Chapter 1: Prologue
The tinge of strong magic crackled through the air, burning the oxygen and filling the vast room with the distinct smell of ozone. Flashes of red, yellow, and green light sparked through a doorway before a figure tumbled through it. It rolled to the side and slammed the door shut with a wave of a stick.
“Severus!” the figure hissed, creeping alongside the wall. “Severus!”
A different voice spoke from across the room. “Over here!”
The wizard who had called for Severus made it across the room in two seconds, coming to a stop by his tall companion. Grimly, twenty-nine year old Harry James Potter, the renowned Boy Who Lived and Chosen One, locked eyes with fifty-year-old Severus Snape. The younger wizard had a mess of black hair that was slightly streaked with gray; his emerald green eyes were shielded behind glasses and glinted with determination. His face was littered with small scars. His black robes were torn, bloodied, and all-around ragged.
The elder wizard’s lanky hair framed his face and was more gray than black; his face was sallow, lined, scarred, and showed weariness beyond his years. His obsidian eyes glittered in the dim light of the room, contrasting sharply with the green light of his younger companion. He no longer wore robes as they had been set on fire earlier but instead the clothes that had been on underneath, namely black form-fitting pants and a button-up, high-collared, and long-sleeved shirt.
The two had no time to further converse, however, as the doors leading into the room they were in began to rattle loudly.
Cursing, Severus turned back to the door he had entered through and warded it. “Did you ward your door?”
“They won’t get through it easily,” was all Harry said, vivid green eyes flicking towards it. “We should have ten minutes until he’s here.”
The two powerful wizards were currently in the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic. The room they were in was dark, cold, and filled with curious odd artifacts that neither of them wished to touch. The Unspeakables of the department surely had a reason for them being in this room and neither wished to find out why.
There was another loud crash from outside the room and both wizards snapped their wands in the direction of the sound. Harry gave his a flick and a dozen different objects piled in front of the door he had entered through earlier. Then he stepped to the door Severus had warded earlier and pressed a hand to it.
After a moment, he gave the older wizard a nod and dropped the ward, opening the door. The two stepped through to find themselves in a large circular room with a dozen other doors. They were back at the beginning.
Harry gave his wand another flick and the door that had just closed behind them glowed red before returning back to normal. That taken care of, the two wizards stepped forward only to find a different door on the far end suddenly blast open with a bright white light.
Instantly putting up a shield, Harry yanked open another door and grabbed Severus by the hem of his shirt, pulling both of them inside before shutting the door behind them. “Bloody hell!” he swore, jabbing his wand in the direction of the door and placing a strong ward on it.
“Careful, Harry.” Severus placed a pale hand on his companion’s. “Save your strength for the fight later.”
Harry smiled bitterly. “Not much good if I can’t kill him, is it? Remind me again why I let you convince me this was a good idea?”
“Because against all odds, you trust me and thus my judgment,” Severus replied smoothly. “Now, Harry, you understand what must be done?”
Harry’s lips thinned and his eyes became steely. “It’s what’s been happening the last twelve years,” he said shortly. “But now we’re actually doing something else.”
They didn’t immediately react as the door on the other side of the room slammed open. It was when a figure tottered around the side of a bookshelf that Severus struck, unleashing a torrent of flame from his black wand. The fire formed a massive dragon, setting the bookshelf and the shrieking figure on flames before Severus canceled the curse, sucking the flames back into his wand.
Harry didn’t acknowledge the motion except to dash through the burned section, leaping over the pile of ashes that had previously been a Death Eater to make his way to the other side of the room. Severus was on his heels after casting another spell to knock the bookshelves down and make it harder for anyone to follow them.
The two were almost there when the entire atmosphere around them shifted. Harry noticed it first, his muscles tensing before he forced them to relax. As he did, though, his movements became more fluid as he shifted to a more battle-ready mode than what he had been in earlier. For his part, Severus simply stepped closer to Harry and made sure his wand wouldn’t be leaving him anytime soon.
“He’s here,” Harry noted softly.
The entire floor trembled beneath their feet and they held onto each other for balance. The air around them seemed to give a silent reverberation and Harry’s ears rang with a sound that was too loud for him to hear.
“Blast,” Severus hissed, face paling even further. “They’ve knocked the walls down. It would seem he no longer cares for the state of affairs of his beloved ministry.”
He gripped Harry by the front of his robes with one hand. “You will live, Harry, you understand?”
Harry’s eyes flashed. “It’s just us two!” he shot back furiously. “What else is there to live for? We went on this suicide mission because of that! Or did you forget?”
“I have lived for much longer than I ever could have anticipated, Harry,” Severus said rapidly, his entire stance tense. “But this entire war hinges on you.”
“And I did such a bang-up job of it the first time,” Harry said bitterly, taking Severus’s hand off to clutch the wrist. “What are you planning on doing?”
Severus didn’t answer, instead channeling a large amount of magic through his wand and aiming it towards the wall. “Reducto!” The white blast blew a large hole in the obstruction and the former Hogwarts professor shoved a protesting Harry through it. “Remember, Harry.”
Harry leapt forward with a cry. “Severus!” But he was too late as his former mentor sealed the wall up with a hasty Reparo. He hit the newly repaired wall with a fist, mentally cursing whatever deity had given Severus such a bloody streak of stubbornness.
“What good is surviving this bloody war if everyone’s dead?” he muttered, stepping away from the wall. His eleven-inch holly and phoenix-feather wand was clutched tightly in his hand as he turned to face the room Severus had thrown him into. He inhaled sharply as he recognized the cursed room from his fifth year: the one that possessed the veil.
Carefully approaching the dais in the middle of the room, Harry spun around in a slow circle to take into account what the room had been used for in the last eleven years. He swallowed as he looked at his watch, which read 11:50 P.M. It would soon be his thirtieth birthday, making it twelve years since the madness that was Lord Voldemort had been once again inflicted on the magical world.
Everything happened on his birthday. Everything except the last time he had killed the evil wizard and the first time he had vanquished the madman. The first time had been on Halloween and the last time had been on May 2, 1998. Now, twelve years later, he was still fighting the Madman-That-Should-Have-Bloody-Well-Died-By-Now.
Something had gone wrong. When Dumbledore had told him about the seven Horcruxes to destroy, Harry had thought that the end of the matter. But after killing Voldemort May 2 and then finding out that the evil wizard had somehow come back to life a year later on July 31st – his birthday no less – Harry knew something had gone dreadfully wrong. The venerable headmaster had overlooked some critical fact that let Voldemort once again rise to power.
And not once in eleven – soon to be twelve – years had Harry or his friends found a way to destroy the evil bastard.
Severus had tried his best to help but his knowledge of the Dark Arts was far surpassed by that of the Dark Lord’s. In truth, he should have died that night in the Shrieking Shack but something had interfered. Harry had publicly hypothesized that the taking of Severus’s memories and the fact that he’d had the Resurrection Stone literally in his pocket (albeit in a Snitch) had kept Severus alive long enough so that by the time they came back to claim his body he was still alive. Privately, he was of the opinion that being Master of Death had its uses, amongst which was keeping people alive if it was remotely possible.
Yet nothing had saved him from the carnage of the last eleven years. The Wizarding World had been at war for these long years and Voldemort was winning.
Winning and currently standing right outside this room if his senses were accurate.
“You’d better not be dead, Severus,” Harry muttered, even though his former mentor was most likely dead by now.
Jumping down from the dais, Harry dove for the cover of a bench just as the door leading to the room blasted open, showering the area with debris.
A soft voice snaked its way into the air, sending chills down the wizard’s back. “Harryyy… I know you’re here. Wherever Severus is you aren’t far behind…”
Harry remained still, keeping his breathing quiet and his magic tightly reined in. He couldn’t afford to make any mistakes until he was absolutely sure of his odds. Chances were that he was dead anyway but he could still go down fighting.
A chuckle rent the air. “Don’t you want to see your beloved mentor one last time?”
This time he couldn’t stop the flinch that ran through his body. Severus was still alive?
Soft footsteps sounded on the stones and Harry wordlessly Disillusioned himself, sneaking back as he did. When he’d reached the end of the bench, he silently stood up, wand in hand. His heart skipped a beat as he saw the man that Voldemort was levitating in front of him.
The demon was robed in black and his snakelike red eyes glittered with malice. His white skin contrasted sharply with his robes and blended with the wand he held, a new one he had made since discarding the yew and phoenix-feather that was brother to Harry’s. It was still yew but the core was from a basilisk’s heartstring.
“He’s waiting for you, Harry,” Voldemort called, his voice resonating with happiness. “He’s waiting to see you one last time.”
Harry turned his head to see the Death Eaters that had entered the room behind their master. They circled the room from above, black cloaks fluttering and pale dead faces blanched in the torchlight. Ha. Voldemort had already made one thing easier for Harry to solve.
Severus was motionless before Voldemort and suspended like a ragdoll. His wand was gone and his body seemed immaculate, although Harry knew he’d probably been cursed multiple times before Voldemort had taken him in.
“Don’t feel like showing yourself, Harry?” Voldemort curved his lips in a sneer, pointing his wand directly at Severus’s body. “Perhaps you need some incentive? Reducto.” The curse was at low power and hit Severus directly in the leg.
A low hiss was the only sound that showed that the man felt any pain from the bones in his leg all shattering.
Harry had to clamp his jaws together to stop himself from screaming. ‘Not now, Potter…’
Voldemort let lose a low chuckle and cheerfully hit Severus with a Bone-Breaking Curse, shattering the bones in his arms and other leg. “Still not presenting yourself, Harry? Perhaps you need some more…incentive.”
Before Harry could blink, Voldemort had slashed Severus’s chest open with a Dark curse. Blood spurted out and splashed against Voldemort’s robes. The Dark Lord simply smiled in rapture as he watched his former servant gasp in pain.
And that was it. Harry could no longer watch and stand back to see his friend and mentor be tortured to death. Snapping his wand around in a circle above his head, he summoned a torrent of Fiendfyre that blocked the Death Eaters from approaching. It settled itself in a ring directly at the top, crackling and burning with Dark Magic. At the same time, Harry dropped the Disillusionment spell, sprinting towards his sworn enemy and beloved mentor.
Voldemort simply widened his grin and locked eyes with Harry as he pointed his wand directly towards Severus, whispering one of the curses that had caused both Harry and Severus to be feared amongst Death Eaters. “Sectumsempra.” He accompanied this with a rapid slashing motion of his wand, and Severus’s body was literally cut apart with the sheer force of the magic behind the curse.
“SEVERUS!” Harry screamed, hand outstretched as if he could stop the curse from hitting his friend, mentor, and one of the last surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix.
Voldemort simply smiled at Harry’s obvious pain. “Too late, Harry?”
Harry snapped. His nonchalant tone, the last eleven years of pain, the deaths of his friends, and now the death of his mentor and most trusted friend was the last straw. With an inarticulate roar of rage, Harry hurled curse after curse at the most feared Dark Lord in history. Voldemort wasn’t laughing any longer, having to hold off the extremely skilled and extremely mad wizard that was matching him spell for spell and curse for curse.
“Not so confident anymore, are you, Tom?” Harry seethed, eyes blazing with power as he shot an Incendio that was blocked by Aguamenti. “No. You’re nothing but a coward!” He punctuated this statement with a Blasting Curse that hit the ground at Voldemort’s feet, pushing him back.
The Death Eaters at the top clamored for their lord but were unable to breach the Fiendfyre that was still crackling before them. Thus, they could only watch as Harry came closer and closer to Voldemort, pushing him against the dais and the veil that was fluttering behind him.
“Now, Harry, you know you can’t kill me,” Voldemort said, shielding against three successive curses. He launched the Killing Curse at the Boy Who Lived but this was blocked as Harry conjured a large block of stone that shattered upon impact. The wizard’s red eyes widened as Harry was suddenly directly before him, having used the distraction to cross the last few feet.
“You want to bet on that, Tom?” Harry smirked and launched himself directly at Voldemort, snarling a “Reducto!” just as he hit the Dark Lord. The curse tore through the wizard’s chest and threw him backwards into the side of the veil. The added momentum of Harry knocked him aside and through the fluttering cloth, just as Sirius Black had fallen through fourteen years earlier.
But Voldemort wasn’t the only one. Unable to stop his momentum, Harry found himself plunging into the abyss as well and into endless darkness.
The last thing he saw was that of his glow-in-the-dark digital watch turning to 12:00 A.M., July 31st, 2010.
Chapter 2: Thirty Going on Fourteen
Turns out Harry is harder to kill than one thinks...
He was floating through endless darkness and bitter cold. Sirius had told him it was like falling asleep and he’d fallen through this very veil. So why the bloody hell was it so cold? Why did it feel like needles were piercing every single pore of his body? If this was dying, Harry wanted back to when he was seventeen and hit with Avada Kedavra. At least that was quick, painless, and to the point.
Whispers floated through his surroundings but try as he might, he couldn’t understand a single word. This both frustrated and relieved him.
Why couldn’t he die? He was tired. He was so tired of fighting, of living, and of simply being. He wanted to see his friends. He wanted to see his family. He wanted to see Dumbledore and throttle him and scream that all his plans had gone to hell in a hand basket and that Voldemort was back and that England was in ruins because he’d missed something. He wanted to see Severus Snape and hug him and annoy him with his endless declarations of concern and friendship.
He just wanted some peace!
No sooner had he thought this did he hear a whistling. Then the piercing stopped but it was followed by what felt like wind pushing him up. What was first a small breeze turned into a billowing gust that sent him hurtling through the blackness and into a bright flash of white light and once again into soft darkness that was not blinding.
Harry slammed into something that seemed to jerk all his limbs. For a moment, his head burst into familiar flames right where his lightning bolt scar was before it went out. As the pain disappeared, his lungs started working and he inhaled sharply in a gasp. Eyes snapping open, Harry rolled to the side, only to find that he was not on the floor but rather rolling off of something.
Reflexes kicking in, he let his arms loosely take his weight before he shifted and jumped up, reaching for his wand only to find that it was nowhere on his person or even in sight. Blinking, Harry absorbed his queer, familiar, and completely unexpected surroundings.
A large wooden trunk stood open at the foot of the bed, holding a cauldron, broomstick, black robes, and books that he hadn’t seen in years since graduating from Hogwarts. There was a derelict desk set up by the wall that was filled with rolls of parchment; also on the desk was perched an empty owl cage.
Harry’s eyes drifted back to his bed and he stooped to pick up an open book lying by it. It was Flying with the Cannons, a book he hadn’t had the joy of reading in years. He took the moment to peruse the well-loved pages before closing it and placing it on his bedside table. Then, with all the purpose of a battle-hardened veteran, Harry swept aside the curtains covering the window to find himself staring out at Privet Drive.
“What the bloody hell?” Harry muttered, still scanning his surroundings. From what he could see, he was back at Number Four Privet Drive. Back in the bedroom he’d left behind when he was still sixteen. The bedroom that he’d never seen since Privet Drive and the rest of the Muggle town he was currently in had been razed to the ground courtesy of a power hungry Lord Voldemort.
His voice made him stop short. It was younger than what he’d expected. Suspicious, Harry opened the wardrobe door and used the mirror on the inside. Its reflection showed him clearly what he’d begun to suspect but had hoped wasn’t true: he was a teenager again; scrawny, still slightly shorter than average, and with a shock of black hair that still hadn’t gained its premature gray streaks. His face was unmarred except for the round glasses perched on his nose and the lightning bolt scar half-hidden under his fringe.
Snapping his head around, Harry looked for the calendar that he always had by his bedside. Sure enough, the date was now August of 1994. Weakly, Harry sank down on the deflated mattress that served as his bed. It was far more comfortable than what he had become used to during the final years of the war-ridden world he had just left.
What in bloody hell had happened? He’d hit Voldemort with a curse that destroyed his chest and then thrown both of them through the veil in the Department of Mysteries. But instead of dying like Sirius had or anyone else who was thrown through it, he’d come back in time?
Breathing in deeply, Harry searched mentally for any spells or other residue that would make it possible that he was hallucinating. When he came back empty, he had to admit that for better or for worse, he was now physically fourteen years old and with the Trace still on him.
Mouth twitching into what could be called a smile, Harry fetched his wand from his trunk and gave it a little twirl over his head, twisting his magical signature as he did. He felt the foreign obstruction of the Trace disappear and broadened his smile; he was now able to perform magic without the blasted Ministry observing his every move.
Using this opportunity, Harry Transfigured his bed into something much more comfortable and resembling that of his four-poster bed in Gryffindor tower. Then, thoughtfully fingering his wand, he repaired the desk and the miserable looking chair accompanying it. As he did so, he took note of several birthday cards propped on the bedside table. The sight made him take a seat on his newly repaired chair and think about his options now that he was, for some indiscernible reason, once again fourteen years old.
At fourteen, he had the unfortunate luck of seeing his name being placed in the Goblet of Fire. He had had to face a dragon, mermaids, and Voldemort himself. Then he’d had the terribly unfortunate luck of being accosted by a Death Eater in disguise. That was easily remembered. But what else was he forgetting?
‘The Quidditch World Cup for one thing,’ he mused, eyes darkening as he remembered that terrible night. ‘Speaking of which…I’m going to be getting an invitation soon. And that means seeing the Weasleys…and Ron.’ The very thought of seeing his best friend again made Harry’s heart ache. It had been a year since his best friend had been brutally murdered by Death Eaters when trying to escape a library. Ron had always joked that libraries would be the death of him but they’d never considered that it could actually happen.
The fact was that Ron had been in the library because Hermione had been killed two years earlier while trying to help Muggle-born witches and wizards escape from one of Voldemort’s cruel prisons. The red-haired wizard had been researching a possible way for Harry to defeat Voldemort.
‘Not this time,’ Harry thought resolutely. ‘No one is going to die this time because of my stupidity if I can help it. This time he won’t have the slightest chance in hell of getting his hands on that wand.’
Thinking of the wand made Harry think of Dumbledore and that drew his thoughts to the infamous blood wards surrounding Privet Drive. They were only supposed to work as long as he thought of this place as home but he hadn’t thought of this place as home since leaving it that first time and even before that Hogwarts had been considered home. What did that mean for the blood wards now that he was mentally thirty years old and sitting in his old bedroom?
‘They’re probably not there anymore.’ To confirm his thoughts, Harry once again reached out with his mental senses and searched for anything resembling the powerful wards Albus Dumbledore had erected. When he could sense nothing, he realized that Privet Drive would no longer be a safe “haven” for him.
That brought up a new problem of where he would be going now that this house was no longer a safe “haven” for him. Where else could he go? He’d become an expert at wards since Bill Weasley had taught him everything he knew before his death at the hands of an undead Fenrir Greyback. Perhaps he could concoct something that would keep this house safe from Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. Even in the future that was now no longer valid Voldemort had never been able to get past Harry’s wards.
He wasn’t called Voldemort’s equal for nothing. But while fighting insane dark wizards didn’t make him nervous, facing his best friend’s family after having thought of them as dead for years did.
What in Merlin’s name was he going to do?
After being rudely awakened by his very obese uncle following the little sleep he’d managed to garner, Harry was seriously reconsidering his decision on staying with his beloved family any longer than necessary. But since he did have a wand and knew how to use it, he figured he could come to an agreement of sorts with his loving relatives.
As Harry sat down at the breakfast table, somehow managing to squeeze himself besides his whale of a cousin, who was taking up two whole chairs, he stared in disbelief at the spread…which consisted of grapefruit.
‘Bloody hell,’ Harry thought morosely. ‘I completely forgot this was the year Dudley went on his diet.’
Petunia Dursley placed a miserable quarter of grapefruit on Harry’s plate. Glancing to the side, Harry noted that Dudley’s portion was bigger than his own, though the diet was for Dudley’s benefit.
Considering his scrawny size and the fact that he could do magic now, Harry figured that this really wouldn’t do at all. The cakes under the floorboard in his room weren’t exactly healthy for a growing boy after all.
Hiding a wicked grin, Harry cheerfully pushed his grapefruit quarter over to his morbidly obese blonde cousin and stood up to go to the fridge and check for something more suitable for a growing teenager who was also underweight.
Vernon Dursley, equally obese as his son, glared at Harry out of beady little eyes. “Boy,” he growled, “what do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting myself something decent to eat.” Harry fetched a carton of eggs, milk, and cheese, thankful that they didn’t just have fruits and vegetables in the house. “I’m not the one who needs to lose a stone or two.”
There was a loud clatter as Vernon angrily overturned his chair. “You will eat what Petunia puts on your plate, boy, and nothing else. You’re lucky that we already feed you what we do!”
Harry calmly turned around, coolly meeting Vernon’s eyes. “Oh, yes, Vernon. Starving your nephew and giving him less than what his overweight cousin eats is certainly called ‘feeding’. I’m not the one who needs to lose a stone or even two. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m wearing your son’s clothing, which is far too big and ragged.”
Vernon purpled dangerously, a vein throbbing in his temple. “Boy…” He took a menacing step towards Harry but was stopped in his tracks as a holly wand pointed directly at his chest. The large man swallowed, suddenly extremely nervous. “Y-you can’t use that freakish stuff outside of school. You’ll be expelled!”
“Will I?” Harry said nonchalantly, cocking his head to the side. “I think you’ll find that things have changed, Vernon, since yesterday. I’m perfectly able to use magic”—he relished the flinch Vernon gave at the word—“outside of school now.” Not taking his eyes off his uncle, Harry gave his wand a flick and began making a plate of eggs. “If I really wanted to, I could bind you to your chair right now and not think anymore of it.”
Neither Petunia nor Dudley had moved from their chairs since Harry had taken out his wand. Both of them were ashen; Petunia’s tea lay neglected on the table while Dudley had stopped gulping down what remained of Harry’s grapefruit.
“So what will it be, Uncle?” Harry asked softly, his green eyes not leaving his uncle’s. “Will you sit down peacefully or make me bind you?”
Vernon didn’t take long to make his decision, although it probably helped that Harry kept his wand pointed at him the entire time. With that taken care of, Harry turned his attention to making his breakfast, though half an eye was still kept on his relatives to make sure that nothing else would happen.
By the time his eggs were finished, there was the sound of the doorbell. Harry shoveled his eggs onto a plate, raising an eyebrow at the purpling Vernon.
“That had better not be a bloody salesman,” Vernon muttered thunderously, pushing his chair out to go and answer the door.
Harry promptly took the vacated chair and began eating, levitating the rest of the grapefruit that was on the kitchen counter over to his plate with a flick of his fingers. He needed more sustenance than just the eggs, although he’d have to see about getting some sort of nutrition potion to make up for the malnutrition of the previous years.
Within two minutes, Vernon came stomping back into the kitchen. He once again purpled upon seeing Harry sitting in his chair but didn’t say anything as the wand lay in plain view on the table with Harry’s right hand resting by it. Instead, he threw an opened envelope on the table.
“It’s for you,” he grunted.
Putting his fork down, Harry inspected the envelope, a grin tugging at his lips as he recognized the envelope as one Molly Weasley had sent to invite him to the Quidditch World Cup. It was covered with stamps and the address was squeezed in the middle.
“Well, she certainly put on enough stamps,” Harry said cheerfully, taking the letter out and reading it through. It contained nothing he wasn’t already aware of, although it did refresh his memory as to what would happen next. “They’ll be here by five tomorrow. You might want to take the boards off the fireplace; they’re going to be Flooing here.”
“It’s transportation by fire,” Harry explained, eating the last of his grapefruit and ignoring the flinches the Dursleys gave at his tactless description. He levitated his plates into the kitchen sink and stood up, taking the letter as he did. “I’ll be up in my room.”
When he opened the door to his room, Harry instantly found himself ducking as a small ball of feathers accosted him. Snatching the tiny owl out of the air with the skill of a Seeker, Harry made sure to relieve Pigwidgeon, better known as Pig, of his burden. “I would assume that you’ve already made yourself at home, Pig.”
Pig gave several excited hoots and began flying in excited circles again. He was eyed disgustedly by Hedwig, Harry’s snowy white owl.
Harry smiled fondly at her, not having seen her since her death that fateful night so many years ago…or three years in the future if he wanted to be technical. He stroked her feathers lovingly, earning him a curious eye from his familiar. “I’ve missed you, Hedwig. I know it’s only been a day since you last saw me but for me it’s been years and years. You were my only owl, you know.”
Hedwig gave him an affectionate nip on the finger before returning to her previous occupation: eyeing Pig with all the disgust that a mature owl could dredge up.
“He is hyperactive, isn’t he?” Harry asked, chuckling. He opened the letter Pig had brought and read it through swiftly. Since it said exactly the same thing it had said last time, he jotted off a quick reply and gave it to Pig, who was so excited that Harry had trouble fastening the letter to his leg. “Hold still, you blasted bird…” Within half a minute, Harry had managed to fasten the letter and Pig gave one last excited hoot before bolting out the window. Harry gave the disappearing fleck in the sky an amused look before turning his attention to his trunk.
“We’ll be off to the Weasleys tomorrow,” Harry informed Hedwig, flicking his wand and unpacking the entire trunk.
He Vanished old and moldy parchment papers, candy wrappers, and a couple of bad socks that were so smelly he couldn’t even consider wearing them. A particularly knobby pair that he had been using for a Sneakoscope was Vanished so quickly Harry hadn’t even blinked. When that was done, he sorted through the old school robes he had outgrown and packed them into the wardrobe. His old spell books went into a corner of the room, where he promptly placed a powerful Notice-Me-Not Charm on them to ensure that no one would find them.
When his trunk was entirely cleaned out, Harry began packing everything into it – very neatly as he now appreciated the value of nice clothes and good cauldrons. He handled his Firebolt – a gift from his godfather – very carefully before placing it on top of everything else. The Cloak of Invisibility he considered for a moment before placing it on his bed; he then shut the trunk and picked his father’s cloak up.
Here was one of the Deathly Hallows. It was the only one he had kept following the battle in his seventh year. He’d left it behind before Severus and he had gone to the Department of Mysteries. He already knew several spells of invisibility, although none were as powerful as the cloak was now that he knew how to fully utilize its power. Not even Alastor Moody’s magical eye would be able to see through its material if Harry had it on.
Brushing his fingers along the runes sown into the silky material, Harry drew it around him, molding the magic so that just the cloak was invisible but not himself. It would be handy in a fight. Although he was originally a Gryffindor, he was by now more Slytherin in nature and was fully aware of the value of retreating if a fight was lost.
He’d saved many lives with that mindset, although it hadn’t helped in the last years as the casualties had racked up.
Eyes momentarily darkening, Harry had to shake himself and push those memories behind strong shields. Following Voldemort’s second return, he’d finally learned Occlumency from Severus and Legilimency to boot. Although nowhere near as proficient as Severus in Occlumency, Harry knew enough to block out Voldemort’s general probes and how to close his mental connection off so as not to receive any visions.
With this thought in mind, Harry lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. He had some planning to do.
TRIWIZARD CUP! 8D Chapters get longer after this one.
As always, feedback is love. <3
Chapter 3: The Quidditch World Cup -- Take Two
Harry experiences the Quidditch World Cup...again.
At a quarter to five the next day, Harry was comfortably ensconced in an armchair and idly twirling his wand in his fingers. His trunk lay by his feet and Hedwig’s empty cage was right by it. He had already sent her off to the Burrow as she didn’t need to be traumatized by his ungraceful ability to Floo.
Vernon and Petunia were the only two there and sitting stiffly on the couch, warily watching their nephew play with his wand. Dudley was hiding in his room as Harry had let slip several different times that two of the Weasleys were tricksters and prone to nasty pranks that even Muggles wouldn’t be free from.
Lost in thought, Harry ran over what he had managed to plan during the rest of the day yesterday. First, he had checked his connection with the Dark Lord. As he had expected, he was active and in an infant’s body: Pettigrew had already made his way to his lord and performed one of the rituals necessary to return Voldemort to power.
The one thing that worried him about the connection was the small tugging he had felt as he joined minds. He’d never felt that before and he had a nasty suspicion as to what it could entail. But since nothing had happened, he let it go and returned to his own mind.
Following that little adventure, Harry had redone all his homework with a small spell he’d picked up from Hermione that inscribed his thoughts to parchment. He was particularly meticulous when it came to Potions, as it wouldn’t do to make a bad impression.
Of course, considering Severus’s current attitude towards a certain Harry James Potter, it wouldn’t do much good. He would just think that Harry had cheated and give him a D even though Harry had incorporated many of Severus’s own tips.
After packing his homework away, Harry had promptly Apparated to Diagon Alley, disguised himself, and gone to purchase a wand holster. He’d outgrown the days of sticking his wand in a back pocket and would need a way to access his wand quickly and easily in case of fights. Furthermore, he didn’t plan on anyone filching his wand this time around.
Once back at Privet Drive, Harry had embroiled himself in the task of warding the house against all Death Eaters (except Severus) and Voldemort himself. During the process, he realized something that he probably should have noticed earlier but had been too busy to: his magical core was significantly larger than it used to be.
Upon reflection of this discovery, Harry figured that his old core from the future had merged with that of fourteen-year-old Harry Potter, thus increasing his core’s strength. He suspected that when this body reached its majority, his core would be twice that of what it had been in the future. More, in fact, if he continued to take care of his body properly and not overstrain himself.
When the warding had been taken care of, Harry had gone back into the house for a snack. Then he’d begun to plan what to do with the Horcruxes.
Really, Harry figured, he couldn’t do anything until back at Hogwarts. He could control Fiendfyre just as well as Voldemort could (he had to considering what they’d faced in the future) but it was still too dangerous. What he needed were the basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets.
Once he was armed and had the right amount of time at his hands, he would be able to begin hunting down the Horcruxes. The first on the list was Ravenclaw’s diadem, as that was the most easily accessible in the Room of Requirement. After that, he would take the Horcruxes as they came; he was thankful that the diary was gone, as that was one of the most troublesome ones. That simply left Hufflepuff’s cup as the most difficult to obtain…if it even was in Bellatrix’s vault at this point.
When the clock finally struck five, Vernon and Petunia straightened expectantly and looked over to the fireplace. Harry slipped his wand into the holster and leaned forwards to rest his elbows on his knees.
When five minutes passed and no one came in, something was beginning to nag Harry at the back of his mind. Five minutes later and he ignored the increasingly impatient Dursleys in favor of figuring out what it was. At quarter past, Harry thought he had it: the Weasleys had been late before!
“They’ll be slightly late,” he informed Vernon. “They have to connect the house to the Floo Network.”
Vernon reddened but said nothing, still mindful of the fact that his nephew had no qualms about performing magic outside of school.
“Will they expect tea?” Petunia ventured to ask hesitantly.
Harry stared at her for a second or two before remembering that he’d already changed things and so shouldn’t expect the same things, like Petunia’s inhospitality the first time around. “No. We’ll be leaving immediately.”
With that said, another uncomfortable silence came into being. Harry didn’t mind seeing as how his friends would be coming at half past five. He just had to remember to address Arthur as Mr. Weasley.
However, when half past five came and went, Harry realized he’d forgotten something else. This time, it only took him a minute of staring at the fireplace before he remembered.
Snorting in self-deprecation and alarming his aunt and uncle, Harry stood up and flicked his wand into his hand. He’d forgotten to take the wards off the Floo Network. Paranoia could really be a bitch at times.
He gave his wrist a quick circular movement and drew his wand to the side as if pulling off a blanket. A golden mist came off the fireplace. After making sure it would attach itself again after ten minutes, Harry let the ward go and stepped back as the electric fireplace suddenly flared green.
Petunia gave an undignified shriek as a figure stepped out, revealing the familiar visage of George Weasley. “Hullo, Harry!” he said cheerfully, grinning.
His twin stepped out five seconds later, an identical grin on his face. “All right?” Fred Weasley asked.
