Chapter 1: Journeys and Messages
Sorcha Snape awoke to the thudding of rain upon the small tent she had been gifted. Being a witch and travelling with an ancient army, the Fianna, entirely impartial to the idea of magic, was useful. Magic had given her much favour with the army’s leader, the one time Irish hero: Finn Mac Cumhail. He had taken to her advantage easily, granted her a spot near his own, and had given her the tent as an offer of good will. Being included in his early morning meetings was a bit of a downer, but of course, was something to which she had become accustomed.
She had been gone six months.
It was during the last battle, after which she had been ceremoniously borne upon a crowd of triumphant soldiers because of her successful espionage of the enemy camp, that she had managed to lose the only important thing she had brought with her – the Time-Turner. She was going to ask Finn if she could be excused for a few months; she had to try to find Hogwarts, which may not even have existed at this point. If she didn’t, any hope of seeing her daughter, Cassiopeia, and her temperamental husband, Severus Snape, would be gone. Interesting as she found this period, she wouldn’t care to be here for another six months.
She had studied Finn Mac Cumhail’s history in detail. She knew that he had just passed his most famous hurdle: saving the life of the High King, Cormac Mac Art. Often battles had lasted days. Finn’s army was simply unbeatable. It was with a heavy heart that she rose this morning, the rain still pounding, though somewhat peacefully on the waxed canvas. She dressed in the plain woollen leggings and slipped a light cotton shift over her head. She fastened the string that tied it together and grabbed her cloak, pulling the hood over her head before she stood, and drew the weapons belt about her waist sorely. Her muscles were painfully tight. Fully dressed, she left the tent.
The camp was beginning to stir. Although the sun had not yet risen, spots of dancing flames from campfires were dotted around, and dark shapes were moving silently around the ocean of tents. Illuminated by the first rays of dawn’s light, her destination stood out. The Command Tent was a glowing beacon of righteousness in a field of lost souls. She stumbled sleepily to its entrance and was welcomed by the nods of the leading officers and finally by Finn himself.
“Good morning, Sorcha,” he greeted, bowing his head to her. He sported a mass of tangled red hair that, although bound in plaits, frayed outward in all directions, but still hung in his lengthy beard. He was powerful in every turn. She had always found his manners impeccable. Often times, she found herself wishing Severus was as courteous as this ancient gentleman. In turn, Sorcha bowed lower than her host, showing the proper respect she owed her temporary liege.
“Good morning to you, Finn. I trust you slept well?” she inquired. He smiled, brushing a stray lock from his hardened, but charming, eyes. He was the picture of masculinity; it drove her rather wildly into fits of lust. Sorcha’s eyes trailed over his broad shoulders, to his powerfully muscled arms working for menial causes at that moment. It triggered thoughts of battles and the distant sight of Finn swinging his broadsword. She stopped quite suddenly, it would not do to be tempting herself with the forbidden fruit. The only cure was the stern remembrance of Severus. He would be furious to see her giggling like a school girl, mooning after a man centuries dead. Indeed, he might even laugh, how pathetic she must seem!
“I did, Sorcha, thank you,” he replied, a voice bouncing with an under current of laughter.
“The camp will stay centred here, at least until the next moon; the weather will not be so wet. I think we’re better grounded – unless… you could do something about it?” he asked almost cheekily, or as cheekily as a war-hardened man possibly could. Unfortunately Sorcha had travelled to a point in time where the great Finn Mac Cumhail was a few years her junior, he felt almost like a grown up son to her. Had their ages been more similar, she was certain that she would have succumbed to temptation.
“I’m sorry, Finn. I’m still weak from all that scrying, it drained me. Besides, I need to discuss more… pressing matters.” Finn raised a bushy eyebrow.
“Privately,” Sorcha added, looking at the expectant glances thrown her way. Finn held the tent flap open as she stepped outside.
“You know I am not from Erin.”
“With all due respect, my lady witch, you simply could not be. It’s your eyes, they give you away.” Sorcha laughed with him. “I, however, grant you the title of Honorary Fianna.” She grinned as he clasped her hand.
