The Sweet Taste of Peaches

The Sweet Taste of Peaches
Series: The Sweet Taste of Peaches
Author: Ellywinkle
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom
Warnings: Canon-Level Violence, Character Bashing, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Rape of Minor (one sentence mention of sex ritual, non-graphic), Major Character Death (but it’s a Weasley so does that count?)
Genre: AU, Time Travel
Word Count: 9115

Summary: Three years after the war, Death Eater trials are still ongoing. Fleeing for his life, Draco Malfoy stumbles across Harry Potter’s vacation cabin. Harry just wanted some time away to figure out his future. He soon learns of dark plans to destroy his future in his past.

Author’s Note: This story is the result of my attempt to completely pants the heck out of a story. I take full responsibility for the results. It started with three prompts: peaches, healing, and dragons. I’m amazed I turned that into something but here it is. I’ve plotted at least two more to go with it, but have no idea on when I might write them. Please don’t ask.

– – – –

Harry apparated to the clearing near the cabin. There should have been wards preventing magical creatures from approaching.  He arrived silently and took in the view of the green and black dragon. It was sitting in the clearing with the morning light coming through the mist giving the image of an emerald green glow. The eyes were closed, but the head bowed in wariness or sorrow, it was hard to tell. The wings were tight against its sides, and the tail lay still.

Harry remained silent, not wanting to disturb the creature quite yet. He had studied a few dragons in his day, but there was something different about this one. And he couldn’t quite get the species. Well, not much to do about it. He can’t just allow a dragon free roam of his lands. The smart thing to do would be to call the DOM and ask for help removing it. It was far from any of the preserves after all.

But, he wasn’t always smart. That left calling Charlie to see if the dragon keepers would come help or dealing with it himself. He actually debated that for a few minutes before preparing to move away and make a call. He shifted back a little to apparate when his heal landed on a twig. The Dragon’s head whipped around to zero in on his position at the sound of the snap.

Softly, Harry began to speak. Trying to remain calm and force that feeling into his voice. “Easy now, friend. No harm meant here. Just checking out what crossed my wards.”

It continued to watch him warily but did not move. He stepped fully into view and saw the creature snort in a decisively un-dragon like way. “You’re a real beauty, you know. I’m just wondering what you’re doing so far from home.”

The dragon sighed, actually sighed, at the mention of home. Well, Harry’s not always the most observant as Hermione repeatedly reminds him, but even he knows that dragons don’t sigh. And while they are quite intelligent by creature standards, very few can even understand basic human commands. He took another step closer and examined the dragon.

Every scale was a work of art, the pattern of them blending together into a masterpiece of design. One might say an intelligent, masterpiece. Such things don’t occur in nature. “Well, you are quite beautiful, but I suppose you planned that, did you?”

The dragon’s head dipped slightly in acknowledgment and Harry released a relieved breath. Much easier to handle then. “I was wondering how you crossed my wards. Not every day I see a dragon animagus. You have a magnificent form, I’ll grant you. But, I think it’s time you showed yourself.”

The dragon’s head slowly shook from side to side disagreeing with Harry’s request. “It’s quite rude to enter another’s land and not introduce yourself.”

The head tilted slightly to the side, considering. Then, again the negative. Harry pulled his primary wand, while slowly pulling his secondary behind his back. “I think I’m being quite hospitable at the moment, but I really must insist that you show your true form.”

The dragon lowered its head, showing no aggression and very slowly moved its wing. The red flowing from the joint was not life-threatening for a dragon, but Harry wasn’t sure what the results would be when he returned to a human shape. “OK, I’ll give you that. How did you get hurt.”

The dragon humphed, “Right, stupid question. Dragons can’t talk. I don’t know any healing spells that will work on dragon hide. But, I do have something that can help a human.”

The dragon backed up a step. “Just stay here, and I will get some supplies. My cabin would be a bit far for you to walk in your condition.”

Harry apparated to his cabin and gathered bandages, a blanket, and the jug of peach nectar. The peach orchard was courtesy of his godbrother Neville. They were Neville’s Mastery in Herbology project. Harry had a patch of land here in the forest that was perfect for raising them, thus the wards to keep out the creatures. They had amazing healing properties in both the original and nectar forms. He was working on uses in potions to demonstrate the full range of the new species, but Harry felt he should be granted the mastery based on the creation of the plant alone.

Harry quickly returned to the clearing, relieved to see the dragon still there. “Came as fast as I could. I brought you some nectar.” The dragon growled slightly. “It’s healing nectar. My godbrother is working on his Mastery Project here. The Nectar has some amazing healing properties, but since we don’t know how extensive that wound is in human form, I brought bandages.”

Harry set out everything then turned back, “So how do you want to do this?”

The dragon took a step back nervously. Harry had the distinct impression that it was going to bolt.

“Hey, calm down. You need healing. You’re not getting far with that arm, and I can’t tell with dragon anatomy if it’s extensive enough to do permanent damage to your human form. Just, change and let me help you.”

The dragon shook it’s head and took another step back.

“You can trust me. I have no reason to hurt you.” Harry took a step forward, hands held wide apart.

A snort of disagreement was his only reply. The dragon shifted back again and lifted its wings but jerked back the injured one with a loud hiss of pain. Breathing quickened, and the entire frame shivered from the shock.

“Ok, take it easy. No. Don’t move. You’re going to hurt yourself.” He kept trying to calm the dragon and then realized his problem…he’s focusing on the dragon, not the person. But, seriously, this is an animagus. It’s not an animal. He’s obviously not locked in his form, because intellect is ruling instinct so he should just deal with the pain and let Harry help him.

