A/N Naturally, I did not invent Harry Potter and all he entails.
I, like we all do, play fast and loose with dates. Enjoy!
Vulpem pilum mutat, non mores
Heroes make mistakes too. Harry's mistake was that he didn't see the knife. One defeated Dark Lord, seven horcruxes, three years of Auror training, six months on the job and still he didn't see the knife. It was, had anyone known, a little bit embarrassing. He had been walking through Hogsmeade en route to the Three Broomsticks, late, one cold December evening, snow crunching underfoot, when a man's gruff voice had hailed him.
Turning, he observed a cloaked figure approaching. The man, taller than Harry, had extended his hand amiably.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Potter. I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for our society."
Harry, seeing no harm, smiled and nodded affably. He hadn't yet worked out an appropriate way to deal with these situations. He didn't want to leave people with the sense that he was falsely modest or, on the other hand, arrogant. Everyone, it seemed, even several years after Voldemort's defeat, wanted to shake his hand. These situations were not unlike his first encounter with the wizarding world in the Leaky Cauldron when he was an overwhelmed and confused eleven year old faced with meeting Quirrel for the first time.
Just as he'd been about to respond, bumblingly, in kind he'd been jerked forward by a sharp tug on his right hand. A strong pain spread sharply through his side. Looking down, surprised, he'd seen a dagger's ivory handle sticking out from somewhere in the vicinity of his ribs.
The cloaked man had leant forward and, as Harry, shocked into inaction, began to feel the warmth of his blood seeping through the cloth of his robes and across his skin, whispered harshly, "Don't let them die, Mr Potter!"
Looking up into the man's face, his vision blurring, Harry squinted trying to focus on his features. On the off chance he survived this attack he knew it would help to be able to identify his assailant. He was left only with the impression of a craggy nondescript face of indeterminate age before the world disappeared into blackness.
Harry awoke, face in the snow, to the sound of drunken singing closing-in on him.
"There once was a witch from Devon, who discovered the properties of seven…"
The entire left side of his face felt numb. With a groan he pushed himself to his knees. The pain in his side was dispersing. Looking down he saw no dagger, no blood, and feeling around, felt no wound. Had he dreamed it? No. He was after all, alone in the snow in Hogsmeade with no other explanation.
The singing stopped, and snow crunched nearby. He tensed.
"You alright, mate?" The voice was young. Cautiously, Harry checked the position of his wand. It was there in its holster just as always.
Looking up, he saw a tall young man bending over him, the glowing light from the festive candles hung around hogsmeade shone on his red hair as he swayed a little. He held a bottle in one hand, his wand in the other. Next to him stood a shorter dark-skinned man.
"Yes. I'm alright, thank you," said Harry, hefting himself to his feet. And, apart from feeling a little woozy, he was. Alright, that is. Somehow.
"You sure?" Slurred the red-haired.
"On our way to the Three Broomsticks — my brother's last weekend as a free man. You headed there?"
Harry nodded again. He hoped he hadn't been out of it for too long. Ginny might still be there.
"Walk with you then," declared the red-head as he turned and began weaving along the street.
His friend gave Harry a lopsided grin, the candlelight flickered across the white of his teeth. "Bit worse for wear," he said by way of an explanation.
Grinning back, Harry fell into step beside him. Who was Harry to judge a bit of revelry? It was a relief that people could afford to be so carefree these days.
"I'm Jonas, by the way, Jonas Jordan. Like your boots. Dragon hide?" Said the soberer of the revellers glancing down at Ginny's latest purchase for Harry (with his own money), whose post-Voldemort wardrobe she'd declared, "barely serviceable". There was a thud up ahead. Harry winced as the red-head recovered himself from a trip into the side of a building.
"Ouch. Thanks, and yes." Harry stuck out his hand. "I'm Harry."
Jonas grimaced a little as he shook Harry's hand, "Does it all the time. No serious damage yet. Good to meet you, Harry."
Ahead of them the red-head banged on a door. "Open up!"
"You dumb sod. It's the next door along." Called Jonas. He sighed, "Turning into his babysitter these days."
