Author's note: Behold! Another update!
Harry Potter and the Puppet of Time
"You seem much happier all of a sudden, Draco. What happened?" Stephen asked when they were back on the way to Ravenclaw Tower.
"That's right. After the champions were chosen your mood turned around completely," Morag added.
Draco silently cursed himself. Of course his friends would pick up on that. Well, that wasn't actually a bad thing, but sometimes he wished to keep his secrets. "Let's just say I had some serious concerns about what would happen today. I'm glad I was wrong."
Morag and Stephen exchanged a look. "Hm, and what would those concerns have been?"
"There might have been problems with the people chosen as champions. I was expecting a misguided prank. You know, an underage student being entered or something similar."
"How? The terrible twins tried to get their names into the goblet and you saw what happened to them. If they didn't manage it…"
"That wouldn't have prevented an older student from entering another name. Oh, I expect there are some additional protections on the goblet; I just don't know how good they are. The people chosen would have been forced to compete, no matter if they wanted to or not."
"And that would be a bad thing?" Stephen asked. "Just consider the fame and glory…"
Draco gave his friend a sour smile. "Just consider the mortality rate of past tournaments. Heck, they stopped holding it because too many people died. I doubt it will be much safer this time around, no matter what Dumbledore and the Ministry say."
Stephen shook his head. "Dude, you really have a way to take the joy out of everything. There's an exciting new tournament at Hogwarts and you try to look at it in the worst way possible."
For a moment Draco considered to object, but then he reconsidered. "Perhaps. I noticed you looking at the fabulous Fleur, though."
Morag giggled. "Stephen's in looove."
Stephen blushed and began to splutter. Draco watched for a moment in amusement. "You know you don't have a snowball's chance in hell with her? You and I are three years younger than her. Half of the upper year boys are already after her. She doesn't even pay attention to us."
The boy mumbled something unintelligible before walking more swiftly, leaving Draco and Morag behind.
Draco shook his head. "He didn't listen to me, did he?"
"Of course not. Stephen has it bad," Morag said.
"I don't get the fascination with Fleur. I won't deny she is very pretty to look at, but so are Daphne and you. Or any number of girls. Beyond that, I don't know. It isn't like she is talking to us and I can't blame her. Would you like to talk to a love-sick Dennis Creevy?"
Morag shuddered, "Don't even joke about that."
"You're right, I probably shouldn't. Still, Stephen will be in for a big disappointment."
Over the next few days there was a markedly changed atmosphere in the school. The Hufflepuffs were walking around with new-found pride. One of their own had been chosen as Hogwart's champion. Considering that the house usually tended to disappear in the background most people didn't mind particularly. As far as Draco could tell from their limited interactions Cedric was a genuinely nice boy and he wished him well.
The harassment by Moody continued, both in class and outside. He always seemed to have his eye on Draco whenever they were in proximity to each other. Which was far more often than it should have been. Moody often appeared in the same locations Draco frequented outside of class. Oh, he never did or said anything truly objectionable, but the intent was clear.
Of course, Draco didn't believe Moody spent his entire time watching only him. That would have been silly. He could probably move his magical eye so quickly that it only appeared to be solely focused on Draco. Or he had some other device or spell that told him when Draco was looking at him. There was no telling how many additional magical items Moody was carrying around.
Taken together Moody shut down Draco's secret activities completely. He simply couldn't risk doing anything suspicious when Moody could turn up any second… and he had not the slightest idea why Moody was acting that way.
"He really has it in for you, brother, doesn't he?" Aquila said at one of their meetings.
Draco threw a stone into the lake, letting it skip three times before a tentacle shot up and caught it. "Seems like it. He doesn't bother you at all?"
His sister shrugged. "Not particularly. Some comments about Father, and I think he pays a bit more attention to me than to others, but that is all."
"Good for you. Could you please tell Ginny I won't be able to meet with her as long as Moody continues to behave that way?"
Draco didn't like making that request. He was actually missing the conversations with Ginny, but he just couldn't risk it considering her involvement in the basilisk and diary affair. Considering Moody's well known paranoia it could and would lead to all sorts of unpleasantness once the man started digging.
