Chapter 4 : Down the Path
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Harry looked up from the book he was staring at to see Ariana race past him and into the arms of a dark-haired gangly youth. The boy grabbed Ariana under her arms and gave her a little twirl, making her giggle and squeal again.
Harry closed his book and stared at the boy curiously. For some reason he looked familiar, especially the hair. Was this one of his relatives? What had Mr. Dumbledore said was the boy’s name? Ronald? Richard? It was Richard, wasn’t it?
As Harry watched someone else join the boy and Ariana at the gate to the garden his breath caught and a lump appeared in his throat.
Standing behind the boy was a plump man of about thirty years. He had messy black hair and a round, cheery, easy-going face. Despite the differences the similarity between this man and Harry’s father was unmistakable. This was definitely one of his relatives, maybe even his ancestor.
Ariana let out another squeal when she saw him, “Uncle Marcus!”
Marcus knelt down so he was on Ariana’s level and gave her a friendly hug. From across the garden Harry could clearly hear his polished, aristocratic voice, “Good morning, young lady. You’re looking more beautiful everytime I see you.”
Ariana giggled again and Harry felt the lump disappear as a grin slipped onto his face. He couldn’t help it, just seeing his family act like normal, nice human beings made him feel happy.
“Come meet my hero!” Ariana said when she was done giggling. She grabbed their hands and pulled them down the garden path to where Harry was sitting.
Harry knew the exact moment that the newcomers saw him sitting in the shade. The boy’s jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide while Marcus looked merely surprised.
Ariana didn’t notice their reaction; she just kept pulling them over until they were in front of Harry.
“Uncle Marcus, Richie, this is Harry! He saved me from the bad boys. He’s my hero!” As Ariana said this she let go of Marcus and Richie’s hands and threw herself at Harry, giving him a big hug and making him drop his book so he could hug her back.
The three Potters stared at each other for a moment, their eyes moving across each other’s faces.
“Percival spoke the truth, the resemblance is uncanny,” Marcus finally whispered.
“Are we related?” Richie asked in a shocked voice. Even through the shock Harry could tell from his voice that this boy had been raised among purebloods. His voice held the same aristocratic tone that Draco’s had at the same age. There was no coldness in this boy’s voice though, only shock.
Harry glanced down at Ariana before answering. She didn’t know he was anything unusual and he didn’t know if her parents wanted her to know.
“Ariana, can you let your parents know they have guests?” Harry asked.
Ariana pulled out of her hug and grinned up at him, “Yes.” She then turned and skipped up the garden path to the house.
Once she was out of earshot Harry spoke.
“Yes, I think you’re my great-grandfather or something.”
Richie’s face grew confused, “Huh? How is that even possible?”
“You really did travel in time?” Marcus asked.
Harry nodded, “Yes, I was born in 1980. An accident happened and I woke up here, in 1892.”
“Astounding!” Marcus exclaimed while Richie’s jaw hit the garden path.
Albus almost fell out of the tree when Harry said he was born in 1980.
So that was what was so odd about the boy! He could understand why his parents hadn’t wanted to tell Ariana or Aberforth about it, they were just babies. But he was ten! He’d be eleven next month! His Hogwarts letter was supposed to arrive any day now. Why hadn’t they told him?
“You’re really from the future?”
Albus looked down and scowled at Richie. Why was it alright for Richie to know? He was only a few months older. It wasn’t right!
As anger boiled up inside of him at the injustice Albus noticed the wind beginning to pick up. It took him a moment to realize that he was the cause. Unwilling to give away his hiding spot, even to relieve his frustration, he took a few deep breaths and forced himself to calm down.
There had to be a reason they hadn’t told him. His parents usually told him everything, or at least, they never hid anything from him.
What was different this time? Was it the boy? Were they keeping it from him because Harry had asked them to?
Why would they do that?
Was there something special about him?
Albus scowled and glared at Harry. The boy was not to be trusted. Sure, he had saved Ariana, but could that have been planned? Albus had tracked down Jimmy earlier and quizzed him on the incident. The boy had claimed no knowledge of it. He didn’t even know anything about Harry.
It had been rather odd.
Albus scowled even harder as his parents walked up the garden path and greeted Uncle Marcus and Richie. Aberforth and Ariana were nowhere to be seen and before Albus could even wonder where they’d been sent off to he found out.
“We’re free to talk for a little while. Albus is off on one of his nature walks and I sent Aberforth and Ariana to buy us a cake from the bakery in the village. It’s not often we all gather together.”
