Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all the characters belong to J.K. Rowling; I do not own them.
A/N: This is my first ever fan fiction story, which I wrote back in 2004 when I was 19. I hope you'll enjoy it, have a lovely day! ;) /Pipe.
The day of their graduation came faster than anyone could have imagined, and there was an unmistakable air of sadness about it. Harry Potter and his fellow Gryffindors had celebrated the end of summer term—and the end of their time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry— the night before, happy to be done with it all at last. But when the time came to say goodbye to the school, the teachers, the friends, and the memories, their former euphoric spirit vanished like smoke in a gust of wind. The stress of their newts lay behind them, as well as the security of their seven-year-long companionship.
Many faces were grim, and Harry felt his own features turn into a wry grin as Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore entered the Great Hall through the side door at the far end and settled themselves into their chairs at the long staff table. Snape was already sitting in his chair, looking just as fierce as always, but with a certain touch of smug delight in his sharp, black eyes.
Harry watched Dumbledore as he prepared himself for his annual end-of-year speech, half-repressed tremours of anticipation quivering through his tense body.
Opposite him, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were sitting side by side, friendly towards one another for once, holding hands. They had been together since Spring term of their sixth year, by which time they had finally given up on their pride and confessed to themselves that, yes, they were in love. Everyone else had anticipated, and almost impatiently awaited, it since that whole show-off in the Gryffindor common room after the Yule ball. Harry was not surprised. No, what surprised him was how in Hell's pitfire they managed to stay together—with not so little patience and perseverance—when they were constantly nagging each other for one reason or another, just like they had always been. And probably always would be.
Harry could not help but feel a bit jealous; he did not have anything that came even close to their relationship. And he had never experienced anything even slightly resembling a relationship. Well, if you did not count the kiss he had once shared with Cho Chang after one of their secret DA meetings, and their infamous date in Hogsmeade that one miserable Valentine's Day …
He sighed. Why did the thought of leaving school alone make him so depressed?
Maybe because he did not have anywhere to go. This was his last year—he was now a wizard of age—and Uncle Vernon had made it quite clear that Harry had no more business there. Not that he was particularly depressed about that, but where would he go? He had nowhere else to turn; the Dursleys were his only living relatives—and they hated him. What had he really done to deserve their utter loathing? He could of course go stay with Mrs. Figgs, but how much fun would that be on a scale? Living with an old squib …
The end-of-term feast was a complete blur to Harry; he could not remember eating anything. As they all rose from their tables to catch their rides to Hogsmeade Station, he caught his arch enemy's eye in the shuffling crowd. The cold, harsh, grey stare of Draco Malfoy seemed to pierce him straight through and made him shiver anew. The obvious rage and hatred in those eyes made his insides twist, because they were a painful reminder of his numerous encounters with Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters, and with the Dark Lord himself. He was certain that the next time he met those eyes, it would be the day that either of them died.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione shared a train compartment with Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Ron's younger sister Ginny. They were all kind of dejected, but they kept up a frequent stream of conversation. Played wizard's chess. Some Exploding Snap. Neville lost his toad Trevor twice, which was a positive record for him.
As they drew nearer to King's Cross Station, Harry grew more silent and withdrawn. He knew the others were watching him with concern, but he did not care at the moment. Soon they would all be off, smiling and laughing, met up by their families, and he would stand there looking lost and utterly ridiculous, with nowhere to go and no-one to meet him—anywhere.
He would have liked the train to go on forever and never stop, but inevitably the time came when they had to step down onto the platform. Hermione's parents were standing there in their best clothes, and she immediately ran to them, hugging them both fiercely. The knot in Harry's stomach became tighter, harder. As he watched Ron kiss Hermione goodbye, making her promise to send him an owl as soon as possible and tell him whether she would come and stay at the Burrow for a few weeks or not, Harry sensed that someone was watching him. He turned his head and found himself staring into those cold, calculating grey eyes again. The face they belonged to wore a disgusting smirk that made him look more arrogant than usual.
Harry sighed. "What do you want, Malfoy?" he asked in an exhausted tone.
The smug grin grew wider. "Just wanted to wave you off and wish you good luck in the future, Potter," Malfoy said with distinguishable loathing and mockery.
He knows I don't have anywhere to go, Harry thought darkly, and he'd just love to see me being left behind when everybody else leaves.
"Sod off, Malfoy. I don't need your pity."
"Well, well there … Feeling a bit bitter, are we, Potter? Awe we weepy cos we have nowhewe to go, Hawwy? Want me to wipe youw face?"
Harry felt blood-red rage rising from inside. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" he found himself yelling.
Draco was just about to say something even more condescending when the Weasley party walked up to the two rivalling boys.
"Harry, dear, are you coming?" asked Mrs. Weasley delightfully.
Harry stared at her in bewilderment. "I'm sorry, I don't understand..."
"You're coming with us, Harry," Ron said firmly, and put his right hand on Harry's left shoulder. "We figured your uncle wouldn't show, so we've kind of been planning for you to stay with us ever since the start of seventh year. Hope you don't mind, mate."
For the first time since the end-of-term feast, Harry felt his spirits rising. A wide smile came to his lips. "Mind? Of course I don't mind! I would love to come stay with you!"
Ron smiled, as well. "Great! You know, now that Fred and George are living in Diagon Alley, you can even have your own room."
