The Wizard Who Meddled With Time by Team Otters

Chapter One

"Terrible things happen to wizards who meddle with time."

Harry stood, twenty-seven years old, in a place he hadn't visited in nearly a decade: the smallest bedroom of number 4 Privet Drive. The younger version of Harry was still fast asleep, utterly oblivious to the events that were about to unfold. His desk was littered with wrapping paper and boxes. Harry checked them over and smiled, a twinge of nostalgia bubbling up inside him as he saw the contents. Birthday cakes, sent from Ron, Hermione, Sirius, and Hagrid. It was one thing to know that they'd be alive in this time, but to see tangible proof, to see for himself the reason why he'd come back - why, that was another matter entirely.

With only the barest twinge of regret, harshly suppressed by a reminder of why he was here, the elder Harry slipped his hand underneath his younger self's pillow and stole the holly and phoenix feather wand he'd used for so many years. Despite all that time spent together, it felt alien in his hands. It made sense. After all, he was no longer the Boy-Who-Lived. He was the world's first Chronomancer. Only a few years ahead of his schedule, but hey, timelines were the first thing to go out the window when he took up the job. After the paperwork.

If he was going to delve into the study of forbidden magic and shatter causality because of a guilty conscience, he damn well wasn't going to do it under Ministry scrutiny. For a Department with Mystery in its name, there sure were a lot of brown-nosing weasels sniffing around for scraps of information they could trade for coin or position.

Harry aimed the wand at his younger incarnation, and then hesitated. Fuck it. He'd left a lot of morals behind along the way - war does that to you - but he wasn't going to murder somebody so close to him without at least explaining why. Junior here would have wanted to know. Harry knew. He used to be the damn kid.

"Hey, Junior," he said.

Junior didn't wake up, so Harry gave him a sharp prod with his wand.

He immediately leapt to his feet, staring slackjawed at Harry, with only a quick glance at what was clearly his own wand in this intruder's hand.

"Dad?" he whispered, in a tone that seemed stuck between reverent and confused. And then he shook his head, and focused his gaze sharply on Harry. "No, you're not, are you?"

"Nope," replied Harry cheerfully. "Sorry about that, Junior. I'm not trying to trick you here."

"So who are you? And why are you naked?" demanded Junior, as vehemently as he dared without risking waking the Dursleys.

Harry smiled. Even as a scrawny brat, he sure had that Potter spunk in him.

"Remember the last time you mistook somebody for Dad? Hard to forget, really. A hundred dementors, our godfather dying by the lakeshore, and Dad standing across the water with a silver stag by his side."

Junior frowned.

"But that wasn't Dad. It was me, travelled back in time. And I definitely wasn't naked."

Harry waited for the gears to spin in his younger counterparts head. It only took a second.

"Wait. You're me?" he asked. Well, okay, it was more of an accusation, but Harry let it slide. It was an outrageous story, but he had three things on my side: the truth, which nobody ever paid any heed, personal experience on both our parts, which neither of them ever learned from, and a scar, which the whole damn Wizarding World soiled their robes to catch a glimpse of.

He was clearly on edge, but not disbelieving my outlandish tale, so Harry gave in, and did what he had to do for the greater good. Harry brushed aside his hair and revealed his scar. It had faded from vibrant red to the silvery sheen of a mundane injury, but was still clearly visible to anyone who looked hard enough.

"Hermione said we should always avoid our past selves, though," Junior said, warily. "Terrible things happen to wizards who meddle in time."

Upon hearing that, Harry let out a genuine, full-bellied laugh.

"Practically word for word. You've no idea how many times I've heard her say that. Let me introduce myself properly. Harry James Potter. First and only Chronomancer. No trinkets. No jewellery. None of those damn Sands of Time. Just me, myself, and magic. That's why I'm naked. Couldn't even take a tattoo with me, if I'd had one. It's a pleasure to meet me, little me," said Harry, bowing with a flourish that was mocking enough to make his younger self laugh, albeit quietly.

"But why are you here - now?" asked Junior.

Harry grimaced.

"I've fought a war against Voldemort for nearly twice as long as you've lived. I've killed him
thirteen times. It doesn't work. My only chance of stopping him is by preventing him from coming back in the immortal body he's going to create. He's already started the ritual. In less than a year, he'll be back, stronger than ever, and every time I kill him, he comes back more powerful."

"There's something you're not telling me," said Junior, a harsh note entering his voice.

Harry sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. It had gotten less unruly as it had grown, but was still somewhat wild.

"Look, I'll be honest with you. You're me. We've been lied to, kept in the dark, kept in the dark in a fucking cupboard, and believe me, from here on out it only gets worse. Much worse. I've lived through it. But now I'm back here, and I have a choice to make."