"Sure, I can do that." The tentacle now threw the stone back, making it skip four times before it hit the shore. With a wave it disappeared underwater. "Do you often play with the giant squid?"
"Not more than others. You know the squid is almost always in a playful mood." Draco stood up, dusting off his robes. "Let's head back to the castle. It's getting cold out here."
As November progressed nothing changed. Draco attended his classes, spent time with his friends, received letters and various little things like sweets from his parents, sent reply letters in return, visited Hogsmeade and generally did what a fourth year student was supposed to do. By now he was ready to write off the entire school year as a missed opportunity to do anything of true relevance.
Soon enough it was time for the first task of the tournament. Draco watched in something like horrified curiosity as the three champions faced the task of stealing a golden egg from a nesting dragon. Fortunately for them there was no particularly vicious Hungarian Horntail. Of course, the three dragons that were there were bad enough.
"Who thought dragons would be a good idea?" Draco asked nobody in particular. "One wrong move and the champions could end up as torches before anyone could do something about it. Are they trying to kill all champions in the first round?"
"But dragons are so cool! This is awesome!" some Ravenclaw sitting nearby shouted.
Draco only shook his head. Dragons were awesome and cool, granted, but that still didn't make this a good idea.
Fortunately for the champions luck was with them. Fleur got her legs burned when her skirt caught fire while Krum suffered a scorched left arm when their respective methods to deal with the dragon (charming the dragon into sleep and blinding it, respectively) proved to be not entirely effective. Cedric transfigured a rock into a dog that was successful in distracting his dragon so he could get at the egg without trouble. The first task ended with Cedric clearly in the lead.
Soon enough the excitement died down and it was back to normal school life. That was, until the announcement of the Yule Ball came at the end of Charms class. Professor Flitwick was so excited he almost fell from his chair.
Draco immediately turned to the girl next to him. "Daphne, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the Yule Ball?"
"Sure." Daphne paused for a second. Then she leaned towards Draco and whispered, "You know people probably expect us to go together anyway because of the betrothal."
Draco shrugged. "I know it's expected. That doesn't mean I can't ask. If you really want to go with someone else I'll understand. It would set some tongues wagging, but I don't really care about that."
Daphne smiled. "No, no, it's alright. We are friends, after all, and I don't have a boyfriend right now. After the opening dance we are free to dance with others, right?"
With Draco's own date secured, he was free to observe how the rest of the Hogwarts population handled things. The female population was almost universally giddy with excitement while many boys were hemming and hawing over the exceedingly difficult task of asking a girl out. School drama was amusing to watch.
Then, one morning in December, the Daily Prophet ran a rather unexpected headline.
MASS DEATH IN AZKABAN
MANY CONVICTED DEATH EATERS FOUND DEAD, GUARD DISAPPEARS
ACT OF REVENGE?
Draco read feverishly through the article. "Found dead in their cells… blah, blah, blah…, suspicion of deliberate poisoning… blah, blah, blah, missing guard known to have lost parents in last war."
As soon as Draco finished reading he handed the paper to his neighbor at the Ravenclaw table. Meanwhile, he was deep in thought. Someone had killed most of the imprisoned Death Eaters. Not all, sadly, but about two thirds. Dolohov, the Lestrange siblings, Mulciber, Rookwood, all gone.
'It's really a pity they didn't get Aunt Bellatrix, too.'
Draco didn't look forward to having to deal with the crazy bint if she ever managed to get out of Azkaban. Still, that left the twin questions of who had them killed and why now?
Lucius Malfoy carefully studied his list one more time. He couldn't afford to get this wrong.
"Cleaned up all traces? Check. Set up fake evidence for myself? Check. Made absolute sure I have cleaned up all other notes? Check."
On and on the list went, but Lucius found no mistake. Everything had been taken care of. On this occasion he rather regretted giving away the family pensieve so many years ago, but when the Dark Lord asked for something you didn't say no. To this day he had been unable to find it. Although, considering that his father had stopped bugging him about it he suspected the old fool had dug it up somewhere without telling him. Now he had to make do with borrowing a cheap knockoff from one of his 'friends' on the continent… for an exorbitant price.
