’re one to talk! How’s Transfigurations going for you, then? Managed a clock that actually ticks yet?"
Suddenly, he heard the ding
of a goal scored, and Snape gave a start and raised his hands as if to clap. Thankfully, it seemed he heard the booing of the other Ravenclaws around them and stopped himself.
Harry laughed and leaned closer. The crowd was loud and no one was paying any attention to them, but it wouldn’t do to be overheard. "Still cheering for Slytherin, Professor?" he murmured.
Snape just scowled. "Certainly not. I cheer for no one."
Moments later, Slytherin scored another goal and Harry saw Snape’s face light up for a split second before he schooled his features back to impassivity.
"Sure you don’t," Harry said, chuckling.
"As Head of House, I had to give the appearance
of unwavering support for the Slytherin team," Snape quietly insisted. "Some habits are difficult to break."
"Uh-huh," Harry said to placate him, "right, whatever you say."
"Watch the game," Snape huffed.XXXXX
"What do you think his problem is?" Potter asked as they filed out of the Defense classroom.
"To whom do you refer?"
"Oh, don’t be stupid. You know exactly who I mean," Potter answered, hefting his bag higher on his shoulder. "Professor Potter."
"How should I know?" Severus asked, weaving his way through the throng of students in the corridor. Really, what made Potter think it was a good idea to discuss this now
"What, you don’t even have a guess? It just doesn’t make any sense!" Potter groused. "I could never be like that."
"All evidence to the contrary," Severus pointed out.
He wished Potter would just drop it. He preferred not to think of Professor Potter at all, and he especially disliked comparing him to his younger counterpart. Potter was right: something drastic must have happened to leave the Professor like this, an empty shell of a person that in no way resembled the spirited young man walking next to him.
The thought alone was disturbing, and Severus shied away from it. "Stop dawdling. We’ll be late for Herbology and Cottonfoot will give us detention."
Potter scoffed. "Cottonfoot never gives anyone detention."
True enough, but Severus was not about to agree with Potter. He made it general policy not to, if it could be avoided.
"Library after class?" Potter asked.
"As ever," Severus answered, increasing his pace in an attempt to hurry Potter along.
"Bit nippy today," Potter said as they stepped outside.
"Brilliant observation," Severus said. "Terribly shocking as well, given the fact that it’s sodding November. Any other insights you’d like to share?" he asked, scowling as he pulled his gloves out of his pocket.
He turned his glare on Potter as he tugged the gloves on and, to his surprise, found the twit smiling at him. He was not at all comfortable with how gratifying he found that, but he could not bring himself to turn away.
"Not at the moment, no," Potter said, eyes sparkling in amusement, "but you’ll be the first to know."XXXXX
Harry found it very reassuring how little Hogsmeade had changed. Some of the shops were owned by different people and one or two of them had been replaced by something new, but the town still felt
just the same as it ever had.
There were still kids roaming around, exclaiming over this or that window display, trying to figure out how they could sneak Zonko’s products into the castle, wondering whether it was a date or not when their best friend said to meet at the Three Broomsticks at one.
Best of all, walking down the high street as the snow fell softly, just dusting his shoulders, and watching the lights twinkle around the doors and windows still gave him that wonderful feeling of Christmastime.
He sighed. "Don’t you just love Hogsmeade in December?"
"It’s cold and it’s crowded," Snape answered, burrowing further into his scarf.
Harry just smiled fondly. "Yeah."
"Can we go somewhere indoors
?" Snape grumbled.
"We should probably split up for a while, don’t you think?"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Why?" he asked, then quickly added, "Not that I don’t welcome the respite."
"Christmas shopping," Harry answered. "I don’t trust you to look the other way."
Snape stopped walking and turned an indecipherable look on him. "You’re buying me a Christmas present?"
Merlin, you’d think he’d never had a gift before. "Of course I am, you git. You’d better be getting me one as well."
"Right. Of course."
"Okay, off with you, then."
Snape scowled when Harry made a little shooing motion with his hands, but he went.
Later, after half an hour of fruitless wandering, Harry finally figured out why he was feeling so strange: he didn’t have Snape with him. Now that he thought about it, this might be the longest they’d spent apart since they’d come to the future, if you didn’t count studying or sleeping, and even then they were in the same room. Apparently, all it took was five months of being stranded together to start missing even a man he had hated all his life.