"What choice?" asked Junior, his eyebrows narrowing.

"There can only be one Harry Potter. I stay here, and I'll fade away within the next few hours as if I'd never existed. This'll all be a weird dream to you. The second option is I take your place, and save the lives of everybody we will ever love with the knowledge and power I've gained from fighting Voldemort as a wizard, as a general, and as the only man living who can manipulate the magic of time like a feather in Charms class."

"Take my place?"

"I'm going to kill you. Kill myself. And win this war for good. You won't truly die. We're the same person. Our souls will merge and snap back together, with no difference except that I remember your side of this conversation," said Harry. His voice was sad, but resolute. This was not an option. This decision had already been made.

Junior stared at his older counterpart for a long time.

"Why not just kill me in my sleep? You took my wand easily enough. I can see that nothing will change your mind."

Harry sighed.

"I woke you so I could tell you why this is happening. Because I would have wanted to know. It still took years before they stopped treating me like a child, and by that point so many people had been lost that I could have saved."

"Hero complex, much?" quipped Junior.

"Pot, kettle," muttered Harry.

There was a long pause as Harry Potter stared at Harry Potter, and then, at long last, the younger one nodded.

"Do it."

"Why?" asked Harry.

"You would have done it anyway, right?"

Harry nodded.

"But you woke me up. You explained. Hell, you were a step away from asking permission. Dark wizards don't do that. Besides, this isn't really death. More like an upgrade."
Harry grinned.

"Never doubted you. I'm proud of you, me."

The man and boy clasped arms together tightly, holly wand pointed squarely at the younger Potter's chest.

"Avada Kedavra, you noble self-sacrificing son of a bitch," he said, in a tone quieter and more respectful than the words themselves. "And fuck you, space-time continuum!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.

Harry shuddered a little as he integrated the memories of his other self, but it was only a brief conversation, so the aftereffects passed after a few minutes. About the length of their conversation, if Harry was any judge, but unfortunately he'd left his watch on the other side of the millennium.

Almost on cue, heavy footsteps sounded outside the bedroom door. Harry had just enough time to grin before the door slammed open.

"Boy! What's all this racket? We didn't take you in so you could…" Vernon trailed off in a rare moment of speechlessness. "P-potter?" he spluttered out, clearly mistaking the older version of Harry for th in-law he'd only met a handful of times.

"Well, you're not wrong," said Harry.

"You're dead!" exclaimed Vernon. In a miraculous turn of events, he began to turn bloodlessly white instead of his usual tones of red and purple rage.

"Okay, now you're wrong," said Harry, openly laughing in his much larger and much more easily provoked uncle's face.

"What is this, some kind of - of freakishness? We won't tolerate any of this under our roof, and I remember that letter. They'll have you expelled for this, you hear me? Expelled and out of my house!"

Oh, I've been looking forward to this for so long, mused Harry to himself, before reaching back with one fist, and driving it with full force into Vernon's bloated face. Vernon collapsed into a heap instantly, regardless of their substantial weight difference.

"Harry Potter Special Stunning Spell: Muggle Edition. You're welcome." Harry bowed to his unconscious audience.

On his way out of the Dursley's aggravatingly dull house, Harry caught sight of himself in a mirror. Almost thirty, and looking several years past it due to the rigour of war. He fowned.

"Well, that won't do," he muttered to himself. "I need to get into Hogwarts as a student, not a teacher." He paused. "Can staff compete in the tournament? Ah, fuck it. What's the point of being a Chronomancer if I don't abuse the privilege at every turn?"

With a flicker of concentration, the wrinkles smoothed from Harry's face, and his hair shortened to just above his shoulders. He felt, rather than saw the loss of an inch or so of height, and a fair bit of muscle mass, but he was still in good shape - just more of an athlete than a heavy-duty soldier. His scars disappeared one by one with faint pops, all but his trademark lightning bolt and the double-sided mark from where the basilisk's fang had pierced him.

"Fourteen, twenty-seven, and now seventeen. Looks like it's going to be a quiet year at Hogwarts."

Harry burst out laughing, tossing his wand in the air, higher every time, and catching it again out of pure merriment. After the novelty wore off, he gave it a speculative glance.

"You've done alright by me in the past, old friend, but with that pesky horcrux in my scar gone, I'm afraid it's retirement time for you, just as soon as I make a proper wand for me, and not my scar."

The wand let off a burst of sparks and Harry patted it consolingly.