Harry had to stop himself from running over and giving both of them a huge hug. He simply settled for a beaming smile. “Brilliant, Fred, thanks.” As the fireplace flared green again, Harry asked, “You didn’t have any trouble, did you?”
This time it was Ronald Weasley who stepped out, giving his best mate a broad grin. “Hiya, Harry! Hope you’re doing all right!”
Unlike with the twins, Harry had to consciously restrain himself from startling Ron with an overemotional display. “Hey, Ron.”
By that time, Vernon and Petunia were sufficiently frightened enough that they hadn’t budged from their position on the couch. When the fireplace flared green a fourth and final time, they didn’t even blink as a tall, thin, and balding man in shabby looking robes stepped through.
“So sorry, Harry!” Arthur Weasley was saying, brushing the soot off his clothes. “We had to connect the house to the Floo Network but it was giving us problems. Everything’s all right, isn’t it?”
“Hi, Mr. Weasley,” Harry said, grinning at the welcome sight of his best mate’s dad. “Everything’s fine. I was just asking Fred here what was up.”
“Nothing important, of course,” Fred quipped.
Arthur had by now noticed the still petrified Vernon and Petunia. “Ah…and this must be your aunt and uncle, Harry?”
“Yes. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. My cousin’s upstairs.”
Arthur seemed slightly perplexed at the fact that neither Vernon nor Petunia was greeting him but shrugged it off. “Pleasure to meet you two. Now, Harry, you have your trunk?”
“Right here.” Harry kicked the side of the trunk that was lying by his feet. “I’ve got Hedwig’s cage, too. Is she already at the Burrow?”
“Arrived before we left,” Ron assured him. “Pig – the owl I sent you earlier – is driving her mad.”
“Excitable little fellow, isn’t he?” Harry asked, giving the trunk to Fred to Floo with. George was left with Hedwig’s cage. “I was wondering, who named him Pig?”
“Ginny,” Ron said with disgust. “His real name is Pigwidgeon but he only answers to Pig. That’s the last time I ever let her name an owl.”
Harry had to stifle a laugh but did let a grin slip. Merlin, he’d missed this. This wasn’t his Ron by stretch of the means but it was his old Ron, the one he remembered from Hogwarts. The war had changed all of them but he was glad that he was the only one of the Golden Trio that was impossibly and irreversibly jaded. Hopefully Hermione wouldn’t notice that he’d changed but he should be able to pull off a convincing enough act.
If his plan fell through the way it should, then he wouldn’t be the only one in this soup.
“See you in a bit, Harry,” Fred said, stepping into the fireplace with a handful of Floo powder and the trunk. He let it drop to conjure a mound of green flames. “The Burrow!” With a whoosh, Fred disappeared into the bowels of the Floo Network.
George swung Hedwig’s cage around clumsily and also took a handful of Floo powder from the sack his father was holding out. He gave Harry a wink as he called “The Burrow!” and disappeared as well. Fully aware of what had just transpired, Harry wandlessly and silently Vanished the toffees George had inconspicuously – but not inconspicuously enough for Harry’s battle-honed senses – dropped. Without Arthur around, the consequences from those jinxed treats would be dastardly.
Ron had taken a handful of Floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. “No Knockturn Alley this time, eh, Harry?” he teased, grinning.
Harry had no chance to reply as Ron took the moment to Floo home. He turned to his aunt and uncle, who were still silent. “See you, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia.” The two adults winced at Harry’s formal address; it was the first time since yesterday that he hadn’t just called them by name.
Harry had just grabbed a handful of powder when Arthur took hold of his shoulder; he repressed his first instinct, which was to whip out his wand and curse Arthur.
“Didn’t you hear him?” he asked. “He said goodbye.”
“It’s all right, Mr. Weasley,” Harry said, trying to pull away. He had to quiet his instincts, which were telling him to flip the kindly man on his back.
“Aren’t you going to tell him goodbye?” Arthur insisted.
Vernon’s face tensed but he bit out a curt “Goodbye.”
“Have fun,” Petunia ventured hesitantly, earning herself an incredulous stare from her nephew.
“There now,” Arthur said pleasantly, finally releasing Harry’s shoulder. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“Brilliant,” Harry muttered, hastily stepping into the fireplace; he took his glasses off and tucked them away. He dropped the powder and clearly enunciated, “The Burrow!”
Squeezing his eyes tightly shut, Harry only had two seconds worth of violent spinning before the Floo unceremoniously spit him out at the other end in a shower of soot. Coughing, Harry slammed his glasses on and rolled to his feet, just quelling the reflex that told him to draw his wand.
“Bugger,” he muttered, realizing he couldn’t see squat out of his sooty glasses.
He’d just taken them off again when he was enveloped in a huge hug courtesy of Molly Weasley. “Harry, how lovely to see you!”
Harry stiffened before he could help the reaction, his blurry eyesight only showing a huge figure enveloping him. Fortunately for Molly, he didn’t flick his wand out, although it was a very close call.
For her part, Molly didn’t say anything. “You poor dear… Let me take care of that. Scourgify.”
Relieved, Harry placed his squeaky clean glasses on his nose. “Thanks, Mrs. Weasley.”
“You all right, mate?” Ron asked. “It looked like a rough ride.”
“Floos hate me,” Harry said, shrugging. He suspected it was because of his magic but he didn’t think Voldemort had the same issues. But then, he couldn’t even imagine Voldemort considering Flooing in the first place.
At that moment, Arthur made his arrival. “Harry arrive in one piece?” His eyebrows rose upon seeing how sooty the Boy Who Lived was. “I thought I cleaned the fireplace.”
“You did,” another red-haired Weasley chimed in. Harry recognized him as Bill Weasley.
“It’s not you, Mr. Weasley, it’s me,” Harry confirmed. He promptly found himself under another Cleaning Charm from Molly and sneezed as the soot vanished from his clothes. “Thanks.”
“It’s no problem at all, Harry,” Molly said kindly. “Now, why don’t you let Ron show you to your room? I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready.”
Harry nodded and followed his friend up the stairs, nodding a hello to Charlie Weasley, who was sitting next to his brother at the kitchen table.
“You’ll be staying in my room again,” Ron told him. “Bill and Charlie – my older brothers – are here, too, as you saw in the kitchen, meaning Fred and George are rooming with us. Hermione arrived yesterday and she’s already harping on whether I’ve finished my homework!”
Harry honestly couldn’t help it: a huge grin split his face. “Isn’t it already August? Term starts up first of September.”
“Yeah, but that’s the point!” Ron said indignantly. “Don’t tell me you’ve already finished!”
“All right,” Harry said agreeably. “I won’t.”
“You won’t what?”
“Tell you I’ve already finished,” Harry responded with a straight face.
Before a scandalized Ron could reply, a bushy-haired witch rushed to hug a startled Harry, who once again had to restrain himself from drawing his wand at the unexpected contact. “Harry!” Hermione Granger drew back to beam at her green-eyed friend. “It’s so good to see you again!”
“You, too, Hermione,” Harry said, his face relaxing into a soft smile as he looked at the impossibly young face of one of his closest friends.
“The building’s gone up in flames, Ron. We can’t…we can’t do anything.”
“No! Harry, let me go! Hermione!”
Harry abruptly ejected himself from the memories, shoving them into a trunk in the deepest recesses of his Occluded mind. He was going to have to deal with the memories eventually but now wouldn’t be a good time at all. He needed his wits about him to make sure he didn’t curse everyone who startled him. That was one thing he missed from the future: the fact that everyone was too jumpy to land unexpected hugs on their companions for fear of a wand being drawn on them.
Hermione and Ron were staring at him weirdly and he belatedly realized that he’d been quiet for too long. Putting a cheerful smile on again, Harry moved into Ron’s room. “So, tell me what you guys have been up to so far. Summer has been really boring for me.”
Merlin, he’d forgotten how bad it would be in a place full of people. His battle-hardened senses were screaming at him to remain alert and make note of every bloody little thing.
So now that their tent was completely set up and they’d explored the campsite, Harry was on edge, cranky and trying not to show it, and constantly twitching for his wand every five seconds. He was surprised no one had noticed the quick movements of his wrist as he made to release his wand from his holster only to remember in time that he really shouldn’t because there was no danger.
‘Yet,’ his instincts reminded him sourly. ‘There’s no danger yet.’
And as Harry’s instincts were rarely wrong – aside from the years when he’d insisted that something was up with Snape (in his defense, something had been but not what he’d suspected) – he found that something dangerous was coming. That is, if danger carried the name of Ludo Bagman and Bartemius Crouch.
‘Merlin save us all,’ Harry grumbled mentally, accepting the cup of tea Arthur gave him as he chatted with Ludo. ‘Do I have to listen to this idiot ramble on?’
“Everything all right, Harry?” Ron whispered.
“Yep.” Harry took a sip of his tea to hide the smirk that threatened to cross his face at hearing Bartemius Crouch call Percy “Weatherby”. Some things never got old regardless of how well you remembered them.
By the time Crouch and Ludo left, Harry had downed three cups of tea and had to bite his tongue a dozen times to prevent himself from bursting into inappropriate laughter. Needless to say, he needed to go to the bathroom and fix his tongue, which was feeling abused. When he returned, the Weasleys and Hermione were ready to head to the field.
On the way, Harry once again bought three pairs of Omnioculars. “Consider it an early Christmas present,” he insisted, pressing Ron’s pair into his friend’s hands.
“Thanks, Harry,” Ron said fervently, smiling.
Once they were in the stands, Harry almost found himself once again sitting by a familiar house-elf. Recognizing Winky and sensing the magic of the Death Eater hidden by her, Harry hastily switched seats with Ron, leaving the red-head to sit next to the petrified house-elf. Although he’d managed to stop himself from drawing his wand so far, sitting next to a Death Eater would be death of him if something startled him; that would be the first person he’d curse.
“Er, hello,” Ron said, squinting at the magical being who was currently hiding her face in her hands. “You all right?”
Winky looked up at Ron, surprise plastered on her face. “Young sir is asking Winky if Winky is all right?”
“I is not liking heights at all but my master sends me to the Top Box and I comes, sir.” The frightened house elf looked over the Quidditch field, squeaked in fright, and hid her face in her knobby little hands.
“How cruel!” Hermione muttered, a frown marring her face.
“Bit barmy, isn’t she?” Ron asked Harry in a low voice.
“Dobby was worse,” Harry said firmly, picking up his Omnioculars to fiddle with the settings.
Over the next half hour, Harry was hardpressed to keep his wits about him and not draw his wand as the box around them continued to fill with people. When Cornelius Fudge came up to him and shook his hand as if he was an old friend, it was all Harry could do to not hex the man where he stood.
“Harry Potter, you know,” Cornelius told the Bulgarian Minister of Magic. “Harry Potter…oh come on now, you know who he is…” When the Bulgarian minister still gave him a blank look the man said, exasperated, “The boy who survived You-Know-Who…you do know who he is—”
At that moment, the Bulgarian minister finally spotted Harry’s scar, which he had unsuccessfully tried to hide under his fringe, and pointed at it excitedly, gabbling in Bulgarian. Harry offered him a weak smile and rearranged his hair so it wouldn’t happen again. Hermione gave him a nod as he shot her a questioning glance to check if it was good.
“Knew we’d get there in the end,” Cornelius told Harry wearily, not seeing the steely glint that entered Harry’s eyes as the Boy Who Lived was forced to listen to him bluster on. “I’m no great shakes at languages; I need Barty Crouch for this sort of thing. Ah, I see his house-elf’s saving him a seat… Good job, too, these Bulgarian blighters have been trying to cadge all the best places…ah, and here’s Lucius!”
Upon hearing that the Malfoys were here, which he’d completely forgotten about, Harry made as if he’d dropped something and hit the floor.
“You all right there, Harry?” Ron asked, perplexed.
Harry grunted to confirm that he was and pretended that what he’d dropped had rolled down the aisle. He used the opportunity to put more distance between the Dark family and himself.
Thankfully, no one else noticed that he’d disappeared and when he finally came back five minutes later, he reclaimed his seat next to Ron. “Found the ball I’d dropped,” he said, showing Ron a ball he’d Conjured for this purpose.
“You could have let me know,” Hermione said reproachfully, not believing Harry for a second. “I didn’t want to see them either!”
Harry shrugged. “It’s not a question of me not wanting to see them. It’s a question of me not wanting to see Draco before the train.”
“Draco?” Ron exclaimed incredulously. “Since when is Malfoy Draco?”
“Since I’ve concocted a lovely plan for him,” Harry responded with a wicked grin. “Don’t ask me what; you’ll know come September first.”
Ron eyed Harry disbelievingly but let it drop. It was just as well as Ludo Bagman began to make his announcements.
“Ladies and gentlemen…welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!”
Following the routine cheering, Ludo continued to introduce the mascots of the two teams: veela and leprechauns. This time, Harry was able to sit back and enjoy the dancing of the enchanting veela; his Occlumency shields were more than strong enough to stave off their allure.
“How come you’re not affected?” Ron asked Harry peevishly after he’d been stopped from doing a swan dive off the Top Box.
“It’s not that interesting to be honest,” Harry replied. “’Sides, I like my mind right where it is, thanks.”
Ron goggled at Harry. “You’re gay?”
Harry frowned, confused. “Where’d you get that from?”
“You said it’s not interesting! What straight bloke says something like that?”
“Someone sane,” Harry said dryly. “Come on, Ron. You can’t picture Se-Snape acting like that, can you? And I have it on good authority that he’s completely straight.”
Ron shuddered at the mental image Harry’s words invoked. “Point taken, mate. Just don’t mention Snape and veelas in the same sentence ever again.”
Harry smirked at that (as even with years of friendship under his belt he couldn’t condone mentioning Severus and veelas in the same sentence; they just didn’t mix).
When the leprechauns came in, he smiled at Ron as his friend tried to give him the gold. “From what I’ve read, this gold disappears after a few hours. It’s not much good. Besides, Ron, you’re my friend.”
Morose, Ron eyed the gold sadly before letting it drop to the ground with a large sigh. “How’d you know?”
“Not much else to do at the Dursleys,” Harry said. “Especially since I’ve got Sirius hanging over their heads.” He shot his friend a wink.
Ron chortled. “Good one, mate.”
As Ludo finished introducing the players, Harry sat back and watched the game. It’d been a while since he last could participate in anything even remotely fun.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an invisible hand snitch Ron’s wand from his pocket.
A small smile flitted across his lips and he pressed the Omnioculars to his glasses. At least he hadn’t changed that much.
Following the rather surprising (to everyone else) end of the Quidditch match, Harry had gone back to the campsite and instead of partaking in the festivities where he’d be sure to draw his wand and create a large crater, he pretended to have a pounding headache and went to hide in the tent.
‘They’re going to figure something’s up if this keeps up,’ Harry mused, rolling onto his stomach. He listened to the loud celebrations with half an ear, part of his mind keeping track of what was good and what wasn’t; so far, everything was good. ‘But bloody hell, some habits are just too deeply ingrained. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to partake in any of these parties again…not without being heavily drugged and that would not be good.’
When the Weasleys finally came in, Harry pretended to have fallen asleep. It helped that he was on the top bunk and facing the canvas of the tent. Yet his body still tensed as they moved around, excitedly discussing the match. When they climbed into bed as well, Harry rolled over onto his back and tried to get some sleep. When fighting in a war, one learned to treasure sleep and snatch it when possible.
Harry woke up first when he felt Dark Magic tinge the air. Sitting up, he slipped his glasses out from under his pillow and put them on. He checked his wand holster and made sure that his Invisibility Cloak was still exactly where he’d left it: on him. That done, he lay down and waited for Arthur to wake them up.
If it had just started, it would be a few minutes before the guard would notice anything. From there, it would be a few more minutes before the rest of the camp was alerted and the partying stopped.
Sure enough, in about ten minutes Harry could hear and feel an even more definite change in the air. By that time, Arthur was up and about and waking them up in loud shouts. “Get up! Ron – Harry – come on now, get up, this is urgent!”
Harry bolted upright, jumping down from his bed just as Ron was sleepily getting up. He grabbed his jacket and threw a befuddled Ron his own.
“Get outside!” Arthur urged.
At fourteen, Harry had been shocked and horrified at seeing Muggles being tortured by Death Eaters having the time of their lives. Now, as a weary war veteran, Harry could scan the scene with an impassive eye and not blink even as his mind was calculating odds and battle plans at a breakneck speed.
Upon seeing that Ron had turned ashen, Harry flicked his eyes back to the scene to see that one of the Muggle children was spinning like a top.
“That’s sick. That is really sick…” Ron muttered, looking green.
Harry watched Hermione and Ginny approach them with coats over their nightclothes. At the same time, Bill, Charlie, and Percy came from the tent he and Ron had vacated with their regular clothes on and wands out.
“We’re going to help the Ministry!” Arthur shouted to the Hogwarts-aged wizards and witches. “You lot – get into the woods, and stick together. I’ll come and fetch you when we’ve sorted this out!”
At that, the eldest Weasleys dashed off to face the marching Death Eaters. Harry spared them a calculating glance and then turned to his friends; his attention was needed elsewhere to make sure that nothing happened.
“C’mon,” Fred said, grabbing Ginny by the hand and hauling her off toward the wood.
Harry trudged off after them, glancing over his shoulder to check that his friends and George were following.
By the time they reached the trees, Harry had flicked his wand into his hand and was twitching nervously. There were far too many people here; he’d already had to bite his tongue a total of three times to stop himself from cursing them into oblivion. That hadn’t stopped his wand from firing errant red and purple sparks, making the people around give them a wide berth.
Harry twisted to the side, pressing against Hermione as a crowd of people surged past them. “R-bloody hell,” he panted, almost casting a Reducto. He forcefully drew his magic into himself and tried to strengthen his Occlumency barriers; it was the only thing keeping his reflexes even remotely dampened.
“Gah!” Ron let out a yell of pain and a loud thud.
“What happened?” Hermione asked anxiously, stopping so abruptly that Harry almost walked into her. “Ron, where are you? Oh this is stupid – Lumos!” A bright silver light sparked from the tip of her wand to illuminate Ron sprawled on the ground.
“Tripped over a tree root,” the red head explained angrily, getting to his feet.
“Well, with feet that size, hard not to,” said a familiar drawling voice from behind them.
Harry stiffened at the sound of Draco Malfoy’s voice and quickly stepped behind Hermione, flicking the hood of his Invisibility Cloak over his head as he did. Bugger…yet another thing he’d completely forgotten. Twisting his magic and that of the cloak’s, Harry made himself invisible in the blink of an eye.
That done, he turned to see Draco leaning against a tree and looking completely relaxed.
‘I’d forgotten how much of a prat he was then,’ Harry thought, amused. ‘Or rather now. Must remember: this isn’t my Draco.’
Ron told Draco something that Molly would have scolded him furiously for.
“Language, Weasley,” Draco said, pale eyes glittering. “Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?” He nodded at Hermione to show whom he meant.
A blast like a bomb sounded from the campsite and a flash of green lit the area around them.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hermione demanded.
“Granger, they’re after Muggles,” Draco said. “D’you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around…they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.” That said, he scanned Hermione and Ron and raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Where’s your precious Potter?”
“Right here, Malfoy,” Ron snarled, whipping around to where Harry had last been standing when visible. He was still standing there but was just invisible. “What? Harry?”
“Oops,” Draco said, not sounding anxious at all. “Looks like you’ve lost him.”
“We didn’t lose him!” Ron snapped, whirling back to glare at Draco. “He was right here, I swear!”
“Calm down, Ron,” Hermione urged, scanning the area where Harry was standing to no avail.
“Yes, do calm down, Weasley,” Draco drawled. “Wouldn’t want them to hear you scream and come running only to find a Mudblood here, would you?”
“You watch your mouth!” Ron growled, blue eyes flashing with rage.
Hermione snapped her attention back to the oncoming fight and seized Ron by the arms. “Never mind, Ron. Let’s find Harry.”
Draco smirked and turned his attention back to the sickening festivities. “Good luck…seeing as how you’ll need every last bit of it to keep safe.”
It was only Hermione’s quick reaction that prevented Ron from lunging and jumping on Draco. As it was, Harry had to grab Ron by the collar of his jacket and pull him backwards into the trees, out of sight of Draco.
“Hermione, let go!” Ron demanded, twisting around and out of Harry’s grip.
“I’m not touching you, Ron!”
“Then who?” Ron suspiciously scanned the air.
Harry flipped the hood of the cloak off, becoming visible once more. “It was me.”
Hermione blinked, startled. “What were you doing, Harry?”
Harry shrugged, twisting the cloak’s magic again so it would turn invisible again. “Like I said before, I don’t want to talk to him until we’re on the train.”
“Blimey, mate! You could’ve warned us!” Ron scolded. “We thought we’d gone and left you!”
“You didn’t.” Harry glanced around and realized that they were the only three, just like last time. “But the others did back in that mess.” He jabbed a thumb in the direction of the camp. “It looks like we’ll have to try and find them.”
Ron still looked furious. “I’ll bet you anything Malfoy’s dad is one of that masked lot!”
“And if he is, so what?” Harry asked wearily, keeping his voice low so as not to attract attention from the people milling on the path. “It’s Lucius Malfoy; there’s no way the Ministry is going to do anything to him unless he’s caught red handed.”
“With any luck, the Ministry will do that!” Hermione said fervently. “Oh I can’t believe this. Where have the others got to?”
“They can’t have gone far,” Ron said, stepping to the side of the path to avoid a large crowd of people.
“Lumos,” Harry whispered, lighting his wand as well. He kept the spell at low power to mimic Hermione’s. “Perhaps not, Ron, but we’re going to have trouble finding them.”
Ron shoved his hand into his jacket pocket. Face morphing into a perplexed expression, he moved to the other pocket. Then, with increasing panic, he began to rummage around his person frantically.
“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked.
Ron pulled out his Omnioculars. “I can’t believe it! I’ve lost my wand!” he moaned.
“You’re joking!” Hermione gasped. She waved her wand around to light the area around them but there was no sign of Ron’s wand. “How could you lose it?”
“Maybe it’s back in the tent,” Harry suggested, knowing full well it was not.
“Did it fall out of your pocket while we were running?”
“I don’t know,” Ron moaned, putting the Omnioculars back into the jacket. “All I know is that Mum and Dad are going to kill me when they find out. That wand was expensive!”
“It’ll turn up,” Harry said comfortingly. His own wand had.
“Will it?” Ron mumbled something else under his breath, rubbing a hand over his face.
Harry didn’t say anything else as he knew nothing could comfort a wizard who had just lost his wand…his safeguard against dangerous things. His own wand was a part of his body by this time even though he was proficient at wandless magic. If he lost it, he wouldn’t feel whole until finding it again.
The trio was distracted from their conundrum as a rustling noise came from a nearby bush.
Reflexively, Harry cast a silent Incendio before he could stop himself; the tingling of a Dark Mark nearby and the stress of the day causing him to lose control. Luckily, he redirected his wand at the last moment so the flames hit a tree rather than the bushes. The sudden outbreak of fire caused a nearby witch to shriek in terror before she hastily doused the flames.
Hermione gave Harry a curious look. “All right, Harry?”
“Just jumpy,” he said, grinning nervously. “I don’t know what happened.”
Further conversation was halted with the appearance of Winky fighting her way out of the bushes Harry had almost put on fire. It looked like something invisible was trying to hold her back.
“There is bad wizards about!” she squeaked as she tried to keep running. “People high – high in the air! Winky is getting out of the way!”
Without another word, Winky continued struggling onwards into the trees on the other side of the path.
Wand forgotten for the moment, Ron stared curiously after her. “What’s up with her? Why can’t she run properly?”
“She probably didn’t ask her master for permission to hide,” Harry offered, remembering he’d said pretty much the same thing last time.
“You know, house-elves get a very raw deal!” Hermione started indignantly. “It’s slavery, that’s what it is! That Mr. Crouch made her go up to the top of the stadium, and she was terrified, and he’s got her bewitched so she can’t even run when start trampling tents! Why doesn’t anyone do something about it?”
“Well, the elves are happy, aren’t they?” Ron said. “You heard old Winky back at the match… ‘House-elves is not supposed to have fun’…that’s what she likes, being bossed around…”
Seeing that the fight wouldn’t be going anywhere, Harry jumped in before Hermione could retort. “Hermione, I know Dobby was a bit of an oddball when it comes to house-elves. Winky’s more of the norm, I think, and you really should do some more research before getting on a stance. At least check your facts and make sure that the house-elves have a problem with being ‘enslaved’ before you do anything crazy like setting up some organization called spew or whatnot.”
“Spew? Spew? Who’d name an organization spew?” Ron spluttered.
‘Hermione, that’s who,’ Harry thought, remembering Hermione’s S.P.E.W. campaign with a small shudder. If she did start it up again, he hoped she would take a different name. No one was attracted to an organization that gave the impression of someone throwing up.
Another bang sounded from the campsite and Harry jumped about a foot in the air, wand tense and at the ready.
Ron eyed him strangely but didn’t comment, although Hermione pursed her lips.
“Let’s just go, all right?” Harry said nervously, not wanting to be around these people longer than necessary before he lost it.
Without another word, the three friends set off deeper into the trees, coming across some goblins and a group of veela, where Ron promptly embarrassed himself horribly.
“Honestly!” Hermione scoffed, hauling Ron off with Harry’s help.
By the time they were out of sight of the veela, everything was much quieter and Harry had finally relaxed marginally. The company of his two best friends and not a bunch of strangers did wonders, although he still didn’t drop his guard entirely. His senses were picking up Dark Magic all around him and he knew Bartemius Crouch Jr. wasn’t far off: he could sense the Dark Mark.
“We can probably stay here for right now,” Ron said, ears still pink from his earlier embarrassment. “We’ll hear anyone coming a kilometer off.”
As if to prove him wrong, Ludo Bagman suddenly tumbled out from behind a tree directly in front of them. Before he could stop himself, Harry had bound the man in ropes. A second later he was silently cursing himself for his silent casting but made as if he was completely boggled by what had just happened.
“So sorry, Mr. Bagman!” he gabbled, pretending to fumble around for the counter. “Sorry! Er…what was it again? Oh right! Finite!”
The ropes disappeared and Ludo climbed to his feet, warily eyeing Harry and his trigger-happy wand. “What are you doing here, all alone?”
Although they’d been warily eyeing their friend, Hermione and Ron stared at Ludo in surprise.
“Well – there’s a sort of riot going on,” Ron said.
Ludo didn’t seem to comprehend him. “What?”
“At the campsite…some people have got hold of a family of Muggles…”
Ludo swore loudly, stepped back hastily from Harry as if remembering what had happened earlier, and turned around to Disapparate with a small popping sound.
“Kind of distracted, isn’t he?” Harry asked weakly, hoping they wouldn’t ask him about his earlier reaction. He could always put a Memory Charm on them but he didn’t want to since they were his best friends.
“What was that about, Harry?” Hermione demanded, rounding on him.
Harry shrugged nervously. “I don’t know. Honestly, I just reacted.”
“Aren’t you a bit old for accidental magic?” Ron asked.
“I blew up my aunt last year,” Harry said, glad he remembered this tidbit so vividly.
Ron didn’t let the matter drop. “Yeah, but that was last year.”
“I don’t know!” Harry said defensively. “It just happened, all right? I can’t help if my wand suddenly reacts without me—” A sudden snapping sound was heard as a twig broke and he whirled around at the sound, wand up at the ready. “Who’s there?” he demanded, voice hard.
Ron and Hermione pressed against his back, listening carefully. It sounded like someone was staggering around their clearing.
“I’m warning you right now,” Harry said loudly, taking a step forward and strengthening the light of his wand, “I don’t play nice.”
There was a short pause before the air was rent by a shout that sounded a spell. “MORSMORDRE!”
Things happened very quickly then.
Just as something vast, green, and glittering emerged from the patch of darkness Harry’s Lumos spell had been piercing, Harry fired a Stunning Spell into the darkness and knew he’d made contact. He was running solely on instincts at the moment and reacted as such to stop Ron from running off the way he would so often during the war.
“What the—?” Ron gasped, not resisting Harry’s death grip on his jacket. He was staring up at the thing that had appeared above their heads.
Harry didn’t have to look to know what was floating above their heads: the sinister Dark Mark, eerily grinning with a serpent’s tongue. It was the image that haunted his nightmares.
And the nightmares of everyone else around them as the woods erupted with screams.
Suddenly, he snapped back to himself and realized that he wasn’t fighting a war and that he really should be acting more like a fourteen-year-old wizard scared out of his mind instead of a battle-hardened thirty-year-old veteran.
“Let’s go!” he said, pulling Ron with him in the opposite direction. “Whoever did it isn’t someone we should meet at the moment!”
Hermione had other things on her mind. “You fired a Stunning Spell into there!”
“Come on!” Harry grabbed her, too, not believing that she was more concerned with his spell casting than with what was floating over their heads. “I thought you all of people would recognize that sign!”
“Of course I do!” Hermione sounded scandalized. “It’s You-Know-Who’s sign: the Dark Mark!”
That said, the three began to hurry across the clearing when the sound of over a dozen popping noises filled the clearing around them. Harry hit the ground before he could think, pulling his friends down with him and casting a shield charm for good measure.
“STUPEFY!” twenty voices roared and twenty blinding flashes of red soared over the three friends’ heads, glancing off the shield Harry had erected.
He promptly dropped it so as not to arouse suspicion and looked up, seeing the red spells bounce all over the place. Idly, he thought that he really must find a way to recreate this phenomenon in case of sticky situations.
A familiar voice broke the air at that moment. “Stop! STOP! That’s my son!”
Harry looked to see the wizard in front of him dropping his wand and Arthur striding into the clearing, terror plastered all over his face.
“Ron – Harry – Hermione – are you all right?”
“Out of the way, Arthur,” Crouch’s voice said coldly.
Harry leapt to his feet, trying not to assume a battle ready stance as he did. The negative energy from the wizards around him was putting him on edge and he wished that they would just back off.
Crouch approached them, fury written all over his countenance. “Which of you did it?” he snapped. “Which of you conjured the Dark Mark?”
Harry managed to give his tone the proper tone of bewilderment and fear. “What do you mean? We didn’t do that!” He pointed up to the Mark still illuminating the night sky. “We don’t even know how!”
“We didn’t do anything!” Ron agreed, brushing off the dirt that had accumulated on his clothes. “What did you want to attack us for?”
“Do not lie, sir!” Crouch shouted, pointing his wand directly at Ron; Harry’s wand hand twitched and he had to put his other hand on it to stop himself from disarming the irate man. “You were found at the scene of the crime!”
“Barty,” a witch whispered, “they’re kids, Barty, they’d never have been able to—”
“Where did the Mark come from, you three?” Arthur asked hastily.
“Over there,” Harry said promptly, glad to have something to do other than restrain himself from cursing Crouch. He pointed in the right direction. “I saw a couple of Stunners go in that direction. Someone was walking around and they shouted an incantation.”
“Oh, stood over there, did they?” Crouch turned his attention on Harry now and didn’t seem to register the hostility emanating from the younger wizard. “Said an incantation, did they? You seem very well informed about how that Mark is summoned, mister…”
Harry raised an eyebrow in polite disbelief. “It is called reading, sir,” he said coolly.
“Harry,” Hermione said chidingly, shoving his elbow.
“He’s acting like a git,” Harry hissed, moving his elbow out of the way to avoid hexing her.
Thankfully, none of the other Ministry wizards were paying any attention in favor of pointing their wands in the direction Harry had pointed to.
“We’re too late,” said the witch, shaking her head. “They’ll have Disapparated.”
