Seventh year had been a hard year for Harry so far, and it was little over a month into the term. His schoolwork was suffering, his spellwork was suffering, and, as much as he tried to hide it, Ron and Hermione's newfound love left him feeling even more isolated. He had known for a while that it had to happen - after all, only a total idiot could miss the significant way the two had looked at each other for years - but it had still come as a bit of a shock the first time he'd seen them kiss.
Dumbledore was giving every appearance of trying to include Harry in the workings of the Order, but he was the only one. Well, he and Remus. Everyone else treated Harry like either something fragile or, in the case of Professor Snape, something disgusting. At least the latter he was familiar with after years with the Dursleys. But it just wasn't working, even the Order couldn't distract Harry.
He was obsessed with the idea of the prophecy. According to some words of fate, he, Harry, could only be killed by Voldemort's hand. But why? What would happen if he tried to kill himself?
It was this latter question that he was pondering in the middle of the night on top of the astronomy tower. He was standing on the ledge, looking down at the ground, an inky blackness far below. What would happen if he did it; if he jumped? Would some miracle keep him from dying?
There was a sudden sound from behind and Harry whipped around. Draco Malfoy had just burst through the door.
"Potter! I've got...you..." the Slytherin hesitated. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing that's any of your business, Malfoy!" Harry shot back furiously, storming out and running at top speed through the castle and outside. He could hear his pursuer's footsteps all the way.
"Potter!" Malfoy called after him. "Potter, stop, now!"
Harry ignored him, walking faster across the grounds. He had to get away. Originally, he had been trying to get away from all the concerned looks and the way Dumbledore had hidden something from him during their last meeting, but thankfully the appearance of Draco Malfoy narrowed his purpose to simply escaping the presence of the annoying Slytherin.
Unfortunately, said escape was proving to be much more difficult than he'd previously thought. Now Harry was all but running toward the Forbidden Forest in an effort to get the other boy to turn back. It almost seemed like a game of chicken; who would turn back first, Harry from the forest or Malfoy from Harry? Because Harry certainly wasn't going to let Malfoy catch up.
Finally, he reached the edge of the trees. With barely a pause for breath, he plunged in to the shadows that were darker, even, than the moonless night around them. Unable to stop a tremor of fear running through him at the thought of going further into the forest at night, Harry changed tactics and hid behind a tree, waiting for Malfoy to run past so that he could leave his rival out in the forest.
Sure enough, no more than a few seconds had passed when Malfoy came barreling by. However, Malfoy seemed to have some sixth sense that told him where Harry was, because he promptly stopped, spun on his heel, and marched back to Harry, who was still leaning against the tree.
"Potter," Malfoy said, slightly breathless, "what the hell were you doing back there?"
"What did it look like, Malfoy?" Harry snapped.
"It looked like you were about to jump off the bloody tower!" Malfoy looked absolutely confused, and almost seemed to be sulking, as though some favorite toy had just been taken from him.
"Well...what business is it of yours, anyway?" Harry sneered, attempting to ignore the hot twinge of shame in his gut. "I figured you'd just be dancing for joy if I offed myself."
Malfoy looked like he was about to respond when suddenly Harry froze and, slowly, raised one hand to his scar, which had just begun to burn terribly. On some impulse, Harry grabbed Malfoy and swung the Slytherin behind him, hiding him.
"Well, well, well," said a serpentine voice from the shadows deeper in the forest, "what have we here? A young Gryffindor wandering out of bounds on a night like this?"
"Stuff it, Riddle," Harry snapped, "I'm hardly in the mood tonight."
"Ah, but Harry, it hardly maters what mood you are in now," Voldemort hissed languidly, "for you will have a very long time to change." Before Harry had a chance to think what that might mean, Voldemort had raised his wand.
"Tempus expugno!" The Dark Lord cried, and watched as the seventeen-year-old was whipped away in a burst of light. Quite spontaneously, one of the Death Eaters hiding in the trees burst into enthusiastic applause.