“Thank you,” she beamed, “Its nice to know I’m welcome somewhere.” Her voice had a hint of dismay to it, thinking of how Severus always hogged the blanket in bed.
“I have lost the device that will take me home,” she said shortly, “I’m afraid I must leave you for a short time to leave a message for someone who may be able to bring me home.”
She looked Finn in the eye whilst saying, “I need your leave to go and do this.” He looked most displeased. The mood between them had suddenly gone admittedly sour.
“How long will you be gone?” he asked stonily, like a chieftain disapproving of a young soldier running off to be wed.
“A month, maybe more,” she replied glumly, knowing she was going to miss the fun here in the camp.
“Do you have to go alone?”
“Not necessarily, but it might be quicker than taking one of these dunderheads –” she stopped, suddenly pained by the reminiscent vocabulary of her future husband. “Than taking one of them with me.” As she gestured to the flock of people sleeping in their tents, he laughed.
“Would I be too great a dunderhead to accompany you, Sorcha?” he asked in a playful growl. This time, she was the one who laughed.
“You would come?”
“I would enjoy the peace of it, I would pledge to you my protection; I would not forgive myself to lose one as valuable as you, after the help you have afforded me.”
She smiled. “I welcome you on my travels; I just hope they aren’t as impossible as my head tells me.”
“Nothing is impossible, Sorcha – we leave at sundown,” he said as he left. She sighed; Finn Mac Cumhail was never one to take the back seat.
Sorcha spent the day healing wounds and mending bowstrings, sharpening blades and carving good luck charms with her magic. Many of the Fianna were saddened that she would be leaving. There was a wizard amongst their number, whom she had tried to train, but without a wand, and being a weak human and not a powerful Elf, his skills were limited. He could levitate, blow things up, and make loud noises, but that was truly the extent of his power. Had he been born a few centuries later, he would no doubt have attended Hogwarts. Now, as the sun slowly sank beyond the trees to the west, she packed away her sleeping roll and her supplies, which she hoped would last them for the duration of their journey. If not, well, she didn’t want to think on that.
The camp site seemed melancholy as their departure came closer; the songs sung around the campfires were of lost loves, of walking the road of the dead, and of those who would never return. Sorcha wondered, did they think they would not see herself or Finn again? She of course knew that Finn would return and she knew she would get home; it was written in myth. But she knew that it could change…
Slowly, as she gathered all her possessions, which amounted to very little, rolls of parchment and the like. Her pack seemed considerably smaller than that of her companion as he met her at the entrance of her tent.
“Ready?” he asked brightly.
“Almost, will you hold this?” she said shoving a wooden flute into his hand whilst she made room enough for it between the folds of her bedroll. She stuffed it bluntly in the middle and closed the buckle she had fashioned upon her pack, then slid it on her back. She shrugged her shoulders twice and stood up straight.
They both set off east, away from the camp that had been their home for the past two days. As they passed the cesspits, they both knew they wouldn’t miss it as much as they had thought. ~*~
On the third day of travel, Sorcha was so tired that she didn’t bother to set up camp. She slammed her back against the nearest tree and dozed off, wispy hair in disarray framing her exhausted features. Finn, who was more used to travel like this, silently set about making a fire and began to chop vegetables into a pot of boiling water. Sorcha didn’t eat meat; in fact, he noticed strangely that Sorcha didn’t eat much at all. She’d often left the vegetables of the stew, only drinking the cloudy broth.
Finally, the smell of something warm and tasty brought her around. She wiped her eyes and removed her pack, her back stiff. She shivered; it was certainly colder here, even if it was drier.
She stretched painfully, and cursed. She wouldn’t sleep a wink tonight. She heard Finn chuckle.
She glared at him. His blue eyes strangely alive, he looked at home beneath the trees.
“Enjoying yourself?” she grumbled, sitting down before the fire. She hoped the warmth would ease the pain in her muscles.
“I am,” he said handing her a bowl of stew. He watched as she drank down the broth, the vegetables left behind. He frowned.
“Why do you do that – always leave the vegetables?”
She looked up, eyes still puffy from sleep.