"You are welcome to stay with us for as long as you want, Harry dear," Mrs. Weasley put in, and hugged him. "I wouldn't want to think about what could happen if you were left out there alone..." Of course she was talking about the Muggle world. "Now, let's get a move on, I have to make dinner when we get back …"
As they turned to walk away, Draco pulled Harry back. He was apparently not so delighted that Harry now had a home and felt like speaking his mind about it. "I'm sure I will see you again," he said with absolute disgust.
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Well, since I'm going into Auror training in a few months, I'd say that's perfectly possible. I'll probably hunt you down in a couple of years, and when I do it will be my utter pleasure to give you what you deserve."
When he walked off together with the Weasleys, feeling Draco's furious stare on the back of his head, Harry felt better than he had in weeks.
Two years passed like nothing. Approaching the end of his Auror training, Harry was yet again facing a crossroads that completely terrified him. He did not know what was waiting for him on the other side. And over the years, even when he was still a student at Hogwarts, he had wondered about his life, what he actually had and what he could have had. It had not been all that clear only months ago, but suddenly he realised that he'd had a choice many years back—at another crossroad way in the past. In fact, the moment that he pondered had taken place during one particular day in his eleventh year.
The day that Draco Malfoy had offered to sort out the "right" wizards and witches from the "wrong sort." It had never occurred to him, but that very moment had probably been the most important and determining in Harry's entire life. What would have happened if he had accepted the offer presented to him? And suddenly, a very strange memory came back to him, something that he had repressed for a long, long time …
It had happened during their seventh year, in November. It had been a cold, rainy day, and Harry had spent a good three hours at a particularly difficult and aggravating Quidditch practice session. When he finally got back up to the common room to change out of his sodden robes and snug into something more comfortable, he'd been beat. But still there had been too many things troubling him for him to get an early night of much needed sleep. He decided to take a walk. Did not care that it was past nine and no students were allowed in the corridors; he just needed to get away from everybody.
Somewhere along the fourth-floor corridor, he had accidentally bumped into someone. In his exhausted haze, he had been afraid to find Snape's hostile eyes staring down on him, therefore he was very surprised to find Draco Malfoy in front of him. For a while, he was so taken aback that he could not find anything suitable to say. Draco had merely glowered at him. "Aren't you supposed to be in your dormitory by now, Potter?"
Harry completely missed the unpleasantness in his voice. "Not really, no. Can't sleep."
"Is that so? Ten points from Gryffindor, then."
"What? No, wait, I haven't …"
"You're not allowed in the corridors past nine o'clock. You're well aware of the rules you're currently breaking."
"I don't see you following them, though," Harry bit off.
Draco straightened his back in a very arrogant way and smirked unpleasantly. "Well, I'm a Prefect. I'm patrolling the corridors to make sure no rule breakers like yourself are out of bed. And you just lost your house another five points for being snotty. Now go back to your dormitory. Off you go!"
Harry was genuinely amazed by this most peculiar behaviour from Malfoy's side. What was he playing at? He did not at all sound as hateful as usual, but almost … amused.
Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Why aren't you leaving? Want me to take yet another ten points from your precious house, Potter?"
Harry hesitated. "No," he then said, deciding to test this strange new mood of Malfoy's, "but I'm not leaving either. I'm going to take another few turns up and down the stairs, if you don't mind."
He made to push past Malfoy, but was naturally stopped mid-step. A deeply annoyed sigh escaped him. Then he saw the livid, fire-like spark in Draco's eyes and swallowed it back down. "What did you just say?" his arch enemy asked. "Are you making fun of me?"
Harry sighed again. This was getting really tiring. "Yes, of course I am, Give-Me-A-Breako, now will you please let me pass?"
To his surprise, Draco pulled out his wand and pointed it straight at Harry's chest. "You are not going anywhere until you've apologised to me," he demanded darkly.
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "What?"
"Apologise to me," repeated Draco, drawing even closer in the murky gloom of the corridor.
"You … you want me to apologise?" Harry started to laugh.
He seemed to have pulled the last straw. A muscle began to twitch in Draco's right eye, giving him an evil and slightly frightening look. "You will regret humiliating me!" he hissed. "Imperius!"
Harry immediately felt the familiar hazy sensation of being under the Imperius Curse, and his body instantly went numb. He could hear Draco's voice inside his head. Dance, it said, but Harry could not for his life understand why Draco wanted him to dance. No, he answered the voice, I don't want to.
You don't have any choice. Now dance.
But Harry instantly shook off the effects of the curse and yelled, "No!" Draco's eyebrows knitted as he realised that the curse was not working. "Haven't you heard, Malfoy? I'm an expert at fighting the Imperius Curse. There's no way you'll be able to make me do anything."
This seemed to aggravate Draco further. "Let's see about that," he said between gritted teeth. "Imperius!"
"No!" Harry shook off the curse quicker this time.
Jump like a toad.
"No way, you jump like a toad!"
"Imperius!" Draco was too quick to leave any time for Harry to cast a counter-curse or Shield Charm.
Pick your nose and eat it.
"You know what, Malfoy? You're disgusting. No arguing the point. You should be commited, lifetime at S:t Mungo's, period."
This demand startled Harry and caught him off guard. Get undressed? What?! he thought to the voice inside his head.
Get undressed, Potter.
