Sirius' reply came faster than Harry could've thought possible, and with an exhausted Hedwig; the writing seemed hurried and excited, the signature almost undecipherable. But it was him alright, his godfather through and through.
Harry, it said.
I'm coming right this instant. I agree wholeheartedly on your views, but trust me on this; you want to plan thoroughly before taking any action.
Meet me at the Shrieking Shack at 6:00pm tomorrow.
I'm bringing an old colleague of mine. He'll help us, too.
See you soon,
Perfect, Harry thought. He'd be inconspicuous in the Shrieking Shack, and he was helping Harry! Beaming at the thought, Harry folded the letter and stuffed it inside his trunk at the end of his bed. He'd just have to figure out a way to sneak out after classes to meet him and whoever his colleague was. Harry mulled over this for a moment. Who'd Sirius bring that they could both trust completely and who had an inkling about complicated magic like this? He had no idea.
That Sunday seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye. Before he knew it, Harry was once again lying on his bed, trying (and failing) to fall asleep. His mind was whirring with possibilities and plans that he and Sirius would have to make. At least the dream had given him a few answers to start with. They'd have to go back to the year 1974, just when Voldemort's power was rising in the first war. The question was still where and how. The potion they needed to brew was far more complicated than anything he'd ever seen in his life. It contained more than two-hundred ingredients, half of them not stacked in the Hogwarts cabinets, and not less than a hundred steps, including letting it brew for as many days as hearts that were going to be using the vortex. It was another reason why Harry wanted to do this alone. At least it seemed quick. Harry easily remembered the Polyjuice Potion he'd made with Ron and Hermione in their second year. That had taken a month. Harry didn't have a month, now.
The spells had been pretty simple, or at least looked simple. They didn't involve lots of wand-waving, and he was sure Sirius would be able to make them work. But those came at the end, when the potion was done. Harry closed his eyes and images of Voldemort's bodiless eyes haunted him. They started to multiply, until his vision was filled to the brim with hungry red eyes like a serpents'. Then the laughter came; maniac, high, cold laughter. A flash of green light…
Harry bolted upright, and took a few shallow breaths. The few strands of hair that fell over his eyes were plastered onto his sweaty face. He looked around the dark room, faint light coming from the open window; it had been another nightmare. Looking at his watch, he realized it was six in the morning, and classes would start in two hours. Deciding he'd better start the day early and take a shower now, Harry stood up and made his way to the bathroom. He undressed and stepped into the cold running water. It flowed over his head, face, and body, relieving him of last night's stress. He spent around five minutes in the shower, and when he was done, he stepped out and quickly got into his school robes. Harry exited the bathroom and found Dean and Seamus already awake, but still in their pajamas. Ron, as usual, was snoring loudly behind the crimson curtains around his bed, as was Neville.
"Morning, Harry!" called Dean, who was sitting on his bed, talking to Seamus. Harry smiled and returned the greeting with a wave of his hand.
"Been up much?" he asked, walking over to his trunk to pick out the books he needed for his first lesson, and his wand. It was Seamus who answered, with a tone of both accusation and amusement.
"Your shower woke us up,"
"About time," Harry opined, grinning. Dean chucked a pillow at him, which he miraculously dodged. Being a seeker, Harry had amazing reflexes. He'd been told it had run in his family. He picked up the pillow from the ground and hurled it at Ron's bed. It zoomed through the curtains and a yelp was heard from the other side.
"Wuzzgoinon?" mumbled Ron, his tired, confused face appearing from the other side of his hangings. Dean and Seamus snickered. That had, apparently, woken Neville, too, who had sat up on his bed, his covers somehow on the floor.
"What time is it?" somebody asked, yawning.
"'Bout seven, I reckon," suggested Dean, standing up and walking toward the bathroom. "I call shower first!" he cried, shutting the door behind him as he passed. Harry threw his pajamas into his open trunk and then closed it. He looked out the window at the still-snowy grounds, in the direction of the Whomping Willow. In almost twelve hours, he'd meet Sirius.
He was supposed to be up in the Gryffindor Common Room, doing his homework, working on that essay for Charms, perhaps talking amongst his friends, laughing, having fun. He was, instead, sneaking outside, making his way to the Whomping Willow, the invisibility cloak that had once belonged to his father fluttering around him in the gusty wind. The sky was fully dark already, even if it was only a quarter to six, because it was midwinter. As he approached the menacing tree, his heart began to race. Harry clutched his wand and looked around him, making sure the area was safe; that he was absolutely alone.
The thick, strong branches of the Willow wavered threateningly on their spot. Harry quietly slipped off the cloak and stuffed it under his left arm. He aimed his wand at the tree and muttered, "Immobilus."
As if on cue, the Willow immediately stopped moving. Harry crouched down and peeked around the trunk, trying to find the hole that he knew would lead him to the Shrieking Shack. He found it, got onto his knees, and crawled inside. The air was damp inside, the soil ceiling getting lower by the minute. He crawled for what seemed like hours, until he finally found the trapdoor at the end of the tunnel, a sliver of light shining down from a creak at its edge. He pushed it open and heaved himself onto the wooden floor that surrounded him. Warily, Harry stood up and got his wand out. There was light coming from the room on the second floor. He made his way up the creaking staircase and stopped just outside a door. There were hushed voices coming from inside. Harry opened the door.
"Hello, Harry," called a pleasant voice to his right.
Sirius was sitting on the edge of an extremely shabby bed, looking completely different from when he'd last seen him. The convict look he'd acquired in Azkaban was gone, replaced by a handsome man in his late thirties, still wearing rather tattered and scruffy clothes, but with a brilliant smile plastered onto his face. Harry beamed.
