~The River of Time~
Story summary: During a class trip to the Ministry of Magic, 16 year old Tom Riddle steals a time turner on a whim. He arrives at Hogwarts in 1996 and meets a boy named Harry. Can Tom help Harry conquer the mysterious Dark Lord who threatens his world? Two-shot.
Author's Note: This story is written for Gamma Orionis' OTP Boot Camp Challenge and fan-freak121's Time Travel Challenge. Prompt: Violation.
Warnings: This two-shot contains time paradoxes, Tom Riddle/Harry Potter romance, some mild Ginny-bashing, and the ultimate Tom Riddle/Voldemort showdown.
"Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river;
it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger;
it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire."
(Jorge Luis Borges, "A New Refutation of Time," Other Inquisitions)
"Behold the future of the wizarding world..." The Minister's voice echoed in hushed cathedral silence of the vast hall. "At this moment, boys and girls, you are surrounded by prophecies of times to come. Inside these little globes are strange visions of death, grand destinies, and star-crossed lovers. You may look at the globes if you like, but remember not to touch any of the prophecies."
Tom Riddle yawned. He hated class trips, and the Hall of Prophecy was a terrible bore. Tom glanced moodily at the rows of dusty glass orbs that gleamed in the blue light from the flickering candles in the silver wall sconces. If he squinted, he could make out the writing on some of the small yellowed labels: Musidora Barkwith to Elladora Ketteridge. Charis Black Crouch to Aengus Moody. Cassandra Vablatsky to Dorea Black...
Who cared what nonsense some eccentric old ladies had spouted to long-dead witches and wizards?
Tom glanced quickly around the hall. Both students and teachers were busy deciphering labels now, and a few of them let out little excited shrieks when they recognized names of fourth cousins once removed.
Nobody even noticed Tom slip quietly out of the Hall of Prophecy, back into the small room they had passed earlier on the tour. The Time Chamber. Tom pushed the door open and paused for a moment on the threshold. The Time Chamber was filled with dazzling light, and it took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the brilliance of the chamber. But gradually, Tom began to make out the hundreds of clocks that covered every available surface. Some had hands that moved at a dizzying speed, around and around the clockface, whereas the hands of others hardly seemed to move at all.
The glass-fronted case where the time-turners were kept was standing against a wall. The delicate little golden instruments themselves rested on shelves draped with crimson velvet. They looked almost like ordinary pocket-watches, but Tom knew that they were quite the opposite of watches: Time turned the clockwork of a watch, but a time-turner turned the clockwork of time.
Anyone who held one of the little golden time-turners would be able to travel back and forth in time, manipulate the past and the future. Far more interesting than picking up some dusty prophecy and hearing Mrs. Vablatsky predict that Miss Black would receive a home-made tea cozy for Christmas!
Of course there were wards protecting the glass case; the minister had pointed that out in passing when he had marched them through the room. But Tom suspected that he himself was rather better at magic than the average Ministry official, and he was soon proven right. It was the work of a few moments to manipulate the wards and locks and slip his hand into the cabinet. He chose one of the smaller time-turners and slid it quietly into his pocket.
A moment later, Tom Riddle had rejoined his class in the Hall of Prophecy, and he pretended to listen as Abraxas Malfoy went on and on about some prophecy he had just heard, addressed to the entire Malfoy clan. Something about the future of the Malfoys, a ferret (seriously? A ferret?), a failed assassination attempt, and the fall of Lord Something-or-the-other. Whatever. Tom smiled to himself as he closed his hand around the smooth metal instrument in his pocket. Who needed prophecies about the future when he could visit the future for himself- perhaps in disguise, in case he ran into someone familar - and change it into anything he wanted it to be? On his way out of the Hall of Prophecy, Tom pulled a few long black strands of hair gently from the back of Cygnus Black's head. Yes, they would do very nicely for the polyjuice potion. All Black men looked somewhat alike anyway; Tom would blend in in any time period with Cygnus' long black curls and dark eyes. Cygnus was, as usual, too absorbed in Druella Rosier to notice a thing.
