Title: The fine line between then and now. (Part 1 of 2)
Summary: What if everything changed and you didn’t know how to make it right again?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Character death/disappearance; mpreg; confusing time travel scenario; lots of angst.
Total Word Count: 14,500
Author’s Notes: coffeejunkii, this didn’t go quite the way I’d expected. I started off with your request firmly in mind, but the plot ran away with itself and I was left with this. I’ve tried to include lots of the things you asked for, including Harry having nightmares, Animagus!Draco, Harry bringing Draco home, discussions with Remus and mpreg. If don’t like it, I at least hope you won’t hate it.
To those who know about time travel; I’m sure there are holes the size of planets in this. Please ignore them. Thanks.
Thank you to my betas A, L and O. who all put up with so much.
The fine line between then and now
Harry Potter, of number seven, Terminus Terrace, was proud to say that he was perfectly normal, thank you very much.
His parents had died in a car crash just after his first birthday and he’d had been raised by Aunt Petunia (his mum’s sister) and Uncle Vernon. They had made sure he did nothing abnormal or out of the ordinary and they never mentioned what his mum and dad used to do for a living. But James and Lily Potter must have done something because they’d left money for his upkeep and a small fund held in trust until his seventeenth birthday. He’d once asked Uncle Vernon why seventeen rather than eighteen or twenty-one. But Uncle Vernon had just blustered and mumbled until his face turned puce at the very thought of the question.
It hadn’t been the best of childhoods. The Dursleys had treated him more like a lodger than a member of the family and he’d often wondered if the only reason they had agreed to care for him was the money. He would watch his aunt and uncle doting on Dudley, their own son, and he knew that they would never love him in the same way. He was, after all, a Potter and they were Dursleys. But they’d fed and clothed him, and he often thought it could have been much worse.
He’d kept out of their way as much as possible. His favourite bolthole had been the local library (Dudley wouldn’t dream of going there) and he’d soon found the joy of books. He read anything and everything, from Aesop’s Fables to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mark Twain to Arundhati Roy and Will Self. Once he’d had his fill of fiction, he’d moved onto the non-fiction shelves; history, science, mathematics, biology - the list went on and on. His time ensconced amongst the books had paid off because he passed all his GCSEs at Stonewall High Comprehensive School (unlike Dudley who’d gone to an expensive private school called Smeltings and failed almost everything). He’d gone on to take his A Levels at Greater Whinging College and had just finished the third of five years at university where he was studying medicine.
He liked to think of himself as ordinary - nothing special. But sometimes things happened that surprised him, such as the feeling he’d been to a place before when he knew he hadn’t. Then there were the dreams in which he seemed to be living someone else’s life. One of his friends had mentioned reincarnation, so he’d started reading books on the paranormal, which had led him to Eastern philosophy and the metaphysical. So when the opportunity of working at a bookshop at weekends and fulltime during university holidays had come up, he’d jumped at the chance.
There were nightmares as well; terrible ones from which he would wake shaking and in a cold sweat. He hated the fact that while his dreams faded on waking the nightmares remained as though they were engraved on his subconscious. In them he always had a magic wand and was fighting a huge serpent. He’d had a nightmare the previous night (this time the snake had split into seven bits and all those bits had been trying to kill him), which was why he currently had a headache that felt like it was trying to split his skull open. On days like these he wished he could remain in bed rather than trying to sell books to people whose raison d'être seemed to be to make his life a misery.
Hiding behind a bookshelf in the history section of Frontiers, Harry pressed his forehead against the fake wood-grained panel at the end of the shelf. The pain always radiated from the scar on his forehead and sometimes pressure eased it. He’d got the lightning-bolt shaped scar in the accident that had killed his parents, but today it felt more like a fresh wound rather than one inflicted 22 years ago.
Still, it was almost time for his break and if pills wouldn’t cure the headache then maybe a drink from the in-store coffee shop would help.
Harry was just debating whether a double espresso might hinder rather than help when he overheard two of his fellow workmates indulging in one of their favourite pastimes: talking about the customers.
“He’s back again - look, over there in the corner. That’s every day for the past two weeks and he always does the same thing. He gets a book, hides in the corner to read it and then leaves. Never buys a thing.”
“But he’s hot, I wouldn’t mind helping him search for a book.”
“Hands off, I saw him first. Mind you, knowing my luck he’s gay ... all the pretty ones are gay.”
