Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Puppet of Time
Draco ended the spell and leant back in the chair. He felt a headache coming. "It looks like everything is as it should be. I think your mind is actually a bit better protected than my own. I'm not good enough at legilimency to say more."
Ginny nodded in acceptance before she rubbed her forehead. "Thank you. The headache is annoying."
"I know. Unfortunately there is no way to avoid it. You would need someone much more experienced than me for that."
Draco could cast the spell, yes, and he had enough skill not to act like a figurative bull in a china shop, but that was pretty much the extent of his mind-reading abilities. Part of the reason was that even with his future self's memories he just didn't seem to have much natural talent in that area of magic. Lack of practice made probably up the rest. It wasn't as if he could run around and randomly mind-probe other people.
"Are you really sure everything is alright?" Ginny asked. "I don't want to take chances."
"I'm not a mind healer, Ginny. I can check once or twice per month for another year if you want, but I doubt I will be able to catch anything but the most obvious of problems. Your split mind has healed just as Grandfather said it would, hasn't it?"
The red-headed girl nodded. "I'm worried about Dumbledore doing something. I think he looked into my mind a few times since your grandfather's death."
"You already said that. Did he do that recently?"
"No, the last time was before the Christmas holidays. I still had the double mind thing going then."
"Then I don't think you have anything to worry about." He looked at Ginny. The girl seemed a bit uneasy. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes… I mean, I'm not sure. Recently I'm getting déjà vu when doing schoolwork. Not always, but sometimes. It's as if I already know things, but only remember when I actually study them."
Draco frowned. That could be rather problematic. "Maybe they are impressions left behind by Tom Riddle? Grandfather mentioned that as a possibility, but said not to worry as long as there aren't any true memory flashes. I wish I could tell you more, but…"
"… but you aren't a mind healer." Ginny finished. "I know, but you are the closest thing to one I am able to talk with."
"I don't see an option aside from waiting and seeing what happens." Draco said after a few seconds of consideration. "If it gets worse we'll have to think of something."
Ginny didn't look happy, but she didn't offer further argument. Draco wanted to help her. He just didn't think he could.
"It's time for us to get back."
Together the pair left the secret room, making sure nobody saw them. Normally they used random rooms in abandoned sections of the castle, but the nature of the spell used meant that they were pretty much dead to the world. They couldn't risk someone stumbling over them.
Not much of note happened in the following time. School life continued as always. Days turned into weeks until finally the Easter holidays approached. The weather slowly got warmer as spring crept into the Scottish mountains, although it seemed as if winter was unwilling to let Hogwarts slip out of its grasp. The dementors probably had something to do with that.
The foul things seemed to be getting steadily closer to the castle. Draco had written his father and mother several times and prompted a few students with influential parents to do the same, but nothing had come of it. For some Merlin-forsaken reason the Ministry seemed dead-set on keeping the dementors in place. Even the older Draco had never found out why. He really hoped it wouldn't end with someone's soul getting sucked out.
One day Draco was sitting in a courtyard together with Morag, Daphne, Stephen and a few other people. It was a rare sunny day and the group wanted to spend some time outside before the afternoon classes resumed.
Draco offered a bag full of his summer candies. "Does anyone want any candies? These are the last remaining."
"Always." "Sure." "Thanks, Draco."
An old voice intruded. "Might I ask for a sample as well, Mr. Malfoy?"
Draco jumped in surprise. Somehow Dumbledore had managed to sneak up on them. He immediately caught himself, cutting off all suspicious thoughts and hiding them in the depths of his mind. "Of course, sir."
Dumbledore popped the sweet into his mouth. After a few seconds he sighed. "Ah, the taste of summer." He scrutinized Draco over the edge of his glasses. "Alchemical candies, Mr. Malfoy? A worthy pursuit, but aren't you a trifle young for delving into the mysteries of alchemy? It is a very difficult and dangerous art, after all."
"I only dabble, sir. I wouldn't think of making anything more advanced. The candies are absolutely harmless, both in creation and consumption."
"Quite so. I started with them as well, although I bound the crispness of spring instead of the richness of summer." For a few seconds Dumbledore seemed to be looking into the distance at something only he could see, a fond smile playing around his lips. Then his attention returned to the present. "Mr. Malfoy, if you decide to continue the pursuit of the art I hope to see you in my alchemy class in a few years. So few people show any interest these days. They are open to anyone who passed the OWLs, although I dare say you will require much knowledge in potions, herbology and transfiguration to make sense of the topic."
