Title: The Momentum of Volition
Summary: When Harry plays the hero yet again, he and Draco are catapulted into an adventure where personal choices, fate, and the paradox of time collide.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Most definitely not.
Word Count: ~5k
Author's Notes: Thank you to S and E for the invaluable beta and brainstorming, to C for awesome britpicking and for help with so many details – including the name, to B, R, and A for the advice, handholding and encouragement, and a big thank you to the mods for their never-ending patience! It should be noted that several quotes were taken directly from DH. Cheryl, darling, I hope you like this! *hugs*
Even after all this time, Diagon Alley still amazed Harry. Little had changed over the years. The shops that had been destroyed during the war had been rebuilt just as they were, right down to the creaking old chair and dusty boxes at Ollivander's. Each time he tapped the bricks behind the Leaky Cauldron and walked through the entrance, he felt the same sense of childish wonder he had when he was eleven.
"Hey mate, what's with the silly look?"
Harry's grin morphed into a genuine smile. Many things had remained the same since his childhood. Sometimes Harry found himself longing for those days again, without Voldemort trying to kill him, of course. He turned to Ron and shook his head. "Nothing. Just reminiscing I guess. Where do we start?"
Ron pulled a long strip of parchment from his robe and scowled as he handed it over. They'd been shopping in Muggle London for the last two hours, but had only managed to cross five items off the list.
"Do you think Hermione will ever trust me to stay at home with Margaret alone?"
Harry laughed and patted Ron on the shoulder as they weaved their way along the crowded street. "She's only a week old, Ron. You had to know Hermione would be an overly protective mum."
"Yeah, but she... I'm Maggie's dad! I could at least—" Ron stopped so suddenly Harry almost ran right into him.
"What?" Harry's stomach tumbled as he turned in the direction Ron was staring. Draco Malfoy was strolling down the street, his deep blue robes swaying in the light breeze. "What's he doing here?" Draco hadn't been to Diagon Alley since the war. That's what house elves are for, he always used to say. Harry hadn't realised he'd taken a step forward until he felt Ron's hand grip his arm tightly.
"Harry, don't. You'll just reopen old wounds."
"That particular wound has yet to heal. Besides, I—"
"You can't still care about him, Harry. After what he did?"
"He didn't do anything, Ron."
"He walked out on you, or have you forgotten?"
Harry's eyes followed Draco until he disappeared in the direction of Knockturn Alley. Ron's hand fell away, followed by an exasperated huff. His best friend had never understood how Harry could have fallen in love with their oldest rival. Even after they'd moved in together and Draco had attempted to be friendly, Ron had not understood. "I just want to see what he's up to."
"Come on, mate, you're too old to be repeating sixth year. Just let it go, all right?"
"I'm not!" Harry turned to Ron with an apologetic smile. "Go finish your shopping. I'll meet you back at the Leaky Cauldron in an hour."
"Like hell you will. If you insist on going on this wild niffler chase, you'll need someone to watch your back."
"I think I can handle myself. Just—"
"With anyone else, yes. With the Ferret? You've still got blinders on, I'm afraid."
Harry didn't argue. Ron could come, or Ron could stay. Either way, he was going to find Draco and get some long overdue answers.
"Theo, don't be an idiot. The war's been over for years. It's time to move on. Let Pansy go."
It hadn't taken long for Harry to find Draco, even in the veritable maze of Knockturn Alley. His instincts were better now than during the war, and his instincts regarding Draco had always been good. They were down a narrow passageway just off the main alley. Draco's back was to Harry, his shoulders stiff and alert. Nott, and presumably Pansy, were hidden behind a stall with barrels that likely housed illegal potion ingredients.
"Move on, Draco? That's easy for you to say. I don't like being treated like a second class citizen."
"We're treated like criminals, Theo. Which, if you remember correctly, is precisely what we were."
"We're treated like criminals? You mean the rest of us, don't you? In typical Malfoy fashion you seem to have escaped the worst of it."
"You think losing my parents was escaping?"