“I can’t digest them. They’re much too hard; boil them for another few hours and I could.”
“I’m not like most people,” she sighed wearily.
“I’m an Elf.”
“Ah,” he replied as if he understood. “What’s an Elf?” he asked finally.
“An Elf is not much different than a normal person, we’re generally more slender, have more acute senses and have a strange connection with nature, which I’ve never been able to understand.” Seeing this did not help much, she added: “We’re creatures of the past, there are few of us left.”
He merely nodded and went back to eating in silence. “If we boil the vegetables the rest of the night, you could eat them for breakfast. It’ll be a little more substantive than just the liquid,” he said timidly, reminding her of the age difference.
“Thank you,” she said. “That would be nice.”
He did indeed leave the vegetables boiling, and as he fell asleep, Sorcha found she could not match his peaceful state. Instead she looked through the thick canopies of the trees above and snatched glimpses of the stars, so different from the constellations she had learnt in the distant future upon the Hogwarts battlements.
Then she thought of Severus. Her heart sank; she hoped to the high heavens that Hogwarts had been built already. If not, it would be a long and lonely wait – but one she would endure. Long life was both a gift and a curse. She wondered how much trouble Cassi had caused in her absence, and how Severus had dealt with it – he was often harsh. Then another thought struck her. She would be likely meeting the founders of Hogwarts, if it existed. She wondered if she murdered Slytherin it could save a lot of trouble in the future, but then those stern lectures from Dumbledore came to mind. She wondered if she had already changed anything else. When she finally slipped into sleep, the fire and the pot of vegetables had gone cold. ~*~
Two weeks on, they finally reached the sea. Finn had not asked where they were going; he had faithfully followed her lead, and above all else kept her moving. They rested after Sorcha explained that they would have to walk across with the help of some magic. In fact it was likely they would be here a few days, as she worked up the power needed to walk on water, but it would work; she had done it before. They took turns keeping watch at night, after Sorcha picked up the scent of blood nearby, though the most trouble they encountered was a stray rabbit.
Sorcha found that her watch passed slowly, she closed her eyes as memory began to slip. Time was changing, the future was changing, she could feel it. She clung fiercely to the thought of Severus and Cassiopeia, hoping against all hope that things had not changed with them. She listened to the waves and remembered how she had tricked Severus into visiting the giant squid with her, and the months he’d spent parading around Hogwarts with only his underwear visible. And Dagnarus! Her heart pounded painfully; she would not forget her Lindwurm, though knew he was in good care. Hagrid had been ecstatic having been charged with his keep. Tears sprung to her eyes, but she kept them there. If Severus knew she was crying, she’d never hear the end of it…
It was in the morning that Sorcha really believed she was losing herself, when Finn rather daringly had asked a grumpy Elf: “Do witches walk everywhere? Can’t they just transport themselves somewhere else?”
Feeling truly foolish she grabbed the flute and made a Portkey of it – if it worked they would be back at Hogwarts in minutes. ~*~
Yes, it seemed to work. The unpleasant sensation of having a meat hook thrust through your navel and dragging you into a swirling vortex unsettled even the most accustomed Portkey users; Sorcha counted herself lucky she was not part of that number. When finally she and Finn were cast forcefully upon uneven ground and thrust into darkness, Sorcha despaired. How could Hogwarts be here if there was nothing but dark and twisted trees about them? She thumped against Finn’s chest and sobbed openly. She wasn’t going home. Finn solemnly led her distressed form in a southerly direction and tried to keep her from dark thoughts with idle conversation, but not once did Sorcha reply.
It was steadily getting darker beneath the trees; time was passing at a pace they could not measure. Yet still they worked their way through the vast forest; Sorcha could feel her memories of the future slipping away. She could feel her very existence falter. She collapsed from the sheer shock of it all. Too weak to stand, Finn carried her until finally he came to an abrupt stop. He gently laid Sorcha upon the ground before shaking her awake.
“Sorcha! Sorcha, you must wake,” he pleaded. She sobbed as a reply. “Sorcha, I have found your destination.”
This time she sat bolt upright.