“A cake sounds lovely, Percival. Now, when is Donald going to be here? You mentioned in your letter that you wrote to him also?” Uncle Marcus asked.
“Yes, he should be here any minute.” His father turned his attention to Harry, “Harry, this is Marcus and Richard Potter, the last of the pureblood Potters.”
Harry shook hands with Uncle Marcus and Richie as he murmured politely, “Nice to meet you.”
The awkwardness in the air was thick enough to cut, even Albus could see that, and he usually missed little things like that.
Everyone kept looking back and forth between the three Potters.
The silence was only broken when Richie asked, “Are you going to be eleven by September 1st?”
Harry frowned a little, which confused Albus, why would he frown when asked about his birthday?
“My birthday is July 31st, I don’t know what day it is now though, so I don’t know,” Harry finally responded.
“It’s July 19th,” Albus’ mother said.
Albus almost lost control of his tightly wound temper when he heard the next little snippet of conversation.
“That’s wonderful! We’ll go to Hogwarts together! What House do you think you’ll be in?”
The excitement in Richie’s normally bored voice made Albus want to send his breakfast down on everyone’s heads. Why was everyone making such a big deal about this boy? He didn’t look like anything special.
The only thing special about him was that he’d used magic to stumble back in time somehow. And that probably wasn’t even his doing! He was only a child, and a tiny one at that, even if he was spirited. He’d probably gotten caught up in someone else’s experiment.
As the discussion below him dissolved into talk about Hogwarts and the Houses Albus settled in to wait for Uncle Donald. Hopefully the conversation would become much more interesting then, after all, his father wouldn’t have called Uncle Marcus and Uncle Donald to meet Harry without a good reason.
“Come on, boy. They’re waiting on us!”
Neville resisted the urge to sigh and trudged over to Donald, stepping carefully over the baskets upon baskets of stones and gems that littered the house. This man had to be his ancestor, he claimed to be the only Longbottom in existence, but Neville had never known anyone in his family to have such a strong obsession with rocks.
Plants he could understand, but rocks?
What was interesting about them?
“If you make me late I swear I’ll never marry and ensure that you’re never born!” Donald said this as he grabbed Neville’s arm. Before Neville could even come up with a response they apparated.
One second Neville was in a rather dirty and rock-filled version of the house he grew up in, the next he was in a pleasant grove of trees. Birds chirped in the branches above him as bees buzzed in the late-summer flowers.
Neville only got a moment to look around before his ancestor dragged him off. They hurried through the grove for a little while before stepping onto a little dirt path that snaked its way through the trees.
By this point Neville was panting and almost wheezing. He’d forgotten how chubby and out of shape his younger self was. Longbottoms were pre-disposed to childhood chubbiness and his grandmother’s cooking hadn’t helped.
When he felt like he was going to pass out he managed to find the strength to jerk his arm out of Donald’s grip.
“Pl –please, slow down,” he managed to get out through giant gulps of air.
Donald stopped and looked him over for a moment. “Are you going to live?”
Neville nodded weakly before putting his hands on his knees and trying to focus on drawing air into his lungs.
“Alright, I’m going ahead then. I refuse to be late. Just follow this path until you reach the fork. Go left, the Dumbledore residence is at the end of that path.”
By the time his words registered on Neville he was gone. Neville frowned as his breath began to return to normal. They were going to the Dumbledore’s house? Why hadn’t Donald told him that? All he’d said was that they were going to where Harry was.
Was he going to get to see the Headmaster as a child? Was he born yet? Neville had no idea how old Professor Dumbledore was. He knew he was older than Gran, but how much older?
Shaking his head at his pointless wonderings he set off down the path. This time he traveled at a much more leisurely pace, taking the time to observe the different plants. Judging from the types of plants he guessed he was somewhere in southwest England, maybe near the Isles of Scilly. There was no hint of salt in the air, so he knew he wasn’t too close to the coast.
After about ten minutes or so Neville was interrupted from his musings when he reached the fork in the road.
He stopped and stared down each of the paths, trying to remember which way Donald had said to go. He’d been too focused on breathing to focus on the instructions and with his naturally forgetful mind…well, now he was in a pickle.
Neville crossed his arms and bit his lip as he looked from one path to the other. Was it left or right?
He found himself wishing for his wand, but Donald had taken it away from him as soon as he had arrived. He’d been told he could have it back if he got a letter from Hogwarts, which wasn’t likely in Neville’s opinion. How could he get a Hogwarts letter if he was really fifteen?
It didn’t make sense.
Turning his attention back to the problem of which fork to take Neville realized he had only one good decision: sit and wait.
