You never thought you'd live to see the day, eh?
Nothing I could possibly upload here would ever be worth the ten-year-long wait, and yet I hope you will enjoy this new chapter. It picks up right where the last one ended.
The next one won't take another decade, but I'd understand if you didn't trust me on this.
Some of you might be recent readers, but many of you have been around for a long time.
I have so many of you to thank for reading, for caring, for regularly checking in and leaving messages here or on Facebook etc.
This chapter is dedicated to my little "satellite" (wink wink) Badia, first and foremost, for never ever giving up on this story (or on me), and to Lovetoseverus for being my hero, my sounding board, my mate, my soul-sister, and this chapter's beta.
I also want to give a virtual hug to all my Facebook dearies, particularly
April A., Ligi Snape, Nicki H., Dani Snape, Nikki W., Natoya M., Chloe Naomi R., Melissa A., Chloe W. and Rachel L.
You're the best! Sorry if I forgot to mention YOU.
The Other Side Of Time
"Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past."
~ George Orwell
"Old Time, that greatest and longest established spinner of all!
... his factory is a secret place, his work is noiseless, and his hands are mutes."
~ Charles Dickens
30th October 1996
'Here you go, son,' the old lady behind the counter said kindly and handed Draco the four entrance tickets together with his change. 'Have fun.'
'I'm certain we will,' Draco replied with what he knew to be a very charming smile on his own face, although he had his doubts it came out even half as confidently on the face of Neville Longbottom he was currently hiding behind. Still fighting the urge to go and pull funny faces – funny Neville faces – in front of a mirror, Draco pocketed the Muggle coins, shouldered his backpack and returned to the front hallway of the Charles Dickens Museum. As he approached his waiting friends, he chuckled at the rather typical sight of them. One he knew would have irked him to no end not too long ago: Hermione, who had watched his ticket purchase with an air of barely concealed impatience, was clearly eager to start their tour. Ron was glancing at the paintings on the wall with equally ill-concealed disinterest, and Harry – of course - was already craning his neck to peer up the staircase curiously, eager to start their adventure.
'We should go downstairs and watch the introductory movie first. That'll put us all in the right mood,' Hermione instructed as soon as Draco had reached their little group.
'Watch the what?' Ron asked.
'You'll see,' Hermione replied, already pulling him down the stairs with her.
Draco and Harry looked at each other and shared a grin. But even Draco knew better than to argue with Hermione and so they obediently (if not without a long-suffering sigh they made sure she could hear) trudged down the narrow staircase after her and Ron.
A small television stood in a corner of the so-called 'Still Room' in front of a small assembly of chairs. Two of them were already occupied by a couple in their fifties, who acknowledged them with a brief smile when they entered the room. The movie had already begun, and Hermione quickly sat down and motioned for the boys to do the same. In no time, Ron's eyes were glued to the television in a mixture of suspicion and fascination. Draco very much wanted to ask him if he had ever seen a television before today but knew that such a question would only draw unwanted attention from the Muggles. And so, for a while, they all sat in silence and focused on a documentary about Charles Dickens' life and works. But Draco, who had been indoctrinated with a fair amount of Dickens related trivia by his mother since early childhood, soon grew bored. And when he glanced sideways at Harry, he wasn't all that surprised to find that the Gryffindor's eyes had already begun straying from the television, too. Draco leaned over and whispered:
'Shall we start our tour?'
'Yes!' Harry exclaimed gratefully and shot out of the Still Room before Draco could even blink. Laughing quietly, he shrugged off Hermione's exasperated expression ('What can I do?') and followed Harry as fast as he could, which wasn't quite as fast as he was used to, now that he was 'wearing' Neville's body. At least not if he wanted to avoid bumping into every empty chair on his way out. It was somewhat remarkable, really, how different their bodies felt at times, despite being of similar height. Draco silently vowed to lay off teasing Neville for his clumsiness … at least for a week or so.
He found Harry alone in the library to their right with a curiously dazed expression on his face. 'We call them books, Potter. That's B-O-O-K-S,' Draco spelled with a mock soothing gesture. 'I know this'll come as a shock to you, but us normal people, you see, we do this thing called 'read' with them. You know, read. R-E-A-D.'
Harry's expression cleared. And after his brain had caught up with what Draco had just said, he rolled his eyes. 'Thanks for the intel, I would have never stopped wondering otherwise.'
Draco smiled serenely and wiggled his head in a way that could only be interpreted as 'I'm awesome; you're welcome, world' before nudging Harry with his right shoulder. 'All right there, Oliver Twist? You look a bit pale around the nose.'
Harry waved the question away the same way he usually did with inquiries as to his well-being. 'Yeah, just feeling a bit off. Must be the three cauldrons full of chips we had earlier. Or the ninety-one chocolate milkshakes,' he said with fond exasperation at the memory of their previous trip to the famous fast-food chain, which had left Draco in raptures. And maybe go a bit overboard with his food orders.
'Ah, fried potato chips! Hamburgers! Food of the Muggle Gods, kept a secret from me for far too long, but no more!' Draco exclaimed dramatically, rubbing his stomach for emphasis. Suddenly, he paused, then rubbed his tummy again and gave a little snort of laughter before lifting his shirt up a bit to get a better look at the unusually soft and slightly protruding belly underneath.
Polyjuice Potion made it eerily easy to forget that one was temporarily residing inside somebody else's body. The less physical exertion that was required of you while you were under the effect of the Potion, the easier it was. And the fact that both Neville and he had shot up to a similar height over the last year or two (frankly, everyone in their year had except Harry, or so it sometimes seemed to Draco) made it easier still. But although Neville had also lost most of his old "baby fat" and could by no means still be called "chubby," physical exercise was as alien a concept to the good-natured Gryffindor as 'fast food' had been to Draco until today.
Draco poked the easily relenting tummy a few times and giggled at the unfamiliar sensation. When he looked up again, he could tell that Harry was aiming for an expression of mild tolerance, similar to one Severus or Lucius often wore when faced with his antics. Draco rightfully guessed that Harry only let him get away with what he was doing because he could detect no malice in Draco's actions.
'What kind of books do we have here, then?' Harry asked instead.
Draco straightened his blue t-shirt before he made a grand gesture to the room they were standing in. 'What you see in this room, young Copperfield, is basically a collection of various editions of Dickens' own works.'
They stepped closer to one of the mahogany book cabinets and peered at the various titles of the many books – the majority of which appeared tattered and worn-out - behind the glass doors.
'I bet your mum would happily pay a vault full of Galleons for what's inside these cabinets,' said Harry after a while and Draco nodded.
