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Into the Arena: The Cursed Child

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INTO THE ARENA: THE CURSED CHILD

~ the girl with the sword ~ the life and death of Harry Potter ~ the great grounding ~ there’s no place like home ~~ lost children crossing ~ the heir and the spare ~ if it wasn’t for you meddling kids ~ this is a kidnapping ~ flight of death ~ can’t and won’t ~ thieves and liars in the night ~

 

PART ONE

April 16th, 2009 

 

~ the girl with the sword

 

 When her father had gone off to fight, he had hugged her tight, like he was trying to remember the shape and warmth of her. Just like she was him. Then he had pulled back, his reluctance only showing in the fingers that lingered on her shoulders, and smiled at her. Like a man who was walking off to face death yet again, but wouldn’t miss it, because it was for the world.

 Then he ruffled her hair, the git, and said grinningly, “Don’t let trouble find you, love.”

 Just come back, she didn’t say.

 Don’t die, she didn’t say.

 Instead, she scoffed, and said, “You’re one to talk, Dad.”

 Her father laughed. “S’pose I am,” he agreed, and his calloused fingers finally pulled away. “I’ll see you on the other side, love, when this is all over. Listen to Hannah and Neville. Don’t fight with Al or Jim or Lily or Scorpius. Look after Teddy.”

 And then he left, before she could come up with anything clever to say. Aw, but I was gonna kill ‘em and make it look like an accident, was the first thing that had come to mind. But that wasn't clever. And it had been a little too morbid. Even for her. Watching her father walk off to fight Voldemort, for what might be the last time, her gallows humour gathered in her stomach and made her feel unfunny. Almost sick with it.

 She could see people watching her father go, with knowing looks that turned sadly to her. Witches and wizards and elves and goblins alike. They watched her father go with respect, but all she could see was people paying their respects. Like the third time would be the charm for Voldemort.

 “Pssst!”

 Her head snapped around. Teddy, her father’s godchild, was gesturing for her to join them behind a stack of crates. Teddy seemed insistent about it. So, she trudged over to join them, because her father was gone now, and anything was better than standing around not crying.

 Most of the time, it was very easy to not cry. She went around not crying all the time. But suddenly, now, it was very hard. Suddenly all she could think about was how she was Not Crying. She wanted to think about anything else, and figuring out why Teddy, who was her sibling in all the ways that counted, was looked so very shifty… well… it counted just fine as “anything else”.

 “What?” she snapped. “What’re you sneaking around for?”

 She’d been wondering where Teddy had gone.

 Teddy shoved a finger against their lips, mashing their nose, with a furtive look. “Shh! Not so loud!” They grabbed her arm and pulled her farther behind the crates, like they were up to something, as usual. “We don’t want anyone to hear this! If anyone sees us, they’ll know and the gig is up!”

 “What gig? What are you doing now? Ted, now’s not the time for-”

 Teddy pressed the finger against her mouth. “Shh!”

 Her eyes narrowed on her god-sibling. She would bite this finger, so help her.

 Teddy seemed to sense this and, sensibly, retracted the hand. This wasn’t the first time Teddy had pulled her to crouch secretively behind something and then tried to talk her into helping them into or out of trouble. But Teddy then shuffled nervously as she glared at them. Which was strange, because Teddy wasn’t at all the sort to be cowed by her glare, or by much of anything. Which meant they must’ve done something awful this time.

 “What. Did. You. Do?” she hissed.

 They were at the end of things, finally. It just wasn’t the time for any stupid mischief.

 “I… I might’ve told Nev that we’d be with Angie,” Teddy whispered, fiddling with the old, battered watch they newly had taped to their wrist. “And I might’ve told Angie that we’d be with Nev.”

 She blinked at them. Then she looked at the watch they were fiddling with.

 It was her father’s watch. He’d given it to Teddy just yesterday, as an early birthday present, and she hadn’t begrudged it of Teddy. They were practically siblings. Besides, she had her Aunt Andy’s watch on her wrist now – a pretty golden thing with a red strap, though useless with its broken face, an allowance – she’d had it ever since Teddy’s grandmother had died years ago, even though she’d barely had to the chance to know the woman.

 Oh.

 If she hadn’t already been scowling at Teddy, she would’ve done so now.

 “You’re going after Dad,” she said accusingly.

 Teddy lifted their chin defiantly. She should’ve seen it immediately, with the goggles pushed up into Teddy’s dandelion fluffy, bubble-gum blue hair, and with the purse wrapped like an unnecessary belt around one of Teddy’s late mum’s Weird Sisters shirts. Teddy had a long, ragged black cloak sitting on their shoulders that had seen many an ill-advised adventure.

 “Yeah, I am,” Teddy said. “Someone’s got to make sure he makes it back.”

 “He always makes it back, Ted,” she said.

 I’d kill him myself if he didn’t, she didn’t say. I’d find a way to bring him back and kill him again.

 “In one piece? Well, I’m gonna make sure he keeps it that way. He’s never gone off to fight Him on his own before! Not like this! You heard what Ron said, didn’t you? That this was basically a suicide run!” Teddy’s voice was the accusing one now. “And Aunt Luna said that he’d been depressed lately and Jim told Al that Harry might not make it back-”

 “Jim’s an idiot and so is Al.”

 “-because He’s definitely going to be really angry about the Sealing! Which made Lily cry and-”

 “Dad’s not going to die,” she snapped.

 But the words felt hollow. Just like the smiles all around, as her father had gone off to fight. It was true that he’d never gone off quite like this. He didn’t really have anyone watching his back this time. Not really. He’d said that he wouldn’t really be alone, but those words had felt hollow too.

 “Yeah, he’s not,” Teddy agreed fiercely. “Because I’m going off to make sure he makes it out.”

 “You?” she said. “You think you can help him fight Him?”

 “If I have to,” Teddy said determinedly, but she could see the fright in their look.

 “Ted, you’re ten.”

 “I’m nearly eleven, thanks!” Teddy snapped back, the younger sibling who had never acted like it. “And I could if I had to! Don’t act like you’re sooo much older! You’re not even twelve yet and I’m already taller, so I don’t need any ‘looking after’ from you! Harry’s the one who needs the looking after and I’m going after him and I didn’t have to invite you to come with me.”

 It would have been so easy to shout out that she and Teddy were there. That Teddy was swearing on getting up to no good, like her father liked to say, and some real foolish no good at that. And that Teddy was trying to talk her into it again. In that moment, she wanted to be that petty.

 “Come on, Delphi,” Teddy whispered, pleading. “Don’t you want your dad to come home?”

 It was the only thing Delphi wanted. That only thing she truly wanted.

 She might have been born before the Sealing that had cut them off from the rest of the world and unleashed such wild magic into the prison Voldemort had made, but she remembered nothing of that world. She had never seen the world beyond. Everyone had always told her that the grass was greener on the other side and Delphi had wanted to see it, more badly than she had ever wanted anything before, but not half so badly as she wanted her father, Harry Potter, to live now.

 Delphi remembered the world before she’d met her father, barely, in bright flashes of fear and misery and flight. That was a world that Delphi didn’t want to see. That was a world Delphi would do anything not to have to see again. Nothing could be so terrifying as losing her father.

 Not even Him.

 But what could she do about it?

 Delphi swallowed. “What are you going to do, Ted? How are you even going to get there?”

 Ted grinned at her – like they thought they were being clever, like they knew that they’d won talking in into trouble again, like they’d thought of running after Harry first – and Delphi scowled at them again for it. But her scowl disappeared when Teddy pulled out a familiar bag of marbles from their purse. A bag of Portkeys.  

 Oh.

 “I’m gonna get Harry out of there,” Teddy said determinedly. “Sneak in and watch, while everyone’s distracted, and wait for the right moments. Hit and run, if I have to. Distract Him, if I have to. Just grab Harry and do a runner, if I have to.” They lifted their chin again. “Someone has to make sure that Harry makes it back, so it might as well be me.”

 Teddy sounded like Dad, saying that.

 “And you,” Teddy tacked on, daringly, sounding more like themselves. “If you’re brave enough.”

 Delphi’s eyes narrowed on her god-sibling again.

 I’m telling, she didn’t say.

 You can’t dare me to do something this foolish, she didn’t say.

 Instead, she said, archly and rather stupidly, “I have more bravery in my pinky toe, than you do in your whole body.” I can do that too. That someone can be me too. “You’re not going anywhere without me, Teddy Lupin-Tonks.”

 Harry had said to look after them, after all.

 “Dressed like that?” Teddy said, with a teasing grin, like they weren’t wearing sparkly pink trainers for a bloody stealth mission. “I wouldn’t be caught dead like that, if I were you.”  

 Delphi sniffed at him. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in it either, which is rather the point.”

 She had her own adventuring clothes on, in preparation for their journey to the world beyond the Sealing, which was admittedly a bit dull next to Teddy. Jeans and a jumper, with a blue raincoat overtop, and sensible boots. Her wallet was in her coat pocket. Her black hair was tied tightly back into a manageable ponytail, because some of them couldn’t change their appearance on complete whims, and Delphi’s hair was wild with whims of its own when it was long.

 “Guess it is at that,” Teddy said cheerfully. “But we oughta go, if we wanna get there on time. I can’t get us right to the Ministry, only to the closest hideout. D’you need anything else?”

 While Delphi had felt equipped, at least in her outfit, to leave the Sealing behind her… Well, she did feel a bit empty-handed going off to maybe face Voldemort alongside her father. She had her own pair of goggles in her wallet, so she got those out and put them on her forehead to pull down later. And… she still felt empty-handed.

 Delphi ran through the list of useful things she had tucked away, especially the things she had been given in the hopes she would never need them. She had her Unbeatable Beater’s bat in her wallet, a well-used birthday present which usually kept her from feeling empty-handed, but she didn’t want to get it out yet. Besides, bringing a Beater’s bat to a fight with a Dark Lord, no matter how the bat had been modified or how nice it was to fantasize whacking him with it, felt a bit… not enough.

 “Come on,” Teddy whispered. “We’ve gotta sneak out before we can pop out of here.”

 Teddy crawled along the crates and Delphi watched them.

 “What’re you doing?”

 Teddy looked back at her suspiciously. “Sneaking out.”

 Delphi scoffed. “That’s not sneaking out,” she said, and reached back into her wallet for one of those useful things. She felt around for what her father had left her. Once she had it, she pulled, and her father’s Invisibility Cloak billowed out in a pile of shimmering fabric. “This is sneaking out.”

 Teddy’s jaw dropped. “Wicked,” they breathed. “When did Harry give you that?”

 “A few days ago,” Delphi answered smugly. 

 Delphi felt less empty-handed, as she wrapped the cloak around herself and Teddy, and held on tightly. Her father had given her the Invisibility Cloak, properly hers to have and use as she pleased, well or wickedly, and it made Delphi feel as safe as such a gesture had scared her. But it wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t be enough to just sit and hide under the Invisibility Cloak, and hope not to die and hope that her father wouldn’t die.

 She saw what she was missing as she and Teddy were halfway to the door.

 Oh.

 Delphi put her hand on Teddy’s shoulder and tugged, eyes fixed greedily on the gleaming metal sitting on a table. Temporarily set aside. Temporarily unguarded. A weapon that could temporarily finally be hers.  

 “Psst, Ted. We need to get that.”

 Teddy followed her furtive gesture and their jaw dropped again. “Nev’s sword? You want to take Neville’s sword?” Then they grinned, wide and appreciative and always willing to be talked into getting up to no good, and said, “Wicked.”

 Delphi had wanted that sword since she’d first seen it. It was far easier than it ought to have been, to slowly cross the room around the edges, to slip the sword under the cloak with them when no one was looking, and to sneak away. Delphi definitely didn’t feel empty-handed holding it. Her heart fluttered in her throat as they snuck away – the sword gleamed so sharply, all bloody rubies and goblin silver, and its venom was famously deadly – but she didn’t feel empty-handed anymore.

 “Let’s get out of here,” Teddy whispered, with a sharp gleam of excitement in their eyes from the theft, as they neared the door again. “You’re making us late, Delphi. If you don’t want if, I’ll take it.”

 Delphi scowled at them and held the sword away. “No,” she hissed. “It’s mine.”

 “You’re not even a bit Gryffindor,” Teddy complained.

 “You’re not even a bit Slytherin,” Delphi countered easily. “I’m still closer.”

 She felt properly fierce and brave with the Sword of Godric Gryffindor in her hands. She might not have had a bit of Gryffindor in her, but she had that bit of Slytherin in her, and… well… Gryffindor and Slytherin had been friends once upon a time. Delphi decided that Gryffindor wouldn’t mind. If he did mind, well… it was over his dead body, sort of… so Gryffindor could just deal with it while she went off to find her father and make sure Dad didn’t die on her.

 Her father had told her not to let trouble find her, as he’d left. Following him now, Delphi had no intention of letting trouble find her or Teddy. Letting trouble find her was letting it get the drop on her. It was much better, Delphi thought, to go out and find trouble first. Then she’d get the drop on it first. And there was a lot she and Teddy could do sneaking around and surprising people.

 Harry had taught them that, whether he’d meant to or not.

 “You ready, Del?” Teddy whispered, once they’d finally made it out the door.

 Delphi scoffed. “I’m waiting on you.”

 Teddy grinned, like they could see the tightness of her grin on the sword, and held up one of the marbles. Delphi used her free hand to grab tightly on the Invisibility Cloak, while Teddy linked arms with her sword arm with their free hand.

 “The Ministry of the Ministry of Magic,” Teddy whispered.

 And the night around them flew apart, as the Portkey tugged them away.

 

 April 17th, 2009

 

 ~ the life and death of Harry Potter 

 

 There were things that Harry had expected of this final midnight duel with Voldemort. He had expected that it would be bloody and vicious and graceless. It didn’t surprise him that they were tearing the Ministry down around them, column by column, arch by arch, and roof by floor by wall.

 It didn’t surprise him that their shields were shattering again and again, sometimes secondary in how they had turned to a fight of death and pain and horror thrown with furious abandon. Metal and stone, fire and lightning, whatever else they could throw about that had always given Voldemort and other terrible men delusions of godhood. The best defence was a good offense, wasn’t it? Anything – anything – to kill the foe that had foiled them for so long.

 Voldemort had nothing left to lose and Harry had nothing else to win. It was a match made in hell. They fell down into the depths of the Once-Ministry in wild distraction, and they tore the great building and all its basements down with them.   

 It didn’t surprise Harry that he paid for this.

