Long merely spoken of as 'the mystery story,' I've finally got round to
posting this. Updates will henceforth be posted once a week. Most of
the time, anway. Honestly, this whole thing is in a
constant state of editing. Don't be surprised if you re-read and find
I've changed something. But it won't be major.
the 13th has some...interesting effects on magic. Harry
deals with the consequences. Eventual HP/SS. Currently rated PG-13, if
that, for a little bit of language. And no, there's no relation to 1984 beyond the origin of the title.
first appears in Chapter 5 is from here,
but I've poked it a bit to suit my purposes.
to the lovely _ataraxis_for
Chapter 10: in progress
Due to the strange
way that spells were wont to act on Friday the 13th,
Severus Snape ought to have cancelled the Duelling Club meeting that
evening. He had determined, however (with no small quantity of
characteristic sadism), that it would be a good learning experience for
the students to experience it first-hand.
students to the Hospital Wing for four consecutive weeks,
Neville Longbottom ought to have had the sense to quit the Duelling
Club, for the safety of his fellow students if nothing else. Harry
Potter ought to have had the wherewithal to stay in bed, or at least to
have gone back to bed after falling off his broom twice in Quidditch
practise that morning. Both being Gryffindors, however, neither of
these boys had much sense at all, especially when it came to backing
down in the face of adversity. The phrase "back down" wasn't even in
Harry's vocabulary, except when preceded by "won't" or "never" or
"Voldemort will," and Neville's Gran had long ago instilled in him that
no one likes a quitter. And Neville wanted people to like him.
And Snape, being a Slytherin, or perhaps just being Snape, neglected to
inform the Club members of which spells they absolutely must not cast
that day because of the way the date would affect them. He decided to
operate on the (patently incorrect) assumption that the students should
already have learnt them.
At the Duelling Club meeting, Harry's luck continued to go downhill.
The little magical wheel that spun to determine the partnerships for
the evening paired him with none other than Neville.
"Tonight's exercise," Snape began, "will be disabling your opponent
with defensive spells only. You cannot curse your opponent directly;
only reflect, bounce, or shield against his or her spells. You will
each take a turn, assuming both of you survive the first round. You may
Harry smiled. This was going to be obscenely easy--he felt confident
that he could block anything Neville could throw, and he knew Neville's
defensive spells weren't what they ought to be. Neville, on the other
hand, looked mortified.
If Harry had had a bit more sense, he would have started the match
himself. But he deferred to Neville to take the offensive first. He
opened with a couple of wobbly hexes that Harry dodged easily. The
third curse he threw, though, refused to be dodged. Harry tried, but it
bounced off someone else's shield and hit him head-on. Just before
everything went black, he heard Snape bellow, "Idiot boy! Do you know
what you've just done?"
Harry awoke in the Hospital Wing, feeling as
though his head had just been chewed on by a Manticore. He remembered
now. He had been helping Severus test an experimental Celerity potion
engineered from Vampire DNA. Clearly, it hadn't worked. Where was
Severus, anyway? It wasn't like him not to be there when Harry was in
hospital, particularly when Severus himself had helped put him there.
Harry raised his hand to massage his aching temples and instantly
recoiled as though he'd been burned. The scar. The scar was there. It
was back. What was it doing there? What had happened? "SEVERUS!" he
yelled. Oh, dear sweet Merlin on rollerskates, his voice didn't sound
right either. He struggled to get out of bed, but his legs wouldn't
cooperate. "SEVERUS!" he shouted again.
The door opened. It was not Severus standing over him now, but…a ghost?
The ten-years-dead figure of Albus Dumbledore stood over him, looking
every bit as alive as he had the moment before he'd raised his wand to
cast the final spell on Voldemort.
"Albus," Harry whispered, his eyes filling with tears. "What… how? I
mean, you're…" And then it hit him. Somehow the potion had
malfunctioned and sent him back in time. Which meant that somewhere in
the future, the Harry of this time was stuck in his body. Oh, bugger.
"Albus, you have to help me," he began, scarcely stopping to breathe.
"There was a potions accident, I'm not who I look like I am. I mean,
I'm me, but I'm in the wrong time and--"
Albus held up a hand, commanding him to stop. "Harry, I'm pleased to
see you're awake, my dear boy. But there are a few details you do not
know. You are exactly who you look like you are; however, you are not
who you think you are. Tell me, Harry, what date is it?"
"Well, when the cauldron exploded, it was October thirteenth, but I'm
not sure how long I've been out for."
"And the year?"
"2008." Clearly, Harry reasoned, Albus would have asked no such
questions if he had thought Harry's answers would be correct.
Harry awoke in the Hospital
Wing, his head feeling as though
it had been chewed on by a Manticore. Snape and a very contrite Neville
standing over him.
happened?" Harry groaned, clutching his
like to field that one, Mr.
Longbottom?" Snape asked pointedly.
Neville took a
deep breath. "I tried to hit you with a
Reductor curse, but because I'm an idiot
Gryffindor, I failed to bother learning that on Friday the
some spells do not act properly, and it tried to turn into a Reve de
which is what hit you."
Potter is currently awake because?" Snape
Neville sighed. "Because I'm a
mediocre wizard and the
curse was too weak."
had clearly lectured him at great
length while Harry had been unconscious.
"And if the
curse had worked, there would have been no
counter-curse for twenty-four hours, during which time you would have
lucidly dreaming one possibility of your future based on your desires,
you'd probably have gone mad."
"And I'm going
straight to the Ministry and have my wand
snapped because I'm a danger to myself and the wizarding world."
seemed to have finished his instructed speech and began to stutter and
"I'm-- I'm so s-sorry, Harry. I could have ruined your life when all
you've ever tried to do is help me and--"
Neville, stop it. Just stop it." Harry
sat up in bed, though his entire body ached. "Don't be ridiculous.
no reason you ought to have your wand snapped. Everyone makes mistakes,
Neville. I've made mistakes that have killed people, and I'm still
got to stay, you've got to kill
Harry corrected automatically, at the
same moment that Snape said "The Dark Lord." They glared at each
nobody," Neville continued, tears still
streaming down his round cheeks. "I'm no good to anyone," he said,
his voice rising, "and I might just as well go and die!"