Harry Potter clutched the low stone wall in front of him and peered down from the Astronomy Tower. The familiar Hogwarts landscape below looked strangely alien in the silver moonlight, and the cool night air, still fragrant with the scent of blooming hawthorn and wild berberis, made him shiver. Harry leaned over the stone parapet. There. Down there, on the ground far below, was the spot where Dumbledore had fallen, just a few days ago. Killed by Snape's cruel curse... A sudden sob tore itself from his chest.
What was he supposed to do now? How was he going to defeat the Dark Lord without Dumbledore's help? Dumbledore had told him about Voldemort's hidden horcruxes, about the dark fragments of his soul that must be destroyed. But Harry had no idea where to begin looking for them, or how to destroy them if he found them.
"You are the hope of the Wizarding World, Harry," Dumbledore had said once, his kind blue eyes gazing at Harry from behind his half-moon spectacles.
Harry sank down on the cold stone, tears running down his face now. If he was the sole hope of the Wizarding World, then there was no hope left.
A slight sound behind him made him turn around. Oh, Merlin - couldn't he even be alone up here in the middle of the night without someone finding him? If it was Ginny, gazing at him with shining eyes again, he was seriously going to jump off this tower.
It was not Ginny.
It was an unfamiliar dark-haired boy, dressed in Slytherin robes, with a time-turner around his neck.
The boy caught sight of Harry and tucked the time-turner rapidly into his robes. A time-traveler?
A sudden wild hope flared in Harry's mind. If there was still a time-turner in existence, then perhaps there was still a way to change the past? Oh, Merlin! What if there was still a way to bring Dumbledore back?
Harry staggered to his feet. "Hello? Who are you?" His voice came out as a whisper.
The boy stepped towards Harry, and the silvery moonlight illuminated a handsome face, large dark eyes and long black curls. "I am... er... Cepheus Black," said the boy quickly. "New Hogwarts student. I just arrived here, and I seem to be lost."
Cepheus Black? Harry studied the boy curiously. He was fairly certain there was no Cepheus Black on the Black family tapestry he had seen at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. A son or grandson of some family member who had been blasted off the family tree, perhaps?
"You have arrived at Hogwarts at a strange and terrible time, Cepheus Black," said Harry in a low voice, his glance lingering on the pale face of the stranger. "Perhaps you haven't heard what just happened? The headmaster was murdered. His funeral was today."
"What?" The boy stared at Harry. "The Hogwarts headmaster murdered? By whom?" He seemed startled at this information, Harry noted. A time traveler from the past, then? For surely, a traveler from the future would have heard of such a momentous event in Hogwarts history as the murder of the headmaster?
"Professor Dumbledore," said Harry in a voice that trembled ever so slightly, "was murdered by the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Severus Snape." Was it his imagination, or was there a slight flicker of recognition in the stranger's eyes at the mention of the name "Dumbledore"?
"What? Why would a professor wish to murder the headmaster?" The boy sounded genuinely curious about this.
Harry studied the boy's face again. There was something about him that was... almost familiar? Perhaps there was some slight resemblance to Sirius, since this boy was a Black? No, that wasn't quite it. Something else, then. Something about the way he moved, perhaps?
Harry sat down on the edge of the stone wall. "Professor Snape," he said quietly, "was working for the Dark Lord, a powerful wizard who is threatening to take over the magical world."
The boy's black eyes widened. Apparently, he had not heard of Voldemort. A traveler from the distant past, then. "The Dark Lord?"
Harry continued: "He and his followers have murdered many others as well. The Dark Lord killed my parents when I was a baby, and he tried to kill me too at the time. But somehow I survived his killing curse; no one quite knows why or how."
"You survived the killing curse?" The boy sank down next to Harry on the wall. His dark eyes studied Harry's face with fascination. "What sort of magic allowed you to do that? I didn't think that such a thing was possible. You must have some rather extraordinary magical abilities."
Harry felt strangely relieved. Finally! Someone who had not heard of the Boy Who Lived! That was a welcome reprieve these days, actually. When was this boy from? The 1800s? If only Harry could earn his trust and convince him to share that time turner!
"One of the Dark Lord's followers killed my godfather as well," he whispered. "Sirius Black, son of Orion and Walburga Black. I loved him very much. He... He was like a father to me. A relative of yours, perhaps?" He glanced hopefully at the boy. Somehow, the thought of encountering a long-lost relative of the godfather he had lost made his heart beat faster.
