"Look at me," Severus Snape murmured, wanting - no needing - to see those emerald eyes one last time as his life slipped away. They were the same eyes that continuously haunted his dreams ever since the fateful night in October of 1981 when Lily died due to his actions. They haunted his days, too, once Potter arrived at Hogwarts less than a decade later. After all of the sins he committed throughout his life, Severus undoubtedly knew he did not deserve those eyes to be the last he saw as he died - an ending he welcomed with open arms, for he always knew he had no chance of walking away from the Dark Lord alive once the battle began. Nor did he deserve the young man kneeling beside him to oblige his seemingly odd request, and yet he did it without question.
Feeling himself slipping off into death, Severus thought about how horribly he failed. Why did Albus ever think he'd be able to gain Potter's trust enough to deliver the final piece to the Horcrux puzzle, especially after the young Gryffindor watched the Death Eater kill the man he looked up to as a mentor? And why didn't Severus try harder to argue this point to the meddling old man? Informing the seventeen-year-old he had to die at the hand of Voldemort in order to save the rest of the wizarding world should not have ever fallen on Severus's shoulders; surely Minerva would have been a more suitable choice.
Now, their only real hope - a term Severus rarely, if ever, used - of winning the war depended on the extra memories he managed to give to Potter to help bridge the enormous gap Severus spent the last six years digging between the student and teacher. The memories had to work, or Wizarding Britain would surely be lost. Of course, for all he knew Potter planned on smashing the glass phial onto the cold hard ground directly after leaving his dying, evil professor's side, thus never taking them to the Pensieve to learn of his fate. If that happened, those left behind would go on to battle the Dark Lord and, at best, kill the bastard only to end up back in the same position they were in at the end of 1981. Albus managed to somehow discover the soul fragment within Potter, so the odds were in their favour of another person, quite possibly even Potter himself, discovering it too. And if not, then eventually, once Potter died, hopefully… there's that word again… of natural causes, the Dark Lord would be mortal once again and could officially be defeated. Realistically, the likelihood of the evil bastard staying dormant until Potter's death was slim, meaning they'd be reliving this nightmare, all because he failed to put aside his animosity for his childhood nemesis.
As Severus's eyes came in and out of focus during his last breaths, they shifted over the rest of the young man's face. Silently, the professor took responsibility for his role in their turbulent relationship throughout the years. The plan had always been to protect Potter from the shadows. Thinking back on the tiny eleven year old's first Potion's class, never could Severus have surmised he'd need the boy to trust him so explicitly. And yet he knew, given another dozen chances to start that first class over again, he'd likely act no differently towards Potter each and every time; for Severus Snape was far from a good or fair man.
Severus felt no pain in his body, only contentment, when he closed his eyes for the final time, allowing the bright green of Lily's eyes to engulf his vision. He was ready to disappear; to be away from the constant reminders of his transgressions, away from those who thought he perished a traitor and a coward, to simply cease existing any longer. Except mere seconds after releasing his last breath, rather than the blank void he somehow expected to succumb to, he found himself strangely aware of the hard wooden floor beneath his back missing, and a soft, plush surface arose in its place. His previously chilled body - undoubtedly caused by his massive blood loss combined with Nagini's venom - was now warm and almost… soft?... and his head felt like it was laying upon a cloud. But the biggest proof to the professor of things not acting as they seemed was the soft sunlight he saw through his still closed eyes warming his face; an impossibility since he met the Dark Lord at the Shrieking Shack in the middle of the night. Logically, he had no chance of surviving until dawn, let alone to a time when the sun rose enough to create this level of shining rays.
