~ Prologue ~

Minerva McGonagall looked at the young couple standing in her office. She'd been head down over preparations for the Halloween Feast, always a problematic event that resulted in alcohol poisoning, dragging students out from behind bushes, and usually at least one assault. It was her least favorite school celebration but Dumbledore insisted on keeping it with sanctimonious noises about Samhaim and tradition and fun. How a party that was mostly about candy and purloined fire whiskey had anything to do with harvest festivals and the advent of the Horned God McGonagall had no idea but every suggestion that she add a bit of historical relevance to the curriculum was pooh-poohed.

She'd been thinking Halloween was going to be her trial for this week and thanking any of the old gods that were listening that at least the Marauders had graduated so things would be comparatively calm. Looking over the bloodstained children in front of her she knew Halloween and intoxicated teenagers were about to become the least of her worries.

The girl was covered in soot and dirt and blood and the boy – so pale and angular he was obviously a Malfoy though there weren't any Malfoys that age right now – was bleeding from a cut on his cheek of which he seemed unaware. He had his hand on the girl's shoulder, his finger cured into her as though she were afraid she might disappear.

"Who are you?" Minerva asked. "Where are you from?"

The girl closed her eyes. "The future," she whispered, and she began to tell a tale so fantastic Minerva didn't want to believe it. That wretched Voldemort pushed into non-corporeal form after an attack on the Potter baby only to rise again using arts so black Minerva though they had been lost. War. Another war, this time using children rather than adults so young they were merely almost children.

"You realize that by telling me this you might have changed the future enough that you, as you are now, the product of all your experiences, might cease to exist," McGonagall said, wondering who had been so foolish as to give a teenager a time turner.

The girl looked at her. Her gaze had a steady maturity that McGonagall suspected had been put there by horrors beyond imagining. "We had to do it. If we could prevent war, we had to."

"You know I'll find you," the boy said, his voice raw and urgent. "No matter what universe we live in, I'll find you. If I could find you in this one, when blood prejudice and a war set us at one another's throats, I'll find you in a peaceful one."

"Don't forget about Sirius Black," the girl begged her and McGonagall watched, horrified, as the pair began to fade away. She saw the Dark Mark, long healed, burned into the boy's arm and shuddered.

Still, she didn't believe them. Not really. Not until Halloween night when Dumbledore came and got her from the school party, pulling her away from where she'd been scolding two Hufflepuffs that she'd found behind a pillar doing something guaranteed to cause yeast infections with cotton candy. When she saw Lily Potter's body, however, fallen to the floor of the nursery where her baby still sat in his crib, wailing, she believed.

When Dumbledore said he was going to take the baby to his aunt, some Muggle named Petunia, McGonagall put her foot down. "You can't just leave a baby on some woman's doorstep, Albus," she said. "I know this is a shock and you might not be thinking straight, but Lily was estranged from her family; surely you remember that. They cast her out because she's a witch. We'll check the Potter's will and see who they wanted young Harry to go to."

"Sirius Black," Dumbledore said, his voice heavy. "The very friend who betrayed them."

"Sirius?" McGonagall stared at him. "Don't be absurd. That boy was irresponsible, headstrong, and a menace but he would never ever have betrayed anyone to Voldemort, much less James Potter. They were like brothers."

"People do betray their brothers, Minerva," Dumbledore said, reaching for the baby.

She pulled the child out of his reach and said, with a snort, "Then the next option would be the Malfoys. Dorea Potter was a Black and that makes this child some sort of cousin of Narcissa's. I can owl her in the morning."

"Minerva," Dumbledore said, his voice laced with authority and warning.

She, however, was unmoved. "Don't 'Minerva' me, Albus. I'm not letting you leave this child on the doorstep of a bunch of Muggles. Do you plan to see to freeing Sirius Black from this absurd charge you seem to have laid at his feet or do I have to do that too?"

She did owl Narcissa Malfoy, though Dumbledore backed down from his plan to leave James and Lily Potter's child with Muggles.

"What was he thinking?" Narcissa agreed as the two women sat in Minerva's office and looked down at the baby in a basket on the floor, sleeping peacefully now. "Accidental magic is bad enough when the parents know what to expect. Muggles who you tell me are horrified of anything unusual? It would be a disaster. This is how Muggle-born children end up abused."

"Sirius will need your help," Minerva said. "I'm not even sure that man can take care of himself, much less raise a boy."

"Draco is the same age," Narcissa said softly, still looking at the boy. "Walburga and Druella and all that lot are gone now; there's no need to humor their banishment of Sirius. We can bring Sirius back into the family, raise the two children to be as close as brothers." She sipped from her tea. "But I'll need Lucius' help. Boys… they need a father's influence."

McGonagall looked at the petite woman and heard the trade she was offering; she added a condition of her own. "I suspect I'll need his help too."

"That," Narcissa said, "can be arranged."