Harry shouted. "That's enough! I
don't know what Professor Snape has been telling you, but unless
there's some law
on the books that requires you to have your wand snapped, there's no
reason to do it!" He turned an icy glare on Snape. "Tell me, Professor, is there any such law?"
"There is no
such law, Mr. Potter, but there is a
statute that enables the administrator of a school to have a student
from wizarding society if he is a danger to others, which Mr.
administrator! That's Dumbledore, Snape, not you,
no matter what delusions of grandeur you may have!"
from Gryffindor for your insubordination,
Mr. Potter," Snape said as though he were remarking on the weather.
"As you know, Professor Dumbledore is currently away, and as Deputy
Headmaster--" Harry remembered with a pang McGonagall's death that
summer-- "the decision-- the irrevocable decision--is mine."
Harry sneered at his
Potions professor. "Two thousand
points from Slytherin for being a heartless bastard." He waited for
points to be deducted now, but the words did not come.
to know my heart, Potter," Snape
said in a low, flat tone, not breaking the stare.
They sat silently
with their eyes locked for a long moment,
each daring the other to move or breathe. Neither did until the
all-but-forgotten Neville sneezed.
Snape whipped his
head around. "Longbottom, go and say
your goodbyes. Groundskeeper Filch will escort you to the Ministry in
Neville turned and ran from the
room with a sob. Harry
opened fire. "How dare you, Snape, how bloody dare you? Neville's
he's really trying, and he's gotten better, even you must see that! He
made one stupid mistake, and nobody's hurt, so what fucking right have
have him expelled and incapacitated after you've let Malfoy off with
for ten times worse?"
Snape leaned down, pinning
Harry back against the pillows,
his face so close that Harry could smell the cinnamon on his breath and
sandalwood on his skin. "Because, Potter, Longbottom's no use to
"Neither is Malfoy!"
"--And Longbottom's father is
not out for my blood. And
everyone's top priority is to eliminate any threat to you, which, in
even includes Longbottom. So if you want to lay blame, you may sleep
the assurance that it rests entirely on your shoulders, my golden and
Snape had billowed out of the
room before Harry had the
chance to know what hit him. Weak, he slumped back into the pillows,
utter horror brought his hand to the painful hardness between his
Albus explained everything and left Harry
reeling. The last ten years of his life had been a dream. A total and
utter lie. Nothing had happened. The curse that Neville had hit him
with all those yesterdays ago actually had worked. Albus wasn't dead.
Neville wasn't dead--or perhaps he was; Albus hadn't actually said.
Voldemort was still there, undefeated and looming. And
Severus... Severus was no longer Severus, but a dark and distant figure
known as Professor Snape. He was seventeen, not twenty-seven. Hogsmeade
had never been burnt to the ground. All this knowledge, his experience,
all he had learned and said and done, it was all an infinite falsehood
that unraveled before his stinging eyes. Nothing. He had nothing.
turned over and buried his face in the pillows, hoping somehow he could
block out the truth. "So nothing was real," he whispered when Albus was
Albus sat down on the bed and put a comforting hand on
Harry's shoulder. "Not events. Wizards' dreams are unique, though,
Harry. I'm sure you know that, given your connection with Voldemort.
Tell me, did you acquire any new skills in your dream?"
Harry turned back to face Albus and nodded blankly, not sure where this
in your dream, any book, any new spell, was something you had access to
here. If you went to the library in your dream and looked at a book,
you read something that was really there. It's a phenomenon known as
latent acquired content."
Harry blinked. "So what you're saying is that everything I learned was
real, just not anything I did."
I've completed school. Why don't we just put everyone to sleep for a
couple of days and have them do all their schooling there?"
about that, Harry. Think about what you dreamed. Think about what would
happen if everyone dreamed their own separate timelines."
"Everyone would go mad."
very likely. Not many wizards have the power to survive such a thing.
You do. I do. Perhaps most of the professors at this school do. But
your average student wouldn't. And there's something to be said for
tradition as well. Part of our job here is to mould you students into
functional members of wizarding society. And we unfortunately cannot
control dreams, so even if replacing schooling with lucid dreaming were
a practical idea, there's no telling what would happen. Perhaps the
possible timeline of a student's dream would include dropping out of
school and spending the rest of his days reading Muggle comics. I, for
one, once had a particularly pleasant dream in which I read the entire
works of Charles Dickens. While enjoyable, it afforded me nothing in
the way of practical knowledge."
Harry smiled slightly in spite
of himself, but his mirth faded quickly. "What's going to be done about
my schooling, then? I've finished it, but I couldn't exactly bring my
N.E.W.T. results back with me," Harry said bitterly and with no small
sarcasm, thinking of a few other things he couldn't bring back either.
quite simple. When you're strong enough, a special examiner from the
Ministry will administer your N.E.W.T.s. Assuming you pass enough of
them, you'll be free to do as you please. Tell me, did you complete
a secondary course of study?"
Harry sighed. Dumbledore was certainly going to know the story now.
"Professor Snape," he mumbled.
smiled benignly, but Harry could practically see the wheels turning in
the old man's head. "Well, there's no substitution for an
apprenticeship, I'm afraid, but you may, of course, also sit the
Potions Master certification test. You've a unique opportunity here,
Harry. You've seen the life that resulted from one course of action.
You now have the choice to repeat that course and live that life again,
though it may not be exactly the same. Or you may choose another, if
another would have been more satisfying. Tell me, Harry, were you
Neville never made it to the
Ministry. The house-elves found his lifeless body hanging from a rafter
in the Great Hall. Though Harry was still weak, Madam Pomfrey was
unable to stop him when he bounded out of bed in a blind rage and
stormed into Snape's office.
"I hope you're happy," Harry hissed across the desk at his teacher.
Snape gave him a tired look. "No one could have known the boy would be
so stupid. He could have led quite a comfortable life as the squib he
was to become."
"You heard him threaten to kill himself!"
Snape sighed. "As a teacher of adolescents, you must realise that I
have been hearing such threats at least twice a day for the past
seventeen years. There has yet to be one that was serious, and I
thought no differently in Mr. Longbottom's case."
"You'd bloody well take points from him posthumously if you could,"
Snape leaned serenely back in his chair. "I did try," he said, "but
there seems to be some spell in place preventing it."
"You complete bastard," Harry said, leaning as far into Snape's
personal space as the desk would allow. "You made his life a living
hell for six years, and were well started on a seventh. How can you
presume to be so cavalier about a death you clearly helped cause?"