'And pay a vault full of Galleons she would. I can't even begin to guess how much this book collection is worth.' Then, as an afterthought, Draco lowered his voice and added: 'Our mum.'
For a split-second Harry looked confused before his face lit up as if Draco had cast a 'Lumos' spell on it. 'Yeah …' he whispered back, a little embarrassed but very clearly pleased with Draco's little correction. Finally, he asked: 'Are we allowed to take these books out to look at them, do you know?'
'No, we aren't, but I think the museum actually holds regular "handling sessions".'
'Um, I don't think I'm that interested in first editions of David Copperfield just yet, thank you.'
'Philistine,' Draco teased and followed Harry out of the room and into a small wine cellar. They inspected the dusty labels on the few but exquisite looking bottles on the shelves until Draco whistled. "And I bet our Potions Master would pay a vault full of Galleons for these babies, eh?'
Harry grinned. 'I'm sure he would! I kind of want to nick a bottle for him.'
'Oi, Artful Dodger! How about you don't tarnish my impeccable reputation?'
'Impeccable reputation!" Harry echoed with mocking disbelief and laughed when he was forced to dodge Draco's physical retaliation. He ducked out of the room and into the hallway. 'Look at this,' he said, pointing at a large iron grill hanging on the wall and squinting at the little plaque beneath it. 'It says here it's from that debtors' prison where Dickens' father used to be.'
'Behind bars is where you belong,' Draco retorted a bit lamely. Together, they stepped into the small basement kitchen. Two open china cabinets occupied the walls to the left and right respectively, their displays of blue and white plates adding a touch of colour to the otherwise bland room. The other two walls provided shelter to an old stone basin and a dark fireplace. A brown table stood in the middle of the kitchen. On it, a variation of pots, pans, plates and cutlery were supposed to give the impression that Dickens' maid herself had only just left the kitchen in haste.
'Look, a little hedgehog!'
Harry knelt on the stone floor, held out a hand and began to make soft clicking noises in an attempt to lure the animal to him. Draco's gaze followed the direction of Harry's outstretched arm, next to one of the cabinets, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. 'Where do you mean?' he asked. 'I don't see one.'
Harry briefly looked back at him as if trying to ascertain whether he was joking. 'Right there!' he said, turning back. Suddenly, he dropped his hand again and shook his head. 'Or at least it was right there,' he muttered, confused. 'Where did it go?' He bent a little lower to peer underneath the cabinet. 'It's gone.'
'I think my parents should have bought you a new pair of glasses before bothering with new clothes.'
'I suppose so,' Harry sighed, even if he didn't look entirely convinced that his bad eyesight was to blame.
'There was nothing there!' Draco insisted laughingly when he saw his brother's face. 'What would a hedgehog even do in this kitchen?'
'A hedgehog?' they heard Hermione's voice as she and Ron joined them in the kitchen. 'Oh, but they were often kept in kitchens to keep the cockroaches at bay.'
'Yes, bookworm, in the Victorian era they were,' Draco said patiently. 'But if you remember, we are in the year 1996. Not very likely that our David Copperfield here has seen one today, is it?' He smirked at his brother, who could not roll his eyes at him now, because he was rubbing them vigorously.
Hermione smiled. 'Oh, Harry, when will you finally get your eyes checked?'
'Yeah, okay, gang up on me, why don't you?' Harry complained as he put his glasses back on, although he did not look particularly angry about them "ganging up" on him, they all noticed.
'Come on, Little Nell, let's go upstairs,' Draco said and gave Harry a light push towards the door. Harry careened forward and crashed into the doorframe. 'Ouch,' he said, rubbing his shoulder.
Draco swore. 'Fuck, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that.' His eyes sought out Ron and Hermione, but they were both looking at Harry, not at him. 'Honestly, I didn't! Sorry, Harry,' he said again, miserably.
'It's alright,' Harry groaned. 'Not your fault. I was feeling dizzy again and—' He stopped.
'Again?' Ron asked. 'Since when have you been feeling poorly?'
'Since we got here, to be honest.'
Draco felt awful. 'For fuck's sake, Harry, why didn't you tell me?'
'It's no big deal ...,' Harry started to say, but then gripped the doorframe for support and closed his eyes. 'Alright, I've changed my mind. I really don't feel too good! Everything is spinning.'
Draco and Ron each took one of Harry's arms and led him to a kitchen chair, where Harry sat down heavily. His face was pale. Suddenly he looked up at them, but his eyes focused on no one.
'Can you feel it, too?' he asked.
'Feel what?' asked Draco.
'Time,' Harry said. 'Time's really thin in here. Don't you think?'
On the other side of time, 30th October 1981
'He takes after his dad!' her husband proudly called out from the living room.
Lily stuck her head in just in time to see James and Sirius hastily step aside to let the small raven-haired bundle zoom past their knees. 'In which case we're all doomed,' she quipped while balancing a chocolate cake in one hand and closing the kitchen door with the other. Harry crowed happily when he heard her voice and the miniature broomstick he was currently sitting on propelled towards her as if caught by a sudden gust of wind. Of course, Lily knew that her son was securely held in place by his father's magic and that the toy's built-in spell forbade it from ever flying higher than two feet. But Harry's excitement had recently begun to manifest in accidental bouts of magic – baby magic – and since riding a broomstick seemed to make Harry ever so happy, those bursts of magic could now momentarily propel him out of their reach.
'Easy, baby!' Lily said soothingly (Harry crowed again, sounding amused). She let go of the cake, which stayed afloat in the air next to her, to gently catch her son by the shoulders and turn him around again to bring his little broomstick back on course. Harry shot off again as soon as she let go, only to disappear underneath the black piano. Instinctively, the three adults ducked their heads when they heard not just one but two bumps underneath the instrument, and braced themselves for the cry they were sure would come next. But when Harry came out on the other side, he kept on flying. He merely put one little hand on his head and nonchalantly informed them: 'Ouch!'
They all laughed. 'He's a natural!' Sirius said, clearly chuffed that the gift he had given his godson for his first birthday was a huge success even three months later. Toddlers usually had an attention span shorter than that of a pigmy puff, after all.
'Careful, Harry!' Lily called out, when her minuscule menace came dangerously close to slicing off the purple flowers of some unfortunate foxgloves mid-flight. She plucked the Halloween-themed cake – it was neon green with pumpkins that looked more like orange potatoes all around it - from the air and carried it over to the living room's small alcove. In it, a sturdy round oak table stood surrounded by three green leather chairs. The fourth chair now functioned as a makeshift night table next to Jamie's side of the bed upstairs. In its original place at the dinner table stood Harry's highchair, one of the few things she and James had brought with them when they sought refuge in Godrick's Hollow shortly after Lily had given birth to Harry.