“Hogwarts,” she breathed, relief flooding through her. She blacked out, exhausted, leaving Finn to watch over her as she slept.~*~
Nerves flooded through her body as she walked beside Finn Mac Cumhail up to the great castle. It was exactly how she remembered it. As she looked upon its familiar turrets, floods of memories engulfed her. She stepped through the doors.
It was different somehow; the decoration was cosier, more comfortable, and it seemed more like a home than a school. She watched everything as she walked toward the Great Hall. The doors opened themselves to a hall full of young people crowded around a single, but massive table. Hogwarts had once been united. It struck Sorcha as a wonderment that Hogwarts had been thus, and she glanced around at the faces that now looked at her, sceptical and cold.
“Forgive my intrusion,” she said switching to the English dialect; she had been speaking in the Gaelic tongue whilst in Finn’s company. “I seek your aid.”
Four people rose immediately and swept towards her. “Somewhere a little more private,” a wizard with messy brown hair said cheerfully. The four ushered Sorcha and Finn from the hall, leading them away. It surprised Sorcha when they entered Dumbledore’s office. It was so different. It was empty.
The book shelves were not there, the desk was also gone, and the cupboards and trinkets were non-existent in this skeletal room.
“What is this room?” Finn asked in his own tongue. It surprised Sorcha when a sharp looking witch with dark hair and piercing blue eyes replied in the same language.
“It is safe.”
“Allow us to introduce ourselves,” a green robed wizard proclaimed, though arrogance marked him as Salazar Slytherin. “This is Helga Hufflepuff,” he motioned towards a blonde woman, petite for certain, grey eyes, and a kindly expression.
“This is Rowena Ravenclaw,” he said, indicating the dark haired woman who looked at her shrewdly.
“This,” he said distastefully, “is Godric Gryffindor,” as he waved at the messy haired wizard.
“And I am Salazar Slytherin,” he finished crisply. She looked over his features: startlingly blue eyes, pristinely dark hair a thin mouth and –
“You’re an Elf?” Sorcha asked in disbelief.
“Yes. I might ask who you are and what you are doing here?” he prompted. No wonder he started on Pure-Blood mania! Elves always had a pompous air of self importance, simply because it was from them wizards had descended.
“I need your help. I’m from the future. I came back for the purpose of study, but my time-turner has been misplaced. I would ask your permission to leave a note for someone in the future, so I might return to my own time.”
The four turned inwards speaking in inaudible tones to one another. Finally they turned.
“You may leave your note. But you must leave the castle when it is done. You risk much of your own time line by being here,” Ravenclaw noted. “We will leave you now.” They simply left, distancing themselves from the danger of time travel.
“Come,” Sorcha said, grabbing Finn’s hand. She ran to the dungeons to leave her note. ~*~
The room she went to was empty. In fact, the castle was considerably bare in comparison to her day. Sorcha was coming to the belief that all of these rooms had been designed with their future occupants in mind. Passing the Potions classroom in the dungeons enforced that fact. All that was there was a desk, Severus’ desk, the very same one, but it drew her inside. She went and had a look around; the classroom was spacious when not encumbered by work benches, cauldrons, children, and potion fumes. Yet it still had the feeling that its emptiness could only be filled by the Potions Master who had not yet been born. She was smiling as she left the room. She walked down the corridor to the place she now called home, at least when she was in the right time frame.
Severus Snape’s office was also naked. The book shelf concealing the entrance to their small apartment behind was in place, full of books, though they were different than the books she knew. The office seemed dull without the sickening potion stores, pickled… things, and that wicked undercurrent of malice that could only be caused by Severus Snape himself. She turned to the back of the door, which was conveniently located directly in front of where Severus’ future desk would be. She raised her arms slowly, then wiped them before her face. As she stood back, black lettering began to shine on the door. It read: Severus – got into a bit of trouble, lost my time turner – I can’t get back.
See what Dumbledore can do – I need help.
Satisfied, she and Finn left the castle. With any luck the next time she’d see it would not be for a good few centuries.
A/N: Thanks are due to Redvelvetcanopy for her wonderful direction as my beta! I do hope you've enjoyed this, please review!