Miss Moony would like to say that she doesn't own Harry Potter and that she had no help with this fic from Miss Wormtail, Miss Padfoot or Miss Prongs.
Chapter Warnings: None, really.
Summary: Voldemort hits Harry with one final curse before he escapes, and the effects are more permanent than anyone could have predicted… except maybe Orion Trelawney.
------- I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good -------
Chapter 1: Transita Aetas
'Hermione,' Ron whined, and Harry smiled at his best friends' antics. He and Ron had come to stay with Hermione's family for the last fortnight of the holidays, before they would begin their seventh year, and Hermione had insisted on showing Ron all the sights of Muggle London.
Of course, all Ron wanted to do right now was visit Quality Quidditch Supplies.
After a few more minutes of their bickering, Harry got fed up. 'We could always go to some sweet shops, if you want. They have a whole load of stuff that you can't get in Honeydukes.'
The suggestion put an end to this particular argument, when Ron became quite enthusiastic about the idea, and Hermione grudgingly agreed, as well, but Harry doubted very much that the peace would last for long. It never did.
Hermione quickly directed them to what was, in her opinion, the best sweet shop around. It was small, and would probably have been unnoticeable if it hadn't been for the large, luminescent-coloured signs in the windows, displaying price promises, and announcements about new sweets.
'Harry, Ron,' she called to them while they were at the back of the shop, examining large tubs of peppermint creams, and gobstoppers.
'Are these like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans?' Ron asked Harry, looking suspiciously at a jar of jellybeans, and Harry suppressed his laughter at the expression on the redhead's face, until Hermione marched over and forcibly dragged them to a shelf near the window-display, boasting large signs declaring ANISEED BALLS: 55p A BAG! in block capitals.
'Hermione?' Ron asked, looking at her cautiously when she didn't explain why she'd brought them here.
She didn't answer, gazing absently at the sweets, and while Harry waved his hand slowly in front of her face, Ron prodded her in the side. 'What d'you reckon?' Harry asked Ron. 'Human or robot?'
'Huh?' was Ron's only response, and he stared at Harry blankly. 'What's a "robot"?'
Harry shook his head and sighed. 'Nothing,' he said.
They both waited in silence for Hermione to come back down to earth, and when it finally happened – after what seemed like a whole half hour – they both leapt about a foot in the air. 'Almost half-price,' she said. 'Have you ever tried aniseed balls? They're one of my favourite sweets.'
Harry and Ron both replied with a negative, and Hermione shook her head and sighed in mock-sadness. 'It's too bad really. They're good.'
'You think I should get some?' Harry asked. 'Aunt Petunia always said that they were "vile substances", so I'm prepared to bet that they're actually quite good.'
'If you want,' Hermione replied, her brown eyes laughing.
Harry shrugged, and picked up two bags. At Ron's questioning glance, Harry explained, 'One for Hermione, and one for us two to share.'
Harry could easily see the faint blush that appeared on Ron's ears as he objected, but he was silenced by Harry's grin, which, in turn, made his ears go even redder, when he realised that Harry's original intention had been to embarrass him.
One of the bags of aniseed balls was quickly replaced on the shelf, and the one remaining one in Harry's hand was soon joined by a bag of jellybeans, a few gobstoppers, some sugar mice, and a bag of sherbet rockets, complete with licorice dippers. 'You really going to buy all that?' Ron asked in bemusement, and Harry returned his stare, pretending to be wounded by his best friend's words, as it was well known that Ron never refrained from spending all his savings on sweets whenever they had a Hogsmeade weekend.
Eventually, when all the sweets had been paid for – and Ron and Hermione themselves had picked out almost as many different things as Harry had -, they all decided to indulge Hermione in her wish to go to a bookshop. Waterstones, to be precise.
All three friends exited the shop almost an hour and a half later, at 3:35 in the afternoon, armed with large piles of Muggle literature. Or rather, Harry and Ron were loaded down with mountains of books, and Hermione had somehow managed to ensure that she carried nothing herself, except for the plastic bag stuffed with the sweets they'd all bought earlier.