Harry stopped moving forward because it just wasn’t working, “You know you’re a stubborn git.”

The dragon huffed at him.

“Look, my name is Harry Potter. You might have heard of me.” The dragon cocked his head to the side and then rolled his eyes. He…yeah, Harry was certain he was a “he” now that he was closer. “Well, if you know who I am, you know you can trust me to help you.”

The dragon let out a long put upon sigh. Then shuddered again and gasped. He closed his eyes and was obviously trying to control his breathing. After a moment he swallowed reflexively, and Harry could tell the color was fading in a way that definitely did not look healthy. With eyes still closed, he started rocking back and forth before his body jerked with sudden pain. Harry could see the blood from the wound increase, and he feared there was much more damage than he initially suspected.

The rocking slowed for a moment before he slumped to the ground unconscious, barely touching it before the form morphed and flowed back into a human shape. A human shape Harry knew.

“Malfoy?”

Harry froze in place a moment, unable to move because this was the last person he expected to find. But, bright red against much too pale skin caught his attention, and he bolted forward. “Hold on. Don’t you dare die here.” He pressed the bandages hard against what looked like a deep knife or sword wound on Draco’s upper left side.

Pulling his wand, he started casting diagnostics, one after another. Many he learned in the war, and the subsequent auror training the ministry forced him into after the last battle. Damn, they missed the heart by centimeters. He couldn’t believe Draco had the power to shift and fly after that wound. And it was definitely after the injury because a dragon is too well shielded by hide and scale in that area for a knife or sword to pass.

With a quick Accio, Harry pulled the jug and blanket to him. Draco needed warmth and healing now. He didn’t have any blood replenishers here. Damn, where was Hermione’s bag when he needs it? Taking a deep breath, he uncorked the nectar and started spelling it into Draco’s stomach in small doses. They haven’t tested it on a wound this severe yet, and only when it could be given orally.

It took twenty minutes of pressure and spells before the bleeding stopped. Another diagnostic and Harry could see that the wound was sealed, so he leaned back and stretched hands and arms that were tense from so long holding on. Harry transfigured a branch into a travois and carefully shifted Draco onto it with the blanket wrapped around him. He cast several warming charms and then levitated everything to return to the cabin.

He didn’t allow himself to overthink things as Harry cleaned Draco up and put him to bed in the guest room. With a new jug of nectar by the bed, he checked the closet for clothes. Neville had put on some muscle and height in the last two years. And, there wasn’t much here but work clothes. He glanced back at the sleeping man before heading to his own room.

Draco was closer to Harry in measurements, though he still topped out a good four inches taller. His childhood diet had severely stunted his growth. While there were some potions that could correct that, he would have needed to start them before his first magical maturation at fourteen. He didn’t learn about Hogwarts mandatory yearly health screening until he entered Auror Training and they realized he didn’t have any of his childhood inoculations.

He found some pajamas that still had tailoring charms built in and return to the room to dress Draco. He paused with the cover down to check him over. The nectar was repairing torn tendons in his wrists and one ankle. At some point, Draco had been restrained. The rest of him was in relatively good shape. Draco was still thin and wiry, but he was well muscled and proportioned. Realizing that staring at a naked Draco was a bit skeevy, he quickly flicked his wand at the pajamas and made them reappear on the unconscious man.

Placing a warming charm on the mattress, Harry covered him and then headed to the floo to call Neville. He threw in the powder, “Longbottom Manor.”  The flames flared and continued to burn while he waited for an answer.

“Harry?”

“Mi? What are you doing at Longbottom Manor?” Harry was shocked to see her there at this time of day.

“Neville granted me sanctuary on his estates.” She looked like she had been doing that angry crying thing that Harry had no idea how to deal with.

“Sanctuary? Merlin, ‘Mi, who did you kill?”

“No one, yet. It’s just been a completely horrid day. First, Bill and Fleur came by the Burrow this morning to drop off Victoire and just dropped the announcement that she’s pregnant again. That started a huge argument with Ron about how Fleur should just give up her career to be a housewife and how he couldn’t wait until we get married so I can quit my job and stay home with his mother to take care of him. I told him in no uncertain terms that there is no way I’m giving up my career. Then Molly jumped on the bandwagon with how even though she loves her granddaughter, Fleur was just taking advantage of Bill and it was a shame he didn’t have a proper wife.” Harry watched as Hermione got wound up and didn’t even know how to stop it.

“No one saw Fleur at the door. She came back to drop off Victoire’s favorite pillow and heard absolutely everything. She took her daughter and left while cursing Molly in Veela. I didn’t stick around to listen to that. Ron was still shouting when I left.” Hermione wasn’t slowing down yet.

“So I made it to the Firm only fifteen minutes late. We have seven trials we’re prepping for defense, and I’ve been overloaded with research. Not everyone who was forced to take the Mark participated. Several ran the first opportunity, and we need to be certain that those who are convicted are guilty. Everyone deserves qualified representation. And, my internship at Stockwell, Stavish, Portner, and Grimm is very prestigious and certain to guarantee me a place in the London Academy of Higher Arts for my Law Degree.”

Hermione deflated suddenly, “Or, it should have been. Mr. Stavish, the elder, is a most disagreeable man. He accused me…of working for the Prosecution since I was so heavily involved in the War. He insisted no muggle born could be unbiased, especially one who had fought beside Harry Potter.”

“Mi…” Harry was cut off.