He wasn’t sure how far past the fork the house was and if he took the wrong one he could wander for hours. His best option was to sit and wait for Donald to get frustrated enough to either come and get him or send someone to get him.
So, attempting to get comfortable, Neville found a likely spot under a huge oak tree and settled down to wait for someone to come and look for him.
Aberforth shifted the basket on his shoulder as he wandered down the forest path. Ariana skipped along by his side, singing some song about dancing fairies.
Three pretty fairies, three pretty fairies,
See how they dance, see how they dance,
They all dance for the fairy queen,
Who sits upon her pumpkin throne,
Did you ever see such a wonderful sight,
As three pretty dancing fairies?
Aberforth resisted the urge to sing along. He was eight years old, much too old for singing children songs. He’d be at Hogwarts in a few years, even his mother was trusting him more.
He smiled at that thought. Last summer he wouldn’t have been allowed to go the village alone with his sister, especially on such an important errand. It wasn’t often that they got a bakery cake. Aberforth liked his lips at the thought of the cake residing in his basket. It was a delicious looking concoction covered in icing, chocolate, and berries.
Aberforth couldn’t wait until after dinner.
Suddenly Ariana’s singing stopped and Aberforth looked up to see her squatting by the side of the road, staring at something under the giant oak tree.
“Ariana, what did you find?”
“A boy,” she put her finger over her lips and looked up at him, “Shhh, he’s sleeping.”
Aberforth frowned and set the basket down carefully. A boy? Why was a boy down here? The only other boys around here were Albus and Harry and Ariana would recognize them.
Creeping over Aberforth found a blonde, chubby boy of about Albus’ age sleeping. He was dressed in plain black wizarding robes.
Carefully Aberforth reached out and poked the boy in the shoulder. A moment later he found himself flat on his back with the boy’s fist raised, like he was aiming an invisible wand at Aberforth’s head.
Ariana let out a shriek and ran over to push the boy off, before she reached them though Aberforth had already reacted.
He bucked his hips and gave a little twist of his body. He almost had the boy pinned when he woke up the rest of the way. Before Aberforth knew what was happening he and the boy were rolling around on the ground, trying to get the upper hand on each other.
“Stop it!” Ariana yelled, but Aberforth ignored her. He didn’t know who this boy was, but NOBODY got the best of him in a fight! Especially not some strange chubby boy, even if he was older.
“I said, STOP it!” Ariana screamed.
Just as Aberforth thought he was going to get the upper hand he abruptly found himself yanked off the ground and suspended in the air, just out of reach of the other boy.
Aberforth saw the shock he felt mirrored on the other boy’s face. It took a moment for him to realize that there was nothing holding him in the air. They hadn’t been pulled apart because an adult had found them; rather, Ariana had done a little magic.
Surprised, Aberforth looked over to see Ariana glaring at them, her little hands on her hips.
“Ariana! Put me down!”
“No! I told you to stop it! Why’d you attack him?”
Aberforth gaped at her, “What? I didn’t attack him! I poked him to wake him up and he attacked me!”
“What else was I supposed to do!?! I fell asleep in a weird place and woke up to people leaning over me! For all I knew you were Death Eaters!” The boy exclaimed.
Aberforth and his sister frowned in confusion as they looked at the dangling boy.
“Death Eaters? What are those?” Aberforth found himself asking.
The boy blanched and shook his head quickly, “Forget I said that! Hey, do you know where the Dumbledore house is? Donald ran off and left me and I don’t know which way to go.”
Aberforth could tell the boy was trying to change the subject and he wanted to ignore it. He wanted to know what a Death Eater was, but he had the feeling that Ariana shouldn’t know what it was. So he filed the question away for later, when Ariana wasn’t around.
“Uncle Donald’s here?” Ariana asked.
The boy’s face lit up, “So you know him? Can you take me to the Dumbledore’s?”
Aberforth rolled his eyes, “Of course we can. I’m Aberforth Dumbledore and that’s Ariana Dumbledore. I’ll take you there right now if Ariana will just let us down.”
“Oh! Sorry!” Ariana squeaked. She squeezed her eyes tight and seemed to concentrate really hard for a moment. When nothing happened she opened her eyes and looked up at Aberforth with tears swimming in her eyes. “I don’t think I can…”
Aberforth sighed, it figured.
“Don’t worry, Ariana. Just grab the basket and hurry home. Father can get us down. This isn’t a really uncomfortable position, is it–” Aberforth paused when he realized he didn’t know the boy’s name.
