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Authors Note: This chapter is dedicated to Bibbs, who has been a source of support and inspiration throughout most of this fic. Her dedication to reading, and her fabulous reviews have been nothing short of wonderful. But anyway, since you love Remus so much (and I won’t even hold it against you) this chapter is for you, especially the beginning, which I added in as a special treat. I just hope that I did him justice and that you enjoy!




Chapter 19: Fairytales and Nonsense

There is thunder in the distance and the sky grows grey.
There is lighting in the clouds in search of prey.
It's not a matter of if as much as when,
the clouds will break and the rainfall will begin.

-Assemblage 23, Cocoon


‘Harry?’ Harry grunted, trying to smack away the hand that shook him gently, rolling over and burying himself deeper in the soft covers. The voice was starting to sound impatient though, and he could feel his tired stupor reluctantly dissipating as he cracked open an eye and muttered something obscene about early risers. ‘Come on, wake up.’

Harry shifted himself up onto his elbows and looked round blearily. ‘Huh?’ The morning sun was streaming brightly through the window, the sheets warm and rumpled beneath him as he looked up at Remus who was watching him sadly, his eyes filled with disappointment, his voice quiet and reproachful in a way that made Harry cringe with shame.

‘Harry, what are you doing in here?’ Of course Remus wouldn’t have wanted Harry to see him like that, changed, no longer human. He was always so careful about what he was, not ashamed exactly, but cautious. And Harry had just run in and trampled over his wishes and his privacy without a thought for the man, too concerned with his own feelings of fear and loneliness for even a moment’s consideration. And he was still tired, the little sleep he had managed distressed and uneasy; he felt stretched too thin, hanging on in a tumultuous storm flying out of his control.

Harry didn’t bother to answer, throwing himself at the man who grunted in surprise at the weight that hit him as Harry wrapped his arms round Remus’ waist. He tensed with apprehension for a moment, expecting to be thrown off, knowing he probably didn’t deserve the comfort he felt in being able to feel for himself that Remus was really here and really alive, not taken, not dead. A sob broke lose that he couldn’t control, hating himself for being so pathetic as he felt Remus’ arms circle him awkwardly yet carefully in response, rubbing his back in a gentle and soothing motion. He’d never needed anyone before, but now he felt as though the ground beneath him would swallow him and spit him back to that place if he didn’t have someone to hold onto. ‘What’s wrong?’ Remus whispered above him, but Harry wasn’t able to answer and he didn’t want to move. Remus didn’t make him either, just holding him and stroking his hair, murmuring repetitively in a way that was completely meaningless yet still made Harry feel safer.

The hand stilled eventually however, as Harry felt Remus lift it to sniff cautiously, stiffening with worry as he snaked his hands round his back to loosen Harry’s grip and untangle the fingers that had woven themselves into his shirt. ‘Harry, is this blood?’ He found himself pushed away, held at arms length as Remus finally looked at him properly, eyes widening with shock and panic. ‘Merlin Harry, what happened to you? Are you hurt?’ Harry noticed that the hand that had been running through his hair was streaked with dirt and grime and the odd tinge of red dried to an almost brown. He couldn’t drag his eyes away from it.

‘It’s not mine, I don’t think.’ Harry managed to breathe, his words a rushed jumble. He didn’t feel hurt, more just numb. Remus didn’t listen, pulling the matted robes over Harry’s head with care, ignoring his own twinges as his arms and back protested to the movement. Harry just lifted his arms absently, closing his eyes against the darkness as the fabric surrounded him before being lifted away, feeling strangely lighter without the weight hanging from his shoulders. He glanced up as the bundle was thrown into the far corner, suddenly incredibly glad that it was no longer near him. He didn’t want anything that had been from Snape. Remus had moved over to the nearby wardrobe, the hangers rattling as he pulled out a threadbare cloak, which was swept round Harry, remarkably soft regardless of the bare patches and frayed hems. Harry pulled it tightly round himself, struggling to toe off the boots that still encased his feet. Remus stilled his frantic movements, pulling the laces free and slipping them off easily as Harry crossed his bare feet under him, tucking the edges of the cloak around him so he could sit, completely swathed, in the middle of the bed.

Remus wouldn’t leave him alone though, pulling open a drawer and unrolling a thick pair of socks. He pulled out one of Harry’s feet, slipping the heavy wool over it. ‘We have to get you to Madam Pomfrey,’ he said, looking Harry in the eye although he didn’t hold the gaze, looking away again quickly and apologetically. ‘You could be infected. You shouldn’t have come in here.’

‘I’m fine,’ Harry protested weakly, flinching backwards as Remus stood up angrily, face flushed as he dragged an anxious hand through his fine hair, pacing the few steps in front of him.

‘How can you say that?’ he demanded sceptically, rolling his eyes desperately to the ceiling, his hands absently clenching and unclenching at his sides so that Harry could see the faint outline of tiny crescent shaped indents left by his nails. ‘I am so sorry,’ Harry’s eyes snapped up again, full of surprise and confusion at the apology; what did Remus have to be sorry for? ‘Bloody Hell, we need Snape.’

‘No!’ Harry shouted, causing Remus to jump.

‘What?’

