When Harry opened his eyes, he was in pain.
In pain, and exhausted. Which shouldn’t be surprising considering that–
He flinched and held the back of his head.
The Death Eater that Hermione had just struck with a silencing charm made a sudden slashing movement with his wand; a streak of what looked like purple flames hit Hermione right in the chest. She gave a tiny ‘Oh!' as if surprised and crumpled to the floor, where she lay motionless.
Harry startled and hurriedly got up.
“Hermione!” he exclaimed. “Hermione! Neville!”
His friends– he tried to chase away the images to focus on the present. His friends were in danger. His friend s who had followed him to the Ministry of Magic because he had been so stupid . He had to do something .
But, as he hurriedly looked around, Harry didn’t see anybody. Neither friend nor foe. Only a room full of artefacts Harry had never seen before.
And, Harry looked behind him, the cabinet had changed. What used to be filled with clocks and hourglasses was now full of strange artefacts and unidentified potions of any colour. From the classic green to one the colour of a rainbow.
Harry took a few steps around, lost. Maybe he had been moved, he thought. Or maybe he ha d somehow entered that room Sirius’ gift hadn’t managed to unlock. Maybe some spell had made him lose his most recent memories.
But this was still the Department of Mysteries, Harry thought as he reached for the door, trying to be silent. Meaning that the Death Eaters were still after his friends. And maybe Malfoy got his hands on the prophecy and Harry couldn’t let him give it to Voldemort.
But, despite the Death Eaters attacking them, there was no trace of any fighting. In fact, the room where Ron had been attacked by the brains seemed to be in perfect condition and there was no Ron in sight.
There was something strange about this room though, but Harry couldn’t say what it was. And, with every room he entered, that feeling in the pit of his stomach grew stronger.
It was with something akin to dread that Harry finally left the utterly empty Department of Mysteries.
Maybe the fighting had moved, Harry desperately thought. Maybe his friends had tried to run away and the Death Eaters had followed them through the empty Ministry–
Harry stopped and stared at the scene in front of him.
The Ministry of Magic’s entrance wasn’t empty. Not by a long shot. In fact, it was full of wizards and witches in bright robes walking around as if nothing of great importance was happening.
Harry tried to control his breathing. If so many people hadn’t heard the commotion, or seen his friends running away, then how long had he been unconscious? And where were his friends? Did the Death Eaters capture them and–
A witch in forest green robes started walking in his direction. Harry hurriedly took the badge off his robe, hid his scar behind his hair and tried to look as if he hadn’t just broken into the Ministry of magic itself.
“Is there a problem?” She frowned.
“No, no.” He tried to avoid her eyes and searched for a way out. Maybe if he went back to Grimmauld Place… If he could warn the Order… “I was just… we had to go somewhere and… and now I’ve lost them so-“
The witch grimaced in sympathy. “Let me guess, you missed the portkey to the Hogwarts Express.”
Harry abruptly turned his head and looked at the witch. “Th-The Hogwarts Express.”
“It happened to me as well when I was your age.” She pointed at the fireplace behind him and went to take a pinch of floo powder that she threw into the fireplace. “I’m afraid this kind of incident isn’t as rare as many believe. No worries though.” She turned to him and smiled. “Just say Hogwarts’ Visitor Entrance and nobody will notice.”
Harry nodded, mind racing.
“Where is your luggage?”
Harry closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. “It’s complicated.”
So that was what happened, he thought as his mind quickly connected the dots. The clocks and hourglasses had been time-turners. Some of them must have fallen on to him and had done something. And now, he had time travelled.
“I’ll explain my problem to the Headmaster. It’s– complicated. Very–“
Very complicated, Harry finished mentally as he shakily pinched his nose. He tried to control his breathing and tried to see if th o se Occlumency lessons would finally be of some use because he was about to lose it. “Thank you, Ma’am.”
He wanted to ask her the date but as he opened his mouth, he suddenly remembered one very important rule the Dursleys had taught him.
Don’t ask questions .
Asking questions showed you didn’t know something. It was like revealing a weakness anybody would be able to exploit. And he was in the Ministry of Magic, where he definitely shouldn’t be and somebody would be far too happy to use that against him.