Using his well-honed spy skills, the dark-haired wizard laid completely still to gather as much detail as possible about his new, unknown location. Birds sang exuberantly to his right, immediately ruling out this all being some sort of horrific nightmare. Back in the castle, much to his pleasure, his enchanted windows were charmed not to pick up the ambient sounds from the pictures they depicted outside of the castle, therefore making the odds of him waking up in his dungeon quarter almost none. Focusing a bit harder, a light floral fragrance, more subtle than perfume, drifted over to his nose from somewhere to his left, as if someone recently wore a flowery body soap or lotion beside him. The most bizarre of all, though, was the strong, distinct, unrecognizable yet equally familiar scent wafting over to him from his right - in the same direction as the window based on the sunlight and sounds of the birds. A sensation deep inside of his core felt unusually protective and attached to the source of the aroma, but he had no earthly idea as to what produced it or why he felt so drawn to it in the first place.
Suddenly, the impression of being watched by whoever produced the unknown scent caused Severus to abandon his reconnaissance in favour of carefully opening his eyes. Blinking three times against the blinding light pouring into the room, he turned towards the source of his discomfort, startled at the sight of a little girl kneeling on the side of the bed with her head resting on her folded arms upon the soft green bedspread. She looked no older than five - although Severus would be the first to admit his lack of knowledge on children's ages, primarily when they fell in the pre-Hogwarts era. Still dressed in an off-white, long-sleeved nightgown, she seemed completely content at staying there watching him sleep for however long it took to fully wake. Her eyes were as dark as his own, contrasted against her pale face framed by long shoulder-length red hair. Regardless of how much he wanted to, there was no denying her parentage. After all, how often during the past six years had he heard the reverse said about Potter? She looked exactly like her mother, except for her eyes… she had her father's eyes.
"Are you awake?" The little girl quietly asked, giving no hint of being fearful or curious of his supposedly new presence.
"Yes," he nodded, surprising himself with his honesty.
Endearingly, she turned her head to the side and with a smile responded, "Good, because Mummy said breakfast is almost ready."
Mummy. The single word he feared hearing from the child as soon as he saw her hurt just as much as he imagined it would. Closing his eyes again, not believing for a second he died only to wake up in this… potential utopia… he took a deep, cleansing breath fully predicting - and perhaps hoping - he'd open them to find himself back on the broken floor of the Shrieking Shack choking on his own aspirated blood.
"She also wanted me to tell you you're gonna be late again," the girl nonchalantly added before leaping up onto the foot of the bed, prompting Severus to let out an uncharacteristic oof at her added weight directly on top of his legs. The sudden movement on the bed scared a cat Severus hadn't previously noticed curled up the other side of the bed, who darted out of the bedroom. The feline didn't seem to bother her at all either. "But don't worry, I told her those other times weren't your fault!"
"Well, tell your…" he began with a growl, until the kind expression flickering on her innocent face, one he distinctly remembered being so much like Lily's, tore straight through his heart, quickly calming his increasing anxiety, "tell... her… tell her I'll be right there."
"Kay!" She happily exclaimed, apparently satisfied with his answer. Then without any warning, she rolled off of his legs, fluidly falling onto the floor, and bounced out of the bedroom door situated on the left-handed side of the wall directly across from the bed.
Severus cringed at the lack of privacy when the girl failed to close the door in her wake, but at the same time he strangely understood she'd been taught all of her young life to leave them cracked open; for what purpose, he hadn't the slightest clue. Now alone in his new bedroom, Severus slowly propped himself up onto his elbows, careful not to jostle any possible leftover wounds. When no pain arose, he presumed either the entire version of the Wizarding World he remembered never existed or he found himself in some kind of post-death purgatory. Regardless of the reason, learning about this new world he almost literally fell into quickly became his top priority.