'Yes, son, don't go breaking that beeeeautiful vase your auntie gave us as a wedding gift!' James exclaimed in mock fright. 'Because she hates us,' he added under his breath and Lily did not bother to hide her grin. The vase was indeed an eyesore and would not be missed by anyone in case Harry did break it.
'But see, there's this pretty little figurine right over there ...?' James continued addressing their toddler with a hopeful lilt to his voice, helpfully pointing towards a bookshelf where a small wooden statuette of a Hungarian Horntail sat on one of the lower shelves. The dragon had been gifted to Lily by Severus Snape, something her husband was well aware of.
As if the dragon had heard James – and Lily was almost certain that it had – the small Horntail briefly came to life, paced up and down in front of the books aggressively before hissing at James and then freezing up once more. Lily laughed and James tried not to.
Lily knew that even though James loved to tease her about her rather substantial collection of magical creature figurines – a childhood hobby she could not seem to shake – he knew full well how heart-broken she would be if one of them ended up in shards. He would never allow for one of them, not even Severus' dragon (especially not Severus' dragon, although Jamie would never admit it), to be purposely destroyed.
Harry had noticed the Horntail briefly coming to life, gave a delighted cry from across the room and stretched out both arms in the dragon's direction. Promptly, his little broomstick started lurching. But although James' own magic prevented Harry from sliding off, the young father decided that the time had come to pull his son off his toy. Lily knew it was only due to Harry's sudden desire to play with the wooden dragon that James could do so easily and without Harry's vehement protests. Her husband cleverly used the situation to his advantage: first, he handed Harry to her, so she could place him on one hip, and then gave Lily the small dragon. And when the toddler was preoccupied by the Hungarian Horntail that Lily held out to him with her free hand, James slyly pushed the miniature broomstick up his sleeve as if it was a longer, sturdier wand; out of sight, out of mind.
Satisfied, they winked at each other and then watched how Harry clumsily patted the small statuette on its head and made cooing noises, trying to rouse the wizarding toy once more. Harry's attempts were rewarded when the little figurine came to life again in the palm of Lily's hand. It studied the child with a slightly bored but not at all unfriendly expression and then spread its wings in an almost lazy manner. Harry cheered and the dragon seemed pleased with the applause.
Lily was fascinated by the way the toy responded to her son. Not for the first time did she wish that Severus could also see the many endearing interactions of his creation with their baby boy. Knowing that the dragon was imbued with Severus' magic, who had once transfigured the dragon so expertly from an old rolling pin during one of their exams (earning him a well-deserved 'O'), it didn't surprise her that her own magical signature quite often drew a generally positive reaction from the toy. On the rare occasion that James got any feedback from it, it was usually one hovering somewhere between disdain and aggression. Lily liked to argue that this was a very life-like reaction of a Hungarian Horntail, whereas James liked to argue that it was a very life-like reaction of Severus Snape, thank you very much. Be that as it may, Harry was the only one in their little family who never failed to rouse the magical toy. He had been enamoured with the dragon from the moment he had first set eyes on it and so far, the toy had always reacted to the child with equal tenderness.
Harry beamed when Lily set the dragon on his shoulder. He tilted his head and brushed his face against the moving figurine. Instantly, the dragon put its own tiny head to the side and rubbed it against Harry's cheek. When both Harry and the dragon closed their eyes simultaneously, the three adults couldn't help but laugh at the blissful pair. The sound seemed to break the magic spell and the dragon returned to its original unmoving pose. Lily caught it before it could topple off Harry's shoulder.
'Little Severus is tired. He would like to take a little nap now, okay baby?' she whispered to Harry. Gently, she set the statuette back down on the shelf. 'Night-night, Little Severus.'
'Sev'us,' Harry repeated earnestly and then pressed a tiny index finger against pursed lips and made a "Shhhh!' sound: the universal sign for 'Hush now, everyone quiet!' He must have seen her do it often enough, Lily thought with a smile. Obediently, she copied Harry's gesture.
'Night-night, Snapey,' James and Sirius sing-songed sotto voce, with Sirius already sitting down at the table and eying Lily's cake with interest. 'How about we get started?' he murmured, rubbing his hands in anticipation.
'Yes, let's!' her husband agreed just as eagerly. She handed Harry over to him, so she could start cutting the cake, and James dropped a kiss on Harry's head before poking his tummy right above the small lion on his red sweater. 'Do you want to try mommy's pretty Halloween cake, Harry?' he asked quietly. Harry squirmed away from his dad's tickles and giggled, but still seemingly mindful of the volume of his voice as well.
'Oi!' Sirius whispered loudly. 'Why are we all whispering?'
'Because Little Severus is sleeping,' Lily replied quietly behind a smile. 'Duh!' Jamie added and they chuckled at the look on Sirius' face.
'How could I forget?' Sirius rolled his eyes. 'Silly Sirius.'
He grinned at Harry, who giggled as if in agreement.
Sirius pretended to be offended. 'Are you making fun of me, Harry James Potter?' he asked the child, no longer whispering. 'Are you serious?' He pointed at Harry, punctuating the 'you' with an outstretched finger. Lily knew that Sirius had rehearsed this piece of dialogue with their son for a while now. Harry did not disappoint.
'YOU SIRRUS!' he crowed, copying his godfather's gesture by stretching one little arm towards him. Sirius raised two victory fists and mouthed a silent 'YES!'
Lily and James laughed.
'Honestly, do you know how long it took for him to say "Dadda"? Do I even want to know how you got him to say your name?' James huffed as he eased Harry into the highchair next to his friend before sitting down on Sirius' other side.
Sirius looked tickled. 'Good lad,' he said and ruffled the black tufts of hair on the small child's head appreciatively. 'Fifteen months old and already more eloquent than your dadda will ever be.' He merely grinned when James flicked a teaspoon against his forehead none too gently and continued: 'See, Harry, your dada is still a tad miffed that your first ever word was "Severus" and not "Quidditch".'
'SEV'US!' Harry beamed.
James put the teaspoon back on his saucer and buried his face in his hands in faux indignation. 'How is this my life?' he groaned behind his fingers before dropping them again and beaming at his son. 'And dadda doesn't care that you can't say "Quidditch" when you already fly a broom well enough to play for England! No, he doesn't!'
'Fair enough,' Sirius conceded, and Lily smiled at how proudly both men now looked at Harry.
'BOOM!' the toddler agreed enthusiastically, highlighting the part he deemed essential once more, before launching into a nonsensical conversation with them. Judging by his arm movements and the fact that the word "Boom!" was now a prominent part of their son's otherwise barely understandable babble, Lily could only guess that he was telling them all about his earlier adventures on his broomstick. Sirius and Jamie seemed to have come to the same conclusion because they answered accordingly, both pretending to discuss a recent Quidditch match with Harry. One that Harry had won, of course.