“No, Harry. It’s ridiculous. He said he didn’t want any of our cases tainted. And then he informed me that positions in his firm were only available for witches and wizards who are serious about a Law career. Not for flighty little girls who aren’t going to use the opportunity. I tried to insist that I want to study Law and he….he said…”

“Mi?”

“He said that he received a communication from my betrothed that he was a traditionalist and we were both in agreement that I would be staying home after we married. He withdrew his letter of recommendation for the Academy and terminated my internship.”

“That git! How dare he. Mi…I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe Ron would do this.” Actually, Harry completely believed it, but Hermione had been living in a dream world, and it wasn’t one he would be responsible for destroying.

She shook her head. “I should have seen this coming. I guess I just wanted him to be better than that. I had hoped he could grow up, but Molly has her apron strings tied tightly around his throat. Everything is “Mum said this…Mum wants that…” She shook her head again and was silent.

“Well, I am sorry, Mi. But, are you so worried about him that you sought Sanctuary at Longbottom Manor? He didn’t try to hit you…did he?” Because if he did, Ron’s life expectancy was going to plummet.

“Oh, no. No Harry. Ron may be a tasteless, thankless, slovenly, git…but not physical, just no. Though, come to think about it, why did I want to marry him?”

Harry barked out a laugh that he tried to cut off and failed. “Sorry, just…sorry. I’ve been wondering that for over a year now.”

“Right. Well, the Sanctuary is because of the sacrifices.”

“What sacrifices?”

“You really should get owl post out there. It’s not good for you to be so removed from everything. I still don’t understand why you did it. And, while I love Neville to death, he’s a little preoccupied with his project when he heads out there.”

“MI!!”

“Oh, sorry. Sacrifices. They’ve had six disappearances over the last week. Different ages and types. The last of them showed up this morning, dead. The DMLE hasn’t confirmed anything, but I heard from an intern in the Prosecutor’s office that they were all murdered ritually. They all had their heart’s cut out. No one knows who is doing it, but the only pattern they can find is that each of them were unmarried and from different houses in rotation: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw. So, it’s been recommended that any Gryffindor’s who are unmarried find someplace secure until tomorrow. And, after today. I didn’t want to be locked in with Ron and Molly.”

“No Slytherins?” Harry glanced toward the closed bedroom door. That wound…

“None. You have your wards up, right?”

“Yes. I’ll raise the war wards around here to make sure it’s completely secure.” And to make sure whoever was after Malfoy can’t track him.

“Good. I’m glad you’re being careful.” She stared at him through the flames of the floo for a while. “Oh, Harry, why were you calling Neville?”

“Neville? Um…needed his help. No rush.”

“I could come help you.”

“No. Uh, no, I’m fine.”

“Harry James Potter. What are you hiding?”

“What makes you think I’m hiding something Mi?”

“Because I know you and that is your I’m trying to make you ignore I wanted something face.”

“I don’t have a…” Harry sighed. Yes, he did. Damn. “OK, so there is something important, and I need Neville immediately.” He paused, he was really going to regret this. “And, as long as you absolutely promise not to tell anyone what I’m doing, I will adjust the wards so you can come with him.”

“I’ll get him immediately.” She gave one last look back and then broke the connection. She was going to be insufferable. Oh, yes, I’m being careful. I just brought Draco Malfoy of all people into my unplottable cabin hideaway. And, oh, it looks like he was the victim of an attempted sacrifice. Harry hung his head a moment before forcing himself to stand and stretch.

– – – –

It was twenty minutes before the fire flared and Neville and Hermione stepped through the floo. Hermione didn’t even hesitate before running up to give him a hug. Her hugs felt amazing, and she was one of the few people who could touch him without instantly causing a reaction.

“What’s going on, Harry?” Neville asked with a slight grin at Hermione’s continued hold. She slowly let go as he started to disengage.

“I had a visitor today.”

“The wards fell?” Neville looked toward the basement doorway. The wardstone was installed down there for added protection.

“No, they didn’t fall. Just, rippled a little and let something…someone through.” Harry scratched his head as Neville looked confused and Hermione appeared to be trying to bite through her lip in an attempt to not inundate him with demands for answers. It was adorable how she did that little maneuver.

“Well.” She started to vibrate, and Harry resisted the urge to grin. “Who was it?”

“Draco Malfoy.”

“Malfoy? How did he cross the wards?” Hermione looked like she was about to stand up and stalk out to interrogate him.

Trust Neville to ask the question that really mattered, though, “This place is unplottable. How did he find it?”

Harry shook his head in agreement. That was a big issue, but he thinks there may be an answer. “You know how with the Room of Requirements in Hogwarts there is nothing there until you have a real need for something and then Hogwarts provides assistance?”

“Well, yes, of course, it’s really the layer upon layer of intelligent wards structured in a crystalline matrix that allows a certain level of sentience in Hogwarts.” Hermione started. It was a bleeding shame she decided to focus on Law instead of spell creation.

“Well, this land sits over crossing ley lines, and there have been some kind of wards here since before Hogwarts was built. There’s a similar feel about them, but they are loyal to me. But, as with the Room of Requirements, if your need is great enough, the wards can make a decision to help. And, boy did he need help.” Harry stood up, and the others followed him toward the bedroom.

Inside Malfoy lay unconscious, unmoving since he covered him up. Speaking in a whisper, “He appeared here in his animagus form.” Harry gently uncovered him and unbuttoned the pajama top before slowly pulling it back to show the angry red wound that now looked days old and was nicely healing.

