Title: The Art of Transmigration
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, implied past Harry/Ginny and Harry/OMC
Summary: Sometimes it takes falling into the past to find your future.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant?: Nope.
Word Count: ± 7,250
Author's Notes: Thanks to my nameless-for-now prereaders! Happy Holidays, sapphirequill! Hope this hits some of what you were looking for.
The tarnished bowl looks harmless. Antique silver with etched runes standing out in stark relief against the dinged and dirty surface. The same three runes repeated over and over. It'd be easy enough to write off as a family heirloom if not for the feeling of familiarity. The idea of a memory flitters on the edge of Harry's subconscious, just out of his grasp. He's pretty sure he's seen this thing before; he just can't pin down the when and where of it.
Between the familiarity and the heavy stench of magic, his curiosity is piqued.
"You're sure we need to involve the Unspeakables?"
Harry rolls his eyes. Even without the itch in his gut telling him he should remember where the bowl came from, it should be obvious the Unspeakables are their best option. "You do feel the magic coming off it, don't you?"
"It doesn't feel like all that much to me," Proudfoot says. "Just residual stuff."
"Residual –" Harry stops and swallows, reminding himself that not everyone's as sensitive to magic as he is. It doesn't help that Proudfoot isn't really the brightest of the lot. "We need the Unspeakables on this. Silver punch bowls don't just appear in the middle of a Quidditch pitch."
"Well, you're the one who has worked with the Department of Mysteries before," Proudfoot says. "Guess that makes this your call. I still think you're making something out of nothing."
"Perhaps," Harry murmurs. "Perhaps not." Motioning towards the bowl, Harry says, "I'm taking this downstairs. Tomorrow?"
Proudfoot shakes his head. "Monday. Some of us don't pull weekend duty anymore."
Harry ignores him and keeps walking, not wanting to admit he doesn't have weekend duty either. He just doesn't have anything better to do, not since things ended with Jacob, the most recent in his very long string of lovers.
"Wha'cha got, Potter?"
Setting the bowl on Croaker's desk, Harry shrugs. "Dunno. That's why I brought it to you."
Croaker huffs out a gravelly laugh. "When're you gonna admit that you should be down here working with us? You're too curious for the likes of the Aurors."
Harry's lips twitch. They've been having the same argument since he started with the Auror division in ninety-eight. "And depend on people like Proudfoot to know what does and doesn't need to come down here? Don't think so."
"Proudfoot," Croaker snorts. "Still haven't figured out how he made it through."
"He's got his good points," Harry automatically defends his partner. "He's fast with his wand, good in a fight. He just…"
"Wouldn't recognize a magical artefact if it started talking to him. This," Croaker pokes a gnarled finger at the bowl, "bends time and place. The runes tell us that much. Not sure exactly how it works. Let me call in someone with more knowledge."
With a flick of his wrist, Croaker sends his Patronus through the nearest wall.
Croaker shrugs. "So much of what we do is confidential, you just get used to using them. Then you find yourself using them all of the time. Now, tell me how you found this."
"Got a Floo call from the Falmouth Falcons," Harry says. "It was sitting centre field on the pitch."
"Out in the open?"
"Oh no," Harry replies, chuckling. "More than half-buried. Dug it out myself."
Looking away from the bowl, Croaker pins Harry with a glare. "You didn't use any magic, did you? Last thing I want is your signature all over it."
"Of course not." That was a lesson learned in his early days with the department. He still hasn't forgotten the dressing down Kingsley gave him. "Didn't matter, though. There wasn't anything there except what's surrounding that thing."
"Nope. I checked the area after I dug it out. No signatures at all." The dirt, the grass, the doors leading into the stadium. He'd looked everywhere, even used a broom to check the dome over the pitch. That part had been pretty cool. Taking a broom ride was always good, doing it on a professional pitch with a quality broom just amped it up a notch. "And the little magic that was there was Ancient. Figured it came from the bowl."
"Ancient makes sense. People don't use runic magic much outside of rituals anymore. Used to be a popular way to practice, though." Croaker tilts his head to the side, eyes squinting as he stares at the etching on the bowl. "Wish there wasn't so much dirt on it. These runes are hard to decipher."
Pointing his finger at the bowl, Harry says, "Terg –"
Harry looks towards the sound of the shouting, eyebrows going up as Draco Malfoy rushes into the room, but neither the shouting nor the cool feel of Malfoy's fingers encircling his wrist stop Harry from finishing the spell. "– eo."
The light blue hue of the spell zips through the air, enveloping the silver bowl. The sounds of their breaths are loud in the ensuing silence.
"Dammit, Potter…" Malfoy gasps.
And then everything goes dark.
