Title: Turn Back Time
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Time Travel
Relationship(s): Draco Malfoy/ Hermione Granger/Harry Potter
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Discussion- Rape, Discussion- Child Abuse, Discussion- other triggers, Violence- graphic
Author Notes: A very big thank you to penumbria for her lovely art and betaing my story.
Word Count: ~64,000 total
Summary: Betrayals and tragedy lead Harry and Hermione to seek revenge in the past. Draco Malfoy persuades them to let him tag along. What can the three bitter and unhappy adults do as children again?
Yule morning was a bit depressing since Harry wasn’t sure he would get any presents. They had been so busy planning their revenge they hadn’t had much time to buy presents for each other. He had, but he wasn’t sure if Draco and Hermione had. Harry consoled himself that there would be other years. He remembered his first Christmas in Hogwarts and Ron’s excited shouts waking him to a pile of presents and a pang shot through his heart. All those memories forever tainted by the betrayal that he wasn’t even sure when it began. He sighed and shook himself out of his mood just as Draco knocked and entered his room.
“Well come on sleepy, we may be in mourning for my arsehole father, but it’s still Yule, and we have presents to open,” Draco said, sitting down on the edge of his bed.
“Fine, you go down, and I’ll bring mine with me. Did you already owl yours to Hermione?” Harry asked as he dug through his trunk for his presents.
“Yeah, yesterday. Did you?”
“Nah, I just gave them to her when she left. I can trust that she won’t open them until Christmas day. She’s very particular about that stuff, always has been.” Harry said, smirking up at the blonde who smirked back.
“Fine, you have five minutes to get dressed, and downstairs or I’m opening all your presents,” Draco said teasingly as he walked away.
Harry froze for a moment at the words; they brought back memories of Dudley opening presents while he got none. Finally, he shook himself and pulled on some clothes, he was glad Draco hadn’t noticed, but he supposed he would have to explain somethings to the blonde to avoid moments like this. Harry sighed; it had been years since he had had to explain the Dursleys mistreatment of him to anyone. Everyone in his life had already known all about it and apparently used it to manipulate him.
He gathered up the presents in his trunk and walked downstairs to join Narcissa and Draco.
Harry got a book on curses and curse-breaking from Hermione and a rune casting kit from Draco, Narcissa had gotten him a lovely scarf in Slytherin colours. Harry thanked them both for their presents. He had given Draco a book on advanced potions that the blonde had been raving about for the past few months and Hermione a warm sweater in a deep shade of red that was nearly black. For Narcissa, Harry hadn’t been sure what to get but had finally gotten her a small brooch with a narcissus flower. It was nearly as beautiful and elegant as his hostess and much appreciated by her.
Finally, all the presents had been unwrapped and appreciated, and the house-elves were cleaning up the wrapping paper when one of the elves walked up to Harry and handed him a wrapped present.
“For me?” Harry asked, looking down to see familiar handwriting. A cold dread filled his stomach, and he looked up at Draco to see the blonde eyeing him with concern.
“Umm, excuse me. I-I think I’ll open this in my room.” He said and practically ran from the room.
By the time Draco made his excuses to his mother and joined him he had thrown the sweater into the fire and was poking viciously at it with a poker to get it to burn faster, tears of anger and grief flowing down his face.
“Harry?” The blonde inquired gently coming closer and putting a hand on his shoulder.
“That, bitch potioned me into marrying her little bitch of a daughter and fed me obedience and loyalty potions and god knows what else for years, Draco. Years, fucking years. I don’t even know how long and she sends me a sweater. I have to think that they had it in mind that I would marry Ginny from the first year and started with little gifts and things to manipulate me. Look, just look at the note she sent with the present.” Harry spat angrily still poking at the sweater as he practically threw the balled up parchment at Draco.
The blonde sat down next to Harry on the floor and unrolled it to read.
I’m sure despite being sorted into Slytherin, you are a good boy and will grow up to be a decent man. Arthur an I knew your parents well when we were younger, and I like to think of you as one of my own. I heard from the twins and Ron that your relatives haven’t been good to you and I thought it might be good for you to get some gifts from people who actually care about you. I hope you like the sweater, it is home-made, but it has a lot of love. Maybe you would like to spend part of the summer holidays with us? I have asked Ron to invite you.
“Merlin, what a bitch. I can’t even…” Draco trailed off, “So many lies and manipulations in one short note. She’s vile.” Draco said and made to ball up the parchment and throw it into the fire when Harry stopped him.
“No, wait. Hermione needs to see this. She needs to know exactly how far back it goes.” Harry said taking the note from him and smoothing it out before folding it and putting it on his desk, “She also needs to see just how delusional Molly is if she thinks I’ll have anything to do with her lazy inbred son after all he’s said in the past few months.” He finished.
“Are you sure. It might just hurt her more.” Draco asked eyeing the letter apprehensively.
“Hermione can handle it. And she needs to know. Last time Molly sent her a sweater as well. We need to know if she has again.” Harry said, nodding decisively.
Draco just shrugged, he figured Harry had a point and he probably knew Hermione better.
“If you’re sure.” Draco said still worried about his friend, “Are you alright?” he asked
“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. It’s just a lot to take, you know? Finding out that not a second of it was real.” Harry sighed, slumping back in his chair next to the fire and eyeing the still burning sweater.
“I’m sorry, they treated you both so terribly. We’ll make them pay.” Draco said softly, reaching out and squeezing Harry’s shoulder.
“You warned me, that first day. I should have listened to you. The worst part is I have to wonder if Hermione would have gotten caught up in their plans if not for me. I was the one who insisted we go warn her about the troll. I was the one who made friends with her after that. Ron was still not keen.” Harry said with a short pain-filled laugh.
“Harry,” Draco said warningly.
“I know, I know. I shouldn’t be such a self-pitying martyr.” Harry said, waving him off a half-smile on his face.
“You said it, not me.” Draco said smirking, “Besides do you really think Hermione would have stopped being your friend even if she had known then what we know now?” he asked expression turning serious again.
“I don’t know. Ron potioned her so often that she couldn’t have kids anymore, Draco. Hermione loves kids. She loved my James so much. She was amazing with him.” Harry said his voice breaking on his son’s name. It still hurt so bloody much to even think of his little boy, so small and perfect as he had been the first time he had held him. Harry turned away belatedly, trying to hide his tears from Draco.
Draco’s heart hurt for his friend. He couldn’t believe anyone could be so greedy and selfish as to hurt two people who had done them no wrong. He closed the distance between Harry and himself and slowly put an arm around the smaller boy, when it wasn’t rebuffed, he pulled him into his arms, offering comfort as best he could. He wished he could take Harry’s pain away but holding him as he cried was the best he could do for now. It made him want to rip the Weasleys apart with his bare hands.
Harry finally managed to stop crying and pulled away, wiping away his tears and grimacing at the wet spot he had left on the other boy’s clothes.
“I’m sorry. I seem to have made a bit of a mess of you.” Harry said gesturing and sniffling a little.
“It’s fine Potter. Nothing a scourgify can’t fix.” Draco drawled handing Harry a handkerchief which he accepted gratefully, “Now come on, we don’t want Mother coming looking for us now do we? Let’s go eat the Yule brunch she’s planned for us. It won’t be as extravagant as usual because of Lucius, but it will be better than the stuff we get at Hogwarts.” He said imperiously making Harry smile at this glimpse of the old Draco and Draco smirked back at him pleased that he had made his friend smile again.
The next morning they met Hermione in front of Gringotts. Narcissa had side-along apparated them both to Diagon Alley but wouldn’t be coming into Gringotts with them as Draco had specifically asked her to stay behind with the excuse that the goblins wouldn’t treat him as they should Lord Malfoy if she was with them. She had smiled gently and agreed, leaving to finish some shopping.
Harry didn’t know what excuse Hermione had used with her parents, but he was glad to have her with him that day. The moment they spotted Hermione, Draco grinned and Harry didn’t like that grin one bit, it didn’t bode well for him.
“Hey, Mione, could you please tell Potter here that he’s just being silly when he goes on his guilt trips about how you were only sucked into the Weasley nonsense because of him.” Draco drawled, looking at Harry with his eyes glinting brightly.
“Don’t be silly, Harry. Even if that were true, it’s not your fault; your friendship is what kept me sane in Hogwarts. If you hadn’t befriended me I probably would have left the magical world by Yule that first year. So don’t you dare blame yourself for anything.” Hermione said glaring at Harry who shot a narrow-eyed look at Draco then raised his hands placatingly.
“Did you get a Weasley jumper with your presents, Mione?” Harry asked, leaning forward.
“No, but that’s not surprising considering I have had no contact with any of them since we sorted.” She said shrugging.
“I did. Molly is delusional, I think. And very ambitious.” Harry said grimacing as he handed Hermione the note that had come with the sweater.
Hermione read it and crumpled it in her hands. Her magic surged within her, and the paper burst into flame. She dropped it on the ground immediately with a wince.
“I hope you burnt the sweater as well.” She said, eyes spitting fire.
“Yes. I can’t believe none of it was real. I had hoped that it only turned mercenary in the later years, but after this, I can’t delude myself like that anymore.” Harry sighed.
Hermione just placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed anger still burning bright in her eyes.
“Forget the Weasleys for now. We have a different enemy to deal with today.” She said bracingly and dragged both boys into the bank.
The first appointment they had was with the Malfoy account manager. It was simple enough to get Sharprock to take them to both the Lestrange and the Malfoy vaults.
In the Malfoy vault, Harry quickly spotted the diary on an ornate desk in the back of the vault and picked it up without hesitation, handing it to Draco. The next stop was the Lestrange vault, and that was a little more difficult as it brought back memories of the last time they had been there. The dragon guarding the vault was still there, and despite Hermione’s quick hiss of breath at the sight, they couldn’t take it with them. Once they had the vault, open Harry glanced from Sharprock to Draco and inclined his head. The blonde nodded sharply and turned to the goblin.
“If you would give us a moment, Sharprock?’ Draco said politely indicating the door.
The goblin nodded to him, “Of course Lord Malfoy. I will just wait by the carts.” Bowed to them in turn and left.
The trio walked into the vault and found the cup relatively easily. Harry and Hermione didn’t touch anything within the vault itself just in case there was a repeat of the last time. Neither of them particularly wanted to get burnt again.
Once both Horcruxes were on the ground, Harry closed his eyes and summoned the sword with a tug of magic. They hadn’t been sure it would work, and all three breathed a sigh of relief when the sword slapped into Harry’s waiting hand with a snap.
“Damn but this thing still weighs a ton,” Harry grumbled as he took aim and stabbed the diary in the middle.
Harry gasped as the diary began to scream and wandlessly cast a privacy charm as quickly as he could. He didn’t want the goblin coming in to check on them.
He sagged a little when the black mist rose and formed the spirit of the younger Riddle before dissipating as ink poured from the diary, like blood. Finally, there was silence, and the three friends looked at each other.
“I can’t believe you did this and killed that basilisk all by yourself when you were twelve. You’re completely nuts; you know that, right?” Draco said, looking at Harry like he thought he was something strange. Harry just shrugged and exchanged a grin with Hermione.
He picked up the sword again and plunged it down into the cup, causing another inhuman scream to rise from it but luckily there was no face rising, and it dissipated sooner. When they were done, Harry was feeling a little tired like he had done a full days work. He sagged on the ground of the vault, sword still in his grip as he absently rubbed at his scar. His friends eyed him worriedly, and Hermione pulled out some pepper-up potion from her bag and handed it to him.
“You’re going to need it if you want to go through a healing today. Drink” She said, and Harry shrugged and tossed it back without even bothering to look at it. There were few people he trusted that well anymore. Hermione and now Draco were the only ones he would unquestioningly accept potions from.
Once the smoke stopped pouring from his ears, he stood and dismissed the sword back to its place and ended the privacy charm. The trio then trooped out of the vault to meet the goblin who looked at them curiously as they weren’t carrying anything more than they had gone in with. But he didn’t ask them any questions.
By the time they had returned to the main bank floor, and Draco had finished reviewing his holdings, it was time for Harry’s appointment with the goblin healer.
Nervous, actually terrified of what was going to happen Harry stood rubbing his arms in front of the fierce-looking goblin mage who seemed to be almost looking right through him. Draco and Hermione were watching silently by the door, having been instructed not to speak or interfere in any way.
“Your scar intrigues me young Mr. Potter. You tell me it’s been bothering you of late? And you haven’t been treated for it since you got it?” Healer Tasvi asked, reaching out with a gentleness that belied her appearance and running a finger down the scar.
Harry nodded too nervous to speak.
“I’m going to cast a few diagnostic charms on it, and we’ll see what we’re about, shall we?” The healer said and drew a magical staff and began casting a series of charms on him and nodding to herself as she got the results.
Magic heaved and roiled around his head, making him uncomfortable, but none of it hurt exactly. Healer Tasvi finally looked up at Harry with a look that was a mixture of pity and sadness. Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he realised that she hadn’t scanned his core. It had been a chance they had had to take, and he was glad it had worked.
“I’m afraid Mr. Potter that there is a shadow of dark magic in your scar. It looks like a soul leech or a soul fragment from when you were attacked by Lord Voldemort.” the healer said.
“What are you telling me? That I have a piece of that bastard, who killed my parents living inside my head? What does that make me? Can you get it out?” Harry asked his voice rising with nervousness. It was not news to him, but it still felt vile to have a piece of his enemies soul inside him.
“I believe we can remove it, but it will require a lot of magical strength and be very painful for you. I’m not sure you have the strength right now, at your age.” The healer said, rubbing a finger over her chin thoughtfully.
Before Harry could say anything at all to interrupt, she continued speaking.
“Although I see that you haven’t claimed your family ring yet. If you did that, your magic could mature enough to give you the necessary endurance for this.” She said, looking at him curiously.
“Sure, let’s do that. Can we do that now? Get it out today?” Harry asked, eagerly. He suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of having a piece of Voldemort within him for even a minute more.
The goblin nodded and left to retrieve his ring and gather the other necessary items for the ritual.
Harry sagged a little in his seat as his friends joined them.
“I don’t want you watching this, Mione. Please. It’s going to hurt, and I don’t think I could take it if you were there. Please.” He said when Hermione started to speak, and she swallowed hard and nodded.
Harry looked at Draco meaningfully, “You stay with her? Please.” He asked, and the blonde nodded. It didn’t sit right with him to not be there for Harry when he was going through something so painful, but he would do as his friend asked and take care of Hermione.
“At least if this works we’ll have gotten rid of all Riddle’s Horcruxes today. Then there’s just the thing inside Quirrell.” Harry sighed, looking at his feet. He knew he could handle the pain, he’d had more than his share of pain in his life, but he still wasn’t looking forward to it.
The goblin healer knocked perfunctorily and walked into the room. She held out the box with his family ring. Harry swallowed at the sight. It was the first time he was seeing it in either timeline, and he hadn’t realised how much it would mean to him. He tentatively reached out and stroked the smooth mithril feeling the warmth of his family magic welcoming him. He picked it up and carefully slipped it on his finger, feeling the magic swell and gather around him, wrapping him in a warm cocoon.
He heard Hermione gasp at the sight, but it was all distant from him as he heard hundreds of voices talking to him at once. Voices of the Potter family patriarchs who had worn the ring before him. The most poignant of them all was his father’s voice, a voice he only remembered from his previous encounters with dementors.
When it stopped, and the world came back, he saw that his friends and the healer were all looking at him with something like awe.
“What?” Harry asked, slightly unnerved by their stares.
“That was the most amazing claiming of family magic I have ever witnessed Lord Potter. My congratulations on the successful inheritance of your family’s wealth and magic.” The goblin healer said, “May I scan your core to see if you are sufficiently mature for the removal of the leech?” she asked, and Harry nodded.
When she had finished, she nodded to him and directed him into a ritual room under the bank. There were several goblins there, standing in the ritual circle. These goblins looked much fiercer and more like warriors than the usual goblins they saw within the bank. Harry nodded to them and climbed on the altar as the healer instructed.
“I feel strangely like some kind of sacrifice.” Harry joked weakly to Hermione who had tears in her eyes already, “Don’t cry, Mione. I’ll be fine; you know that.” He said, squeezing her hand.
She nodded, wiped away her tears, straightened her spine and followed Draco out of the room. At the door, Draco shot one last worried glance at Harry but the dark-haired boy just nodded to him, and he left.
The healer closed the door of the ritual room and walked up to Harry. She was followed by another goblin who carried several vials of potions. The healer handed them to Harry, and he grimaced but swallowed them gamely one after another. She then instructed him to cleanse himself in the cisterns at the edge of their circle and lie back on the stone altar as the other goblin took their place in the circle. Dressed in his ritual robes, Harry lay on the altar nervously trying not to think of all the things that could go wrong.
With a wave of her staff magic began to pulse in the circle, growing and changing around each goblin as they went until the magic seemed to gather in the centre of the circle and then arrowed straight towards Harry. The bright white light entered his head through his scar and Harry screamed.
He screamed and screamed until he was hoarse and then he screamed some more, almost, tearing his vocal cords. His body was bowed in a pain so great it was only magic keeping him from unconsciousness.
A dark shadow rose from his scar, it writhed and struggled and screamed against the magic the goblins threw at it and Harry somehow managed to scream louder despite his hoarse throat as his scar split open and began to bleed. The shadow darted around the circle trying to find a different host or a way out of the room but it was repulsed from all directions, and with one last scream it dissipated, and Harry collapsed back onto the altar unconscious. The goblins in the circle all sagged in their places as well.
It was a full five minutes before the healer managed to stand up again and started calling the magic in the circle back into place to heal Harry’s body from the damage the ritual had caused him. After a further five minutes of chanting, she stepped back and closed the ritual circle, dismissing the other goblins.
The door opened, and the goblins filed out admitting Draco and Hermione. They hurried up to their friend, and Hermione took his hand in hers brushing the messy dark hair off his forehead and letting out a choked sob at the sight of the raw red looking scar.
“Is he alright? Did it work?” Draco asked the healer not taking his eyes off Harry’s pale and tired looking face.
“It was a soul fragment. It wasn’t properly anchored in him, and it makes me doubt that it was intentionally placed there. It probably means that Voldemort made other Horcruxes, young lord. And the ritual should have revealed the others, at least their hiding places, but we saw none.” The healer said, looking intently at him.
Draco exchanged a look with Hermione, and she nodded, they would trust the goblins to keep some of their secrets.
“You don’t have to worry about his other Horcruxes. We have had people getting rid of them for us. The last two were destroyed quite recently, Healer Tasvi.” Draco said, stepping closer and taking Harry’s other hand.
“Do you also know where the last remaining soul fragment resides? Who it is possessing?” The healer asked, raising an eyebrow at his words.
“We do. We have a ritual planned to banish the spectre forever, but we are unsure of its effectiveness.” Hermione answered, looking at Draco. She was as sure of her research as possible, but it was better to have a second opinion.
“If I may see this ritual, I could tell you if it will work. Remember it must be young Lord Potter who performs the ritual or else it will not work. The magic that connects their fate requires it.” The healer said nodding to Hermione.
“Thank you, Healer Tasvi. You’ve been very kind. I’ll owl it to you when I get home.” Hermione said gratefully, “Will he remember the ritual? The pain?” She asked stroking a hand along Harry’s scar.
“No, the potions we gave him beforehand would prevent him from remembering more than that the shadow is gone. His magic will be a little unpredictable and unstable for a few days but it should be fine by the time school starts again. He should wake up in a few minutes. Give him this, and he will be fine to go home.” The healer said, and she nodded to them, moving towards the door.
At the door, Healer Tasvi turned, “Oh and let Lord Potter know that if he wishes to meet his account manager, he can come back anytime. Rytzid is really looking forward to meeting the new Lord Potter.” She said and left.
Draco and Hermione settled themselves to wait for Harry to wake up each holding one of Harry’s hands.
“What did he mean, when he said he would be fine?” Draco asked softly. He had been meaning to ask earlier but worry over his friend had made him temporarily forget.
“Hmmm? Oh, that. Not here. I’ll explain it when we have some privacy.” She said, looking meaningfully around the room.
Draco nodded, “ Just tell me this. Does it have anything to do with his father’s cloak?” he asked.
Hermione nodded and then turned her eyes onto her best friend, who seemed to be resting peacefully.
Draco nodded to himself. It made sense in a really morbid way.
They waited, talking aimlessly about unimportant things, and ten minutes later, Harry started to stir.
“Harry?” Hermione said stroking Harry’s messy hair off his face.
“Did anyone catch the Hippogriff that ran me down?” Harry groaned as he blinked bleary eyes open.
“Here, drink this. Healer Tasvi says this will help with any lingering pain.” Hermione said, handing the vial of potion to Harry who struggled to sit up with Draco’s help and took the vial, knocking it back in one shot.
He sighed when the potion began to work.
“Glasses?” Harry asked as he peered hazily at his friends.
Hermione looked around for his glasses and found them on the other side of the altar practically melted from the force of the magic that had flung it there during the ritual.
“I’m sorry, Harry, but I don’t think you can ever wear these. There isn’t enough reparo in the world.” She said apologetically.
Harry grimaced and took the mangled frames and shattered lenses from her.
“Oh well, you are both going to have to lead me around like a blind person until I can replace them.” Harry sighed.
“Hey, why don’t you just get your eyes corrected? You’re young enough now that it should work and with the Potter money, it’s not like you are exactly hurting for cash.” Draco said.
“I always regretted not getting it done before. You think I can get an appointment with a healer today? I hate being blind like this.” Harry said nodding and grimacing again at the sight of his mangled glasses.
“Sure there’s one down at the end of Diagon Alley; we can just walk down there now and get it done,” Draco said helping Harry off the altar.