He shook his head, trying to get these weird thoughts out of his mind. After all, it wouldn’t do to go getting attached to Snape. He’d probably just sneer at Harry for it, anyway.
Bloody hell, this was getting ridiculous. He needed a distraction.
Someone in the universe must have heard him, because when he looked across the street, there was that Hufflepuff prefect. John or Jack or James; Harry couldn’t really remember. Whatever his name was, he was definitely gorgeous.
He had light brown shoulder-length hair that begged to be touched; clear, guileless blue eyes; and high cheekbones in a face that was just a touch too masculine to be considered pretty.
Taking in the narrow shoulders and innocent face, Harry winced slightly. Why couldn’t the bloke be twenty years older, or even ten? Even after spending an entire term in a seventeen-year-old’s body, he still felt a bit like a dirty old man when he noticed his classmates. Just because he looked like a teenager didn’t mean he was one. He certainly didn’t feel like one, and he expected that dirty feeling would not go away anytime soon.
Tearing his eyes away from the tempting Hufflepuff, Harry tried to focus on finding the right gift for Snape.XXXXX
Potter groaned and let his forehead fall with a thud onto the open book on the table in front of him. "We’re not getting anywhere
"Did you expect to absorb the answer through your skin?" Severus asked.
"What, you don’t think osmosis will work?"
"Only if you’re trying to absorb water
"Don’t be an arse," Potter mumbled against the book.
"Then don’t be an imbecile."
With a groan, Potter straightened himself up. "I’m trying, but I’m beginning to think there’s nothing to find."
"I warned you that might be the case."
"I know." He sighed. "I wish we could just craft a spell to fix everything."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I thought I told you not to be an imbecile? You know very well how dangerous it is to use spells before they’ve been researched, tested, fool-proofed. That little twit in your class told us to ‘be’ elsewhere rather than to ‘go’, and her spell took that as license to duplicate us! I do not even wish to contemplate all the ways your harebrained scheme could go wrong."
"Damn, calm down. I know all that, all right? I was only teaching the bloody class, so I think I’m well aware of the dangers. I was only saying ‘I wish’."
"Good. That would only be a disaster in waiting."
"You don’t have to tell me that. I’m not ready to give up completely, though. We have to keep trying." He dragged a hand through his hair. "It’s just… it’s almost Christmas, and I miss my friends. I never thought we’d be stuck here this long."
Severus couldn’t help but consider the way he habitually spent Christmas: shut away in his quarters until he was forced to emerge and engage in festivities with colleagues he was indifferent toward and students he barely tolerated, after which he returned to his quiet, empty rooms to brew or drink… or both. All things considered, this was looking to be his best Christmas in a long while.
"This is going to be the worst Christmas ever," Potter grumbled.
"Is it really so terrible?" Severus snapped, suddenly irritated.
Potter scowled. "Well, it’s not exactly ideal, is it?"
"Nothing is ever ideal, but the situation could certainly be a good deal worse. I realize you would not choose to spend your holiday with me
, but…" Severus trailed off as he realized just what he was saying and pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh.
"Well, I guess I don’t completely hate you anymore," Potter conceded begrudgingly.
"High praise, indeed."
Potter ignored him. "We at least have to get back to our right ages. Seriously, I have got
to stop ogling teenagers."
Severus’ eyes widened. "Just whom have you been ogling?"
Cheeks flushing slightly, Potter answered, "No one."
He sighed. "That Hufflepuff prefect… What’s his name?"
Potter nodded. "Him."
Severus pictured the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy with his sweet, angelic face and suddenly, inexplicably, hated him.
"Though I would like a chance to figure out what’s up with him before we solve this."
"What?" Severus asked, still categorizing all the reasons Finnegan irritated him. "Who?"
"Me… him. Professor Potter."
"Are you still obsessing over that?"
"I’m not obsessing!" Potter protested. "I just don’t want to end up like him. And I don’t want to leave here without figuring out who killed you, either."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You seem oddly concerned about the murder of a man you like so little."
"Eh, I guess you’re not so bad," Potter said, his furrowed brow melting away into a bright grin, and Severus felt his mood lift ever so slightly.XXXXX
Not for the first time, Harry questioned his plan. Surely the Ministry was the worst place for him to be. Severus was right: if he gave himself away, they’d have him locked up in no time, thinking him either mad or criminal.