He looked around, half praying to see a newspaper. Something, anything , a clue to tell him when he was but today wasn’t his day.
In more ways than one.
Hopefully, he hadn’t time-travelled too far into the past, he desperately thought as he was engulfed by the green flames.
When Harry fell down, he quickly got up, left the fireplace and ran to Professor Dumbledore’s office.
Whatever happened, he desperately thought, whenever he ended up, the old wizard would certainly know what to do. Maybe he would even find a way to help the DA members still in the Department of Mysteries. Maybe they would manage to stop Mr. Weasley from getting attacked in the first place.
Maybe he travelled back even further and they could save Cedric as well. Or stop Voldemort from coming back.
He finally reached the gargoyle and said the name of the first sweets that came to mind. When the gargoyle didn’t move, he tried again.
He only stopped trying when a man in deep blue robes asked him: “What, in Merlin’s name, are you doing here?”
“Cadburry– Oh." His eyes widened. “W-Well, I’m– I mean… I need to talk to the Headmaster.”
“Sir,” he amended. “It’s important. It’s–it’s important and it cannot wait.”
The wizard sighed but turned to the gargoyle. “Sirius.”
Harry abruptly turned his head when the staircase appeared.
“He’s not here. And what is so urgent you couldn’t even wait for the end of the welcoming feast? I’m not even sure the Hogwarts Express has arrived.”
Harry swallowed as he finally entered the office. The wizard stood in front of the desk in the middle of the room and crossed his arms.
“W-Well... S-Sir. I just wanted to…”
Dozens of possibilities came to him. Telling him he was a time-traveller, begging him to call Professor Dumbledore immediately , breaking down in tears in front of him.
Breaking everything in that bloody office and screaming against the world.
“I’m not a student here,” he slowly began. “I’ve been abroad most of my life and, as a result, I’ve learned whatever I could, wherever I could,” he quickly invented. “And now that I’m back, I was wondering if Hogwarts would be kind enough to accept me.” He tried to control his breathing. “I know that this is unusual but I’m motivated and-“
Harry blinked but the man stayed impassive. “F-fifth year, sir.”
He looked thoughtful. “You want to prepare for your Ordinary Wizarding Levels I presume.” Harry quickly nodded and he hummed. “That should be doable.”
Harry was taken aback. “Really?”
He nodded in confirmation. “Hogwarts is a school. It would be queer for a school to refuse a student willing to learn. You should have come sooner or sent me an owl but I suppose this is a fairly recent decision.”
“Very recent,” Harry confirmed.
“What bothers me the most is that I have no idea if you actually have the level to sit with our fifth year students. You said you studied abroad. Where exactly?”
“I-I’ve been here and there,” he fibbed. “I don’t actually have records of school. Or any money really,” he mumbled the words under his breath. Because, if he was right, he had no vault waiting for him. He hadn’t taken his key anyway.
The wizard closed in eyes and grimaced.
Harry panicked. He hadn’t meant for him to hear that. “Let me show you what I can do,” he hurried.
It didn’t matter in that moment when he was. Harry knew he had to go home. And Hogwarts was home. It didn’t matter that he had no idea how to go about it, he had to convince the wizard in front of him to enrol him. He might have said it was possible but nothing was set in stone yet. And Harry was perfectly aware he looked shady. Anything could make the wizard change his mind if he didn’t play his cards right.
One wrong move, and everything would be over before it had begun.
“One spell,” he told the impassive man. “Just one spell and if you’re not satisfied, I will stop bothering you.”
The wizard raised an eyebrow. “One spell, really.” His lips twitched. “You would gamble with your place and scholarship in Hogwarts betting on one single spell?” Seeing Harry nodding he smiled. “Alright then, I’m starting to get an idea where you’ll be sorted if you win your wager. One spell only. I have to warn you however, I’m a difficult wizard to impress.”
Harry nodded sharply and took his wand.
The man crossed his fingers. “Choose wisely.”
There wasn’t any choice, Harry thought. Either he succeeded or it was over. He couldn’t afford to hesitate, play down any skill he had, be subtle. He was lost and scared and he had nothing but his wand with him.