"I'm planning on it. I already look forward to it, sir."
"I'm glad to hear that, my boy. Well, I have taken up enough of your time. Have a good day."
"That was strange." Morag remarked when Dumbledore had disappeared.
Draco shrugged. "Not really. The Headmaster is probably the best alchemist in Britain, not that that is saying much. Frankly, I expected him to ask me much earlier in the year. It isn't as if I made a secret of the candies."
When they returned to class Draco still thought about Dumbledore in addition to checking if the old man had invaded his mind – which didn't seem to be the case. After the conviction of muggle baiting much life seemed to have gone out of the Headmaster, making him look much frailer and older. In a way Draco pitied the old man. His life's reputation was being destroyed.
Ginny thought Dumbledore evil. Draco disagreed as he generally tried to avoid thinking in categories of good and evil. He was much more concerned with intended effect and likelihood of success to reach that effect.
As far as the older Draco had been able to tell Dumbledore was honestly convinced that his way was the right way and gave the best result for everyone involved. It wasn't as if he did it for purely selfish reasons or just to be an evil bastard. It probably cost him a great deal of internal struggle to act the way he did regarding Harry and Ginny. Of course, he was mistaken and did a great deal of damage to their society in the process, both by his active influence and his inaction in other matters. Some of it had been completely nonsensical.
Draco had only to think of the other Draco's sixth year. While trying to murder Dumbledore on Voldemort's orders this other, rather pathetic version of him had almost killed several students as collateral damage, used the Imperius-curse on at least one person and presented a clear danger to the student body at large. Heck, when he finally succeeded in bringing Death Eaters into the castle it was a miracle that nobody had died.
Dumbledore had done absolutely nothing to stop him. As far as Draco could piece together that had been because of a combination of 'he was only a child', 'was forced to do it by Voldemort' and 'could be redeemed'. That mindset had persisted even after Dumbeldore's death, meaning the other Draco had gotten off scot-free when Voldemort was finally defeated. The same had been true for a lot of other people involved… and it had set up the next round of civil war about twenty-five years later.
The other Draco had profited from that enormously, but from a broader perspective that mindset and policy was extremely poisonous, especially because Dumbledore was in a position to spread it widely.
It was more dangerous to be Dumbledore's friend than his enemy. The old man would endanger his charges and sacrifice his allies for little, uncertain or no gain. Guarding the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries instead of simply destroying the orb or the insanity that was the Seven Potter Plan came to mind.
Sometimes Draco wondered what exactly was going on in the Headmaster's head. That would have been a case study for the mind healers, Draco was sure. Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard in Britain at the current time. If he had wanted to he would have been easily able to outright murder many of Voldemort's inner circle after Harry witnessed the resurrection without anyone being able to stop him.
With the inner circle gone Voldemort would pretty much lose the ability to garner support in Britain. While still the second most powerful wizard in the land, alone he couldn't do much besides terrorist strikes. Without a support structure he would be hunted down sooner rather than later.
Draco loved his dead grandfather, but he was well aware that very many people would rightfully consider him an evil man had they known all of his actions. Had he been in Dumbledore's position… well, the second Voldemort war would never have happened. Neither would the organized murder of muggleborns and halfbloods in the time of Voldemort's control over the Ministry.
The Horcrux Hunt, Dumbledore's final scheme had required extreme luck and unforeseeable factors to succeed. Even with all Horcruxes destroyed Voldemort would still have been alive if things had gone slightly differently.
Another problem was that Dumbledore trusted nobody else with complete information, making all decisions on his own. That was a trap Draco feared as well. It would be only too easy to become someone who took no counsel and caused great harm to his own goals, not to mention collateral damage. Draco was feeling the weight of his knowledge more and more.
He had kept secrets from his grandfather. He kept secrets from his friends. It was only too easy to go down a bad path because there was nobody who could and would say 'this is wrong' or 'that is an idiotic way of doing things'.
'If only we were older…' he thought when he glanced at Morag.