The Three Broomsticks, windows invitingly lit with lanterns, a plume of smoke winding its way from the chimney, beckoned. It sounded a little rowdier than usual inside, Harry could hear Madam Rosmerta's throaty laughter and, as they neared, the tinkling sound of glass breaking followed by a cry of mild outrage. The red-head got the door open on his second fumbling try and, following the two friends, Harry stepped over the threshold into the warmth of one of the several places in Britain he thought felt most like 'home'.
Almost immediately a shout went up. "Waaaaaayhey! Bill!"
Harry blinked. A table, they were arranged differently from the last time he had been here, surrounded by about five young men was cheering the red-head's arrival. Harry supposed they were more or less around his own age.
"Made it!" Stated the red-head, raising the bottle in his hand in toast to the table's occupants.
"It was a near thing." Jonas added.
"Come have a seat you two! Or is it three?"
"Oh, right. This is… um…" The red-head frowned at Harry, "Sorry, mate, didn't get your name."
"Harry. Found him in the snow. Get the man a drink Jonas!"
"You here for the party?" Asked a brunette at the table.
Harry quickly looked around, he couldn't see Ginny. "No. I was meant to meet someone but she…" Harry was cut off by another loud cheer from the table. Some of them stood.
Harry turned around. Behind him, having just entered the inn, a pair of antlers sticking out from between fiery locks stood a very, very, young Arthur Weasley.
Mr Weasley wore a large grin. "Hello chaps!"
"I say," called the brunette again, "what have you got on your head?"
"Muggle men are stags before their weddings!" Proclaimed Mr Weasley.
"Yes," he insisted. "The brides are chickens!"
Slowly Harry began to feel a tingling in his arms and the beginnings of an horrible thought began to form. Had he…? Had the dagger…? But that wasn't possible.
Just as Harry was beginning to think he really should sit down he heard Madam Rosmerta's distinctive voice over the noise from the direction of the bar, "Bilius Weasley! If you think you can drink that fire whiskey, which I know you didn't buy here, in this pub you have another thing coming!"
Harry lost all feeling in his legs. Bilius…? Bilius Weasley? Ron's 'saw the grim and croaked' Uncle Bilius? He looked towards the bar. There behind the bench, glaring, hand's on her hip's, at Ron's uncle, stood Madam Rosmerta. She looked much younger than Harry had ever seen her, the crows feet were gone from around her eyes, her lips were fuller, her hair brighter. Realising he was more than a little woozy, for the second time that night, the world went dark for Harry Potter.
All major events in Harry's life seemed to be punctuated with periods of unconsciousness. As this seemed like it might be once such Major Event it came as no surprise to Harry that his vision was blurry or that their were disembodied voices around him to accompany a throbbing in his head.
"…Found him passed out in the snow on our…"
"…No, I don't know…"
"…His belt…. "
"…Not just drunk?"
"…Oh. He's waking up."
There was an intake of breath and momentary silence as Harry tried to focus on the faces crowded above him. He could make out the line of Mr. Weasley's antlers, and he thought he could distinguish Madam Rosmerta's bottle-blonde curls. He could definitely smell the butterscotch scent that he'd long ago come to associate with Butterbeer, Madam Rosmerta, and the Three Broomsticks.
It was Bilius who broke the silence. "You alright, mate?"
Deja vu, thought Harry, and he gave a groan. His head hurt.
"Hit your head on the way down, I'm afraid."
Harry thought the throbbing was a give away.
"Should we check his memory?" Harry didn't recognise this voice. Were a bunch of drunks about to administer first aid? He hoped they didn't have to do anything.
"How? We don't know anything about him." Rosmerta.
"We know his name." This was Mr Weasley. He wasn't totally useless in a crisis it had to be said.
"Hey," Harry thought this might be Jonas. "Hey, do you know your name?"
Harry couldn't find the right face to focus on, he wondered if they'd removed his glasses, but mustered a reply. "Harry."
"See, he's fine."
Mr Weasley spoke again, "Harry — do you know what day it is?"
