By Phantom (phantom1313 at tfrid dot com)
“I'm so tired of being here.
Suppressed by all my childhood fears….
These wounds won't seem to heal,
this pain is just too real,
there's just too much that time cannot erase.”
My Immortal- Evanescence
“I know what has just happened for you tonight, about the Shack and Lupin’s true nature. How the Headmaster made you feel about two inches tall, how he may have well just come out and told you that your life is worth nothing. How he rewarded James Bloody Potter and refused to properly punish any of the others, but he couldn’t be bothered with actually protecting you. The werewolf’s reputation was more important than your life.
“I remember this day as if it were yesterday. How badly I wanted to take my life that meant nothing to anyone. But I didn’t, because I foolishly believed that things might get better. I still hoped to graduate and become a world-famous Potions Master. And that happened. Oh yes, but not in the way I expected. Tonight you will leave this room, go up to your dorm, and earn the support of Lucius Malfoy. He will become your best friend, introduce you to influential people, and arrange a place for you in an elite group of Wizards. Your work will be admired and respected.”
“The only bright spot has been as Head of Slytherin, where I try to protect my charges from the blatant favoritism of the other professors, and I get to watch as my influence fails and they too take the Dark Mark.” The boy blinked in surprise at the change from ‘you’ to ‘I’, but it really made no difference, since they were one and the same. “I am stuck playing nursemaid to James Bloody Potter’s son, who has a penchant for danger and deadly situations, while the Dark Lord continues to torture me for my lack of information. The best I can hope for is that my heart will fail and I will die.”
The boy wrinkled his nose. “That’s morbid. But since it’s me, that’s hardly a surprise.” Severus thought over what his older self had said. “If things are really so bad, then why don’t you just commit suicide yourself? That would have been so much easier than coming to see me.”
Snape sank to the floor, looking weary and much older than his years. “I’ve been wanting to take my life for the past fifteen years. I cannot. I owe both James and Dumbledore a Life Debt. I’ve been trying my damnedest to pay it off, and you’d think that my daily suffering would be sufficient, but I’ve committed too many horrible crimes, and continue to do so in the name of the Death Eaters, that my debt will never be truly paid. If I were to commit suicide now, I would exist as a tormented spirit. That’s why I came to see you, while my soul was less tainted.”
Severus-the-boy reached for the bottle of poison and cradled it in his hands. It was a fine concoction, truly his best so far. It would be an honor to die by it. He had been so tempted to drink it earlier, but something had held him back. The promise of a better future, a chance to show those hateful Gryffindors a thing or two. But, as a part of him had always suspected, it was not to be.
Snape cupped his hands around the boy’s, holding the potion between them reverently. “You will never know love, or happiness, or true success and recognition. Even now, people mock you and despise you. We are nothing but a joke to the world, Severus Snape, and there is absolutely nothing that you or I can do to change that. We are ugly, greasy Slytherin gits that the world would be more than happy to get rid of. The Headmaster pretends to care about us, but it is a lie. Time and again he places the value of his golden Gryffindors above our own.” His hands squeezed tight, and the boy looked into the eyes of the man, whose gaze was now unguarded and shining with tears. “Please, please do it. Set us both free.”
Young Severus allowed the hands to retreat, as his own uncorked the vial and raised it to his lips. “Here’s to us,” he said with an odd sort of lightheartedness and downed its contents in one gulp. His older self smiled tremulously and felt a single tear trickle down his face in sheer relief. At last, after so long, he was free. Severus watched the man fade into nothingness as he slumped over onto his side, overcome with a wave of vertigo. Of course his older self was no longer here. He had faded into nonexistence. Soon he would be free too. At that thought, his spirit slipped away, and he died with a tiny, satisfied smile on his face.
* * * * *
The stranger pushed his way past Albus, wand drawn. “I’ll take the Astronomy Tower. See if you can get Flitwick and Longbottom to gather the others and defend the main door. I don’t know why the Death Eaters are so stupid to continually concentrate their attack there, though I suppose we should be thankful for small blessings.”
Albus turned to go and bumped straight into a warm, unyielding object. “Hagrid!” he exclaimed in relieved delight, but his smile faded as he beheld the bedraggled half-giant. Hagrid had a gigantic scar that had sealed shut one eye, and he appeared to be missing two fingers on his left hand. “Hagrid, there’s been another attack. Have you seen Minerva?”
Hagrid’s great face crumpled. “Yer a great man, Dumbledore, but have ya forgotten? Perfessor McGonagall is dead! That bastard Malfoy got ‘er. I wuz hopin the boy would turn out good, but I suppose there was just no one who understood ‘im enough. Bloody hell!” he cursed as the wall trembled. “Best get out there and do mah part without cryin’ over the past, I suppose. I’ll see you out there soon.” Hagrid hefted his pink umbrella grimly and headed after the still-unknown professor.