"Oh, don't worry, I won't abandon you. Tell you what, I'll bring you back to Fawkes. If he can't find the right wizard for you, I can't imagine who could." Harry paused for a moment, catching another glimpse of himself in the mirror. "Master forbidden magic, travel further in time than any others have dared, and all I've done so far is talk to myself and inanimate objects. And they said all wizards who meddle with time go mad! Let's prove them wrong."

The wand sparked again, as if in agreement.

"Yeah," said Harry. "Let's go mutilate some woodland creatures."

Hogwarts' anti-Apparition wards obviously didn't reach this far into the forest. Good thing, too, or Harry would have had only a Point-Me spell and crossed fingers keeping him in the right direction and away from the acromantula colony.

Huge trees rose in every direction, turned from brown and green into shades of grey by the dimming light. It was at the furthest edge of sundown, and Harry was deep amongst the trees. It was only the Lumos charm adorning the tip of his wand which kept the darkness - and spiders within it - at bay.

He'd never been afraid of spiders. In fact, they were his earliest friends, in a way, sharing his cupboard with him. But those ones had never tried to eat him. Harry still wasn't afraid of spiders, no matter how big, but he was still pretty pissed off with them, and that was no mood to be in for a mission of diplomacy. Even one which was pretty much guaranteed to end in violence.

Harry's mood began to foul after the second hour of stumbling. True darkness had fallen, and only his Lumos kept him from leaving an imprint of his face on the nearest tree.

It was around the fifteenth time that he tripped over that same tree's root that Harry realised what was going on. He'd been led in circles, over and over.

"Alright Firenze, you can come out. It's only me," he called out, loudly enough to be heard, but wary of attracting unsavoury attention.

Sure enough, Firenze stepped out from between the thickly-packed trees. He carried a longbow, but no arrows were knocked, and the weapon was held lowly, in a non-threatening posture. It didn't fool Harry. He knew that the centaur could put a shaft through his eye at four hundred paces even in this dense foliage, quicker than most wizards could utter a spell.

Despite his white-blond hair, toned musculature, and strikingly blue eyes, there was no mistaking this for a handsome wizard riding a horse. Firenze had a wildness about him that few wizards could recognize, let alone cultivate. Harry recognized it only because he could feel the same wildness within himself. Magic.

"Harry Potter. The first time we met, you were hunted by evil, and the stars spoke clearly of the war to come. Now you stand before me changed, no longer hunted but the hunter. Why have you come? There is no evil here."

"True," said Harry. But there is evil elsewhere."

"There is always evil. It is not here."

Harry dropped his smile and stared at Firenze, taking a moment to impart the severity of his next words.

"And yet the pattern of the stars has changed. The alignment of the planets are wrong. Without moving, without the passing of days or seasons, the skies are suddenly wrong. Everything your people know of the heavens is lost."

Firenze stood in silence, the very image of a statue.

"I did this."

Firenze was the embodiment of stoicism, but all around him, Harry saw the forms of centaurs emerge from the shadows, arrows nocked and ready to fire.

"You aided me once, Firenze. You can do so again. And this time I can offer proper payment for your aid."

A single arrow flew at Harry, but he had prepared for it; had known it was coming. With the smallest possible movement, he tilted his head to the left, and the arrow missed him entirely.

"Knowledge of the future is mine. I will return the pattern of the heavens to you, show you the ripples of fate distorted by my power, and return to you what is rightfully yours."

A darker centaur burst into the clearing, charging up to Harry until they were almost touching, although Harry had to crane his neck upwards to meet his eyes.

"Bane," he acknowledged. The stench of mulch and sweat was like a tangible blow, standing this close to the centaur. No blood dripped from his weapons, but Harry could smell it in the air, coppery and sweet. He chose not to speculate whether Bane was injured or had killed this night.

"Humans," hissed Bane. "All the same. Meddling with things beyond your understanding. We should kill you and be done with it."

"On the contrary," said Harry. "I propose a bargain by the Old Laws. Irrevocable. Unbreakable. Made in good faith."

Bane reared up onto his hind legs and roared into the night air.

"And what do you know of the old ways, man-child? Even the eldest of you have forgotten the pacts which bound all creatures of magic together, not just wizards and your thralls." His voice was thick with rage, and after speaking, he slammed his forelegs onto the ground with enough force to make the earth tremble beneath Harry's feet.

Harry, resolute, did not move or flinch against the display, inches from his face.

"My pact is not with you, Bane. The choice to accept or refuse does not lie with you," said Harry.

The darker centaur made a low noise in his throat, like a rumbling growl. Harry narrowed his eyes, but then turned his attention back to where it mattered.

Firenze!" Harry shouted, suddenly raising his voice. "Sight for sight, as is tradition. I will grant you understanding of the changing in the heavens in exchange for the standard offering."