And why on Earth would I do that?
Because I told you to. Now strip.
There was a moment when Harry's arms actually reached up to pull his jumper over his head before he finally managed to shake the curse off for the fifth time. When he had done so, he stared at Malfoy with a mixture of bafflement and offence. "What the Hell did you ask me to do that for?!" he shrieked.
The sneer on Malfoy's lips was unnerving. "Because I've been dreaming of this, Potter. The utter embarrassment. My triumph over you—at last."
"Excuse me? You've been dreaming of me naked?!"
The Slytherin's features became stern and furious once more, and when he lashed out he surprised Harry completely. His hands were around Harry's neck in a matter of seconds. "Don't you ever try to make fun of me again!" he hissed between clenched teeth.
And then the impossible happened. Draco, as if acting on a sudden impulse, leaned forward and kissed him. At first, Harry was so startled that he did not even think of fighting the Slytherin off, and as the grey-eyed boy forced his tongue into Harry's mouth, he found himself unable to fight him off for other reasons. The whole experience was absurd, and utterly paradoxical, because Harry actually liked the sensations that spread throughout his body. Draco was a damned good kisser, and it was like nothing else that the Gryffindor had ever experienced. All of a sudden, he felt good about being alive, a feeling that had partly left him after Sirius's death and never returned completely, and a strange warmth filled him. The Draco that was kissing him was nothing like the Draco that used to mock him; this Draco was tender, although the aggressiveness and need to be in control were still there. Oddly enough, Harry began to like this new Draco. He knew how stupid that was, knew how dangerous it was, but he could not help himself. And when Draco finally withdrew, Harry felt humiliatingly disappointed.
The Slytherin studied him for a few moments, then said, "Maybe I should let you go …"
This surprised Harry even more than the kiss. Draco never gave up; he only got in it to win it.
As if he had contemplated his own words, Draco nodded slowly. "Yes, I should let you go. It's not my place to tell you not to roam the corridors, right? You're old enough to make your own decisions."
There was almost a tenderness in his drawling voice now.
Harry was paralysed by bewilderment. "What … what was that all about?" he asked somewhat shakily.
Those grey eyes pierced his soul. "I think you know, Harry."
"That is your name, isn't it?" Now, that was definitely amusement on Draco's face! "Or do you mind me calling you Harry? Maybe you prefer Snotty Potty?"
This was just getting more absurd by the minute. They were actually having a normal conversation—or as normal as it could get in Malfoy Land.
Harry found himself stuttering. "N-no … not at all … I guess … Ha-Harry's fine … Draco."
"Good. Wanna take a walk?"
For a moment, it had almost seemed as if they would become friends—or something more, even—but the following morning, Draco had acted as if the whole incident had never occurred. And after a few days of constant mockery and evil stares, Harry had decided to forget all about it.
Now, sitting on the bed that he had been given in the Weasley home, Harry recalled it as if it had happened yesterday. But nearly three years had passed, and he had not seen Draco since that day at the station. As he thought about it, he realised that that one curious night had meant more to him than he had perceived at the time. And now it was haunting him. What if they had … ?
And what if he had taken that offer that Draco had given him on their very first day at Hogwarts? Would anything have been different? Would they have been on speaking terms? Even been friends? Or … ? However absurd this whole thing was, he had to get some answers—and he could only see one way of getting them.
Hermione was currently living in France, studying at one of Europe's finest schools for future Healers. When Harry Apparated into her living room one rainy afternoon in early May, she gave a start and clapped her hand to her chest. "Harry, you frightened me!" she said in a breathless voice. "What are you doing here?"
They hugged. Then Harry surveyed the small, but cozy room. "I can see why Ron likes to come here," he said with a faint smile on his lips.
Hermione blushed. "Well, to be honest, he doesn't really come for the furniture … Anyway, how are you? I heard you're doing really well in Auror training. Almost graduation, eh?"
"Yeah. Er, Hermione … do you still have those books on Time Travelling Spells?"
She raised one eyebrow in puzzlement. "Yes … But what do you need them for?"
"I need to know something about my past."
"You're not started on your parents again, are you?" Hermione inquired worriedly. "Because I really don't think …"
"No, it's not my parents, it's … something else," said Harry, reluctant to tell her the exact reasons for his desire to travel back in time. "D'you reckon it'd be too hard for me to learn some of the spells in there?"
There was a moment's silence. "No, I think you'd do just fine learning them. They're quite complex, I have to admit, but not that hard, really. I'll help you find the right one. Why do you wish to go back in time?"
Harry hesitated. Then, he said, "I need to know if a choice I made in the past was right, or if I should have chosen differently. Can you do that?"
"Oh, sure! I think what you need is the Time Changing Spell—that will enable you to travel back to a particular point in your past and change anything that you feel you have done wrongly. It's rather easy, really. Come on, I'll show you."
Harry spent three whole days in Hermione's flat, reading up on various Time Travelling Spells. The ones he would have to use was, as Hermione had suggested, the Time Changing Spell, which would enable him to change his past, the Alternative Future Spell, which would take him to a desired point in the future he created by taking Draco's offer, enabling him to walk around in that new world and seeing where he had wound up, and lastly the Present Time Charm, which would (hopefully) take him back to Hermione in France. To make sure that he would not recognise himself when he went back to Hogwarts to experience the world he had created, he had "borrowed" a few bottles of Polyjuice Potion from one of Hermione's rule-breaking classmates. Since it was a forbidden potion, this classmate could not report it missing. He had also cut off a lock of hair from a stranger in the streets of Paris.