Steeling himself, Lucius drew several memories out of his head and put them into the basin. After that step was finished he looked at the silvery mass with unease. He didn't like doing this; he just wasn't particularly good at mind magic. Still, the process should be reasonably safe to perform even for a man of his limited skill.
If anyone ever asked Lucius in the future about certain deaths in Azkaban he would be able to truthfully say he had not the slightest idea. The Dark Lord might have been a Legimens without peer, but even he couldn't find a memory that no longer existed.
Lucius couldn't completely hide the hole from the Dark Lord, of course, but he had that covered by the simple remedy of having a second set of memories deleted at the same time. He had even gone to the length of actually making a secret deal that he was better not knowing about – at least the details. It was a technique well-known and used in certain circles. He would remember having removed some memories, but he would completely forget that there were some Azkaban-murder related memories among them.
'It's too bad I didn't get them all.'
Alas, casting the Imperius curse on one guard, getting him to poison the prisoners he had access to and finally disposing of the man had been risky enough. It was just too dangerous to try for more.
'More's the pity. I would have liked to have one less sister-in-law.'
Bella was a fanatic of the worst sort and Lucius doubted more than a decade in Azkaban had done her sanity any favors. The world would have been a better place without her.
Perhaps everything Lucius had done was unnecessary. Perhaps the Dark Lord was gone for good. But if not… well. With his most fanatic followers thinned out he would have no choice but to welcome the 'unfaithful' back into the fold. That would ensure Lucius survival for at least some time, time he could use to figure out what to do. After all, he could only make plans if the Dark Lord truly returned and he knew what he was dealing with.
The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables had vanished; instead, there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people.
"Thank you both for doing this for me," Ginny said.
"Don't mention it," Hermione said.
"It's only right and no trouble at all," Neville added.
Ginny smiled in response. As a third year student she was only allowed at the Yule Ball by invitation from an older student. Since she didn't fancy anyone in particular and didn't want to be forced to spend the entire evening with some random boy she had asked her friends Neville and Hermione to help her out.
The two wanted to go together, but since they were friends they had found an easy solution. Neville had formally invited Ginny. Hermione could enter alone and once they were at the ball there was no obligation for Neville to actually dance with Ginny, leaving her free to seek out her own amusement.
Ginny spent the remaining time before the feast started with idle chat and looking around. There was just so much to see, so many different kinds of dress robes. Finally it was time for the next stage: The champions and their dates entered.
Fleur was paired with Roger Davis, Cedric led Cho Chang into the hall while Krum was accompanied by a seventh year Slytherin Ginny didn't know the name of.
When the champions took their seats Ginny noticed something. One chair at the largest table was empty. Mr. Crouch wasn't there.
Mr. Crouch didn't seem the type to miss such an event without arranging for someone else to take his place. Ginny was sure Percy would have been only too glad to help out.
Shaking her head slightly, Ginny turned to the task of picking her food from the menu. It wasn't really her business if one of the judges wasn't where he was supposed to be.
After a delicious meal it was time for the dance. It started with a slow, mournful tune and the champions alone on the floor.
Ginny sat back while a throng of people headed to the dance floor and relegated herself to observing the couples. She started with her family. Parvati was leading a reluctant-looking Ron around. Fred looked much more enthusiastic about his date, Angelina Johnson, while George danced with a sixth year Hufflepuff girl.
Neville was a rather clumsy dancer, but it didn't seem as if he stepped on Hermione's toes even once. Draco was dancing with Daphne. Aquila and Theo were dancing not far from them.
Ginny sighed silently. It was difficult to describe how much she missed being able to talk with Draco. It had been so many months. Sometimes she wondered if they weren't being silly about the secrecy, but then she remembered her first year, the diary, the basilisk… Dumbledore. With how Moody kept his magical eye on Draco it was just too dangerous. She was glad that she could meet with Aquila occasionally.
That was risky enough in light of how her family talked about the Malfoys. If they ever got the slightest hint she was meeting with both Draco and Aquila… Ginny didn't want to imagine the fallout. They just wouldn't understand.