Still, he had to do something
, and this seemed to be the only option open to him. Forcing himself to show no outward sign of his anxiety and just sidle up to the door, Harry asked the bloke behind the desk for permission to access the Hall of Records.
With barely a glance in his direction, the man waved him through.
Slowly letting out a breath, Harry stepped inside and took in the vast expanse of file cabinets. The room seemed to stretch on forever, and Harry remembered his panic at seeing it that first time as a young Auror gathering background information for a case.
This time, however, he knew all the tricks, and in no time he was seated at one of the many tables with every scrap of information he could find pertaining to the death of Severus Snape spread out in front of him.
There wasn’t much. Just the Prophet
article, his death certificate, and a copy of the official investigation report.
That was what the heading at the top of the scroll said, anyway; Harry thought it was a pitiful excuse for detective work. No one had bothered to check anything but the body for spell residue and there was no record of what had turned up in that scan, so he could only assume they’d found nothing. The contents of the crime scene – which was never explicitly named, forcing him to infer it was Snape’s house at Spinner’s End – had been catalogued haphazardly at best and there was no clear chain of evidence. The only reference to witness interviews was a statement from Headmistress Fawcett, saying she hadn’t seen or heard from Snape since he left the castle for the summer.
There were no suspects, no clear cause of death, no leads at all. If the Aurors in charge of this ‘investigation’ had been under Harry’s supervision, he’d have had them fired. As it was, all he could do was growl in frustration.
For Merlin’s sake, a man’s life
had been taken, a war hero’s, Severus fucking Snape’s! It was utterly unbelievable how easily it had been dismissed.
Well, he wasn’t going to just dismiss it – far from it. He would find out who had killed Snape; even if he was a colossal git, the world owed the man that much. Harry owed him that. The case might be fourteen years cold, but he had to try.
Severus was torn. On basic principle, he felt he should be surly – irritated, at the very least. After all, he was at a sodding dance. A Valentine’s Day dance, no less. There were hearts and sugar and pinkness everywhere, and fairies with tiny bows and arrows darted about shooting unsuspecting teenagers with their needle-like weapons. It was almost farcical.
And yet, he felt a distinct lack of resentment at being made to attend. He was, instead, very nearly pleased.
There was a possibility that this heretofore foreign emotion had some small connection to the fact that Harry Potter had spent most of the evening dancing with him, but he decided the notion did not merit much consideration. After all, he didn’t even like the brat.
"Thanks for putting up with me so long," Potter offered as yet another song ended. "I just can’t handle the thought of dancing with any of these… kids." He gave a little shudder. "You know?"
Severus nodded, as it seemed the thing to do.
Potter glanced down at his watch. "We’d better head out," he said with a wry smile. "People might start to think I’m trying to seduce you."
Suddenly, Severus could hear his pulse pounding in his ears; he felt very hot. Standing frozen, he swallowed thickly. "Are you?"
Potter let out snort of laughter. "Course not. Come on, let’s get out of here."
With that, he turned toward the door and Severus let out a slow, measured breath. After closing his eyes for a brief moment, he cautiously followed. XXXXX
"I’m trying to study," Snape said without looking up. "You should be, too."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Some things are more important than homework, you know." It was unbelievable how little Snape seemed to care about the fact that they were stuck in the future or that they were bloody teenagers or that his own future self had been murdered. He hardly ever suggested they go to the library anymore – unless it was to revise, of course. Harry suspected Ravenclaw House was beginning to affect him.
"All I’m saying is that you’d think the other me would have done some investigating. I don’t care if he’s not an Auror anymore – there’s no way a homicide happens right under his nose and he doesn’t look into it."
Snape shot him a sidelong glance. "Does he really seem up to it to you?"
Harry sighed and dragged a hand through his hair. "I know. He’s not even seventy yet and he acts like he’s practically dead. It’s… well, it’s just not right." Just thinking about it made him shudder.
"No," Snape replied, eyes on his parchment.
"Wonder how long he’s been that way. Wait… Did you just agree with me?"
"It’s a simple fact," Snape answered with a slight shrug. "Even a Bludger could see it."
