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Harry Potter and the Conjoining of Paragons

By ACI100

Chapter 2: Star Gazing


July 31, 1942

The Leaky Cauldron

2:30 PM

Harry's world snapped into focus with all the suddenness of a well-disguised land mine. He expected something much like the way his life had faded into… whatever he'd just experienced. The place between life and death, he supposed.

That very thought made him shiver as goosebumps rose all over his body. It wasn't so much that he was afraid of dying. For a brief moment, while he had been suspended somewhere between the two planes of being, he had seriously considered not coming back, if only because he had absolutely no idea what he was coming back to. His father had been reasonably sure he wouldn't be thrown into a world too different from his own, but he hadn't exactly sounded confident, either.

But the thought of death… it made Harry shiver, just a little bit. After so many brushes with the reaper, one might expect Harry to fear its ever-present shadow less than the typical mortal. This was somewhat true. It wasn't as though he had been hesitant to throw himself treacherously close to the all-consuming abyss on multiple occasions. As his father had pointed out, the basilisk had very nearly thrown him over the edge.

Well, perhaps not.

Perhaps whatever connection he'd shared with Voldemort would have merely meant his death would have been rendered moot and he would have been thrust back into the world that he knew.

It couldn't have been that easy.

What scared him most, about death, wasn't so much the concept as it was the sense of unfulfillment he would have if he were to die now. To say he was so young would admittedly be cliche, but Harry thought it rather apt. Especially seeing as about ten years of his life had hardly counted. It wasn't as if he'd been able to explore much of what the world had to offer. Even while at Hogwarts, as much as he loved the castle, he had done little more than try not to die. It wasn't as if he had truly experienced much of life itself. He had been too busy cleaning up the mistakes of the adults a vast majority of the time.

He could understand the Chamber of Secrets.

He was a Parselmouth, which made him uniquely qualified for solving that particular problem. But the stone? Surely it shouldn't have been he who solved that. Not to mention the mess involving Sirius…

Just the thought of his godfather made his heart ache. He had known the man for no more than an hour, but he had quickly ingratiated himself to Harry. More than that, it was just one more reminder about the horrid number of atrocities he'd been forced to endure during his life.

Hopefully, whatever subtle changes were made to the universe would result in his life being mildly less chaotic.

It was a naive thought.

He knew that even then, as he finally took the time to look around the shabbily furnished, dimly-lit room he now sat in. He knew the thought was naive but young, innocent Harry Potter could never have known exactly how naive and off the mark the thought truly was.

Unlike when he'd "died" earlier and the pale world he'd shared with his parents for a brief time slowly faded into existence, this had been different.

The blackness had begun closing in on all sides while he shared the first and last hug with his parents that he would ever remember.

Yet it hadn't been a slow transition.

Just as the darkness had all but blocked out his vision, Harry had blinked, and it had been as quick as that.

That also meant the entire experience was exceedingly disconcerting, which in turn meant it took him a large amount of time to gather his bearings.

He appeared to be alone in the corner of a booth — not unlike those found in muggle restaurants. The booth in question seemed to be situated in a particularly dark, out-of-the-way corner of the room he now sat in if his vantage point was anything to go off of.

Looking around the room itself, Harry realized with a jolt not quite as sudden as being thrust back into reality, that he recognized this place.

The low lighting, the weathered furnishing, the bar which dominated a large portion of the pub. Hell, he even recognized the barman, though he looked a lot younger than Harry remembered him, which was odd. It was hard to tell from a distance, but he actually appeared to have all of his teeth.

Harry wondered why, of all things, reality had decided to shift that minor detail. He vaguely remembered with some panic a muggle concept that always seemed to arise when speaking of dimensional travel.

The butterfly effect.

He wondered if that was actually a thing in this world. At least he took small comfort in knowing that perhaps the only perk of being sent to an entirely different reality was that he couldn't screw up his original one.

But he wondered if the butterfly effect applied. If it did, he wondered what had happened differently for Tom the barman to have all of his teeth intact. He also wondered, if that was the case, what kind of ripple effects a sudden dimensional traveller might have on the fragile balance of reality just as it was seemingly trying to sew itself back together.

He couldn't worry about that.

Not now, at least.

It wasn't as if he would be able to do anything about any changes that might have transpired. He would eventually have to observe them in order to know how to react, but beyond that, there was nothing to gain from worrying about what may or may not be different.