"I've killed more people by more direct means, as have you."
"I've never committed murder."
"If Bellatrix Lestrange's death wasn't a murder, then I'm Helga
"It was self-defence! I was cleared of all charges!"
"As was I, numerous times."
"Dumbledore didn't have to pull any strings for me."
Snape put a hand on his chest and gave him a push. "Sit down, Potter."
Surprised by the touch, Harry obeyed.
"Potter, I'm not going to stand for your Gryffindor Golden Boy
insubordination any longer. You've defied me since the day you got
here, hated me since you first laid eyes on me. You've no right to
judge me on any basis. You are valuable to the Order's cause--nay,
essential--which is why you were not expelled long ago. Despite your
hero complex and your inflated ego, you've shown promise the past two
years. You've mastered Occlumency and the Animagus transformation. And
you've surpassed most of the students in my class."
Harry thought his eyes were going to bug out of his head. However
backhanded it may have been, Snape had just paid him a compliment.
"Despite the fact that I can barely stand you, it would be criminal not
to at least offer you the opportunity to develop your talents. Albus
Dumbledore is mortal, Potter. I'm arguably even more so. If I even live
to take his place at the head of this school, I will not be able to
continue teaching Potions. As such--Potter, close your mouth, you look
like a great bloody trout--as such, I must make provisions for my own
successor. You, sadly enough, are the most promising candidate."
"Potter, you idiot, I've just told you. Don't make me say it again; it
was painful enough the first time."
"But why not hire someone who's already qualified?"
"I see Miss Granger must have failed to transmit the entire contents of
Hogwarts: A History to you. Since the time of Salazar Slytherin
himself, there has not been a master of these dungeons without
Slytherin blood. Some intangible and unbreakable ward set by Slytherin
refuses to allow them to be mastered by someone who is not one of his
"I don't have Slytherin blood."
"Even if you didn't, the Dark Lord's transference would have done well
"Even if I didn't?"
"I'm pleased to see you can hear after all. Yes, Potter, you may take
that to mean that you do, in fact, have Slytherin blood. Very little,
"Your mother's paternal grandparents were wizards. Her father was a
squib who married a Muggle. Her sister, we ultimately discovered, had
an entirely different father, a Muggle, and so was born a Muggle
"Why didn't anyone tell me?"
Snape shrugged as though Harry had just asked him why the sky was blue.
"You had no need to know. I highly doubt anyone but your grandmother
knew Petunia Evans' parentage, and no one but your grandfather knew
that his parents were wizards. We--the Order, that is--only found out
by chance when we performed the initial tests to assure that your
mother and your aunt were blood-related. We found that they were, but
only on one parents' side, so we researched it further."
"I don't suppose it's that important after all," Harry said, long
resigned at this point to finding out new and interesting facts about
himself every day.
"As to your taking over my position when the time comes, it will
require an intensive apprenticeship to begin immediately."
Once Harry and Snape had agreed on a time for their first meeting,
Harry left the dungeons. It was only when he reached the end of the
corridor that he realised it had never occurred to him to refuse,
stunned as he had been by the offer. He also seemed to have entirely
lost the thread of his anger over Neville's death, which had, as he now
remembered, been his reason for being in the Dungeons in the first
place. Damn Snape had distracted him. And he absolutely refused to
think about exactly why.
Yes, he'd been happy, generally speaking.
He'd been sad, frightened, or angry more times than he cared to count,
but for the most part, he'd been happy. The evening experiments with
Severus had given way to long, late-night chats, which had in turn
given way to long, slow kisses. All of the events in his life for ten
years had their ups and downs. The teaching and the potions and the
holidays. His friends' weddings, the births of their children. Sunsets.
Quidditch. So yes, he'd been happy. But it had all come to an end too
soon, he'd woken up too soon. And now he had to find some way to remake
At least he knew the most important step, other than
winning Severus' heart all over again. Or for real this time, rather.
"Voldemort?" asked Dumbledore with a raised eyebrow.
"I know how we defeated Voldemort."
Dumbledore regarded him steadily, no twinkle in sight. "I'm listening."
"Well, sir, the thing is, we got rid of him, but you… you died." Harry
spoke this last barely above a whisper.
"We all must, Harry. And I've long known that that's the way I would
go. You're not the only one with a prophecy."
"What was yours?"
spoke softly. "The knight will return as the king, and together with
the marked one they will vanquish their most wayward son, but only the
knight will survive, to return as the king evermore."
furrowed his brow. "Me being the marked one and the wayward son being
Voldemort, I suppose, but what's all this knight and king business?"
"It's not essential that you know at this point, Harry. But I promise
I'll tell you when the time comes."
"You didn't in the dream. You didn't even tell me about the prophecy."
"I don't suppose there was time."
No, there hadn't been. But how did Dumbledore know that? It was
speculation, perhaps. Harry fixed the old man with a squint.
"How did we kill him, precisely?" Dumbledore asked, changing the
by bit, with a potion that latched onto his essence and bonded to it. I
took the life from his body with a simple poison extraction charm. The
essence, though, had to have somewhere to go. You…you volunteered to
take it into yourself and be killed."
"A formidable plan. Is the potion already in existence?"
Sev-- Professor Snape and I spent months developing it. If I could have
access to our notes from the dream somehow, I'm sure we could duplicate
"I'll make arrangements for an empty pensieve to be sent here this
afternoon," Dumbledore said without hesitation.
"Will that work?"
"The reason the Rêve de Vie
charm--or curse, perhaps--often causes madness is that when it is
lifted, the dreamer remembers his dream not as a dream, but as real
Were his memories real, or weren't they? He wondered
if he might be susceptible to this madness after all. "So I'd be able
to get at them like any other memory?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Once
the memories have been extracted, you can return to them and examine
your notes. It will likely be a taxing process, both physically and
"I have to do it, though. I can't know about that potion and not at
least try to make it."
"I feel confident you will succeed, my boy."
knew he could succeed in making the potion, but there was also the
matter of Severus, in which he was much less certain of his chances of
success. It was fortunate that the potion had to be a two-person job,
since there would be no apprenticeship this time around. Perhaps
proximity would work in his favour again this time. He hoped it would.