 A piece of rubble came out of the chaotic cursefire and clipped Harry on the side of the head. He went down like a sack of bricks, blood running down his face and over his lightning-bolt scar, onto a collapsed wall of bricks. Like the mortal man he was. Then he couldn’t scrabble up out of the Once-Ministry wreckage quickly enough. Harry was too dazed to prevent Voldemort from conjuring dark ropes that dug into his bloody limbs, that choked him, and that brought him to his knees like a man on an executioner’s block.

 It didn’t surprise Harry to look up at Voldemort, whose hands were beginning to glow a deathly green, and be helpless to free himself in time. He had known that this might happen. For all that Tom Riddle was a madman and a fool, he was still dangerous. Harry had died at Voldemort’s hands before, for all that he’d been fortunate enough to be able to get up again, and he’d fought the man enough times to be nearly sick with the constant threat of death.

 That it didn’t surprise Harry, however, didn’t mean he wanted to die. He had gone off to this duel partly as a distraction, but also to win it, because he couldn’t release Voldemort on the rest of the world. The bastard didn’t deserve the freedom he’d accidentally taken from all of them.

 And Harry wanted to live. He wanted to see the world that he had never known as a child that he might not have the opportunity to see one day. He wanted at least a peaceful life, if he would never be allowed a normal one. He wanted to see the children live peaceful, happy lives and know a better world. He had come to this fight willing to give his life if he had to, but not willing to die. For fuck's sake, he was only twenty-eight; it shouldn't have almost felt like this was overdue. 

 For a brief, hideous moment, Harry felt his heart pound and his breath seize and his muscles ache with the tension, as he met Voldemort’s hateful red stare with the knowledge that he was going to die. Voldemort said nothing, but his hands glowed green with death. The only sound between them, down in the depths of this wrecked Once-Ministry, was the echo of the breaking building far off in the distance.

 Voldemort raised his hands. Like his long fingers were reaching ahead of him for the long-awaited death of Harry Potter like it was a thing to grasp and hold. Like it was all he had ever wanted.

 And then there was a bright flash of silver.

 A half-invisible figure, fallen from above, landed at Voldemort’s side in a crash of rubble and dust and a child who hadn’t yet learned how to fly with any control. It was an eleven-year-old girl, with unruly black hair, bottle-end goggles, a blue raincoat, and Harry’s Invisibility Cloak shimmering around her shoulders. She was wielding a bright sword; it had been over her head and she had swung mercilessly down on Voldemort’s outstretched arms.

 And the silver sword cut true.

 It went clean through Voldemort’s left forearm, between the elbow and the wrist, and through two fingers and a thumb of his right hand. Voldemort’s left hand and right-hand fingers hit the ground in light thumps and bright bursts of green light, which faded harmlessly into the pale skin as red blood seeped and spurted out. Some of the blood splattered across the snarling face of the young girl, and across Voldemort’s own white face as he startled back too late.

 The hideous moment broke. Voldemort screamed. High and horrified and furious. The two fingers remaining of his right hand sparked green as the rest spurted scarlet, and his red eyes fixed dangerously on the girl next to him who had dared to maim a would-be god.

 This all surprised Harry.

 The girl’s name was Delphini, Harry’s eleven-year-old daughter, and she now swung the Sword of Godric Gryffindor at Voldemort’s midsection like it was her Beater’s bat. Clumsily. Furiously. Hurriedly. Like the world depended on it. Like Harry’s life depended on it. Like the Quidditch Cup of Revenge depended on her hacking Voldemort in half with a sword she had definitely stolen.

 In hindsight, Harry would probably wonder why he had been surprised.

 As soon as Voldemort had opened his mouth to scream, Harry had freed himself, burning through the ropes that held him. He leaped forward out of the ashes. Voldemort spun away from Delphi’s wild swing, his eyes burning with hatred, and Harry snatched the half-invisible Delphi up into his arms as she missed.

 The Sword of Gryffindor sliced into billowing black robes, and they bounded away.

 And there was a whistling sound above them. Like something quite large was falling and falling fast, headed straight for them from directly above. A great gilded black lift smashed down behind them, between them and Voldemort, followed by several more like they’d been spilled from an enormous candy machine of massive, heavy elevators. Right on top of Voldemort’s head.

 Harry leaped away with his daughter, up onto a platform made of some Once-Ministry room cracked open during the battle, where he could readjust and continue to run. Unfortunately, the black spots that had plagued him when he was struck returned, unhappy with his sudden movements. Harry staggered against a section of wall, spelling the blood from his eyes as Delphi spilled out of his arms.

 He grabbed desperately after her when she moved away from him, his fingers snagging the shimmering Invisibility Cloak. He glanced back towards Voldemort, spots dancing in his eyes still. 

 “Level Ni-ni-nine: Dep-ar-artme-me-ent of Mysteri-ri-ries,” a woman’s voice sweetly informed any listeners, from within the pile of lifts. Several cage doors creaked open in the mess.

 And the lifts blew outwards, with a high scream of rage, and the debris of the lifts smashing into the Once-Ministry wreckage around them. Harry released Delphi to deflect the debris that came at them. He also took the opportunity to shoot a Blasting Curse at the furious figure in the centre of it.

 Voldemort crossed his bloody, maimed arms to raise shields and Harry’s bright orange spell connected with a deafening bang. Voldemort was thrown back and dust was thrown up around him. A final lift fell out of the darkness above and crashed down where Voldemort had been standing, and the metal was torn apart in a shriek of rage and wild, graceless force for daring to get between them.

 “Delphi, run,” Harry urged. “Love, run now and I’ll hold hi-

 “Not without you.”

 This didn’t surprise Harry, though it wearied and frightened him in equal amounts. He looked back at the Dark Lord through the dust and the darkness. Through the broken lift, which was still tearing itself apart with great metal groans, Voldemort was standing with his arms apart, seething.

 His left arm and right hand were no longer bleeding. Cauterized somehow. It was a mystery what had become of the pieces of him that Delphi had sliced off, now lost somewhere in the debris.

 Voldemort looked hatefully towards Delphi, who stood beside Harry, holding her stolen sword like it was her bat. Knee bent, hands barely trembling, her stare fixed and equally hateful. Like she honestly intended to fight Voldemort alongside her father. Like she could, if she had to.

 “Ah, the bastard,” Voldemort hissed, as he stood tall. “Finally. How like Dumbledore you are after all, Potter, having children fight for you in the most crucial moments.”

 Harry could have glared back at him, because that grated, as he cast around for options. The last of the dark spots were still dancing out of his vision. He had to kill Voldemort and get Delphi safely out of this mess. It was not an easy problem. It was a nightmare, really, and he could have choked on the terrified dread in him now.

 Instead, Harry quirked his eyebrows and smiled.

 “How like you to pretend you still have the upper hand even now, Tom.”

 Voldemort sneered at him and instead focused on Delphi. “Set down your sword, you silly girl, and I might be merciful to you,” he said. “Your mother was loyal to me, as you aren’t and know no better not to be. Cast aside your sword and spare yourself now, and in forgiveness I will show you power the likes of which others could not even dream.”

 It was a seemingly generous offer, especially to someone who had just seemingly maimed him.

 “Sure,” Delphi said, like the tremble wasn’t in her voice as well. “Let’s shake on it. Oh, wait.”

 If Harry wasn’t so terrified, he could have laughed.

 Voldemort didn’t.

 “Don’t be a fool, girl,” he snarled. “Better save your own life and join me.”

 “Never!” 

 “Have you no loyalty to your father, girl?” Voldemort demanded. “I gave you life.”

  Harry moved in front of his daughter protectively. 

 “You’re not my dad!”

 “Delphi, don’t do this,” Harry whispered. “Just run, love. Leave this to me.”

 “Ah, yes. Potter’s claim,” Voldemort called loudly, derisively. “You must know that this is a lie, dear child, to confuse your loyalties. To trick you into using your power against your own blood. Deep inside, you know they cannot love you as they claim, the snake in their midst. You are a tool to them. A burden. Why do you think they have kept us from meeting for so long?”

 “Maybe because you kill people, Tom?” Harry called back. “You do have a track record of being terrified of babies.”

 He would have mentioned Bellatrix, but he didn’t want to hurt Delphi worse than she had to be hurting already by mocking her late, unloving mother now. But, of course, he couldn’t stop Delphi from shouting around him or bringing Bellatrix Lestrange up herself.

 “You didn’t even want me! You didn’t give me life. My mother took it from you!”

 “Oh? Is that what they told you?” Voldemort questioned.

 Like Voldemort hadn’t been surprised to find out about Delphi’s existence like the rest of them. If Harry had had his way, if Harry had been quicker to keep the secrets in, then no one besides himself and a small circle of people would have ever found out the truth of Delphi’s complicated parentage. Much less Voldemort himself, who had mocked Harry for taking in a cuckoo ever since he had learned that Harry had taken Delphi in as his own daughter.

 Which was actually true, in a terribly accidental way. Harry’s blood had run in Voldemort’s veins ever since that ritual in the graveyard, now so long ago, that had given Tom Riddle a body again. Even if Harry cared about blood, Delphi was still his daughter.

 “That you have a habit of women getting the better of you, Tom?” Harry said mockingly. “There’s no need to pretend that you ever aspired to fatherhood. Why have a legacy when you intend to live forever? Or are you getting soft in your dying moments?”

 Voldemort’s remaining fingers twitched at that and… Harry wondered…

 It wasn’t actually the first time someone had managed to injure Voldemort, or even take off a limb. Harry wasn’t the only one to have taken hits. But to maim meant to deal permanent injury. And though he seemed maimed now, Voldemort had no issue in performing rituals to restore or otherwise alter his body, no matter the costly and often bloody ingredients required.

 But Harry couldn’t recall Voldemort ever taking a hit from the Sword of Gryffindor before.

 Nor anything quite like it.

 “Enough, Potter,” Voldemort snarled. “Girl, do not be foolish. He will give you nothing, once he has no more use of you. He can give you nothing. This is you final chance to turn aside from this fool’s doomed path and see my mercy. I am your father, and you cannot deny your blood.”

 It didn’t surprise Harry that Delphi wouldn’t stay behind him.

 “Why not?” Delphi sneered. “You did.”

 Voldemort was already scowling, but it deepened. His fingers twitched again.

 “You decided that your father was a useless piece of shit and you killed him,” Delphi continued, matter-of-factly, through the blood freckled across her face, and she raised the Sword of Gryffindor again. “Guess it runs in the blood.”

 “…So be it,” Voldemort said coldly.

 Harry heart leaped in his throat with terror as Voldemort stepped forward. The battle would begin again, it seemed, but now Harry’s daughter would be caught in the middle of it. Harry would be at a great disadvantage, trying to protect her. Voldemort’s fine control might be damaged by the loss of a hand and some fingers, but he was still powerful, frightfully enraged, and this battle had not been one of fine control from the beginning. Harry prepared to run.

 “If you think, girl,” Voldemort hissed, “that you are the first child of m-”

 It surprised Harry, then, that Voldemort wobbled. That the man-who-would-be-a-god spread his arms for balance and shook where he stood, violently, before he suddenly, gaspingly, sagged to the ground. Like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Just like that.

 And behind him, in the shadows, wielding Delphi’s Beater’s bat and looking very surprised and dusty, was Harry’s godchild. It didn’t surprise Harry that where his daughter was finding trouble, Teddy Lupin-Tonks wasn’t far away. That Teddy had apparently been trying to sneak up on Voldemort to attack him was a bit of a surprise and Harry could have screamed at them for it, but Teddy clearly hadn’t actually managed to attack. Teddy hadn’t been the one to make Voldemort stumble and fall.

 Harry wasn’t one to waste luck or moments of enemy vulnerability. He instantly conjured his own robes to bind Voldemort and leaped forward with a deadly curse in each hand.

 “Delphi, Ted, look away!” Harry shouted.

 He had thrown two curses as he leaped and both struck Voldemort before he landed. Voldemort had been struggling to push himself back up, but collapsed under Harry’s spells, lying prone on the floor with a mundane finality. Dusty, bloody, and gracelessly, terribly, painfully mortal. Not dead yet. Neither of Harry’s fatal curses had been immediately deadly.

 “Look away,” Harry repeated, unable to look away from Voldemort.

 The likelihood of this being an act and a trap was pathetic, but he could not take the chance. He watched every spasm across Voldemort’s body. Every settling of dust around him. Every slight twitch in the man’s two remaining fingers. Hope and fear were in Harry’s throat now, one and the same, as he took a step closer to his fallen enemy.

 For one shivering second of silence, Harry watched, but then he raised a trembling hand. One could never be certain about these things and he would not let Delphi take the blame of the final blow.

 “Avada Kedavra,” he said.

 The curse was small, compared to the ones that Voldemort had been throwing about earlier, but it had never been a spell that had needed to be large to do the trick.

 The bolt of green light struck Voldemort square on the back, leaving an eerie glow for a moment, which quickly faded away and left Harry standing in front of an empty shell. He watched, hand outstretched, and waited for the involuntarily twitching of a corpse to end. Then for any greater sign that he had somehow failed and Voldemort had fled from death once again.

 But no.

 The air seemed to have lightened, like an immense, invisible pressure had vanished. There wasn’t a single crackle or whisper of Voldemort’s terrible, deathly presence anymore. Voldemort’s white, scaled skin suddenly seemed duelled. His long limbs were splayed awkwardly.

 He was dead. Voldemort was finally dead. At long last.

 Harry allowed himself one sigh of sweet, exhausted relief. His shoulders sagged and his knees were ready to shake apart. He was so grateful that it was over that it felt he could fly apart or collapse with it. It was over. And it was somehow a surprise that it was over. After so long, some part of him had thought it would never end, and the surprised relief now was almost breath-taking.

 It shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did.

 His kids always did.

 

 ~ the great grounding

 

 Harry allowed himself that one sweet sigh of exhausted relief, but then he looked at up Teddy. His ten-year-old godchild who had either followed Delphi here or talked her into it in the first place. Who shouldn’t have been here and had – so it had felt – just taken years off Harry’s life when Voldemort had fallen away and Harry had seen Teddy behind him.

 Teddy was dressed for an adventure. With their own pair of bottle-end goggles and a ragged black cloak around them, and the purse that Harry could glimpse beneath the cloak. The sparkly pink trainers were a bit of an odd choice, but this was Teddy.

 Teddy had already lowered Delphi’s Beater’s bat, which she must have given them after she had stolen herself a sword. (And she had better have stolen herself that sword. If Harry found out later that Neville had given his daughter the Sword of Godric Gryffindor and sent her off on this mission with his blessing, then they were going to have words. Loud ones of the foul cussing variety. Merlin, someone would probably have to hold Harry back from breaking Neville’s fucking nose.)

 (Unfortunately for Delphi and Teddy, Harry already knew that Neville would never.)  