“I don’t think so,” another wizard by the name of Amos Diggory disagreed. “Like the boy said, our Stunners went right through those trees… There’s a good chance we got them…” With this thought, Amos went marching into the trees.
‘I already did,’ Harry thought with satisfaction. ‘Now Crouch’ll have to sack Winky again and we’ll be right on track…’
Within a few seconds, Amos let out a shout. “Yes! We got them! There’s someone here! Unconscious! It’s – but – blimey…”
“You’ve got someone?” Crouch shouted back, sounding disbelieving. “Who? Who is it?”
As Harry expected, when Amos returned it was with Winky in tow. Amos deposited the unconscious house-elf in front of her stunned master, who proceeded to stare at her in apparent disbelief for a few more seconds.
“This – cannot – be,” he said jerkily. “No—” Determined, he marched off into the bushes again to perform his own inspection.
In due time, Crouch returned empty-handed, although Harry knew he’d found the Stunned body of his son in those trees. Now it just remained to be seen how the events would pan out.
When they found the wand – which Harry recognized as Ron’s – in Winky’s grasp, they were joined by Ludo, who was still rather behind on events. Winky was then revived and burst into terrified sobs upon realizing what had transpired.
“Elf!” Amos said sternly. “Do you know who I am? I’m a member of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!”
Harry swallowed as he watched Winky rock back and forth in her breakdown. He tuned out most of the questions, not needing to hear it again.
His attention snapped back to focus when he heard Ron exclaim, “Hey – that’s mine!”
All the wizards looked at Ron incredulously.
“Excuse me?” Amos demanded.
“That’s my wand! I dropped it earlier!” Ron stared at it in disbelief. “How’d she get it?”
Amos stared at him in disbelief. “You dropped it? You mean to say that you threw it aside after you conjured the Dark Mark?”
“Amos, that’s my son you’re talking to!” Arthur said angrily. “Do you think we teach our children how to conjure Dark Marks when they’re growing up?”
“Er, of course not,” Amos mumbled, seeming properly chastised. “Sorry…carried away…”
“I lost it before we came into the woods anyway,” Ron said firmly. “But how’d Winky get it?”
Amos demanded that of Winky. “Well, elf, where’d you find this wand? Did you think you could just pick it up and have some fun with it?”
“I is not doing magic with it, sir!” Winky denied, tears streaming down the sides of her squashed and bulbous nose. “I is…I is…I is just picking it up, sir! I is not making the Dark Mark, sir, I is not knowing how!”
“It wasn’t her!” Hermione protested rather nervously. “Winky’s got a squeaky little voice and the voice we heard the incantation was much deeper.” She looked pleadingly at her friends for support. “It didn’t sound anything like Winky, did it?”
Although he knew it wouldn’t do any good, Harry added his two cents. “No. It wasn’t Winky.”
“It was a human voice,” Ron agreed.
“Well, we’ll soon see,” Amos growled. “There’s a simple way of discovering the last spell a wand performed, elf, did you know that?”
Winky shook her head so that her big ears flapped around. Amos pressed the tip of his wand against that of Ron’s, saying loudly, “Prior Incantato!”
A large smoky skull emerged from the tip of Ron’s wand, causing Hermione to gasp loudly before Amos canceled the spell with a low “Deletrius.”
Harry placed a comforting hand on Hermione’s shoulder as the situation around them degraded to shouts and violent disagreements. It finally culminated as Crouch sacked Winky by promising her clothes.
Hermione couldn’t stand watching Winky degrade herself even further by sobbing onto Crouch’s shoes. She burst out angrily, “But she was frightened! Your elf’s scared of heights, and those wizards in masks were levitating people! You can’t blame her for wanting to get out of their way!”
Crouch stepped back from Winky as if she was contaminating him. “I have no use for a house-elf who disobeys me,” he informed Hermione coldly. “I have no use for a servant who forgets what is due to her master, and to her master’s reputation.”
Winky continued crying loudly and no one dared break the silence.
Finally, Arthur looked over at the children and said quietly, “Well, I think I’ll take my lot back to the tent, if nobody’s got any objections. Amos, that wand’s told us all it can – if Ron could have it back, please—”
Amos handed the wand over to Ron, who handled it carefully before pocketing it securely in his jacket.
“Come on, you three,” Arthur bade the three wizards.
As Hermione wasn’t moving, Harry gentle took her by the elbow and led her away.
“What’s going to happen to Winky?” Hermione asked Harry in a low voice.
“She’s sacked,” Harry said quietly, not glancing back at the clearing. “She’ll find another job somewhere.”
“You’re not horrified about what just happened?” Hermione demanded indignantly. “They were treating her like she wasn’t human! Like she didn’t have feelings. The way they kept calling her ‘elf’’!” She gave a shudder of disgust.
“Of course I’m disgusted by it!” Harry said sharply. “But you have to know, Hermione, she isn’t human. She’s a house-elf and that makes all the difference to wizards like those behind us. If you do carry on this campaign, you’re going to have to be prepared to meet a lot of roadblocks. If anything, Hermione, you should really wait and do more research.”
“I know you want to help. And don’t get me wrong – it’s a good thing! But you’re going about it the wrong way. You have a stance; now find the evidence to support it. Once you do, you’ll be able to do something about it.”
Hermione frowned and opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by Arthur. “What happened to the others?”
“We lost them in the dark,” Ron answered. “Dad, why was everyone so uptight about that skull thing?”
“I’ll explain everything back at the tent,” Arthur said tensely.
Ron stared at his father’s back in dismay but turned to Harry as his friend tugged on his sleeve. “It’s the Dark Mark, Ron. You really don’t know what it is?”
“No. Should I?”
“It’s Voldemort’s”—Ron and Hermione gave identical flinches and Harry suppressed an irritated sigh—“sign. It was all over the place when he was up and about; wherever the Death Eaters struck they put that sign up. It was the ultimate nightmare…to find that thing hovering over the place you lived…not knowing what you’d find inside…” Harry’s eyes darkened as he fell into memories better left forgotten.
Hermione and Ron shot each other confused looks but didn’t bother their friend. They couldn’t since they were in the camp and being accosted by a crowd of people.
Jolting out of his memories, Harry started at the surge and stopped himself from raising his wand. Taking a deep calming breath, he carefully Occluded and subdued his reaction times to a tenth of what they should be. That was as much as he could do without seeming completely slow and stupid.
When they got back to the tent, Harry snagged a chair and took a seat, resting his head in his hands. His wand was back in the holster. There was no danger at the moment and he knew he could trust the people around him; the problem was convincing his subconscious mind that the noise wasn’t a problem.
As the Weasleys and Hermione discussed and debated house-elves and the Dark Mark, Harry realized that this year wouldn’t be as easy as he’d initially thought it would be.
Most of this chapter is taken from the book, though I have put a unique spin on some of the stuff. It'll branch out more once I get into juicier bits.
BTW, kudos are nice and all (really, they are! I love that you're reading this!) but I like to hear from my readers. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you think will happen next? What evil plan has Harry concocted for Draco? What will he do when it comes to Severus?
Chapter 4: Back to Hogwarts
Harry goes back to Hogwarts, and enacts his evil plan for poor, unsuspecting Draco Malfoy.
I forgot to mention when I posted the other chapter that from here on out, the story will take a specific format. Look at the dates I've posted at the beginning of each section for an explanation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
May 2, 1998
“Harry! Harry, wait up!”
Harry kept trudging along the path under the Whomping Willow, bundling up his Invisibility Cloak and stashing it under his robes as he did.
Hermione caught up with him. “Where are you going?”
Ron fell into step at his other side. “Everyone else’s at the castle.”
Harry replied curtly, “The Shrieking Shack.”
“The Shrieking Shack?” Ron asked, perplexed. “Why – oh…” His voice drifted off as he realized why.
“Oh, Harry.” Hermione didn’t quite seem to know what to say. “For Snape?”
“Yeah,” said Harry soberly. “I can’t just leave him there. ’Sides, I’ve got this strange feeling…”
“What kind of feeling?” Ron asked, alarmed.
“It’s funny. It’s almost like something’s…like something’s telling me he’s still alive.”
“Harry,” Hermione said worriedly, “we saw him die. You aren’t honestly—”
“I know!” Harry snapped. “But I can’t help what I’m feeling! And so I’m going back, even though I would’ve done it anyway. He doesn’t deserve to stay there, in that miserable shack.”
“What was in those memories?” Ron asked.
Harry shook his head, feeling the vial of memories in his pocket like a lead weight. “It’s not my business to say, Ron. I’ll have to eventually so his name can be cleared but for now…”
“We understand,” Hermione said gently. “We’ll help you, too, you know. Neville’s told me some of what happened and I know that if Snape hadn’t been Headmaster things would’ve been a lot worse.”
“He swore to protect them – us,” Harry said quietly. “Even though we all hated him, he didn’t waver from that promise.” He looked at Hermione seriously in the light of his wand; the silvery light cast his green eyes in an eerie perspective. “We’re going to need more testimony like that of Neville’s. You know what the Ministry’s like,” he said bitterly.
Ron chortled at that. “Yeah, but, Harry, you’re forgetting: you’re the Boy Who Defeated You-Know-Who. If that doesn’t get you something to clear Snape with, I’ll eat my hat.”
“He’s got a point, Harry,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “It might not help five or ten years down the road – Merlin knows it didn’t two years ago – but it’ll definitely help now.”
Harry gave a short laugh. “Good to know my fame will do someone some good. It sure didn’t do me any.”
At that point, Harry reached the entryway to the Shrieking Shack. Rather apprehensive now, he slowly opened the door and stepped into the small shack.
“Still alive…still alive…” something whispered to him.
Looking at the pale bloody body of his former Potions professor, Harry had trouble believing that. Snape was deadly still and didn’t seem to be breathing. The blood on his neck stood in stark contrast with his white face but faded into his black robes.
Hermione slowly approached Snape, kneeling down next to him. She touched the man’s forehead and looked up. “He’s so cold.”
“He’s dead, Hermione,” Ron said, staring at Snape’s body. “’Course he’s cold.”
Harry swallowed and knelt down by Snape’s body as well. “I’m sorry, Snape,” he murmured, replacing Hermione’s fingers with his own. The moment his skin touched that of the Potions master, however, something happened.
Harry swore he felt a tingle run through him and exit his fingers. Just as that happened, Snape gave a shuddery gasp and began breathing noticeably.
Hermione gave a loud gasp of surprise while Ron sprang back, shouting “Bloody hell!”
Harry stared, not comprehending what had just happened. “Wha—?”
“He’s alive!” squeaked Hermione, brown eyes wide.
“Ron, go get Madame Pomfrey! He’s alive!”
“Go get help, Ron! We’ll have to stop the bleeding…”
“He’s not an Inferi, is he?”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Ron…get help!”
September 1, 1994
Harry leaned back in his seat, looking out the window of the Hogwarts Express as it chugged through the countryside. That morning he’d overheard that Alastor had sounded the alarms for being attacked, meaning that Crouch Jr. was now Polyjuiced as the ex-Auror. He’d also had heard hints that the Triwizard Tournament would be held at Hogwarts, which was great news considering what his plans hinged on.
‘But then the tournament doesn’t hinge on what I’m doing out of school,’ he mused. ‘What will matter is how I behave in a school full of children. Merlin…if I couldn’t handle myself properly during the cup, how in the bloody hell am I going to manage it now?’
He’d barely managed to stave off Ron and Hermione after coming back to the Burrow. He’d simply spouted off some nonsense about accidental magic and his wand behaving weirdly, although he knew Hermione was still suspicious and Ron had just barely swallowed that garbage.
Hoping that the problem (both of them) would resolve itself, Harry went to buy some Cauldron Cakes from the lunch trolley when it rolled around. As the ride went on, they were soon joined by Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Neville Longbottom, all faces that Harry had yearned to see since arriving in the past. Seamus and Dean left soon afterward, although Neville stayed behind.
He sat back and browsed through the Defense book he’d gotten for fourth year, listening with half an ear to the conversation around him that was centered on the Quidditch World Cup. The book really wasn’t interesting enough to hold his attention as he knew all the spells by heart and then some but the conversation itself wasn’t something he wanted to listen to again. Quidditch was great and all (and he was going to enjoy flying on the team again) but he had more important things to worry about.
Ron was currently regaling Neville with Victor Krum. “We saw him right up close, as well,” he said. “We were in the Top Box—”
“For the first and last time in your life, Weasley,” Draco Malfoy drawled from his position at the compartment door.
Before Ron could say anything, Harry had jumped up and accosted Draco by pumping his hand furiously, earning himself incredulous stares from the other three teenagers in the compartment.
“Draco Malfoy?” he asked, putting an appropriate amount of eagerness in his tone. “Are you the one they keep talking about?’
Draco yanked his hand out of Harry’s, frowning perplexedly. “Get off, Potter. What are you playing at?”
Harry put on a delighted expression and turned to his extremely befuddled friends. “He knows my name!” He looked back at Draco. “I’m Harry, Harry Potter. But then you already knew that!” He wasn’t sure whether his grin was too deranged but thought that it might help sell the show.
Draco was by now looking slightly freaked out and tried to back up out of the compartment. But Harry wasn’t having any of it and had captured Draco’s hand again.
“I’ve wanted to meet you ever since Ron told me about your friendship in Hogwarts! He tells me we’re enemies but I can’t imagine that! It seems like we’d be best of friends, doesn’t it?”
Crabbe and Goyle, Draco’s bodyguards, shot each other confused looks at Harry’s excited tone. Draco looked dearly like he wanted to be anywhere else than where he was right now.
“Of course, Potter,” Draco said, trying to extract his hand from Harry’s death grip.
“Call me Harry, Draco!” Harry said, beaming. “What do you say to us being friends?”
Draco finally managed to wrench his hand out of Harry’s and hastily backed up five feet from the supposedly deranged Boy Who Lived. “I’ll think on it.” He promptly fled down the aisle as dignified as he could, Crabbe and Goyle on his heels.
Keeping a wide grin plastered on his face, Harry stepped back into the compartment and shut the door, turning to his friends.
Ron was gaping at him. “What the bloody hell was that, Harry?”
Harry shrugged, shooting him a cheerful grin. “Remember what I said at the cup about me not wanting to meet Draco before then?”
“You wanted to do that?” Hermione asked incredulously, looking like she could scarcely believe what had just transpired.
“You’re not really going to be friends with him, are you, Harry?” Neville said nervously.
“I cast the die,” Harry said. “It’s up to Draco whether he’s going to take me up on the offer. As for me, I’m going to keep acting like an amnesiac and smile and wave at him whenever I can. I’ll also hound his footsteps and ask for help on my homework when I can.”
“So that’s your explanation?” Hermione leaned forward over her book. “You’re going to pretend you’ve gotten amnesia?”
“When it comes to Draco anyway,” Harry confirmed.
Ron suddenly burst out laughing. “Merlin! Did you see his face? That was just too funny! He looked like he couldn’t get out of here fast enough!”
Neville was still anxious. “Harry, are you sure? Gran is always going on about the Malfoys…”
“That’s why I’m doing it,” Harry said in-between Ron’s guffaws. “Haven’t you ever heard the old adage ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’?”
“Clever, Harry,” Hermione complimented. “I just hope it doesn’t backfire on you…”
“For that matter, Hermione, I do, too,” Harry admitted. ‘And for more than just that.’
When Harry caught sight of Hogwarts, standing proud and tall, he had to stifle a sob. The last time he’d seen the castle it had been devoured by flames before a powerful explosion shattered the foundation and sent it crumbling to the ground. After that, the resistance against Voldemort had to scavenge for hiding places.
They’d never found out what exactly had allowed Voldemort past the wards, although Harry suspected it had been a student who had slipped through their defenses and set the fire. As it was, not everyone had managed to make it out alive…including the Headmistress.
‘Not again,’ Harry thought resolutely as he climbed into one of the carriage pulled by the Thestrals. ‘It is not going to happen again.’
“All right, Harry?” Hermione asked, sensing his subdued mood.
Harry smiled. “All right, Hermione. I just can’t wait to be back.”
“I know,” Ron moaned. “I’m starving.”
Harry shared a private grin with Hermione over Ron’s antics and mentally admitted that he was also ravenous. He had yet to get his hands on the ingredients for the nutrition potion but hoped to do that soon. He already had plans set for tonight.
When they finally stepped into the castle, they had to avoid a water-balloon happy Peeves before making their way to Gryffindor’s table. In the meantime, Harry took the opportunity to wave cheerfully to Draco, who hastily ducked behind the stolid figure of Crabbe.
Hiding a wicked grin, Harry sat down at the table, avoiding the water Ron shook out from his robes and shoes from being pelted by Peeves’ water balloons.
“Good evening,” Sir Nicholas, or Nearly Headless Nick, said cheerfully.
“Evening, Nick,” Harry responded. “How’s it going?”
“As well as can be expected,” Nick said.
“Hiya, Harry!” a new voice interrupted cheerfully.
Harry turned and promptly had to swallow upon seeing Colin Creevey. “Hi, Colin.”
The excitable thirteen-year-old didn’t notice Harry’s subdued tone. “Harry, guess what? Guess what, Harry? My brother’s starting! My brother Dennis!”
Harry smiled, remembering Dennis from his later years at Hogwarts. “Really? That’s great!”
“I know! He’s really excited!” Colin was practically bouncing up and down in excitement; it made Harry dizzy just watching him. “I just hope he’s in Gryffindor! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Harry?”
“Will do,” Harry promised, already knowing that Dennis would be in Gryffindor.
With that, Colin hurried off to get his own seat. Harry turned to his friends to see Ron scanning the staff table.
“Who do you reckon’s the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” the red head asked. “I don’t see anyone new at the table.”
“Maybe they couldn’t get one this year,” Hermione suggested.
“They got one,” Harry disagreed. “He, or she, is probably late. I don’t think Dumbledore could start without one to be honest.”
He scanned the table himself, taking note of Pomona Sprout, Rubeus Hagrid, Filius Flitwick, Sinistra, Albus Dumbledore, and…Severus Snape. It was over the greasy-haired and hook-nosed Potions professor that Harry’s gaze lingered the longest.
The curse sliced through the thin body, scattering the limbs and splattering the stone floor with dark crimson blood…
Harry jerked out of the memory, one of the last he had before plunging through the veil, and tried to reassure himself that Severus was alive now, albeit hating him, and that he could change everything.
As his eyes drifted off Severus and towards Dumbledore, Harry became keenly aware of something singing to him. Confused, he cocked his head to the side, closing his eyes to better understand.
It didn’t sound like a phoenix. In fact, when he really got down to it, it sounded like something moaning. But the moaning was so much like singing that—
“Oh, hurry up,” Ron moaned from beside Harry, no longer caring about the missing teacher. “I could eat a hippogriff.”
Sighing as his concentration was broken, Harry looked up as Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress, walked in with that year’s newest first years trailing behind her. He caught sight of Dennis Creevey, who was swamped in Hagrid’s huge coat and completely soaked, excitedly bouncing up and down. The other first years were equally soaked as Dennis, although none of them had the fortune of falling in the lake.
With the Sorting Hat now placed on the chair, Harry leaned forwards on his elbows and enjoyed the song. When it finished, the entire Great Hall burst into applause and the first years were still looking rather intimidated at the thought of having a talking hat sitting on their heads and telling them where to go.
When the Sorting was finally over, Dumbledore stood up and said, “I have only two words to say to you. Tuck in.”
With that said, food began appearing on the plates before them and Ron only gave a heartfelt “Hear, hear” before quickly helping himself to the platters.
Harry was more sedate and picked out the healthiest foods he could. As he started eating, he half listened to what Nick was saying.
“You’re lucky there was a feast at all tonight, you know. There was trouble in the kitchens earlier.”
Ron swallowed his mouthful of mashed potatoes. “What happened?”
“Peeves, of course,” Nick said, shaking his head, which wobbled dangerously. “The usual argument, you know. He wanted to attend the feast – well, it’s quiet of the question, you know what he’s like, utterly uncivilized, can’t see a plate of food without throwing it. We held a ghost’s council – the Fat Friar was all for giving him the chance – but most wisely, in my opinion, the Bloody Baron put his foot down.”
“Yeah, we thought Peeves seemed hacked off about something,” Ron said darkly. “So what did he do in the kitchens?”
“Oh, the usual,” Nick said, shrugging. “Wreaked havoc and mayhem. Pots and pans everywhere. Place swimming in soup. Terrified the house-elves out of their wits.”
There was a clang as Hermione knocked over her golden goblet, spilling pumpkin juice everywhere. Harry flicked out his wand and Evanescoed the mess away, making sure to mutter the word rather than doing it silently.
Hermione paid no heed to the actions of her friend. “There are house-elves here? Here at Hogwarts?”
“Certainly,” Nick said, seeming surprised at Hermione’s shock. “The largest number in any dwelling in Britain, I believe. Over a hundred.”
“I’ve never seen one!” Hermione said, still trying to wrap her brain around the fact.
“Well, they hardly ever leave the kitchen by day, do they?” Nick said. “They come out at night to do a bit of cleaning…see to the fires and so on…I mean, you’re not supposed to see them, are you? That’s the mark of a good house-elf, isn’t it, that you don’t know it’s there?”
“But they get paid? They get holidays, don’t they? And – and sick leave, and pensions, and everything?”
Before Nick could wade through what Hermione had said, Harry had pulled her towards him. “Hermione, remember what I said earlier? About checking the facts before taking a stance?”
Harry cut her off. “If you want to see the house-elves here at Hogwarts, I know how to get to the kitchens. You can study them up close then and see what it’s really like.”
“But…it’s slavery!” Hermione looked frustrated.
Harry sighed and checked to see that Hermione’s goblet had refilled itself. He shoved it into her hands. “Look, Hermione, it’s only slavery if they’re not getting anything back for it. They might not be paid for services the way servants are but they’re happy. Dobby was an oddball but even he’s happier working than just lazing about.”
“What he says is true, you know,” Nick said, overhearing Harry’s argument. “They’re cheerful little creatures and enjoy working. You don’t want to take that away from them, do you?”
Hermione looked torn. “But…”
“Just eat,” Harry said, pressing a fork and knife into her reluctant fingers. “I, for one, am starved.” He turned to his own food and began cutting the steak up into bite sized pieces, making sure to chew each piece before putting the next in his mouth.
In time, the main course disappeared to give way to dessert. Harry reverently placed some treacle tart on his plate – it had been positively ages since he’d last had some from Hogwarts – and savored every bite until the dessert course also disappeared.
When it became clear that everyone had been sated and that the noise in the Great Hall was beginning to die down, Dumbledore once again stood up. “So!” He smiled at all the students. “Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices.
“Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you…”
Harry tuned out in the middle, distracted by the strange singing noise he was once again hearing. This time, because it was just the Headmaster speaking, he could pinpoint where it was coming from. When he located the source, he couldn’t help but stare. Dumbledore’s robes?
‘The Elder Wand? Is that what I’m hearing?’ Harry puzzled over the matter but knew he couldn’t do anything about it. What could he do? Walk up to Dumbledore and ask to see if his wand was singing to him? The man would think he was barmy and send him to Poppy for a checkup.
Never mind that he was slightly barmy from the war. Everyone had been by the end.
“It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year.”
Amidst the shouts of dismay that were filling the Great Hall, Harry put his face in his hands. Bugger. He’d completely forgotten that with the tournament going on Quidditch had been canceled. Ah well…he could always look forward to out-flying a dragon. It wasn’t every day that happened.
Dumbledore continued explaining, “This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers’ time and energy – but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely: I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts—”
He was cut off with a deafening rumble of thunder and the doors of the Great Hall banging open.
Harry’s head snapped around so fast he swore his neck cracked. Wincing, he took a deep breath and flicked his wand back into his holster, hoping no one had noticed. Alastor Moody (or rather Bartemius Crouch Jr.) had arrived, Dark Mark and all. He hadn’t bothered with Severus’s Mark since it was dampened by Severus’s association with the Light side; Crouch’s, on the other hand, was steeped in Dark Magic, putting Harry’s nerves all the more on edge.
The imposter that was Moody stumped towards the staff table on his wooden leg, frightening everyone in the vicinity with his scarred and fierce visage. When he reached the table, he shook Dumbledore’s hand and took a seat by Dumbledore’s right side.
Harry winced upon seeing Severus’s dark face. He knew Alastor and Severus had bad history between the two and wished he could help his friend.
“May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” Dumbledore said brightly, breaking the silence. “Professor Moody.”
No one bothered to applaud for Moody – Crouch – as they were too transfixed by his ugly appearance.
Within a few moments, Dumbledore seemed to realize this and cleared his throat to continue, “As I was saying, we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.”
“You’re JOKING!” Fred shouted.
His loud shout caused nearly everyone in the Great Hall to burst into laughter and Dumbledore chuckled as well.
“I am not joking, Mr. Weasley,” he said, “though now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar…”
Minerva cleared her throat loudly, cutting the rambling wizard off.
“Er, but maybe this is not the time…no…” Dumbledore regained his train of thought. “Where was I? Ah yes, the Triwizard Tournament…well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely.
“The Triwizard Tournament…”
As Dumbledore explained the tournament, Harry took the opportunity to further examine the odd singing noise he was once again being subjected to. It wasn’t bad singing but simply annoying. Carefully examining Dumbledore’s robes, where he knew the wand was hidden, Harry noticed how the wizard put a hand to his side as if to grip something. When his eyes went to the elderly wizard’s face, he noted that a slightly perplexed expression crossed it for a split-second; while this transpired, Dumbledore continued speaking.“…until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued.”
“Death toll?” Hermione whispered, alarmed.
“Death toll,” Harry confirmed, ignoring the outbreak of whispers in the hall.
“What do you know about it?” Hermione asked him, a suspicious look entering her brown eyes.
“Not much,” Harry lied, aware that he couldn’t be too knowledgeable about it. “Just thought I should confirm what you asked.”
Hermione shot him an injured look and returned her attention to Dumbledore.
“There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the tournament…”
Pondering over what he’d planned for the night, Harry tuned out the rest of Dumbledore’s speech. He already knew everything by heart, having gone through the bloody thing himself, and didn’t need to be warned.
Hell, it wasn’t even going to be his choice.
At midnight, Harry snuck out of his bed and pulled his Invisibility Cloak on over his nightclothes. Slipping his shoes on as well, he padded down the stairs and out of the dormitory. Once in the corridor, Harry quietly activated the Marauder’s Map with his lit wand and set off.
He made it to the seventh floor without any mishaps and paced the corridor three times. The third time a door appeared and he opened it, entering the Room of Requirements and finding himself in a jumbled mess of discarded, hidden, or lost items.
Taking a deep breath and putting the map away, Harry opened his senses to sense the Horcrux that was hidden here. Feeling it whisper to him, he set off on a winding circuit through the mess, eventually coming to a hideous mannequin that had a crown on it.
“Ravenclaw’s diadem,” he whispered, inspecting it carefully. Carefully, he turned it invisible and floated it in the air. He had no desire to touch the cursed thing until he was sure the soul inside it was gone.
It was a pity he’d never discovered any way of destroying these things without completely demolishing the item used. Why couldn’t Voldemort have used something like a moldy piece of cheese or an old boot for a Horcrux?
‘Because he’s too bloody arrogant, that’s why,’ Harry thought, disgruntled, as he made his way to the second floor and Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
No one was in the bathroom except for Myrtle, who was currently wailing about one thing or another. Ignoring the ghost, Harry went to the sink. He still had his Parseltongue abilities, having kept them despite the bit of Voldemort’s soul inside of him being expelled. To his relief, he wasn’t a Horcrux now.
He didn’t need to be willing to die again just so Voldemort could go and rot in hell for good.
“Open,” he hissed and the sink promptly slid down into the ground.
Myrtle gave a ghastly shriek upon hearing the hissing from nowhere and seeing the sink move and dove into a toilet. Harry grinned wickedly and cast a powerful Scourgify that sent all the slime and grime to kingdom come. His path now clean, he slid down the pipe until landing in the chamber filled with bones.
“Urgh…” Harry cleaned himself off and continued, the diadem still floating in front of him but now visible. He had made himself visible by twisting the cloak’s magic the right way.
When reaching the cave-in that the idiot Lockhart had caused in his second year, it only took one spell to support the ceiling and another to clear the rubble before Harry continued onward. When he reached the actual chamber itself, he recoiled from the smell of rotting basilisk.
Wrinkling his nose and casting a Bubble-Head Charm to give him a supply of fresh air, Harry made his way to the decaying corpse and promptly cast a stasis charm. He had plans for the remnants of this basilisk and that did not include it wasting away.
Picking a fang from the basilisk mouth, Harry placed the diadem on the ground and curled his hand firmly around the makeshift weapon. Breathing in deeply and hoping that nothing would go wrong because he was screwed otherwise, Harry plunged the fang down.
An unearthly scream erupted in the once silent Chamber of Secrets.
When Harry woke up, the first thing he was aware of was a throbbing headache. The second was that the Horcrux was most definitely gone.
‘Bloody hell.’ He winced as he climbed to his knees, his joints protesting the rough night on the cold and damp floor of the chamber. ‘That’s the last time I destroy a Horcrux without taking the proper precautions. I should’ve planned for something like this to happen.’
Harry looked at his watch and widened his eyes in alarm when he saw it was already seven in the morning. He was going to raise all sorts of alarms if he wasn’t in the dorm within the next fifteen minutes.
Scooping up the burnt diadem and the basilisk fang, Harry pelted down the length of the chamber towards the other side. By the time he reached the pipe he’d slid down earlier, his chest was heaving and his lungs were burning for air.
‘I’m going to need to get into shape,’ Harry thought, standing before the entrance.
Considering how he was going to get up, he thought that Salazar Slytherin must have considered some other way of entering and exiting the chamber. He’d only taken the pipe again because it was fun. “Stairs.”
Harry frowned, hissing in a more commanding tone, “In the name of Salazar Slytherin’s heir, I demand stairs!” When still nothing happened, Harry’s scowl deepened and he dropped the diadem. It looked like he wouldn’t have any other choice but to use his other form. He didn’t want to pull his other trick out of his hat yet since he knew the Headmaster had wards in place for that particular method of traveling, even if he was allowed to do it.
Focusing on the form he wanted to take, Harry’s human form morphed into that of a peregrine falcon with feathers in a brown color. As an adult, his falcon form had a bluish-black coloring with peculiar markings around the eyes to signal his glasses; a group of weirdly colored feathers on his forehead marked the position of his lightning bolt, which he couldn’t escape even in his Animagus form. Since he was now a teenager and thus “young”, his form now had brown feathers that would gradually darken.
After inspecting his form to ensure that he hadn’t done anything wrong, Harry clasped the diadem in his talons and swooped upwards into the pipe. He was thankful that his wingspan wasn’t as large as it would become, as it was a tight fit with his wingtips touching the ends of the pipe.
Swooping up and out of the pipe, Harry transformed back midair and landed lightly on his feet. He closed the entrance with a hissed “Closed”, made himself invisible again, and dashed off down the hall, pulling out the map as he did.
Taking as many shortcuts as he was familiar with and jumping a stair that decided to move at the last second, Harry made it to the Gryffindor dormitories and jumped into his bed just as Ron exited the shower. He quickly ducked under the covers to ensure that Ron didn’t the horrible state of his nightclothes.
“There you are, Harry,” Ron said, yawning widely. “I was just about to wake you up.”
Harry gave a noncommittal grunt and when Ron turned his back, dashed into the shower with his school robes in hand. Once inside, he peeled off his disgustingly dirty nightclothes and jumped under the hot water.
Nothing beat a hot shower.
‘Why didn’t I drop this bloody class the first time I took it?’ Harry lamented, bending his head over his Ancient Runes book while Trelawney droned on about something involving dreams. The book he was studying was disguised to look like a Divinations book if anyone cared to look and read like one, too, unless that person was Harry.