“With that dress sense? You must be joking. He’s definitely straight.”
Curiosity getting the better of him, Harry crept to the end of the bookshelf. He could see Rosie and Jessica, who were giggling to each other as they disappeared down the stairs leading to the ground floor. As for the object of their discussion, it took Harry a moment to find him.
The man was at one of the tables dotted around the shop, reading a book and occasionally jotting things down in a little notebook. He appeared to be about the same age as Harry, and the girls were right, his dress sense was bad. He was wearing an oversized black coat in the middle of summer and the rest of his mismatched clothes looked like they probably came from a charity shop. In fact, Harry decided, it looked as if someone who didn’t quite know how to put the items together had dressed the man.
But it wasn’t the clothing that held Harry’s attention. The man had the most incredible white-blond hair that, unlike his clothes, was groomed and tidy. It was collar-length and fell gently, framing his face as he leaned over the book.
Harry had always liked blonds; in fact his last boyfriend had been a blond. Sometimes, amid the nightmares there were pleasant dreams of blonds and caresses. They never lasted long though because the wands and serpents always took over.
The man must have realised he was being watched because he suddenly looked up, meeting Harry’s gaze with the most startling grey eyes. The look made Harry’s stomach do a flip and froze him to the spot; it felt like he should know this person. As they looked at each other, the raw pain in these eye touched something deep inside him. It was as if the man had lost something very precious and was desperate to find it again. The look disappeared as if the man had realised his expression was so open, and Harry wondered if it had all been his imagination.
“I wonder if you could help me?” The man had stood and was crossing to Harry before he had chance to react. “Do you know anything about magic?”
“Um...” Harry tried to get his mouth to work. He’d once told his Aunt Petunia that sometimes he saw things in dreams that eventually happened, like the time his cousin Dudley had knocked down an old lady on his bike. Aunt Petunia told him people didn’t dream about real things and to stop being so silly, so Harry never mentioned them again. He swallowed and finally managed to answer. “What sort? Card-trick type of magic or new age stuff?”
The man glanced down at his notebook and then back at Harry. “Actually I was looking for a book called Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.”
“It’s not a book I’ve ever heard of, but I can check.” Harry gestured at a computer. “We can always order it if it’s not in stock.” He logged on and typed in the name. “Dark Arts as in Black Magic?”
“Something like that.” The man moved closer, leaning over Harry’s shoulder to study the screen.
Aware of the warmth, Harry caught the man’s expression out of the corner of his eye. The closeness made him shiver - he’d never had such a visceral reaction to a complete stranger before. He concentrated on the screen. “No, nothing. Do you know the author’s name?”
“I think it’s a collaborative work. What about Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century?” An elegant eyebrow rose in question.
“Is that one of those fictional books, like Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin and Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons?”
“No, I don’t think so.” The man shook his head, his eyes drawn to the scar on Harry’s forehead.
Subconsciously Harry pulled at his fringe, trying to cover the scar. He didn’t like the scrutiny, but his short, messy black hair never did what he wanted it to do. “We don’t have either and they aren’t on any of the publishers’ lists.” He tried to keep his tone businesslike. “Maybe a more specialist bookshop could help. Have you tried Gilberts in the High Street? They’re a bit more eclectic.”
“That’s a shame. I’d hoped you might have heard of them.” He pocketed his notebook. “But thanks for your help.”
“Anytime.” Harry took a couple of steps but then turned back. “Excuse me, but do I...” The words faded as he realised the man had already disappeared. “...know you.”
Terminus Terrace had been built at the turn of the century to house people working for the railway, but the works had closed and many of the houses had been converted into flats. Harry’s flat was on the ground floor of number seven and had French windows leading out to a small patio and garden.
A very pleasant middle-aged man with greying light brown hair and a white cat (which was called, of all things, Dragon) had moved into the first floor flat six weeks ago, and both he and the cat were in the garden when Harry got home.
He watched them through the kitchen window as he made a pot of tea. Remus Lupin was puffing away on an old fashioned pipe while the cat was stalking a squirrel, which seemed totally unconcerned about being hunted. Lupin had moved in with nothing but two old fashioned trunks of belongings and Harry had offered him tea and cake because the man had looked ready to drop. As for the cat, it probably spent as much time in Harry’s flat as it did with Lupin.
The squirrel finally escaped over a fence and the cat returned, brushing against Lupin’s leg. Sometimes it looked like the cat was talking to the man, but that was stupid because cats didn’t talk. Lupin tickled the cat behind one ear and glanced at the window as if the cat had told him Harry was home. Lupin smiled and saluted with the pipe.