Hermione handed him his clothes that he had left near the cisterns when he changed into the ritual robes the healer had given him.
Harry grabbed them and blushed motioning for them both to turn their backs so he could change. Hermione grinned, and Draco smirked at him, but they both turned around. When he was dressed, they walked out of the bank after making an appointment to meet with the Potter account manager for the day before they would have to return to school.
“I don’t see why you’re so shy. I’ve seen you naked before, remember.” Hermione said amusement in her voice.
“Yes, but I was older then. I am a bleeding adult in the body of an eleven-year-old. I am so not comfortable with my body now, nevermind letting anyone else see it.” Harry grumbled.
“I hear you. Do you know how weird it is to look down and see no boobs at all and a child’s body? I feel like a fucking paedophile if I so much as think of wanking.” Hermione said, wincing slightly.
“Hermione,” Harry exclaimed flushing brightly.
“What? Women have sex drives, too, Harry. I’ve tried to tell you before, but you never listen.” Hermione teased glancing between the two embarrassed boys and laughing.
“Yes, I know women have sex drives, but I don’t need to hear about yours,” Harry whined in a slightly strangled voice. Draco nodded fervently in agreement.
Hermione just grinned at them and tugged on Harry’s arm to lead them in the direction of the oculist.
The oculist visit was short but uncomfortable for Harry as the spell gently corrected the defects in his eyes. When it was done, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly.
“I think I’m done for today. The ritual and my eyes took a lot out of me. Plus the stuff we did before that.” Harry said as they walked back to the Leaky Cauldron where they were going to floo back to the Manor, and Hermione was meeting her parents, “Thanks for coming today, Mione. Even if you couldn’t be in there with me just having you near helped.” he added hugging her goodbye as they stepped towards the floo.
“I’ll always be there for you, Harry. You know that.” Hermione admonished gently as she returned his hug.
“I see how it is. I bring you here and stay with you, and I get nothing. She gets thank you, Mione.” Draco mock-pouted.
“Fine, come here, you prat. Thank you, Draco. You’re a good friend.”Harry said grinning and pulling Draco into a hug as well.
“Keep your grubby paws off me, you git. A simple thanks would have sufficed.” Draco said, stepping back playfully. Harry grinned and lunged at him again, and Draco dodged laughing so hard he landed on his arse with Harry ending up next to him, both boys laughing together. Hermione just smiled and shook her head at them.
“Alright, you lot. Get going. You need all the rest you can get, Harry.” She said walking upto them and nudging the heel of Harry’s shoe with her foot.
“Yes, mum,” Harry answered, grinning at her when she made a face at him. There was a fleeting flash of sadness on her face that Harry noticed, and when he stepped towards her, she held up a hand, “I’m fine. It’s not like its true anymore. We changed things, and who knows, maybe I will have a house full of kids in the future.” She said shrugging.
Harry sighed and nodded. His friend wasn’t quite ready to admit to her pain, and it was fine, he would be there when she was. It just worried him the longer she held strong.
The boys nodded to her and stepped into the floo calling out their destination.
Harry slept a full 48 hours when they returned home. When Harry didn’t wake for lunch or even after dinner, it made Draco panic a little, but his mother ran a few diagnostics and found that Harry was just drained magically and would recover with rest.
“Don’t worry Dragon; he’ll be fine. Can you tell me what you boys did that caused this?” Narcissa asked gently.
Draco looked away from Harry’s sleeping form and focused on his mother.
“Harry has been complaining about pain in his scar, so we took him to a goblin healer since that is a curse scar. They performed a ritual to remove a shadow of the Dark Lord from his scar.” Draco answered, eyeing her carefully to see how she would react.
Narcissa paled and covered her mouth in shock
“H-he had a soul leech attached to him, and nobody did anything all these years?” She stammered in surprise.
Draco just nodded shortly and turned back to watch his sleeping friend.
“You really care about him, don’t you?” She asked, “He’s not just a means to an end for you, not like he was for your father?”
“Harry and Hermione are the first real friends I’ve ever had, Mother. I wouldn’t use them like that or allow Father to hurt them in any way.” Draco said firmly his jaw hardening with determination.
“Oh, Dragon, what have you done?” Narcissa cried a sob in her voice and horror on her face, “Did you…were you responsible for your father’s death?” She asked. The hand covering her mouth was trembling as she spoke.
Draco’s eyes hardened, and he pulled out his wand and lit the tip, pointing it at his heart, “I swear on my magic that I did not kill Lucius Malfoy, nor did I pay anyone else to do it for me.” He said, and Narcissa watched as the tip stayed lit even as the magic of the vow settled over Draco.
She breathed a sigh of relief as Draco whispered a soft nox and put away his wand.
“That’s not to say that I didn’t want to do it. I could have killed him for what he was doing to you alone, let alone what he was planning for my friends.” Draco said his expression cold and unforgiving.
“Oh, Dragon. You know about the potions?” She asked softly, coming to stand close to him.
“And the spells.” Draco said nodding, “I’d like you to consider visiting a mind-healer, somewhere abroad if you are not comfortable with the ones here.” He said, looking up at her a certain gentleness back in his expression.
“I…..I don’t know.” Narcissa faltered uncertainly.
“Just think about it, Mother. You’re still quite young for a witch, and I don’t want you to be held back by the memories of the things he did to you.” Draco said, reaching out and squeezing her hand gently.
“Alright. I’ll think about it.” She nodded and walked towards the door, “I assume you’ll be staying here until he wakes up?” She asked as she paused at the door. At Draco’s nod, she smiled gently at her son and walked out, closing the door behind herself.
“You Gryffindor idiot. Couldn’t you have said that you were magically drained? We could have made do on the way home rather than fix your eyes on the same day. And that after summoning the sword and destroying not one but two Horcruxes.” Draco grumbled at his sleeping friend, “I suppose you can take the boy out of Gryffindor but not the Gryffindor out of the boy. Stupid git. Why must you worry me so?” He sighed and lay down next to the dark-haired boy.
There was no answer from the sleeping boy, but Draco heard a soft pop and turned to see Dobby watching them carefully.
“Master Harry is better now? The Dark Lord is gone from him.” Dobby asked softly.
“What do you know about the Dark Lord’s soul leech in Harry?” Draco asked frowning at the little elf.
“Dobby sensed dark magic in Master Harry’s scar. Dobby wasn’t sure what it was until Master Draco just said.” Dobby said tugging on his ears nervously.
Draco nodded, “Yes, we got rid of most of the Dark Lord today. There is just one more piece left to take care of after the holidays.” he said absently.
“Masters will be careful? Dobby is begging Masters. The Dark Lord be very dangerous.”
“Don’t worry, Dobby. Harry can handle it. And he’ll have us, Hermione and me for help as well.
“And Dobby.” The little elf added, and Draco nodded, smiling.
After a few minutes watching Harry sleep, the elf popped away, and Draco slowly slipped into sleep himself.
Draco spent the entire two days in Harry’s room doing his homework and watching Harry sleep. He was willing his friend to wake as, despite his mother’s reassurances, he was still a little worried. On the morning of the third day, Harry finally stirred and blinked sleepy green eyes at the sight of Draco next to him.
“Whoa, this is so weird,” Harry exclaimed looking around the room.
“What’s weird?” Draco asked, voice scratchy with sleep.
“Being able to just wake up and see, not needing to reach for my glasses first thing,” Harry said yawning.
By this time Draco was mostly awake himself, and he reached out and poked Harry in the stomach.
“You’re awake. Finally. Why can’t you be like a normal person and just admit it when you’ve been pushed to your limits? Why must you insist on going a little bit further just ‘cause you can? You are such a bastard for worrying us like that. Hermione has been sending owls practically every hour. She’s coming over today, and I will not be saving you from her.” Draco said, frowning down at Harry.
Harry sighed, “How long was I out?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Two whole days, you arsehole. We could have come straight home after the ritual; we didn’t need to get your eyes fixed the same bloody day.” Draco cursed him.
Harry grinned, “Awww, were you worried about me? I’m touched.” Harry teased, causing the blonde to poke him again.
“See if I worry again. You deserve everything you get from Hermione today.” Draco said pouting a little.
Harry grinned at him before the rest of what the blonde had said registered, and he groaned.
“You told her? Why, why would you do that to me?” Harry whined and it was Draco’s turn to grin smugly.
“You deserve everything you get, you wanker.” Draco said getting up and stretching luxuriously, “So? How are you feeling now?” He asked with barely masked concern
“I’m fine. A little stiff from sleeping for so long and hungry, but I’m feeling much better than I have in months. It’s such a relief not to have my scar prickling constantly.” Harry answered, rubbing absently at his scar.
“Good, if you get up and get showered I’ll ask Dobby to bring you some breakfast,” Draco said, heading to his own room for a shower of his own.
Harry nodded, stretched slowly, assessing how every bit of him really felt, and if he would be strong enough to stand on his own. Surprisingly the answer was yes, so he carefully got out of bed and walked into the shower with one hand on the wall, just in case.
Showered and feeling much more human than before he sat down at the desk as Dobby popped in with a breakfast tray. After reassuring and calming the excitable little house-elf, he set about examining the breakfast tray. There was enough food for two and Harry supposed that Draco would be joining him. Sure enough, he had just filled a glass with pumpkin juice when Draco strolled in, freshly showered.
They ate in companionable silence each lost in their own thoughts. After breakfast, they got up and walked down to the library by unspoken agreement. On the way, they met Narcissa who reassured herself of her guest’s well being and fussed over Harry a little, much to his embarrassment. It was nice to have someone care about him, and Harry found her rather quiet care a lot more comforting than Molly’s rather overwhelming nature.
By the time they had settled in with a book, each a house-elf appeared announcing Hermione’s arrival. Harry groaned and hid his face behind his book when Hermione walked into the room.
“Harry James Potter, how dare you worry us like that? Do you know that Draco has barely slept or eaten in the past two days? He’s not used to your self-destructive ways and kept bombarding me with owls, worried about you.” She yelled hands on her hips as she glared at him.
Harry glanced at Draco, who was slightly flushed with embarrassment at her words. He looked back at the irate girl in front of him and put on his best contrite expression.
“I’m sorry, Mione. I thought I could handle it.” Harry tried but stopped when she glared some more and started tapping her foot, impatiently, “I promise not to do it again?” He tried again.
She gave a sharp nod, “See that you don’t. You’re my best friend, who would plot mayhem with me if you weren’t around? “ She asked gently tugging on a strand of his messy hair as she came closer and enveloped him in a quick hard hug.
“I’m sure Draco would help you plan mayhem, Mione,” Harry said grinning at the still flushed blonde.
“He would, but he’s not my oldest friend, now is he?” She asked, throwing a quick smile at the blonde before focusing back on Harry.
“I’ll always be fine. You know that, Mione.” Harry said shrugging.
“No, I do not know that, Harry. It’s only a theory that we have so far. And we are NOT testing it out.” She answered a slight hitch in her voice.
Harry raised his hands in surrender before standing up and pulling her into a hug.
“You never really explained that to me,” Draco said, raising his eyebrows quizzically.
Hermione looked around the room.
“Is this room safe?”She asked, pulling out her wand and then putting it away with a frustrated huff.
“Dobby.” Draco called, “If you could make this room temporarily completely private.” He said when the elf popped in.
“Also make sure to ward against eavesdropping animagi,” Harry added.
Dobby nodded, and with a snap of his fingers, magic settled over the room, ensuring their privacy.
“Thank you, Dobby,” Harry said, and the little elf grinned and popped away.
“Dobby? I can’t believe I forgot he used to work here.” Hermione exclaimed, “It’s good to see him again.”
“I’d forgotten too until I saw him. Draco gave me his bond, so he’s mine now.” Harry said nodding.
“That was nice of you, Draco.”
“When I asked him if he wanted to bond with Harry, he practically hugged me to death. How was I supposed to say no after that?” Draco said smirking, “Now explain the theory.” he said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Harry is Master of Death; we know this. The theory is that he can only die when he wills it. How do you think he survived the attack in the future? That spell hit him full-on and only glanced off James. It should have killed Harry too.” Hermione said pain in her voice. She had loved the little boy like he was her own.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been hit with a killing curse and survived it.” Harry said shrugging, “Granted I don’t remember the first time, but the second time, near the end of the war I went to a white place that looked a little like Kings Cross and met Dumbledore who told me it was my choice if I lived or died, among other things. I figure that was the only truth he told me.”
Draco gaped at them both.
“Wait…..so, you’re telling me that you’ve been hit with the killing curse not once but three times and survived?” Draco asked, looking between Harry and Hermione.
Harry nodded, then shook his head, “Ummm maybe more than three?” He said voice rising a little questioningly.
“What do you mean? Harry James Potter, have you been keeping secrets?” Hermione asked, glaring at him.
“Don’t be like that Mione. I just didn’t want to worry anyone. I mean, I was fine, so it didn’t matter what the curse was, did it?”Harry said wincing a little at her glare, “Alright, you remember a few years back, I was on that illegal potions ring case and the guy threw a curse at me. It looked like the killing curse, but it didn’t have any effect on me, so I wasn’t sure. I got checked out at St. Mungos, and they said I was in perfect health, so I never told anyone about it.” Harry shrugged.
Hermione shook her head at him and looked thoughtful.
“Do you think it’s only Avada Kedavra that you are immune to or all forms of death?” Draco asked musingly when he had managed to overcome his shock.
“I dunno. I figure it’s every kind. But we can’t test it out. Right, Mione?” Harry said, grinning at Hermione.
“Damn right, you’re not testing it out. I didn’t travel back in time with you just for you to kill yourself experimenting.” She said firmly, but there was a smile quirking her lips.
Both boys grinned at her, and she ignored them and walked to the closest bookshelf.
“Oh, this is a wonderful library, Draco. Do you mind if I borrow a few books?” She asked as she walked around exclaiming over the rarity of some of the books.
“Sure, go ahead. My books are your books. You just need to return them by summer, or they will be pulled back into the Manor by themselves.” Draco said, smiling at his friend’s enthusiasm.
“Retrieval spell?” Hermione asked, and when he nodded, she went back to examining the books, “That’s handy. I sometimes wished I could put something like that on my own books when I was younger.”
The three friends spent the rest of the day reading quietly in the library with occasional bouts of conversation. Dobby even brought them a light lunch there and was ecstatic at being introduced to Hermione, again. His unabashed happiness pleased Hermione as well as she had missed the elf and held some guilt over his death in the previous timeline.
When the sky started to darken, Hermione reluctantly got up to leave.
“How did you get here, Mione?” Harry asked.
“Now he asks.” She said, shaking her head at him with a smile, “I flooed from the Leaky. I’m going back there, and mum and dad will pick me up there.” she answered when he just shrugged with a grin.
“How are they? What’s it like being back with them again?” Harry asked gently, getting up as well and walking towards her.
“I’d forgotten what they were like without the memory issues. It’s so nice to have them back and know that I won’t be forced to make that choice again.” She said sadness in her eyes.
“I’m glad you have them back.” He said, smiling and putting an arm around her.
Draco got up as well, and they walked her to the floo where they found Narcissa waiting for them.
“It was nice of you to have me over, Mrs. Malfoy. It was a pleasure to meet you.” Hermione said politely.
“It’s always nice to meet one of Draco’s friends Miss Granger. Come by anytime, dear. You’re always welcome here.” The older woman said, shaking Hermione’s hand.
“Call me, Hermione, please.” Hermione returned, and the older woman nodded, smiling.
Hermione then turned to the boys and waved goodbye to them before stepping through the floo.
The boys then went back to the library to retrieve their books and then headed to Harry’s room. Harry was beginning to feel his exhaustion again and decided to head to bed before his friend noticed and worried.
Harry sat on his bed, leaning back against the headboard while Draco lounged back in the chair beside his bed.
“Oh, I forgot to mention it earlier, but mother got suspicious about Lucius’ death and asked me if I killed him.” Draco drawled after they had gotten settled.
“What?” Harry said, sitting up straight in bed, all tiredness gone in the face of his fear that they might be caught.
“Don’t worry. I made a vow on my magic that I didn’t kill him or pay anyone to kill him, and she calmed right down.” Draco said, waving a hand dismissively.
“No, you didn’t have to pay me. I volunteered.” Harry snorted. It amused him how easily the blonde had slithered out of trouble, but this was one too many close calls. They would need to be more careful with their plans from now on.
“I meant to ask, what does your mother really think about Hermione?”
“She was a little surprised by the fact that I had made friends with a Muggle-born and even more surprised that Hermione was sorted Slytherin, but she didn’t really say anything against it. I think she’s still getting used to the idea. One thing we can be sure of, though, unlike Lucius, she won’t be nasty about it.” Draco shrugged as if to say that this was the best they could hope for right then.
Harry nodded thoughtfully and went back to reading. After a few minutes of silence as they were each absorbed in their books, Harry looked up, a thought having occurred to him.
“One thing I always regretted was that I didn’t have enough money to just buy out the Daily Prophet. Do you suppose that with all this Potter money I’ve inherited I could afford to buy it and make sure they don’t ever print lies about me?” Harry mused.
“Sure, why not. If you don’t, I think I wouldn’t mind owning the Prophet with you.” Draco said, rubbing a finger under his chin thoughtfully.
“That sounds like a good idea. You and me owning the Prophet.” Harry agreed. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
“We’ll have to do it under a different name. Maybe a joint company of sorts. It wouldn’t do for everyone to know who owns the paper.”
“Oh, this will make it easier to change the Ministry to suit us. And get rid of Fudge and Umbridge.” Harry agreed nodding along with Draco’s ideas.
“We can discuss it with your account manager and mine when we go back to Gringotts,” Draco said, and the boys exchanged grins of satisfaction.
“We’d need a name for it. Nothing too obvious.” Harry said absently.
“Hmm, how about Grey Holdings? We’re both not exactly light wizards, but we’re not completely dark, either.”
“It has potential. But it’s a little boring. Black and Peverell sounds better, don’t you think? You are a Black on your mother’s side, and Peverells were my ancestors.” Harry countered.
“That’s not common knowledge anymore, but I bet Dumbledore would know it.” Draco answered sceptically, “Oh, I have it. How about Lion and Serpent. Dumbledore would never suspect it was us since you didn’t sort into Gryffindor this time.”
“But Draco, I may not be in Gryffindor, but I am the Earl of Gryffindor. It’s no good.” Harry huffed, and Draco pouted in annoyance as his idea was being shut down again.
“Maybe Hermione will have an idea. We can ask her. It can be one way she joins us in this.” Draco said, finally.
“No, I have a better idea. Why don’t we make it a three-way equal partnership, even if she can’t supply the money she does more than make up for it with brains.” Harry said eyes lighting up with the new idea.
“I’m not exactly an idiot, you know. Neither are you for that matter. “ Draco pointed out a little petulantly even if he agreed about including Hermione.
“I know that, Draco. I worked long and hard to earn my reputation after the war. But you have to admit she’s the smartest of the three of us. And the most logical.” Harry said soothingly, and the blonde nodded reluctantly.
“So, we write and ask her if she’d like to own the Prophet with us,” Draco said, heading to the desk to pull out quill and parchment.
“And ask her for suggestions for names for our company” Harry added as he came to stand behind Draco, watching him write.
“There, that should do it,” Draco said, handing the letter to Harry when he was done and whistling for an owl.
As Draco’s eagle owl swooped into the room, Harry finished reading it and nodded.
“You must remind me to get a protective amulet from the bank for Hedwig,” Harry said as he watched the blonde fasten the letter to the owl.
Both boys went back to reading while occasionally stopping to discuss names they came up with. Somehow nothing seemed to fit. They read until Dobby interrupted, announcing dinner.
When they went downstairs still arguing Narcissa asked them what they were talking about. The boys exchanged glances, and Harry shrugged.
“We’re thinking of buying the Prophet together, Harry, Hermione and I. We need a name for our company, and we can’t agree on one,” Draco answered tentatively. He wasn’t sure what his mother would think of his sudden interest in business.
“We think maybe we’ll buy Flourish and Blotts as well,” Harry added, just shrugging when Draco looked at him. It was a good idea, especially considering Hermione’s appetite for books. And both he and Draco loved reading too if not to the extent Hermione did.
“Why not something simple like the initials of your names?” Narcissa said, watching the two boys with interest.
“HHD? PGM? PMG? MPG?” Harry mused aloud as he ate a mouthful of his food.
“PMG sounds best,” Draco said nodding thoughtfully.
“PMG Holdings. Sounds right, doesn’t it? Now we just have to see what Hermione thinks.” Harry said when Draco nodded. He couldn’t believe they hadn’t thought of it themselves.
“So, what brought on this sudden interest in business?” Narcissa asked curiously, looking between the boys.
“Well considering Harry’s celebrity and now his inheritance and my inheritance, we thought it might be best if we could have a way to control public perception of us.” Draco said shrugging, “You should see the way people at school react to him. I figure the rest of the wizarding world is not that different.” Draco added, making Harry’s cheeks fill with embarrassed heat.
Narcissa nodded thoughtfully.
“I’m glad you are taking an interest in business my dragon. It will serve you well in the future.” She said, and Draco beamed under the praise.
The next day they received a reply from Hermione saying she agreed with buying the Prophet together and giving them several suggestions for names. The boys replied with the one name they had agreed on the night before and made arrangements to meet up in Gringotts again the day before they had to return to school. They sent Horus, Draco’s eagle owl back with the reply after making much of him so he would consent to it.
Harry slowly regained his energy and strength over the next few days and was feeling much more himself by the time they met up again in Diagon Alley.
“This is a brilliant idea, you two. But you do know that I don’t have much money to contribute to this, right?” Hermione said as she walked up to them.
“That’s fine, Mione; you can be the brains of the operation. We’re more than happy to cover your share for now.” Harry said, putting an arm around her shoulder as Draco nodded.
