The Paradox of Existence
Chapter Twenty-Two: The Paradox of Your Existence
Harry headed down to the dungeons. He didn’t have a choice anymore. He had avoided the conversation with Severus long enough. It was after midnight now; he had left the dungeons early.
He didn’t know if he should be disturbed by what he had learned from Remus, Draco, Ron, and Albus. It was all a little much to take in. If he had had such an effect on their lives, what type of an unseen effect had he had on Severus's life? Much of it was obvious, but was there something else?
Harry opened the door to the rooms he shared with Severus. He didn’t enter, just looked at Severus, head bent over a pile of essays, writing comments on them. Severus's hair fell forward, hiding his face from view.
Harry swallowed and walked into the room, closing the door behind him. Severus didn’t stop marking. Harry had half expected him to.
“You came back. Your trunk is only half packed. I assume you’re here to finish what you started?”
“It was stupid. I hadn’t thought about what I was doing. I thought that it would be best if I left.”
“And how did you come to that conclusion?”
“I thought…” His reasons had sounded much better that morning then they did now. “It doesn’t matter. I want to talk to you about your sixth year.”
Severus put down the quill and turned to face him. “What do you want to know?”
“Don’t you blame me for everything that happened to you? You would have never gotten the Dark Mark if it wasn’t for me. You would have been able to live with your grandfather. You wouldn’t have had to become a spy. I’m sure there’s more.”
“You’re right. There is.”
Harry took in a deep breath and waited.
“I wouldn’t be working at Hogwarts if I hadn’t become a spy. I would never have given you the time of day because I never would have met you. And we wouldn’t be together now. That’s not something I want to lose, Harry.”
“Your life would have been better!”
Severus stood and walked to him. He grabbed Harry by the arms. “I’m happy with the life I have now, Mr. Potter. And that includes having you in it.” Severus released Harry’s arms, and Harry stumbled backwards. “If I had wanted to, I could have changed things. But I didn’t.”
“You were young, you made decisions-“
“That is not what I’m talking about. I made a decision at the age of sixteen because I saw the professor I thought I was in love with kiss another man.”
Harry didn’t say anything.
“I didn’t drag you around the castle in the middle of the night without purpose, Harry. I knew what I was doing. I knew what I was damning myself to. And I did it so I could have you!”
“My head hurts.”
Severus actually chuckled. “I’m not surprised.”
“What do you mean?”
“That night I dragged you down to the dungeons, when I ‘borrowed’ the time turner…”
“You knew that you were watching…” Harry rubbed his fingers against his forehead. “This is just confusing. You knew what was going to happen?”
“Yes. I knew that I would listen to Lucius, make a choice I would later regret, eventually turn to Albus, and spend many years in misery. And I, not you, had to make that choice. I had to decide if I wanted to go through that. And what influenced me was you. If I didn’t do those things, not only would the past change, but the future would also. Can you guess why I did it?”
Harry clenched his fist. “For a really stupid reason.”
Severus turned so he was no longer looking at him. “I don’t think it is all that stupid. Not that it was an intelligent decision either, mind you. But I think that I have, in some way, profited from it.”
Harry moved past Severus and sat down, raking a hand through his hair. “I’ve spent the last year learning about a man that I’ve dedicated my life to, and I did learn. A lot. Things that you’ve never talked about were revealed to me. And I still don’t understand you!”
“Is it necessary that you do so?”
“Is that why you packed?”
Severus settled in the chair opposite from Harry. He offered a brandy glass to Harry. “Excuse me?”
Harry took the glass, taking a sip before he responded. “I only started to. I changed my mind half way through. I wasn’t going anywhere.” Harry looked up from his glass. “Did you think I was?”
“I wouldn’t have, you know. I was just… It was just…” He didn’t know how to phrase it.
“All too much? Everything that happened. You weren’t expecting to have such an impact, were you?”
Harry sighed. “No. And it’s even worse than I imagined.”
“When I left, I had no intention of being pivotal in anyone’s life. But then you developed a crush on me. And Remus looked so down, and my father came to me, and the Marauders needed advice, and…”
“Harry, I know you were listening to me when Black and I went to check on you. If that scroll wasn’t translated –“
“I know. That’s what I went there to do. But all this other… stuff.” Harry waved a hand in an all-encompassing manner.
“You might have been sent to just translate a scroll, but - whether or not you want to hear it – you had an effect on the lives of many people. Myself included.”
“I shouldn’t have. It shouldn’t have been possible. I wasn’t born yet and…”
“So, you weren’t born. What does that have to do with anything?”
“Don’t you understand? Your existence, Harry, it’s…” Severus set his glass down. He moved forward closing the distance between them. With a hand under Harry’s chin he forced Harry to look at him. “It’s the paradox of your existence.”
Harry just stared at him.
“You had to do all those things. If you hadn’t, then who knows? If you hadn’t translated that document then the Hogwarts Express would have been destroyed, along with all the students on board. You would never have been born. If you hadn’t helped Black learn to read, then-“
“Black. He wouldn’t have passed his Auror qualification exams. He always said that ‘Tyler’ had told him the books he needed to memorize in order to pass them. Same with Potter… your father.”
“So, if Black and Potter hadn’t become aurors there might not have been a reason for your parents to go into hiding. Hence…”
“No Secret-keeper. Sirius wouldn’t have… Damn it!”
“Would you have changed things, Harry? If we had been allowed to tell you the effect you had on our lives, would you have changed things?”
Harry looked down into his brandy glass. The amber liquid didn’t hold the answer he was looking for. He heard Severus shift, leaning back in his chair.
“It all comes down to contentment. How happy you are with your life. Doesn’t it, Severus?”