Lily stood at the table, knife hovering over the cake, and looked at the boys that were so dear to her. So very dear. She drank in the sight of them, committing everything to memory as best as she could:
Harry, all energy and smiles in his tiny Gryffindor jumper, was chatting up a storm - completely undeterred by the fact that his vocabulary consisted of less than ten words that were actually understood by the adults around him (and, yes, "Severus" had been his first word, spoken right after Lily had introduced him to the little toy dragon named after her Slytherin friend. She had Owled the real Severus immediately with this precious piece of information, but he had never bothered to reply to that – which still hurt, dammit!).
Sirius, for whom Harry was clearly the centre of attention even when he was talking to Jamie, with eyes so much older than their years and an ever-growing collection of tattoos on his skin.
And James. Her gorgeous husband, whose jet-black curls, geeky glasses and somewhat bland grey sweater and bell-bottomed jeans should have made him a stark contrast to Sirius with his tattoos, concert wristbands, long hair, tight leather trousers and the black AC/DC t-shirt underneath a torn denim vest. And yet Jamie possessed a charisma ('It's called "ego," Evans,' Severus had always corrected her, 'a gigantic ego.') that rose far beyond the carelessness with which he dressed and made him appear every bit a Rockstar like Sirius.
James had always been, not overlooked (never that), but dismissed by most people. Even by her for far too long. Something she would not have enough time left to forgive herself for. He laughed at her whenever she brought it up these days – and she brought it up a lot, she knew – and told her it meant nothing to him that most people saw him as a jock, a prankster, a spoiled rich kid, an arrogant Peverell descendant. 'Lills, I am all of those things,' he always said. 'But all I want to be is a great husband and father. And now I get to be those things so nothing else matters.'
Nothing else mattered.
Suddenly, Lily realized that James was talking to her. 'Hm?' she asked, clearing her thoughts only with effort, and saw Jamie's expression instantly shift to one of worry. He got up and gently took the knife from her hands. Putting it aside, he said: 'Lills, we forgot the tea. Help me make it? Padfoot, you cut the cake.'
'Aye, Captain,' Sirius said. 'Everything good?'
Humming non-committedly, James put a hand on Lily's back and steered her into their small kitchen. It smelled of cake, with green- and orange-coloured fondant still splattered on the oak counter. The door fell shut behind them and James cast a Muffliato.
'Jamie, I can't do it,' Lily said so quietly that Sirius would not have heard her anyway. She didn't dare to look at her husband. 'I don't think I'm strong enough.'
Jamie said nothing. Instead, he simply enfolded her in his arms and let her cry a bit. He smelled of grass and the sun despite them having been cooped up in the cottage for weeks now. Lily breathed in his scent, but it didn't calm her the way it usually did. 'It's just not fair,' she said.
'No, it's not,' he agreed softly. James placed a few featherlight kisses on her head. 'But together we can do this, Lills. I'll be right by your side. Forever.'
'I can't ask this of you …,' she whispered. 'It's too cruel.'
'You don't need to ask for anything, I'm your husband. We are Harry's parents. Nothing else matters.'
Nothing else mattered.
30th October 1996
Harry was too exhausted to take offence at the way Hermione and Ron stared at him. The way that the wizards in Diagon Alley usually did. Or the Dursleys.
Like he had just grown a second head.
Draco stared, too, but there was a different quality to it; one that Harry couldn't quite name. Especially not when it was really Neville's face looking back at him. On the day Dumbledore's Army had come up with the plan to have Draco Polyjuice himself as Neville so he could hang out with Harry on the day of their school trip to London, they had amused themselves endlessly with creating names for both Neville and Draco in their would-be-Polyjuiced form. 'Draville' for Draco as Neville and 'Nevco' for Neville as Draco had won out in the end, and Harry had to admit both boys accepted the DA's ribbing about it all – and those nicknames - with good grace.
Now Draco – Draville, Harry thought and almost giggled - sank to his knees in front of him and gripped both his knees almost tightly enough to leave bruises. But Harry felt too tired to complain about that, too.
'What did you just say, Harry?' Draco asked him and Harry wondered about the earnestness of his tone. He had been teasing Harry relentlessly all day, being in that spectacularly good mood he was in, and used up all the nicknames under the sun without the day even being half over. But now a joke seemed to be the furthest thing from Draco's mind. And he called him Harry, which he usually did only when things were urgent or when he was being particularly sincere.
'You know,' Harry said with a one-shouldered shrug. 'Time.'
'Harry, we don't know what you mean. Please explain it to us,' Draco said gently. Hermione and Ron sat down on the floor in front of Harry, both crossing their legs in a tailor seat. Draco sat down in the chair to Harry's right and began rubbing a hand up and down his back. Harry wanted to tell him to stop treating him like a five-year-old but, wow, talking was so much work! He tried very hard to remember if it always felt like such a chore but found that he couldn't.
'You know what I mean,' he said again, sounding every bit a five-year-old even to his own ears. And so, to elaborate, he added: 'The way time always feels when you're in a museum, a church or a really old house or whatever. Only, it seems to be worse in here.'
Draco stared. Hermione and Ron stared, too.
'You don't know what I'm talking about?' he asked, already seeing the answer written over all three of their faces. He wrapped his arms around his chest and pulled up his shoulders. Draco noticed and rubbed his back a bit more fiercely as if to help warm him up.
'No, we don't,' Hermione confirmed quietly.
Harry leaned forward, dropped his face in his hands and groaned. 'And there it is! One more thing to add to that long list titled "Why Harry Potter is a Freak."'
'Harry, just explain it to us,' Draco said softly.
'I don't know what to tell you,' Harry admitted. He was cold and tired. The urge to vomit had not yet subsided and he could feel himself getting cranky. 'Up until five seconds ago I thought everyone could feel Time and never thought twice about it. Or at least I thought that we could.'
'We?' Hermione asked.
'Magic folks,' Harry shrugged. 'Like we can all see the ghosts at Hogwarts while a Muggle could not. Or the way they can't see house elves and Hippogriffs and whatnot, but we can. That sort of thing. But … you really don't know what I mean, do you?' He hated how small his voice sounded and tried to hide it with a cough. Promptly, Hermione pulled out a bottle of water from her deceptively small handbag and handed it to Harry, who accepted it gratefully. 'Drink some,' she ordered. 'You look terrible.'
Harry took a few large sips. 'Thanks,' he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
'Potter, by Merlin's saggy balls, will you explain it already?' Draco repeated. 'What do you mean when you say you can "feel Time"? What does Time feel like to you?'