“Hagrid, wait!” Dumbledore exclaimed. He knew that it would seem as if he’d gone ’round the twist, but he just had to know. “What do you remember of Severus Snape?”
There was no time to linger. If he were killed, Moody’s sacrifice would have been for nothing. Albus dashed for the Great Hall as fast as his legs would take him. He took up a defensive position next to an overturned table just as the doors burst open. At the head of the crowd stood the Dark Lord himself. Typical of him to want to make an entrance – why step through the convenient hole in the wall when there were grand doors to be flung open? This was it, then. Voldemort’s presence at the head of the crowd indicated that he was ready to push for a final battle.
In the far corner he could see Hagrid lying very still, blood tricking from a lethal head wound. Hagrid’s large heart and sturdy spirit had kept them going when things were at their worst. His loss was a massive blow. The Potions master was dueling three masked Death Eaters at once. His leg was obviously broken, and he would be overwhelmed at any moment. Professor Lazarus, he recalled suddenly, that was the man’s name, and how could he have ever forgotten it? He had joined the Hogwarts staff just days after getting his Masters certification; he was a wicked card shark and had a taste for scotch and marmalade scones. Great Merlin, his mind was really slipping lately. People were dying all around him, and here he was thinking about a boy who had passed away years ago. It surely had been tragic, but there was nothing that could be done now. No matter what his straying mind fancied, Severus was dead.
With a sense of finality, Albus rose and hefted his wand. He cast curse after hex after jinx, felling Death Eaters with impressive accuracy. The kid gloves were off now. With satisfaction he saw the enemies backing off slightly, but then Voldemort stepped to the fore. “Time to meet your maker, old man,” he sneered. “Tell me now that Death is nothing to be feared.”
The walls reverberated with one single united scream of horror as Voldemort raised his wand high. Albus watched calmly. This was it, then. This was his time. And then he felt the ring on his finger heat to a blistering temperature. He looked at it curiously. And. Then. He. Knew. It had been a gift from Severus several years ago for one of his many birthdays. He remembered the occasion very clearly now. Typically, the lanky man had lurked in the shadows, scowling at the rest of the staff swarming here and there, although Albus had noticed that he had eaten more than his share of biscuits. Finally, towards the end of the party, Severus had shoved the box at him, muttering something about “finding it laying about” as he scuffed the floor with the toe of his boot. The ring was a coiled serpent with ruby eyes, and Albus had treasured it, because it reminded him of the merits of Slytherin House. Its coils spoke of hidden power and courage, traits that also could be found in its proud Head of House. He ran a finger across the snake’s head and felt a tendril of power.
It was all so clear now. Severus was the missing piece of the puzzle in this world-gone-wrong: he had warned the Potters of the threat against their lives, allowing James and Lilly to go into hiding while casting protective charms on their infant son; he had watched over his brood of baby Slytherin snakes, subtly steering Draco and his cronies away from the path that their parents had trod; he had saved Harry’s life time and again in spite of the boy’s inbred talent for danger; he had risked his own life to bring them priceless scraps of information. Severus needed to live. The missing piece needed to be restored.
Albus held his hand aloft, the ring blazing with a powerful white light. The castle was lending him its power, coming to the aid of the Headmaster when all seemed lost. “I call upon the names of the four Founders: Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Salazar Slytherin! Let their ancient power imbedded in these very stones come to me now! Send me back in time and right the wrongs! Help me to save a young boy and the fine man he will become!”
For a moment, Voldemort looked taken aback. “Bah, nothing but a light show!” he spat, trying to hide the growing sensation of fear. “Posturing won’t save you now, Dumbledore! Go and join your comrades-in-arms. Avada Kedavra!”
As the green light streak toward him, a golden halo surrounded the old wizard. The onlookers couldn’t say exactly where it had come from or what it meant, but Albus Dumbledore faded from sight, and the fatal curse harmlessly struck a chair.
Albus watched the green light fade away without ever striking his body. Streaks of colors flew past, and he heard mutters and snatches of conversation, but it was all going by far too fast for him to follow. Finally the world righted itself, and he was once again standing in the great hall. It was dark, and there was no one else but him. Somehow he instinctively knew that his gambit had worked. He had gone back in time to fix whatever had gone wrong.
A part of him was half-tempted to go visit his younger self, but he brushed the feeling aside as pure whimsy. He knew full well how dangerous it was for the same person to cross paths in time, and time was of the essence for his own mission.
He wasn’t in the Potions laboratory, or anywhere else in the dungeons. Fighting down a sense of desperation, Albus then felt the ring on his finger heat once more. He allowed it to lead him on to one of the caste’s secret passageways, which emptied into a private room. Interesting. He hadn’t realized that anyone else had known about this place. Sure enough, he heard voices on the other side of the door . “We are ugly, greasy Slytherin gits that the world would be more than happy to get rid of. The Headmaster pretends to care about us, but it is a lie. Time and again he places the value of his golden Gryffindors above our own.” A small pause. “Please, please do it. Set us both free.”