 “Okay, firstly,” Teddy said quickly, raising their free hand, “I’d like to point out that I have assisted in the death of the Dark Lord – those lifts were me and I helped launch Del who saved your life – and this is therefore a time for celebration, and not for grounding me for life. Secondly, before you ask, I’m perfectly alright. Thirdly…”

 Teddy then learned forward for a good, wary look at Voldemort’s corpse. “He is dead, right?”

 Harry took another glance at the corpse, just in case. Dead as a doornail.

 “Yes, Teddy,” Harry assured his godchild, unable to keep an almost disbelieving grin from breaking out over his face, no matter how furious he was. It was finally over for them. “He’s dead. Now come around him over here.” He then looked over at Delphi, who was still standing atop that platform. “And you come on down, please, love. Are you alright?”

 Behind him, Teddy whooped with joy. “YES!”

 Delphi, still holding the sword like it was her bat, peered down and made a stubborn face. “I’m fine. And I’m good here, Dad,” she called back.

 Well… Harry glanced at Voldemort’s corpse again. That was fair.

 Teddy, at least, listened to him. Partly. Teddy bounced around Voldemort’s body, then bounded up to join Delphi on the platform. It took them a few hops, but then Harry’s godchild was beaming at his frowning daughter, grabbing excitedly at her shoulders.

“He’s dead! He’s dead, Delphi! Oh, we gotta tell somebody! We gotta tell all the bodies! It’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over!” Teddy slung an arm around Delphi’s shoulders, then tugged her head under their armpit and tapped her on the head with the bat as she struggled. “Smile, Delphi! Smile for once! It’s over! We did it! It’s over, it’s over, it’s over!”

 “NOT WHEN SHE’S HOLDING THAT SWORD, TED,” Harry shouted, alarmed.

 “Oh, right,” Teddy quickly released Delphi, who straightened herself and glared fiercely at them.

 It wasn’t that Harry thought Delphi might stab his godchild. If she was holding her Beater’s bat instead of Teddy, he might be worried about her trying to give Teddy a whack, but he knew Delphi knew better than to wave a sword around among friends. Especially that sword. The smallest cut from that thing could – and usually would, eventually – be deadly.

 Which, Harry thought as he looked back at his fallen foe, was what had gotten Voldemort after all. The Heir of Slytherin falls to his heir wielding the Sword of Gryffindor – goblin silver imbued with the venom of Slytherin’s Monster.

 Ironic, Harry supposed.

 He waved his hand at the broken lift, summoning a curved piece of the cage to snap off and fly to him. He forced the thick wire into a sturdy cane and leaned on it with a sigh. It wasn’t quite as good as collapsing on a soft bed, but it added to the heady, exhausted relief in him.

 “Hey, Harry! You just won! For good!” Teddy shouted, waving spread palms through the air to illustrate the point. “Smile! Set a good example for your girl!”

 Harry couldn’t help but grin at Teddy, indulgently, and towards his frowning daughter. “Delphi doesn’t have to smile if she doesn’t want to, Ted,” he called back, and moved away from his fallen foe. “I think this’ll take a while to settle in in all of us. And not at the same speed for everyone, so slow down and let the rest of catch up, would you?”

 There was no love lost between Delphi and the monstrous man who had sired her, but Harry didn’t expect her to be ecstatic about it. Harry himself could have cried with happiness now, if he took that too-deep breath and let himself, and he didn’t blame Teddy for wanting to scream with joy for the death of a terrible man. But it was a sad thing for your lot in life to be glad for the death of your father, and there was no need to rub Delphi’s face in how badly she had been failed.

 Delphi’s frown looked suspicious now, staring down at Harry and the corpse behind him, like she still didn’t quite believe Voldemort was dead. Harry didn’t know if she’d looked away when he’d asked if of her and Teddy. He hoped so, but… Merlin, she was stubborn.

 “…Why did he stumble like that?” she demanded.

 “I don’t know,” Harry answered honestly.

 It could have been any of the spells thrown between them in their duel, held knowingly or unknowingly back, before belatedly felling the man. Delphi’s and Teddy’s attacks could have been the straw that had broken the beast’s back. Voldemort was a man in his eighties, deeply twisted by resurrection and countless dangerous rituals, and perhaps in this fight he had finally expended too much of his strength and felt it at just the wrong moment.

 But although they could never know for certain – not without an investigation than Harry had no desire to perform – some answers seemed more likely than others. Harry could guess.

 “It might have been the basilisk venom in the sword,” he said.

 The secrets of the Sword of Gryffindor had been kept as tightly under wraps as they could manage and, as far as Harry knew, Voldemort had simply never been told that the sword had absorbed the venom of a thousand-year-old basilisk. They hadn’t spread about how Neville had finally managed to kill Nagini. From what they’d heard of Voldemort’s rage at the news, Voldemort had cared more that it had happened at all than how they’d finally managed to deal a killing blow.

 While Voldemort had been talking – distracted by Delphi, the bastard daughter they had never let him meet before now – Harry had wondered if the venom was making its way through Voldemort’s veins. He hadn’t known how to kill Voldemort and save Delphi, so he had… hoped… that Voldemort might make the simple, ignorant mistake of monologuing. Either until it was too late entirely or until some effect that would give Harry an opportunity to escape. With all of Voldemort’s… strangeness… Harry couldn’t know if the venom would work at all, much less actually kill Voldemort given enough time, but it looked like it had at least given Harry his opportunity to deal a finishing blow.

 It seemed that Harry had been saved and Voldemort finally killed by an eleven-year-old girl with a stolen sword. She would be turning twelve in less than a month, but still. It might have been embarrassing, if Harry wasn’t terribly grateful it was over and hadn’t been so terrified for her.

 Merlin, he was furious with these two.

 Teddy grinned at Delphi, like they were about to congratulate her for killing a man. At the very least, for assisting invaluably in the death of a man. But Teddy seemed to catch Harry’s warning look before they could say anything, and then closed their mouth again without doing that. Teddy just kept beaming at Delphi instead, still jittering with excitement and joy, even in the face of her frowning uncertainty.

 There would be time to talk, thankfully. Time to yell at them and thank them and yell at them again. Time to talk both Teddy and Delphi through this terrible fight and their roles in it. Sometime when they were all ready for it. Somewhere far away from here.

 “We should leave,” Delphi said.

 I want to leave, Harry’s daughter didn’t say. I don’t want to be here anymore.

 “We can leave!” Teddy corrected delightedly. “The Sealing’s broken, Del, we can go anywhere we want to go! The world is ours!” They spun, arms spread, and then pointed the Beater’s bat in hand at Harry. “Paris! Harry, I want to go to Paris!”

 Harry smiled fondly. “Paris, huh?”

 He didn’t want to be here either anymore.

 “The City of Lights, Harry! All the way from the top of the Eiffel Tower!”

 “What did I say about slowing down?”

 “Never, Harry! You gotta keep moving, right? Never stop moving! Well, we’re free now and I’m never going to stop moving again! Paris! Madrid! Berlin! Beijing! Tokyo! Sydney! Sayonara and auf widesehen, Harry” Teddy lifted the bat like a torch and shouted to the ceiling, so that the sound echoed through the depths of the Once-Ministry, “I’LL SEND YOU A POSTCARD FROM NEW YORK CITY!”

 “- CITY!”

 “- city!”

 Harry laughed, shaking his head. Oh, he wanted to see the world, but not so badly as he wanted a little peace first. To get them all out of here. His knees were fit to shake out from under him. Shaking his head became an instead regret, with an overdue headache forming.

 “Ah, slow down, Ted,” he said. “You’re going to leave your poor, slow –”

 Teddy scoffed loudly.

 “- old -”

 “Harry!” Teddy complained, as Delphi rolled her eyes.

 “- white-haired -”

 “You’re not that old, old man!” Delphi said.

 “- wizened -”

 “You don’t even have wrinkles!” Teddy complained.

 “- godfather behind you,” Harry finished wryly. “And I do too have wrinkles, look.” He scowled and pointed at his own face, leaning heavily on the cane he had made for himself. “I even named them. This one is Teddy. And this one is Delphi.”

 Both of his children frowned down at him, unamused.

 Well, good, he wasn’t amused by them either, even if he was elated it was over.

 Teddy looked at Delphi again. “Well, he’s useless. How about you, Delphi? Where do you plan on going?” They threw the Beater’s bat over their shoulder in consideration. “I’ve always wanted to go somewhere hot – like Italy or Greece in summer, or just skip it on down to Egypt and everywhere else Bill talks about. But then there’s penguins, right? Antarctica! The tip of the world! Penguins!”

 “I just want to go home,” Delphi snapped, her shoulders slumped, her grip tight on her stolen sword. Then she realized what she’d said – home, a thing she’d never had, a thing Harry had never truly been able to give her to his satisfaction – and curled further in on herself.

 Teddy scowled at Delphi’s uncooperativeness at first, but then Teddy softened. Then Teddy visibly gaped as they finally realized, “Delphi, you have blood on you face! Is that his blood?”

 Delphi looked away from Teddy, but Teddy grabbed her chin and lifted the ragged black cloak they were wearing to forcibly wipe the blood off. Delphi looked even unhappier about being pawed at, but uncharacteristically put up with it in silence. For a few seconds, at least, before she shoved Teddy off and furiously wiped at her face herself with her sleeve.

 “Del, come on, you missed a spot. Just let me-”

 “We definitely leave this dump behind,” Harry interrupted, before bickering could break out. “If the two of you don’t mind, I’d like to go see Hannah or Neville. I don’t think I can stand for much longer,” he admitted.

 This got Delphi and Teddy’s attention.

 “What?” Teddy croaked.

 “Magical exhaustion, a bit of blood loss, take your pick,” Harry sighed. “It’s not serious, but I think I’m going to sleep for a week now, so I better find a bed so I can do that. We can have a discussion of how grounded you two are once I’ve woken up.”

 “Argh… fine,” Teddy grumbled.

 “So, we make sure that doesn’t happen,” Delphi said simply, and cracked a small smile when Harry raised his eyebrows at her. It might’ve been in slight poor taste, but that was Delphi’s humour, and Harry had little room to talk.

 Hassp hissssss, came a curious sound.

 Harry stiffened immediately. Teddy paused, from where they’d been about to jump back down, and Delphi raised her stolen sword slightly. Harry’s head lifted, ear cocked to listen for that quiet hiss.

 “Harry, what’s that?” Teddy said.

 It had itched a bit, to turn his back on Voldemort like this. He was relatively certain that Voldemort’s corpse wasn’t about to get up and have another go at him, but the instincts had still itched. When Harry turned to look again at the corpse, it hadn’t moved, which meant…

 Gloop glop, came a new sound, louder and gurgling.

 Harry looked farther around him, around the ruins of the Once-Ministry’s lower floors, and his eyes settled on a fallen, lonesome, stall-like piece of building. It looked rather like a stray storage closet. Just a dozen metres or so behind Voldemort’s corpse. Harry turned completely, to stand firmly between it and Delphi and Teddy.

 Many pieces of the Ministry had reacted badly or unexpectedly to Harry’s duel with Voldemort. When magic clashed, the results could be dangerous. This may have only looked like a storage closet, but… the door was bulging ominously. Silver mist poured out the cracks at the top, while green slime dripped out the cracks at the bottom. There was a ticking noise, coming from inside, and it was getting louder.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, it went.

 “Dad?” Delphi said.

 “Harry?” Teddy called nervously. “Harry, I think you’d better g-”

 The ticking storage closet exploded.

 The storage closet’s door burst open with a bang and suddenly Harry Potter disappeared under an explosion of ticking clocks, broken glass, clocks, green slime, and more clocks. White mist burst out in a great cloud, streaming out of every crack in the massive wave of objects, and it carried away small highlights of golden dust as an Undetectable Extension Charm failed… and extended very, very quickly.

 

~ there’s no place like home

 

 The Once-Ministry’s bottom-floor vaults were dark, cavernous, and filled almost to the brim with things and stuff. The ceiling had fallen in. With it, a mountainous pile of slime-covered clocks and glass had dropped into the room full of artefacts. It had made a half-demolished junkyard maze.

 It was a lifeless space, but not a still one. Bent antiques creaked and dented artefacts groaned under the crushing rubble and debris. The clocks still kept up a slow, ragged tick tock even though most of them were barely clinging to any kind of functionality, as the intruding green-slimed artefacts oozed through the vaults. Every moment, something new fell over into the steaming, silvery mist threaded with gold, which curved dangerously through the teetering stacks.

 A small figure crawled out of the wreckage, coughing out sparkling dust. They were half-invisible, drowning in a shimmering cloak that they kept throwing aside so they come move. From thin air, they seemed to pull a flashing silver sword and they stabbed it into a peeling globe. They pushed unruly black hair out of their face and used the sword to stagger to their feet.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 Delphi looked up and around the great, dark, shifting room. She coughed again, eyes watering behind her goggles, and then had to push her hair out of her face again. Her hair-tie had apparently snapped. She scowled, swallowed her next cough, and adjusted the settings on her goggles to peer through the darkness around her.

 She couldn’t see Harry. Nor even Teddy, who had been standing just next to her.

 Across the vast room, a towering stack of rubble, glass, and clocks tumbled over. Delphi could hear the glass shattering into even tinier pieces, the clocks clanging in pained objection, and the crash of heavy rock. She could see the great cloud of silver mist that was sent up, sparkling that mysterious gold in the poor light. Her throat tickled just looking at it and she finally spat out her cough, and her spit on the wardrobe under her boot… well… that sparkled mysteriously gold too.

 It frightened her, but Delphi was determined not to care. She could care later, when she had found her god-sibling and her father, and they were all a long way from here. She had decided the same thing, looking at Voldemort’s corpse. She could care later, if she had to, when she was as far away from all this as she could be.

 She shuddered at the throat of finding Voldemort’s corpse in this and pulled the sword free. She felt better, holding the sword, even though it was so very sharp and gleamed so dangerously. Her heart was in her itching throat, but she wasn’t empty-handed.

 Teddy had better not have lost her bat.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 Delphi tested the wardrobe under her boots, then carefully limped forward, her lips pressed together. Her knees hurt from her hard landing earlier, when she’d mostly managed to cut off Voldemort’s hands in an effort to save her father’s life. Just thinking about it almost made her want to laugh. It had been so stupid, so quick, and he’d looked so angry about it.  

 Delphi swung the sword again, through the sparkling mist, in a small pump of triumph.

 So, that had been Voldemort.

 Her father. Kind of.

 He’d been even scarier than she had imagined… and yet… also just a man. Just another monster. Easily angered and easily arrogant and easily cruel. A selfish bastard with too much power, enough to make the shadows shake with it, and no good sense of anything except for how terrifying he was. Harry had been right about him down to the last hiss and scale.