He was good to go.
But when they prepared for his departure, Hermione was growing steadily more worried. "Harry, are you sure that you want to go through with this?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm positive."
He checked that the tiny bottles of Polyjuice Potion were still in the pocket of his robes. Everything seemed to be set for his departure.
"Maybe you want to think this through before you decide what to do," said Hermione carefully, with an almost pleading tone.
"Yeah …" Harry was distractedly fluffing the pillows on Hermione's bed.
"Harry, I'm serious. You don't know what might happen if you change your past."
"Yeah, but aren't there reversal spells?" asked Harry impatiently.
"Of course, there is a really powerful reversal spell that ensures that everything you may have changed with your Time Changing Spell is completely erased, and everything in the past will go back to normal. It's like an alternate reality, and since it does not exist in the real world you can easily wipe it away and no-one will ever know it was there in the first place. But Harry … even if you do reverse the spell, there is no way of erasing the memories. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Harry looked up at her. He knew what she was implying. There had been so much tragedy in his life already, he did not need any more. But on the other hand … had he had to endure all that for no reason? Just to wind up unhappy with his current situation in life?
"I need to know, Hermione."
"So, as I understand it, my soul will be travelling back in time, and my body will be left behind here. Is that correct?"
Hermione nodded again.
"Take good care of it, will you? I'll need it when I get back."
And with those words, he lay down on the bed, and Hermione read the spell.
The world was spinning at a dizzying rate. It was like travelling by floo powder, but a hundred times worse. When the spinning had stopped and everything was still again, Harry gasped unwillingly.
"Harry, are you alright?"
He was startled to hear the voice across from him. Slowly, he registered the unmistakable sounds of a train in progress, and his body shook slightly with the tremours of motion. The person sitting in front of him was Ron, but it was not the Ron that he remembered. "You're … young," he said, astonished.
Ron frowned. "What are you …"
But before he could finish the sentence, Harry cut him short. "My voice!" he exclaimed, and his hands shot up to his mouth and throat.
"What about it?"
"It hasn't broken yet!"
"Of course it hasn't broken yet! What did you expect? Some kind of miracle that made you a man at eleven?"
Harry savoured the word. "Eleven … so it worked …"
"What worked?" Ron did not seem to understand a word that he was saying.
"Nothing," Harry hurried to say. "Nothing at all."
Now he just had to wait for the moment when Draco and his cronies stepped into their train compartment. It was an impatient wait, and when the compartment door finally flew open and it was just a very young and frail-looking Hermione, Harry was utterly disappointed.
"Have you seen a toad? Neville here's lost one," she was saying, but Harry hardly heard the words. He had just spotted a familiar figure across the hall, in the opposite compartment. He urged him to hurry up so he could get this trip over with already.
When Draco finally decided to show up, Harry's heart skipped a beat. Which in itself was ridiculous, bearing their only being eleven years old in mind. "So, it's true then," the young Draco was saying, "Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts. Why did you not tell me when we were in Madame Malkin's? I could have told you a few things …"
"Well, I didn't think of it just then," said Harry with his squeakish boy-voice.
Draco took a step forward, holding out his hand. This is it, Harry thought, tense with anticipation. "My name's Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
Ron snickered in the corner of the compartment.
Draco immediately turned his head to the redheaded boy. "Think my name's funny, do you? There's no need asking yours. Red hair and a handed down robe—you must be a Weasley."
Harry laughed somewhat bitterly.
Four pairs of eyes were turned on him. Ron looked awfully surprised. "Sorry," Harry said, "just reminded me of something in the past, that's all. Go on."
Draco seemed to have lost track for a second, then he collected himself and cleared his throat. "Well, Harry Potter, soon you'll find that some wizard families are better than others—and you don't want to go mixing with the wrong sort. I can help you there."
He reached out his hand again.
This time, Harry did not hesitate, but immediately seized it. "I appreciate your help," he said, and shook it firmly. In the corner of his eye, he could see Ron's jaw drop.
As soon as he had made the desired change, he set off for his next destination: their sixth year.
Hermione was anxiously waiting by Harry's side, frequently looking for some kind of sign of life in his features, but he was as still as a corpse. Harry, I really hope you know what you're doing, she thought as a loud pop! sounded behind her.
"Hey, honey … Hey, what's he doing here?" Ron walked up to the side of the bed, looking down at Harry's still body in bafflement. Then, he jerked. "Is he … is he … ?"
Hermione gazed up at him. "No, he's not dead, he's time travelling."
"Time travelling? Why on Earth would he want to do that?"
"Says he needs to get some answers about a choice he made in the past," Hermione said sadly. "Oh, Ron, I have a feeling that something bad is going to happen to him, and I'm afraid that he won't come out of this the same person that he was when he went in."
Ron sat down next to her and put his arms around her in a reassuring embrace. "He'll be fine, don't worry. Harry knows how to take care of himself."