"I can’t believe it. You’re agreeing with me." Harry gave a snort of laughter and shook his head. "I knew under that prickly exterior you must really like me."
Snape looked up sharply, eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, no doubt about to pelt Harry with verbal rocks, but Harry didn’t want to hear it.
"Oh, don’t worry," he said, hands up in surrender. "I’m not deluded, or anything. We don’t like each other – another simple fact I’m sure we’d both agree on."
"I… Ah. Yes, that’s right."
"Right," Harry confirmed with a nod. "So, as I was saying… What was I saying?"
"You were whinging about your future self."
"Hey, don’t say that," Harry rejoined. "I’m never going to be like him."
"How can you be so sure?" Snape asked, eyebrow raised.
"Well, I… You know, I’ll…" Harry trailed off, uncertain. Snape was right, though he hated to admit it. How could he manage to keep from turning into an empty shell of a person if he didn’t know what had caused such a dramatic change in the first place? Besides, he was having no luck yet finding a way back to his rightful time, and he was determined to have at least one of his many questions answered.
"We’ll have to figure it out," he decided.
"Figure what out?" Snape asked.
"What made Professor Potter hazy."XXXXX
Severus could not believe he was actually participating in this lunacy.
He’d been in similar situations, of course – skulking through an unfamiliar home, looking for the slightest indication of answers to his questions, half-distracted with checking his spells every twenty seconds for any suggestion that his presence had been detected – but this was ridiculous.
He ought to have seen it coming, of course. Potter was clearly a lunatic, and lunatics were, as everyone knew, prone to lunacy. He just couldn’t believe the twit had managed to rope him into his scheme as well.
"So… What do we do now?"
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Perhaps ‘scheme’ was too strong a word. "This was your idiotic plan. Are you saying you have not a single clue as to how to proceed?"
"Don’t get tetchy," Potter whispered. "I was just checking to see if you had any suggestions."
Severus raised an eyebrow at that, but kept his thoughts to himself. Excessive talking on a mission like this would likely only get them into trouble, anyway.
"So, do you? Have any suggestions? I mean, I just figure you have more experience with this sort of thing than me. You know, spying on people and – "
"Harry! Would you stop gibbering and look around? Do some investigating? Weren’t you supposed to be an Auror before – "
"Hey, did you just…? You just called me Harry."
Severus froze. "I… I did no such thing."
"You definitely did," Potter protested.
your name, is it not?"
"So you admit it!"
Severus threw up his hands. "What would you prefer – ‘Auror Potter’? Shall I cut to the chase and announce our situation to the world at large? Shall I…" Severus trailed off when he noticed the idiot was grinning like a loon. "What is it?" he barked.
"Not a thing," Harry – Potter, damn the smiling fool – answered. "Let’s do some investigating, shall we?"XXXXX
Harry’s usual inspection methods were not working. He had no need to identify who had been in the rooms or what sort of spells they’d been casting or when they might have done it. There was no one to apprehend, no crime (that he knew of) to tie to the scene.
It was all manner of frustrating.
"Do you plan to simply stand there, turning in circles, all night?" Snape asked from his position leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Well, you’ve done nothing but stand there the last half-hour. Why don’t you
"I am rather occupied ensuring our presence in these quarters is not discovered," Snape answered with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh-huh, right. You just keep on doing that, then. I’ll be in here," Harry retorted, moving into the next room.
It was a bedroom, and quite as drab as the sitting room. The sole decoration was a photo of the two of them, the older two, sitting next to each other in the Quidditch stands. He had to admit that Professor Potter looked more alive than Harry had ever seen him, but he couldn’t say he looked happy. Snape looked the same as ever, as far as Harry could tell. Older, but that was to be expected.
He poked around, looking for Merlin only knew what, for a few minutes but the room was pretty unremarkable. Continuing his circuit around the room, he made his way to the bedside table and pulled open the little drawer.
He was expecting to find the same things he habitually kept in his own bedside drawer – lube, condoms, a comb, some lip balm, maybe a few notes or dirty pictures – but it was bare but for a quill and a small, leather-bound notebook.
The Locking Charm disengaged at his touch, and he figured it must be some sort of journal. He tingled with anticipation – a record of the professor’s investigation into the murder of Severus Snape would be ideal, but he’d settle for any sort of documentation of the man’s activities.