“Alright, if you’re sure.” She said, smiling at them both.
“Harry here had the idea of also trying to buy or at least invest in Flourish and Blotts,” Draco added, smiling at the girl.
“Whoa, Harry, who knew you were so brilliant.” Hermione teased and was rewarded by a poke in the stomach from her best friend.
“He does have some good ideas sometimes.” Draco agreed smirking at the dark-haired boy and staying firmly out of reach of him.
Harry just grinned at his friends, “If anyone listened to you two, they’d believe I was thicker than Dudley.” He grumbled mildly before Draco slung an arm around his neck and pulled him into an affectionate one-armed hug.
The meeting with his account manager, Rytzid, was shocking in that Harry found out just how much money he had been cheated out of in the previous timeline. How much the Ministry had stolen from him because he had never claimed his title.
Harry couldn’t believe how much Dumbledore’s manipulations had cost him. Hermione came up to him and softly placed a hand on his shoulder as he was trying to swallow his grief and anger. Harry looked up at her with his eyes filled with pain, and she squeezed his shoulder gently.
“We’re here. We’ll always be here.” She said as Draco came up to his other side and nodded quietly when Harry looked at him.
Harry swallowed hard and nodded then looked back at the papers in his hand.
“Thanks.” He said softly and was answered by a light squeeze of the hand on his shoulder.
The rest of the meeting went smoothly, and the trio managed to sign the papers to begin the takeover of the Daily Prophet and register their company anonymously. The goblin had been most amused and pleased by their ideas and requests, and Harry had a feeling that he had indulged them a lot. They also made a quick stop at the Potter vaults to collect the amulet for Hedwig and strengthen the charms on it.
Well pleased with themselves they left the meeting, and Draco dragged Harry off to buy him a new wardrobe while Hermione stayed behind to consult with Healer Tasvi about the banishment ritual they had planned for Voldemort.
The blonde had insisted that as Harry would never be allowed to go back to the Dursleys again, it was about time Harry had a new wardrobe fitting a man of his wealth and social stature. Harry had just sighed and acquiesced. Harry hated shopping, but it seemed to please Draco, so he allowed the blonde to drag him around the stores on Diagon Alley. They were joined by Hermione in Madam Malkins when she was done with the healer and merely nodded when Harry looked at her enquiringly. It relaxed something in Harry to know that someone outside the three of them also believed that they would succeed.
Once they were done in Madam Malkins Hermione took them through the Leaky into muggle London. Draco was amazed and shocked by the sights and sounds. He had never been comfortable in the muggle world even in the previous timeline having ventured into it only very rarely.
But once they entered a shop, he was back in his element darting from one rack to another, piling things on for Harry to try on. He even picked up a few things for himself. Harry and Hermione were quite amused by how completely Draco was willing to embrace muggle culture once he figured out that their clothing was a lot more comfortable than wizarding robes.
Happy and laden with parcels the trio finally made their way back to the Leaky Cauldron where the boys flooed back to the Manor and Hermione met her parents.
When they got back to the Manor, Harry summoned Dobby and explained the situation with Pettigrew and his Godfather to him.
“Do you think you could cause his transformation back to human and pop him onto the platform as the train is leaving along with a note saying Sirius is innocent and jailed without a trial?” Harry asked the little elf.
“Oh, yes, Master Harry. Dobby can do that for his Harry Potter. Dobby can.” The elf said, bouncing with excitement at being allowed to do something so important for his master.
Harry smiled and handed over the sleeping rat’s cage, and Dobby popped out muttering and cursing at the rat.
The commotion on the platform the next morning caused by the sudden appearance of Pettigrew’s sleeping body was barely drowned out by the scream of the engine as the train departed.
Most of the students missed the sight, but as a bonus, both Madam Bones, head of the DMLE and Augusta Longbottom had a front row seat to his sudden appearance. Harry was very satisfied with this and believed that they would help him get Sirius free.
Within the first ten minutes of their journey, most of the students had heard about the unconscious man who just appeared on the platform and had dropped by to share it with the trio. The man’s identity, however, was still a mystery to most of them.
The trip back to Hogwarts was otherwise uneventful except when Ron tried to barge into their compartment. Hermione merely pulled her wand and petrified him, and the boys picked him up and tossed him outside in the corridor.
They were also joined at various points in the journey by all their friends from various houses, and talk stayed to congratulations for Harry on claiming his title, yule and the presents they had received. Some people were a little awkward at first expressing their condolences to Draco about his father, but when the blonde just brushed it off, they soon relaxed.
It was a pleasant interlude for the trio as they knew that they would have to prepare for the ritual once they arrived back in Hogwarts.
On their way to get into the carriages, they were accosted by Pansy Parkinson who sneered at Harry and Hermione and simpered at Draco. Harry and Hermione watched the proceedings amusedly. They already knew what she wanted and that she would not be getting it.
“Draco darling, I’m so sorry about your father. I hope you are doing alright. I was hoping for an invitation to the Manor this yule after his passing to ratify the agreement between our families.” She said, smiling in a way she obviously thought was flirtatious, latching onto his arm.
“You can forget about it, Parkinson. It’ll never happen. I have already told my mother that any and all marriage contracts for me are to be nullified. I will marry who I please, and nobody, not even my dead father, can tell me no.” Draco said coldly, pulling his arm out of her hold.
“Oh and I suppose you would rather marry the mudblood here?” The irate girl said scathingly.
“Call her or anyone else a mudblood and I will make you regret you were born, Parkinson. And for your information, I’d rather marry a smart Muggle-born like her than an idiot pure-blood like you.” Draco said ice in his eyes freezing Pansy in place.
She managed to pull herself together after a minute and stamped her foot angrily.
“What happened to you, Draco. You’ve changed. You used to be so different before you started hanging out with them.” Pansy said gesturing deprecatingly at Harry and Hermione.
“I grew up, Pansy. You should try it sometime.” Draco answered ice in every word as he turned and helped Harry and Hermione into a carriage following them inside. He pointedly closed the door in Pansy’s face when she made to follow them.
Soon after the welcome feast, Snape summoned both Harry and Draco to his office.
“Lord Potter, Lord Malfoy, I have been informed about your change in circumstances.” The potions professor said, still looking at his papers, “My condolences on your loss, Draco.” The man said, looking up at Draco with a gentleness that Harry had never seen in him before.
“Thank you, Professor,” Draco said stoically, his expression completely shut down and blank.
“In light of your new titles, you will be moved into a shared suite of rooms where you will each have a bedroom and shared study, common room area.” The head of Slytherin said, looking at the boys sternly, “The elves will be moving your things into your new suite and will direct you to it when it is ready. I hope you will not abuse the privilege, gentlemen.” Snape said and dismissed them with a wave of his hand.
The boys walked out of the office, barely managing to conceal their glee. Now they would have a school-sanctioned private place of their own. They would still keep their classroom for brewing purposes, but this would be much more comfortable.
They hurried off to tell Hermione who was just as delighted. She quickly packed up some of her books and belongings that she didn’t trust around the other girls in her dorm and found a place for them in the boys’ study.
“You know, if you are uncomfortable in the girls’ dorms, you are always welcome to transfigure a sofa into a bed for yourself,” Harry said gently as he watched her unpack her things.
“I might take you up on that sometimes but not every day.” Hermione said nodding, “This is much better for us, more privacy,” She said, looking around appreciatively at the room done up in Slytherin colours.
“Oh, that reminds me.” Harry said, slapping his forehead, “Dobby.” he called.
The little house-elf popped into the room, looking around with his large green eyes.
“Master Harry has his own suite. Dobby is happy. This mean Dobby can take care of Master Harry properly.” The elf said, bouncing with enthusiasm.
“Not exactly mine, Dobby. I’m sharing with Draco.” Harry said, smiling at the elf, “Can you make sure these rooms are as private as possible and nobody other than Draco, Hermione and I can enter without our permission or eavesdrop on us.” Harry asked, and the little elf darted off, placing wards and looking for surveillance devices in the room.
“He seems happy. It’s nice to see him so happy and alive again, isn’t it.” Hermione said, smiling after the elf. Harry nodded, smiling back a little sadly.
It wasn’t long before the three of them were all settled in.
The day after term started, Harry had a run in with Ron as he was leaving the great hall after breakfast.
“Potter, now that you’ve claimed your title I bet you think you’re too good for the rest of us.” The red-head spat.
“Weasley. I’m too good for you, that’s true. But it’s not because of my money or my title. It’s because I’m simply a better human being than you.” Harry returned calmly and spun on his heel, heading in the direction of the dungeons as his friends had before him.
As he walked away, he noticed Percy walking towards Ron, a dark expression on his pinched features, and he decided to eavesdrop. Ducking into an alcove, he summoned the cloak and crept forward invisible.
“What the hell, Ron? You were supposed to be making friends and ingratiating yourself with him. You know we need his money, and the only way is to get him married to Ginny as soon as humanly possible. He has even more money now that he’s claimed his family ring. You lied to mum at Christmas when you said you were friends. I didn’t believe the twins when they said you were lying, but now I see they were right. Either be useful or be gone. We need to work fast before that know-it-all Granger gets her hooks into him too completely. And we need to distance him from Malfoy. You had one job, one job. Make friends with Harry Potter and make sure he doesn’t get close to Malfoy, and you failed completely.” Percy said angrily, waving his arms, “You have one more chance. Dumbledore is going to try to get the other teachers to help, but you have to apologise for your previous behaviour and do whatever it takes to get him on our side. Dumbledore is concerned with how much power the boy has. His purpose is to defeat You-know-who when he shows up and die in the process. We need Ginny in place as his wife before that. He has too much power to be allowed to survive.” Percy finished calming a little.
Ron nodded sullenly, and both brothers made their way to the great hall for breakfast.
By the time Harry had joined Draco and Hermione in their suite, he was almost shaking with anger.
“Harry, Harry, what’s wrong?” Hermione asked when she saw him.
“I can’t– it’s too foul. It needs to be seen to be believed. Draco, do you have a pensieve in the manor?” Harry asked, looking at the blonde who nodded and summoned Dobby to fetch it for him from the manor.
When the elf reappeared with it, and Draco had removed the protections around it, Harry drew his wand and pulled the memory of the recent conversation and put it in the bowl. Hermione and Draco went inside while Harry watched them and fumed silently. His control over his temper had been hard won in the future, and he still only managed to control it some of the time. When they were done, both of his friends looked as angry as he did.
“Why, that loathsome old man and those greedy bastards. They need killing Harry. We really need to get started on that.” Hermione said, pacing the room angrily.
“We can start it today with the honesty hex on Ron, something that will last until summer. Then once we’ve dealt with Voldemort, why don’t we feed Ron to Fluffy?” Harry asked, “Or maybe, Percy?”
“Percy. Percy is the better option. We can discredit Dumbledore at the same time if we do that. How could he think it was safe to have a Cerberus in school. You’re right, Riddle first, then we can deal with everyone else.” Hermione said.
“I still can’t believe Hagrid actually named a Cerberus, Fluffy?!” Draco exclaimed, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, he loves it like it’s his baby,” Harry said smirking.
“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised; this is the man who thinks acromantulas and dragons are cute.” Draco sneered.
Harry just laughed, but he sobered quickly.
“I think it’s a good idea to spy on today’s beginning of term staff meeting as well,” Harry said softly, and the other two nodded in agreement.
“I think the best bet would be if I disillusioned my animagus form.” Harry continued and saw Hermione frowning, “What?” he asked her.
“Have you tried shifting to your animagus form since we’ve been back?” She asked, frowning thoughtfully.
“No, but I can try now.” Harry said, “You’re gonna be so jealous.” Harry said smirking at Draco.
He closed his eyes and connected with the animal inside himself. Between one minute and the next, there was a small red and brown snake writhing on the carpet.
Draco gasped in wonder.
“Merlin, Harry, this is a wonderful form. You will be perfect for spying.” He gasped in awe, reaching down to pet the snake’s head gently.
“I know.” Harry said transforming back to human and startling the blonde into stepping back, “In case you were wondering I’m a saw-scaled viper and I was poisonous, unlike other snake animagi. Do you think I’m still, poisonous?” Harry asked Hermione.
“I don’t know, but we can test it.” She said and looked at Draco who went rummaging in his things for a vial.
Harry transformed and allowed Draco to milk his venom. When they had enough, he transformed back and sat back on the carpet.
“So if one of you disillusion me and leave me near the staff room I should be able to get inside easily enough. If you two hang around nearby as back up under the cloak, I can find my way back to you.” Harry said and got nods of agreement from the others.
Plans settled they scrambled to get to their first class in time.
That night after dinner, Hermione disillusioned Harry and let him in through the open staff room door. She and Draco the nipped into a nearby classroom to wait for Harry. They spent the hour discussing ways of ruining Ron Weasley’s life in hushed voices.
Harry slithered into the room and looked around. He found an out of the way corner under the table and settled in to wait as the teachers filed in slowly. The first to arrive was Madam Hooch, followed closely by McGonagall. The last was Professor Sprout who was muttering about cold snaps being bad for her plants, and finally, Dumbledore arrived, shutting and locking the room.
“Does anyone have anything to discuss?” Dumbledore asked, taking a seat.
“Ellie Brentwood is pregnant. She will need some allowances made during lessons.” Madame Pomfrey said huffing a little with annoyance.
“It’s a good thing she won’t be allowed near a cauldron. That girl is a disaster at potions.” Snape drawled.
“Her family will probably pull her out of school and get her married off before too long. It’s a shame she won’t get to finish her education but probably the best option for her. She’s not the brightest lumos, that girl.” Professor Vector said, and the others nodded.
“I keep telling you we should add a sex education class to the curriculum for fifth years and up, Albus. It would help prevent things like this.” McGonagall said frowning at the headmaster.
“I know, I know and I agree, but the board has not approved a new class in years. I don’t think they are allowed to, not without the approval of the Earl of Gryffindor. And we know there wasn’t one since before the war.” Dumbledore said, raising his hands soothingly.
“Lord Potter has claimed his heritage now though. So we may be allowed new classes next year.” Sprout said happily.
“Can you imagine the lad blush when we mention what the class is for?” McGonagall asked smirking a little, and some of them chuckled.
“He seems like a very sweet lad, and his magical heritage is settling nicely on him. On Lord Malfoy as well.” Flitwick agreed.
“That is an interesting friendship, isn’t it. A pure-blood, a half-blood and a Muggle-born. They seem to have made friends in other houses, but those three are inseparable.” Madam Pince said, “You always find the three of them with most of their friends working on something in my library.” She said, and nobody claimed that it was, in fact, the school’s library, not hers.
“Yes, they are almost single-handedly, helping Mr. Crabbe, and Mr. Goyle maintain a decent average, and they have much improved Mr. Longbottom’s performance in potions.” Snape agreed, “They also seem to balance each other out. Lord Malfoy is quick to correct any lack of wizarding knowledge of the other two and in turn, has become more comfortable with muggle things. I believe he was even wearing jeans under his school robes today.”
“I am not sure the Potter boy did the right thing in claiming his family ring. He would be much better suited to just focusing on school now. Whoever heard of the Earl of Gryffindor being sorted into Slytherin. I asked the hat after the sorting, and he refused to tell me anything. There is something odd about that boy.” Dumbledore rumbled sagely.
“Oh, Albus, there is nothing wrong with the boy. I admit to being a bit miffed when I didn’t get him, but he is a sweet boy and very intelligent. He and his little trio are head and shoulders above the rest in my class.” McGonagall said frowning at the old man.
There were nods of agreement from the other teachers.
“Miss Granger seems to be slightly better at things than the boys though. But it is a very slight difference. I’m surprised he turned out as well as he did considering what I heard about his home life” Professor Sprout added.
“Yes, something must be done about that, Albus. They have been starving the boy. And don’t argue with me. One look at the boy is all we need to prove that statement. It is an outrage that any child, let alone one we owe so much to was allowed to suffer like that. I warned you when you placed him. I told you they were the worst sort. You didn’t listen to me. And whenever I inquired after him, you always told me he was fine. This is not fine, Albus.” McGonagall snapped glaring at Dumbledore.
“He was with family. How could he not be fine? I don’t believe the boy’s stories. All children complain about their home life. He’s just exaggerating. Maybe he just wasn’t allowed as many sweets as his cousin.” Dumbledore said dismissively, looking away.
McGonagall looked like it was only Snape’s restraining hand on her arm that was stopping her from throttling the man.
“Regardless, the boy has invitations from the Malfoys and the Grangers to spend the summer with them. I believe he also has invitations from Longbottom and Boot to spend part of it. In fact, Augusta Longbottom personally wrote to me and told me that if I allowed the boy to be sent home to those muggles, she would make me regret it.” Snape drawled grimacing at the end.
“That is outrageous. The boy must go home to his family. There are protections in his mother’s blood that keep him safe from Voldemort and his Death Eaters.” Dumbledore blustered.
Quirrell sat up a little straighter and paid attention at these words, but only three people noticed, Snape, Dumbledore and Harry.
“You are such an old fool, Albus. You know those sorts of protections only work if there is genuine affection between the members of the family and if what he says is true, then that is not the case. He’s more protected here than he is in that home.” McGonagall said, shaking her head at the old man.
“It’s true. Petunia hated Lily. She was always jealous of her magic. Not to mention Lily was bright and beautiful and so brilliant, none of which Petunia was. I can’t see her treating Lily’s son with any sort of kindness.” Snape added before Dumbledore could open his mouth to counter.
“I say we let the boy decide where he wishes to stay for the summer while we force the Ministry to look into the Sirius Black situation. I never really believed that boy would betray his friends like that. And Pettigrew showing up alive like that on the platform after all these years does bring up a lot of questions.” McGonagall said firmly, her tone suggesting that the matter was decided.
“Yes, Sirius was always such a nice boy. A bit wild, but he seemed so loyal to his friends. I would never have believed he was guilty if he hadn’t been sent to Azkaban.” Sprout added nodding and got agreement from some of the others
The rest of the meeting went on to discuss the current OWLS and NEWTS students with Dumbledore sulking a little in the corner. As the meeting wound up, he tried one last time.
“I believe Lord Potter has an invitation from the Weasleys as well to spend the summer. He could benefit from spending time with such a Light family rather than a Dark family like the Malfoys.” The headmaster said.
“I don’t see why he would accept. He and Ronald, the youngest, can’t stand each other. And I don’t blame the boy. Ronald is lazy and spoilt, not at all the kind of person our young Lord Potter wishes to be friendly with.” McGonagall said dismissively, and she got up and swept out of the room, followed slowly by the rest of the staff.
Harry could see that Dumbledore was fuming at the failure of his plans. Finally, the old man sighed with frustration and left the room and Harry slithered out to join his friends.
Harry mischievously slithered over Hermione’s shoe and tried to climb her leg, making the girl squeal softly and curse him when she figured it out. She dispelled the charm on him and picked him up.
“You’re not as funny as you think you are Harry James Potter. We’ll discuss this in the room.” She said, draping his foot long form over her shoulders as Draco laughed at her.
“Oh, he’s pretty funny.” The blonde disagreed, and Harry hissed his agreement at him.
“If you think he’s so funny, then, you carry him ” Hermione muttered huffily handing Harry’s slinky form over to Draco as she picked up the cloak. The blonde just shrugged and draped Harry around his neck before stepping under the cloak with Hermione.
The three of them made their way to their suite as quietly as possible. Once inside they summoned Dobby and asked him to bring the pensieve. Harry dropped the memory of the staff meeting into the bowl and Draco, and Hermione entered it. Harry watched over his friends as he mulled over what had happened.
“So, Snape seems to be firmly in your corner. And McGonagall. They’ll fight for you.” Draco said as he sat back when the memory finished.
“Yes. The others may not fight for you, but they don’t seem interested in supporting Dumbledore’s agenda either. This is good.” Hermione added nodding.
“I know you said before, that Snape was on my side, but it was still a bit of a shock after everything he did in the last timeline,” Harry said, rubbing his forehead absently.
“Your scar’s not still hurting, is it?” Hermione asked concern in her voice.
“Umm? No, no, nothing like that. It’s just habit.” Harry said, waving it off, “Anyway, Dumbledore doesn’t seem like an immediate threat. So we should focus on getting rid of Tom Riddle. After that, we can get back to the Weasleys.” he continued voicing his thoughts.
Draco and Hermione nodded, and Hermione pulled out her notes on the ritual.
“The thing about this is that you will have to be alone when you do it. Just you and him, nobody else may interfere. Healer Tasvi pointed it out, and once she did, I had to agree that it makes sense.” Hermione said, handing the ritual notes to Harry.
“But you can help me prepare for it and set up the ritual, right?” Harry asked as he looked at the chants he would have to memorise.
“Oh, yes. We’ll help you do that. Where would we do it? The circle in the forest?” She asked, looking at Harry intently.
“No, I think it would be best if I made my own ritual circle in the Chamber of Secrets like we discussed before,” Harry said, still studying the ritual.
“It will be easy to lure him in there as well. One mention of you disappearing into the girl’s bathroom, and he’ll run to make sure you haven’t entered the Chamber.” Draco said nodding thoughtfully.
“Oh, we forgot to curse Ron today. Do you want me to do it tomorrow? I think if I do it in Parseltongue, it will last longer.” Harry asked, finally looking up as the thought occurred to him.
“Yes. Although a simple honesty hex seems to be too little for the bastard.” Hermione agreed.
“Don’t worry Mione. This is just the beginning. Harry and I were talking last night after you went to bed, and we came up with a few things.” Draco said sharing a blood-thirsty smile with Harry.
“Not fair.” Hermione pouted, “I wanted to help plot too.” she said, but there was a smile quirking the corner of her mouth.