Draco would like to trust his friends. He needed to talk with someone about his plans, but there were all so young. One slip at the wrong time was all it would take to bring everything crashing down. Ginny knew the most due to simple necessity, but she knew far from all.
'I can only hope that nothing urgent comes up. Well, it isn't as if I can do much at the current time.' He sighed mentally. 'At least I can go home soon. I miss Mother.'
"Make yourself at home, Harry. For the Easter holidays my house is your house."
"Thank you, sir. I will."
"Please, there's no need for the formality when we are in private. Call me Cornelius."
Harry looked around curiously once the man had left. The bedroom looked unused. It was a bit smaller than the room he had lived in Bones Manor, but not by much. After shoving his trunk into a corner, Harry sat down on the bed.
All this was due to his new trio of guardians. The winter holidays he had spent at Bones Manor with his friends Susan and Hannah. Easter was Minister Fudge's turn. During the beginning of summer he was supposed to stay with the Malfoys.
'I still can't believe I won't see the Dursleys ever again.'
Vernon, Petunia and Marge had ended up in prison. Dudley had been placed with a foster family. All had been made to forget magic and Harry's existence. As far as the muggle records were concerned he had spent his childhood in an entirely different part of the country. In a way it was scary how easily wizards could control the muggles and make them do something. Awesome, but scary.
Soon Harry was called down for dinner. It was a small affair, with only him and Cornelius Fudge there. The Minister for Magic was a portly little man with a penchant for pinstriped cloaks. He didn't leave a positive impression with Harry when he met him after he ran away from Privet Drive during the last summer, but now he seemed to put in quite a bit of effort to make up for it as they spoke about things to do during the holidays.
"Do I really have to?" Harry asked when visiting a big party came up. "When I stayed with Madam Bones there wasn't anything like that."
Fudge set down the cutlery he was holding. "The people want to see you, Harry, make sure you are okay. Madam Bones argued back in the winter that everything was still too fresh and would put you under too much pressure, but now that everything is cleared up you have to act like every young man of your social standing. That means appearing on public events. Neither the Boy-who-lived nor the last Potter can just live as nobodies."
"Can't I be just Harry?"
The Minister sighed. "I fear you can't, not considering your role in You-know-who's downfall. It was a bad time back then, Harry. You young people can't imagine how bad. I don't want to think about how it would have ended without you."
"Yes, you. You brought You-know-who low. Without him the Death Eaters fell apart." He turned around to stare into the fireplace. "I was the Head of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes towards the end of the war. I saw more than most of the aftermath of the various attacks. Terrible, terrible times…"
For a few moments Fudge was looking at someone only he could see in the flames, his eyes unfocussed. Then he shook his head. "Please excuse me, Harry, I was lost in thought. Bad memories, you understand."
Harry nodded. "Of course, si-… Cornelius." He had some bad memories of his own. The basilisk… Quirrel… the Dursleys…
They talked about a few harmless topics until they returned to the upcoming party. "Harry, can you tell me what bothers you so much about this? I just don't understand your objections."
Harry didn't know how to answer that at first. "It… It's the attention. I just don't know how to deal with that." he finally got out.
The older man eyed him with a thoughtful expression. "Yes, of course, there was nobody to teach how things work outside of Hogwarts. Madam Bones' niece is such a shy girl and hasn't been in society much. Well, it seems it falls to me to show you the ropes. There are ways to manage public impressions. Perhaps the most important lesson is to always keep your composure."
They spend the rest of the day practicing grimaces before the mirror. The Minister had an astounding repertoire of facial expression and talent to change his voice according to the image he wanted to project. On the next day Fudge showed him way to carry himself and how he had to act towards certain people. Harry thought most of it was bollocks, but he kept that to himself.
In the end the party wasn't quite as bad as Harry had feared. Yes, he was passed around like an especially interesting animal, but thankfully some of his housemates from Hogwarts stood ready to rescue him before he started to scream in frustration.
When the Easter holidays drew to a close Harry came to the conclusion that Cornelius Fudge wasn't actually that bad. He had still not forgiven him for throwing Hagrid into Azkaban in second year, but when Harry complained about the Dementors drawing ever closer to Hogwarts Fudge seemed to take him seriously. Perhaps the Hagrid matter had simply been a mistake.
"When was the last time we did something as a couple?"