"A relative?" For some reason, a slight flush brushed over the boy's pale cheeks now. "Yes, I suppose he must have been. My branch of the family has not had much contact with the others for a while, you see, so I am not familiar with all the recent events... Are there any other members of the Black family at Hogwarts?" He seemed a little nervous at the thought.
Harry shook his head. "No. Sirius was the last. Well, apart from you, I suppose." He swallowed. "That's why I inherited Sirius' old house and his very unpleasant house elf."
There was a sudden flash of anger in the boy's eyes. "Someone murdered the last member of one of the ancient pureblood wizarding families? What a horrible thing to do! It's a violation of the very foundation of the magical world, to extinguish one of the old wizarding lineages. If wizards can no longer trust each other, we will soon lose our power to the Muggles. Why is this Dark Lord doing this?"
Harry looked down at the stone floor. "To become powerful, I suppose. He will kill anyone who stands in his way." His voice shook slightly. "There is a prophecy about him and me, actually. It says that one of us will kill the other in the end..."
"You will kill him?" The boy stared at him. "But you are still just a boy, like me."
"Or he will kill me, I suppose," muttered Harry. "Without Dumbledore here to help me, that seems like a more likely outcome."
The boy pondered this for a while. After a long moment, he said: "What's your name?"
"Harry. Harry Potter."
The boy looked at him with interest. "Potter? That's an ancient pureblood wizarding family, isn't it?"
Harry shrugged. "I suppose. I'm a half-blood, though. My Mum was a Muggle-born. I have been raised by her Muggle sister and brother-in-law after my parents were killed."
"You are being raised by Muggles?" The boy frowned. "Don't you... mind?"
Harry had to laugh. "Yeah. I mind a lot. Not because they are Muggles, but because they beat the crap out of me every chance they get. They don't care much for magic, you see."
The boy stared at him. "The Muggles beat you? For having magic?" When Harry nodded, he whispered: "Something similar happened to me, Harry. When I was younger. I was raised by Muggles as well. They were frightened of me, as your relatives must have been of you."
"Really?" Harry looked at the boy in surprise. A Black raised by Muggles? This was certainly a part of the history of the Ancient and Most Noble Hourse of Black he had never heard about.
"We seem to have a great deal in common, you and I..." muttered the boy.
Harry glanced up at him. He could feel a slight smile forming on his lips. "Perhaps we do, Cepheus." It felt so easy and natural, talking to this long-lost Black. He felt like an old friend. Harry wondered if he should offer the boy Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Perhaps Kreacher would be a little more pleasant around a real Black? He cleared his throat. "You know, since you are a Black and I am not, you might want to look into taking over the Black estate at Grimmauld Place. Sirius left it to me, but he didn't know there were any other Blacks left."
The boy seemed startled at this. "You are offering me the Black property? Orion Black's house? No, Harry - that house rightfully belongs to you. It's very decent of you to offer, though." He thought for a moment.
"I think," whispered the boy suddenly, "that I should like to help you, Harry. Fighting against this Dark Lord, I mean. I am quite good at magic, and you need the help of a powerful wizard."
Harry drew a deep breath. "You want to help me? That's... great, Cepheus." The time turner. Perhaps Cepheus would lend him the time turner?
"Harry?" A small voice sounded in the darkness, and Harry groaned inwardly. Ginny. Of course. She just had to come searching for him in the night, didn't she?
"There you are!" The light from Ginny's wand swept over the rooftop and settled on Harry's face. "Why are you up here in the middle of the night? I have been looking for you everywhere."
"I just wanted to be alone, Ginny."
"Alone? Why? Why didn't you tell me where you were going? And who is that?" The golden light from Ginny's wand found Cepheus now. "Why are you up here with this boy in the middle of the night?"
Harry sighed. "He's my friend, Ginny. We were talking."
"Talking?" There was a slight tremor in Ginny's voice. "In the dark? What is going on here, Harry? Why are you talking to him, rather than to me? Is he your boyfriend or something?" There was a hysterical edge to her voice now, and Harry was pretty sure that he heard Cepheus smother a giggle.
"Well?" Ginny's voice was high and demanding, and Harry winced.