The centaurs in the background shifted uncertainly, fingering their bows. For half a moment, Harry feared they wouldn't buy it, that he'd be riddled with arrows, but then Firenze stepped forwards.

"You have a good heart, Harry Potter, although it has changed greatly since last we met. I accept your bargain. You will grant me this lost wisdom in exchange for one of my eyes. I will teach this wisdom to my brethren, and we will find our path once more."

His nerves fading, Harry mustered the will to grin at Firenze.

"You forget, Firenze. You saved my life once. I owe you a debt, and that is no small thing. I won't just return this knowledge to you, but to all of your people. All centaurs will benefit from your courage and sacrifice."

Firenze lowered his head mutely in a gesture of respect, but Harry caught the look of shock on his face.

"It is rare that a wizard is generous in dealing with our kind, Harry Potter," said Firenze.

"For now. Look to the sky, and tell me what you see."

The night sky was mottled with pinpricks of light, the usual stars which pierced the dense tree cover. The moon hung overhead, and after years of astronomy lessons, Harry could even recognize which few of the stars were planets.

Harry conjured a stoppered glass jar with a flick of his old self's holly wand, and then, in the same motion, summoned Firenze's left eye with a modified one-way switching spell. The jar filled with gore instantaneously. The eyeball was the largest part, but trailing behind it was a length of muscle, sinew, and, most importantly, the part Harry had come here to get. The optic nerve of a centaur.

Firenze howled in agony for a moment, but only a moment. The pain was nothing compared to the wonders of the mysteries of the sky, once more revealing the pathways of the future to the centaur people.

"All your kin will see the sky with the clarity they once did, my friend, but for your sacrifice, your vision will be keener than ever," said Harry.

Noticing the expressions of wonder on the centaurs gazing skywards, Harry let out a premature sigh of relief, only to notice that not all of them had looked up yet, and were advancing towards him with menacing expressions.

"Find me when the school term starts, Firenze," he said quickly. "I think I might know where to find you a replacement for that eye. Hold tight for a few months and I'll bring it by."

Firenze met Harry's gaze, blood pouring from the empty socket where his eye had once been. There was pain in his expression, but no resentment. The bargain was struck.

"Farewell, Harry Potter," said the centaur. "I once feared for you. Fate can be a hard path to travel for one so young. Now I gaze at the sky and fear for the world which holds you within it."

The light hiss of air as an arrow launched into the air was warning enough for me. Harry attempted to disapparate, but was a moment too slow, and an arrow lodged in his upper arm.

"Ow," he said, as sarcastically as he could, and made a rude gesture at the centaur who'd shot him. Harry could only hope that the centaur saw it before he disappeared from view.

After a quick trip to Diagon Alley to steal some supplies, Harry Apparated back to the Forbidden Forest, albeit a different location, far removed from the centaur's territory. A large, flat stone stood in the centre of a clearing. Harry placed his new prize atop it reverently. This was almost a sacred rite. The ritual of wand crafting.

Ollivander's wands were the finest in Britain. Most would argue the finest in the world. And Harry would be right beside them. After all, it was Ollivander who had made his original wand, and then, much later, in a future which would no longer happen, teach him the art of wand-crafting himself.

Although Harry was a capable wandmaker himself, he didn't dare to claim that he could surpass Ollivander in terms of skill or experience. A lifetime of honing his craft had given Ollivander unparalleled abilities when it came to building the tools so essential to the lives of magical folk.

But wandlore is a complicated and intimate matter, a bond between wizard and wand very similar to the bond with a familiar, or a family. And this was what would make all the difference. A wand crafted by the wizard who would use it would always have a stronger connection, that bond running deeper than one any store-bought product could ever create.

It was no disrespect to Ollivander's work, Harry thought, as he opened the glass jar holding Firenze's eye - and attachments. Ollivander was the better wandmaker for any ordinary wizard on the street, but Harry could craft a wand tuned to his magic, by his magic, and that would make something so suited to his power that it would be a part of him.

No magic could interfere with the process, so Harry had to do this by hand. He didn't mind. He preferred it this way. It was important to devote time to things which mattered; to give personal attention to the creation of an item so personal.

He pulled a silver knife from his belt, stolen from an unwitting apothecary in Diagon Alley only hours ago, and scoured the trees around the clearing, looking for a likely candidate. It shouldn't be too hard. Most of the trees in this area were of the right species. Birch.

The birch tree was a symbol of revival, adaptability, and resilience. It was the perfect wood for the wand of a wizard who dabbled in the magics of time.