It was a far better use of his time to take stock of his current situation. If the disastrous end to his third year had taught him anything, it was that he needed to be a whole lot more aware of what was going on around him. Accepting the common gospel would no longer be good enough. Not after he'd felt the consequences of doing just that.

Padding down his pockets, he breathed an audible sigh of relief when he felt his wand resting within one of them. It appeared as if he was wearing standard black robes. There was no Gryffindor crest, nor any marking at all. The robes also seemed… different. He couldn't quite put his finger on why. They just felt… heavier? Rougher? Less comfortable? All of those things, but conjoined into one. It was no major difference, just significant enough to be noticeable while being subtle enough to not be obvious.

Why the world had sought to change his robes was yet another mystery to Harry, but it was quite minor in the grand scheme of things. Realistically, it wasn't as if this minor change would have major impacts, so he thought it likely best to let it go.

He cursed as he stood, realizing he had no way of obscuring his face from the view of the number of witches and wizards currently present. That was unfortunate. He remembered the swarm of admirers he'd been forced to endure during his first trip to this very establishment with Hagrid before his first year. He wondered whether or not he was going to have to go through something similar now. He certainly hoped not. That had been bad enough the first time, and he'd had a giant of a man acting as crowd control. Without Hagrid, Harry didn't even want to know how persistently the crowd would pester him, nor what extent said pestering would inevitably escalate to.

With an internal sigh, Harry supposed the best way to deal with the unpleasant reality of the situation was simply to cross the small pub as fast as possible. Hopefully, nobody would notice him. The odds were slim, not near favourable, but it was the best he could do at present.

To his great shock and bewilderment, he seemed to go completely unnoticed. He had never visited this establishment without being noticed, even if every occasion hadn't been quite as memorable as the first. Just as he stepped out of the dimly-lit pub, squinting his eyes against the vividly bright stream of sunlight that sought to blind him, he chanced one, brief glance over his shoulder. Of all the gathered patrons of the Leaky Cauldron, the only one he remembered was Tom. He shrugged; it wasn't exactly as if that was saying a whole lot.

He tapped his wand on the correct brick. After doing so for most of the last summer, he doubted he would ever forget which one was correct.

His jaw nearly detached when he stepped into Diagon Alley, but not for the same reasons as his first-ever visit.

The first time Harry had visited the alley, its magic and illustriousness had blown him away. He'd never seen such a place, even ignoring the obvious aspect of magic that was perpetually in play around the alley. When adding that into account, it only exacerbated his fascination with Diagon Alley.

This time was different.

After last summer, he had very much doubted the sight of the alley would ever be jaw-dropping to him again. After all, he'd spent about half of his summer roaming Magical Britain's largest metropolitan area. By the time he'd gone back to Hogwarts on September the first, he had practically memorized the alley and could picture it vividly and on command if he were to close his eyes and focus upon it.

Yet in contradiction to what he'd thought, this was what made the sight in front of him so striking. Indirectly, perhaps, but it was that picture-perfect image he could conjure up which made the sight in front of him so… wrong.

There was no other way to say it.

The sight in front of him wasn't what he had expected.

Well, that wasn't entirely true.

Most of what he saw was familiar, though some of it only vaguely so. Other things — like the towering, marble outline of Gringotts that dominated the skyline of the alley, even from a distance — hadn't changed at all. But other things…

Many of the shops were not what he recognized. The alley's main attractions still seemed present, from what he could tell. Gringotts, as earlier observed, stood tall and proud way down the street. Madam Malkin's was there too, though the displays were different.

In his world, there had been vibrant shades and colours prominently on display in the front window alongside the more standardized variety of robes. Now, there appeared to be nothing vibrant in sight. Even the most flamboyant robes on display were… muted. Positively dull compared to anything Professor Dumbledore might have found appealing. Many of the robes were black and grey, but even the ones that weren't were dark, dull blues and reds. They looked almost faded, as if being viewed through a filter compared to what he was accustomed to.

The styling was different as well, even though Harry — who knew absolutely nothing about fashion — really wasn't in a position to comment.

Something began to stir in the deep recesses of his mind. Something small, sinister, and terrifying. A prospect that was felt more by his subconscious, if for no other reason than the fact his conscious mind didn't want to even consider that impossibility.

Yet the irregularities stretched on.

The ice cream shop Harry had frequented for much of the summer before his third year was noticeably absent. The building was there, but it appeared to be some kind of antique shop.