“Oh, you can definitely help. We just started on a list. Would you like to see?” Harry asked, getting up and rummaging through his desk. He handed her the list and went back to studying the ritual listening with half an ear to Hermione’s delighted laughter and Draco’s comments as they looked at the list and added to it.
“This is going to be so much fun,” Hermione said finally when she put the list back in Harry’s desk vicious satisfaction in her eyes.
The next morning Harry followed Ron out of the great hall when Ron left, alone. Harry followed him invisibly under his cloak until he was sure that nobody else was following him and quietly pointed his wand at the red-head, hissing out the curse and watched as the blue light of the curse hit the other boy making him shiver. Harry then calmly returned to the great hall to join his friends and walk to their first class.
As luck would have it their first class with the Gryffindors was Transfiguration with McGonagall. The trio exchanged gleeful glances as the teacher called for their homework and as usual, Ron had nothing to turn in.
“Mr. Weasley, where is your homework?” McGonagall asked severely.
“I-I” Ron stuttered trying to lie and failing until he couldn’t control himself anymore and sputtered out the truth, “I didn’t do it, Professor.”
“And why not may I ask?” The professor asked, frowning at him over her glasses.
“I was busy reading the Quidditch Quarterly I nicked off Seamus,” Ron said sulkily after another failed attempt at lying.
Harry, Draco and Hermione were hard pressed to control their glee at the disaster that was Ron Weasley.
“Indeed.” McGonagall intoned angrily, “ Detention Mr. Weasley one week with Mr. Filch and me. And twenty points from Gryffindor.” She said and turned away, still frowning to start the lesson.
The Gryffindors in the room glared at Ron, and he tried to shrug it off, but the trio could see that he was afraid of what they would do to him after class.
The trio had a lot of fun throughout the rest of the day and the following week watching as Ron dug himself deeper and deeper into trouble with all their teachers during their shared classes. And ended up laughing themselves silly once they got to their room. Watching the red-head flail about trying so hard to lie and failing was highly entertaining.
That weekend the trio headed down to the Chamber and summoned Dobby to help clean up the place. Kreacher had done a good job of harvesting the basilisk, and all that was left was the skeleton. Dobby crumbled it with a snap of his fingers and disposed of it and the other bones in the Chamber.
Once the place was as clean as possible, they set out to draw the runes to make up Harry’s ritual circle. It took them all weekend to finish the circle with small breaks for meals as they didn’t want anyone to notice them missing.
When it was done, they returned to their room to clean up and go over the ritual one last time. Before heading to bed, a thought occurred to Harry, and he summoned both Dobby and Kreacher.
“Kreacher, can you bring the things you harvested from the basilisk?” Harry asked as politely as possible.
“As Master Harry demands.” The old elf said, and with a snap, the room was filled with boxes and boxes of basilisk.
Harry sighed as Draco came running to find out why his room was suddenly overflowing with boxes. They dismissed Kreacher, and he popped out back to Grimmauld place.
“Draco, is there a place in the Manor where you can store this stuff? I don’t want it to be anywhere Sirius can find it.” Harry asked, rubbing the bridge of his nose tiredly.
“Yeah, we have dungeons that only the Lord Malfoy and the elves can enter. It should be enough space for this.” Draco said gesturing to the boxes.
“Oh, good. Dobby would you take these boxes there. When you can, I want you to trade the flesh for galleons with the goblins. Do not reveal who your master is yet.” Harry said, and the little elf nodded and popped off, taking the boxes with him.
Harry and Draco breathed a sigh of relief when the room cleared.
“You can use the skin, fangs and venom for potions, right?” Harry asked, and Draco nodded, “So we keep those. We can always sell some later if we need quick cash. The skin can also make good battle robes for us when we grow up.” Harry added.
“That was a good idea, trading the flesh for gold with the goblins. Once they find out who you are, there will be questions, though.” Draco warned.
Harry just waved it off. They would deal with that when it happened. By that time they should be in a stronger position to negotiate as well, he hoped. Draco shook his head and smiled fondly at Harry before saying goodnight and returning to bed.
That Monday night, Harry headed down to the Chamber alone after dinner and Hermione and Draco waited until Professor Quirrell was beginning to leave and walked out in front of him pretending ignorance of his presence.
“Where’s Harry?” Hermione asked Draco looking around as if searching for her friend.
“In that unused girl’s loo as usual.” Draco drawled in a bored voice, “Why he keeps disappearing there, I will never understand.” The blonde added for good measure.
One quick glance at Quirrell confirmed that the bait had been taken as the teacher’s eyes shone slightly red with a fury not completely his own. Well satisfied with their nights work the two ducked into an alcove and had Dobby pop them down into the chamber where Harry had already laid out the candles and incense for the ritual.
“He or should I say they’re on the way,” Draco said with a shudder of revulsion when Harry looked up from his work.
The trio took their positions near the entrance and sure enough not ten minutes later Quirrell landed with a slight thump in the space in front of him. Before he could straighten up, the professor was hit by three powerful stunners and collapsed on the ground.
Harry walked forward and cast an incarcerous for good measure. Then the trio carried him into the circle and bound him to the ground within using mithril chains and cuffs that they had spent a pretty penny on during the holidays.
Once Quirrell was firmly bound within the circle, the other two left with Dobby the same way they had arrived after casting apprehensive glances at Harry.
As soon as they arrived in the room, Draco began to pace anxiously, and Hermione just watched him.
“What if he gets loose somehow. We should be there, helping.” Draco muttered pacing around and around the small room.
“He has no way of letting us know if he needs us. I mean, I get that us being there will interfere with the magic, but I can’t help thinking that we’re too far away in case he needs help.” Draco rambled, waving his arms around as he paced.
When one arm nearly hit Hermione, she huffed.
“Fine, come on, let’s go kill Percy. You’re not going to sit still anyway, and we might as well make use of your energy. It’s around the time he will be on his prefect rounds.” She said, getting up and picking up the invisibility cloak.
Hermione grabbed Draco’s arm and pulled him under it as well. He looked surprised but allowed her to pull him along
The two of them crept along until they saw Percy. Then Hermione cast an illusion spell showing a Slytherin girl running along the hall. Percy, of course, gave chase.
They led him right to Fluffy’s door and with a silent spell, Draco unlocked the door and Hermione directed the illusion inside. Percy ran up breathlessly just in time to see the illusion enter. He followed and as soon as he was inside the two pushed the door shut and locked it.
They could hear Percy cursing and trying to stun the dog. The stunners slid off the dog like water off a duck’s back only angering the beast. They heard his screams and the dog’s growls and furious snarls as it attacked. They even heard Percy scrabbling at the door, desperately trying to escape. Until finally, there was silence.
When it had been quiet for a few minutes, they carefully opened the door, and Hermione cast the music spell. When the Cerberus was asleep, they peeked in to find Percy’s body with his throat bloody and mostly missing. One of his legs was in one corner of the room, and an arm was in Fluffy’s mouth, clearly being gnawed on. There was blood splattered everywhere, and they backed away a little and looked at each other. Both Draco and Hermione had paled at the sight, and Draco was having trouble, not vomiting.
They stepped back together and made their way back to their room as quickly as possible in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. When they reach the room, Draco sat down abruptly on the nearest sofa.
“That was….”He trailed off.
“I’m glad he’s dead, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” Hermione said tears and anger bright in her eyes, “I just hope it doesn’t give Fluffy indigestion.” She said fiercely.
At these words, Draco started laughing a little hysterically muttering indigestion under his breath. Hermione watched him bemusedly when there was a pop followed by a knock on the door. Hermione opened it to find a house-elf they weren’t familiar with standing there.
“The Earl of Gryffindor bids you join him.” The elf said solemnly. Draco sobered rapidly, and with a glance at Hermione, they took the little creature’s hands, allowing it to take them to Harry.
Once they were gone, Harry drew a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. He summoned an athame from the ground where he had left it and cut his palm, smearing the blood over the runes at four points and pushing some of his magic in along with the blood, in the circle effectively binding the shade of Voldemort inside the circle as well.
Then he began to gather the magic in his core and pour it into the circle as he started chanting.
“Hoc autem malum vobis minatur me spiritus, et intra velum sunt, abstrahe eam. Epotabis usque ad ultima ejus vestigia magicae est omne tempus. Fates three I beseech your blessing on me. Take his soul, banish this evil.” Harry repeatedly chanted in a mixture of English and Latin, directing his magic steadily at the bound form of Quirrell.
The man woke and glared at Harry like he wanted to kill him, but he couldn’t move with the mithril bindings that held him inside the circle. Quirrell startled, when his turban unwound on its own and Voldemort’s face in the back of his head, screamed. A few short seconds later, he was screaming too, in pain so intense he felt like he was dying, which he was.
Harry’s magic swelled around the possessed professor as the two faces screamed and screamed nearly deafening Harry. Finally, the spirit of Voldemort rose from the body still screaming before bursting into a million pieces like an overinflated balloon. Quirrell’s body slumped to the floor lifeless as Voldemort was banished. Harry sagged to the floor next to the circle, exhausted. He had barely had the energy to close the ritual. As he sat there staring at Quirrell’s lifeless body and trying to summon the strength to move and let his friends know he was fine, he felt a presence behind him.
Harry spun around wand at the ready to find a beautiful dark-haired woman watching him.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?” He asked and as he watched her face changed from young to slightly older and finally a really old woman then back to young again.
“Do you not recognise me, my warrior. You, Harry Potter, are the warrior of The Fates. You have done well, young Harry. We are well pleased with what you have done with this second chance we gave you.”She said, and her voice sounded like three people speaking at the same time. It made Harry’s head hurt a little.
“Y-you are the Fates? And he’s definitely gone forever right?” He stammered wand lowering to point to the floor in his shock.
“We are. And yes, Voldemort will walk this earth no more. We were displeased with the meddling of others that was interfering with your destiny in the future, so we allowed you this second chance. Make good use of it young Potter. You have much to do in the service of the Fates.” The women intoned.
“B-but I thought Voldemort was my destiny,” Harry asked frowning slightly.
“You young Lord are the Master of Death. You have been since your birth. The minute you were born, the Elder wand stopped working properly for Dumbledore. Why do you think he fears you? One with so much power does not have but a single destiny. There is much more for you to achieve in this world, and not all of it is bad. There will be much joy to be had if you stay true to your path and not allow the manipulations of others to divert you as you did before.” The Fates stated voices reverberating around the chamber.
“Does this mean I have to give up my vengeance on Dumbledore and the Weasleys?” Harry asked sulking a little at the thought. He wasn’t happy about it, but if the Fates insisted, then it wouldn’t do to piss them off by ignoring them.
“Oh, no. They interfered with Fate’s warrior. They must pay. Make them all pay young one. Make them all bleed before you send them to us for judgement. We will be watching.” They said a vicious expression on their constantly morphing features.
“As you wish my Ladies,” Harry said an equally vicious smile on his face as he bowed to his patrons.
When he straightened they were gone and in their place was a staff of mithril with a giant emerald at the tip.
Harry walked up to it slowly and picked it up. As he held it, he felt a warm rush of power as the staff bonded to his magic, and he heard a whisper of the fates voices.
“We have provided you with some helpers for your first task, young Harry.”
Harry grinned as he turned around to find nearly a hundred house-elves in front of him. No, he decided, there were exactly a hundred. From what he could tell, every house-elf in the castle was there.
“How may Hogwarts serve the Earl of Gryffindor?” What Harry assumed was the head elf said as all the elves bowed together. It was quite a sight, and he was momentarily speechless.
“By Hogwarts, do you mean just the house-elves or the castle as well?” Harry asked when it occurred to him that he had been asked a question.
“The castle will be of service as well if the Earl so desires.” The head house-elf said approvingly.
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Could one of you bring Draco and Hermione back down here now?” He asked as he was currently drawing a blank and he knew his friends might have some ideas.
A few minutes later, he found himself faced with a slightly shocked-looking Hermione and Draco.
“I know. Surprised me too.” Harry said grinning at his friends as he watched them take in the scene in front of them, “And this is not even the most interesting thing that happened since you left.” Harry added, grin widening.
Hermione turned widened brown eyes at him, staring at the staff in his hand and Harry shrugged.
“I’ll tell you later,” Harry said, nodding towards the elves, and she nodded her agreement.
“It’s done, then?” Hermione asked, looking at Quirrell’s body.
“Yeah, it is done,” Harry said and then called for Dobby. He knew the elf would be upset if he didn’t let him do things for him.
Dobby appeared with a pop and looked around glaring at the other elves, “He be my Harry Potter first.” The elf admonished the others amusing Harry, Hermione and Draco no end.
“Dobby could you take the body back to his office and make sure you lock the door from the inside,” Harry said quickly preventing Dobby from going on a rant.
“No, wait Dobby. I have a better idea. Wrap that turban back around his head and put him in the girl’s toilet upstairs.” Hermione interrupted.
“Oh, make it look like the basilisk killed him as well. I like it.” Harry commented, “Yes, Dobby, do as she said. Oh, and don’t let Myrtle see you.”He said, turning to the house-elf.
With a nod, the elf popped away, taking the body with him.
“Now what do we do with so many elves and a castle?” Harry mused, looking at his friends.
“We could have them spy on Dumbledore for us,” Draco said after a few minutes.
“Yes, good idea.” Harry said turning to the head elf, “I want you to watch Dumbledore and let me know of any plans he may make for the three of us.” he said indicating himself and his friends.
The elf nodded.
“You can take shifts, so your other work doesn’t get neglected,” Harry added and with a series of pops, the elves disappeared.
“Ok, what’s with the staff and the elves?” Draco asked as soon as they were alone.
“Let’s get back to the room, and I’ll tell you. But first I should probably lock this place up properly so nobody, but us can get in.” Harry said and called for Dobby.
“Is Myrtle in the bathroom?” Harry asked the elf, and when Dobby shook his head negatively, Harry held out his hand to him, “Take us there?” He asked.
Draco and Hermione reached out and took the elf’s hands as well, and in no time, they were standing next to Quirrell’s body.
Harry hissed out a locking spell at the sink in parseltongue and added a password so nobody else could enter even if they knew how. Then he nodded, and Dobby took them all back to their room.
“Thank you, Dobby. That’ll be all for tonight.” Harry said, yawning widely.
Dobby bowed, “Dobby is happy to help his Harry Potter. You call Dobby first, Harry Potter sir. You remember.” The elf said and when Harry nodded Dobby popped away still frowning at the thought of any other elf replacing him.
Harry tossed the staff on a sofa and sat down next to it with a laugh.
“Who knew he could be so jealous,” Harry said, smiling.
“Are you going to explain?” Hermione asked, tapping her foot impatiently.
“I finished the ritual. I met the Fates. They gave me this and the elves.” Harry said succinctly.
“Explain more,” Draco said, sitting down next the Harry and poking him in the stomach pointedly.
So Harry launched into the whole story of what he had seen. And everything that had happened to him after the ritual.
“Not that I don’t appreciate it, but what do I do with this?” Harry asked, picking up his staff.
“So, Fates’ Warrior, huh? And you have permission to destroy them all as well.” Hermione asked musingly, and Harry nodded.
Draco touched the staff cautiously and smiled when he felt a warm presence that greeted him but also warned him against trying to use it.
“You can get a dimensional store and keep it in that when we go to Diagon Alley again,” Draco said.
“That’d be good. You’ll help me get a good one, right?” Harry asked, nodding at Draco’s suggestion.
Draco readily agreed, “While you were chatting with the Fates we killed Percy Weasley.” Draco said smugly.
“No fair. I wanted to do that.” Harry pouted.
“Well, you got to meet the Fates, and we got to kill a Weasel. Kinda balances out, don’t you think.” Hermione said, moving her hands up and down in a balancing gesture.
Harry grinned, then yawned.
“Well, I’m off to bed. Vanquishing dark lords takes it out of a guy” Harry said, stifling another yawn and waving to his friends as he walked into his bedroom carrying his staff.
He placed it on his trunk and stripped before climbing into bed and falling asleep straight away.
Draco walked in five minutes later and pulled the covers up around Harry tucking him in.
“Well, he’s asleep. I’m not sure whether to be afraid for him or happy. Fates’ Warrior is a big deal.” Draco said softly, stroking the hair off Harry’s face.
“They did promise him a good life if he did what they wanted,” Hermione said shrugging as she watched the two boys from the doorway.
Draco smiled at her, “I hope so. Come on; we’re going to have a big day tomorrow. Might as well go to sleep as well.” He said as he walked towards his own bedroom.
As he passed her, she stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“Are you alright? With the way we killed Percy, I mean.” She asked, looking worriedly into his eyes.
“I’m fine, Mione. He’s not the first person I’ve killed.” He sighed. At her curious look, he elaborated, “Let’s just say that my mother’s murder wasn’t unsolved.”
Hermione nodded in understanding. “So, you’re fine?” she prodded.
“Believe me I won’t lose sleep over that piece of filth. How about you? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. As fine as I can be until we have our revenge, and I kill Ron.” She said nodding fiercely.
Draco reached out and gave her a quick hug.
“If you need to talk I’m here for you. And so is he.” Draco said, pulling back.
Hermione nodded and bid him good night, transfiguring the sofa into a bed and changing into her pyjamas.
The next morning the school was abuzz with a mixture of shock and glee. The bodies of Professor Quirrell and Percy Weasley had been found. Thankfully they had been found by Dumbledore and McGonagall after being tipped off by the ghosts and not a student.
The gossip was rampant with speculation about what had happened to them, and since nobody liked either one of them much, it was vicious. Nobody knew for sure, but it didn’t stop them from making up the most lurid tales. One had Quirrell being Percy’s lover and luring Percy to his death in a fit of jealousy and then killing himself out of guilt, and it got more outlandish from there.
The Weasleys were all missing, and Harry figured they had gone home for the funeral. Aurors and Ministry officials wandered the halls, thrilling Harry no end. They had made sure to remove all traces of their magic from both bodies, so there was nothing to connect them to the murders. Meanwhile, it pleased all three of them to watch Dumbledore squirm under the scrutiny.
Harry could barely contain his glee as he read the Daily Prophet the next day condemning Dumbledore for even allowing a beast like the Cerberus to live in the school, not just the grounds.
They also saw Amelia Bones stalking into the school and heading straight for Dumbledore a thunderous expression on her face. The howlers from the board of governors and Molly Weasley were quite good as well. The trio were enjoying their success immensely and with DADA cancelled for the rest of the term they had a free period nearly every day. They used this free time looking up obscure and uncomfortable hexes and curses for Ron and later Ginny. After all, as Draco said it wouldn’t do to be repetitive.
The fuss continued both in the papers and with every mail delivery, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to get Dumbledore fired. Their purchase of the Prophet had not gone through yet, but it was still a delight to watch them tearing down Dumbledore like that. They did, however, own controlling stock in Flourish and Blotts and they had already drafted a proposal to start publishing books themselves.
The owners who were now managers of the store had approved the idea and started interviewing for editing and printing positions as well as looking out for potential authors. Hermione had a plan in place to provide Rita Skeeter with the impetus needed to start researching her book on Dumbledore earlier and publishing it under their company. It would provide them with a nice profit while also ruining Dumbledore’s reputation and the image of a Light wizard he liked to project.
It was still in the planning stages, but they were hopeful that by Yule of next year the book could be published. To that end, Hermione had sent several anonymous notes to Rita pointing her in the right direction. In a month or so, they would be able to offer her a contract to publish her book that would satisfy even her greed.
Two weeks after the deaths of Percy and Quirrell the Weasleys were back in school and all three boys were rather subdued. Even the twins were pale and shaken looking. Harry felt mildly sorry for the twins and curious about how Molly was handling it, so he approached the twins.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” He said softly as he stopped them on their way to the great hall for dinner.
“Thanks. Percy was…” Fred said.
“….a right git, but….” George continued.
“….he was our brother.” The other twin finished.
“How’s the rest of the family holding up?” Harry asked, trying his best to hide his curiosity.
“Dad is upset, of course, and spending more time than ever at work. Mum is inconsolable and keeps bursting into tears at random intervals. But they were getting better when we left. Mum only cried once the day we left.” Fred said, forgoing their usual style of finishing each other’s sentences.
“I’m sorry. Must be horrible for you all. Do they know what happened to him? How he ended up there?” Harry prodded, feeling a little like a hypocrite, but he quashed the feeling as they needed to know the official story.
“Nothing that makes sense. I doubt we’ll ever find out now that Quirrell is dead too.” George said, and Harry nodded, smiling sympathetically.
Harry made sympathetic noises and left as soon as he could. He was glad Molly now had experienced the loss he had felt when James was taken from him. By the time he returned to his friends, he was feeling quite happy with the world.
The three of them were pleased with their results so far, so they allowed Ron another week before hexing him again.
For a whole week, they took turns hexing Ron’s clothes so they would rip at the most inopportune times. The best had been when the robes had practically fallen off the red-head in the great hall as he got up after dinner. The boy had been so embarrassed he had been as red as his hair.
After that, they found an obscure curse that caused hallucinations of your worst fear. Knowing Ron’s fear of spiders, they knew it would be extremely effective. The day after they had ruined all Ron’s robes and Molly had sent him a howler about being careful with his things Harry slipped close to Ron as they were leaving Potions and hissed out the hallucination hex so it would be undetectable.
Through experimentation, they had found that when Harry cast a curse using Parseltongue, it was undetectable. Hermione theorised that it might only be detected by another parselmouth.
Not having Voldemort to worry about had made Harry feel almost carefree and he had to wonder exactly how much effort Dumbledore had put into eliminating what remained of Voldemort while he was still a spirit in the previous timeline.
If the old man had put in even half the effort, Harry had to believe that Voldemort would have been vanquished before Harry even set foot in Hogwarts. It made him angry with the old man and more determined than ever to ruin his life.
