Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
Harry Potter
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 09/18/2001
Updated: 03/30/2002
Words: 425,244
Chapters: 21
Hits: 583,257

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions


Story Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge? The sequel to
Read Story On:

Chapter 10 - A Perfect Spy

Chapter Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge?

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions

(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)

Chapter Ten

A Perfect Spy

Harry held his breath. He remembered seeing Voldemort place his wand against his forehead when he was a baby, after his mother had promised to raise him to be Voldemort's servant. Had he been making him his heir when he did that? He shifted his eyes slightly; Draco was looking at him in awe, and Harry hated the fear that he saw in his best friend's face. No! he thought desperately. I can't be! No no no no no...

"Young Potter and Malfoy...Normally, I would have you--do something for me at this time. But not tonight. You will know soon enough what I require of you." he said, pointing to where Severus Snape and Lucius Malfoy stood. "There is more--important work to be done this night." His voice had become very soft and dangerous-sounding.

Harry tried to hide his relief as he moved with Draco back toward his dad and Mr. Malfoy, Harry turned his head slightly and saw a figure that was very nearly as tall as Voldemort; he was wearing a long cloak with the hood pulled up so that the moon cast his face into shadow. Harry's relief at not being the heir now evolved into a deep, cold fear of whatever evil deeds Voldemort might assign to his heir. Why did someone trying to become immortal need an heir? he wondered.

The tall figure stepped forward; he was rather stoop-shouldered, so perhaps if he stood up straight he would be as tall as Voldemort after all, Harry thought. Voldemort looked around at the circle, seeming quite pleased with himself.

"My heir," he said in that seductive voice again. "Tell me, how have you been serving me?"

The voice began haltingly, stiffly, a hoarse whisper that nonetheless carried like a shout in the cold air. Harry could not tell where he was from; sometimes he thought he could peg the accent, but then he would hear more and change his mind again....

Thus began a litany of crimes, a paean to darkness and death the likes of which Harry had never heard. He stopped trying to determine who it was and where he was from; he was too horrified by the lurid descriptions of evisceration, the body counts...He found that he was shaking from head to toe as the narration of the heir's heinous activities continued; the words themselves had a chilling effect on his soul. Wars he had stirred up between Muggle nations...peace talks he'd scuttled...terrorism that brought centuries-old antagonisms between ethnic groups to a head once more...people framed for crimes they did not commit...doctors who had succeeded in finding cures for dread diseases, only to have their laboratories go up in mysterious fires, years of research gone in a puff of smoke...more civil wars than Harry could keep track of....

Voldemort chuckled over these. "Civil war is possibly the most fun of all. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than starting one and sitting back to watch families and neighborhoods implode....."

While the heir had recited a list of countries that were embroiled in civil war because of his interference, Voldemort smiled wickedly. He walked around the heir, looking up at the night sky dreamily, as if seeing more visions of death and despair in his imagination, and he found these sights quite pleasing. He returned to his starting point and looked pointedly at the hooded figure.

"You would do anything for me, would you not?" His voice was very soft.

The tall figure surprised Harry, and knelt before Voldemort. But he was still hooded.

"Anything, grandfather."

Harry fought back a gasp; the heir really was a blood relation! Voldemort's grandson, sowing mayhem and discord throughout the Muggle world. He thought about the wars--civil and otherwise--about which he'd heard. He was quite certain that he didn't remember a number of these conflicts from his old life.

"Anything?" Voldemort said again. "Absolutely anything?"

"Yes, my Lord."

Voldemort nodded and crossed his arms; he paced back and forth before the kneeling figure. "I am glad to hear that, because there is a very, very important thing that you must do for me."

"Name it and it shall be so."

Voldemort chuckled. "How eager you are now. I remember how reluctant you were at first, how I had to put you under Imperius for you to make the simplest mischief....But I knew that once you had a taste of it, once you knew the thrill...If I recall, you were even reluctant to acknowledge me as your grandfather. Of course, until I visited my servants at your school, I did not even know that I had a daughter...and then I learned that the school had a Parselmouth. Like me. A rare gift, and one with secrets that no one will ever know who does not share the gift..."

He knows, Harry thought. Then, feeling stupid, Of course he knows! He knows that snakes have the Sight. But where is his snake?

"Parselmouths are rare. And then when I saw your mother...saw that she was the spitting image of her own mother, well...I knew what had occurred. I had a powerful witch for a daughter, another Parselmouth, and she had given me a grandson...You've wondered, haven't you, whatever became of your mother, why you haven't seen her for some years now..."

The figure kneeling before him did not answer; Harry did not know what to make of many of Voldemort's statements. He's showing off again, he thought.

"She did the same thing for me I am asking of you this night. She served me well; like you, with every bit of dark magic, every bit of killing and torturing, she became more and more powerful, until finally...." He didn't finish his sentence. So, Harry thought, this was the real result of my mother living, Harry thought. Voldemort's heirs egged on to commit crime after crime, to foment war and unrest, to thwart the cure of the most feared diseases.....

Voldemort's voice dropped to a whisper. "It makes you feel very very powerful, does it not? Knowing you have someone's life in your hand....Other wizards can--and will--do for me what you are doing," he said looking around the circle again. "But it is most potent when it is a blood relation. Your mother's power was added to my own. She did it willingly, out of devotion to me, her dear father. And you will also, will you not?"

"Yes, grandfather," the voice sounded, softer now. Harry was holding his breath again. What was he asking his heir to do? Would he be able to see his face soon?

"Do you do this willingly?" his grandfather asked softly. "Do you freely give your power to me?"

The voice was firm. "I do."

His power? Harry puzzled. Can a wizard do that? he wondered. Just--give it? What would happen to the heir when he had done this? Would he no longer be a wizard? Harry looked uncertainly at Draco beside him; what was going on? Harry wished he could see some of the other faces in the circle, but every last Death Eater wore his hood up, obscuring facial features.

Harry felt his heart beating faster and faster; he swallowed as Voldemort backed up and brought out his wand, pointing it at the kneeling figure.

"Succidero!" he cried, and the blazing silver light that erupted from his wand pierced the heir in the upper chest; the man gave an earsplitting scream that Harry would never forget; it was worse than Karkaroff experiencing the Hara Kiri curse, it was worse than the sound of speeding death when his father and Cedric Diggory were murdered; Harry had never heard anything like it and hoped never to again. He wished with all his heart that he could put his hands over his ears to shut it out, but even if he thought he could get away with doing this, somehow his hands were frozen at his sides. He felt completely paralyzed and helpless, watching the silvery blade of light slice down through the man's clothes and body, watching the pool of blood that was beginning to stain the ground until it formed a viscous puddle around him; and yet still the victim knelt; he did not collapse.

Harry wanted to look away, but he dared not. At the very least, he owed his attention to this dying man. See what you've done! his brain cried out to him. Don't look away; take a good look! This is all your fault! His gorge rose, and he fought the urge to vomit onto the frosted grass at his feet. How could Voldemort do this? To his own grandson? Is this what he did to his own daughter? After they both committed so many heinous acts on his behalf?

Why he thought there was any honor among thieves at this point, he didn't know. Thieves? No; murderers, torturers, terrorists... He doggedly kept his eyes focused on that growing pool of blood; the body finally collapsed back on itself, weak from blood loss, but a flap of fabric from the hood lay across the man's face and Harry still could not see who it was.

He had a clear view now of the impossibly straight incision down the man's front; it was this wound that was allowing the blood to escape in buckets. Suddenly, Voldemort stopped the cutting and pointed his wand at the chest hole, crying, "Cor ex maleficum!" The heart extracted itself from the man's body, emerging from the chest cavity dripping blood. It moved toward Voldemort; he kept his wand trained on it. As it floated in the air before him, and his grandson's corpse continued to leak life onto the frozen ground, he turned to those in the silent circle, smiling.

"Again!" he cried triumphantly. "Again I benefit from your scholarship, my servant, from your astute research..." He gave a small nod to a figure of medium height wearing a dove-grey cloak. This man bowed deeply to his master in return for the recognition. "Were it not for you, I would not know of this ancient ritual. I would not know of the power I can gain by partaking of the body of my servant and heir after he willingly submits to me...The power of the willing sacrifice! Most of you saw how my strength was increased by my daughter's gift to me. Now I will show just how generous a master I am..." He smiled again, turning around and looking at the different figures forming the circle. "I am not the only one who will partake of this, my heir's body. You are all invited to share it with me. We shall all increase in power and strength, due to his sacrifice, and soon there shall be no force that can stop us!" His voice rose hysterically; Harry felt the urge to throw up again. Cannibalism! He was proposing cannibalism! Human sacrifice and cannibalism! His mind was reeling. No, he thought. I can't do that; and the heir...even after what he said he did, even he doesn't deserve this. But what can I do? How can I stop it?

Harry's mind raced; he felt like he had no time at all to figure out what to do. It was all going so fast! If only he had more time--


That was it! And without stopping to consider it any further, Harry slipped his hand into his cloak pocket; he felt the wood of his wand resting there, cold in the cold night. He wrapped his fingers around it and did what he had done before in the entrance to Hermione's building. He thought about moving very, very fast, thought about every quick and speedy creature he could bring to mind, and then, hand still inside his pocket, he pointed the wand at his own leg, saying softly but adamantly, "Tempus fugit!"

Harry looked around. Voldemort had been giving a gloating look to the people to Harry's left; he had not been taking notice of Harry himself. Now he seemed to be frozen in this position as Harry tentatively took a step forward, hoping that Voldemort was not immune to the spell when cast by other people. No one stirred; the wind had utterly ceased. It was quiet as the grave. Harry realized that he no longer heard the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below. He was tempted to go look at the stilled sea, but he had work to do. He had been unable to save the heir (who had done horrible, horrible things, he reminded himself) but he could save the heir from being cannibalized, and save everyone present--Death Eaters and spies alike--from participating in an unspeakable act. But how to do it? he wondered. He dared not perform another spell, lest the Tempus fugit spell be terminated. Whatever he did, he would have to do by hand. He contemplated the bloody, open body; he had been strengthening himself through his morning runs and exercises, but he'd only been at it for four months, and he'd slacked off a bit after breaking his legs. How was he going to get the body away? How could he bury it in such cold, hard ground? He had nothing with which to dig a grave....

He was starting to panic, wondering whether there was in fact anything he could do at all. He cursed his impulse to try to help. How could he help? He was one sixteen-year-old boy, against dozens of Death Eaters and a powerful Dark Wizard growing more powerful all the time, so that he didn't even think twice about killing and eating the bodies of his own daughter and grandson, as long as it would make him stronger!

Harry sat down on the cold ground, his head in his hands; he cried with helplessness, the sobs wracking his body. He looked up at the sky, at the stars that appeared to have been stopped in their wheeling dance. Help me! he cried out mentally to anyone or anything that might appear to assist him; but no aid miraculously appeared. He was utterly alone in the world, the only one in it moving or able to act in any way. He stood and walked to the edge of the cliff, looking down at the sea, at the paralyzed waves that had been crashing on the rocks which now stood still, like a single frame in a film about the English Channel. He wished that he could at least hear the sea when he was in this strange suspended time; he wished he could hear anything. He looked down, wondering whether he could penetrate the water if he jumped, or whether he would land on something like hard glass, which would only soften and claim his body if the spell were terminated, letting his corpse drift down into the watery depths...A burial at sea....

A burial at sea! That was it! All he needed to do was to get the heir's body to the edge of the cliff and send it down into the sea. Digging a grave was unnecessary. He ran back to the circle of Death Eaters and looked down at the body. He avoided walking in the puddle of blood. The heart was still floating in the air. In order to prevent Voldemort achieving any benefit from the willing sacrifice of his heir, Harry would have to replace the heart in the chest cavity before hurling the body into the sea. Harry looked at his hands; he had no gloves and no way to cleanse them, since he couldn't reach the water. He needed something else with which to hold the heart, to put it back. He looked desperately around the circle, finally lighting on the Death Eater in the dove-grey cloak, the one who had told his Master about this Old Magic, this sacrificial ritual. The wizard was wearing a scarf knotted around his neck. That will do, he thought. He strode purposefully over to the man, who was a couple of inches shorter than Harry. As he unknotted the scarf he glanced at the man's face under his hood, and almost fell over from shock.