"Oh, but it all changed after that, didn't it Draco? I still don't know how you managed to finagle your way into Potter's good graces. I suppose that fine arse of yours was worth something after all. Who would have thought the Boy Wonder would fall for—"
Harry's heart caught in his throat. Ron had always argued that Draco had only used him to get back into society's favour, but Harry had never believed it. He knew that what they'd had was more than that. Not even Draco was that good of an actor.
"This has nothing to do with Potter. If you want to punish me for whatever you think I've done then get on with it. Just let Pansy go and leave Potter out of it."
Nott laughed hysterically and Harry could see him inching forward, his wand gripped tightly in his hand. Harry ducked behind another stall to avoid being seen. "Leave him out of it? Oh, I don't think so. See, without him, none of this would be happening. If he'd only died when he was supposed to, the Dark Lord would have won."
Draco's shoulders slumped and he ran his fingers through his long blonde hair. When he spoke, he seemed more exhausted than Harry had seen him for a very long time. "What's done is done, Theo. You can't change the past."
"But that's where you're wrong, Draco."
In the split second it took for Nott to raise his wand, Harry's instincts kicked in as never before. "Draco, no!" he yelled, and barrelled forward, knocking Draco to the ground just as the spell hit them both.
Harry felt as though he'd been swimming for hours in a very narrow tunnel. His limbs felt weak and his head throbbed. He wished he could see where he was going, but his vision was blurred by thousands of bright lights, as if he were in the middle of a busy street with thousands of Knight Buses flashing by him at lightning speed.
"Potter, get off me, you oaf."
Harry tried to open his eyes to see who was talking to him, but his lids were too heavy. He groped around for something to hold on to but found only emptiness.
He felt someone grab him and he tried to hold on, but his fingers were too weak. His chest felt constricted, each breath taking more effort than the one before.
"Harry, snap out of it! What the hell are you doing?"
Harry felt warmth against his chest, and after what seemed like hours, he finally managed to open his eyes to find he was lying on a plush carpet with Draco half underneath him. He sat up slowly, blinking to clear his vision, and looked around at a room he didn't recognize. "Where are we?"
"How the hell should I know?" Draco scurried backwards as though the mere touch of Harry's hands had burned him. He started to stand, but then paused as he looked around the room. "No," he whispered. "It can't be."
"What?" Draco's eyes were wide with confusion. "Where are we?" Harry repeated.
Draco shook his head, drawing his knees up to his chest to wrap his arms around them. "We can't be," he repeated, his confusion giving way to something that looked almost like terror.
"Draco?" Harry reached out to lay his hand on Draco's forearm. "What's the matter?"
When Draco finally met his eyes, for a moment, Harry saw the man he'd fallen in love with. "We're at the Manor."
Harry tightened his grip on Draco's arm, worrying for the man's sanity. "We can't be. Malfoy Manor burned to the ground years ago, remember?"
"Thanks for the history lesson, Potter." Draco pushed Harry away and stood, crossing the room to the bedside table. He picked up a photo, holding it up for Harry to see. It was the Slytherin Quidditch team. "The first year I made Seeker," Draco explained. The next photo he held up was clearly a wedding photo of his parents. "There's no question of where we are," Draco said as he replaced the photos carefully. "The question is, when."
Harry glanced around the room. A large Slytherin banner hung on the far wall. Bookshelves lined another, filled from top to bottom with books – many of which Harry recognized from his days at Hogwarts. He looked back to Draco, who was now sitting on what was apparently his old bed. "You're not supposed to be here. Were you following me?"
"No," Harry said immediately. "I just saw you and I ... I just wanted to talk to you. You won't return my owls."
"Now is not the time—"
"Is it true? What Nott said? Did you use me to get back into favour? Is that all it was?"
Draco glared in a way Harry hadn't seen in years. "Believe whatever you wish."
"I want to believe you told me the truth when you said you cared about me, but if that were true, you wouldn't have just walked away without so much as an explanation."
Draco pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. The exhaustion Harry had noticed earlier seemed to seep into his very bones. "Harry ... if Theo has been fool enough to do what I think he did, we may be stuck here for a very long time. Can you please hold your accusations until later?"
