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Two Changes of Good and Bad

Chapter Text

Harry jerked awake with a gasp, and coughed, blood and dirt mixing on his tongue. He sat up with great care, wincing as his ribs ground together. Shit! How long was I out? He searched for the sounds of battle; screams, spells, crashing. But all was silent. He staggered to his feet, clutching his wand in his unbroken hand, and looked around.

“Oh Merlin,” Harry moaned in despair, shuddering sobs coming up to choke him. He stumbled forward, unable to believe what he was seeing.

His friends.

His home.

Her presence was no longer in his mind. Hogwarts was no more.

Broken bodies lay among the ruins of Hogwarts castle, slumped in twisted parodies of sleep, or else contorted in the terror of the dead and dying. Harry saw a small first year, curled around another, older student. Her eyes were bulging and accusing as Harry took shaky steps forward. His shoe brushed white, luminous hair, and he looked down. Luna lay at his feet, her eyes closed and a smile curled peacefully on her face. Harry made to scream, but all he managed was a whimper. He sank to his knees. Not you too.

It’s gone.

It’s all gone.

It’s over.

Harry let out a dry chuckle, feeling relief course through him despite the grief and pain. It’s over.

A flash of flame alerted him to the presence of another, and he turned to see Fawkes swooping towards him, surveying the carnage.

This isn’t true, he sung sadly. This was not what I foresaw- This isn’t true! He let out a screech and settled on Harry’s knee.

“I know,” Harry replied numbly, still staring at Luna. “I wish I could save them, I wish I could’ve-” a picture of Ron burning alive in the Burrow flashed through his mind- “could’ve done something-”

That’s it! Fawkes trilled, flame bursting forth from his feathers. Harry stared at him in a mix of bewilderment and anger, but Fawkes continued uninterrupted. A wish! I can grant one wish in my lifetime! It might work!

“You-you can bring them back?” Harry asked hoarsely.

No. Not even I can do that. But I can send you back in time to your younger body.

“You-” Harry gulped, gazing around at the devastation. He sighed. “Do it.”

Are you sure? Fawkes sung cautiously, fluttering his wings. There could be unpredictable changes to the timeline that even I-

I’ll do anything to get them back,” Harry fixed his desperate gaze on Fawkes, who flinched back. “Anything to keep them safe. Anything. Do it.”

Alright, Fawkes agreed, looking resigned. Grab my tail feathers and hold on tight. This is gonna hurt like hell. Fawkes let out a screech of defiance, and Harry screamed as fire burned through him like paper. Then the world dissolved, and they both disappeared in a flash of pure white flame.

Chapter Text

“Up!  Get up!  Now!” Harry jerked awake and winced as pain immediately assaulted his head.  Fawkes really wasn’t kidding.  

He sat up, deja vu slapping him in the face as he looked around at his old cupboard.  His memory of it was fuzzy from the passage of time, but he remembered accurately the smell of dust and the spiders clinging to the ceiling.  Aunt Petunia pounded on the door again, interrupting his revere and making him flinch as pain erupted in his skull once more.  Jesus, woman, I get it.  Just give me a moment to-

Well, now, this truly is a disgusting sleeping arrangement for a young child!  A familiar, twittering voice said.  Harry jerked around in shock, and saw a small red and black chickadee perched on the edge of his mattress.

“Fawkes?” He asked incredulously.

Indeed, Fawkes sniffed, fluttering his ridiculously tiny wings. I can’t imagine why you didn’t grow up to hate muggles.  I say! Look at the size of those spiders! Fawkes squawked in disgust as one fell down near him.

“I suppose it is quite gross in here,” Harry murmured. “But what are you doing here?  Aren’t you supposed to merge with your younger self as well? And what’s with the shape-shifting?"

The wish you made was only for one of us, said Fawkes sadly. And besides, it’s probably better this way.  Albus would have known there was something off about me. Oh, and most phoenixes that are powerful enough can shapeshift.  Didn’t you know?

“I guess,” Harry sighed, laying back on his bed.  “I just didn’t realize you could do it. I’m sorry you can’t go back in your original form, though.”  They sat in silence for a moment, before Harry sat up again.

“Time to face my relatives,” He said. “If we stay in here any longer, I’ll be punished.” Fawkes trilled discomfittedly.

I’ll have to stay in here, he said.  I don’t think that whale-uncle of yours would appreciate a bird flying around his house.

“No, he definitely wouldn’t,” Harry conceded. “I’ll be back.”

See that you are!   Fawkes twittered. In the meantime, I’ll try to find a form that’s a bit more discreet.  Harry nodded, and opened his cupboard door.

When he entered the kitchen, Uncle Vernon was waiting for him.  Wordlessly, he pointed at the egg carton and raw bacon sitting on the counter, and, with a slight twinge of annoyance, Harry began preparing a meal.

As he whisked the eggs, he felt sadness stirring within him.  It was a strange feeling, being eleven again and making breakfast for his relatives.  Absurd, that making eggs was the only peaceful thing he’d done in a long time.  Ginny’s half-melted face cut across his field of vision, and he winced, almost dropping the bowl.

“Careful, boy!” Uncle Vernon snapped. “If you drop those eggs, I’m dropping your face on the burning stove!”

“Yes, Uncle,” Harry replied. “Sorry Uncle.” 

He completed the breakfast without any further incidents, and piled it onto three plates, being careful to portion them equally.  He felt the vibrations of Dudley’s footsteps as he entered the room and plopped down at the table, the wooden chair creaking ominously.

“What’s for breakfast?” He asked loudly.

“Eggs and bacon,” Harry replied.  Dudley scoffed.

“Weren’t asking you.”  Harry chose to serve the plates, rather than answering.  Uncle Vernon scowled at him as he finished.

“Be grateful you didn’t drop those eggs, boy, or you wouldn’t be getting your breakfast,” He said nastily, and indicated a set-aside plate holding a thin slice of cheese and half a loaf of stale bread.  Harry nodded, bowing his head shamefully, and retrieved his meager breakfast.

I didn’t realize how abusive they were when I was younger, Harry pondered as he found a corner of the kitchen to sit down in.  Merlin.  Maybe I can do something to change that this time ‘round.

The click of the mail slot interrupted his musings, and Harry realized belatedly that he’d missed the almost-tantrum surrounding Dudley’s birthday presents. Ah, well, not like I wanted to hear that anyway.

“Get the mail, Dudley.”

“Make Harry get it!”

“Get the mail, Harry.”

“Alright.” Harry stood, placing his plate next to the sink.  He smiled slightly as he went to gather the mail at the doormat, anticipating what he knew was within it.  He crouched down and sifted through the mail, pausing as he found was he was looking for.

 

Mr. H. Potter

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

Number 4, Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

Grinning, Harry stowed his Hogwarts letter in the baggy pocket of his trousers when Uncle Vernon wasn’t looking.  That was not a mistake he felt like repeating. He hurried back over to the table and set the letters down in front of Aunt Petunia.  Aunt Petunia nodded without looking at him, so he turned and made his way back to his cupboard, eager to send his reply.

“Um, Fawkes?” Harry called as he closed the cupboard door.

Yesss? 

Harry yelped as Fawkes slithered out from under the covers, now apparently in the form of a garter snake.  Harry was sure that, if he could, Fawkes would’ve raised an eyebrow.

You and I agreed I would find a more discreet form , Fawkes pointed out. Is this not acceptable?

“It’s find, it’s just that . . . I was wondering if you could mail something for me,” Harry replied, scuffing his feet on the floor.  Fawkes hissed in annoyance.

I just changed form!  I . . . well alright, He huffed. Just don’t ask me to change again.  I’m going to be exhausted after this.

-)0(-

Far away, in his trinket-filled office, Albus Percival Wilfrec Brian Dumbledore was filling out teaching forms when he saw a flash of light outside his window.  He stood, stretching his creaking bones, and went to investigate, but there was nothing there, and the sky was clear of thunder.