Harry smiled back and held up a mug, gesturing with it. Lupin never turned down a cup of tea, so Harry wasn’t surprised when the man nodded. It had been so easy to become friends and he enjoyed their evening tea and chat sessions.
Taking the two mugs out into the garden, Harry was pleased he’d put on his sweatshirt. The July evening was unseasonably chilly, but Lupin didn’t seem to mind; he was always out there every evening come rain or shine, puffing on his pipe.
Lupin took the mug and Harry sat beside him on the bench, deliberately leaving room for the cat to sit between them. They sat in silence, watching the garden (the squirrel had returned). Lupin often looked sickly and tired, and his voice was always hoarse as if he had a constant sore throat. Harry wondered if he might be anaemic or perhaps it was something even worse - cancer maybe.
“Are you okay?”
“Oh, I’m fine. What about you? Good day at the bookshop?” Lupin’s question was a familiar one.
“Not bad. Usual mix of the strange and annoying.” Harry leaned back, one hand scratching briefly at Dragon’s neck. “One bloke came in looking for a book on modern magical history. I don’t know why, but after he left I ended up looking for something suitable, but couldn’t find the sort of thing I think he was looking for.”
Lupin pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Do you believe in magic?”
“You know, he asked me almost the same question - did I know anything about magic.”
“Magic as in sleight of hand and card tricks? My cousin had a magic set when he was eight or nine; he couldn’t get anything to work but I managed that trick where you cut a piece of rope, tie it together and join the ends.”
“I’m not surprised, but that’s not the sort of magic I’m talking about. What do you think of witches and wizards?”
“Wand waving and prancing around fires in the middle of the night naked?” Harry scoffed. “No, I haven’t ever done anything like that.”
Lupin chuckled. “Not all witches and wizards prance, and those that do don’t often do it in the nude.”
“Next you’ll be telling me there are real dragons and people do fly around on brooms.”
The smile on Lupin’s face was enigmatic and Harry felt that the man was toying with him. “Imagine what it would be like up there in the sky on a Nimbus 2000?”
“Brooms have names?” Harry decided to play along.
“Why not? Nimbus. Firebolt. Who’s to say that witches and wizards don’t give their brooms names?”
Harry chuckled; nothing Lupin said surprised him, the man often came out with all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Sipping at his tea, he wondered why the names resonated around his mind. He tried to imagine what it would be like, up there in the sky with the wind in his hair and decided that would be the ultimate freedom.
The cat at his side rolled over, exposing its belly and Harry stroked at the warm fur. “He’s getting fat - you’ll have to put him on a diet.” Dragon flexed its claws at the comment, but didn’t dig them into Harry’s hand. “I have this recurring dream. Well, nightmare really.” He didn’t look at either the cat or Lupin as he spoke. “In it there’s a huge serpent and I’ve got a magic wand. Not one of those black things with the white ends you get in magic sets; it’s like a branch from a tree and there’s a handle. The serpent rears up and I know that I have to use the wand to get rid of it, but I don’t know the right words. The nightmare always ends with a flash of green light and the serpent laughing. Last night the serpent split into seven smaller snakes.”
Neither spoke for a moment; the only sound the purring of the cat. When Harry finally continued, his voice was a whisper. “Sometimes I have dreams that come true.”
“That’s called precognition. Some people call it a gift.”
“You don’t think it’s strange then?”
“Strange? No. But most definitely a double-edged sword - not all dreams have happy consequences. You should keep a dream diary; sometimes it helps to understand what you’ve experienced.”
“My uncle calls it new age claptrap.” He glanced at Lupin, who was relighting his pipe. “You seem to know loads about it.”
“I’ve studied lots of things in my time, including the hippie trail ... and dancing round fires naked.” He grinned and Harry cringed in mock embarrassment.
“That’s way too much information.” He gave the cat another stroke before stretching tiredly. “I should get something to eat.”
“And so should I. Thank you for the tea.” Lupin handed back his mug. “I wonder if I could ask you a favour, Harry. You kept an eye on Dragon last month when I had to go away for a few days and I was hoping you would do so again.”
“Of course I can.” Harry stoked the cat. “He’s a good dragon. When will you be away?”
“The day after tomorrow. I’ll leave everything you need.”
