Evan made his way through the empty halls. Normally, if he was skiving off class, there would be a sense of unease, a wariness as he went around each corner. But as he ascended through the castle, all he had watching him were portraits and the sound of his own feet on the stones.
Without incident, he arrived at the Room of Requirement, pacing back and forth three times before entering. As he expected, the room was full of mountains of junk: books, clothes, and all manners of forgotten or discarded items.
Mounting his broom, he kicked off and flew over to where he recalled the diadem being. It only took a moment to find it.
He got off his broom and pulled out the Elder Wand. His wand. The only one he had.
Rolling it around, he looked it over. This wasn't his trusty holly and phoenix feather wand, but if there was any truth to the fables around the wand, he shouldn't be complaining.
Though he'd tried to float it over to himself, Evan had somehow made it burst up, crashing into the ceiling.
"What the…" he said, looking at his wand.
Scratching the side of his head, he scanned the room for the diadem but couldn't see it amongst the piles of junk. With a mental shrug, he brandished his wand and attempted to summon it.
Evan's first warning that something was irregular was that the diadem didn't start zooming over to him. Instead, he felt a pull on his magic, like he was playing tug of war with a lorry in park.
Drawing on his magic, he yanked. A fraction of a second later, it felt like the rope broke when he was using all his might to yank on it.
With a yelp, he dodged to the right, a hair's breadth away from being impaled by it.
Evan climbed back up to his feet and brushed himself off. "That was close," he said. "Now, where did it go?"
Sighing, Evan trudged in the direction it had gone. He could see where some items had been disturbed and stopped, looking at his wand.
As he debated trying to summon it again, he heard a voice.
"Having performance issues?"
Scowling, Evan turned to see the Grey Lady. "What are you doing here?"
Ravenclaw's ghost had always made a point of avoiding contact with the castle's living inhabitants.
"Did you not think I kept a close eye on my mother's artefact?" she asked, floating toward him.
"After you gave Riddle its location?" Evan asked, a slight scowl on his face.
She pursed her lips. "And here I thought death would've loosened you up," she said, stopping in front of him. "Though your inexperience could lead you to be a bit… premature."
Evan snorted as he shook his head. "Sex jokes from the Grey Lady," he said before looking up at the ceiling. "This world is barmy."
The Grey Lady let out an ethereal laugh, "It would," she said, "that it would."
He raised his eyebrows at the comment before sighing. "Now where is it…" he said, scratching the bridge of his nose.
"Do I risk it…" he said, looking down at his wand. With a shrug, he started toward where he assumed it was.
"Do you normally just blunder from one problem to the next?" The Grey Lady said, floating behind him.
"Pretty much, yeah."
Evan was well aware of this flaw. But it wasn't like he could go read in the library where Voldemort had hidden his Horcruxes. Or ask a professor for tips on how a twelve-year-old should go about killing an ancient basilisk thought to be a myth.
"Do you even know what the issue is?"
Turning on his heel, Evan stared at the ghost. "Look," he said, folding one arm across the other, "my Dumbledore loved to play these games with me. Tell me whatever it is you are trying to be cryptic about or bugger off."
The corners of her lips quirked as she maintained a solemn if unimpressed visage. "Ah," she said. "The imprudence of youth."
"Right," Evan said, shrugging. "Bugger off it is then."
"Your wand has artificially perfect clarity," she said, her voice raised as Evan had been marching away from her. "Think of it like glass. If a greenhouse has disgusting, dirty, or terrible quality glass, less light makes it through, yielding worse crops."
"The analogy being that magic is light and a wand is the glass?"
"You are bright when you try," she said with a dip of her chin.
"Why is my wand 'artificially perfect' and how do you even know that?"
The Grey Lady flew down so she was level with him. "Let's sort out your magic problem first," she said, tapping his wand with a ghostly finger. "You have not used this wand much, I gather?"
"Then you are used to having to put more magic through your wand to get a spell to work," she said. "Try using the smallest fraction of magic you can. Then slowly add more, until the diadem comes to you."