“Interesting,” He murmured, and went to sit back down, but before he could, a tapping sound echoed from the window.  He turned back, and saw a curiously colored owl rapping its talon on the pane, a letter tied around its leg. Dumbledore opened the window, and the owl flew inside, landing on his desk, and offered the tied letter to him.  He took the letter and opened it. His eyebrows disappeared into his hairline, and he sat in his chair with a loud thump.

 

Dear Professor, 

Hello!  I’m replying to this letter on the off-chance that it’s not fake.  I don’t know anything about this “magic” stuff, so if you could come and explain it, that would be awesome.  Also, I don’t really have a way of getting my school supplies. Is there a place to do that? I don’t think my relatives will want to drive me.  Could you come at maybe 1 o’clock on Sunday? Thanks!

    ~ Harry J. Potter

 

P.S. 

I like your owl!

 

Dumbledore glanced back up at the owl, who stared steadily back.  He didn’t remember having such a startlingly red-colored brown owl in the Owlery, and he most definitely had asked Minerva to send a letter the muggle way.

“Must be getting a bit addled in my old age,” He chuckled. “Ah well.”  The owl made a sound similar to a laugh, but Dumbledore ignored it, already pondering more important matters.  Who should go to Harry Potter’s house?  He considered Hagrid, but concluded that the man would’ve only been useful if Harry’s relatives were uncooperative, which they didn’t seem to be.  Then a thought occurred to him, and a smile stretched across his wrinkled face.

He stood up abruptly, upsetting several rolls of parchment, and strode over to the fireplace.  He threw a handful of Floo powder in the fire, and crouched down, sticking his head in the flames.

“Severus, I need a favor!”

Chapter Text

“Absolutely not, ” Snape hissed, glaring furiously at Dumbledore.  “I will not be saddled with the responsibility of shopping with that boy!  I’ve made my thoughts about him quite clear!”  Dumbledore popped another sherbet lemon into his mouth and returned his glare with a calm, serene smile.

“Nevertheless,” He replied. “Harry Potter is in need of school supplies.  I would trust in his safety only to you, Severus.”

Albus, ” Snape snapped. “I don’t have time to take care of the needs of a spoiled brat on my day off!  I have papers to sign, files to fill, potions to brew-”

Really, Severus, there’s no need to be dramatic,” Albus said, steepling his fingers. “It will take no more than a few hours, and then you can go back to your potion-brewing.  In any case, I believe you may be - Oh what is the phrase -‘Judging a book by it’s cover’? Or, in this case, it’s last name.”

“Albus, I cannot—”

“You promised me you would look after him,” Dumbledore interrupted, giving Snape a stern look.  Snape paused for a moment, fists clenched, then let out a sharp exhale.

Fine .  But I will not be accommodating or catering to his every need,” Snape sat back down in the chair opposite Dumbledore. “I will explain the basics to his guardians, but nothing more.”

“Very well,” Dumbledore conceded, smiling. “I find that acceptable.”

“Good. Now who in the world are his guardians, anyway?”

-)0(-

When the doorbell rang on Sunday afternoon, Harry was dusting the back of the TV.

“Who is it, boy?” Uncle Vernon came lumbering in the room, wearing a milk mustache and holding a half-eaten hamburger. “Go get the door!”

“Yes, Uncle,” Harry replied. Inwardly, he was jumping up and down in excitement.  He couldn’t wait to see Hagrid again! And Diagon Alley, and Hedwig -

Harry opened the door, and there stood Professor Snape.

Instantly, memories assaulted him.  Professor Snape was casting a Killing Curse with casual ease, throwing Dumbledore off the Astronomy Tower.  Professor Snape was sobbing, holding Lily in his arms and begging for her forgiveness. Professor Snape was dying, bleeding out from Nagini’s fangs, grasping Harry’s arm and begging him to look at me -

“Who is it, boy!  Is it Mrs. Figg from across the street?”  Aunt Petunia’s sharp question broke the flow of memories, and Harry took a couple of steps back, letting out a shaky breath.

“No,” Harry called back, ignoring Snape’s questioning gaze. “I think it’s a teacher from that school!”

“What school?” Harry turned to see Aunt Petunia walking towards the door, scrubbing a dish with a sponge. “What do you-”  She froze, and the dish slipped from her fingers and shattered on the floor.

“Good afternoon, Tuney,” Snape said, and Harry fought the urge to laugh as Aunt Petunia’s face went at least four shades paler.

“S-severus!? What on Earth are you doing here?”

“I’m here to pick up the Potter boy and help him buy supplies for Hogwarts,” Snape replied, with only a hint of disdain when mentioning Harry.

“Hogwarts-but-what-we didn’t receive a letter!” Aunt Petunia sputtered.

“I did,” Harry chimed in. “I took it to my cupboard and opened it.”

“Your cupboard?” Snape asked, and  Aunt Petunia went even paler, if at all possible.

“Who’s that?” Harry groaned as Uncle Vernon’s voice drifted over from the end of the hall.  At his voice, Aunt Petunia’s resolve seemed to harden, and she drew herself up to her full height (which wasn’t much, but her neck made up the difference).

“He will not be going!” She exclaimed. “He will not be going to that school of yours!”

“What school is this?” Uncle Vernon asked, going to stand next to his wife. “It better not be that freak school you told me about!”

“‘Freak school’?” Snape asked as if unable to believe his ears.

“Indeed,” Aunt Petunia sniffed. “Your school for freaks.  We’ve tried long and hard to stamp the magic out of that boy, and I will not have you ruin all our progress!”

“You-” Snape, took a step back, horrified, but quickly regained his posture. “I will be taking the boy shopping, and you cannot legally stop me.  It was his parents wish that he attend Hogwarts, and so he shall. Any forceful opposition would not be wise.”  Aunt Petunia looked cowed, but Uncle Vernon’s face turned a deep shade of puce. Oh no.

“HE WILL NOT BE GOING!” Uncle Vernon bellowed.

“YES I WILL!” it took Harry a moment to realize that the reply had come from him.  He also realized that he was shaking. Uncle Vernon froze, eyes bulging, and then with a resounding cry, he leaped forward and fastened his hands around Harry’s neck.  Harry struggled for a moment, choking, before Uncle Vernon jumped back, letting out a startled cry. Harry looked down at his shirt sleeve and realized that Fawkes had slithered out, and was hissing at Uncle Vernon ferociously.

Fawkes, don’t!” Harry gasped, not realizing that he said it in Parseltongue. Snape’s face paled, but he quickly regained control and whipped out his wand.

“Do not handle my student in such a way,” Snape hissed, not unlike how Fawkes sounded a few moments earlier. “We will be going now.  Quickly, Mr. Potter.” Harry nodded and rushed out the door, ignoring the inhuman screeching of Aunt Petunia and the incoherent yelling of Uncle Vernon.  Snape slammed the door, and that was the end of that.

Harry took several deep breaths and turned to Snape.

“Sorry about that,” He said. “My relatives aren’t very fond of magic.”

“That,” Snape said, wrinkling his nose, “Is an understatement.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you,” Harry made an effort to be polite, even though inside he was dying of laughter. That was fantastic!  Ow, my throat. He rubbed at it, wincing.  Snape noticed, and his eyes grew darker.

“Do they always strangle you when you disagree with them?”

“Well, I don’t normally yell, sir.”

“That’s not a no.”

“It’s not a yes, either, sir.”

They stared at each other for a few moments, before Snape sighed.

“Come along; we need to be done with your shopping by sunset.  I have a lot of work to do.”

“What’s your name? I never learned it.”

“You may call me Professor Snape, Potter.  I’m a teacher at Hogwarts.”

“I sort of figured that,” Harry did his best to act like a curious child. “Um, what exactly is Hogwarts, sir? The letter said that I had magic, and that I’d been accepted, but it didn’t say much else.”