A boy from Beauxbatons drove her dark thoughts away. "Would you like to dance?"
Ginny smiled at him. "I'd love to."
That marked Ginny's entrance on the dance floor. Time passed quickly, with Ginny switching partners frequently and having a great deal of fun. Still, after two hours even she was in need of rest. Hoping a breath of fresh air would revive her, Ginny headed outside.
Fluttering fairy lights winked and twinkled throughout the rose garden near the front door of the castle, its winding paths dimly lit. Ginny found herself a bench in an isolated corner and sat down, simply taking in the sight of the garden and relaxing.
"I'm telling you, Albus, there is something wrong with the boy."
Ginny froze for a moment. That was Professor Moody's voice coming from the darkness, just at the edge of audibility. If he spotted her listening in with that damned eye of his… On the other hand, she was here to get a moment of rest, nothing more. Even more importantly, she had been here before them. Leaving might actually draw attention than staying put. If she pretended she didn't hear anything… Closing her eyes, Ginny leaned against the stone statue that formed a backrest to the bench.
"You have claimed that for quite some time, Alastor."
"Well, I have reason to, don't I? Ever since we came to Hogwarts my foeglass shows the Malfoy boy's face and nothing else. My best sneakoscope exploded when the boy walked near my office. The others go wild if he gets too close."
"And yet you have found nothing amiss. In all these months young Mr. Malfoy has not lost a single point or earned a detention or done anything but be a model pupil."
A grumble could be heard. "I made a mistake. I should not have it made obvious that I was watching him. He keeps his head down. The boy is clever, I give him that. Reminds me of that damnable Abraxas." There was a pause. "Could you not…"
"We have spoken about this. You know I do not do such things lightly. Besides, it would be futile. Young Mr. Malfoy has a remarkably well-protected mind. The work of his grandfather, I have no doubt. It would require quite an amount of force to find anything hidden and you know the complications that can cause. I will not do so on your mere suspicion. His sister is considerably less skilled, but protected enough."
"Fine. That doesn't mean I'm going to leave."
"Barty should be here. Someone like him would not miss this evening without arranging for a stand-in representative. If something is amiss you are the best to check up on things. Please, Alastor."
There was a sigh. "Fine. Fine. I'll go."
"Thank you, Alastor."
Then there was silence. Ginny waited a minute, not letting show she had heard anything out of the ordinary. Then she rose, heading back to the hall. Draco needed to hear this. She wasn't really sure how urgent it was, but the opportunity was just too good. It wasn't everyday that you knew that Moody wasn't in the castle.
When Ginny entered the hall she stopped. Draco was still on the dance floor, partnering with Padma from Ravenclaw. Ginny had noticed that he had frequently switched dance partners as well. She had been tempted to try and get him to dance with her, but doing that under the eyes of all the spectators would have been folly.
'Damn it, I didn't think of that. I can't get to him now.'
Looking around, Ginny searched for Aquila. Finally she found the girl standing at a table bearing refreshments. At the moment there didn't seem to be anyone near her.
Ginny immediately walked up to her side, taking a drink from the table. The din was loud enough to absorb anything she said. "I need to talk to your brother. Now. It's important. I'll wait in the moon room. Moody is away."
Aquila didn't look at her when she replied, "Okay. I'll tell him."
"Okay." Ginny turned around and left the hall, not waiting to see what Aquila would do.
Instead Ginny headed to one of the countless rooms in Hogwarts that nobody ever seemed to visit. Sometimes she wondered if anybody at all had full knowledge of all the hidden rooms. If you went exploring you could find quite interesting and strange stuff.
The moon room as they called it was one such strangely enchanted room. No matter the time of the day, the moon was always visible in the windowless room, similar but different to the enchantment of the Great Hall's ceiling. Sometimes the moon was on the walls, sometimes on the ceiling and sometimes on the floor. The only thing that remained constant was that no other source of light worked in the room – and they had tried out a number of spells. On the new moon the room was completely dark.
'You can hear the music even here,' Ginny thought while she waited, hidden in the shadows.
Finally Draco arrived. He looked around for a few seconds before spotting her. "Ginny, you wanted to see me? What is so urgent?"