Harry knew Draco was right, but these questions had been eating away at him for months. He bit down on the urge to demand answers, hoping there would be time for that later. "What were you doing there? What do you think he's done?"
Draco pulled a piece of parchment from his robe pocket and handed it over. I have Pansy. If you ever want to see her again, meet us in Knockturn Alley at noon. You know the place.
"If he hurts her I swear I'll kill him and don't you dare try to stop me."
"He won't hurt her." Harry wasn't completely certain that statement was true, but from what he'd learned during past investigations, he thought it probably was. "Nott's unstable, but he's not vicious. He lost his family too, remember."
"We all lost family!" Draco screwed his eyes up tightly as though he was trying to block out the past, but how could he when it was all around them? Reminders of everything he'd had and everything he'd lost. When his eyes opened, Draco appeared perfectly unaffected. Something Harry had learned to recognize during the time they'd been together. The man could compartmentalize his emotions in a way Harry had never imagined possible. "The spell," Draco asked calmly. "Did you hear what he used?"
Harry thought back to the moment he'd seen Nott raise his wand. He'd been so focused on Draco, he hadn't been paying attention. He shook his head.
"Reneto tempum," Draco said slowly. Harry looked at him blankly. The words meant nothing to him.
"You always were pants at Latin, weren't you?" Harry detected a hint of a smile and it made his heart soar and ache in equal measure. He'd always hated it when Draco would shut him out, but he'd learned to accept it as part of who the man was, learned to respect it even. At times like this, Draco could always be counted on to keep a cool head when Harry wanted to fly off the handle and do something he'd likely regret. "It means, you will unspin time. "
"Unspin time?" Harry asked, no less confused than before. "But what does that—"
"We need to get to the library. My father had a book ... I was forbidden to touch it. Spells involving time travel can be a dangerous thing. Mother was afraid I might do something foolish if I ever got my hands on it."
"A spell? But that's not ... that's not possible, is it?"
"Where do you think Time-Turners got their magic? You'll remember all about those, yes?" Again, there was that hint of amusement in Draco's eyes that Harry couldn't quite interpret. Harry had told him all about Sirius's escape during third year. He'd told Draco all of his secrets when they had been together. Harry had questioned the wisdom of that decision over the past few months, waiting for them to turn up in the headlines of the Daily Prophet.
"No, I never told anyone," Draco said quietly, as if he'd read Harry's mind. "I wouldn't."
Harry didn't know what to say. There were so many things he didn't understand about Draco, and yet he'd been sure, at least for a while, that he'd known Draco better than anyone ever had.
The door to the room suddenly opened and both men froze. "Draco?" Narcissa Malfoy peeked her head into the room, staring directly at Draco.
"Mum?" Harry watched a myriad of emotions flit across Draco's face at hearing his mother's voice. His mother, who'd been dead for years.
"Draco? Are you in here?" she called out.
Draco's gaze moved from the door to where Harry still sat on the floor, his face now the cool Malfoy mask he'd perfected so well after the war. "She can't see us, I suspect. If the spell works the way I think, no one will be able to."
"Then why are we here?"
Draco appeared uncertain, and then shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure. Let's go find out, shall we?"
They searched the library for what felt like days, although the clock said it had been less than an hour. Harry felt as though he'd fallen into his worst nightmare. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy wandered in and out of the library several times and Draco ignored them as though they didn't exist. Harry wondered what was going through his mind. It couldn't be easy. Harry couldn't imagine how he would feel if he was suddenly transported to a time when his parents were alive. He'd tried to talk to Draco about it but was met with nothing more than a glare of warning. He decided it was time to change tactics. If Draco wouldn't talk about his parents, maybe he'd talk about something else.
"So, how have you been?"
Draco's eyes lifted from the book he'd been reading, his long fingers pausing on a passage to hold his place. "Lovely. And you?" he asked sarcastically.
Harry shook his head and sighed. "I was just trying to make conversation."
"Well, don't. If you want to be useful then make me a cup of tea."
"Make your own damn tea," Harry snarled as the anger he'd been holding in for much too long came rushing to the surface. Fucking Draco Malfoy always did have an innate ability to make him lose his temper.