Starting with his immediate surroundings, the spy sighed at how the soft buttery yellow painted walls, a shade he'd normally die before selecting himself, did not appear to offend him nearly as much as he would have expected. Frames filled with professional-looking paintings ranging from a sunset beach to a forest of animals, to a flower-filled meadow, hung in on the walls in a tidy, organized fashion throughout the moderately sized bedroom. The plush queen-size bed he currently laid on sat against the far wall opposite a chest of drawers with a large mirror resting on top of it. Hoisting himself further up until he fully leaned against the dark wooden headboard, the professor audibly gasped at the sight of his own reflection staring back at him. Not only did he appear healthier overall, the dark circles he constantly wore beneath his eyes were missing and though his pallid face was still pale, it didn't look nearly as sunken in. Cosmetic changes aside, the most shocking change was the absence of the obvious wounds caused by Nagini's fatal attack on his neckline. Unable to believe the reflection, Severus rapidly drew his shaking hands up to his neck, until a streak of gold in his peripheral vision made him detour them to the space directly in front of his face. Every bit of air in his lungs vanished as he stared at the plain gold wedding band perfectly indented on his left ring finger as if he seldom removed it. Swallowing back the bile threatening to rise into his throat, he frantically rubbed his head to alleviate the pounding headache he felt coming on.
This is insane, he told himself. It can't be real… Who would... How could it be feasible? What the bloody hell is going on here?
Those questions had no conceivable answers, and his face fell when the reality of the situation hit him hard: if that little girl - supposedly his daughter - didn't notice any difference in him, it was more likely than not, he was alone here. Unless he stealthily found another person who experienced the same phenomenon as he did, there wasn't a single soul he could confidently trust with this information to help him sort through the mess. Who would honestly believe he died at the hands of the Dark Lord's reptilian sidekick only to wake up in an evidently idealistic world?
You'll be in St Mungo's next to Lockhart before you get a second word out. Maybe it was all just a horrible dream? Yes… that's it… this must be where I've lived all along.
His head began to throb attempting to recall anything from this life. Coming up empty-handed, Severus admitted that as much as he wanted to convince himself he dreamt about the Wizarding War, he'd be lying. Outside of some intuitive feelings brewing inside of him, he couldn't remember how the wedding band ended up on his finger, the birth of the little girl he somehow knew was his, or even his profession here. Did he still teach at Hogwarts? If so, was he home for summer holiday? Or perhaps they lived in Hogsmeade and he walked to the castle daily? There were plenty of professors throughout the years with families who had similar arrangements made. And though he didn't necessarily want to taint the world around him, he also needed to find out the status of the Dark Lord and Potter? Did either exist in this alternate world? Could their absence have been the point of deviation from his original world?
It was yet another set of very important questions without any answers, none of which he would get laying around in bed. He needed a plan, and it started with getting off of his arse and doing what did best: blending in with his environment until he found out what happened and how to fix it.
But do I even want to fix it?
After all, he remembered dying. The prospect of returning to his impending death wasn't exactly the most enticing of reasons to leave behind this life he miraculously built with Lily.
A battle for another day, he decided. First things first, I need to find Lily and figure out what I do here and where I'm supposed to be.
Ready to face the day with some semblance of a plan in mind, Severus swung his legs off "his side" of the bed, right where the little girl - Daisy? No that doesn't sound right - previously waited for him to wake up. A soft white rug he most certainly would not have selected on his own met his bare feet. Standing, Severus began to inspect himself, mostly to be sure he wouldn't bleed out from being previously attacked. Gone were the black set of robes he vividly recalled dressing in on his last day as Headmaster - having no idea he was dressing in the clothing he would later die in - and in their place, he wore a set of long-sleeved, long-bottomed comfortable grey pyjamas. For the longest time, he stood staring at his left forearm, wondering what lay beneath the smooth, silky fabric. Feeling his heart attempting to break through his chest, Severus's right hand nervously fingered the sleeve at the bottom edge of his left wrist, debating if he should lift it to reveal if the ugly Mark remained. To be honest, the only way any of this made any modicum of sense to him was if he'd not gotten branded with the Dark Lord's signature after Hogwarts since Lily never would agree to marry him otherwise. Hand clenched tightly into a fist, Severus held his breath, then swiftly pulled back the sleeve to reveal the dark black skull and serpent ink still embedded into his skin. Though distraught to see the Mark's presence, and what it represented, he had larger problems to contend with: unlike the years when the Dark Lord had vanished, this Mark appeared no less faded than the day he received it or his last day in the other world - both instances where the Dark Lord had a very real, corporeal body. This gave him the one answer he wishes he didn't have, Voldemort remained very much alive in this world.
