Harry ran. His footsteps echoed against the stone walls of the dungeon. It wouldn't do to be late for Potions again, not when he had been late twice already this week. Why did the class have to be first thing in the morning? Harry had taken to skipping breakfast, snatching an extra forty winks when he could, sometimes lingering in bed a little too long. At least Snape isn't around to harangue me about it, he thought as he made the last turn toward the classroom. He slowed in relief--the group of students waiting to enter the room was still queued up in the hallway. Harry slipped quietly into line at the end, chest heaving a bit from the dash down the stairs.
His eyes focused on the dark alcove next to where he stood and he was surprised to notice a painting there. Whomever the portrait was of must have been off visiting another painting because all that showed within the frame was a dark and stormy-looking background, and a heap of stones. The mouth of a cave? Well, a dark painting for a dark dungeon. No wonder the frame's occupant was elsewhere.
The students ahead of him began to move--Professor Slughorn had opened the door and they were shuffling in. One eye still on the painting, Harry took a step forward, only to feel like he had run into a brick wall.
"Potter," was all Vincent Crabbe said by way of explanation as he stopped Harry with his hands on his shoulders, then shoved him backward into the alcove.
Harry supposed no other explanation was needed. He was Harry Potter, and the Slytherin goons hated him. Now that Malfoy wasn't around to direct their energies anymore, both Crabbe and Goyle had been taking it out on Harry ever since the term started. Crabbe wasn't even in the Potions class--it was too advanced for him--but he must have been passing by from the Slytherin dungeons. Harry fell hard against the stone, his head cracking against the wall, even as he berated himself for letting his guard down.
Stupid, he thought to himself as he lay there a moment, waiting for the pain to subside. The only reason they don't kill you is because Voldemort wants you for himself. He wished, not for the first time, that he didn't have to live life with a death sentence hanging over him, and then climbed resolutely out of the alcove. The last of the students were just filing into the classroom. Harry hurried to catch up, then slid into the one empty seat still left at a brewing bench, hastily pulling his Potions book and a quill from his bag.
At the front of the classroom he was surprised to see a woman standing there. She had her hair drawn back in a bun, small oval glasses, and was wearing practical-looking black robes. A substitute teacher? What happened to Slughorn? Perhaps that explained the delay...?
"We will pick up where we left off Wednesday," the woman began, without preamble. "With our discussion of Love Potions."
Harry blinked. He didn't recall anything about Love Potions from the previous class, and he became aware of a susurrus of discussion going around the room. He looked around.
Unfamiliar faces were looking back at him. He knew by the colour of their ties that this was a mix of Slytherins and Gryffindors--and surely even if he had somehow walked into the wrong year's class, he should recognize the members of his own house? He noticed then that the professor was looking at him as well, as if waiting for him to say something.
He raised his hand out of habit. "Yes, young man," she replied briskly. "I believe you are in the wrong place, am I right?"
"I, I suppose I am, professor," he said, wondering what her name was. "I'm in seventh year now and I guess I got my schedule confused."
She narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. "What is your name, young man?"
"Harry Potter, ma'am," he answered, and was surprised to see not even a glimmer of recognition in her eyes.
"Well, Mister Potter, this is the seventh year NEWT Potions section, and I don't believe I have your name on my roll call." She tapped her wand impatiently against her arm. "And I have a class to teach." She then turned to a student sitting at the front. "McManus, have you seen him before?"
The student, a brown-haired boy with a shiny prefect badge pinned to his robes and neatly knotted red and gold tie, shrugged. "I'd take him up to the headmaster's office, Professor, but he teaches this period."
"Very well. Take him up there and straighten this out after class is over. Mr. Potter, I would suggest you follow along as I expect your full participation if you are going to be in my classroom."
"Now, turn to page 326, and let us review the ingredient preparation for Heart's Delight." She turned and with a wave of her wand at the blackboard presented the full list in flowing script.
Harry opened his book, only to find that his page numbers did not match--page 326 in his copy of Advanced Potions, Volume Two had an essay about the relationship between the antidotes for hiccups and hysteria. He flipped the pages.