Harry's heart began to quicken as his consciousness finally admitted defeat and allowed the sinisterly implausible possibility its subconscious had conjured up earlier to finally leak through, invading Harry's imagination and spreading rapidly. It did so with the effectiveness and accompanying dread one might expect from a particularly deadly disease.

That couldn't be possible, could it?

That was the plot of a million horrible muggle films. Usually, the overdramatized ones that perpetuated every bit of internal conflict for the sake of needless angst.

So, naturally, Harry did what any self-respecting protagonist in one of these films might have done.

He rapidly scanned the street and honed in on his target.

The headquarters of the Daily Prophet.

He marched towards the building with quick, panicked steps. The reality bowled him over before he reached the door. It did so as soon as his eyes rested upon the date plastered on the displayed paper for all to see.

July 31st, 1942

Harry didn't freeze, or cry, or drop to his knees, or do any such action that the aforementioned protagonists from those horrid muggle films might have done. He hastened towards another, familiar landmark, one he could also use as a benchmark to judge whether or not the Daily Prophet was simply pulling a particularly cruel joke.

When he reached the windows of Quality Quidditch Supplies and glanced to the broomsticks proudly on display, he finally accepted exactly what had happened.

Well, accepted may have been a strong word.

He accepted the fact that it had happened, but he was far from accepting of the fact that it was truly his reality now. That would still take some time. What else could you expect from a thirteen-year-old — no, wait — now a fourteen-year-old boy who had just been suddenly thrown half a century back in time? At the moment, he was completely numb to the reality, the horrible reality that was settling in his brain, which still seemed to want nothing more than to reject the possibility outright.

He hadn't just been thrown into a different reality.

He had also been thrown back in time.

Like… way back in time.

In a twisted, warped sort of way, he supposed it made sense. He wasn't sure how many times he had spun the time turner, but it had been a lot. The only reason he'd died in his world was that he had travelled to before his birth, so he supposed he should have expected to wake up in a time before he was born.

But this far back?

Fuck!

It hadn't even occurred to him that since reality was now willing to let him exist, it would place him in whatever year the time turner might have taken him to.

1942.

He scoured his memory for things he knew about that year in particular.

There wasn't much.

On the muggle side, it had been the height of World War Two. Soon after America had joined the ranks of the allied forces, if he remembered correctly. He thought it also about a year after the Nazis began their attempted invasion of the Soviet Union. An invasion that would prove to be fruitless and, in the eyes of many, be remembered as the turning point of the war.

On the magical side…

He discernably winced.

He knew even less.

Binns had never covered anything from the twentieth century during History of Magic, and Harry hadn't exactly been studious, even in the subjects he'd liked. He was beginning to realize exactly how foolish his lax behaviour in regards to his studies had been. Without Hermione to guide him, he felt weak, exposed, and helpless.

It wasn't a fun feeling.

As he continued digging through his mind for anything he knew about the magical world in 1942, he made a silent vow to himself, though he supposed he had already promised as much to his parents.

No more slacking off.

He was going to be the best wizard he could possibly be. He'd managed to cast the Patronus Charm, for Merlin's sake! It was the only feat of magic he had ever dedicated a considerable period of time to, and he had achieved it. Surely that meant something, right? Surely it spoke to the potential he could have if he was more willing to chase it?

He wasn't sure, but he was sure as hell going to find out.

But back on track…

Harry had to admit defeat. He knew absolutely nothing about the magical world as of 1942. Nothing except for the fact that Grindelwald was still at large, since he hadn't been defeated by Professor Dumbledore until 1945.

He wasn't sure whether to jump for joy or bury his head in his hands at that revelation.

On one hand, he was pretty sure Voldemort wasn't at large in 1942. Which meant that the psychopathic dark lord wouldn't be after Harry's head, at least not for quite some time. Hell, he might never come after Harry. Not with the changes made to the universe. Even if he did, at least Harry would have a head start. At least he would have time to prepare. It was far more than what he could say for his own world, in which he'd been thrust headlong into Voldemort's path at the ripe old age of one. Exactly how much time he would have to prepare, he had no idea. He wasn't actually sure how old Voldemort was…

Wait, that wasn't right.

He at least had an idea.

