This is chapter twenty of A Trio of Tricksters: Eclipse the Past, Usurp the Future. To learn more about the series click here.
Story Summary: The war ended, and then it didn’t. Voldemort is gone but somehow Harry, Hermione and Luna ended up as Undesirables 1, 2 & 3. Controlling the future is going to take some controlling of the past, and they say those who control the present control the past, so why not make the past the present? A time-travel fix-it where a trio of tricksters set up shop and revolutionize the wizarding world, for all that it takes a great deal of time to do so.
Disclaimer: I wish the actual owner of the rights to this series would shut her mouth. It ain’t me.
A/N: Thank you all for your patience in waiting for my updates. And many thanks as always to Transreal_Clouden for helping me to shape this chapter into something I hope you all enjoy.
Chapter Twenty: Setting Course
Meredith was the foremost expert on time in the United Kingdom, which meant that she had also spent a great deal of time studying souls. Time and souls went hand in hand, especially with her little side project that had been put into reality by the trio. So, she had been more than in the know when it came to the description of the horcruxes, the awful soul traps that they were.
“Horcruxes, yuck. Torture devices.”
“Torture devices?” Hermione asked, surprised.
“Yes. The first horcruxes were designed as traps that ripped apart the souls of those who had committed atrocities, who had torn their souls apart, and trap them in inanimate objects where the soul would be subject to torture, never resting, never dying, only experiencing pain. Those who were perhaps a little too clever stole the method for themselves and adapted it, keeping just enough soul locked away to keep them anchored to life —”
“And in objects that didn’t torture their souls, I presume?” Harry asked.
“No, actually,” Meredith sipped her tea. “That’s the curse of a horcrux. It’s always in pain with itself.”
Shaking herself off the memory of that conversation — the one where she discovered her own future death, at the hands of her own husband, a fact that made her unable to sleep the nights she was scheduled to do so at Greengrass manor — Meredith continued to examine the spines of books in the DoM library. Eventually, she found the one she was looking for and idly started flipping through the pages.
The other issue with horcruxes she mused is that they stop a soul from reincarnating. It always baffled her that people seeking immortality gave up the immortality of the soul. True, she had had access to more research materials than the average person, but she liked to think it was an obvious choice when it came to that trade off. Suddenly she paused, even though she had not yet reached the page she was looking for. There was something at the edge of her thoughts that she could not quite grasp, something about soul magic…. Shaking herself again, Meredith continued looking through the book and found the citation she needed. Marking the page, she started the walk back to her office. What was that thought niggling at her brain so much?
AToT AToT AToT
Focusing on his homework had never been Harry’s strong suit. Especially now that he was 28, he was not the biggest fan of rehashing the third-year curriculum. There were, in fact, a lot of things that were not particularly enjoyable about being in the body of someone who was 13. One of those things was that this was when the people around him started the seemingly endless song and dance of engaging in various relationships.
Relationships were another thing that had never been Harry’s strong suit. From his perspective, the other boys spent far too much time ogling the girls in their year, and the way that they talked about them behind closed doors always made him uncomfortable, both when he was actually a teenager and now. Many other guys would treat some of the women around them like objects and prizes to be won, and that just did not seem right to him. He did not see women that way — he did not see anyone that way. He could tell when someone was pretty, according to the conventional rules he had been taught, but he did not see that as any reason to treat them any differently. People had mistreated him all through his youth because he was Dudley’s “weird freak cousin” and because he was small and wore mostly secondhand clothes. He never wanted to treat anyone differently just because of the way that they looked.
He had definitely had crushes, people he particularly liked more than others, people that he wanted to be his friends in a way that he could not quite explain, but the thought of them wanting more was something that he could not bring himself to contemplate for a long time, and so he always drew back, and contented himself with close friendship. That approximated what he needed, even if it did not quite meet it.
It was not until after he had turned twenty, and started spending more time in the muggle world, that he discovered the terms asexual and aromantic and realized what it meant for him. As he grew fuller into himself as an adult and was able to embrace his identity, with help from his friends, he realized that it also did not mean he had to shy away from romance anymore. Not now that he knew the distinction, not now that he had the language for it, realizing that while he was asexual, he was not aromantic, and that it was okay, and he could have relationships while setting those boundaries.