Harry was relieved at the slight change in his brother's (his brother – man, that would never get old) tone. He could deal with an irritated Draco so much better than with a worried one. Still, he didn't want to ruin everyone's mood any more than he already had and so he made a genuine effort to explain: 'It doesn't usually feel like anything.' He took another large swig from the bottle before continuing. 'Like air,' he said eventually, rolling the bottle around in his hands. 'It's always there. You breathe it in all day, but you don't usually think twice about it. But every now and then it feels a bit different. Thinner.'
Bloody hell, he was making a muck of it. 'That was a shit way of explaining it, let me try again,' he sighed and rubbed his face. 'Imagine a Glamour, yeah?'
His friends nodded and Harry was grateful for their patience even if they must surely think him insane by now. 'Certain places give me this feeling that if only I knew where to point my wand, then I could see the people on the other side of Time. If I knew how to spell the Glamour off of this kitchen, then we might actually see Charles Dickens standing over there by the oven, telling his cook how to roast the lamb or whatever.'
'Time is like an Invisibility Cloak to you, you mean!' Hermione mused. Harry looked at her, surprised. 'People from another time are hiding next to you under an Invisibility Cloak and sometimes you feel as if you can almost pull the Cloak off them to make them appear!'
'Yes!' Harry breathed a sigh of relief that he had been understood. 'Like that.'
'Wicked!' Hermione said happily. She sounded fascinated whereas Draco, Harry noted, remained quiet. His hand on Harry's back had stopped moving, too.
'Do you always get ill when this happens?' Ron wanted to know.
Harry shook his head. 'No, this is new. Normally, I just ignore it. I guess I always figured that one day it would just … happen.'
'Would what happen?' Ron asked.
'That I would one day see the other side of Time,' Harry shrugged.
'Bloody fucking hell, Potter,' Draco rasped. He took the bottle from Harry's hand and took a few large gulps of water himself. When he did so, Harry noticed that his hand was shaking. Great, he had managed to terrify Draco Malfoy. Who would probably Owl his parents as soon as they got back to Hogwarts and ask them to un-adopt him ASAP.
Because who in their right mind would want a freak like him under their roof?
Harry sighed irritably, crossed his arms in front of his chest again and kicked the nearest table leg with his foot. He wouldn't say another word. The thought of what the Malfoys might think of him if they heard about this scared Harry more than he cared to admit. From the start, Harry had vowed to himself to always stay prepared for the eventuality of Lucius and Narcissa not wanting to keep him around. Although the thought of the Malfoys returning him to the Dursleys and asking back their Gold, which they had given his aunt and uncle in exchange for him, had hurt him deep in his soul even then. Now, the possibility of leaving the Malfoys felt utterly unbearable - even if Harry was relatively certain that Severus would allow him to move in with him and Priya before he'd let him go back to Little Whinging.
'Do you reckon the hedgehog you saw earlier was from another time?' Hermione blurted after an uncomfortable pause. 'That Time got so thin for you in here that you could see him for a bit?'
Harry did not reply. He didn't want to talk about any of this anymore. Or think. His head hurt as if a horde of Centaurs had stampeded over it. He couldn't breathe and the world turned fuzzy around the edges again. Harry did not think Time was still the culprit, however. More likely he was on the verge of having a panic attack.
'You reckon?' Draco prodded, oblivious to Harry's inner turmoil.
Bitterly, Harry laughed, although it came out more like a wheeze. 'Yes, maybe. Or maybe I'm just seven Sickles short of a Galleon and heading for the Janus Thickey Ward. And here's Skeeter's headline for you: "The Boy Who Lived succumbs to childhood head trauma after all and now thinks he can feel Time and see things from another dimension".'
Harry dropped his head between his legs and tried to breathe. Draco started rubbing his back again. 'Easy, Oliver Twist. It'll be okay.'
He sounded as if he knew what he was talking about while Harry felt that the world was ending.
'Maybe there really is a hedgehog in this kitchen and it's just hiding from us now.' 'Ron said suddenly, surprising everyone by being the Voice of Reason.
Harry looked up from between his knees. They all looked at each other. Then, Draco pulled his wand from his sleeve and waved it once. 'Accio hedgehog.'
'Nope,' Draco said after a few seconds when no animal had come flying. 'There's no hedgehog in here.'
'Not in this Time anyway,' Hermione said shrewdly, and Draco grinned back at her. 'Five points to Gryffindor.'
Even Harry had to smile a little at that. Hermione tipped an imaginary hat on her head before turning her attention back to Harry. 'Can you make Time thinner on purpose?'
Harry could feel Draco wince next to him. And before he knew what he was doing, Harry had jumped up from his chair and opened his mouth to yell at them to finally leave him alone. But before he could do so the world tilted rather violently and he fell back, missed the chair and would have crashed to the floor rather embarrassingly if Draco hadn't caught him at the last moment. And now he sat on Draco's lap, which was also a little embarrassing because it was technically Neville's lap and Harry was pretty sure that the real Neville would be mortified. But it also made the world stop moving and he really, really was too tired to be embarrassed or angry, still. And so, he simply leaned his head against Draco's head - Draville's head, he smiled to himself - and enjoyed how cool the other's skin felt against his forehead.
'You're burning up!' Draco said and Harry thought he sounded scared, which was of course ridiculous. The Slytherin pulled away from him and placed a hand on his forehead. 'You're hot!'
'Why, thank you,' Harry grinned, aiming for flirty and failing spectacularly. But at least Draco seemed relieved now. 'Oh, fuck off,' he murmured, and pulled his arms a little tighter around Harry. 'Why do you always have to be such a drama queen, Potter, honestly?'
Harry closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against Draco's temple again. 'I just need to rest for a minute, and I'll be good to go,' he said, and he meant it. He felt another hand on his cheek to check his temperature. It must have been Hermione, because a second later she said a bit shrilly:
'We need to call William now!'
Fuck no! Harry thought and opened his eyes again with a bit of effort. In her hand Hermione already held the blue Nokia phone they were all given during Muggle Studies at the beginning of the school year.
'Don't you dare to call Copley!' Harry and Draco barked in unison and Harry was glad to note that even Ron looked uncomfortable with the idea.
'Stop being so childish!' Hermione snapped at them. Then, to Harry: 'I know you'd rather call Professor Snape, but at least Will is already in London with us. And we're supposed to ring him in case of emergencies!'
'Oh, he's "Will" for you, is he?'
'Shut up, Draco!' Hermione huffed.
'This is not an emergency!' Harry yelled over the sound of their bickering.