Rolling onto his back, Harry groans. His head hasn't hurt this bad since Voldemort was in there mucking about. It's something he could've gone the rest of his life without living through again.
Harry groans again. Right. He was with Malfoy, of all people, when the world exploded. Slowly, he blinks his eyes open. He skates a look at Malfoy and then over the room in general. His head is thumping too hard for him recognize where they are, but it definitely isn't Croaker's office. The dingy wallpaper is a dead giveaway. "What happened?"
"What's the last thing you remember?"
Leave it to Malfoy to not answer his question. "Croaker's office, an old silver bowl. You shouting at me and grabbing my wrist."
"At least it appears your memory is intact."
"You thought it wouldn't be?"
Draco sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. "You cast wandless magic on a rune-covered artefact. That combination lends itself to unpredictable outcomes."
"Great," Harry grumbles, pushing until he's at least sitting up instead of being sprawled out on the floor. The headache is fading into something more manageable. "What'd I do this time?"
"Well, you didn't fry your brain. I haven't made it much further beyond that worry." Draco walks over to a window and peeks around the curtain's edge. "We're in a house. From the condition and the contents in this room, I'd say that it is both abandoned and a former Black residence. Which is surprising seeing as it also appears to be surrounded by Muggles."
"Grimmauld Place," Harry says. "I don't know how you managed to get past the wards, though."
"I was holding onto you, Potter. Where you went, I went." Draco steps away from the window and drops to the floor beside Harry. "What exactly is Grimmauld Place?"
"My house." With another sweeping glance of the room, Harry frowns. The room looks familiar, but he could've sworn he ripped that wallpaper down years ago.
Nose wrinkling, Draco says, "I'd have figured you for a better housekeeper."
"Shut it, Malfoy," Harry snaps, looking around. It really is a hot bed of dust and dirt. "Help me up; it might not be Grimmauld after all."
Draco rolls to a stand and holds out a hand, hefting Harry to his feet. He keeps a hand on Harry's back while Harry shuffles to the window.
Harry doesn't jerk away, doesn't mention the odd behavior at all. He needs the help to regain his equilibrium. Shoving the curtain to one side, Harry sucks in a fast breath. They're definitely at Grimmauld. Just not the Grimmauld he left behind on his way to work this morning.
"It's Grimmauld, but…" Turning towards Draco, Harry swallows against the thick knot of worry building in his throat. "It's not."
Watching Malfoy's body tighten sends another burst of worry through Harry. One of them has to understand what's going on and it obviously isn't him. That leaves Malfoy.
"That wallpaper?" Harry points his finger. "I ripped it down a while ago. That house across the street? Isn't supposed to be blue. This is definitely Grimmauld, but it's not my Grimmauld."
Draco closes his eyes and sighs. "When?"
Turning a look full of annoyance on Harry, Draco says, "When did you tear that hideous wallpaper down?"
Harry laughs softly. The wallpaper really is dreadful. Leave it to Malfoy to point it out. "Four years ago."
He's sure. Four years ago, right after Ginny finished her final year at Hogwarts but before they decided that they were better off as friends. It was during the months when they were redecorating, planning a future together. "Yes."
"Who was living here before that?" Draco asks, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"From the end of our fifth year on, no one. Before that, Sirius for a while." Harry leaves out all mention of Grimmauld being the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. "Why, Malfoy?"
"Because, Potter," Draco grinds out between clenched teeth, "it appears that you've sent us tumbling through time, and right now, I'm trying to work out just how many people I'm going to have to Obliviate before we're some place safe."
"That's one way to put it." Draco looks past Harry's shoulder and through the grimy window. "Let's just hope you at least kept us in our timeline. An alternate reality is the last thing we need. First things first, however, we need to know what the date is."
"Easy enough." Pushing the window open, Harry holds out a hand and shouts, "Accio newspaper."
Harry scans the Muggle newspaper again. Seven years, give or take a few weeks. He's – they're – seven years in the past. Assuming they're still in the same reality. That part hasn't been hammered out yet. His mind is whirling with the possibilities. So many things he can do, people he can save. "If this is our timeline, Dumbledore will be picking me up from my Muggle relatives late tomorrow night."
"And you're sure no one will be nosing around here?"
"No one. Sirius has already died in the Department of Mysteries." Just a few short weeks ago by the date on the newspaper. "I didn't come back here again until seventh year."
Draco nods his head. "Can we get to your relatives easily from here?"
"Side-Along?" Harry bites his bottom lip. He almost hopes that Draco wants to stay behind. It'll give him time to approach Dumbledore. "There's an alley nearby. We can use that as an Apparition point."
"You don't have any type of Apparition wards up here?" The question is accompanied by a sceptical look.