"Sorry. That was uncalled for," Draco said quietly. "I'm just ... you shouldn't even be here. Why is it that you always feel you must play the hero?"
Harry stopped pacing – something he hadn't realised he'd been doing until that very moment – and sat in the chair across the table from Draco. "I don’t mean to. Ron and I were shopping and you were there and I ... I didn't mean to follow you, although now I'm glad I did."
"Why?" Draco asked, sounding genuinely surprised. "You could have been killed, you know? That spell was meant for me." Draco slid his book across the table and pointed to the paragraph he'd been studying. "Nott had to drink a potion containing my blood before he could perform the spell. By all rights, you should not be here."
"We were touching. Maybe—"
"No. That wouldn't have been enough. Whatever Nott wants changed has to involve you. I just have to sort out what it is and how to get us both back without changing it."
It sounded like a tall order. Harry could see the doubt in Draco's eyes, the way they wrinkled around the corners as if he were concentrating particularly hard. "If anyone can sort it out, you can. You're brilliant, remember?" There was a sadness in Draco's eyes that made Harry's heart ache. He wasn't sure how he could still care for the man, but there was no denying that he did. The months since Draco had walked out on him hadn't diminished that in the least. "Are you seeing anyone?"
Draco chuckled and directed his attention back to the book. "This isn't exactly the time to be delving into my personal life, is it?"
"I'm not. I'm just—"
"Making conversation?" Draco looked up pointedly and Harry was rather sure he was blushing. "No. I'm not seeing anyone. Nor do I plan to. I'm not very good at relationships, if you'll remember."
Something about the way Draco said it made Harry's heart soar. "I thought you were rather good at it, right up until you decided it wasn't worth the trouble."
The look Draco shot him in response was cold as ice, and Harry thought he probably deserved that much.
"Yes, Mother, I'll find it." Harry stiffened as the door to the library opened and a younger version of Draco entered, sauntering toward the wall of bookcases next to them. "Is it the one by Libatius Borage or Arsenius Jigger?" he called out.
Narcissa Malfoy's voice floated through the room as if on a breeze. "The one with the burn-healing paste, I do believe."
Harry watched as the younger Draco ran his fingers along the spine of each book. He looked even worse than Harry had remembered in sixth year, thin and lanky with sunken eyes that appeared as nothing more than holes in his skull.
"Jigger," Draco said quietly, studying the younger boy with an odd sense of curiosity.
The boy paused, and then moved back to an area of the bookcase he'd already passed. He pulled out a book and opened it, smirking as he must have found the potion he'd been sent to retrieve. "Jigger it is," he said to himself before turning to leave.
Harry looked at Draco with astonishment. "Did he hear you?"
Draco shrugged and looked at the clock on the wall. "I don't know, but I need to find a way around this spell soon or..."
Draco simply shook his head and returned to his book.
It was late evening when Draco slammed yet another book onto the table in frustration. Harry left the window he'd been staring out of and crossed the room quietly. "What? Did you find something?"
Draco looked up at the clock again, something he seemed to do every few minutes, and shook his head. "I don't know how to fix it. I can't ... I don't know how to get us back." Draco seemed unusually shaken, his face paler than usual.
"What does Nott want you to change?" Harry asked for what seemed like the hundredth time. He could tell Draco knew, but the man wouldn't admit it. "What happens if you change it?"
Draco stood suddenly, his chair falling over with a loud crash. He turned to Harry with his jaw clenched tightly, his eyes wild. "You die," he said tonelessly.
At that moment, there was a commotion in the room next door and, as Harry went to investigate, he understood. He watched mindlessly as a younger version of himself, face swollen horribly, was dragged through the door. It was as if he were there all over again, the fear and uncertainty mounting as he watched himself be pushed and shoved beneath the large chandelier.
"This is it. The moment in time we were sent to relive." Harry was grateful for the warmth against his back as Draco looked over his shoulder.
"You couldn't change it, even if you wanted to. They can't even see us."
"Pick up the teacup," Draco said softly. The young Draco fidgeted in his chair, looking at his teacup with a bewildered expression. "Pick up the teacup, Draco. You're suddenly feeling very thirsty." To Harry's surprise, the younger Draco reached out for the cup, taking a tentative sip as he looked around the room in confusion.