The Chamber of Secrets had been opened in October of 1992. It hadn't been closed until May of the following year, and if Draco Malfoy was to be believed — and Merlin, he, along with Voldemort, were probably the only things Harry wouldn't miss — his father had told him the Chamber of Secrets had last been opened fifty years earlier. That had been in December of 1992. In the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle had also bragged about how he had been preserved in memory form, in the diary fifty years ago.

He'd been… sixteen? Seventeen?

He hadn't said. Harry just knew him to be a Prefect at the time the Chamber of Secrets had been opened. His age was hard to place. He was exceptionally tall by any standards, but that wasn't exactly a strong fact to judge by.

But it wasn't necessary to know exactly how old Riddle had been.

He had been in the twilight of his Hogwarts years in the early-to-mid 1940s. Harry couldn't be sure he and Lucius Malfoy had meant fifty years exactly, or whether they'd just been rounding. After all, fifty years ago sounded much better than forty-eight years ago for an arrogantly monologuing villain. Forty-eight just didn't have the same ring to it.

Yet even that wasn't much help.

Harry wasn't exactly sure when Voldemort had become a true threat. A decade before his parents died? Was that what Hagrid had implied? He couldn't honestly remember, nor had he ever looked further into Voldemort's war. This thought made his face burn with heat as his insides writhed with shame. He really had been lazy and foolish.

But no more.

However long he had to prepare for Voldemort, he would take.

That was if Tom Riddle even became Voldemort.

He supposed it was possible he wouldn't. His father had suggested that most likely, not too much would change compared to the world he had resided in, but that had pretty much been thrown out the window when he'd woken up thirty-eight years before being born.

Merlin… that was a sentence and a half.

But even without Voldemort, there was Grindelwald to contend with.

He knew almost nothing about the man. Just that, until Voldemort had risen, he'd been viewed as quite possibly the most dangerous dark wizard of all time. Oh, and of course the fact that Professor Dumbledore had defeated him about three years from now.

He really needed to learn more about Grindelwald.

Apparently, the world was all too willing to give him first-hand experience.

Harry's senses tingled as his hair stood on end.

Something had changed. Something he could not yet quantify.

It wasn't long before the screaming started, and Harry's eyes widened.

Now, it was blatantly obvious what had changed, and he quickly scampered out of the way, ducking through a side alley and trying to keep his jaw attached.

A mob had appeared from nowhere.

As in, literally appeared.

Harry had to blink several times to make sure he'd actually seen that. He knew wizards had floo travel — a nearly instantaneous method of traversing long distances — but what he had just witnessed was something else altogether. Something he hadn't known to be possible.

Magical Merlin, he needed to start reading.

Every last member of this mob was dressed in grey from head to toe. All of them wore large hoods, obviously pulled up to obscure their faces from view. On their backs, Harry could see from his vantage point that they all wore the same symbol.

A symbol that he had never seen before.

It was an odd, triangular symbol, but it was difficult to make out more than that from this distance. It somehow sent a shiver down his spine for reasons he could not articulate.

The mob seemed to take up refuge in the centre of the alley, firing curses indiscriminately and in every direction. One of the smaller, shabbier shops had been lit ablaze, and others still had their windows shattered. That wasn't even to mention the alley's now mostly screaming occupants, the slower of whom to get away falling to spellfire, one by one.

Needless to say, it was complete and total pandemonium.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw three groups of three figures break off from the crowd. Each group seemed to head off in a different direction, and Harry observed that nobody else appeared to have noticed them. Harry saw one group in particular heading off in a familiar direction.

They were moving towards Ollivander's.

His heart quickened as the world around him seemed to slow down, his speed of perception rising in unison with his suddenly heightened levels of adrenaline.

He knew this was stupid. He was a thirteen-year-old boy that was fairly talented in Defence Against the Dark Arts. These were three adult wizards who had obviously completed their education and were just as unmistakably dangerous.

But something inside him couldn't do it.

He couldn't stand by and let them escape.

He couldn't stand by and let them torch the old man's shop; the place where most witches and wizards in Britain received their first wand.

It was wrong, and Harry's sense of morality was just too strong.

With a deep breath and a sigh that indicated he knew exactly how foolish this was, Harry skulked after them.


Meanwhile, in Slug and Jiggers Apothecary…

Horace Slughorn was rather cross.

The owner of this particular apothecary was driving an unreasonable bargain. He knew how much powdered griffin claw cost. It was about half of what this man was trying to sell it to him for, and he was being downright unreasonable about the whole thing.

He'd been in the shop for about an hour negotiating when all hell broke loose.