"Well done! Well done!" he exclaimed, splitting apart from his fellows to stand just a few feet from Voldemort. "Of course, it was my spell, but you executed it perfectly! Although, I must apologize, as I didn't make it to your exact specifications. It won't send the boy back two hundred years, instead it will send him back to the summer of 1977, but I'm certain this will work out best for the world."
"What are you blabbing about, Aries?" Voldemort asked, becoming irritated. "And what do you mean you didn't make it as I asked? Do you presume to know better than I what will work out for our plan?"
"Of course not," Aries went on without blinking. "After all, that's not what I said, is it? I said this would work out best for the world, your plans are hardly looking out for the betterment of the world. And really, this unhealthy obsession with conquering Europe can't be good for your blood pressure, either."
"Aries, what the devil are you doing?!" Severus cried, breaking ranks as well and rushing up to grab Aries' arm.
"Sorry about all this, Sev," Aries said lightly, making no attempt to pull away, "but I couldn't very well have told you, could I?"
"Told him what?!" Voldemort snapped angrily. Ordinarily he would have already punished one of his other Death Eaters for such mouthy behavior, but Aries was dear to him. He didn't want to damage such an adept mind with potentially unnecessary torture.
"For Merlin's sake, have none of you figured it out yet? I thought it would be pretty obvious after I told you when he was sent. Perhaps I've overestimated you all," Aries sighed exasperatedly and raised his wand, tapping it on his forehead. "Finite Incantatum."
Immediately, his light brown hair, caught up in a queue that reached down to his shoulder-blades, deepened into jet black, his skin turned from luxuriously tanned to a slightly lighter shade, his eyes shifted dramatically from blue to brilliant green and thick, black glasses appeared in front of them.
"Harry Potter?!" about twenty Death Eaters gasped.
"The one and only." He spared a glance at the tree where his younger self had just been standing. "Well, now that you've sent away my double, that is."
There was a pause as the Death Eaters looked to Voldemort to see how he would react. The Dark Lord took a few seconds to regain his composure after a moment of crushing disappointment and, though he would never admit it, fear.
"So you're saying that my most faithful follower, my most devout servant, the only person I trusted with access to my personal library, is Harry Potter?" Voldemort laughed. "What would your dear parents think of you now, my jinx-smith?"
"They would be proud as can be, Riddle," Harry sneered. "You forget, thanks to you, I got the chance to know them. Oh, and it might be worth mentioning that I'm not the only one you sent back. I'm afraid that both a Slytherin and a Gryffindor were out of bounds tonight. Lucius, say hello to your son."
Lucius Malfoy dropped to his knees in shock as Harry's words hit him. If there was one thing in all the world that Lucius had ever cared about, it was his son. While the Death Eater tried to wrap his mind around a fact he didn't want to be true, Harry waved over a person who had gone unnoticed standing in the shadow of Hagrid's hut.
"Hello," said the figure, a tall, thin man with strawberry-blonde hair in a crew cut above his slightly freckled face. "My name is Charles Higgins III. Though, I suppose most of you know me better by a different name and face." He, too, performed the counter-spell on himself and shimmered into an ethereally pale platinum blonde. "Hello father. Wish I could say it's good to see you again, but quite frankly I got bored of you when I was back in school."
"Draco?" Lucius gasped, falling to his knees. "You...you were that horrible Higgins brat? What about the American family at your graduation? The generations of accurate background information at the ministry?"
"Well, thanks to Harry we were able to slip some phony documents into your hands whenever you went looking where you shouldn't have," Draco said, walking calmly to stand by Harry's side. Severus was by now gawking in open shock. "As a matter of fact, Harry was a right chap, while you were nothing but some lazy, pride-less worm. Didn't even stand up for poor Sev here when he'd bite off more than he could chew with Potter and Black. The two of you could have easily matched the two of them. Have you no sense of Slytherin solidarity, father?"
"You might want to rethink the whole frontal attack strategy," Harry told them conspiratorially. "I've kept in close contact with Dumbledore and his group, and at any time I can call for back up, though I would be surprised if Dumbledore isn't already on his way. After all, we gave him a detailed account of where and when we were sent back from, so he's well aware you're here."