"Quit fussing." His benchmate elbowed him and slid his book over. "Share mine."
"Er, thanks." But Harry found that now that he had looked at whom he sat next to, he had trouble tearing his eyes away from the fellow. His hair was white-blond, much longer than Harry expected, and his eyes were blue, not hazel-grey, but he was the spitting image of Draco Malfoy. Harry tensed, but whoever this was, he seemed to have no malicious intent. If this was all a trick of Voldemort's, it seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go to...
At last, the lecture wound down and it was time to brew. "Have you got a cauldron, then?" his benchmate asked, his voice laced with skepticism.
"Right here," Harry said, tugging on his school bag under the workbench.
"Excellent." The blond let a smile onto his face. "Set it up while I get the ingredients, why don't you?" And with that the Malfoy look-alike walked away.
When he came back, Harry had readied the cauldron. The other student spread out the ingredients on the workbench and then offered his hand. "I'm Malfoy, by the way." He took Harry's hand in his, while Harry struggled to keep his face impassive. "Draco Malfoy." He pulled his hair back and tied it with a ribbon.
"Nice to meet you," Harry said in a small voice. This had to be some kind of vision. Any second now Malfoy's head would split open, snakes would come out, and the professor would turn into Voldemort. Right?
But no such thing happened. Harry and this other Draco Malfoy worked together on the potion and Harry found him surprisingly companionable.
"Don't let Gullwing get under your skin," Malfoy said at one point, after the professor had loomed behind them as they worked, then moved on when it appeared there was little to criticize in their work.
"Oh, she's far from the hardest potions teacher I've had," Harry answered with an inward smile. "Do you want to crush the Ashwinder eggs or should I?"
"Um, that's actually the mother of pearl that's supposed to be crushed. The eggs go in whole."
"Oh." Harry expected Malfoy's voice to be more full of scorn, but instead he mostly sounded amused.
"Here, use my pestle. It's charmed to make the grounds very fine."
Concentrating on brewing the potion and the fact that Malfoy seemed genuinely helpful, allowed Harry to relax a bit, and in the absence of more information there was little more he could do to solve the riddle of his situation. The schoolwork occupied his brain for the next hour. Before he knew it they were done, and Professor Gullwing had--grudgingly, it seemed to Harry--given them high marks when they approached her desk with a sample.
"I'll take Potter up to the headmaster," Malfoy said, as she jotted down their grades.
"Mr. Malfoy, do you think that's wise?" she had replied, looking at him over the tops of her glasses.
But Malfoy did not answer that, merely indicating that Harry should follow him with a jerk of his head. He pulled the ribbon from his hair and let it flow over his shoulders again as he walked back to the bench to retrieve his things.
They made their way out of the classroom, up through familiar corridors, passing students as they went. Harry did not recognize any of them. "Thanks for helping me, Malfoy," he said, his mouth feeling odd as he did so, as if those words didn't belong together in a sentence. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I appreciate it."
"You're welcome," Malfoy said. "I do love a good mystery." He turned his blue eyes on Harry then, as if searching him for clues.
Harry felt himself blush a little under that stare. "I don't recognize anyone," he said.
"But you say you're a seventh year at Hogwarts."
"In Gryffindor, yeah," Harry said. "And this is certainly Hogwarts."
"Where did you get those shoes?" Malfoy asked, as they went up the stairs toward the entrance hall.
"These old trainers?"
"I've never seen the like."
"Oh, uh, they're Muggle shoes," Harry said, thinking it was odd that he would be the only one in this alternate-Hogwarts who wore them. He had a thought then. Could this be an alternate universe, where there were no Muggleborns? Without Muggleborns to hate, would the Malfoys be as nice as this? "Um, they're very comfortable and the traction is good."
Malfoy shrugged. "Here we are."
They were at the foot of the spiral staircase that led to what Harry still thought of as Dumbledore's office, though of course even in his own Hogwarts it was Professor McGonagall's office now. The gargoyle at the bottom of the stairs stood impassive, as usual.