He paced the sitting room of the first floor flat, agitation clear in each stride, while Remus Lupin rummaged through his trunk. “I’m not sure I can do this, Remus. Being with him as a cat is one thing because the emotions all feel different, but actually talking to him earlier ... so close I could smell him ... and knowing he had no idea who I am is just so....” Draco Malfoy gestured lamely. “This is like a living nightmare.”
Remus glanced up at the young man. “We both knew this wouldn’t be easy, Draco.” He sat back on his haunches, holding the book he’d been looking for.
“I thought I’d be able to see him as someone else, you know, distinctly different from our Harry, but it’s not like that.” Draco sat down, his expression dejected as he held his face in his hands. “This Harry might have short hair and not wear glasses, but when I look into those eyes, I see the same soul.
“He is Harry and when we talked it was almost like he knew who I was. I wanted to tell him that in my world he’d defeated Voldemort and we were married - that I was having his baby.” Draco rested a hand on his belly. “But it isn’t his baby, is it? This Harry has no idea he might be a wizard or who the Dark Lord is.” He rubbed at his eyes, trying to convince himself that the moisture in his eyes wasn’t from tears.
“I do understand.” Remus got to his feet, an old war injury to his thigh making him grimace, and rested a hand briefly on Draco’s shoulder. “But this is our only chance to try and put things right.”
“I know. As much as I hate to admit it, Harry Bloody Potter - even this Harry Bloody Potter - really is the Chosen One.” Draco sighed. “It’s all my father’s fault. Harry destroyed Voldemort, so my father goes back in time to change everything. Merlin, how I hate that man; if there’s a hell, I hope it’s a very painful place for him.”
The dream changed again that night; this time there was someone at Harry’s side. He couldn’t see who it was, but he just knew someone was there with him.
Deciding that Lupin might have a point about keeping a dream diary, Harry purchased a rather nice notebook on his way into work. It had been promptly forgotten as Brian the Manager put him on the checkout, his least favourite job. What he really liked to do was help people find the books they wanted, discussing what was good and what was not.
Plus, he wanted to see if the blond man had come back and he couldn’t do that from behind a till. He even made a detour on the way to the coffee shop for his break just to see if the man was hiding in the corner again, but there was no sign of him.
Now sitting in the coffee shop, he opened the notebook and wondered what to write. After staring at the blank page for ages, he finally decided it wasn’t words he needed to put on the paper but images. Taking out a pencil he began to draw.
He looked up with a start, expecting it to be Brian, but it wasn’t and the pencil skidded across the page as his heart beat just a little faster. It was the blond man. “Oh ... um ... sorry, but I’m at lunch. But I can get someone if you need help.” He cringed at his words and wanted to hit his head repeatedly on the table - he’d been waiting all morning to see the man again and now he was trying to send him away.
“Actually it’s you I wanted to speak to.” He gestured at a chair. “Do you mind if I sit down?”
“Um, no.” He watched the man sit and wondered if he should offer to buy him a drink, but decided against it. “How did you know my name?”
“It’s on your badge.” The man pointed at Harry’s chest. “I noticed it yesterday. My name’s Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.” He held his hand out, clearly expecting Harry to shake it. “Harry what?”
Later Harry decided it was the grey eyes that did it; he wanted to drown in them. He took the hand: it was warm and the grip sure, and he held on just a little longer than necessary. “Harry Potter.”
“Well, Harry Potter, I wanted to thank you for your help yesterday.”
Harry shrugged. “I wasn’t that helpful ... I couldn’t find either of the books you wanted.”
“Help comes in many ways.”
“Did Gilberts have them?”
“I haven’t tried that yet, but I think I might have found a private collector who has a copy.”
“Good, I’m pleased.” Harry fiddled with his pencil as he debated whether it was too forward to ask the man out for a drink. Then he saw Brian loitering in the background and knew he should be back at work. “I’m sorry but I have to go.” He stood up.
“Of course.” Malfoy rose to his feet. “Perhaps we could continue this another time.”
Draco Malfoy was true to his word. Harry found him waiting in the coffee shop when he went for his break the next morning. The following day, Malfoy was there at lunchtime and the day after that he was waiting outside when Harry finished his shift.
They talked. Or rather Harry talked and Malfoy listened with rapt interest. He found it remarkably easy to talk to the man. When Malfoy did talk, it was about a childhood in a huge mansion and a school in a castle. Harry decided that if he wasn’t actually in love, he most certainly was falling in lust with Draco Malfoy.