"That was… let me think a second…"
Daphne waited in silence while Draco began frowning as he thought. She already knew it had been around the middle of April that they had spent time together as anything resembling boyfriend and girlfriend. Now it was June and she had only realized that fact when Tracey Davis asked her about it.
At some point along the way she and Draco had simply returned to being friends. They stopped kissing and holding hands. The flutter in her stomach was no longer there. Daphne still enjoyed Draco's company, but no longer in that way.
Draco had finally finished his attempt to recall the information Daphne had asked for. "Um, I think that was the third week of April? When we visited Hogsmeade together? After that we never went alone." He looked surprised at himself. "Huh, I didn't notice it had been that long."
"Then I suppose we aren't really a couple anymore." Draco said hesitantly after a few awkward seconds. "I'm sorry?"
Daphne nodded. It was a strange feeling. She knew that she had loved Draco. Now she didn't. Well, she still loved him as a dear friend, but it wasn't the same. "Merlin, this is awkward. Isn't a couple supposed to have a tearful breakup when they can't stay together any longer?"
Draco shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."
Another few seconds of awkward silence followed.
"What do we do now?"
"I don't know." Draco repeated himself. "Do we have to do something? How about we just continue being friends? Maybe the feelings will come back?"
"Maybe." Then she added hesitantly. "Would you mind if I date someone else in future? Would that bother you? Not that I have anyone, I just want to know your opinion."
Draco seemed to think for several seconds, his attention focused inwards. "I don't think I would mind seeing you with another boy. Strange. I would not have expected that. How about you?"
Seeing Draco with another girl… it didn't really bother her when she thought about it. The situation was almost surreal. She had never imaged a relationship ending on such a quiet note while the friendship persisted. Nor would she have expected having such a conversation with her ex-boyfriend. "I wouldn't mind, either. Well, at least if she isn't some chit who only wants to use you."
Draco smiled at that and held out his hand. "Friends?"
Daphne smiled and took it. "Friends."
Aquila watched the tragedy for several minutes. It was the same as yesterday. Then she sighed theatrically, making her presence known. "You won't achieve anything that way, you know."
Harry flinched before turning around. "How long have you been watching me?"
"Long enough. Is that supposed to be a dance?"
"Draco showed me the steps, but, well…"
"I see. Something has to be done. If this is all you can do you will be humiliated at the Midsummer Ball. It's important to make a good showing, especially because it will be your first. That leaves only one thing to do." She stepped closer to him and held out her arms. "Let's do this. Take my hand."
Harry only gaped at her.
"You will be catching flies if you don't close your mouth." she said after a few seconds.
Harry's mouth snapped shut. "What?" he finally managed to get out.
Aquila rolled her eyes. Then she stepped even closer and put her arms akimbo while looking directly into Harry's eyes. "You don't know to dance. I will teach you. Now man up and get ready."
Harry tried to say something, but failed. His eyes roamed around the room unsteadily while avoiding meeting hers, making it seem as if he was looking for a way to escape. Apparently he was in that phase when he was getting extremely nervous around girls. It was funny to see the black-haired boy squirm, Aquila found.
When Harry made no effort to take her up on her offer she decided to take matters into her own hands and reached out. Harry backed away. She continued approaching him and he backed away further until his back hit the wall of the room. Considering that Harry was almost a head taller than her the image they presented was probably immensely comical.
A sudden flash made Harry blink, but Aquila had expected it.
"Hixy did as young mistress asked." a tinny voice sounded from the door.
"Excellent. You did well, Hixy."
"What was that?" Harry asked when the house elf popped away.
Aquila smiled sweetly. "Oh, I wanted to keep your reaction for posterity."
Before Harry could say anything Aquila took his hands in her own and positioned them correctly for the dance Harry had been trying to learn. Harry immediately seized up, but when Aquila started moving he followed.
Really, boys were so predictable. 'You would think Harry would be more used to girls considering that he hangs out with Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot the entire time.'
Then again, both girls were shy, Susan especially, and didn't really seem to have noticed boys as such. Justin Finch-Fletchley, Harry's closest friend, didn't seem to have developed interest in girls yet, either. Harry began to show interest, but clearly he was at a loss how to handle such things. If she could help him getting more used to such things she would do so… and all the while having her fun.