Evan held his wand out and took a deep, relaxing breath. Small. Little.
With a clear focus, he did as instructed. This time, Evan paid attention to the feel of his magic more closely. As the first slivers formed the spell, he could tell it was like trying to pull a bludger across the pitch using a ball of yarn. Though it had a hold of the object, if he pulled, the yarn would fail.
Adding more magic, he strengthened the magical grasp until he felt it was strong enough to yank.
"Good," Helena said. "Don't just summon it, though. Levitate it. Control it."
Doing as instructed, he kept a firm grip on the Horcrux with his magic until it floated in the air, easily within reach.
"There is a bag just to your left."
Not wanting to touch the vile object, Evan kept it where it was until he could scoop it into the bag. Fastening it shut, he focused back on the ghost.
"Can you tell me how you knew about my wand now?" Even through the bag, he could tell the object was corrupted by Riddle.
"Not until it's destroyed."
Evan blew out a breath in frustration as his shoulder dropped.
"Are you going to come to the Chamber of Secrets?" he asked. "I can use a fang from the basilisk to do it."
"I'm sure there must be a goblin-wrought dagger in here," she said. "Try summoning one. But just use it to locate, not pull it to you."
If there was one thing The Grey Lady was reliable in thus far, it was her magical instruction. The daughter of Rowena sure was knowledgeable.
Focusing on his purpose, Evan pushed his magic out and felt it scouring, searching through the room. Pile after pile, it seemed to examine and move on.
The spell and entire concept was strange to him. Only casting half a spell? Totally new.
As he was thinking through potential implications for other spells, his magic locked on to an item.
"Good. You have one," Helena said, moving forward. "Focus on the connection to the dagger. Follow it. Lead us there until you are close."
Evan heeded her words and began to make his way around the swathes of discarded items.
It was strange. The spell was like a mixture of a compass, giving him the direction of the item, and having a translucent and intangible rope connected to it.
"Can you use this to find other items?"
"Within reason," she said, trailing behind him though well above the piles of items. "With your wand and power, I expect you could find something within Hogwarts but not through the Forbidden Forest or Hogsmeade. Of course, the more power you feed into it, the larger the range," she added after a moment.
As they continued to navigate between the giant mounds, Evan considered the ramifications of what the spell could be used for until he knew they were close.
"Be cautious. You never know what they are imbued with."
Using her previous advice, he started slowly before spotting it.
A desk was perilously perched in the middle of a haphazard group of old classroom furniture. Chairs, tables, and desks were piled impossibly high, and it looked like any disturbance would cause a furniture avalanche.
The dagger appeared to be in the drawer of the middle desk.
Harry tried to pull the drawer out but either he wasn't precise enough or the drawer was stuck and any attempt to move it forced the whole thing to move.
Evan continued to try and finesse it for a minute more."Sod it," he said, throwing up his hands.
Backing away, he made sure he was fifty yards away before pointing his wand at the pile.
"I wouldn't recommend this course of action," The Grey Lady said before she tilted her head in thought. "If there was anything truly dangerous in here, the elves would have removed it."
"Wouldn't they have removed the diadem then?"
"Not when Riddle masked its presence," she replied. "And when a particular ghost prefers it lost and hidden under her sight."
Evan decided there had been enough with distractions. It was time to deal with a Horcrux.
The spell flew from his wand with the excited vigour of an acromantula descending upon a prey trapped in its web.
A huge explosion shook Evan, the boom hurting his ears. Debris flew everywhere and only his quick reflexes kept him from being peppered with bits of wood, thanks to the blue shield in front of him.
"Can't open a drawer, so wizard make boom," Helena said, sounding as impressed as Snape when Seamus managed to blow up a second cauldron in a single class. All that was missing was the sneer.
Concentrating on only permitting a dribble of his magic to be brought to bear, Evan summoned the dagger.