“Did your relatives never explain this to you?” Snape’s tone was incredulous, and Harry couldn’t help but feel a spark of annoyance.

“Well, no. You saw how they reacted when you came here.  They’ve spent most of their time trying to convince me magic didn’t exist.”

“Of course they did,” Snape sighed. “Come on, then, Mr. Potter. I will explain on the way.”

-)0(-

They ended up taking the Knight Bus, much to Harry’s chagrin.  He could understand why, but wondered, as he flew forward in his seat and smacked against the window, if they couldn’t have just flown there instead.

“Be careful, Potter!” Snape snapped for the umpteenth time. He dragged Harry back into his seat by the collar.

“Sorry,” Harry replied sheepishly. “Anyway, you were saying?”

“Right. You are a Potter, which means there will be money in the vaults of Gringotts that you can use for your schooling.  I would advise you to spend carefully; your trust account will only have as much per year as you may need for schooling and a moderate amount of pocket change. Understand?”

“Yes sir.” 

“Make no mistake; we are going to Diagon Alley only for school supplies. If you want to get treats or fancy spellbooks, you’ll have to go another time.”

“Yes sir. Um. . .” Harry trailed off nervously.  He wanted to get some actual muggle clothes, so he could be taken seriously, but would Snape really allow that?  And his glasses weren’t the right prescription at all; he’d had them adjusted during sixth year last time, but it would be nice to be able to see before then this time.

“Yes?” Snape prompted, and Harry realized that he’d been silent for too long.

“I was just wondering if I could get some clothes of my own,” Harry said. “The only stuff I own are Dudley’s hand-me-downs, and they don’t fit me very well.” Snape looked him up and down, clearly noting the holes, patches and stains in Harry’s very oversized garments.

“Very well,” Snape conceded calmly, but Harry noticed how his hand on the armrest turned white-knuckled.  No doubt he’s pissed about how I’ve been treated by the Dursleys, Harry thought. I wonder how much he’ll yell once he returns to Dumbledore. He’d never really forgiven Dumbledore for leaving him with his aunt and uncle, despite everything.

When the Knight Bus arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry leaped off with no small amount of relief.  Snape looked remarkably unfazed, and beckoned Harry to follow with a casual wave of his hand.

Entering the Leaky Cauldron gave Harry a sharp pang of nostalgia.  It’d been a long time since he’d seen the inside of it this bright, and this full of people.  In fact, the last time he’d seen this place it’d been a smouldering pile of ash on the ground.

“Afternoon, Professor!” Tom the barkeeper greeted as they approached. “What’ll you be having today?”

“Nothing, I’m afraid.  I’m helping one of the students with their school shopping.” Tom leaned over to get a closer look, and Harry cringed, and felt Fawkes stir where he was hidden in Harry’s oversized sleeve. Oh, here we go.

My word,” Tom whispered. “It cannot be Harry Potter?”  The whole bar went silent, but Snape quickly intervened.

“I’m afraid not,” He said, and Harry felt a rush of relief. “Now, we really must be going.” He grabbed Harry’s arm and quickly steered him into the back area, where the entrance to Diagon Alley was located.

“Why did he know my name?” Harry asked, pretending to be confused. Snape paused for a moment, then shook his head.

“I will explain after we finish shopping.”  Snape whipped out his wand and started tapping the bricks.  Harry went to ask another question, but conceded that, while he did want to act curious, annoying his professor was not his ultimate goal.

Then the bricks opened, and Harry gasped in shock.

“Welcome, Mr. Potter, to Diagon Alley.”

Chapter Text

Happiness. That was what Harry saw everywhere; the shops, the windows, the smiles and laughter and sales.  His Diagon Alley had been broken, ruined and poster-filled and crackling with fear and exhaustion. Here, there were children riding around on school brooms, students examining various complicated contraptions and elders complaining loudly about the price of scarab beetles.  His awe-filled gaze was only half-faked as Snape led him onward into the bright sunlight. Merlin, it’s good to be back.   

“We’ll be going to Gringotts first,” Snape said brusquely. “The wizarding bank, led by goblins.”

“Goblins?” Harry asked distractedly, peering around at all the shop windows.

“Yes, goblins.  They’re exceptionally talented at handling gold.  And protecting it, as it were. Never attempt to steal from them, Potter, for you would likely never be found.”  Harry snorted. Too late .

Fawkes stirred, and Harry patted him absentmindedly.  Snape glanced at him.

“What’s your snake’s name?” Snape asked, and Harry blanked.

“You know, I don’t think I ever named him,” Harry replied, hearing Fawkes’s hissing  laughter muffled by his coat. 

“Indeed? Well, Potter, you can only bring a cat, owl or toad to Hogwarts.  Snakes aren’t allowed unless special permission is granted by the Headmaster.”

“Suppose I’ll just have to ask, then.”

They reached Gringotts, and were in and out quickly.  Nothing really changed, except Snape was exceedingly more subtle about the Stone, and only mentioned the stop they’d have to make.  Harry was actually impressed. No wonder he made a good spy.  

Harry made quite a show about the amount of gold in his vault, making sure to slip in mentions of his lack of toys and food at the Dursleys.  The look of anger that flashed across Snape’s face made him almost feel bad for the Headmaster.  

“You know,” Harry mentioned idly whilst scooping galleons into his coin pouch. “The Dursleys always forbade me from talking about magic at all.  They said something along the lines of ‘stamping the freakishness out of me’.”

“They what ?” Snape whispered.  Harry turned in surprise and saw Snape pale and shaking with rage.  “That-Potter-” He took a deep breath, collecting himself. “That could’ve ended quite badly for you, had you known about your powers.  I will be speaking with the Headmaster about your  accommodations, rest assured.”

“Thank you,” Harry smiled, and turned back to his task.  Snape continued to watch over him as he picked out Sickles and Knuts, but his eyes were glazed and far away, as if remembering something quite terrible.

Harry ran ahead as they exited Gringotts, bounding down the steps with Snape trailing behind.

“Can I get a wand, first?” Harry asked.

“Very well, but afterwards we’re going to Madam Malkins.”

Harry had to be honest with himself; the outside of Ollivanders looked decrepit no matter if it was burned to hell and back or not.  Still, the smell of dust and the magic prickling in the air felt inviting as they approached, and Harry instinctively brushed a hand against the doorframe as they passed through it.

Snape sat down on the only rickety stool, leaving Harry to stand, facing the countless rows of wands cobwebbed boxes.  He closed his eyes, feeling the magical auras wash over him with gentle fervor. He’d missed this. 

“Custom.” Harry whirled around, reaching instinctively for his nonexistent wand, only to come face to face with the last person he’d ever expect.

Luna Lovegood was perched on one of the small end tables, legs swinging back and forth in a carefree manner.  Her eyes were unfocused, gazing somewhere into the middle distance.

“He’ll need a custom wand.  None of the wand’s auras match his.”

“What-” Harry articulated. This did not happen last- 

“Good catch, my dear!” Ollivander slid forward on the sliding steps and stopped with a thunk right in front of Harry, who jumped again.  Behind him, he heard Snape let out a muffled curse. “You’ve just saved the both of us a lot of trouble.” He snapped, summoning the infamous flying tape measurer.  Harry took an automatic step back, but Luna smiled serenely.

“What is your wand arm, Mr. Potter?” asked Ollivander, rifling through some papers on his desk while the measurer zipped around, taking measurements left and right.

“Well, I’m right-handed.”

“Truly? Excellent.  If you would follow me.”  Ollivander snapped again, and the measurer flew back into his waiting grasp.  Harry and Snape followed, and Luna slipped off of the table, brushing her robes briskly.  She went to walk beside Harry, who glanced at her. What is she doing here? 