It was Barty Crouch, Jr.

Harry tried not to flinch from the eyes that looked unseeingly right at him; he took the scarf and walked back to Voldemort, plucking the heart out of the air and putting it back where it belonged, glad that the suspension of time meant that the blood had temporarily stopped flowing. He stood again, the bloody scarf in his hands, wondering what to do with it now. Crouch would surely see the blood on it when the spell was terminated....

And so would Voldemort.

Harry's head was pounding. Did he dare do this? What if Crouch was one of the operatives? No, he told himself. None of them would have given Voldemort the information about this barbaric ritual....

There was no way Crouch could be a spy, Harry thought. If he gets into trouble with Voldemort...it's probably no more than he deserves. Harry hesitated one more time before returning to Crouch with the scarf; this could be a death sentence for Crouch. If I don't put the scarf back now, if I throw it into the sea...it could be just as incriminating as putting it back. It's too late now, either way....

He returned to the son of the Minister of Magic and reached out for one of his hands; he put the scarf into it and closed the hand, so that the blood was now also on the hand. He had managed to keep his own hands free of blood. He returned to the heir's body, but he realized he would have to walk in the blood to get to the heir. Very carefully, he took off his shoes and socks; without the passage of time, there was no wind to exacerbate the cold, and he actually wasn't too uncomfortable.

Harry swallowed, looking down at the corpse, walking closer now, his feet making contact with the spilled blood; it was a little like walking on a plastic mat. He tried to draw the cloak around the chest more securely to hide the ghastly incision. Then he moved to the head; taking a deep breath, he moved the fabric of the hood out of the way, pinching it carefully between his thumb and forefinger. When he saw the young man's face, he could not help but gasp. No! his brain screamed. It couldn't be! So young, so young! What was he, nineteen or twenty? But then he forced himself to remember the horrible crimes he had been reciting, bragging to his grandfather. Had he really known what the sacrifice was? Had he truly given his life willingly for Voldemort? Harry tried to remember the last time he'd seen him, in his other life...No, he said to himself sternly. Not now. It's too late now....

The dark eyes were gazing vacantly up into the night sky, and Harry brushed his hand lightly over them, to close them properly. He did horrible things, but no one deserves this. Plus, at all costs, Voldemort must not benefit from this sacrifice. He had never been weakened by trying to kill Harry and failing; he must not grow stronger still. Harry was going to put a stop to it.

This, Harry felt, was why he needed to become a spy. This was why he was here on this midwinter's night; only he would dare use the magic necessary to keep Voldemort's power from growing, and to save them all from committing the unspeakable act that Voldemort had been proposing. He saw the faces of some other Death Eaters whose names he did not know, and their expressions, frozen as they were in a split second of time, revealed that even Death Eaters did not necessarily want to live up to their name in quite such a literal fashion.

He put his arms under the corpse's shoulders and dragged it through the circle, to the edge of the cliff; there was no blood trail, because the blood did not flow in this strange time, but the heels of the corpse dug into the turf, marking it with two unmistakable lines. Harry stared down into the sea again, wondering whether Voldemort would be able to retrieve the body with a spell. But then he remembered that running water stops magic. Surely the sea counted as running water, didn't it? That was why magical creatures could live in the lake at Hogwarts; a lake was still water. And that was why the ferry that had taken them to France hovered above the water; if it rested in the water, they would have to power it using Muggle means or use sails like an old-fashioned ship. The ferry needed to be away from the water in order to function, but having it down so close to the water made it seem as though it was a Muggle vessel, as they didn't want to fly it high in the sky and risk notice by Muggle aviation authorities. It was dangerous enough flying broomsticks these days, with all of the Muggle air traffic....

Harry shook his head to clear it. Running water. This should do it. Voldemort wouldn't be able to retrieve the body He took a deep breath and grasped the dead young man under the arms and flung him off the cliff with all his might, grunting, then windmilling his arms to keep his balance. Harry watched the body plummet; when it struck the water, the spray that shot up did so slowly, as though it were straining, under the spell. Harry was panting still from his effort, watching the corpse disappear into the deep.

At last, he turned slowly back to the circle of Death Eaters. He put his socks and shoes on again and prepared to return to his place and end the spell. But then he had a thought: I have Voldemort right where I want him. He walked over to the tall wizard, stared up into his frozen, inscrutable face. The dark wizard was grinning maniacally, extremely pleased with himself. He did not yet know that his grandson, heart and all, was at the bottom of the English Channel. He did not even know that Harry was standing a mere foot in front of him, that Harry could kill him if he wanted to....

If? Harry thought. Don't I?

He thought then of the terrible things the heir had done in service to his master; he thought of the werewolf camp and the girls Stuart had heard giving birth; he thought of the Muggle-born witches and wizards who didn't know what they were....

And he knew that he couldn't kill Voldemort. He had been trying to improve this world, but he also knew that if he could, he should still try to change it back. He'd been avoiding thinking about it because he still had no idea how to do it. How could on earth could he ever convince Voldemort to return to the night when his father was killed and let his mother die too, when that would mean his near-destruction? It didn't seem possible, but it would be even less possible if Harry killed him. Then there would never be a way for him to correct the timeline, even assuming there was any convincing argument he could ever offer to Voldemort. After all, it had to be him; he had the brother to Harry's wand, and the spell would be most potent with brother wands.

His eyes landed on the wand; an idea prickled at the back of his mind, finally blossoming into something like a plan. Voldemort's wand! Yes, he thought. I need to take his wand. Then he won't be as effective, and maybe I can find someone else to use the wand, someone else to perform the spell. Or I can try to convince him by--by holding his wand hostage! Or something...Still without a concrete plan other than taking Voldemort's wand, he plucked it from Voldemort's hand and ran to the edge of the circle, then realized that he couldn't just stand there with it in his pocket. He had to hide it, somehow....

He stood in thought, working through a plan of action for some time. Finally, when he knew what he was going to do, he moved as quickly as possible, mindful of the fact that he'd been under the spell for some indeterminate time; it had to be approaching an hour or more. His body had already aged an additional ten-thousand hours; how many days was that? Months? It wasn't the time to work it out; he had to act quickly....

He went round the circle, taking wands out of witches' and wizards' pockets, comparing them to Voldemort's wand, moving on when it was different enough that it wouldn't do. Finally, a middle-aged wizard had one of wood dark enough to pass for Voldemort's, and it was only a fraction of an inch shorter. Harry returned to Voldemort with the other wand and placed it in his hand. He shivered when he touched the large, pale hand, making sure it was wrapped securely around the alien wand. Then Harry ran from the circle, his eyes darting over the landscape, trying to find what he had pictured in his mind's eye.

Finally, about two-hundred feet from the circle, he found what he was looking for: a rock that had been thrust up from the earth in some earlier time, white and chalky, large enough to be seen from the air. I have to see this from the air, he thought. Next he scrambled around looking for smaller, more portable rocks. Running around over a good acre of land, at least, he finally found six, and returned to the larger rock with them one at a time. The smallest was the size of a grapefruit, the largest more like a Bludger. Harry used the rocks themselves to dig down into the soil, embedding the six of them next to the large rock so that from the air it would appear to have a curving tail. He'd decided that a straight line would be too conspicuous.

When he had created the curved line with the rocks, he lifted the third one and put Voldemort's wand against the soil he'd softened there; he pushed downward with all his might, hoping that the wand would merely cut through the soil and not break. As it sank lower and lower into the earth, he found it to be more and more difficult, until finally, he had to use the rock itself to carefully hammer the wand in the rest of the way. He then replaced the rock over it, in the trough that he had dug.

Only he knew where Voldemort's wand was now. Only he could find it.

He returned to the circle, exhausted, but he couldn't break the spell yet. He couldn't just leave one wizard holding a bloody scarf and another wizard--whom he did not know--wandless. He needed to sow mayhem and confusion. He reached into the pocket of the wizard next to Crouch and took his wand, giving it to the man whose wand Voldemort was holding now. He took an old witch's wand and gave it to that man; he traveled around the circle, swapping wands back and forth between people; in the end he would leave Crouch wandless, since he was still the only person other than Lucius Malfoy that Harry was thoroughly convinced could not be an operative (and, as much as he hated Lucius Malfoy, he was his best friend's dad).

At one point, he was shocked to see a Hogwarts teacher in the circle. And that it was this teacher! But he couldn't dwell on things like this; he had to keep moving. Then, when he was still rearranging the wands, he looked up into the face of yet another familiar person and gasped.

Bill Weasley!

Could he be an operative? And next to him was--Percy! Was he an operative too? Just in case, he switched their wands with each other, so it wouldn't be difficult for them to right the wrong. So who were the operatives, then? he wondered. Dumbledore mentioned someone twenty--that would be Percy. He also mentioned two eighteen-year-olds. Could he have meant the twins?

But then--he found the other operatives in question. He was quite sure of it. He found Arabella Figg, and gave her Barty Crouch's wand. Niamh Quirke and Roger Davies were standing next to each other, as though they still needed to stay together because of both being from Ravenclaw. Roger! Harry thought. How can he do this, with Katie just having given birth to his child...Of course, he might be doing this to keep Katie safe. Still....if anything happened to Roger, Katie's child would be fatherless. Harry reeled; it had occurred to Harry that Roger could be a real Death Eater, in his old life; it had never occurred to him that Roger could be an operative. I guess I was wrong, he reflected. But then he saw another face, another eighteen-year-old, and he froze. He was still alive! Harry remembered. But--did that mean he was an operative? Did that mean either Niamh or Roger wasn't a spy?

Harry just stood looking at him for some time, finally deciding to leave him with his own wand, in case he worked for Dumbledore (even people he knew were probably really Death Eaters he left with their own wands; he wanted about half of the people present to be unaffected by the wand switch, under the assumption that it would create even more confusion that way.) The last time he had seen him alive was when they had arrived in the graveyard after touching the Triwizard Cup simultaneously....

Harry finally bade a silent farewell to Cedric Diggory, whose pale eyes glittered in the moonlight, and whose mouth was curled slightly at the corner, as though he were not looking forward to participating in the ritual Voldemort had proposed. At last, Harry took Draco's wand and put it in his own pocket, then he put his stepfather's wand in Draco's pocket. He quickly broke the spell and surreptitiously slipped his wand into his dad's cloak. He felt the cold wood of Draco's wand under his fingers. The sound of the crashing waves had returned.

It took only a moment for all hell to break loose.

Voldemort's enraged cry sundered the heavens when he saw the body and heart gone; people Harry had seen with ruthless, avid expressions frozen on their faces recoiled in fear as he spun in a circle, seeking out the perpetrator of this hoax. He looked down at the ground, seeing where the body had been dragged to the cliff. Then--

His eyes landed on Harry.

He swallowed. The tall wizard still grasped the borrowed wand in his hand; he did not seem to notice that it wasn't his, since it was similar enough. Harry tried to look as shocked as the other people around him. In very few strides, Voldemort was standing over him. Harry wondered whether the killing curse could be done properly with someone else's wand. Harry knew why Voldemort thought of him first, since he had seemed suspicious of Harry calling the memories of his other life "dreams." He obviously didn't believe him. But surely, Harry thought, surely someone else who served Voldemort, someone who had perhaps participated in the kidnapping ring that separated the Weasley girls from their parents, surely one of them also knew the Tempus Fugit spell. Surely he couldn't be the only one present who knew of it, other than Voldemort....

"Hand me your wand, Potter!" he hissed softly.

Harry mumbled, "Yes, my Lord," and took Draco Malfoy's wand from his cloak pocket. Voldemort performed the Priori Incantatem on the wand, finding that the last spell it performed had been a locking charm. Harry remembered Draco locking up his trunk with his wand after they'd dressed for the initiation.

"Hmph!" he said contemptuously, as though he should have known that Harry would be too stupid and unimaginative to pull a stunt like this. Harry received the wand again, but the strange eyes still looked at him suspiciously, and moved back and forth between him, his dad, Draco and Draco's dad, looking like he was wondering, wondering....

"My Lord!" a voice called across the circle.