Harry walked over to the nearest birch tree and place his palm on its trunk, closing his eyes in concentration and letting his senses flow into it. No good. He could feel the residue of another creature's magic. Nothing lived within it, but something powerful had touched it recently a unicorn, or thestral, perhaps. The lingering traces of magic would contaminate the rite of wand-crafting. Harry sighed, and moved onto the next one. The forest was full of magical creatures. He worried that it might take a long time before he found an untouched specimen.

Despite his worries, Harry eventually found a likely looking tree. Old and strong, he couldn't begin to guess how old it was, but more importantly, it was healthy, clean, and free from the magical contamination of bowtruckles or other magical creatures. After finding more than a dozen perfectly good trees ruined by the bowtruckles nesting within, and getting his finger bitten by one, he resolved to snap innocuous twigs in half whenever he encountered them in future, on the off chance that they were one of the dratted beasts.

Harry snapped off a small branch near head height, and sat at the base of the tree, trimming it of all leaves and bark until he had only a slender stick. He brought it over to the stone where he'd left the jar, and placed it carefully down.

With the silver knife, he made a long, thing incision in the stick, running from its tip to its base. This was the easy part.

Trying not to think about what he was touching, Harry pulled Firenze's eye out of the jar, and, in one quick motion, neatly severed it from the length of gore that had dangled behind it. Harry caught the blood-soaked, stringy viscera, and dropped the eyeball back into the jar. For all that he'd made the trade in exchange for the eye, the eye wasn't what he'd wanted.

He trimmed the spare sinew and muscle with the knife in the same methodical fashion he had stripped the bark from the wood, making sure to keep his mind absolutely blank as he did so. It was vital that he stay focused on the task at hand, no matter how unpleasant it was. Stray thoughts of revulsion could contaminate the essential ingredient as easily as dropping it on the ground would do.

At last, he had it. A long, red string, devoid of the extra pieces of Firenze's biology which had come attached. This was going to be his new wand core: the optic nerve of a centaur.

Harry placed the core into the groove he'd carved, and then pricked his finger with the knife. A single drop of blood fell onto his half-made wand, and it was done.

A soundless wave of concussive force exploded from the new wand, knocking Harry backwards. He staggered, almost falling, but then caught himself with one hand on the lip of the stone slab.

A feeling of elation bubbled up inside him. He reached out to touch his new wand, and, as soon as his fingers brushed its surface, gasped as his magic surged into the slender piece of wood. The wand had reshaped itself from its raw ingredients into a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Around a foot in length, the wand was a pale, silvery-white colour, textured with a pattern of spheres too shallow to see from a distance, but giving the wand a pleasant feel in his hand.

Harry grinned.

"Well then," he said, as much to the wand as to himself. "Give it a wave."

He flicked his wand in the air, and a burst of silver mist shot out, spreading around him, and filling the clearing like a fog. It spiralled upwards, and the exploded outwards, clearing the night sky of clouds.

Harry stood in silence, staring upwards. The stars were brighter than he could ever remember, and the air was utterly still. The breeze before had been faint, but somehow this sudden stillness was as vivid as a hurricane. It was peaceful, and yet somehow forceful.

And then Harry noticed a bat, a mere shadow against the light of the moon. It was also still, frozen in place mid-air. As he watched, there was a rushing in his ears as the world caught up, as time unfroze, and the bat suddenly flittered away seeming not to have noticed that anything had happened.

"Oh, yes," murmured Harry. "You are definitely the wand for me."

Harry Apparated back to Privet Drive, and contemplated once again what to do about Albus Dumbledore. In the end he reached the same conclusion which he had every other time. The man had to be involved, or everything would fall apart. Who knows what conclusions he'd draw watching Harry's plans unfold? At best, he'd try to take control and ruin everything. At worst, he'd assume Harry was possessed by Voldemort and do anything from Obliviation to a mercy killing.

Damn it all.

He had wanted to do this alone, but there was no alternative. But then a thought crept into Harry's mind, and he glanced at his old wand, lying discarded on his bedside table. He grinned.

May as well have a bit of fun while he was at it. If you're damned already, you may as well dance with the devil while you're at it.

It took a while to find where his younger self had stored his parchment, ink, and quills. Harry smirked at that. Obviously he hadn't been spending too much time on Transfiguration essays or goblin rebellions. Good on you, little me, Harry thought to himself, resolving to live up to his teenage self and not do any homework unless it was absolutely necessary. Some sacrifices must be made for the greater good, after all, and there were few things greater than time - time which could be spent on things far better than scribbling away about what happened when you added a horned toad to a Shrinking Solution.

Harry eventually found the equipment he needed, and sat down at the rickety desk which the Dursleys had provided him with to write, all those years ago.