Luna smiled at him, and, without pause, said. “The wrackspurts seem quite attracted to you, Harry Potter.  Make sure they don’t float away.” Harry gaped at her. Those words. Those were the code words they used to greet each other during the War!  But that was years from now, how - unless-

“I didn’t realize you were a witch,” Harry replied, acting quickly.  He saw Snape glance at both of them in surprise, but Ollivander spoke before he could.

“You two know each other?” He asked, smiling. “Excellent!  It’s always good to know a few folk before going to Hogwarts.”  Luna chuckled lightly.

“He is lucky, then, that I get to go to Hogwarts early!”  Harry’s heart soared.

“You do?” Harry asked. “That’s great!  You can help me learn stuff!”

“Mhmm,” Luna agreed, gently squeezing his shoulder.  Harry felt as though a huge weight was lifted from his chest.

“Alright, then,” Mr. Ollivander said, coming to a stop at a table covered in odd bits and pieces. “Here I’ve laid out some wand wood and wand cores.  Run your hand over them lightly to see what resonates with you.”

“How will I know if it resonates with me?” 

“You’ll know.”

Harry strode forward and surveyed the mess of wand ingredients, trying to discern any kind of pull or effect to his magical signature.  He reached a hand forward, and instantly a buzz lit up in the back of his mind. He selected a single red feather, a couple of what looked like grey horse hairs, a block of midnight black wood and a block of shining silver.

“Dual core and dual wood,” Ollivander murmured. “Very interesting indeed.  Let me see those, child.” Harry suppressed a twinge of annoyance at the “child” comment and handed him the ingredients.  Ollivander turned them over in hand, muttering to himself, sniffing and brushing his fingertips across them.

“Phoenix feather from a particularly loyal phoenix,” Ollivander finally said. “Thestral hair from an elder thestral.  Black walnut and . . . elder wood. Very interesting.”

“What’s interesting?” Harry asked despite himself.

“Well, this is a very powerful combination, Mr. Potter, of death and life.  Elder wood and thestral hair, walnut and phoenix feather. All symbolize either life, death or rebirth.  Whoever wields this wand is sure to be a great wizard.”

“Thank you, sir.  I’ll take that as a compliment.” Harry tried not to think about how literal the wand’s meaning actually was.

“That will be thirteen galleons, for the extra cost of making it.  I’ll be sure to be finished in a few hours; come back when it’s done.” Snape raised an eyebrow at the price, but didn’t comment as Harry handed over the money.  

Luna smiled, and, as they left the shop, whispered to Harry: “I’ll see you at Hogwarts.”

-)0(-

The sunlight felt abnormally bright after the dingy atmosphere of Ollivander’s, and Harry blinked a few times to adjust.  Snape wasted no time in leading him a little ways down the street and towards Madam Malkin’s.

“Here, you’ll be fitted for robes, and any other clothing you wish to purchase,”Snape explained. “Do try not to go overboard, Potter.”

“Yes, sir.” Harry replied, gazing up at the cheerful shop with no small amount of trepidation.  He knew who was going to be inside. How to handle this?

Indeed, when Harry and Snape entered, Draco Malfoy was already there.  The blond was snapping orders at Madam Malkin, who looked irritated.

“I told you not to poke me with your needles, woman!” He hissed. “If you injure me, my father-”

“Will certainly hear about it, yes.” Snape cut across the rest of Malfoy’s sentence, who looked up in surprise.

“Uncle Severus?” Malfoy said. “What are you doing here?” Harry gaped. Uncle Severus?

“I am helping a student gather supplies for school,” Snape replied.

“Ah,” Malfoy sniffed distastefully. “Muggleborn, I presume.”

“Half-blood,” Harry corrected quietly.  Malfoy looked at him.

“Then why isn’t your magical parent helping you?”

“My parents are dead.”

“Oh. Sorry,” Malfoy looked away, not sounding sorry in the least.  Harry suppressed the urge to roll his eyes.  Man, Malfoy was really snotty when he was younger.  In his old time, he and Malfoy had reached something of a truce before Malfoy was killed by vengeful Death Eaters.  This Malfoy was nothing like that.

Harry’s thoughts were interrupted as Madam Malkin bustled back over.

“Step onto the stool, dear, so I can get your measurements.”  Harry obeyed, noticing Snape going to wait outside.  

“What House do you think you’ll be in?” Malfoy asked suddenly.  Before, Harry had thought him exceedingly rude, but this time around he could see how Malfoy’s hands twisted nervously in his robes.  He’s trying to make friends with me.

“Slytherin, probably,” Harry answered truthfully. “Either that or Gryffindor.”

“Those are . . . conflicting options,” Malfoy said. “You said you’re a Half-blood? What’s your surname?”

“Potter.”

 Malfoy snorted. “Don’t toy with me.”

“I’m not.  My name is Harry Potter.” Malfoy’s eyes drifted up to his scar, and widened.

“Ah.  Well then, allow me to introduce myself,” Malfoy hopped off his stool, despite Madam Malkin’s protests, and strode over.  He held out a hand for Harry to shake. “My name is Draco Malfoy of the Ancient House of Malfoy.” Harry hadn’t realized it back in his previous life, but refusing a handshake of a House member in the Wizarding World was akin to spitting on that person’s face.  It was one of the main reasons why Malfoy had disliked him so much. This time around, Harry shook hands with him, feeling an odd sense of deja-vu.

“That’s quite a mouthful,” Harry joked, and he saw with surprise that Malfoy’s mouth twitched upwards in a genuine smile.

“If you two are quite finished,” Madam Malkin called exasperatedly. “I need to fit both of you quickly!  I have an appointment at two o’clock!” Malfoy rolled his eyes, but went obediently back to his stool. Maybe things won’t be as bad between us this time. They spent the rest of the robe fitting in relative silence.

To Harry’s utter shock, when he stepped outside, Snape was holding a cage, and in that cage was an achingly familiar white-feathered owl. Hedwig, you wonderful girl! Harry had gotten a new owl late in the war, but he’d never forgotten his first familiar.

“Thank you, sir,” Harry breathed to Snape, who looked uncomfortable.

“I surmised it would be idiotic for you to go without any means of communication during the summers,” was Snape’s explanation, but Harry couldn’t help but feel a large amount of gratitude towards the grumpy man.  As they walked back through the Alley, Harry felt a pang of confusion. Why had the man given him Hedwig? Did he feel sorry for him? In the end, Harry decided not to ask.

As they walked back through the Leaky Cauldron, Harry felt a prickle in his scar.  He turned, and saw Professor Quirrel sitting in a corner, staring at him intently. Harry felt a pang of fear, but quickly suppressed it and gave a shy wave as they passed through the doorway and into the muggle world.

You won’t win, Voldemort.

Not this time.

Chapter Text

“ALBUS!” 

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore jumped, his papers flying everywhere, as Snape’s voice boomed up the spiral staircase.  Not even a moment later, the door banged open, dispelling an irate Potions Master into the office.

“What in Merlin’s name were you thinking sending Potter to live with those muggles !?” Snape spat. “They’ve-they-”

“Severus, what on earth is the matter, dear boy!?” Dumbledore exclaimed, extremely taken aback. “Calm down!”

“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN!” Snape roared. “DAMMIT, ALBUS, THEY TRIED TO STAMP THE MAGIC OUT OF HIM! ” Dumbledore went very pale, and very still.  His hands clenched and shook, and his gaze centered somewhere in the distance.  Then, slowly, he sank back into his seat and put his face in his hands. Snape nevertheless continued.

“They barely feed him, and they make him do all the house work! He’s treated like a slave under his own roof!  His bedroom is the goddamn cupboard under the stairs!   And you want to know the best part?” Snape let out a humorless chuckle. “He thought his name was ‘Freak’ until he was three!  How-”

BOOM.