Harry arrived, looking like a 22-year-old man with light brown hair and blue eyes, at Hogwarts masquerading as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher—something he knew perfectly well after all his encounters with Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and after his Auror training—and felt strangely nostalgic about returning to this place. And certainly to be returning while there was a younger version of him attending the school. He probably should have spent several months concentrating on gaining the students' trust, but he was impatient to learn how his little scheme had been working out, so on his second day of service, he asked Hermione to stay behind after class.
"Did I do something wrong, Professor?" she asked anxiously, obviously sure that there had been something wrong with her counter-curses.
"Oh, no, not at all," said Harry, who was extremely uncomfortable with her calling him Professor. "I just wanted to ask you a few questions … out of curiosity, you know."
She shifted her feet. "About what, Professor?"
"Well, I hear that Harry Potter is attending Hogwarts," Harry began in an off-hand manner, "and since he is quite a famous young lad I must admit that I got curious."
Hermione's reaction to the mentioning of his name was immediate—and not quite what he had anticipated. Her face instantly became stern, and her eyes got a peculiar hostile glimmer to them. "Well, then I'm simply the wrong person to ask," she snapped, "because I wouldn't know anything about Potter." The way she stressed his name was profoundly unnerving.
He pretended not to notice. "What d'you mean? You're his best friend, aren't you?"
"Best friend?!" Hermione exclaimed exasperatedly. "That Slytherin?! I wouldn't be his friend for the world!"
Harry gave a start. "I'm in Slytherin?" he thought aloud.
Hermione knitted her eyebrows. "Excuse me? You're in Slytherin … ?"
"What? Oh, that. Simply a mistake. What I meant to say was, he's in Slytherin, is he? Funny, I imagined him to be in Gryffindor House …"
Hermione snorted. "Someone like him couldn't get into Gryffindor even if he tried to force himself in," she claimed indignantly. "He's a menace, always picking on the weaker ones. Him and that … that Malfoy."
"Malfoy?" Harry was instantly alert as Draco's name was mentioned.
"Yes, Malfoy. They're always together, those two. Always mocking people, making their lives miserable. There are even rumours that they're an item, but I don't know what to believe to be honest. And may I say, Professor, that I am surprised that you should ask me all these questions about him when surely you must know how he treats me."
Harry blinked. "How … how he treats you?"
Now there were tears in her eyes. "Yes, he's always calling me a … a … mudblood."
Harry jerked back. A mudblood? But that was … Surely he could never … Or could he?
He tried to think really fast, tried to come up with something to say that would excuse what his alternate self had obviously done to her, but no words came to mind. She would not understand, anyway. Instead, he said, "But surely there must be something good in m … him? I mean, he did all those things, saving the Philosopher's Stone, and killing the Basilisk …"
"Oh, I'm not so sure he actually killed the Basilisk with any good intention—other than to save his own skin, that is."
"What d'you mean, Miss Granger?"
"Well, it is widely known that Harry Potter is a parselmouth, isn't it? Surely you must have heard, Professor? And with him and Malfoy walking around the school cursing every Muggleborn and halfblood they can find … I know they say that it was Ginny Weasley who opened the Chamber of Secrets under the impression of You-Know-Who, but I'm sure that Harry Potter had some say in it. Maybe he conspired with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who knows? I just know that my gut feeling is telling me to stay the bloody hell away from him."
That was more than Harry wanted to know. He felt sick. Trying hard not to sound impolite, he asked Hermione to leave him to himself—and his guilt. Had that simple handshake made him such an awful person? There was only one way to find out; he had to get inside the Slytherin common room and see for himself.
That night, Harry used the Disillusionment Charm on himself and waited outside the opening to the Slytherin common room. He knew there must be someone entering or exiting soon enough. And surely, none other than Pansy Parkinson came strolling down the dungeon corridor. He snuck in right behind her, and surveyed the room. It had not changed much since the day that he and Ron had used the Polyjuice Potion to question Malfoy.
The pair was sitting in armchairs by the roaring fire, talking loudly and laughing. Several other Slytherins were gathered around them, listening to their various jokes, snickering ingratiatingly. Harry moved closer. Oh, it was him at sixteen, alright, and he seemed to fit right into the Slytherin crowd, just as this reality's Hermione had said. There was no question about it; he was an arsehole. An utter and complete scumbag. And he hated himself for turning himself into this.
For some reason, he stayed the whole night, torturing himself by listening to his alternate self's endless storied about mudbloods and halfbloods and squibs and pure bloods and riches untold. And when the pair of them finally got up to go to bed, much earlier than the others it seemed, Harry too rose and followed them. He had forgotten to take his potion for a couple of hours, but it did not matter now. Soon he would return to his own reality, and no-one would have to see him there again. There was just one last thing that he needed to know.
Much to his surprise, the Malfoy and the Potter of this time seemed to drop their masks when they were alone, and suddenly they became two completely different people. Harry had expected them to be even worse, but as soon as the door closed behind Draco, his harsh and arrogant facial expression softened into something that resembled tenderness and warmth. His grey eyes did not seem cold anymore; they were small fires. "Fooled them another day," he said to the alternate Harry.
"Yeah," the raven-haired boy replied, smiling mischievously. "Imagine the looks on their faces if they knew what we really are."
"Yeah, that would certainly throw them off their tracks!" Draco exclaimed, and the two of them laughed.
Harry wondered what this "fooling everyone" meant, and moved closer as the two boys began to undress. It was strange to see himself doing this; a sick feeling came to his stomach, and he almost looked away.