‘No Snape,’ Harry confirmed, trying to smile. ‘I’m fine,’ his words were about as convincing as the smile though, and Remus still looked doubtful, horrified even as Harry realised what had the man so alarmed. ‘You didn’t do anything,’ he said, hoping that somehow Remus would believe him on this if nothing else. ‘Don’t you remember? Someone knocked you out last night.’

‘I…’ Remus trailed off.

‘You didn’t touch me, Remus. You were completely unconscious,’ Remus looked almost too scared to believe Harry though. ‘I just didn’t want to leave you like that.’ Harry didn’t mention that he hadn’t wanted to be left on his own either. It would only have been cause for further concern, and Remus looked as though his nightmare had been lifted. He didn’t need a new one in its place.

‘Gods Harry,’ Remus declared with a nervous chuckle. ‘I saw you lying there looking half dead; you start crying and then I find out you were covered in blood. I thought I’d bitten you or something. James would never have bloody forgiven me!’

‘Like I said, I don’t think any of its mine.’

‘Well, forgive me for asking the stupid question then, but if not yours then whose blood are you covered in?’ Harry just shook his head, the burning pressure rising behind his eyes again as he moved forwards to hold onto the man.

‘I thought you were going to die,’ Harry managed to hiccup quietly. ‘You were hardly breathing, they could have just walked in any moment and taken you. I didn’t want that to happen again, not after what he did to you last time.’

‘Who could have?’ Remus asked gently, but Harry wasn’t answering, and Remus contented himself with simply holding the small boy until the shuddering subsided. ‘Come on,’ Remus said eventually, uncurling Harry’s fingers, which were gripping like death to the back of his shirt again and suppressing a shiver as a cool gust washed over the damp spot on his shoulder where Harry’s head had been resting. ‘Lets get you cleaned up then we can go see Albus. I believe I need to have words with him anyway.’

‘Are you all right?’ Harry sniffed, wiping his nose on the sleeve of the cloak then looking apologetic as Remus summoned a tissue and handed it to him.

‘Right as rain. It’d take more than a little sedative to kill a werewolf Harry, I thought I taught you better than that.’ Looking up into his eyes Harry suddenly realised the worry Remus was trying to hide from him. It hadn’t been a little, Harry knew. To knock out such a creature must have been bordering on overdose, else every werewolf would just ride out the change in a drug-induced sleep.

‘Are you sure?’ Harry hated how much his voice shook as Remus sat next to him, placing a hand on his shoulders as he met his gaze intently.

‘Harry, it has worn off,’ Harry nodded, but a shiver trailed up his spine and he couldn’t stop his thoughts from drifting once again to what could have been. ‘There is absolutely no more danger in it, so do not worry yourself. If anything take comfort,’ Remus managed a weak smile of his own. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever had a change that easy.’ Harry tried to look more convincing as he nodded again, stopping himself from chewing anxiously on his bottom lip as the mattress shifted under him at the loss of Remus’ weight. ‘Which brings me back to you. If not your blood, then whose?’

Harry shrugged. ‘Malfoy, possibly. Tonks. Snape if I’m lucky.’

Remus pulled a tattered pair of shoes out from under the bed, sitting to lace them slowly as he spoke. He tried not to sound doubtful, adopting the reasonable tone Harry recognised from his time as a Professor when he pointed out facts in the hope the student themselves would spot their own error. ‘Tonks was on Auror duty last night, and I doubt Snape would willingly enter this house unless it was an absolute necessity. Malfoy, either Malfoy, simply cannot enter.’ Remus looked up as Harry let out a choked laugh.

‘Don’t suppose you have anything around to eat, do you,’ he asked. It seemed like a safer subject and talking about anything else suddenly felt far to hard, especially given all he had to tell. ‘Haven’t eaten anything in a few days. Actually,’ he grimaced as his stomach churned unpleasantly, ‘forget that, I don’t think I could keep anything down.’

‘What has happened?’

‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.’ Harry laughed hysterically. He could feel the tears welling up again and blinked them furiously back. ‘Can I have a glass of water?’ Remus summoned one distractedly, splashing the floor before holding it out to Harry whose fingers trembled trying to hold onto it until Remus took the glass from his unresisting grip and tilted it up to his lips, helping him swallow.

‘Better?’

‘A bit.’

Remus placed the glass on the small table and straightened up. ‘Up to travelling?’

Harry blinked. ‘Where too?’

‘I think it’s really time to go find Albus.’

‘Oh yeah, that might be a good idea,’ Harry remembered as Remus looked even more concerned.

‘Do you want a calming potion?’

‘Did Snape make it?’ Harry asked as Remus nodded at the odd query. ‘Then no.’ There were no questions over his refusal, for which Harry was incredibly glad.

‘Come on,’ Remus offered his hand, ignoring his own pain as he helped hoist Harry to his feet, not commenting as Harry clung weakly to his arm and refused to let go, looking up at him pleadingly. Remus just patted his hand awkwardly in what he hoped was a comforting manner. He just wasn’t used to someone so obviously needing him, to someone not shying away from him, knowing what he was. And that it was Harry, who was in many ways even less able of showing or receiving affection of any sort than himself, holding onto him as though his very World would crumble away without the support was troubling. He led him down the stairs in silence, creeping quietly past the portrait and into the kitchen. ‘Lets get this, whatever it is, over with so you can get some sleep.’ Remus said softly. ‘You look exhausted.’