He didn't think that a life without Severus was one he much wanted to
There was a memorial service for Neville the
next day. Dumbledore made an emergency return from his mystery
location, looking none too pleased with the state of affairs. The
service was short. No one had overmuch to say about Neville. He had
never done anything too remarkable, not in their eyes, for what could
be remarkable about unflagging loyalty and tolerance? They could say
nothing of his Gryffindor bravery, because suicide was cowardly. The
comments were kept to things like "good student" and "loss to the
school," even though Harry could tell that not everyone even believed
those statements. Neville's gran was the only one who gave him more
than the most perfunctory of remembrances, and her voice trembled so
much that hardly anyone could understand her. Harry felt worse for her
than he did for Neville. She'd lost all her family now. He knew how she
must feel-- but really, no, he didn't. He'd never known his parents.
They only existed as ideas to him. Neville's gran had lost real people
whom she'd known and loved and devoted her life to, which had to be
worse than not having had them there in the first place.
the speeches, there was a feast in remembrance, but the atmosphere was
subdued, and a funerary pall hung over the richly laden tables. Talking
was done in hushed tones, and was all speculation about why he'd done
it. Even the Slytherins had the good grace not to cast aspersions on
the late Gryffindor, at least for the duration of the meal. Harry had a
feeling that would change once they were safe within the confines of
their common room. He could almost hear them now. A nutter just
like his parents. Harry knew Slytherin derision well. It was
predictable, which was the only reason it didn't hurt him anymore. Surprised
he even managed to kill himself without blowing something up.
Whatever they'd be saying, it was nothing they hadn't said before. It
was what the Gryffindors might have to say once the shock had worn off
that worried him. He knew how cruel his housemates could be. And he
knew he'd feel the need to defend Neville to them. But he had no idea
of how he'd do it, because if he was honest with himself about it,
Neville's actions had been indefensibly idiotic.
himself behind his bed curtains before anyone could ask him any more
questions. He'd been one of the last to see Neville alive, and everyone
wanted to know what he'd said and done. Harry wanted to keep that
locked away as his own secret, as Neville's secret, because he felt
Neville would have wanted it that way. Neville wouldn't have wanted
everyone to know that Snape had finally broken him. Harry's anger at
the Potions Master was returning full-force now, but he bit it back. It
wouldn't do any good. It would only give Snape unnecessary leverage,
which was something he had in abundance already. Harry knew that the
only way to deal with Snape was to respond to his cold ruthlessness
with an even colder attitude. He'd have to cultivate one damned quickly
if he wanted to survive his apprenticeship.
The next morning
brought his appointed meeting with Snape. He wondered what to wear--
robes, or his ordinary weekend Muggle attire? Snape had not said one
way or the other. Harry finally decided that it meant it didn't matter
what he wore and settled on jeans and a jumper-- not one of Mrs.
Weasley's, though, as he wished to avoid snarky commentary in any way
possible. A lost cause, he was certain, but he wanted to make the
He was one of only four people in the Great Hall when he
choked down some toast and tea. He realised blandly that it was a
Hogsmeade weekend, but found he didn't care that he was missing the
outing. He rather doubted at first that too many people would be going,
but then wondered if it might come as a welcome distraction for many of
the students. He was feeling rather suffocated himself under the grim
aura hanging over the castle. Snape certainly wouldn't be wallowing,
though, and Harry found that a strangely comforting thought. No matter
what happened, Snape was a constant. And Harry could not but take
comfort in the few constants he had left.
He was already weary of thought when he knocked at Snape's office door.
"Enter," came Snape's voice from within.
walked through the door and was shocked to the gills to see Snape in a
white oxford shirt with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows and a pair
of black trousers. His hair was pulled back and he was inspecting the
contents of a cauldron. Damn, who knew he had an arse under that
bat outfit? Did I just think that? No, of course I didn't.
"Potter, close your mouth and come over here, we've precious little
time," Snape said, not sparing him a glance.
clapped his mouth shut and came to stand next to Snape, still having to
exert a great deal of effort not to stare. Really, the amount of
buttons the man had undone on his shirt was almost indecent.
"Potter, tell me what this is."
snapped out of his thoughts, and peered into the cauldron, sniffing it.
"It smells like a garden-variety healing potion, but it's the wrong
colour," he said after a moment.
"And what colour should it be?"
"Well, I suppose it's the right shade of green, but it ought to have… I
don't know, more of a shimmer to it."
"Which means?" Snape turned his gaze away from the cauldron and looked
up, directly into Harry's eyes.
Harry didn't blink as he responded, "Which means the Unicorn horn was
left out." But his heartbeat quickened a few paces.
"You might have said so in the first place." Snape sneered at him.
Harry blushed slightly and inwardly cursed himself for it. Of course,
merely arriving at the right answer wouldn't
be enough, would it? If he hadn't understood before that Snape would
demand perfection, he certainly couldn't doubt it now. It worried him.
He'd improved vastly in Potions over the past two years, but perfection
wasn't something he'd even dared to aspire to. He'd have to now,
clearly, if he wanted to avoid Snape's trademark glare-- any more than
was necessary, at any rate, as avoiding The Glare altogether was
impossible. Snape wanted him better-than-perfect, and Harry knew it.
dissipated the cauldron's contents with a flick of his wrist. "We're
going to brew Lupin's Wolfsbane potion today, Potter. Rather, you're
going to." Snape pushed a piece of parchment toward him. "Here are the
ingredients and the proportions. You're to combine them properly to
produce the desired effect based on your inferred knowledge of each
Harry tried not to gape. This potion had taken
Snape ages to develop, he knew. And here he had to essentially create
it from little more than a laundry list of ingredients and numbers. But
he knew better than to try to argue. He set to work, knowing that Snape
would brook no objection. He only hoped the castle would survive his
Several hours and countless explosions later, Harry at last came up
with something that he thought might
not kill Remus. It looked and smelled like the stuff he'd seen Remus
drink, and it didn't appear to be about to explode, for which he
congratulated himself heartily.
"Professor," he called wearily
to Snape, who had been alternately marking papers and reading the
entire time, "I think I've got it."
"I rather doubt that, Potter," Snape said, coming over to inspect the
Harry had, more or less, succeeded. It was harsher than what Snape
ordinarily brewed, but the Potions Master allowed that it was usable.