Aquila was aware that she was one of the prettiest girls at Hogwarts and the effect she had on some boys. Teasing and flirting was something she enjoyed, although her mother had warned her about going too far.
Discomforting Harry was fun, but she didn't intend to tease him too much. He might get the idea that she was interested in him and that simply wasn't the case. Theodore had become more obvious in paying his attentions during the last months and persistence should be rewarded.
Once Hogwarts started Aquila intended to give him what he wanted, namely becoming his girlfriend. She could do worse for a first boyfriend and he had been quite nice. He and Pansy were betrothed, but that meant very little. They certainly weren't a couple in the romantic sense.
"Sorry." Harry said when he suddenly stepped on her toes.
"I barely felt it. A permanent cushioning charm has been cast on the shoes. I believe in preparation."
They continued practicing for over three hours before she let Harry get some rest and returned to her room to freshen up. Then she began to search for her brother. They had the manor to themselves and it was never easy to find him.
Mother and Father were almost constantly away, working on their political connections. Apparently they were some arguments about who was in charge and which faction should get what positions now that many Dumbledore supporters had been removed from the Ministry. From what she gathered the situation was rather serious.
Draco was playing around with his alchemy stuff every time he got an unsupervised moment. It was really quite abominable how her brother neglected Harry and very out of character for him. Aquila suspected he had some new, important plot going on. Unfortunately he was holding tight. It was frustrating that he wouldn't share his secrets even with his own sister, but all her attempts had come to nothing. She wouldn't go to their parents about it, but she was slowly running out of ideas.
Finally she managed to track down Draco when he just entered the house. "Where have you been? I had to entertain Harry all alone… again."
"Doing alchemy. Experimenting"
"Oh? And what exactly are those experiments that take up so much time?"
"This and that."
That was another non-answer. Draco was blocking her again. She just couldn't stand it any longer. There was a metaphorical final arrow in her quiver she hadn't used yet. Perhaps now was the time to use it and see if that broke through her brother's countenance.
"Are you and Ginny Weasley a couple?" Aquila asked.
For a moment it seemed as if Draco didn't understand the question. Then he began to sputter. "WHAT? No, we aren't. There isn't anything going on between us."
Aquila put on a skeptical expression. "So you say. I don't believe you. I know you spent time with her away from everyone when you were still seeing Daphne. What am I supposed to think?"
Draco's eyes narrowed and he calmed down. Apparently he was catching on. Then his expression changed and he sighed. Suddenly he looked very tired and much older than his years. In fact, to Aquila he looked almost as tired as her Black relatives and Grandfather and they had been very old people. It was very unsettling and she wondered if she had gone too far.
"That was a low blow. It is just I have to help her with something. I'm very sorry, sister, but I can't tell you. I want to, but I just can't. Too much depends on everything going smoothly in the near future. One word in the wrong ear and everything will go to pieces."
"What are you talking about?"
"I know things I have no right of knowing. It is such a burden. I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
Now he was really unsettling her. "Can't you get help?"
Draco gave her a sad, bitter smile. "What adult can I trust? Grandfather knew some of it, but I learned most of it only once he was dead. Mother and Father would use what I know to advance their own agenda and probably ruin us all in the process. Unfortunately most of the other adults we have access to would take exactly the opposite course of action from what is needed."
Suddenly something clicked in Aquila's mind. "Is this about You-know-who?"
"Yes. Him and others." Draco turned to look out of the window. "He is still, well not alive, but still there as some sort of wraith. He possessed Quirrel in my first year. Harry took him out, but he will return."
Aquila suddenly felt very cold. "Harry never talked about that."
"I suspect he was compelled not to, the same as his three friends. They were there, although not for the final part. Nobody would listen to Justin and Hannah isn't from an important family either, but if Susan had told her aunt that Dumbledore deliberately created a trap for You-know-who at Hogwarts? That would have consequences." He looked thoughtful. "On the other hand, maybe Madam Bones does know by now. That would explain why she allied with Umbridge and Father."
"How do you know that? Why are you telling me this now?"
Draco gave her a tired look. "I probably shouldn't, but you simply won't give it a rest. I'm tired, sister. I need someone to check my plans and conclusions, assuring that I don't go off the deep end. Currently I can only hope that I'm doing the right thing."
"Why can't I be the one?"