Dear Albus, he began, only to grow annoyed at the movement of the table underneath him. He gave the wobbly leg a tap with his new wand, and the blasted thing straightened itself out.

Dear Albus,

I apologise for the inconvenience of this late hour, but some things are best dealt with immediately. I find myself troubled with an abundance of birthday cake and no friends with whom to eat it. If you would be so kind as to visit me in the littlest bedroom of number four Privet Drive, I would be glad to share a midnight snack and discuss the obvious matter at hand. As a token of my sincerity, please find enclosed the wand of Harry James Potter. He no longer requires it, for reasons best witnessed firsthand. Perhaps Fawkes would enjoy the return of his feather, and will one day find another wizard suitable to wield it.

A Friend

Harry rolled the parchment tightly around his holly wand, and tied the whole thing together with a short length of string before walking over to the corner of the room where Hedwig perched in her cage. As a nocturnal bird, she was wide awake, watching him write with eager eyes. Harry supposed she'd realised that it was a letter he was writing, and wa eagerly anticipating a chance to stretch her wings.

"Sorry girl," said Harry, petting Hedwig through the bars of her cage. "This message needs to arrive immediately, and even you can't fly fast enough to reach Hogwarts within an hour."

Hedwig hooted indignantly, ruffling her snowy white feathers, and glaring at Harry in suspicion. Harry imagined that she was concerned he'd be sending the message by another means. She had always been a jealous owl when it came to his post. Harry bet she'd be more annoyed by that than losing the chance to fly. He chuckled quietly. He'd missed Hedwig as much as any of his human friend - not that he'd made a habit of noticing what race a creature was before befriending it in the past.

"So I'm afraid I'm going to have to send you back in time. Let's say twenty-four hours. A nice round number for time magic, and I know you can reach Hogwarts in that time. Make sure you deliver the message exactly at the moment I cast the spell. Think you can do that?"

Hedwig hooted in affirmation, and then pecked at his finger as if to scold Harry for doubting her. He chuckled again, and opened the door to her cage. She stuck out her leg expectantly, and Harry tied the letter and wand to her, being careful that the wand wouldn't impede her movements.

"Alright then, girl. If you get there a bit early, go visit some friends in the Owlery. Have a party with the Hogwarts owls, and catch up on all the gossip."

Harry picked Hedwig up in one hand, and opened the window with the other. She squirmed in the uncomfortable position, and Harry apologised quickly, placing her on the outer sill.

"Ready?" he asked. Before she could hoot a reply, Harry pulled out his new wand and gave it an experimental twirl. "First spell from my new wand, and it's going on you. Hope you appreciate it."

He tapped her gently on the beak, and she shuddered in discomfort. There was a quiet rush of displaced air, and then nothing. The distant sound of a muggle neighbourhood at night was all that she left behind; no sparks or thunderclaps, no vibrant signs of magic. Just the empty spot where the world's first time-travelling owl had been.

Harry lay back on his tiny bed, speculating about how Dumbledore would react.

His old headmaster wasn't the type to come in wands blazing, Stun-first and Veritaserum later, unlike many of the wizards he'd worked with in the past. Even when confronting Voldemort, Dumbledore had always attempted to negotiate peacefully, had always opened with diplomacy when others would never dare to.

It was admirable, Harry thought. Damn stupid, but admirable nonetheless.

So Dumbledore wouldn't blast him apart or bludgeon the truth out of him. The most likely scenario would be that he'd simply turn up and talk - with his wand within reach, to be sure, but talk nonetheless.

The blood wards were still intact. Harry could sense them overhead, a steady cascade of magic protecting him from Dark wizards, and Voldemort in particular. He snorted at the irony that the killing curse to the chest hadn't triggered them, but supposed that it made sense. He hadn't killed Harry, just removed his spare body. They were one and the same.

"Kill the spare," echoed in his mind, and Harry shivered. Those words had never stopped haunting him. But this was different. Harry lived on, body and soul, in, well, Harry. And Cedric was just the first of many lives he hoped to save.

Dumbledore would know that Harry hadn't been attacked - and yet an unknown third party had invaded Privet Drive, taken Harry's wand, and sent that letter. The only time a wizard no longer requires a wand is when he is dead, after all. Harry wondered again and again what conclusions Dumbledore would be drawing up, sure that the headmaster's imagination was wilder and broader than his own.

Harry laughed aloud.

It didn't matter. No matter what Dumbledore thought, he would come as soon as he read the letter. To investigate, not avenge, but perhaps prepared to if his thoughts took a darker turn. Harry was thankful that the wards still held, or Dumbledore's approach would definitely be predisposed towards discovering what threat may lie in wait.