Unfortunately, even as he was making those discoveries about himself the world was falling apart around him, his friends and family were dying at every turn, the wixen world was plunging further into bigotry and hatred than ever before, and it looked like it was about to start taking the muggle world with it.
There was no real dating pool available at that point.
And now here he was, secure in himself and his identity, and rather unfortunately surrounded by teenagers of whom most of them did not have a clue about themselves and would not for quite some time. And in addition to the fact that he had no intentions of ever engaging in a sexual relationship with anyone, let alone someone underage, dating a child well over a decade his junior did not sit right with him in the slightest sense. Particularly given that none of these children had the slightest idea of what kind of trauma he had gone through — they were simply at different levels of understanding of the world.
Which was brilliant for them, actually. He would not wish his trauma on anyone. For the time being, however, it meant that he kept his walls up and his heart buried deep within his chest, only ever extending the true depths of his emotions toward the people who could understand him, like Hermione and Luna, and his dad, who Harry was slowly learning to trust as Sirus recovered from Azkaban.
Still, he missed his other friends, he missed his family. That was a grief that he knew would never truly go away, and he was not sure if it was better or worse that he saw their young faces, these alternate versions of the people who had been his home every day, when they were not the same people he knew.
Harry continued to stare, unseeing, at his transfiguration essay. The worst really was Draco. He could see the other boy constantly glaring at him from across the great hall. It had only gotten worse since that day with the dementors. Sometimes he would catch Draco trying to follow him again and would have to find creative ways to shake him off. It was almost like a reverse of his sixth year.
This Draco was not the Draco he knew. Was not his good friend. Was not the one whose face would light up when they talked about muggle literature, who he would lie on the floor of the sitting room of Grimmauld place with, and quietly speak of their wildly different, but equally lonely childhoods. This Draco was spoiled and petty and only had hints of the man Harry knew he had the capacity to grow to be.
But would he? And would Harry be wrong, to try to influence that? He knew it would. He knew that this Draco would never be his Draco. Trying to force this Draco to become that man was not fair to this Draco or to his Draco’s memory. And yet he missed the man who had sacrificed his life for them. Sometimes, in his darkest hours, Harry wondered if it would not have been so bad, if he had sent Luna and Hermione back in time to this split universe, and he and Draco had lived out the rest of their short lives together in Grimmauld place. He knew, though, that it was not really any way to live. It was why they had come back in the first place, why they had to.
Was it selfish though? He wondered, spinning his quill absently. Selfish to send themselves back in time, to a new universe that they would shape to their will. Where would this world have gone without them? Should they not have died in their proper place, their proper flow of time?
“You’re thinking too hard.”
A book slammed in front of Harry, and he jumped, startled out of his thoughts. Luna had found him, which was not exactly hard, given how visible he was in this section of the library. They tried to be visible on the days when their cycle had them at Hogwarts, which provided a better alibi in cases where something went wrong and they needed one.
“Transfiguration isn’t the easiest thing to do, you know. McGonagall assigned a killer essay this time,” Harry replied wryly.
“Only because you overperformed in class and she thinks you aren’t being challenged enough because she knows you are capable of more,” Luna looked at him significantly, and Harry’s brow furrowed before actually looking at the assignment, instead of losing himself in his thoughts of a future that would never come.
This assignment was not third year level, it was not even fourth year. It was OWL review.
“Do you think…?”
“She mentioned it to me and Hermione just an hour ago, had us in her office for tea. She thinks we might be ready to take our OWLs by the middle of next year, during the winter examination period. She wants us all three on an advanced course so that she can focus on giving us private lessons because she thinks we have the knack for it, and we’re wasting time on lesser material.”
Luna’s tone was casual, dreamy, and matter of fact. And yet Harry could read between the lines. McGonagall was giving them an out. She knew that they knew the material. She was giving them a way to, while temporarily increasing, eventually reduce their load and get out of schooling earlier. Specifically, while they would not be done with all their classes, once they had taken at least one OWL they would be free to keep their wands if they ever dropped out or were expelled from Hogwarts. Given what had happened in the old timeline at the beginning of Harry’s fifth year, it was excellent insurance.
“How fortunate am I, to have such a wonderful head of house?” Harry smiled.
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Blaise was not spying. Well, maybe only a little bit. But it was for a good cause.