"Sirius," he said, taking three long steps towards him. His godfather stood up and the two hugged. It was then that Harry noticed the other man in the room.
"Professor Lupin?" he inquired unbelievingly. Lupin stood up, smiling.
"An old friend of mine recently called for help. I couldn't say no to a marauder's son, could I?"
Harry grinned. He was standing in a room with his father's two best friends.
"Well, Harry," started Sirius, sitting back down on the bed. "Tell us all we need to know. We're in,"
Half an hour later, Sirius, Lupin, and Harry still sat in the Shrieking Shack, discussing events. Harry had told them everything he knew, starting with Voldemort's plan, to what they would need to do in order to create a time vortex.
"But the potion's the most complicated part of it," Harry reminded them for the third time. "Because we need lots of ingredients that we don't have,"
"You're forgetting, Harry, who you're with," Sirius signaled to himself and Lupin, smirking. "Once a marauder, always a marauder,"
Harry raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"I'll leave it to you two, then,"
"Anyway. We should get started as soon as possible, gain some time (pun not intended) before Voldemort forms his plan into action,"
Sirius clapped his hands together and rubbed them, as if building up for some big adventure.
"Would it be okay for you, Harry, if you met with us at least once every two days to see how the potion's going? After all, you're the one with the manuscript," Lupin reasoned, his brown eyes already thinking one step ahead.
"How long do you think it will take to finish?"
Sirius thought for a moment, and then looked at Lupin.
"A week?" he consulted, and received a nod. "Yes, at the most, I think. Don't forget we have to let it brew for three days,"
Frowning, Harry shook his head.
"No, no, it's only one day. Apparently it's a day per person who travels. That's out biggest advantage against Voldemort. He's planning on taking Blood Snatchers,"
"Ah, but that, Harry, is where you are wrong," Sirius half-smiled, putting an arm around his shoulders. "We're going with you,"
Harry jumped off the bed, wearing an expression of utter shock.
"What!? No! Why?"
"Did you really think we'd let you do this alone?" Lupin asked, frowning a little.
"Y-yes, I mean. This is something I need to do. You don't have to get involved. I wouldn't have asked you if I could've done the magic on my own," Harry stumbled over his words, desperately trying to convey his meaning.
"Come off it, Harry. We're coming whether you like it or not. Trust me; you're not the only one with the Wizarding World's best interest at heart,"
Harry stared at Sirius, then at Lupin. He decided they were serious (once more, no pun intended).
"All right, three days, then." He mumbled, pondering over this new plan. Sirius grinned and squeezed him into a one-armed half-hug.
"That's my boy,"
"Anyway, once we get to whatever year we have to get to, I think one of us should stay at Hogwarts and keep an eye on the future Death Eaters," Lupin announced, eyeing Sirius. Harry had an inkling of where this was going, but before he could complain, something else struck him.
"Well, yes. We think Voldemort might be planning on going somewhere in or near the castle. He'd want to have the satisfaction of doing it right under Dumbledore's nose," Sirius explained carefully, standing up and starting to pace.
"So, as Remus was saying, I think it's best if you stayed at Hogwarts and-"
"I'm not staying behind!" Harry interjected angrily, standing up as well.
"Not staying behind, Harry. We just need somebody to check that everything's going as normal and that Voldemort's not yet recruited his old followers," Lupin added, as if trying to reason with a child. Harry shook his head.
"No. I came up with this plan. You can't make me sit back and watch! I want to fight!"
"There won't be any fighting. And you wouldn't be sitting back. You'd be mingling with whoever's at Hogwarts during that year, and observing enemy territory from the inside. Sirius and I will most probably be around the school grounds, and outside them, searching for any sign of a time vortex,"
Harry frowned, still unconvinced. "And what if you do find it?"
"We'd immediately summon you and you'd come and investigate further with us, I promise," affirmed his godfather, stopping his pacing to smile down at him.
How had he come to agree to everything they said, again? Well, at least he could make the most out of this and try to explore Hogwarts on his own.
"But you need a story, of course," noted Lupin, scratching his chin.
"Yes, I mean, what are you going to say to everyone when they realize you weren't there for your first three Hogwarts years?"
"Oh," Harry admitted.
Sirius was back to pacing, and a few seconds later, he snapped his fingers.
"Always the first one to come up with a good excuse, he was…" mumbled Lupin, smiling a little at a long-forgotten memory. Sirius ignored this and walked over to them.
"So, Harry. Your father, a muggle called Jacob Parker, married an Italian witch named Linda Esiccionni, and moved to Italy with her. They had you, and you turned out to have magical powers, like your mom. But your dad didn't want to send you to Hogwarts, like Linda wanted, and so she had you homeschooled. A month ago, your father died, and your mom sent a letter to Dumbledore, who agreed to have you at Hogwarts. You just arrived, and were sorted into Gryffindor, and voila!" Sirius finished with a small flourish of his hand, and grinned.
"I'm impressed," acknowledged Lupin, nodding.
Harry laughed. "That's actually really good,"
"Thank you," replied Sirius, accepting the compliments, "Now, all we need to know is the date, and you're set!"
Harry realized he'd forgotten to mention the year he'd found.
"Oh, that's easy. We're going to have to go to 1974," he said offhandedly. He was about to add something to Sirius' story when he realized his audience had gone silent. He looked up. Sirius and Remus were looking at each other, both their eyes fogged with distant memories, a sad smile creeping onto their faces.
Sirius turned to face him, the sad smile still there.
"That, Harry, was the year your father, your mother, Moony here, and myself, were exactly your age."
Harry stood frozen on the spot, a chilling sensation making its way up his spine.
"So, that means –if I'm going to be staying at Hogwarts-…"
"That means that, for as long as we're there, you'll be the fifth marauder,"
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