“That book any good, mate?” Ron whispered, leaning over Harry’s shoulder to look at it.
‘For Runes, yes, but for Divination, no.’ Harry whispered back, “You didn’t read yours?”
Harry gave Ron a small smile and returned to his reading. He was researching all possible avenues so that he could defeat Voldemort for good this time around. Since he had the resources and opportunities to do so now, he was grabbing it. Divination was the one class where he could skive off without the teacher noticing anything. He didn’t really have to do his homework by hand thanks to the nifty charm Hermione had taught him in the future so that left him even more time to do his own research.
By the time Divination was over, Harry’s mind was swimming with runes and he stuffed the book back into the bag, taking the homework Trelawney was handing out. It took his muddled brain a few seconds to register that he was supposed to make a bunch of predictions regarding the future.
“A detailed analysis of the way the planetary movements in the coming month will affect you, with reference to your personal chart,” she told everyone. “I want it ready by Monday.”
‘What’d I do last time with this garbage?’ Harry wondered as they headed towards the Great Hall and dinner.
Ron grumbled on the way down. “Miserable old bat. That’ll take all weekend, that will…”
“Lots of homework?” Hermione asked, catching up with them. “Professor Vector didn’t give us any at all!”
“Well, bully for Professor Vector,” Ron said moodily.
They’d reached the end of the line queuing for the Great Hall when they were distracted by a voice calling for Ron. “Weasley! Hey, Weasley!”
The trio turned around to see Draco with his two goons, Crabbe and Goyle.
“What?” Ron asked shortly.
“Your dad’s in the paper, Weasley!” Draco said, brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet. He was about to read it out loud when he was accosted by Harry, who’d plastered yet another cheery grin on his face.
“Really?” the wizard asked excitedly. “Ron’s dad is in the paper? Could you hand it to me?”
Before Draco could protest, Harry had snatched the paper out of his hands and was reading it through. He scoffed when he came to the end. “That’s garbage! They didn’t even get his name right! Arnold Weasley? Anyone with half a brain knows it’s Arthur Weasley!”
Draco tried to save some face, flushing under the gaping faces of everyone around them. “It’s like he’s a complete nonentity!” he said snottily.
Harry whacked Draco upside the head with the paper, which he’d crumpled up into a tiny ball. “Don’t be rude, Draco!” He put on a sad face. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were avoiding me! I haven’t seen you since the train!”
“What do you think about being friends?” Harry beamed at an extremely flustered Draco.
By that time, everyone in the corridor was staring at the two enemies. Ron and Hermione had openly gaped the first few seconds but were by now trying desperately not to burst into laughter at Draco’s loss of face.
Draco tried to salvage what he could. “Look, Potter—”
“Harry,” said Harry firmly. “Friends don’t call other friends by their last names. Goodness, you make it sound like we’re mortal enemies!”
Draco jumped at that. “We are. What do you think you’re playing at?”
Harry plastered a woebegone expression on his face. “You mean you don’t want to be friends with me? I’ve heard loads about you! All good things, really—”
“You already have friends!” Draco bit out, cutting Harry off.
Harry threw an arm around Draco, pretending that was an invitation for friendship. “If you were worried about that, silly, you just needed to say it! You can never have too many!”
“Did Potter just call Malfoy silly?”
“D’you reckon he’s cursed?”
Harry ignored the whispers in favor of beaming at Draco, who was giving an excellent impression of a deer caught in headlights. “What d’you think, Draco?” He held out his hand in mimicry of Draco three years ago. “Friends?”
Pale eyes desperately looking for an escape that wasn’t revealing itself, Draco found he didn’t have any other choice but to clasp Harry’s hand. “Fine, P-Harry.” He grimaced as he said it.
Harry shot him a blinding smile. “There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, what do you have to say about Hagrid’s class this morning? Looking forward to the Blast-Ended Skrewts?”
Pinned between Harry’s arm and the Boy Who Lived’s body, Draco found that he really couldn’t avoid walking into the Great Hall as if he were already best chums with his once hated (and now apparently crazy) enemy. Behind them were the other two-thirds of the Golden Trio – still trying desperately not to laugh – and Crabbe and Goyle, who looked completely and utterly lost at what had just occurred.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry noted that Crouch – Moody – was staring at the scene with an ugly look on his scarred face.
December 24, 1998
Shivering in the cold air, Harry hastened to knock loudly on the wooden door. Now all remained to wait and see if he even bothered to open it.
Flakes of snow clung to his winter robes and hair, making it look like he’d just stepped out of the shower. His glasses fogged with his warm breath and, scowling, he muttered a quick spell and tapped his wand to the frame to make them impervious to changes in temperature.
He should have done it before but he’d only learned the charm a few days ago. Hermione, for all her brains, had never considered learning such a spell.
Taking a step back, Harry inspected the dilapidated house he was waiting outside of. Considering its inhabitant, it was in miserable condition and he frowned upon thinking over the reasons for why it should be.
‘Sod the Wizarding World,’ Harry thought, stuffing his hands deeper into his pockets. ‘And sod him! He’d better open the door before I freeze out here! Warming Charms only do so much.’
Just as Harry decided that he’d better knock again, the door opened a crack to reveal a sallow and lined face with obsidian eyes.
A hoarse voice spoke with unmistakable venom… “Potter.”
Harry shot his former Potions professor a grin. “Hi, sir.” As the dour man moved to close the door, Harry’s hand snapped out to stop it. “Come on, don’t be like that.”
Reluctantly, Snape opened the door wider. “What are you doing here, Potter?”
Harry’s grin melted into a smile. “I wanted to see you. I heard they’ve finally cleared you for good from all hospital checkups.”
Snape sneered at Harry. “I would be reluctant to believe you even if you weren’t the Golden Boy.”
Harry rolled his eyes and stomped his boots on the ground. “Legilimens me if you want. Can I at least come inside?”
Looking as though the thought pained him, Snape stepped aside so that Harry could come in out of the cold. Once inside, the Boy Who Lived took a closer look the ex-Death Eater.
Snape had lost weight and seemed to be even paler if it was possible. The scars on his neck from Nagini’s attack were hidden from view by the high collars he always wore. The only sign he’d been close to death was his hoarse voice.
“What are you doing here, Potter?” Snape asked again, sounding resigned. “Come to gloat?”
Harry shot him a pained look. “What makes you think I’d gloat? Professor—” He belatedly realized that Snape was no longer a professor and calling him such would be considered an insult. In fact, even now Snape’s face was turning thunderous. “No, wait, sorry about that,” Harry added hastily. “I’m just so used to thinking of you as a professor that, well…” He cleared his throat nervously. “Look, Snape…we’ve had a lot of misconceptions about each other. I’ve shed mine since…since that time and I really hope that you can shed yours.”
Snape scrutinized Harry closely for any signs of falsehood. Harry felt the telltale brush of Legilimency against his mind but didn’t react except to wait patiently.
Without a word, Snape brushed aside Harry and walked into a different room. Recognizing the silent agreement for what it was, Harry trailed behind him, casting a Drying Charm to stop his cloak from dripping water on the floor. He entered the sitting room and had to stop himself from letting any trace of the outrage he felt from showing on his face.
The room was horribly and completely shabby; it was also filthy. There was a cheerful fire crackling in the grate but there was nothing to signify that Christmas was currently in full spirit outside of Spinner’s End.
‘What the bloody hell is the Ministry playing at? They sent him back to this place and then don’t even give him the funds he needs to live decently?’
Snape’s hoarse voice freed him from his tumultuous thoughts. “Does it meet your standards, Potter?”
“It’s cozy,” Harry said simply. And while it wasn’t pretty or clean, it certainly was cozy.
Snape gave him an incredulous glance. “Cozy?”
Harry gave him an inscrutable look. “What do you think of it?”
The older wizard scoffed and took a seat by the fire. He clearly had no intention of answering Harry’s question or offering the young wizard a seat. Unruffled by the slight, Harry took a seat opposite of Snape.
“How have you been?” Harry asked quietly after a few minutes’ peaceful silence.
Snape started at the sound of Harry’s voice. Seeming to consider the question for a few moments, he finally answered, “Well.”
Knowing that Snape would never return the courtesy, Harry proceeded to say, “It’s been a busy year. I don’t think I’ve had a moment to myself since that day.”
Snape snorted in derision. “You mean to say that they’re not bending over backwards to grant your every whim?”
Harry shrugged. “I got accepted as an Auror – apparently killing Voldemort”—Snape flinched—“serves as good enough credentials to bypass training – but I insisted on some preliminary training. I know I’ve got gaps in my education. I was running around and living in a tent for my seventh year.” Unclipping his cloak and letting it fall back on the chair, Harry leaned forwards. “I’ll be done with that training by my birthday.”
Snape’s obsidian eyes flickered towards Harry before returning to the fire.
Harry sighed and sat back in the chair. “What about you? What are your plans?”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “What do you think I am capable of doing?”
Harry inspected him carefully, wondering at his defensive tone. “I know you’ve never liked teaching much. But I know Professor McGonagall would always take you back if you wanted. You’re terrific at Potions… Why don’t you open up a shop or some sort of mail-order business?”
Snape sneered. “Potter, I’m a former Death Eater who is despised for killing the leader of the Light. The only reason I am currently sitting here and not in a dank cell of Azkaban is because of you.”
Harry’s eyes darkened with anger. “You didn’t want to kill Dumbledore so don’t go and put the blame on yourself. I’m just as much to blame as yourself when it comes to ruining your good name. I never trusted you before—”
“And you do now?”
“Yes, I do!” Harry’s furious green eyes met Snape’s black ones. “I do trust you.”
The conviction in Harry’s tone made Snape sit back, a stunned look flickering across his eyes. “Well, well, Potter…”
Recognizing that he’d won this particular battle, Harry pulled out a rather beaten up watch and checked the time. Seeing that it was later than he’d anticipated, he stood up and put his cloak back on.
“Leaving already, Potter?”
“I just needed to make sure that you gave that voice of yours some exercise,” Harry said cheekily. “Considering how hoarse it is, I’m glad I did.”
Snape stood up furiously. “Potter—”
Harry cut him off with a wave of his hand. “There, you see how tense you are? You just need to lighten up!”
“Why are you really here?” Snape asked again, wearily.
Harry gave the former spy a warm smile. “Because no one deserves to be alone on Christmas Day.” He pulled out a small square package from his cloak and pressed it into a stunned Snape’s hands. “Happy Christmas, Severus.”
So what'd you think? Did you like Harry's evil plan for Draco? And what about the glimpses into the past?
Next chapter will have Severus play a large role. Like I said previously, I just love to hear feedback from my readers.
Chapter 5: Severus Snape
How will Harry break the news to his former/future friend?
These flashbacks serve a purpose. They fill up plot holes you'd otherwise be noticing. Like, how did Voldemort come back? How did the world fall into chaos in eleven years? How did Harry and his friends survive? These questions will be answered through these flashbacks. We might come to the end of them by Chapter 17, though I'm not a 100% sure.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
July 31, 1999
“Oh, Happy Birthday, Harry!” Mrs. Weasley engulfed Harry in a huge hug after he’d ungracefully tumbled out of the Floo.
Harry hugged the Weasley matron back. “Thanks, Mrs. Weasley.”
“Molly, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley chided with a warm smile. “You’re no longer as young as you used to be, you know.” A sad frown flashed across her face before it disappeared. “Now, go on into the sitting room. Ron and the others are waiting for you.”
Harry smiled gratefully at Mrs. – Molly and gave her another hug. “Thanks, Mrs.-Molly.”
‘Merlin, that’s going to feel weird for some time.’
As he entered the sitting room, Harry was promptly accosted by a bushy-haired witch. “Harry!” A flushed Hermione drew back to beam at her best friend. “How are you?”
“Brilliant, Hermione,” Harry said, smiling back.
Ron whacked Harry playfully on the shoulder. “Hey, Harry. Everything going all right?”
Harry nodded absentmindedly, his eyes fixated on his girlfriend, Ginevra Weasley. “Ginny…”
Ginny smiled sweetly at him, coming over to place a chaste kiss on his lips. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” she said softly, winding her fingers through his unruly black hair.
“Ugh, Ginny!” Ron groaned, earning himself a punch in the arm from Hermione. “Ow, Hermione!”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Ronald!”
“What did little Ickle Ronnie do now?” George Weasley asked, popping his head through the doorway. He gave Harry a nod. “Hiya, Harry. Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks, George,” Harry said. “Ron’s just being Ron.”
“Don’t call me that, George,” Ron growled.
“What? Ickle Ronnie? Would you rather prefer Won-Won?” George pitched his voice high in a poor imitation of Lavender.
This time, it was Hermione who shot a small hex at the only remaining Weasley twin. George yelped and ducked behind the frame.
“At least he’s joking around now,” Ron muttered to Harry. “But he’s still really depressed.”
“Yeah, well…he and Fred were really close,” Harry muttered back, holding a quiet Ginny comfortingly. “I noticed the shop’s still going strong.”
“Yeah… It’s not the same, though,” Ron said soberly, a dark light falling in his blue eyes. “Even Mum’s quieter than usual.”
“You guys didn’t have to do this, you know,” Harry said lightly.
“Do what?” Ginny asked, pulling away to look him in the face.
“This.” Harry gestured around at the decorations.
“Don’t be silly,” Ginny scolded. “You’re family. Of course we’re going to throw you a birthday party. We threw you one last year, too, if you remember,” she continued indignantly, “even if it didn’t turn out the way we quite expected.”
“Of course I remember, Ginny…” Harry didn’t want to say what everyone else was thinking: how disastrous his eighteenth birthday party had become after the reporters had gotten wind of it and crashed the party. It had taken days to sort out the mess and Severus had had a right old laugh about the whole thing. “Er…this one is private, right?”
“You’ll probably still get a ton of owls at your place,” Ron said, “but it’s private this time. Bill warded the Burrow really well.”
“The rest of the family will be back soon,” George said, sprawling out on the couch. “They just have some last-minute preparations to make.”
Harry made a noncommittal noise and scanned the room, a smile on his face. It dropped gradually as he realized who wasn’t here.
“I have a birthday party tomorrow.”
“You are telling me this why exactly?”
“You’re invited. It wouldn’t kill you to get out of the house, you know.”
“You already hauled me off on a shopping spree.”
“And look at the room! …You’ll come, won’t you?”
Although the answer had been vague, Harry had hoped that his friend would come instead of holing himself up in that dreary house. He had gone on a shopping spree to help liven it up but even that couldn’t improve the countenance of the dour man living there.
Shaking it off, Harry returned his attention to his friends, laughing as they dragged him into a game of Exploding Snap.
Two hours later and Harry could honestly say that he’d never had as much fun before as he’d had then. The latest game of Exploding Snap that they started finally drew to an end with George winning and the other guests making an appearance.
“’Ello, ’Arry,” Fleur Weasley said, kissing Harry on each cheek. “’Appy Birthday.”
“Hello, Fleur,” Harry said. He greeted her husband, Bill, with a smile. “Thanks for warding the Burrow.”
“No problem. Better than what happened last year, eh?” Bill grinned widely, winking.
“Happy Birthday,” Charlie Weasley said, shaking Harry’s hand. “Sorry I can’t stay long. I’m just visiting for a few hours before I have to head back.”
Mr. Weasley entered the room with a plastic bag in hand. “Ah, Harry! Having a good time so far?”
“Brilliant, Mr. Weasley. Thanks for having me.”
Mr. Weasley shook his head at Harry. “Call me Arthur, Harry. I assume Molly’s already told you but I have to say that you really aren’t a child anymore.”
“He’s nineteen; ’course he’s not a child anymore!” Ron said indignantly, throwing an arm around his best mate’s shoulders. “Unless you’ve gone and De-Aged yourself without telling us?”
Harry laughed. “If I did something like that I’d tell you. You’d probably notice at any rate if I was suddenly eleven again.”
Molly entered the room and divested Arthur of his plastic bag. “Ah, good, Arthur, you got what I asked for.” She peered inside to frown. “Arthur, what on earth is this?”
Arthur looked guilty. “Well, you see, Molly, they had a sale on these Muggle gadgets… Oh but don’t worry – I did get what you asked for! Now where did I put it…”
“He’s as barmy as always,” Ron whispered to Harry.
But Harry wasn’t listening to Ron. His eyes were fixed on the doorway to the kitchen, where a dark-robed man had suddenly appeared.
Noticing that his friend wasn’t paying him any attention, Ron followed Harry’s gaze to see what he had; his jaw promptly dropped.
Hermione saw him next and she almost dropped the book she was holding. “Oh!”
George looked up from the stack of Exploding Snap cards he was putting together and promptly dropped the entire pack in shock. Ginny fared much better but then she didn’t have anything to hold; Charlie, on the other hand, almost pushed over a candlestick. Bill looked up from the magazine Fleur was showing him to also stare; having lost her husband’s attention, Fleur looked to have her eyebrows disappear into her hairline.
“Do shut your mouth, Weasley; it doesn’t become you,” the man drawled, seemingly unaffected by the reactions of everyone else in the room.
Harry’s mouth quirked into a pleased smile and he approached his former Potions professor. “So, Severus, you decided to come after all.”
Severus Snape shoved his present into Harry’s chest. “Happy Birthday, brat.”
September 4, 1994
Harry looked up from the potion he was brewing, stirring counterclockwise to turn the pink sludge into a lovely turquoise. His green eyes met that of his dour Potions professor.
The man stared at Harry for a second longer than what he usually did before his eyes narrowed and he swept away to inspect Parvati Patil’s potion. Harry breathed out slowly and felt his robe pocket for the vial he had in there. Once he’d assured himself that the vial was still in there, Harry added the beetles he had crushed earlier and watched with satisfaction as the potion darkened to a ruby red.
‘Well, I’d like to see Severus say anything nasty about this particular potion.’
“You’re done already?” Hermione asked, peering with shock at Harry’s perfect potion. “How’d you get that done so quickly?”
“I read quite a bit of Potions over the summer and started experimenting – not with actual potions but with the theory. Did you know my mum was really talented at Potions?”
“No, I didn’t,” Hermione murmured, returning her attention to her potion.
“Blimey,” Ron muttered, trying to salvage what he could of his frothing brown potion. “How the hell did I get this mess?”
“Did you add the flobberworms before stirring?” Harry asked, registering the potion as a lost cause.
“Er, maybe.” Ron dumped his crushed beetles into the potion and it turned into a cement-like goo that ate up his stirrer. “Bugger!”
“That’s a goner, mate,” Harry observed, bottling his perfect potion. He gave Draco, who was sitting across the room, a beaming smile. The blonde-haired Malfoy hastily turned back to his potion, deliberately positioning himself so he wouldn’t have to look at Harry anymore.
As Harry turned back to the front of the room and to observing Severus making his rounds, he caught sight of Neville’s potion, which looked dangerously agitated. ‘Huh… That looks like it’s going to explode—’
On cue, Neville’s cauldron exploded, sending everyone diving under their tables. Severus furiously waved the smoke away as he approached a trembling Neville.
“Detention, Longbottom! This is the sixth cauldron you have exploded so far and I fail to see how anyone can be so incompetent as to ruin an elementary fourth-year potion!”
“Y-yes, P-P-Professor,” Neville stammered, covered with the remnants of the botched Laugh-inducing Potion he had been making.
Severus stalked over to Ron’s cauldron now and glared imperiously at the mess. “Useless, Weasley. Evanesco.” With a wave of his wand, the potion disappeared, including the stirrer that it had been trying to eat. Severus glanced over at Harry’s cauldron, frowned upon seeing its perfect state, and left without saying a word.
“Greasy git,” Ron muttered, scowling at the teacher’s retreating back. “You notice he didn’t say a thing about your potion?” He glanced into Harry’s cauldron. “How’d you get it perfect anyway?”
“Studying,” Harry admitted. He would still be a mediocre Potions student if it weren’t for Severus’s tutoring. Now he had all the instincts of a low-grade Potions master and could make any potion if given the right ingredients.
As his potion had been completed fifteen minutes before the end of class, Harry used the time to browse through his Potions textbook or look up at Severus, catching the black-haired wizard looking at him oddly several times.
‘I don’t have anything on my face, do I?’ Harry thought, shifting his arm up to rub his face quickly.
“Something wrong?” Hermione asked, adding the last ingredient to her potion.
“I don’t have something on my face, do I?” Harry whispered. “Se-Snape keeps staring at me.”
Hermione inspected her friend’s face carefully and shook her head. “You’re good.”
Confused, Harry packed his Potions book away and began clearing his materials from the desk.
When Severus dismissed class after the bell had rung, he called, “Potter, stay behind.”
Hermione and Ron shot him worried looks but he nodded to show that he’d be fine. “I’ll meet you at lunch,” he said in a low voice.
When his friends had left and closed the classroom door behind them, Harry walked up to the desk. Even if Severus hadn’t held him back he would have made up some sort of excuse; he needed to talk to the man and this was the first opportunity he had to do so.
Reminding himself to not call him by his given name, Harry started, “Professor—”
He was cut off as Severus suddenly pointed a wand directly at his chest. Reflexively, his own wand jumped into his hand and shoved into the taller man’s body over the desk.
Severus’s eyes flicked downwards towards the threatening object and back up to meet Harry’s, narrowing imperceptibly. “Explain yourself,” he snapped.
“I’m sorry?” Harry’s eyebrows rose.
“Where is Potter?”
This time Harry’s eyebrows disappeared into his fringe. “Wait… You think I’m not me – er, Harry?”
“Potter does not know Occlumency and is an absolute dunce at Potions, which you would have known had you bothered to do your homework before taking his place,” Severus said shortly. “Now, you will explain yourself before I curse you to oblivion and fetch the Headmaster.”
Harry swore silently, having completely forgotten to lower his Occlumency shields. Unlike Severus, he was unable to pretend that he wasn’t Occluding; for him, it was either all or nothing. And since he’d been at Hogwarts, he’d been Occluding at full force to stop himself from drawing his wand at every person jostling him. (Plus, there was the whole “it’s a habit” thing to consider.)
But, first things first…
“Well, Professor, I do know Occlumency,” Harry said slowly, not moving his wand. “I have also improved in Potions – dramatically. Lastly, you could curse me but I don’t think it’d take.”
“Do you know who I am?” Severus hissed, his wand sending a pulse of heat through Harry’s body.
Harry ignored it as it wasn’t anything dangerous. “Severus Snape, Potions professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft of Wizardry. Former Death Eater and now spy of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts. You publicly covet the Defense Against the Dark Arts position but it’s a little known secret that it’s merely an act. You’re brilliant at Potions and Defense, although you have no desire to teach Defense because of the curse on the position.”
Severus’s eyes had narrowed throughout Harry’s little diatribe. “You are digging your own grave. Potter knows none of that aside from a few little tidbits.”
Harry gave a small smirk. “Fourteen-year-old Harry Potter might not have but I’m a different story altogether.”
This time there was no mistaking the malicious intent escaping the end of Severus’s wand. Harry hastily raised a shield, which blocked the curse but sent him flying back into the opposite wall.
“Muffliato,” he said loudly, hoping Severus had heard him. He gave his wand an extra swish as he added another silencing and locking charm on top of that.
“Where did you learn that spell?” Severus demanded, pointing his wand at Harry.
“From your old Potions textbook, sixth year,” Harry answered truthfully. “Would you mind letting me explain at least, Severus?”
The familiar use of his friend’s name turned out to be a grievous mistake, as Harry found himself ducking a purple curse that Severus shot his way. ‘Bugger. So now I have to duel him?’
No sooner had he thought this was he assaulted by a range of curses from the spy. Harry threw up a permanent shield and used the time to position himself more favorably. Being backed up against the wall didn’t do much for maneuvering purposes.
When Severus paused for a split-second in his casting, Harry struck with a Stunner. The red spell shot over Severus’s shoulder as the Potions master stepped to the side. That wasn’t the last of it as Harry quickly followed up with a range of other spells, all performed without a word, and all purposefully missing the Potions master.
Severus scowled heavily as he found himself on the defensive. “Another black mark against you, imposter. Potter can’t duel silently, if at all!”
“For Merlin’s sake”—Harry ducked a lucky shot Severus got in—“if you’re so convinced that I’m not Harry bloody Potter, ask me a security question!” He flicked his wand at a yellow spell Severus shot his way and it was redirected to the ceiling, where debris rained down between them. “We’re wrecking your classroom and I know how sensitive some of these potions are!”
Severus didn’t let up on his attacks as he growled, “Fine. What were the answers to the three questions I asked Potter in his first ever Potions class? Impedimenta!”
Absentmindedly, Harry thought that Severus’s attacks would go over so much better if he would stop saying the spells aloud. The greater part of his mind was more focused on answering the question, though. It was something he’d never forgotten as the humiliation and painful confusion from that first class was emblazoned in his mind.
“In order”—Harry conjured a block of stone to block a red Stunner—“the Draught of Living Death”—he batted aside another curse—“in the stomach of a goat”—he levitated a table to block a particularly nasty curse that would make him think he was being roasted alive—“and the last answer is they’re the same plant and it’s called aconite.”
Severus didn’t pause in his casting, leading Harry to raise his wand and summon a strong Protego. “I answered it!”
“Everyone in that class heard the answers to those questions,” Severus said, smirking nastily.
Harry rolled his eyes upward. “Of course. Positively Slytherin, Severus. I’d applaud you if you weren’t currently trying to curse me into an early grave.”
Severus’s eyes narrowed as he tried to penetrate the shield Harry was keeping up. “Do you really expect me to believe that you’re a time traveler when that’s impossible?”
“And I thought it was impossible for a formerly dead Dark Lord to suddenly revive himself and become a pain in my arse for the next eleven years,” Harry said reasonably. “Really, Severus, we’re doing magic. Nothing’s impossible.”
“It would create a paradox!” Severus snapped. “Confringo!”
Harry dropped the shield and batted the curse aside. “Expelliarmus!” Directly on the heels of that spell he sent another Expelliarmus, this one silent.
“Speaking aloud now?” Severus sneered, blocking the Disarming Spell. He was promptly Disarmed by the second one and his wand went flying through the air to be snatched by a triumphant Harry.
“There now,” Harry said pleasantly, training his wand on a furious Severus. “Now don’t be like that…I’m not going to curse you. That was never my intention. If you hadn’t held me back I would’ve stayed behind anyway because I need to tell you something.”
Severus stood very still. “Enlighten me.”
“Brilliant,” Harry said brightly, taking a seat on a desk he quickly repaired. “Let me start by saying that I am neither my father nor my mother. I in no way condone what my father did to you in your school years. Hell, I don’t even condone what my mother did.”
Harry flicked his wand deliberately to the side, cutting Severus off, who eyed him warily. “Please don’t interrupt. I know you loved her but the truth stands that she didn’t even give you a second chance. So you called her Mudblood one time? I know you apologized for the slight but she didn’t accept it. Regardless, that’s not what I’m trying to say.” He took a breath. “I apologize for what my father and godfather did. Incidentally,” he continued, “Sirius Black is innocent and Peter Pettigrew is a slimy little rat who’s only aim in life is bowing down to Tom.”
Severus’s eyes widened imperceptibly. “How did you—?”
“Like I said, I am Harry Potter. I’m just not the same one. I grew up, fought a war, and am still fighting a war. Did that little tidbit of information convince you?”
Severus inclined his head rather grudgingly. “I’m listening.”
Harry smiled. “Super. Now I’m aware that you’re laboring under quite a few misconceptions. One of which is that I’m arrogant – which I prefer not think myself as”—Snape snorted disbelievingly—“but I am confident in my skills. I know when to back off; I’m now more Slytherin in nature than Gryffindor, although the Sorting Hat did want to put me in Slytherin initially. You can check with Dumbledore on that. The second misconception you have is that I grew up spoilt and in a household that doted on me. You found out later that I have never had loving relatives aside from my parents. The Dursleys abused me by locking me up in a cupboard, retaining food, and treating me like a house-elf.”
Severus’s eyebrows had risen significantly throughout the course of Harry’s confession. “And you expect me to believe this?”
“Not immediately, no. I have too much faith in your abilities to expect that you’d just swallow my tale like that.” He switched Severus’s wand over to his right hand and rummaged around in his robes, coming up with a vial that he floated over to Severus.
The Potions master inspected it carefully before grasping it. It was filled with a silvery substance. “Memories, Potter?”
Relieved that Severus seemed to have partly accepted his story, Harry gave a nod. “You can ask Dumbledore for his Pensieve; I know he lends it to you on occasion. Those memories should answer most of the questions you have. When you’re done viewing them and have had time to absorb what they show, come find me and we’ll talk.”
Severus studied the young wizard before him carefully. “Why me?”
Harry graced him with a soft smile that only the Severus from the future had been privy to. “Because you are my most trusted friend and advisor. You’re my mentor. Those dueling skills I just exhibited? They’re thanks to your coaching; yours and Filius’s but mostly yours. After that, it was all the life and death situations I was put in that led to them further developing.”
Severus’s black eyes watched Harry carefully. “Why not Dumbledore, Potter?”
Harry’s eyes darkened. “Although I’ll always respect him as a wizard and trust him with my life in a duel, I can’t trust him with matters like I can with you. You, on the other hand—”
“What makes you think I won’t run to him right now and tell him everything you’ve just said and show him this?” Severus held up the vial.
“Because I trust you,” Harry said simply, taking Severus by surprise with the utter conviction in his tone. “I trust you like I trust no other aside from Ron and Hermione.” He reconsidered that statement and shook his head. “No…I trust you even more because of what we’ve both been through. You’re not the Severus I remember but you’re the same man.”
Harry studied Severus carefully and approached him, laying Severus’s wand on the desk. “Like I said before, come find me when you’ve viewed those memories. But do so soon; there are things that I need to do that I can’t do alone.”
That said, Harry turned back to the exit and waved his wand above his head, releasing the silencing and locking charms he’d placed on the room. Then he retrieved his belongings with a silent Summoning Charm and left, leaving a pensive and shocked Severus Snape in the middle of his wrecked classroom.
It was a miracle that the potions the class had made were still intact.
July 31, 1999
“Like the cake, Severus?”
Severus looked up to see Harry grinning at him, a slice of cake on his own plate. The Potions master simply looked down on his barely touched cake slice, testament to how he felt.
“I’m sorry. Should I have told Molly to make something else?” Harry asked, taking a seat across from Severus. “I know you don’t like cake…”
“What was it that prompted you to reach that conclusion?”
“The cake we made for you on your birthday.”
Severus gave a noncommittal noise and discreetly put the cake to the side. Harry nabbed it and shoved it onto his own plate, earning himself a scandalous glare from his former professor.
“What?” Harry took a forkful of the delectable treat and put it in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed. “You don’t want to have Molly see that you’re not eating and wondering if you’re all right. You’re still too skinny for her tastes.”
“I assure you, I have been eating,” Severus said disdainfully.
Harry gave a laugh. “Of that I have no doubt. My cooking’s not that bad.” In response to Severus’s raised eyebrow he hastily added, “And neither is yours. It’s quite great actually. Must come from being a Potions master.”
Severus gave a cough that sounded suspiciously like “Liar”, earning a forkful of cake for his efforts. He glared at Harry, who was grinning cheekily at him.
“My apologies, Severus,” Harry said cheerfully. He pointed his wand at the mess on Severus’s robes. “Scourgify.”
Severus quit glaring at Harry as the mess on his robes disappeared magically, his gaze softening imperceptibly but enough so that the black-haired younger wizard noticed. Harry showed Severus his special smile – the soft smile that told the older wizard he’d found a kindred spirit in the gentle soul.
“Thanks for the book,” Harry said.
“You’ve already thanked me,” Severus said, leaning back in the chair.