“What are we even doing here?” Daphne hissed. “You are going to get us in so much trouble!”
“Only if we get caught!” Blaise hissed back. “Which we will if you don’t bloody shut up.” Daphne pursed her lips but kept them closed. The two of them stood quietly in the shadows under disillusionment charms as Weasley, Weasley, and Longbottom walked into this same unused classroom that they had every Tuesday and Thursday evening for the past three weeks, ever since the start of term.
Before they had always watched, curious from the outside. This time, they were already in. The classroom was not that interesting, just desks and chairs that had been pushed aside in favor of a more intimate table where the three friends were sitting together, in a council of sorts.
Neville sighed heavily as he dropped his rucksack onto the floor next to his chair.
“They’re keeping secrets again.”
“It’s funny how they think we won’t notice,” Ginny snorted.
“Have you still been having the nightmares?” Ron asked.
“Yeah,” Ginny and Neville sighed in weary unison.
“Me too. It’s so weird. They feel real.” Ron shook his head.
“Yeah, much more than my dreams from the chamber. These are like —” Ginny kneaded her temples. “These are like memories, and I don’t want them, I don’t — it scares me that —”
“They’re the same. We’re having nightmares and they’re the same,” Neville shivered. “How is this even possible?”
“I don’t know, something about the dementors exploding, but how could that do this? It’s like… afterimages. But why us?” Ron mused.
They were startled when from the corner came the sound of a shriek and a smack and a “Blaise you dolt!” followed by another smack. A spider had just landed on his shoulder and Blaise had yelled, hitting Daphne in his frantic efforts to get it off. She followed it up with hitting him in return before removing their charms and turning up the charm.
“Um, hi, I’m really sorry, this is really awkward,” Daphne did not even have to try to blush.
“Uh huh, I bet you have a really good explanation for spying on us then?” Ginny asked, arms crossed.
“We actually weren’t even trying to spy on you,” Blaise scratched the back of his head.
“We were actually just trying to find some space to ourselves. Our parents, well, my dad would be pretty upset at us being together. It would be a horribly big deal, and we just… wanted to keep things simple.”
“We kinda figured that having three Gryffindors walk in on us fucked that up, so we decided to just hide from you in the corner under muffling charms. I don’t even know what y’all were talking about.”
“You don’t.” Ginny replied, doubt lacing every aspect of her tone.
“Honestly, we really don’t. Are you running some kind of sex cult? Because if you are I could probably get you some volunteers —”
“Aaaaaand that’s my cue for us to leave, come on Daphne let’s go. Thanks for having us, bye!” Blaise grabbed Daphne’s arm and sped walked them out of the classroom before the Gryffindors could so much as blink.
“So that happened,” Neville said.
“Maybe we should consider looking into muffling and security charms ourselves?” Ginny suggested.
AToT AToT AToT
Harry had always had a special bond with Hedwig, his first friend in the wixen world. Ever since he had gotten back to this new time, he felt as though they were even closer. He did not know if it was because he appreciated her more this time around, or because it was something about this new timeline, but this Hedwig seemed to intuitively know him, and seemed almost more human than the Hedwig he knew in his previous life.
Hedwig had always been a smart owl — all owls possessed a certain degree of intelligence — but this Hedwig was almost scary in the way that she knew and understood everything that was communicated to her. She was more than just an animal. Harry, Hermione, and Luna had all checked multiple times for any trace of Animagus or transfiguration, which Hedwig treated with mild amusement. In the end they concluded that she was a very, very smart owl, and decided to simply enjoy her company as they always had.
One of Hedwig’s latest habits was reading. Harry had started sharing his morning newspapers with her, and also gave her access to his books. She became an avid reader and started spending almost all her time in his bedroom in Gryffindor tower rather than in the owlery, rifling through his textbooks. They also gave her some fiction, since textbooks were not particularly interesting to an owl, or so they thought.
“Is your owl actually reading the post?” Lavender asked one morning over breakfast in January. “She brings it and reads it?”
“She reads all the time,” Seamus grumbled. “We have to leave the bloody windows open for her in the tower so that she can swoop in and settle at Potter’s desk with her books. Uses it more than he does, I think.”
Hedwig glared haughtily at Seamus as if to say And what about it?