As Potter was unbuttoning the last buttons in his shirt, Malfoy put his hand on his bared chest. Their eyes locked. A slight, almost undetectable, shiver shot through Potter, and this seemed to urge Malfoy on. He moved in closer and pressed his lips to Potter's. The raven-haired boy responded immediately and somewhat roughly put his hands in Draco's hair, making the blond strands stand on end. Draco tugged at Potter's trousers, clumsily unzipping them as Potter simultaneously discarded of both his and Draco's shirts, all of this happening without their lips parting. They shrugged out of their trousers. Stripped out of their boxers.
Harry could not look anymore, but not because he found this image in any way disturbing. No, his heart was pounding like a sledgehammer in his chest because he wanted this, he wanted it for himself, the present Harry, not just the Harry in this exhaustingly odd alternate reality. How come he had not realised that before? Sure, he had long since been aware of the intolerable feeling of being alone, that he wanted someone special in his life … but Draco? Why? The Draco in his reality was a bastard, a total bastard. He had always treated Harry as something the cat dragged in—or worse—except for that one exceptional night in their seventh year …
Malfoy and Potter had moved to the bed, snuggled down beneath the covers, and were now making low animal noices. It was not too hard to imagine what they were up to, and it made Harry's heart sink. He could have had this? All this? Just because of one tiny, innocent handshake?
Malfoy was shrieking now, repeating Harry's name over and over, until they finally stopped and the room grew quiet. Still. "Harry … bloody marvellous flying on the Quidditch field today," Draco said faintly. "Reminded me of your stunt-like flying during your first task in the Triwizard Tournament."
The mentioning of the Triwizard Tournament made present Harry jerk.
Potter of another time laughed. "Yeah … and I was doing it for you, baby," he stated, "I know how you love to watch." So he was Seeker for the Slytherin team now, was he? And that meant Malfoy did not play at all? Must have disappointed him, Harry thought gleefully.
"You're bloody brilliant, Harry, you know that?"
"So you've told me."
"I'm not talking about sex now, dumbarse. I'm talking about Voldemort."
Harry sharpened his ears again. Voldemort? Why would they be … ? Oh no. Please don't tell me I'm in league with Voldemort! Harry begged quietly to himself.
Potter in the bed was silent for a while. "Oh. Him. Yes, he was a tough one. Think things'll slow down now he's finally gone?"
"No, they won't stop, they'll never stop—take my father for that. They're all like him; I've met them. Just never knew what they were … But one thing's for certain, they won't stop until they die in battle."
"I think you're right. But me killing Voldemort might scare them off for a few decades."
"Maybe," Draco agreed, but neither of them sounded as if they believed it.
I killed Voldemort? Harry thought in astonishment. He clearly remembered the prophecy, that they were destined to fight each other until one of them killed the other. So I won?
"It's been a long six years," Potter was saying now.
"Yes, and it hasn't always been easy."
"Took me a good three years to get you over on my side, remember? To make you see that the Dark side was the wrong side. Two years later, we were this. All that sneaking around your father … to fool him into thinking we were on their side. It's pretty comical, come to think of it. But we did a good job. We helped Sirius escape the Dementors."
"That we did!" Malfoy cheered.
"And we caught the fake Moody—"
"—right after you saved Cedric Diggory from that godawful place and won the Triwizard Cup," Draco filled in for him.
Harry felt a sharp pain in his chest. Cedric was alive?
What about Sirius? he wanted to ask the two boys. What about Sirius? Did we manage to prevent his death, too?
"Remember the Department of Mysteries?" Potter asked in a low, almost inaudible, voice.
There were a few seconds' silence.
"Why do you need to go through this every night?" Draco asked in a concerned tone.
"I don't know … maybe to clear my conscience … try to convince myself that there was nothing else I could have done."
"You're not to blame for what happened," Malfoy protested.
"I'm not so sure about that, though … Sirius …"
No, Harry thought. No …
"You cleared his name," Malfoy emphasised.
"He blames me. Never says it, but I can see it in his eyes."
It took Harry a while to understand those words. I can see it in his eyes … Sirius was alive. He never died in the Department of Mysteries. But how … ?
"Harry, he'll get over it. He's lost all of his best friends, and that must be pretty darned hard to take. I mean, first he finds out that James is dead … and then he finds out that Wormtail killed him. How do you think that made him feel?"
"But Lupin …"
No. Not Professor Lupin, please, not Lupin …
"You couldn't have prevented it, Harry. There was nothing you could do."
"But I saw them coming, I saw them circling him from behind … if only I had cried out to him a few seconds sooner, then he might still have been alive."
"You don't know that," Draco objected.
"No, but the uncertainty is killing me."
They were silent for a moment.
"I love you, Harry. Please don't let this destroy you. I need you."
This was more than Harry could take. Maybe Hermione had been right, maybe it had been stupid of him to go back; the answers he had been looking for were not worth it. Now he knew that a handshake with Draco Malfoy had cost him his two best friends, his reputation as a wizard, and also his favourite teacher. But it had also won him a soulmate, a world without Voldemort, and Sirius, with his name cleared and all. It was hard to see whether he had lost out on the deal or not.
It was time to go back to his own time.
Almost reluctantly he used the reversal spell Hermione had given him to erase the alternate reality he had created and cast the Present Time Charm to return to his body.