"Draco Malfoy here to see the headmaster," the blond said to the gargoyle.
"Wait here," the gargoyle said. Then after a moment, "He says to ask who that is with you."
"He's why I'm here. Harry Potter."
After a moment the gargoyle spoke again. "Says he's never heard of Harry Potter." Harry blinked.
Draco huffed. "I know, none of us have, but he's here now and needs dealing with. What's he doing up there, anyway, playing solitaire with his Tarot cards? Let us in."
The gargoyle sighed heavily and then leapt aside.
Malfoy went first into the office, and then Harry. He recognized the man behind the desk immediately.
"Mr. Malfoy, I'll kindly remind you that I do not welcome informal visits from my students. Now, what seems to be the problem?" said Phineas Nigellus Black.
"I know you!" Harry stammered. "From a portrait in... well, in the headmast...er..." he trailed off realizing how ridiculous what he said sounded, and also that Headmaster Black was fixing him with a steely glare.
Malfoy stepped smoothly in. "Headmaster, this young man appeared in the Potions classroom today, and appears to be something of an enigma."
"What do you mean, appeared?" Black's eye twitched a bit as he held his impatience barely in check.
"It was actually in the hallway," Harry corrected. "I fell into an alcove and when I came out, everything had changed." If this was really Phineas Black, then... "May I ask you a question, sir?"
"You may," Black growled.
"What year is it?"
Black looked at the two students as if they were either barking mad or having him on. "You should know perfectly well it is 1926, Mr. Potter."
"But when I woke up this morning it was 1997!" Harry exclaimed.
"Merlin's beard, that would explain the shoes," Malfoy said. "As well as your book."
Harry looked down at his white trainers, and then bent down and rummaged in his school bag. "Here, take a look at this, sir." He pulled out his copy of Advanced Potions, Volume Two, and opened to the copyright page. He placed the book on the desk in front of the headmaster who looked at it with a snort.
"Tenth Revised Edition, nineteen hundred and ninety five," he read aloud. Then he looked up at them. "Impertinent boys! Did you really think I would fall for such a hoax?"
"But sir," Harry began.
"This is some little friend of yours from the countryside, isn't it, Mr. Malfoy? Are you getting lonely now that Regulus has been removed from your influence?"
Malfoy's ears burned scarlet at that but he said nothing.
"Sir, you can ask Professor Gullwing," Harry said. "She was going to send me up here with McManus, but Malfoy offered to bring me."
The old headmaster glared at Malfoy, barely sparing a glance at Harry. "Are you a wizard then?"
"Yes, sir. I'm a student at Hogwarts. Only, in the future..."
"Let me see your wand." Harry slid the wand from his robes and handed it to the headmaster, who looked it over with a critical eye. He drew his own wand, placed it tip to tip with Harry's and muttered "Prior incantato."
The last time someone had used that spell on Harry's wand, a ghostly image of The Dark Mark had appeared, as that had been the last spell cast from it. This time, Harry saw to his horror, the ghostly image remained of him hurriedly casting a cleaning charm on his private parts this morning in bed. Now Harry's ears were redder than Malfoy's--and so were the headmaster's as he nearly dropped Harry's wand.
Malfoy suppressed a snigger and raised an eyebrow at Harry. Harry gave an infinitesimal shrug in return while the headmaster began to sputter.
"Impertinent! I should have you both flogged for this!"
Harry blanched. Were they still flogging back in 1926? "Sir, please," he said, pressing his hands together. "All I want is to get back to my rightful place and time. I'll take Veritaserum, anything, but you must believe me."
Phineas Nigellus Black made a harrumphing noise and stood, leaving Harry's wand on the desk. Harry snatched it back as the old wizard went to his fireplace, tossed in some Floo powder, and stuck his head in. "Galatea, I have a student here in my office who says you can verify his story. Would you be so kind as to step up here for a moment?"