‘Thanks,’ Harry slumped into a chair, relinquishing his hold although he still followed every move Remus made, and Remus couldn’t help but noticed how his gaze flew apprehensively to the shadows every few seconds. Reaching for the pot of floo powder he lit a fire, the flames roaring to life. ‘Wait,’ Harry said frantically as Remus made for them both to leave. ‘Upstairs in my room somewhere there is a Timeturner. Can you find it?’

Remus couldn’t ignore the strangeness of the request. ‘What are you doing with a Timeturner?’ Harry just looked at him again, eyes wide.

‘I’ll explain, I promise, but I don’t have the energy to do it more than once. Please Remus.’ There was no point in pushing the issue now, so Remus just nodded, running up the stairs, his footsteps reverberating through the ceiling, and returning a few moments later, handing it out. ‘You carry it,’ Harry said as he shied away from the thing, relaxing as Remus slid it carefully into his pocket.

‘You ready?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then let us hope he is in,’ Remus threw in a handful of powder, shouting for the Headmasters Office and holding Harry tightly as he felt him tense in the rushing wind. They landed in an empty office, Fawkes letting out a soft note in greeting before returning to preening on his stand as Harry looked around and let out a sigh. The sunlight lit the walls, warming the wooden reds as dust sparkled in the air around him. Harry hadn’t noticed the large window before, but it was open now as the soft breeze caused the occasional chime of metal or rustle of paper. The Sorting Hat was snoring softly on its shelf, half buried, surrounded by unnamed items, although Harry swore he recognised the hilt of a sword leaning slightly over the edge. There was order to the clutter though, and not the stark and compulsive order Draco had created. It was homely and inviting, making a place for him amongst all it all ready contained instead of making him feel like an invader, small and out of place.

‘This is much better.’

‘Better than what, Harry?’ Dumbledore appeared from behind a bookcase with a faint smile, glasses balanced precariously on the tip of his nose, a hefty volume tucked under his arm, which he placed on the desk, looking curiously to Harry for his answer.

‘Anything else,’ Harry replied vaguely as Dumbledore turned to cast a questioning glance to Lupin, seeing nothing but worry in the man’s face.

‘Has something happened?’

‘Yes,’ Lupin watched as Harry stepped away from him and reached out to touch the back of a chair, grazing it lightly as though expecting his hand to pass through it, before running his fingers almost reverentially across its back. Fawkes spread his wings, drifting gracefully to land on the same chair, trilling curiously and staring at the place Harry’s hand rested, head tilted as if searching for whatever hidden mystery it was Harry saw, ‘but I do not know what exactly. I suspect it involves this,’ Lupin handed the Timeturner to Dumbledore, who took it appraisingly, peering down his glasses.

‘Did you use this Harry?’ Dumbledore asked, turning to the boy who was now stroking Fawkes soft head.

‘Yep.’

‘To visit the past,’ it was more of a statement than a question as Harry shook his head. But then again travelling to the future was supposedly impossible, wasn’t it, so he couldn’t exactly blame Dumbledore for making that assumption. At least he’d managed to learn something though. Perhaps he could give Snape some sort of heart attack with that, since the man so adamantly believed the prospect of it ever happening unlikely at the very best.

‘Not exactly,’ Harry swayed slightly, torn between laughing and crying again as his legs wobbled and Fawkes let out a small cry of distress, hopping up onto the arm to get closer.

‘Harry?’ Lupin rushed forward as Harry collapsed onto the floor, catching him easily before he actually hit. Tucking an arm under Harry’s legs he lifted him gently onto the seat, Fawkes pressing his head to Harry’s cheek in reassurance as Dumbledore knelt in front of him with surprising grace for such an old man.

‘Harry,’ he said softly, his hand resting under Harry’s chin, tilting his head up so that their eyes met. Harry flinched away automatically, expecting a rush of unexplained hatred, but none came. ‘Trust me.’ Harry nodded numbly, swallowing nervously as he felt the Headmaster slip into his thoughts, although the picture they provided was jumbled at best. He tried to concentrate, but it was difficult, and the days didn’t seem to want to replay in any sort of order. Thoughts of Snape, and he felt the Headmasters sadness as an image of the man lying dead stormed its way to the forefront and refused to be dismissed, interspersed with memories of Tonks: turning him away, helping him, fighting to her last minute to protect him. Harry let out a choked breath, sagging with relief as Dumbledore pulled out with a sigh, hand briefly tightening on his shoulder. ‘Not the past then,’ he said sadly as Harry shook his head, watching as Dumbledore stood and aimed his wand at the wall, a silvery figure shooting from his wand and disappearing through the stone, headed downwards.

‘What do you mean, not the past,’ Remus moved closer to Harry as Dumbledore stepped away, his mere presence infinitely comforting as Harry curled his feet under him, wincing at the coldness against his legs even through the thick socks. ‘Where else could it have taken him?’