"Hi Draco." Ginny related everything she had overheard.
Draco looked utterly baffled when she finished. "So that's why Moody's been watching me like a hawk? Because I trip all his magical thingies for some reason?"
"Yes, it sounded that way."
"The sneakoscopes I can understand. I have a lot of secrets. But why would I appear in Moody's foeglass? I don't think I ever even contemplated harming him in any way."
Ginny could only shrug. "Don't ask me. I figured you'd want to know immediately and since Moody is away for the time being…"
"… there won't be another opportunity anytime soon," Draco finished. "Thank you, Ginny. Yes, this is important information. I don't know if I can do anything about it, but at least I know what's wrong. How have you been?"
She shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I missed being able to talk with you."
"I feel the same, but with Moody around…" Draco didn't finish the sentence. "And your déjà vu?"
"That still happens occasionally, but it isn't getting any worse. It's something I can deal with."
"I suppose that's as good as we could have hoped for."
For a few minutes they talked about a variety of topics, but since they didn't have much time they didn't go much into depth.
"You can hear the music from here," Ginny remarked when the conversation had stalled. "I like that song."
"Then perhaps you would you do me the honor of a dance?"
Ginny looked at Draco in surprise for a few moments. He almost seemed similarly surprised of what he had just said. Seizing the opportunity, she nodded before he could change his mind. "Of course, I'd love to."
When Draco placed his hand around Ginny's waist she felt a small jolt going through her body. Then they started to dance. It was a rather energetic song and both of them knew the steps well. They moved from one end of the room to another, whirling around each other, their robes fluttering.
Laughter filled the air and eyes sparkled in the dim illumination. The world seemed to stand still while they danced in the pale moonlight, a perfect moment conserved in the flow of time.
Unfortunately that was only an illusion. All too soon the song ended and they came to a stop, but they didn't separate. Her heart pounding and her breath going heavy, Ginny leant her head against Draco's chest, listening to his fast heartbeat.
It had been more than a simple dance, but Ginny didn't know what it really was. There was such a jumble of emotion inside her that she couldn't tell what she really felt. The one thing she did know was that she didn't want to let go.
Finally Ginny remembered the time and spoke up, breaking the moment. "We need to go back before we are missed."
"Yes, you're right. It's about time."
Letting go felt surprisingly difficult for such a simply action, yet it had to be done. Ginny was the first to slip out of the room. The hallways were still rather empty and it was no problem at all to return to the Great Hall without causing a stir. A few minutes later Draco returned as well.
After that she danced with several more people, but she enjoyed herself less than before. Her heart just wasn't really in it. Still, it was better than thinking about her feelings. Those were far too complicated. She would need some solitude and quiet to puzzle everything out.
Sometime later, Ginny was sipping from a glass of water and watching other people when it happened. Without warning Harry screamed, clutched the scar on his forehead and collapsed. In the same moment Professor Snape and Headmaster Karkaroff grabbed their own arms, pained expressions on their faces.
"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"
Barthemius Crouch struggled futilely against the ropes binding him while the grave at his feet cracked. Fine dust rose and was directed into the massive cauldron standing next to the fat wizard. The light from the liquid inside turned from white to blue.
'What the hell is happening?'
The last he remembered he was at home, preparing himself for bed since he would have to visit the Hogwarts Yule Ball the next day. Then Bertha Jorkins had shown up at his doorstep with a message from Ludo Bagman. The next thing he knew he was in a graveyard, bound and gagged, and witness to what could only be a dark ritual. The headless body of Bertha was lying next to the cauldron.
"Flesh of the servant, w-willingly given, you will revive your master!"
Barty's eyes bulged out when the fat wizard used a shining silver knife to chop off his own hand, letting it fall into the cauldron with an agonized scream. Whatever dark ritual was going on here, he had to get away. There was a tiny bit of give in the ropes around his left hand and he began frantically rubbing it against the edge of the gravestone.
Meanwhile, the fat wizard had stopped his moaning and was stepping before Barty, knife raised high.
"B-blood of the enemy… forcibly taken… you will… resurrect your foe!"