"Congratulations, Potter, on a decent job," Snape said, but his tone
lacked his usual venom. Harry knew that he must take this as a glowing
"Thank you, sir," Harry said, trying not to beam idiotically at his
gave a derisive little snort. "Now, Potter, if you will please dispense
with the unholy mess you've made in my laboratory."
No, it would
have been too easy, too un-Snape-ish, to have just left it at the
compliment. Harry sighed and set to work cleaning the remnants of the
explosions off the floors and walls. It was an unholy mess, he
had to allow. And Snape hadn't taken any points from him, which was a
vast improvement over what happened every time Harry made a mistake in
his Potions class. He could live with this. And he was most certainly
not thinking about Snape's collarbone.
Harry panicked for a
moment, just as Dumbledore was turning to leave. "Professor," he said
desperately as the old man was stepping away, "is Neville all right? I
mean, in my dream, he…" Surely Neville hadn't really died, had
he? Harry feared that somehow, dreaming it might have made it so. Or
that, perhaps, the dream had begun after Neville's death. He thought
he knew when the dream had started. It had started after Neville's
curse had hit him, hadn't it?
Dumbledore stepped back toward him and gave him an understanding look.
"Neville is much as he ever was."
"Professor Snape didn't… say anything to him, then?"
Harry. Professor Snape was far too concerned with your well-being to do
anything but take a hundred points from Mr. Longbottom and leave me to
deal with him."
Concerned with his well-being. This thought
comforted Harry immensely-- it was a start, at least. But then
something else struck him. Dumbledore was at Hogwarts. In the dream,
he'd been gone. Did that mean he'd wanted Dumbledore to be
gone? "And something else, sir-- it may sound like a strange question,
but... have you been here all this time?"
"At Hogwarts. In my dream, you were off doing something for the Order,
and only came back when..."
regarded him strangely. "I was, in fact, gone. I was in Egypt. I
returned by emergency portkey when I was informed of what had happened
"How could I have known that?" Harry said, more to himself than to
old wizard shook his head. "The mind works in mysterious ways, Harry.
It is often better not to give its workings too much thought."
only nodded his thanks to Dumbledore, who left him lost in thought. He
wanted to sleep, but he was somewhat afraid to. Afraid that he might
dream yet another world, only to wake and find that it, too, had been a
fallacy. Perhaps, though, he'd dream a better world, and never
have to wake up. He tried to shake such ideas from his mind. Yes, he
could see why Rêve de Vie drove people mad.
was saved from his thoughts by Ron and Hermione clattering into the
room. He smiled wistfully at their barrage of questions, wondering if
in this life they would become the happily married couple with the
beautiful children he'd known in his dream.
"Yes, I'm fine," he
said when they paused, teetering on a precipice for answers. "And no,
I'm not going to tell you what I dreamed about."
"Is it true, though?" Hermione asked, eyes wide. "Is it true that you
can actually learn, and retain real knowledge?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. I'll likely not be attending classes anymore.
Dumbledore's going to arrange for me to take the N.E.W.T.s."
"You're leaving us, mate?" Ron asked with a pained look.
don't know. I learned some important information in my dream that'll
help us get rid of Voldemort, so I might stay and work on that, at
least for a while."
Ron let out a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. We couldn't win the
Quidditch cup without you."
"You'll have to," Harry said.
"What do you mean? Hermione, what does he mean?"
gave him an exasperated look. "He means that since he won't technically
be a student anymore, he won't be eligible to play on the House team."
Ron let out a great noise that could only be described as a whine.
"Why can't Ginny do it?" Harry asked.
Ron turned as red as his hair and spluttered for a moment.
Hermione sighed. "Her… chest gets in the way."
"HERMIONE!" Ron exclaimed.
"Well, it's true."
Harry laughed. It felt good. "That explains why she refused to play
with us this summer."
Ron nodded, still blushing. "Can we change the subject, please?
I really don't want to think about my sister's... anatomy."
Harry snickered. "I'm sure there are plenty of people to do that job
Ron made a disgusted noise.
"You really won't tell us anything that happened?" Hermione asked,
finally taking pity on the flustered redhead.
Harry shook his head. "Not yet."
"But you will tell us," Ron said, obviously relieved at the subject
Harry nodded. "I haven't quite got it all sorted yet, so I wouldn't
even know where to begin." And I'm certainly not telling you
everything. "Dumbledore's going to bring me a Pensieve, so that should
"We can just have a look in there then, right?" said Ron excitedly.
almost laughed, but it wasn't funny. "No, Ron. There are some things
you probably don't want to know about. And the way the spell works, the
dream was more or less a possible future. I don't think I should risk
anyone seeing it."
Harry was released from the
infirmary later that day, with instructions to go directly to the
Headmaster's office. When he arrived, Dumbledore was sitting serenely
behind his desk with a Pensieve in front of him.
Harry," he said. " You're looking much recovered. Come, sit. Tea,
perhaps?" The mere suggestion caused a teapot to float over and pour
itself into two cups. Harry had the vague feeling that he'd learned at
some point how such things were done, but he couldn't place it.
picked up the cup nearest him and took a sip, but the hot liquid did
nothing to quell the nervous dryness in his mouth. The full import of
the situation was beginning to sink in-- he'd have to sit back and
"I've requisitioned this Pensieve
from the Ministry. It is yours to keep, of course, but it will need to
remain in this office, for obvious reasons."
Harry nodded. It
would be disastrous if a Death Eater were to get his hands on the
memories of what he and Severus had done to defeat Voldemort. "I'm not
quite sure how to go about this."
"It will require a great deal
of concentration, of course, and may prove a bit draining. You should
not try to capture everything at once. Start with the first thing you
remember. It's far easier to do in a linear manner. The memories will
order themselves and thread together on their own. The spell is Captus,"
Dumbledore said, touching his wand to his forehead. Harry watched as a
thin silvery strand appeared at the end of the wand. Dumbledore dangled
it over the iridescent liquid in the Pensieve, but did not touch the
surface. "Simple as that," he said, drawing the wand back to his head.
The strand vanished.
"If I muck it up, will I forget everything?" Harry almost wondered if
that might be a good thing.
long as whatever you draw out makes it into the Pensieve, no. Just make
certain that the tip of your wand touches the surface." Dumbledore
stood up. "I'll leave you to it, my boy. I'll be back in an hour or two
to assure you remember to rest."