Watching Dumbledore puzzle over Quirrell’s sudden death and the complete absence of Voldemort in any form was however a definite perk. The old man went from looking smugly confident that Voldemort would be back to completely confused by the time Easter was around the corner, although it didn’t show much on the outside.
Dumbledore had also been unable to find a DADA teacher on such short notice and had had to teach the classes himself. The consequence of this was that three times a week, Harry had to sit through a class of being glared at and eyed with deep suspicion by the Headmaster. He took it in his stride with the thought that they wouldn’t have to put up with the meddling old man for much longer.
Easter came around, and Harry spent a delightful week with Neville at his grandmother’s home. It wasn’t the same as being with Draco or Hermione, but the young Gryffindor was a very good friend and had been much more confident and assertive since he had gotten a new wand and improved his potions skills thanks to Draco and Hermione.
Augusta Longbottom was a formidable old woman who brooked no nonsense from the world, but she loved her grandson even if she didn’t always show it. After hearing Harry’s tales of living with his muggle relatives, she had sent a very long and loud howler to Dumbledore, which had made Harry’s week.
Augusta was also very involved with getting Sirius a proper trial and thanks to her Harry was being kept informed on the progress of the campaign to free Sirius. The sale of the Prophet had finally gone through just a week ago, and the first thing the new owners had done was push the paper to publish the facts behind Sirius’ case as well as the note attached to Pettigrew’s unconscious form. This had helped a lot towards forcing the Ministry to give Sirius a proper trial.
Pettigrew had been woken up of course and sung like a canary under veritaserum, which also helped. Harry was hopeful that Sirius would be free before the summer.
After buying the Prophet, they had also introduced an honesty in journalism policy and forced all employees to take an oath on their magic to only report the truth. Rita Skeeter had had the biggest problem with this, and her magic kept punishing her for every attempt she made. She had even had to give up using her quick quotes quill, something everyone else was very thankful for. But Harry wasn’t sure that the witch would stay with the paper for much longer as she had had offers from less scrupulous publications as well as the book on Dumbledore that they had given her the idea for.
All-in-all the year was going very well for Harry and his friends. Better than any year he had had in school before. The trio continued to hex Ron at every opportunity. Sometimes going so far as to layer their hexes so as to cause maximum damage, as they had with the hallucination hex and the nightmare curse, so the boy’s fears followed him even into his dreams. This had worked so well they were considering using the spell on Dumbledore.
The rest of the year went uneventfully for the trio; they had decided to relax for the most part and strengthen their friendships with the other houses. The more support they had from their friends, the less anyone could do to them without consequences. They were finding that the others were also genuinely good kids and regretted that they had never really made an effort to get to know them before.
It was still a little strange being the only adults in a world of kids, but they were getting used to it and their childhood bodies as well, even though sometimes it hit them as strange all over again.
Draco’s birthday was a relatively quiet affair as they had exams the next day. Narcissa, of course, sent a large box of Draco’s favourite chocolates to him as a present. They also had a small party for him in the Slytherin common room with all their friends, but it was over long before curfew as everyone had to study. Harry and Hermione had gotten together and bought him some rare potions ingredients, but this was private among themselves. In public, they got him his own quidditch set with all the balls for practising and a broomstick servicing kit. Draco was very pleased with all his presents and thanked them effusively, or as effusively as a Slytherin would.
By the time exams were done, they were more or less settled in themselves and the new world they had created.
They were relaxing by the lake after their last exam with their friends when an owl made its way to Harry. He petted the owl, fed it treats and removed the letter attached to its leg.
A smile grew on Harry’s face as he read the letter.
“What is it? What’s got you so happy?” Hermione asked curiously although she was smiling like she might have an idea what it was about.
“Sirius is free, finally. And since he’s my Godfather, he’s applied for custody of me. I think I’m going to be living with him from now on.” Harry said, smiling brightly.
“You don’t really know him, though, do you?” Seamus pointed out.
“No, I don’t. But the man was my parents best friend, and anything has to be better than the Dursleys.” Harry said, not even bothering to hide his joy.
“But you’re still going to come and spend some time at my place this summer, right?” Draco asked.
“Of course. It will probably take a little while for him to get himself sorted out and fix up a place for us to stay. So yeah. I will stay with everyone I promised to just maybe not as long as I would have otherwise.” Harry said, smiling at his friend, reassuringly.
They had all planned to spend two weeks together at each of their homes with Harry finally ending up at Draco’s house for the last few weeks of summer. Harry wasn’t sure how Draco would handle living like a muggle for two weeks at Hermione’s house, but he knew it would be fun.
That evening the paper brought the news that Sirius had been declared innocent of all charges and Pettigrew had been given the dementor’s kiss. Harry was pleased, though he found dementors abominations it couldn’t have happened to a nicer man.
Harry thought back with satisfaction to justice, finally being served as he replied to Sirius’ letter. He told his Godfather about his plans for the summer and that he would be happy to live with him. It was a very different day than he had had in the previous timeline. Then he had been chasing Quirrell through an obstacle course. He couldn’t help thinking that this was a thousand times better.
It also made him wonder what else was affected by the ripples caused by changes he and his friends had made.
By the time they were packing up their rooms and heading to the Hogwarts Express Sirius had managed to secure custody of Harry much to their mutual delight. Harry had been corresponding daily with the man and knew that Remus was also back in the country and would be spending some time with them over the holidays. Sirius was going to a mind-healer several times a week completely at the Ministry’s expense to help undo the damage that had been done by Azkaban, and Harry was hopeful that he would be able to get over the damage done by eleven years in prison this time around.
Sirius was now looking out for a house for them in Hogsmeade, so he could be close to Harry during term time. The older man was trying hard to make up for lost time. As far as Harry knew Grimmauld place was still shut up and unused. He didn’t ask Sirius about it though as he had no wish for the man to find out about Harry’s interactions with Kreacher.
The closer it got to the time he would be meeting Sirius, the more nervous Harry got. There was a lot he would be hiding from his Godfather, and he wasn’t sure how he would hide it or if he even should. Luckily he had until his birthday to decide. Hermione’s parents were picking them up at the station, taking them to their very muggle house. Draco was very nervous about this and had packed and repacked his things several times the night before much to Harry and Hermione’s amusement.
The trio managed to find an empty compartment all to themselves and put up privacy and locking charms. This would probably be the only alone time they would have all summer as they were visiting each other and their other friends.
As they relaxed back in their seats, chatting about insignificant things, Draco brought up a question that he had been meaning to ask ever since he first saw Harry’s animagus form.
“I know Harry has an animagus form,” He said gesturing to Harry, “Do you?” Draco asked, looking at Hermione.
Hermione smirked at him, and between one minute and the next, there was a tawny spotted cat sitting in her seat. The cat was larger than the usual house cat and had slightly bushy ears and tail. Draco gaped a little.
“She’s a black-footed cat. They are among the smartest predators in the African continent. Very wild.” Harry said, reaching out to pet the cat’s head. The little cat leaned into his touch for a moment before transforming back into Hermione as Harry drew his hand back.
“Impressive. I never got the chance to learn, and I was sort of unwilling to try in case my animagus was a ferret.” Draco said, slightly sheepishly.
Harry couldn’t help himself, he snorted, and Draco glared at him.
“It’s not funny. It hurt being bounced around like that.” Draco said angrily glaring at Harry.
“I’m sorry, alright. It’s just…at the time it was the funniest thing to see you suddenly turned into a ferret.” Harry said, raising his hands in surrender. “How about we help you find your animagus form this summer. It just takes a lot of meditating, and if after you meet your form, you don’t like it we won’t push you to do it?” Harry said in an attempt at placating his still angry friend.
“Fine,” Draco said still sulking a little.
Over the rest of the trip, they made plans of the places they wanted to visit and the things they would need to buy so they could complete their plans of revenge.
The moment the train stopped, Draco started fidgeting with his trunk.
“You’ll be fine without magic for two weeks, Draco. And Hermione’s parents are nice. I’ve met them before.” Harry said, putting a soothing hand on his friend’s shoulder.
The blonde turned and gave Harry a slightly strained smile.
“We’ll get you so used to all things muggle in these two weeks that you will never have to worry about fitting in again.” Harry continued smiling, reassuringly at the blonde.
“I’m not worried,” Draco said, straightening his back. Harry gave him a mildly dubious look but didn’t push it. It would never do to push Draco when he was feeling defensive.
Harry had already sent an owl ahead letting the Dursleys know that he would never be coming back again and he was so pleased not to relive the summer after his first year again the same way.
The following two weeks were a lot of fun, even though Draco was terrified during the whole car trip to the Grangers suburban home he managed to calm down after that. He even got the hang of travelling by tube as Harry and Hermione introduced him to various aspects of muggle life and dragged him around to muggle tourist attractions.
A trip to a theme park with rollercoasters terrified Draco anew, but he mastered his fear and soon rode the roller coasters like one born to them. In between all this, the trio also found time to finish their homework assignments as the Grangers had a very strict work ethic which their daughter had inherited. They also spent some time showing Draco how to meditate on his animagus form and had had some progress.
For those two weeks, they had allowed themselves to be just kids which they hadn’t been in a very long time and it was liberating. By the time Narcissa arrived to pick them up for the next part of the summer they were relaxed and rested after the tensions of the last year.
Draco was brimming with enthusiasm about the quaint ways muggles managed without magic and their strangely useful inventions. Draco was even talking about finding a way to install a telly in the Manor and Hermione had promised to try to find a way when they had some free time. The trio could see that Narcissa was as uncomfortable as her son had been at first, but she was unfailingly polite to the Grangers even if in a hurry to return home.
Being back in the manor and surrounded by magic felt like a warm blanket wrapping around them again and Harry relaxed some more even if it brought back the worries about what they were going to do about Dumbledore and the Weasleys.
Once they were all settled in their rooms, Draco and Hermione wandered down to Harry’s room, which was still privacy charmed.
“I don’t know how I’m going to keep it all a secret from Sirius.” Harry said without preamble, “One word with Kreacher and he will figure out I’m hiding something. We need a good cover story for that.” Harry added, looking at the other two for help.
Hermione nodded and frowned thoughtfully. Draco hummed in thought.
“You could say that my mother had mentioned the old elf to me, and we summoned him just as a test to see if we could. I doubt Kreacher will tell him about the locket or the basilisk unless Sirius asks directly and Sirius won’t know enough to ask.” Draco suggested finally.
“You may be right. But if he does find out exactly what we have been doing, then what?” Harry asked, worriedly. The more people who knew their plans, the more chances of getting caught.
“If he finds out you swear him to secrecy and tell him everything. From what you’ve told me the man loves you more than enough to support you no matter what you do.” Draco said.
Hermione nodded, “And if he figures that much out he deserves to know the whole story. I can’t tell my parents, they would never be able to understand, and Draco’s mother might be able to understand, but I doubt she would support us as completely as Sirius would. It’s one of the perks of having a Godfather who abandoned you to go to prison for eleven years.” Hermione said, smirking at Harry. It earned her a poke in the shoulder from her friend and a snort of laughter from Draco.
Relieved to have that sorted out they moved on to the rest of their plans for the next year. They were planning to recreate their second year by giving Ginny Weasley a diary that was charmed to make her believe that the things the trio did were entirely her doing. It was complicated magic, and Hermione was going to have her work cut out for her charming it if they were to slip it in with Ginny’s things when they went shopping.
Draco had dug out a suitably old empty journal from his father’s library. The trio were now checking it over thoroughly for any spells or enchantments as they didn’t want anything to interfere with what they were going to cast on the book.
As Hermione and Harry worked on stripping the book of any previous enchantments, Draco settled himself on the rug in front of the fire and tried to find his form. He was close; he knew that he just needed to push a little more, but his desire to not be a ferret was interfering with his concentration. After an hour of nothing, he finally gave up and joined his friends with a sigh of frustration.
Harry just patted his back sympathetically and said nothing.
The trio spent most of the few weeks at the Manor working on refining their plans for the coming year. The boys also managed to spend a significant amount of time on the quidditch pitch racing around and competing against each other while Hermione watched, her feet firmly on the ground much to their amusement.
As Harry’s birthday approached, they had been to Diagon Alley a few times to shop for little things like Harry’s dimensional store bracelet and meet with their account manager at the bank. Their company was doing well, and their investments had branched out a little to include an apothecary and a clothing store.
Rita was well on her way to meeting a yule deadline for her book on Dumbledore and Sirius’ trial, and subsequent release had done a lot of damage to Dumbledore and a lot of important people in the Ministry. So far, things were going fine, and it was beginning to worry Harry. Their plans never worked out this easily, but he didn’t say anything as he didn’t want to worry his friends.
Sirius was going to arrive to pick Harry up and take him to their new home on the day after Harry’s birthday. The actual birthday, however, would be spent at Malfoy Manor with all his friends. Narcissa was planning a huge affair with all of their friends from school and a huge birthday cake to end all birthday cakes.
Sirius showed up the morning of Harry’s birthday with a new Nimbus 2001 and an anxious expression. It was so out of character for the normally brash man that Harry had to stop and stare a little.
“Hello, Sirius,” Harry said hesitantly. He wanted to hug the man desperately, and at the same time, his heart broke at the thought of how he had lost the man in the past.
“Harry.” Sirius said in a slightly broken voice before clearing his throat and gathering himself, “Happy birthday.” he added with a tremulous smile holding out the gift-wrapped broom.
“Oh, wow.” Harry exclaimed excitedly as he unwrapped the present, “Is this the new Nimbus? That is so cool. Look, Draco.” Harry said, calling his friend over. Both boys exclaimed over the broom, examining it carefully.
“Thank you Sirius,” Harry said finally when he looked up and saw the man watching him with a small smile.
“I gave you your first broom, and I reserve the right to give you all your brooms in the future,” Sirius said, smiling at Harry.
Harry could see the nerves in Sirius’ face still, so he exchanged a quick glance with Draco and handed his new broom to his friend. Harry grabbed Sirius’ hand in his and pulled him into the library that was currently empty.
“I realise that I don’t know you and you don’t know me. But I can see something is bothering you.” Harry said bluntly.
“I…. Harry I don’t know how to be a dad to you. It-it should be James teaching you things and being there for you. I’m afraid I’ll bollocks it up.” Sirius said uncertainly.
Harry held up a hand, stopping the flow of words.
“Yes, it should have been Dad who raised me, and in a world where Voldemort wasn’t a complete psychopath, it would be my parents raising me. But Sirius, I raised myself. I’m practically all raised. I’ve claimed my family ring and come into my full power already. I can take care of myself just fine. I don’t need someone to take care of me.” Harry said seriously.
“Then what do you want from me?” The older man asked slowly a frown on his handsome face.
“I need you to love me and support me and not go recklessly dashing off like you did the day my parents died. I need you to be here with me, not dead or locked in Azkaban. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, and I understand how grief drove you to it. But, I need someone I can count on in my life. An adult. I have Mione and Draco at school. I need you to support me and not judge me for being a Slytherin. Can you do that?” Harry asked bluntly. He knew he was pushing it a little, but he didn’t think he could bear to lose Sirius again to his recklessness.
Sirius took a deep breath and sighed, “I got a variation of that speech already from Moony…I mean, Remus. He was another of your father’s friends from school.” Sirius said, “I can try. I promise to do my best if you’ll let me.” he added nodding.
Harry nodded and then stepped closer hesitantly. Sirius opened his arms and pulled the boy in for a hug.
“I love you, pup. Becoming your Godfather was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m sorry I screwed it up.” Sirius said holding Harry close.
“I’m not sure Dumbledore would have let you have me even if you had been free,” Harry said slowly. He knew it probably wasn’t wise to say that, but he needed to know Sirius’ reaction.
“I would have argued that before, but now I’m not so sure you’re wrong.” Sirius said with a sigh, “What makes you say that?” he asked, pulling away a little and looking at Harry curiously.
“He spent the better part of two terms of DADA classes glaring at me suspiciously.” Harry said sighing with relief, “Draco says that since I sorted into Slytherin and apparently destroyed Voldemort, Dumbledore thinks I might be the next dark lord in training. We all know he doesn’t think Slytherins are worth anything.” Harry added.
“Oh, what rot. You’re powerful no doubt about that, but being a Slytherin doesn’t make you evil. That’s just ridiculous.” Sirius spluttered.
“Thanks, Sirius. Maybe he was trying to get me killed or at least dependent on him for everything when he sent me to live with the Dursleys. I don’t know. I just know I don’t trust the man.” Harry said, and Sirius nodded.
Harry sighed with relief. It was a change to have an adult on his side, but then Sirius had always been on his side.
“Anyway, enough with the gloomy talk. Don’t we have a party to get to.” Sirius said with only slightly forced cheer.
Harry nodded and allowed him to pull him along.
“You know, my name was your first word. Not mum or dad, it pissed James right off.” Sirius said recovering his usual good humour.
“Isn’t Sirius a bit of a mouthful for a kid?” Harry said sceptically.
“Oh, not Sirius. You called me Paddy. It’s short for Padfoot, a nickname.” Sirius said grinning, “Well your first word in English that is.” He added a contemplative look on his face.
“I spoke a different language before that?” Harry asked, curiously. He had a feeling he knew where this was going, but he had to be sure.
“Oh, yes. You’re a natural parselmouth. Ever since you could crawl, Lily had to ward the garden so you couldn’t invite all your little friends to live with you. You started speaking to snakes before you were even walking.” Sirius said grinning.
“Oh, I thought it was only the once.” Harry said, and at Sirius’ enquiring look he added, “I spoke to a snake once in the zoo. Set him lose with accidental magic.”
Sirius grinned down at him and steered him into the garden where all his friends were waiting.
The party was a lot of fun, and Harry was thrilled with all his presents. The cake was a big hit with everyone as well. It was a gigantic chocolate creation covered in edible golden snitches and brooms, and it was big enough to feed twice the number of people invited. Narcissa had clearly been paying attention to all the time Harry and Draco had been spending on the quidditch pitch.
Harry got a practice snitch from Draco and a copy of advanced defensive theory from Hermione. The book was already carefully hidden amongst his things since nobody would understand an eleven-year-old having a book as advanced as that. His other friends had been generous with him as well.
Narcissa and Sirius were clearly uncomfortable around each other after a lifetime of misunderstandings and prejudices but they were both making an effort, and that was enough for the trio. Draco had also told them that his mother had made overtures to mend fences with Andromeda and had been favourably received. In the previous timeline, Narcissa had not made an effort until after the war and Lucius had died in Azkaban, and by then Andromeda had been so embittered by the loss of her whole family other than her grandson that she had refused to have anything to do with Narcissa.
Sirius stayed the night after the party and the next day he and Harry side-along apparated to Hogsmeade while Dobby brought Harry’s things.
The house in Hogsmeade was large, not as big as the Manor but few homes were. It had three libraries which Harry was sure Hermione would love, eight bedrooms and three offices. The kitchen was also large and well stocked. Dobby had already made himself at home in the kitchen by the time Harry wandered that way in his exploration.
When they arrived, Remus was waiting for them with his usual self-effacing smile on his face. Harry smiled back without thinking about it, which seemed to startle the man.
“Hello, Harry. I’m Remus. Belated happy birthday to you.” Remus said, recovering himself quickly.
“Thanks,” Harry said, smiling. He was so glad to see the man again. It reminded him of Teddy who Harry had loved like a son and made him wonder for the first time since they started on this path if he had done the right thing. He would miss the boy if he never existed in this timeline.
Harry decided there and then to see if he couldn’t bring Remus and Tonks together in this timeline as well if only so he could see Teddy again. He knew he would never see James again as he would never touch Ginny again, so maybe he could at least be Teddy’s Godfather again.
Remus was looking apologetically at him still when Harry shook off his depressing thoughts.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come to your party yesterday.” Remus was saying.
“It’s fine. You probably had your work cut out for you here getting things ready.” Harry said, waving it off.
“Actually I wasn’t sure I would be welcome there. Dumbledore let slip that I was a werewolf the minute I refused to stay in Paris and try recruiting werewolves to his cause. But I couldn’t leave Sirius or you alone anymore. Now that you are away from the wards on Privet drive, I can actually get near you.” The man said, eyeing Harry carefully for his reaction.
It made Harry pause. In the previous timeline, it had been Snape who had revealed Lupin’s secret. Or had it. Had it been Dumbledore then as well who had pushed Snape to reveal it? Harry wasn’t sure. He shook off his musings and focused on the man who seemed to be waiting for his judgment.
“Remus, my parents, knew what you were, didn’t they? They were fine with you being around me as a baby?” Harry asked, trying to make his point.
“I used to babysit you sometimes when your parents needed adult time before you went into hiding. You were an adorable baby, even if you did like your Paddy best.” Remus said, smiling fondly at the memories and making Sirius puff up with pride.
“Of course he liked me best. I’m his godfather.” Sirius said smugly.
“The point being if they trusted you to take care of me then, I don’t see why you should stay away now. Don’t let other people’s prejudices affect the way you treat me.” Harry said, staring seriously into Remus’ mild amber eyes.
Remus nodded a little choked sound coming from his throat. He coughed to clear his throat as Sirius pounded him on the back sympathetically.
“You are a lot like your father. He didn’t let anyone else tell him who he should befriend either.”Remus managed in a slightly hoarse voice.
Harry smiled, “Thank you.” he said, flushing slightly at the praise.
“Come along, pup; let me show you around,” Sirius said, steering Harry away so Remus could collect himself in private.
Harry threw one last smile at the werewolf and focused on his godfather. The secret of Sirius’ animagus had come out during the trial and Fudge had typically tried to use that as an excuse to keep him in Azkaban but Madam Bones had vetoed it saying that the man had already spent eleven years there for a crime he didn’t commit while the maximum for not registering as an animagus was six months.