 After so long, it seemed unlikely that he would be dead just like that. But he was.

 And yet… Delphi didn’t think he’d die in her mind just like that. She could still see those red eyes fixed on her, still hear the sneer in his voice as he called her bastard, and still remember the dread down her veins as he’d asked her to join him. She could still feel the anger, freshly risen again, at the thought that he could have seen any similarity between them. At his gall in pretending that he had wanted her, right after he’d named her bastard and before he’d resolved to cull her.

 Delphi didn’t know how to feel about this confirmation that Voldemort had been everything that Harry – her real father, her dad – had said he was. It was… somehow both good and not good to be right. Delphi hadn’t harboured any silly hopes, but… she grimaced even so.

 Harry had lived. That had been the important thing, and it was the important thing now. She could care later about the rest, if she had to. Delphi’s real father was alive. After all that, he had to be. After all Harry and Teddy had done for her, they both had to be alive. She needed them to be. She would find them and make sure they both made it out alive, because there was no going home without them.

 Not when they were her home.

 Delphi lifted her hand, squinted through the darkness. “Homenum Revelio.”

 Immediately, two signatures revealed themselves and she sighed with relief – it had to be them, unless someone else had followed them. Which signature was who, she didn’t know, but one signature was moving towards the still other. She limped determinedly forward to join them.

 Teddy had the Portkeys out of here. She should’ve made them give her one.

 A thunderous crack sounded from far above. Delphi looked up, through the swirling silver mist and glittering gold dust, towards the dark and distant ceiling. The far-off upper levels of the Once-Ministry were beyond her sight, so she turned a switch on her goggles to bring it closer. Then she gasped, because the far-off ceiling was straining down, the restraining wards holding up the higher floors were fracturing, and it was all going to fall. 

 It was all going to come down on them.  

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 Crack!

 Delphi ran, feeling like the thunder of the Once-Ministry’s slow, unstoppable collapse was swiping at her heels. Her father’s cloak fluttered like wings around her as she flew.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 Over a tall bookshelf she bounded, over bathtubs and broomsticks and birdcages. A statue tried to swipe at her cloak and she swung her stolen sword at it wildly, before she slid down a long tapestry and launched herself off a dangerously tilting clock the size of a desk. It smashed into the floor behind her. Delphi cut through the silvery mist, no care for what wreckage she left behind her, the golden dust collecting on her as she went.

 Cr-crack!

 The earth rumbling, shaking, shattering, far above her head. Getting closer.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 Ahead of her, Delphi heard a loud crash and a scream.

 Crack! Cr-crack…!

 She screamed back, “TEDDY!”

 The two signatures ahead of her had met up, but they were falling. They didn’t fall far, just enough to send Delphi’s heart falling to her stomach, and her knees screaming in protest as she launched herself into the air again in panic. Over a sofa and an amphora and a wildly spinning astrolabe all covered in slime. She landed on a lamppost and looked down.

 Below her was her father and god-sibling, in a valley of silver mist, glittering gold dust, and an eerie-blue glow. Harry was lying unconscious in a broken shower stall, half-full with golden sand that was becoming the glittering dust around them, trickling down and up and in every direction. Teddy was at her father’s side, sneezing, and at Teddy’s side was a great, strange cup that was providing the eerie, whispering, blue light that was drowning out the darkness. It looked like a trophy of some kind.  

 Promises… promises…

 It looked like a trap to Delphi – something was wrong about it, it made the air itch – but Teddy looked up at her.

 “DELPHI!” Teddy cried relievedly. “DELPHI, HURRY, WE HAVE TO GO!”

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…

 It was the only way out. The only way home.

 CRACK…!

 Delphi didn’t even think. She jumped, at the same time that the thundering upper floors of the Once-Ministry finally gave out above her. Her knees gave out from under her as she landed, in this sea of abandoned and dangerous things, and she gave a shriek of pain.

 “Delphi!” Teddy shouted.

 Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…  

“Just get us out of here!” Delphi shouted back, as she grabbed tightly onto her father’s arm, the sword tight in her other hand. She keened in her next breath. “Teddy, just get us out of here!”  

 Teddy grabbed Harry’s other arm tightly, then lunged away as she coughed. Delphi saw her god-sibling reaching for the eerie blue cup, through the golden dust surrounding them, where some of Teddy’s marbles were sitting like the last few drops of wine in a goblet. With the collapsing Once-Ministry roaring down on them, Teddy seized them up in a tight fist and gasped, “Safe place!”

 And with a painful tug, the world yanked away.

 Tic- 

 

Chapter Text

INTO THE ARENA: THE CURSED CHILD

~ the girl with the sword ~ the life and death of Harry Potter ~ the great grounding ~ there’s no place like home ~~ lost children crossing ~ the heir and the spare ~ if it wasn’t for you meddling kids ~ this is a kidnapping ~ flight of death ~ can’t and won’t ~ thieves and liars in the night ~

 

PART TWO

June 24th, 1995

 

~ lost children crossing  

 

 The first thing that Delphi did when she had solid ground beneath her again was to turn the side and vomit onto the damp grass she’d landed in. She dropped her sword to hold back her hair. Beside her, she could hear Teddy doing the exact same thing – the vomiting, not the hair thing – she could see them heaving with it out of the corner of her eye. That had been the worst Portkey she had ever had the displeasure to experience. She wiped at her mouth, and her face for good measure, and grimaced at the smell and the glitter of her sick. Ugh.

 Then she noticed the grass beneath her. There wasn’t supposed to be grass.

 Delphi ignored Teddy’s groan and looked around. She pushed herself up into a sitting position, using her father for balance, and realized that the Porkey hadn’t taken them where it ought to have taken them. Delphi didn’t even recognize this place.

 “Teddy! Teddy, get up! Something went wrong!” Delphi hissed.

 “…What?”

 “Where did you take us?”

 “I took us to…” Teddy trailed off, as they peered around them and clearly didn’t recognize it either. Delphi could see their eyes widen behind their goggles. “Oh,” they said. “Oh, no.”

 They had left the collapsing ruins of the Ministry behind them completely, as Delphi had intended, but had travelled miles – maybe hundreds of them – beyond the safe place keyed into Teddy’s little marbles. The tall buildings and grey structures of London weren’t anywhere in sight. Instead, the sky touched too far down on the horizon, they were surrounded by trees, and the night above was windless and overcast.

 They were sitting in the damp grass of a dark and overgrown graveyard. A small church was attached not far off, but it too was obviously neglected, like many of the leering stones and looming markers that surrounded them. Off into the distance to their left, at the top of a slow-rising slope, Delphi could see the outline of a fine country manor sitting silently on a hill.

 Delphi was overcome with a feeling of dread, like she had found herself somewhere from a nightmare, and she saw the same feeling in Teddy’s face. They were lost.

 “Great going, Teddy,” Delphi muttered.

 “Hey, I got us out of there, didn’t I? You can go back and get squished, if you want.”

 Delphi scoffed and looked away, and laid eyes on something that made her stiffen. The strange cup that Teddy had reached into, that had been giving off that eerie blue glow, was sitting not far from Teddy now. It had come with them.

 “Teddy, what’s that?” she demanded.

 Teddy looked at the cup in surprise. “How should I know?” they demanded, but they peered closer anyway. “It says ‘WIZ’ on it. W-I-Z. What do you think that means?”

 “How should I know?” Delphi repeated, frowning.

 She didn’t know what it was or why it had been sitting in the Once-Ministry’s deepest vaults, but she didn’t like it. She especially didn’t like that it had somehow interfered with their Portkey. She especially, especially didn’t like how the blue glass had dimmed. It was illuminated from within still, but gently, barely, no longer shivering with whispering brilliance.

 “What an odd thing to carve on a cup,” Teddy mumbled, then looked at her. “We should take it with us, right? So, we can figure out what it is and what it did. Or someone can. Later.”

 “Yeah, but I’m not putting it in my wallet.”

 Teddy rolled their eyes. “Fine,” they said, and unwrapped their purse from around their waist. Teddy dropped the purse next to the cup and they watched, nervously, as Teddy’s purse seemed to sniff the cup before it opened its flap and started swallowing it. Like a snake.

 “That’s still weird,” Delphi said. Then realized, “What happened to my bat?”

 “Don’t worry, it’s in there too,” Teddy assured her.

 “Oh, well, good.”

 They both turned their attention to Harry, then. Teddy reached out to take their godfather’s pulse, which was fine, and used a bit of their ragged black cloak to wipe at the drying blood on Harry’s face. Delphi frowned with worry. Her father looked thoroughly exhausted. Maybe even ill.

 “What happened to him?”

 “An all-out duel with Voldemort?” Teddy answered. “That’s bound to rough anyone up.”

 “No, after that,” Delphi snapped. “With the… explosion… of that closet.”

 “Oh, I don’t know. I found him unconscious like this. I think he took a knock to the head and then… well… he’s probably dead tired, Del,” Teddy said, and gave her a sorry excuse for an optimistic smile. Teddy’s fluffy blue hair was wilting at the ends. “He’ll live, Del, don’t worry, but we should probably get him to Hannah or Neville as soon as we can.”

 “Did you try to Rennervate him?”

 “Oh, no, I forgot all about that spell, Del,” Teddy said sarcastically.

 Delphi glowered at them. “I was just asking.”

 “Well-”

 Whatever Teddy had been about to say was interrupted by a whoosh of magic and a pair of weighted thumps, just behind them, and Delphi screamed and threw up a shield beneath them and the threat. Two figures were blown backwards and she dove for her sword again.

 Beside her, Teddy was casting a Featherlight Charm on her father and was pulling Harry away from the new threat. Off towards a yew tree to one side of the graveyard. Towards safety. 

 “Del, cover me!” Teddy shouted.

 “Go!” Delphi cried to them at the same time.

 She pulled herself to her feet much against the will of her knees, and stood on trembling legs. She raised the Sword of Godric Gryffindor to cover their retreat anyway.

 And found herself looking into the bewildered, wide-eyed faces of two teenage boys. Neither of them were moving to attack her, sprawled gracelessly on the grass as they were, they just looked surprised. Youth didn’t mean safe, though, and Delphi threw out a threatening hand towards them, glowing red with the beginnings of a spell.

 “Who are you?” Delphi demanded, more shrilly than she would’ve liked.

 They just kept staring at her. Like they had never in their life seen someone like her.

 Delphini Potter had never cared if she struck a strange picture – it was hard to worry about things like that when she was most often found standing next to Teddy Lupin-Tonks – especially when her family was on the line. She was less than two weeks from her twelfth birthday, a rather scrawny girl with a wild head of black hair, heavily-lidded hazel eyes, and the terrified scowl of someone determined not to be trifled with. She had on an Invisibility Cloak and a practical blue raincoat and magical goggles and the sword of Godric Gryffindor – and a healthy layer of dust from the collapsing Once-Ministry – she was ready for anything.

 “Who are you?” Delphi repeated, moving her glowing hand between them. “What do you want?”

 One of the teenage boys carefully sat up. He was tall and broad, dark-haired and freckled, dressed in a simple yellow shirt and black trousers, probably about eighteen or so, and quite handsome. He began to hold his hands up in a gesture of surrender, then stopped as Delphi’s glowing hand snapped immediately to him again.

 “My name is Cedric Diggory,” the young man said warily. “Who are you?”

 

 ~ the heir and the spare

 

 Delphi didn’t answer him. That name was familiar, she had heard it before, but she couldn’t immediately place it now. He was very strange, like no Death Eater, Snatcher, Raider, Robber, or Scavenger that Delphi had ever seen. He was dirt-stained and sweaty, but he was also too… soft, new-looking, and unarmed.

 She didn’t know what to make of his companion either. The other boy was younger and scrawnier, though older and taller than her, probably about fourteen or fifteen or so. She didn’t have his name yet, but he was incredibly familiar all the same. Too familiar. He was also dressed in a simple shirt and black trousers, though his shirt was red. He had jet black hair, wild and untidy, and large glasses with round frames, and reflected in them was… a blue glow.

 Delphi looked between them, at a large cup, a trophy of some kind, made of intricately carved metal and blue glass. It was illuminated gently from within, by some eerie power, and on glowing in the glass were three letters: WIZ.

 Delphi’s glowing hand snapped down to the cup. “What’s that?!”

 It was a cup exactly identical to the one that Teddy had just fed to their purse. This one had brought these two boys here. Were the cups some kind of trap? Were these two lost too?

 “…The Tri-Wizard Cup,” Cedric Diggory told her slowly.

 Delphi blinked at him.

 Tri-Wizard?

 “Do you know where we are?” Cedric continued. “Is this part of the task?”

 Task?

 “Is that the Sword of Gryffindor?” the other boy demanded.

 Delphi’s attention snapped immediately to the other boy at this, because that voice was familiar too. It wasn’t quite right, too high, but… she knew that voice. She knew that face. She looked back into bright green eyes, behind those glasses he didn’t wear anymore, and it was unmistakable. From the jut of that unscarred chin, from the pursed line of his lips, all the way up to the lightning-bolt scar in the middle of his forehead, it was unmistakable.

 It was her father… Harry Potter.

 Oh.

 Delphi stared at him in disbelief. He was so small! So young! Looking at her so suspiciously!

 Her hand stopped glowing and her sword lowered slightly.

 Oh, no.  

 Her first instinct was that this was a trap, a hallucination of some kind caused by the Tri-Wizard Cup, but her next thought told her that was wrong. This was too detailed. Too real. Her knees ached too badly, her jeans were still damp from the grass, and the graveyard around them was too sharp. She could feel the warmth of magic in her trembling hand, the cool texture of the stolen sword in her other hand, and she could taste every breath of air as she gasped.

 It all felt real, like this was really happening now. She caught a glimpse of her wide-eyes in the gleam of the sword. She was here. This was real. It was neither a dream nor a stray memory.

 She looked at the Tri-Wizard Cup between the boys – a Portkey, it was a Portkey – and remembered the great clouds of golden dust that had been floating through the Once-Ministry. It hadn’t been dust; it had been sand. It had been time sand.

 It seemed… it looked… it appeared…

 Like they had travelled back in time. Between the cup and the sand, their escape had been twisted and taken them somewhere else. Some other when. It was not impossible that things like this should happen, Delphi had heard the stories and even sought them out once upon a time, but all those stories said that time travel never ended well. Her father had been caught in several unstable loops and come back grim-faced every time.

 Terrible things happen to people who meddle with time.

 They had to leave.

 Delphi could figure out whether they had actually travelled in time after they left. They needed to get away from everything so they didn’t ruin anything. So she could think through this.