“That’s…Harry?” Hermione’s voice wavered.

“Yeah, I think it is. The medical diagnostic scan shows the blade narrowly missed his heart. And he has muscle and tendon damage from fighting restraints. Someone was trying to murder him, and he was able to get away. You said there were six sacrifices. Two from each of the Hogwarts Houses. Your standard dark ritual may call for a sacrifice of some kind. But those are normally single instant rituals. What kind of ritual would need a schedule of sacrifices?”

Surprisingly it was Neville who answered, “If you are working up to a major ritual, you have to build the energy of the circle to power it. It doesn’t matter if the ritual is light or dark, the magical theory is the same. The most powerful number in ritual magic is seven. Five to stand the points, the celebrant, and the sacrifice. Though the sacrifice is really just the anchor for the ritual, not normally a literal sacrifice.”

“How do you know that?” Hermione looked like she was itching to get a resource manual.

“Herbology Masters are frequently involved in ritual magic. Some plants grow best in that environment. Other plants have to be cultivated from the seed for the ritual they are intended for use. There are several covens that I’m associated with, though I have an oath not to discuss their business without consent.”

Harry nodded then looked back before covering Draco back up. “I’ve been dosing him with the nectar. But it’s the only thing I had on hand, and I figured you needed to record its progression, Nev.”

“You’re right. Let me run a diagnostic, then I will get a copy of yours for my records. This is the first time it’s been tested on a wound of this complexity.”

After a bit of wand work, they left the room, Harry to the kitchen to start the tea and to reheat the stew he cooked for lunch.

They were all lost in thought, Neville taking copious notes regarding the dosage with the occasional question to Harry regarding his inaccurate measurements. “Well, he wasn’t exactly a test subject, Nev. I was just trying to save his life.” At least Neville had the good manners to look embarrassed that he had forgotten Draco’s wound was life-threatening.

It was half an hour later as he was dishing up the stew and the warmed bread that the door to the bedroom slowly opened. He dropped the ladle into the pot and rushed to Draco’s side.

“What are you doing out of bed?” Harry asked, wrapping an arm around Draco to steady him.

“What am I doing here? And, who put me in Gryffindor red pajamas?”

Hermione sighed and moved to the other side to help Harry steady him as he pushed on toward the kitchen table. “You should just be grateful Harry was willing to share his pajamas with you. He could have just left you naked.”

Harry’s eyes widened, and Malfoy smirked, “Were you hoping to see me naked, Granger?”

“What? I…I wasn’t.” She huffed again, “I honestly can’t believe…”

“If you don’t want to, I’m willing.” Harry bit back a laugh as Hermione and Draco both whipped their heads up and around to look at Neville. Neville’s expression was deliberately hopeful, and Draco turned a dark pink. The movement set off a bit of vertigo causing Harry and Hermione to shift their hold and quickly help Draco to a chair.

“Well, well, Longbottom. Holding out all these years I see.” Draco said once seated with only a hint of his typical bravado.

“Not holding out, just holding up. Though rumor has it you have been swinging on that door yourself.” Neville raised an eyebrow and Draco blushed again.

Harry quickly dished another bowl and set them down on the table. It was quiet a moment before Hermione broached the subject.

“Malfoy, what happened?”

Draco curled slightly around his side to protect it while silently staring down into the stew.

“Does it have to do with the sacrifices that have been showing up all week?” Sometimes Hermione was just so blunt.

Harry reached out slowly and put a hand on his shoulder. “You’re safe here. I’ve put up the war wards.”

Draco shook his head, “I’m not sure I’m safe anywhere. There were so many of them. I didn’t realize there were that many Death Eaters still free, but they’ve been working on this for two years. When they realized they couldn’t resurrect the Dark Lord, they started working on a time travel ritual to go back and save him.”

“What?” Harry jerked back and saw the shock and fear in his friends’ eyes. “That’s not possible, is it?”

“Well, they were pretty fucking certain it would work while they tried to cut out my heart!” Draco tried to shove back from the table, but a soft touch from Neville stopped him.

“Hey, we believe you.” Draco looked up at Neville with a curled lip that slipped as soon as he saw the truth of that statement in Neville’s eyes. “We do believe you.”

Draco nodded acceptance and looked down. “How long have I been here?”

“About six hours since I found you on the grounds. Since when have you been an animagus?”

“Since I learned dementors don’t have the same effect on animagus forms as human forms. I know you did everything you could to keep my family out of Azkaban, but I wasn’t trusting it to work.” Draco shrugged elegantly.

Malfoy stirred his stew slowly in the bowl. “They were trying to go back to the day I was born. I was premature. My due date was July 31st. Father learned about the prophesy and forced Mother to drink a potion to induce labor. He said he did it to protect me. But the truth is he did it to protect himself. He didn’t want his Lord to think he was trying to challenge him.”

“That’s extremely dangerous. It’s amazing you’re even alive.” Harry shook his head in disgust. “Premature infants in the magical world usually die because they would have to feed off the parents’ magic to live. It’s easier to treat the mother for any issues than to try for a successful birth. It’s one thing if the mother naturally goes into premature labor, but inducing it is rare and only done to save the mother’s life. Frankly, there are only two potions that can induce labor when the baby is unable to survive on its own, and they both cause sterility in the mother.”

Neville looked away angrily, while Hermione was choking back tears. “Your father forced your mother to sterilize herself.”

“Yes. Now you know why she would give anything to keep me safe. I was her only chance.” The anger in Draco’s eyes morphed into deep sorrow. “And the dark bastard still killed her.”