Then, on the fourth day, while Harry waited for the bus home and Malfoy waited with him, the blond man leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.
Harry sat on the bus, reeling from the kiss. It hadn’t been sexual in any way, shape or form. In fact, it had felt like the sort of kiss one might give a long-time partner as he or she left for work. A sign of affection that said you’d be missed.
On the fifth day, Harry invited Malfoy home and they had kissed properly. They had stood in the hall, Draco’s hands cradling Harry’s face as their lips had touched. Gentle and unhurried.
He stood in the kitchen now making tea (Draco had turned down anything alcoholic) and reliving the kiss while trying to surreptitiously watch Draco as he wandered around the sitting room. He could almost remember the second the man had changed from being ‘Malfoy’ to ‘Draco’ in his mind. It had been when those long fingers had pushed into his hair and Harry had decided that perhaps reincarnation really did happen - that perhaps they’d known each other in a past life.
Hopefully later the kisses would be anything but gentle and be as urgent as he could make them.
“Don’t be surprised if a big white cat suddenly appears. I’m looking after it for the bloke who lives upstairs.” Harry glanced out the window, hoping Dragon would make an appearance soon. Lupin would be distraught if the cat went missing. “Do you like cats?”
Finishing his survey of the room, Draco arrived back at the kitchen and was now leaning effortlessly against the doorjamb. “Do you?”
“Like cats?” Harry put the cups onto a tray and rummaged for biscuits. He should have cake to offer. Perhaps next time. “They’re okay. My aunt hated them; she hates dogs as well, which was why my cousin ended up with a tortoise because it wouldn’t shed on the carpet. There was this old woman who lived close by, who had loads of cats and I think they put me off a bit.” He put the tray down and realised Draco was smiling indulgently. “Sorry, sometimes I talk too much.”
“Don’t apologise. I could listen to you all day.”
Harry realised he was blushing and tried to distract himself from the look by opening the French windows. “I should find the cat.”
“I’m sure he’ll come when he’s good and ready. Is that your aunt and uncle in the photograph?” Draco pointed at the only picture on display in the room. It showed a young couple, probably about the same age as Harry now was; the man wore glasses and had messy black hair, the woman was a pretty redhead with green eyes.
“Oh, no, that’s my parents.” Harry picked up the photograph and returned to the sofa to sit next to Draco. “My dad James and mum Lily. They died in a car accident just after my first birthday.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Draco touched the glass over the photograph. “You really look like them.”
“Do I?” Harry stared at the photograph. It was the only picture of his mum and dad he had. Uncle Vernon had arranged for the family home in Cornwall to be sold and the few things he’d kept for Harry had fitted in a shoebox.
Draco was nodding. “Yeah, if you had longer hair and glasses, you’d really look like your dad, except for your eyes. You’ve got your mother’s eyes.”
“I wear contacts, except when I’m studying.” Harry reached for a glasses case, quickly put on the spectacles and grinned. “Any better?” For a moment Draco stared at him, all colour draining from his already pale face like he’d seen a ghost, and it looked like he might pass out. “Are you okay?” Harry pulled off the glasses. “Just sit back a minute and I’ll get you a glass of water.”
When he got back from the kitchen, some of the colour had returned to the other man’s face. “Maybe you need to eat something.”
“No, it’s....” Draco took a deep breath. “I was up late last night and I suspect I’m just overtired.” He took the offered glass and sipped at it.
“What about you?”
Harry nodded. “Your parents. You mentioned living in a mansion but haven’t said anything about your family.” He frowned as it suddenly occurred to him that he’d invited this man into his home without knowing anything about him. He didn’t even know where Draco lived or what job he did.
“It’s ... complicated.” Draco put the glass down with extreme care, as if he though it might break.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. I understand.” He picked at a loose thread on his jeans. “My aunt and uncle refuse to talk about my parents. But you know I’m studying medicine and work in a bookshop, and that I live here. I’d just like to know a little about you.” He met Draco’s grey gaze. “Or is there something super-secret that you can’t tell me?”
“No, I want to tell you, but it really is very complicated.” Draco stared out into the garden and it looked to Harry as if the man was trying to make a decision on something very important. “Remember the books I asked you about?”
“Magical history and Wizarding events. I thought you were joking and it was some sort of chat-up line.” Harry grinned but it was clear from Draco’s expression that this wasn’t a joke.