Harry was picturing a particularly vivid scenario of Dumbledore pacing his bedroom in paisley pyjamas, distraught, enraged, and terrified for Harry's well-being. He felt a little guilty at that. His letter was bound to make the old man concerned, but that was paramount. You didn't send the Chief Mugwump a midnight summons for anything less than life or death.

Before Harry had a chance to brush off his guilt, there was a resounding crack, and Dumbledore appeared before him, eyes flashing furiously behind his crescent-shaped glasses.


However this encounter could have begun, a guilty expression might not make the best impression.
Harry didn't think hello would quite cut it. In a situation like this, something with a bit more gravitas is essential to set things off on the right note. And make up for that guilty expression. Even good evening wasn't enough. Hell, no greeting, however fancy, would cut it. Luckily Harry had an ace up his sleeve, a guaranteed conversation killer in any room. The one sentence with which you could shock anyone from Lucius Malfoy to Molly Weasley.

"Voldemort is back," he said.

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes.

Giving his old headmaster a quick look up and down, Harry was amused to see that although Albus was fully dressed - presumably transfigured nightwear - his feet were still in fluffy orange slippers patterned with stars.

"I feared as much," he said slowly, "but at this moment in time I'm more concerned with where Harry Potter might be. Remarkable as your resemblance might be, you're a few years too old to be him, and I doubt any attempted imposter would send such a letter."

"Funny you should mention time," muttered Harry.

Dumbledore gave him a sharp look, but remained still. It looked like Harry's judgement was correct. His former teacher would never be the first to reach for a wand.

"My name is Harry James Potter. It's been a while, old friend. I'm glad to see you again," said Harry sincerely. He'd cared deeply for Dumbledore before his death, and hoped to add his name to the list of lives to be spared. Although he doubted that Dumbledore would believe him without some heavy convincing, he figured it was best to open with the truth. Any attempts at lying could backfire, if they even worked to begin with, and anything that could explain this situation would be every bit as outlandish as the truth.

Harry eyed Dumbledore nervously, waiting for him to react, to say something, to do anything. He clenched his hands in frustration, but remained where he was, lying down on the bed, arms folded behind his head. Surely that ranked right up there as unthreatening poses went. Harry began to fear the worst when the silence dragged on, but suddenly Dumbledore burst into a deep belly-laugh that went on for a full minute.

"One jaunt with a time turner and you're hooked?" asked Dumbledore, mirth in his voice. "By the look of you I'd guess you're eighteen?"

"Seventeen, actually," replied Harry, stunned that Dumbledore had cottoned on so quickly. "But how did you know this was time travel?"

"All magic leaves its traces, my boy. You need only know how to look for them."
"Yeah, I know that. But time magic? What on earth have you been doing that you can recognise it so easily?"

It made sense that if anyone would recognise the unique signature of temporal energies it would be Dumbledore, but still. It was a little jarring to be caught out so early in the game.

"I could ask you the same. Travelled back in time three years, then? That must be a record, surely. Although I'd advise you not to boast where it might reach the ears of the Ministry. They tend to be rather unhappy about flagrant violations of the law, particularly when it concerns such volatile a subject as time."

"And yet you're rather ambivalent about the whole matter," said Harry, more than a little confused. Dumbledore simply smiled in response. "But you're a little off. Thirteen years, not three."

"Even more impressive. But that begs the question of why you're seventeen. Fourteen or twenty-seven I could understand. Mental transference into your past self, or physical manifestation in the current timeline," said Dumbledore, speaking as much to himself as to Harry, puzzling out the riddle that had appeared before him.

Harry began to feel a well of frustration overflowing, and jumped up off the bed, not really bothered at getting caught, but annoyed that it had happened so easily.

"You know, this is incredibly unfair," he complained bitterly. "All my life you've pulled this wise, all-knowing mysterious act, and sure, that made sense, you're an old and powerful wizard. But I travelled the fuck back in time, and in an instant you've figured out half of it before I got my turn to speak in those infuriating riddles."

Dumbledore continued smiling, the expression growing broader.

"Do forgive an old man his hobbies - and his curiosity. But why seventeen?"

"Because only overage wizards can enter the Triwizard Tournament, and I stand my best chance at stopping Voldemort from gaining a true body as the Champion for Hogwarts."

"I'm afraid this is rather a lot to take in, Harry," said Dumbledore.

"Then let's start at the beginning. Harry Potter, Chronomancer. Pleased to meet you." Harry held out a hand. Dumbledore hesitated for a moment, and then clasped my hand in his own, and shook it firmly.

"Albus Dumbledore. Headmaster. A pleasure."

"You're missing a few names and titles there, old friend," Harry said.