Right. Harry stared at
his reflection in the dark, shimmering surface of the Pensieve. It was
still so strange to see himself this young again. He'd forgotten how
unkempt he'd looked as a teenager. Did look. Was looking. He had to
keep himself in this reality. Still, though, it was his world
to change now. Perhaps making a bit more effort with his appearance
might help him win Severus over sooner. Sooner than what, though?
He remembered everything, yes, but he couldn't put his finger on the
exact day he'd known that Severus was his forever. It had been so slow,
so gradual, so utterly uncertain at first. Harry had realised his own
feelings rather quickly, but it had been an agonisingly long time
before he'd known how Severus felt about him. Never presume to know
my heart, Potter,
Severus had once said to him. And Harry never had. Even once Severus
had told him he loved him, he'd never presumed. One just couldn't
presume things with him. Harry was struck by a terrible fear that he
was presuming now-- what if a repeat performance of their relationship
turned out to be impossible? But that was something to think about
Sighing, Harry cleared his mind and focused on the day
he'd "woken up" in his dream. Oh, yes, he'd nearly forgotten that the
first thing he'd seen had been Severus's face. Not that it had been a
pleasing sight at the time. "Captus," he whispered, and watched
with satisfaction as the silvery thread of memory shivered on the
Pensieve's surface and vanished into the depths.
Harry had yet to tell
his friends about Snape taking him on as an apprentice to be his
eventual successor as Potions Master. In point of fact, he'd been more
or less avoiding them since Neville's death. He'd been avoiding
everyone, really. He knew by the looks on Ron and Hermione's faces that
morning when he went down to breakfast that they were not going to
tolerate him stuffing a piece of toast in his mouth and running off.
Perhaps if he just acted as though everything were normal….
"Hello, you two," Harry said as he sat down, his voice full of false
"Hey, Harry," Ron said through a mouthful of food.
Ron could be fooled, but Hermione snapped her book shut and fixed him
with a glare that would have made Snape proud. She didn't even wait for
Harry to start filling his plate with food before she started in on her
questioning. "Harry, what's going on? We've barely seen you at all
since you got out of hospital, and every time we do, you're rushing off
somewhere. Is everything all right?"
Should he tell them? Snape
hadn't told him to keep it a secret, after all. Then, eyeing Malfoy
across the room, it occurred to him what Voldemort might think if he
found out. It would make his life easier to tell them, but.... "Not
here," he said.
By tacit agreement, the three of them got up and
made their way to the deserted boys' dormitory. "All right," Hermione
said, once the door was shut safely behind them. "Now what's going on?"
"Snape's taken me on as his apprentice," Harry said without preamble,
as casually as he could muster under the circumstances.
"Harry, that's wonderful!" Hermione exclaimed, beaming proudly.
Ron, on the other hand, seemed to be choking on whatever he'd brought
with him from the breakfast table. "Are you mad?" he finally
"Ron, of course he's not!" Hermione said before Harry could even get a
"No, I quite possibly am," Harry said. "Snape's certainly not making it
snorted, presumably at the mention of "Snape" and "fun" in the same
sentence. "I thought you wanted to be an Auror, not a greasy git."
"Ron!" Hermione said. "Is it what you want to do, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "I don't know. I just sort of agreed to it without
Ron goggled at Harry dumbfoundedly for a moment, his mouth agape,
before he said, "Wait… you mean he offered?"
nodded. "Just because I'm doing it doesn't mean I have to become a
Potions Master. He'll probably get sick of me in a few weeks anyway and
tell me to bugger off."
"I still think you're mad," Ron muttered. "Voluntary Snape time. Urgh."
"He's not so
bad." Harry spoke softly. Ron gave him a disbelieving look. "Right.
Well, I've told you what's going on, because you asked, and if you want
to think I'm mad for it, then go right ahead," he said, more snappishly
than he meant to. "I'll see you later." He left the dormitory,
wondering if he'd have been better off just making something up.
returned to the dungeons after lessons and Quidditch were through for
the day. Today, Harry was a little dismayed-- and more than a little
surprised by his disappointment-- to find Snape still in the work robes
he wore while teaching.
Snape did not greet him. "Tonight we're
going to be replenishing some of the potions for the infirmary. There's
been a bit of a run on Pepper-up and antidepressant potions since
the…unfortunate events of a few days ago."
Harry could not contain a snort, but bit back the snide remark that was
on the tip of his tongue.
Snape glared at him. "I'll stand for none of your witticisms,
Potter," he chided evenly.
set to work on the potions without a word. Somewhere between crushing
the Billywig stings and macerating the fire ants, he looked up to find
Snape staring at him. Not watching or observing, but staring.
His heart skipped a beat.
"Is there a problem, Potter?" Snape said, his gaze unflinching.
shook his head, as though the action would shake out his thoughts. He
turned his attention back to his work, trying to ignore the… problem he
seemed to be developing. It had nothing to do with Snape, he told
himself. Merely the biology of being stared at, that was all. Right,
he thought. Why was it that he couldn't even lie to himself
did not let himself look up again until half an hour later, when out of
the corner of his eye, he saw Snape bolt up out of his chair, clutching
"He's calling you, isn't he?"
"Finish your work
and clean up, then go directly back to your dormitory," Snape ground
out, grimacing. "I expect to find this place in one piece when I get
Harry did as he was told, though somewhat distractedly.
Just as he was putting away the last cauldron, he was gripped by the
blinding pain of Cruciatus. He collapsed. The cauldron slipped from his
hands and clattered to the floor.
He heard Voldemort's sibilant,
acid voice. "You've failed me, Severus," the Dark Lord was saying. "We
needed the Longbottom boy, you knew that. Why did you not stop him?"
"I'm sorry, Master," Snape said through clenched teeth. "Please do not
blame me for the boy's stupidity."