Neville reached out and grabbed his hand, “Draco?”

“My father was the celebrant. He said they were going to fix everything so that Harry was never born. Kill him in the womb so he could never threaten their Lord. He said I was the key. My original due date, my actual birth date, that his Dark Bastard Lord marked me in a sex ritual, so I was doubly marked by him.”

Harry sucked in a breath at that admission and saw the horror in Hermione’s eyes to match what he felt. But Neville’s eyes spoke of compassion.

Draco continued on as tears started to flow down his face, “She tried to save me, and he killed her. He killed my mother in one breath and in the next told me not to worry, it’s only temporary.”

“Merlin.” Neville got up and moved quickly to Draco’s side to hug him. Draco froze for a moment, stiff as a board before melting into Neville’s embrace. “We’ll make him pay, Dray. We’ll make him pay.”

Harry and Hermione cleared the table as Neville moved Draco to one of the couches to sit. Harry exchanged looks with Hermione while his mind ran through what Malfoy had said. All the times during the war they had blamed Malfoy for willingly following Voldemort came back to him, and his stomach churned.

Secretly he had never forgiven Malfoy for his choices. When the trials started, he had set aside his own thoughts in favor of a sense of justice. In the end, Narcissa saved Harry’s life and gave him a chance to defeat Voldemort. Draco did not complete his mission to kill Dumbledore and in fact, never took a life. And, Lucius, well that bastard walked away instead of fighting in the last battle. For all of that, he spoke up in defense of the Malfoys and was able to get them amnesty in exchange for testimony against the other Death Eaters.

Now, well now he was still willing to fight for Draco. This time not just because it was the right thing to do, but because it was clear Draco never had a choice. Harry knows the feeling of being trapped in a situation and feeling like there is no one you can trust. He lived that life. He wants to kick himself for not recognizing that a Slytherin might have been in the same situation.

He glanced back and saw that Hermione was wiping down the table with her bottom lip caught between her teeth and that cute little wrinkle between her brows. She was putting more force into the scrubbing with each swipe. Harry decided to stop her before she scrubbed the finish off the table.

“Mi?”

She jerked her head up and then looked down where he was staring. Stopping the action immediately, Hermione clenched up then threw the rag into the sink. She held onto the basin, keeping her back to the rest of the room. “I thought he was redeemable.”

“He didn’t ask for that to be done to him! Look at him, Hermione.” Harry was shocked by the revelation.

“Lucius, Harry, Lucius. Merlin! You really thought I would think that about Draco? After this?” She spun around to look at Harry with that cute indignant pose, and he relaxed a little.

“Sorry, no I didn’t really think that. Just, you know, sorry. But, yeah. I’m regretting my life choices. I’m the one who convinced them he shouldn’t face prison and he repays that by murdering his wife and trying to kill his kid? Why can’t they just stop? I was supposed to kill Voldemort, and it would be over, but it’s never going to end, is it Mi?”

She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. “We’ll make it end, Harry. Somehow, someway, we will make it stop.”

Harry’s not sure how long they stayed there. Eventually, he realized how good it felt to have her in his arms again and how great her hair smelled. As if she could sense his change of focus, she released her hold and stepped back, swiping a lock of hair back behind her ear.

“Let’s see how Draco and Neville are doing.”

Harry followed her to the sitting room and noticed that Draco seemed to have regained his composure. Hermione curled up in his reading chair which left Harry to the rocker. Neville exchanged looks with Harry and then shook his head. Well, it’s not like he would be in a great place now if he were in Draco’s shoes.

“How much do you know of their plans?” Harry asked.

“They weren’t exactly forthcoming. It’s not as if I was expected to survive.” Draco curled his lip before his face fell again. “All I know is they were going to use my death to fuel the ritual to send father back in time. He was supposed to ensure you were never born.  Two others were to go with him, but I don’t know their missions.”

“How did you get away?”

“When he used the athame on me…my animagus form took over. I’m not certain what happened, I’ve never shifted before. I’ve been meditating and met my form, but this was the first time. I—well I blacked out. I don’t remember much until I woke in the orchard.”

“Well, at least you stopped them,” Neville said, but Harry could see Draco tense and then twitch from the healing wound.

Hermione saw it too, “You got away from them. You stopped them Draco. You’re safe here.”

“Please save the platitudes. They may not have completed the ritual, but I didn’t stop them.” Draco looked around before settling on Hermione. “I know you studied at least. Arithmancy 101, a circle does not contain the energy of a spell so much as it lends it shape and purpose while protecting the caster from outside influence. Once shape and purpose are set, the circle becomes redundant. Energy thus built does not dissipate with the destruction of a circle…”

“It merely transforms into potential energy until such time as it is triggered,” Hermione finished. She gasped and raised her hand in front of her mouth in shock. After a deep breath, “What is the trigger?”

Harry jerked up and looked to Draco, “My death.”

Neville grabbed Draco’s hand, “Well, that’s not going to happen.”

Hermione marched to the writing desk and withdrew one of the muggle notebooks he kept and a pencil. Kneeling at the coffee table, she began a long series of diagrams and calculations. Harry regretted his decision not to pursue arithmancy. Actually, he regretted a lot of his decisions on half-assing his education. Sure, he had a lot of adult assistance in throwing his life away, but he blamed himself for being so needy that he just dove into a world he didn’t understand to get away from the life he hated.

“How many did you kill?” Neville’s voice pulled Harry from his contemplation.