‘The future,’ Dumbledore seated himself slowly behind his desk, rooting through a drawer and pulling out a small vial which he offered to Harry, who shook his head in refusal that the Headmaster did not press, ‘and from what I could see a most unpleasant one.’

‘Voldemort, he won,’ Harry managed to offer. He didn’t look up from his lap though, his voice bitter. ‘He killed all the muggleborns and half-bloods trying to make his perfect World. He used me to finish off the ones he couldn’t find.’ Lupin let out a small gasp of shock behind him.

‘Nothing you have seen is true any longer though,’ Dumbledore leaned forward, his words ringing with importance, importance that Harry believe him and find comfort in the knowledge that it had not come to pass, that he not carry the blame for the deaths of some who had not yet even been born. ‘Those people have not died.’

‘Does that include Snape?’ Harry looked up, eyes dark and challenging, his anger overwhelming his exhaustion and anchoring his fluctuating emotions. His hands stopped their systematic twining in the cloak that pooled in his lap, instead moving to grip the arms of the chair and not relaxing even with a soft croon from Fawkes. Dumbledore flashed a look to Remus filled with concern and something else that made Harry even angrier. It was obvious; Dumbledore didn’t want Harry being difficult, not over this.

‘Professor Snape, Harry.’

‘I take it he’s around somewhere,’ Harry continued stubbornly, shaking away the hand Remus place over his own as he crouched down next to the chair and Dumbledore sighed. He felt a sudden wash of deep and primal terror that all he had experienced, all he had seen would mean nothing now. It was not to be proved unfounded.

‘What happened to you with him will not happen again.’ Dumbledore sounded so sure of what he said Harry felt the hysteria bubbling upwards again. He was going to have to see the man again, live with his presence always knowing what he was capable of doing, how he had betrayed everyone.

‘It happened once, didn’t it?’ Harry tried to argue with futility, but it was a pathetic attempt even to his own ears. He felt his chest tighten in panic, breathing fast and shallow. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Snape again, not in the same room, not even in the same building.

‘Harry, I trust Professor Snape explicitly.’ Dumbledore looked so calm as he said it too, like he truly believed his own words, believed that they stood for something.

‘The same way you trusted Quirrell in my first year?’ Harry asked sharply. ‘Or how about Professor Moody? Oh wait, that wasn’t Moody at all, was it? Do I even need to mention Lockhart?’ Dumbledore didn’t seem affected by any of it, as though he saw something very different in what Harry believed to be his greatest failures. ‘Excuse me if I don’t hold too much faith in your ability to employ the trustworthy, or at the very least people who aren’t out to kill me.’

‘The situation here is quite different, and this is not something for negotiation,’ Dumbledore continued sternly. ‘I would trust Professor Snape with my very life.’

‘Well that’s good,’ Harry snorted mirthlessly. ‘Since he’s going to be watching when you get killed.’

The statement didn’t have the punch Harry had hoped for. He had wanted Snape turned from the castle at the news that he would betray the on man who had given him so much so completely. He wanted Snape to suffer when he realised his traitorous thoughts had been discovered, whether or not he had any intention of acting on them yet. He wanted the man consumed with guilt as he reaped the consequences of his dirty, double-crossing nature. Dumbledore gave no indication of anger though. ‘The future is not set,’ his tone was infuriatingly reasonable. ‘What you experienced was merely one possibility, and a possibility for which you do not have all the facts. You do not know enough for us to jump to such rash and unfounded conclusions.’

‘He handed me over to Voldemort,’ Harry hissed. He knew Dumbledore had seen it, seen for himself the traitor Snape had become. He had seen his own portrait consumed in a rush of flames in Harry’s own memory and heard Snape’s self-righteous and pitiful attempts at justification. ‘I watched him kill Tonks. Exactly how many more facts do you need?’

‘Calm yourself Harry,’ the words only served to make him more furious though. ‘The future you have seen, whilst horrific, is nevertheless one of little probability.’

‘I won’t be happy until that probability is nothing.’

There was a knock on the door, loud and booming in the tension of the room as all eyes turned towards it, Harry jumping from his seat and swaying only slightly as it opened and Snape stepped in. Harry had his wand drawn in an instant, oblivious to Dumbledore’s gentle demanding behind him and Lupin’s quiet pleading. The wood seemed to vibrate in his palm with anticipation, the potential humming beneath his skin, and he knew that this time he was going to kill the man.

‘Harry?’ Remus said carefully, his voice quiet and flat. He hadn’t moved from his position, squatting down next to the chair Harry had been sitting in, despite the discomfort staying there must have caused. His face was pale and anxious too, drawn with fatigue. He probably should have gone to the hospital wing by now, Harry realised, made sure he really was all right from the transformation and wasn’t about to suffer from anything that had happened during it.

‘He’s a traitor,’ Harry tried to explain. He had to do this, and Remus had to understand why, else he would just hate him for it. He could live with Remus’ hate though if it saved him and everyone else; if it was the only choice left.

‘He is not, Harry,’ Dumbledore said slowly. Snape merely quirked an inquiring eyebrow.

‘You haven’t seen what I did.’ Harry spoke desperately, imploringly almost.

‘None of which is true at this moment.’

‘I won’t let it become true either.’