"No," Harry says, shaking his head. "I added them after the war. The others fell when Sirius died."
It's been long enough that Harry can talk about Sirius without sounding like a grieving widow or a sulking teenager. Being here without all of the changes he's grown used to, though, is playing havoc with his head.
"Makes sense," Draco replies, turning his attention to the newspaper. "You weren't here, no reason to spend the energy on warding."
Draco concentrates on the Muggle newspaper while Harry stares at Draco. He hasn't seen Draco Malfoy since the trials. This levelheaded bloke with a willingness to work together on a problem wasn't who Harry had encountered then. The change in the status quo is somewhat disconcerting.
"You're staring, Potter," Draco drawls. "Why?"
"You're different," Harry blurts out.
"Different from what?"
Harry flails a hand through the air. "From… what I remember. We're in a different time because of me, and you haven't tried to hex me yet. You haven't even yelled at me properly. That's not normal."
"Merlin, we haven't seen each other for years, and it's not as if we ever truly knew one another. We weren't friends." Draco starts unbuttoning his robes. "Plus, right now, all we have is one another."
There's no comeback to that. It's pure truth. This version of Draco is still disturbing, though.
"If it makes you feel better, I promise to sling a stinging hex at you as soon as we're back."
Harry chokes back a laugh. He's suddenly overwhelmed with the idea that this is someone he can be friends with. That thought is almost more worrisome than the whole time travel thing. "Stinging hex? That's a little juvenile."
"Not if my aim is good enough," Draco retorts, a smirk curling the edges of his lips when Harry barks out a stunted laugh. Waving a hand towards Harry, he asks, "What do you have on beneath those Auror robes, Potter?"
"Denims and a Henley," Harry answers without thought.
Draco flicks his wand towards the wall, nodding as the faded floral paper shreds twist and morph into two hooks. "Lose them so we can go find something to eat."
"Do try to keep up," Draco sighs. "Yes, lose the robes. We can't wear robes into Muggle London. Going into the magical world is too dangerous until we know more. Besides, an Unspeakable and an Auror walking around together? Even if we weren't who we are, it would draw too much attention. And, right now, I need to find a restaurant. I'm hungry."
Harry's stomach takes that moment to rumble loudly. "Right then," he says, stripping out of his robes. "Food."
Harry's taken by surprise when, after ordering, Draco pays with Muggle money.
Arching a brow, Draco asks, "Yes?"
"I didn't expect…" Harry feels the burn of embarrassment working its way over his cheeks. "Never mind."
"Like your division, mine has certain rules in place." Draco glances around the bright interior of the deli. "Always being able to adapt to our surroundings is one of them."
"Yeah, I thought that might be the case after I got over the shock of it all." Harry picks up his sandwich and takes a large bite. He hadn't realised how hungry he truly is. Swallowing, he asks, "What's our plan, Malfoy?"
"Lay low until tomorrow night, make sure we really are in our timeline." Draco takes a sip of his water. "After we know exactly what we're dealing with, we can work out how to get back home."
Harry takes a deep, fortifying breath, not sure how Malfoy is going to react to his next comment. "I want to talk to Dumbledore."
"Absolutely not," Draco hisses, eyes flashing with angry disapproval. "Have you lost your mind?"
"We can tell him…"
"Enough to change everything," Draco interrupts. "Including the future we came from. There is no way I'll allow you to do that."
"Allow me?" Harry's temper spikes. "Look, Malfoy…"
"No, you look," Draco snaps. "Do you want to get back home? Because if you do, you will change nothing in this time and place. One thing, Potter, one tiny, seemingly inconsequential thing can change it all. The flap of a butterfly's wings can create a hurricane."
Harry slumps back and sighs. "Chaos theory."
"Yes," Draco agrees, looking slightly impressed. "However, it's not just a theory. Croaker called me in because I spend most of my days steeped in the intricacies of time. It's fluid, Potter. One change creates a ripple that then expands out and touches everything. We've already disturbed things just by showing up here. All we can do now is move slowly and carefully, and hope we have the same place to return home to."
"I can't just sit by and watch it happen."
"You can and you will." Draco leans across the table and drops his voice even lower. "If you attempt to do otherwise, I will not hesitate to stun you and hang you on the wall in that godforsaken house of yours. Do you understand?"
Harry shakes his head. "So many deaths. Snape and Fred Weasley, so many others we didn't know. Think about it, Malfoy."
"We could change that."
"Potter…" Draco stops and sighs. "There are no guarantees. We save Snape and someone else dies instead, maybe one of us. One Weasley replaces the other." Reaching across the table, Draco curls his fingers loosely around Harry's wrist. "We can't disturb anything."