Draco reached into his pocket and handed Harry a book.
Except there was no way it could have fitted into a pocket and not be visible.
It was a rather battered copy of Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.
The leather-bound tome was titled in gold-block lettering and looked like it belonged in an antiquarian bookshop, yet when he turned to the title page the reprint date was January 1987. It really did seem to be ‘Modern Magical History’. “Your private collector had a copy?”
“Actually, the collector is a friend.”
Harry frowned and was just about to ask who the friend was when he saw that there was a label affixed inside the cover. The book seemed to be from a school library at a place called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and it had a list of names and dates. His lip curled in a half-smile because someone just had to be setting him up. Halfway down the list was Draco Malfoy’s name with the date of 7th September 1991. His eyebrows rose in surprise as he continued studying the list. It appeared that ‘Harry Potter’ had taken the book out of the library on 11th November 1991 and again on 27th January 1996.
He looked at Draco. “Is this a joke?”
“Am I laughing?” Draco reached for the book and turned to a marked page, one long finger pointing at the text.
Harry stared at the paragraph.
Harry James Potter
Born 31st July 1980. Parents: James Potter, Lily Potter nee Evans (both deceased 31st October 1981).
Sobriquet: The Boy Who Lived.
Harry Potter’s defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named signalled an end to a reign of terror that had lasted for eleven years. What occurred on Halloween Night 1981 is still open to conjecture but it is believed the Dark Lord had been hunting for the Potters for some time. When he finally located them in Godric’s Hollow (see page 247), he first killed James and Lily Potter before turning on their son. However the curse rebounded and it is believed the Dark Lord’s soul was ripped from his body (see treatise on the Unforgivables, page 120). Harry Potter survived, the only evidence of the attack being a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Harry Potter is being raised by a family of Muggles, his only surviving relatives.
Instinctively Harry’s fingers reached for his own scar as he read the paragraph again. Then closing the book, he schooled his features and said simply, “And?”
“Does any of that seem familiar to you?”
Harry put the book down on the coffee table. “My parents died in a car accident on the fifteenth of August 1981. I got my scar in that accident, probably when a passer-by was getting me out of the car. I don’t know anything about rebounding curses or dark lords and I think you should leave now.” He stood up.
“You said you wanted me to explain.” Draco got to his feet as well.
“I can take a joke as well as anyone, but you’re talking about my parents. I don’t know what your game is but I’m not playing it.”
Draco stood outside of the house, the sound of the door banging shut still ringing in his ears.
“Well, that could have gone better,” he murmured in exasperation.
He waited a few minutes, and then turned to the door leading to the first floor flat and quietly crept up the stairs. He needed to speak to Remus, but at the moment it would be a rather awkward one-way conversation.
The flat was in darkness, the only light from the over-bright full moon. He could just make out music from Harry’s flat below; at least that would mask any noise he might make. In the kitchen, he filled a bowl with water and added a measured amount of liquid from a small glass bottle; the water took on a faint silver sheen and a mist-like haze rose from the surface.
Carrying the bowl to one of the bedrooms, he opened the door just a crack. “It’s only me, Remus.” Then slipping into the room, Draco let his eyes become accustomed the gloom.
“It’s only me, Remus,” Draco repeated. “I’ve got your potion.” He put down the bowl and stepped away from it.
In the darkness, a shape uncurled, stretched and shook itself. It was a large wolf-like creature and Draco could just make out its tufted tail twitching back and forth. He was used to Remus being a werewolf now, but on the first occasion he’d seen the man transform, he’d frozen in terror at the sight. It had only been Harry’s calm presence that had stopped him trying to kill the creature.
Now he knew that if Remus took his Wolfsbane potion (which Draco had become very adept in making and had even managed to improve), the transformed werewolf was relatively harmless if it recognised the visitor. However, Draco knew he wasn’t completely safe in the room; there was always the chance Remus’ wolf instincts would take over.
As Remus lapped at the bowl, Draco whispered an oft-used spell and felt the transformation that would turn him into an Animagus cat. Then, as the werewolf returned to its hiding place in the corner, Draco padded across the room and lay down beside it. The wolf nuzzled at him before settling down to sleep.
Draco was glad Remus’ transformation only lasted for the phase of the full moon; tomorrow he would be back to normal, but it always took the older man a couple of days to recuperate. Draco would stay with him for a little while longer and then go back to Harry’s flat. He couldn’t risk Harry taking it upon himself to come upstairs in his search for Dragon.