 “Are you… quite alright?” Cedric Diggory asked, looking genuinely concerned for her.

 Delphi looked at him in horror.

 She remembered why she knew his name now. If this scene was what she thought it was – a young Harry Potter in the graveyard, by way of a cup, it could only be one scene – then Cedric Diggory was supposed to die here. Right here and right now.

 The Tri-Wizard Tournament had always been one of her favourite series of stories – when her father and his friends had been young, when there had been dances and dresses and great tasks of daring, when life had been peaceful before Voldemort had been resurrected – and she had hated that it had all ended in the graveyard like this. This was where Voldemort had murdered an innocent boy and stolen her father’s blood to regain a body.

 It was because of this night that Harry Potter was Delphi’s father. If this terrible night didn’t happen, Delphi probably wouldn’t exist.

 She had to leave. They had to leave now.

 “Someone’s coming,” the younger Harry announced suddenly, looking off towards one end of the graveyard. His gaze flicked back to Delphi suspiciously. “Friends of yours?”

 Delphi spun around, giving up on standing threateningly over these boys, and her knees nearly gave out from under her as she did. She wobbled, but stayed on her feet. Behind her, she thought she could hear Harry and Cedric standing up, but she didn’t care. She peered out into the night with dread, searching desperately, following Harry’s gaze without a thought to whether it had been a trick to get her to look away.

 It wasn’t a trick.

 Delphi’s heart was in her throat again, where it kept making itself so comfortable, as a shadowy figure was drawing nearer to them through the graves. Their hood kept their face well obscured, although it couldn’t hide the fact that they were short and fat. The figure walked steadily, holding something in their arms that looked like a bundle of robes.

 Oh.

 It was nothing but a figure, but it was nightmarish to Delphi. She was lost, frozen; she didn’t know what to do. If that figure was who she thought it was, then she was standing between Voldemort and her young father. Between Voldemort and the young man he was supposed to kill. Between Voldemort and his resurrection.

 When, only minutes ago, she had just finally seen him dead.

 From behind her came a terrible scream of agony. Delphi looked behind her, startled, to see the young Harry collapse gracelessly into the wet grass, a wand slipping between his fingers as he clutched at his head, moaning like it was being split open. Next to him, Cedric turned to him with shock and worry, completely disregarding the threat as Delphi spun back to it.

 “Kill the others,” said a high, cold voice.

 It came from the folds in the figure’s arms, and its familiarity sent a tremble through Delphi. She didn’t want to believe this was true. That she was here, in the terrible night of all places, where Voldemort was alive and would return to power again.

 The hooded figure raised their arm, a wand in hand, and panic raced through Delphi. She raised her free hand for a spell to strike the figure down first, though she knew she was too slow and that she might be too slow to dodge. And that even if she did dodge, she knew that Cedric and Harry were behind her and could be killed in her stead, and worse: that a boy was meant to die here.

 “STUPEFY!” a high voice yelled suddenly.

 While Delphi’s hand had only just begun to glow, sizzling red light burst out of the shadows from the side-and-behind of the threatening figure. The Stunning Spell struck the figure in the back with bright flash, and the figure immediately crumpled forward, unconscious, into the wet grass with a thump. They fell slightly to one side, but partly on the bundle in their arms.

 Delphi stared disbelievingly.

 Oh.

 “DELPHI, WHAT WERE YOU DOING?” Teddy demanded loudly, as they walked out of the shadows, flipping their ragged black cloak over one shoulder and letting darkness seep from their skin. They gave the unconscious figure, which seemed to be hissing quietly, a wide berth.

 Delphi kept staring at it disbelievingly.

 Well. Now she really didn’t know what to do.

 “Ugh,” Teddy said, as they passed the figure, but then looked back at Delphi and started waving their hands angrily and disbelievingly. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?! Who are all these people? You were just staring silently at them! Do we know them?” Teddy appeared to look Harry and Cedric up and down, as they came forward through the graveyard to join them. “Hey, you two! Do we know you? Do you know her?”

 “I… don’t think so?” Cedric called back uncertainly.

 Delphi glanced behind her, where Cedric was helping the young Harry to his feet again.

 “Do you know us?” Cedric asked her.

 Delphi looked away from him, back to Teddy. “What did you do with…?”

 “Just off out of the way,” Teddy answered, squinting at Delphi for trailing off like that, then at young Harry and Cedric again. Teddy seemed to be trying to figure out if they were friends or not. “I had to save your butt, didn’t I? Seriously, who are these people? What’s going on?”

 She didn’t know. Not really.

 By the bewildered expressions on his face, Cedric didn’t know what was going on either. The young Harry seemed to have more of an idea, frowning at all of them suspiciously, then especially towards the unconscious figure and the now loudly hissing bundle. Young Harry stiffened suddenly.

 Delphi turned her attention to the hissing too and then stiffened at the words in it.

 “Kill them… all of them… all but the boy…”

 Teddy was coming to a stop near the rest of them, still looking Cedric and the young Harry curiously over, but behind Teddy in the damp grass… Delphi could see a large shadow slithering quickly through the graveyard. As it bore down on them, Delphi saw the wet gleam of scales.

 “Kill them… Nagini…”

 The gigantic deadly snake was going for Teddy’s turned back with murderous intent, Delphi realized with terror, it was going to kill her god-sibling. Nagini was already moving to strike them down.

Delphi had heard such terrible stories about this creature – the snake horcrux – Nagini. The snake was in her smallest form now, but that could change as easily as Teddy’s hair colour, and then the hungry monster could swallow them all. Nagini was a thing now, not really a snake anymore, and she had filled Delphi’s nightmares from the moment Delphi had first had the misfortune of accidentally meeting her. Nagini’s death had nearly been as difficult as her master’s; Neville Longbottom had very nearly died to finally slay Nagini.

 It was strange, then, that it was here in the face of her nightmares that Delphi’s paralysis of shock and fear and uncertainty broke. That it was here that Delphi found the lightning in her to step forward to meet the monster. That her uncertainty flipped in the flash of terror. 

 Or perhaps it wasn’t. Because it didn’t really matter which monster it was and how terrifying that monster might be. Nagini was going to kill Teddy and that couldn’t happen.

 “NO,” Delphi hissed, and lunged.

 It would seem to Delphi later that the Sword of Godric Gryffindor had moved almost of its own accord, as she launched herself past a startled Teddy to meet the snake. Nagini was coiling to launch herself, but Delphi was already swinging – wild and terrified and determined, and like the blade was her Beater’s bat – as the snake tried to strike. In a bright flash of silver, the sword went cleanly through Nagini’s neck.

 And Delphi had beheaded the snake, just like she had cut off Voldemort’s hands.

 Nagini’s body and head fell back to the wet grass with small thumps. And Delphi toppled over sideways into the wet grass as well, overbalancing as her knees gave painfully out on her, with a whumph that wasn’t much bigger.

 “Ow,” she said.

 When she looked up, Teddy was gaping down at her and the snake. Behind Teddy, so were Cedric Diggory and the young Harry. Delphi looked at the enormous dead snake beside her, bleeding into the grass, and grimaced and rolled away from it. She sat up, the sword gleaming smugly in one hand, and held her other hand out expectantly, so that Teddy could help her up.

 “Is that…? Is that Nagini?” Teddy squeaked, horrified.

 Delphi scoffed at them, to hide her own horror. “It was,” she corrected Teddy.

 Teddy stared at her, then looked at her hand. “Oh,” they said, and reached down to help Delphi to her feet again. It was tricky, because Delphi’s body didn’t want to be upright again, if the trembling in all her limbs was anything to go by, but Teddy rose to the challenge of steadying her.

 “Thanks.”

 “No problem, Del,” Teddy said, in a high voice. “Just… uh… did you just kill Nagini?”

 “…Yeah,” Delphi said, like she wasn’t panicking too.

 Like they hadn’t both just meddled massively with the timeline, if they really had travelled back in time like it seemed they had. Like Delphi especially hadn’t meddled massively with the timeline, doing in Voldemort’s snake horcrux years and years early, because she couldn’t let Teddy die. Like Voldemort wasn’t alive again, in a homunculus wrapped in that bundle, under the unconscious body of Peter Pettigrew just over there.

 “Nobody gets to kill you but me, Ted,” Delphi said to her wide-eyed god-sibling instead. She wiped at her face and lifted her chin, like everything was just fine and not absolutely terrible.

 “Well… thanks, that’s… reassuring,” Teddy said, strangled, instead of rolling their eyes at this old joke like they usually did. Teddy looked again at Nagini’s bleeding corpse. “But, uh, Del… correct me if I’m wrong on this one… but isn’t Nagini supposed to be already dead?”

 

 ~ if it wasn’t for you meddling kids

 

 Delphi sighed. “Ted, where do you think we are?”

 “The middle of an incredibly creepy graveyard being attacked by dead snakes and blokes in hooded cloaks,” Teddy answered. “You know, Tuesdays as usual in our family.” Teddy raised a hand to wriggle their fingers in a so-so gesture, looking a bit accusing now. “Everything else, like all the details, I’m a bit fuzzy on still. Would you care to fill in the rest, Del? Would you be so polite?”

 Delphi frowned at them and just looked pointedly towards their peanut gallery. Teddy followed her gaze, to where Cedric Diggory and her young father were staring at them with wide-eyes. The young Harry kept glancing disbelievingly at the corpse of Nagini.

 This… wasn’t good.

 “She’s being uncooperative, so I don’t suppose you two friendly strangers know…” Teddy began unhappily, before trailing off. “Hang on a mo’. Hey, you in the red shirt, look here, would you?”

 Delphi’s young father looked up, startled, towards his future godson. Harry’s untidy black hair had been swept aside from his forehead, revealing that unique lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. He was only a kid now, short and kind of scrawny, but that was unmistakable. So were the eyes, as they darted between Teddy and Delphi in front of him

 “What?” young Harry said uncertainly.

 “…Don’t suppose you know what the date is?” Teddy said, after a long pause.

 “The date?” young Harry repeated dubiously.

 “Yeah, well, it changes every day, you see,” Teddy said brightly. “How about it? What’s today?”

 “It’s the twenty-fourth of June today,” Cedric Diggory said, speaking up for the first time in a while. “And actually a Saturday, if that helps. I don’t suppose we could get your names? And where the hell we are, while we’re on the subject?”

 “Sure thing, just… gonna need the year too, if you wouldn’t mind.”

 Cedric raised his eyebrows. “It’s 1995.”

 “Oh,” Teddy said, with a nod.

 Teddy looked helplessly towards Delphi, but Delphi was looking towards the unconscious figure and the cloth bundle underneath them. Her grip was tight around the Sword of Gryffindor. The confirmation that it was 1995, that they were fourteen years into the past, made her grip tighten to the point of pain. It meant that… it really meant that…

 “Ted, that’s Voldemort over there,” Delphi said quietly.

 “...What,” said Teddy.

 “What,” said young Harry.

 “Isn’t he dead?” Cedric said, aghast.

 “He’s supposed to be,” Teddy said, equally aghast. “Del, is it really?”

 “Yes,” Delphi confirmed. “Where do you think we are, Ted? It’s a graveyard. The year is 1995. It’s the night of…” She trailed off, with their audience, and gave her god-sibling a pointed look instead. Teddy knew the stories just as well as she did, if not better.

 “Oh,” Teddy said. “Oh, no.”

 “Are… are you two time-travellers?”

 Delphi and Teddy both looked towards young Harry Potter in horror.

 Beside him, Cedric DIggory looked between them and said faintly, “Oh. Well, that makes sense.”

 “I’ve done that before… a bit,” young Harry said.

 Yeah, we know, Delphi didn’t say.

 You already told us all about it, she didn’t say.

 She didn’t say anything to him. She just looked at Teddy, who looked at her and horrified.

 “We just messed up,” Teddy whispered.

 Without anything better to say, Delphi dredged up the wisdom of her father for her god-sibling.

 “No shit,” Delphi said.

 “We just meddled, Del. Oh, that’s bad. That’s really bad. Terrible things, Del!” Teddy’s voice dropped again, but their eyes were still wild as they whispered, “Terrible things happen to people who meddle in time. Terrible things happen to people who try.

 “We’re not dead yet, so stop panicking,” Delphi hissed at him. “I might’ve just made myself non-existent, so if anyone’s going to be panicking, it’s me. So shut it, Ted.”

 Teddy went wide-eyed. “What? Oh. Oh, shit.”

 Delphi scoffed at him. She didn’t have anything to say with it, but it made her feel better.

 “…So, uh, can you tell us who you are?” young Harry said. “Or…”

 “…Is there harm in that?” Teddy said.

 “How would I know?” Delphi snapped. “We’ve already said our names, Ted.”

 Teddy rolled their eyes. “Yeah, I know, Delphi. I mean, is there harm in telling them our full names? Our full identities and all that? If we tell them about the future are we making it worse, or is it already broken so it doesn’t matter what we do or say?”

 “How would I know?” Delphi repeated.

 “Well, if you think about it, then I don’t have to. My head is starting to hurt,” Teddy complained, then turned back on Cedric and the young Harry. “Hi, my name is Teddy. This is Delphi. We’re… not from around here, it’s an absolute disaster to meet you, but also nice.”

 “Likewise,” Cedric said pleasantly. “Was it you who brought us here?”

 “Oh… no… that wasn’t us.”

 “Sorry,” young Harry interrupted, urgently but quietly. “But is that really Voldemort over there?”

 They all looked towards the unconscious figure and the silent bundle. By all rights, they should have been dead by now, but the bundle didn’t move. It was so unlikely and strange.

 “Yeah,” Delphi said sullenly.

 “I’ve been trying not to think about it so I don’t panic,” Teddy volunteered quietly.

 “…I thought he’d be taller,” Cedric said faintly.

 “Oh, no,” Teddy assured him in a whisper. “The guy in the hooded cloak isn’t Voldemort, that’s Peter Pettigrew. There’s this… horrible homunculus thing in the bundle that’s Voldemort… since he lost his original body trying to kill Harry here. Like, an awful, skeletal, long baby thing, I was told. I dunno, I’ve never actually seen it.”

 “Oh.”

 “Are you… going to kill him?” young Harry asked.

 “Uh,” Teddy said awkwardly. “I don’t… know if that’s a good idea. I mean, killing Voldemort is, of course, always an excellent idea, but… we’re probably not meant to do that. We didn’t travel through time to do that, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 Although, we did, kind of end up here because we went off to do that, Delphi thought, a little hysterically. She wiped at her face again, even though she knew it was probably in vain, with the amount of dust on her. At least none of it was glittering anymore.

“That was an accident,” Teddy said.

 “So, what are you here to do?” young Harry demanded of them.