Harry listened to the joyful chattering in the kitchen before returning his attention to Severus. “Yes, but I haven’t told you yet how much it means to me. That you’d give me something so personal—”
Severus cut him off, “You’ve…you’ve helped me a great deal over the last year. It’s the least I could do for you.”
He knew how much it had cost Severus to make such an admission and knew that the best way to handle it would be to gloss over it. Granting Severus a rueful look, Harry sighed. “Would it kill you to use my name? Just because I told you to stop calling me Potter doesn’t mean you don’t call me by anything. I do have a name: it’s Harry.”
Severus smirked. “Very well, Harry.”
Harry raised an eyebrow incredulously. “Wait…that’s it? All that fuss for nothing?”
“You never asked,” Severus said delicately. “You just told me to stop calling you Potter.”
“And so you did.” Harry groaned and rubbed his forehead. “Sneaky Slytherins,” he muttered.
“You were almost a Slytherin yourself,” Severus reminded his young friend.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t still grouse about how sneaky you are,” Harry retorted. “I know Gryffindors can be brash and I’ll admit it to you, too. The same goes for Ravenclaws being bookworms and Hufflepuffs being loyal.”
Severus inclined his head to acknowledge that Harry’s point had been made. They sat back in companionable silence for the moment, listening to the ruckus from the kitchen as the Weasleys made a general nuisance of themselves.
“Your Auror training has ended, hasn’t it?” Severus asked finally.
“Yeah, it has.” Harry finished the last of his cake and put the plate aside. “I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know before.”
“Was it their decision or yours that led to you having a crash course in the career?”
“Mine. I already knew most of the information they expect Aurors to know. I just needed more info on the spells and legalities. That didn’t take very long.”
“And what the Golden Boy wants done is what will happen,” Severus murmured.
Harry scowled playfully at him. “Oh sod it, Severus! That’s not how it went at all and you know it.”
Severus smirked and probably would have graced Harry with a rare chuckle if Molly hadn’t chosen that moment to step in.
“Everything all right, Harry dear?” Molly asked cheerfully.
“Fine, Molly, thanks. The cake’s delicious.”
Molly smiled at him and turned to Severus, looking slightly uncertain as to how to address him. It had only been a few hours since he’d arrived and not much interaction had transpired between him and the rest of the family as Harry had been the only one visiting him since Christmas. “And how are you, Severus?”
“Perfectly fine, Molly,” Severus said rather stiffly. “The cake…was more than acceptable.”
“Hmm…” Molly sounded highly skeptical but since Severus’s plate was scraped clean courtesy of Harry, she really couldn’t find fault with the wizard.
Harry shot Severus a wink from behind Molly’s back and Severus had to stop his lips from quirking up into a small smile. It really wouldn’t do to lose his calm demeanor; it would probably give the Weasley matron a heart attack at seeing Severus Snape, dour Potions master, smile.
It was as Ron and Hermione entered the sitting room that something happened.
All of a sudden, Harry felt as if something that he’d never known had been missing opened up. His head felt light and airy and not quite there. There was a numb tingling running through his body, originating from his scar.
Numbly, Harry staggered to his feet, his pale countenance striking alarm in Molly, Ron, Hermione, and Severus. His hand was pressed to his scar and his eyes were glassy.
Although Harry could hear the concerned voices of his friends and see their worried faces, he found that he couldn’t listen to them. His concentration was turned inward as he felt his consciousness fleeing down a tunnel that had opened up.
Panicking, Harry tried to break free but found that he couldn’t. He was aware that he was standing in the sitting room of the Burrow, someone tugging anxiously at his arm, but he was also aware that he was suddenly burning hot.
Gasping, Harry pulled away from the faint sensation of being touched but all that seemed to accomplish was to bring him closer to that agonizing heat that felt like it was burning his skin off. He tried to wrench away from the heat but couldn’t; something was physically pulling him towards it.
“Harry…” a hideously familiar voice whispered into his ear.
No! He was dead, wasn’t he? He’d seen the body fall with his own eyes, heard the fire as it devoured his cursed body, and accepted with relief the vanquished connection between the two.
Harry suddenly found himself in front of a face so horrible he couldn’t bear to look upon it for longer than a second. Although he could remember nothing else when he later recalled the incident, he would always remember the burning hatred those awful eyes held: the hatred that seemed to encompass all humanity.
And with a whoosh, Harry found himself suddenly staring Voldemort right in the eyes before something pulled him away and he woke up in a familiar place. But it was not his body and he was not in control as he stood majestically in the empty Great Hall of Hogwarts, the wards around him blaring loudly.
The horrible taint of Voldemort’s mind caressed Harry’s horrified one as a mother would a child. “Oh, Harry… Did you miss me?”
With a slam of powerful Occlumency shields that were not his own, Harry was flung out of Voldemort’s mind with a taunting shout ringing in his mental ears. “Happy Birthday, Harry!”
When he came to in his own body, he was staring blankly up at the ceiling, Severus hovering directly above him with the Weasleys surrounding him in a circle.
“Harry?” Severus asked hesitantly.
Harry gave a great shudder and fell unconscious, the only feeling resonating through his body that of deep despair.
What did you think about Harry's conversation with Severus? There's going to be more regarding this encounter in Chapter 6. Let me know what you thought! :)
Chapter 6: Regaining a Friend
October 31, 1999
“Aargh!” Harry twisted around in his sheets and fell out of bed, hitting the ground with a hard thump. Shaking and shivering, he scrambled around for his glasses and put them on his nose. His wand was next, which he had hidden under his pillow.
“Another nightmare, Harry?” Ron looked out from behind the curtains surrounding his bed.
“Y-yeah…” Harry wiped his sweaty forehead, fingers lingering over his scar, which tingled with a strange numbness the way it had ever since his birthday.
Ever since Lord Voldemort had somehow risen from the grave in the middle of the Great Hall on Harry’s nineteenth birthday.
“Is it bad?” Ron asked quietly, leaning over his knees. “What’s he doing now?”
Harry shook his head, still shivering from the nightmare he couldn’t remember. “My scar just tingles. It’s nothing like what it was before…when it felt like a hot iron poker was searing into my forehead.”
“You’re not a Horcrux anymore, though, right?”
Harry simply gave a small nod, rubbing his forehead in irritation. “I’m going out. I need some air.”
“Be careful, mate,” Ron warned. “Take your cloak.”
Grabbing said Invisibility Cloak, Harry pulled on his shoes and exited the bedroom he and Ron were sharing. It led him to a common area and he found that he wasn’t alone.
Severus looked up from the book he was reading, raising an eyebrow upon seeing Harry’s dress. “Couldn’t sleep again?”
Harry decided that he’d much rather spend some time with Severus rather than go wandering around the dark halls of Hogwarts, where’d he be reminded of the last fight against Voldemort. He sat down across from Severus, folding his cloak in his lap. “I don’t see what he does.”
“Is that so bad?”
“No but…” Harry growled lowly. “It’s frustrating. I know I’m there…there in his head…but it’s like a wall’s up. I can’t see a bloody thing but everything’s hot; it’s burning me from the inside out. I almost prefer the visions; at least I could see what was happening.”
Severus laced his fingers together over the book he’d closed. “From what you describe, it appears that the Dark Lord is employing Occlumency against you.”
Harry frowned. “But wouldn’t that block me out entirely?”
“It would…if he were using the normal kind. I suspect he’s torturing you by pulling you into his mind but not allowing you to see what he’s doing.”
Harry slumped in his seat, pressing his face into his hands. He was so bloody tired that it wasn’t funny. Voldemort had been absolutely quiet since his return. The only reason they – and by that he meant the Order of the Phoenix – knew he was back was because he’d appeared in the middle of the Great Hall, setting off Hogwarts’ wards as he did. The rest of the world was blissfully ignorant of the matter, as they had refused to listen to reason.
At the moment, Harry was treading on very thin ground politically, even though Kingsley Shacklebolt was Minister. He’d retracted his Auror application at the last moment with Poppy Pomfrey’s note of ill health. There was no way his friends were going to allow him to put his life at risk by going onto the field where he couldn’t be protected.
“He’s ruining our bloody lives,” Harry muttered disgustedly, pushing his glasses up his head so he could massage his eyes. “I can’t even sleep with him pulling me into his mind; you can’t go out because he knows you’re a traitor; and the rest of us are just holed up in Hogwarts trying to figure out how the hell he came back when all the Horcruxes are gone. Damn it…he was supposed to be dead.”
“And so he was,” Severus said softly. “Yet he is here now.”
“And I’m supposed to beat him again? Does the bloody prophecy even apply now?”
“Since you two are still linked through that scar of yours, it would seem so. But you are not alone, Harry; we will be standing right by you.”
“That’s another thing I don’t understand,” Harry said, leaning back against the chair. “I’m not a Horcrux anymore. Why am I still linked to him?”
Severus brushed a thumb across his lips, thinking. “Some things are not so easily broken. Although the initial link might have been due to the portion of his soul he inadvertently placed in you, it has continued because you were once linked. Your scar no longer flares in pain when he is around or sending you visions; instead, it tingles numbly. While the source of the pain – his soul – is gone, the link continues.”
Harry looked at him, eyebrows raised. “You’re getting to something, aren’t you?”
Severus didn’t smile. “It’s time I teach you Occlumency again.”
October 22, 1994
‘Don’t curse him, don’t curse him, don’t curse him, don’t curse him…’
Harry struggled not to draw his wand or duck the Unforgivable sent his way. He braced himself for the feeling of not caring but simply felt a faint tug on his Occlumency shields that then quickly faded away.
Crouch was staring at him expectantly out of the one blue eye that wasn’t whirling around in its socket. But nothing was happening. Harry still felt completely and utterly normal.
Aware that the class was also watching him for some reaction, Harry raised an eyebrow. “Did the curse even take, sir?”
The question Harry asked seemed to flummox Crouch while sending the class into a furor of whispers.
“What do you mean did it take?” Crouch growled.
“I didn’t feel anything different,” Harry explained. “I just heard you cast the curse, Professor.”
Crouch’s – or rather Moody’s – magical eye was whirling madly in its socket. Grinning maniacally, the Defense teacher turned to the class. “Potter’s immune, class. You get the rare individual with a will strong enough to throw off the Imperius before it even takes hold; Potter is one of those. And so – CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” With a swing of his wand, Crouch swung his wand in Harry’s direction. “Imperio!”
Off guard and acting instinctively, Harry couldn’t help the fact that he flicked his wand out and Summoned the nearest desk to block the curse. Gaping, Neville found himself bereft of his desk.
“Sorry, Professor,” Harry muttered, letting the desk drop to the ground with a thump. He did his best to sound contrite but didn’t think he’d quite gotten the tone down; it had been a while since he’d last had to be contrite about anything.
Crouch seemed oddly satisfied at Harry’s lightning fast reflexes. He faced the class once again, which was unabashedly gaping at Harry. “Potter’s got the right idea,” the Death Eater disguised as an Auror growled, eyeing Harry appreciatively in a way that made the younger wizard want to barf. “He’s got the idea of CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he roared, causing everyone to jump and Harry’s wand to twitch upward.
By the end of Defense, Harry was twitching nonstop and wishing that he could curse Crouch to hell and back without blowing his cover. Was it too late to change his plans?
The day after the Defense lesson with the imposter Moody that revealed his apparent immunity to the Imperius Curse – which he hadn’t known before since no self-respecting Death Eater would Imperius the boy who could throw off Voldemort’s Imperius Curse – Harry knew that it was time for a meeting with Severus.
He knew Severus had seen the memories only days after receiving them but he’d left his friend alone because he needed time to absorb the information. If Harry had been the one to receive such a bombshell by his most hated nemesis’s son, he’d want to be left alone for a while so he wouldn’t blow up.
But since Severus had received the memories at the beginning of September and considering that it was now the middle of October, Harry reckoned that he’d had long enough to absorb the information. Time was running short, especially if he was to get cracking on the remaining Horcruxes and another possible way to defeat Voldemort.
When the Potions lesson of that particular day rolled around, Harry found himself bored stiff as Severus lectured them all on an antidotes, something he knew forwards and backwards due to the danger of ingesting poisons during the war. He did rouse himself slightly upon hearing Severus threaten the class with testing the antidote on one of them by the end of next week.
The professor didn’t glance once Harry’s way but Harry knew he needed to talk. He’d seen the sign for “need to talk” that they’d developed years down the road (a hand running down the robes for Severus and through the hair for Harry); apparently Severus had picked it up from the memories and was incorporating it now.
The fact that Severus was finally taking the initiative made it much easier for Harry to make up some sort of excuse for meeting him without seeming like a presumptuous arse.
When class was dismissed, Harry deliberately fell over his feet to knock over a cabinet of ingredients in the corner. The obstruction fell on the floor and shattered, spilling valuable ingredients everywhere.
Severus stormed over to Harry, who did a marvelous job of appearing suitably terrified. “Detention, Potter!” he growled in a low voice. “Tonight at eight.”
“It was an accident!” Harry protested for good measure.
“Ten points from Gryffindor for your cheek!” Severus snapped, swishing his robes around with a dramatic flair as he stalked back to the desk. “Clean up that mess before you leave!”
Harry stood standing there for a moment, nodding at Ron and Hermione to leave, before he turned his attention to the mess. He gave his wand a flick and repaired the shattered jars, righted the cabinet, and salvaged the ingredients that hadn’t been too badly damaged, storing them where they belonged. The rest he Vanished; he Scourgified the floor for good measure and left the area squeaky clean.
“I’ll see you tonight, Professor,” Harry said quietly.
Severus waved tiredly at Harry, his other hand covering his face.
Silently, Harry closed the classroom door behind him and walked slowly out of the dungeons. He hadn’t told Severus that he couldn’t exit the memories until they’d all played out. He had to add that safeguard to ensure that Severus saw everything. If he’d told the spy that, then Severus would never have agreed to look at them.
Although he knew it had been necessary, Harry regretted the subterfuge. ‘I’m sorry…’
That evening at eight o’clock, Harry met Severus in the Potions classroom. He took one look at his friend and abruptly threw his Invisibility Cloak around the man, twisting the magic so it would turn him invisible.
Severus’s “Potter!” sounded more shocked than angry.
“We can’t talk about it here,” was all Harry said. “I know a good place where we won’t be overheard. Just keep close behind me; that cloak’ll keep you hidden from all eyes – magical ones included.”
Then, making sure that Severus remained behind him, Harry led him to the seventh floor and the Room of Requirement. The room that the Room of Requirement provided turned out to have a fireplace, was decorated in neutral blue and brown colors, and had two squashy armchairs situated right by the fire.
Harry took the cloak off the Potions professor and bundled it up for later use. When Severus sat, still very quiet, Harry used the opportunity to order something from the kitchens, which promptly arrived. He pressed the cup of tea he’d ordered into Severus’s trembling hands.
It was as the warmth of the cup touched Severus’s cold hands that the man spoke. “Why me?”
Harry looked at him in confusion. “Why—”
“Why trust me? You know I betrayed your parents; you know that I actually served the Dark Lord. Why did you choose to trust me?”
Harry sat back in his chair. “So this whole entire time you’ve just been worried about why I chose to trust you? Do you think my judgment’s false?”
Severus didn’t meet Harry’s eyes. “Considering what you showed me in these memories”—he procured the vial and set it on the table besides his chair—“I have trouble believing that you would trust me of all people.”
Harry sighed, resting an elbow on the armrest to massage his right temple. “Trust that I do, Severus.”
Severus’s eyes flashed at that. “I am not your friend, Potter. I am not the person that was killed.”
“I may not be your friend but you are mine,” Harry said firmly. “You’re not the same person I watched die before me”—Severus’s face remained impassive—“but you are the same man. You’ve already changed; hell, even the version I knew changed. But fundamentally, you’re the same person. The Severus of the future was still snarky, absolutely brilliant at Potions and Defense, and reluctant to trust. Although the memories I showed you only have a small portion of the actual story, trust me when I say that it took me a long while before you came anywhere close to trusting me with your life story.”
Severus’s black eyes searched Harry’s green ones for a few moments before he finally nodded.
Relieved, Harry reached for the vial and took it in hand. “Any questions on what you viewed?”
Severus’s gaze flickered to the vial. “Moody is an imposter?”
“What are your intentions regarding that and the tournament?”
“When it comes to Crouch putting my name in the goblet, I’m not going to do anything. It’d be tipping my hand too early and changing too many things. As it stands, Tom isn’t going to be doing anything until the third task.”
Severus nodded slowly. “I assume you have already planned out what you will be doing for the next year.”
“As far as the tournament goes, yes I have. I’m not concerned with classes. I have other things to take care of.”
The Potions master’s face darkened. “The Horcruxes.”
“Yes.” Harry’s hand came up to rub his scar. “I’ve already destroyed the one that was hidden in this room. Unfortunately, there was a complication.”
“I’m too sensitive to the destruction.”
“Ah, yes,” Severus murmured. “Your connection…”
“Right. And that’s where you come in, Severus.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I’d be willing to help?”
Harry grinned. “For one thing, I know you: you have just as much invested in Tom’s destruction as I do. For another, you can’t just let me run off and do my own thing. It would go against your principles.”
“My principles, as you say, do not extend to a thirty-year-old manipulative time traveler,” Severus said coolly. “One Albus is more than enough.”
Ruefully, Harry gave an apologetic nod. “I did tell you I was more Slytherin than Gryffindor by now. I knew you wouldn’t look at the memories if I told you what I did and I also knew that you’d hold off on watching them once starting. I apologize for the deception…although you would have done the same.”
“I have no doubt that I would have,” Severus acknowledged. “Now, as my responsibility, will you inform me as to what you have planned for the destruction of the Horcruxes?”
Harry leaned forwards, his eyes gleaming. “The diadem is destroyed. That just leaves the cup, the locket, the ring, and Nagini. Now, I have absolutely no clue as to where the cup would be if it isn’t in Bellatrix’s vault. The locket and the ring are in accessible locations. Nagini, on the other hand, will have to be destroyed at a later point.”
“You would call Grimmauld an accessible location?” Severus asked, a note of incredulity leaking through his tone.
“It’s not under the Fidelius yet, is it?” Harry challenged. “Even if it were, the Secret Keeper told me its location last time. I could just pop in, nab the locket, and be out of there in no time.”
“And what of the Gaunt shack?”
Harry shrugged. “I’ve torn down Tom’s wards before. This one’s shouldn’t be hard considering it was his first Horcrux and he wasn’t as experienced. It will be the trickiest, though, because Tom’s staying close by in the Riddle Manor.”
Severus gave a noncommittal noise and sipped his tea, lost in thought for a moment. Harry recognized the fact that he was lost in darker memories and most likely those that had led to him behaving so strangely.
Finally, Severus spoke in a low hoarse voice. “I killed Albus.”
“It was arranged between the two of you.”
“I almost died.”
“The Dark Lord did not stay dead.”
“And that’s something I just don’t get,” Harry admitted, sighing. “We destroyed all the Horcruxes. There was nothing tying him to this life. That begs the point: how the hell did he come back?”
Severus set his tea cup aside. “It would seem he had some otherworldly allies on his side.”
“You’re saying a bunch of ghosts got together and gave him a second chance at life?”
“That would be the most acceptable explanation,” Severus conceded, earning himself an incredulous stare from Harry. “Shut your mouth, Potter, before you swallow some pitiful insect.”
Harry glared at Severus, not shutting his mouth as it hadn’t even been open in the first place. “Snarky comment aside, I suppose you have nothing else?”
Severus met Harry’s eyes and the younger wizard forced himself to drop all his shields to let the Legilimens know that he was completely and utterly sincere. With his thoughts exposed to the outside world and his connection open, Harry felt a numb tingle cross his scar before Severus finally nodded.
“When do you want to start?”
Harry shot Severus a brilliant smile. “How about tonight? The ring’s first on the list so I hope you have your boots on hand.”
“How do you propose we get there, Potter? The shack is thousands of kilometers away from Hogwarts.”
“Apparate, of course. What’d you think?”
“Don’t be foolish, boy. You’re underage!”
“What’d you think I did when I realized I was fourteen again? I removed the bloody Trace. The Ministry can’t tell squat about me now. Here’s proof: Lumos.”
“We’re still by Hogwarts, you nitwit. The Ministry doesn’t pick up any magic from here.”
“Is that so? Doesn’t matter. Take my arm. I’ll Side-Along you since you don’t know where we’re going.”
“What? Potter, don’t—”
In the pitch dark of the night and a kilometer outside of Little Hangleton, a loud pop broke the silence, signaling the Apparition of a wizard.
Harry released a stunned Severus’s arm, privately enjoying the look on the older wizard’s face.
“Fool! You could have splinched us!” Severus hissed.
“I don’t splinch,” Harry said matter-of-factly. “If someone’s about to splinch in the middle of Apparating, I catch it and fix it before it happens.”
Severus gave Harry a confused glance. “You fix it?”
Harry shook his head. “It’ll take a bit too long to explain it. I’d rather deal with the Horcrux first.”
Severus let it drop for the moment but did say, “We are in the middle of nowhere.”
“Of course,” Harry said, producing the two brooms he had taken before leaving Hogwarts grounds. “I could Apparate right to the shack but I don’t feel comfortable doing so without scouting the area and seeing what wards there are. Tom’s nearby after all and I’d rather not make him more aware than necessary that something’s up.”
Severus gave Harry another strange look before mounting the Cleansweep Harry had grabbed for him.
Shaking his head slightly, Harry mounted his own school broom and led the way to the shack. He knew Severus was still having trouble accepting that instead of a fourteen-year-old Harry Potter, he was a thirty-year-old war veteran that thought before jumping into action. Truth be told, he was surprised that things had been as easy as they were.
‘But then, I suppose being a spy has its advantages,’ Harry mused. ‘Among those being the ability to accept surprising situations without making too much of a fuss. Publicly, that is.’
Harry dismounted the broom a short distance away from the shack, making the rest of the way on foot by traversing the path he’d seen in the memory Dumbledore had shown him so long ago. Severus remained close on his heels, his wand tip lighted.
As Harry approached the Gaunt shack, his scar began tingling numbly. Although he stretched his senses out, he couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary aside from the magic protecting the shack. Trying to shake off the eerie feeling that something was watching them, Harry focused on his current task, which was not tripping over any roots.
When they reached the boundaries of the shack, Harry stopped and directed Severus to the side. “Check for traps and whatnot. I’ll run my own spells but I need a second opinion.”
As Severus moved to the side, Harry closed his eyes and raised his wand, focusing on the magic he could feel woven around the shack. As he’d suspected, there were numerous traps and other curses interwoven into the wards but nothing as serious as what he’d faced in the future.
Focusing directly on the signature that was prevalent in the magic, Harry grabbed hold of his own magical signature and twisted. When it was done, he wove his wand in a pattern of intricate maneuvers before whipping it down in a straight movement. With a silent ripple, the air around the shack shimmered as the wards Voldemort had placed over it years ago released.
Exhaling slowly, Harry released the hold on his magical signature and shuddered as it settled back into its natural state. No matter how many times he performed that particular trick, it never got any easier.
He was startled when a rough hand grabbed him by the shoulder and whipped him around. Unthinkingly, Harry jabbed his wand into the other’s chest, a Stunning Spell on his lips before he realized that it was Severus, who’d frozen at the retaliation.
He dropped the wand. “Don’t startle me like that.”
Severus recovered seemingly quickly. “What did you just do, Potter?” he hissed angrily. “The Dark Lord—”
“He’s not here,” Harry interrupted. “I’d know if he was. What is it?”
Severus glared and shoved his left arm at Harry, pulling up his sleeve. Harry looked uncomprehendingly at the faded Mark on his friend’s arm. It looked perfectly normal to him…by which he meant that he expected it to be in this particular state considering Voldemort’s current form.
Severus looked down at the mark and frowned. “It was burning,” he said, hastily pulling down his sleeve. “When I looked, it was as clear as the time the Dark Lord was active.”
Harry blinked and realized what had happened. “Oh. Sorry. That was me.”
Harry nodded, making his way to the unprotected shack. He screwed up his nose at the tacky doorstopper – a dead and shriveled up snake – and opened the door with a flick of his wand. He wasn’t touching it if he could help it.
Severus remained on Harry’s heels. “How was that you, Potter?”
Harry shot him an irritated look. “Would it kill you to call me by name, Severus? And by that I mean Harry.”
Severus sneered. “Unlike you, Potter, I have not had the courtesy of being friends for years. I believe your story but that does not grant us familiarity.”
Harry sighed. “Suppose it was too much to ask at the moment. Now shush.”
Severus scoffed at Harry’s command but obliged.
Concentrating, Harry sensed for the Horcrux that would be located somewhere nearby. He followed the tingle in his scar and slowly went to approach a part of the floor. With a silent Diffindo after checking for further traps – of which there were none since he’d deactivated everything earlier – Harry tore up the wooden boards.
There was a small box located under the floor and Harry carefully levitated it out. He set it aside on the floor, Severus kneeling down across from him.
“As you’ve already figured out, Tom and I have a connection,” Harry explained in a low voice. “I can sense his Horcruxes and his presence as well.”
He unlocked the box and opened it, levitating the ring that rested inside it. Closing the box, Harry put the ring on top of it, recognizing the Resurrection Stone that was set inside the band.
Severus recognized it as well. “Is that—?”
“The Resurrection Stone,” Harry murmured, poking it with his wand. “The second of the Deathly Hallows.” His fingers hovered over it as he felt its magic. “It’s not part of the Horcrux. I didn’t think that Death would allow his creations to be used for something as meager as a Horcrux.”
“How will you take it out of the ring?”
Harry looked up at Severus through his fringe. “Remember what happened earlier with your Dark Mark? No, of course you do,” he continued before Severus could nod or give a scathing reply. “Well, that’s because of ‘the power the Dark Lord knows not’.” Harry put up a hand before Severus could say anything. “Come. We should get out of here before I explain.”
It took Harry another minute to put up the wards the way they’d been like before and after that it was another five to fly back and Disapparate to Hogsmeade. From there, they took the brooms back to the broom sheds and went up to the Room of Requirement. It was two in the morning by the time the two wizards were comfortably ensconced in the armchairs.
There was silence for a few moments before Harry smirked and said, “Well? Aren’t you going to ask?”
Severus scowled at him but proceeded to ask, “Was this power not supposed to be love?”
Harry gave a bark of laughter. “Love? Ah, right… That’s what Dumbledore told me fifth year when I learned of the prophecy. Well, I’ll give you that love is certainly not a concept that Tom is familiar with. But that’s not it. If it was it, I would’ve defeated him the first time around. No…I think something was missing. Something critical that would have ended the war when I was seventeen.”
“Then?” Severus prompted.
Harry sighed, looking over at the Horcrux they had obtained. “I don’t know what the power ‘the Dark Lord knows not’ is but I know it’s not love,” he said quietly. “Dumbledore – for all his wisdom – is ridiculously sentimental when it comes to such things. He didn’t live long enough to actually see anything through. Now, about that Dark Mark of yours…”
Harry frowned, trying to find a way of putting this into words so that it didn’t sound completely insane. “I know you’re familiar with the concept of a magical core. But what you don’t know is that it’s possible to twist the magic – and I mean literally twist it – so that it resembles someone else’s core. So, if I were to twist my magic in a certain way, I could make it seem like Tom Marvolo Riddle – or the Dark Lord – was sitting right beside you. At the shack, I twisted my signature into that of Tom’s, which was why your Mark flared. It recognized the signature as that of its creator and thought he had returned. When I let the magic go, it went back into inactivity.”
Severus frowned, his face skeptical. “Is that just for the Dark Lord?”
“No. I can do it for anyone. I could imitate your signature right now if I wanted to. I could dampen my signature so that I would register as a Squib or even as a Muggle.”
“I have the feeling,” Severus said carefully, “that you haven’t yet explained everything.”
Harry gave a smile. “You’re right, I haven’t. It’s a little something I discovered while Disapparating one time.” He was poking the ring as he was talking, carefully twisting his signature so that it resembled that of the twisted soul trapped inside the golden band. The Horcrux began to rattle violently as it sensed the soul it had once been part of and wanted to rejoin. “I Disapparated, and found that I could twist the magic of anything around me”—a purple light exited the tip of his wand and severed the Resurrection Stone from the ring—“but what happens to magical items such as Horcruxes affects me more now.” He untwisted his magical signature so it returned to normal; the Horcrux became still.
Severus had gripped his left arm as Harry performed the operation but he relaxed now. “And that’s it?”
“Well, no.” Harry held out the Resurrection Stone to his friend. “Would you like to use it?”
Severus stared at Harry as if he had gone barmy.
Harry simply smiled and pocketed the stone. “Maybe later,” he said quietly. “But in any case”—he withdrew a basilisk fang from his robes—“we should destroy this.”
Severus gaped at the fang in Harry’s hands. “Where did you get that?”
“Chamber of Secrets. I’ll bring you down there one time; there’s a dead basilisk that’s currently worth quite a lot of Galleons, especially since I put a Stasis Charm on the thing.” Harry gave Severus a serious look. “I’m going to stab the thing with this. It’s going to scream really loudly; I’ve soundproofed the room this time so no sound should escape. But like I said before, what happens to magical items such as this one affects me more now, especially since I’m linked to Tom. As it stands, destroying this little bugger is going to knock me out for the rest of the night…hopefully less if any potions work on me.”
“You’re in luck then, Potter,” Severus said dryly. “I have Pepperup Potion right in my pocket.”
Harry grinned, recognizing the wit for what it was. “Brilliant. Now, cover your ears. Better yet, put up a Silencing Charm.”
As Severus did as he’d requested, Harry pinned the ring to the table with his wand before releasing it and bringing the fang down with all his strength.
As the poisonous fang made contact with the cursed object, Harry felt a powerful tingle of numbness run through his scar and Occlumency shields before his world went black.
As Harry groggily returned to consciousness, he tasted a foul concoction going down his throat with a familiar burning sensation in his ears. Recognizing the Pepperup Potion for what it was, Harry forcefully gulped down the remainder and embraced the revitalizing feeling it sent through his body.
Still, that didn’t prevent him from gagging as the repercussions of last night’s bit of magic took its toll on his body. “Urgh…”
“I am glad to see that you are awake, Potter,” a dry sarcastic voice said. Only Harry could hear the undertones of worry. “This is my third vial of Pepperup Potion.”
“Oh, sod off, Severus,” Harry muttered, blearily opening his eyes. He realized he didn’t have his glasses and wandlessly Summoned them. Putting them on, he realized he was still in the Room of Requirements. A look at his watch showed that it was breakfast time.
“What did you say?” Severus asked, his tone making it perfectly clear that he’d heard.
“I said, I’ll brew you another batch of Pepperup if it’s so important to you,” Harry said, swinging his legs around and off the bed that he’d somehow made his way on. “I have to go down for breakfast.”
“What do you intend to tell your friends?” Severus asked, inclining his head towards the ring Harry had destroyed earlier that morning.
“Well, I was in detention. They’d believe me if I told them you kept me until way after curfew and refused to give me a pass so I could go back to my dormitories without getting into trouble again. I’ll just say I spent the night in the cold dungeons, moaning like a ghost and preventing you from getting any sleep.”
Severus narrowed his eyes at the impertinent Gryffindor. “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really.” Harry nodded, completely serious. “You are the greasy git of the dungeons after all. Hermione might be a bit of a hard sell but Ron would totally buy it.” He rummaged around in his robe pockets and pulled out the Resurrection Stone, holding out to Severus. “Hold it in your hand and turn it over three times, thinking of the person you want to talk to. She’ll show up.”
Severus stared at the stone but didn’t take it. “What makes you think I want to talk to anyone?”