He turned quickly, his dark cloak whirling out from his body. He strode to the man who had spoken, who was standing next to Barty Crouch, Jr.

"My Lord! He has blood on him!" the man cried, holding out Crouch's arm, his hand still clutching the scarf, which had been grey, but now had dark red blood dripping from it onto the ground. Luckily, the ground was so hard that Harry had not left any footprints as a record of his activities.

"Give me your wand!" Voldemort commanded the pale man, his yellow hair looking as though it might very well turn white from fright at any second. Crouch reached into his pocket, looked up with a panicked expression, then searched his other cloak pocket; when that also turned up empty, he patted down his body, his panic blossoming into abject fear.

"My--my Lord--I--I cannot seem to find--"

"Crucio!" Voldemort cried, pointing the wand he was holding at Crouch, who fell to the ground, convulsing, as Harry saw that it was possible to do this with a wand that was not your own. Ron put the curse on me with my own wand, he remembered. But perhaps it's still not as strong...

Crouch continued to writhe on the ground, a scream ripped from his lips that overpowered the sound of the sea. Harry winced; Please, he prayed. Please stop it....

As though he had read his mind, Lucius Malfoy cleared his throat and said tentatively, "My Lord--"

Voldemort broke the bond between the wand and Crouch, who continued to lie prostrate on the frosted ground, his breath escaping him in bursts of white. Voldemort glared at Draco's father, who stuttered out his request sounding very, very frightened.

"My Lord--the Portkey my son used to come here will activate again in a matter of minutes. He will not be able to return to school unless--"

"Silence!" was his answer; Harry's hair stood up on the back of his neck. Voldemort considered him again, then Draco, who was quaking visibly. Finally, he sneered at them, and at Severus Snape also.

"Take the children back to their school," he said contemptuously to Harry's stepfather. "I know where to find them when I have need of them." He met Harry's eyes again, and Harry tried to look visibly scared, instead of gleeful that the plan seemed to have worked. He swallowed; then another cry went up from circle.

"This isn't my wand!" And then other voices joined in. "This isn't my wand, either!"

Voldemort turned away from them; for a second, Harry had been able to see the expression on his face. He appeared disgusted by what passed for dark witches and wizards these days, as though he'd been saddled with a kindergarten....

His dad pulled the tin of deviled ham from his robes again and said to them softly, "Hold on tight, boys." Harry was glad they were going, before Voldemort began to test every wand in the circle and discovered the last spell that had been performed by the wand in his dad's pocket. He didn't think he would ever feel grateful to Lucius Malfoy, but he did now. Granted, he was only looking out for his own son, but still....

When the Portkey activated (it actually took about five minutes) the last thing Harry saw before he began to tumble through space was a crowd of Death Eaters running about comparing wands, and Voldemort standing at the edge of the cliff, staring down into the waves, knowing he could not retrieve his heir's body. And Barty Crouch, Jr. lay on the cold earth, unmoving, the bloody scarf clutched in his hand....

* * * * *

Harry stumbled and fell to the floor of the Slytherin common room when he landed. His dad and Draco both stumbled too, Draco falling backward over a footstool near the hearth. Harry knelt, getting his breath, then stood slowly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out Draco's wand.

"Isn't this your wand, Draco?" he asked, trying to sound innocent. His best friend looked at it through narrowed eyes.

"Yeah, I guess it is. I wonder whose this is, then?" he said, holding up the wand that had been in his pocket.

"Doesn't that look like yours, dad?" Harry asked him. His stepfather held it carefully, turning it over, then observing some scratches near the tip.

"Yes, yes it does seem to be mine..." He took out the wand that had been in his pocket and surveyed it.

"That looks like mine," Harry said, trying to sound casual. His dad looked at him oddly, as though he'd never seen Harry before. He looked like he was about to say something, but Draco interrupted.

"Well, I'm just glad that's over! I couldn't believe it, the way he just killed his own grandson! And then he was going to have us all--"

"Ssshhh!" Severus Snape said quickly, an angry scowl on his face. "Will you be quiet! You cannot discuss what happened tonight! With anyone! There is no way of knowing whether you can be heard..."

Draco grimaced. "Sorry. I didn't think..."

"No, Malfoy, you didn't. Now there's a surprise," he remarked sarcastically. Harry however, was surprised at the nasty edge to his stepfather's voice, and that he called Draco by his last name. Perhaps they were just all on edge. The experience they'd just had....It was enough to make the most reasonable person lash out.

Draco looked cowed before his professor, head of house and best friend's dad. Harry felt the need to step in.

"Dad--he just got the Mark. Take it easy on him," he said softly. His stepfather looked uninterested in cutting the son of Lucius Malfoy any slack, however. He turned to Harry, concern showing on his face now.

"How are you, Harry? Still feeling much pain?"

Harry pulled back his sleeve and touched his arm tentatively. "Stings a little. Do you think--do you think I could come up to your rooms with you? To sleep? That way you wouldn't be alone either. You know, since Mum stayed at the house tonight. And maybe--maybe we can call mum. Let her know I'm all right." He spoke softly, hoping his dad didn't suspect he had anything to do with the chaos at the Death Eater meeting. Even though he had prevented them from partaking of the body of the heir, he had performed dangerous dark magic. The heir. Harry shuddered again, remembering the things he said he'd done. How can I find out how bad it is in the Muggle world? he wondered. Then suddenly, he remembered; he'd put a newspaper in his pocket when he was at Maggie's and Bernard's. He had put it in the drawer of his bedside chest when he'd returned.

His dad nodded. "Of course. Good idea."

"I just want to get something from the dorm."

He ran ahead of Draco to the sixth-year boys' dorm and found the paper right where he'd left it, calling goodnight to Draco as he rushed past him. (Draco was staggering toward their dorm.) When they were in the corridor, Harry said, "Shouldn't we go see Dum--I mean, Davy? To let him know what happened?" His dad shook his head. "I happen to know he is abroad doing other things tonight. I will tell him when he returns. Don't you worry about it." After that, Harry and his dad were silent on the long walk upstairs. Harry felt his heart thumping quickly, as he wondered what he would find in the paper he'd stuffed in his pocket.

He hadn't been to the staff quarters in years. He remembered living there when he was small, running around the adjacent courtyard and flying toy broomsticks. When they reached the unicorn tapestry that hid the entrance to the staff wing, his stepfather pulled it aside and spoke a password Harry couldn't hear. The stones rearranged themselves to create a passage into the private realm of the Hogwarts professors and their families.

Harry followed his dad down the corridor to the familiar door with the legend, "Snape/Evans" on a small metal plaque. Upon entering, they found themselves in a cozy sitting room. His dad quickly lit a fire in the grate. Harry collapsed on the couch, exhaustion setting in. Perhaps he would look at the paper in the morning....

Severus Snape reached for the powder on the mantel, kept in a small intricately carved bowl, and threw it in the fire, saying, "Hog's End." Harry had never liked the name of their Hogsmeade house, but it had been known by that name for over a hundred years. There was no helping it now.

After a delay, his mother's head finally appeared in the flames. Her hair was askew; she'd probably been in bed for hours. Her face was very anxious.

"Harry! Severus! Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Mum, we're fine. We just wanted to check in and let you know."

She looked relieved. "Thank goodness! I tried getting some sleep...but all I could do was toss and turn, thinking about you..."

Harry's heart ached, seeing how worried she was for him. He remembered what his parents had said when he was seven...

"I can't accept that in nine or ten years, they're just going to take Harry from me, and there's nothing I can do; I can't be there to make sure he's safe--"

"I'll be there, Lily. I'll take care of him. I always have done."

That time had finally come, and he wondered that she ever got any sleep at all. He tried to take her mind off it now, consulting with her on what to get Jamie and the twins for Christmas, hearing her frustrations over the house-elves. At length, she told him she loved him and they both said good night. His stepfather hadn't spoken to her, but had stood in the doorway to his bedroom, hands deep in his pockets, face inscrutable.

"Would you like something to drink before you turn in?" his dad asked now. Harry nodded, and with a wave of his stepfather's wand, there appeared on the table before him a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Harry picked it up carefully and sipped it; he hadn't exactly been around dementors, but it was an evil such that chocolate was probably a very good idea right now.

When he had drained his mug, his father said, "You can use your old room, Harry. Don't worry about getting up early; it's Sunday. Sleep as late as you wish. Good night." Apparently his stepfather wasn't interested in discussing the initiation. Harry didn't push it; it might very well have brought up bad memories of when he had received the Dark Mark.

"Night, Dad." Harry watched him close the door, then rose and crossed the room to the small chamber which he and his sister had shared when they were very young and still slept in cots with mobiles hanging above them. He opened the door and the candles in the wall sconces flared to life; he was surprised to find the small room fitted out with a large bed flanked by small chests of drawers. They must use it for a guest room, he thought. But who would come to stay? Uncle Duncan? Possibly. Maybe Remus used to come before he was taken away....

Harry didn't expend any more mental energy thinking about it. He undressed down to his drawers and climbed into the bed, placing his wand on one of the tables and picking up the newspaper he'd brought back from London. It was only a small portion; Maggie's horoscope column was mixed in with various fluff pieces and film and television reviews, and he'd also managed to get part of the sports section. Damn! He'd hoped he could find some political news, learn about those civil wars and peace talks the heir had affected. But then he found something interesting in the sports pages: in World Cup coverage, football teams for both East and West Germany were listed. The Berlin Wall fell about five years ago, he thought. Or was it six? Either way, there was just one Germany now. Or was there? Had the heir interfered with that? Or had the circumstances for the destruction of the wall simply never occurred in this timeline?

He scanned the paper some more and found a story about a steroids scandal that was still unresolved from the summer Olympics; in a list of athletes suspected of using steroids (it spanned several sports) he found the USSR listed over and over as a country from which some of the dubious athletes hailed. (There were also athletes from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, France and others; it seemed to be alarmingly wide-spread.)

So, the Soviet Union was still in existence, and there had been no German reunification. Perhaps there was no European Union. He wondered whether there was still apartheid in South Africa, and who the American president was. He realized suddenly that he didn't even know who the British prime minister was!

He spent some time going over every page with a fine-toothed comb, learning whatever he could about the outside world. In the end, he knew: his mother being alive had had ramifications far beyond the wizarding world. Significant historical events had failed to take place, or had happened differently, since the night in 1981 when Voldemort had killed his father. But the smaller events caused him to suffer pangs of guilt as well. He winced when he saw in the steroid article that a young gymnast (only thirteen years old) suspected of being given steroids by her coach was orphaned four years ago when her parents tried to escape from East Germany into West Germany....

When he had learned all he could from few pages he'd brought back from London, he extinguished the candles, placing his glasses and the paper on the chest next to his wand. He put his head on the pillow and tried to sleep, but sleep didn't come for a very long time; he put aside thoughts of the newspaper for now, but the events of the evening played out over and over in his mind, and he wondered each time whether he'd done the right thing....

* * * * *

When Harry opened his eyes on Sunday morning, it was almost time for lunch. The clock on the mantel said eleven-forty-five. Harry groaned; somehow, even though it was late, he didn't feel well-rested. And he still needed to see Jamie and Ginny, to let them know he was all right. And Ginny...what could he say to her? Should he tell her he'd seen Bill and Percy there? Should he tell Charlie? Or Ron?

He pulled on the same clothes he'd worn the previous evening and put his glasses on last. But when he picked up the newspaper from the chest next to the bed, he noticed something odd; underneath it was a novel, a Muggle thing, a book he'd seen his mother reading and rereading many times over the years; it seemed to be one of her favorites. Oddly, for one who disliked the cloak-and-dagger nature of her husband's work for Dumbledore, she seemed to enjoy reading Muggle espionage novels. He had a feeling that this was her favorite, based on how dog-eared the pages were, how bent the once-glossy cover had become.

It was her old copy of a John LeCarre spy novel she liked to read repeatedly. Harry had read it once, during an idle summer a couple of years earlier, between times when she was miraculously not reading it. He'd enjoyed it, but had thought that living that kind of life seemed very unfulfilling and frustrating. There were so many grey areas.

