Harry Potter was restless. He couldn't sleep – mind buzzing with the mantra he'd had since the end of last year the cup, the snake, something of Ravenclaw's or Gryffindor's – and the cool night air helped him think. Tomorrow, members of the Order would arrive to transport him to safety before the blood wards fell. Harry had already packed the essentials he would need for his voyage to retrieve the Horcruxes in a bag, leaving the rest of his belongings safely in his school trunk. A second, smaller bag he kept with him always, even on a midnight stroll through Little Winging, held only the note from RAB, a picture of himself, Ron and Hermione, and forty galleons from his vault in Gringotts.
So far, the summer had been surprisingly productive. The minister had agreed, after much pressure on the part of McGonagall, to block signs of magic from Privet Drive until Harry turned 17 and lost the trace. So, for the last month, Tonks, Kingsley, Remus and Bill Weasley had all banded together to train Harry, pushing him to work hard and learn fast anything and everything they could teach. Remus covered various Dark creatures who were known to work for Voldemort, Bill taught him how to make and break curses and wards, Tonks taught him how to disguise himself in all sorts of ways – including the basics of animagus training, and Kingsley trained him physically and in dueling.
It was exhausting, really. Normally, the exertion led Harry to sleep like the dead every night, but his teachers had given him the day off so they could prepare for the Big Move, and Harry hadn't known what to do with himself, leading to his current insomnia. He knew that his friends were fully intending to follow him in his search, but he had no idea where he would be leading them. To be honest, he had no real idea of how to find the Horcruxes.
Harry's wandering had led him to the playground where he'd sulked two years ago, and the black-haired youth sat on the swing, looking at the sky.
Suddenly, a hand landed on his shoulder, badly startling Harry. He jumped out of the swing and spun around, drawing his wand and pointing it at…
"Psst, Potter," a very familiar voice hissed, slightly to the left of where Harry's wand was pointed. When the boy looked in that direction, he could vaguely make out a person-shaped distortion. Someone was under a disillusionment charm. And not just anyone.
"Malfoy, what are you doing here?" Harry demanded angrily, fixing his wand on the camouflaged Death Eater.
"Me? What in Merlin's name are you doing outside your wards! Potter, you better run, they-" But whatever the mysterious voice was going to add was lost as a series of pops rang through the street. Harry spun around again, this time finding himself facing over a dozen hooded figures, with one in particular at the front.
"Hello, Harry," Voldemort drawled.
Harry cursed. "I do not have time for this," he growled to himself.
"Oh, I think you'll soon find yourself with…ample time," Voldemort smiled, pointing his wand. "Tempus Expugno!"
There was a bright flash of light and Harry disappeared.
One of the Death Eaters burst into spontaneous applause, lifting his hood and mask and striding cheerfully up to the Dark Lord's side.
"Oh wonderful, wonderful!" the man exclaimed, his long chocolate-brown queue bouncing with each boisterous step. "That was done perfectly! I mean, obviously not exactly how you wanted it, m'lord, but I think things will work out better the way I made the spell."
Voldemort's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Aries," he growled, "are you saying you deviated from my exact specifications without my permission?!"
"Well, yes, in a nutshell," Aries said with an unconcerned smile. "After all, you never would have given your permission, not with your original plan in mind. And what a disaster that would have been!"
"Aries," Voldemort hissed warningly. Aries was his most valuable and most intelligent Death Eater, the only spell-smith and ward-master in his ranks. But even he had limits, and he was treading dangerously close to them.
"Oh relax, my dear Marvolo," Aries sighed, "stress kills, you know. Anyway, as I was saying, Potter wasn't sent back 200 years, like you wanted, instead it was more like…20 years,. Oh, and the spatial calibration was slightly off, so, accounting for the Earth's rotation, he ended up at Hogwarts, by the lake I believe."
"Aries, what the devil are you doing?!" Severus demanded, rushing forward from the throng of Death Eaters and gripping his friend by the arm so hard it almost hurt.
"Sorry Sev," Aries said, dropping the rowdy act and looking chagrined. "I couldn't exactly have told you, could I?"
"Told. Him. What?" Voldemort demanded, practically vibrating with fury.
Aries pulled away from his friend and backed up a few steps, snickering. "Haven't you figured it out yet? Brilliant wizard indeed. Finite Incantatem."
As he waved his wand and cast the spell, Aries' appearance shifted, melting. His brown hair darkened to jet-black, his skin lost it's healthy tan, and his bland blue eyes blurred into a brilliant green. Finally, the blank skin of his forehead revealed a familiar scar.
A chorus of Death Eaters echoed what the Dark Lord shouted in outrage: "Harry Potter!"
"The one and only," Aries smirked, then glanced at where his younger counterpart had stood. "Well, now that you've sent away my double that is."
"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. A disloyal young Slytherin got here a little early. Say hello to your son, Lucius."
The blond aristocrat fell to his knees. He had only been released from Azkaban because of his son's 'successful' mission the previous spring, and his stay had damaged the man's composure badly. The only thing that had made him fit to serve in Voldemort's forces was his son's constant presence beside him.
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 beyond the street lamp.
"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 a pale-skinned platinum blonde man. "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, Dumbledore helped a fair bit in the deception, and Harry gave us a heads up for whenever you went digging where you shouldn't have," Draco sneered. Severus, by now, had retreated to the sidelines and Harry could tell he was gaping in shock. "In fact, Harry was a right chap about the whole thing. Whereas you…you were nothing but a spineless worm who wouldn't even help out a fellow Slytherin like poor Sev when he got in a scuffle with those prats Potter and Black. Two against one is not how a Slytherin fight should be. Well," he amended, smirking, "two Slytherins against one Gryffindor is alright."