What he did find was something quite different.
The first page, dated January 3, 2029, was addressed simply ‘Severus’.
I finally tried it today. I shouldn’t have. I brushed a finger along your face, and you looked at me like I’d turned into a Snorkack. I’m not giving up, though. Not yet.
Confused and more than a bit suspicious, Harry started flipping pages, reading snippets as he went.
Well, I told you. I told you, and you said, "I know." I guess I’ve been a bit obvious, eh? It doesn’t matter, though. You don’t love me back, and you told me so. Merlin, why did it have to be you?
Severus, where are you? Term starts tomorrow and no one has seen you. I’m worried. Are you all right? Please be all right. Come back to me, Severus. I’ll stop pushing, I swear.
Fitzwilliam said you’re dead, but I can’t believe him. He won’t even say if there was foul play. Whoever they found, it must not really be you. Some elaborate scheme to leave the Wizarding world and become a hermit, right? That would be just like you, you wanker.
I’m going to find him, Severus. I’ll find the bloody bastard and I’ll kill him. I thought by now people had put the crimes of war and revenge behind them, but they just couldn’t let you rest.
Too late, he already did the job for me. I can’t even have the satisfaction of justice. I miss you so much already – I don’t know how I can keep going.
Harry let the book fall from his hands onto the bed. Dazed, he stared at it for a moment, a dark blotch against the cream-colored duvet. Brow furrowed, he scowled at the book, tempted to blame it for housing such outrageous words. For some inconceivable reason, he kept hearing Snape say 'Harry' over and over in his head.
Startled from his reverie, Harry looked up wide-eyed.
"Well?" Snape asked, "Are all your questions answered?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I, um… No." He gave his head a shake. "No. Let’s get out of here."XXXXX
Harry… Potter, that is, had been acting strange for days. Ever since the clandestine events of Easter break, he had been subdued, more scatterbrained than usual, sneaking odd glances at Severus.
It was strange, but Severus found himself grieving the absence of the high-spirited young man to whom he had grown accustomed, who had been his constant companion these last several months, who never let him be for a moment. He was loud, irritating, overbearing, and Severus missed him.
"Enjoying the match?" he asked with a slight frown.
"What?" Harry asked with a start. "Oh. Yep, definitely." He nodded his head for emphasis. "Great match."
Severus stared, incredulous. The situation might be more serious than he thought. "It hasn’t yet begun," he pointed out.
"What do you…?" Harry trailed off, looking around with wide eyes. It was the most engaged Severus had seen him in days. "Ah. Well. I was being… you know, sarcastic."
"Yes, as you so often are."
"Okay, now you’re
Severus shrugged. "It’s expected from me. I would hate to act out of character."
At that, Harry laughed, clear and candid, and Severus thought it was the most welcome sound he had heard in years. The way his eyes lit up was no mean thing, either, and Severus found himself utterly unable to divert his attention elsewhere.
"What are you staring at?" Harry asked, still chuckling.
Caught out, Severus pressed his lips into a thin line then opened his mouth to say, ‘nothing’, but what he heard himself say instead was, "You".XXXXX
Harry was still feeling somewhat at sea. Sure, he had a few things figured out: Severus Snape had been killed by some bloke with a grudge against Death Eaters, there was nothing to do about it as he’d offed himself soon afterward, and Professor Potter had seemingly lost the will to live because the man he was in love with was dead.
So yes, he knew things now that he hadn’t known before. But there was also the problem that he knew things now that he hadn’t known before, like the fact that Professor Potter was in love with Severus Snape, and that his affection had not been returned. For some reason, that second bit was tripping him up more than the first, and that was disconcerting all by itself.
On top of that, he still had no bloody clue how to get back to 2015, and he was beginning to wonder if he really still wanted to. Did he want to return to the life where he didn’t discover the love of his life until returning to Hogwarts to teach at the age of forty-five? Did he want to go back to a time-line where Severus would get killed and he would wither away to nothing? Sure, he’d have his friends and his job and all that back, but what if he could do better, what if he could live this new life better?
His wandering thoughts were interrupted when Severus abruptly reminded him that Professor Potter’s office hours would end in fifteen minutes, so if he still wanted to talk with him today, they had to go.
He was right, of course, so they hurried to the professor’s office.