It had been buried in the scraps remaining but quickly dislodged itself and broke free with a bang and crash.
"There," Harry said, grinning. "One goblin-made dagger. Just need to imbue it with the venom, and we're set."
"You do know you could have just burned the front of the drawer off and then summoned it, right?"
Taking hold of the dagger, he shrugged unrepentantly.
The Grey Lady looked down on him. "Just remember, just because young men are filled to the brim with vigour, brawn, and brashness, it does not mean you can't exercise your mind. I expect you'll need to heed my advice to accomplish your immediate goals."
With those haunting words, the two left the Room of Requirement, heading off to destroy two Horcruxes.
"Hey, munchkins," Evan said as a duo of Gryffindors sat down. "Good day in classes?
It would have been better than his had been. The loathful stares of those who believed he had cheated his way in was bad in his fourth year. But Harry wasn't competing.
"It was alright," Harry said, running his hand over his face.
"Don't mind him," Hermione said. "He's just grumpy because he mishandled a Bouncing Bulb and it smacked him in the face."
Evan looked at his younger counterpart.
"That's so weird," he said before a laugh escaped him. "Seriously? That happened to me too!"
"Well, you could have warned me," Harry said, frowning.
"Did it really?" Hermione asked, astonished. "Were there any other things of note that you can remember?"
Sinking back into his chair, Evan tried to recall moments of Importance.
"Err, I think it was just the Weighing of the Wands and finding out what the First Task was," he said before adding, "Malfoy made some Potter Stinks badges too."
It was strange to think the terrible start to the year wouldn't be happening to mini-him. The whole new-old world was throwing him for a loop! The closest comparison he could think of would be like getting your favourite chair reupholstered.
Technically it was the same chair but it didn't look the same. It didn't feel the same. It wasn't the same, no matter how much you might want it to be. The character and experiences you had with it made it what it was. The grooves and contours well worn were what was wonderful about it.
"That's the second time you've mentioned the badges," Hermione stated. "Was it just Malfoy and his cohorts that wore them?"
"No," Evan said, snorting softly. "It felt like most of the school wore them. Even visiting schools to some degree."
"But wouldn't McGonagall have stopped it?" she asked, looking at him Intently. "There is a strict no-bullying policy at Hogwarts."
"There's a what now?"
"A no-bullying policy," Harry reiterated. "Didn't you have one?"
Evan shook his head. "Snape made it a point to harass me in classes. He's always bullied the Gryffindors and ensured his Slytherins could do the same."
Harry and Hermione shared a long look. "That's…not…how it is here."
Evan tried to speak but he had no idea what to say. He gave them a hard look, worried they might be pranking him.
"Who teaches you potions?"
"Professor Slughorn," they said in unison.
"Slughorn?" Evan repeated. "Slughorn….not Snape…"
What did that even mean? As much as Evan would like to think Snape was superfluous, he'd been quite impactful. Protecting him during his first year, warding Quirrel off from the stone, messing things up with Pettigrew in 3rd year, and so on.
"No Snape..." He had no idea what to make of that.
"As much as I thought my Dumbledore did a good job running the school, I think you guys are lucky that McGonagall is in charge."
Harry smiled warmly. "She's brilliant."
Wait. If the place was better run, did they have the troll in first year?
"Did you have Professor Quirrell first year?"
They exchanged a look again. If it was so obvious they were non-verbally communicating.
"For part of the year," Hermione said. "He thought it was a good idea to bring a real, live mountain troll into the castle for a practical demonstration for his NEWT students, but it broke free of its confines and wandered off."
"And Ron was nasty to Hermione, and she was off in the loo during the Halloween feast?"
They looked at him in speechless shock.
He chuckled. "Yeah," he said. "Happened to us too. You did the wand up the nose, and Ron dropped its club on its head?"
"Exactly," Harry said, grinning. "We've been inseparable ever since."
Hermione placed a hand on Harry's arm. "We have."
"Oh, speaking of Ron," Evan said, glancing around. "Where is he?"