“Neville. And, no, it’s not uncomfortable. Just embarrassing, not anything new to me.”
“I’ll be right back then!” Ariana ran over, grabbed the basket, and carefully hurried down the left path.
Once she had disappeared around a bend in the path Aberforth turned (as best he could) to stare at Neville.
“What’s a Death Eater?”
Neville bit his lip and seemed to think for a minute, it looked like he was trying to come to a tough decision. Finally he spoke.
“Have you met Harry Potter?”
Aberforth frowned, this boy knew Harry? Were they friends? They didn’t look enough alike to be family. “Yes, he’s at my house. He saved Ariana from bullies yesterday.”
Neville smiled and shook his head ruefully. “He does that. He saved me a couple of times over the years.”
Aberforth could see why Neville would be bullied, but he was still confused, “What does that have to do with Death Eaters?”
“Harry and I were at the Ministry of Magic with a few more of our friends. We were there to rescue someone from Death Eaters. They’re evil wizards that follow the most evil wizard of them all, he’s called…” Neville stopped and gulped before saying in a rush, “Lord Voldemort. Don’t make me say his name again. He’s been trying to kill Harry since he was a baby. We don’t know why.”
Aberforth was still confused. “Why have I never heard them? Are they in control of the government?”
Neville shook his head quickly, “No, you haven’t heard of them because they won’t be around for another hundred years. There was an accident and Harry, another friend, and I found ourselves swept back in time to now. I think we’re going to try and find our other friend and get back home if we can.” Neville’s face grew resolute, “We have to get back home, our friends are depending on us.”
Aberforth tried to process the information he’d been given. Harry and Neville were from the future? When he thought about it, it made sense. About why Harry seemed so odd, why he had a wand, and why his father had called his two best friends for help.
“Is it so bad in the future that you have to fight evil wizards before you go to Hogwarts?” Aberforth found himself asking.
Neville shook his head, “No, for some reason when we came to the past I got younger, I don’t know if Harry or Hermione did, but we’re all really fifth years.”
“Yeah, we just took our O.W.L.S., I wonder how we did on them. I’m sure I flunked everything. Gran’s going to be really disappointed.”
The look on the other boy’s face was so disappointed that Aberforth couldn’t help but say, “I’m sure you did fine.”
The two of them lapsed into silence after that as they dangled in mid-air.
Aberforth was never so happy to see his father as he was when he rounded the bend in the forest path. His father was accompanied by Harry and Richie. The two boys were talking animatedly about something and Aberforth couldn’t help but notice the similarities between them – they could’ve been twins.
“Harry!!!” Neville called out when he noticed that the rescue party had arrived.
Harry looked up and grinned when he saw Neville. Aberforth couldn’t help but notice that the grin transformed his features. He’d smiled since he had arrived yesterday, but not like that, not a smile of pure joy and honest friendship.
“Neville! Good to see you! Haven’t I seen you in this position before?” Harry called out.
Neville grinned back and chuckled, “Yes, but this time I can’t blame pixies! Unless Aberforth’s sister here is part pixie!”
Aberforth’s father chuckled, “I think she might be. It comes from her mother’s side, I’m sure.”
Aberforth grinned as his father waved his wand and he felt himself float to the ground. His sister was definitely pixie-like.
“Thanks, Father. Ariana’s dangerous.”
His father chuckled again, “Yes, she’s going to be a very powerful witch if she just survive long enough for us to get her to Hogwarts.”
“Oh, she’ll survive. It’s the rest of us that won’t.” Richie said in his normal, perfectly dead-pan voice.
Harry grinned, “I know what you mean, a friend of ours has a little sister like that. Doesn’t Ariana remind you of Ginny, Neville?”
“A little. I can see Ginny hanging us up in the air if we get on her nerves,” Neville replied as the five of them headed up the path, Alberforth’s father quickly pulling ahead of the rest of them with his longer stride.
“Yeah, I hope she and the others are alright.” Harry said so softly to Neville that Aberforth almost missed it.
“They’re fine, you trained us well,” Neville said back just as softly.
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes,” Neville said firmly.
“I’m glad you have faith in me after that trap.”
“It wasn’t your fault, you were tricked.”
“Harry, even if we’d known it was a trap we would’ve followed you.”
“That’s a stupid thing to say.”
The two boys chuckled softly then and Aberforth shared a look with Richie. The two of them had no idea what Harry and Neville were talking about, but they did know one thing – something about the camaraderie between them was contagious, they wanted to be friends with these two boys. They wanted to be a part of whatever it was these boys were doing, no matter what.
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