He wondered why his mother liked this book better than the others he knew she read by the same author. Perhaps it was because this one traced the life of a spy from his very early childhood, showed exactly how he'd come to be on the path that led him to covert operations. Frankly, that was one thing about the book that had seemed rather depressing to him, as though this man had been irretrievably destined for this life, with no choice about it at all....

But then he had another revelation, as he opened the top drawer and saw numerous other things belonging to his mother. Was his mother sleeping in here now? he wondered. Had his mum and dad taken to using separate bedrooms?

Children usually try not to think about what their parents do in bed at night, but somehow thinking about them not being in the same bedroom (and the implications of that) was even more disturbing than thinking about what they did whey they were together. He replaced the worn novel on the table and left the room, hoping he was wrong, hoping that his mother simply liked to get away to read in here sometimes, a nice quiet place which seldom saw guests these days....

His dad was already gone from the rooms, and Harry let himself into the corridor leading to the tapestry-covered entrance to the staff wing.

"Harry! What are you doing here?"

He turned to find Charlie Weasley striding toward him, a grin across his freckled face, having just closed the door to his own rooms.

"I, uh--I was just keeping Dad company last night. Mum stayed in the village, getting the house ready for the holiday."

Charlie nodded. "My mother is fanatical about the holiday. Wants everything just so, and then the twins start in on their mischief..."

Harry grinned. "Sounds familiar."

Charlie laughed. "Right! Stuart and Simon seem like they've been to the Gred and Forge Academy of Twin-Induced Chaos." His smile relaxed into an expression of concern as he asked, "How is Stu, by the way?"

Harry drew his lips into a line; he just realized that he'd been so preoccupied by his impending initiation, he didn't know.

"He'll be home for the holiday," he said, taking a guess.

"Good, good. You slept late, didn't you? Coming down to lunch now?"

"In a minute. I wanted to talk to Sirius about something." Maybe he'll know how Mum and Dad are doing, Harry thought. Sirius was very close to his mother; he thought briefly of asking Dumbledore about it since he was probably his dad's closest friend, but somehow he didn't get the impression his dad and Dumbledore talked about his dad's marriage.

"You can't talk to Sirius," Charlie told him. Harry frowned.

"Why not?"

"He's not here. In fact, as far as I know, he never came back from the village last night."

Harry felt deflated, but then hopeful again. Perhaps he stayed at our house to help Mum, and she confided in him... If anything, it made it more likely that he might know whether something was wrong in the Snape/Evans marriage.

"Well, if he comes to lunch, maybe I can talk to him afterward."

Charlie shrugged. "I don't see why not."

They went down to the Great Hall together and Harry walked to the Slytherin table casually, unprepared for the greeting he would receive from his sister. He slipped unobtrusively into the seat next to her and tapped her on the shoulder, upon which she turned around and threw her arms around his neck with an inarticulate cry. Harry felt strangled.

"Aaack! Jamie! You're choking me!" Then he added in a whisper, "And people are staring..." He met Blaise Zabini's eyes across the table; Zabini looked unmistakably envious. Harry didn't know what Zabini's parents looked like; had they been in that circle of Death Eaters last night? Had they sent him an owl that morning saying, Harry Potter's already been initiated. Why hasn't the Dark Lord asked us to bring you to a meeting?

Harry looked away from Zabini, and Jamie pulled back abruptly. He saw now that her eyes were red; she seemed thoroughly miserable. "You great prat!" she said thickly. "Making me worry like this..."

"Didn't Draco tell you--" he whispered to her.

"Yes, but I still--oh, it makes a great difference to actually see you!" she whispered fiercely. He patted her back affectionately.

"I'm fine, James. We'll talk later." Then he realized that his mother might have confided in her, and he said softly, "I have something to ask you about, too. It has nothing to do with last night."

She rolled her eyes. "If you're going to warn me off Draco again--" she said out of the corner of her mouth, reaching for some stew.

"No. It's to do with Mum and Dad."

She furrowed her brow as she ate. "Mum and Dad?"

"I'll explain later," he said, helping himself to some roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Later that afternoon, they received their exam grades, and Harry was shocked to see that he was at the top of his class in Dark Arts, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures and Transfiguration, and very close in Potions (Draco narrowly edged him out) and Ancient Runes. (He performed barely adequately in his other classes, not being any more interested in History of Magic or Astronomy in this life than he'd been in the other one.)

He met with Draco, Jamie and Ginny in the anteroom, and Ginny fell on him just as Jamie had, looking extremely relieved. Harry held her tightly, so glad to be with her again he didn't want to let her go, but at last, he released his hold on her. Haltingly, he told her and his sister about the initiation, trying to sound convincing when he feigned confusion about the disappearance of the heir. As he spoke, he noticed that Draco's eyes were narrowed, looking at him shrewdly. Harry went on anyway, wondering what his best friend was thinking.

He didn't tell them that he recognized the heir; he couldn't remember ever actually seeing him or even hearing of him in this life, and he was tired of people giving him funny looks when he remembered things from his old life he shouldn't know. They didn't ask anyway, simply assuming that he wouldn't know the heir's identity. But finally, Draco couldn't stand it any more and said, "All right, Harry, out with it. It was you who did it, wasn't it?"

Harry tried to look at him blankly. "Did what?"

"Why are you pretending with us? With me? You used that spell again, didn't you? The one you used to get Ginny back to Hogwarts."

Harry looked at the three of them grimly, and then nodded slowly.

"Harry!" Ginny cried, alarmed. "That's really dangerous. Do you want to kill yourself or something?"

He looked at them helplessly. "I--I couldn't not do it. And it wasn't for as long as it took for me to get back from London. I don't think so, anyway." He gazed round at them again. "Voldemort wanted us to--well, I already told you. I had a way to prevent it, and I used it. I didn't want to tell any of you because--well, because I knew you'd react this way. I couldn't be selfish and let that happen. Did you want to become a cannibal, Draco?"

Draco recoiled. "No, of course not. But--you could have told me."

"I wasn't going to tell anyone. And don't tell my dad; if he knew I was using dark magic..."

"But why'd you switch all those wands? What was the point of that?"

Harry swallowed and looked at them very seriously. "Well, when Voldemort tested the wand I had in my pocket, it came up dry, didn't it? Because it was yours. And in the end, there was one wand missing. One very important wand."

"Yeah, I remember; you did something with that one fellow's wand--I couldn't see his face. So You-Know-Who couldn't test his wand to see if he'd done the spell, and that looked pretty bad for him, like he didn't want it tested. You-Know-Who knew which spell had been done, didn't he?"

Harry nodded. "Probably."

"Well, why'd he think it had to be you?"

Harry shrugged in what he hoped was a convincingly nonchalant way. "I dunno. Maybe because of the Prophecy."

Draco looked a little miffed. "I'm in the Prophecy. He didn't ask me."

Harry swallowed. "I guess he didn't get around to it. Remember; right after that, someone noticed the blood on the scarf."

"So," Ginny said softly, "you used the scarf to put the heir's heart back in his chest and flung his body into the sea so he wouldn't be cannibalized?"

Harry nodded, looking down.

Ginny didn't speak, but wrapped her arms around him again, pulling his head down onto her shoulder and stroking his hair with her hand. She kissed him on the cheek and released him again, but the look shining in her eyes made him feel prouder than he'd ever been in either of his lives; her expression of admiration was overwhelming, and he fought the urge to hang his head shyly, turning instead to Draco, to correct him.

"Actually," he informed his best friend, "the point of the wand-switching wasn't to leave that one Death Eater wandless. His isn't the wand that's missing."

"It isn't?"

"No. I--I stole Voldemort's wand."

Three jaws dropped at once.

"You what?" Jamie breathed.

"You're kidding." Draco said, eyes round.

"Harry!" Ginny said, looking at him in awe.

"I hid it--don't ask me where. You're all probably safer if you don't know." He hoped he would eventually be able to find it again, flying overhead, watching for a configuration of rocks that resembled a large mouse with a curving tail....

Harry didn't discuss the other people he saw in the circle: Bill and Percy and Niamh and Roger and Cedric and Arabella Figg. He especially didn't mention the professor he'd seen; it was possible that the professor was an operative, but if that wasn't the case, it wouldn't do for the four of them to suddenly start acting strangely and raise suspicions. Harry would wait and see; he would be anxious, first, to see which teachers joined them in their General Strike.

Harry was glad when they moved on to discussing the strike; he both didn't think he could take any more admiring gazes from Jamie and Ginny (Draco was still looking a little put-out that Harry hadn't come clean from the start) and he didn't want to continue to think about the ghastly murder he'd seen. He was glad to listen instead to Ginny telling them all about a letter she'd received that morning from Maggie.

"She's found them!" she said practically jumping up and down with excitement. She pulled a paper out of her pocket. and read.

"Ruth Pelta--turns out she actually lives close to Hermione--and she's coming. She does folk singing and plays guitar, mostly for fun, but she also loves classical music and she's actually a fan of Hermione's. She was recently in a revue at her yeshiva. I think that's a school. Justin Finch-Fletchley's coming too. He's heard of Maggie, loves astrology. He was thrilled to hear from her. Alicia Spinnet's also coming, and Dean Thomas. Do you know it turns out he wants to go to art school in France? Or maybe Italy. Doesn't want to do football at all; he normally just plays for fun. All the football clubs are terribly upset about him, apparently. Maggie even found this Colin Creevey, but the term at his school has already ended and now he's on a ski trip in Switzerland with some friends. That other girl, Penelope Clearwater, she's at Oxford, but she's not available on Saturday. There's a wedding; she's her cousin's maid-of-honor or something. She's terribly smart, it seems. Into physics. Doing very complex maths--something about black holes, I think. I wonder what I would ever talk to her about. She'd probably think I was a complete idiot...."

Harry counted them off on his fingers. "Okay, so that gives us Ruth, Justin, Alicia, Dean...Is that it? And of course, Hermione and Maggie. And they already know about being magical, of course. So who have we got going on our end?"

"The four of us, of course," she said, "plus Ron and Charlie and Liam. Ron said Cho can't; her family's going to Hong Kong to visit relatives until just before the New Year."

Harry nodded. "All right. I think we'll be fine. The most important person is Charlie; we need him to do some demonstrations; the rest of us could possibly get in trouble, doing magic out of school. Charlie's of age, so he's fine."

Jamie laughed. "We're telling Muggle-born witches and wizards that they are witches and wizards, and you're worried about getting in trouble for doing magic out of school?"

"What about when we went to London and you transfigured our robes?" Ginny pointed out. "And you certainly did magic out of school last night, didn't you? Dark magic."

Draco made a face. "I doubt the Ministry was monitoring that meeting. But London is pretty well-monitored. You know that now, Harry, after those two showed up at the museum. Ginny's right; you're pretty lucky you weren't caught transfiguring the robes. We could be getting Charlie in serious trouble, and he might wind up getting fired before the General Strike. I mean, you're asking him to do magic in front of Muggles; that's a worse offense than breaking the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Magic."

Ginny grinned. "But they're not Muggles, are they? They're witches and wizards. A little loophole in the law that they never bothered closing."

Draco still looked unsure about putting his friend at risk, but as Charlie's own sister seemed to think there wasn't a problem, he clamped his mouth shut and didn't comment further. Once the plans for the Saturday trip to London had been solidified, they broke up their meeting. Harry and Ginny went up to the Muggle studies classroom for some time alone together, while Jamie and Draco stayed behind in the anteroom. Harry was glad that the anteroom was a relatively cold, uncomfortable place.

The Muggle studies classroom was far more comfortable, but Harry and Ginny didn't do anything beyond a bit of kissing, and even wandering hands stayed resolutely on top of clothing, instead of burrowing beneath. He knew that for him, the memory of Katie giving birth was still very fresh in his mind, and he suspected that it was for Ginny as well. Unless Ginny went to Madam Pomfrey for Prophylaxis Potion, they needed to be very, very careful. He did not want to risk Ginny becoming another Katie.

* * * * *

Harry finished his Christmas shopping in the village on Monday, after he and Jamie had seen Draco, Ginny, Ron and Charlie off on the Hogsmeade Express along with the others who were not staying at the castle or in Hogsmeade for the holiday. He carried his purchases home and spent quite a while in his room wrapping them. Jamie was still out, doing her own shopping, and his dad was taking the twins to Diagon Alley to look for presents. He wasn't sure where his mother was; she was probably also shopping, he supposed.