"I could say the same to you. But I can hardly call a twenty seven year old war veteran the Boy-Who-Lived, now, can I?"

"Merlin, I hope not," Harry replied. He was taking a risk by telling Dumbledore anything, and everything could backfire if Dumbledore continued to treat him as the Boy-Who-Lived, whether as a boy, or as the subject of that aggravating prophecy.

"As enlightening as this has been," continued Dumbledore, "I doubt you'd call me here in the middle of the night simply to let me know that you're - ah - back in town, as it were. I've been reading the signs, and I fear I must agree with you. Voldemort is coming back."

Harry sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. He'd heard those words all too many times. Voldemort was always coming back. Either that or spreading rampant death and destruction, but knock him down, grab a moment's peace, and then suddenly it's everybody screaming those same words again.

"No," said Harry bluntly. "He is back. A deformed homunculus for now, but with a body of his own. He plans to use the Triwizard Tournament as a trap to gain a key component in his resurrection. Me."

Understanding bloomed in Dumbledore's eyes. It was more than a metaphor, but rather a fascinating thing to watch. As both men had some skill in legilimency, they could watch the emotions of the other through mere eye contact.

"So that's why you've changed your age? A marvellous piece of magic, one which I never thought I'd see. But if the Tournament is the trap, surely you would not wish to enter?" The last question seemed rhetorical, as Harry was sure Dumbledore had guessed the answer already, but wanted to hear Harry's own reasoning on the matter.

"What better way to catch the man who set a trap but to spring it and see who comes running? Besides, he had his Death Eaters manipulate events so that I was forced to compete, the first time around. If I enter as a legitimate Champion instead of the accidental fourth, I can prevent another student from getting caught in his schemes. I have no wish to watch Cedric die again."

"Diggory? A fine student." Dumbledore sighed. "He would be a great loss. And you're clearly more aware of the situation than I am. As your teacher, I feel I should stop this madness, and yet…" he trailed off uncertainly.

"War was my teacher, Albus." Harry put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and was pleasantly surprised when he didn't pull away. "Everything is different now."

"From what I know of time magic, the less I know, the better," he said, at long last.

"What wizards have found with their crude fumblings of Time-Turners and the Sands of Time are correct in that matter, at least. But I'm not playing with trinkets I don't understand here, Albus. I'm a master Chronomancer, the first of my kind. I know you feel obliged to take control of this situation, but this is my duty, not yours. You have other responsibilities. Let me take care of mine. And don't be afraid to ask for help."

The aged wizard in front of me shook his head sadly, and then turned that piercing gaze on Harry once again.

"I should be the one offering to help you, not the other way around."

"Oh, I'll have a few favours to ask from time to time," said Harry, grinning. "But for now, all I wanted to do was lay my cards on the table and share a slice of cake with a friend."

"My, I'd quite forgotten. Happy birthday, my boy."

Harry pulled out his new wand, which the headmaster eyed with interest, and then he conjured a pair of plates and forks. The headmaster raised an eyebrow at the demonstration of magical prowess, no doubt wondering how deep Harry's talents ran.

"So thats why you returned your wand to Fawkes," he mused. "I've never seen a wand quite like it. Definitely not made in Ollivander's style. Was it made by a future wandmaker for you? Ah, forgive me. I know better than to pry into future events."

"You get a free pass on this one. I made it myself. Tonight, as a matter of fact."

"Your questions only raise more answers. I get the feeling that curiosity will drive me mad before too long! What is it made of? Beech?"

"Birch. Bet you a galleon you can't guess the core."

"I'll pass on the bet, but I get the feeling that it's not another phoenix feather. Fawkes' plumage looks rather delightful this evening, without any hint of a stolen tailfeather."

"Optic nerve of a centaur, willing given."

Harry was amused to see that Dumbledore's jaw actually dropped open in shock. He recovered quickly, but the moment was forever burned into Harry's memory, and Harry was overjoyed to have finally startled the implacable headmaster.

"I see that I made the correct choice regarding the bet, then. I dare not ask how you convinced a centaur to give you his eye, but it is a beautiful wand regardless. You are to be commended on the craftsmanship."

"Thank you," said Harry, nodding his head in a show of false modesty. "Cake?" he offered, cutting two slices and levitating them onto the plates with a gesture.

"Thank you," echoed Dumbledore. "Perhaps it's the constant presence of so many children, but I do have a terrible weakness for sweets."

They sat down together, side by side on Harry's rickety cot of a bed, the time-traveller and the headmaster, quietly chewing on a forkful of cake.

After he had finally managed to swallow it, Dumbledore turned his head to face Harry once more.

"Hagrid?" he asked.

"Hagrid," Harry answered.