"Then he can hear you."
"Not really, no. But there must be some kind of connection. That's why he changed books earlier." Harry felt Draco's hand on his elbow for a brief second before it fell away. "Harry, Theo wants me to convince myself to identify you. And if I do that..."
Draco didn't need to finish his sentence. Harry knew full well what that would mean. The world as they knew it would no longer exist.
"You can't," Harry whispered.
"I know that!" Draco hissed in his ear. "It's what I've been trying to find a way around for the last three hours! But if I don't change the past, then we're stuck here forever."
Harry reached back to take Draco's hand, expecting it to be pulled from his grasp, but it wasn't. Draco's hand was warm and firm as it gripped his tightly. "Would it really be so horrible to be stuck with me forever?"
Draco suddenly pulled away as if Harry's words had stung him. "That's not the point. You have a life, a future. There has to be a way."
Harry turned his attention away from his younger self long enough to look into Draco's eyes. He wanted to be angry. Angry that he was here or that Draco had left without even a note of apology. But he couldn't find it in himself to be angry, not when Draco was looking at him like he used to. Not when he knew that whatever Draco's reasons had been, he still cared. "That life was supposed to include you, you know."
"You can't still want that? Not after—"
Draco looked away and when it became obvious he wouldn't answer, Harry turned his attention back to the problem before them. There had to be a way. There was always a way.
"They say they've got Potter. Draco, come here." Harry watched with rising panic as the younger Draco rose from his chair. Harry remembered this moment as if it were yesterday, but watching it now, it seemed very different than he'd remembered. Lucius Malfoy was practically bouncing on his toes in excitement while Draco studied him as if he was a strange beast dragged in from the Forbidden Forest.
"Harry, what if I'm supposed to change the past." Draco took a step toward his younger self and Harry's hand flew out, without thought, to hold him back. He had an odd expression on his face, as if he'd just sorted out the answer to an extremely difficult puzzle.
"Draco, you can't. If you change the past—"
"I never understood what made me do it that night. I knew it was you. I knew my family's name was at stake and I hated you then. By all rights, I should have identified you and I would have finally won. But I didn't, and now I think I know why."
"I don't... I don’t understand."
"Remember in third year, with the Dementors? You knew you could cast the Patronus because you'd already done it, right? Harry, what if this is where it all started with you – with us. Maybe it had nothing to do with what I wanted. Maybe it was fate, not my choice, that saved you."
"I don't believe in fate," Harry answered adamantly. "It's our choices that make us who we are, not some random roll of the dice."
"I know you don't, but ... trust me on this, Harry. I know I'm right."
Harry's mind whirled. His future – the future of the entire world hung in the balance and it all depended on whether or not he trusted Draco Malfoy. Logic told him no, but as he looked into pale grey eyes, every instinct he had told him yes. He released Draco's arm and nodded. "I do trust you." Draco's eyelids fell closed for a short moment, and when they reopened, Harry knew that whatever Draco's reasons had been for walking away, the man still loved him.
He gave Harry a small smile before turning to the young boy before them. "Don't do it," he whispered, moving closer. Harry could see the uncertainty in the boy's eyes. He could only imagine what might be going through his mind. "Don't say it, Draco. You can't be sure it's him."
"Well, Draco?" asked Lucius Malfoy, even more eagerly than Harry had remembered. "Is it? Is it Harry Potter?"
"I can't – I can't be sure."
"But look at him carefully, look! Come closer!"
Harry wanted to reach out to pull Draco back, but he seemed frozen in the moment as he watched his friends struggle against their bonds, saw so clearly the terror in Hermione's eyes. The younger Draco moved even closer to Harry's younger self, almost touching him as haunted grey eyes roamed his face, squinting to look at his forehead.
"The Dark Lord has already lost," Draco continued, focusing intently on the bewildered boy. "Potter will win this war and he will protect you as your father never could. Say you don't know him. Trust me."
"I don't know."