Her brother made to answer, then stopped and gave her a thoughtful look. "Tell you what, if you manage to master occlumency enough by the end of summer I will tell you before we return to Hogwarts. Not everything, but what is relevant to our current situation. You probably won't thank me once you know. I want you to promise me something in return. Firstly, please don't ask again or tell anyone. Secondly, can you make sure Harry feels at home and fits into our society? I would do it myself, but I'm working on something really important and just don't have the time."
'Well, that is progress, at long last.'
"I promise." She paused. "Although I'm already doing the second part. Harry really needs help with his dancing."
Draco patted her shoulder. "I'm sure you are doing a good job."
Aquila smiled. "I have the elves taking pictures."
The days to the midsummer ball passed by in a rush. Harry needed help with so many things. It was as if he didn't know in the slightest how to move and behave in society.
Normally Aquila's mother and father would have done something about it, but both were just so busy. Apparently several families were growing restless, threatening to dissolve their political coalition now that they had achieved victory. They wanted their spoils after lasting through the political battle of last year. Umbridge was always trying to grab more power and nobody really knew what Madam Bones was up to. Her father ranted long and hard about Crouch, who was trying to get back into the spotlight by organizing the Quidditch World Cup and reviving the Triwizard Tournament.
In the end the Midsummer Ball was a full success. Thanks to her tutoring Harry managed to make an adequate showing. Susan Bones and Neville Longbottom were there for the first time, too, and both behaved themselves as according to their station.
Aquila enjoyed herself, but making sure that Harry behaved appropriately was quite tiring.
'I wonder if that is how Mother felt when she had to shepherd us …'
'That utter fool…'
Draco wordlessly stared at the image showing the full Death Eater garb draped over the wooden mannequin. He had really hoped his father would be smarter this time around, but no. Lucius was polishing his mask right now, looking like he was humming a ditty.
Shaking his head in disgust, Draco waved his hand and the image in the silver bowl returned to a simple reflection. His scrying ability was slowly but surely improving. If he had been trying to look through the protective spells from the outside things would have been much different, but the progress was still clear.
'And to think it took the other me decades to discover that he even had the talent…'
The other him had never taken divination classes and Trelawney didn't teach that aspect anyway. It was always about the future with her. Oh, much of it was buried in some books in the Hogwarts library, but he would never have thought of trying it out. There were far too many different magical skills and techniques to try them all out.
The Quidditch World Cup was coming up and it seemed as if the Death Eater raid was still about to happen. Unfortunately there wasn't anything Draco could do about it. There was another possible opportunity, though: Bartemius Crouch junior would possibly be there.
He didn't know if Barty would actually be there. He didn't know if he would free himself from the Imperius. He didn't know if he would cast the dark mark. It was still the best opportunity to remove the rabid Death Eater from the game… permanently. That would throw a wrench into Voldemort's resurrection. Hopefully Barty could be removed without tarnishing Crouch senior. That man would be useful to keep around.
Of course, all that neglected to mention the biggest problem: Draco would have to personally kill another human… and he wasn't sure if he could do it. His older self had mentioned the possibility, but didn't rate it as very urgent. Draco disagreed. If he could head off Voldemort's restoration to full power he would do so. His older self might not have cared about dozens of innocent witches and wizards dying, but the young him couldn't and wouldn't accept that.
'No sense fretting about it now. I will try to do it. I only have to set up things in a way that I can back out if it turns out I can't do it.'
The last days before the Quidditch World Cup passed quickly. Draco hid a wand from the family collection in his robes and appropriated a set of Aquila's night-vision goggles, but took no other potentially suspicious actions apart from keeping his alchemy project going. Once finished it should take care of that nasty Goblet of Fire, but the substance he needed was extremely difficult to create. It required very precise timing in between the steps. Unfortunately that had caused him to neglect Harry a bit while he was staying with them.
Draco would have liked to tip off the Ministry about the upcoming raid, but with his father among the Death Eaters he didn't want to risk it. Lucius getting into legal trouble would be very bad for his own future.
On the day of the game the Malfoys arrived at the enormous Quidditch Stadium via portkey. It was the largest gathering of wizards Draco had ever seen. Quidditch was very popular across Europe. In addition, it drew a considerable crowd from other countries who wanted to see what those wacky Europeans were up to.