"Give me one good reason," Voldemort said, his red eyes flashing with
could almost hear Snape struggling to think. "The… ah!... the Potter
boy, Master. I've… offered to take him on as my apprentice, and he's
The pain stopped as soon as it had come on. "Oh? To what purpose,
regained his normal composure. "I thought, perhaps, my Lord," he said
smoothly, "that if we cannot yet kill him, we might in the meantime use
Voldemort nodded his grotesque mockery of a head
approvingly. "We could," he said. "Yes, we could indeed. An excellent
idea, and tonight you'll live. But your ingenuity notwithstanding, you
did not inform me of this beforehand. Therefore… Crucio!" The
pain came back, worse this time, and Snape trembled silently under the
curse, waiting it out.
finally succeeded in pushing the vision from his mind and sat up,
shaking. Why had Voldemort needed Neville? Harry couldn't begin to
imagine it. Harry knew he should go back to Gryffindor, but he stayed
to wait for Snape. He couldn't help it. The idea of Snape having to
recover from his meeting alone hurt. The Potions Master staggered in
after a few minutes, clearly too drained to question what Harry was
still doing there or to scold him for it. Snape barely took any notice
of him and passed through a door to the side of the ingredient cabinet.
From the retching sounds he heard from within, Harry assumed that the
door led to the toilet. After what seemed a safe amount of time, Harry
cautiously stuck his head through the doorway.
Snape was kneeling over the toilet, wiping his face on his sleeve.
"Professor? Can I get you anything?"
"Go back to your dormitory, Potter," Snape said, his voice lacking its
Harry wet a cloth in the sink and passed it to Snape, who took it
without protest. "Is there a potion you need?"
Snape smirked, apparently having somewhat recovered. "You tell me,
bit back a grin. "Well, an anti-nausea and a pain potion would clearly
be in order, but I'm willing to bet you've got something else brewed up
specifically for times like this." All he got in response was an
expectant look. "Right, I'll go see if I can find it."
rifled through Snape's personal cupboard, and finally found a brownish
something labelled only "S.S." That had to be it. He took the bottle in
to Snape, who drank the entire contents of the vial in one go, not
flinching despite the fact that the mere stench of the stuff
overpowered the smell of blood and vomit that already permeated the
"You'd make a formidable house-elf, Potter," was all Snape
said by way of thanks. He stood up, faltering slightly. Harry caught
his arm to steady him. Their eyes locked for a split second before
Snape wrenched his arm out of Harry's grasp. "Potter, why are you still
"When… when Voldemort cursed you, I dropped what I was
holding. I'd just finished cleaning it up when you came in." Harry knew
the whole truth probably wouldn't go over very well. Snape was
begrudging enough of his care already, and probably wouldn't take
kindly to the fact that Harry had been worried about him.
if you've finished invading my privacy, I'd suggest you go back to
Gryffindor before I regain my faculties and start taking points."
he said, tight-lipped and a little angry. "Goodnight, Professor. I hope
you feel better." He stormed out of the lab. He knew Snape wasn't the
most emotionally expressive of people, but he'd hoped to see perhaps
just a shred more humanity from the man. Not gratitude, even. Harry
didn't dare hope for that much. He'd have been satisfied with the
slightest hint of acknowledgement on Snape's part that yes, he had been
in pain. But… well, Snape hadn't taken any points from him, which could
quite very well be that shred of humanity. But damn it, it wasn't
enough. Right. Who cares about the greasy old git anyway?
His annoyance faded the further he got from the Dungeons, and his mind
turned again to what Voldemort had said. We needed the Longbottom
Needed him how, exactly? Needed him to turn him to the dark side and
help kill Harry? Or needed him alive because of the prophecy? But no,
that didn't make any sense, did it? The prophecy wasn't about
Neville-- that had been made clear long before either Voldemort or
Harry had known the thing in its entirety. Yes, Voldemort must have
thought that Neville would be an easy target for recruitment. That had
to be it. But the nauseous apprehension Harry felt growing in the pit
of his stomach kept him from being entirely convinced. Harry ultimately
thought it best to answer himself.
"Is that all I am to you? Just someone to fuck because
you can't find anything better?"
"You know that isn't true." Severus's tone was not plaintive, merely
matter-of-fact, but the set of his jaw told Harry that he had struck a
"Do I? How would I know that, Severus? You've never told me any such
"Potter. Don't be an idiot."
"I'm not being an idiot."
"You are. A thing doesn't fail to exist merely because it's never put
"And it doesn't lose value just because it is put into words," Harry
"I refuse to shower you with empty words for the sole purpose of saying
"Oh, they'd be empty words, then, would they?"
Severus closed his eyes for a moment and sighed, then opened them
again. "Harry," he said, the annoyance in his features softening into
the countenance Harry only saw when they were alone. He extended an
arm. "Come here."
Harry took his hand and allowed himself to be pulled into Severus's
arms, which enveloped him protectively. "I'm sorry," he muttered into
the shoulder of Snape's cloak. "I just..."
"Shhh." Severus ran his fingers gently through Harry's hair, brushing
them over the nape of his neck. "Things unsaid are only unsaid, not
unfelt," he whispered.
"Captus," Harry said, lips just barely moving to form the word. He
watched as the silver thread of that memory joined the others in the
Pensieve. He stared down into the dark pool, eyes stinging with tears.
With every memory he touched, it seemed, he lost Severus all over
again. He knew these weren't the memories from his dream life he was
supposed to be recording. He knew he should be concentrating on the
memories of making the potion that had brought down Voldemort all those
yesterdays ago. But every time he tried to catch onto one of those
memories, his mind stuck on something else, some touch or some whisper.
The door clicked open slowly, and Harry blinked tearily up at
"Progress?" asked the Headmaster.
Harry shook his head. "I… I keep thinking of other things. Every time I
get to the right memory, something or other in it takes me into another
Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Let it happen. What surfaces first is what
your mind is trying to tell you is most important."
Well, that was an understatement. And Harry couldn't help feeling like
a selfish prat for not seeing the potion as the most important task at
hand. He wanted to, but Severus seemed more important to him than the
fate of the world.
"Enough for now, though," said Dumbledore. "We can't have you putting
yourself back in hospital, after all."
Harry nodded. "Sir…" It was still so strange not to call him Albus,
even though Harry was sure he would have understood. "I know the
Pensieve has to stay in here, and I know you'll need to see into it
Dumbledore held up his hand. "I shall not look until I have your
Harry thanked him, but couldn't help but think Hell might have just
frozen over. Though Dumbledore had certainly broken that sort of
promise before. Harry could only hope he wouldn't look, because he
really didn't want to have to explain himself. Not only about Severus.
There were other things, things he didn't even want to think about
right now. Or ever again.