"Yeah, okay." Harry pulls his wrist free of Draco's grasp. "Finish your crisps, Malfoy. I'm ready to go back to my godforsaken house. It's been a very trying day."
Harry chuckles softly when Draco snorts and mutters, "Trying day, indeed."
At fifteen before eleven, Harry and Draco appear in the alley connecting Wisteria Walk and Magnolia Crescent. "Come on," Harry says. "Privet Drive is right at that corner. The house is a little ways beyond it."
Sticking to the shadows, Harry winds his way to the house directly across from his former home. He points and says, "Right there. Dumbledore should be here in less than five minutes."
"Yeah," Harry murmurs. "And let's hope he doesn't look this way. He can see through the spell."
"Your plan is to hope he doesn't look this way?" Draco shakes his head. "Seriously, Potter. The more I'm around you, the more I wonder how you've survived. Your plan, by the way, is wretched."
Grinning, Harry shrugs. "It's a scaled down version of the plan to find the Horcruxes. That worked out okay."
"How many people know that the Boy Who Lived is actually a lunatic?" Draco frowns when Harry laughs. "No, really. Reckless and foolish. The very definition of a Gryffindor. At least we've got your never-ending luck on our side."
"Cast the spell, Malfoy, and hush," Harry replies, amused despite himself.
Long minutes tick off and then, with a near silent pop, Albus Dumbledore appears on the corner. In quick succession, each of the streetlamps goes dark.
"He's using the Deluminator," Harry whispers.
"The man was brilliant," Draco acknowledges just as quietly. "Stark, barking mad, but brilliant."
When the door finally closes behind Dumbledore, Harry says, "He's in there telling me Sirius left me Grimmauld, and I'm telling him I don't want it."
"You obviously changed your mind."
Harry snorts, lost in a melancholy cycle of memories. "Only after another couple of years. It took a year at Hogwarts, months destroying Horcruxes, the final battle, and a half-year of Auror training before I figured I could put the ghosts to rest and actually live there instead of just visit."
He leaves out the fact that for the first month he woke up more than once covered in sweat and dreaming about Sirius falling behind the veil.
"Not bad, Potter," Draco says into the darkness. "It's been four years since my father died, and I still haven't entered his office."
Draco sounds sincere. And extremely vulnerable. It's one more thing to twist up Harry's worldview.
"There're a lot of layers to you, Malfoy. Little quirks and niceties you keep hidden behind the proper Malfoy mask." Harry reaches out and lays a hand on Draco's shoulder, squeezing slightly. He feels Draco shudder before he shrugs away from Harry's touch. Attempting to change the subject, Harry asks, "How'd you get in with the Unspeakables?"
Draco takes a deep, shaking breath and exhales loudly. "While you were searching for Horcruxes and then learning how to be an Auror, I was on a personal mission to undo all of the devastation."
"You wanted to rewrite history." It's a statement, not a question. "Wanted to go back in time and do it over."
"Yes. I wanted to stop Tom Riddle from ever coming into existence." Draco releases a sardonic laugh. "Trust me, Potter. I understand your desire to make changes more than you can ever realise."
"Why…" Harry stops and swallows when his voice cracks. "Why'd you stop trying?"
"One morning, after I'd done a short jump in time – an experiment, if you will – the Unspeakables swarmed the manor. Mother was livid with me, but they were impressed." Draco takes a step away from Harry. "After more than a fortnight of being interrogated about my research, I was given an option. Stop attempting to manipulate time and work with the department, or…"
"Go to Azkaban," Harry finishes.
"Heard this story before, have you?"
"Needless to say, I accepted the position with the department. Since then I've learned so much about twisting time and space." Draco turns around and steps into Harry's personal space, moving in close enough that, even with the disillusionment, they can see one another. His face is a mask of seriousness. "If I had been left to succeed, I'd have destroyed our timeline. Nothing is worth writing ourselves out of existence, Potter."
"That's why you're being so cautious now, isn't it?"
"Besides the fact that I'm not naturally inclined to jump into situations wand first?"
Harry can hear the smirk in Draco's voice. Instead of irritating him, though, it makes him smile. Some things are simply a part of Draco Malfoy, the snotty drawl being one of them. It's something familiar in this very unfamiliar situation. "Yeah, besides that."
"Yes," Draco replies, all joking gone from his voice. "That's why we're being so cautious."
Before Harry can respond, a noise draws their attention back towards the Dursley's house. They say nothing until, after restoring the streetlamps, Dumbledore Apparates away with Harry clinging to his arm.
Canceling the Disillusionment charm, Draco breaks Harry's sinking mood with a laughing, "Merlin but you were a scrawny thing."
Harry glares and snaps, "Yeah, well, at least I finally filled out. You're still as willowy as a girl."