Every glass item in the room shattered, every window, every trinket and odd contraption.  Snape let out a startled cry and leapt back, hearing the chandelier fall not two feet behind him.  Eventually, the cacophony ended, and Albus Dumbledore looked up.

“Albus?” Snape whispered.  Dumbledore’s eyes were tearfilled, cold, and furious, although, Snape knew, it was not directed at him.  Magic still crackled in the air, but, with a seemingly great effort, Dumbledore reigned it in.

“I have been a fool,” Dumbledore said hoarsely, his voice wavering and loud in the sudden silence. “An utter, unbelievable fool.  Tell me, is the boy all right? Is he-”

“He is underweight and underfed,” Snape said. “He jumps a loud noises and sudden movements, and he seems sometimes . . . unfocused.  Mentally and magically, he seems remarkably unharmed. It wouldn’t be remiss, however, to keep an eye on him. And remove him from those muggles.”  Dumbledore slumped in his chair and exhaled slowly.

“You are correct, of course,” Dumbledore said. “The Blood Wards would not function correctly with that amount of . . . abuse.  It would be foolish to keep him there. I had thought that the wards would influence Petunia, perhaps make her kinder. She sent me a letter once, begging me to let her into Hogwarts. I thought she would be happy to raise a magical child.”

“Anyone who knew her would tell you differently,” Snape pointed out. “She is a selfish, jealous, self-righteous hag.  But you didn’t listen.”

“I didn’t,” Dumbledore conceded. “I should have.  I really am sorry, Severus.” If Dumbledore’s words weren’t enough to convince Snape, his earnest gaze certainly did the trick.

“I know, old man,” Snape sighed. “But it doesn’t change anything.  Where will the boy go? He has no other relatives, as far as I’m aware.”

“I’ll arrange something,” Dumbledore said, and a light returned to his eyes. “We have time, after all.  Tomorrow, he comes to Hogwarts.”

 

-)0(-

 

Harry gazed up at Kings Cross Station, excitement and trepidation thundering through him in equal measure.  The place was brighter than he remembered, the bustling, laughing crowd in stark contrast to the screams of the previous timeline.  He let out a shuddering breath and entered with his trolley, scooting past a muggle businessman with a child on his shoulders.

There it is. Harry thought, staring at the barrier between Platforms 9 and 10.  His hand unconsciously clenched around his ticket, making sure it was still there.  He contemplated waiting for the Weasley family to show up, but decided that, even if he didn’t meet them, Ron was still bound to show up at his compartment on the train.  He pushed forward through the barrier, flinching automatically as he passed through the bricks. Time to face the world.

Harry found himself near the back of the train, and struggled to lift his trunk up into the carriage. He strained, feeling his veins practically pop with the effort.  Merlin, I hate being in my younger body.

“Need a hand there?”  Harry looked up and directly into the face of Fred Weasley.  Harry took a step back as memories of the wall and George’s screams permeated his mind.  He gulped down a cry of shock.

“Um, sure,” Harry managed, after realizing he’d been quiet for too long.  George stepped in front and together he and Fred hefted the trunk into the train car, grunting with the effort. 

“What’d you pack in there, rocks?” George asked, turning back.  His eyes fell on Harry’s forehead, and widened dramatically.

“But that's-”

“He’s not-”

“He is!”

“Aren’t you?”

“Am I what?” Harry asked.

“Harry Potter!” The twins chorused.

“Oh yes, that’s me.” Harry said.  “But I’ve got to go now. Meeting someone on the train, you know.”  George- or was it Fred? - shrugged.

“Alright then,” He said. “We’ve got to meet up with someone too.  Rumor is he’s got a tarantula!”

“See you, Harry Potter!” Fred - or was it George? - exclaimed, and both of them disappeared into the crowded platform.  Harry breathed a sigh of relief, his legs shaking slightly. Don’t think about it, just don’t.

Finding a compartment was a bit more difficult than Harry remembered.  The stares and whispers of random students pushed him to the empty one in the back.  Sighing, he sat down, sliding his trunk to one side. This’ll be fun.

He looked out the window and spotted the Weasley family not far off; Ginny’s voice, asking to meet him, put a wan smile on his face.  Then, the train started moving, and off they went towards Hogwarts.

“Excuse me?  Have you seen a toad anywhere?  Neville’s lost one.” Harry’s head jerked upwards in surprise.  Neville was semi-hiding behind Hermione, who was leaning against the door frame, her bushy hair framing her childish face.  As she spoke, Harry could see that her teeth were still crooked. Harry suppressed the strange urge to giggle.

“No, I haven’t,” answered Harry truthfully. Neville whimpered. “Have you tried Summoning it?”

“What?”

“Summoning it,” Harry repeated. He unsheathed his wand and gave it a delicate flick. “ Accio Neville’s toad!”  Nothing seemed to happen, and Hermione opened her mouth to berate him, or perhaps devise another solution, but before she could, a faint ribbit sounded down the corridor and Trevor the toad flew into Harry’s outstretched hand.

“Trevor!” Neville exclaimed.  He darted forward to grab Trevor and cradle him protectively against his chest.  Hermione surveyed Harry with a new degree of interest.

“Hermione Granger,” She said finally, stretching out a hand for Harry to shake.  He took it.

“Hermione?” Harry asked. “Like in The Winter’s Tale ?”  Hermione beamed.

“Um,” Neville said shakily. “I’m Neville. Neville Longbottom.”

“Harry Potter,” Harry said. “Pleasure to meet you.”  Neville squeaked in shock and his eyes darted up to Harry’s forehead, who sighed exasperatedly.

“Harry Potter?” Hermione asked. “Ooh, I’ve read all about you!  You’re in “Greatest Wizards of the Twentieth Centur y”, and-”

“Yes, yes, I really am him,” Harry said. “‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’, and all that. But I would really appreciate you not spreading it around.  I’ve had enough staring today to last a lifetime.” Neville nodded mutely and sat down, and Hermione sat down next to him. Idly, Harry felt Fawkes shift where he was curled around his torso, and Harry fidgeted purposefully. Not yet.  I want them to like me.

The rest of the early afternoon passed rather uneventfully; Hermione had her head in a book, and Neville was too shy to talk much.  Regardless, Harry felt a certain sense of comradre with them, being more of an introvert himself. Their peaceful silence was interrupted only once, and that was when Draco Malfoy came knocking.

“So,” Malfoy said.  Harry looked up from studying the first-year potions textbook. “I’ve been hearing all up and down the train that Harry Potter is in this compartment.”

“You heard correctly,” Harry replied. “You’re Draco Malfoy, aren’t you?  We met at Madam Malkins.” Neville made another small noise, gazing and Malfoy, with wide, frightened eyes.

“Indeed,” Malfoy said. “I was wondering if you might like to join me and my friends in our compartment, rather than hanging out with-” Malfoy’s lip curled. “ Others.”  Hermione stiffened, but Harry put a hand up to stop her.

“You’re perfectly welcome to join us, if you’d like,” Harry suggested. “We’ve probably got a lot more room.  And besides,” Harry gestured to a small pile of candy he’d procured from the cart earlier, “I’ve still got some sweets left.” Malfoy hesitated, his prejudiced side clearly warring with his desire to be friends with Harry Potter.  He glared at Neville, who shrank back, and let out a long sigh.

“Fine,” Malfoy grumbled.  He sat down next to Harry, fidgeting uncomfortably.  Harry offered him a Chocolate Frog, and that was the end of that.

Harry wasn’t stupid.  He knew that changing Malfoy’s complete mindset would take a lot more than awkwardly sharing a train compartment with people he disliked.  Still, Harry conceded, It’s a good sight better start than he had the previous time.

“I’m sorry if I came across as rude, earlier,” Hermione butted in abruptly.  Harry looked at her, and saw that she was on the same page as ten minutes ago.  Clearly, she’d been holding in her babbling. “I was ever so surprised when I got the letter to Hogwarts!  At first I thought they must’ve made a mistake-” Malfoy scoffed.