The first indicator that something was wrong was the screams coming from somewhere outside. For about a minute, Horace resolutely tried to ignore them. He was determined to get the griffin claw, and he wasn't going to let some accident out in the streets distract him from that goal.

After a full minute of constant screaming had elapsed, he knew something was out of the ordinary. Once he started hearing explosions, he paused in mid-sentence.

That wasn't good.

He had no idea what it was, but it definitely wasn't good.

As if to confirm his suspicions, he felt an odd, prickling sensation on the back of his neck, and he knew about a second before it made itself obvious that danger had arrived.

He drew his wand just in time.

The front wall exploded, revealing three wizards in grey, hooded cloaks, all of them throwing around rather heinous magic.

Several patrons of the shop fell. Some to simple curses, some to much more. A shelf near Slughorn and Mr. Jigger exploded, sending shards of glass and rather destructive concoctions raining down upon them.

Mr. Jiggers had been caught completely unaware. He dove to the floor in a completely futile effort to not get buried under potions and glass, but Slughorn was faster. Without a word, he summoned a spherical shield of magic, protecting them on all sides.

The glass ricocheted harmlessly off of the shield, and the liquids stored within the vials rolled off of the barrier like water off a windshield. Several spells careened towards them, but none of the initial volleys were potent enough to break Horace's shield.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!"

That certainly would have done it, but Horace hadn't been foolish enough to rely solely on a shield. His wand had already been in motion before the Killing Curse had been fired, and the glass which had rained down all around him had already begun to rise into the air. By the time the sickening green light drew near, its path was obstructed by a wall of glass. The offending barrier shattered on impact and burst into green flames, but it saved the Hogwarts Potions Master and, more importantly, gave him time to get his wits about him and fight back with something of his own.

A large flock of ravens bore down on his assailants. They weren't overly problematic, but they did buy Horace enough time to put his true plan into motion. The next gesture he made with his wand sent dozens of vials soaring towards the attackers just as they managed to thwart his birds. Just before the projectiles could make contact with their rather taken-aback-looking targets, Horace vanished their containers with a flick of his wand. The three men's screaming could be heard throughout the shop as the volatile concoctions mixed and bubbled sinisterly on their skin.

From there, it was all academic.

The men hadn't expected any resistance. It wasn't that they weren't skilled — they had just been caught completely off guard. They had expected the shock of their arrival to overwhelm any opposition. They certainly hadn't expected the rather talented Head of Slytherin House — which, by nature, meant Horace was also prepared for any situation.

And by this point in time, now that most of the shock had worn off, the few wizards still standing in the dimly-lit apothecary had their own wands drawn, and suddenly, the attacking forces found themselves vastly outnumbered.

Horace wiped sweat from his brow as he idly twirled his moustache. There was still screaming from outside. He was going to need to leave at some point, if for no other reason than to make it to the nearest apparition point and get the hell out of the alley. It was best to do so now, before more maniacs decided to show up and make his life even more miserable.

Honestly, he hadn't even gotten the damned griffin claw.


Moments later, outside Ollivander's…

Harry realized he was going to die just seconds after he made his opening move.

He had followed the three men — whom he later realized were masked as well as hooded — as discreetly as possible. It quickly turned out that his earlier assumption was correct. Their target was indeed Ollivander's. They spoke in a language he vaguely thought might have been German, so he couldn't exactly make heads or tails of it, but he got a general idea of what they were saying.

They planned to burn it to the ground.

He couldn't let that happen.

Right about now, he desperately wished he had his cloak. It had been with his past self when he'd driven off the dementors and, in his haste to get away from all of it, he had been foolish enough to not retrieve it.

Less than thirty minutes after arriving in this new, alternate universe, he was going to pay the price for his shortsightedness. Most probably, the payment was going to be his life.

So much for doing better this time around.

When the three men had their backs turned, Harry had leapt from a side alley and rained as many spells down upon them in as short a time as he could manage. One of them was struck by a Full-Body-Bind as they turned to face him, but the other two weren't. One of them shielded, whilst the other just sidestepped.

That was when Harry came to a startling realization.

However talented he might have been in Defence Against the Dark Arts, he was only talented in the specific scope of the class. He'd never put in a whole lot of extra-curricular research. If he lived through this experience, that was something he planned on changing. Unfortunately, he really didn't like his odds of living through this experience.