Draco is sputtering soundlessly as Harry turns on his heel and Apparates away.
By mutual agreement, they limit themselves to the room they first appeared in, eating out and relying on cleaning charms. They use the cranky upstairs bathroom sparingly, wincing each time the old pipes creak and burp. Kreacher hasn't made himself known, and Harry's unsurprisingly okay with that. It's one less thing that could go wrong.
And he realises now just how much could go wrong. Malfoy has done nothing if not drill that through his head.
But, after essentially being locked in a room with Malfoy for three solid days, Harry is ready to burst. His skin is itching with the need to get out, fly a broom, run around the block, get laid. Anything to work off the excess energy that living in a twelve-by-fifteen room has bottled inside of him.
"Come on, Potter." Draco twirls a stubbed pencil between his fingers. "I need details if we're going to ever figure out where that bowl came from."
"I get that. But why are we doing it like Muggles?" Harry closes his eyes and sighs. He's not artistic, doesn't pay enough attention to minute details to be helpful to someone who is artistic. "It'd be easier to just show you the memory. That way you can see the blasted bowl for yourself."
Then, maybe, they could get them out of the room and onto the hunt.
Draco says nothing in return, but his eyes go wide and his mouth lax.
"What?" Harry says, more sharply than he'd intended.
"People usually only share memories because it's demanded of them," Draco replies.
It feels like Draco is leaving something out of the explanation, something important. But Harry's beyond trying to suss out secrets. Rolling his shoulders in an easy shrug, he says, "It's just a memory of the damn bowl. Besides, I trust you to not ask for more."
Confusion flitters across Draco's face. "You trust me?"
"Yeah, crazy, right? But there you have it." Harry shrugs again. He dealt with the fact that he apparently trusts Malfoy in the first twenty-four hours of this little unexpected holiday. No way he'd have been able to fall asleep otherwise. "Harry Potter trusts Draco Malfoy."
Draco's lips twitch once, then once again. A short burst of amusement spills out and then another, until they're both holding their sides and laughing.
Wiping a tear from his face, Draco smiles. "I trust you too, Potter."
The smile stops Harry short. He drops his head back and bites off a groan. They really need to find a way home before he does something ridiculously stupid. Like put the moves on Malfoy.
"So," Harry grunts out, forcing his thoughts to something safer. "The memory?"
"If you've got a Pensieve stashed somewhere around here, sure."
Harry squeezes his eyes shut and sighs. No Pensieve. Right. "So, the bowl was about as big as a punch bowl, but more oblong than round, and the handles looked like scrolls. There was something familiar about it, but I still haven't figured out what."
"You think you've seen somewhere before."
Harry takes it as a statement instead of a question. "But it had to have been in passing. Not part of an active case or anything."
"An artefact like this one? Maybe in a museum, or in a collector's case." Draco nudges Harry with his foot. "Been to many museums?"
"Yeah, that'd be a no."
"Is there a library here?"
Harry shakes his head. They'd finally managed a drawing of the bowl late the night before. Not that having a rough – very rough – example of the artefact has been helpful in the least. "I converted the rooms on the third floor into a library and office combo. Until that happens? No library."
Even then Harry doubts it's the type of library Malfoy needs. Books on Quidditch and Auror tactics aren't much help when it comes to time travel.
Draco scrunches up his nose. "Well, that isn't helpful at all."
"Not unless you want to inspect the cellars again." Frowning, Draco shakes his head. "I tried to lie, you know. I couldn't say no, because then I would have been punished. But I didn't want to say yes and condemn you."
"I know," Harry whispers, falling into the memory as though it were only yesterday. "And I'll pass on the visit to the Malfoy dungeons, if it's all the same to you."
"Bookstore, then." Draco drums his fingers against his thigh. "Hogsmeade or Diagon?"
"Both are dangerous," Harry replies. "But the Alley has more people for us to hide behind."
Draco nods. "And Knockturn to get lost in, if the need arises."
"Gonna have to do something about our appearance though." Harry takes his glasses off and drops them on the windowsill. "There's step one."
"You plan on being blind today?"
"No," Harry says, chuckling. "I had a Muggle surgery and then got contacts. Kept the glasses just because everyone expects to see me in them."
"They're plain glass?" Draco looks at Harry and then, when Harry nods, picks them up and slips them on. "Well played, Potter. We'll wear Muggle clothes, no robes, maybe a couple of baseball caps."
"I dunno," Harry says, sceptical. "You think that's enough?"
"We both have seven years on our side. We've changed." Draco waves a hand towards Harry. "Your scar has faded and the longer hair isn't as unruly. Your eyes are darker now, not as memorable a shade of green."