“Muggleborn, then, are you?” Hermione’s smile faded slightly.

“Well, yes.  My parents are dentists, if you can believe it,” She said. “They were quite surprised when the letter came.”

“I thought it was fake, too,” Harry put in. “The letter, I mean.  I hid it from my aunt and uncle, just in case. They don’t like magic very much.”  Malfoy turned to him, eyes wide.

“You mean to tell me you’re muggle-raised?”

“Why, yes, of course!  What better place to hide me than in the muggle world?  Most Death Eaters would rather stick a needle in their scrotum than go there! . . . Sorry,” Harry had forgotten for a moment that he was talking to children.  Hermione laughed but quickly turned it into a cough, and Malfoy just looked bewildered.

“But  - but that’s impossible!”

“How is that impossible?” Harry asked patiently. “My mother was muggleborn, after all.  And the muggle world is actually quite lovely; the only horrid thing about it was my aunt and uncle.”

“Th-they weren’t nice to you?” Neville spoke up, his voice small and worried.  Harry shook his head cheerfully.

“Nope, not at all!  I’ve slept in the cupboard under the stairs my whole life!”  Hermione’s book fell with a thud, and Malfoy looked murderous.  But before they could say anything, the compartment door opened again and Crabbe and Goyle sauntered in, looking around with beady eyes.

“I told the both of you to wait for me,” Malfoy scoffed. “Can you not understand me when I speak?”

“You was gone a long time,” Goyle pointed out, and Crabbe grunted in agreement.  Then his eyes fell on Harry’s whopping pile of candy, and they narrowed greedily.  He reached out a hand to grab some, and instantly Fawkes sprung out, hissing a warning.  Crabbe shreiked, and Fawkes bared his fangs.

“Oh, get out, both of you!” Malfoy said, swatting at them as if they were particularly obnoxious flies.   Both Crabbe and Goyle fled, sparing brief glances back at the furious snake.

Neville looked terrified.

“Wh-what is that?” He stammered. “Why do you have a snake?”

“Oh him!” Harry exclaimed, wracking his brains furiously. “His name is, um, Haesha.” Haesha meant “fire” in Parseltongue.

“A snake, huh?” Malfoy’s eyes glittered with interest.  “What kind is she?”

“Just a garter snake, I think.”

“Garter snakes don’t have fangs like that,” Malfoy pointed out. “I’d look into it, if I were you.  It might prove to be . . . interesting.”

The Hogwarts train took another two hours to make it to the school, and by that time, Malfoy, Neville and Hermione had mostly gotten used to the idea of Harry owning a snake.  Hermione pestered him about school rules (“But it says only a cat, owl or toad!”), and Neville looked several times as though he was going to bolt from the compartment, but for the most part, Harry had much less trouble than he thought convincing them that Haesha was harmless.

The train began to slow down, and Harry huffed a breath of relief.  Finally!  I’m starving!

“Leave your luggage on the train,” the nasally announcer drawled. “It will be taken to the school separately.”  By that time they had all changed into their school uniforms (Hermione had politely deigned to change in the girl’s room), and so, without further ado, they made their way to the end of the compartment.

Hagrids booming bellow of “Firs’ years!   Over ‘ere!” greeted them as they stepped into the chilly night air, directing them to a glowing lantern held by the towering man.   Neville squeaked, Hermione looked surprised, and Malfoy muttered, “Oh he is definitely part giant.”

As Hagrid led the first years away from the station and down a slippery path, it occured to Harry that they were bringing students who don’t know how to do magic, with a gamekeeper who can’t do magic, right along the edge of the Forbidden Forest.  Well, now, that’s just idiotic.  Still, he thought as he looked up at the brilliant constellations twinkling above them, At least the view’s nice.

There was a loud “Ooh!” as the castle came into sight, and Harry’s heart leapt with joy.  He could feel the telltale hum of ancient magic, and he reached out, grasping at the silvery threads of her consciousness.  Warmth filled him.

Welcome back, Speaker, Hogwarts murmured, and Harry felt a single tear slide down his cheek.

Chapter Text

Harry felt a tug on his arm, and he looked away from the magnificant view of Hogwarts to see Hermione watching him in concern.

“Are you alright?” She asked.

“Um, yeah,” Harry replied, wiping his face in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner.

“Hurry it up, you two!”  Hagrid’s voice boomed from farther down the path. “No need to stick around here!  Don’t want you gettin’ eaten by werewolves!” Harry and Hermione hurried back up to the main group, ignoring their curious stares.  Neville leaned over towards one of the other kids.

“Did he just say werewolves??

It took only moments longer for them to catch sight of the dock, wherein lay a fleet of small wooden rowboats.

“No more’n four to a boat!” Harry smiled at Hagrid’s instruction, but Malfoy’s eyes narrowed.

“Does he have to talk so loud?” Malfoy drawled. “Sounds like mummy never taught him any manners.”

“Oh, stop it, will you?” Hermione snapped, drawing a couple of students’ attention. “I thought you were one of the nice ones!”

“‘One of the nice ones’?” Malfoy repeated. “What does that even mean?”  Hermione sputtered, but was stopped from replying by Hagrid’s untimely arrival.  Neville drew back, clearly intimidated.

“Everythin’ alrigh’, you four?” He said. 

“Oh yeah, everythings just peachy!” Malfoy said. “Except this muggleborn keeps telling me what to do!” He turn on his heel and stalked off to the other Slytherins, who were watching the exchange curiously.  Hermione’s eyes filled with tears, and Harry quickly intervened.

“It’s alright, Hermione,” He said. “It’s just how he was raised; he doesn’t know any better. C’mon, let’s go find a boat.”

Harry’s thoughts swirled around in his head as they made their way slowly across the lake.  Malfoy’s actions were concerning him. He was acting perfectly fine during the entire train ride; why was he suddenly acting prattish now?  Harry realized with a start that Malfoy’s demeanor previously had been more on par with how he’d grown to act after the Battle of Hogwarts; standoffish, but polite.  What had Harry changed to make him act this way?

He jerked out of his thoughts just to clamber out of the boats and follow Hagrid and the rest up to the castle door.  He saw Hermione giving him a curious look out of the corner of his eye, but he stoutly ignored her. 

Hagrid stepped up to the door, and raised his fist.

BOOM! 

His knock rattled the dusty chandelier above them. The door opened with a loud creak to reveal Professor McGonagall, eyebrow raised in a severe manner.  Harry suppressed a gasp. The last time he’d seen her, she’d been . . . she’d been . . . an image of her broken form slammed in front of his vision, and he shook his head furiously, grimacing.  Now was definitely not the time.

“Thank you Hagrid,” Professor McGonagall said. “I’ll take them from here.”

“Right you are, Professor,” Hagrid replied, and stepped aside, allowing the huddle of first years to be led into the Entrance Hall.  As she did so, Harry spotted a flash of blonde hair in the crowd.

“Luna!” He called, ignoring the strange looks. “Over here!”  The willowy girl pushed past the other first years, a wide smile on her face.  The bottlecap necklace gleamed in the candlelight. She flung her arms around him, getting several snickers as she did so, but neither of them cared.  It had been so long since either of them had properly talked.

“What happened?” Harry asked her quietly as they made their way into a side room. “Why didn’t you meet me on the train?”

“The wrackspurts told me not to,” She replied. “They said I shouldn’t interfere with things.  Now, though, I can See you! Hello!”

“Hello,” Harry chuckled.  Luna’s eyes floated past him, and she smiled.

“Hello Neville, Hermione, Draco.  You’re Harry’s friends, right? I hope I’ll be Seeing you soon as well!”  Hermione’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. Before any of the others could reply, a shocked scream rent the air, and Harry’s wand was in his hand before he could even blink.