“I don’t know. I wanted to kill Father, and I’m certain I injured him, but I don’t know if he lives.” Draco shrugged and winced, his wounds still healing though at an incredible rate.

Neville went to the cooling cabinet and came back with a glass of the peach nectar. “Have another. The nectar isn’t as fast as the current potions, but it is magic neutral so many of the harsher potions can mix with this as a base to allow natural interaction with your core.”

“Nev, just give him the nectar.”

“Sorry, it’s my Herbology Mastery Project. Harry’s land has a natural pool between ley lines, and the land is ripe for magical plants. The peach trees’ roots dig deep enough to connect with the magic.” Neville blushed at Draco’s interest.

Draco leaned back while sipping the nectar, shifting once or twice to find a comfortable position. Harry watched him trying to relax while listening to the scratch, scratch, scratch of the pencil against paper.

“Merlin’s Hair Balls!” Draco spit out the nectar at Hermione’s exclamation.

“Hermione Jean Granger!” Harry admonished with a sudden shocked grin. It was awesome when she forgot herself and started cursing.

“Oh, really. Look at this.” She threw her paper onto the table, and Harry just traded glances at it over the coffee table with Neville. It was just a bunch of numbers.

Draco slowly pulled it to his side of the table, “This can’t be right.”

“Based on those calculations, the ritual would have produced enough power to send at least four consciousness back in time,” Hermione explained.

Neville cocked his head to the side considering, “Why just consciousness? Why not just go back in time?”

“It would put them at a severe disadvantage. They are too old to step into their own lives. If they alter any piece of the future, the version that went into the past will cease to exist, and they take the chance of endangering their own past lives. By replacing their mental presence, they retain their position, power, and regain a younger body. It’s dark as fuck, but there is no wizard alive that would be able to tell the difference because they are replacing themselves, but the body will be anchored in the proper time.”

Hermione pulled back the paper and circled one of the equations before tentatively passing it back to Draco. “This means what I think it does?” Draco asked with a slight waver in his voice.

“They anchored the spell to your existence. It was supposed to send them to the moment of your birth. They are losing one year of travel with each hour they delay completing the spell.”

Harry drummed his fingers on the table, “What happens when the time reaches his age?”

“It expires. And, when it does, it will rebound on the casters.”

“OK, that’s our goal. Draco, do you know who was in the ritual?”

“No, I woke up restrained in the circle. Father was the celebrant. The rest of the circle was robed and hooded. Whoever was included would have been at North behind Father to represent the mind. I couldn’t see.” Draco leaned back and let his head rest. “They have to kill me, or they die.”

Harry looked across at Draco, “We’ll keep you safe. I’m not going to let those bastards go back and change things. Not after everything we were forced to suffer. They don’t get a second chance to win.”

“Well, I’m not going to stop you. Gryffindors all of you. Running into danger without thinking things through. I want to live, so if you want to risk your own necks saving me, I’ll let you.” Draco slouched down on the couch.

“How magnanimous of you.” Neville rolled his eyes and grinned at Harry.

Hermione sighed and turned back to the matter at hand, “Harry, do you have the wards locked down?”

“Yes. I’m surprised he was able to find the land to begin with.”

“Dragons are resistant to such spells. It’s not easy to hide from a dragon.” Draco shrugged, “Would have expected you to remember that, Potter.”

“Don’t be a pratt, Draco,” Hermione muttered.

“Well, forgive me. I’m a little put out by my attempted execution.”

“Hey, no bickering.” Harry shook his head. “Hermione, maybe you should go back to Longbottom Manor and contact the DMLE.”

“No.”

“Draco?”

“I don’t know who was there or who they own. One word and they will be after me. They’re going to be desperate.”

“He’s right. The best thing we can do is barricade ourselves under the wards and wait this out. How long ago did it happen?”

“I’m not certain. I woke up on the alter and blacked out after I shifted. I have no idea.” Draco sat up and leaned forward, rubbing his hands over his face.  “I just don’t know.”

“Hey, it’s ok. We can handle this. You just turned twenty. How long was he here before you called me, Harry?” Neville asked.

“Maybe two hours. I approached him, determined he was an animagus, then started helping him. I spent at least an hour getting nectar into him before transporting him to the cabin. Then a bit of time putting him to bed. So, just over two hours.”

“We’ve been here three hours. So, we just need to stay hidden for fifteen more hours, and we will be certain we’re covered.” Neville looked around. “It’s basic math. We can do this.”

“OK, you’re right. You have terrific wards Harry, but I think we should layer some more inward like nesting dolls.” Hermione stood up, “I will create an exterior Ward around the house. Neville, you focus on an internal barrier. If they break through Harry’s Ward, then we will have time to evacuate.”

“That’s actually a good plan. What do you want me to do?” Draco asked.

Harry shook his head, “You need to rest.” He held out his hand when Draco opened his mouth, “No, Draco. You’re still healing. The best option is for you to go back to bed and sleep. If something happens that we must fight or run, we need you as healed as we can get. Really get some sleep. The rest of us will take turns in the room with you. As a last line of defense.”

Neville just took matters in his own hands and pulled Draco to his feet and pointed him toward the bedroom. After only the briefest hesitation he started moving, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

“Well, me first,” Hermione stated before opening the door and stepping out to set her ward. Harry could see it was a nasty piece of work that included limb removal if the trespasser became violent. Well, good. Harry was in complete agreement.

She stepped back in after about twenty minutes and locked the door before Neville stepped up and started a complicated piece of work mirroring her spell from within. If someone tried to enter it was going to be a bloodbath.