 “No, um, the time travel was the accident. We didn’t mean to do that at all,” Teddy corrected desperately, then looked towards Delphi for help. “Delphi, what do we do? We… we really messed up, what the hell do we do now? Did anyone tell you what we’re meant to do?”

 “No,” Delphi said grimly.

 “Don’t you have a time-turner to get back?” young Harry asked.

 “No,” Delphi repeated.

 “It’s… complicated,” Teddy told him. “I’m… not entirely sure what happened myself.”

 Delphi scoffed at him, which didn’t improve her mood nearly as much as she would have liked. “The golden dust was time sand, Ted,” she said, and pointed at the Tri-Wizard Cup still in the damp grass behind Cedric and young Harry. “The cup is a Portkey. Do the maths.”

 “…Oh,” Teddy said, and made a face. “Oh, no.”

 “What I think we should do,” Delphi began slowly, “is wait for… him… to wake up.”

 “Who?” Cedric said. “The man over there?”

 “And dump the problem in Ha- his lap to deal with!” Teddy said brightly. “Brilliant! I like it.”

 “You mean the bloke who was passed out between you,” young Harry said knowingly, following this exchange far closer than Delphi would have liked. “Not Pettigrew. The one that you… ran off with and hid somewhere. Who was that?”

 Teddy opened their mouth and then closed it again.

 “My dad,” Delphi said.

 “My godfather,” Teddy added quickly, more confidently. “He’ll take care of things. He always does.”

 “…Alright,” Cedric said uncertainly.

 “And what’re we meant to do in the meanwhile?” young Harry demanded.

 “Well, you should be able to just go back,” Teddy said. “Right?”

 “Ted.”

 “What? Oh. Oh, right. Uh…”

 “They can stay here and wait with us,” Delphi decided, ignoring the fact that Teddy had probably only just realized Cedric Diggory here was supposed to be dead right now. “We might need them to help us figure things later. So, you two can just… stay here for now.”

 “What about the Tournament?” Cedric said.

 “What about Voldemort over there?” young Harry demanded incredulously.

 “…He’s not going anywhere,” Delphi said stubbornly.

 Teddy laughed, startled into mirth, and quickly slapped a hand over their mouth with a panicked look. Teddy then leaned into towards Delphi and whispered urgently, “Can he hear us right now? Over there?”

 “How would I know?” Delphi hissed back. “Probably bits and pieces, at least.”

 Everyone look a bit unsettled at that.

 “We don’t have to go near him. We’ll just… stay here.”

 “For how long?” young Harry demanded, clearly unimpressed with this plan.

 “Forever, if we have to,” Delphi snapped.

 “Uh, not to throw a Niffler into the vault, Del, but we can’t stay here.”

 Delphi whirled on her god-sibling and scowled. “Why not?”

 “Well, what if other Death Eaters show up?” Teddy whispered urgently, and Delphi stiffened, because they were right. “You remember the stories right? Other Death Eaters might show up and we don’t want to be here if that happens. What should be happening isn’t happening, so what if someone comes looking? What if Death Eaters come looking?”

 Teddy was unfortunately, annoying right. As they annoyingly usually were.

 They had to leave.

 

~ this is a kidnapping

 

 “Where are we supposed to go?” Delphi demanded.

 “I... Someplace safe… and secret,” Teddy said determinedly, like this was an actual place that they could go to and not a plan that desperately wanted to be an actual plan. Teddy looked around wildly for inspiration and settled on the outline of the manor, off on the hill.

 “No,” Delphi said immediately.

 “Oh, definitely not there,” Teddy agreed quickly. “But where there’s one house, there’s more, right? There’s probably a village nearby. There has to be a village nearby. And where there’s a village, there’s cars. We go down to the village, we get a car, and we… go somewhere.”

 Delphi wanted to scoff at it, but… this sounded… almost good.

 “That’s only half a plan, Ted,” she said stubbornly. “Where’s this somewhere we’re supposed to go? None of the safe houses are gonna be safe houses yet. They’ll have people.”

 It was… strange to imagine all the people that were alive in this time. Not just nightmarish figures like Voldemort who had only just died and Nagini who had died not long before him, but people like Peter Pettigrew and Cedric Diggory who had only appeared in stories.

 Teddy’s grandmother, Delphi’s Aunt Andy, was still alive.

 Even Teddy’s parents were still alive.

 And so, Delphi realized in horrified surprise, was her mother.

 She shook her head. She’d deal with it later, if she had to. The fact that she might meet her mother was nothing in comparison to the other things she was actually going to have to deal with later. Like that she played a part in the death of Voldemort, her father, not even an hour ago. (In vain, it seemed now.) Like that she had just meddled badly with the timeline, after apparently accidentally having travelled back in time, and perhaps negated her own existence.

 “Stupefy,” Teddy said.

 Delphi head snapped up just in time to see a bright flash of red light fly from Teddy’s hand, towards the unconscious figure, and strike the bundle half-underneath. There was no visible change, as they couldn’t see inside the bundle, but Delphi stared with wide eyes all the same.

 Then she turned disbelievingly on Teddy.

 “Well, we don’t want him to hear us make plans, right?” Teddy said defensively.

 Behind them, Cedric and the young Harry were visibly gaping again.

 “Did you just-?” young Harry demanded.

 “Yep!” Teddy said, with tight, panicky cheer. “I did! I just do things. I just do things and, if I do say so myself, it’s always worked out well-enough for me. All my life, I have just done things, and I am not dead yet. Dibs on not checking if that actually worked.”

 “What?” Delphi hissed.

 “Dibs on not checking if that worked,” Teddy repeated, as though she was being slow. “I shot the spell, so I think someone else should have to go over there and see if it worked.”

 “It’s your spell; you check!”

 “That doesn’t seem fair. Also, I called dibs. Go on, Delphi.”

 “I’ll check,” young Harry interrupted grimly, before Delphi could whack her god-sibling.

 And he was off, grimly determined to do the unpleasant thing that needed to be done, before either a wide-eyed Delphi or a gaping Teddy could stop him. Which was, Delphi could have thought, a very Harry thing to do. However, she didn’t think this, because she was too busy being terrified for him. Her father was very young right now and this Voldemort wasn’t dead.

 Young Harry Potter stopped, a few steps from the unconscious figure and the bundle between the graves, and peered at them. The night was eerily silent as he did, windless as it was, and no one seemed willing to breathe and risk interrupting the inspection.

 Finally, young Harry looked up and said grimly, “It’s him. He’s unconscious.”

 “I just Stunned Voldemort,” Teddy murmured, like it was just now sinking in. Perhaps it was only sinking in now, especially if Teddy hadn’t thought about it before doing it.

 Delphi was still trying to come to terms with Nagini’s headless corpse and head, bleeding beside them. Or rather, some part of her was trying to come to terms with this, while the rest of Delphi stubbornly ignored it and kept putting off for later. Delphi wiped at her face. She was much too busy trying to put off panicking about the time travel issue and timeline meddling off for later.

 “Great!” Teddy called back to the young Harry. “Glad to know that worked! Thanks!”

 “Come on back over here,” Delphi urged.

 Her young father standing next to Voldemort, no matter how seemingly harmless, was making her nervous. She could have shouted at the young Harry, when he lingered for a moment, giving the unconscious figure and his master in the bundle an unreadable look.

 But then young Harry’s face twisted in disgust and he relented, returning to the rest of them without argument. He had a wand in ready hand, Delphi noticed, which was… different. He walked differently too, she noticed. Not just because he was smaller and scrawnier, but because he was clearly suspicious and uncomfortable and wary of them, with none of the commanding confidence Delphi associated with her father. Harry Potter was so young in this time, and he frowned at them like they were a threat he was trying to make sense of.

 “What’s this about Death Eaters?” young Harry said, and that was… much more like him.

 “Death Eaters might show up here,” Teddy answered, more seriously, sounding more like Delphi’s father than this young Harry did. “We can’t all just hang around here and wait. It’s not safe for any of us. We should leave so we can wait in a safe place for our Dad to wake up and fix things.”

 Both Cedric and young Harry seemed sceptical.

 “And this… wouldn’t be meddling with things even more?” young Harry said.

 Delphi grimaced.

 “It would be, probably-” Teddy admitted.

 “Definitely,” Delphi corrected.

 “-but we might need your help with… making sure the timeline’s alright,” Teddy said, and Delphi could hear the guilt and uncertainty in her god-sibling’s voice.

 She didn’t know how fixing the timeline worked, and she was pretty sure that Teddy didn’t either, but she did know the fixing the timeline would mean terrible things for both these boys.

 “Sorry, but… are you asking us to run away with you?” Cedric said finally.

 “…Yeah, pretty much,” Teddy admitted. “Just for a bit.”

 “What about the Tournament?” Cedric asked again, not looking very agreeable. He looked a bit wild-eyed, still clearly confused as to what was happening here, though he had been willing to listen. “We have to get back. We should go back. People will notice if we’ve vanished.”

 Shut it, you’re supposed to be dead, Delphi didn’t say.

 Shut it, I might’ve just made myself non-existent and I’m not whining, Delphi didn’t say.

 “It’ll be just until Dad wakes up,” Delphi told him firmly, instead of those things, and the pang of guilt was barely a blip in the panic she was currently wrestling. They had to keep moving. They had to leave. They could deal with… everything… later.

 She could care later, if she had to.

 “What about Voldemort?” young Harry repeated incredulously. “Are you really just going to leave him here?”

 Delphi wanted nothing more than to do just that.

 Instead, she exchanged a horrified look with Teddy. She could see identical realization in her god-siblings eyes, made larger by their goggles. If they were bringing Cedric and the young Harry along with them, so Delphi’s father could have everyone around him to fix things when he woke up, then… they probably had to bring along Voldemort and Pettigrew too.

 Teddy was the one to voice it, “We… should probably bring them too… for your dad?”

 Teddy sounded like they wanted to do anything else. Teddy sounded like they wanted nothing more than for Delphi to shut down this idea as absurd and volunteered to stab Voldemort instead.

 “He’s really weak right now, so… it could work?” Teddy continued. “It might work. He’s heard stuff already and we don’t want him telling his Death Eaters that we’re running around or anything, because that could be a problem even if everyone here is really bad at magic or whatever. If he were the real Voldemort, we’d be dead already, and if we’re bringing them…”

 “I think we have to,” Delphi agreed sullenly.

 She wanted to volunteer to stab Voldemort too. The sword was ready in her hand.

 “We can always just dump them in a ditch, if it goes bad,” she said instead. After all, Teddy was right; if this had been the real Voldemort, instead of one stuck in an ugly baby puppet, then they would all already be dead. Maybe they’d get to kill him again.

 “…I have rope,” Teddy volunteered finally, defeatedly.

 “Good,” Delphi said, even though there was nothing good about any of this.

 “They’re not riding in the car with us,” Teddy added determinedly, chin lifting like they were prepared to argue this point to the death. “We’ll get a truck or something, and put them in the back. And if we can’t find a truck or something, we’ll… we’ll put them in the trunk. That’s what you do in a kidnapping, right? Tie them up and put them in the trunk?”

 “How would I know? I’ve never kidnapped anyone before, much less Voldemort.”

 “It’ll be a learning experience for the whole family!”

 Delphi was just about ready to whack in Teddy’s cheerfully determined face, but Teddy then snapped their fingers in front of her face. She was too surprised to do anything about it and Teddy withdrew the fingers before she could bite them off.

 “I’ve got it!” Teddy said. “Grimmauld Place!”

 “What?”

 “Grimmauld Place doesn’t have people yet, right? It’s sitting empty still.”

 “What?”  

 “We go to Grimmauld Place and we wait for… Dad… to wake up,” Teddy said brightly. “And then this is all Dad’s problem and he fixes everything for us. There’s your full plan. Do you have a better one?”

 Much to Delphi’s dismay, she did not.

 She didn’t want to take Voldemort or Pettigrew to Grimmauld Place, but… they had to leave. Death Eaters might be here any second. They had to get Delphi’s father somewhere safe, and all the pieces of this mess somewhere safe, so the older Harry Potter could wake up and fix everything and take them back to their world where Voldemort was dead. They had to leave and they could figure everything out along the way. As they usually did.

 Their family picked a direction and stuck with it, for as long as they had to.

 Without waiting for her answer, Teddy turned that manic cheer on Cedric and young Harry.

 “And you two’ll come with us! Right?”

 “What?” young Harry said.

 “I think… I’d rather not,” Cedric said. “If you don’t mind.”

 Delphi narrowed her eyes on him. “No, you’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We might need you two to fix the timeline, so you need to come with us. Unless you want to wait around for the Death Eaters instead. I wouldn’t fancy your chances. If they don’t get you, the consequences of a broken timeline will probably finish the job.”

 Neither Cedric or young Harry reacted to this as Delphi felt they ought to have done. They frowned at her instead of jumping to attention and falling in line.

 “Del, that’s a bit… much,” Teddy said, and turned to reassure the other two. “But, really, she’s right. It’s definitely in your best interests to come along with us. What else are you gonna do?”

 Young Harry nodded at the Tri-Wizard Cup next behind them. “Take that back?”

 “Oh,” Teddy said, clearly now having regretting suggesting that earlier. “Well, yeah, you could do that. It’s true.” Teddy unwrapped his purse from around his waist and opened the flap. “But I’ve got something in here that I bet could convince you.”

 Delphi thought that Teddy was going to pull out the other Tri-Wizard Cup. She opened her mouth to protest, because she didn’t know if that was the best course of action and Teddy shouldn’t touch it. But then Teddy didn’t do that. Instead of pulling out the Tri-Wizard Cup that had brought them here, Teddy tossed the open-mouthed purse forward onto the other Tri-Wizard Cup just behind the ought-to-have-been-late Cedric Diggory and the young version of Delphi’s father.

 In front of everyone, Teddy’s gluttonous purse quickly and eagerly ate up the other cup.

 “Now what?” Teddy said smugly.

 Cedric and young Harry looked at Teddy in horror. Delphi preferred to save her horror for the way that the purse flopped back over to her god-sibling, then climbed up Teddy’s leg to wrap its strap back around Teddy’s waist. She looked at the two teenage boys with sympathy.

 “Good luck getting it back out of there,” she said. “Ted’s the only one who can get anything out of that temperamental thing. Looks like you have to come with us if you want to get out of here.” Delphi tightened her grip on the Sword of Gryffindor and forced herself to smile at them. “Unless you want to go after the cup and try losing a hand.”

 Cedric and young Harry exchanged a look.

 “Fine,” young Harry said finally, crossing his arms and lifting his chin. “This might be the maddest thing that’s ever happened to me, but fine.”