“Because I know you have regrets,” Harry said simply. “Take it, Severus. When you’re done, you don’t have to tell me what you spoke about. It’s between you and my mum. She won’t stay forever, only as long as you want her to. You can give the stone back when you’re done.”
When Severus still didn’t take it, Harry took his friend’s hand and pressed the Resurrection Stone into the palm, curling the long fingers around it. “It doesn’t have to be immediately,” he said softly. “But at least you have the opportunity now.”
Before he left, he did one more thing: he conjured a vial out of thin air and pulled out a long stream of memories from his mind, depositing it in the vial before placing it on the table he’d destroyed the ring on.
“Potter?” Severus’s voice was hoarse.
“I know more about you than you know about me,” Harry explained quietly. “This is the best way I can repay you. This vial has all the memories of our conversations together. You can view them one at a time whenever you want. Remember…the offer’s still open if you want to call me Harry.”
That said, Harry left the Room of Requirement, leaving a very subdued Severus behind. It wasn’t much but it was a start to what would once again be a wonderful friendship.
November 15, 1999
“Concentrate, Potter! Legilimens!”
Harry was nine and huddled in the cupboard, listening to the rambunctious sounds of his cousin’s birthday party…
He was eleven and the Sorting Hat was telling him he would do well in Slytherin…
He was twelve and the monstrous basilisk was facing him down…
He was sixteen and Dumbledore was begging for him to kill him…
And with a forceful mental shove, Harry pushed Severus out of his mind. Panting and with a pounding headache, Harry leaned back against the desk behind him, sweating heavily. His wand was slick in his grip.
Severus looked coldly at Harry. “Pathetic, Potter. You still haven’t learnt the fine art of clearing your mind and preventing me from even entering in the first place!”
“I’m trying,” Harry growled, rubbing his tingling scar in frustration. “I just can’t seem to understand how to clear my mind in the first place! Whenever I try, some random thought just drifts across it and there goes my concentration!”
“Try again!” Severus snapped. “I’ll give you a minute.”
Breathing deeply, Harry tried his best to focus inward and clear his mind. He’d barely gotten there when Severus again attacked.
Severus was being attacked by Nagini…
Dumbledore was ordering Severus to help Draco kill him…
Harry was finding Severus lying on the floor of Shrieking Shack, something telling him that the man was still alive—
Harry pushed Severus out with a mental heave, flinching as his headache pulsed violently.
Severus was sneering at him now. “Just like your father, Potter. Pathetic—”
Harry exploded before he could stop himself. “I am not my father! Merlin, Severus! How can you even expect to teach me Occlumency if you keep hounding on what I look like and not on who I am? I am Harry Potter and not James Bloody Potter!” Chest heaving with effort, Harry took in the stricken look on his friend’s face and decided that he needed to leave. “I have to get out of here. Let me know when you’re capable – if at all – of taking this up again.”
With a whirl of his robes, Harry exited the room they had been practicing in and took a shortcut to the Hogwarts grounds that would leave him out of the way of the students currently walking the halls. He went over to the lake and sat on a rocky outcrop, using his wand to create patterns in the spray.
The sun was setting before he was joined by Ron.
“You need something?” he asked, not looking up.
“No. Just wanted to see if you were doing all right.”
“I’m peachy,” Harry muttered, giving his wand a violent flick to send a spray of water jetting out in an arc. A brilliant rainbow formed for a split-second in the rays of the sun.
“You look peachy,” Ron agreed sarcastically. “I’m guessing Legilimency lessons with Snape aren’t going well?”
“How about not at all? Bombarda.” The spell caused the water to explode upwards; Harry quickly weaved it into a giant V before the spray fell back into the water.
“If you’re going to be like that, next time just make a snake,” Ron said, shuddering as he took a seat by Harry.
Sighing, Harry put his wand away. “I just don’t know what to do. It’s like we’re back in fifth year and he’s reverted to derogatory insults ’cause of something or another. I’m still getting nightmares from Voldemort”—Ron flinched and Harry rolled his eyes—“and nothing’s helping. The books he’s given me are just repeating the same garbage over and over again: clear your mind.” He scoffed. “As if I can do that so easily!”
“Well, you’ll have to anyway, won’t you?” Ron said sensibly. “Ginny’s getting really worried and so is Hermione.”
“What about you?”
“You know I’m worried, you git,” Ron said, punching Harry in the shoulder. “You keep waking me up every night. But hell, mate, even Snape’s worried. I’ve been seeing him in the common room night after night poring over these really dusty and moldy old books. I think how he’s treating you is just how he is…”
“’Course it is. He’s Severus. He wouldn’t be if he wasn’t snarky and rude. If he suddenly became all nice and sugary, I’d suspect something was up and bind him to a chair.”
Ron guffawed. “I’d pay Galleons to see that.” He sobered. “But, Harry…you see what I’m getting at?”
“He’s worried,” Harry said simply, staring out at the lake. “So am I, Ron. But how is this supposed to help if I can’t even block a friend from entering my mind? I can throw the Imperius Curse off with no problem – which Severus says is similar – but I can’t even get the basics of Occlumency down! I don’t expect to be a whiz at it or anything but something positive would be really great!”
The water churned around them with the force of Harry’s magic. The Boy Who Lived had to spend several minutes calming himself down before the water and his magic had quieted.
“Maybe that’s it,” Ron said finally as the water stilled.
“Your emotions. I mean, think about it, Harry. Snape’s normally cool, calm, and collected – unless you piss him off but that’s not something you want to do – and he’s great at Occlumency. He fooled You-Know-Who for years! You said Malfoy learned Occlumency, too, right? He’s also got the whole cool demeanor down. You, on the other hand, are a bit of a wild card. No offense, mate.”
“I take offense,” Harry said wryly. “I’m not some emotionless puppet, Ron. I can’t ever be an emotionless puppet.”
“Then don’t be. Why don’t you use your emotions as a starting point for at least learning Occlumency? Instead of clearing your mind, fill it with all the garbage you can possibly think off. Emotional garbage, I mean. Maybe that’ll get Snape out of your head faster than you can say Quidditch.”
After considering it for a moment, Harry grinned. “Where’d you get that idea from anyway, Ron?”
Ron grinned sheepishly. “Snape lent me a book after you stormed out, told me to read it, and then told me to come out here and tell you what I learned.”
Harry groaned and rolled his eyes upward. “Slytherins!”
Harry's conversation with Severus in the middle there gave me heaps of trouble. I had to keep Severus's reactions believable and then also take into account the fact that Harry looks fourteen, not thirty. I think I managed it...
Chapter 7: Beauxbatons and Durmstrang – Take Two
September 1, 2000
“Blimey, mate…hard to believe we were ever that small, eh?” Ron muttered to Harry, who was currently hidden under his Invisibility Cloak.
“I was smaller,” Harry said wryly, checking for the umpteenth time as to whether he had his wand in his new holster.
Ron wrinkled his nose in remembrance. “So you were… Say, Harry, you really think something’s going to happen today? You’ve been Occluding, right? So maybe that’s why—”
“Occlumency or not, Ron, my scar always tingles when Voldemort’s”—Ron flinched—“doing something. Since it hasn’t tingled once in the last month, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he has something big planned. Since this is a really important day, why not now?”
“Could you not say his name?” Ron hissed. “What if it’s Taboo?”
“It’s not Taboo yet,” Hermione said, popping up next to them. “He wants to lie low and give the world a false sense of security.”
“It’s working,” Harry muttered, eyes narrowed as he inspected the station for suspicious activity. “They don’t have a clue.”
“Kingsley’s no help at all,” Ron said bitterly, picking at his sleeves. “He’s the bloody Minister and he isn’t doing a thing! All he said back in August was that he was terribly sorry but that it was a great tragedy! A tragedy!” His voice choked on the last word and he had to inhale deeply, blinking rapidly.
Hermione placed a gentle hand on his arm. “But that’s the problem, Ron. He can easily be voted out with a vote of no confidence. If he’s supporting a stance as radical as saying that Voldemort’s”—Ron flinched—“back so soon after Harry supposedly killed him—”
“—then we will have a riot on our hands. He was just as upset as you were about what happened that day but it’s not like he could publicly say that everyone’s worst nightmare is back.”
“Well, if Voldemort attacks today, it should be a pretty clear sign that something’s up, right?” Harry asked. “I mean, how do you cover up something like that?”
Ron rubbed his eyes furiously. “By being incredibly disgustedly Slytherin,” he said firmly, his voice thick. “He broke his Death Eaters out from Azkaban the first time and no one noticed a thing.”
“They were too busy blaming Sirius,” Harry said. Neither of his friends could see his pained face but they heard his tone.
“I’ve got to go,” Hermione murmured. “Snape can’t manage that side all by himself.”
As she slipped away, Harry whispered to Ron, “Would it kill you to call him by his first name?”
Ron shot the invisible space where his friend was standing an amused look that was rather spoiled by his teary eyes. “He’s your friend, Harry. We like him and all”—his tone suggested that was highly debatable—“but you’re his friend and he’s yours. I’m sure he just barely tolerates us.”
“He likes you,” Harry said. When Ron gave a snort of disbelief, he insisted, “No, really. He just doesn’t show it.”
“I’ll believe that when pigs fly.”
“Shall I get Minerva?” Harry teased. “I’m sure she could arrange that.”
“Why you—” Ron was cut off as the Hogwarts Express’s whistle blew, deafening both of them. “Bloody hell! How come I never noticed it’s so loud?”
“’Cause we were always inside,” Harry suggested once the ringing in their ears disappeared. “Come on. We need to make sure we’re patrolling properly. No slacking off.”
“You’re not the only one who trained with the Aurors,” Ron grumbled, pulling out two Firebolts they had stashed away for this purpose. “You taking off your cloak?”
“Wouldn’t be much use considering I’m flying a broom,” Harry said, pulling off the hood. “Should my decapitated head strike fear into anyone?”
“It strikes fear into me!”
Mirthlessly grinning at one another, Ron and Harry kicked off the platform, taking up the rear end of the train. Severus and Hermione had the front end, while other members of the Order of the Phoenix such as Ginny, Bill, and Charlie took up the middle. Harry tried not to think about why three other members of the Order weren’t there.
True to his word, Harry was simply flying as a head, although some of his body flickered into view now and then as the wind whipped at it. The broom was visible below him, along with his trainers.
Ron took a look at him and shuddered. “You know, that’s creepier than what I thought it would be.”
“Boo,” Harry said dryly.
Nodding at each other, Harry and Ron pressed down over their brooms and kept pace with the furiously chugging train. Their eyes roved over the surrounding countryside, peeled for any attacks that might occur.
But when something happened, it occurred where they least expected it.
There was a loud explosion at the front of the train, as the engine compartment suddenly combusted into flames and the train started pouring on the speed.
Ron swore violently and pressed down hard, zooming forward in a blur of speed.
Harry slowed down slightly, trying to find where this strange feeling was coming from. It was almost as if—
There were dozens of Apparition pops around them as hooded figures in black appeared and began firing upon the train. They all had brooms as well.
“Ron!” Harry shouted, zooming towards the ground.
“On it, Harry!”
Whipping out his wand, Harry shot off five Stunners in a row, hitting all his targets and sending them hurtling towards the ground.
The children inside the train were screaming and there was spell fire on the train as well. Pressing closer to the windows, Harry could see that the prefects, sixth and seventh years, and Head Boy and Girl were giving back as good as they got. They were the ones who had seen the Final Battle between him and Voldemort and were some of the best in Defense.
Somewhat satisfied that the problem in there was being taken care of, Harry turned his attention back to the problem outside the runaway vehicle.
He whipped his handle to the side and shot between two Death Eaters, setting their brooms afire as he did. Being a floating head on a broomstick really did have its advantages.
All in all, it didn’t seem to be so bad (aside from the runaway train but Harry could see that Hermione was working on it). They were holding their own against the Death Eaters, and he had to wonder just how Voldemort had managed to recruit so many. Was he going abroad?
‘That’d do it. All we need is the Russian Mafia and we’re done.’
No sooner had he thought that did his scar burst into violent tingling that made him so lightheaded he almost steered right into the train. He quickly jerked up the handle of the broom and suddenly found himself face to face with Voldemort, who was flying without a broom.
“Hello, Harry,” Voldemort purred, his red eyes gleaming with satisfaction. “Did you miss me?”
Harry growled at him. “Not bloody likely! Reducto!”
Voldemort batted the curse aside without blinking. “You’ll have to do better than that, Harry. Priori Incantatem won’t save you now…”
Harry looked at the wand of yew Voldemort was holding and suddenly knew without a doubt that it had a heartstring of a basilisk in it. “Nice wand. Who’d you murder for it?”
Voldemort’s face twisted into fury. “Would you like to find out?”
“I’d love to, quite frankly, but I’m still trying to find out how you’re here.”
Voldemort grinned crookedly, his black robe whipping the sides of the Express that the two were still keeping pace with despite their conversation. “Wouldn’t you like to know, Harry?”
“Yeah, I would! Expelliarmus!” When that spell was batted aside Harry went for a silent Depulso and then followed it with a Blasting Curse. Both were blocked before Voldemort retaliated with the Killing Curse. He swooped down out of sight, only to find that a shadow was flying over him.
Not even looking up, Harry shot upwards, nearly beaning Voldemort. He whipped his wand backwards and released another Disarming Spell.
It either missed or was once again blocked.
This spell, completely unexpected as it was, hit Voldemort just as he was flying up to meet Harry. It slowed him down and Harry couldn’t stop flying, meaning he hit him and lost control of his Firebolt. The broom jerked out of his hands and spiraled away to somewhere Harry couldn’t see…his face was full of robes and Voldemort’s hands.
The two fell hard onto the speeding Hogwarts Express and Harry untangled himself only to find himself clutching at the sides of the train. Voldemort had saved himself as well and was standing up, bracing himself against the wind.
Grunting, Harry cast an adjusted Sticking Charm on his feet that would enable him to keep his balance and move around and stood up as well. Before he could blink, he ducked a green light that was aimed right for his head only to find that a sickly yellow light was zooming towards his face now.
“Protego!” he gasped, hopefully blocking the spell. Thankfully, it fizzled out as it made contact with his shield but the Killing Curse that was aimed his way wouldn’t be deterred.
Whipping his wand in a movement he’d picked up from Minerva days ago, Harry Transfigured the bit of the train he was standing on into quicksand and sank into it, dodging the deadly curse. He promptly Transfigured the metal back into solidity and stood on it, firing back on Voldemort.
He was pitifully outmatched, Harry realized. Voldemort was playing with him.
Harry had just sent another Blasting Curse at the Dark Lord when the bit of train he was standing on was cut with a Diffindo, slicing his feet free and sending him flying through the air.
‘Where’s my bloody broom?’
Although Harry’s broom didn’t appear, someone else stopped his freefall to his death by grabbing him by the neck of his visible robes, as he still had his Invisibility Cloak on.
“Merlin, Harry,” Severus grunted, adjusting his grip. “Did you have to wear that blasted cloak?”
“It was helping before,” Harry gasped, unable to believe that he was still alive for now. “Thanks, Severus.”
“Thank me later,” Severus snapped, looking up at the Dark Lord flying towards them. “Look alive!”
“Wha – argh!” Harry was thrown to the ground, thankfully only a few feet below him, as Severus did some fancy wand work and delayed Voldemort’s arrival for a few precious seconds with a shield.
Harry rolled to a stop on the ground and shakily got to his feet, making sure to deactivate the Sticking Charm as he did. The bit of train he’d ripped off with him he’d lost some hundred meters back.
Severus landed by him next, tossing aside the broom as if it was a mere Shooting Star. “I do hope you have your wand ready.”
“He was playing with me!” Harry hissed, keeping his eyes on the Dark Lord. “What makes you think it’ll be any better now?”
“You’re not alone this time. Keep that shield of yours handy and attack when you can.”
True to his word, Severus kept up the offensive while Harry blocked and threw out his own curses. Voldemort found himself hardpressed to keep the two wizards at bay and started dueling even more ferociously.
Amidst the flashes of light from the spell fire, one of Severus’s spells suddenly went awry as Voldemort twisted it around and sent it back at him. The Potions master dodged to the side as Harry’s shield wouldn’t be enough to block it and almost hit the ground if it weren’t for a Reducto gouging a large hole out of it and knocking him back.
He hit the ground on his back and Harry could see from his ashen face that he’d had the wind properly knocked out of him and couldn’t maneuver properly. Desperate, he jumped into the fray against Voldemort and began pulling all his tricks out of his hat.
“Nowhere to go, eh, Harry?” Voldemort hissed.
Harry chanced a glance over his shoulder as he blocked a spell and saw that the train was gone and the Death Eaters and his friends with it. Unfortunately, the blocked spell sent a haze of smoke over the area.
Coughing, Harry used his wand to send a wave of wind through it and cleared the smoke, only to find Voldemort approaching his wayward ex-servant who was still struggling to breathe…or even move for that matter.
‘No!’ Harry shot a Blasting Curse at Voldemort’s feet and threw the Dark Lord over Severus. Using the distraction, he bolted towards his friend and heaved the man upright.
Desperate for Severus’s and his own lives, Harry turned on the spot and Disapparated, feeling with horror and shock another hand grasp onto his arm just as he was sucked into the tube.
The squeezing and pulling sensation was worse this time as Harry could feel that something was wrong. It felt like something was tearing apart; something undeniably dear to him. At the same time, there was foul magic right by him where Voldemort had clutched his arm.
Instinctively, Harry grabbed the tearing apart feeling and thrust it towards the source of foul magic, flinging Voldemort away as he did. Then, with a ridiculously loud pop, Harry Apparated right onto Hogwarts grounds in the courtyard. It was the first time he had done so since Minerva had him and his friends keyed into the wards as a result of wartime concessions.
Gasping and finding himself ridiculously lightheaded, Harry released the death grip he’d had on Severus’s arm in favor of heaving up the little breakfast he’d had that particular morning.
When he was done, he looked up to see that Severus had recovered his wind and was staring oddly at a sight a meter away from them. Glancing over himself, Harry found that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the strange sight of Voldemort’s robed and undeniably splinched arm.
Harry couldn’t help but think that he was somehow responsible for this strange state of affairs.
Apparently, so did Severus. “Congratulations, Mr. Potter. I do believe you are the first wizard who managed to successfully cause the Dark Lord to splinch himself.”
October 30, 1994
The week following the eventful night that Harry had gone with Severus to destroy the Horcrux, his time had been occupied with talk of the tournament, the soon-to-arrive foreign students, and research. His classes were ridiculously easy and homework was accomplished in five minutes flat with the nifty charm. All he had to make sure of was that nothing too advanced made its way into his essays.
He hadn’t yet been able to get the locket, as Severus had told him after one Potions class that he wasn’t fourteen and couldn’t go prancing around at all times of the night.
Harry had grinned cheekily at that and said, “No, you’re thirty-four and that’s not exactly old, Severus. You’re in the prime of your life!”
Severus had shot him a scathing look, deducted five points from Gryffindor for good measure, and sent him away.
Joking aside, however, Severus hadn’t exactly been idle. Having made note of the fact that Harry wasn’t certain of where the cup could be, he’d been doing his own research based on his contacts in the old network of Death Eaters.
“If I could get into Gringotts, I would be able to sense the cup,” Harry had said one evening.
“There are millions of powerful artifacts in that bank, Potter. Unless you plan on breaking into Bellatrix’s vault again – which I would not condone considering what happened last time – you should scrap any plan that involves actually going into the bank. Unless you tell me that you know how to Apparate inside Gringotts?”
“I’m skilled, Severus, but not that skilled. I don’t know of anyone who could Apparate inside Gringotts. Do you?”
“No, Potter. It’s called the safest place to store your gold for a reason.”
That matter laid to rest, Harry found he really couldn’t do anything more on that front. How was he supposed to find out if Bellatrix had the cup in the vault? It had been pure luck last time that the trio had discovered it and managed to make off with it…on a dragon no less!
So here he was, in the library on the thirtieth of October, studying Runes with the hope that he’d come across something.
Sighing, Harry shoved the latest book he had pulled out back onto the shelf. It was completely over his head and he couldn’t ask Hermione for help since she’d want to know why he was interested in Runes and then he’d have to cook up some sort of explanation that didn’t make her even more suspicious than she already was.
‘I love Hermione, I really do, but why does she have to be so smart?’
The only other option would be Dumbledore, and Harry really didn’t want to go that route since he knew the crafty Headmaster would completely upend any and all plans he had. The man hadn’t trusted Harry with the prophecy until the end of fifth year when Sirius had gotten killed. What would make this time any different?
‘Perhaps if I make Fiendfyre dance in front of him?’ Harry mused, grinning wickedly at the mental image that conjured. It wasn’t that hard. All it required was a certain skill level, power, and strength of will—
“Harry!” Ron’s loud voice startled him and he flicked his wand out before he could help himself. “Hey, Harry…you looking up a spell or something?”
“Err…yeah,” Harry said uncomfortably, putting his wand away. “It’s for Defense. What’d you want?”
Ron looked scandalized. “What’d I want? Don’t you remember? The delegates from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang are coming tonight! McGonagall wants everyone outside so we can give them a proper Hogwarts welcome.”
“Oh.” Harry gave a mental wince as he acknowledged that yes, he had forgotten. Potions had been let out early, meaning Severus couldn’t test the antidotes on anybody, and Harry had wandered into the library without thinking.
“What are you doing in the library anyway?” Ron asked, walking with Harry outside. “You’ve been in there nonstop. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were turning into another Hermione.”
“Looking up Potions,” Harry said, having already thought of this excuse. In response to Ron’s horrified face, he added, “No, really, Ron. It just gives Snape less excuses to pull points off Gryffindor, you know?”
“He hasn’t been so bad lately,” Ron admitted reluctantly. “But still, mate…Potions?”
“Why not? The stuff might taste disgusting but there’s so much you can do with it! Granted, it’s not as quick as Charms, Transfiguration, or Defense but the results can be a lot more rewarding. Look at the Wolfsbane Potion. Wouldn’t it be cool to advance that so that werewolves don’t have to transform at all?”
Ron had his brow furrowed and Harry wondered if he wasn’t perhaps laying it on a bit too thickly. His fears were alleviated when the red-head slowly said, “That would be pretty darn cool. Hell…it’d be a lot of studying, though, wouldn’t it?”
Harry gave a laugh at that. Only Ron would think of the studying aspect of Potions making.
They met up with Hermione outside and she handed the boys their hats with a reproving look.
“Really, where would you be if it weren’t for me?” Hermione said.
“In second year still,” Harry said with a straight face. “Or back in that room with the Devil’s Snare.”
“You’re brilliant, Hermione,” Ron input hastily, putting on his hat crookedly.
Minerva promptly called him out. “Mr. Weasley, straighten that hat!”
Scowling, Ron tried to right the sad thing only for it to fall over again. “It won’t stand!”
Stifling a snort, Harry pulled his wand out and cast a Freshening Charm on it and then stiffened it. “That should do it.”
“You should take better care of your things, Ron,” Hermione said half-heartedly, knowing Ron wouldn’t listen.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ron muttered. “It’s all secondhand stuff anyway.”
“Which is why it wouldn’t straighten,” Harry whispered to Hermione as Minerva scolded Parvati for the outrageous design at the end of her plait.
Finally, Minerva called to everyone, “Follow me, please. First years in front…no pushing…”
She led everyone down the stairs and lined them up in front of the castle, where they all fidgeted with excitement.
“Nearly six,” Ron said, checking his watch. “How d’you reckon they’re coming? The train?”
“I doubt it,” Hermione disagreed.
“Some magical way,” Harry suggested seriously, earning himself a disgusted look from Ron.
“’Course it’s going to be magical,” Ron said. “Are they taking a Portkey? Or maybe even Apparating? Maybe they’re allowed to Apparate where they’re from even if they’re younger than seventeen…”
“You can’t Apparate inside the Hogwarts grounds, how often do I have to tell you?” Hermione said impatiently.
Harry coughed to hide a laugh. Sure you couldn’t Apparate inside Hogwarts grounds…unless you had special permission or was the Headmaster.
After several more moments of anxious debating as to how the foreign wizards would be arriving, Dumbledore finally spoke above the din. “Aha! Unless I am very much mistaken, the delegation from Beauxbatons approaches!”
Peering into the sky, Harry caught sight of the weird looking carriage that the other students made wild guesses about. When it finally swooped over their heads and landed, he let a small smile cross his face at seeing Madame Maxime step out to be greeted by Dumbledore.
Shortly after the delegation from Beauxbatons came, the lake began to bubble and froth, giving way to a giant wooden ship that suddenly rose from the depths.
“Bloody hell!” Ron gaped at the sight.
“Like I said,” Harry said smugly, “some magical way.”
Ron crossly elbowed Harry in the side but seemed to forget the joke Harry had made to eagerly look over the Durmstrang students. When he saw that Viktor Krum had shown up, Ron began tugging eagerly at Harry’s robes.
“Harry, it’s Krum!”
“So it is.”
“Blimey, I had no idea he was still in school!”
“Just because he’s a world famous Quidditch player doesn’t mean he doesn’t go to school, you know!” Hermione said hotly.
“But he looks so old!”
“Mate, if you’re talking about age, look at Dumbledore,” Harry said. “Krum’s not that old.”
“Well…” Ron didn’t quite seem to know what to say to that. “You happen to have a quill on you, Harry? I want to get his autograph!”
“Hm…” Harry rummaged around in his robes before he procured a quill. Unfortunately, the nib was broken off and the top part of the feather was missing. “Huh… How long has that been in there?”
Hermione rolled her eyes at her friend’s absentmindedness. “Never mind that! Come on; let’s go inside.”
Harry gave Ron the miserable looking quill and his friend stared glumly at the thing before shaking his head and letting it drift to the floor, forgotten. “He’d have a right ol’ laugh at me if I went up with that.”
Harry inconspicuously Vanished the quill and caught up with Ron. “Sorry, Ron. Perhaps a Reparo wouldn’t have been remiss?”
“It was beyond hope,” Ron said forlornly. “Think those girls would let me borrow their lipstick?”
Rolling his eyes, Harry grabbed Ron by the arm and lugged him over to the Gryffindor table where Hermione was sitting. “Sit and don’t worry. You’ll see him around.”
“The Beauxbatons girls seem to be a right sorry lot,” Hermione said, sounding rather huffy. “It’s not that cold. They could have brought cloaks!”
“Durmstrang seems happier,” Ron observed, watching as they sat with the Slytherins. “Hey, Harry…think you can get Malfoy to bring Krum over?”
Harry looked over to where Draco was talking with Krum. He caught Draco’s eye and the Slytherin paled before ducking his head. Since that day in September when he’d cornered Draco in the middle of the school, the blonde wizard had been avoiding him like the plague. It would have been amusing if it wasn’t so pathetic.
“Nope. Draco’s been avoiding me. It’s like I’m contagious or something…”
“Contagious with craziness perhaps,” Hermione said, smiling in glee at the fond memory of Harry humiliating him.
“I should probably sit by him during lunch or something,” Harry mused thoughtfully. “There’s no rule against that as far as I know…”
“I think he’d start avoiding meals altogether if you did that – not that I’m complaining,” Ron said. “You notice how he doesn’t insult us anymore?”
“He’s too scared of Harry,” Hermione said, grinning wickedly. She was mercilessly enjoying the bigot’s discomfort with this “amnesiac” Harry.
“After all, he’s my new buddy,” Harry mocked, winking at Ron. All lightheartedness aside, though, he really was trying to make friends with Draco. At the moment, he hadn’t had time to befriend him – coughstalkcough – him the way he would’ve liked but he was planning on beginning tomorrow.
In the meantime, everyone had settled down and was looking expectantly at Dumbledore, who had remained standing. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and – more particularly – guests,” he started, beaming at the foreign students. “I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable.”
There was a derisive laugh from one of the Beauxbatons girls that Harry recognized with a pang as Fleur.
Hermione shot that girl a glare. “No one’s making you stay!”
Dumbledore continued, “The tournament will be officially opened at the end of the feast. I now invite you all to eat, drink, and make yourselves at home!”
The elderly wizard took a seat and was promptly engaged in conversation with Igor Karkaroff, who was still a Death Eater to Harry’s keen senses.
‘And probably just as much of a coward as in the original timeline,’ he figured, eyeing the courses that had magically appeared before them. ‘He’s going to be badgering Severus before long.’
“What’s that?” Ron asked, pointing at a large dish that was filled some sort of shellfish stew.
“Bouillabaisse,” Hermione said.
“Bless you,” Ron said.
“It’s French,” Hermione said, sounding affronted. “I had it on holiday summer before last. It’s very nice.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Ron said, helping himself to black pudding.
Harry winked at Hermione and took a helping of the bouillabaisse before endeavoring to try some of the other delicacies around them. He enjoyed most of them but steered clear of the escargot; he’d had enough of eating strange animals like snails from the future.
“Ezcuse me,” said a voice with a heavy accent. “’Ave you finished ze bouillabaisse?”
Ron gaped at the breathtakingly beautiful visage of Fleur Delacour. “Wha—?”
“Yeah, we’ve finished,” Harry said before his friend could thoroughly embarrass himself more than he already had. He picked the bowl up and handed it to her with a smile. “It was really good. You don’t have it at your table?”
Fleur gave Harry an appraising eye. “No, ve do not. Thank you.” She took the bowl from Harry and went back to her friends, who were giggling at Harry.
Harry felt himself flush and turned back to the table, seeing that Ron was staring at him, openmouthed. “What?”
“She’s not a normal girl!” Ron whispered, glancing back at Fleur, who was now chatting with her friends. “They don’t make them like that at Hogwarts!”
“They make them just fine at Hogwarts,” Harry argued, thinking about a certain red-haired beauty. He chanced a glance down the table to where Ginny was sitting and forced himself to keep his mind blank as he found her. He hadn’t allowed himself to think once of her aside from passing glimpses because the memories were too painful.
He’d have to deal with it eventually but not now.
“Look who else is here,” Hermione whispered, dragging Harry from his thoughts. “It’s Mr. Crouch and Ludo Bagman.”
Harry glanced up at the staff table and saw that the two organizers of the tournament had indeed taken their seats.
“What are they doing here?” Ron asked.
“They organized the Triwizard Tournament, didn’t they?” Hermione asked rhetorically. “I suppose they wanted to be here to see it start.”
“I think they’re also judging,” Harry said. “We’ll probably hear it from Dumbledore soon anyway.”
Eventually, as the golden plates were cleaned by the hungry students, Dumbledore stood up again. Everyone promptly hushed and gazed expectantly at him.
Even Harry, who had already gone through this event once before, felt a thrill of excitement. He looked over at Crouch and saw that he seemed to be stiff with anticipation. A glance at Severus showed the Potions master trying to look bored. Only the fact that he was tapping his finger on the table showed his unease at being in the midst of Karkaroff, Crouch Sr., and the visage of Moody. Even knowing that Moody wasn’t really Moody didn’t do much to alleviate his ingrained unease of the ex-Auror.
“The moment has come,” Dumbledore announced, smiling. “The Triwizard Tournament is about to start. I would like to say a few words of explanation before we bring in the casket just to clarify the procedure that we will be following this year. But first, let me introduce, for those who do not know them, Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation”—there was some polite applause—“and Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”
There was more applause for Ludo, as he was known as a Beater and was generally more likable than the stern-faced Crouch.
Hermione sniffed once as she looked at the staff table. “He can’t even acknowledge his introduction!” She’d meant Crouch Sr. of course.
Harry shrugged. “Just who he is.”
“Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch have worked tirelessly over the last few months on the arrangements for the Triwizard Tournament,” Dumbledore went on, “and they will be joining myself, Professor Karkaroff, and Madame Maxime on the panel that will judge the champions’ efforts.”