"Blasted menace!" Voldemort shouted, raising his wand. "Flagellatus!"
"Inlaedus," Harry countered lazily. "You forget, I've specially designed most of your curses, and I alone know each and every counter-curse by heart and wand."
With one last glare, Voldemort and his Death-Eaters, including Snape, disapparated with a series of loud bangs.
"Think Sev'll be alright?" Harry asked worriedly. Draco rolled his eyes and clapped him on the shoulder.
"If we weren't already sure of that, we would have changed the plan, Harry," Draco said with confidence.
"I know, I just feel bad about shocking him like that," Harry shrugged. "It sure does feel odd to be back in my own skin. At least you look less like a spitting-image of Lucius than we'd feared."
"Indeed," Draco smirked at him. "You, as well, look nothing like Potter." They both now understood the surname to apply to James, and not to Harry. "Though that could be because you're an age he never reached."
The formerly tender subject of his parents' deaths had cooled quite a bit over the years, and Harry took the comment in good humor.
"You do realize that, to their reckoning, we were children just minutes ago?" he asked somberly.
"Well, let them worry about that. Come on, we'd better get up to the castle. I prepared some tea before I left, and it should still be nice and hot."
Harry took a deep breath, smiled, and let himself be led up the steps to the castle. As soon as they opened the giant double-doors, they realized that they were quite correct in their assumption that Dumbledore had figured it out.
"Harry! And Draco!" the headmaster exclaimed, striding quickly forward from a side passage and checking them out with his wand. "Or perhaps you are more used to being called Aries and Charles?"
"Either would work fine, headmaster," Harry said shrugging. He was about to congratulate the wry old man on figuring them out when two other voices squeaked out of the darkness.
"Ron! Hermione!" Harry cried. "Oh, it's so good to see you again!"
"Again? What do you mean, mate?" Ron asked quizzically, removing the invisibility cloak and stepping nearer after a wary glance at the headmaster. "Bloody hell! You're old!"
"I am not!" Harry sputtered indignantly. Draco swallowed a snigger and Harry shot him a dirty look that reminded him, quite clearly, that they were the same age. "I'll have you know I'm only 37; and I should be the one cursing - I've got twenty years on you and you're still taller than me!"
Ron gaped at him for a moment, then caught sight of Malfoy.
"And look at him! The Slytherin is all grown up, too! He did this to you, didn't he Harry? I'll get him for you!" He rolled up his sleeves as if to do just that, but Harry grasped his wrists in a surprisingly firm grip and held him off.
"Steady there, Ron," he said, an amused light in his eyes. "First of all, I'm quite capable of fighting my own battles. Second, Draco did not do this to me, I did this to us."
"What is it?" Hermione asked, looking him over from head to foot. "An aging potion? But you must have drunk a whole cauldron-full each to have aged twenty years."
"Nothing so simple, Hermione," Harry said, drawing himself up.
Draco sighed and conjured himself a chair. Harry wasn't very chatty, but get him on the subject of the intricacies of spells he had created and the Gryffindor could talk the ears off a brick wall.
"It's actually rather complicated. You see, I was asked to make a spell to send myself back in time two hundred years, but I was already aware it wouldn't send me back near that far. So what I did was I created a spell that would send a person back in time ten years and one month for each wave of the wand, but told Voldemort it was a century to a wand wave. I had to convince him not to practice on anything, though, because he would have easily sensed the lack of power in the spell, and that was difficult, but it was all worth it. I've been working on that spell for over a year now, and I finally got to see it pay off."
"Wait, wait, wait," Hermione held up her hands. Draco was grateful; he knew Harry was just getting warmed up. "You 'told Voldemort'? He was the one who asked you to make the spell?"
Harry nodded, pleased that his brilliant friend had picked up on this detail.
"And why were you working for Voldemort?" Hermione asked faintly, she had gone a little green.
"Maybe I ought to start from the beginning," said Harry a little sheepishly.