His calloused, trembling hand ran down the length of his face as Severus finally gained the courage to move around the room, specifically to the door directly in front of him, thankfully leading to a small lavatory. A short stop to peek out of the window he passed on his way gave him a second answer. They did not live in Hogsmeade. Their large front-facing window overlooked a very quiet muggle street out in the countryside, and based on the vantage point, he deduced the couple's bedroom was either located on the ground floor or they lived in a one-story bungalow; the latter of which was a rather unusual choice for a still young, thirty-something couple. When did Lily move out of Godric's Hollow? Or had she never been married to James Potter here?If that were the case, he fully understood why they'd choose not to raise their daughter in Cokeworth and could embrace living in the muggle countryside.
Tabling the comparatively benign conundrum for later, he finished the short walk into the lavatory. Besides the noticeable woman's touch on things such as the perfectly folded towels stacked on the shelves near the shower and the matching floor rugs, nothing in the room stood out to him. Without any context as to where he worked or how "late" he already was in getting there, Severus freshened up as efficiently as possible. Back in his room, he easily found most of his clothing in a magically expanded wardrobe on the wall to the left of the bed and was eternally grateful to discover little difference between his clothing here and those from his previous life. Still consisting of a muted rainbow of blacks, grey's, greens, and a touch of blue, he noted the only major deviation was how many more muggle clothes he now owned; which made sense given their home in the muggle community.
Dressed for the day in a more familiar outfit of all black wizarding robes instantly improved Severus's confidence as he made his way to the still cracked-opened door. Fully prepared to work towards gaining answers to his growing list of questions, he froze in his tracks right as his hand reached the brass knob. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of something on the chest of drawers next to him and felt drawn to it. Ever so gently, using more care than anyone would ever guess Severus Snape possessed, he picked up a thin silver picture frame lined with elegant green jewels around it. Gazing at the moving image, an emotion he long ago buried deep within himself tried to push its ways out of his expertly constructed walls, threatening to crumble him.
The picture was taken on Severus and Lily's wedding day, confirming, for certain, what he presumed since meeting the little girl. The joyous couple stood under an archway of green, white, and yellow wildflowers, Severus in the finest set of black dress robes he'd ever owned and Lily in an exquisite form-fitting ivory dress. The moving picture looped a clip of his younger self placing a delicate gold band onto his bride's ring finger, his lips moving silently as he repeated the vows he currently couldn't remember to her, and his new wife staring up at him; her green eyes never once faltering or shying away. Whatever happened here to bring them together also brought with it a true and underlying love, for which Severus felt eternally grateful. More pictures lined Lily's dresser, but fueled by his first real experience of love in years - decades probably - he wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible. Peeling his eyes away, Severus steeled his nerves and, with a new flame of excitement burning inside of him, walked out of the door to find his new family.
Their bedroom was located at the end of a long, wide corridor with three white doors on the opposite side and one near the end on his side, tipping the scales in favour of a bungalow style home. Why else would they seemingly have all of the room on the ground floor if not for it being a single-story? The door directly across from his sat ajar, giving him a perfect view of the light pink painted walls plus the flower-patterned bedspread on the bed parallel to the door, both telling him it belonged to his recently found daughter. A sharp pain in his head started at the sight of a large wooden pink "R" on the front of the wooden door.
Rosalie. His brows furrowed at the sharp burst of recollection. Rosalie Maya Snape.
