Author's Note: Wow, this story has exploded! Thanks, everyone, for your support by favoriting and adding this to your alerts and especially reviewing. It really does help! Once again, I apologize for the tardiness of this chapter, but this one was difficult to write because I wanted to make sure that it went down in a way that was believable and in-character.
For the first time since arriving at Hogwarts, Harry felt content. In the beginning, he had been so stressed out about maintaining his friendship with Ron and Hermione, on top of trying to remember the finer points of theories, and also fretting over Quirrell and Lord Voldemort, that he'd always gone to bed with his stomach tied in knots.
However, since creating the study group, he had effectively killed one bird with two stones. He no longer had to stress so much about not quite remembering things, by having it explained effectively by other people, mostly Hermione. However, Daphne and her friend Tracey were a wealth of information regarding potions and also on the finer points of staying on Snape's good side. While Snape still bothered them, his and Neville's homework was excellent and Neville was getting increasingly better with being careful following the instructions. Ron had even started defrosting after his initial protestation against Daphne and Tracey and had actively thanked the group for helping him with his homework as well.
He and Cloud had yet to devise a way to expose Quirrel and Voldemort for what they were, but everything else had been squared away. It was only the end of October. Fall had swept in a few weeks ago with some strong winds, but beautiful leaf colors and of course the smell of baking pumpkin pies wafting through the castle. Cloud was at least convinced that they needn't worry about Quirrell jumping the wand, because Voldemort was still too afraid to try anything with Dumbledore around. The other one at least.
Even so, Harry continued his Saturday meetings with Cloud, where he was re-learning his regular arsenal of spells, brainstorming plans with Cloud, and also hearing Cloud's reports about the castle. They had gotten a mite less frequent after Cloud's run in with Professor McGonagall as he hung around Harry, sticking closer like a companion would. Harry didn't mind this, as occasionally Cloud did help him with his homework, but he had a tendency to sleep in Harry's book bag, thoroughly covering his books with white hairs.
After one successful meeting on Saturday, Harry left the room in high spirits. So much so that he almost felt like whistling, but just as he was about to turn the corner, the song died on his lips, and the color drained from his face.
"Why hello, Harry."
"Nice little place you got up here."
"Per chance you could show it to us."
"We have sources - very reliable ones, mind -"
" - that show you disappearing into nothing."
"What's even more interesting is that you always seem to disappear with Dumbledore."
"Now, we never took you for a teacher's pet - "
" - in spite of your good grades-"
" -we can't help but wonder just what are you doing with our dear old headmaster."
Harry stared up into the freckled faces of the twins with undisguised fear. They weren't playing either. While they did have smug smiles on their faces, these ones didn't quite reach their eyes. They meant business. His heart pounded in his chest and he had to work to keep his legs from trembling.
I can't believe I forgot about the map! He and Cloud had even discussed this earlier in the year, but felt it highly unlikely that the twins would see anything suspicious. He knew the twins were cleverer than they let on, but he had hoped to slip under their radar. That was apparently dashed.
They waited patiently for his answer. Every excuse he thought of, he immediately discarded. As clever as they were, they know every excuse was a lie in a heartbeat.
He jumped when he heard a loud "Mrow!" and Cloud clawed at his jeans and then pointedly gazed back in the direction of the Room of Requirement.
"We have...ways to keep you from leaving."
Abruptly, Harry nodded at them without saying a word, then he gestured with his hand to follow. Once more, he paced in front of the Room of Requirement and felt no small amount of satisfaction at their gasps when the door materialized.
They quickly filed into to their normal location of a replica of the Gryffindor common room without the fire place. The only difference was when a coffee table rose up from the ground between two couches. Harry and Cloud sat on the other side the Twins sat on the other side. They were still looking around when they said at the same time, "What is this place?"
"It's the Room of Requirement," Harry replied in a stiff manner. "Pace in front thinking hard about what you're looking for and the door will appear in that hallway."
They were obviously impressed and shot each other a look that Harry could actually read: This isn't on the map.
Speaking of maps, Harry thought, he felt his mouth quirk as he looked at them. "I will tell you what I've been doing, but we're not going to have any secrets between each other. Now give me the map."
Their eyes were bulging out of their head at what he said and once again, they glanced at each other. But Harry held out his hand and waited. Finally, they relented and George pulled out the ragged parchment of the Maurader's Map.