After he was done wrapping the gifts and had placed them under the grand, glittering tree in the drawing room, he returned to the second floor, but he didn't go to his room. He turned instead to go to the guest room where Sirius was staying for the holiday. Maybe he knew something about the trouble between his parents. He still hadn't had an opportunity to speak to Jamie about it.

He was about to knock on the door when he realized that it was already slightly ajar, and he heard voices from within. His mother was already there, talking to his godfather. Well, Harry thought, perhaps I can hear about it right from her, then.

But there weren't any words to hear; there was merely a rustling and a sighing, a small giggle and then a moan, an unmistakable sort of moan, and in a blind rage, Harry held out his right hand in the direction of the door, flinging it open without laying a finger on it, and the thick oak split as it struck the wall, as though it were being propelled by a hurricane-force wind.

They both stared at him, thunderstruck, and Harry knew his fury must have shown on his face. They were still in each other's arms, mostly clothed. Sirius wore his trousers, but no shirt, his broad chest matted with dark fur that made his pale skin seem even paler. Of course, the pallor of his face could have been because of the murderous way his godson was looking at him.

Harry's mother had shed only her robes, but there were more buttons undone on her blouse than there should have been, and she pulled the fabric together now under her chin, her face as red as her hair.

Harry had no words. There was a pounding in his head as he looked back and forth between the two of them, and it seemed that the very air in the room crackled with his anger. Fearing that he would soon cause things to start flying around the room in a dangerous manner from his out-of-control emotions, he turned on his heel and strode down the corridor, then the stairs, and out of the house. He thought he heard his mother called his name (and Sirius saying, "Lily, let him go..."), but he didn't let that stop him. He couldn't look at either of them; not right now.

Harry was so angry he couldn't see straight. He didn't know where he was going; the village where he'd lived all his life was suddenly alien territory, an uncharted wilderness with no safe haven. He leapt over the wall at the end of the High Street, next to his house, and began to run across the fields that led to the grounds of Hogwarts. These fields eventually met up with the Forbidden Forest, and when he reached the forest, he kept running, and only when he couldn't see anything but trees around him did he change.

The pain in his joints was nothing compared to the pain in his heart. After he transfigured, he kneaded dead leaves with his paws for a few minutes, shaking out his mane. His breath was white before his muzzle. Then he took a deep breath, the cold air stinging his lungs.

Harry began to run.

He ran and ran and ran in straight lines. He ran as he hadn't run since he was pursuing Wormtail through the forest, but this time he didn't need to corner and turn, following a rat Animagus. He could keep moving, keep the flowing movement going, only swerving slightly every so often to avoid running headlong into a tree. He also didn't need to worry about giants this time. It was possible that he could encounter other creatures, especially as it was growing dark, but the full moon had ended the night before, so werewolves were at least not a worry (if there were any that hadn't been captured by the Ministry). And he was a golden griffin; if he ran into a dragon he could have trouble (he was fairly certain he would encounter none), but few other denizens of the forest were equipped to take on a golden griffin. As darkness descended, Harry continued to run, until he had reached the far side of the stand of trees, where he'd never been before, and stopped to rest, panting.

He stayed within the trees' shelter, still in his Animagus form, and watched the stars winking on above the tiny town visible across numerous fields separated by hedgerows. A Muggle town, he realized. He'd never really thought about how close the nearest Muggles might be. Of course, this could hardly be called close. He had no idea how far he'd traveled, but it had to be a considerable number of miles. He stared at the distant houses with their television antennae and the street lamps that had sprung to life now that the sun had set. Electric lights glowed out from the windows with a harsh white glare never seen in Hogsmeade. Many of the houses looked crisp and unused; it must be a newly-built suburb, he thought. It had a feeling of sameness, of uniformity. He imagined the houses filled with people exactly like the nosy neighbors on Privet Drive--Aunt Petunia being the nosiest. And very suddenly and unexpectedly, an overwhelming feeling welled up inside of him, and he actually began to shake.

He was homesick.

Harry longed with all his heart for his other life, for the world he'd left on September first. But it wasn't just that; he actually missed Privet Drive, he realized. And his aunt and uncle! And Dudley. Poor Dudley....except that his cousin was alive in this life. He tried to comfort himself with this knowledge, but he still didn't feel any better. Harry had never even met any of the Dursleys, in fact. It was such an odd thought. He grew suddenly nostalgic for bad chat shows and quiz shows and American comedies and nature documentaries and radio adverts with obnoxious jingles and the nauseating smell of the car when it had just rained and there was nothing but the stench of petrol in his nose, and the overwhelming peppermint odor of the candy display at the chemist's and the gritty, chalky smell of the school in Little Whinging where he'd gone when he was small, and the dusty road where he'd passed the cemetery every day, not knowing his parents were buried there...

He'd been in a little bit of the Muggle world recently, going to London to find Hermione and then taking Ginny to meet her, but he hadn't had the opportunity to just savor those things that were quintessentially Muggle. He suddenly longed quite madly for a fast-food hamburger or some greasy fish-and-chips wrapped in newspaper, or something from the Indian place where Mrs. Figg had bought dinner for him and Draco during the previous summer. Suddenly, he longed for candy that didn't bite back or leap about or make his nose flash blue for hours...

Eventually, the lights in the town became fewer and fewer. Harry watched the evidence of the Muggles going to bed, observed from a distance. A few lonely cars still moved about the streets, causing a soft shushing sound to reach his alert griffin's ears, telling him that the pavement was wet.

What would happen, he wondered, if I just walked away from it all? If I just changed back into a boy and left my wizard's robes and wand here and walked into that Muggle town and left the wizarding world behind? Would anybody really notice, or care?

But he knew the answer to that; his parents and siblings and friends would be frantic, searching all over for him. He remembered Mrs. Weasley's face when she had told him and Hermione about her daughters disappearing, and he knew that however angry he was with his mother, he could never do that to her, let alone the others, with whom he wasn't angry. And there was Ginny...always Ginny....

The moment of temptation had passed and he turned around, loping through the forest, wondering whether he would reach Hogsmeade by morning at this much-slower speed (he must have been running very very fast, he realized). When he came to a large clearing, he gave up on walking and took advantage of the open space, spreading his wings and leaping into the air, turning as necessary until he was above the canopy of the trees; he could see the great castle in the distance, towers ablaze like beacons, and he moved toward that, since it was the only thing he had to guide him. How odd, he thought, that I can see it so clearly, and if a Muggle were looking right at it, he would see nothing but ruins....

At last, he was also able to spot the low-lying village; he landed in the garden behind his house, in the shadow of the greenhouse where his parents grew various magical plants they used in potions. The greenhouse also served as the potting shed, holding the gardening supplies they used during the summer when they grew fresh vegetables in the patch of ground just beyond the lawn that rolled down from the rear of the house (they usually did the planting during the Easter holiday, then his mother came down on weekends to do weeding until the term was over). Harry changed back into his human form in the lee of the greenhouse. He picked himself up from the ground and walked up to the house, lifting his feet quite high because the snow had not been cleared from the grounds; no path had been shoveled to the greenhouse from the back door, since they'd all been living at the castle for almost four months.

He paused with his hand on the knob. Peeking in through the glass at the top of the door, he saw that no one was in the scullery, not even a house-elf. He let himself in and immediately shed his wet shoes, socks and robes, padding softly on the cold floor, the edges of the slate tiles gently rounded from generations of wear.

The pantry came between the scullery and the kitchen, and he paused here to slice himself a thick slab of brown bread, which he spread liberally with strawberry jam. He walked into the drafty kitchen in his bare feet, carrying his plate, wetness showing at the bottoms of his jeans. A fire was blazing away in the huge stone fireplace, and Jamie was asleep on the couch near the hearth, the Christmas tree with their childish homemade ornaments standing guard over her. Harry seated himself in the chair by the fire, putting his feet as close to the flames as he dared, feeling a warmth pervade him from both the fire and from the comforting food he was eating. He watched his sister sleep, the firelight making her skin glow, and Harry's heart ached again, for he knew that he didn't just need to fix the timeline to heal his own homesickness and repair the political damage in the outside world, he needed to fix it on principle. And adhering to that principle would mean giving up Jamie. It would mean giving up other people too, but when he thought of his sister, he knew that she was who he would miss most of all. If he ever figured out how to do it....

Well, he'd taken a step, in a way. I know where Voldemort's wand is, and Voldemort doesn't even know he doesn't have his proper wand. I think....

It was possible, of course, that Voldemort had realized that he had a different wand, but even if he did realize it, Harry thought it unlikely he would be able to find his real one. If you don't know where something is, you can't use a summoning charm to find it. He knew that if you suspected where something was, it could still work (as when Mrs. Weasley pulled all of the Ton-Tongue Toffees and other prankish items from Fred's and George's clothing before they left for the World Cup), but he seemed to have successfully deflected suspicion onto the son of the Minister of Magic, and Crouch didn't know anything. Harry wondered again whether this had been the right thing to do, but he remembered the Pensieve, the night his parents had died; he remembered Crouch putting Cruciatus on Severus Snape, attacking him from behind, and treating the murders of his parents as some kind of entertainment. He decided to stop worrying about Barty Crouch, Jr.

When he was done his food, he leaned back in the chair, feeling warmer now, and stared at the flames, starting to drift off. He didn't think he'd been asleep, but he must have been, for when he opened his eyes, Jamie was gone from the couch and his stepfather was sitting there, looking at him quite grimly, and Harry met his gaze, knowing he'd probably worried them all, disappearing for hours....

"Harry? Are you awake?"

Harry nodded dully. "Where's Jamie?" he managed to mumble.

"I took her upstairs. Where were you? All your mother said was that you ran out of the house without a word. We've all been worried sick."

Harry felt the resentfulness boil up in him and burst to the surface. "Oh really? Was she worried too?" He saw his dad recoil at the sharpness in his voice. "Was Sirius? Or were they just worried that I'd--" He stopped suddenly, meeting his stepfather's eyes. Did he know? Should he say anything? He remembered again being in his Pensieve, the look on his face when he had lost the Quidditch final and saw Lily Evans and James Potter kissing on the pitch.

He felt a hand on his arm; it was Hermione. Her face was so sad, he didn't know what had happened. "Are you all right, Hermione?" he said with concern. She drew her mouth into a line.

"Not me. Snape. Look at him, Harry."

Harry turned to Snape, walked around him and looked up at his face. Although only eighteen, he now looked like the man he was accustomed to seeing in Potions class; he had shaved his beard, but there was a slight shadow on his face as though he'd forgotten that day. His hair hung in his face, lank and greasy, and his eyes were filled with a combination of contempt and sadness. He was miles away from the sixteen-year-old boy who'd declared his love for Harry's mother in the Potions Dungeon. He already looked like his life was over, like he was just biding time until some gruesome end. That, Harry thought, is the face of someone who has nothing to live for.

And, he remembered, it was on that day that Lucius Malfoy recruited him to be a Death Eater, to cultivate Barty Crouch, Jr. How can I do that to him? Harry thought. How can I tell him that his wife is carrying on with my godfather?

Harry's throat was tight; he took a deep breath. "Dad, can I ask you something?"

The dark eyes regarded him with curiosity. "Yes, Harry."

"When I woke up yesterday morning, I found--I found a lot of mum's things in my old room. Are--are you and mum sleeping in separate bedrooms?"

Severus Snape looked down at his hands, then up at Harry again. His voice was very soft. "You saw them together, didn't you?"

Harry's jaw dropped; he knew! He knew what they were doing in his own house, and he just carried on....Harry remembered Charlie saying that Sirius hadn't come back to the castle Saturday night. He must have stayed here, Harry realized, just Sirius Black and Lily Evans, no other humans in the house. He began seething on his stepfather's behalf, starting to feel the blind rage come over him again.

"Yes," he said quietly, still watching his dad's face carefully. The dark eyes closed, and he leaned back, then opened them again, fixing them on Harry.

"You think I'm bloody stupid, don't you?"