He didn't seem to know any spell powerful enough to breach the shields the men conjured, and Harry instantly knew he would die.

One of them shielded both he and his partner as the other went on offence. Harry couldn't break the shield and he didn't know enough defensive magic to stay alive long. The only shield charm he knew of was the Aegis Vocar shield. That was a low-level shield charm that moved with the caster, but it was meant primarily as a defence against fairly minor jinxes and hexes. Certainly not curses, least of all those of a similar nature to the ones being carelessly thrown around by the masked man who attacked him.

A jet of pale green light neared him, and Harry instinctively knew he couldn't be hit with that spell. He dove to the side, rolling on impact and avoiding two more spells while in motion. As soon as he was on his feet, he returned fire with another three successive Full-Body-Binds. They impacted against the man's shield one after another, quick as gunfire, but the shield didn't break, even though Harry could see the man wince as if holding it had become physically taxing.

Harry's body was aching. When he'd rolled to avoid that last curse, he'd done a number on himself. The sleeve of his robe had been severed by a grazing curse a while ago, and the exposed skin had been sliced quite efficiently by the pavement as he'd rolled. He was also tired. Without knowing adequate defensive magic, he'd been forced to rely solely on movement. Dodging, feinting, diving and the like, which was naturally fatiguing, especially since he wasn't in the best of shape.

All the purebloods might have thought Quidditch got you into shape, but the lot of them were morons. You were on a broom the entire time, for Merlin's sake. Seeker drills had helped his reflexes and reaction time, but there was a difference between having fast reactions and being in shape.

Having spent most of his primitive years locked in a cupboard and neglected of true nutrition, he wasn't exactly the shining bill of health. He could run, that much was true, and his endurance wasn't terrible; likely thanks to his oaf of a cousin. But "Harry Hunting" was a distant memory now, and it wasn't exactly as if he'd kept up running since first arriving at Hogwarts. He was also a bit underdeveloped for his age, which didn't help matters pertaining to his physical fitness.

All of this was to say Harry was defeated and he knew it. His chest heaved with heavy breaths as his legs trembled and his elbow continued to sting in the humid, afternoon air and bleed on the hot concrete all around him.

"BOMBARDA MAXIMA!"

Just as the man on offence went to cast, another voice cried out from behind Harry. A bolt of red energy shot past him and impacted against the ground a bit to the man's right. The paved walkway exploded, sending debris everywhere.

But it wasn't random.

As the debris was freed, it all began to hurtle towards the backs of the two wizards attacking Harry, and thus bypassing the shield that was conjured to cover their front.

The man on offence did realize what was happening, and he was fast enough to protect himself, but not fast enough to protect the man beside him. He was struck in the head by a fairly heavy block of stone, and he slumped to the ground like a puppet who'd had its strings cut, clearly unconscious at the very least.

Seizing his opportunity, Harry dove to the side once more, allowing his assailant and saviour to duel. The magic was impressive. The man who'd saved him animated objects and sent them towards his attacker. His attacker blasted them to pieces, only for his saviour to transfigure said pieces into a pack of rabid animals, which drove the masked man back. When Harry came to his feet, he too added his own, less impressive spells to the onslaught, and the masked vigilante turned and tried to flee, but he didn't make it very far before falling.

Harry might not have known it, but the man had been fleeing towards the nearest apparition point. Just as he did so, Aurors apparated into the alley. Needless to say, the man wasn't prepared for a squad of them to appear in front of him, and he fell quickly and without much drama.

Only when he fell did Harry take the time to look around. The man who'd saved him had drawn near now. He was a portly man of rather short stature. Aside from his rotund form, his most striking features were his odd, green eyes — which oddly resembled gooseberries — and his silvery, walrus moustache.

"I say, are you alright, dear boy?"

"I'm… I'm fine, sir."

The man frowned. "None of that, none of that. I can see you're a bit banged up." He glanced over Harry's shoulder to the Aurors who were now approaching them. "I imagine we'll be rather… er, held up by questions from these fine gentlemen, but perhaps you'd let me treat you to a late lunch in the Leaky Cauldron? Such bravery should be rewarded, after all." He chuckled, and then inspected Harry more closely. "Not a Hogwarts student, eh?"

Harry had to think fast. He technically was a Hogwarts student, but that was fifty years from now. Of course, the man wouldn't recognize him. "I'm… new to the area, sir."