Harry wandered around the flat, much the same way Malfoy had earlier, trying to concentrate on anything but the book and what it said within the pages. He tried not to think of the earlier kiss or that he’d ever started to think of the man as ‘Draco’. But every time he glimpsed either the book or the photograph of his parents, he found himself wondering what was really the truth; was it what he’d believed all his life or was it the some strange alternate reality in which he was The Boy Who Lived.
Too young to remember the car crash, he’d always relied on his aunt and uncle’s version of what happened that night. They talked very little about James and Lily; in fact, whenever Harry mentioned them, he was always told that people were too busy to talk. This time, however, Harry had thrown a tantrum worthy of his cousin Dudley and Aunt Petunia finally conceded.
No one knew exactly what had taken place, but the police report said James had been driving home from visiting a friend. (“Who was it?” Harry had asked. “How would I know?” Aunt Petunia had replied, “They had strange friends.”) It had been raining and the car had skidded out of control on a wet Cornish country lane. They had found the body of a man lying in the road and a postmortem showed he’d had a heart attack. (“Did dad hit him?” “No, of course not, now be quiet or I won’t tell you any more.”) A passing motorist found the car and managed to get Harry out, but both his parents were already dead. As for the man in the road, apparently he was never identified (“Probably a tramp,” Uncle Vernon had offered).
Aunt Petunia had shown him a newspaper cutting about the accident and he remembered the description of the dead man: mid-forties, long white-blond hair, dressed in black robes that looked like a monk’s habit.
Placing the photo frame back on the shelf, Harry’s fingers lingered briefly on the glass. If Malfoy’s book was to be believed, James and Lily Potter hadn’t died that night on the way home. Someone known as The Dark Lord had killed them nearly three months later and Harry’s scar was the result of a magical curse.
Picking up the book, he stared at the cover for a long time before turning to the first page.
An hour or so later, Harry rubbed at his tired eyes; he needed to take out his contact lenses. Putting the book to one side, he wandered into the kitchen to get another beer. Putting his glasses on, he returned to the book.
He’d just starting to read Chapter Four: The Reign of Terror, when he heard a meow. Dragon was standing beside the open French windows.
Harry’s smile was one of relief; he’d become so engrossed in the book that he’d forgotten about the cat. “You’ve come back then.” The cat padded across the room and jumped lightly onto his knees. “I was beginning to think I’d need to send out a search party.”
As the cat settled down on his lap, Harry turned another page and continued reading.
Gilbert’s Bookshop was the antithesis of Frontiers. The narrow shop front was sandwiched between a firm of solicitors on one side and a record shop on the other. Inside, the floor-to-ceiling shelves were packed tightly with everything from modern paperbacks to older, leather-bound classics.
A bell sounded as Harry pushed open the door and stepped into another world. Rumour had it the shop would be closing soon; it couldn’t compete with the likes of Frontiers and other cut-price bookshops, and Harry felt a little guilty. He loved browsing in places like this but very seldom spent his money in them.
Weaving through the shelves, he made his way to the little counter at the rear of the shop. He waited, watching specks of dust float in the shafts of sunlight as footsteps on the stairs leading to the upper floors of the shop echoed in the stillness. The owner appeared and smiled.
“Can I help you?” The woman was very thin and dressed in a sparkly shawl that seemed out of place in the hushed interior. She rattled from the numerous bangles and rings, and studied him through huge, thick-lensed spectacles.
Harry nodded. “I’m trying to find out about a publisher called Prophet Press.”
“Hmmm,” she looked around the room as if the answer might appear in the very air. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them. Are you sure that’s the name?”
“They published this book.” He pulled out the copy of Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and placed it on the counter.
“What a nicely-bound book. It’s a pity it hasn’t been looked after better.” The woman ran her thin fingers over the leather and finally opened the cover. Harry watched her expression change from interest to surprise. “Oh, it’s blank.”
“Blank?” Harry stared down at the pages as the woman turned them, the print quite clear to him. “It isn’t. Look...” He pointed at the page. “Chapter Two: The Rise of Grindelwald.”
“It’s blank, all blank.” She brushed his hand away and beckoned to someone Harry hadn’t noticed before. “Alastor, what do you think of this book?”
An old man stepped from a little side office. He wore glasses and one lens seemed to have a little magnifying glass attached to it. He flicked the magnifier down and reached for the book. “The leatherwork needs some care and attention. Nice quality paper though.” The man flicked through the pages and then at Harry, the magnifier making his right eye look huge. “Probably some sort of diary.”