Harry really hoped it was the same date here, wherever here was, as it had been before he was stabbed. "18th," he mumbled.
"Who's the current Minister for Magic?"
Harry cringed inwardly. Merlin's beard, what year did the Weasley's get married? He didn't know. Even if he did, he hadn't paid enough attention in History of Magic to know who the Minister was.
He side-stepped with, "I hate politics."
This invoked a few sniggers and a "Quite right, mate!" from Bilius.
"Well, he seems like he might do."
"Nothing he can't overcome! Prop him up, Arthur!"
"Let's get a drink down him!"
Harry wondered what the state of Hogwarts students would be if any of these people had worked in the hospital wing during his many unconscious stays. Did they expect him to join the party?
Fortunately, Rosmerta —whom he suspected of being the only sober one of the lot— intervened, "Arthur, we're mostly empty upstairs tonight — why don't you give me a hand helping him up? Hopefully he can sleep off whatever this is."
Mr Weasley must've nodded because next, with a great heave, the two of them had pulled Harry to his feet and were guiding him up the stairs. Harry stumbled once or twice — it must've been some knock the head. He thought that Mr Weasley's antlers might have caught on a door frame at one point; within a few minutes Harry was drifting off to sleep in one of the smaller rooms the Three Broomsticks had to offer. He would stress more in the morning. Right now, he thought he had a concussion. Or, maybe it was the shock. Or, maybe it was the loud rendition of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow he could make out through the floorboards that rendered him unable to think.
It was the smell of bacon cooking that woke him early. Harry had hoped, for the fleeting few seconds he'd been in that confused stage of waking between dreaming and reluctant movement, that last night had been a dream. But the bacon, and then the unfamiliar appearance of the room he was sleeping in, indicated otherwise. He really had ended up at Arthur Weasley's stag do. Harry thought he might cry. All he'd wanted, last night, was to see Ginny's smiling face as she celebrated making the Harpies. Instead he had no Ginny, no anybody or anything, really. And the dagger hadn't come through with him.
It was his stomach that prevented him from wallowing; the bacon making it rumble demandingly. And, he supposed he needed to get his hands on a copy of the Daily Prophet. After all, he didn't even know who the Minister for Magic was! So, after gingerly prodding the lump on his head, getting his boots back on (Rosmerta hadn't undressed him fully thank goodness), finding his glasses on the nightstand, and a quick glance at his wayward hair in the mirror he headed downstairs.
There was one elderly witch seated at a table by the door. She said good morning to Harry as he entered but looked back down at whatever she was reading when he nodded in response. He looked around. The Leaky Cauldron usually had a copy or two of the prophet around in the mornings, surely they… Oh. Harry spotted three neatly folded copies of the morning edition on the bar.
Picking a copy up he unfolded it. The headline, above the centrefold, read Gringott's Goblins Angered as Squib Rights Movement Stages Sit In. Harry didn't know there had been a Squib Rights Movement. It was the date that caused him pause. This was the Daily Prophet from 19th December 1967. Surprisingly, Harry felt a certain sense of relief; Voldemort hadn't even started his war yet! Could he, in the time it took him to find that dagger again, circumvent the wizarding war? He had to at least try.
There was a creaking of a door behind the bar and a portly, clean shaven, man, sporting a brown apron and dark robes, emerged and carried a steaming breakfast over to the witch by the door.
"Guid Mornin' to ye, laddie!" He said to Harry, "I'll be righ' wi' ye."
A wizard from the Goblin Liaison Office, read Harry, had said that 'the American's have given the Squibs inappropriate ideas.'
The portly man returned to behind the bar. "I heard ye had a fankle in the nicht."
"Yes." Said Harry.
"Rosmerta, the blonde lassie, she said ye had a wee rammie in the village afore?"
Harry nodded, supposing that he might well have had a 'wee rammie'. "That's right."
The man shook his head disapprovingly. "Young layabouts, I bet. Aye, well…. Now, can I ge' yer some scran?"
"Actually," said Harry, "I was wondering if you knew of anywhere I might find a job?"