 The strange thing, Delphi realized, was that he might have been right.

 

~ the flight of death

 

 “…I’m not picking him up,” Teddy said immediately.

 Delphi scoffed at them, but she didn’t argue the point. She definitely wasn’t doing it, but even she drew the line at forcing her god-sibling to pick up Voldemort in his homunculus form. It was a task she would wish only on her worst enemy, which… happened to be Voldemort himself.

 They stood over the prone forms of Voldemort and Pettigrew awkwardly.

 “Just get the rope,” Delphi said.

 “I’m not picking him up, Del!” Teddy repeatedly desperately, crossing their arms in front of their face. “Do you hear me? Do your ears work? I’m not picking him up! Not for anything!”

 “I’m not asking you to. Just get the rope.”

 Teddy gave her a suspicious look, but acquiesced and opened their purse. From it, they withdrew a long, folded rope that twisted like a live snake and they tossed it onto Pettigrew back. The rope immediately snaked around Pettigrew’s form, again and again, pinning his arms to his sides and tying his legs together and stretching up around the hood to gag his mouth.

 “That’s the one that’ll stretch or shrink to hold any form, right?” Delphi said.

 In her free hand, she was already holding the wands she had summoned off them – a long, pale yew wand and a shorter, brown chestnut. Cedric and young Harry had, with some confusion and wariness, confirmed that Voldemort and Pettigrew should be unable to perform magic without wands, but young Harry had quickly reminded them of Pettigrew’s status as an Animagus.

 Teddy had told them that they could handle it, and they’d left young Harry to relate the story of Peter Pettigrew to a still confused Cedric. Cedric had been very confused about Peter Pettigrew still being alive when Sirius Black – Delphi’s father’s godfather, whom she had never met, was still alive and had escaped from Azkaban just last year – was supposed to have killed Pettigrew. Delphi could hear them talking about it, quietly and awkwardly, while she and Teddy dealt with the problem of Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort.

 She didn’t know much about Pettigrew – he had died when she was a baby, less than a year old – beyond that he was a coward, indirectly the reason that her father’s parents and godfather are dead. And that he was directly the reason that Voldemort regained a body.

 A spineless sort of evil, her father had once said disdainfully.

 “Yeah, that was my good rope,” Teddy said sadly. “I’m gonna have to burn it later now.”

 Delphi scoffed at him. “Just get one for Voldemort too.”

 “I don’t have any more rope.”

 “What?”

 “That’s my one good rope. I usually just conjure it, because most of the time I lose it when I use it and it’s a waste of good rope. I didn’t plan for a kidnapping today, Del,” Teddy said defensively.

 “Ugh, fine.”

 Delphi switched the wands to her sword hand, raised her other hand, took a deep breath, and then another, and… cast a spell she’d learned from Hannah. The one meant to comfortably swaddle babies so they could sleep. The bundle obeyed, the fabric twisting to wrap tightly around the awful homunculus that held the unconscious Voldemort. And then Delphi conjured black ropes to wrap around the swaddled bundle, just in case.

 The Voldemort they knew could have broken free with a breath.

 Most of the time, it was very easy to not panic. Delphi went around not panicking all the time. But suddenly, not for the first time since arriving here, it was very hard. It was very hard not to think about how she was Not Panicking. She swallowed it determinedly anyway as she wiped at her face, though, because she could panic later, if she had to.

 “He’s weak now, right?” she said determinedly, like she could make herself believe it if she said it strongly enough. Teddy wouldn’t have been able to Stun the Voldemort they knew. This one was helpless and it was incredible. “That should do it.”

 “Did you just… swaddle him?”  

 “Shut it, Ted, or I’ll make you carry him after all,” Delphi snapped, and her god-sibling obligingly shut it. “Look, I’ll deal with carrying these two along with us. You just take care of Dad, alright?” She swept the Invisibility Cloak off her shoulders, ignored the shiver with the disappearance of the comforting weight, and handed it to Teddy. “And put him in this, so those two don’t see him and figure out who he is.”

 Teddy took the cloak with a nod. “Alright, yeah, no telling what’ll happen then,” they agreed. But they paused and said, “Are you really gonna pick him up? How are you gonna carry both of them?”

 Delphi stared at him, then raised her hand to Pettigrew and Voldemort again. It took a bit of focus – a lot of focus, actually – but slowly both unconscious figures rose into the air and hovered about a foot off the ground. They bobbed a bit, but they were floating. Delphi, with her hand still outstretched to keep them steady, looked at Teddy and raised her eyebrows at her god-sibling.

 “We’re magic, Ted,” she said, more smugly than she meant to.

 Teddy rolled their eyes at her. “Feel free to drop them,” they said, grinning back. “I was gonna suggest making a sled and dragging them, but I guess this leaves less tracks? Look at you succeeding at this kidnapping thing! Del, between that and the scary smile you gave those two while holding the sword that’d just killed a snake, I’m beginning to think you’re a natural.”

 Delphi scoffed. “Just go get Dad,” she said. Then realized, “Oh.”

 “What?”

 “…Nagini’s body,” Delphi said, which said it all.

 Teddy stared at her, then made a face. “We should, shouldn’t we? I’ll make that sled.”

 “Alright,” Delphi said, and waited for Teddy to go.

 Teddy didn’t. “…Hey, Delphi?”

 “What?”

 Teddy made another face, somewhere between a grimace and utter terror, and said very quietly, “What are we going to do when he wakes up? He’s really weak right now, yeah, but… what if, you know? What if either one of them wakes up before Harry does?”

 Delphi had been trying not to think of that either.

 “Then I’ll cut off their hands if they try anything, just like Dad said to,” she said, more bravely than she felt. “Just like the last time we had to bring some Death Eater idiot back to Dad.”

 She lifted her chin again, when Teddy’s next expression was somewhere between bizarre and bemused, like her god-sibling just didn’t know what to think of this pronouncement. Delphi’s father, after being extremely worried, had been fit to murder them the last time he thought they’d gone out hunting trouble like that – as though he’d really thought Delphi and Teddy stupid enough go out hunting Death Eaters, instead of them simply turning the tables on people hoping to capture them – but this was different.

 “…I don’t think Harry meant the hands thing like that, Delphi.”

 “Well, he should have.”

 

 ~ can’t and won’t  

 

 They had to have made for a strange picture as they trooped out into the night.

 Teddy led their little line, with a Find-Me Spell in hand to take them towards the nearest village, and Delphi’s father thrown over a shoulder with a Featherlight Charm. Teddy had shifted size, growing taller to be better able to carry Delphi’s father, and explained that they were a Metamorphagus to the boys when they’d startled. Teddy had changed their hair bubble-gum pink to demonstrate and seemed to be sticking with that now.

 Delphi’s unconscious father was… mostly invisible. Limbs kept falling out of the cloak and Teddy had to keep stuffing them back in, and the tip of one of Dad’s boots kept showing as Teddy moved. They’d explained to Cedric and young Harry that this was to help keep Delphi’s father safe and, thankfully, neither of the boys had seemed to want to push this much. They’d hinted after wanting Delphi’s father’s identity again, but neither of them had pushed at that either when Teddy had bluntly deflected the question by changing the subject.

 On a sled, in the other hand, Teddy was dragging Nagini’s headless body and head.

 The young Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory were following Teddy and Teddy’s burdens, with light at the end of their wands, and Delphi was bringing up the rear with her own. She was limping carefully sideways, with her sword in one hand and Pettigrew and Voldemort floating behind her under the other. It was an understandably, annoyingly slow procession.

 And the young Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory weren’t following in silence.

 And Teddy was indulging them.

 “So, the Tri-Wizard Cup was actually a Portkey to kidnap us,” Cedric was saying now.

 “Yep!”

 “By… Voldemort,” Cedric finished incredulously. “Who isn’t dead.”

 “Yeah, he does that,” Teddy said, a little strained.

 “He must’ve had help. Do you know who made the cup a Portkey?” young Harry demanded.

 A Death Eater pretending to be your teacher, Delphi didn’t say.

 She glared at Teddy, hoping her god-sibling knew better than to spill that much. What the boys could easily work out for themselves was one thing, but everything else was another.

 “Some real prick, probably,” Teddy answered instead.

 Delphi sighed in relief and pulled their… unwanted kidnapping victims along. She’d accidentally bumped Pettigrew into a gravestone and had them drag against the ground already, and she didn’t want either of them to wake up. That Teddy hadn’t planned for a kidnapping, she felt, didn’t mean that was any excuse not to be carrying around some potion to keep people asleep in case they needed it. Rope and sleeping potions were really just useful things to have.

 She hadn’t been happy for Teddy to point out that she hadn’t had anything either.

 “But you know who it is,” young Harry said insistently.

 Delphi couldn’t remember the name. She was willing to bet that Teddy couldn’t either. That was probably enough of a truth to get around this young Harry’s steadfast fixation on getting some answers out of them. He might not have cared to push some things, but he kept looking back, past Delphi, towards the bundle at the end of the line. He did it again now.

 Delphi frowned at him. “We can’t tell you things like that.”

 Young Harry frowned back at her, which just made her frown more, because she didn’t like that.

 “What she means is we probably shouldn’t tell you things like that,” Teddy corrected, huffing, from the front of the line. “Meddling with the timeline like this… I don’t know if you’ve noticed… is actually extremely nerve-wracking. We’re probably breaking it… badly enough as it is… without throwing the secrets of… the future about, you know?”

 Young Harry’s frown deepened. “How are you going to fix things?”

 “We’re not,” Teddy said cheerfully. “Her dad is.”

 “Yeah, sure, and what’s he going to do to fix everything? How is that gonna work?”

 “Well, if we knew, we’d do it ourselves, wouldn’t we?” Delphi snapped.

 “This whole thing was an accident for us!” Teddy intervened, before young Harry could turn back to the end of the line. “I know it probably doesn’t look like it… but we do know what we’re doing! And I think you can at least… trust that we don’t mean you any harm.”

 “Are you going to tell me we’re friends?” Young Harry said dubiously.

 “We’ve just fought Voldemort together, Harry… kind of… so what else could we be?” Teddy said, probably under the impression they were being clever with that. “But if helps… would it help… if I solemnly swore… that we were up to no good?”

 Young Harry stopped. So did Delphi.

 Cedric noticed and stopped as well, looking even more confused. “Harry, are you alright?”

 At this, Teddy also stopped and looked back.

 “Ted!” Delphi snapped.

 Teddy just rolled their eyes at her again. “We have to give them something, Del! You can’t just wave a sword at them and… expect them to listen to us, even if it’s Gryffindor’s.” Then Teddy turned around and kept trudging forward. “Come on! My arms hurt… and we’re nearly there!”

 Young Harry and Cedric watched Teddy go, then turned to look at Delphi.

 “Is that really the Sword of Gryffindor?” Cedric said.

 Delphi glared at him, but tilted the silver blade so that the inscription was visible.

 “How’d you get it?” Young Harry said.

 “I borrowed it,” Delphi said shortly.

 From far ahead and getting farther, Teddy shouted, “You stole it!”

 “It’s not stealing if you intend to give it back!” Delphi shouted back, annoyed, repeating one of Teddy’s favourite defences on the subject. She flushed, under young Harry and Cedric’s raised eyebrows; her young father looked almost amused, in a confused sort of way.

 “Yeah, and you don’t!” Teddy argued. “Not really! Now, come on!”

 Delphi sighed and started limping forward again, which herded Cedric and young Harry forward.

 “So… what was that about?” Cedric said.

 “What?” Delphi said.

 “Solemnly swearing to be up to something? It’s…” Cedric paused. “Ironic?”

 “It’s an inside joke,” young Harry said, before Delphi could, and looked at Delphi with new suspicion that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t think he’d guess who she was, but she’d never had her father look at her like this before. Like he didn’t know her. 

 “I figured,” Cedric said.

 They trudged on in silence, with Cedric and young Harry slowing down for Delphi, with her limp and her burden. They were less of a line now and more like two separate groups. Thankfully, Teddy had goggles and didn’t need the lit wands to see ahead.

 “So, Harry, you’ve travelled through time before?” Cedric said finally, conversationally.

 Young Harry looked at him in surprise. “Yeah, um, last year. But it was with a time-turner and just a few hours into the past, so w… I could stop something from happening. It was weird… being in two places at once. I couldn’t be seen.”

 “…So it was a very different situation.”

 Young Harry glanced back at Delphi. “Yeah, it was.” Then to Delphi, he said, “I don’t suppose you can tell us what was supposed to happen? Or why Voldemort wanted to kidnap the winner of the Tri-Wizard Tournament?”

 Delphi looked between them, their tired, dirt-stained, determined faces. She looked down.

 “He wanted his body back,” she muttered finally.

 When she looked up again, young Harry and Cedric looked appropriately unnerved. Delphi could almost see it on their faces, the calculations of what should have happened to them tonight, and had to look away. She wiped at her face and looked ahead, towards Teddy, who was carrying her unconscious father, guiding them away from all of it.

 “What was supposed to happen?” young Harry repeated.

 Delphi couldn’t help it. She scoffed, “What do you think happened?”

 A minute ago, Delphi probably would have been happy when young Harry and Cedric stopped asking questions, but now she wasn’t. She regretted her reply as soon as she’d said it, but she couldn’t take it back. Both boys had looked away from her, when she glanced at them again, and she couldn’t fathom what they were thinking – what they thought would have happened if Delphi and Teddy hadn’t accidentally intervened.

 They walked the rest of the way in silence.

 

 ~ thieves and liars in the night

 

 Teddy left them at the edge of the village with Nagini and took off with Delphi’s father. They returned, about ten awkward minutes later, in a small white van with the words Hangleton Bakery written on the side in pink, curly letters. They were all hiding behind a hedge, tensing at the crunch of gravel as the van stopped right next to them, but Delphi stood up after she peered over and saw Teddy rolling down the window. Teddy leaned out and grinned at her proudly.

 “What happened to the truck?” Delphi demanded.

 “Thought this would work better. It’s got lots of room in the back, and some back seats too, so no one has to sit next to… well… You-Know-Who,” Teddy said, and opened the door and got out. “It’s no trunk, yeah, but not bad for a first-time kidnapping, right?”

 Behind Teddy, in the passenger seat, Delphi could see the seatbelt buckled over someone invisible. That was a relief, when little else was. She had seen lights in one of the houses of the village and the thought that there were people around, in all these houses, had made her worry when Teddy had run off with her father to steal a car.

 “You… you really just stole a car,” Cedric said, standing up beside Delphi.