“You are wrong, Severus. I have come back for you because you are needed, and I care for you very much.”
The boy gasped as Dumbledore stepped through the door. He looked very much the same, but he was sure that the twenty years between this time and his own would have made some sort of change. “You’re… you’re not from my time, are you?”
Albus smiled at him kindly. “No, Severus, I am not, though I remember you very well. I’m from Professor Snape’s time, and I have come to take him home.”
The elder Severus was turning brick red in anger. He opened his mouth, and Dumbledore held up a hand. “There is much that I must tell you both. Please, I ask that of you sit and hear me out. Afterward you may be as angry as you like.” He bent a bit awkwardly, his old bones protesting as he lowered himself into a seating position on the floor. Snape gave him a dirty look and settled himself a respectable distance away, gathering his black robes around him, looking like an angry gargoyle. Severus-the-student also sat down where he was, a safe distance away. Although he tried to hide it behind a defiant glare, his hurt and betrayal was plain. How could Albus have missed it all those years ago?
Severus jerked out of his grasp, and Albus allowed him to retreat. “Do you see now that I had to let events unfold? Your mistakes are what have forged you into who you are today. Letting your younger self walk out of this room was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Knowing what lies ahead for that poor young man is enough to break my heart, but only he has the power to control his own destiny. And I know he will come out of it all right.”
“Do you now?” Severus sneered, his defensive shield in full force. “I should have known. You came to protect the future. You came to ensure that your spy didn’t wander away. Merlin forbid that I might have taken away your future servant. You don’t give a damn about me, other than I bring you scraps of information in exchange for the occasional pat on the head. The only reason you even pretend to care about me is because you need my services. You always knew how to make pretty speeches, but this time it is nothing but hot air.” Tears were now running freely down the old man’s face, and Snape felt his heart twist. He shoved the feeling aside. He wasn’t about to let this charlatan fool him!
Albus held out his hand with the serpent ring still glowing slightly. “It’s one of my prized possessions, you know,” he said softly. “This gift involved thoughtfulness and caring, and it wasn’t something that you just picked up in a cheap trinket shop. When you are away on a mission, I find that I cannot sleep and I rub the ring, as if it is a talisman that would somehow keep you safe. I cannot find peace until you return and I see with my own eyes that you are safe. You try to hide it when you are injured or upset, and you will not allow me to help, which hurts me even more. Your burdens are too much to shoulder alone. I am so, so sorry that I did not let you see how much I cared about you. I like everything about you you, the faults included, because they make you what you are. No one can go through life alone. Please let me be there for you.”
Without warning, Snape was seized in a crushing bear hug. He cursed and pushed against Dumbledore ineffectually. “You’re barmy! Let me go!”
“No,” Albus said calmly. “This is what you needed all along. Everyone needs a hug once in a while.”
“You’ve had you’re little joke, now let me go!”
“I’m not ready to let go just yet.”
“You aggravating, self-confident, irritating, manipulative bastard! Of all the nerve! I – let go this instant!”
“You’re trembling. Really, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a hug.”
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?! Why must you always be smiling and twinkling at me when all I want to do is crawl into a hole and die? I hate what my life has become, and I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!” And to his utter horror, Severus burst into tears. He ducked his head and turned his face away, hiding behind a curtain of greasy hair. Albus gently turned Snape’s around until it was resting on his shoulder. The young man’s thin shoulders shook violently as a lifetime of pent-up emotion came pouring out.
Dumbledore stroked his hair as soothingly as he could, seemingly unconcerned with its dubious hygiene. “I know that I ask much of you, Severus, but I would never desert you if you needed help. I am proud to consider you one of my friends, and I would be honored if you thought the same of me. I will do everything in my power to lighten your burden. Never, ever think that you are unappreciated.”
“Oh, God, it hurts so much!” Severus whimpered, burying his face in Albus’ chest. “Please, I can’t… it’s too much!” Dumbledore patted his back and waited for the outburst to subside.
Finally the sobs trailed off into a few hiccups, and Snape pulled away abruptly. Albus offered the hideous handkerchief, which Severus disdained with a watery glare. He finally found his own handkerchief (black, of course), and busied himself with wiping his eyes, blowing his nose, and otherwise putting himself back in order.
“Better?” he asked softly, and Snape nodded. Albus smiled. “Let’s go home.” Severus reluctantly threw the chain around both of their necks and activated the Time Turner mechanism. Dumbledore held him close as the years flew by, taking them back to their rightful place. They could not change the past, but perhaps it was not too late to make the best of the present.