"Why don't you answer me, Harry?"
To Harry's surprise, a soft voice spoke nearby: "We might as well tell her, Harry. There is no sense in keeping our love secret. Yes, I'm Harry's boyfriend. His secret lover, in fact." Strong arms suddenly wrapped themselves around Harry's waist, and warm lips pressed a soft kiss against his mouth.
Cepheus? What is Merlin's name-? Harry's mind was reeling in shock.
Ginny stared at them, wide-eyed, for a moment. Then she muttered angrily: "I knew it!" and stormed off.
"What... What are you doing, Cepheus?" Harry struggled to find his voice.
Cepheus let Harry go and burst out laughing when he saw Harry's face. "Oh, relax. I was helping you, Harry, just like I promised. That was step one. Merlin, that girl was annoying! You can't focus on fighting the Dark Lord with her around. I do think she will leave you alone now, though."
Harry sank down on the stone wall, breathing deeply. "Well, I... I suppose that was one way of getting her to realize that I'm not going to keep seeing her. We dated for about a week, and she has been refusing to accept that it was over." He was still a little dizzy from the unexpected kiss. This stranger kissed a lot better than Ginny.
"Are you all right?" asked Cepheus softly.
"Yeah." Harry smiled at him. "You... you kiss really well, actually. Are you... erm... gay?"
The boy shrugged. "Don't know. Never thought about it. Are you?"
Harry pondered this for a moment. "Never though about it either, actually." Until now. He grinned at the boy and got to his feet. "Let's go and talk to Professor McGonagall and get you entered into the magical school records."
To his surprise, the boy squirmed a little. "Minerva McGonagall? Well, er... No sense in waking her up at this hour, is there? I'll take care of that myself. It's just a question of a few simple spells."
Harry smiled. Casting spells on the school records? Merlin, this time-traveling Black was like the fifth Marauder! "Followed by some memory charms in the morning, to leave everyone convinced that they were expecting you here at Hogwarts?"
The boy glanced at him in surprise for a moment. Then he grinned. "Precisely. You catch on fast, don't you Harry? Will you show me the way to Professor McGonagall's office?"
"Of course." Harry headed for the stairs. "I'm sure she still has the school records in her old office; she is the new headmistress, but I don't think she has moved into Dumbledore's office yet. Her office door will be locked, though."
"Minerva McGonagall is the new headmistress of Hogwarts?" For some reason, Cepheus appeared to find this rather amusing. "Oh, Merlin help us! Don't worry about the office door - I'm rather good at magic."
A few hours later, Cepheus Black, now formally a newly arrived Slytherin student according to the magical school records, sat curled up in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room with Harry Potter, consuming the last remnants of an excellent meal pilfered from the Hogwarts kitchens. Everyone else was asleep at this hour, and the two boys leaned back comfortably against a stack of red and gold cushions and gazed into the fire.
"Tell me more about yourself, Cepheus," said Harry softly to his new friend. "Where did you come from?" And when? added his mind silently.
But Cepheus shook his head. "Oh, that's a rather uninteresting story, compared to yours. Tell me more about this Dark Lord, Harry. If we are going to defeat him, we need to know as much about him as possible."
Harry gazed at the young stranger. Finally, someone who was willing to talk about Voldemort! And this boy seemed to know a lot of magic, too - perhaps he really could help. His presence felt comforting, and at the same time strangely familiar, as if he were some lost long friend or soulmate... Talking to him almost felt like talking to Sirius. Cepheus even looked a little like Sirius. Harry remembered sitting like this in front of the fireplace at Grimmauld Place with his godfather, talking far into the night, and something twisted painfully in his heart.
The boy stared at him. "How terribly odd - for a moment it seemed to me that I could read your mind. Were you thinking of your godfather right now, the gaunt man with the dark curls?"
Harry looked at him in surprise. "Yes, I was. Are you a legilimens?"
Cepheus shook his head. "Not quite. I have some talents in that direction, but usually it's more of a general sense of another person's emotions than a clear image. But I could see your godfather very clearly in your thoughts. How very strange!"
Their eyes met for a long moment, and Harry felt something stirring in his heart. For a moment, he half wished that Ginny would walk into the common room, just so the boy would have an excuse to kiss him again.