Harry shook his head vigorously. "No, of course not! I think they're--they're--I can't even say what I think without using every bit of foul language I've ever heard...."

His dad was remarkably calm. "Harry, Harry, please. I need to explain. Your mother and I--well, we've been apart, technically, for some time now. Yes, we use two different bedrooms at Hogwarts. We live there ten months a year now and we only live here for two, plus a few extra days here and there for holidays. It's fairly easy to live this way and not have anyone know...."

Harry remembered their wedding again, and other times they'd seemed to be quite happy. "But why?"

His dad sighed. "The nearest I can figure is--it's Stuart. He's very sick Harry, as you know. It's the sort of thing that can put a strain on any marriage, but with us--"

"She blames you for Stuart? How can she do that? Does she think you want to have porphyria? Bloody hell, no one would want such a thing, if they had a choice..."

He smiled ruefully. "That's just it; she had a choice. You don't remember; you were so young. After your father was killed, both Black and I came round quite often, helping her around the flat, helping her with you, spending time with her, comforting her. She was in a right state, and pregnant, to boot. I think it was just pure luck that I was with her when she went into labor with Jamie. She'd come with you to visit me at the castle. The two of you stayed in that room you and Jamie used to have. It was during a terrible snowstorm, and she wasn't due for another three weeks. Black was off somewhere on a mission for Dumbledore. I wound up helping Pomfrey with the midwifing; it happened very quickly. That's a very, er, intimate thing for two people to share. It gave me a leg up on Black, and the next thing you know, you and Lily had moved into my rooms in the castle with me, and then we found out she was expecting the twins, and we quickly threw the wedding together...." Harry had suspected his mother had been pregnant with the twins before her wedding to his stepfather, and now he knew for certain.

He shook his head. "So why are you staying together? I mean, it's not that I want you to split up, but--"

Severus Snape gave a great sigh. "That's because of Stuart too. We agreed that we both need to be there for him. It would not be good for his health to be fretting over our relationship."

Harry remembered Stuart in the hospital wing; he was so knowing. Somehow Harry doubted that Stuart of all people thought his parents' marriage was constant bliss. "I wouldn't be so sure the twins don't know already, Dad. They're pretty sneaky, and they're good at figuring things out. Not like me and Jamie; or me, anyway. I always thought everything was fine; I even knew Sirius stayed in the village Saturday night, and it never occurred to me...."

"Of course it didn't, Harry. That's not where your mind goes; you assume the best of people, not the worst. You always have done. Even when someone has shown themselves to be extremely untrustworthy, I've noticed that you want to continue to give them the benefit of the doubt."

Harry frowned. "Great. So I'm the stupidest sod in the wizarding world..."

"No, Harry. I've seen that you also know when not to trust. You're not stupid. You had no reason to think that your mother and Sirius...." He looked incredibly sad again, and Harry felt angry once more.

"Just when I was starting to like her again..." he grumbled to the fire.

"Well, that's the hard part, isn't it, Harry?"

He looked up at his dad, perplexed. "What?" Severus Snape stared into the fire, and the flames danced in his dark eyes. His dad looked both sad and happy all at once; Harry could see in his face that he was remembering another time in his life, a time when he had first noticed the woman he would eventually marry.

"I've loved Lily Evans since I was fifteen years old, and I probably always will. Loving is easy, Harry; there are always plenty of things we can find to love in people...." He paused and leaned forward, his forearms on his knees as he stared into the fire. "But liking someone, especially a person you love..."

He sighed and leaned back, his black eyes boring into his stepson's.

"That is sometimes the hardest thing of all...."

* * * * *

Harry evaded his mother during the rest of the week. He had put a good face on Christmas, avoiding looking his godfather and his mother in the eye, and especially avoiding being alone with either one of them. Neither of them tried to talk to him, and he was just as glad. The house felt strange and cold; Jamie thought he was behaving oddly, and told him so, but he said he was just nervous about the London trip. She didn't look convinced.

They had told their parents that they were meeting up with some friends for an outing in Diagon Alley on Saturday, and the adults thought nothing of it. Harry took a small pouch of Floo powder with him, and late Saturday morning, they both calmly walked into the kitchen fireplace at Hog's End and said distinctly, "The Leaky Cauldron!"

They each fell into the front room of the pub, coughing a little and brushing soot from their clothes; they'd had to wear robes, since they were supposedly going to be out in the wizarding, not Muggle world, but they were wearing proper Muggle clothes underneath and would be transfiguring their robes into warm coats to wear.

"Where've you been?" Draco drawled at them. He'd been sitting with his feet up on a table, drinking a pint of butterbeer. He grinned then, and got to his feet just in time for Jamie to fling herself on him with all of the energy of a fourteen-year-old girl missing her boyfriend.

Jamie's transfiguration skills weren't as advanced as Harry's and Draco's, so Draco designed a flattering coat for her in a green to match her eyes, with a hood that framed her face charmingly. She glowed at him, throwing her arms around his neck again, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. Harry turned from them, impatient. Where were the others?

Harry and Jamie settled down to wait with Draco, ordering butterbeers of their own. Finally, they heard some commotion from the fireplace, and one at a time, Ron, Ginny and Charlie Weasley emerged, followed a few minutes later by Liam Quirke. Harry fought the urge to take charge, but Liam needed to think of Ron as their leader, so Harry simply gave Ron a subtle nod, and Ron clapped his hands together and said, "Right, then! Let's go to the Underground."

"Wait," Harry said, trying not to sound bossy. "I mean, does everyone have Muggle money?" From the looks on the others' faces, he knew they didn't. He had sent Draco to Gringotts the day before to convert some Galleons to pounds, and there was a quick exchange now between Draco and the others so that they were all equipped to enter the Muggle world. It's a bloody good thing Ron's not really running the show, he thought, else Liam would be trying to get onto the Tube with Galleons and Sickles....

He also had to remind the others to transfigure their robes before leaving the pub. He was starting to worry about how some of them would respond to other things in the Muggle world; he remembered the way Draco, Ron and Ginny had reacted to the lift in the department store when they'd purchased their funeral clothes...With a sigh, he stepped out into the London street with them, not sure he trusted even Charlie not to be conspicuous.

Fortunately, the trip to Richmond-upon-Thames was quiet and uneventful, and they didn't have to walk far to reach the church of St. Thomas the Apostle. Maggie met them at the door and sat with them; Bernard had not come with her. Hermione was playing the Schuman cello concerto with a local orchestra of mostly non-professional players; it was a concert to raise money for St. Thomas' new parish hall, and she was only doing it as a favor to her teacher, Edith. Edith's sister Lorraine was the organist and choir-mistress for the parish. Harry tensed, his stomach knotting up as he anticipated the confrontation between the witches and wizards who had grown up in the wizarding world, and the Muggle-borns.

The concert was being held in the dark, depressing Gothic sanctuary, which reminded Harry remarkably of St. Bede's. It was a grey winter day, and precious little light seeped in through the stained glass windows, which at any rate were mostly yellow and white, rather than the sparkling jewel tones he'd seen elsewhere. Hogwarts castle had a good deal of similar architecture and stained glass, but the windows there were usually quite bright and colorful, depictions of witches and wizards from history, who spoke to the students if they were civil. (Harry had received help with homework more than once from a stained-glass depiction of a sixteenth-century wizard in a remote corner of the library.)

The orchestra was wedged into the space behind the communion rail and between the facing pews that normally held the choir. It was a tight squeeze. Hermione perched on the edge of a throne-like chair near the pulpit which, Harry assumed, was probably where the rector sat before ascending the steps to preach. The pews on which the audience sat were bare wood, no padding to make the concert a pleasanter experience. Hermione had entered to enthusiastic applause, wearing a very low-key (but also rather tight) black turtleneck and flowing silken trousers that allowed her to cradle her cello between her knees. Her hair was loose, cascading over her shoulders in wild waves. She seemed to have thoroughly embraced her hair's bushiness today. Somehow it made her seem quite formidable, like a male lion's mane. He saw that her ear piercings were almost all empty, although one could still make out the holes. For her, he realized, she was being very subdued. He wished Draco or Ron had seen her as she had appeared at the British Library; they would have been floored.

Ron, however, still seemed to be suitably impressed. When the applause was still going strong, he leaned across Charlie and whispered to Harry, "That's her?"

Harry nodded to him, and caught Charlie's eye; Ron's older brother was smirking, and Harry had to try very hard not to laugh. Ginny was sitting on Harry's right, and when he turned to her, he could see that Ron's reaction was not lost on her either; he eyes looked quite merry, as though she were storing up a great deal of teasing fodder. Harry was just happy they'd managed to sit next to each other; after the Hogsmeade play, this was almost like having a second date with Ginny. Almost. He wished he dared do a simple thing like hold her hand or put his arm across the top of the pew behind her, as Draco was doing with Jamie, on the far side of Ron.

Although her appearance was less extreme than when he'd seen her perform previously, her playing still served to floor them. (He wished Ron would close his mouth; he looked slightly dim-witted.) Harry could again see the slight stretching of her left hand while she played some of her solo passages, and wondered if she was doing this consciously now that it had been pointed out to her. The music was sweeping and romantic, and she looked lost in it, playing with her eyes closed much of the time, only sometimes glancing at the conductor. As each movement slipped by, Harry spent more of his time looking around for the Muggle-borns who said they'd come. He spotted Alicia Spinnet first, looking as dignified and pristine as ever. Then he saw Dean Thomas, his eyes closed, nodding along with the music, looking like he was quite enjoying himself. Justin was harder to spot, but it turned out he was quite near to Alicia, looking as Harry remembered him. He wondered whether Liam had noticed Justin.

Finally, he saw Ruth, who met his eyes boldly, raising her eyebrows. He was taken aback. I wonder whether she already suspects that she's a witch? he wondered. Somehow, Ruth's expression seemed very knowing, and he turned away from her, feeling as though she'd been reading his very thoughts.

Suddenly it was as though the rafters of the old building had come crashing down. The concerto had ended, and the moment she lifted her bow from the strings, Hermione was engulfed in a roar of applause, people springing to their feet as they had at the British Library, but, it seemed to Harry that they were far less inhibited than those slightly-stuffy, dignified people (except for the young men who had asked her for autographs). Harry lost Ruth in the crowd once everyone was one their feet, and he looked to the front, seeing Hermione's blinding smile; in letters, she had groused about doing this favor, but he could tell she'd also enjoyed herself. He remembered her talking about playing with others, the dialogue of the instruments, and he knew that even though the soloist was on her own a lot in a concerto, she also played with the orchestra a great deal, and he had seen that she was most immersed in the music at these times.

In the invitation to the Muggle-borns, they were asked to come to the front to meet with Hermione after the concert, as her "special guests." It took some time for the applause to die out, but finally, the audience members gathered up their coats and hats and gloves and made their way out into the darkening winter afternoon. Harry nodded to Ron, and they started to make their way forward, working against a tide of orchestra members who had already packed and were coming at them now, wielding violin cases and violas and some frighteningly large double-basses. (Harry never understood what could lead a person to want to play such an awkward instrument; why not just try to haul a piano around?)

They finally found themselves in front of the communion rail, where Hermione was perched casually, chatting with Edith and Lorraine. Alicia, Dean, Ruth and Justin had come forward and were standing about a bit awkwardly. Then Dean noticed Ginny and said, "Hullo! You're Maggie Parrish, aren't you?"

Maggie came up behind him, saying, "Close. That's my little sister. Maggie Parrish," she said, extending her hand to him. He shook it.

"I say," Justin chimed in. "I was quite surprised to hear from you. I must warn you, though, I've no intention of divulging anything Wills and Harry have said to me..."

"Harry?" Ron said, bewildered. "You've talked to Harry?" He pointed at Harry now, to Justin's confusion.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You're a brick, aren't you? He meant the younger son of the Prince of Wales. He's Prince Henry, really, but everyone calls him Harry." Harry thought frantically; wouldn't the younger prince have been conceived after the murder of James Potter? Oh well, he thought; even if it isn't precisely the same person, they had another boy and already had the idea of naming him Henry. That's not so unusual.