The scene that awaited them, though, was not a pleasant one:
Bellatrix Lestrange, in all her Death Eater glory, was standing outside the door, trying to look inconspicuous, and, upon a second glance around, Harry noticed several others stationed in various positions around the street.
The Muggles, of course, hadn't noticed a thing yet, though Pettigrew's silver hand – on display to the world – was gaining quite a few odd looks. Harry, Ron and Hermione, however, could hardly help noticing them, especially when Lestrange's wand was aimed threateningly at Hermione's throat.
Lestrange had an odd, gleeful smile on her face when she spoke. 'The Dark Lord wishes to speak with you, Potter, and you'll comply.'
'What makes you think that?' Ron shot out defensively, only a split second before realising what a dumb question that was.
Lestrange smirked, and prodded her wand into the skin of Hermione's neck. Hermione gulped, but her eyes flashed with defiance. 'Because otherwise his Mudblood girlfriend dies.'
Lestrange marched Hermione at wand-point into a back alley, and Harry and Ron followed, not knowing what else to do. They walked for a few more minutes, and then stopped. And waited.
Harry knew what was coming – he'd gone through this routine many times before -, but that really didn't give him much comfort when Voldemort himself made his grand entry not long afterwards.
'My Lord, we have him,' Lestrange said as soon as her master had apparated into the alleyway, dropping to her knees and kissing the hem of his robes. Two other Death Eaters (Harry thought that they might be Crabbe and Goyle Senior, by the looks of them) had placed Ron and Hermione in the full body-bind, and Harry himself had an unidentified Death Eater levelling a wand at his back, in case he decided to attempt a rescue.
Their purchases lay abandoned at the side of the alley.
'Well done, Bellatrix,' Voldemort said, his voice cold and icy, and also sadistically happy. 'I am pleased.'
He turned to Harry, and the Boy-Who-Lived thought that he could practically see every malevolent intention right there in those violent crimson eyes.
'Let them go,' Harry growled furiously, and Voldemort smiled.
'I'm afraid not, Potter. They're here as a guarantee, you see, to make sure you won't run away before I've had my fun with you.'
Harry snarled, and reached for his wand, but froze again when he felt the wand digging painfully into his back: A reminder of where he was, and who he was dealing with.
'Nott, let the boy get his wand,' Voldemort commanded, and Harry sensed the presence behind him back off slightly, taking the wand with it. His eyes flickered towards Ron and Hermione, who were still under the petrificus totalus, but now were also being held at wand-point. If Harry escaped without them, then they would almost certainly die.
'And now we duel,' Voldemort said mockingly, now that Harry's wand was in his hand.
They both gave very shallow bows, never breaking eye contact, and then they began to shoot off spells. Harry was struggling to hold off a barrage of Unforgivables when he suddenly got hit.
'Transita aetas!' Voldemort cried, and a jet of bright red light hit Harry directly in the chest, blasting him backwards and into a wall with its force.
Voldemort leant over him as he got woozily to his feet. 'What irony,' he declared, 'that the Boy-Who-Lived was the cause of his own downfall.' The Death Eaters began disapparating away at a signal from their master, and Harry, Ron and Hermione were left alone with Voldemort.
Before he, too, disapperated, Voldemort met Harry's eyes and said, 'Enjoy your life, Potter. What you have left of it.'
Harry got to his feet slowly, using the wall for support, and then he limped over and released Hermione and Ron from the body-bind.
'Why is it,' Ron asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere as they gathered up their purchases, 'that the Death Eaters still think Hermione's your girlfriend?'
Harry met both his and Hermione's eyes in turn, and cracked a small smile.
And, with a loud crack, they appeared back in Hermione's living room.
------- I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good -------
Author's Notes: "Transita aetas" translates roughly to "changing time" – nicked from Batling's fic, "Transitus Aetas".