Seamus flushed and looked away. “I’m just saying,” he looked at Harry. “Your bird is scary mate.”
“Isn’t she lovely?” Harry stroked her feathers and Hedwig preened before going back to reading the Prophet.
The fact of the matter is that Hedwig was a strange owl. A smart owl. A lovely owl. A scary owl. And, Harry pondered over his breakfast, maybe an owl worth talking about with Meredith Greengrass.
AToT AToT AToT
Tonks was still feeling pissed off at Martins. The other auror was a complete asshole, and absolutely hated Tonks. Tonks was a better auror than him, a better wix than him, and if Tonks was being honest and a little bit cruel, probably a better person than him as well, the bastard.
All the same, the last thing Tonks wanted to be thinking about was Martins. It was the weekend, and Charlie Weasley was in town. Charlie and Tonks had been best friends since their first year at Hogwarts, when they became brewing partners in potions class. If they could survive Snape together, they could survive anything. Even when the schedules got changed and Gryffindor and Hufflepuff no longer shared potions, they still stayed friends; pulling pranks together, sneaking around the castle after hours — they were both incredulous when they got named prefects and assumed that the professors must have been high on decision day.
Charlie and Tonks were unflinchingly upfront with each other, always honest, and always open. With Charlie, Tonks never had to pretend to be anyone else — was free to be whoever they wanted to be, whoever that was on a given day, and knew that Charlie would accept them. Some people would try to understand, but often struggled when they tried to explain that some days, they preferred one pronoun over the other, that on some days they did not care. People did not understand why they were constantly shifting their body, wondering what kind of ideal they were chasing. They also knew, without ever speaking of it, that it hurt their father that they had chosen to keep their standard form so light skinned, despite the fact that this was what they were born with, if they had anything like an original body type. How could they explain that any other skin tone felt like the worst kind of treachery? Living as a white person would be a betrayal of their Blackness, and yet darkening their skin felt akin to a kind of Blackface. For all that she could shift, sometimes Tonks felt trapped in their own skin.
But tonight, Tonks was determined not to think about any of that. They forced away thoughts of Martins, of their father, of the weight of expectation, and instead concentrated on the fact that their best friend was going to be in the country for all of 48 hours, so they needed to make sure it counted for all it was worth.
A quick knock sounded on the door to the bedroom where they had been getting ready to go out before the door quickly opened.
“Hey! I could have been naked!” Tonks huffed.
“Oh, sorry. I figured you would lock the door if you didn’t want me to come in, can I borrow your eye shadow? I think I left all of mine in Romania.”
“Ugh, you’re useless. Top right drawer.”
Tonks loved Charlie, but they were a bit of a mess.
“So, what’s going on with Sirius Black? You’ve been vague in all your letters, but he seems to be part of the family now. I’m sorry I missed you all at Christmas I was —”
“I know, you said. Big dragon emergency,” Tonks rolled their eyes.
“Fifty dragons escaped from a reserve in the heart of Romania, yes it was an emergency!” Charlie huffed. “It was all hands on deck, this was the first leave I could get and I’m spending it with you mind —”
“Which is why your mother isn’t allowed to know you’re in the country yada yada, I’ve got it. Can we go now? I want to be drunk and not thinking about my stupid job or either of our families.”
“If you say so,” Charlie shrugged, pulling on a blue leather jacket.
“Hey, that’s my jacket!” Tonks huffed.
“That you stole from me two years ago. It’s our jacket.” Charlie countered. Tonks rolled their eyes and laughed before grabbing Charlie’s arm, flicking the lights off with their wand, and apparating them away.
A/N: Sorry for the delay in updating, again, life really is wild these days. I hope that you like this chapter! The fic recommendation for today is No Bright Line by miraxb, on Ao3. “In which Sirius is a famous actor who has stopped believing in authenticity, Remus is a historian with a complex relationship to memory, and Lily is the brilliant filmmaker who brings them together. James and Harry are there too, although they mostly just want to enjoy the beach.” AKA the WolfStar AU of your dreams. Live it. Breathe it. Love it.
 Before y’all try to fight me on Blaise using y’all my Blaise grew up in the US and I firmly maintain that he would have picked up this piece of vernacular and kept it in his idiolect because it is a beautiful case of utility in the English language.