"Good idea, genius boy," Draco said with a slight smirk. "Now if we could only get you to decide where the beginning of the story is..."
Ron's face turned red and he opened his mouth angrily to reply, but Harry beat him to it by laughing out loud.
"Ha, got you there, mate," Harry said triumphantly. "The story quite obviously begins in the Astronomy tower."
"Wrong again, Slythindor," Draco countered. "Of course, you wouldn't know it, but the story actually begins with Professor Higgins telling me you were up there."
"You told..." Harry stammered, then laughed again. "You little sneak! All right, if you know so much, you tell it."
"Fine, I will," Draco stood up and took on the air of lecturer that Hermione found distinctly familiar. "The story begins with me doing my normal prefect rounds around the castle. I was on the fifth floor when Professor Higgins came along and asked me how I was doing. He kept glancing at his watch, then he told me it might be a good idea if I hurried up to the Astronomy Tower. He said it in such a Slytherin way that I just couldn't resist. And what did I find up in the tower but this git about to commit suicide." He jerked his thumb at Harry.
"WHAT?" Hermione, Ron, and Dumbledore exclaimed at once. Harry backed away in mock-alarm.
"Whoa, calm down. I was a troubled teen, what can I say?" he said. "Believe me, the urge is completely gone."
"Besides, my bursting in on him ruined his whole melodramatic mood," Draco added. "Although I did have to chase him out into the forbidden forest to get any answers out of him. Of course, we were interrupted in the middle of our discussion by the arrival of one T. M. Riddle, who subsequently transported the both of us back to the summer before term started."
"That's not so bad," Ron remarked obliviously.
"The 1977-78 term," Harry amended.
He was about to continue when the doors opened up again a man in a long black robe limped in.
"Severus! Are you all right?" Harry cried, starting to rush over.
Professor Snape stopped him with a baleful glare. He shifted his hateful gaze over each of them in turn, then silently limped out down a passageway to the dungeons. Draco drew Harry back with a hand on his shoulder.
"He'll be fine," he assured the other man. "We knew it wouldn't be easy when we had to tell him the truth."
Harry nodded and shot the rest of their little group a shaky smile.
"I'm not entirely convinced he won't hate me forever for this," he admitted, "but if I tried to go explain it to him now, I know he'd curse me on sight. So while we let him cool off, how about I finish the story."
"I can't wait to hear this," said Hermione. "You, Malfoy, and Snape friends? I wouldn't think even time travel could do that."
Harry and Draco laughed, Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, and Hermione smiled, but Ron just glared at them all. Harry suddenly knew that this was going to be a very long night. With a sigh, he conjured chairs for the rest of them and a table for him to lean against - he had long ago lost the ability to feel safe while sitting - and began a very long tale.
Chapter 1: Back to Basics
There was a bright flash of light and Harry felt something grip his arm tightly as he began to spin. It was like traveling by floo, except instead of fireplaces whirling by, there were flashes that lasted just long enough for him to make out semi-familiar faces and places, but not long enough for him to properly identify them. He tucked his elbows in anyway, drawing the person next to him closer. Relatively soon, the spinning slowed and stopped, and the brightness merged into sunlight.
He was by the lake on the grounds of Hogwarts, just after noon in the middle of the summer, if the shadows and the heat were anything to judge by. And he wasn't alone.
"Get off me, Malfoy," Harry growled, ripping his arm out of the Slytherin's grasp. He started stalking back toward Hogwarts, but Malfoy stopped him, grabbing onto the back of his cloak.
"Potter, do you have any idea what you just did?!" Malfoy practically shrieked.
"Well, I know very well what I didn't do," Harry sneered. "I didn't force you to follow me, I didn't invite Voldemort into the forbidden forest, and I certainly didn't perform whatever curse he threw at us!"
"Tempus Expugno," Malfoy ground out. "Latin for time capture. You just got us sent back in time, you moronic Gryffindor!"
Harry paused a moment to digest this, but it didn't really seem that bad.
"Well, we know we're at Hogwarts, so let's go talk to the current headmaster and have him send us back," he suggested.