Shrugging, Harry looked at Hermione. "Probably playing chess or relaxing with Dean, Seamus, or Neville."
"He doesn't join us in the library often," Hermione said, her lips thin.
These changes were going to do him in. Ron had never been much for laborious study, but the three of them had been quite inseparable. It wasn't really until the DA that Evan had branched out and gotten to know his year-mates better.
Something to regret.
"Do you like potions?" Without the greasy git, he'd enjoyed NEWT potions far more. Though the Prince's book might've been a major part of it too.
"We do," Hermione answered. "Professor Slughorn says he hasn't seen anyone as talented since your mother's time. He thinks we both have a future in it if we want one. But, you'd know how good you are at potions," she added, her cheeks colouring slightly.
Evan rubbed the back of his neck. "I…err…" he said before sighing. "Snape was my Potions Professor and he had a massive grudge against me because Prongs, Moony, Padfoot and Wormtail used to bully him. He loved Mum too. Though he was a total berk and called her a–"
Looking around, he leaned in and lowered his voice. "A mudblood."
The two gasped.
"That's awful," Hermione said at once. "He wrecked your potions education! That's– that's–"
As she got worked up on his behalf, each word had been spoken louder.
"Shush," Harry said, looking over at Madame Pince.
"Sorry," Hermione said, blushing. "I just– how a teacher could ever do something like that? It's just–"
"Brutal? Barbaric? Blasphemous?" Harry said, a wide smile forming when he said the third word.
She rolled her eyes and tried to act annoyed, but the soft giggle gave away her amusement.
"Anyway," Evan said, trying to get to the part he really needed to talk to Harry about. "When I went to Gringotts, we realised there was a bit of an issue."
Harry's eyebrows knit together, and a sense of unease passed between them. "We can't use the standard wizarding security checks at Gringotts. We have the same blood and magic. Aside from being three-ish years apart in age, we're indistinguishable from each other, according to Gringotts."
"You can access my vaults?" Harry said, putting it together.
Evan nodded. "And you can access mine. Don't worry about it for now. We can sort that out this summer. We'll just need to have additional security, like a passphrase or something."
He could see that Hermione was bouncing at the idea of coming up with solutions, but she kept quiet and patiently awaited them to discuss it.
"And you can be my guardian?"
Evan felt like his stomach was suddenly far too heavy. "I'm the closest magical blood relative that is an adult," he said. "By law, I can petition to take over from the Dursleys, just because I'm a wizard."
"Would you want me to live with you?" Harry asked, not meeting his eyes.
He was staring at the table as if it was the most captivating thing happening at the moment.
"I remember living at the Dursleys," Evan said, his voice soft. He swallowed thickly. "We're brothers now. Your place is with family. Family that likes you…if you want. I don't have a place to live yet but there is Grimmauld. Kreacher isn't too bad, and I can always work and get us a flat or win the tournament and buy a place or…"
Realising he was rambling, he let his voice fade.
"No more Dursleys?" Harry said, his voice quiet but unmistakably sprouting from a kernel of hope.
"Dudley smartens up in a couple years," he said. "But yeah. No more Number Four if you don't want."
Harry shot a look at Hermione. "Brilliant."
She lunged at him, pulling him into a fierce hug. "I'm so happy for you," she said. "Both of you," she added, after opening her eyes and meeting Evan's.
The weight in his stomach vanished. "Okay," he said, pulling out an envelope from his pocket. "Just sign this and have Hedwig deliver it to the Ministry."
After sliding the envelope over, he stood up. The two were still seated beside each other, embracing. He thought he heard Harry letting out a sob.
Watching the two of them, Evan suddenly needed air. He needed to get out of here.
"I'll catch up with you later," he said, tucking his chair in. "I'm going to go for a fly."
Without waiting for a response, he turned and briskly made his exit.
AN: Thanks to Nauze, Taliesin19, & Petrificus Somewhatus for the beta help. Always appreciated.