However, when Severus tried to pull up any memories surrounding Rosalie, nothing came to him. No matter how hard he pushed his mind, the only little piece of a memory he found could hardly even count as one: he somehow knew the little girl who looked identical to Lily with Severus's dark eyes carried a piece of their family within her name - although he hadn't the slightest clue as to what that technically meant. Nevertheless, the exercise wasn't a complete waste. He discovered the memories of this life did exist. They were there, just trapped deep beneath the surface of his subconscious desperately trying to swim up to him if only the paths to get there weren't blocked by some unknown force. The analogy reminded him too much of Potter submerged under the frozen lake in the Forest of Dean when Severus led him to the Sword of Gryffindor. Loathe as he was to admit it, sheer terror rippled through his body when Potter did not immediately emerge with the sword in his hand, celebrating his victory. Had Mr Weasley not gotten there when he did, Severus had been less than ten seconds away from jumping into the icy water himself to save the blasted teen. He shook his head to clear away the all too vivid scene; thinking of that version of his past was counterproductive to his current mission.
The next two doors after Rosalie's bedroom caused the spy to slow his journey of seeking out Lily. They both were closed - bothering him for reasons he couldn't fathom - and a light shined from underneath the middle door where he heard the sound of a shower running. Again, something appeared off with them, and the uneasy feeling grew as he quietly stalked out of the corridor, passed the last door he instinctively knew led into his private office, out into the main living space. With wide eyes, he took in the home he apparently lived in for some unknown number of years though had no recollection of any of it. More akin to the evolving American style, the rest of the dwelling had a more wide-open floor plan than a typical British home. Exiting the bedroom corridor through a doorless threshold, he could see into the kitchen situation directly in front of him. A woman with beautiful, long auburn hair was standing with her back turned to him, levitating goblets to a location out of his field of vision, presumably setting the table for breakfast. A wide opening to his left, almost exactly halfway between the bedrooms and the kitchen, led to a glass-enclosed conservatory containing a standard blonde wooden table with four tall backed, yellow fabric-covered chairs all neatly tucked into their respective places. Contradicting the otherwise tidy space, the table itself sat off-centre in the room leaving a clear path from its entrance to a door in the back of the room going out to a large garden.
Opposite the conservatory, the sitting room was located through what he thought used to be a doorway. A bright flash of his vision brought him a quick snippet of himself and Lily removing the door, then widening the doorway to the length of the room. A strong sense of accomplishment coursed through Severus at the memory. Lily had wanted the renovation done, but despite his confidence in her ability, she didn't want to be alone when she did it as a precaution. It had taken both of them most of the afternoon to get it, plus the other renovations Lily needed, completed. Just like when he remembered Rosalie's name, Severus tried to recall any actual details of the day, but just like with his daughter, nothing else came to him.
More discouraged than he should have been given pieces coming back, Severus carefully searched in the sitting room for more answers. On the wall opposite the bedroom corridor, framing the whitewashed brick fireplace, was a set of four rich dark wooden bookshelves - mismatched to the blonde wooden table in the conservatory - that nearly reached the floor. A sofa too large for the size of the room was pushed flush up against the wall across from the fireplace, missing any of the typical side or coffee tables surrounding it. In fact, it took him longer than he cared to admit, to notice the space was oddly sparse for a family to be actively living there. For a home containing a messy, unruly young child, not one thing in the room appeared out of place: all of the books were neatly stacked in the shelves, the toys were tucked into a set of baskets lining the wall closest to the foyer of the home, and not a single item littered the white tiled floor. It was impeccably clear and clean. Once again, the state of the room, combined with the unnatural distance between the furniture perturbed him; minor details nagging at the back of his mind demanded his attention to their importance in his new life. Obviously, the house had been meticulously laid out with a specific purpose in mind, he simply could not remember why.
"Severus?" A familiar voice beckoned to him from the kitchen. Lily's voice, to be exact. "Is that you hiding out there?"
For a split second, he didn't want to answer. What if two of him existed in this world and by acknowledging his presence he'd set off an existential crisis similar to viewing oneself while using a Time Turner?
Unfortunately, Lily's fiery impatience removed his ability to choose in the situation when she demanded, "Whatever you're doing, it's going to have to wait. You've already been late four times this month and I highly doubt Albus is going to let the fifth time go unnoticed."
So I am still a professor here. The thought depressed him greatly.