‘There are other ways, Harry,’ Dumbledore tried to placate. ‘Knowledge itself is the most powerful weapon of all. I cannot allow you to resort to violence in a pre-emptive attack of what may never come to be.’ Harry seemed to consider the thought, lowering his wand slightly as Remus pushed himself stiffly to his feet, nodding his agreement. Harry made his choice in an instant though, his eyes flashing angrily as his wand snapped back up with intent.

‘Avada…’ Remus lunged forwards and managed to snatch the wand from Harry’s hand before he could finish, but wasn’t quick enough to stop him launching himself at the Potions Master, who side stepped neatly out of the way, casting Dumbledore a questioning glance. Harry spun round quickly though, snarling as he moved to punch the man, to strangle him with his bare hands if necessary. Shifting his position slightly Snape raised his arm to backhand the boy, bringing it down and round in a long, violent sweep at the same moment a stunner connected and Harry froze.

‘Severus, you know my views on manhandling the students.’ Dumbledore sounded more tired than disapproving as he tucked his wand back in his robes, seating himself back down heavily.

‘I hardly fail to see how they can be applied when said student is aiming an Unforgivable at my person.’ Snape lowered his hand and straightened his robes, his face noticeably paler as he took a moment to regard the motionless figure thoughtfully, seating himself as he did so, his gaze not once wandering. ‘Given you also have views against cursing them, I find myself entirely lacking in options.’

‘He would not have succeeded in casting it.’ Snape did look round at this comment, expression agape before he remembered himself, back ramrod straight in the chair.

‘Forgive me, but the impression I had from here was somewhat less optimistic.’

‘I am worried,’ Remus interrupted. He had taken the abandoned seat and still had Harry’s wand in his hand, hunched over it as he turned it over and over, staring intently and his gaze occasionally flickering to Harry. ‘That outburst was not typical of him.’

‘Not typical?’ Snape scoffed. ‘Someone needs to have a few well placed words with that boy about what it means for a curse to be Unforgivable, and why you shouldn’t just toss them around when the mood takes you.’ If Snape still felt any trepidation over what had happened, he buried it beneath a layer of impenetrable sarcasm so deep Lupin doubted if the man even felt it himself any more. ‘This is not his first attempt at one, and eventually he will get them to work. Not that I doubt the consequences of that will be amusing,’ Snape smirked cruelly as a thought struck him. ‘In fact I shall endeavour to make such a thought my last, in the hope it gives me at least some joy when I find myself murdered mid class. Does he at least have a reason, and if so is there the remotest chance of it not being horrendously Gryffindor.’

‘Harry is of the opinion that you are on the verge of betraying us,’ Dumbledore said flatly as something flickered in Snape’s expression, his silence turning cold, his position becoming, if it were possible, even more rigid, ‘leading to the downfall of the Wizarding World.’

Snape seemed to mull the words for a moment, scrutinising them mercilessly for every pitfall and possible trap. ‘I doubt my betrayal alone could lead to such a drastic outcome,’ he eventually said stiffly, holding his head high in the way of one prepared to defend himself against any retaliation or accusation, eyes narrowing as Dumbledore smiled warmly.

‘Do not worry yourself,’ there was absolute conviction in the Headmasters voice, though it did nothing to relieve the chill that had settled itself icily round Snape, who had heard enough lies coated with sugary sweetness and enough orders for death issued in boredom to know that you couldn’t judge content on delivery alone. ‘I have the utmost faith in you.’

‘I would never have thought otherwise,’ Snape’s reply was instant, although the stiffness hadn’t left his voice even as he allowed the tiniest trace of bitterness to taint and sharpen the edges. This did seem to have an effect on the Headmaster though, who looked to deflate under their onslaught, clasping his hands together on the desk before him as Snape continued to stare in resolute defiance.

‘Someday, Severus, I shall earn back your trust as you have earned mine.’ It was said without the annoying twinkle that so often graced the Headmaster and that Snape always felt heralded a coming manipulation, and Snape did relax slightly at that. His expression faded to something approaching appreciation before it was schooled carefully back to neutrality to cast a warning look at Lupin, who had slouched down in his seat, daring him to remember any of what had passed.

‘Leaving such outbursts of misplaced sentimentality aside,’ there was no bite to his mocking tone though as Snape drummed his long fingers casually on his thigh in a careful picture of emotionless disinterest, ‘where exactly did this idea come from?’

Dumbledore looked across the room to where Harry still stood. ‘I think perhaps we should revive Harry for this.’ Lupin looked worried at the prospect, but Dumbledore raised a hand to silence any misgivings he wanted to voice. ‘I have barely seen even the beginning of the story myself, and what I did was somewhat too clouded with emotion to form any real understanding.’ Lupin nodded in reluctant agreement and acquiescence, sitting far more attentively than moments before, wincing as he tried to shuffle into a more comfortable position and surreptitiously trying to stretch away the ache in his legs.

Snape, however, didn’t bother to give an argument; standing and pulling his cloak tightly round him, inclining his head in departure. ‘In that case it would probably be safer for all involved were I to leave. You can no doubt inform of all the inane details at a later time when there will be no risk of inviting the Golden Boy to further acts of uncharacteristic violence.’ Lupin frowned at the sneering quality to the final words as Snape pushed the chair to the side and out of his path, one of the legs leaving the carpet and scraping piercingly on the wood.