While Draco personally didn't care for Quidditch in the slightest visiting the World Cup was just the thing to be done. He didn't dislike it either, so he considered it a day well spent.
Draco's family had prime seats in the Top Box, of course. A few familiar faces were already there.
"Hey, Harry, Susan, Hannah, Justin."
The Hufflepuff Quartet greeted him in return. "Hey, Draco, Aquila."
After spending the beginning of the summer with Draco's family Harry had moved on to live with the Bones at the mid of July. Aside from a few encounters at parties and other social occasions Draco had not really met wither either Harry or Susan since then.
Draco was about to talk with them a bit more, but his father pulled him along to talk with some people from Bulgaria. Minister Fudge, both Notts and Daphne's uncle were already engaged in conversation, although Draco got the impression that Theo was only there to keep up appearances and be seen. Just like Draco, in a way. They shared an understanding look as soon as the attention of the adults turned away from them. Sometimes belonging to an important family was suffering, especially as the Bulgarian Minister pretended not to understand English.
Draco took note of how Theo was paying special attention to his sister. He had done that for several months. Draco didn't mind particularly. Someone would have to be Aquila's first boyfriend and Theo was better than a lot of others. Draco trusted him to be honorable enough to not push Aquila into anything she didn't want.
Finally the torture ended and they could take their seats.
'Crouch's house elf is here. Excellent.' he thought when he spotted the small creature.
The seat to the side appeared to be empty. For now Draco did nothing about it. He would need to be unobserved to do anything.
The teams were different from what the older Draco's memories showed. The Bulgarians were still there (albeit with three different players), but they were not playing against the Irish. Instead the French had taken their place.
It was only the last in a series of changes Draco was beginning to notice. Starting from about age seven, he had watched different children being born. Most of the adult world showed considerable inertia, but by now the changes were adding up. It didn't say good things about the continued accuracy of his future knowledge.
Suddenly Draco realized what that meant for the team mascots, a fact that somehow had escaped his notice before. 'Oh Merlin, that's twice the Veela.'
The mascots didn't disappoint. They were… distracting, to say the least. Harry and Justin were pretty badly affected and tried to jump right from the box into the stadium. Susan and Hannah barely managed to stop them.
Most of the other males in the Top Box were affected to a degree or another, but nobody lost control and made a fool of themselves. The rest of the stadium was a madhouse. Even after both Veela mascot teams left it didn't get any quieter.
Draco had to keep himself from rolling his eyes. 'Quidditch fans.'
Then the game started. Draco paid barely any attention to the players. Instead he observed the other people in the box. He didn't want to miss his opportunity.
The French made the first points and quickly consolidated their lead. Then the fouls started happening. One was apparently particularly egregious because even the people in the Top Box jumped to their feet, shouting. It was the perfect opportunity. Draco removed the second wand from his cloak and cast a basic tracking spell at the seemingly empty seat beside the house elf, the mumbled words disappearing in the background of shouts.
Draco did pay a bit more attention to the game after that. At least it took his mind off from what would happen in a few hours. He could appreciate the flying skills, but the rest of the game held very little appeal for him. A glance at Harry showed Draco that the black-haired boy was completely enthralled by the match, though.
'Well, it seems as if somebody will try to join the Hufflepuff Quidditch team next year.'
It had been only a question of time, Draco supposed. In the end he was fairly neutral about the matter. His first year intervention's main purpose had simply to prevent Harry from standing out and preventing the faculty from gaining additional leverage over him.
Finally the game ended when the Bulgarian seeker Krum caught the snitch. The final score was one hundred eighty to one hundred forty in favor for the Bulgarians.
Draco struggled to maintain his composure through the next hours. He was always surrounded by a throng of important families, Ministry members and foreign visitors of note. He had more important things to worry about, but unfortunately his parents' and family's standing required him to play along.
The time until they retired to their tent seemed endless, but finally his mother extracted him and Aquila from the gathering. Lucius was talking with Daphne's uncle Liam and gave them a nod when they left the big tent.
"How did you like the Quidditch World Cup?" Narcissa asked when they were in the privacy of their tent.
Draco shrugged. "It was alright, I guess. Too loud."
"Until the fouls started the game was quite boring, if you ask me." Aquila said.