Harry was exhausted, but he couldn't bring himself to go back to the
Gryffindor Common Room just yet. The very idea seemed too strange for
words. His first thought was that he was a grown man, and had no
business rooming with teenagers. His second thought was 'Potter, you
idiot.' He could feel twenty-seven all he wanted, but at the end of the
day, reality had to be acknowledged.
Instead of stopping at the Fat Lady's portrait, he kept going up, to
the Astronomy Tower. It wasn't quite dark yet, so he thought it
unlikely that he'd be disturbed. He slumped against the wall, resting
his chin on the cold stone of a parapet, and gazed out over the
grounds. He could see Hagrid out in his pumpkin patch, and a group of
students racing toward the Quidditch pitch with their brooms, shouting
and laughing. It seemed so long ago that he'd been a part of the world
he was now looking down on. But it had only been two days. To them,
anyway. Harry felt that an eternity had passed, and it had. But it
hadn't merely passed-- it had been lost.
A troubling thought wormed its way to the surface of his thoughts,
breaking through his wistfulness. One possibility of your future based
on your desires. Desires. So did that mean that he'd wanted Neville
dead? He didn't question the later events of his dream, as he assumed
they were consequences of the things that had gone before them. And the
first event, the one that all the rest hinged on, was the one that led
up to Neville's suicide. It didn't make any sense. He'd been crushed
when he'd found out what Neville had done. He hadn't wanted him dead
then, and he certainly didn't want him dead now. What would he even
gain if Neville died? Harry was at an utter loss to think of anything.
Perhaps it was because Neville had been the last person he'd seen
before the dream started, before he embarked on his new life. Old life.
False life, he reminded himself. But yes, that had to be it. There was
no reason to want Neville dead. Unless he'd somehow known that
Voldemort needed him. But that didn't make any sense either. Fear
gripped him. Did Voldemort need Neville in this life too? Fuck. There
was only one way he knew to find that out, and it meant talking to
Severus. Which wasn't something he was ready for. Not until he'd come
up with a proper plan to win his affections. And hell, what if winning
his affections wasn't even possible? He knew Severus-- or perhaps he
didn't, really. But he didn't think Severus would take kindly to being
a prize to be won. It isn't like that. It wasn't about winning him. It
was about… well, it was about needing him. More than needing him. The
mental struggle was making him feel sick and dizzy, and looking down on
the grounds wasn't helping. The floor didn't seem so steady anymore.
Harry sighed heavily, head and heart and gut aching, and stumbled away
from the parapet. He left the tower and started down the stairs,
hanging onto the banister with a white-knuckled grip. He was cold, so
cold, and too hot at the same time. Breathing was too much work, and
his legs didn't seem to want to cooperate with him. He stared straight
ahead, trying to keep his eyes on a nice level patch of wall rather
than on the incline below him. The world seemed to swing back and forth
with every step he took. And then it turned upside down when he saw who
was coming up the stairs toward him. Severus.
He could do this. He could look normal, act normal, walk past Severus
and ignore him. But his steps grew slower and more difficult, and he
could hear the blood pounding in his ears, and every inch closer he got
to Severus, the more he felt that the world was going to end right here
on this staircase. And the castle agreed with him, it seemed. Just as
Severus crossed from the landing onto the same staircase as Harry, the
stairs shifted, swinging them out into the middle of the stairwell, and
the flight above it did the same, effectively trapping them, and
knocking Harry's already shaky equilibrium so hard that all he could do
was sit down, struggling to breathe. "Fuck," he muttered under his
"Language, Potter," Severus said, glowering down at him.
Harry looked up at him slowly, trying not to move his head too quickly,
and trying even harder not to wince at Severus's You-Impertinent-Brat
tone. "Sorry," he managed to mumble.
If Severus noticed Harry's current state of pain and nausea, it didn't
show on his face. "Where should you be, Potter?"
A lot closer to you. "Nowhere, really," he said miserably, barely above
a whisper. He remembered what it was like not to have this man's
respect, certainly, but it had been an eternity since it had actually
been a reality. No, it was never a reality. It was a dream. A dream. A
"Potter, are you ill?" he said. There was no change in his tone, no
show of concern on his face, no matter how much Harry wanted there to
Harry shook his head. "Just need…" A stiff drink. You. My life back.
"…to lie down."
"That much is apparent," Severus muttered, then sighed. "I shall escort
you to the hospital wing once the staircases decide to make such a
thing possible," he said, looking rather put-upon.
"NO!" Harry exclaimed, the sound of his voice echoing loudly in his
head and stabbing through his eye sockets.
Severus sneered at him. "Watch your tone, Potter."
"I just hate it there," Harry said. "I'm not ill, I just feel like
The sneer softened into a smirk. "Astonishing, Potter. Anyone would
think you enjoyed the attention."
"Just… don't," Harry said, no longer caring that he wasn't speaking to
the same man he'd known two days ago. Because he was. This was the same
Severus. It had to be. It had to be possible to build in life what
they'd had in the dream.
"You're treading on dangerous ground, Mr. Potter."
The stairs shifted back before Harry could formulate his reply, and his
stomach lurched at the sudden movement. He groaned and covered his eyes
with his hands.
"You're quite clearly unwell," Severus said tiredly.
Harry nodded, blinking back the tears that seemed to becoming a
permanent fixture in his eyes. "I probably am," he said hoarsely,
daring at last to meet Severus's eyes. "But I don't think there's
anything Pop-- Madam Pomfrey can do."
Severus sighed, and his lips tightened into a thin line. Then he turned
and started back down the stairs. "Follow me, Potter," he said, waving
his hand behind him, as though it were that easy.
Harry managed to stand up, but his legs gave in to the vertigo and
turned to mush, refusing to do anything more than tremble, no matter
how much weight he put on the banister. Severus must have heard him
stumble and turned back, because there were suddenly strong arms around
him, and his whole world became that scent of rosemary and dragonhide
and burnt sugar that he'd come to know so well. He tried to say
something, anything, but it came out as a whimper, so he closed his
eyes and gave up.
Riordan. Email comments to deirdre.riordan @
gmail.com (remove spaces)
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Yes, I know I
haven't updated in a month and a half, but shit happens. I'm still working on
this, I promise. Chapter 10 is half-written, and I've even enlisted a
second beta. I will tentatively promise it by the end of February, but