"Oh, by the way," Harry interjected, looking at his watch. "You might want to scurry off now. The headmistress got a notice of your planned attack about fifteen minutes ago and should have amassed adequate forces by now. So…bye, now!"
"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 pops, never noticing the spell Harry had cast with his wand behind his back.
"Think Sev'll be alright?" Harry asked worriedly, bringing down the Forgetfulness Ward as he and Draco walked toward the castle.
"He'll be fine," Draco answered, then grimaced. "He may never forgive us, but he'll be fine." Harry sighed and looked over his shoulder, so Draco whacked him on the back of the head. "Hey, there wasn't any better way, really. Well, you might have been more tactful."
"I couldn't help it," Harry moaned. "I saw Potter- I mean, er, me – disappear and I suddenly realized that it had all come full circle. Plus, now that I'm the only Harry Potter I have twice the energy, and that's a bit much to handle with tact."
"Man, Harry Potter," Draco sighed. "It's going to be so weird calling you that again."
"Feels weird being Harry Potter again," Harry said, reaching up to scratch his neck. "Like my own skin doesn't fit anymore."
"At least you don't look like Potter. Though that could be because you're an age he never reached."
Harry remembered a time he would have flinched at such a callous reminder of his parents' deaths, but sixteen years had left him plenty of time to grieve, and he no longer felt the loss so much.
"You do realize that, by they're reckoning," Harry gestured at the approaching figures who had just appeared down the street, "we were children just moments ago."
"Well, let them worry about that. Come on, I prepared some tea before I left, it should be nice and hot."
However, judging by the highly frazzled look on McGonnagal's face as she came into view, that pot of tea would be a long way away.
"Mr. Potter? And Mr. Malfoy?" Headmistress McGonagall called wonderingly, stepping into the light of the street lamps. She quickly turned and sent the other members of the Order away. "Or perhaps you are more used to the names Hesuchazo and Higgins."
"Either will work, Minerva," Draco said tiredly. He opened his mouth again, but whatever he was about to say was cut off as another voice spoke from the shadows.
"Hermione?" Harry asked, perking up. "And Ron? 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 headmistress. "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. He didn't let go of his young friend – though he did gentle his grip a bit – until they were all safely inside a silencing spell in the sitting room of Number Four. "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 flopped gracefully down on the couch. 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 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.
"That is what I would like to know," McGonagall demanded sharply.
Harry cringed. From what Charles had told him, McGonagall was one who had reacted badly to his 'turning traitor'. She did not take kindly to Dark wizards in her own house.
"Maybe I should start at the beginning," he said, sheepishly.
"Great, now if we could just get you to decide where the beginning is," Draco sneered. Ron bristled and made to jump to his friend's defense, but Harry beat him to it.
"Ha! Got you there, mate," he declared triumphantly. "The story obviously begins with my night-time walk to the park."
"Wrong again, Slythindor," Draco countered. "You wouldn't know it, of course, but the story actually begins with Professor Higgins sending me a note with my correspondence Defense lesson."
"What?" Harry squawked. "You little cheater! You sent –" He groaned. "Fine, I give up; if you know so much, you tell it."
"Alright," Draco clapped his hands together. "As you all know, I had to leave school after…er…last year. My father didn't want me to fall behind in my schooling, so he found me a set of teachers who would be willing to anonymously send me courses with a weekly owl. One of them was actually Professor Higgins, newly hired Hogwarts Defense Professor. However, along with this week's coursework, I received a note, telling me that I should be at the edge of the wards at Magnolia Crescent by 12:13 today. I thought it must be some sort of extra-credit work, so I apparated here and what did I find but this prat," he jerked his thumb at Harry, "sitting on a swing, head in the clouds, outside of the wards."
"WHAT?" Ron, Hermione, and McGonagall demanded loudly. Harry backed away in mock alarm.
"Hey, I had a lot on my mind," he said defensively, "believe me, it's all sorted out now."
"Anyway, I managed to catch his attention and put an invisibility spell on myself," Draco continued. "I tried to warn him to get back inside the wards, but before he could get it in his thick head that standing unprotected outside his own blood wards might be a bad idea, Voldemort and a bunch of Death Eaters apparate in and send us both back to the summer before term."
"But…" Hermione protested, wrinkling her nose in confusion. Harry could practically see her thoughts: that couldn't possibly be long enough.
"The 1977-78 term," he amended quickly. He was about to continue when a screech rent the air, announcing the arrival of a jet-black owl swooping down through the chimney.
"Baal!" Draco exclaimed in surprise, standing and reaching up with one arm to let the owl perch. But Baal screeched angrily and pecked Harry on the top of the head before settling down on the back of the sofa, glaring balefully.
"That's not a good sign," Harry muttered, patting his injured scalp and wincing when his fingertips came back speckled with blood.
"Who's owl is that?" Ron asked.
"That's Sev's owl," Harry said dully. He untied the letter from Baal's leg and read it aloud.
"To: Whoever you are,
If you have anything at all to say for yourselves, meet me you-know-where in two days.
"Ouch," Draco added. "At least he's given us a chance to explain ourselves."
"And we have a chance to practice, too." Harry was, evidently, attempting to be positive. "So, you guys want to hear what happened?"
"I have to hear this," said Hermione. "You, Malfoy and Snape friends? I wouldn't think even time travel could do that."
Harry and Draco laughed, McGonagall raised an eyebrow, but Ron just frowned. Harry suddenly knew that this was going to be a very long night. With a sigh, he summoned chairs from the kitchen for the rest of them and took a position leaning against the fireplace mantel - he had long ago lost the ability to feel safe while sitting - and began a very long tale.