‘Severus, sit.’ Snape scowled at Dumbledore’s order, but obeyed. He only went so far as to perch on the corner of the seat though, making no move to return it to it’s original position which would have been, Lupin couldn’t help but notice, closer to Harry. Where he sat now Snape was out of the way and no longer in the direct line of sight of the stupefied boy. The Potions master had pulled his wand, however, and Remus berated the traitorous thought that hoped Snape would at least think before casting whatever curse first sprang to mind should he feel the need. He had a horrible feeling, made all the worse for by the fact that he knew it to be true, that Snape would act not out fear but out of the deep seated loathing borne from the father and since projected onto the son that was just waiting for an excuse. ‘Finite Incantatem.’ With a flick of his wand Dumbledore sent the spell across the room towards Harry, who sagged momentarily as he reasserted control over his muscles, before scanning the room and glaring once again at Snape.

‘Harry, please sit down,’ Dumbledore said gently, conjuring a plush seat out of the air, which spun around to rest next to Remus.

‘I won’t sit in the same room as him,’ Harry snarled, jabbing a finger viciously towards Snape.

‘You will have to eventually, so you may as well now,’ Dumbledore tried to reason. Harry just crossed his arms, casting his glare towards the Headmaster instead, who sighed before speaking with practised patience. ‘There is always the matter of lessons Harry.’

‘Not anymore,’ Lupin could practically see Snape’s fingers twitching to curse Harry for his insolent tone. ‘I won’t be taking Potions, even if by some miracle of his messed up teaching I did manage to get the grade needed.’

‘Assumptive as always, I see,’ Snape sneered, unable to keep quiet any longer. ‘Although, as usual, your actions have little point behind them.’

‘What it that supposed to mean?’ Harry snapped.

‘Professor Snape will not be teaching Potions this year,’ Dumbledore cut in before Snape could cruelly tear through the boy with his words, an act which he would not regret no matter how much more difficult it made an all ready overwrought situation. Harry felt his heart sink at the news, weighed down by a desperate panic. ‘He will be filling the Defence position.’

‘Bloody typical,’ the outburst was less angry this time, more wretched as Harry seemed to fold in on himself slightly. ‘Even if you thought that wasn’t the one lesson I enjoy, you know it’s the only one I can’t quit. Still, it’s not like every other teacher of it hasn’t tried to kill me,' Harry had shifted back to Snape again. 'You just fulfilled that requirement in advance.’

‘Professor Snape has not done anything of the sort.’ Dumbledore corrected.

‘But he will,’ Harry said miserably, falling into the seat, holding his face in his hands and trying to pull himself together. He didn’t want Snape to see him like this, but he doubted he could say anything or even look at the man without falling apart again. Snape couldn’t know he was so weak.

‘Having this argument backwards and forwards is fruitless,’ Remus interrupted gently, noting Harry’s distress and placing a hand on his shoulder. ‘Harry, tell us what happened, the whole story.’

‘Why?’ He sat back in the seat, looking intently at his hands. ‘So you can listen to me and pretend you believe just to tell me how wrong I am some more?’ He could hear the insistent tapping of a foot against the floor, muffled slightly by the rug but no less annoying. The sound practically rang of impatience.

‘If you would rather we dismissed your story as fairytales and nonsense, I would be happy to oblige,’ Snape commented, the tapping pausing as he spoke, allowing Harry to reclaim some of his lost rage.

‘I bet you would.’ He scowled in response, but his exhaustion had returned with a vengeance and he couldn’t find the energy to comment further. He just wanted to curl up in bed, but he knew that wouldn’t happen until he had given at least some sort of acceptable answer. ‘Someone got in the house while I was asleep and stuck a Timeturner round my neck,’ he said simply. ‘Next thing I know I’m waking up and the place is empty, being accosted by strange old women out for blood, running into him,’ Harry couldn’t have filled the word with more venom, ‘and then spending every moment from then on fighting for my life.’

‘When were you?’ Dumbledore asked, apparently realising he would get no answers through anything less than specific questioning.

‘Twenty-three years from now, but only because something went wrong,’ Harry took a brief moment to wonder where he would be now had Voldemort’s plan not been interrupted. After all, it was only a freak accident, yet another moment of surprising luck that had deposited him at that time. What difference would a day or even an hour have made, let alone ten years. ‘According to Malfoy it should have been thirty three years, or something like that.’

‘Lucius?’ Snape asked flatly, barely masking his abrupt interest, and Harry bit back a comment on how the man could manage to speak civilly when one of his fellow Death Eaters was involved, but not over someone who was supposed to be on the same bloody side as him.

‘No, his son.’

‘Draco?’ Snape looked disbelieving, turning to Dumbledore. ‘The Malfoy’s are not in favour with the Dark Lord at the moment. Whilst, if given the opportunity, Lucius could reclaim at least some of his standing, Draco has never shown even the slightest inkling towards the same bloody minded malevolence the Dark Lord so admires in his father.’ Harry did laugh at this, earning himself a reproving glance from the Headmaster.