“Ghosts!  There’s ghosts here!” One pigtailed girl exclaimed, and Harry dropped his wand arm with a sigh of relief.  Ghosts , He thought dully.  I forgot about the ghosts. Merlin!

“Clear out!” came McGonagalls voice. “The Sorting is about to begin!”  The ghost’s drifting away, talking casually, but Harry noticed the Bloody Baron’s eyes curiously surveying him and his friends.  He suppressed a shudder. Even now, the ghost unnerved him.

McGonagall led them into the Great Hall, and the silence overwhelmed Harry.  His stomach twisted as he realized. Oh Merlin, the Sorting!  The Hat can read my mind!  Harry instinctively went to slam down his Occlumency shields, but he stopped himself at the last moment.  Doing that would only draw more attention to himself, and make the Hat suspicious.

The Sorting Hat was placed on a stool in front of the first years, and a rip opened up, and the Hat began to sing.

“Oh you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

 

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can cap them all.

 

There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

 

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

 

You might belong in Hufflepuff,

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

 

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

if you've a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

 

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folks use any means

To achieve their ends.

 

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're in safe hands (though I have none)

For I'm a Thinking Cap!”

Polite applause filled the Great Hall, and McGonagall unfurled a long scroll which, Harry knew, contained a list of every new student at Hogwarts.

“When I call your name, please step forward and place the hat on your head.  Abbot, Hannah!”

“HUFFLEPUFF!”  The ‘Puffs cheered at being the first house picked.

“Abercrombie, Euan!”

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

“Boot, Terry!” 

“RAVENCLAW!”

And so it moved down the list until “Granger, Hermione!” Was called, and the frazzled girl stepped forward, mouth moving furiously as she went through all the potions and spells that she knew.

“Good luck!” Harry whispered to her, and she glanced at him before walking up to the stool and jamming the hat eagerly on her head.

“RAVENCLAW!” Harry started in surprise.  Wh-what? He’d definitely not expected that.  What was going on? But the next name was already being called.

When “Longbottom, Neville!” was called, Harry noticed that his stride was a lot less nervous than it had been previously, although, looking closer, he could see Neville’s hands shaking.

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

Harry gaped at the Sorting Hat as Neville went to sit down. How did that happen?  Neville was a Gryffindor, not a Hufflepuff!

“What’s going on?” Harry hissed quietly to Haesha. “Why are they getting different Houses than last time?”

“The Sorting Hat has it’s reasons, and I have a sneaking suspicion as to what they might be,” Haesha replied. “Wait and see when it’s your turn.”

“Lovegood, Luna!”

“RAVENCLAW!” Harry sighed with relief.  At least Luna was sorted to the correct House.

Finally, when Professor McGonagall called out, “Potter, Harry!”, the whole Hall went almost completely silent.  Harry gripped his wand tightly in the pocket of his robes and stepped forward, sparing no mind to the whispers that spread like wildfire around him.

“That’s him!  That’s Harry Potter!”

“Bit small, isn’t he?”

“I wonder what House he’s gonna get!”

Harry’s eyes closed briefly as he lowered the Hat onto his head.  He’d forgotten how annoying the whispers were.  

“Another time traveler, and a Speaker of Hogwarts at that!” the Hat said to him. “I’ll be hard pressed to keep my mouth shut about this.”

“Hello, Alastair,” Harry greeted. “Please keep this to yourself; I have a plan, and I don’t want it ruined.”

“Of course, of course,” Alastair said idly. “My only job is to Sort you, after all.  But do you mind if I have a look? I am rather curious about what the future holds.”

“Go ahead,” Harry replied. “Just warning you; it’s not pretty.”  The Sorting Hat was silent for a few moments, and Harry felt it sorting through his thoughts and memories.  Then, loudly, to the entire Great Hall, it yelled:

“GOOD MERCIFUL MERLIN!”  

Several of the teachers let out startled exclamations, and Harry saw Professor McGonagall take a step back.

“Shhhh,” Harry hissed, wary of the eyes trained on him. “Please, just Sort me.”

“But - that can’t be the future, can it?” Alastair sounded genuinely upset. “Hogwarts can’t die!”

“She won’t, but only if you let me do what I need to do!” Harry said. “Put me in Gryffindor, please!  You’re taking longer for me than you did with anyone else!” 

The Hat hesitated.  And hesitated. Finally, with false cheer and a great deal of reluctance, it shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!”  And Harry placed it back down on the stool and went to join his House once again, who were cheering wildly.

“We got Potter!  We got Potter!” The Weasley twins yelled happily.  Fred slapped him on the back, and Harry looked at him in mock horror.

“Oh no!” he gasped. “Not the infamous Weasley twins!”  Everyone who overheard laughed, and the twins sported identical mischievous grins.

“Glad to see-”

“-That our reputations proceed us!”

“Oh, yes!” said Harry, nodding frantically. “Professor McGonagall warned us about you in our Hogwarts letters!”  The twins looked both surprised and horrified.

“What?” They exclaimed, and Harry burst out laughing.  George snorted and nudged Fred.

“Fred, my dear brother, I think we have been had.”  They peered closely at Harry, and Fred nodded.

“We must be losing our touch if an ickle firstie can best us,” Fred said, smiling widely. He outstretched a hand, and Harry took it. “Welcome to Gryffindor!”  They simultaneously gestured to a seat next to them, and Harry sat down.

Harry cheerfully paid absolutely no attention to the rest of the Sorting, and instead immersed himself in the familiar faces surrounding him, basking in the warmth that they brought.  These people, who’d died horrible and painful deaths, were once again alive. And, whatever it took, Harry was going to keep it that way.

When the last person was sorted, and everyone was in their seats, Dumbledore stood up and tapped his glass politely, silence falling over the Great Hall.  Harry’s heart twisted.  Oh, Dumbledore.  I’m so sorry.

“I have a few words to say to you all,” Dumbledore said, beaming. “And here they are!  Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you.” He sat down to a polite round of applause.  Harry shook his head and piled mashed potatoes onto his plate, which had appeared when Dumbledore sat down.  He saw Ron stuffing his face out of the corner of his eye, and couldn’t help but grin even more. Some things never change.  

“I’m a half-blood,” Seamus was saying across from him. “Me dads a muggle, mum's a witch.  Bit of a nasty shock when he found out.” Laughter rippled around the table.

“Me too,” Harry offered. “‘Cept it’s the other way around.”

“Well, everyone knows who your parents are, Harry,” Seamus snorted. “‘Boy-Who-Lived’, and all that.”

“God, I hate that title,” Harry shuddered.  “Puts a bit of a damper on the whole fame thing, being associated with my parents murder.”  Seamus looked uncomfortable.

“Ah,” was his eloquent reply. “Sorry, Harry.”  Harry shook his head.

“It’s alright; I never knew them,” he said. “Besides, until this year, I thought they’d died in a car crash.”

“A car crash!?” Ron butted in indignantly, spitting food everywhere. “You thought they’d died in a car crash? How’d you manage that?”

“M-my aunt and uncle are muggles,” Harry replied, stuttering as he looked into the face of his old friend. “Didn’t tell me about magic, or anything.  I found out when my letter came.”

“Interesting,” Ron said, looking at him contemplatively (or as contemplative as he could look with his cheeks stuffed with pudding). “I sorta thought you’d be a bit big-headed, to be honest.  But you seem nice.” Harry shrugged, trying not to grin.

“Hard to be big-headed if you don’t even know you’re famous.”  And he shoveled a bit of meat pie in his mouth, effectively ending the interaction.

Dessert passed without much conversation, and by the time the plates vanished, Harry was feeling uncomfortably full.  He glanced up at the head table, and saw that, once again, Dumbledore was standing up to address them. He raised his hands for silence.