'Harry, you can't walk straight, you seem to have a fever and you're acting irrationally, almost as if you're drunk. Plus, you're seeing things that may or may not be there!' Hermione insisted. Harry did not want to further dissect any part of her statement and so he ignored it altogether.
'We are not calling that pr… gi… tosser!'
The mere idea made Harry so angry that he had a hard time picking the most appropriate cuss word. Quieter, he added: 'What if this is merely a Soulmate thing? Maybe I'm just feeling poorly because I'm too far away from him today. We haven't been separated over such a long distance since my birthday and maybe that's all this is. Maybe this Time thing has nothing to do with it.' He was talking out of his arse, of course, but they didn't have to know that. It sounded reasonable enough when he thought about it.
Hermione actually gasped. 'Harry!' she exclaimed. 'I haven't even thought of that! You could be right!'
Well, there you go.
Surprised, Draco looked at him. 'Maybe,' he said slowly, studying Harry's face carefully. 'It could be.'
'I'm fine,' Harry insisted again. He hoisted himself up from Draco's lap, took a step forward with great determination and …was relieved to feel Ron's steadying arm around him when he swayed once more.
'Okay, I admit that I feel like shit,' he sighed. 'But by Merlin's Beard, please spare me the embarrassment of calling Copley. Please, Hermione!'
'Yes! Alright,' Hermione agreed quickly. 'But what shall we do instead? We'll have to get you back to King's Cross at some point.'
'That's hours from now. I'm sure I'll be fine by then.' He looked at Draco. 'How about you go on to the British Museum without me? I'll just stay here a little longer to rest and ring you when I'm better, so we can meet up somewhere in the city.'
Draco stared at him for a brief moment and Harry guessed that he would have hit Harry over the head, had he not been so unwell. He knew what Draco would say, of course, because he would tell his brother the same: 'Nonsense, Potter, we are not leaving you alone. As if you can be left to your own devices, what with your mind on the verge of collapsing on the best of days.'
'Ha ha!' Harry pretended to sulk, but he was too relieved that Draco was acting normal again and not like Harry was a baby or something terrifying to be studied underneath a magnifying glass. But while he had not really expected anyone to agree to this plan, Harry still felt guilty for ruining everybody's day out. The three had come with him to the Dickens Museum only to indulge him (and he hadn't even seen all of it yet!), whereas the British Museum was actually one of the mandatory stops for their London outing. One that Copley would quiz them on back at school. Not that Harry cared about that.
'The British Museum!' Ron yelled suddenly.
They all looked at him. 'There's a secret passage to the Ministry inside the British Museum,' Ron explained. 'My dad took me to work with him once when I was younger. I'm sure I can find it again. And then we can ask dad for help. Maybe he'll know a quick way to get Harry back to Hogwarts. At the very least, Harry could lie down in his office for a while and rest.'
Lying down sounded rather brilliant to Harry. 'But I'm not sure I can walk to the museum,' he admitted. 'Even if it's just a short one.'
'And you say this isn't an emergency!' Hermione said shrilly. 'What do we do now?'
Draco put a hand on her arm to calm her. 'Honestly, Granger,' he smirked. 'Who's the Mudblood here, you or me? We can call ourselves one of those charming black vehicles you Muggles call a "taxi."'
Hermione put a hand on her face and laughed, embarrassed that she hadn't thought of using a taxi herself. Encouraged by her reaction – a smiling Hermione was so much better than a panicky one – Draco added: 'Behold, we might not even need a telephone to do that. Rumour has it, pretty little ladies can simply stand on the side of the street and flag one down with nothing but a lovely smile and a little wave.' Drolly, he looked at Ron.
'So, go!' Draco ordered with a sideways nod towards the street outside.
Now, they all laughed – even Ron.
Harry perked up a little once they stood outside the Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street waiting for their Cabbie. He seemed okay in the car as well - Draco sincerely regretted that he didn't have the peace of mind to enjoy his first ever taxi ride a little more (they'd definitely have to do that again some other time!) but Harry's face lost all its colour again upon entering the Egyptian Hall.
It figured, Draco thought. If it was old buildings or objects that triggered this strange time sensitivity in Harry, things were bound to get intense when surrounded by three millennia of Egyptology.
He and Ron had to practically haul Harry along between the two of them as they rushed past the Rosetta Stone, the sarcophagus of the last ever pharaoh, and other ancient finds, moving as fast as they dared without attracting any attention from the Muggles around them. Or dropping Harry to the floor.
'Can we come back here when I'm better?' Harry croaked, craning his neck to look back at the Mummies they had just passed by.
'The nerves of him,' Ron murmured under his breath. 'As if we'll ever voluntarily take him to a museum ever again in our lives.'
'Hey!' Harry complained and Draco chuckled somewhat hysterically. Panic crashed over him in waves. The fact that Harry felt too poorly to walk unaided aside, he had never mentioned 'Time' in such a direct manner before today and Draco just didn't know what to make of it. He was, after all, the only one in their little group who knew that Harry would one day start time travelling. One day soon, possibly.
Unfortunately, Future Harry had never revealed when it would begin or how. Only that it had been something of an accident, whatever that meant. Well, it definitely made Draco even more determined not to let Harry stumble headfirst into, say, a sarcophagus. He might simply vanish into thin air and materialize in 1325 B.C. in Tutankhamun's bed or wherever. And then what would they do? How would they explain Harry's absence to Copley? Did a Time Traveller always return to the same time and place he left from? How long would they have to wait for Harry to come back? A month? Two hours? A minute?
He wanted so badly to tell the others what he knew, if only so he had someone to share his mounting anxiety with, but Severus had only ever put one request to Draco (but otherwise had given him an unusual amount of freedom in his exploration of this unchartered terrain of being Harry Potter's brother). Sev's only real warning had been to never tell Harry - or anyone outside their family – about the time traveling before Harry figured it out on his own. And although a part of Draco thought What's the big deal? At least then he'll be prepared when it happens, he also knew that he could not and would not betray his godfather's trust in him. Or that of his parents. This little Polyjuice stunt was bad enough even if ultimately harmless. But if …
Draco stopped in his tracks, right next to the statue of King Ramses II, and Harry and Ron almost stumbled over each other's feet at the unexpected halt. 'What?' they both panted. Hermione, who walked a few feet ahead of them, stopped as well and turned.
'What is it?' she asked warily when she saw his face. 'Don't tell me you can feel Time, too, now?'
'I forgot my backpack in the cab,' Draco said tonelessly.
'Never mind, we'll call them later and get it ba-,' Hermione started to say, but then she understood. 'The Polyjuice Potion,' she breathed. Draco nodded miserably.
'When were you due to take the next swig?' Ron asked.
Draco looked at his watch. 'In twenty minutes.'