"It's the contacts. They're coloured, a greenish-brown. A way to hide in plain sight. Your hair, though." Harry fights the urge to reach out and touch Draco's hair. "It's definitely still Malfoy blond."
"Fair enough," Draco murmurs. Taking out his wand, Draco closes his and, whispering too low for Harry to hear, taps the center of his head. From the top down, Malfoy's white blond bleeds into honeyed-brown. It's a surprisingly good colour for him.
"Changes your entire face," Harry says. "Changes the colour of your face, makes you not seem so pale." Or fragile, Harry adds to himself. Draco doesn't look anywhere near as breakable as he usually does.
"We can go now?" Draco huffs.
The aggravated tone takes Harry by surprise. At least until he finally slots it all together. Malfoy is just as tired of being cooped up as he is. And if Harry will hurry up and approve their efforts to blend in, they can go out. They'll get a taste of home. Grinning, he says, "Let's go."
The thrill of being in Diagon Alley again loses its flavor after the fourth day of searching the dusty stacks of Ancient History texts in Flourish & Blotts.
Buying the books would have been easier. However, with their limited funds dwindling – even with the duplicating charm they've been using on the Muggle bills – they're left to do their research in the dark corners of the bookstore, communicating through hand gestures and pointed looks.
Harry can now decipher all the variations of Malfoy's sneer. He's not sure how much of an accomplishment that is.
"Wait," Harry says, voice too loud to his own ears. Dropping his voice to the more used whisper, he adds, "Go back a page."
Draco flips the page and then, shoving the book beneath Harry's nose, gives an expectant look. "Well?"
"That's it," Harry says, sure his grin is bordering on psychotic. "We found it."
"No," Draco says, jerking the book back. "We know what we need to find. Big difference there."
Looking over his shoulder, Draco drags his wand down the length of the page. A single sheet of parchment, the page with the picture of the bowl, flutters to the ground.
Harry can't find it in himself to be mad about the whole defacement of property thing. Not when, for the first time since he threw them back in time, there's something like hope burning through him.
"I'm going out."
Draco waves a hand in Harry's general direction. "Don't do anything stupid, Potter."
Harry rolls his eyes and Apparates. Thirty minutes later, bottle of Muggle whisky in his hand, he drags his feet through the dirt on the path leading out of Ottery St. Catchpole.
Skirting the edge of the wards of the Burrow, Harry finds a large shade tree and scurries up the trunk, settling in on one of the lower branches.
The hours pass slowly. He marks each one with a double shot of whisky, wishing the amber Muggle liquor left the same burning trail as Firewhisky. Finally, when the sun starts to set, Harry hears what he's been waiting for. Ron and Hermione, Ginny and George. And Fred. Merlin, he'd forgotten about Fred. All of them hollering for Harry, for him, to hurry up.
When Harry sees his younger self, he raises the bottle and slurs a drunken, "Happy birthday, Harry. Better enjoy this one, 'cause your twenty-third is gonna suck." He looks around, searching for a possible eavesdropper, then mutters, "And, and, and… Malfoy isn't as much of a jerk as you think. Might want to try and get along with him some."
Harry wakes up with the worst hangover ever. He'd forgotten that he had no access to the potions that he usually kept on hand for combating the overindulgence of celebrating, or, in this case, pity partying. Blinking his eyes open, he moans, "Ugh."
Draco comes into Harry's field of vision, a damp washcloth in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. "Do you need anything for a headache?"
"No," Harry murmurs, sighing as he drops the cool cloth over his eyes. He chugs half of the water and adds, "Thanks."
"You should have told me yesterday was your birthday." Draco replaces the empty water bottle with a small bottle of orange juice. "Drink that. You need the vitamins."
"Mother hen," Harry grumbles, attempting – and failing – to shoot a glare at Draco.
Draco arches a brow. "Now, Potter."
Harry drinks the juice, and then eats the sandwich without much more complaint. The egg and bacon on thick-sliced toast is more welcome than Harry thought it would be. Thirty minutes later, he feels less like something squashed on the bottom of his shoe and more like he might actually live until his next birthday.
"You were busy," Harry says. "And it isn't like it's a big deal. Birthdays come around every year."
"I'm sure the unimportance of it is exactly why you were drinking alone." The look Draco gives Harry is full of disparaging names. "Anyone ever tell you that you're a touchy, feely drunk?"
Heat flares over Harry's cheeks. Touchy, feely doesn't even begin to cover it. He's a horny drunk. He'd forgotten that small fact when he'd decided getting hammered was a good way to spend his birthday. "Do I need to apologize?"
"Apologies imply something was unwelcome." Draco looks away, a matching blush staining his face. "I don't believe that would be the case here. However, you'd have made it further if you had imbibed less alcohol before trying."