‘He’s going to kill Dumbledore,’ Harry said, smiling wryly at Snape’s look of surprise. ‘Would that fulfil the bloody minded malevolence requirement enough?’

‘A sixteen year old boy cannot cast the Killing Curse,’ Remus offered calmly. ‘It is unheard of.’

‘Potter here has been giving it a pretty good go.’ Snape snarked. Harry fixed him with a determined stare.

‘He won’t do it again.’

‘Of course not, not with our resident Hero here to save the day,’ Snape was sneering now. Harry wished Remus would give him his wand back.

‘He won’t do it because you won’t allow him back in the school,’ Harry tried to ignore Snape instead and aimed the demand at the Headmaster, who started to speak but didn’t get past the first syllable, ‘and don’t you dare start lecturing me on why I should give people a chance before I condemn them,’ Harry found himself leaning forwards as he spoke, his voice rising. ‘He won’t be coming back because he asked me to make sure he didn’t do it this time round.’

‘You mean not kill Professor Dumbledore?’ Remus clarified.

‘Oh, there’s no nobility behind it,’ Harry corrected. He could see why Remus was looking a bit confused though. ‘He didn’t like what he had become, nothing more than a slave to a half-blood,’ a small part of him hoped Snape didn’t know that fact yet, although Harry knew it was doubtful. Besides, what would Snape care if his Lord weren’t pure given Snape’s own blood. They were both bloody hypocrites. ‘He sent me back on the condition I stop him this time round.’

‘Draco Malfoy would not go against the wishes of his father,’ Snape said immediately and in direct contradiction to the statement, as though Harry’s words meant next to nothing in comparison to his own, as though Harry knew nothing.

‘Because Lucius would still fawn over Voldemort if he knew of his heritage, yeah right.’ Harry had had his doubts on this issue, but Draco had been adamant his father would never have served in such a way either. ‘And his beliefs haven’t changed, he won’t be switching sides or anything.’ It felt important to clarify this. Harry was no idiot, he knew how valuable an asset a Malfoy would be in opposing Voldemort, but he also knew enough to know that no Malfoy ever would. No, they shared the same ideals, the same fervent desire for a pure World. They would merely object to it being created by the very thing they so despised. It would be an insult.

‘You said he sent you back,’ Dumbledore interrupted his thoughts, and Harry shifted uncomfortably under so many gazes.

‘Yeah, eventually,’ he still felt horribly conflicted over Malfoy in a way upon which he didn’t want to dwell. ‘Wanted to use me to overthrow Voldemort at first.’ And Malfoy had been fully prepared to throw Harry to the snakes in a fruitless attempt to claim something more than Malfoy all ready had. But then again he was always going on and on about having only the best. It wasn’t that he viewed possessions to be more important than people; it was that he felt people were nothing more than possessions, to be used as he needed them for his own gain. ‘But he saved my life, much as I hate that, when it really mattered.’ Which was, at the end of the day, the cause of his confusion. The motives had been selfish and heartless, but Draco had still willingly saved the life of someone he had despised for years.

‘Saved your life?’ Dumbledore said carefully, watching Harry closely as he shrugged and nodded. Something was passing silently between the three men, but Harry couldn’t be bothered to decipher what it was.

‘You don’t think?’ Lupin said, as Snape looked smug, confirming that yes, he very well did.

‘It is difficult,’ Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully. ‘I do not know whether such a thing can breach time in such a way. Whilst yes, it has happened, fulfilment will mean it never will have done so, and if it never happens it cannot in any sense be forged to begin with.’

Forged…Harry recognised that word in conjunction with something else, something important. ‘I didn’t…’ He sat up quickly, looking positively sick.

‘It would appear that yes, you did,’ Snape said with maliciously glee, ‘there is apparently every chance you have forged yourself a Wizards debt.’ Was such a selfish action enough? He had a horrible feeling it was. After all, his father had saved Snape not because he had particularly wanted Snape to live, but for his own reasons. ‘A Gryffindor owing his very life to a Slytherin, who would have thought.’

‘Bugger that!’

‘Language, Harry,’ Remus chastised gently.

‘No, I don’t care,’ he slouched down in the chair again, looking tired and defeated. It was all so damn complicated.

‘Perhaps we should let Harry get some rest.’ Dumbledore said softly as Lupin stood, helping Harry to his feet. ‘There is nothing we can do at the moment; events will just have to unfold as they will.’

‘Wait, there was one other thing,’ Harry gestured for Remus to wait. ‘Malfoy, just before I left, he gave me a message for you.’ Thinking back on it Harry had the unwelcome thought that it could all have been part of some elaborate plan, the smallest dip in the road to shift the path of the future into Malfoy’s favour. ‘It didn’t make much sense them, and it still doesn’t now, but he told me to tell you. Don’t go to the cave.’ There, he had said it. Harry just hoped nothing that happened from here on because of it would be his fault.

‘What cave?’ Dumbledore looked suddenly concerned, his gaze fixed unshakeably on Harry who struggled not to buckle under it.

‘He didn’t say anything else,’ Harry offered, wishing he had asked more. It was obviously important. ‘Except that the locket is a fake and Voldemort could never find the real one.’

‘What locket?’ Remus asked, also picking up on the Headmasters interest.