“To the newcomers, welcome!  To our old hands, welcome back!” He paused for effect, and the Weasley twins cheered, causing people around them to snicker.  “Filch has asked me to once again remind you that magic is banned in the corridor between classes. And also, that the third floor corridor is off limits to those who do not wish to die a very painful death.”  Harry snorted, while everyone around him looked confused. Didn’t Dumbledore know that the best way to get students to do something was to tell them emphatically not to? “In any case,” Dumbledore had continued. “I’m sure you are all tired and ready for rest.  You are all dismissed to your House chambers.”  

A great sliding of benches signified the end of the feast, and Harry stood to join the rest of the first-years, being led away by the prefects towards the Common Rooms.  Before he could do so, however, a hand grabbed his shoulder roughly, and Harry found himself staring into the grim face of Professor Snape.

“Come with me, Potter,” Severus said gruffly.  “The Headmaster wants a word with you.”

Chapter Text

Harry was silent as Severus led him by the arm down the corridor.  He thought furiously about what this could possibly be about, but he honestly couldn’t think of anything he’d done.

“Did I do something wrong?” Harry asked.  Severus sighed.

“No,” He replied, but didn’t offer anything else.  Harry felt distinctly uncomfortable. Severus in the future was alright, but right now . . . Harry really wasn’t sure.  He seemed less aggressive towards him now that he knew about Harry’s home-life.

Trepidation filled Harry as they climbed the spiral staircase, and Harry double-checked his Occlumency shields.  This would be the first time Harry was face-to-face with the Headmaster since he fell from the Astronomy tower, and Harry felt his insides twist at the thought.  His feelings about Dumbledore were quite mixed, but knowing what Dumbledore had gone through in his life, he was less resentful than he used to be towards the old wizard.

“Ah, Severus!” Dumbledore exclaimed as they entered the whirring office. “I see you brought young Harry to me!”

“As you asked,” Severus replied stiffly.  Harry stepped forward, gaze flicking over the familiar contraptions scattered around the room.  He knew what they did now; most were for him. Dumbledore smiled warmly at him, and Harry forced himself to smile back, clenching his hands tightly to stop them from trembling.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” Harry asked, voice surprisingly steady.  Dumbledore nodded and gestured to the seat opposite him.

“Please, have a seat,” He said. “You’re not in trouble, I promise.”  Harry sat, noting the startling lack of Fawkes on his perch. He went to ask where he went, but realized last minute that he wasn’t supposed to even know about the bird.

“Did you have an easy time shopping in Diagon Alley?” Dumbledore asked him. “I apologize for the short notice.  I had assumed your relatives had already informed you of the Wizarding World.”

“Not as such sir,” Harry replied to the unspoken question. “They don’t like magic very much.”  Dumbledore’s eyes darkened, and Harry felt a spike of nervousness.

“Yes, I’ve heard,” Dumbledore sighed. “Tell me, Harry, and be honest; do the Dursleys treat you very well?”

“I mean, not really, to be honest, sir,” Harry replied, grinning sheepishly. “You know how it is.”

“No, we really don’t, Potter,” Snape interjected sharply.  Dumbledore gave him a quelling look. Harry fidgeted, wondering how much he should reveal about the Dursleys.  Screw it, he thought. I’ve been protecting those assholes for too long.

“Well, I do most of the chores there.  Weeding, mowing, cleaning, laundry, all that stuff.  They give me a list of chores to do, and they get kinda mad if I don’t do them in time.”  Harry saw Dumbledore and Severus glance at each other, but he pressed forward. “What really got them mad was when I did magic.  I remember accidentally turning my teacher’s hair blue; I spent a whole month in the cupboard for that!”

“The . . . cupboard?” Severus said slowly, as if he hadn’t heard correctly.

“My bedroom,” Harry clarified. “The cupboard under the stairs.”  A contraption near Harry rattled ominously, and Harry’s eyebrows rose.  He glanced at Dumbledore, who had his eyes closed tightly. Wow, he thought.  They’re actually really pissed about this.

“Continue, Harry,” Dumbledore said, rubbing his forehead. “What else did they do?”

“Well they didn’t hit me, if that’s what you’re asking,” Harry said. “They left that up to my cousin, Dudley.  He used to bully me a lot at school. Uncle Vernon actually told him to, I think.”

“They told him to bully you?” Severus asked incredulously.

“Yeah, that’s what I just said,” Harry replied. “I also wasn’t allowed to do better than Dudley at school.  Wasn’t allowed to do anything ‘freakish’ either. I thought my name was Freak until I went to primary school.”  Harry felt a surprising amount of . . . something, welling up inside him, and he clamped down on the emotion.

“You thought your name was . . .” Dumbledore’s voice seemed to fail him for a moment, and he steepled his fingers, looking up at the ceiling.  Severus watched him warily.

“Yeah, I don’t know why-” Harry felt a lump in his throat, and he gasped, doubling over.

“Potter?” Severus exclaimed. “What’s wrong?” 

“I don’t know why-” He choked, and then the dam broke.  

Wave after wave of emotion bore down on him, and he trembled with the shock of it.  Sobs wracked his body, and Harry was numbly aware of tears spilling down his cheeks.  He tried to stop, to push it away, but it was as if a wall had burst and couldn’t be mended.  His arms wrapped around his chest and he dug his fingernails into his shoulders.

“Oh, dear boy,” Dumbledore said softly.  There was a rustle of robes, footsteps, and gentle arms wrapped around Harry, pulling him into a warm embrace.  Harry let it ground him, and gradually the world came back into focus, the hardwood floor against his feet, the smell of lemon drops, and the sound of his own heaving gasps.

“I don’t know - I don’t know why they treated me that way!” Harry managed to sob out. “I tried so hard to make them proud, so hard.   Why wasn’t I good enough?  Why? I’m not a freak, I’m not-” He pressed his lips together to stop the words spilling out.  Why was he so affected by this? It was years ago.  But still he couldn’t stop.

“Mr. Potter,” Severus’ voice sounded closer to him, surprisingly gentle.  “You are not a freak.” Harry let out a miserable sigh.

“I know, I just-” I don’t want more people to get hurt because of me.   The thought remained unsaid.  Eventually the tears stopped flowing, and Harry was able to regain controls of the double doors of his emotions.  He slammed them shut and locked them with a resounding click. Dumbledore drew back, and Harry sat back in his seat, feeling utterly drained.

“Well,” Dumbledore said, looking world-weary. “I think Severus and I can agree that you won’t be going back there.”  Harry’s eyes widened.

“Really?” said Harry, feeling a spark of hope.

“Really.” Dumbledore’s eyes still did not twinkle. “Just one more question, and you do not have to answer, Harry, if you don’t want to.” Dumbledore leaned forward solemnly, brow furrowing. “Did the Dursley’s ever actively try to - oh what was the phrase - ‘stamp the magic out of you’?” Dumbledore's voice caught on the last word.  Harry swallowed, screaming and belts and thrown glassware flashing through his mind in an instant.

“Every damn day,” Harry whispered, and Severus let out a shaky breath.  Harry looked at him, but his face remained impassive.

“That will be all, Potter,” He said quietly.  “We can discuss your summer arrangements at a later date, but it is well past curfew at this point.  I shall escort you to Gryffindor tower, and give you this semester’s password.”

“Okay,” Harry agreed, feeling rather small and tired.  He got up, his legs shaky. Severus beckoned him forth and, with a startling degree of sympathy, placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Bye, Professor Dumbledore,” Harry said.  Dumbledore smiled sadly.

“Goodbye,” He replied, and the two of them left the office.

Left alone, Dumbledore slumped forward in his desk, barely able to catch himself with the palms of his hands.  With trembling fingers, he opened a small drawer in the mahogany desk, wherein lay a small picture of a girl. One with long blonde hair and bright, ocean blue eyes.  Dumbledore gazed at her for a moment, and a single tear escaped from his eye and rolled down his cheek.

“Forgive me, Ari, for once again I have failed you.”