Their mother quirked an eyebrow, clearly amused. "Don't let your father hear that. He isn't the most fanatic Quidditch fan, but he does like the game."
Privately Draco suspected his father only liked Quidditch to spite his grandfather, but he kept that thought to himself.
"Be that as it may, try to get some rest. We will have to leave in about four hours."
Aquila was clearly confused. "Why? We could have returned home immediately. Why bring the tent in the first place?"
Draco's mother sighed. "To keep up appearances. Lucius is planning on doing something very stupid with some of his old 'friends'." The last word had considerable venom applied to it. "I have been unable to persuade him to relent." She turned towards Draco. "You don't seem surprised."
"I'm not. I saw you-know-what in father's study. He isn't as careful as he should be."
Narcissa looked at the ceiling. "Why am I not surprised? Sometimes you are too clever by half, Draco. Back to the matter at hand, gather anything you don't want to lose. The elves will transport it back to the manor. The tent might not survive the night."
By now Aquila had apparently caught on. "By father's old friends you mean…?"
"Better not to speak the name, but yes, I'm referring to a group with a penchant for silver masks in the shape of skulls." She raised her hand. "No discussion. Simply do as I said."
Draco actually managed to get three hours of sleep until his mother woke him again. A quick check in an unobserved moment showed that Crocuh jr. was still somewhere in the tent city. Apparently the older Crouch had not found the time to return his imperiused son to his home.
The outside had grown silent as even the most ardent revelers had turned in for the night. It meant nobody noticed when Draco left with his mother and sister. Soon they reached the edge of the forest.
'This is my chance.'
"I'll try to find some of my friends and warn them. They shouldn't be caught unawares. I'll be back soon." Draco shouted.
Before his mother could react Draco ducked into the undergrowth and started running.
"Draco! Come back here!"
He didn't pay any attention to the shout. Instead he continued running. Not even a minute had passed before shouts erupted in the tent city and lights began to appear. The Death Eater parade had begun.
Once Draco was at a safe distance he put the night-vision goggles he had swiped from Aquila over his eyes. Then he took his second wand in hand, casting the spell to point him into the direction of his target. It was currently at the edge of the tent area and about to move deeper into the woods. He immediately took up pursuit.
It took Draco long minutes until he spotted his target in the distance. Crouch's house elf was fighting with something invisible. Suddenly the small creature was thrown away and collided with a tree, slumping to the ground dazed. A clump of bushes rustled as someone invisible forced his way through.
Carefully walking closer, Draco stunned the house elf as soon as he could hit her reliably. It wouldn't do for her to interfere. Then he followed Crouch junior who seemed to have stopped moving.
Crouch was standing in the center of a clearing with only his head and arm visible, looking into the sky and apparently talking to himself.
Draco felt his wand hand shaking. This was it, the moment of truth. If he could manage to take Crouch out it might turn the entire Voldemort situation around, preventing dozens of deaths. All it would take was a simple spell to end a man's life… and he still wavered.
Suddenly Crouch seemed to come to a decision and raised his wand. "Morsmor-"
"Sectumsempra!" Draco said and slashed his wand crisscross, putting all his willpower behind the spell.
Apparently Crouch noticed Draco's incantation. He stopped his spell and was in the process of turning around when Draco's spell hit. The man immediately came apart in a grisly shower of blood and gore. His head, arms and legs fell off, each cleaved into at least three pieces. Crouch's now visible torso was criss-crossed by deep wounds.
Draco blinked in astonishment and looked at his wand, then back at the corpse. He felt eerily calm. "Well, that had more of a punch than I thought it would."
He had chosen Snape's spell because of its effectiveness and because he was fairly sure he didn't have enough power to make the killing curse or other immediately deathly spells work. Snape had done extraordinarily good work in creating that spell.
Draco was still feeling strangely calm as he approached the corpse. A spell his older self had sent him reduced the body to ashes in the blink of an eye. Still feeling calm, Draco tucked the extra wand away. His work here was done.
He turned around, intending to get back to his family. Then he stopped.
His mother and sister were standing under the trees, panting and looking at him with the same type of nightvision goggles on their heads he was wearing.
"Draco! What have you done?"
Author's note: Sorry for the long delay. During the last months I often lacked the inspiration to write, but at long last I managed to finish the chapter.