“So, Padfoot, huh? Is that because you turn into a dog?” Harry asked, eyeing his godfather speculatively.
“Yes, young pup. I do.” Sirius said grinning widely.
“Can I see?”
Sirius’ grin widened, and within one minute to the next Sirius, the man became Padfoot, the large black dog. Harry grinned and reached out to touch the dogs head. The dog pushed into his touch before jumping up and licking him from chin to forehead. Harry immediately pushed him away.
“Ewwww. That is so gross.” Harry said, laughing as Sirius turned back into a man and laughed with him.
They continued on their way to Harry’s room.
“Did my dad turn into an animal too?” Harry asked, musingly. He knew, but he knew that Sirius would expect him to ask these questions, so he played his part.
“I don’t know about that pup; you’d have to ask your mum that,” Sirius said smirking.
Harry looked up mildly, puzzled, “What are you–? Oh, eww gross. Come on. You cannot say things like that to a bloke.” Harry said grimacing when he understood.
Remus came up behind them and smacked Sirius on the back of his head.
“Don’t mind him; he’s never had any manners to speak of.” Remus said ignoring Sirius’ offended huff, “ And this is not appropriate conversation with a twelve-year-old, Padfoot.” he admonished turning to Sirius.
Sirius raised his hand in surrender but grinned unrepentantly at Harry who couldn’t help returning it.
“Yes, Harry, your father was also an animagus, he used to turn into a stag. We called him Prongs.” Remus said, smiling kindly down at Harry.
“And the one who betrayed us? He was your friend too?” Harry asked expression darkening at the thought of Pettigrew.
“Yes, we thought he was our friend. He rather appropriately turned into a rat.” Remus said, placing a calming hand on Sirius’ shoulder when he growled.
“He was such a little coward we should have seen it.” Sirius snarled angrily.
“It’s not your fault, either of you. It’s Pettigrew’s fault and Voldemort’s. They are the reason I don’t have parents. Not you.” Harry said comfortingly. He knew the guilt Sirius carried and wanted to alleviate it.
The two men showed Harry his room and the rest of the house. Harry was ecstatic about having his own room to decorate as he wished. Before he had gone straight from Hogwarts to the Burrow and then his and Ginny’s small house which she had decorated after saying that he had no sense of style. So he was delighted with the chance, and he had Sirius and Remus changing the colours on his furnishings all afternoon until he was happy with it. Both men were more than willing to indulge him and even offered to take him to buy more specialised things if he wasn’t happy with it.
But Harry was quite happy with the deep rich purple with silver accents that he ended up with. He thought it went rather nicely with his heavy brown oak furniture. As he stood back admiring his handiwork, Sirius came up behind him and placed his hands on Harry’s shoulders.
“And here I thought you’d go with green. House pride and all that.” Sirius commented.
“Houses are only important on the quidditch pitch.” Harry said offhandedly, “Besides I like the way this looks. It will go well with the colours of Draco’s and my favourite quidditch team.”
Sirius frowned thoughtfully, “Pride of Portree?” he asked quirking an eyebrow.
“Falmouth Falcons.” Harry returned grinning.
“It must be in the blood, I swear. Your father used to support them as well. Wouldn’t listen to reason.” Sirius said mournfully a smile at the corners of his mouth.
“Well, the Potters do own shares in the team, so it is only polite to cheer for your own investment,” Harry said grinning.
“You do? How come James never told me?”
“He may not have known. I only found out when I was going over the family accounts after claiming my ring last yule.” Harry said shrugging.
“You really are all grown up, aren’t you. I’ve missed so much.” Sirius said sadly, and Harry reached up to touch one only his hands and squeeze it lightly.
“Could you…., would you tell me what it was like living with Petunia all these years?” Sirius asked softly as Remus stepped into the room as well.
Harry moved away to sit on his bed and indicated that the men should sit as well. Once they were seated in chairs, Harry chewed on his lip hesitantly.
“I’ll tell you. But only if you promise not to rush off and do something reckless again. I need you here with me, not in Azkaban for muggle baiting. Fudge would just love to throw you back in there. You know that.” Harry said with a quelling look when Sirius opened his mouth to speak.
“But they would deserve it,” Remus said softly.
“I’m not against using legal means of destroying them.” Harry said smiling a little viciously, “You can destroy them, make them regret they were born but do it in a way that forget getting caught, nobody can even touch you if they found out.” Harry said, still smiling.
Remus and Sirius exchanged glances.
“What?” Harry asked, looking between them.
“You may look mostly like James, but just now it was like seeing Lily all over again. She had the same attitude towards revenge. She was as big a prankster as we were in school, but she never got caught. She was smart.” Remus said quietly.
Harry swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Will you tell me about them? My parents? I don’t even have pictures of them. The only thing the Dursleys told me about them were lies.” Harry asked, focusing on the sheet on his bed like it held all the answers.
And it was true. Hagrid hadn’t given him the album of pictures this time, and Harry was a little saddened by the loss of that friendship, but he couldn’t say he hadn’t expected it.
Harry could see Sirius and Remus swallowing hard as they nodded wordlessly and he nodded back. It was going to be a difficult summer for all of them, but Harry felt like he was going to get to know his father’s friends properly for the first time. In the previous timeline, there had never been time to sit down and just talk. There had always been a war to be fought, and other responsibilities they had each had so Harry was happy to have this time with them again.
Over the rest of the summer, the three of them got to know each other and Harry was introduced to the other Black house-elves who worked at Ravens Nest as their house was called. Harry was a little curious about Kreacher’s absence, but he didn’t know how to ask. Fortunately, a firecall with Draco had provided him with the answer.
Apparently, when Kreacher found out that Sirius was free, he had requested that he transfer his bond to a real Black. And Sirius had been more than happy to transfer the bond to Draco who was the only other living male Black by blood. This was a relief to the trio since Draco could now order the crazy old elf to keep all his secrets and never betray him or his friends in word or deed.
Harry might never warm to the elf, but he was much better with a master he respected and clear orders he understood.
Harry spent the rest of the summer visiting his friends from school and getting to know his father’s friends. It was almost restful even if he had to talk Sirius and Remus out of hexing the Dursleys into next week a few times after he had told them as much as he was comfortable telling them about his life with his relatives.
During one of those discussions, Remus hesitantly brought up a subject that Harry had anticipated on some level.
“If you don’t mind me saying, you seem to have adjusted remarkably well to the situation with the Dursleys.” Remus began uncertain how to go on.
“I was a mess, before Hogwarts. Before Hagrid came to give me my letter before I met Hermione and Draco. Hermione helped a lot and Draco. They’ve helped me realise that I didn’t do anything to deserve that treatment. Hermione has also been getting me books on mind-healing and muggle psychology. It also helps that I never have to go back there again.” Harry answered, wryly. He really hoped they wouldn’t pry anymore. It was true that Hermione had been instrumental in getting him to see a mind-healer after the war and it had helped with all his traumas from the Dursleys to Dumbledore sending him off to die.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief when Remus just nodded and let the subject drop.
“You know I’m seeing a mind-healer myself to help deal with Azkaban. Would you consider meeting with him or someone else?” Sirius prodded gently.
“Already had several sessions with a goblin mind-healer thanks. It was pretty intensive. During the yule break. Only Draco and Hermione know. I didn’t want anyone else to know.” Harry said, raising his hands defensively.
“Goblins do good work in that area. How did you get an appointment?” Remus asked curiously.
“Draco.” Was all Harry would say before quickly changing the subject. He had no wish to be questioned about things that could give them away.
Harry had then allowed Sirius to buy Vernon’s company and fire the man as well as finding a way to convince the teachers at Dudley’s school that the boy wasn’t safe with his own parents. And Harry knew he wasn’t, in the previous timeline Dudley had turned out to be a decent enough bloke after he finished school and cut his parents out of his life. But his early obesity, thanks to Petunia, had caused him to suffer from heart problems most of his young life. Harry had never actually contacted his cousin, but he had kept tabs on him in case Dudley managed to produce magical offspring. It hadn’t happened yet in the previous timeline, although Dudley’s young wife had been pregnant when James was killed.
Harry had insisted that they would pay for Dudley’s schooling as long as the boy got some decent therapy and never went anywhere near his parents or aunt again. With Vernon out of a job, the Dursleys weren’t in any position to argue, especially as Harry, who had been providing all their extra spending money all these years was gone. So Dudley was placed with a nice couple who wouldn’t coddle him as his parents had but treat him fairly and Vernon and Petunia were forced to live with Marge until he found a new job.
The day that Harry had to catch the Express back to Hogwarts, he sighed and rolled over in bed. It still made no sense to him that he would have to floo all the way to London just to take the train back when he could literally walk to Hogwarts. Although he was happy to be spending that much time alone with his best friends.
His trunk was packed and even if he forgot something Sirius could always owl it to him like Neville’s gran usually did. The boy was much more capable and confident these days, but still, forgetful Harry thought fondly.
Harry dressed and had a quick breakfast with Sirius and Remus. Both men looked a little sad although they put on smiles for Harry. Harry sighed. He was going to miss the two men.
“You’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid, right?” Harry asked, looking at Remus who nodded with a grin as Sirius pretended offence.
“And you’ll make sure he takes care of himself and takes his wolfsbane?” Harry asked, turning to Sirius who nodded back.
“Say Moony, I thought he was the kid, and we were the adults here. Seems the pup needs a lesson before he leaves.” Sirius said pouncing on Harry and ticking him until he curled into a ball giggling.
“Enough, enough. I give.” Harry gasped through his laughter and sat up once Sirius stepped back.
“I’m serious, though, take care of each other when I’m not around,” Harry said, straightening slowly and moving out of reach. Sirius smiled and ruffled his hair affectionately.
“Don’t worry pup. We’ll be fine. And we’ll see you at Yule.” Sirius said as Remus smiled and nodded.
They apparated to platform 9¾ with Remus bringing Harry’s luggage and Sirius side-along apparating Harry. Hedwig was still in Hogsmeade and would join Harry at Hogwarts in the morning.
Harry looked around for his friends and spotted the Weasleys watching him. Ginny Weasley, in particular, was staring at him with a look of cow-eyed wonder that sickened him.
‘So it begins’ Harry thought to himself turning away from the red-headed family. Hermione had already told him that she had managed to slip the charmed diary to Ginny during her shopping trip to Diagon Alley. Harry was already planning on who he could attack in Ginny’s name.
The first person on his list was, of course, Michael Corner, Ginny’s lover in another life who had tried to kill him but only succeeded in killing James. There would be others, of course; there would need to be, people who wronged Ginny in some way or who she was jealous of. Harry was looking forward to driving Ginny insane.
As he hugged his godfather and god-wolf goodbye, he heard someone calling his name and turned to see Draco waving to him from within the train. Harry grinned and waved back before calling a quick goodbye and sprinting towards the compartment Draco was in with his trunk.
Hermione joined them a few minutes later, and the train set off. As soon as the train was out of the station, Hermione set up privacy wards and locking charms, and the three of them relaxed into their seats. It had been slightly nerve-wracking to pretend for so long with their parents and guardians that they were just twelve-year-olds.
They spent the journey just chatting about anything that came to mind and relaxing around each other as they couldn’t with anyone else. Occasionally someone would knock on their compartment door but as the glass was obscured nobody could see inside and the trio just opted to ignore them.
During the sorting ceremony, Harry took note of Luna sorting into Ravenclaw. He liked the girl but she was eerily good at seeing beyond the obvious sometimes, and Harry was unsure if they should make friends with her or not. In the end, they decided that they would make friends with Luna along with some other first years from various houses.
As they were walking back, it was Crabbe, not the most observant of their friends who commented on Ginny.
“Potter has a new groupie. Did you see how the Weasley girl was staring at him? So creepy. I’d stay away from the entire family.” Their large friend grunted unhappily.
Harry shuddered and nodded his agreement. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed how creepy she was before.
Draco slung a comforting arm around him, and Harry relaxed into it. As long as he had his friends, he could deal with Ginny and the memories she brought with her. He closed his eyes and forced his grief over his son to the back of his mind and refocused on the conversation which seemed to revolve around who would be trying out for the quidditch team this year.
The year started slowly with them catching up with friends from different houses and making an effort to get to know the new first years. Aside from renewing the hexes on Ron at the beginning of the year, it wasn’t until the beginning of October that the trio could put their plans into action. They had spotted Ginny writing feverishly in the diary they had planted on her, and they were sure that the blackouts would have started by now.
Their first victim ended up being none other than Colin Creevey as the Gryffindor seemed to be vying with Ginny for stalker of the year. The only difference was that Creevy usually had a camera with him. Often Ginny and Colin would jostle for the perfect position to spy on Harry, and they were both beginning to get on Harry’s nerves.
Draco under the invisibility cloak took great pleasure in hexing Creevy to trip and fall down some stairs right in front of Ginny while Hermione activated the diary which caused Ginny to black out the last few minutes.
Harry whom both first years were following watched from a distance and felt a shot of satisfaction at the sight of Ginny’s blank features.
Colin, of course, was quickly found and mended thanks to Madam Pomfrey’s skills, but he remembered nothing of the attack thanks to a bump on the head.
The next person to get hit was Justin Finch-Fletchley, whom Harry had never really liked. The boy provided the best opportunity when he bumped into Ginny on the way in to dinner and insulted her, making her flush with anger and flee.
The next day, two days before Halloween, Harry had the opportunity to hex the Hufflepuff with jelly legs, jinx, causing him to bang into a wall and break his wrist in his wand arm.
They got one more victim just a week before the Yule holidays, Pansy Parkinson who had been particularly vile and insulting to Ginny for the state of her robes and clothes. By the time they boarded the train home, Ginny was looking pale and worried, but significantly the trio knew that she hadn’t made any friends in her own house to confide in nor had she told any of her family or teachers.
Meanwhile, the plan with Dumbledore was going swimmingly. Rita had published her tell-all book on Dumbledore just in time for the yule rush, and it was very popular. Dumbledore had been wandering the halls like a bear with a sore paw ever since, and the daily owls and howlers from both concerned parents and board of governors was a steady stream.
The yule holidays were a lot of fun for Harry, not only did he get to wake up to a ton of presents but also spend it with Sirius and Remus. It also didn’t hurt that Narcissa had invited the Tonks family, the Grangers and Sirius and Remus along with Harry for boxing day brunch. It was the first time Harry got to meet a fresh out of Auror school Nymphadora Tonks, and he found her just as much fun as before.
Remus, in particular, was quite enchanted with her and trying desperately not to show it. Sirius, of course, noticed his friend’s preoccupation and teased him mercilessly once they got back home. Remus kept objecting that he was clearly too old for her, but his bright flush belied his words.
Harry eavesdropped on a conversation between Sirius and Remus late in the night when he woke up to get a drink of water where the two men were arguing about Tonks.
“I’m not interested in your cousin. I can’t be. I’m too old for her, and in case you forgot I’m still a werewolf. No woman in her right mind would want me.”
“Moony, you’re not too old. For god’s sake, you’re barely ten years older than her. And as for the werewolf thing, I don’t think Nymie will mind. She liked you. I could tell.”
“Honestly, Pads, what have you been sniffing. I’m going to bed now. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Remus said, storming off.
Harry walked out from where he was hiding.
“Heard all that did you pup?” Sirius asked gruffly, and Harry nodded.
“He’s a good man and they would be good together even if he doesn’t see it. You’ll keep working on him, won’t you, Sirius?” Harry asked, looking after the werewolf.
“Of course. I’m not going to let him give up on what he wants just because he thinks he’s not good enough.” Sirius said determination in the set of his jaw.
Harry nodded, satisfied.
“So,” Harry asked a mischievous smile tugging at his lips, “Is there someone you are interested in?”
“Oh, no pup. You know me. Footloose and fancy-free. Just the way I like it. Besides, I have a ways to go before my brain is completely unscrambled from the damage the dementors did.” Sirius said ruffling Harry’s messy black hair.
Harry ducked under his hand and stepped away to get himself the water he had come for.
“Just as long as you take the opportunity when you find someone. Life’s too short to not take chances on happiness.” Harry said a faraway look in his eyes.
“Sometimes you talk like you’re an old man pup. Leave the sage advice to us adults, huh?” Sirius said smiling and trying to break the sombre mood.
Harry just smiled back and bid him good night.
Ron had avoided the trio for most of the previous term other than glaring at them from a distance in the great hall and during lessons and that suited them just fine. But when they got back after the holidays, the red-headed boy started with his insults and taunts much to his sister’s annoyance.
Harry had once seen Ginny kicking Ron and yelling at him to stop ruining her chances. He had gotten out of there before the red-heads had seen him and reported what he’d seen to the other two. The trio decided that in view if Ron’s foul behaviour they might need to step up their plans a little.
So near the end of January Harry cursed Michael Corner with a leg-locker curse just as he was getting ready to step off the top stair causing a rather nasty spill and two broken bones in his arm as well a couple of broken ribs plus a bruised spleen. Harry was particularly pleased with the results of this curse.
The trio wasn’t sure that Corner would be a danger to them without Ginny in the picture, so they had this little bit of revenge and decided to merely keep a close eye on him in case he moved against them later.
The next victim they had picked was a little more difficult for them. Hermione had decided that to allay suspicions, they would need to hurt her, and neither of the boys were willing to do this. The girl had just glared impatiently at them and left them to decide amongst themselves who would do it.
Valentine’s day came with the same pathetic and tasteless valentine from Ginny that had Harry cringing in his seat and Hermione hugging him in comfort. Ginny’s glares at this could have drilled a hole in Hermione’s skull. By the end of the meal, Hermione had declared she would do what needed to be done herself since the boys were being useless much to Harry and Draco’s mutual chagrin and relief.
Hermione walked out of the hall in front of Ginny and hexed herself to trip down a few stairs on the way to the dungeons. Harry and Draco were not too far behind her and got her to the hospital wing before too long. By lunchtime, Hermione was completely fine much to the trio’s relief.
“I don’t care what the reasons you are never doing that again,” Harry said emphatically.
“Agreed.” Draco nodded, looking relieved that someone had voiced it before him.
“You guys are such wusses,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes.
“Mione,” Harry said gently but firmly.
“Fine. I won’t scare you like that again.” Hermione said, smiling at them pleased with their care.
For yule, the trio had had one of the elves deliver a very special present from an admirer to Dumbledore. It was a dreamcatcher with a twist; it worsened the victim’s nightmares and the best part that the charm was so wrapped in the device’s normal magic that it was undetectable. In addition, the house-elves had taken to hiding the headmaster’s things from him and revealing them later in the strangest places making the man believe he was losing his mind.
By the time March came around, and the trio were ready to deal with the Weasleys once and for all Dumbledore was pale and hollow-eyed from lack of sleep. The man barely knew if he was asleep or awake. And everyone had noticed causing almost daily rows with McGonagall about him not being fit to work.
Snape had been a little standoffish and sour to Harry all over again at the beginning of the year. But Draco had taken his godfather aside and read him the riot act about treating his best friend so badly, and now the man was back to mostly ignoring Harry unless he couldn’t be avoided. Harry counted this as a win even if Draco still seethed about it sometimes.
These days the potions master was looking quite puzzled to those who knew what to look for. The trio knew that he had been brewing potent sleeping draughts for the headmaster and just couldn’t figure out why they didn’t work. What he didn’t know was that the house-elves usually switched the potions for perfectly harmless placebos.
With Dumbledore suitably distracted and on the verge of a breakdown, it was finally time to kill Ron Weasley.
A week after the Easter holidays the trio lured Ron to the unused girl’s bathroom by simply allowing him to follow them as they snuck away and stunned him. Harry shoved him down the pipe first and then they all landed on top of him when they entered the Chamber.
Once they were safely locked within the Chamber, Harry woke Ron up again.
“Hello, Weasel.” Harry sneered.
Ron’s face flashed several emotions at once, but the most predominant was fear, and it came through loud and clear.
Hermione stepped forward, a cold and cruel smile on her face. With a casual flick of her wand, she broke the pinky finger on his right hand as Ron tried to reach for his wand, making him scream with shock and pain. As he cradled his hand and looked up at her fearfully, she spoke in a low, vicious tone.
“You, vicious, cruel, lazy, manipulative son of a bitch. Yes bitch, because your mother is certainly the biggest bitch I know. And your sister is the worst cunt I’ve ever met. Tell me, does your mother put special effort into raising such greedy, vicious children?” Hermione asked softly.
When Ron snarled at the insult and tried to spring forward, she flicked her wand and broke the pinky of the other hand. Ron sank back with a howl of pain.
“Ah, ah, ah. For years you and your family subjugated my best friend and me, and now you are going to pay for every second of it.” Hermione snarled.
Ron just looked at her uncomprehendingly. He looked at her like he wasn’t sure if she was entirely sane. Hermione snarled again and with a flick broke the rest of his fingers leaving the red-head sobbing breathlessly on the ground, close to passing out.
Hermione stepped forward to hurt him some more when Harry couldn’t help himself; he put his hands on his friend’s shoulders and squeezed gently.
“Finish it, Hermione. He may have wanted to, but he’s not actually the one who hurt you.” Harry said gently, and Hermione turned around a snarl on her normally pretty features. At his gentle look, she burst out crying and buried her face in his chest.
Harry sighed in relief; he had been worried about Hermione. She hadn’t cried once since they found out the truth. Hermione had channelled all her grief and anger into getting them to the past and planning their revenge and Harry had been worried that she would become too hard and cold if she shut all her softer emotions away permanently. These tears were a good sign.
Harry held her close and stroked her back comfortingly as she sobbed out her grief and pain at the worst possible betrayal by someone she had loved. As her sobs turned to hiccups, Harry continued to rub her back soothingly.
“Do you mind if we finish him off?” Draco asked when her tears stopped, and she pulled away from Harry sniffing a little.