'Would Polyjuice even work for Muggles?' Harry wondered and the ebb and flow of Draco's panic turned into pure, unabated terror. 'I'm going to Azkaban,' he whispered. 'If a Muggle drinks it, I am absolutely going to go to Azkaban.'
'Don't be daft!' Hermione tutted. 'Nobody's going to Azkaban. But we have to find Arthur Weasley now! MOVE!'
Ron finally found the entrance to the Ministry of Magic near the West stairs of the British Museum, hidden in an unassuming janitor's closet. They slipped inside and, one after the other, stepped out into an equally unassuming hallway with mostly closed office doors. It looked as nondescript to Draco as most Muggle offices he knew from the telly: white walls, grey doors and a few uninteresting pictures that did not invite the eye to linger. The few adults that did frequent this corridor and had seen them come out of that door paid no attention to them. Ron breathed a sigh of relief.
'Your father's office is on this floor?' Draco asked.
Ron blushed. 'No, it's further down, but … blimey, I'm just glad we made it to the Ministry at all. I was half afraid they had closed off this entrance ages ago.'
Draco groaned at the thought.
'Let's find a lift,' Ron said quickly, probably afraid Draco would start ranting. But Draco was still too terrified to rant. Forgetting his backpack in the taxi had been his own bloody mistake after all. He just hoped Mr. Weasley would find a way to fix it. Preferably without informing his parents, although that was probably too much to hope for at this point.
They heard the Ding! of a lift nearby and followed the sound. Inside the lift, Ron looked helplessly at the many round buttons and it was obvious that he had no idea which number to press. There were no signs to help them navigate their way around either. He was just about to press a button at random, but Hermione stopped him. 'This is ridiculous,' she said and ushered them all back outside. 'We don't have time to wander around aimlessly. Dra-,' she stopped herself before the said Draco's name out loud. 'Draville's Glamour could start wearing off at any moment.' Turning to Ron, she said, 'Pick one of these offices and ask whoever's inside where to find your father. Quick!'
Ron obeyed, knocked at the nearest office door and after a voice inside said 'Come in,' he disappeared inside for only a few moments before coming back out with a not quite middle-aged, slightly distracted looking woman by his side. She wore smart grey pants and a matching blazer over a canary yellow top. 'This is Miss Tilly. She'll help us find my dad,' Ron introduced her. She smiled when they thanked her, but her eyes didn't linger on them for long, even if Draco noticed her giving Harry the briefest of double takes. 'Wouldn't want you to get lost on your way,' Miss Tilly explained briskly but not unkindly, wiping one of her short dark curls from her eyes. 'Arthur's current workplace is a bit … out of the way.'
Draco saw Ron glance at him briefly and felt like a heel when he realized why. There had been a time, not too long ago if he were honest, when he would have gleefully taunted Ron for having a father whose office location surely indicated his rank inside the Ministry. Not that Draco would have known this for sure, of course, but he supposed he would have taken a wild stab at it just the same. Not because he genuinely cared what anyone's parents did for a living (Lucius and Narcissa did fuck all most days!), but because he would have delighted in embarrassing Ron. What a little snot he had been. Now, Draco would hand over his entire trust fund to the Weasleys if Mr. Weasley would only try and help them.
They followed Miss Tilly into the lift, where she pressed the -4 button, the lowest number there was. They rode down in silence until Harry, who had been quiet but a lot steadier on his feet since entering the Ministry, suddenly started swaying again. Miss Tilly looked at him in alarm. 'Are you alright, Har- Mister Potter?' she asked.
'Harry is fine,' Harry assured her with a weak smile and quickly added: 'I'm alright, but I get a bit claustrophobic in lifts.'
Draco thought this was a lie, although he couldn't be too sure. Harry had grown up in a cupboard, so it was entirely within the realm of possibility that confined spaces made him anxious now. Miss Tilly smiled sympathetically and assured him they were almost there. She had barely finished her sentence with the lift indeed came to a halt. She ushered them all outside and strode down another corridor. Ron caught up with her quickly. Draco and Harry followed at some distance, as Harry was not nearly as quick on his feet as usual, while Hermione trailed behind.
Draco looked around. Compared to this one, the bland floor upstairs had been vibrant as a carnival. This floor was much, much larger, dark and badly lit and it gave him the heebie-jeebies. Both the floor and the walls were covered in the same sleek rectangular tiles – black with a slight green hue that reminded Draco of the Killing Curse – and the effect was disorienting. Harry seemed to agree because he cursed quietly. He waved Draco's steadying hand away, however, and said he was good as gold, the lying git.
Together they followed Tilly down the seemingly endless empty hallway. No carpet quieted their steps like it had upstairs, the dark tiles unforgiving to the clacking sound of Miss Tilly's pretty yellow pumps and Hermione's black ankle boots. When they took a right turn to enter another, much wider corridor with doors few and far between, Hermione fell into step next to him.
'Miss Tilly, may I ask where you are taking us?' she asked, and Draco was pretty sure he detected some concern in her voice.
Miss Tilly didn't reply, however, until she stopped in front a black iron double door with golden hinges and two round golden door handles a few seconds later. She turned to them with a small smile. 'Arthur Weasley should be in here. But before you go in, you must promise that you will not touch anything behind this door. Anything at all or the Ministry will have my head. And yours, too,' she added tensely. 'Even yours, Mr. Po- Harry.' Her expression warmed a notch when she looked at Harry. Her eyes grazed the scar on his forehead but did not linger.
'Wow! Whatever's in there must be very important if you'd dispose even of me,' Harry joked. Tilly's tense smile turned into an appreciative grin and Draco was suddenly reminded of Hermione. Ten, twelve years from now, he could imagine Granger looking a lot like her, yellow peep-toes and everything. He decided he liked Miss Tilly.
'I'd say,' Tilly now said to Harry. 'This is the Ministry's Room of Time.'
'Of course it is,' Harry whispered dryly.
They watched as the friendly Ministry official opened the large door in front of her and stepped inside the room that lay on the other side. Draco felt Hermione slip a clammy hand into his and squeeze it so tightly that it hurt. He squeezed back reassuringly – or so he hoped. Meanwhile, Ron peered inside the room, but made no move to follow Miss Tilly in search of his father. None of them did, until Harry said:
'Well. Wouldn't want things to get boring now, would we?'
Harry shrugged when he saw the expressions on their faces and then, ever the Gryffindor, he slipped inside the Room of Time without so much as another word. The rest of them looked at each other uncomfortably until Ron noticed Draco and Hermione's joined hands and his expression turned sour. Hermione's hand dropped from Draco's.
'I'll go find my dad,' Ron murmured stiffly and fled inside.