Ron bristled at Hermione, but didn't make a retort. He eyed her pointedly from head to toe. "Heard about you. So, you're the Muggle-born--"

"SO!" Harry said very loudly. He raised his eyebrows at Ron and tilted his head meaningfully at Hermione's teacher and her sister. Ron grimaced and now Harry waggled his eyebrows at Hermione, hoping she'd get the message. Her eyes widened and she leapt to her feet and cleared her throat.

"Edith and Lorraine, these are some friends of mine and some friends of theirs...." She reeled off Harry's and Ginny's and Maggie's names, and also got the Muggle-born names right, but Ron, Liam, Jamie and Draco had to introduce themselves. "We're going to hang about for a little bit, then maybe go find a pub or cafe. I'll see you back at the flat later." Harry thought this was a fairly tactful way of saying I don't want you around right now, so sod off.

The older women nodded and bade her goodbye, Lorraine thanking her effusively for doing the concert. When they had gone, Harry nodded to Draco, who went round the sanctuary, locking all of the doors with his wand. Harry nodded to Ron now, who faced the Muggle-borns, trying to get up the nerve to say what he had to say.

"You lot; we asked you to be here right now because--because there's something you need to know." Harry tried to keep a pleasant expression on his face, but his brain was screaming, You don't know what you're doing! That was awful!

Ruth frowned at him. "What is it?"

Ron took a deep breath and spit it out. "You're witches and wizards."

The four of them looked at each other, then at him, before bursting out into laughter. The others stared back and forth at each other, no one having expected this reaction. Finally, Hermione stepped in.

"Listen, quiet down! It's not funny. I just found out about a month ago that I'm a witch as well. There's--there's this magical community in Britain that stays pretty well hidden, and about ten years ago, they stopped informing people like us--people who are magical even thought their parents aren't--that we're witches and wizards. The year each of us turned eleven, we should have received a letter from the magic school they go to...."

Dean scowled. "Magic school? D'you mean her, too?" He pointed at Maggie.

"Actually, I also just recently found out I'm a witch. But that's because I was kidnapped from my family--who are all witches and wizards--and raised in a Muggle family."

Alicia looked completely affronted by having to listen to such nonsense. "A what family?"

Hermione sighed. "Muggle. Wizards call non-magical people Muggles. Listen, haven't the four of you ever caused unexplained things to happen when you were upset or angry or really sad or happy?"

It was very quiet; the four of them looked at each other again, expressions of guilt quite clear on their faces. "Well," Justin began, "just yesterday--"

"D'you mean I can turn you into rabbits if I want?" Dean burst in.

Charlie decided to take charge. "Not exactly. You all need training to learn about proper ways to do things. Magic can be very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."

Alicia had her arms crossed. "I have a telephone in my purse, and in one minute I am calling the police if you do not let me out of here," she declared. Harry remembered that she was from a rather wealthy family. Charlie turned to her, and Harry saw the same expression simultaneously blossom on each of their faces. They're attracted to each other, he thought. Maybe that will help....

"Listen," Charlie said softly, taking out his wand and a feather. "I'll teach you a simple spell. You can use my wand. If you weren't a witch, you wouldn't be able to do it. Then will you believe us?"

She softened a little but her eyes still looked a bit scared and doubtful. "Do something else first. Something impossible."

Charlie nodded and looked around, finally extracting a kneeler from under one of the pews. "Here. What animal would you like this transfigured into? Something about the same size, preferably."

Alicia smirked. "All right. How about--a beagle. With a red collar."

Charlie nodded and waved his wand--and a small, muscular beagle was standing where the kneeler had been, a red leather collar around his neck, his tongue lolling out and his large dark eyes shining.

Alicia screamed.

Harry jumped forward and put his hand over her mouth. "Don't do that!" he hissed. He removed his hand from her face slowly; her eyes were wild, staring back and forth between him and the dog.

"Go on," Charlie said, smiling at her. "Pet it."

She crouched and put her hand out cautiously. The dog seemed very pleased that someone was going to pet him, and he stepped toward her, lifting his eyes to hers and leaning into her hand. Harry watched her stroke the firm flank as the dog's tail waved about vigorously. When she stood again, she looked like an epiphany had come to her.

"So--I could do that with enough training?"

Charlie smiled at her. "Yes. And more."

They decided to team up to talk to the Muggle-borns, who were by now very excited. Ron, Hermione and Ginny spoke to Dean (Ron mostly seemed to want to talk to Hermione) while Maggie and Charlie spoke to Alicia, and Harry and Jamie were going to speak to Ruth. Harry suggested that Draco speak to Justin, and then said, very pointedly to Liam, "You come talk to Justin too. I thought you two might get on well. I suggested to Ron that he ask you to come because--well as I said, I thought you two might get on well--"

Justin frowned. "You don't even know me! What is this, some kind of blind date? I'm not gay!"

Liam looked at Harry, equally offended. "What, and I am? What have I ever done to make you think that, Potter?"

Harry looked back and forth between them helplessly. "I--I--I'm sorry. I didn't mean--" He trailed off, not having expected this little bump in the road. Well, he thought, I suppose they haven't come out yet, in this timeline, even to themselves.

"Do you want to talk to someone else?" he asked the two of them, exasperated. They looked around at the others already chatting animatedly, including Jamie and Ruth.

"No," they both said, not without a touch of resentment in their voices. Harry saw now that Draco also looked miffed.

"You don't think I'm gay, do you?" his best friend sniffed. Harry rolled his eyes.

"NO. Listen, why don't you talk to Ruth, and I'll take Justin, okay?" He sighed, making a mental note to always let people out themselves; they really, really didn't appreciate someone else doing it for them.

They were able to explain to the Muggle-borns about the thinking behind the ban, and the upcoming General Strike. They hoped that if the strike went well, the board could decided to take Muggle-born students as early as the next school year. They each levitated a feather using Charlie's wand, and said they didn't mind owls coming to deliver post to them. When all was said and done, Harry was pleased to see an excited light in each of their eyes, and he thought, Maybe it will be one of them. He glanced at Hermione, Maggie, Ruth, Justin, Alicia and Dean. Maybe one of them will help me figure out how to fix the timeline....

All they had to do now was convince the Board of Governors to lift the ban.

* * * * *

The first day of the term seemed to arrive very quickly. The fact that the meeting with the Muggle-borns went well served to make the rest of Harry's holiday far pleasanter than it had been when he'd seen his mother and godfather together. He thought ruefully of when he'd entered the butler's pantry on September first, hoping to find that Sirius was his stepfather. Now he wouldn't have traded Severus Snape for Sirius Black as a dad if he were offered a million gold Galleons. The irony was hardly comforting, though, in the face of his mother's infidelity. He pushed this thought down and tried to focus on the upcoming strike.

The plans had been going well. Charlie had helped them acquire enough tents to accommodate every teacher and student on the lawn of the castle. It would be a tight squeeze in some of them, but that wouldn't be a problem.

They had sent the letter with their demands to the Board of Governors, signed "Students of Hogwarts for the Repatriation of Muggle-Borns (SOHFTROMB). Only Ron's name was down as the leader of the group. He had received a reply within hours.

Dear Mr. Weasley,

As you are the son of a board member, we are certain you are familiar with the rationale behind the ban on Muggle-born students. While we appreciate your concern for their well-being, Muggle-born witches and wizards are much better served by not being included in the wizarding community at this time. We are standing by this policy.

Yours sincerely,

Magnus Cucurbita-Pepo
Hogwarts Board of Governors

Ron stood in the kitchen of Hog's End, staring around; he'd just come from the Burrow by Floo. Harry was hoping that his parents were still sleeping peacefully, as the sun wasn't even up yet. He thought it possible that the kitchen was the oldest part of the house, originally built as the Great Hall where everything happened: cooking, eating, sleeping, socializing. Over time the house was expanded, but the kitchen retained unmistakable hints of age despite regular scrubbing by the house-elves. Harry remembered the small, cramped Weasley kitchen, and hoped that Mr. Weasley had at least been able to afford to expand it a bit, as he was working two jobs now.

"So; we have our answer," Harry said to him grimly, trying to bring his attention back to the matter at hand. Ron stopped staring around at the high-ceilinged room and looked at Harry.

"Yeah. So I guess we go into action."

"Right. Charlie's already got the tents hidden behind the greenhouses. He took care of food, too."

Ron groaned. "Food. That's right. Say, we couldn't do this after dinner in the Great Hall, could we?"

Harry looked at him sternly. "I'm going to be trying to get every last student out of that castle, and I don't want any of you coming on the train to set foot inside it until they agree to lift the ban. It might take a little while, but it'll be fine. You'd better go back; your mum'll be wanting you all to get ready to go to the station in a little while. And you don't want her noticing that your hand on the clock says Traveling."

Ron nodded and started to turn back to the fireplace, but he stopped and frowned at Harry. "How did you know about that clock?"

"Um, I heard Ginny telling Jamie about it," he lied, hoping Ron wouldn't ask her whether she really had told Jamie any such thing.

Ron nodded again, and with one last look around the kitchen of Hog's End, he threw some Floo powder into the fireplace, said loudly and clearly, "The Burrow!" and stepped into the green flames, disappearing from sight immediately.

His timing couldn't have been more perfect, as the kitchen door was opened a moment later by Simon, followed by Stuart, who was yawning hugely. Harry was fairly sure it was Stuart who had yawned; he was looking much healthier and more like his twin than he had for some time. It was now officially very, very difficult to tell them apart again.

"Wha'choo doing up so early, Harry?" Stuart said when his yawn had subsided. He collapsed in a heap on the couch, his dressing gown belt tied sloppily over his pajamas and his slippers fraying.

"And you're dressed already," Simon noted, making his way blindly to the table. When he had seated himself, he immediately pillowed his head on his arms, looking for all the world as though he were going to sleep again.

"I hope you're not that anxious to get back to school," Stuart said derisively from the couch. "You trying to make us look bad?"

Harry sat in the chair by the fire and looked at the two of them. "Yeah, well, I hope you're not all that anxious to get back to school, either."

Simon lifted his head from his arms and squinted at his older brother. "What?" he said in confusion.

Harry grinned at them. "How would you like to camp out in tents on the lawn of the castle instead? Not go to classes at all?"

The twins looked back and forth at each other, perplexed. "You're mental, Harry," Simon informed him.

"'S'truth," Stuart said weakly.

"I'm not the one who's mental. One of the Gryffindors has organized a General Strike. Sent a letter to the Board of Governors. Unless the demands are met, there's to be no student or teacher setting foot in the school, and certainly no classes. No Quidditch, either."

"No Quidditch?" both boys said together, coming to life. Harry tried not to laugh.

"What are the ruddy demands?" Simon wanted to know.

Harry shrugged. "Dunno. Does it matter? We get an extended holiday. Because of course we wouldn't dream of not being in solidarity with the other students..." He winked at them, and they laughed in--they thought--understanding.

"Oh yeah, Slytherins are really known for having solidarity with the other houses," Stuart said sarcastically.

Simon chimed in, "They are when it means a holiday from homework!" He grinned, his black eyes sparkling in the firelight, and Harry looked at Stuart, reclining on the couch; he looked a little uncertain, but he was likely to do whatever his twin did.

"Okay! They need some help spreading the word, so when we get back to the castle, help me tell the students who stayed there. All right?"

They both shrugged and agreed. Harry hoped they wouldn't react badly when they found out what the demands were; after all, their mother was Muggle-born, even if they did seem to be very very Slytherin, through and through.

Jamie soon joined them, her hair askew and her eyes sleepy. Harry informed her that her dressing gown was inside-out and being tired and irritable, she threatened to hex him, but was forced to yawn just at that moment. Her brothers all laughed, and Harry thought it was a miracle that she didn't fall asleep again face-down in the porridge a house-elf fetched for her.

Harry turned a cold eye to his mother and Sirius when they came into the kitchen, leaving right afterward. He wondered whether he should say anything to Jamie about them, or about their parents sleeping separately in their quarters at Hogwarts. (It occurred to him briefly that his mother might actually be sleeping in Sirius' rooms, but he banished the thought. That was something he really didn't want to think about.)

His heart was beating a mile a minute when they climbed into one of the horseless carriages that were waiting in the drive before the house. Harry and Jamie and the twins were in one carriage, and their parents and Sirius were in the other. Harry wondered briefly how that could not be an awkward carriage ride.