He raised his holly wand.
And if his wand failed him, then all was lost.
Harry thought of Ron and Hermione. “Expecto Patronum.”
The silver stag erupted from the end of his wand, brighter than ever, and Harry couldn’t help but smile. Prongs looked around and, seeing as he didn’t have enough place to canter about, bowed.
The wizard was gobsmacked. “Y-You win,” he weakly said. He stared at the stag for another minute and slowly started to chuckle. “I have to say, your patronus is magnificent.”
“Thank you, sir.” Harry pocketed his wand as the stag vanished.
The older man summoned the Sorting Hat. “The welcoming feast begins in half an hour,” he informed him. “But I suppose you wouldn’t want the added attention, being the only fifteen – or is it sixteen? – year old in the middle of eleven year old children.”
“That’s very nice of you, sir.” Harry took the Sorting Hat and put it on his head.
When the Hat fell over his eyes, Harry wondered what kind of giant Godric Gryffindor had been.
“Yes, yes,” the Sorting Hat murmured. “Older students are always more complicated.”
“Can he hear us?” Harry thought.
“Armando? No, I only shout the house I pick. I can see a lot of courage. Lots of courage, yes. You’re also very loyal and you have a sharp mind. And, my goodness, yes, you’re quite resourceful. Very resourceful indeed.”
“Gryffindor.” Harry closed his eyes. “Send me to Gryffindor.”
“Gryffindor, eh? Not a bad choice at all. A very fine choice indeed but, really, you could also go to Slytherin.”
“Very well then. GRYFFINFOR!”
Harry removed the Sorting Hat and handed it to the wizard.
“Welcome to Hogwarts.” He took a fob watch from his pocket. “And it seems now that I must leave with the Sorting Hat. My colleagues are probably waiting for us. You may take part in the welcoming feast, obviously. Gryffindor’s table is the one on the far right. I want you however to come back immediately afterwards, for I do believe there are a few details we need to finalize.”
Harry nodded sharply and did as he was told.
When Harry returned to the Headmaster’s office after the welcoming feast, Harry still hadn’t managed to pinpoint when exactly he had arrived.
Oh, he had tried. He’d heard the names being called, but part of him hadn’t managed to pay attention to his surroundings and nobody had bothered talking to him. He had tried to watch the teachers at the professor’s table, but, having decided not to draw attention he had stayed near the entrance and hadn’t managed to have a good look at their faces.
He’d however managed to gather the name of the wizard he had met.
If his memory served him well, that was Professor Dumbledore’s predecessor. In fact, having seen the man in Tom Riddle’s diary, Harry would have expected to recognize him.
Then again, he had been more focused on Tom Riddle himself.
Harry sighed and gave the password to the gargoyle.
So, roughly fifty years in the past. That was bad, but once Harry had found Professor Dumbledore, things would start looking up.
“Enter,” the voice on the other side of the door said and Harry did as he was told.
Professor Dippet was sitting in the headmaster’s armchair. He nodded. “Perfect. Just on time.”
Harry tried to not smile grimly.
“I’m waiting for somebody else but I suppose we can take care of the paperwork in the meantime. What optional classes would you like to take?”
“Well… I’d like to take Care of Magical Creatures.” Harry hesitated as the man nodded. “Care of Magical Creatures and… and Divination.”
“Of course you do,” Professor Dippet murmured as he wrote that down with a purple quill. “Everybody does these days. Alright then, now I need you to sign these papers. That reminds me," he realized as Harry signed them. "I haven’t actually asked for your-”
“That must be him.” Professor Dippet nodded. “Enter!”
A young man entered the room.
“My apologies, Professor,” the boy said. “A few first years had questions about how the school year works here.”
“No, no, I understand. I was a prefect too, back in the days. I’m sure you’re taking your duties as seriously as I did.”
The first thing Harry noticed about the student was his auburn hair.
“This is partly why I’ve asked you to come. This young man here has decided to join us this year. He will be in the same year as you and in the same house.”
At those words the prefect turned his head.
The second thing were these piercing and all too familiar blue eyes.
“I have no doubt that you will welcome him in our school the way I know only you can, Mr Dumbledore.”