When he woke up, he found both Hermione and Ron watching over him, and a wave of relieved warmth washed over him. As soon as he understood that he was back in his own time, he sat up and hugged them both. They seemed very surprised by this. Ron's ears turned scarlet.
"You have no idea how grateful I am that I have you again!" he said.
"Again?" Hermione echoed blankly. "What do you mean?"
"In the world I created, we weren't friends." And so he told them all about his absurd adventure, about the handshake, his being a Slytherin, and the sacrifices he had made to ensure that his and Draco's activities went unnoticed.
"You were a Slytherin?!" Hermione exclaimed, as if that was the worst a man could be.
"You and Malfoy were … were … lovers?!" Ron cried out in absolute disgust.
Harry blushed crimson. "Yeah, well, I guess that needs some explaining … You see, there is something I haven't told you. Something that happened during our seventh year at Hogwarts. Hell, I didn't even remember it until just recently myself …" He told them about the night when Draco had kissed him. "So that's why I needed to go back in time. I needed to know what could have been if … you know, if I had taken his offer."
His friends were both looking at him in utter astonishment.
"You actually liked kissing Malfoy?" Ron asked in disbelief.
"Yes, oddly enough. And come to think of it … maybe there was something else underlying that hatred, you know. Maybe we both sensed something … more."
"But what about Sirius, Harry?" Hermione inquired. "How did you and Draco manage to save him? I mean, how could the handshake have changed that?"
Harry had given this a lot of thought. "I think that since I was a Slytherin in that world, Snape had better confidence in me. Just like Malfoy, you know. We were probably his model students, and I probably acted bloody arrogant towards the Gryffindors to gain his trust. And because he didn't always give me such a hard time, my Occlumency lessons were probably really easy. My guess is I actually managed to do it. I even think I learnt a few Legilimency tricks myself during those lessons with Snape, and maybe I managed to get inside Voldemort's head instead of the other way around."
Hermione's eyes were as big as saucers now. "Are you saying that you knew about his trap before he even sent you that vision?"
"Probably. And when he did … I knew exactly what kind of trick he was playing at, and I warned the Order."
"Umbridge probably let you use her fire without even asking who you were calling," Ron said with bitter amusement.
"Yes, you were probably in her Inquisitorial Squad," Hermione agreed.
"And because someone had to die …" said Harry sadly, "Lupin was the one hit with the Avada Kedavra curse."
They were all silent for several minutes.
"So, what now?" asked Hermione.
Harry got up from the bed. "There's still one thing I need to do." And he Disapparated before either of them could protest.
It was tricky to Apparate to a place you had never been to, but Harry actually managed to pinpoint the Malfoy Manor with astonishing certainty. He even appeared in the same room as the person he sought. A group of armchairs were facing a huge fireplace in what looked like a den or a living room, and Draco Malfoy was sitting in the foremost one.
He shot out of the chair as Harry Apparated with a loud pop! in front of him. "What the Hell are you doing here?!"
"Draco, I need to talk to you," Harry began, but was cut off.
"Get the fuck out of my house, Potter!"
"Your house? My, oh my, and here I thought it belonged to your father." He could not help but fall into the same pattern of mockery and hatred as usual.
"Not anymore," Draco said with gritted teeth.
"What d'you do to him? Kill him?"
"That's none of your business. Now get out!"
"No, not until I've got honest answers to my questions. Show me your arm."
Draco seemed taken aback by this request. "What?"
"Pull up your sleeve and show me your arm," Harry repeated patiently.
"Why would I do that? My arm is none of your bloody business. Get out of my house before I …"
But before Draco could finish that sentence, Harry had walked up to him and pulled the sleeve of Draco's emerald green silk shirt up himself. The boy's arm was pale white and untouched. "You didn't take it," he said in bafflement.
Draco swiftly withdrew his arm. "Take what?" he snapped.
Draco flinched. He looked as if he had just been slapped in the face. "Excuse me?" he said in a faint whisper.
Harry's confidence increased. "The Dark Mark—the mark of the Death Eaters," he elaborated impatiently. "Surely you must have heard of it; your father has it. You must have seen it dozens of times. Didn't he want you to take it when you had finally graduated from Hogwarts?"
Draco collected himself rather quickly. "Of course he did, but why would I? I don't want to serve anyone else than myself, Dark Lord or not. And that's more information than you need, Potter. Now leave."
Harry persistently shook his head. Strands of his raven fringe fell into his eyes. "I need to know something first. If you want me gone, you'll have to curse me."
For a moment they just stared at each other, Draco's grey eyes being even more fierce than usual. Then, at last, he sighed. "Alright, what do you want to know?"
He fell back into his armchair, looking sulky.
Harry straightened his back. "I want to know why you kissed me."
"I've never kissed you," Draco protested at once.
"Yes, you have. In seventh year, remember? It was November, and I was really beat after Quidditch practice, so I decided to take a walk. You stopped me in the Charms corridor, remember?"
The blonde was silent for a long while, then he said, "I wasn't myself that night. There was nothing to it, really. Just wanted to humiliate you the way you'd just humiliated me."
"Oh, I think there was more to it than that," Harry objected. "Why else would you ask me to take a walk with you in the moonlight? Why else would you have taken me down to the lake of all places?"
Draco evidently had no answer to this.