Standing outside the door, shifting his weight from foot to foot, Harry was still in turmoil. He turned toward Severus. "You mind if I go in first? I need to… Well, I have a…" He flicked his hand in a vague motion. "I’ve got to ask him something."
Severus waved him forward. "As you wish."XXXXX
Just a moment later, he heard a frantic, "Severus! Severus, come here!" from inside the office. Immediately concerned, he threw open the door and hurried toward the desk where Harry was.
He was sure his heart must have stopped for a moment when he saw what had upset Harry – Professor Potter was slumped in his desk chair, stiff and obviously dead.
"What do I…? I don't know… He was just…!" Harry spouted in a semi-coherent frenzy.
Severus took a slow, deep breath and tried to calm himself somewhat, tried to think logically. "You’re meant to be an Auror, are you not? What action would you take if this were just another crime scene?"
"Yeah," Harry said, nodding. "Yeah, that’s a good idea. Right, okay." He gave his fingers a little stretch and set to casting spells, a few of which Severus recognized but most of which he did not.
"Oh, whoa!" Harry said suddenly, his eyes going wide. "He was hit with a curse, a little over twenty years ago."
"Just before he came to teach," Severus offered.
"The Obermann-Schmidt Spell," he answered. "And it finally killed him."
Harry simply shook his head.
"But… that’s treatable!"
"It’s easily, perfectly treatable! Did he…?"
"No," Harry answered. "He just let it go."
Severus paused, brow furrowed, and attempted to assimilate what he was hearing. Potter had been cursed, presumably in the line of duty, though perhaps not, left the Auror corps to teach, and never sought treatment for the curse. Instead, he allowed it to kill him slowly.
"Could that have anything to do with his… haziness?" he asked.
"Not likely. Obermann-Schmidt's effects are strictly physical from everything I’ve heard."
"Are you certain? What else could have brought about such dramatic change in his personality? It must have been a hex of some sort," Severus insisted.
Harry shook his head. "No, it wasn’t a hex. It… it wasn’t a hex."
"It must have… Wait. You know something," Severus accused.
"Well, I…" Harry swallowed hard. "Yeah, maybe."
"You learned something in that diary, something you haven’t told me."
Harry turned his gaze to an empty section of stone wall. "He said… it said… Well, basically he was in love, and the person died, and didn’t handle it very well."
In love? The thought struck him like a blow. Struggling to keep his footing, he pushed the horrible feeling that was accumulating out of his mind. "I should say not," he agreed, but he could see that there was more. "What else?"
"What? Well, I mean… I don’t think he was doing so well even before that. The other bloke didn’t… he didn’t…" Harry turned and looked at him imploringly. "It wasn’t mutual."
Shaking his head, Harry told him, "No, I don’t think you do."
"Well?" Severus prompted.
"I don’t…" Harry’s expression was pained. "Severus, please."
"What? What more could there…" He trailed off as Harry suddenly started moving toward him. He looked desperate, but Severus had no time to wonder why before Harry’s firm body was crashing into his, and his hand was sliding behind Severus’ neck, and his warm mouth was pressing against his own startled, gaping lips.
Heart racing, Severus tried to think, tried to move, tried to do something, anything to keep Harry right where he was.
Much too soon, Harry pulled away. "You, Severus," he said. "It’s you – for him, for me. But you didn’t… you don’t…" He turned away, biting his lip.
His breath coming quick and shallow, his heart pounding in his chest, Severus forced himself to speak. "Harry, no. I… I am not that man. Our fortunes have changed, and with them our experiences, our actions, our decisions. We are not bound to their destinies."
Harry let out a slow breath. "Okay. Okay, that’s good. So, what do we do now?" he asked.
"We… go on. We take our NEWTs and graduate. We find acceptable occupations and live our lives."
Harry nodded. "Right. But what I meant was: what do we do now about us
"…Us? Oh, well…" Severus searched for words, but was still reeling enough that they did not come readily.
"What I was thinking was maybe we go someplace a bit more… private and, you know… well, you know. Get to know each other better," Harry said, dragging a hand through his messy hair.
"Oh." Severus blinked. "Oh. Well, I… Yes. Yes, let’s," he answered, and anxiously, hopefully, took Harry’s outstretched hand in his.