“Not at all; go on,” Hermione said gesturing at Ron who was still lying on the floor staring helplessly at his broken hands, barely conscious of what was happening around him.
Draco smiled, pleased to be allowed to play. The boys had previously agreed to let Hermione deal with Ron since she had the biggest grudge against him.
Draco waved his wand and spoke the incantation of the darkest spell he had ever used flaying Ron from head to toe. The scream he let loose was barely human and filled with so much pain, Harry cringed slightly.
Incredibly the red-head was still alive. So they fed him some Draught of the Living Dead and left him in the Chamber. They would prolong Molly and Ginny’s anguish as long as possible. Then the trio called Dobby to get them back to their suite.
Once they got there, they sank together onto the carpet Hermione between them still with Harry’s arm wrapped around her shoulders.
“You okay, Mione?” Harry asked softly.
“I will be. Thanks, Harry.” She answered, smiling up at him with some of her previous softness. The gentleness had been missing in her since they found out the truth. The Hermione, who had come back to the past, had been laser-focused on her revenge with barely enough emotion to spare for Harry and her family. Even Draco had been only very reluctantly allowed behind her walls.
“I…” Draco trailed off uncertainly.
“Ask, Draco,” Hermione said, taking the handkerchief, he offered and wiping her face.
“It’s just I know they did things to you, both of you, but you never get into specifics,” Draco said hesitantly.
“That’s because we don’t know specifics. We know they’ve been potioning us for a while to keep us compliant and maybe even to get us to marry them. We can’t be sure we never really asked, you see. They wouldn’t admit it, and I wasn’t sure I could hear the specifics without killing everyone in sight.” Hermione answered, anger sharp in her voice.
“Wow, they really screwed you over didn’t they. I never thought much of the Weasleys, but this seems beyond the pale even for them.” Draco said, and Harry nodded sharply.
The blonde moved closer and pulled the other two into his arms. They stayed in that comforting huddle for a long time that night.
The next morning brought a hysterical Ginny Weasley when it was discovered that Ron was missing. Molly showed up around noon berating Dumbledore and the other teachers for their carelessness with her children. She also turned on the rest of her children yelling at them for not keeping a better eye on her youngest son. Harry and Hermione could see Ginny slowly coming unglued and Fred and George distancing themselves from their shrieking mother.
The twins obviously felt guilty but didn’t seem to be inclined to listen to Molly’s rants while Ginny crumbled silently.
Hermione had Dobby keeping a watch on the girl so he could bring the diary back to her if Ginny did something stupid.
By the next morning, Ron was still missing, but Ginny had killed herself, slitting her wrists in the showers, scaring some other first years who found her corpse and the note taking the blame for all the attacks on students in the past year. Ginny had also confessed to kidnapping Ron, torturing him and poisoning him with a slow-acting poison before burying him where his body wouldn’t be found.
The girl had explained why she had attacked each student leading up to her brother, who had been tormenting her about her crush on Harry. Molly was inconsolable, and the twins just looked bewildered. Meanwhile, the search for Ron was still going on.
Dumbledore was being called in front of the school board of governors to explain the attacks that he hadn’t even noticed and the second death of a student in as many years under his watch.
The day of the meeting of the board of governors Harry stepped into the Chamber of Secrets and cast the killing curse using his staff before burying the body inside the Chamber itself. Not an hour later, Molly, informed by her charmed Weasley clock of her son’s death, walked into the staff room and tried to hex everyone in sight. McGonagall had had to stun her twice to stop her.
A few of the staff had ended up with cuts and bruises from ducking out of the way, but Hogwarts staff were a hardy breed, well used to dodging stray spells from their students. Molly was carted away by the Aurors, and they later heard that she would not be leaving the Janus Thickey Ward of St. Mungos anytime soon. The loss of three of her children had broken her mind so badly that nobody believed she could be fixed.
Harry and his friends rejoiced in secret while pretending sympathy for the Weasleys in public.
The meeting of the board of governors to decide Dumbledore’s competence was an eventful one. The old wizard tired from lack of sleep and nightmares when he did manage to sleep had a complete breakdown calling everyone fools and making dire predictions of Voldemort’s return.
Given his crazed appearance, nobody took him seriously, and it was decided that McGonagall would become interim head until the end of term when a final decision could be made before the new school year. Dumbledore had been fired.
The old wizard had then tried to convince first Snape and then Hagrid to leave with him. Snape had reportedly just looked at Dumbledore pityingly and refused as gently as the dour man was capable of, while Hagrid the more emotional of the two had burst into tears and hugged the old man but still refused. It gave Harry hope that the half-giant would eventually learn to think for himself.
By the time their exams were on them, the school was almost back to normal despite the absence of Dumbledore at the head table and the only Weasleys around being the rather subdued twins.
Soon summer was here, and they were packing and making plans for the holidays. The trio had accomplished their plans for revenge and were quite happy to relax and enjoy their summer. Harry and Draco were even planning on trying out for the quidditch team the next year. They had postponed any other activities in favour of their revenge that year, but the next year they would be free to just try and be teenagers.
They still couldn’t completely forget Dumbledore during the summer. The old man was in disgrace at the moment, but he was still alive to try to fight back. Fortunately, the old man had been forced to live with his brother in Hogsmeade, and it was a simple matter for Harry to make an excuse of a trip to Honeydukes and slip away from Remus and Sirius.
Harry covered with his invisibility cloak spotted Dumbledore coming out of the back of the Hog’s Head and after making sure it was Albus and not Aberforth he called up his staff and cast a simple curse to stop his heart. The curse was from the future and had no means of being detected in the present.
Dumbledore stumbled and fell, dead before he even hit the ground. Well satisfied with his work, Harry nodded to himself and walked away to lose himself in the crowd at Honeydukes. Considering what he had heard as the old man left the bar, it would be a while before anyone looked for Albus or discovered his death. By that time, Harry would be safe within the walls of his home.
Their third year began much better than it had in the previous timeline. Harry had permission to go to Hogsmeade with his friends this time, and he wasn’t being hunted by a murderer. There were no dementors at Hogwarts this year.
Harry was enjoying this taste of independence he got by being allowed to walk around the village with his friends again. It was one of the things about being an adult that the trio missed. Harry and Draco also had adult wand rights since they were now thirteen, a fact that irked Hermione since she still wouldn’t be allowed to until she was seventeen.
Sirius still managed to show up, accidentally, on purpose at the Three Broomsticks every Hogsmeade weekend. But it was still a taste of independence, and the trio were glad to have it back.
As Yule came around, Harry and Hermione began to work on Draco to persuade him to cast the soulmate revealing spell.
“Come on, Dray. You came back in time for this. Why not find out? We’ve already done what we came here for, but you haven’t even started. What harm can it do to find out now?” Harry wheedled as they were packing for the holidays in their suite in the dungeons.
Draco was strangely reluctant, but after much persuasion he finally agreed to let Hermione cast it when they were all at the Manor for what had become the customary Boxing day lunch with their families. They headed to Draco’s room and had Dobby on standby in case something happened as these spells could sometimes have strange side effects.
Hermione stood in one corner and studied the spell carefully while Harry lounged on the bed watching, and Draco stood nervously fidgeting in front of her.
Finally satisfied she pulled out her wand and cast the spell.
“Cor anima revelare.” She said, and a bright ball of light gathered in the centre of the room. It began spinning and growing in size rapidly, and the trio barely has time to share a panicked glance before they were thrown into bright whiteness.
Harry opened his eyes carefully, and what he saw made him sigh internally, it wouldn’t do to sigh out loud when you saw the Fates.
He straightened himself and helped his friends stand as well.
“My ladies,” Harry said, bowing politely.
“You have better manners in this life than in the last one, child. It’s an improvement.” Their voices sounded in the chamber, making the trio a little disoriented with the way their three voices sounded at once.
“The Fates?” Hermione asked Harry softly, and he nodded.
“Oh, yes, we are the Fates.” The Fates answered as one watching the trio as Hermione nodded politely to them and Draco echoed Harry’s bow.
“If I may be so bold, why are we here, my ladies?” Draco inquired carefully.
The Fates laughed their faces swirling and switching with each other confusingly.
“You have cast a soulmate revealing spell. Who better to reveal your soulmate than the Fates.” They said laughingly.
Draco inclined his head in agreement.
“This is not the first life you have lived together, nor will it be the last. Fate will always require our Warrior to carry out our wishes on earth.” They said, causing Harry and Draco to exchange a quick shocked glance and Hermione to look a little sad.
“There is no need to look sad my daughter, you, the three of you balance each other. Our Warrior would be lost without his Strength and his Intellect.” The Fates said, indicating Draco and Hermione.
Before the trio could voice anything else, they were slammed back into their bodies lying where they had fallen in Draco’s room.
The trio stared almost hypnotised at the slowly rotating orb of light in the centre of the room that showed them together. After a few minutes, Hermione sat up.
“So, that happened,” Harry muttered as he sat up on the bed.
“I don’t know about the two of you but just because we’re soulmates doesn’t mean I’m going to have sex with either of you until I look somewhat like an adult again. It still squicks me a little being a child.” Hermione said forthrightly as she began to get to her feet.
The boys nodded in agreement even as they flushed at her words.
“I’m just glad I didn’t have to choose between you both. I’m not sure I could have.” Draco said, getting to his feet slowly.
As they straightened still staring unblinkingly at the orb with their images the door opened and Narcissa and Sirius entered the room followed by the Grangers and the others who had been in the house.
“What happened, Dobby told us you fainted…..” Narcissa started before she caught sight of the orb still rotating gently in the middle of the room.
“Oh, oh, my boy. My baby, so blessed as to have two soulmates. My son.” Narcissa said, rushing forward to hug her son.
When she drew back from the embrace, she wiped tears from her face and moved to hug first Harry and then Hermione as the other adults just watched the orb in wonder
“Welcome to the family. I’m so happy to get another son and a daughter as well.” She said beaming brightly, “ You wait. I’ll organise the most amazing bonding ceremony for the three of you.” she gushed.
“Mother, we’re only thirteen. Give us a few years before you have us bonded and settled down.” Draco drawled amused and pleased with his mother’s reaction.
Sirius walked forward and ruffled Harry’s already messy black hair.
“Would you look at that. The pup doesn’t even have to choose, birds or blokes. He gets both.” Sirius teased grinning at Remus. He got an elbow to the side from Harry for his trouble.
The Grangers were looking confused even as Remus and the Tonks family came forward to congratulate the trio.
“What, I don’t understand? The elf person said they were unconscious, and we come here to see a sphere with their faces on it.” Jean Granger said a puzzled frown on her face.
“We did a soulmate revealing spell for Draco, Mum. Turns out the three of us are soulmates. Made for each other in this and every lifetime.” Hermione said, simply stepping towards her mother, who put an arm around her daughter and pulled her close.
“Oh, my baby girl. I’m so happy for you. You certainly have good taste. They’re quite good looking.” Jane Granger said, smiling in understanding even if she still had a little worried frown on her forehead.
“This does not give you permission to have sex with my daughter until she’s thirty.” John Granger said jokingly pointing at the boys.
“Dad!” Hermione exclaimed, embarrassed.
“You will wait, though, won’t you?” Jane asked a small worried frown on her face.
“Yes, Dr. Granger, we will wait. We wouldn’t disrespect Hermione like that. We know how important her education is to her.” Harry said gently, and Draco nodded. The Grangers looked relieved at the statement.
“We just won’t be waiting until we’re thirty,” Hermione muttered softly, making everyone laugh.
The rest of the day was spent celebrating the news with their families as the trio wondered how their friends would react to the news.
After the holidays the trio tried to settle into life together, but the were rumblings of trouble on the horizon. The remaining Death Eaters seemed to have been trying to get organised under a new leade, but they couldn’t decide who it would be. Draco had heard over the Slytherin grapevine that Nott, Avery and Mulciber were all trying to gather support for themselves. The complete fading of their Dark Mark’s to a faint scar seemed to have motivated them to try and seize some power for themselves.
Harry just sighed when he heard about the random attacks with the Dark Mark appearing above the scene. It seemed his work wasn’t done. Hermione finally came up with a way that they might affect all the Death Eaters through their Dark Mark’s, but they needed to be sure. There was only one person they could ask to let them experiment.
Draco knocked tentatively at the door to Snape’s office.
“Enter.” Snape’s smooth voice drawled, “What can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?” He asked, looking up from the papers he was grading.
“I have an unusual request for you. It is something that might help with the recent attacks.” Draco said slowly.
“Would you let Harry experiment on your Dark Mark? We think he can do it since he’s a parselmouth. If he can affect it, then we could potentially control the others and even remove yours completely.” Draco said, speaking very quickly.
Snape stared at him, dispassionately for a few minutes until Draco started to squirm. He had never been able to stand up under his godfather’s stare.
“So, your soulmate believes he can affect my Mark?” Snape said, finally.
Draco nodded fervently, and Snape looked at him thoughtfully. They had not made the fact that they were soulmates public knowledge, but the staff in school knew, and Hogwarts had expanded the boys’ suite to allow for a bedroom for Hermione as well.
“Alright, he may try,” Snape said finally, and Draco grinned.
“Now, sir?” Draco asked grinning widely.
“Alright, Mr. Malfoy, now,” Snape said a slightly exasperated tone in his voice.
Draco went to the door and opened it to let Harry and Hermione inside. Harry walked in hesitantly. He wasn’t sure how the acerbic man would take his request.
“Sir, before we begin, I have a request that could help,” Harry said fidgeting with his hands until Hermione put her hand over his, then he stopped and took a breath.
“Tell me, Mr. Potter.”
“Would you be willing to show me a memory of Voldemort before he died? Maybe even a memory of him setting a Mark.” Harry asked hesitation written in his every move.
Snape eyed him for a few minutes in silence and nodded once. The potions master got up and walked into the room next door that Harry thought might be his bedroom and brought out a pensieve. The man then quietly put his wand to his temple and drew the memory out. With a slight grimace, he put it in the bowl and gestured to Harry to look.
“Have you used a pensieve before Mr. Potter?” Snape asked.
Harry nodded, “Sirius and Remus often allow me to see some memories of my parents like that.” He answered and didn’t miss the flinch that Snape gave at the words.
Harry hesitated, he wanted to see more memories of his mother, but he didn’t know how to ask Snape. Finally, he pushed the thought aside and dove into the memory of Voldemort. He would focus on this now; the rest could wait.
Harry landed in a vast room that looked a lot like the great hall except the ceiling wasn’t charmed, it was just plain white. Looking around, Harry saw Death Eaters in their black robes and distinctive white masks in front of what looked like a throne. Harry almost laughed in contempt at Voldemort’s pretensions. Two figures in black robes knelt on the cold stone floor in front of the throne. Harry recognised a very young Severus Snape as one of them. The other figure was also distinctive due to his white blonde hair. Lucius looked so much like his son; it hurt Harry to watch him kneeling in front of the monster.
Voldemort himself looked a lot different from the way Harry remembered him. He looked more like he had in his diary, only older and with a hint of red in his eyes. Harry was sure that those eyes would blaze red when he was angry, but now they just looked pleased and supremely self-satisfied.
Riddle circled the kneeling men slowly.
“So, you wish to serve me.” He said in a low, raspy voice that was a chilling reminder of what they had managed to avert in this timeline.
The kneeling men nodded, not lifting their eyes from the floor and Riddle completed his circle and stood in front of them.
“You have already completed your tasks and proven your loyalty. I shall reward you.” Riddle said softly, “Give me your left hand.” he rasped, drawing his wand.
Lucius and Snape extended their arms towards him, and he grabbed Snape’s hand first, pressing the tip of his wand to Snape’s wrist Riddle hissed out the incantation in parseltongue. Harry jerked as he heard the words. Voldemort was binding them mind and magic to his service. They would never be able to refuse him anything again.
As the tip pressed deeper into Snape’s wrist, he screamed like he was under the cruciatus curse. When Riddle lifted his wand, Snape sagged a little panting heavily even as Riddle repeated the same thing with Lucius. Lucius, being forewarned of the pain, tried to control his screams but couldn’t help letting out a grunt of pain as he bit his lips to keep the screams in.
Harry jerked out of the memory and stepped back, feeling a little dazed.
“Harry?” Hermione asked, placing a hand on his back.
Harry shook off his disorientation and gave her a weak smile.
“I’m fine, Mione,” Harry reassured her and Draco who had come to stand closer to him and was looking worriedly at him.
“You took the Mark with Lucius. I didn’t realise it was at the same time.” Harry said as Snape nodded, “Thank you for that. It was helpful. Did he always summon you all using parseltongue on the Mark?” Harry asked thoughtfully.
“Indeed, Mr. Potter,” Snape said, nodding sharply. Harry nodded back in acknowledgement and continued to frown thoughtfully.
“Do you mind if I try something?” Harry asked after thinking it over for a few minutes.
Snape nodded and extended his arm. Harry focused on the snake in the faded Mark to the exclusion of everything else and hissed step forward at it. At first, nothing happened except Snape twitching a little in surprise. Harry focused some more and called up the hate and darkness he remembered from Riddle and tried again.
This time Snape jerked one step forward like he had been tugged by puppet strings. Harry looked up and grinned triumphantly.
“I think I can connect to all the Marks through this one,” Harry said, looking up into Snape’s slightly shocked expression.
“What exactly is your plan, Mr. Potter?” Snape asked shortly, he hadn’t been pleased to be jerked forward like that and the sound of parseltongue on Harry’s lips was an unpleasant reminder of Voldemort.
“Well sir, we were thinking that since I can get them to think anything I wish through the Marks, I would infect them all with paranoia against each other. Make them believe they are all trying to kill each other. Since it’s not really that far from the truth, it should be pretty easy.” Harry answered, shrugging.
“And if they are afraid of each other, it shouldn’t be long before they actually kill or damage each other, and they will be less inclined to work together or recruit new members if they are afraid for their lives. Not a bad plan Mr. Potter. Very Slytherin. ” Snape said nodding thoughtfully.
“Thank you, sir; we came up with it together,” Harry said, grinning happily.
“And how will you exclude me from this paranoia?” Snape asked quirking an eyebrow inquiringly.
“I’ll need to practice and get a proper feel for your magic, sir. But I’m sure I can exclude you.” Harry said earnestly.
“Fine, Mr. Potter. You may come practice every evening after classes for an hour.” Snape said after studying Harry’s earnest face for a few minutes.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Harry said and taking it as the dismissal it was the trio left quickly.
Harry was quiet for the rest of the evening and into the night. Nothing his two friends said or did roused more than an absent smile from him, and they finally gave up and left him to his thoughts.
Draco woke from a deep sleep with a feeling of someone watching him. He sat up in bed, rubbing his chest absently and started to see Harry sitting quietly in a chair beside his bed in the darkness.
“Harry? What’s wrong? You scared me.”
Harry got up from the chair and walked up to Draco placing gentle fingers on Draco’s chest where the scars from the Sectumsempra would have been.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I had no idea how bad it was for you then. I should have done something to help you instead of trying to kill you like that.” Harry said in a choked voice, and despite the darkness, Draco could see tears in his soulmate’s eyes.
Draco placed a hand over Harry’s where it rested on his chest.
“Ry, love. You know I was trying to do a lot worse when you hurt me. It wasn’t your fault. I wouldn’t have accepted your help, then even if you had offered.” Draco said softly, bringing his other hand up to sink into Harry’s dark hair and pull him closer to rest their foreheads together.
“I know. But..” Harry started.
Draco shook his head, pulling Harry closer.
“No, no buts. It wasn’t your fault. None of it. We were both just kids being manipulated by the adults in our lives. We did the best we could and survived. Now we have each other and Hermione. I, for one, think we should leave the past where it belongs and enjoy what we have here and now. We’ve earned it.” Draco said and tilted Harry’s face up gently pressing a chaste kiss to his lips.
“I love you,” Harry said as Draco pulled away, his green eyes shining with affection.
“I love you too,” Draco answered a catch in his voice, and he pulled the other boy closer wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist.
Harry lifted himself and straddled Draco’s legs moving closer to the blonde until he could bury his face in the junction between Draco’s neck and shoulder.
They stayed like that for a long time until muscles began to get stiff. Then Harry pulled out of the embrace and started to move away.
“Stay here tonight? If you want, that is. Just to sleep.” Draco said, catching Harry’s hand in his.
Harry nodded and settled himself under the covers, pulling Draco into his arms and snuggling close.
“Comfy?” The blonde drawled in an amused tone as he was tugged and pushed to suit Harry.
“Ummhmm,” Harry answered, nuzzling the bare chest under his cheek.
“Night, Ry,” Draco said, pressing a kiss to the top of Harry’s head.
“Night, Dray.” Harry returned softly.
Both boys soon fell asleep.
The next morning the boys woke up comfortably pressed together until they felt their morning wood pressed against the other. Then there was awkward fumbling and embarrassed smiles as they pulled apart and walked out into their common room.
Hermione, who was already sitting comfortably on a sofa reading, looked up when they came in and raised an eyebrow.
“Harry had a case of the guilts last night. About the incident in the bathroom sixth year.” Draco sai, dropping Harry right in it.
Harry gave Draco a betrayed glance.
“Hey, if you’re going to be a dumbarse I’m going to tell her about it. She deserves to know.” Draco said shrugging and grinning unrepentantly.
“Yes, I need to know, so I can tell you that you’re being stupid. How else would you know.” Hermione joked, reaching out and pulling Harry down beside her.
He lay down and put his head in her lap as her fingers found their way into his hair.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve soulmates like you. You’re both so mean.” Harry groused.
“Something very good. You’re lucky to have us.” Draco said, leaning down to press kisses to first Harry’s head and then Hermione’s.
Harry caught his hand as Draco straightened and pressed a kiss to his palm.