"Don't be so optimistic," Malfoy snapped. "There is no way to send us 'back'. We're stuck here."
"Stuck here?" Harry repeated dumbly. "But, wait, why? If we can go back in time, why can't we go forward?"
"Because there is no such thing as forward, Potter! You can only go back in time, because that merely involves retracing the present until you get back to the past, but that consequently means that the present becomes the future, which doesn't exist until it becomes the present again."
Harry blinked, twice.
Malfoy rolled his eyes, muttered about the stupidity of Gryffindors in general and stalked off. Harry very deliberately did not follow him, but walked toward the castle, where Malfoy also seemed to be heading. Unfortunately, Malfoy stopped suddenly in front of the main doors and whirled around.
"Let's get one thing straight, Potter," he said firmly. Harry raised an eyebrow at the commanding tone, but said nothing. "I don't fancy mucking up the past here and accidentally preventing my own birth, so no matter what, don't you dare try to change anything."
Harry wanted to protest, there were so many reasons to – the future/present was horrible, so many people's lives could be better if certain truths were known, certain actions prevented; besides, Malfoy was ordering him around – but he knew, though it galled him to admit it even to himself, that Malfoy was right, and that a slip of the tongue could cause disaster.
"Fine," he snarled, then continued as Malfoy started to turn back, "but you know, if we're anywhere near our own time, we'll be recognized on sight. Obviously, we can't tell our names to anyone, but really, we look quite a bit like our parents. We can't just waltz in there and tell the headmaster we're Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy; that would change history all by itself."
Malfoy glared at him and a muscle in his left eyebrow twitched; he looked like he was physically preventing himself from throttling Harry.
"So what are you suggesting, Potter?" he ground out. "That we hide out in complete isolation for however long it takes to get back?"
"I'm suggesting that we create fake identities," Harry said, enunciating clearly. "We can still tell the headmaster that we're from the future, so that he can help us out, but this way he won't know who we are on sight."
Malfoy sat down heavily.
"Jeez, Potter, doesn't take long for you to mess up someone's life, does it?" he muttered.
"Hey, took almost seven years for you," Harry retorted angrily, "my parents only lasted a little over one year."
The Slytherin seemed to come back to himself at that, which made Harry even more disgruntled, but he swallowed it and distracted himself by trying to come up with a fake persona.
"I'm Charles Higgins III," Malfoy announced a few minutes later. "I'm from a wealthy, pureblood, American family who originally came from Britain. After deeming my curriculum at the Salem Institute insufficient, I was sent here to go to Hogwarts. Family ties to the school and whatnot."
Harry thought this over, then shook his head. "You can't be pureblood, too easy to verify," he thought for a moment while Malfoy gaped in outrage. "Your great grandfather, Charles Higgins I, was a squib who moved to America and started the company that has brought your family so much money; but he always stayed faithful to his roots and maintained the family tradition that the next wizard in the family be a Charles Higgins."
"I will NOT pose myself as a mudblood, Potter!" Malfoy shrieked, having found his voice at last.
"Fine," Harry said, shrugging, "then you set yourself up to be found out. Besides, it's not like you wouldn't have any wizarding roots, and you can be just as snobby about the Higgins family business as you could about being a Pureblood Malfoy."
Malfoy sulked and glared, but didn't protest again.
"Well, what about you then? Who're you going to be?" he demanded.
"I don't know, I'm no good at just making stuff up," Harry snorted, "well, unless it's Divinations homework, that is."
"Tell you what, I'll go by your version of the Higgins story, if you be Aries Hesuchazo," Malfoy sneered.
"Why, what's it mean?" asked Harry warily.
"Well, Aries is the Greek god of war, but Hesuchazo means 'to lead a quiet life'. Seems perfect to me. After all, everyone sees you as the High-and-Mighty, Savior of the World, but you're just a big doof with nothing special about him."