“Ok,” Neville put away his wand and picked up a lap throw before heading toward the bedroom. “I’ll take first watch.”

Harry headed to his own room to pack an emergency bag. Hermione watched him for a moment before heading toward the kitchen, presumably to do the same. Overall, it was a sound strategy to be prepared to be on the run at a moment’s notice.

The hours ticked by, and they switched out the watcher in the bedroom after three hours. Harry sat in the darkened room watching Draco’s even breathing. It was a strange relationship. In school, they would have happily murdered each other. But now, it had transitioned to a comfortable detente. They had goals, working together presented an opportunity to accomplish their goals concurrently, therefore they had learned to coexist. Harry wouldn’t necessarily call it a friendship, but he does wonder sometimes how things would have gone if they had not met with instant animosity. Draco may not remember, but Harry remembers the boy in Madame Malkins who was excited to get his first school robes. How might things have changed if Harry had befriended him then?

Harry shifted in his chair and stretched muscles that had remained stationary too long. He leaned forward to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Neville would have the next watch, and Harry was hoping to catch some sleep.

Sound from the living room caught his attention. Listening he caught a voice he recognized and moved quickly to shake Draco awake while covering his mouth to prevent sound. Once he was sure Draco was awake enough to understand, he released him. He pulled a bamboo wand blank and handed it to Draco. It would only last for a handful of spells before it disintegrated, but it could be the difference between life and death. Draco gripped it, white-knuckled before nodding to Harry.

Harry cracked the door to a scene that made his blood boil.

“Ronald Bilious Weasley!” Hermione was squared off in front of him, stopping him from coming further into the room. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Neville rolled off the couch where he had been knapping, “More importantly, how did you get here?”

“I’m the one who should be asking what my fiancé is doing slagging around with two men without my permission.” Ron took another step forward, but Hermione did not give.

“Permission. Permission? I will have you know I don’t need your permission for anything. If I want to see my best friends, I will see them. And for your information, if I want to go to law school and have a successful career, I will have that too. How dare you tell my boss that I won’t be working after we marry.”

“I’m only doing what’s right. You need to learn your place. I let you play around even though Mom advised me not to. She told me it would go to your head and you would start getting airs, and she was right, wasn’t she? You started thinking you were better than us. Well, it’s time you learn and now is as good a time as any. I want you to go home now, and I forbid you from seeing Neville or Harry again.” Ron stood firm and faced her down.

“You forbid? You think you have the right to forbid me?”

“I can’t have you ruining our reputations. Look, we’re going to move up the wedding date. Mom thinks it’s for the best.”

“No.”

“What?”

“I said no, Ronald.” She removed the cheap engagement ring and threw it at him. “You never get to order me to do anything again. We’re over. Take your ring back and put it on your Mummy’s finger. She’s the one you want to marry after all.”

“You little,” Ron pulled back his arm and Harry prepared to intervene, but Neville beat him to it with a punch to the face that threw him back a few steps.

Neville pulled his wand on Ron, “We can take up the part of this dance where you continue to insult my friend, and I make you regret being born after you answer my question. Now, how did you find Hermione here?”

Ron wiped the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand. “What does it matter how? I found her here shacking up with you, now didn’t I?”

Neville blasted Ron with a moderate bludgeoning spell then repeated himself, “How did you find her?”

Ron started to open his mouth again but Neville raised his wand slightly, and Ron slumped backward in apparent surrender. He twisted his hand slightly and opened it. On the palm of his hand lay a device Harry had seen a few times during the war. It was a Deluminator. The Deluminator Dumbledore had left Ron in his will. The same one Ron had used to track down Harry and Hermione after Ron abandoned them.

“You used Dumbledore’s Deluminator?” Hermione shook her head at Neville’s glance. “It helps you find things you have lost or abandoned, no matter how they are hidden.” She traded a horrified look with Neville. “That means you stupid pig that you opened a hole into our defenses and…”

The fireplace exploded in multiple flashes of light as figures began appearing in the living room. Magic was flying as death eaters swarmed the home. Harry was frozen between his need to fight with his friends and his mission to protect Draco.

He felt Draco shaking in shock, fear, and hate behind him as Lucius Malfoy appeared in the room, one arm bound to his side. Without thought, Harry fired a severing charm at the man and watched in a kind of amused horror as Ron Weasley was caught in the path of four spells and slid away into at least three separate parts.

Lucius was moving slowly and obviously wounded as he dove for cover. “You little ungrateful brat. You had a destiny, a purpose and you run to the enemy? There’s no forgiveness for betraying your family, Draco.”

Draco was practically vibrating; the anger was pouring off him in waves, and his eyes were tinting toward orange. “Forgiveness, Father. Why would I want forgiveness from the filth that murdered my mother? The one who wants to murder me.”

“Don’t be melodramatic. You have a role to play, and you will do so willingly or not.”

“I choose not.” Harry pushed him down before Draco could try to move into the living room. Harry’s shield was barely holding. “Get it together! I can’t fight you and them at the same time.” Draco met Harry’s eyes and nodded.

They shifted position again now that Draco was no longer trying to get out and watched the fight. Hermione and Neville were good, but they were outnumbered. The wand work was fast and deadly. Harry’s living room was demolished, and his friends were quickly running out of cover. He couldn’t leave his friends, but it was for naught if he allowed them to finish their ritual.

Harry accio’d a vase and spared a moment to create a portkey. He handed it to Draco. “The activation phrase is Gryffindor. I’m going to give Neville and Hermione a chance to get in here, but if they get past me when I let them through the shield, use it.”