The boy laughed, a soft silver laugh. "I can read that thought, too, you know." He flushed a little, and then he leaned forward and captured Harry's lips in a long, tender kiss.
"Oh," whispered Harry, touching his lips in wonder.
"Oh, indeed!" agreed the boy, his voice slightly breathless. He brushed Harry's face gently with his fingers. "Now, tell me more about the dark wizard we are to defeat, Harry, before we get entirely too distracted..."
Harry reached for the boy's hand, and then he told him, as succinctly as possible, the story of his life and his encounters with the Dark Lord. They boy listened carefully and asked quite a few questions. But when Harry got to the very last part of his story, the boy suddenly let go of his hand and sat up straight.
"Professor Dumbledore told you that the Dark Lord had made horcruxes to make himself immortal?" His voice suddenly sounded hoarse.
Harry nodded. "Yes. Horcruxes are..."
"I know what they are." The boy's handsome face was white in the flickering firelight. "Quick, tell me, Harry: What were his horcruxes? Did the headmaster tell you?"
Harry nodded. "He wasn't quite sure about all of them, but he was fairly certain that Voldemort's diary was a horcrux."
"His diary-?" The boy's voice was almost inaudible now. "And he calls himself "Voldemort"? What... what else? You said there were other horcruxes as well?"
Harry drew a deep breath. "Yes. There was a ring, set with a black stone." Merlin, how pale Cepheus looked now! "That was created with the murder of his father."
"He murdered his father...?" Cepheus' voice was a whisper.
"Yes," said Harry softly. "In the summer after his sixth year at Hogwarts, apparently. And there is a locket horcrux as well; it used to belong to Salazar Slytherin. And something that belonged to Ravenclaw, and something of Hufflepuff's... And his serpent, Nagini, may be a horcrux as well."
"A living horcrux?" whispered the boy. "A serpent?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. Lord Voldemort is a Parselmouth, just like me. He has a particular affinity for serpents."
"You are a Parselmouth?" Cepheus stared at him in wonder. "That's a terribly rare skill, Harry."
"I know." Harry sat in silence for a moment. Then he said in a low voice: "I've never mentioned this to anyone, not even to Dumbledore or to my friends Ron and Hermione, but sometimes I have wondered if there isn't one more horcrux as well."
"Another horcrux?" Cepheus closed his eyes for a moment. "Seven in all? Yes, I can see how he would make seven. It is an ancient magical number, after all. But what would the seventh horcrux be?"
Harry swallowed. "I know this seems silly, but... Sometimes I have wondered if... if the last horcrux could possibly be... well, me."
"You?" Cepheus was whiter than snow now. "The Dark Lord's horcrux? A part of his soul?"
Harry flushed. "I know that it sounds ridiculous."
"But he is.. he is trying to kill you." Cepheus' voice was hoarse. "Why would he do that if you are his horcrux?"
"Well..." Harry hesitated. "Perhaps he doesn't know that I am a horcrux. Perhaps he made me a horcrux on accident, the night he killed my parents. Oh, I know that it sounds like a terribly far-fetched idea, but it would explain a great many things. It would explain why I can speak Parseltongue, just like he can, and it would explain that curious feeling that there is a bond between us. Sometimes, I can sense his emotions and even his thoughts, you see..."
"You are... his horcrux..." Cepheus sat immovable for a long time, staring into the flames. He seemed frozen with shock. Then he whispered: "Tell me, Harry: Do you know what his name was? Before he became the Dark Lord, I mean? I think... I think I might know already, but I need you to tell me."
Harry nodded. "His name was Tom Riddle."
"Tom Riddle." Cepheus stared into the flickering flames, his face white as death. Then he reached for Harry's hand. "The Dark Lord was once Tom Riddle. And you- You are his horcrux. You are his very soul."
"I hope I'm wrong about that," whispered Harry.
"I don't think you are," said Cepheus quietly. There was a strange tremor in his voice. "You carry within you a part of Tom Riddle's soul and he... He has turned into a monster who wants to kill you." He gazed at Harry with a curious expression in his dark eyes. "I can't let him do that, Harry. No matter what will happen, I can't let him hurt you."