"Tell me, Malfoy … did you fancy me back then?"
This seemed to have a strong effect on the blonde. He shot up from the armchair anew and made to take a choke hold on Harry. "How dare you!?" he hissed furiously.
"Because, Draco, I think you made me fancy you," Harry went on without paying any attention to Draco's fury.
"Get out! Get out before I kill you myself!"
"I think I've fallen for you, Draco. I think I've been falling ever since that night, I just didn't realise it until now."
"Get the Hell away from me, you bloody disgusting poof! Get out and don't ever try to come near me again!"
"I'll be at Hermione's if you change your mind."
"How'd it go?" Hermione asked when he got back to her apartment in France. "He didn't try to curse you, or anything, did he?"
"How'd you know where I was going?" Harry asked in puzzlement.
"It was quite obvious, mate," Ron stated.
"Are you okay with this?" Harry was very surprised to find that Ron was even talking to him when he had actually gone to Malfoy to spill his guts.
"'Course I am, mate, I know how it feels to be in love with someone without getting to be with that person."
Hermione blushed. She had resisted Ron's charm for quite some time before surrendering to it.
"Oh, well, I think I might be up for another hundred years of waiting," Harry told them dejectedly.
They sat down to dinner at the kitchen table and talked about their studies. Harry could not miss too many more days of Auror training without being kicked out of the programme altogether, but suddenly he did not seem to care. At least the thought of Draco not taking the Mark gave him some comfort. That meant that he did not have to worry about tracking Draco down and putting him away in Azkaban. Maybe he was not such a bad person, after all? Maybe all that halfblood-crap and all the other things he had been preaching during their school years had only been a means for him to protect himself from the other scumbags in his house? Just like they had done in his alternate reality. Maybe his whole creep act was a defense mechanism. He could not stand up to his father without risking being killed, now, could he?
A sudden sound from the living room made them all fall silent with chunks of sausage and mash in their mouths, temporarily ignorant of how to chew food. They all looked out through the archway with their wands at the ready.
Draco Malfoy stepped into view.
"Do you know how hard it was to find you lot?" he asked in mock irritation, as if they were all old friends and this was one of their inside jokes.
Harry lowered his wand. "Thought things through, did you?" he asked.
"Yeah, and I realised you were right. That night was actually the only night during our whole time at Hogwarts that I was myself. The rest of the time, I was …"
"Yeah, pretending. You have no idea what it felt like to be in Slytherin," Draco sighed. "I thought it was going to be terrific, you know, but quite soon I realised that they were all jerks. I had to pretend I was one of them not to be beaten half to death."
"I think I have a pretty good idea what that felt like," Harry said, smiling.
Draco shifted his feet. He was not really looking at either of them, but was staring down at his own feet in awkwardness. "This isn't easy for me to admit, but when you left … I got scared," he drawled. "I tried to fight you off, because … Well, I've never let anyone get too close to me before, you know, and the thought of answering your question just freaked me out. If I'd answered, I'd've let you get close, you see, and I'm just not used to that."
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but Draco raised his hand to stop him. "You were right, you know," he said in a sad tone, "I did kill him."
Ron dropped his fork with a loud clink.
But Harry was not scared. He thought he understood exactly what had happened at the Manor. "He tried to force you to take the Mark, didn't he?" he stated.
Hermione and Ron were now staring at Harry in utter astonishment.
Draco nodded slowly. "Yes, and when I refused he tried to curse me. My own father tried to kill me. I only acted in self-defense."
"I know you did, Draco. Even though you can be pretty ferocious, you couldn't actually kill anyone."
The two of them actually laughed at this.
Hermione was fiddling with the dinner plates on the table. "Would you like some sausage and mash, Draco?" she wondered, and made to get up from the table to fetch another plate.
Draco was startled by her friendly offer to sit down at her table.
So was Ron. "Hermione!" he said forcibly.
She gave him a harsh look. "Ron! We agreed to be reasonable about this. You said yourself that you understand this about love, so just shut your big mouth and be polite to our guest!"
Now flushing crimson, Ron stared down at his half-finished potatoes. "Sorry, 'Minie."
They ate in silence. Hermione tried to get the conversation going a few times, but gave up when she realised that, at the moment, there was nothing that Harry and Draco wanted to say in front of the others. After dinner, they went out on the balcony. At first, they could not seem to find the words, but then Harry started to tell Draco about his trip back in time. The former Slytherin listened attentively to everything he said, and seemed genuinely surprised by the fact that their entire life would have been different if Harry had just shaken his hand once.
"We were partners?" he asked, baffled.
"Yes, apparently we did all those things together in that reality. Everything that I did, I mean. Like going to the Department of Mysteries, for example. Evidently, we were both there to fight the Death Eaters. Must've taken you a lot of time to gather up your courage before you decided to go against your father."
"Yeah, must have," Draco agreed.
The landscape beneath them was slowly getting darker. The sky was a blackish shape of purple.
"Harry … did you mean what you said back at the Manor?"
"That you were falling for me."
He unconsciously ran a hand through his already messy hair. "I was being totally honest. You made me fall for you that night. And I'm still falling. Recklessly."
At that, Draco gently forced him to turn his face around. The blonde placed a tentative, vulnerable kiss on his lips. Then, he said, "I think I'm falling for you, too."
Revised and updated 12-23-2015