The shining knife in the man's hand plunged down and Barty felt white-hot pain lance through his shoulder. The next thing he knew the fat man was collecting the blood from the wound in a vial. Then he dumped it into the cauldron as well, turning the light into a blinding white.
Barty continued his attempts at damaging his bindings. He could feel some of the thin ropes tearing and redoubled his efforts.
The cauldron was simmering, sending diamond sparks in all directions, so blindingly bright that it turned everything else to velvety blackness. Then, suddenly, the sparks were extinguished. Thick white steam obscured everything.
Finally, finally, Barty managed to free his arm enough to move his hand to his face. He immediately pulled the gag out of his mouth.
With a plop the house elf appeared just as the dark outline of a tall, skeletally thin man rose from the cauldron. "Master has ca-"
"Get us away from here, now!"
The world disappeared.
'Harry's scar… Snape's and Karkaroff's left forearms… the Dark Mark!'
The realization was like someone had emptied a bucket of ice water on Draco, driving away all thoughts of his dance with Ginny. Such a strong reaction could mean only one thing: Voldemort was back.
Only, it was too early. In the other future past Voldemort had returned to flesh in the middle of the next year when he abducted Harry at the third task of the Triwizard Tournament. If anything Draco killing Barty Jr. should have postponed that event, not accelerated it. For whatever reason the Dark Lord seemed to have decided to forego using Harry's blood in the resurrection ritual.
'That's both good and bad,' Draco thought while he watched Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey levitating Harry and carrying him out of the hall, most likely towards the Hospital Wing. Karkaroff had already left the hall in a hurry while Dumbledore was looking extremely worried. The dancing and music had come to a stop, the crowd looking mostly confused.
Voldemort being back was bad, of course, there was no doubt about it. On the other hand, not using Harry's blood for the resurrection ritual or perhaps going for an entirely different ritual altogether meant that Lily Potter's protection on Harry was still there, untouched.
'Not that it is particularly effective considering how easy Voldemort-in-Quirrel could bypass it. But I suppose every little edge counts.'
Another good thing was that the connection between the two would not be reinforced through a bond of blood. That would do wonders for Harry's mental health. It might even prevent Dumbledore from sending him on that hare-brained scheme of a Horcrux hunt and suicide-by-Voldemort, although that was unlikely to happen now anyway with all the other changes adding up. Without the murder of Cedric at the end of the tournament there wouldn't be the backlash against Harry either.
All in all, Draco thought Wizarding society was better prepared for Voldemort's return than it had been in his memories. Since his grandfather's death he had lost his primary information source about the adult world, but he believed there were more capable people in the various government positions than there would have been otherwise.
'Well, I can only hope. So much depends on what Voldemort will do. With any luck he and Dumbledore will kill each other.' Then he realized something. 'I hope he won't be at our manor when I go home around Easter…'
A pale white hand caressed a small, spun-glass orb containing a swirling, bluish-grey mist.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
Red eyes watched as the figure inside the orb dissolved back into mist and the voice faded away. In the past months he had listened to it several times a day, although today was the first time he did it in his own flesh. He still couldn't decide if it was meaningless drivel or profound truth.
"What to do, what to do…"
He wondered if the risk and trouble to obtain the prophecy sphere had been really worth it. Still, the Jorkins woman had been a most useful vessel, much more so than that fool Quirrel. He had been able to simply walk right into the Department of Mysteries (and many other places) without anyone batting an eye. If he had been strong enough to cast the Imperius curse he could have put the entire Ministry leadership under his control.
In all honesty, knowing the complete prophecy didn't change anything. He had always planned on killing the Potter boy anyway. This was only confirmation. The important parts were already in the past. After all, he could hardly un-mark the boy and he certainly didn't plan on letting him live long enough to truly become his equal, ludicrous as the thought was.
The power he knew not was a complication, though. Did that mean the boy had a power he could by definition not learn or was that only a temporary state of things? Could he discover more about it in some way? Was it worth the risk of letting the boy live longer? Or would acting rashly be more dangerous?
"So many questions… What to do, what to do…"
Author's notes: Thank you for all the reviews.