 Teddy looked at him incredulously, on their way to open the back. “Yeah, we said we were gonna do that? Besides, it’s really just borrowing. Delphi, come on and bring them over here. I was thinking some Cushioning Charms and Sticking Charms, to keep them from being thrown around, but I’m not sure they wouldn’t cancel each other out? Also, Silencing Charms on both of them.”

 “We’ll just Stun them again if they wake up,” Delphi said grimly, as she made her slow way around the hedge, with Pettigrew and the bundle that was Voldemort in tow. The hood and bundle that kept her from seeing them made it easier, but that this was so easy was unnerving.

 “Or you go chop,” Teddy agreed. “Yep.”  

 “Did you make sure that you didn’t ‘borrow’ this car from anybody?”

 Teddy paused and Delphi scowled at her god-sibling.

 “Teddy!” she hissed.

 “All of these cars look like they belong to people, Del! Have you cast Homenum Revelio here? There’s people everywhere,” Teddy said, and opened the back of the van. “Just come on and lift them in, unless you wanna keep on wasting the dark.”

 Delphi scoffed, but came around and lifted both figures into the back of the van. Teddy cast Cushioning, Sticking, and Silencing Charms as she did. Delphi was tempted to cast another Stunning Spell on them now (Delphi was tempted to raise the Sword of Gryffindor again and let it fall where it may), but she tore herself away and looked towards the boys and the dead snake behind the hedge that they still had to load inside. 

 “You can’t just steal someone’s car,” Cedric said incredulously.

 Teddy looked at him in confusion. “I already did? Besides, we need it more, and we’re just borrowing it. If it really does turn out to belong to someone, her dad can return it later. He can do anything.”

 “Do you want to stay here and see if the Death Eaters will give you a lift?” Delphi said.

 Cedric looked at her, unimpressed, and said, “I have an Apparition License.”

 Oh.

 So, Cedric Diggory could have left at any time. He could still leave at any time.

 The young Harry didn’t look surprised at this.

 “My parents are going to be worried out of their minds when I don’t come back,” Cedric said accusingly. “You keep talking about how your father is going to fix everything, but what does that mean? What does that mean for us? Getting stuck back there with You-Know-Who – who’s apparently not dead – wanting to get his body back?”

 Teddy exchanged a look with Delphi. She could see her guilt mirrored in Teddy’s face, everything she’d been trying not to think about. Neither of them wanted to leave Cedric Diggory to die and this young Harry Potter to face Voldemort in a duel that wouldn’t end for fourteen years.

 Fourteen years was a lifetime for this Harry. More than a lifetime for both Delphi and Teddy.

 “That’s not my idea of fixing things,” young Harry agreed.

 Teddy finally looked away from Delphi and admitted, “It’s not our idea of fixing things either. Delphi, you might… you know more about time magic than I do. Do you wanna?”

 Delphi sighed. “It’s not just our problem meddling in the timeline like this,” she said finally, resentfully, revealing everything she’d been trying not to think about. “We might’ve messed things up for our future, but now you’re not where you should be, and those changes for you depend on us and our messed-up future. We’ll all get caught in the backlash as time untwists, unless…”

 “Unless?” Cedric repeated.

 “Unless we’ve succeeded in creating an alternate timeline, which we probably haven’t,” Delphi said sullenly. She’d looked into time magic, enthralled by the possibilities like other children might have been by fairy tales, but the power involved was enormous and the consequences too dangerous.

 And there had been no time like the present for Delphi.

 She had no home in the past, with birth parents like hers, and the family that her father had given her when he’d taken her in was the only future she needed. Any world in which she didn’t end up her father’s daughter had terrified her. It still did. She didn’t want a world without Harry. She’d dropped her curiosity on the subject like it had burned her. Delphi couldn’t risk the timeline changing; no matter how much realer the past was than she ever could have imagined.

 She didn’t know if they had to stay, but she couldn’t let them leave.

 “Unless…” Delphi said slowly.

 “Unless?” Cedric prompted again.

 “Unless we can find a way to separate our timelines fully,” Delphi finished, ignoring the surprised and incredulous look that Teddy gave her. “Unless my dad can find a way to fix things so that our future is fine and so you don’t end up in that graveyard, kidnapped by Voldemort.”

 Cedric and young Harry stared at her.

 Teddy didn’t, shifting awkwardly beside her.

 “It’s much better to be kidnapped by us, don’t you think?” Delphi said.

 The boys exchanged a look.

 “How about it?” Cedric said to the young Harry. “You’re the one who wanted to stick around and see if we could find out more. I know I said my Side-Along isn’t the best, but…”

 “…What do you think we should do?” young Harry said.

 Cedric laughed humourlessly, a little hysterically. “I… I’m a bit out of my depth, Potter,” he said. “And I’m regretting signing up for this Tournament at all. You’re the one with the time travel experience and experience with You-Know-Who here. What do you think we should do?”

 Oh.

 Cedric stuck around for Dad, Delphi realized.

 Cedric Diggory, frightened and untrusting, hadn’t been going to leave without Harry Potter, staying either because he hadn’t trusted his Apparition abilities enough or to indulge young Harry’s determination to stay and see this mystery with Voldemort and time-travellers through to the end. If not some combination of both. Cedric could have left anytime and could still leave anytime, but he had decided not to leave without Harry.

 “I think… we should go with them,” young Harry said finally.

 Delphi could have sighed with relief, but she didn’t, too worried that they might see the lies on her face. She wiped at her face again, like trying to clean it wasn’t in vain. Thankfully, even now it seemed that Harry Potter had some sense of the dangers of meddling with time – at least, just the right amount for Delphi and Teddy. Either that or Harry didn’t and was simply determined to see this thing with Voldemort through to the end.

 Cedric didn’t look enthusiastic, but still said wryly, “Because they solemnly swear they’re up to no good?”

 “Something like that,” young Harry said, looking them over again, and Delphi held her breath. “It sounds like terrible things might happen if we don’t.”

 Terrible things will happen if you do, Delphi didn’t say.

 The best thing that ever happened to me will happen if you do, Delphi didn’t say.

 She almost apologized, but she swallowed it instead.

 “So, you’re coming?” Teddy said.

 “Looks like we’re getting kidnapped,” Cedric said, with a weak smile.

 “Great, alright, you two get in the back seat. Dad’s sitting invisible in the passenger seat and I’m driving. Delphi and I will get Nagini in the back with… our… uncooperative kidnapping victims? Wow, that sounds so bad.” Teddy opened one of the side doors and waved the boys forward. “If you come up with a better way to say kidnapping, let me know, ‘cause I need one.”

 Delphi scoffed, as she limped forward to grab the snake on the sled. “Like borrowing in place of stealing?”

 Teddy beamed at her. “Exactly!”

 Cedric and young Harry came around the hedge and climbed into the van. They both had their wands still, while Delphi had put the others in her wallet, and Delphi wondered if taking them would keep Cedric from Apparating away. However, she was pretty sure it didn’t work like that.

 “Do you have a Driver’s License?” Cedric asked Teddy, his hand on the door.

 Teddy looked up from where they were bringing Nagini’s sled around. “No, what for?”

 Cedric raised his eyebrows and Delphi nearly slapped a hand to her face.

 “They used to license Apparition and cars, Ted!”

 “Oh, right. Well, don’t worry about that, I can drive fine without one. This van doesn’t seem to need any sort of license to work,” Teddy said, as they levitated Nagini and the sled into the back of the van. To Delphi, Teddy said, “I used the Carjacker and it seemed to work fine.”

 Delphi could still see Cedric, from where she was standing, and Cedric looked dubious of their understanding of licenses. Still, the young man shut the side door behind him.

 Once Teddy had Nagini in the back of the van, they shut the back doors as well.

 Teddy and Delphi looked at each other.

 “…Separate timelines?” Teddy whispered finally.

 “It’s possible,” Delphi muttered.

 “Yeah, but has it been done? Isn’t that just a theory, Del? You just told them we might be able to create an alternate timeline,” Teddy whispered accusingly, looming over her with the extra Metamorphagus height they still hadn’t dropped. “Did you just lie to them, Delphi?”

 Delphi wanted to kick Teddy in the shins for the looming and the questions, but she didn’t. She stayed silent, but Teddy must have still seen the answer on Delphi’s face, by the face they made. Delphi didn’t like that either.

 After a long, judgemental pause, Teddy said finally, defeatedly, “I don’t like this.”

 “Do you think I do?”

 “No, but… are we supposed to let that guy die?”

 Delphi pursed her lips.

 “Are we supposed to make sure that that guy dies, Delphi?” Teddy pressed.

 “How should I know?” Delphi hissed back. “I don’t know, Ted. I don’t know how this works or what we’re supposed to do any more than you do. I don’t want to have to let terrible things happen so we can exist!  I don’t like it any more than you do.”

 “But you just lied to them.”

 “Because they wouldn’t have come with us if we told them what our timeline means for them.”

 “You don’t know that.”

 It felt like it was the only thing that Delphi knew right now.

 “Do you want to tell them?” she hissed. “I’m not telling them. Do you want to go ahead?”

 Teddy grimaced. No, Teddy didn’t either.

 “…We don’t know that it’s not possible,” Delphi muttered finally. “We don’t know if it’s a lie. We didn’t get here by normal time-turner, Ted, so… maybe we are in an alternate timeline.”

 Teddy scowled. “Don’t lie to me too, Del.”

 “I’m not.”

 Delphi and Teddy glared at each other.

 “Let’s just leave,” Delphi said. “We’re probably making them nervous.”

 Teddy scoffed at her and she scowled.

 “I’d be nervous too, with Voldemort in the back,” Teddy muttered, with a look that said this conversation wasn’t over. “Fine, let’s just go and wait for your dad to fix this mess. Maybe he can fix things like that and save everyone and make you not a liar. Maybe everyone gets to not die today. If anyone can make the impossible true, it’s our Harry.”

 Without waiting for an answer, Teddy walked past her to get back behind the wheel. But even if Teddy had stayed, Delphi wouldn’t have had anything to say to her god-sibling. Teddy sounded so like her father sometimes and Delphi had no idea what her father would have to say about all this. Were these the decisions her father had to make all the time?

 Without any other choice, Delphi wiped at her raw face and followed, and realized unhappily that she had to sit in the back seat with the boys. Her father was unconscious in the passenger seat. Scowling, she knocked on the side door and had to wait for Cedric to open it. He did.

 “Is everything alright?”

 He looked genuinely concerned, if warily so, and Delphi didn’t like it. She didn’t like anything at the moment. Not him, not this situation, not Teddy, and not even herself.

 “Budge over,” she said.

 “Please,” Teddy said, from the front seat.

 Delphi glared at them, using the side-mirror of the van, but Teddy wasn’t looking at her.  

 “Please,” she relented.

 With another concerned look, Cedric unbuckled his seatbelt and moved over. He offered a hand to help Delphi up, but she refused to take it, climbed up herself, and fell into the seat feeling like the could cry at getting weight off her knees. She closed the door and buckled her seatbelt.

 “Everybody buckled up?” Teddy said, from the front seat.

 “One moment,” Cedric said, as he did just that.

 “Yeah. Do you really know how to drive this thing?” young Harry asked.

 “Guess we’re gonna find out!” Teddy said brightly, then laughed, a bit hysterically. “No, no, I’m kidding. Wow, your faces. I can drive, I swear, I’ve been doing it for ages and I’m pretty good at it too! Delphi, are you buckled?”

 “Yes.”

 “Great,” Teddy said, and Delphi wondered if it sounded forced to everyone else too. “Find Me Grimmauld Place,” Teddy cast, as they changed gears and pulled away from the hedge. “Here we go. Let’s put some distance between us and that graveyard, huh?”

 Cedric made an obliging amused sound, but he was the only one.

 “Where and what is Grimmauld Place?” Cedric said.

 “It’s a street,” Teddy answered, as the dark village around them moved away. “And on that street are many houses. One of which belongs to my godfather here.” Teddy waved a hand at Delphi’s father, still unconscious and invisible in the passenger seat. “It’s a very, very safe place.”

 “So… you two are…?” Cedric looked between Teddy and Delphi.

 “God-siblings!” Teddy said. “That what we call it. I mean, technically we’re first-cousins-once-removed, since my grandmother is her aunt. But we’re both being raised by my godfather now, so that’s the important relation.”

 Delphi looked out the window, as the village fell away entirely. They’d been on the edge of it, and now the winding country roads and the overcast night seemed to stretch on endlessly ahead of them. She didn’t know how far it was between here and London, but the drive was going to be too long no matter what the distance was.

 She was so tired.

 She was Not Crying.

 “How old are you?” Cedric said to Teddy.  

 “Uh, I don’t… see how it would be bad to answer that. I’m nearly eleven, she’s nearly twelve, but we’ve seen and done a lot, so everyone says we’re older than we should be. I’m a Metamorphagus and she was born a grumpy old woman, so… you know… it’s hard to tell sometimes,” Teddy answered, and Delphi scowled but didn’t whack them for it. “How old are you two?”

 “I’m seventeen,” Cedric answered.

 “Fourteen,” young Harry said. “Nearly fifteen.”

 “Huh. Oh, wait, it’s June right now, right? Del, what happens to our birthdays? Are we still April babies? Or are our birthdays in July now? What happens to our birthdays?”

 “How would I know?”

 “Delphi, we’ll be turning eleven and twelve not on our birthdays.”

 “…We’re not sticking around, Ted.”

 “Well, if we did, we would have new birthdays. Isn’t that weird? That’s so weird.”

 “That is kind of weird,” Cedric offered awkwardly.

 “Thank you!”

 The conversation continued, but Delphi only listened with one ear, as she shifted away from the boy next to her who was indulging Teddy in small talk. The young man who was supposed to be dead already, but had had his death interrupted by Delphi and Teddy’s mistaken interference. The boy who might still have to die, because it was for the world.

 Delphi wiped at her face with her sleeve and looked away from the window, where she kept catching glimpses of her own grim reflection and felt like a coward for trying to get away, thinking that it was no wonder her father had always come back grim-faced from when people tried to meddle with time. Would he be mad at her for meddling and then making the changes worse by deciding on this course of flight? She looked down at the Sword of Gryffindor, but it was no better. It still gleamed, even in such poor light, which was probably only to be expected of magical swords made of bloody rubies and venomous silver. Delphi could still see her reflection in the blade.

 When Delphi had first walked into the Once-Ministry with Teddy, no matter how tightly she’d held her stolen sword, she hadn’t felt as fierce and brave as she had when she’d stolen it. She’d been very scared and very determined – to do whatever she needed to do, to find trouble first for once. And Delphi had heard people say that that was bravery, but… she was scared and determined again now… and now she definitely didn’t feel brave.

 She felt lost.

 Trouble had outdone her this time.

 How do these things always happen to us, Dad?