"Oh," the man's eyes gleamed with interest. "All the more reason to become well-acquainted then. I would be more than willing to help a young boy like yourself out." He extended a hand. "Horace Slughorn. Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House at Hogwarts."

With some trepidation, Harry reached out and took his hand. He was mercifully spared from giving his own name by the Aurors, who chose that moment to intrude on their conversation. They asked a large number of questions about what had just happened, while their dozens of counterparts continued to drive off the central mob of grey-cloaked figures. By now, Harry realized they had merely been a distraction for the number of smaller groups. If not for the millions of other thoughts on his mind, he might have wondered what had happened to the other small groups of terrorists.


Sometime later, in the Leaky Cauldron…

Harry had just bottled it, he was certain.

He and Slughorn had spent a significant chunk of time speaking with the Aurors before heading into the pub together. Harry had been briefly tempted to turn down the offer, but doing so would have been quite rude after this man had just risked his own life in the process of saving Harry's.

Once they'd sat down, exactly what Harry hadn't wanted to happen had occurred.

The man had started asking questions, and Harry had to think on his feet.

He was good at that when it came to actions, but not so much with words.

His story had been that he'd lived out of the country with his muggle parents. He had attended school for three years, but then his parents had died in an attack by Grindelwald's forces. It was similar enough to his own backstory with Voldemort, so it came to his imagination easily.

Coincidentally, that was exactly what the attack on the alley had been chalked up to. If Slughorn was to be believed, Grindelwald himself had never attacked Britain. From time to time though, he did send smaller, not-so-experienced squads to Britain as a scare tactic and a way for new recruits to get some experience.

His story had been as unconvincing as it had been vague, as far as he could tell. Once he'd finished, Slughorn sat back and twirled his silver moustache around his finger.

"Charming," he mused. "Can I be completely honest with you, m'boy?"

"Yes, sir."

"I don't believe a word of it." Harry opened his mouth to cut in, but Slughorn raised his hand. He didn't look upset. He actually looked… amused. "I don't need you to spill all of your secrets, I'm just telling you that you need a much more convincing story." He chuckled. "I could help you with that, of course, but you'd need to tell me… a few things."

Harry's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What kind of things, sir?"

Slughorn leaned forward, seeming to be far more interested now. "Nothing too evasive, I don't think." He hesitated. "Are your parents really… not with us anymore?"

The thought of Harry's parents was suddenly a lot more painful now that he'd actually seen and, on some level, spoken with them. "Yes, sir."

Slughorn winced noticeably and sighed very deeply, dabbing at the corners of his eyes with a napkin. He looked greatly pained, and Harry's proclamation seemed to age Slughorn by at least a decade. "I'm greatly sorry for your loss. I lost my own mother several years ago, you see. My father… well, he died when I was quite young."

"I'm sorry, sir."

"Not to worry, m'boy, not to worry." He seemed to choose his next words very carefully. "You're not from England." It was more of a statement than a question. "You know magic — you're very talented, at that — but you didn't recognize the Aurors."

It was true. In the three years Harry had spent in the magical world, they'd never come up in conversation with Ron or Hermione. Apparently, they were a branch of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They seemed to be something like the wizarding equivalent of the military.

"No, sir. My parents were British. They migrated before I was born."

Whether Slughorn believed him or not, Harry had no idea. It didn't seem to matter, either, as the large man sat across from him didn't seem too bothered in the particulars. "Interesting, interesting. Not from a family that would be important in our world, are you?"

Harry wasn't exactly sure what the man meant by that, but he shook his head. Easier to stay as low-key as possible.

Slughorn nodded thoughtfully. "And you want to stay in Britain?" Harry nodded. "Yes, I can help with that."

Harry's heart skipped a beat. "You can?"

"Yes, I dare say I have enough owed favours to be of assistance."

"You… would?"

Harry wasn't sure why Slughorn might help him. They'd just met, after all. Helping a complete stranger didn't seem very typical. Least of all from a Slytherin. Harry was sure if the man was going to help him, there would be an ulterior motive behind it, but he didn't much care so long as the man could be of some assistance and didn't ask an unreasonable amount in return.

"Certainly," Slughorn said jovially. "I did tell you I lost my father. I know how… unpleasant that is. Why, at such a young age, as well. How old are you, m'boy?"

"Fourteen, sir."