"You're right," Harry said with a laugh, startling Malfoy, "that does suit me. All right, I'm Aries Hesuchazo, son of a Greek wizard who left the home country when he was 11, during the second Muggle World War after his parents were killed – doesn't speak hardly a word of the language now – and a muggle-born English witch. Both were educated at Hogwarts – a Slytherin and a Ravenclaw respectively – and my father, after experiencing heavy prejudice because of his house, became paranoid and overprotective, convincing my mother to home-school me until this year, when I convinced them that, since I'm of age, they couldn't really stop me anyway."
Malfoy blinked, seemingly completely stunned by what Harry had come up with. Despite the boy's claims to the contrary, Draco privately thought Harry must be quite good at such things as alibis, once he was given something to work with. It also quite stunned him that Harry would even consider setting his parents up as anything other than tried and true Gryffindors.
"Ah, but how do you know we're even in a time where the second world war would be applicable?" Malfoy asked deviously.
"I don't, but I can change the story as need be," Harry said with a shrug. "Now we just need glamour charms. I want brown hair and I want it long, plus a nice tan for once, and blue eyes. What about you?"
"Why should I have to change anything?" Malfoy growled. "I'm perfect as I am."
Harry's mouth opened and closed like a fish for a moment. "There are just…so many things wrong with that statement," he finally stammered out. "I'll start with strategy first, though. You look like a Malfoy, plain and simple. If we don't change how you look, people will wonder, and that's dangerous. I say strawberry blonde, very short; and no gel, and perhaps change your eyes and skin, too."
"I'll get you for this someday, Potter," Malfoy growled, but he raised his wand and made the appropriate changes.
"Ah ah ah," Harry corrected him, "that's Hesuchazo."
With their fake identities firmly in mind, the two time travelers made their way – Malfoy grumbling and Harry strolling pleasantly – to the headmaster's office. There was a brief incident when Harry realized he didn't know the password, but Malfoy just looked down his nose at the Gryffindor and knocked. The gargoyle stepped aside moments later and they both looked up at a hardly-changed Dumbledore.
"Oh, my; and who might you be?" the headmaster asked.
Malfoy stayed sullenly silent through the entire explanation, which was actually quite short, as Harry had to leave out their names and anything that might give away their identities. In the end he settled on saying: "We're victims of time travel from October 26, 1997. Can you tell us when we are?"
Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted clear into his hairline, but he replied, "August 26, 1977." Then, after a significant pause wherein he seemed to be speechless, "Oh dear. We'll have to get you two set up right away, term begins in less than a week. You're already wearing glamour, so I trust you had the foresight to make up false histories?"
Harry and Malfoy nodded, and the three of them set about getting Aries Hesuchazo and Charles Higgins III registered at Hogwarts for the 1977-1978 term. Both had been to Hogsmead the day of their transport – it being a Hogsmead weekend – and so they were lucky enough to have funds for books and robes and such in their pockets, and Dumbledore promised to take care of 'everything else'. Just what 'everything else' might be, neither thought to ask.
After a rather loud and insult-filled argument, it was decided that Charles would be put in Gryffindor with Aries, since muggle-born witches and wizards – even those with squib ancestors – were not welcomed in Slytherin under the present climate, and Dumbledore thought it best to keep his two temporally abnormal students together. Harry hoped that Dumbledore wouldn't have to change his mind the hard way after they killed each other off.
Harry, of course – or Aries, as he was now to be known – led the way to Gryffindor tower, giving Malfoy – Higgins – a tour of the basic facilities, including the hazard that was the girls' dormitory stairs. He privately thought it would be far more amusing just to let Higgins find out on his own, but Dumbledore wouldn't have approved, and the former Slytherin would have murdered him for it. Aries figured it would be best to keep the peace for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, that didn't prove to be long as, upon entering the Seventh Year Boys' dorms and noticing the initials monogrammed into the footboards, Harry had to sit down rather suddenly.
"What in the name of Salazar's Staff is wrong now?!" Malfoy snapped, hauling Harry back to his feet.
"We are in so much trouble," Harry muttered. He pointed to each bed in order. "RL – Remus Lupin, SB – Sirius Black, JP – James Potter, and PP – Peter Pettigrew."