“Or a notebook.” The man closed the book and pushed it back towards Harry. “Unfortunately it’s not the sort of thing we stock.”
Confused, Harry picked up the book. The couple were both looking at him as if he was quite mad and he could feel an embarrassed flush creeping over his face. “Thanks,” he mumbled and quickly left the shop.
Stopping on the pavement, he stared down at the book, the gold lettering glinting in the summer sun. Why could he see what was written in the book but those two people couldn’t? Was the book some sort of elaborate hoax?
Pushing the book into his bag, Harry made the short walk to Frontiers mulling over what he’d read the previous night. The book contained a history of the last hundred years, but it wasn’t history as Harry knew it. This one was about magical people and the rise to power of two wizards who were both practitioners of Dark Arts, something that sounded like Black Magic to Harry. The first, called Grindelwald, was born at the end of the nineteenth century and came to power in the late 1930s. He was defeated in 1945 by another wizard called Albus Dumbledore.
The second wizard was the one known as The Dark Lord. The book mentioned his name just once; Lord Voldemort, then referred to him as ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’. It was as if everyone, including the publishers, were scared of actually saying the man’s real name even though he was dead. Voldemort had come to power in the 1970s and then, for some reason, decided that he needed to get rid of Harry Potter, an attack that backfired with disastrous consequences for the Dark Lord.
Harry wondered if the man had been a real Lord with a seat in the House of Lords. He would have to see if he could find anything on the Internet.
As he worked at the checkout, Harry was very aware of the scar on his forehead. Was it just a coincidence that he had the same mark as a person from a book about wizards? And what about the other similarities? He’d worked out that the term ‘Muggles’ referred to non-magical people, so it was clear the Harry Potter of the book was orphaned and then lived with his Muggle relatives, at least until 1987 when this edition of the book had been published. And Aunt Petunia’s maiden name had been Evans.
Harry froze, one hand hovering above the till.
What if he was the Harry from the book and something had been done to his memory?
What if Malfoy was a wizard and he was trying to find the person who’d killed Voldemort?
The customer loudly cleared his throat, bringing Harry back to reality. He mumbled an apology and quickly finished the transaction. No, this whole train of thought was ridiculous; he was Harry Potter, a student just about to start his fourth year at the Southampton School of Medicine. Wizards and witches only existed in storybooks and Draco Malfoy was just a rather handsome chap with a strange chat-up line.
Smiling he took the next customer’s purchases. “Afternoon, this one’s a good choice.”
Remus Lupin was sitting in the garden when Harry got home. He gave a sigh of relief and smiled at the man. As he made the tea he debated whether to ask Lupin if he could see what was written in the book.
He took the mugs out into the garden.
“Good trip?” It was a silly question really, Lupin looked like he was just getting over the flu or something.
Lupin nodded. “If a little tiring. Was Dragon a good cat?”
“Most of the time. I thought he’d run off last night, but he eventually turned up.”
“He’s known for wandering off when he’s supposed to be safe at home.” Lupin put his cup down. “Harry, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” He pointed down the garden at a figure that was standing by one of the apple trees.
It was Draco Malfoy.
Harry’s jaw dropped. He finally found his voice. “You know him?”
“Yes, we go back several years.” Lupin gave a wry smile.
“Then why did he go to all the trouble of pretending to meet me in the bookshop? You could have just introduced us.” Harry came to his feet as Malfoy finally reached them. It suddenly struck him that he’d been set up. Lupin had deliberately made friends with him and then Malfoy (with his blond hair and pale skin, who Harry had really wanted to know better and kiss some more) had shown up. “And last night - you came back here with me and never said that you just happened to know the chap living upstairs!” As he spoke the words got louder.
Malfoy shrugged apologetically, though the gesture wasn’t really mirrored in his grey eyes. “If you remember you didn’t give me the chance. You asked me to leave.”
“Well, now I think it’s my turn to leave.”
Lupin grabbed at Harry arm. “Aren’t you at least a little curious as to why we’re here?”
Malfoy took a step closer. “Just let us explain, please.”
Harry looked at the two; Lupin’s tired features were imploring while Malfoy’s expression was guarded as if he was trying to hide how he really felt. But the fact was he now wanted to know why they were here.
He took a breath. “Okay. We’d better go inside.”