The words had no sooner left the boy's lips than the world around Harry swirled, dark mist dancing around him as he felt himself falling. He reached out, searching for something solid to grab hold of, but a warm arm found him instead, wrapping him in comfort. Draco's arms tightened around him as they both fell as if in freefall from a broom. They landed with a dull thud on to hard stone.
"Harry! Are you okay?" Ron's voice seemed to be coming from a distance. "What did you do to him, you bastard?"
Harry opened his eyes to find Nott pressed against the stone wall, Ron's wand digging into his throat. Pansy rushed to Draco's side asking if he was all right. Harry glanced around the alley. It was as though they'd never left.
"It's okay, Ron. We're fine."
Ron turned to him, his wand holding steadfast. "What was that spell? I've never heard—"
"We're fine," Harry repeated, hauling Draco with him as he pushed himself off the ground. His attention went to Nott, who looked around in surprise, as though he expected the world to have changed. "I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude, Nott. Without your arrogant stupidity the world would be a far different place." Nott and Pansy both looked at him as though he'd gone insane, but when his eyes met Draco's, he saw nothing but relief.
"Indeed, it would," Draco agreed with a smirk. "I believe I owe you a few explanations, Harry. Perhaps we could discuss them over dinner?"
Nott, Pansy and Ron all stared at them with identical bewildered expressions, but Harry wasn't in the mood to explain. He reached out to take Draco's hand, hoping against hope that it wouldn't be snatched away. Thankfully, it wasn't. "Ron, would you mind taking Mr Nott into custody for using an extremely dangerous, and I suspect illegal spell. Tell Kingsley I'll be in to fill out my report a little later. I'd like to talk to Draco alone for a minute."
"Draco?" Pansy stared at Draco, a multitude of unasked questions in her voice.
"It's all right, Pans. Can you make it back home okay? He didn't hurt you—"
"No. I'm fine. Are you—" she cast a wary glance in Harry's direction before turning concerned eyes back to Draco. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Perfectly sure. I'll talk to you tomorrow, all right?"
They both watched as Pansy retreated down the street, casting occasional, curious glances over her shoulder. Ron bound Nott securely and turned to Harry as if to say something, but then stopped as though he'd thought better of it. "I'll just... I'll talk to you later then?"
Harry nodded, turning toward Draco as the pop of Apparation echoed in the alleyway. "Dinner?"
"Perhaps that was a bit presumptuous. I'll understand if you can't—"
"Shut up," Harry said softly, tugging Draco toward him. "You owe me an explanation, but it can wait. This, on the other hand, can't." He leaned forward, brushing his lips against Draco's the way he'd wanted to since the day Draco had packed his things and moved out of their flat. Draco melted against him as if the last few months had never existed.
"Merlin, I've missed you," Draco mumbled as his lips left Harry's mouth and moved lower to trace his jaw line.
"Then why did you leave?"
Draco pulled away just enough to look into Harry's eyes. "You always were the eager one, weren't you?"
Harry looked away, embarrassed by his impatience. He'd said he could wait, and he could, but...
"I thought you'd be better off. I ... it wasn't fair that you were always fighting my battles for me."
"They weren't your battles, Draco, they were ours. I wouldn't have fought them if I hadn't thought it was worth it."
"I know. I just ... I thought it would be easier this way."
Harry cocked his head and pondered Draco's words. It was true, there were things Harry wanted that he'd never have with Draco. Kingsley had told him outright that the Ministry would never approve his promotion so long as he "associated with Death Eaters." He'd never have kids of his own, and the Daily Prophet would continue to run bogus stories about how Draco was attempting to manipulate the Chosen One down a dark path.
One look into Draco's eyes told him none of that really mattered. Even with all the problems their relationship had caused in the past, he'd been happier with Draco than he'd ever been. As much as Harry hated to think fate had anything to do with the choices he'd made, maybe Draco had been right about that. But regardless of whether it was fate that ruled his choices or choices that ruled his fate, he knew what he wanted.
"I know the consequences, Draco, but it's my choice to make, not yours. You have to let me make it. If that's the only reason you left, then you can move back in tonight and we can have dinner at home like we used to."
When Draco smiled, Harry knew it was a choice he'd never regret.