He turned back without looking for acknowledgment and only hoped Draco would wait for the rest of them if he could. Harry took a deep breath, ended his shield and shot forward with spell after spell hitting Death eaters and he could see Neville dragging Hermione behind him. As soon as they were in the doorway, he started backing up, one step at a time while fighting a losing battle of numbers. He wasn’t holding back. There was no attempt to stun. Every spell was a potential killing strike. Stepping through the doorway, he started to throw up another shield when he saw Lucius Malfoy standing in the open to strike. Without thinking, Harry sent a piercing charm through his heart.

“Harry!” Hermione’s shriek was like a knife in the gut, and Harry spun from the image of Lucius’s body falling to the floor to see a flash of cloak as another death eater apparated into the bedroom.

Harry launched himself toward Draco and the others who were now holding the portkey. “GRYFFINDOR!” Harry screamed, activating the portkey just as a cutting curse struck Draco in the jugular. Blood sprayed across them as the portkey whisked them away. Draco’s frightened eyes filled with pain and then life slowly faded from them as they spun into their journey. The last glimpse of life vanished as everything faded to black and it felt as if the spinning would never end.

– – – – –

Harry picked himself up off the ground, reaching for a wand that wasn’t there. He looked around quickly for cover and was amazed to find himself on Diagon Alley. Glancing toward the nearest window, he saw his reflection, a vision of himself he had not seen in years. He reached for his broken glasses before staring at his image. He shook his head.

“No, this can’t be happening.” People passing down the walk jostled him, and he started to pull himself together. Time to break down later. He looked up at the sign that read Madam Malkins and quickly opened the door.

The shop was well lit and organized, but he quickly looked around. He remembered this, and if his memory was correct this is where he would find…

“Here for your Hogwarts Robes, dear?” Madam Malkin asked.

“Um, yes ma’am.”

“Right over there, you’ll be next.”

The boy on the stand with his arms out for measurements whipped around and locked eyes with Harry in surprise, hope, and fear. He glanced to the side as Madam Malkin moved away to complete a sale with a customer before turning back and swallowing hard. “Harry?”

“Draco, thank Merlin!”

“What happened?” Draco demanded.

“We were getting away with the portkey when someone got off a cutting curse and hit you in the neck. Can you remember anything?” Harry looked around to be sure no one could hear them.

“No, last I remember you were being all Gryffindor and trying to save the others. Then you were grabbing hold of the vase. Next thing I was standing up there with Madam fitting the robe.”

“OK. If I remember correctly, one of your parents will be here in a few minutes to collect you. Are you going to be ok with your…your father?”

Draco paled and then swallowed hard, “Yes, I can do this. I can. I have to.” He perked up, “Mother. Mother took me shopping my first year. Do you think Father came back too?”

“No, I don’t think he did. He died before you. Hermione said the ritual could fuel at least four consciousness to travel back. You’re here, and I don’t think that was expected. When the spell activated Hermione, Neville, and I were touching you, and we were covered in your blood. We need to see if they’re here too.” Harry started to turn, and Draco grabbed him.

“Look at yourself and try to use a brain cell. You’re eleven years old. How are you going to get to them without a thousand questions?” Draco raised an eyebrow at Harry’s exasperated huff.

“We need plans. If we’re stuck here…and there is no way my father was involved in a ritual of this intricacy without being certain it would work, then we need to figure this out.”

“OK, agreed. If I remember right, Hermione’s family already took her shopping. But, I should be able to get her telephone number and call her in the muggle world. Neville, though, I can’t get to him. His gran will be bringing him sometime this week to shop, I don’t recall when.”

“I can try to get a message to him. A paid post owl would do it. Mother and I will be back next week for a special order she’s making.”

They stopped talking as the assistant came to remove the fitted robes from Draco. “Let your mother know that we will have this order delivered as requested, her special order will be ready by next Wednesday.” She turned toward Harry, “You’re next, dear.”

“Can I be back in just a minute? I forgot to drop off a message.”

“Of course, but hurry back. Busy time of year you know.”

“Thank you, and I will need a new wardrobe in addition to the standard school robes.” Harry looked down at his current clothes.”

“You do at that deary. OK, run ahead, and I will start pulling ready made for you to try on.”

Draco and Harry ran out of the store and down to the paid post owlery.

“What should we say?” Draco asked.

Harry shrugged, “Keep it short in case someone else reads it.”

Draco considered a moment before taking a slip of parchment and writing. He dusted it and blew across the ink to help it dry before rolling it up and tying it with a bit of twine. He paid the owl keeper then picked a nondescript owl and tied the message to the owl’s leg. “Take this to Neville Longbottom, Longbottom Manor and wait for a reply.

With a last look, he released the bird, and the boys watched it fly away with its delicate cargo. They traded looks then took off back to Madam Malkins. Harry for his fitting and Draco to await his mother’s imminent arrival. Harry was certain of one thing. This time around, he was going to control his destiny.

– – – –

It was mid-day, and Neville was sitting in his room trying not to hyperventilate. An owl sat on the edge of his desk, eating from a small bowl of treats he had quickly retrieved before the owl would give up his message. He stared down at the small scroll that was unrolled on his desk. Written on the paper was a single question: Can you remember the sweet taste of peaches? -DM & HP

– – – –

6 thoughts on “The Sweet Taste of Peaches

  1. Accidental time travel is always so fun! Great method. And nice setup for how the Death Eaters got to them after their careful prep – Ron can always screw up a plan.

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