Part 44:
The Oldest of Magics
(Wednesday, December 22, 1977 - Continued...)

Hermione and Draco peered at the quicksilver concoction on the table and then looked over at their instructor. "Are you sure it'll work?" Hermione's question was met by a raise of Draco's eyebrow and a scowl from Severus. The gesture was so reminiscent of his future self that she was instantly cowed. Slughorn had ended the inter-House Potions project to concentrate more on defensive and healing potions, but Hermione had talked Severus into helping her and Draco with the Wolf's Bane potion.

He had instructed them on how to make the potion and, as long as they didn't look at the sallow-skinned teen, it was just like being in Potions class again. Hermione was struck by a brutal pang of homesickness she hadn't really felt in the past three months. Along with the homesickness, the brunette was assailed by guilt. In just three months, she had all but forsaken six years of friendship. It was the longest she'd gone without contact with Harry and Ron. Even the diary she'd started to inform them of her circumstances had fallen by the wayside with the chaos of the past. "Are you alright?" The future Potions professor's voice interrupted her thoughts.

She shook her head to clear the fog and sent him a smile. "I'm fine. You just reminded me of someone," she said. Quickly, she changed the subject. "Thank you, Severus. You have no idea how much this will mean to Remus."

Severus's thin lips thinned even more at the mention of the werewolf for whom he'd assisted them with the Wolf's Bane potion. "It wasn't his fault, you know. He was just a little kid playing outside when he was almost killed by a monster," Draco stated. "Anyway, it wasn't his idea; it was Padfoot's moronic and asshole-ish idea in the first place. Plus, it was two years ago. None of us are the same people we were two months ago, let alone years." He looked pointedly at Hermione. "People grow and change. It's what makes us human." His eyebrows rose as he turned his attention back to the dark-haired boy. "They're not the same people they were when they pulled the prank, Severus. Honestly, I didn't like them much when I first met them, but I've grown very close to them and now they're my best friends." With that, he carefully capped the Wolf's Bane potion and looked at the silver liquid with a smile before carefully tucking it into the pocket of his robe.

A smile crossed Hermione's lips at Draco's comment, and Severus looked momentarily stunned at the talking-to Draco had given him. "Maybe if you try again and give them another chance, they may surprise you," Hermione summarized. "People are full of surprises." She gave Severus a hug that stunned him. It took him a moment to react and awkwardly patted her back. "Have a good winter break, Severus. I'll see you in January. Take care." She gave him a peck on the cheek, smiled, and left holding hands with Draco. Severus watched her go and smiled softly.


Outside of the potions room, Draco gave Hermione a peck on the lips. "You'd better get packed," he told her. "I need to talk to someone before we go."

"And what about you?" the brunette inquired.

He gave her a grin, showing off perfect white teeth. "I packed last night. You know, for a girl who has her homework done weeks ahead of time, you really procrastinate when it comes to packing," he teased her. She shook her head and stuck her tongue out at him.

He waggled his eyebrows. "Now, don't do that unless you plan to share," he teased her causing Hermione to blush as red as Weasley hair. The blush was short-lived; soon, a smirk crossed her lips and she gave her boyfriend a long, lingering kiss, her tongue darting into his mouth and dancing with his. Abruptly, she ended the kiss and pulled away from him with a wicked grin. With a giggle, she walked off toward the Head Room. "Tease."

The blonde headed off in the other direction, pausing in front of a door in the dungeon. He sucked in a deep breath and knocked on the door. A few moments later, it opened to reveal Madigan Flaherty who looked like he had just awoken, his thinning gray hair was mussed and sleep was still in his eyes. Draco's eyebrow arched as he looked at the man. "Professor, I…I didn't mean to disturb you," he said. "I just needed to talk to you."

"Very well," the man said sourly, moving to let Draco into his private quarters. Since Slughorn had returned, Flaherty had moved to another dungeon apartment. The decorations were Spartan and utilitarian. There were two tufted-leather, wing-backed chairs that stood before the fireplace and dominated the sitting room. Between the two chairs was a small table littered with books, and the walls were covered with bookcases full of ancient tomes. Unlike the teachers' apartments that Draco had seen - not that Draco had seen that many, only Dumbledore's and Snape's - Flaherty's sitting room lacked any of the House colors. Flaherty sat down in one of the chairs, pulling his dressing robe tight around his small frame, and Draco wandered around the room, examining the spines of the books that filled the bookcases. The organization was amazing; one that made even Draco amazed. His bookcases in Malfoy manor were as perfectly organized as Flaherty's.

After a while, Flaherty cleared his throat, and Draco looked sheepishly at him. "Is there a reason that you are visiting me so early in the morning?" he asked. The blonde looked at the small, grandfather clock on the mantle of the fireplace that clearly read that it was noon. Flaherty's hazel eyes followed the path the blonde's had taken and scowled as he noticed the time. "I was working late last night. Sit, now." He gestured to the open seat across from him.