'Ron!' Hermione rushed after him, leaving only Draco to stand outside the Room of Time. He sighed miserably.
'Scared, Malfoy?' A voice behind him suddenly said and Draco flinched. Whipping around, he found himself face to face with a rather handsome man. Had he been a Muggle, Draco would have guessed his age to be in his mid-fifties. He was marginally shorter than Draco, of an athletic build and had salt and pepper hair and barely-there stubble. He wore a chequered green shirt, dark blue jeans and expensive looking sneakers, the likes of which Draco had never seen before. He was fit.
The man chuckled quietly as if he'd read Draco's thoughts. Belatedly, Draco realized that he had just been addressed by his real name. Had the Polyjuice Potion begun to fade? His hands flew to his nose to check (still Neville's!) and the man continued to grin. And then, without further ado, he put a hand on Draco's shoulder and Apparated them away.
They landed in a small, bright office with bookshelves on every wall and one small desk in the middle of the room. Opposite the desk stood a work bench. Just like the shelves, it was filled with all sorts of Muggle objects, not all of which Draco could identify. The light source was a magical window on one side of the room, which offered a fake daytime view of the Thames and the London Eye.
'This is Mr. Weasley's actual office,' the man told Draco before taking a closer look at him. 'Are you still searching for something sarcastic to say to me?'
'No,' Draco lied.
'Liar,' the man said fondly.
'You're ancient. I should put you with the Mummies over at the museum.'
When the man laughed, the crow's feet around his emerald-coloured eyes became more pronounced, which Draco thought was a very good look on him. 'And you really were a little tosser,' he smiled, not the least bit offended. 'Come here, you idiot.'
He opened his arms and Draco stepped into his embrace.
'Hullo, Potter,' he mumbled into the other man's shoulder. 'You're a ridiculously hot grandad that I might be a little bit in love with now.' He earned himself a pinch in the side for that and snickered before Future Harry held him at arms' length and studied him carefully.
'Your Draco is starting to show, Neville,' he smiled eventually and had the gall to ruffle Draco's hair. Draco could tell it was shorter again. Probably blonde, too.
'Merlin, you were so young!'
Harry put a hand on Draco's right cheek and held it there for a beat. His gaze was so warm, so full of love that it made Draco's heart hurt a bit. 'Stop talking about me in the past tense,' he said a bit too gruffly. 'This is my time and you're only a visitor.'
Harry smiled apologetically. 'Absolutely,' he agreed. 'And sorry for being all sappy. It's just that it has taken me so many years to get back here and manage to separate you from the others. And to see you without that scar again is just -.'
'Wh- what scar?' Draco interrupted.
He had so many questions. But before he could follow up with another one, Future Harry shushed him. 'You can ask me anything you want in a minute, but first I need to tell you two important things before my time runs out here.'
Draco nodded numbly. What scar?
'Draco, I'm going to lock you in here.' Harry must have cast a wandless spell, because Draco heard the door lock click as if someone outside had turned a key. 'Should I disappear again before someone trustworthy comes to get you, you do not – I repeat, you do not - under any circumstances leave this room, okay? Not until someone you know and trust stands on the other side of that door. Is that understood?'
Draco groaned. He let his head fall back and closed his eyes. 'Oh God, you're totally a parent or a teacher now…'
Harry chuckled. 'That's Professor to you, Malfoy,' he smirked. 'Also: A) Bloody hell, you really know me far too well. And B) I have to Obliviate you now.'
'Don't you dare,' Draco protested. 'You needn't worry. I won't depress Teenage Harry by telling him that he'll become a teacher. I might, however, subtly aim to convince him to choose a career in Quidditch over the next couple of years.'
'Who says Teenage Harry can't do both?' Harry replied, utterly amused at first, but then he became very serious again. 'Promise to do as I've told you. You won't miss out on anything interesting down there and at least now you won't be spending the rest of your life being horribly disfigured.'
'Okay,' Draco squawked. 'About that!'
Harry sighed, suddenly contrite. 'No, Draco, listen. I'm sorry. You won't be disfigured. That was a horrible thing to say and a gross exaggeration in order to get you to obey. You'll always be handsome, but you did end up with a scar on your right cheek. A large one.'
The cheek that Harry had touched so gently just now, Draco realized. 'Yes, well, it must have been bloody humungous if you tried to stop it from happening until you were, like, seventy-nine!' he reminded him a bit hysterically.
'Fifty-seven, you git,' Harry grinned. A moment of hesitation and then he seemed to have made up his mind about something. Solemnly, he said: 'Draco, a werewolf gave you that scar.'
'Yes, oh. So, you see, it's not just about a scar. Not really.'
Draco gulped. 'Have I asked you to help me not get it?' he asked quietly. 'I mean, scar-faced Me who's howling at the moon?'
'No,' Harry admitted. 'You learned to live with it surprisingly well. All of it. And … well … you're not the biggest fan of my time traveling on the other side.'
'On the other side of Time?' Draco added, and Harry nodded.
'Harry, it'll happen today, won't it? The accident that will lead to your time traveling?'
'Yes, you clever boy,' Future Harry confirmed fondly. 'Any moment now. And that leads me to the second thing I want to tell you. Remember that the Harry down there will be fine. Regardless of what it will look like, regardless of what people will tell you: I'm alive. I'm OKAY. Please tell Severus, too, when you can. Tell him that I love him and that I'll always come back.'
Draco rolled his eyes. 'Okay, Boy Who Lived, no need to be such a Hufflepuff. How do you know that removing me from the original timeline won't change history so badly that you end up getting killed after all? Or what if someone else gets the scar that was meant for me?'
'This is not a science-fiction movie, love,' Harry said gently. 'But your questions are very clever, and I do understand your concern.'
'You sound like a Professor,' Draco grumbled. 'Or worse, a granddad.'
Harry snorted. 'Fuck's sake, I do, don't I?' he agreed, scratching his head. 'You are right to worry, Draco. Actively trying to change events of the past is dangerous because the unpredictability of the ensuing chain reaction is dangerous. I wouldn't do it if I wasn't hundred percent certain that removing you from the Room of Time will only change the one thing I want changed and that is for your gorgeous, little face to stay in one piece.'
'Potter, you had me at "hello," Draco deadpanned, and Harry grinned, his relief that Draco wouldn't argue with him apparent.
'You said I could ask you anything now. So, spill! What is happening in the Room of Time while you are holding me hostage here?'
Thoughtfully, Harry sat down in Mr. Weasley's office chair and twirled it around twice as if he were a little boy. When he faced Draco again, he seemed to have come to a decision.
'Sit down,' he said. 'And let me tell you the story of the Seven Harrys.'
To be continued...