‘It is but another piece of the puzzle.’ Harry fought back at his initial annoyance at the riddle Dumbledore seemed to feel passed for an answer, as something came to mind and he asked without thinking.

‘Does it have to do with Horcruxes?’

Dumbledore didn’t have to answer; his look said everything. ‘What do you know of them?’

‘That Voldemort made a whole bunch of them, something about them containing a bit of his soul, like the diary,’ Dumbledore sat in silence for a minute, staring intently at the wall as Harry fidgeted with impatience. Taking a deep breath he looked to Harry.

‘Harry, will you wait outside for a moment. I need a quick word in private.’

He wasn’t surprised. Hell, he’d even been expecting it. It still hurt to be dismissed in such a way though, especially after Dumbledore’s promise to him the year before. ‘Of course, what should I care about a few more secrets?’ Harry muttered angrily, stalking shakily towards the door. ‘It’s not like you listen to me anyway. Snape will return to Voldemort before the bloody year is finished though, no matter what you say, so don’t look all surprised when he does.’

Dumbledore said nothing further though, merely waiting for Harry to open the door. ‘Remus will be out shortly to escort you to Madame Pomfrey.’ Harry nodded once, sharply, slamming the heavy wood behind him and sinking onto the stone steps outside to wait.

‘What is a Horcrux?’ Snape asked once he had left.

‘An issue for a later time,’ Dumbledore sighed, fingering the book in front of him before pushing it to the side, ‘once I have had a chance to rethink and reconsider a few of the things I thought I knew.’

‘Albus,’ Remus said softly in the silence that followed. ‘There is one issue I did not wish to discuss further in front of Harry, as it will merely give him more fuel to his hatred.’ Remus looked sideways to Snape, letting out a deep breath. ‘My Wolfsbane, it was drugged, obviously as part of the plan to take Harry.’

‘Drugged?’

‘A sedative,’ Remus admitted. ‘Knocked me right out and almost killed me in the process. I remember little,’ he mentioned before it could be asked, ‘so even if I did sense the presence of an intruder I have no recollection of who or when.’ He glanced at Snape again, looking oddly guilty over the admission. ‘Given all that has been said I do not want you to think that I believe it was you in any way…’

‘Shut up Lupin,’ Snape growled. ‘At the end of the day who else is there to suspect?’

Dumbledore just shook his head at the information. He looked older in that moment, more human and more capable of failure than ever before. ‘No one is infallible, Severus.’

‘I do not know if you are doubting my Potions skills or my allegiance with that statement Albus,’ Snape said harshly, ‘but I take offence to either.’

‘I was referring to myself,’ Dumbledore corrected with a sigh. He reached out to stroke the bird Harry himself had found comfort in not long before. ‘The protections around all of us on which I so rely.’

‘You think someone got round the protections on Grimmauld Place?’ Lupin asked fearfully as Dumbledore stood.

‘Someone may not even have needed too,’ he sounded weary as he moved towards a far cupboard, opening it with a murmured password and reaching inside to pull out a sflat, grey basin, the silvery contents swirling and completely unaffected by the movement. ‘But uncertainty is of the very nature of a paradox such as this one. Ah but for the complexities of time.’

‘Paradox?’ Lupin looked uncertain as Dumbledore placed the Penseive on his desk, holding his wand to his temple and extracting a long, glowing string. Snape glanced over, his expression turning stony as an image of his own face; older, greyer and deathly still faded into the mix.

‘The paradox would be me,’ he sneered, composing himself quickly from what he had seen. ‘After all, I cannot very well be both loyal to the cause and a traitor at the same time. Which would you prefer I choose?’ he added callously.

‘All ready things have started to move out of foresight,’ Dumbledore shook his head. ‘All ready Harry has changed the future, and we can hold no certainty in what he saw.’

‘He seems pretty damn certain about it.’ Snape pointed out.

‘And even that may have far reaching consequences for us all. I trust you Severus,’ Dumbledore continued as though reading his mind. It was something Snape always found unnerving, as though there was a weakness in his shields being abused, ‘more than you give me credit for.’

‘Your words mean little when you so openly acknowledge the future Potter has retold.’ Snape was surprised at how emotionlessly the response came out. ‘Tell me, how can I be both the man you say you see now and the man he has told you I will become.’

‘It is because you argue so that I can believe it.’ Another memory joined the pool, and Snape kept his gaze firmly fixed on the far corner of the room as Dumbledore spoke, not wanting to see himself again in such a way. ‘You have your own darkness about you, but not all darkness is evil. It is the day you deny it exists at all that I first doubt you.’

‘And what of Draco Malfoy?’ Snape questioned tersely. ‘You have his request, will you honour it?’

‘I will not turn him from the school. In this I feel it would bring about his most certain death.’

‘Whereas allowing him to return may well guarantee your own.’

‘But I am all ready old, and death is not so far away however it may choose to arrive.’ Dumbledore gestured for the door, signalling their time to leave as Lupin crossed the room, hand pausing on the handle as he waited for Snape to follow. ‘Besides, he will have you to watch him and guide him, and Harry will not ignore his duty.’ Snape snorted incredulously at the comment, but said nothing. There didn’t seem to be anything left to say.







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