Nervously, the former-Slytherin sat in the chair that the professor had gestured toward. He picked at the hem of his robes for a second, and Flaherty glared at him. The expression on the elderly man's face looked familiar somehow. "Mr. Malfoy," the man said sharply.

Draco swallowed hard at the mention of his name. It was strange, a name he'd borne for the past sixteen years seemed strange to him after only three months of being Draco Aquilus. Finally, he spoke. "I just wanted to see how you were coming with the potion - or whatever it is - to send Hermione and me back to our time," he said.

The elderly man's lips quirked into a bit of a smirk, showing off a dimple on the left corner of his mouth. "I've been working quite hard on it, actually. Unfortunately, it's quite the endeavor. Needless to say, not everyone has a TARDIS." Draco looked blankly at the man. "Doctor Who…Time and Relative Dimension in Space? Oh, I forget, wizards don't have television." He chuckled to himself, seemingly bemused.

"Muggle-born or half-blood?" Draco asked. He cocked his head thoughtfully. He'd said "Muggle-born" without thinking about it. Considering the fact that many of the most important people in his life were now either Muggle-borns or half-bloods, it felt fitting to call them that instead of the derogatory term he'd used for the majority of his life.

"Pure-blood," Flaherty said. "Let's just say in the past few years, I've been familiarizing myself with Muggle culture. It's surprisingly fascinating. My mother would have a fit if she knew." His long fingers steepled beneath his chin as he examined his first cousin once removed with a thin smile.

Oh, yes, Walburga Black would have so many fits if she knew what would happen to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black's youngest descendants. Dating Mudbloods, helping the Order of the Phoenix, and fighting against the Dark Lord on whom his mother had quite the crush. She had gone to school with him when he had been Tom Marvolo Riddle and had briefly dated him before she had married Orion Black. As far as he knew, Sirius didn't know anything about that. Flaherty hadn't even known that until he'd become a Death Eater himself, and Voldemort had told him about the relationship.

The blonde nodded thoughtfully. "I've been learning a lot about it since Hermione and I have been dating," he said. "I haven't heard of this doctor, though."

Flaherty cocked his head and looked curiously at Draco. "You and Hermione are dating, but in your time, the two of you hated each other," he said. "So…why have you decided to ask about the status of your return."

Draco pulled out the vial that Severus had helped them make. "Do you know what this is?"

"It looks to be a Wolf's Bane potion," the professor said. "I assume it's for Mr. Lupin."

The response was met by a nod of Draco's head. Carefully, he put the potion securely in the pocket once more. He took in a deep breath and cleared his throat as he tried to put his reasoning to words. His tongue darted out to lick his suddenly-dry lips, and he spoke. "If I stay here, then I'm going to do something that'll change the world," he said. "If I stay here, I'm going to keep Voldemort from being stopped."

Flaherty's eyes widened, and he smiled brightly. "He gets stopped?"

"I shouldn't be telling you this," Draco said with a frown. "The important thing is that if I stay here, then I'll save people who die to stop him. And he won't be. If I stay here, I'll save people I…love and no one else."

The man slid to the edge of his seat and stared at the blonde. "I need to know this, Draco," he said simply. "I need to know if the sacrifices I've made worked."

"What?"

"What happens?"

Silver eyes met hazel ones as Draco simply stared at the man. "I can't tell you."

"I need to know this, Draco. Please."

Well, he'd already told almost everyone so why not tell another person? Someone to keep him in line, to stop him from doing something that could very well destroy the world. He swallowed hard and spoke, "Lily and James got married, and they had a son named Harry. A son - that for some reason - is special. Voldemort" - it still felt strange to Draco to use the Dark Lord's name - "went after them. James and Lily died to save Harry, and something happened when Voldemort tried to kill their son. It..." he faltered as he tried to find the right term to use "…broke him, for lack of a better word. He was dead until 1995 when some mystical spell brought him back."

Flaherty absorbed the knowledge and sat in stunned silence. Suddenly, he stood and walked to the door in the back of the sitting room. Unsure of what was expected of him, Draco just stared after the man. A few minutes later, Flaherty returned with two books in hand. One was bound in black leather and seemed to suck the light out of the room, and the other was thin and bound with glistening rose-gold leather. Carefully, he placed the two tomes on the table. The black book bore the title, The Moste Darkyst of Magyks, carved on the cover in a bold, blood-red text. The rose-gold book was much smaller, and Temperantia Caritas et Humanitas was engraved on the cover in delicate, filigreed gold.