“Blimey, Harry, how’d you know?” Ron whispered as the entire hall seemed to stiffen in anticipation.
“Something I read in the library,” Harry whispered back, not catching the strange look Hermione was sending his way.
Dumbledore was smiling as he said, “The casket, then, if you please, Mr. Filch.”
Having been unnoticed by everyone except for Harry, Filch approached Dumbledore while carrying a large wooden chest that was covered with jewels.
“The instructions for the tasks the champions will face this year have already been examined by Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman,” Dumbledore explained as Filch placed the chest on the table before him, “and they have made the necessary arrangements for each challenge. There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways…their magical prowess – their daring – their powers of deduction – and, of course, their ability to cope with danger.
“As you know, three champions compete in the tournament, one from each of the participating schools. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the Tournament tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial selector: the Goblet of Fire.”
Dumbledore took out his wand and Harry noticed that he was gripping it unusually tightly. Dropping his rigid Occlumency shields slightly, Harry was once again assaulted by the unusual singing noise he’d heard during the Opening Feast. Swallowing, he put his shields up before he pulled his wand out in self-defense as Ron was sitting way too close to him for personal comfort.
The Elder Wand tapped against the casket three times and the lid creaked open. Dumbledore pulled out a large, roughly hewn wooden cup that was full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames. Closing the cask, the Headmaster placed the goblet on top of it.
“Anybody wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the goblet,” Dumbledore explained into the hush of the Great Hall. “Aspiring champions have twenty-four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night, Halloween, the goblet will return the names of the three it has judged most worthy to represent their schools. The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight, where it will be freely accessible to all those wishing to compete.
“To ensure that no underage student yields to temptation, I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been placed in the entrance hall. Nobody under the age of seventeen will be able to cross this line.
“Finally, I wish to impress upon any one of you wishing to compete that this tournament is not to be entered into lightly. Once a champion has been selected by the Goblet of Fire, he or she is obliged to see the tournament through to the end. The placing of your name in the goblet constitutes a binding magical contract. There can be no change of heart once you have become a champion. Please be very sure, therefore, that you are wholeheartedly prepared to play before you drop your name into the goblet. Now, I think it is time for bed. Good night to you all.”
“An Age Line!” Fred said, his eyes glinting as they made their way across the hall to the doors into the entrance hall. “Well, that should be fooled by an Aging Potion, shouldn’t it? And once your name’s in that goblet, you’re laughing – it can’t tell whether you’re seventeen or not!”
“But I don’t think anyone under seventeen will stand a chance,” Hermione said, “we just haven’t learned enough…”
“Speak for yourself,” George said shortly. “You’ll try and get in, won’t you, Harry?”
Harry raised an eyebrow at George. “I’m fourteen,” he said slowly. “Why would I want to enter myself in a tournament that Dumbledore specifically said is for wizards who are seventeen and up?”
“You’re Harry,” George said as if that answered the question.
“Yeah and you’re Forge,” Harry said, earning himself a mock glare from the Weasley twin. “Just because I went after the stone in first year, fought a basilisk in second year, and did who-knows-what in third year doesn’t mean I’m entering myself in this usually deadly tournament. I like my head where it is, thank you very much.”
“Harry has the right of it, you know,” Hermione said. “It’s dangerous!”
Ron wasn’t paying any attention to the conversation at all, instead looking for Krum. “Where is he?” he asked anxiously. “Dumbledore didn’t say where the Durmstrang people are sleeping, did he?”
His question was answered as they drew level with the Slytherin table and Karkaroff was gathering his students.
“Back to the ship, then,” he was saying. “Viktor, how are you feeling? Did you eat enough? Should I send for some mulled wine from the kitchens?”
As the Death Eater-turned-professor took care of his students, Harry drew back slightly. Occlumency shields or not, he didn’t think he could hold his ingrained reflex to attack any and all Death Eaters if he got too close.
When Karkaroff left the Great Hall without any further ado, he heaved a sigh of relief and followed his friends up into the Gryffindor dormitories.
Although Ron wanted to hang around in the common room and talk, Harry dragged him upstairs and inconspicuously put up a silencing ward.
“What do you want?” Ron asked, shaking his arm free from Harry’s grip.
“You know I hate my fame, right?” Harry said immediately. “You know that I’d do anything to be rid of it?”
Ron frowned at Harry. “Well…yeah… What of it?”
“If something happened, Ron…something that suddenly put me in the spotlight like second year, would you still stick with me?”
“Harry, you’re my best mate—”
Harry was blunt. “I know you’re jealous sometimes of what you think is terrific popularity.”
Ron made a face but didn’t say anything, sensing that now wasn’t the time to make objections.
“I have this feeling…something’s going to happen. I’m no Seer and you know I think Divination’s absolute rubbish but this is a gut feeling telling me that something’s going to put me in mortal danger. Since the only thing around that even remotely resembles danger at the moment is the goblet and the tournament, I think something’s going to happen tomorrow night. I need to know, Ron, if you’ll stick with me…even if my name ends up being pulled from the goblet.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re going to put your name in?”
“Didn’t you hear what I just said? I hate the fame. Why would I enter in something that would get me even more of the blasted thing? It’s just this feeling I have.”
Ron studied Harry for a long moment. “I can’t promise you that I’ll be happy about my best mate being entered in a deadly tournament,” he finally said, “but I’ll stick by you, Harry.”
Harry broke into a relieved grin. “That’s great, Ron. Thanks…”
Ron smiled at him, too. “Brilliant. If you’re done then, want to go down? I’d like to hear more about what Fred and George are planning on doing. Think they’ll manage it?”
“I talked with Ron after we got back to the dorms,” Harry informed Severus, leaning back in his armchair. “I think he’ll stick around this time.”
Severus watched the flames in the grate flicker. “He would have befriended you again regardless after the first task.”
“I know but…at the moment it doesn’t seem quite real, you know?” Harry murmured. “It’s almost like a dream… I can hardly believe everyone’s still alive. I can hardly believe Hogwarts is still standing and that Tom isn’t raging around like a madman from the Ministry. I see what’s happening and I’m reacting but…” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, resting it over his scar.
“You have been Occluding?”
“Of course. It’s the only way I can even attend classes without flicking out my wand every five seconds.”
“The way you have been using it is not what is designed for,” Severus said slowly, meeting Harry’s eyes. “You are using it to dampen your natural reflexes…dulling the pace of your mind, so to speak. As such, it is no surprise that this seems like a dream to you.”
Harry smiled bitterly. “Yeah, well…that’ll stop pretty quickly once the tournament’s up and running.” He looked down at the Marauder’s Map in his lap, noting that the small dot labeled Barty Crouch had finished its business in the entrance hall. “Crouch’s done with the first step.”
“It’s the middle of the night.”
“Yes, well…he’s a sneak. You have the Polyjuice supplies in your stock, right?”
“Despite my better judgment, I have made sure that he will not lack in ingredients,” Severus confirmed, sighing.
“Do you know when we can go for that locket?” Harry asked. “We have until June before the final task but I’d rather take care of it now. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the Horcrux lying there.”
“Do you suspect that the Dark Lord of your time came back with you?” Severus asked, critically gazing at Harry.
“At the moment, my connection only shows me the Tom of this time. But there’s something else…” Harry shook his head. “I only have my suspicions. If the Tom I threw through the veil came back with me, he’ll be a spirit at the moment. I’d normally say that he can’t do anything but since this is Tom we’re talking about, I’m not going to.”
“Very well.” Severus looked up at the clock above the mantelpiece, seeing that it read two in the morning. “It is late. I will let you know when Karkaroff has made his move. About the locket, it would be best if we deal with it in the coming weekend. The week is too busy.”
“All right.” Harry inclined his head and stood up, flipping his Invisibility Cloak’s hood over his head and twisting the magic so he turned invisible. “Good night, Severus.”
It was only as the door was closing behind him that he heard Severus murmur “Good night” as well. Grinning widely, Harry set off to his dorm.
September 20, 2000
“See if you can splinch anyone else!” Harry flung Ron a furious look. “Really, does he think I knew what I was doing when I did it?”
“Probably not, mate, but he’s hoping to recreate it,” Ron said, trying to pacify his friend. “I mean, causing You-Know-Who to splinch is pretty damn awesome.”
“And the worst of it is that I think I was just trying to keep Severus from splinching,” Harry continued. “I can’t even remember what exactly I did. It’s such a blur—”
“Harry,” Ron cut him off. “Look.”
Hearing the urgency in Ron’s tone, Harry looked to see a lone figure beyond the gates of Hogwarts. In an effort to make out whom exactly it was, Harry focused on it, only to find that he was sensing something Dark and twisted that seemed oddly familiar.
With a gasp, he snapped out of the focus and realized that he knew exactly who it was. “Merlin,” he breathed in astonishment. “It’s Malfoy.”
“What, are you serious?” Ron grasped Harry by the arm. “How can you tell? I can’t even make out who it is and I have loads better eyesight than you!”
“I don’t quite know… I sensed it, I think,” Harry tried to explain, frowning. “It’s funny… He feels a bit like Severus but not quite. There’s one bit in his…aura that resembles something in Severus’s and – blimey, how come I never noticed it before? It’s the Dark Mark!”
“You’re sensing the Dark Mark?”
Harry squinted at Ron. “You’re all light and fuzzy…”
Ron seemed bemused and slightly alarmed now. “You all right there, Harry? I think I just heard you say I’m light and fuzzy.”
“You don’t look it; you feel like you’re Light.” Harry glanced back at Hogwarts. “It must be the castle. I haven’t been out in a while and Hogwarts has so much magic it’s blocking me.”
“I think you’d better see Poppy, Harry,” Ron said, sounding like he was forcefully keeping his tone calm. “Snape did something wrong, I just know he did,” he muttered, grabbing Harry’s arm and steering him back up the stairs. “Minerva should go see who that is.” He threw a glance back at the figure by the gates and pushed Harry through the doors.
Once inside, Harry was accosted by Severus and Filius.
“There you are, Harry!” the diminutive Charms professor said in his high-pitched voice. “Severus and I were just looking for you. We think we might have—”
“You’re light and fluffy,” Harry cut him off, staring at him. “Almost like…air…”
Filius looked startled. “I beg your pardon?”
“And you’re rather Dark but still Light,” Harry told Severus, who had raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got that same tinge Malfoy does…that Dark Mark…”
“Are you quite all right, Harry?” Severus asked, sharing a look with Ron, who was mouthing “I think he’s gone barmy!” at him. “Have we been pushing you too much?”
Harry was studying a stone on the floor, seemingly fascinated by it. “Merlin…so that’s what the stone actually looks like?”
The other three wizards looked down to see what Harry was marveling at, only to find a rather unremarkable stone.
“Perhaps bed rest?” Filius suggested hesitantly.
Harry was still staring intensely at the stone but was kneeling down and had his hand hovering over it. He gave his fingers a couple of flicks and the other wizards gaped as they saw the stone suddenly twist and writing appear on it.
“Merlin’s beard!” Filius squeaked, his eyes popping.
They couldn’t ask Harry what he’d done as Minerva hurried into the entrance hall, looking rather stressed. “Someone’s at the gates!” she said. “Severus, come with me, will you? You’ve apparently nothing better to do but stand around.”
Slightly recovered, Severus shot Harry an appraising look and swept off behind the Headmistress.
“It’s Saturday, isn’t it?” Harry asked a stymied Ron, standing up. “What else would he do if he’s not teaching Defense?”
Ron gave a startled cough and lifted his gaze from the changed stone. “Err…I don’t think she quite meant it like that. You all right, Harry?” he asked tentatively. “You seem…kind of dopey…”
“Do I?” Harry was looking at the doors, not understanding why he was back in Hogwarts. He could sense the magic humming in the school and vibrating through him. There were two Dark signatures right outside of the doors but one of them was one he was intimately familiar with and the other was rather faint, as if the owner was trying to pull away from the Dark.
He opened the doors before Ron or Filius could stop him and found himself staring directly into Malfoy’s face. Draco Malfoy looked absolutely terrible, which was saying a lot as he was normally impeccably groomed.
Minerva recovered from her shock to purse her lips disapprovingly. “Harry, if you would step aside.”
“Blimey, Harry was right?” Ron couldn’t believe his eyes. “What are you doing here, Malfoy?”
Malfoy sneered but it was a halfhearted effort at best.
Minerva gazed disapprovingly at Ron over her spectacles. “That is what we expect to find out, Ronald. Come with me, Mr. Malfoy.”
As Minerva swept off with Malfoy and Severus in tow, Ron whispered to Harry, “You know, it was worse when she was still calling me Mr. Weasley. Ronald makes it seem so much more informal.”
“But it’s worse at the same time,” Harry murmured, blinking rapidly as he focused on the signatures of the Dark Mark. It was a heady feeling, as if he wasn’t quite in his body, but it was fading rapidly. He was feeling almost normal now. “I’m going to follow.”
Before Ron could object, Harry had retraced the steps the other three had taken moments before. The red-haired wizard shook his head and ran after his friend, leaving Filius behind and still gaping at the stone on the ground, which now bore intricate marking reading
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Founded by Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff
In the meantime, Harry and Ron had caught up with Minerva and Severus; the dour faced man was keeping a hand on Malfoy’s arm, although the blonde wizard’s wand was currently residing in the Potions master’s robe pocket.
“Did I say that you two could follow us?” Minerva said sternly.
“No but you didn’t say that we couldn’t,” Harry said, glancing at Malfoy. “’Sides, I have a vested interest in him. Narcissa Malfoy saved my life.”
“Much good that did, Potter,” Malfoy grumbled quietly, though his tone didn’t hold the usual malice.
Harry waited until they were in the Headmistress’s office to ask, “What did you mean by that comment back there? What happened?”
Malfoy slumped in the chair he was seated in, his face inexplicably weary. “Merlin, Potter, do you have any idea what it’s been like since the Dark Lord rose again? My father and mother betrayed him; he doesn’t forget such an action.” His pale eyes flickered over to Severus and back to Harry. “He was ridiculously gleeful after he destroyed the Burrow”—Ron flinched at the memory—“and came to our home next. And do you know what he did then?”
“No,” Harry said, although he had a sick feeling settling in his stomach.
“Right, of course you don’t. He took my parents and turned them into servants. He almost did me as well but since I was apparently still loyal to him I was of some use.” Malfoy’s face was ashen. “Then something happened this year on the first of September. He came back, absolutely furious and missing an arm. He decided he didn’t have any use for my family anymore and killed my mother and father right in front of me. I barely managed to get out by Disapparating. He’d forgotten that the wards allow Malfoys to Apparate on the grounds.”
“A very interesting story, Malfoy,” Severus said scornfully, “but that fails to answer the question of why you came to Hogwarts.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Malfoy asked. “I don’t want in with…with him. I thought I did, though…at first. I didn’t have much of a choice.” His right hand convulsively gripped his left forearm.
“So you want sanctuary,” Harry guessed. “Here at Hogwarts?”
Malfoy looked relieved. “Yes.”
“Tell us why.”
“Tell us why we should give it to you,” Harry said sharply. “Your mother’s the one who helped me and that was only because of her loyalty to you and your father. What makes you think we’ll help you? Why should we even believe that you’ve deserted the bastard?”
Malfoy swallowed. “I hate him,” he whispered, balling his hands into fists. “He killed my parents and laughed about it. He would’ve killed me, too, if I hadn’t gotten away. Why would I follow someone like that?
“As for your other question…I’m willing to fight if I have to.”
“You?” Ron barked a bitter laugh. “You’re a bloody coward.”
Malfoy’s pale eyes glittered furiously. “I’m no coward, Weasley. I’m a Slytherin. We know better than to charge in ahead without knowing what we’re getting into. Although,” he admitted quietly, “I did just that when I became one of his.”
“Look at me,” Severus ordered.
Malfoy did, his eyes locking with Severus’s black ones. In a moment, he looked away, blinking.
Severus caught Harry’s emerald gaze and nodded sharply. It would seem that Malfoy was sincere.
Harry shared a glance with Minerva, who nodded after a short moment, before he turned to Malfoy and took a deep breath. “All right then, Malfoy. You’re in.”
Ooh, plotty developments! 8)
Feedback is love. <3
Chapter 8: The Four Champions
I have a confession... This story has 11 chapters over on FanFiction, but 8 over here. I swear I'll catch up to that site. For now, just enjoy a very belated Chapter 8.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
December 14, 2000
Harry blew out a plume of smoke, his breath condensing in the bitterly cold air. He pushed his glasses up his nose, grimacing at the cold rims, and rubbed his hands together in their gloves. He threw a pitiful look over at Hermione, who simply looked cross.
“It’s our turn, Harry,” she muttered in a reprimanding tone. “It’s too dangerous for the students to go to Hogsmeade otherwise. You brought it on yourself, you know.”
“It wasn’t my fault that the potion exploded,” Harry grumbled. “I swear…Malfoy distracted me.”
“You didn’t add the leeches at the right moment,” Hermione said. “Of course it exploded.”
“I know, I know. Severus already gave me the lecture.”
Hermione sighed, taking pity on her friend. “You know, you have gotten better. This was a very advanced potion and they do tend to explode.”
“Neville exploded cauldrons in first year,” Harry pointed out.
“Well…that was Neville,” Hermione edged.
“He has a talent,” Harry admitted, sighing ruefully. He stared longingly at the Three Broomsticks and then at the students that were milling in the shops around them.
“I don’t understand why he had to come along,” Hermione muttered as a blonde Slytherin stepped out of Honeydukes to approach them. “Couldn’t he just have stayed in the castle?”
“I volunteered to watch him,” Harry said. “So when I’m assigned to Hogsmeade patrol, he comes with.”
“But that’s illogical! Wouldn’t it be safer for him inside the castle?”
“Wizards are rarely logical, Granger,” Malfoy said, having overheard the last bit. He pulled up the high collar of his jacket. “By the way,” he told Harry, “there are a group of third years in there fighting over Sugar Quills.”
Hermione reacted instead of Harry, growling menacingly, “Oh for Merlin’s sake! It’s just Sugar Quills!” Still muttering angrily under her breath, she stomped off towards the shop to break up the ensuing argument.
“Is it really necessary to do that?” Malfoy asked Harry, staring after the bushy-haired witch. “They never did when we were in school.”
“You didn’t hear what happened last time then. Two third years were fighting over whom would get the last casket of Dungbombs and the next thing the supervisors knew was that the whole store had gone up in smoke. It’s fixed as you can see but we keep a closer eye on these things now.”
“Who were the supervisors?”
“Ron and Neville.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes. “No wonder.”
Harry sighed aggrievedly and called over to some fifth years, “If you’re that cold, get into the pub and drink a Butterbeer. There’s no use arguing over whose turn it is to cast that Warming Charm.”
The fifth years eeped and scrambled, causing Harry to send a silent prayer up to the skies.
Malfoy snickered at his expression. “You have the ears of a bat, Potter.”
“Eavesdropping Charm,” Harry said. “I always keep one up in places like this.”
“I wonder if that’s what Snape had in his classes?” Malfoy murmured, frowning thoughtfully.
“You’d have to ask him,” Harry said cheerfully.
Malfoy shot him a glare. “Why don’t you?”
“Ah no. I’m not your lapdog, Malfoy. Just because I vouched for you doesn’t mean squat.”
Malfoy shrugged. “I didn’t expect it to.”
Neither of them said that Malfoy still wasn’t trusted. He was tolerated and treated respectfully and he did the same in kind but no one had explicitly said that they trusted him. Severus had told Harry he didn’t intend on going back to Voldemort but they didn’t know whether he had any ulterior motives, as he did know Occlumency and could be hiding those thoughts from the Potions master.
Hermione didn’t come back for the next minute while Harry and Malfoy stood in the cold, watching their charges all eventually wander into the Three Broomsticks. The two stood there silently for another moment before mutually agreeing to head in there as well. They’d just taken a step towards warmth when there was a small explosion and the roof of the pub caught fire.
Harry and Malfoy whipped out their wands as the screaming students fled the building.
“Sonorus,” Harry said. His voice was instantly magically amplified. “Everyone, get behind us!”
The students did as he ordered, although the seventh years remained congregated around the two war survivors.
Harry was keeping his eyes on the burning pub and so didn’t notice when a blank-eyed student threw a ball at him.
Malfoy did and shouted, “Potter!”
Suddenly sensing some strange traveling magic heading towards him, Harry whirled, only to find the ball hitting him on the chest. He felt a pull behind his navel and felt someone slam into him from behind just as the definitely unauthorized Portkey snatched him away.
He slammed into the ground somewhere dark and smelly an instant later and hit the ground. When he noticed that the area was clear except for Malfoy’s signature, he got to his knees, muttering, “Bloody hell… I hate Portkeys…”
“Speak for yourself, Potter,” Malfoy groaned, rolling onto his stomach. It had been he who had slammed into Harry from behind. “I despise them.”
“I abhor them,” Harry retorted, raising his wand. He tried to light it only to find that his magic wouldn’t work. “Bugger. No magic?”
Malfoy got to his feet, trying his wand as well. “Looks like it,” he agreed grimly. “We’re stuck then.”
Harry went slightly cross-eyed as he focused on the magic around them. It was a new ability that he’d been practicing since he’d splinched Voldemort earlier that year. Although Severus had at first thought it had been some sort of lucky fluke that had caused the Dark Lord to splinch and had tried to recreate it, they’d discovered when Malfoy came that he could sense and twist magic. So far, he’d only been able to sense magic when focusing extremely hard.
“I could untwist it,” he murmured, craning his head as he followed the streams of invisible magic.
“What are you blathering about, Potter?” Malfoy snapped. “We’re stuck in the cells of Malfoy Manor. No one’s ever been able to do any magic here before.”
Harry raised his wand and began performing a series of flicks, poking and prodding at the magic around them. He finally hit the right snag and pulled at it, unraveling the rest of the magic around them.
“Nothing works, Potter. I told you—”
“Lumos.” Harry’s wand lit in a satisfyingly silver glow, cutting off Malfoy mid-word.
“Wha—?” Malfoy whipped out his own wand. “Lumos.” When his wand lit as well, Malfoy’s eyes bugged out. “Bloody hell! How’d you manage that?”
Harry shrugged, not trusting Malfoy enough to explain his odd talent. “You said we were at Malfoy Manor? Maybe your wards need refreshing.”
“Our wards do not need refreshing,” Malfoy said snottily. “They simply are.”
“ ‘They simply are’,” Harry mocked, rolling his eyes. “Brilliant, Malfoy. That sounds ridiculously stupid. Got anything else movie worthy to say? Maybe that you never knew what a charmed life you led until you found yourself lying in the dark and damp dungeons for a crime unknown to you?”
“First of all, Potter, what in bloody hell is a movie? And second, Malfoys are not stupid.”
“No, of course not. Their brains are just demented.”
The Slytherin narrowed his eyes. “I don’t suppose you want to find a way out of here, do you?”
“‘Course I do!” Harry hissed. He glanced askance at the door, feeling what lay beyond it. There was nothing in close proximity at the moment, although he knew somebody would be coming soon. “Besides, Malfoy, why the hell did you grab onto me anyway when the Portkey was thrown? You should’ve stayed back in Hogsmeade.”
Malfoy looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know? That has to be the lamest answer anyone’s given to a question. One doesn’t just throw oneself onto someone who’s about to be taken by an unauthorized Portkey going Merlin-knows-where. So let’s try again: why’d you grab onto me?”
Scowling, Malfoy turned away. “You’re the only one who even talks to me like a decent person.”
“That’s not true. The others—”
“ ‘Hello, Mr. Malfoy. How are you this fine day? All right? Oh, very well, I have some exams to grade…’ “ Malfoy’s voice sounded bitter. “I don’t converse with anyone. You’re the only one who talks about regular things like the weather—”
“—about things that went on back in Hogsmeade last time—”
“—and letting me watch while you brew potions! Snape barely tolerates me as it is and that’s because my father and he have bad blood—”
“What about him and my father?”
“—McGonagall eyes me like I’m a firecracker about to go off any second, Granger’s giving me the stink eye anytime I go anywhere near her, and Weasley keeps offering me snacks that’ll turn me into animals!”
Before Harry could address the litany of complaints Malfoy had brought to his doorstep, he sensed Dark Magic approaching the door. Alarmed, he looked at Malfoy.
“Somebody’s coming!” he hissed. “Someone with the Dark Mark.”
“Nox,” Malfoy said hurriedly and was followed by Harry. “Get behind the door, Potter. They might think they only got one of us.”
“Just do it!”
When Harry didn’t immediately move, Malfoy seized Harry by the jacket and threw him behind the iron door just as it swung open. The Slytherin pointed his wand directly at the incoming person.
“Expelliarmus!” Malfoy’s wand was ripped from his hand and flew into the Death Eater’s hand. “Well, well… What do we have here?” The voice was smugly satisfied. “Little Draco Malfoy…all alone?”
“What do you think?” Malfoy spat, his face furious.
Harry peeked through the bars to see Augustus Rookwood’s face. ‘Wasn’t he in Azkaban?’
“The Portkey was thrown at Potter,” Rookwood said, pointing his wand at Malfoy’s chest. He remained outside the door, which was where the wards supposedly ended before Harry had unraveled them. “So that begs the question…where is he?”
“Not in here obviously,” Malfoy said, sticking his nose in the air. “Why don’t you go run along and tell your master that his brilliant plan to capture the Boy Who Lived epically failed?”
Rookwood’s face twisted into blind fury. “You—” He raised his wand. “Crucio!”
The Unforgivable hit Malfoy and the blonde keeled over, bursting into screams of agony.
Harry couldn’t take it anymore. He pointed his wand directly through the bars. “Stupefy!”
The red Stunning Spell hit Rookwood directly in the face and threw him into the doorframe. Harry slipped around the door and seized Malfoy’s and Rookwood’s wands, pocketing the Death Eater’s. He dragged the man inside the room and checked on Malfoy, who was shivering in remembered pain.
“T-t-thanks, P-Potter,” Malfoy stuttered, accepting Harry’s help.
“Let’s go,” Harry said, pulling him out. He closed the door behind him and focused on the wards he’d dropped earlier. The remnants of the magic were still there and he just had to twist them back into place. The fact that it was getting easier and easier every time he accessed this power probably should have worried him but it didn’t at the moment.
Harry drew Malfoy into an alcove at the bottom of the stairs leading to the cells. “Do you know how to get out of here?” He sensed the upstairs floors and found that there were quite a few Death Eaters there. “This place probably has a ton of wards against escaping since Voldemort’s taken over.” His scar tingled numbly as he said the name, just like it had since the madman had returned.
Malfoy scoffed, his eyes shining. “He’ll have forgotten one thing. He can’t change them because he’s not a Malfoy. Only Malfoys can change them and he’s either killed them all or driven them off. I’m the only one who can change the wards now.”
“Brilliant. Disapparate already then!”
As Harry said that, though, Malfoy looked sheepish. “One thing, Potter… I never actually learned how.”
Harry stared at him in disbelief. “But…but you’re the heir! How’s that possible?”
“My father never thought he wouldn’t live long enough not to teach me,” Malfoy said defensively. “Besides, he and my mother were on house arrest. It’s not like I needed to know before.”
“So this place has anti-everything on it?”
“Not for Malfoys…but the Dark Lord’s placed his own wards on the place.”
Harry thought back to what he’d been reading in his Auror textbooks. “But…but doesn’t that mean you should be able to take those off? They conflict with your manor’s natural wards…”
“Potter, if anyone’s trained to take wards down, it’s you. You’re the one trained to be an Auror, remember?”
“I didn’t train to take wards down, Malfoy. It’s the Dark Wizard catching profession, not the ward breaking profession.”
Before the two could argue the point more, they heard shouting from upstairs and a loud stomping noise. They shared two “Oh, bugger” looks before pelting down the corridor.
“If I’m right,” Malfoy panted, “then this corridor leads to a tunnel that goes out of Malfoy Manor. The plans are old and I don’t think the Dark Lord’s looked at them. The only reason I know is because I snuck into the library!”
“You? Sneak?” Harry snorted derisively and then decided his breath was better spent on running.
“Shut up, Potter.”
Malfoy pulled Harry to a stop beyond a certain door and used his wand to tap a stone. The wall drew aside to reveal a hole and he pushed the dark-haired wizard into it, sealing the entrance behind him after stepping inside.
“Further down and we should be able to Disapparate,” Malfoy said.
“Just you or can I?” Harry asked.
“Both of us. Why?”
“I could get us somewhere safe,” Harry said, thinking of the Headmistress’s office, which was where his friends probably were at the moment in a right state of panic.
“This isn’t safe?”
When the wall behind them began to slide open, Harry shot Malfoy a sarcastic look. “No it isn’t! I thought they didn’t know!”
“Apparently I was wrong!” Malfoy began running again.
A shout ran from behind them. “There they are!”
Harry swore and ducked under a tree root from ancient times. Malfoy ran past him, using his wand to light the way. Unfortunately, the shadows it cast caused Harry to miss seeing a protruding stone in the ground and he tripped over it, sprawling on the ground.
He half expected Malfoy to continue running and leave him to his fate but was surprised when he was hastily heaved up and shoved forward.
“Go!” Malfoy hissed. He cast a shield to block the first curses sent their way. The Death Eaters were too close to avoid now.
“Do you really think I’m that important?” Malfoy’s shield was wavering. “You’re the one fated to destroy the Dark Lord. If something happens to you, what do you think will happen to everyone else? For Merlin’s sake, go, Harry!”
“Not without you, Draco,” Harry said firmly, grabbing the blonde’s arm. “Protego!” His powerful shield spread across the entire tunnel and he threw Draco behind him. “Reducto!” The curse hit the roof of the tunnel and Harry began running, grabbing Draco’s arm as he did.
“Are you mad? We’ll be trapped, too!” Draco gasped, gazing fearfully upwards at the caving-in ceiling. “In five—”
Harry felt the Apparition wards end and turned on the spot, Disapparating directly into the Headmistress’s office with a loud pop!
Clutching one another, Harry and Draco gasped for breath, dirt streaking their faces and dust pillowed on their hair. They’d evidently interrupted a loud argument by the red faces. Minerva was sitting behind the desk, face pale and drawn. Hermione’s face was ashen and she had a wand clutched in her hand. Ron had apparently been gesturing furiously as his arms dropped to the side. Severus had been pacing, as he put down his foot almost absentmindedly.
Taking a single deep breath before pandemonium broke out, Harry turned to Draco and stuck his hand out. “Hi. I’m Harry Potter.”
For a full five seconds, Draco stared at his hand before finally breaking into a tentative smile and taking it. “Draco Malfoy.”
October 31, 1994
The next day found Harry inspecting the Marauder’s Map and looking for a specific person who was ensconced in the library. Ron and Hermione were still in the dorms and Harry knew he had about half an hour before he was expected down in the Great Hall with them.
Once in the library, Harry tucked the map away and made his way to his objective: Draco Malfoy. He put up Muffliato and a Notice-Me-Not Charm to ensure that their conversation would remain private. Then he sat down directly across from the Malfoy and leaned down on the table, resting his head on his arms and looking up at Draco from woebegone eyes.
Draco started upon Harry’s arrival, slamming his book closed. “You!” His voice was loud and he instantly looked around, sighing in relief when Irma Pince didn’t come swooping down on his head. He lowered his voice and hissed, “What are you doing here, Potter?”
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Harry complained. “I thought we were friends?”
Draco glared furiously at the Boy Who Lived. “We,” he sneered, “are not friends, Potter. Nor will we ever be.”
‘You’d be surprised, Draco…’ Harry blinked innocently at him. “We shook hands!”
“That means absolutely nothing,” Draco informed him. “You forced me into it.” His eyes narrowed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were a Slytherin.”