Judging by the look on Slughorn's face, he had expected younger, but he didn't say that. "Right you are, of course. Fourteen… so fourth year at Hogwarts. Hmm… yes, yes, this could certainly work. Yes, I'll help you out. It shouldn't be too difficult, and it would be a shame to see such talent go to waste." He winked at a rather perplexed-looking Harry.

"Talent, sir?"

"Of course, of course. You were doing quite well before I arrived, weren't you?"

Harry frowned. "I couldn't break their shield. I would have died."

Slughorn waved away his protests. "I might be a man of many flaws, but I know talent when I see it. You've got great instincts and a sharp mind. Your spell casting is very good, too. Fast, crisp, precise. Limited, of course, but nothing some reading and… help won't fix." His eyes had an odd gleam as he said the word "help" and Harry could do nothing but wonder exactly why that was. "I couldn't let such talent go to waste," the man continued. "To do so in the wake of your parents' untimely passing." He shook his head sadly. "No, it won't do; I won't have it."

Harry could hardly believe his luck, but he remained skeptical. "What's the catch, sir?"

"Catch?" asked Slughorn with a small, upward twitch of his lips. "Why, m'boy, there's no catch at all. I don't do such a thing for payment." He shot him a rather conspiratorial glance. "Though if you do feel as if you need to repay me to fulfill your unmistakably impressive sense of nobility, I would be… excited to see you in a little group I've put together at Hogwarts." He winked enigmatically. "But I also wouldn't say no to a box of crystallized pineapple." He chortled before becoming a lot more business-like.

"I will need your name though, I'm afraid. Records must be put forth for you to attend Hogwarts, after all." When he saw Harry hesitate, he winked once more. "Any name, m'boy."

"Harry," he answered. If he didn't give his last name, there shouldn't be any problems.

Slughorn twirled his beard. "Harry, Harry. It's rather… muggle."

Harry frowned. "Is there a problem with that?"

"Of course not," Slughorn said reassuringly. "But certain people will be… judgemental. Important people, at that. Perhaps a compromise. Your name is Hadrian, but you much prefer the less garish Harry. Nobody will use your 'real name' anyway. Only the most stuck up of bureaucrats" Harry mulled it over for about five seconds before nodding. So long as people called him Harry, he wouldn't be overly concerned. "Surname?" Slughorn asked, business-like once more.

Potter was out, and Harry quickly dismissed Black as well. If History of Magic was at all accurate, the Blacks were an old family. Binns had referenced them before. So that wouldn't do. Thinking of the Blacks made Harry think of Sirius. Which, in turn, made him think of Astronomy, and a sudden idea struck him.

"Pavonis."

Slughorn blinked several times. "The constellation?"

Harry nodded. He thought it an apt way of honouring his godfather. Taking on a name born of a constellation was as close as he would get to keeping something of Sirius with him.

Slughorn chuckled. "Pavonis, eh? I do like my stars, Harry, I will admit. A fitting name for one whom I have high hopes for. If I have my way, m'boy, you'll be one of the most brightly shining stars I know."


Author's Endnote:

Please don't have a stroke just because I used the name Hadrian.

I am aware of how cliche the name is. Harry will only be referred to by that name when speaking to extremely snobbish purebloods who are not openly friends with him. Harry Pavonis also just doesn't sound right, for some reason. The conflict of syllables, I think. That and, if truth be told, I rather like the idea of writing what I hope will be a well-written fic with the name Hadrian, since most of the ones out there are awful, hence the horrible stigma surrounding the name. I find the idea oddly amusing, and Slughorn's point about appealing to the purebloods with a more wizarding name is very in-character for him, in my opinion. See the way he was surprised by Lily being muggleborn for evidence of this.

I won't spill why Slughorn helped Harry, but the hints are there. For now, we shall call it an investment in talent. The man is a collector and an opportunist at heart.

Finally, Harry might have seemed very ignorant in this chapter, since he was unaware of Apparition as well as Aurors, and his spell selection was very limited. This is because, in canon, all of this was true until year 4. Harry will be competent, just give him some time. Character development is rather fun, after all.

Please read and review.

Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl and Κυρία της φωτιάς, Lily of Dreams for their corrections/contributions on this chapter.

A massive thank you is also extended to my first top-tier Patron, Κυρία της φωτιάς, Lily of Dreams, for her generous support on that platform! An additional shoutout is extended to my Oracle-level Patron, 3CP, for his unwavering support as well. Your guys' support means the world to me.

PS: The next chapter is available on my Discord server, and the next three are on my P*T*E*N page.