Since they had found out that they were soulmates, the trio had become much more physically affectionate towards each other and comfortable with each other. They usually stayed to chaste kisses and hugs so this was the first time any of them had slept in the same bed despite Hermione now having her own room in the suite.
“So, what brought it on?” Hermione asked, gently, combing her fingers through Harry’s messy hair.
“The memory. Watching Lucius take the Mark. He looked so much like Draco did at that age. And Voldemort, he didn’t just Mark them, he bound them both mind and magic to him. They would never be able to refuse a direct order. I never realised how bad it was for you.” Harry said, looking at Draco, who was sitting on the ground near Harry’s head.
“Like I said last night. Not your fault. It’s not like it’s something that is widely advertised.” Draco said poking Harry admonishingly in the shoulder.
“I know. It just feels so wrong to have not done more.” Harry answered, rubbing his shoulder.
“You had plenty to do then. You didn’t need anything else to worry about. Look, let’s not rehash this alright. It happened then; it’s not going to happen again. Let’s move on. Do you really think you can do this? Affect them all through the Dark Mark?” Draco said, swiftly changing the subject.
Harry sighed and nodded. He was aware that he wouldn’t be allowed to obsess about it anymore, which was probably a good thing.
“The only problem will be excluding Snape from the paranoia. Otherwise, I could do it today.” Harry said eyes closing in pleasure when Hermione found a particularly pleasant spot to rub.
“Honestly, you should be a cat. How you ended up a snake, I’ll never know.” Draco said snorting as Harry nearly purred in pleasure.
Draco had been practising meditation and had finally found his form, he was very pleased with it but refused to tell the others, saying only that it wasn’t a ferret and he would prefer to show them rather than just telling them about it.
“So, anyway, I’ll need to practice and figure out how. I just hope I can do it before they cause too much trouble.” Harry said after opening one eye and glaring at Draco.
“You will don’t worry. But you have to remember that you’re only one person, and there’s only so much even you can do.” Hermione reassured him, “Now go get ready both of you, or we’ll be late for breakfast.” she said nudging Harry off the sofa.
Both boys groaned but obligingly got up to get ready. The trio had made a point of never missing their meals. In the beginning, it was for Harry who had to have a whole host of potions after every meal to combat the malnutrition he had suffered at the Dursleys but now that he had finally finished with the potions and was well within the normal range for development it was simply habit.
So Harry practised every day with sensing the Dark Mark and the connections to all the other Marks. He also practised sensing Snape’s magic so he could recognise it. These sessions were mostly held in silence. Snape rarely had anything to say to Harry. He merely nodded a greeting and bared the Mark extending his hand to Harry. Harry himself usually didn’t know what to say so other than the initial greeting; he usually said nothing.
Draco often made fun of him when he mentioned the eerily quiet sessions with Snape, but his soulmate also comforted Harry that it was just Snape’s way and he didn’t really hate Harry. But the longer it took, the more Harry was convinced that Snape would be sure Harry was useless and there was very little anyone could do to comfort him.
It took the rest of the spring term and most of the summer term of practice before Harry was willing to experiment with excluding Snape from his orders to the Mark.
During the summer Snape and Sirius working together for once managed to sneak Harry into Azkaban. There Harry practised for an hour on getting Rodolphus Lestrange to do what he wanted when Harry focused on Snape’s Dark Mark. It worked. But despite their success, it was a rather quiet group who made it back home. The Dementors had brought back the worst memories in all three of them, hitting Sirius the worst.
As soon as Remus saw them, he called for the house-elves to bring hot chocolate and blankets. He wrapped the three of them in the blankets and fed them chocolate until they lost their pallor and began to look more human and less like corpses.
“You’re going to the mind-healer tomorrow, Sirius and no arguments,” Remus said as he tucked the blanket closer around Sirius’ shaking form.
Sirius just nodded weakly not having the strength to argue. He knew he would need a session with the healer as well as a Dreamless Sleep that night to help him cope.
“Did it at least work?” Remus asked a miffed expression on his face.
“Yes, it worked. Now I just have to do it.” Harry sighed, and Remus nodded, looking relieved that they wouldn’t have to go back for more practice.
“Oh, Harry, when you were gone, Draco called to tell you that he got the tickets to the Quidditch world cup,” Remus said handing Harry a piece of parchment with the note from Draco.
Harry grinned. This would be good. The Death Eaters might be out again after the match but this time he would be ready for them, and he had a special surprise planned for Crouch jr., sr. and Fudge.
“You’re all coming with us, right?” Harry asked, looking at the three men.
Remus and Sirius nodded, but Snape looked uncertain.
“You’re Draco’s godfather; he would want you there. Besides, we think it’s time you and Sirius put aside your differences and realise you are not bullying kids anymore, but adults.” Harry finished cheekily.
“Cheeky brat.” Sirius said wryly but turned to Snape and extended his hand, “The brat is right though, we’re adults now. I’m sorry for the things we did to you in school.”
Snape looked a little shocked by the gesture but took the offered hand as well. He just nodded without saying anything as he studied Sirius.
The weeks until the world cup sped by with various preparations and the usual summer homework. Since Harry had taken Ancient Runes instead of Divination that year he had some homework he couldn’t just make up. He was really enjoying refreshing his basics in Runes with Draco and Hermione. And since Professor Grubbly-Plank was taking Care for Magical Creatures and Hagrid was still the gamekeeper that class had been interesting and accident-free as well.
Just before the World Cup Draco was finally ready to cast the spell that would allow him to transfigured himself into an animal. With Harry and Hermione supervising, he cast the spell, and before their eyes, he turned into a beautiful white swan.
“This is a gorgeous form, Dray. Suits you perfectly. Elegant and graceful but vicious when crossed.” Harry said, laughing teasingly.
Draco pecked him lightly in response before transforming back with a grin.
“That was perfect Draco. You did very well for your first time. Better than himself over here. When he transformed the first time, he still had scales down his neck.” Hermione said eyes bright with teasing and happiness.
Harry merely made a face at her as they went back to putting Draco through his paces in his new form.
The world cup match played out almost the same way as it had before except that the Weasleys weren’t in the top box with Harry and his friends. Winky and her invisible charge were still there, and every time Hermione spotted her tiny cringing form, Hermione would fume silently. Harry had taken to standing pointedly in front of Winky to block Hermione’s view of the elf.
Krum caught the snitch and Ireland won. Harry made the bet with Bagman instead of the Weasley twins. Harry knew that this would ruin the man, and he deserved it for being such a useless minister. If by some miracle he got the money back he planned to invest it in the twins joke shop. Harry was planning to get Sirius to invest and work with the twins at some point. The twins could use the mind of a marauder in their plans and now that Remus was busy dating Tonks, Sirius could use the distraction.
During the celebrations after the game, Harry and his friends stayed alert. At the first sign of trouble when Sirius and Snape hustled them out of their tent towards the forest, they went quietly. The trio took up their position in the place where they remembered Crouch Jr. casting the Dark Mark and waited. Soon enough they saw Winky dragging something and heard Crouch Jr. stun Winky and cast the Mark.
Immediately Harry cast the spell to summon his cloak using his staff, and when the man spun to see who had caught him, Harry hit him with the killing curse. Crouch fell dead, and Hermione covered his body with the invisibility cloak.
The trio quickly ducked out of sight so they wouldn’t be caught by the Ministry officials. It was just in time as the cracks of apparition sounded as soon as they were safely out of the way a few feet from the Aurors and Ministry officials.
The search revealed Winky next to the stolen wand; Harry had been extra careful with his wand this time so Crouch Jr. must have stolen it from someone else in the top box. Crouch went mad when he saw Winky and insisted on searching the area where she was found himself. He came back a few minutes later, empty-handed, but the look in his eyes was flat and cold. With no preamble, he pulled a pair of gloves out of his pocket and handed it to Winky breaking their bond despite her wails and pleas.
Harry had never hated the man more, and he could feel Hermione next to him, seething with anger.
“Don’t worry Mione; we’ll bond her as soon as we can get Dobby to bring her to us. She’ll be fine with us.” Harry said, taking her hand in his and squeezing gently.
As the Aurors separated to search the area and restore order Fudge came blustering up along with Umbridge and joined Crouch, Arthur Weasley and Shacklebolt as they discussed the Dark Mark and Death Eaters.
Harry smiled vindictively and pointed his staff straight at Umbridge’s back.
“Imperio.” He hissed. In her mind, he whispered ‘You are surrounded by Death Eaters, you must fight them off. Aim first at the man next to you and then the one opposite, they are the biggest threats.’ he said, indicating Fudge first and then Crouch Sr.
Umbridge’s eyes went a little blank as her mind rolled over for Harry. She exploded into action in a way that Harry hadn’t thought she was capable of.
One sharp cutting curse and Fudge’s neck was severed, his head hanging off his shoulders by the barest scrap of skin and sinew. The next curse hit Crouch Sr. and was a killing curse. Before the man could even move towards his wand, he was dead. The next to be hit was Arthur Weasley. The cutting curse hit him dead centre of his chest, and there was blood everywhere.
He was the last to fall before Shacklebolt managed to stun the obnoxious woman.
Harry laughed quietly and slipped out of Umbridge’s mind with one last command ‘You don’t remember attacking Death Eaters, you just used it as an excuse to kill Fudge because he wouldn’t pass your legislation against the werewolves and centaurs soon enough to suit you.’
The trio then headed back to safety and the rendezvous point where they were supposed to meet Sirius, Snape and Remus. Narcissa had stayed behind as she wasn’t really that interested in quidditch.
They were well satisfied with their night’s work and waited patiently for the Prophet to announce their success in the morning.
The entire wizarding world was in uproar, the Minister for Magic had been attacked and killed along with another official at the world cup where security was supposed to be top notch. Not only that, but he had been attacked by a member of his own staff.
With the uproar going on Harry, Draco and Sirius quickly began to campaign to have Madam Bones replace Fudge as Minister while getting Shacklebolt into office as Head Auror. Scrimgeour was still an auror, but as long as he remained just an auror, he couldn’t do much harm, and he was actually quite effective as an auror. The boys hadn’t told Sirius the whole reason behind their support of Bones, but it had been enough that she was the one who had worked to investigate Sirius’ case and freed him.
With the beginning of the school term, the Tri-Wizard tournament was announced, and Harry paled when McGonagall said the words. They had been so busy plotting to get rid of the Death Eaters and get Bones in office that they hadn’t realised that Fudge had already started the process for the tournament and it couldn’t be called off easily after his death. At least not without the British wizarding world losing face. They had already lost a lot of standing, what with attacks during the world cup and this would be one step too many.
As soon as they got back to the dorm, Draco and Hermione came up to Harry and held him between them.
“We’ll take shifts and stay up all night watching the cup to make sure nobody puts your name in the cup. Voldemort is gone, Harry. There won’t be a repeat of his resurrection.” Hermione soothed stroking Harry’s back gently.
Harry shook his head, face pale and drawn with memories of horror and death.
“Voldemort is gone, but there are still his bloody Death Eaters. We need to step that up a bit. Get them killing each other and themselves before they can cause any more trouble.” Harry said determination beginning to chase the fear out of his eyes.
“You can push for the first step with Snape tomorrow morning,” Draco said, running his fingers through Harry’s hair softly.
Harry nodded and leaned his head on Draco’s shoulder, gripping Hermione’s hand in his as tight as he could.
The sight of Harry, so broken hurt both his soulmates differently. Draco cursed his father and Voldemort all over again, wishing he could bring them back just so he could kill them all over again. Hermione just got more determined that they would make sure Harry was safe during this tournament. Nothing would touch their Harry if they could help it.
The next morning at his first free period, Harry approached Snape about their plans for the Death Eaters. The potions master agreed in his usual slightly grumpy manner, and Harry spent the evening hissing instructions to Snape’s Dark Mark.
By the end of it, they were both exhausted, but the paranoia was about to hit every Death Eater alive except Snape.
Harry returned to his suite and sank onto his bed face first.
“How’d it go?” Draco asked from the doorway.
Harry mumbled something, but it was into his pillow, so Draco smiled fondly and walked upto him, turning him over. Harry gave him a tired smile.
“It went fine. Now we just have to wait and see if it does any good or if it causes problems for us.” Harry said, sighing a little.
Draco sat down next to him on the bed and stroked Harry’s hair off his face.
“Who doused your fairy light, my little optimist? It’ll be fine; you’ll see.” Draco said nudging Harry a little and smiling teasingly down at him.
Harry stuck his tongue out at him but curled around Draco with his head in Draco’s lap.
“Be nice to me. I’ve been working my arse off tonight driving Death Eaters crazy.”Harry said, pouting a little. He was fairly confident that their plan would work, but there were no guarantees, and there could be collateral damage in innocents. Harry wasn’t sure he could take it.
Draco just ran his fingers through Harry’s hair and massaged his scalp gently until Harry was purring with pleasure and soon fell asleep.
“He’s asleep?” Hermione’s voice came from the doorway. She had just returned from the library where she was looking for enchantments that could be placed so people could only add their own name to the cup.
Draco nodded and put his finger to his lips. He carefully arranged Harry in the bed, waved his wand to change Harry’s school robes for pyjamas and walked out, taking Hermione with him.
“This thing is really bothering him, isn’t it? I’ve never seen him so pessimistic before.” Draco asked, sitting on the sofa next to Hermione.
She reached out and patted his hand.
“He’ll be fine. Even if the worst happens, we’ll both be there for him. Unlike last time when he had to do most of it himself thanks to Ron bloody Weasley and Dumbledore.” Hermione said eyes flashing a little at the mention of their former friend and headmaster.
Over the next few days, Harry worked on the paranoia every night returning to their suite exhausted to be tucked into bed by either Draco or Hermione, whoever was not in the library researching spells to place on the Goblet of Fire.
It was hard work, but by the second week of school, the results were beginning to show. The Prophet had begun to report the deaths or disappearances of former Death Eaters. Not that most people knew they were Death Eaters until their bodies were found with the Dark Mark.
The number of deaths and disappearances increased steadily with Avery and Mulciber being among the first to die. Life around Slytherin house was beginning to be rather fraught with tension as nobody knew whose parents would be next on the list. Draco had finally managed to convince Narcissa that she should visit a clinic in Switzerland to help her heal from her disastrous marriage and to keep her out of harm’s way when the Death Eaters were attacking each other.
The trio had also bought the vanishing cabinet from Borgin and Burkes and put it in a secure place in Malfoy Manor and moved its companion into their suite from the Room of Requirement. Draco had fixed it easily, and they would be using it as an escape hatch if they ever needed one. The Manor itself was locked up tight with blood wards, and nobody other than Draco could enter or even cause a dent in the defences.
By the middle of October, they got the news that even Death Eaters who were in Azkaban were either killing each other or themselves. The first to die had been Bellatrix and the Lestrange brothers, killed by the other inmates in a mini-riot. Apparently, Bellatrix had gone wild and attacked everyone in sight. The Lestranges had been trying to protect her when they were killed as well.
The day the news of the Lestranges deaths made the news Neville was a mass of contradictory emotions, one minute he was thrilled that they were dead and the next he was appalled that he could feel that way. Harry managed to calm him down and convince him that he wasn’t a monster for being glad that the people who had hurt him and his family were dead.
By the time the students from other schools were set to arrive, there were only a handful of Death Eaters alive, among them was Nott. The day before the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrived, Harry had one final session with Snape to increase the paranoia tenfold with a specific target, Thaddeus Nott. Snape had also summoned the remaining Death Eaters to a meeting in Nott’s name and would be attending in secret to finish off stragglers.
Harry had tried to dissuade him, but the man had stated that it was his life’s work, and he would finish it as he had promised himself he would. He had also refused to have his mark removed as he told the trio, he wished to keep it as a reminder to stay in the Light. So by the time Halloween rolled around the Death Eaters were an extinct species and the trio could enjoy the choosing of champions in peace.
Harry was content to watch Cedric being chosen again as the champion for Hogwarts as well as Fleur and Krum. Though there was a tense moment after that when he waited for someone to call his name, nothing happened, and it progressed as normal.
Watching the champions face off against the dragons in the first task was exciting, and Harry wondered how he had done it before, the dragons seemed much larger than he remembered.
Once the first task was done, with Krum in the lead, everyone relaxed a little despite preparing for their exams before the Yule holidays. Harry was beginning to panic a little though he managed to keep this fact from his soulmates. He didn’t know how to dance. One panicked floo call to Sirius later Remus arrived in school with an enchanted floor chart to help teach Harry.
Harry began to sneak away from his friends every day to meet up with Remus doing his best to keep Draco and Hermione from noticing. They, however, followed Harry to see what he was doing and laughed at their soulmate’s silliness. Hermione and Draco insisted on joining in the lessons, and soon, most of Harry’s other friends were joining in as well, and Remus had more students than he knew what to do with.
Pansy was, as usual, trying to get Draco to notice her and with the approaching yule ball, she was trying to get him to ask her with no success. Finally, the girl couldn’t take it anymore and approached Hermione.
“Why don’t you take Potter to the dance, Granger? With his mudblood mother, he should suit you just fine. Leave Draco to someone who will understand him better.” Pansy said, glaring down at Hermione, who was working on an essay in the library.
“I don’t see why I can’t go with both of them,” Hermione answered calmly, still intent on her work and ignoring the insults.
“Listen, you mudblood bitch, bad enough you have Harry bloody Potter and Draco running after you all the time, and now you have Viktor Krum sniffing after you as well. Pick one and leave the rest to of them for the other girls.” Pansy spat anger and frustration making her loud.
Harry and Draco who had been looking for a few books for reference in between stopping to snog, heard her and quickly made their way back to their table. The trio had progressed to snogging properly and making out in their relationship but not much further. They were taking it as slowly as their teenage hormones would allow.
Hermione looked up and saw them approach, faces flushed and lips swollen from kisses.
“So, boys, Parkinson here wants me to pick just one. Now, why should I? But then again, neither of you has asked me yet.” She said smirking and tapping her quill against her lips thoughtfully.
“Hermione, you know we’re going together. I didn’t think we needed to spell it out for you.” Harry whined sitting down opposite her as Draco sat next to him nodding. They all ignored the fuming girl next to them as well as the other students near them who were very interested in their conversation.
Hermione grinned at them, “A girl likes to be asked.” was all she said.
Draco huffed, “Fine, Hermione Jane Granger, would you do us the honour of accompanying Harry and me to the yule ball as our date?” He asked blushing a little. Harry was beet red when Hermione glanced at him, but he nodded at Draco’s words.
“I will.” Hermione answered a big smile on her face, “About time, too, Krum was becoming a pain with his constant staring.” She said, turning back to her books, a smile still tugging at her mouth.
The boys grinned at each other and pretended to focus on their books while under the table the trio tangled their legs together. Pansy was forgotten, and the girl huffed, stamped her foot in anger and stormed off.
Once they got back to their rooms, Harry turned to Hermione.
“Is Krum really being annoying? Do you think letting the world know about our relationship will help? I mean now that all our known enemies are taken care of we could let the world know.” Harry said eyes intent on Hermione.
“Viktor stares rather creepily. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, but I guess I was young then.” She shrugged it off, “Anyway the yule ball is the perfect way to let the world know we’re taken, don’t you think?” she finished.
Draco looked at them thoughtfully and nodded.
“I think we should all have rings to symbolise our betrothal as well.” Draco added, “We’ll need to tell the parents and ask Sirius to get the Black rings from the vault since that house is senior in our relationship.”
Harry nodded, “Call him now?” He asked.
The other two nodded and headed towards their fire to call Sirius.
“My parents are going to freak, about me getting engaged so young. I mean they know the whole soulmate thing, but I don’t think they’re completely clear on that still.” Hermione said after they had called Sirius and he had agreed to get them the rings after much teasing.
“My mother will freak, as you put it, for an entirely different reason. We’re going to have a hard time convincing her we don’t want an elaborate engagement party as well.” Draco said grinning.
The two of them set about sending their owls to their respective parents while Harry watched a feeling of peace permeating his being.
As Draco and Hermione debated fashion choices for the ball, he merely listened and told them he would leave it all upto them.
The day of the yule ball, Sirius showed up just as they were all getting ready. He handed the box to Harry who opened it and looked in wonder at the rings. They positively glowed with the protective magic embedded in them. They were simple Hammered mithril rings with three stones twisted in them to represent the three of them. Emerald, sapphire and ruby.
Harry pulled out the smaller one and held out a hand to Hermione, who smiled and put her hand in his. Harry slipped the ring on her finger and brought the hand to his lips, kissing the ring on her finger.
Then he straightened and smiled at Draco, holding out his hand. Draco put his hand in Harry’s smiling as Hermione took his other hand in hers.
Harry pulled out one of the bigger rings and slipped it on Draco’s finger, kissing it as he had Hermione’s. Draco smiled at him, pulling them close for a hug before reaching out to Sirius to take the last ring and slip it on Harry’s finger.
“I love you, both of you, so much. I’m so happy we get this life together.” Draco said a catch in his voice as he pressed a kiss to first Harry’s and then Hermione’s lips.
“Love you too,” Harry said, holding his soulmates close. They had come so close to losing this all forever. They had, thanks to their own insecurities and the manipulations of others lost it in the previous timeline. Harry didn’t even want to think about how bad it had been without them at his side.
“I love both you gits as well.” Hermione added, “Now let’s go before the ball is over.” she said, smiling and tugging on their hand.
Laughing and waving to Sirius the trio made their way to the ball.
As he danced with his soulmates and kissed Draco and Hermione under the mistletoe, Harry reflected on the changes in his life in the past four years. He didn’t think he had ever been happier in his life and he looked forward to all the firsts he would have with his soulmates in the future.
Things might not be perfect all the time but one thing he knew, with Draco and Hermione at his side he could face anything.