He pulled his head back, and a few moments later Professor Gullwing stepped out of the fireplace, brushing ashes from her shoulders. "Greetings, headmaster. Yes, this is the boy I sent up here with Mr. Malfoy. Potter, was it?"
"Yes, ma'am," Harry replied, and it struck him funny that people were acting like they didn't know who he was. It was strange, but refreshing, in a way.
"Do you have a brother named Charlus, by any chance?"
"Er, no ma'am. I'm an only child."
The two professors exchanged looks. "You can see why I believe I'm being played for a fool, Galatea," Black said, with a significant glance at Malfoy. "But in case Mr. Potter here really did come from the year 1996..."
"1997," corrected Harry.
"...I cannot risk legilimizing him and learning of future events. I've got 79 years of memories and I am loath to let the Ministry erase them in a misguided attempt to keep the time line pure."
"You're exactly right, headmaster. I believe there are other ways we can check, however, if the boy or the items he has brought with him are from the future. Mr. Potter, have you something you can surrender to me for the afternoon?" She held out her hand. "Come, come, I haven't got all day."
"Er, well," Harry thought about it. He didn't want to give up any of his books, since if he did return to his own time, he'd need them. He couldn't well go around barefoot. "How about this?" He unknotted his red and gold tie and put it into her hand.
"That will do nicely. I will have answers by dinner time. Good day. Good day, Headmaster." With that, she stepped back into the Floo, announced her office, and disappeared in a flash of green flame.
At that Black rounded on the boys. "That tie had better have come from the future or I'll have you both flayed." He opened a drawer in his desk, took out something silver and shining, and then stepped up to Harry. He pinned a silver insignia to Harry's robes, and then tapped it with his wand.
"Sir?" Harry asked.
"Visitor's pass," the headmaster said as he sat down behind his desk again. "Mr. Malfoy, I suggest you keep the visitor with you, for now," he said in a voice that said he clearly expected he would see them both strung up in the dungeons tonight. "Good day."
They were halfway down the hallway from the gargoyle before Malfoy burst out laughing. "Oh, oh my, I half wish we were having him on. That was priceless."
Harry blushed as he remembered what they had all seen ghost out of his wand. "Er..."
"I thought the old prig was going to burst a blood vessel!" Then his voice dropped in volume. "A little morning cleanup was that?"
"Uh, yeah." Harry kept expecting Malfoy's voice to drop into a sneer, to rip him to shreds. But that wasn't this Malfoy. He smiled. "I tell you, from now on I'm always going to follow it with ... I dunno... Lumos or something...!"
Malfoy chuckled. "Well, you're to stick by me and I think we've probably missed most of lunch. There'd be a ruckus if I brought you into the Great Hall now anyway. Let's go get something to eat for ourselves."
Harry followed Malfoy downstairs, and he thought for a while that they were headed for the kitchens. Would that same painting of fruit be there? Harry wondered. But then he recognized the route they were taking. To the Slytherin dungeons. Malfoy brought him through the common room, which looked remarkably similar to how it had appeared the one time Harry had been there before, up a small set of stairs, down a narrow corridor, to a heavy wooden door.
Malfoy put his hand to the iron handle, said the words "Dragon's blood," and the door opened onto what Harry thought of as either a large room or a small apartment. A four poster bed with green and silver curtains stood in one corner, a writing desk with bookshelves full of books sat near the fireplace. In the back, up a step, there was a table on which sat a rich green woven cloth, with four chairs. Malfoy strode directly to the table and sat down, indicating Harry should also.
A few quick flicks of Malfoy's wand and a roast chicken smelling of rosemary and several other dishes appeared on the table. A round cake of some kind flew over from the cupboard, as did two brown, familiar-looking bottles.
"Butterbeer," Harry breathed. "I'm parched."
"From my private stock," Malfoy said, his eyebrow notching. "Try it." As he said it, both bottles' tops popped off, and the two young wizards clinked their bottles together before drinking deeply. "So, what do you think?" Malfoy said, putting his bottle down and serving the chicken onto two plates.