It takes Harry a full minute to puzzle out Draco's statement. When he finally does, all he can do is groan. Because, yeah, that's really gonna help him curb the ridiculous fascination he has with Malfoy.
"We're stuck here, aren't we?" All the hope from the week before has disappeared under the realization that they have to actually find the bowl, have to take possession of the thing, to get back home. It's proving to be more frustrating than the Horcrux hunt. At least there he had some idea of where to start looking.
Not to mention the ever-growing desire to push Malfoy against the wall and kiss him until both of them go weak in the knees. Or rub one off against each other. That definitely hadn't been a factor when he'd been trapped in a tent with Hermione and Ron.
He's close to losing his ever-loving mind.
"We will get back home." Draco shoots Harry a look filled with worry. It's not exactly encouraging. "I'll accept no less."
"How? The stupid bowl could be anywhere. All we have is that it's Nordic in origin." Harry drops his head back against the wall, wincing when the thump echoes through the room. "Should we pop over to Denmark and start our search there?"
"I don't know, Potter. I've always been partial to Finland myself."
"Okay," Harry says, sighing. "No reason to get snarky. Well, snarkier than usual. I'll back off and let you do your thing."
"I get that research doesn't give you the same thrill as rushing into something blind," Draco says. "But it is necessary. It requires time and patience, Potter."
"We've been here three weeks." Harry looks around the room. It feels more like a jail cell. He doubts he'll be comfortable in this room ever again, assuming they really do make it back to their proper time.
"You said you trust me."
"I do," Harry replies, too fast to be anything but the truth.
"Then trust me to get us home."
Harry grunts his compliance. "You know, no matter how cool it sounds, time travel sucks."
"Knockturn Alley?" The thought of walking into the snake den that is Knockturn Alley makes Harry's stomach tighten. "Why not Flourish & Blotts or that little shop in Hogsmeade?"
"Because while the theory of time travel is open to research, the actual art of transmigration is considered Dark." Draco shrugs, a habit Harry's sure Malfoy picked up from him. Harry wishes Draco would stop using it. The more relaxed Malfoy gets, the prettier he is. "When I wanted specifics before, I had to use bookshops that specialize in the Dark Arts."
"Right. Dark Arts. Makes sense that time travel would be one of 'em." Harry shakes his head. Leave it to him to use Dark magic accidently. "Let's get this over with then."
Knockturn Alley makes Harry's skin crawl now just as much as it did three years ago… or as much as it will four years into the future… whenever it is-was-will be that he chases a squib through the back alleyways for selling Muggle drugs to wizards. There're too many shadowed doorways and sharp turns for him to ever be comfortable here. Working against the twisting in his gut, Harry blurts, "I followed you down here once."
"Yeah." Harry shakes his head, wondering just how wrong all of his youthful speculating had been. "You went into Borgin and Burkes. Screwing around with the Vanishing Cabinet, if I had to guess."
Draco grimaces. "Just before sixth year. I was in survival mode by then."
"I can imagine," Harry murmurs, sorry he brought the subject up. The last thing he meant to do was add more tension to the situation. "Voldemort put us all there before it was over."
Harry's unease triples when they push into a bookshop and the man behind the counter glares and snarls, "Don't think I've seen the likes of you two before."
"Unfortunately, I cannot make that same claim," Draco drawls.
Harry doesn't know whether to laugh or to snatch Draco out of the bookshop by his collar. He's leaning heavily towards laughing.
"Now, Mr. Rowle, I need to see these titles." Draco pushes a piece of parchment across the counter. Of the books listed, only one is important: The Nordic Art of Transmigration. Hiding the title within a list of others was Draco's idea. One that Harry agreed with immediately. It was never a good idea to let someone know what you're planning.
"These books are all outlawed."
"Really." Draco rolls his eyes. "I had no idea. The books cannot be purchased legally. I have no intent to purchase them."
Harry gives in and chuckles. Rowle glares at Harry in return.
"The books, Mr. Rowle," Draco says, stepping a few feet to his left. "My companion and I do not have all day to waste with juvenile staring contests."
Watching closely, Harry knows the instant Malfoy finds something important. One eyebrow wings up and his tongue peeks out as he scribbles information on a piece of parchment at a ridiculously fast pace.
It takes everything Harry has not to give the game completely away and pull Malfoy into a hug.
For pretense, they flip through all the books, making random notes on more slips of paper. All told, they spend close to two hours in the shop when fifteen minutes would have done.
Stepping outside, Harry looks at Draco and asks, "Yes?"
"Yes," Draco confirms. "I know where it should be."
Harry waits for Malfoy to say more. When seconds turn into a full minute of silence, he says, "Well?"