The twins were quite excited on the way to the castle; Harry had told Jamie that they knew about the strike, but not the reason for it. She wondered about keeping this from them, but didn't push the issue.

Before they knew it, they were pulling up to the front steps of the castle. The four students behaved as though nothing were out of the ordinary, entering the castle and going down to Slytherin house to see their friends who had stayed at the castle during the holiday. Harry soon learned that telling Simon and Stuart about the strike was the best thing he could have done; the other Slytherins were very enthusiastic about it, even if it was organized by a Gryffindor, and Harry and Jamie consulted his map to track down all of the other students still in the castle. Not a single person said they weren't interested in participating, and most went off to their dorms to gather some belongings in preparation. Then Harry used the map to find Charlie; he was in the staff room, as were a number of other teachers, including, Harry noted, the teacher he'd seen at the initiation. He wondered what that teacher would do.

The plan was to tell Harry's mother last, of all the teachers. He found his mother on the map; she was in her office. With Sirius. Bugger! Harry thought, watching Charlie's dot move closer and closer to the office. Just what I need, Charlie saying to me, Do you think your mum and Professor Black are carrying on? But to his relief, Sirius' dot moved out of the office before Charlie was anywhere near it. Harry sighed. The clock on the mantel in the Slytherin common room struck four. The Hogwarts Express would be pulling into the Hogsmeade Station.

It was the witching hour.

* * * * *

Harry tried not to grin, looking around at the sea of tents on the castle lawn. Everything had gone according to plan; all of the students had stayed the night outside the castle, and almost all of the teachers, Charlie had informed him. Professor McGonagall was also with them, as Charlie suspected she might be. She had beamed at Ron Weasley, perhaps wishing she'd organized something of the sort herself back when the ban was first instituted. Harry didn't see his mother in the throng of teachers standing with the headmistress, but he caught his dad's eye for a second; he looked like he had numerous questions for Harry, but Harry looked away. He hoped his dad didn't suspect he was the real leader, rather than Ron.

The previous evening, sitting around campfires with students from other houses mixing freely, there had been a party atmosphere in the air, and Harry was pleased to see the way this had cut across house lines. Even Slytherins other than him and Jamie were socializing with students from other houses. When they met up, Charlie greeted Harry with a grin and a slap on the back. They didn't speak; there was no need. The flickering firelight amid the tents was one of the most beautiful things Harry had ever seen. He felt a strange power as he stood, surveying the scene before him. I did this, he thought. Things will change.

But not right away. They all lived on the lawn of the castle for a week, then ten days, and still no response from the board. Finally, when it had been two weeks, the word came down: the Board of Governors would all arrive at noon to discuss the situation with the leader of the rebellion. Ron was visibly nervous upon reading this missive (it had actually been sent to Professor McGonagall) but Harry assured him that he would do fine. They rehearsed what he would say when arguing the case of the Muggle-borns, and for the most part, he didn't make any mistakes. Now if only his voice would stop shaking, Harry thought, trying not to be irritable.

But a half-hour before the meeting, Harry and Draco were surprised at their campfire by the appearance of Lucius Malfoy. He gestured for them to join him in one of the nearby tents; they followed him, confused. Once inside the tent--which Harry had already noticed looked remarkably like Mrs. Figg's house--they all sat down around the kitchen table and Harry and Draco looked back and forth at each other, wondering what this was all about.

Lucius Malfoy looked around the tent contemptuously. "Hmph! Rat hole you're staying in. Not that I don't understand why; the last thing you need people doing is asking you why you didn't join in on this strike thing. We don't want anyone looking at your left arms, do we?"

They shook their heads; so, he thought they were being good little Death Eaters, pretending to go along so that no one would suspect that they served the Dark Lord. "What's the board going to do about all this, Dad?" Draco asked.

He sat back in his chair and looked at the two of them haughtily. "They are going to lift the ban."

Harry tried not to look thrilled; he tried for surprise instead. "What? Just like that?"

Now Lucius Malfoy looked as devious as ever. "Well--that's what we'll tell that Weasley boy. His sister's usually with him too, I've noticed; she must have instigated it. This has all the earmarks of a little girl getting all sentimental over the poor Muggle-borns..." His voice had gone sing-song as he mocked Ginny. Harry tried to control his temper, balling his hands into fists under the table, where Mr. Malfoy couldn't see.

"That's where you two come in. The Dark Lord doesn't like this General Strike; not one little bit. Even less the idea of Muggle-borns sullying the castle once more. So--you're finally going to find out what you can do for your Master."

Harry and Draco looked at each other; they'd forgotten that they hadn't done anything yet. Originally, they had expected to have to put painful curses on each other at the initiation, but Voldemort had been distracted by wanting to sacrifice his heir, and hadn't demanded anything of them at the time. Harry swallowed and tried to keep his face impassive. Draco was looking visibly nervous.

"What do we have to do, Dad?"

Lucius Malfoy's smile was very disturbing, Harry thought. "You each get to take on a Weasley. You'll take the girl, Draco. He'll take the brother," he said, nodding at Harry.

Draco frowned. "Take?"

"Wait," his father said, standing up and patting down his robes. "I have something for you. To help. So you can't be blamed. It'll all be her..."

Harry frowned now too. What was he--

"Here we are!" Mr. Malfoy said, pulling a black book out of his cloak. Harry widened his eyes in recognition; on the cover were the words Diary of T.M. Riddle. "Give this to the Weasley girl, after you're all back in the castle."

Draco took the book, staring at it. "Why? What will that do?"

That nasty smile again. "Never you mind. Just give it too her. The diary will do the rest."

Harry's heart was beating faster. If Ginny wrote in that diary, it would be just like his second year from his old life; Ginny would open the Chamber of Secrets and release the basilisk which surely lived there still, and once a few students--preferably Muggle-born--started to die, the ban would be instituted again, and then the trouble would mysteriously stop. But--Harry was not going to let that happen. For the first time, he was glad that Ginny had written in that diary in his old life, even thought she had nearly died and he'd had to battle a basilisk at the age of twelve. At least he knew what the diary could do, and that no one, under any circumstances, should write in it.

Draco nodded at his father nervously. "All right, Dad. I'll find a way to give it to her. She's friends with Jamie."

His father nodded. "Good. As for you, Harry," he said, and Harry somehow would have preferred for Mr. Malfoy to call him Potter; "you know your job."

Harry's brow furrowed. "Excuse me? I do?"

"Yes. I already said. "I already said."

"Um--you did?"

Mr. Malfoy sighed in clear impatience with Harry's thickness. "Kill him," he said tersely. Then he stood and walked to the tent flap. He looked malevolently into Harry's eyes. "Or bad things may start to happen...." He turned to step through the flap, and was gone.

The two boys looked at each other; Harry thought Draco had never looked paler. The blond boy stared down at the diary, then looked up at Harry. "Guess I got off easy, huh? I just have to give this to Ginny...."

"No! You can't do that! That diary-- well, no one should write in that."

Draco frowned. "You know what this is?"

Harry nodded. "Trust me. That is a very dangerous book. Hide it somewhere and tell your dad you lost it or something. But don't write in it and don't let anyone else write in it."


Harry bit his lip. "Do you want a basilisk wandering around the school?"

"A what? How in bloody hell would that happen?"

"Trust me. Hide the diary. Do you promise?"

He looked as he had when he dove without question during the Quidditch match. "Of course." Harry nodded.

"Thanks." He rose to go, but Draco's hand on his arm stopped him.

"What are you going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean--about Weasley. You're supposed to kill him."

"Oh, that. Well, I'm not going to, obviously."

Draco grimaced. "Well, it was nice knowing you..."

"What are you talking about?"

Draco sat up excitedly. "You think you're going to get away with that? Being told to kill Weasley and just not doing it? And then there's me; I have no idea what my dad's going to do when I tell him I've lost that diary, but--"

"So don't tell him that. Tell him you did give it to her. When nothing happens, it won't be your fault. He'll probably just assume she's terrible at keeping a diary, doesn't write in it very often."

Draco looked grimly at him. "He said to you, Or bad things will start to happen. You don't think he means that? Because I definitely do."

He bore his eyes into Draco's. "Hear this: I am not going to kill Ron Weasley. And if you do anything to harm one hair on Ginny's head, I will kill you. Are we perfectly clear on that?" He leaned over Draco's chair, his hands on the arms, his face not three inches from his best friend's. Draco nodded slowly, looking as alarmed by Harry as he had been earlier by his own father. Harry straightened up and strode out of the tent.

* * * * *

Life was back to normal at the castle, for the most part. Most of the teachers didn't comment on the late start to the term. Word trickled down that after the Easter holiday, some older Muggle-born students would begin to attend special accelerated classes. They would be sorted into houses and eat with their fellow house members at meals, but they would not be eligible for Quidditch teams, and they would have their own rooms in the various houses.

Harry couldn't believe it! It had worked! And since Draco wasn't going to be giving Ginny the diary, there wouldn't be any huge disaster to make the board members change their minds!

Life seemed to be looking up in general; the weather even took a turn for the better; they experienced an odd January heat wave, snow melting almost completely from the grounds of the school. Harry was able to go running around the Quidditch pitch again in the mornings and shower in the changing rooms. His classes were going well and nothing bad had happened even though he hadn't so much as jinxed Ron Weasley. Ron was civil to him in class, which perplexed Seamus and Neville, especially when he reprimanded them for insulting Harry in Potions. Harry gave him a grateful smile, and hoped that he and Ginny would be able to tell him about their relationship soon.

Near the end of January, the warm weather was still holding, and Harry had arranged for Ginny to meet him down by Hagrid's old cabin after dinner, for a walk around the lake. The sky was devoid of stars, as a low, heavy cloudcover had been on the sky all day. Now that it was dark, it was starting to seem like winter would be back full-force.

Ginny threw her arms around his neck and kissed him when she arrived; after they did some more of that for a little while, Harry pulled back, smiling at her. "Let's walk," he said, tucking her hand in his arm. She followed him, putting her head on his shoulder. "Perhaps we can tell Ron about us soon? Like tomorrow?"

She looked up at him lovingly. "You know, I think we should. Yes! Definitely. Between the strike and Maggie--oh! I can't believe how everything has worked out!"

He laughed at her, unable to stop grinning, then wrapped his arm around her shoulders and led her to the lake. They strolled in companionable silence for a while, then stopped to look up at the castle, at the lights glowing from the stained-glass windows. Harry sighed. "You know, I really love this place. There's just nothing quite like it anywhere, is there?" She sighed and snuggled closer to him in response, and he kissed the top of her head. He looked down and saw some small pebbles and felt inspired. "Skipping stones! Once the lake freezes again, it won't be possible to do this for a while."

He stooped down and sorted through some pale, water-rounded pebbles, and Ginny did the same. "Oh!" she said excitedly. "Here's a good one, nice and flat." She stood and threw it across the water with a practiced gesture, and they counted in unison, "One, two, three, four, five, six," as it bounced across the surface of the dark water.

It happened so fast, he never had time to think; before he knew what was occurring, a huge tentacle burst up through the water and flung itself around Ginny, water flying everywhere. Harry saw the shocked look on her face for only a split second before she was pulled under the surface of the lake.

* * * * *

Author's Note: John LeCarre's novel A Perfect Spy was published in 1985, after the murder of James Potter. You can therefore assume one of the following for the purposes of this chapter: a) LeCarre actually wrote most of the novel before Oct. 31, 1981, even thought it wasn't published until four years later, and therefore it is essentially the same novel; b) LeCarre had been planning the novel for years and already had his story set by Oct. 31, 1981 so that when he wrote the book in the alternate universe, it turned out only slightly different; therefore if Harry read it in his previous life as well as in the alternate universe, he would find that the two versions were not identical in all respects.

Special kudos to Rita Winston (Catlady) for figuring out that "Magnus Cucurbita-Pepo" means "Great Pumpkin."

Go to the Psychic Serpent Homepage for links to the PDF files, the audio book of PS, and PS-related fics by other authors, as well as links to my essays and other fics. Thanks for reading and reviewing!