"... not his fault," Severus heard Rosalie's tiny voice defend him. He couldn't hold back the slight upturn of his lips.
"I'll be right there," he eventually called out, cringing at how his voice lurched ever so slightly. Then, taking one last glimpse around the comfortable and airy home, he headed back to the kitchen to find his family.
If the condition of the previous rooms he saw weren't enough to make him curious about the unique condition of their home, the kitchen absolutely piqued his interest in the life they lived within these walls. Two empty doorways framed the wide L-shaped kitchen heading to the dining room on the other end, and as with the rest of the structures, it was intentionally designed to be more open in the middle than a British kitchen. A dozen or so small, yet obvious, modifications made to the space demanded his attention all at once, but the most significant of them was the missing cabinets beneath the sink under the garden-facing window, as well as under a large section of countertop to the side of a muggle oven and cooktop. Reminiscent of his Potions workbenches in his classroom, the open area usually allowed enough space for his students to sit on a stool to work - giving his or her knees a place to go - and when completed with their work, they would store the stool underneath. Here, though, no such stools were seen. Rounding out the muggle appliances, a small refrigerator sat in the far corner.
Severus crossed his arms over his chest, leaning awkwardly against the threshold, taking in the scene before him. His heart ached as he watched Lily use her wand to skillfully stir a pan of scrambled eggs on the cooktop while simultaneously bending down to the lower cabinet on her right to grab three plain white plates, which she placed on the counter, ready to serve the breakfast she made for her family. Wearing a soft green muggle sundress, she looked just as stunning as he remembered and he wanted nothing more than to approach her from behind and wrap his arms around her waist to pull her into a deep embrace.
Where the bloody hell did that come from?!
"There you are!" Lily jumped in surprise at the sight of him standing at the entrance to their kitchen. Using a metal serving spoon, she served two large and one small portion of eggs onto the three plates and casually held out two of them for him to carry. "Would you take these to the table for me? I know I say this every day, but you're seriously late this morning, so please hurry."
"I am so sorry, Lily, for everything..." the words left his mouth faster than his brain could stop them. Guilt over his role in her death - one which obviously did not occur wherever this was - washed over him like a bucket of ice-cold water. He didn't want to leave; not for work, not for the Dark Lord, not for anything.
"It's nothing to apologize over," she gave him a slight smile, one he'd never seen on her face as a friend, but it dropped a moment later. Putting the plates back onto the counter, she walked up to him. He all but stopped breathing while he gazed down into the same emerald eyes he looked into as he died. "Still a bit peaky." Her soft hand caressed his cheeks. "You looked a little off going to bed last night, are you sure you're feeling alright? If you can stay with Rosie for a bit I can always take-"
"No, I'm alright." He held his hands out and gently placed them on her shoulders. Her eyes narrowed at him, not believing the obvious lie. "Perhaps I may still be a little… off…" he amended, "as you put it, however, I'll get over it."
"Sev, you are allowed to accept help. If you need me-"
"I said I'm fine!" He sharply retorted, hating himself for so easily falling back into his former persona. Lily's nostrils flared and her jaw clenched tightly in response to his abnormal angry tone, silently revealing to him that this version of himself - one he had to assume to be better than his current self - did not usually speak to his wife in such a manner. Feeling her disappointment in him, Severus used his wand to levitate the three plates in front of him, he escorted them out of the other doorless threshold, into the informal dining room.
The final room of his unofficial tour of his home was, by far, the plainest of them all containing only a table - a little shorter than a typical one, he noted - with three plain brown chairs, one of which Rosie sat in colouring feverishly in a book. Naturally, Severus navigated the three plates to space in front of the three chairs pausing at his apparent oversight: only two of the chairs were set with a goblet and utensils. The last place setting was at the chairless space where a set of three potions phials - a common muscle relaxant, a high-dose pain reliever, and one he didn't recognize - labelled in what Severus recognized as his own distinct handwriting sat next to the empty goblet.