"I know why the bowl was familiar. I'm surprised I didn't recognize it myself." Draco licks his lips and says, "We need to go to Hogwarts. It's a Ravenclaw relic."
Standing in the shadows, Harry watches his schoolmates disembark from the Express. They all look so young: Hermione, Ron, Ginny. It's amazing to think they'll all be fighting a war in less than a year.
"How long do we need to wait?"
He turns away from the scene – the memories – and says, "At least until Tonks comes back and finds me on the train."
Blush rising, Draco says, "Yeah, about that…"
Chuckling softly, Harry waves a hand in Malfoy's direction. "I deserved it. It was a long time ago. Besides, we're not the same people, are we now?"
"No, I don't suppose we are."
The longer Malfoy stares at him, the more Harry fidgets.
Slowly Draco holds out his hand. "Think we're finally at a point of friendship, Potter?"
"My friends call me Harry," he replies, clasping Draco's hand in his. "It's Draco, right?"
"Yes," Draco says. "It is."
Harry quirks a grin. It only took twelve years and a trip back in time to bridge the distance between them.
"Breaking into Honeydukes," Draco says, laughing. "That's not in your Boy Who Lived bio."
"That's not all that isn't in my bio." Harry smirks at Draco's speculative look. "I have a lot of secrets. Stick around when we get back, and you might learn a few more of them." Picking up his pace, he adds, "We're going through Honeydukes because this tunnel opens out closest to the trophy room. If we'd gone in from the Shrieking Shack, it'd have dumped us out in front of the Whomping Willow, and the Hog's Head tunnel leads to the seventh floor."
"We knew about the tunnel under the Whomping Willow and that there were others. We assumed one had to come out in Hogsmeade, but my money was on the Three Broomsticks. Going into the Hog's Head, though? That was never on my list." Nodding in the general direction of Hogwarts, Draco says, "It shouldn't take long to find the bowl and get back out."
"Long as we don't set off any of the portraits." The portraits are out of Harry's control. He doesn't like out-of-his-control to factor into a mission.
"That's why we're in our robes," Draco says, presenting the same argument in the same reasonable tone he used earlier. It annoys Harry just as much this time as it did the first time. "All they'll be able to report is seeing an Auror and an Unspeakable. It might raise some eyebrows, but our identities should be protected."
"Just let me do the magic," Harry replies. "They'll be able to trace your signature."
"I'm all for watching you perform wandless, that never gets old."
"Or you're just easy," Harry says, stopping and taking a deep breath. "Okay, we're here. Hoods up. Wand out."
Locking the door to Honeydukes behind him, Harry says, "That was too easy."
"Retrieving the bowl? Perhaps," Draco says. "But not when you take in the entire thing. A lot of time was spent on research and planning."
Harry walks along the path leading out of Hogsmeade. Now that they have the bowl, Apparating is out of the question. There's no telling where they'd end up if they combined Apparating with the runic magic of the bowl. The next spell they cast will be the one to take them home. Hopefully. "I didn't mind the researching as much as you think. I don't like being at a standstill, but," Harry bumps his shoulder against Draco's, "it wasn't all bad."
"No," Draco replies, a shy smile curling the edges of his lips. "It wasn't."
Reaching an open field, Draco breaks off the path. "Here, it's far enough away from town, and there's nothing to interfere with the magic." He sets the bowl down and, taking Harry's arm, positions them exactly seven feet away from the bowl. "One foot for each year," he says. Then shuffling forward, he adds, "And an inch closer to cover the month we've been here."
Harry takes a deep breath and releases it slowly.
"You know the Latin, right?"
Looking at Draco, Harry nods. "Backwards and forwards."
"Any time, Harry," Draco says a long minute later.
Biting his bottom lip, Harry asks, "This is going to work, right?"
"And we'll remember everything?" It's an important question. He doesn't know what he'll do or say or even want if Draco says they'll forget everything. Exploring this thing happening with Draco is suddenly very important to him.
Draco tightens the grip he has on Harry's wrist. "We will."
"Good." Harry shakes his head and cants his body toward Draco. Leaning in he drags his lips over Draco's once, then once again. It's simple and chaste and full of so much promise that Harry wants to do it again, with a lot more tongue and a few less clothes. Just as soon as they get home. Pulling back, he shrugs, "Just in case something goes pear-shaped."
Huffing a laugh, Draco nods towards the bowl. "Make some magic, Potter. It's time for us to go home."
Pointing at the bowl, Harry recites a string of Latin. Energy snaps through the air and, between one blink and the next, the bowl disappears.
"Draco," Harry says, voice tight with tension. "Was that supposed to…"
And then everything goes dark.