A noncommittal grunt was his answer.
“Is ‘I don’t know’ a valid answer?”
This time his answer was the brandy bottle clinking against his glass as Severus poured him another portion.
“It’s not as simple as it appears, is it? I mean sure, you wouldn’t have become a Death Eater if I could have helped it, and if I could’ve kept Sirius from spending time in Azkaban-“
“That’s conjecture. I’m sure the mutt would have done something else to land himself in there.”
Harry paused long enough to glare at Severus. “If I could have somehow changed things so that Voldemort wouldn’t have gone after my parents… but…” Harry licked his bottom lip. “But what else would have been different? Voldemort’s spell wouldn’t have bounced back; his first ‘reign’ might not have ended. My parents would have been alive, but so would Voldemort. They could still have been killed for another reason. I might not have been sorted into Gryffindor. My friends could have been different. I might not have ended up with you.” He stared intently into Severus's eyes. “A lot of things would have been different.”
“So I was right then, it’s a matter of contentment. But if I said I wouldn’t have changed anything, isn’t that equivalent to saying that I’m glad my parents died?”
“Do you think so?”
Harry chewed on his bottom lip. “No. It’s being happy with what I have, not wanting to go through the unknown. There are enough things unknown now. Besides, it couldn’t have possibly happened any other way.”
“What makes you so sure of that?”
“If I had changed things, who’s to say that in the reformed future I would have even lived to the age of twenty-five. In fact, there was no guarantee that I would have even been born. It’s another paradox. If I had changed things, I might not have been able to go back in time to begin with.”
“I always thought there was a possibility that there was a brain in that head of yours.”
“I could be wrong.”
“Highly likely. You are a Gryffindor, after all.”
Harry sighed and leaned back against his chair.
Severus placed a hand on Harry’s forearm. “Why did you do it?” It was barely audible, but Harry caught the curiosity and… was it pain? ... that laced the words.
“Have an affair with a student?”
Harry really didn’t want to have this conversation, but he knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. “I didn’t.”
“Really?” Severus removed his hand from Harry’s arm and leaned back in his chair.
“No. I had an affair with you. It is a completely different concept.”
“It was you, but not you.”
Harry leaned forward slightly. “Meaning that I love you and that this sixteen year old ‘you’ approached me and offered something I couldn’t refuse.”
“What was that?”
“The chance to see you when you were still insecure, without your hard shell. The chance to be the older and more intelligent one.”
“Highly unlikely that you were ever more intelligent, even if I was only sixteen.”
Harry ignored the comment and continued. “To be part of your life. You’ve been a part of my life since I was eleven. And I missed that feeling. When you approached me, I wanted you. Even at sixteen I could see the things that I loved about you, in you.” He looked over at Severus; he was looking into the fire and drinking from his glass. “You seem to be taking this well.”
“Harry, I had a very long time to get over Tyler. And I had a long time to adjust to the fact that you were him.”
“When did you realize?”
“The night I first saw your tattoo.” Severus turned to look at him. “What bothered me the most when I realized, was a return of feelings I had sealed off at sixteen. I had always compared my relationship with you to the one I had with Tyler. I never compared it to any of my others. I had always chalked it up to the teacher-student problem. But I continued to do it after you finished Hogwarts. I suppose that on some level, you must have reminded me of him.”
“I was a lot different when I got my tattoo. I know that. I acted nothing like I did when I went to the past. Or now for that matter.”
“It must be similar to what you meant. What makes you Harry Potter was still there. Your essence, so to say.”
Harry leaned back in his chair. They didn’t say anything for a time.
“So, this is one of those things that we accept and move past. That changes us and the way we see things, but we don’t dwell on. Because doing that would just cause more problems.”
Harry turned to look at Severus. His head was back and his eyes closed. Harry took another sip out of his glass before putting it down and standing up.
“We just stop talking about it. You don’t care?” Harry leaned over Severus's chair. One hand on each armrest.
“Not particularly.” Severus opened his eyes and smirked. “I have work to do. Just because you got to go on vacation doesn’t mean the rest of us did. Let me up.”
“You call what I went through a vacation?”
“More like Hell. But…”
Severus lifted an eyebrow.
“But if it got us to this point, then I’d do it all over again.” Harry pressed his lips to Severus's.
Severus kissed him back for a minute before pushing him away. “I meant it. I have papers to grade.”
“It’s after midnight.”
“I do my best marking at this time.”
“If you consider failing over half of each class your best.”
“No matter what time I do my marking, half of my class would fail. That’s what happens when all the students in this school are dunderheads.”
“You think that’s amusing? Just wait until you see the grades that Black has been divvying out in your Muggle Studies class. I think the prize goes to the outstanding 10 out of 10 he gave to one student that wrote a 3 foot essay about how muggles use light bulbs to turn on cars.”
“I think he just gave everyone 10 out of 10. Reading is not one of Black’s talents.”
Harry shoved his hand into his pocket. “I guess I have a lot of work to get back to on Monday.” He took a few steps back from Severus's chair and leaned against the side of the mantle. “Sev?”
Severus raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing. I just wanted to give you this.” Harry pulled his hand out of his pocket and tossed a small object over to Severus.
Severus grabbed it and looked at the tiny gray cross in his hand; it looked vaguely familar. “What is it?”
Harry grinned. “Control.” He started heading into the bedroom. “I think I’m going to get some sleep.”
“Aren’t you going to explain this?”
“Impertinent Gryffindor brat.”
“Love you, too, Severus.” Harry shut the bedroom door behind him.
Severus shook his head. He’d find out later. After all, it wasn’t like either of them was going anywhere. They had time. They were content.