Draco swallowed hard as he stared at the black book. The simple presence of the book made him feel uneasy, and he slid as far back in the chair as he could manage. "The Moste Darkyst of Magyks was a book of curses written by Gaius Azkaban. He was the first wizard incarcerated in his namesake prison," Flaherty explained. "It contains all of the darkest and most foul curses and hexes known to wizardkind including, but not limited to, necromancy and blood magic." The professor pulled on leather gloves, and his long, thin fingers opened the pages revealing parchment covered in cramped but elegant brownish-red writing that Draco could not read

The blonde winced as he realized the "ink" was really dried blood. "All but two were destroyed. With good reason. This one Professor Dumbledore inherited from Gellert Grindelwald when he defeated him. The other is the property of Voldemort. This is, thankfully, not the original. It was bound from the flesh of flayed Muggles and written in Azkaban's blood. Your reaction is expected. There are a variety of curses on this book. The original has even more curses on it. Only a heart of darkness can open it without death."

The boy's uneasiness only increased at Flaherty's comment. The professor stopped fingering through the pages as he came to one, and he pulled his hands away. Cautiously, he opened a drawer in the table, retrieving a knife, and stabbing the tip of his finger so blood welled. The drop of blood fell on the page, and the strange writing became legible. Centered at the top of the page was a single word: Horcruxes.

Silver eyes examined the man expectantly. "Do you know what a Horcrux is, Mr. Malfoy?" At Draco's blank look, Flaherty continued, "A Horcrux is one of the vilest spells that ever existed, and as far as I've known, there are only two books that have contained the recipe to make a Horcrux. This-" he gestured toward the black book "-and Secrets of the Darkest Art. Personally, I would have much preferred Secrets of the Darkest Art; it's just a normal book. But I work with what I have."

"Grandfather Black had a copy of Secrets of the Darkest Art," Draco said.

"A Horcrux is created by the act of premeditated murder," Flaherty explained. "Murder tears the soul into pieces, but over time, the soul can heal. A Horcrux is…the intentional damaging of the soul and separating the piece into an object. The object keeps the person alive, and the Horcrux can only be destroyed by the person feeling remorse, but the pain of remorse would probably kill the creator. Other than remorse - which would be quite impossible from Voldemort - a Horcrux can be destroyed by basilisk venom and Fiendfyre."

The man stared at the book in disgust. During his tutelage with Voldemort, he had learned how to summon and control Fiendfyre. Well, that explained a lot about the locket, why Voldemort had concealed it so well. The locket, as of right now, was still in the cavern, but seeing how well his last attempt at getting the locket had gone, there was no way he could risk it again. Even if he could, the paradox of rescuing the locket before his younger self had/would could quite possibly unweave time. His very presence had created enough problems.

The other option of gaining basilisk venom was even more impossible. Where on earth could he find a basilisk? And even if he could, only a Parselmouth could possibly control a basilisk. "I can summon Fiendfyre," Draco said.

"That, young Malfoy doesn't surprise me," Flaherty stated. "The only problem is that Voldemort's Horcrux is unattainable right now."

The blonde nodded solemnly. "So, what does the Horcrux have to do with Harry?" he asked.

"Ah, that," the man said. "Accio Ironwood." A black, wooden box covered with ornate carvings zoomed into the room. He replaced his gloves, closed the open book, and placed it in the box. As soon as the book was placed inside the open box, a top appeared seamlessly blending with the wood. The box flickered momentarily before disappearing. Instantly, Draco felt better. "The Horcrux is why Voldemort still exists once more in your time. The reason Harry survives has nothing to do with the Horcrux and everything to do with this book."

Flaherty removed the gloves he wore, and opened the second book. The reaction was the exact opposite of what Draco had felt when the first book had been opened. The room seemed brighter, and he seemed lighter with a sense of well-being filling him. A smile curved the elderly man's lips revealing yellowed, crooked teeth as the second book was opened.

"Love magic," Flaherty said simply causing Draco to arch a brow. "No, not that kind of love magic. Selfless, unconditional, pure, true love…the rarest love of all." He turned the pages, and each turn of the page created a note of what sounded like harp music. "Much better magic on this one." He stopped at a page and turned the book to show the boy. "The easiest way that someone can cast this spell is on a pregnant woman for her child. It's ancient, protective magic that encases the child in a kind of shield of radiant love. Extremely rarely, it can be cast on a significant other, but the love between the two has to be pure, true love."

"So, James and Lily cast this spell on Harry?" he asked. "That's why he survived."

The man nodded. "That seems to be the reasoning."

There was a moment of thoughtful silence before Draco looked up at Flaherty. "What about the time travel spell or potion? How is that coming?"

"Hopefully, I will have a solution to our problems before much longer," he said. He looked pointedly at Draco. "As much as you fear changing the future, there is such a thing as fate. Some things, no matter how hard we try to change them, will always come to pass. Think about that, Mr. Malfoy, before you worry anymore."

Draco nodded, and looked up at the clock once more. It had been half an hour since the discussion had begun. He needed to catch the train. "Thank you, Professor Flaherty, for your help."