"Don't," Rosalie warned him when Severus began to move the third chair over to the chairless opening. Without so much as lifting her head from her colouring, she explained, "It doesn't go there... but the eggs do… he doesn't transfer for breakfast."
Confused, and half tempted to place it there regardless, Severus moved the plate as instructed, doing his best not to overthink the situation or his daughter's nonchalant attitude towards his error. She nodded her little head and gave him a satisfied smile.
"Rosie, did you happen to see Harry on your way back?" Lily asked, entering the dining room, a platter of sausages and toast with jam, a pitcher of white milk, and a kettle of steaming water to pair with the ceramic jar of tea bags already set on the table, floating alongside her. In her non-wand hand, she carried a massive stack of parchment, which she unceremoniously dropped in front of the chair where no breakfast was served. She then summoned a quill and inkwell and set them down next to the parchment.
Of course, the Potter child still exists here, Severus internally growled, grimacing as his last hope of entering a world without Potter Junior faded. When he saw his still very prominent dark Dark Mark, a part of him secretly wished the Potter child had perished in the October attack rather than becoming The-Boy-Who-Lived. Clearly, that hadn't happened and now Severus would be required to cohabitate with the saviour.
"I think he was in the toilet," Rosalie - or Rosie for short - offered with a minor lisp Severus found frustratingly endearing. Another sharp pain coursed its way through his head, followed by a bout of vertigo so severe he physically grasped the table to right himself. Luckily, as quickly as it started, it ended, nevertheless, he foresaw a strong headache draught sometime in his very near future.
"Are you sure sweetie? He really should have been done by now," tinged with a panicked undertone, Severus keenly watched Lily examine the thin gold watch on her wrist. In response, Rosalie shrugged her small shoulders and picked at her small serving of scrambled eggs in front of her. "I'm going to go check on him. Severus, Rosie still needs a cup of milk... would you please?"
Lily abruptly left, giving him no warning of the child-sized cup and straw she summoned to the table from the kitchen. Fortunately, the professor caught them right before they slammed into his increasingly aching head, though his juggling of the dishes, while he sat, pushed Rosalie into a fit of giggles in delight.
"I know you're not really my daddy, but I still love you anyways."
Completely stunned by the unexpected statement, said as if she were merely telling it was Tuesday, Severus spilt half of the milk out of the pitcher onto the otherwise pristinely cleaned table.
Trying, in vain, not to panic, he swiftly asked, "What did you say? How do you know?"
Did he really blow his cover already? And to a toddler no less? He didn't get to hear her explanation, though, because a loud commotion from the other side of the house pulled his attention away from the table and his own distressing situation.
"... said I'm fine, Mum!"
Severus scowled at the same, arrogant voice he recognized as Potter's drifting throughout the home. It was the last proof he needed to know that not only did the child still exist here, but he was also likely no different than the insolent, trouble-making one he remembered. However, the professor chose not to acknowledge just how much the proclamation spewing from Potter's mouth sounded so much like his own to Lily only moments ago. After all, thoughts like that served no purpose to him in the present.
"Harry James… don't you dare turn away from me…" Lily scolded. "... just trying to help..."
Unlike Lily's quieter mumbling as she spoke to her son, Potter's loud, pompous voice, Severus could hear just fine from the breakfast table, "I already said I didn't need your help!"
Just as self-centred as always.
"Stop right there," Lily yelled, her temper pushed to its limit. A quiet pause meant, against all odds, the young wizard actually obeyed. Then in an interesting, accusatory tone, Lily asked, "The charm didn't work, did it?"
Severus furrowed his brows trying to make some sense of the question. Peering down at the table out of the corner of his eyes, Rosalie didn't seem bothered by the row happening in their home. How often did the mother and son fight like this for her to think it was normal? Was he expected to get involved?
"Leave them alone," Rosalie answered his unspoken question. "He's gonna be mad and you'll only make it worse."