"Best I've ever had," Harry admitted. "And, uh, your room is very nice, too," he added, remembering that guests were supposed to praise a host's home. At least, that's what the Dursleys had always said, though they'd never taken him anywhere for him to use the manners they wanted him to learn. "Is it just you, here?"
"That's right, you're a bloody Gryffindor, I forgot," Malfoy said. "Crammed in those tower rooms together. Well, welcome to Slytherin, seventh year, Harry Potter." Malfoy pointed at the chicken with his fork. "It's not charmed to stay warm, you know."
They ate in silence for a few minutes after that, but curiosity spurred them both to talk. Malfoy spoke first. "So you just... fell?... into our time?"
"Seems like it," Harry replied. "They give that warning every year, about corridors that appear and disappear in the castle, but the corridor was the same--right there by the potions room. I suppose it's possible someone hexed me back in time, but I don't know." Crabbe's shove hadn't been accompanied by any incantation as far as he could tell, and he doubted Crabbe was a master of nonverbal spells--not to mention it would have to be a truly powerful spell to send a wizard through time. Could a time-turner even take someone back that far? "It's so weird because Hogwarts... it isn't any different. I recognize everything."
"Well, it's bloody been here a thousand years, so what's a few decades going to do?" Malfoy said, wiping his mouth on a green cloth napkin.
"I suppose." Harry hadn't even noticed the napkin by his own plate until then. He put it in his lap. "The headmaster seemed pretty upset with you."
Malfoy huffed, half a laugh, and made a dismissive gesture. "He's just upset because I got his grandson into ... some trouble." But his eyes dropped, his blond lashes fluttering, and Harry wondered what he was hiding. "What about you? Are you a troublemaker in Hogwarts' future?"
"I suppose I am," Harry said, grinning, and enjoying the feeling of freedom that came with talking to someone who didn't think they already knew all about him. He suddenly wondered if the Marauder's Map would work now. "His grandson?" he said aloud, as he tried to remember the names on the Black family tree.
"Regulus," Malfoy said. "You look shocked. Is there a Regulus Black in the future?"
"Er... I think there was..."
"It's pretty common for wizarding families to use the same names over and over," he said.
"Um, so I gathered," Harry replied. "I know a Draco Malfoy, too."
Malfoy sat back, his back suddenly a bit stiffer than it had been.
"Nothing," Malfoy said quickly. "It's just, you know... You can't tell me anything about the future that might affect things, because it might wipe out the time you're trying to get back to."
"Oh." Harry felt foolish, then, even as he had the feeling that wasn't why Malfoy had stiffened.
But Malfoy was smooth as silk now, unruffled. "In fact, you probably ought to hide your books down here. It wouldn't do for someone to open up your history book and really muck things up."
"Too right," Harry agreed, and went to his school bag. 1926, before Voldemort. It was even before Grindelwald, he realized, and before Hitler, if he remembered his Muggle history correctly. He knelt down with the bag by the bookshelf. "Do you think I should leave Advanced Theories of Transfiguration, too?"
"Leave them all, just to be on the safe side. You can share books with me." Malfoy came and knelt down next to him on the fine-woven rug. "Your notebooks are probably fine, though. Better take those along."
They went to Charms next, and then to History of Magic, where Harry was pleasantly surprised to see Professor Binns teaching. Well, perhaps pleasant wasn't the right word, Binns was still as boring as ever, and Harry began to drift off soon into the lecture. He jerked awake suddenly, though, when Malfoy squeezed him on the thigh under the table. "Old Black wasn't kidding about the flogging thing," Malfoy whispered. "I'll keep you awake if you keep me awake."
"Sure," Harry said. "But in seven years I haven't stayed awake in one of Binns' classes yet."
"Is that a challenge, then?" Malfoy elbowed him and slid his wand out of the pocket in his robes.
A few minutes later, Harry started to drift, then felt a sharp buzz of sensation against his leg. Malfoy had touched him with his wand, and it felt like a mild electric shock. Harry pulled his own wand out and aimed it at Malfoy's knee, but Malfoy did not seem to be nodding off. Instead, it was Harry who again began to fade.