Harry wasted no time in opening it, placed his wand up on it, and said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
The ink spider webbed across the map, filling it up with ink blots and rooms.
George just said, "How?!"
"In a minute," Harry said, leafing through the pages of the map, staring at each dot closely. He finally found what he was looking for. He could have sworn that his hair stood up on the back of his neck and he felt faint. Cloud had jumped onto the map and was staring at the two dots pacing the room: Quirinius Quirrell and Tom Riddle. Harry let out a shaky breath, before he straightened up and waved the twins over to see what he was looking at.
"You see that? Tom Riddle is Lord Voldemort, and he's on the back of our Defense Against the Dark Arts professor's head."
They could see the two dots pacing together with an odd synchronicity. Fred narrowed his eyes at him and said, "Are you having a go at us?"
"How do you know this?"
"Because it all starts with Voldemort," Harry replied. "I'm not originally from this time line."
"He's having a go at us," George said, smiling. "Brilliant prank, Harry. You got us. We'll get you next time."
"If it was that easy to do, I wouldn't try so hard," Harry snapped. It was probably a little harsher than he needed to, but he didn't need more people thinking him a loony. "This is real."
The twins sobered up. Fred said, "Fine, if you're not having a go at us - "
"Then prove you're from a new timeline."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Knowing about the map isn't proof enough? Fine. You gave me the map in my third year when I didn't get permission to go to Hogsmeade."
"That sounds like something we'd do," Fred muttered.
Harry hesitated on the next one, but Cloud actually beat him to it, "You start a company called Weasley Wizard Wheezes."
The twins actually screamed. "Fine fine, we believe you," Fred said.
"How does your cat talk?"
"Meet Dumbledore. But he's not the Headmaster. He's from the same time as me. I call him Cloud. You need to as well."
"Your name on the map is Dumbledore."
"We were afraid something like that would happen," Dumbledore said. "Which is why we bothered to bring you in on this secret. But you must not tell anyone what we have told you."
"And get sent to St. Mungos?"
"No thank you."
"Good," Harry said and he heaved a sigh. All of a sudden he felt older than his eleven years. Wasn't he since he lived to be seventeen previously? He was starting to develop a headache from the multitude of questions that pounded his skull. "The reason why Cloud and I are here is because where we came from, Voldemort got his body back in a few years, and then he started a war with the wizarding world. It was devastating. Many of my friends died." His eyes flickered briefly to Fred; he hoped the twin didn't read too much into that.
Judging by the sudden serious change in their expressions, they had an inkling of what he was referring to. "How can we help?" Fred asked.
"Oh, you don't need to - "
"Actually, Harry, I think it might be a good idea to include them. We both know how resourceful Fred and George are. Now that we've let them in on the secret, there is no reason not to contribute," Cloud said. He then turned to Fred and George, "Voldemort is currently occupying the back of Professor Quirrell's head. We want to pull the turban off to expose him. It has to look like an accident."
Fred and George raised their eyebrows. "Now, we've never shied away from a good prank - "
" - but pranking a teacher by pulling off a bit of their clothing -"
" - is a bit far."
"That's why it has to look like an accident," Cloud said. "There would be far too many uncomfortable questions otherwise."
"It needs to be public, too. The bigger the crowd, the better," Harry said.
"A feast would be a good place," George said.
"Any chance of having a plan by Halloween?" Harry asked. The chance of what happened to Hermione happening again were slim now that she was already apart of his study group. Despite her bossy nature, which admittedly could be unbearable at times, she was well-liked for her extensive knowledge on just about everything.
"That's barely a week away," Fred said, with a frown.
"I know, but he's going to come running in screaming about a monster and collapse in the middle of the hallway. It'd be perfect."
"That could work. We'll think on it."
"Thank you," Harry said.
From then on the twins tried to pry from Harry more details about the future, but he refused. Eventually, they agreed to come here every Saturday to learn new spells too, then they left rather uncharacteristically quiet and serious.
"Did we do the right thing, Cloud?" Harry whispered to him once the door closed.
"I wish we could have kept this a secret a little longer, but...honestly Harry, you were going to need the help eventually. This is not a task for one man, let alone a child."
"I hope you're right," he said, before getting up and heading towards the door.