There was a long pause, then Malfoy turned around, dragging Harry with him. "That is it," he declared. "I'm having us transferred to Hufflepuff. There is no way I'm sharing a dorm with a mass murderer, a werewolf, and your dead father."
Harry shoved him away and stood, glaring. "Remus Lupin went to extreme measures to ensure he was safe while he was at school. And Sirius Black," he swallowed, "didn't turn traitor until he was 20." I'm sorry, Sirius, but he can't know. "I'm not leaving."
"Fine," Malfoy sneered, "but you owe me big."
"'Gryffindor Drools' T-shirt big?" Harry asked warily.
Malfoy shook his head, a cruel smirk playing on his lips. "Throw a Quidditch game big, Potter."
Harry waited two seconds, then responded, "We both play for Gryffindor now, though." He bolted down the rest of the stairs, dodging Malfoy's swinging fist, then yelled over his shoulder, "And it's Hesuchazo!"
The next few days were spent in diligent study for both boys. Not of their new schoolbooks, because those covered the same material as Harry and Malfoy's sixth year. No, they were studying the last three months of Daily Prophet issues. They were surprised to realize that they shared a great appreciation for the dry, factual reporting, quite different from the embellished, ministry-controlled fiction of the present/future. Whenever the news became just too depressing (or dull, to Malfoy) they would challenge each other to expound on their fake pasts. These sparring matches would end when one or the other contradicted himself or fail to answer promptly. The winner then posed either a question or a dare that the loser had to answer or perform.
Harry found himself admitting that he'd almost been a Slytherin and speaking for an entire hour in Parseltongue.
Malfoy found himself telling about his stuffed bear Ponpon and singing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' to the staff at breakfast.
Malfoy relaxed a little more around Harry and stopped being so pushy, apparently thinking anyone worthy of Slytherin couldn't be all bad. Harry went along, comfortable so long as Malfoy wasn't insulting his friends or his parents; and, to tell the truth, he just couldn't reconcile a stuffed-bear-named-Ponpon wielding Malfoy with his image of stuck-up-Avoid-at-all-costs Malfoy. Rather than try to reconcile the two, Harry simply declared the new Malfoy 'Charles Higgins III' in his mind and was done with it. Malfoy did the same and, each with his own new image and name for the other, there were no more near-misses of almost calling the other by their old/future names.
Aries shut his journal after carefully signing his new name at the bottom of the day's entry and activated the locking charm. There were actually two on the book; the main one to prevent just anyone coughCharlescough from reading it, and a second on the first page where Harry had recorded his life-story-in-miniature, just in case the past/present became too much and he had to be obliviated to keep from meddling.
On their fourth day there, Charles had expounded on his explanation as to why they couldn't go forward, back to their own time.
"See, time is like this, okay?" Charles had said in his magicked American accent, spreading out a sheet of parchment. "It's straight and flat and one-dimensional. What happens in time travel is you take a piece of the present," he lifted the edge of the parchment, "and dragged it back to the past," he curled the edge back so it touched the parchment in the middle. "Now, our personal timeline is curled up like this, but the full timeline is still spread out, like this," he slipped a second sheet under the first. "if our timeline were to diverge from the main timeline again – in going forward or in meddling with past events…" he ripped the curled part of the parchment completely away. "It just doesn't work, see? We would be caught in a never-ending loop, because we would cease to exist, which means we never would have meddled, which means time never would have ripped. Of course, things like that don't happen because time can't rip, so we can't change the past and we can't go back to our time. Got it?"
Aries did, at least in general: time was best left alone and Voldemort was a complete and utter prat for messing with it in the first place.
With a sigh, Aries stored the leather-bound book – a gift from Dumbledore – in a hidden compartment in his trunk, a la Moody. He was actually rather proud of his trunk. Instead of using different actual keys, he'd keyed the different compartments to different trunk sizes, using the magnitude of a shrinking spell as the indicator. When it was shrunk down to 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot, it opened to reveal a locked Gringotts safe-box with all his remaining money – a grand total of 20 galleons – a letter from Remus he'd received the day before the transportation, a picture of himself, Ron and Hermione, and, of course, the journal.