Malfoy jolted him again, this time on the inside of Harry's thigh. Harry knocked his knee against the underside of the desk when he jumped, though Binns, as usual, seemed not to notice. Malfoy's grin was wicked, and he slid the wand further up Harry thigh, to rest just below his zipper.
"You wouldn't," Harry muttered.
"I would," Malfoy replied, his eyes narrowing, and for a moment Harry could see a sliver of the Draco he knew.
He suddenly did not feel the slightest bit sleepy, and was determined that it would be Malfoy who got jolted next. Or at least jabbed by the tip of Harry's wand, since Harry didn't know the spell Malfoy was using.
They stayed that way through the end of the class, and Harry was amazed. He might have even learned something out of Binns' droning on. At the end of class, a ghost Harry did not recognize came floating through the wall, and said something to Binns that the class could not hear.
"Mr. Malfoy? You and your friend are to go to the headmaster's office," Binns then said. "That is all, class dismissed."
Up in the headmaster's office, they were greeted by not only the headmaster and Galatea Gullwing, but also by two other wizards Harry did not know. One of them inclined his head toward Malfoy as they took seats in front of the headmaster's desk.
"So, boy, it appears you told the truth," Black said without preamble to Harry. "Professor Gullwing here has proved beyond any doubt that you did in fact come from the future. As of now, we have no way of returning you to your own time, though we have experts at the Ministry pondering that very thing right now. Assuming that it may be some time before you can be returned, if indeed you can be returned at all, then we have some niggling details that must be taken care of."
The headmaster gestured to the tall blond wizard who had sat directly at Harry's right. "This is Mr. Justus Gallant, from the Ministry of Magic. If you would, Mr. Gallant."
"Certainly, headmaster," The man took out his wand, waved it once, and then tapped Harry on the top of the head.
"Ow!" Harry rubbed his head--that tap had been a little harder than necessary. "What was that for?"
"You have been placed under a geas not to speak of the future to anyone. We simply cannot risk it." Black harrumphed. "Now as to the other details..."
"Come now, Phineas, the boy belongs in my house, surely you recognize that," Professor Gullwing said.
"Galatea, he'll only be here for a year at most, and where are you going to put him?" said the wizard Harry had not heard speak yet. He had curling brown hair down over his collar and cheerful cheeks, though his eyes were somber. "The tower is full to bursting and you know what happened the last time we tried to modify the architecture..."
"You know full well, Gaius, that there is a difference between making room for an extra bed and trying to install a swimming pool in the dungeons." Professor Gullwing's voice dropped in anger. "He's a Gryffindor, and you don't really expect him to bed down in that nest of vipers you call a house, do you?"
"Excuse me!" roared Black, "But Galatea, you might do well to remember that before Gaius, I was the head of Slytherin House?"
Professor Gullwing flushed, then said in a smaller voice, "Of course, Headmaster. I meant no offense."
Black turned his gaze back to the other wizard. "Very well. Gaius, have you room for the boy?"
"Without a doubt, headmaster."
"Fine. You take him. I leave the details of his schedule and so on, to you. Potter," he barked, "you'll be expected to pass your NEWTs if you're still here when exam time comes. For all we know, you might be stuck here. I suppose your presence will have to be explained, by ..." He huffed. "Let's say you are a transfer from a school on the continent. Hrm, yes, your father works for the Ministry but had his family with him in, let's see, Liechtenstein. Clear? Excellent, now get out of my office." With that he stood, and they were all dismissed.
The Slytherin head of house held out his hand toward Professor Gullwing, who reluctantly handed him Harry's tie. He shook it once, and it transformed into a snake, then he smirked and it was a tie once again, but this time a green tie threaded with silver. "Here you are," he said, handing it to Harry. "So you'll look presentable at table."
Harry took it without saying a word. It was dinner time, and he would be sitting with the Slytherins.
-end chapter one-