"Make what worse?" Severus snapped, resisting the urge to shake the girl when she lifted her eyebrows at his desperation. "What is going on here? And how do you-"
"You don't have to gloat about it, alright?! And all that matters is that I have it completely under control." Potter's irate response interrupted Severus, adding to his frustration with the young wizard.
"I'm not gloating," Lily defended. The small jump in her voice indicated they were back on the move, "I'm simply making sure you know what-"
"That's the thing you can't understand, Mum! I don't need some bloody spell to know what I'm doing! So for once just sod off and leave me the bloody hell alone!"
Now he's crossed the line!
More than ready to chastise the teen for his abhorrent behaviour towards his mother, Severus stood as soon the two figures entered the room; too focused on his own agenda to actually see Lily and Potter.
"How dare you speak to your mother like that!" His loud, booming voice vibrated satisfyingly off of the walls. At the noise, Rosalie jumped to cover her little ears, tipping over her cup of milk, but Severus hardly paid any attention to the long drops dripping onto the floor because the sight in front of him had caught him completely off-guard.
"P-potter?!" Severus uncharacteristically stuttered.
Something is wrong here… This cannot be right… What happened...
"What the hell did you just call me?" Potter demanded, more offended about the use of his surname - an oversight Severus hadn't considered when he planned on verbally attacking the teen - than being in any sort of trouble for his choice of words towards Lily.
"You… but you're in…" Severus held up his hand to his mouth to physically prevent himself from saying something in his utter shock that he shouldn't.
Slowly, his eyes shifted from their location on Potter back to the kitchen, feeling yet another set of pieces to the puzzle fall almost magically into place. It made so much more sense, now, he wondered how he hadn't made the connections earlier. The modifications he'd seen throughout their home - the wider doors, the lower countertops, the plates stored in the lower cupboards, and the breakfast setting at the table without a chair - were all made for the very irate teenager sitting in front of him.
Despite Potter Junior still looking every bit like the reincarnation of James Potter with his signature dark, raven-black messy hair and round wire-framed glasses, at the same time, he couldn't be any further from the one Severus left behind to deal with the Dark Lord. Avoiding the obvious, this version of Harry Potter had a slightly more fit build in his upper body, and held himself with more confidence, although not nearly the same arrogance, as the other boy. And while those two traits would help him in defeating the Dark Lord - assuming he continued to terrorize this world - the rest of him would make the task exceedingly difficult; most likely impossible. Later, Severus would find out just how wrong of an assumption it was to make, but from where he stood that morning he would've bet a lot of galleons that his young wizard wouldn't have been able to do any of the stupidly dangerous things the Harry Potter he loathed did… no protecting the Philosopher's Stone, killing a basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, duelling Death Eaters during the Battle at the Department of Mysteries, or hunting Horcruxes across the country.
The horcrux, he thought back to the moment of his death, I wonder...
Without Lily's sacrifice, Potter couldn't have defeated the Dark Lord as he did back wherever Severus came here from. Therefore, logically, the Gryffindor would never have become a Horcrux for the megalomaniac here. A quick flicker of his dark eyes up to the teen's forehead confirmed he actually got something correct: the lightning bolt scar he'd spent six years angrily staring at in classes was missing. Curiously, in its place, a much larger smooth scar ran horizontally across half the length of the young wizard's forehead. In a similar fashion to the other Potter, this one attempted to pull the fringe of his hair down to cover it when he saw Severus staring at it, but this scar was much too big to easily do so.
Licking his lips, concentrating so hard on the words forming on them he didn't pick up on Lily's skeptical gaze upon him, he tried again, "Y- you're… that's… what happened here?!"
As if on cue, as soon as the last word left his mouth, the pressure in Severus's head exponentially increased, making him feel like it imploded. Similar to his death at the start of all of this, black began to creep around his vision from the sides, and the last thing he saw before falling to the ground unconscious was the same set of emerald green eyes he stared into as he died on the Shrieking Shack floor; only this set was framed by soft red hair and calling out his name as if his death would physically cause her pain.