A part of him sneered that he was being paranoid – A locked page inside a locked journal inside a locked Gringotts box inside a secret compartment inside a locked trunk? – but after having three years of Auror training crammed into his sixth year at Hogwarts and the summers before and after, Harry figured a little paranoia never hurt anybody, while being careless often did.
"Hey!" Charles' voice came through the door, accompanied by several sharp knocks. "Lunch time, Aries. You coming?"
"Yeah, I'll be right there!" Aries called back, quickly restoring his trunk to its proper size.
He walked out to find Charles slouching against the stairway wall, glaring at an apparently offensive stone opposite him.
"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Aries asked as they started off to the Great Hall. Charles often had fits of peak, and they always tended to be about the situation in general, but this anger seemed more…currently-based.
"This potions professor," Charles grumbled. "Professor Velveson. I was working on the pathetically-easy summer potions assignment when she comes strolling in and decides to 'help'. As if I need help from her; she isn't even a Potions Master."
"I see what you mean," Aries agreed. "I don't know how I'm going to survive this year without dying of boredom. Everything they'll be learning, we learned last year." He took a breath and let it out again as they sat. "Anyway, up for another sparring match?"
"I'm always ready, goose-brain. Who's turn was it last?"
"Well, I finished off with that question about your aunt, so yours I guess." Aries smirked at the memory; he had asked what sort of hair Aunt Jill had and Charles had told him 'Red. First redhead in the family in fact, spread it around to the rest of us.' Aries had then been forced to point out that, unless Aunt Jill slept around a lot, she couldn't possibly have given Charles his red hair.
"All right, why doesn't your father speak Greek anymore? Wouldn't his aunt and uncle have spoken it when he went to live with them?" Charles asked slyly.
"No, not very much," Aires answered after barely a moment's hesitation. "Uncle Silas moved to England in his early-thirties where he met Auntie Nadia. She, of course, didn't speak Greek at all, so Father had to learn English right off if he wanted to communicate with anyone other than Uncle Silas – who was actually rather a bore. Once out of the habit, it never really came back to him."
The game went back and forth across the Gryffindor table until long after they had cleared their plates. Finally, Aries messed up, accidentally calling 'Auntie Nadia' 'Aunt Nadine'. Aries protested that they were practically the same name, but Charles was correct in stating that it could still make people suspicious, and that was the point of the game – to catch suspicious things before they happened.
"All right, you win," Aries admitted with a sigh. "What's my penalty?"
Charles drank the last of his pumpkin juice and stared at Aries grimly for a while before speaking.
"Why are you so happy here when you were miserable enough to try to commit suicide back home?"
Harry sighed. He had wondered when this would be asked, but after five days he had hoped Malfoy wouldn't bring it up. At least he had seemed sincere in his question, and not as if he was just waiting for something with which to humiliate him.
"Back home," Harry answered with full honesty, deciding for some obscure reason to trust Malfoy – or rather, Charles, "there's a prophecy that states either I will kill Voldemort…or he will kill me. I was just barely of age and the war was already in full swing – I knew it would have to be that year it happened, and it just seemed like too little time. I wasn't prepared, and I didn't want to die by his hand at only 17 years old."
"Wait," Charles interrupted. "You didn't want to die by Voldemort's hand, so you decided to kill yourself? I don't get it; you'd still be dying at only 17."
Harry shook his head and sighed. "I know it wasn't the best logic; but I was trying to prove the prophecy wrong – because if I could kill myself, then maybe Voldemort could be killed by someone other than me. I wanted to prove that I could exist as just myself, without the fancy titles and glory and all. I wanted time – even if it was just the few seconds until I hit the ground – to be whoever I wanted to be."
Charles was nodding, understanding dawning in his eyes. "And here you have that; twenty years," he said softly.
Aries nodded, then grinned. "So you don't have to worry about losing your sparring partner, Higgins, because I think I rather like life now."