Harry raised his eyebrows and tried his best to make his face the picture of innocence. “Me? A Slytherin?” He looked down at the crest on his robes. “I’m still a Gryffindor last time I checked.”
Draco leaned forward to hiss in Harry’s face, “I’m not buying it, Potter. Your little amnesiac act isn’t cutting it for me. If you really did have amnesia, you wouldn’t remember a thing about magic. It isn’t that selective that you’d completely forget about me and no one else.”
“You know what amnesia is?”
Draco raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “I’m pure-blood, Potter, not stupid. Now, what are you playing at?”
Harry picked himself up from the table and leaned back in his chair, recognizing the game was up. Perhaps he could twist this for his own benefit. “Well…I never figured you for someone who’d know something as common as a Muggle affliction.”
Draco looked annoyed. “I didn’t at first,” he admitted. “But I looked through all the wizard afflictions before thinking that since you live with your Muggle relatives that it might be something Muggle.” He placed the book he’d been reading on the table, which Harry recognized as a Muggle one on medical problems.
“You just found this out about five minutes ago, didn’t you?” Harry asked, amused.
“I didn’t get the book until yesterday,” Draco said defensively.
“Mm-hmm.” Harry pursed his lips in an effort not to smile.
Draco tried to salvage the situation. “You haven’t answered my question: what are you playing at?”
“I’m tired of fighting,” Harry said bluntly. “It’s stupid, childish, and serves absolutely no purpose other than losing points and landing us in detention.”
“What? You’re saying you grew up?”
“In a matter of speaking, I suppose that you could say yes I did.”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “I’m not buying it. Who put you up to this? Wanted to see how long you could string along Draco Malfoy without him catching on?”
Harry burst into laughter. “You think I’m doing this to make fun of you? Draco, you’re not even worth the effort.”
“Don’t call me that,” Draco snapped.
“I’ll call you what I like,” Harry said sharply. “We’re not enemies, Draco.”
“We’re certainly not friends either, Potter.”
“Whatever suits you then,” Harry said dismissively. “Now, Draco, you wanted to know why you?”
Draco folded his arms across his chest and glared defiantly at the black-haired wizard.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Harry said. “I know your father’s a Death Eater – don’t give me that look, Draco – I’ve seen him. He was in the Dark Lord’s Inner Circle. Your mother might not have been one but she is in no way innocent. I know that you’ve been primed all your life to take up that role…the perfect little pure-blood heir…the perfect follower of the Dark Lord…”
“You’re calling him the Dark Lord,” Draco observed, not denying Harry’s allegations.
“Got your attention, didn’t it?” Harry grinned and snatched the book up that Draco had been reading, idly flipping through the pages. “Now…do you know what you’re getting into when you’re thinking of becoming a Death Eater?”
Draco snatched the book back and dumped it into his book bag. “What do you care, Potter?”
“Care to elaborate, Draco?”
“You know what I mean. You’re a Gryffindor, I’m a Slytherin. You’re Dumbledore’s Golden Boy and I’m the prince of Slytherin. Neither of us have anything to do with the other except when it comes to fighting.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” Harry said quietly, remembering the scared adult who had come to Hogwarts seeking refuge. “Regardless of whether that person is a Malfoy, a pure-blood, a Death Eater in training, or a spoiled bigot.”
Draco scowled at that as all those terms described him to a tee. “Would that extend to my parents as well? Or are you just preaching out of your ears?”
“Arse, Draco. Ears just don’t carry the same weight.” When he received a glare in return, Harry continued, “Yes, Draco, even your parents. That is, if they’re ever intending on deserting Voldemort.” Draco winced and Harry rolled his eyes. “As it stands, I don’t know where their loyalties lie but you—”
“You have no clue where my loyalties lie, Potter,” Draco said in a low voice. “I could go straight to my father to this and tell him the Light’s Golden Boy is trying to recruit Slytherins to his cause. Where would you be then?”
“Well, first of all, Draco, the threat of going to your father is absolutely pathetic and in no way becoming of a fourteen-year-old wizard. Second of all, why would you tell him? Why would he even believe you? Oh, he might suspect something but there’s no reason to think that those suspicions would stick. After all, I am a brash Gryffindor and utterly incapable of thinking.”
Draco was looking sick. “Right…”
“So with that matter settled,” Harry continued, “I’ll go on to say that I know you haven’t yet chosen. Your parents have trained you in case their master rises again and even if he doesn’t you’ll be the perfect little pure-blood wizard who hates Muggles, Muggle-borns, Squibs, and anything else that doesn’t fit into your perfect little world. But the problem, Draco, is that you don’t know what you’re getting into.”
“Are you telling me that he’s going to come back?” Draco asked slowly.
“I’ve faced him once in my first year and while he wasn’t alive in the strictest sense of the word, he certainly wasn’t dead. I’d say it’s a very safe bet that he won’t remain ‘dead’ for long.” Harry tapped his fingers on the table. “There’s something brewing, Draco; something big.”
“What – are you a Seer now?”
“I don’t hold any stock in most of that rubbish,” Harry said, waving his hand towards the ceiling. “But it’s a gut feeling and I’ve learned not to ignore those. Something’s going to happen and it’s going to happen soon.”
“The tournament’s going on,” Draco pointed out dryly.
“Aside from that.” Harry fished around in his robes and pulled out a vial filled with a silver liquid. He placed it on the table and pushed it towards Draco. “I know you still need help deciding.”
“Memories, Potter?” Draco didn’t touch it. “Why should this help?”
“They’re not my memories, per se,” Harry said slowly. “They’re Voldemort’s.”
Draco stared at the thing as if it would attack him. “What in Merlin’s name are you doing with his memories?”
“They were in my head, of course.” Harry raised an eyebrow at Draco’s gobsmacked expression. “You didn’t seriously think I just came away with a scar on that night, did you?”
That part was an outright lie but Harry figured it wouldn’t hurt. They were his memories but they were memories he’d acquired from staring through Voldemort’s eyes. Thus, they were technically Voldemort’s memories.
“It won’t hurt you,” Harry said amusedly. “It’s just a vial of memories.”
“And where do you think I’d be able to view them in the first place?” Draco asked.
“You’re a Malfoy, Draco. I’m sure you’ve got a Pensieve stashed away someplace. And if that weren’t true, you could put it in your head, though I wouldn’t recommend that because of the content…”
Draco’s eyes flickered from the vial to Harry and to the vial again. Then he took a breath and grabbed it, slowly shaking it back and forth. “And when I’m done?”
Harry hid a smile. His plan had worked. Slytherin as he was, Draco couldn’t turn down an opportunity to gather information on something that could potentially ruin his future.
“When you’re done, you know where to find me.”
By the time Harry made his way to the Great Hall, Ron and Hermione were already there. Hermione handed him a plate of toast and some eggs, which he gratefully accepted.
“All the Dumstrang lot has put their names in already,” Ron informed him. “But no one from Hogwarts has yet.”
“Maybe they put it in last night after they went to bed,” Harry suggested after a mouthful of bread.
“Where were you earlier?” Hermione asked. “We looked but couldn’t find you.”
“The library. I thought you might like to read this,” Harry said, handing Hermione a thick tome. “It’s got a lot of information on house-elves.”
“Oh, thanks.” Hermione seemed startled. “I really didn’t expect this, Harry.”
“Yeah, why’d you do it, Harry?” Ron groaned, looking at the huge book.
“So we don’t find ourselves in over our heads because our best friend decides to campaign for house-elf rights,” Harry said, shrugging. He’d just swallowed a mouthful of eggs when Colin Creevey came up to him.
“You going to put your name in as well, Harry?” the small third-year asked eagerly.
Harry raised an eyebrow, sure that this hadn’t happened last time. “Why should I? I’m fourteen.”
Colin looked confused. “Yeah but you’re Harry Potter.”
Harry heard Ron scoff but ignored it. “So? I’m not exactly eager to go risking my neck out there. Besides, why would I put my name in something that would land me right in the papers? If anything, you should probably ask those two,” Harry said, nodding towards the Weasley twins that had just entered.
“Done it,” Fred whispered triumphantly to the trio. He didn’t see Colin’s disappointed look.
“What?” Ron asked.
“The Aging Potion, dung brains,” Fred said.
“One drop each,” George said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “We only need to be a few months older.”
“We’re going to split the thousand Galleons between the three of us if one of us wins,” Lee Jordan said, also grinning.
“I’m not sure this is going to work, you know,” Hermione warned. “I’m sure Dumbledore will have thought of this.”
“He did, I’m sure,” Harry whispered to her as the three troublemakers ignored her.
“Ready?” Fred asked the other two, quivering with anticipation. “C’mon then – I’ll go first—”
Though he remembered what happened last time, Harry couldn’t help but watch again with barely hidden amusement as Fred pulled a slip of parchment out and stepped across the Age Line. When nothing happened immediately, George also followed with a shout of glee.
Then there was a large explosion of smoke and the two Weasleys were thrown back, each sporting identical long beards. They looked at one another, exclaimed loudly, and tried to see if it would come off.
“I did warn you, you know,” Dumbledore said in an amused voice. The Headmaster had just entered the entrance hall.
“I knew it wouldn’t work,” Hermione whispered, already browsing the book Harry had given her. “It’s Dumbledore we’re talking about here.”
“Would’ve been cool if it did work,” Ron said moodily. “Hey, Harry…I know you didn’t want to enter but if it had been me…”
“I would’ve supported you all the way, Ron,” Harry said instantly, seeing what Ron was getting at.
“Not that it would have worked anyway,” Hermione said testily. “You’re fourteen, Ron. Wizards older than you have died in this wretched thing.”
“Wretched?” Ron mouthed to Harry.
Harry simply shrugged and took another bite of his now cold eggs. He grimaced and started on his toast, only to find that it had turned soggy in the interim. Rolling his eyes in disgust, Harry dumped the plate and stalked off towards the dungeons with a quick goodbye to his friends. He had a friend to see about a nutrition potion.
Later that evening in the Great Hall, the trio was waiting eagerly for what would occur that night. Fred and George were clean shaven again and didn’t seem as disappointed as Ron had expected.
“Hope it’s Angelina,” Fred told them.
“So do I!” Hermione agreed. “Well, we’ll soon know!”
The Halloween feast didn’t last long enough for Harry’s taste, although it was too long for everyone else.
Why was it that he was getting nerves now of all times? He knew that this needed to happen in order for everything else to fall in place.
‘You survived it last time and you really were fourteen. You’ll be fine this time, Potter…’
“Are you all right, Harry?” Hermione whispered. “You look kind of ill.”
Harry smiled weakly. “Fine, Hermione.” He locked eyes with Ron, who seemed to understand Harry’s ill feeling.
When the feast was cleared away, Dumbledore stood up, catching everyone’s attention. “Well, the goblet is almost ready to make its decision. I estimate that it requires one more minute. Now, when the champions’ names are called, I would ask them please to come up to the top of the hall, walk along the staff table, and go through into the next chamber”—he indicated the door behind the staff table—“where they will be receiving their first instructions.”
He took his wand out – which Harry couldn’t hear anymore since he’d clamped his Occlumency shields down so forcefully even touching things felt weird – and waved it once sweepingly, extinguishing all the lights except those inside the carved pumpkins. The Goblet of Fire continued glow brightly with iridescent blue flames that hurt anyone’s eyes that looked at it for too long.
“Any second,” Lee whispered, two seats away from Harry.
The flames of the goblet turned red suddenly and spark began to fly. A tongue of flame shot into the air and a charred piece of parchment fluttered out of it.
Dumbledore caught the parchment piece and read it by the light of the goblet’s flames. “The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum.”
“No surprised there!” Ron shouted as a storm of applause and cheering swept the hall.
Krum rose from his seat and disappeared into the aforementioned chamber, though not before Karkaroff had boomed, “Bravo, Viktor! Knew you had it in you!”
The clapping and cheering died down and everyone’s attention was once again riveted on the goblet. It turned red a few seconds later and a second parchment was ejected.
Dumbledore read this as well. “The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour!”
“Blimey, Harry, it’s that girl!” Ron shoved Harry in the shoulder and the Boy Who Lived nodded slowly, barely registering the contact.
“Oh, look, they’re all disappointed,” Hermione said, meaning the remainder of the Beauxbatons party.
Harry didn’t look as he had squeezed his eyes shut. The noise of the hall was too much for even his Occluded senses and it was taking most of his restraint to just sit there and not do anything. If he even tried to focus on anything besides maintaining his shields, he knew the results wouldn’t be very pretty at all.
When Fleur had also disappeared into the side chamber, there was another hush. The Goblet of Fire turned red once more and threw out another piece of charred parchment.
“The Hogwarts champion,” Dumbledore called with finality, “is Cedric Diggory!”
Harry’s head sank to the table as the loudest cheering yet erupted in the Great Hall. His heart was thundering in his ears and his muscles were vibrating with restrained tension.
‘Almost… Relax, Potter, relax…’ He inhaled deeply and gradually straightened, feeling the energy around him dissipate slightly as everyone’s excitement died down.
He noted Hermione’s worried look and gave her a wan smile, though he knew it was absolutely pathetic.
“Excellent!” Dumbledore finally managed to say as the din died down. “Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real—”
The Headmaster stopped speaking and it was evident to everyone why this was so as the Goblet of Fire’s flames had once again turned a ruby red. A long flame shot out of it, bearing a fourth and final piece of parchment.
Dumbledore slowly reached out a hand and took it, gazing at it for a long minute. When he finally cleared his throat and spoke, it was to say the two words Harry had been waiting for: “Harry Potter.”
Although his name had been called, Harry didn’t immediately react. He sat there for a long moment, scanning the hall and skimming over the staff table. Crouch Jr. looked rather triumphant, although it was hard to make out under his mutilated visage. Severus’s face was carefully impassive but then he was well aware of what to expect. Minerva was whispering into Dumbledore’s ear.
Finally, Harry’s eyes turned to Ron, who had turned ashen. He looked at his friend for a long moment, heart thundering in his ears, before Ron finally nodded.
“Go, Harry,” he whispered. “I know you didn’t do it.”
Harry swallowed, feeling the magic of the goblet settle beneath his skin and bind him to participating in the tournament. Feeling like all his limbs were weighted down, Harry relaxed his Occlumency shields slightly as the din that had made the Great Hall such a nightmare to be in wasn’t there. He slowly began making his way down to the staff table.
As he came up there, he locked eyes with Hagrid, who seemed absolutely stunned, and Dumbledore, who wasn’t smiling at all. Turning away as he went to the side chamber, Harry looked for Draco and found the Slytherin in the midst of the students, looking absolutely ashen; surprisingly, he met Harry’s eyes and tipped his head forward slightly.
Bolstered slightly by this show of support, Harry turned into the antechamber, the silence of the hall echoing behind him.
Viktor Krum, Cedric Diggory, and Fleur Delacour were grouped around the fire and silhouetted rather impressively by the flames.
Fleur noticed when Harry walked in and threw her long silvery hair back over her shoulder. “What is it? Do zey want us back in ze hall?”
Harry simply shook his head and waited, his entire body as taut as a drum string. He didn’t dare Occlude as ferociously as he had in the hall, though. He needed his wits about him here.
There was a noise of scurrying feet and Harry whirled to find himself face to face with Ludo, who abruptly took him by the arm and didn’t know how lucky he was to not find himself on the business end of Harry’s wand.
“Extraordinary!” he muttered, squeezing Harry’s arm and oblivious to the tension in it. “Absolutely extraordinary! Gentlemen…lady,” he added, approaching the fireside and addressing the other three champions. “May I introduce – incredible though it may seem – the fourth Triwizard champion?”
Viktor Krum straightened, his face darkening as he inspected Harry, who stared coolly back. Cedric looked nonplussed and was looking from Ludo to Harry and back again as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.
Fleur simply tossed her hair back and said, “Oh, vairy funny joke, Meester Bagman.”
“Joke?” Ludo repeated, sounding bewildered. “No, no, not at all! Harry’s name just came out of the Goblet of Fire!”
As the champions absorbed this information, Harry said through gritted teeth, “Please let go of my arm, Mr. Bagman.”
Fleur frowned contemptuously as Ludo did just that. “But evidently zair ‘as been a mistake. ‘E cannot compete. ‘E is too young.”
“Well…it is amazing,” Ludo said, rubbing his chin and smiling down at Harry, who had resorted to staring into the flames. “But, as you know, the age restriction was really only imposed this year as an extra safety measure. And as his name’s come out of the goblet…I mean, I don’t think there can be any ducking out at this stage… It’s down in the rules, you’re obliged… Harry will just have to do the best he—”
The door behind them opened again – Harry flinched and edged his wand back into his holster – letting Dumbledore, Crouch Sr., Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Minerva, and Severus inside. The Potions master locked eyes with Harry once and inclined his head, shifting to the back of the crowd.
“Madame Maxime!” Fleur said immediately, striding over to her headmistress. “Zey are saying zat zis little boy is to compete also!”
Madame Maxime was looking thoroughly impressive drawn to her full height. “What is ze meaning of zis, Dumbly-dorr?” she said imperiously.
“I’d rather like to know that myself, Dumbledore,” Karkaroff said, smiling coldly. His blue eyes were like steel as they went over Harry’s form, although he quickly took them off as Harry’s emerald gaze glared daggers at him. “Two Hogwarts champions? I don’t remember anyone telling me that the host school is allowed two champions – or have I not read the rules carefully enough?”
“C’est impossible,” Madame Maxime said, her hand resting on Fleur’s shoulder. “‘Ogwarts cannot ‘ave two champions. It is most injust.”
“We were under the impression that your Age Line would keep out younger contestants, Dumbledore,” Karkaroff said. “Otherwise, we would, of course, have brought along a wider selection of candidates from our own schools.”
“Are you suggesting, Igor, that Potter crossed the Headmaster’s Age Line by himself?” Severus asked coldly, his black eyes glittering.
Dumbledore was looking at Harry now, who met his blue eyes easily. He could hear the singing of the Elder Wand; the old wizard seemed to grip his robes absentmindedly, although Harry could see that he was clenching something.
“Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” Dumbledore asked.
“No,” Harry said truthfully.
“Did you ask an older student to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?” Dumbledore asked.
Harry kept his face blank as he said, “No, I didn’t.”
“Ah, but of course ‘e is lying!” Madame Maxime cried.
“He could not have crossed the Age Line,” Minerva said sharply. “I am sure we are all agreed on that—”
“Dumbly-dorr must ‘ave made a mistake wiz ze line,” Madame Maxime said, shrugging.
“Ma’am, with all respect,” Harry said, “if two of Hogwarts’ finest students”—there was a cough from the shadows that sounded suspiciously like it came from Severus—“couldn’t cross the Age Line, what makes you think a fourteen-year-old wizard could have?”
“Yes, exactly!” Minerva said. “Harry is only fourteen. Dumbledore certainly did not make a mistake with the Age Line would that only allow Harry to cross it! And if we have made the matter quite clear that Harry did not cross the line and did not give his name to an older student to put inside, then I fail to see what we are even doing!”
“How did his name get into the goblet then?” Karkaroff demanded. He turned to Crouch and Ludo, who had been silent up to now. “Mr. Crouch, Mr. Bagman, you are our, er, objective judges. Surely you will agree that this is most irregular!”
Ludo wiped his face with his handkerchief and looked at Crouch, who was on the outskirts of the circle of firelight.
He spoke in his usual curt voice. “We must follow the rules, and the rules state clearly that those people whose names come out of the Goblet of Fire are bound to compete in the tournament.”
“Well, Barty knows the rule book back to front,” Ludo said, beaming and turning to Karkaroff and Madame Maxime.
“I insist upon resubmitting the names of the rest of my students,” Karkaroff said, an ugly look crossing his face. “You will set up the Goblet of Fire once more, and we will continue adding names until each school has two champions. It’s only fair, Dumbledore.”
“But, Karkaroff, it doesn’t work like that,” Ludo said. “The Goblet of Fire’s just gone out – it won’t reignite until the start of the next tournament—”
“—in which Durmstrang will most certainly not be competing!” Karkaroff raged. “After all our meetings and negotiations and compromises, I little expected something of this nature to occur! I have half a mind to leave now!”
Harry braced himself as he felt Crouch Jr.’s Dark Mark approach. At the same time, Moody’s voice came from the door:
“Empty threat, Karkaroff. You can’t leave your champion now. He’s got to compete. They’ve all got to compete. Binding magical contract, like Dumbledore said. Convenient, eh?”
“Convenient?” said Karkaroff. “I’m afraid I don’t understand you, Moody.”
Harry locked eyes with Severus and the professor shifted slightly in the shadows in acknowledgement. Folding his arms across his chest, Harry shifted his stance and tried his best to look like a nervous fourth-year who was in over his head. He wasn’t sure if he succeeded or if he was just looking like he was sulking.
“It’s very simple, Karkaroff,” Crouch Jr. was saying. “Someone put Potter’s name in that goblet knowing he’d have to compete if it came out.”
“Evidently, someone ‘oo wished to give ‘Ogwarts two bites at ze apple!” Madame Maxime sniffed indignantly.
“I quite agree, Madame Maxime,” Karkaroff said, bowing. “I shall be lodging complaints with the Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards—”
“If anyone’s got reason to complain, it’s Potter,” Crouch Jr. growled, “but…funny thing…I don’t hear him saying a word…”
“Why should ‘e complain?” Fleur burst out, stamping her foot. “‘E ‘as ze chance to compete, ‘asn’t ‘e? We ‘ave all been ‘oping for weeks and weeks! Ze honor—”
“Why should I complain?” Harry interrupted, catching everyone’s attention. “It’s not going to do anything. Like Mr. Crouch said, it’s a binding magical contract. I have to compete…regardless of whether I want it or not. And I have to tell you that I’m not happy about it. Who cares about the honor? I like my life where it is – in my body and not flying through the sky.”
“Maybe that’s what someone is hoping for,” Crouch Jr. said. “That you’re going to die for it.”
There was a tense silence at his words before Ludo anxiously said, “Moody, old man…what a thing to say!”
“We all know Professor Moody considers the morning wasted if he hasn’t discovered six plots to murder him before lunchtime,” Karkaroff scoffed loudly. “Apparently he is now teaching his students to fear assassination, too. An odd quality in a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dumbledore, but no doubt you had your reasons.”
“Imagining things, am I?” Crouch Jr. growled. “Seeing things, eh? It was a skilled witch or wizard who put the boy’s name in that goblet…”
“Ah, what evidence is zere of zat?” Madame Maxime demanded, throwing her hands up in the air.
“Because they hoodwinked a very powerful magical object!” Crouch Jr. snapped. “It would have needed an exceptionally strong Confundus Charm to bamboozle that goblet into forgetting that only three schools compete in the tournament… I’m guessing they submitted Potter’s name under a fourth school to make sure he was the only one in his category…”
Harry saw Severus move to speak but the Potions master was beaten to the punch by Karkaroff. “You seem to have given this a great deal of thought, Moody, and a very ingenious theory it is – though of course, I heard you recently got it into your head that one of your birthday presents contained a cunningly disguised Basilisk egg, and smashed it to pieces before realizing it was a carriage clock. So you’ll understand if we don’t take you entirely seriously…”
“There are those who’ll turn innocent occasions to their advantage,” Crouch Jr. snarled. “It’s my job think the way Dark wizards do, Karkaroff – as you ought to remember…”
“Alastor!” Dumbledore warned.
Severus made his move then. “Perhaps Igor is merely suggesting that if you suspected something like this to happen, you would have been watching the goblet for foul play.”
Crouch Jr.’s stolen magical eye whirled in Severus’s direction. “Well, Snape, one can hardly keep an eye on everything, can they? Perhaps you’d like to take the honor?”
“As much as I detest Potter,” Severus said silkily without missing a beat, “I would have to decline the honor. Even I do not wish to see him meet his match in the tournament.”
‘Bravo, Severus,’ Harry thought.
Dumbledore intervened before the talk could become any more hostile. “How this situation arose, we do not know. It seems to me, however, that we have no choice but to accept it. Both Cedric and Harry have been chosen to compete in the tournament. This, therefore they will do…”
“Ah, but, Dumbly-dorr—”
“My dear Madame Maxime, if you have an alternative, I would be delighted to hear it.”
As Madame Maxime could think of nothing to say and neither could Karkaroff, the conversation was taken over by Ludo.
“Well, shall we crack on, then?” he asked eagerly, rubbing his hands together and smiling around the room. “Got to give our champions their instructions, haven’t we? Barty, want to do the honors?”
After a moment, Crouch seemed to come out of a reverie that Harry recognized as Imperius-induced. “Yes, instructions. Yes…the first task…”
Moving into the fire, Harry could see that Crouch looked ill. Judging from Severus’s expression, he caught it as well.
“The first task,” Crouch began, “is designed to test your daring so we are not going to be telling you what it is. Courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard…very important…
“The first task will take place on November the twenty-fourth, in front of the other students and the judges.
“The champions are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from their teachers to complete the tasks in the tournament. The champions will face the first challenge armed only with their wands. They will receive information about the second task when the first is over. Owing to the demanding and time-consuming nature of the tournament, the champions are exempted from end-of-year tests.” He turned to Dumbledore. “I think that’s all, is it, Albus?”
“I think so,” Dumbledore said, looking at Crouch with concern. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay at Hogwarts tonight, Barty?”
“No, Dumbledore, I must get back to the Ministry,” Crouch denied. “It is a very busy, very difficult time at the moment… I’ve left young Weatherby”—Harry restrained a snort—“in charge… Very enthusiastic…a little overenthusiastic, if truth be told…”
“You’ll come and have a drink before you go, at least?” asked Dumbledore.
“Come on, Barty, I’m staying!” Ludo said so brightly that Harry wanted to cringe. “It’s all happening at Hogwarts now, you know, much more exciting here than at the office!”
“I think not, Ludo,” Crouch said dismissively.
When Madame Maxime and Karkaroff also left with their champions despite Dumbledore’s invitation, the Headmaster turned to the Hogwarts champions.
“Harry, Cedric, I suggest you go up to bed,” Dumbledore said, smiling at both of them. “I am sure Gryffindor and Hufflepuff are wishing to celebrate with you, and it would be a shame to deprive them of this excellent excuse to make a great deal of mess and noise.”
Nodding, Harry once again locked eyes with Severus and left with Cedric, gladly leaving Crouch Jr. behind.
The Great Hall was deserted and eerily illuminated with the lights in the pumpkins. Harry had to swallow and blink back the memory of the castle burning to the ground.
Thankfully, Cedric distracted him. “So,” he said, smiling slightly. “We’re playing against each other again!”
“Not much playing, to be honest,” Harry said. “I’m just going to be running around, trying not to get killed, while you’ll be calm and collected and passing the tasks like they’re exams.”
Cedric grinned at that. “Come on… You can’t be serious. You did put your name in, didn’t you? How’d you manage that anyway?”
“I’m fourteen, Cedric. If Fred and George, two brilliant pranksters, couldn’t get past that Age Line, what makes you think I could? ‘Sides, you heard Moody. If I’d actually entered, it would’ve been under Hogwarts. Either way, the goblet only takes three different champions but it didn’t this time because it was Confunded.”
“Right…” Cedric only looked half-convinced. “Well…see you, then.”
Before Cedric went off, Harry called after him, “Look, Cedric…I didn’t want to be in this tournament but I am. Good luck, all right?”
“You, too, Harry.”
Harry nodded at Cedric and headed towards his dorms. Although it would’ve been the truth the first time, this time it was a complete and utter lie that he didn’t want to be in the tournament. But to keep up the charade of being fourteen, he had to lie through his teeth.
Stopping outside of the portrait, Harry’s jangled nerves already tingled with stress. He inhaled deeply, clamped down his Occlumency shields as tightly as he could, and said the password, stepping into absolute calamity.
His reflexes enabled Harry to avoid the worst of the din and he scrambled up the stairs into the dorm, closing the door behind him with a relieved sigh. When he turned around, he found both Ron and Hermione looking at him.
Harry blinked, surprised. Annoyed that something like this had gotten past him (he would’ve been killed if it had been anyone else), he dropped his shields and kept the bare minimum.
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione cried, reaching out to wrap him in a hug. She noticed him stiffening and pulled away. “Are you all right? You were looking so ill before…Ron told me you thought something bad was going to happen.”
“And it did,” Harry said quietly, untangling himself from Hermione as politely as he could. He flopped down on a nearby bed, checking to see that it was Seamus’s. “Neither of you guys believe I put my name in that goblet, right?”
“I believe you,” Ron said. “I wouldn’t have…before I mean…” He was referencing the other night. “But you looked really sick before it happened, Harry…I’d have to be an absolute git not to believe you.”
“There’s no way you could have put your name in,” Hermione agreed. “It just makes me wonder who did.”
“Moody reckons it was someone who wants to see me killed,” Harry said offhandedly. “Neither Karkaroff nor Maxime were exactly happy with me being the fourth champion so I figure it wasn’t them.”
“Well, Moody was a really great Auror,” Ron said, frowning. “If he thinks that, it must be true…”
“Yeah, well…I think it’s downright suspicious, if you ask me,” Harry said, leaning over his knees. “Karkaroff said something about Moody’s paranoia… It got me thinking that if Moody really was that paranoid, shouldn’t he have been keeping an eye on that goblet?”
“It’s not like he expected anything to happen, did he?” Hermione asked.
“But that’s why he’s called Mad-Eye Moody,” Ron said reasonably. “He’s considered mad because he’s so paranoid. And that’s what paranoia’s about: preparing for things even though they’re not expected. Harry’s right…if he was that paranoid, he should’ve anticipated something like this happening.”
“Maybe he did and that’s why he looked so cross,” Hermione said. “He was looking mad when he went into that chamber after you,” she told Harry. “He’s probably upset that he didn’t stop it from happening.”
“Maybe…” Harry shook his head. “Look, it’s late and I’m tired. I really wasn’t feeling well earlier.” He looked seriously at his best friends. “You two know that I’m really thankful you’re by me, right?”
They smiled. “Of course, Harry.”
Smiling back at them, Harry was utterly thankful that they were his friends even now. He knew his behavior had been off-putting at times and Hermione was getting suspicious. Despite that, they still stuck with him. They weren’t the friends he’d fought with in the war but they were the same people.
January 9, 2001
“Potter, are you absolutely sure about this?” Draco whispered to the Boy Who Lived.
“What? You aren’t?”
“Well, no… It’s Snape.”
Harry shot his friend a grin. “Come on. Either you’re in or you’re out.” He waved the package he held under Draco’s nose. “I’m not giving it to him for you.”
“He still doesn’t trust me!” Draco said desperately.
“He relies on you,” Harry said. “Trust isn’t something he’ll give easily. I think there’s only one person he actually trusted completely…”
“And he’s dead,” Draco said gloomily. “Brilliant, Potter.”
“If it makes you feel any better, Ron and Hermione aren’t exactly on the in with him either,” Harry said. “It can’t hurt, Draco. I’ll vouch for you.”
Draco didn’t say anything else and allowed Harry to knock on the Defense professor’s door. It opened silently, revealing Severus’s scowling face.
“Harry,” he said curtly. “Malfoy…”
“Happy Birthday, Severus,” Harry said cheerfully, pushing the present at Severus. “Can we come in?”
Draco smiled weakly at his former Head of House and held up his own gift. “Er…Happy Birthday.”
Severus stared at the two wizards for a long moment before sighing and letting them in. “You’ll never let it rest, will you, Potter?” he complained to Harry.
Harry laughed. “Should I, Severus? It’s your birthday.”
Grumbling, Severus let them into his sitting room and was nonplussed to find a birthday cake there made to his specifications.
Harry took a seat, inwardly grinning as Draco lingered uncertainly by the doorway. This could go a long way towards bonding the two Slytherins.
Let me know what you thought! I love hearing feedback. <3