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Back? Not Really

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Harry Potter and Oliver Wood were the heroes of Great Britain.

'For once, I am famous for something that I did!'

The Boy-Who-Lived and the Man-Who-Conquered: those titles meant nothing to him. He had survived the Killing Curse only thanks to his mother's sacrifice and he had defeated Voldemort only thanks to Albus Dumbledore's many years of planning and machinations combined with the efforts and sacrifices of many other good people.  He felt no pride regarding those accomplishments.

But this time it was different.

It was 2002. For the first time in history, England won the Quidditch World Cup! The Egyptian chasers had been formidable, some of the best seen in recent years. The national team of Egypt was leading the score and dominating the game completely. It was only Oliver Wood's spectacular performance as a keeper that had given Harry Potter enough time to catch the snitch before the gap in points became too large to be bridged. It was a narrow victory, by the skin of their teeth. But they had won!

As he was holding the Quidditch World Cup together with Oliver Wood and tens of thousands of people were fanatically chanting their names, Harry Potter thought that maybe he did not hate being famous anymore. Maybe it was not so bad to be respected and famous for his own hard work and efforts.

An 11-year-old boy with vibrant green eyes and messy black hair shook his head in an attempt to banish his memories away. He turned his attention back to the supple and elegant racing broomstick in the window - it was the very thing that had caused him to get a lost look in his eyes and travel down the memory lane. But his behaviour did not look out of place. Surrounding him were boys and girls of all ages, all with a dreamy and wistful expression on their faces as their ogled at the newest racing broom, Nimbus 2000.

'Should I buy the broom myself and smuggle it into Hogwarts in secret? I can't rely on impressing Professor McGonagall again.' he thought.

Speaking of the woman in question, she was right next to him, just as stern, prim, and proper as he remembered her. Seeing that he had stopped and that he was looking transfixed at the window displaying the new Nimbus model, the stoic woman showed a rare smile, her blue eyes becoming more gentle.

"Is it calling for you? You know, your father was a great Quidditch player. Unfortunately, first-years are not allowed to bring a broom to school. Come, Mr Potter, let us be on our way."

With a simple tap of her wand, the Transfiguration professor made Harry's trunk float and follow them from behind.

"If I may ask, Professor, do you help every new student with their first visit to Diagon Alley?" Harry asked, trying his best to sound as immature as a child of his biological age would. In fact, he was wondering why it was her instead of Hagrid.

The old Deputy did not reply to him right away. She pushed the door open and held it for him to go inside Flourish and Blotts. Skipping the people queued in a long line to get their turn at buying their books, Professor McGonagall received a bundle that the storekeeper had prepared for her beforehand. It took them less than five minutes to finish their business there.

Once they were out, she finally answered his question:

"My responsibility is only to inform and instruct the parents of the Muggleborn students in regards to the Wizarding World, not to help them with their purchases."

She stopped and put her hands on his shoulders as she crouched to his eye level.

"Your parents had been two of the most brilliant students that I've ever had. Helping you out a bit before your first year at Hogwarts is the least I could do for them."

Harry Potter looked at her momentarily stunned. He knew that this was not his world - oh, he was clearly aware of that - but even learning the fact that he was not the Boy-Who-Lived in this world had not startled him quite as much as the stern woman's unexpected gesture of kindness.

"Thank you, Professor," he said awkwardly.

The rest of their trip was spent in silence. Thanks to the Transfiguration Professor's arrangements, they had not wasted any time in queues. He had bought everything that he needed in less than an hour.

When he woke up to see that he was not dead but that he was 11 years old again, his first thought was that he had been sent back in time.

However, he was not sleeping in a cupboard but in a much larger room, on a bunkbed, together with three other boys. The Dursleys were nowhere to be seen either. He was in an orphanage. If that was not enough, the moment he went to the bathroom to wash his face, he noticed that his forehead was smooth, no different than that of any other boy his age. There was no scar.

It was then that Harry Potter realized: he was not back in time. This was a different world altogether.

Watching the bustling Diagon Alley from his rented room at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry Potter was at a loss.

'What am I supposed to do now?'

He had willingly stepped through the Veil of Death, thinking that he would finally be free. Free from wars, killings, and free from Voldemort. Free from his fate. He thought that he would finally be able to rest after 40 years of misery.

Going to his bed, he let himself fall heavily on his back. Maybe other people would have rejoiced at being given a second chance at life. But not him. He would much rather be dead, together with Sirius, Remus, Tonks and everyone else that died before him. It was not that he was suicidal. He was just too mentally exhausted to go through it all once again. He had done his part. He had lived up to the prophecy and vanquished the Dark Lord Voldemort no less than 4 times!

First, as a baby; the second time as a teenager, in 1998; the third time, in his late twenties; the fourth time, at the age of 40. He had fought in three Wizarding Wars, the last one proving to be even worse than the war of Grindelwald as it had engulfed not only Great Britain and continental Europe but it had spread to Africa and Asia as well. He had had enough of fighting against Voldemort and his Death Eaters for three lifetimes. Enough was enough.

Alas, he had no say in the matter.

Neither Dumbledore nor Harry had ever taken the Tale of the Three Brothers literally. They had not thought that the Deathly Hallows had actually been created by Death itself but that the Peverell brothers had been the ones to craft them. However, after throwing the hallows into the Veil of Death and then stepping into the Veil himself, he learned - to his great dismay - that the fairy tale was very much real and that, as a show of gratitude for willingly returning its precious artefacts, Death decided to reward him with a second chance at life.

He turned around in his bed and punched his pillow a few times.

"Gratitude my arse!" he cussed in annoyance.

He did not want to go to Hogwarts again and have rivalries with 11-year-old Slytherin brats. He did not want to risk his life on a yearly basis, thinking in which new creative way was his ever-changing professor of DADA going to try to kill him again. Also, maybe not as important, but probably just as annoying, he did not want to go through puberty one more time either!

"For Merlin's sake! I'm 40 bloody years old!"

A yell muffled by a pillow rang in the room.

The bright red Hogwarts Express was a sight for sore eyes. He would always hold a feeling of fondness for it. It was where he had met the first friend of his age, Ron Weasley. It was also where his journey into the Wizarding World had truly started.

He made his way slowly through the busy platform with his trunk and Hedwig's empty cage (he had sent her ahead to Hogwarts) while being careful to not bump into other people. Thinking of the affectionate snow-white owl, a smile made its way on his face. Remembering how she happily hooted and gently nipped his ear that morning after he fed her half of his share of bacon - it made him smile even wider. He loved the beautiful owl to death. When she had died to save his life in the past, he had mourned her as if she had been a person. She was one of the first friends he had ever had.

With thoughts of the cute owl occupying his mind, he thought that maybe it was not all that bad that he could live a second time, just to see her again if nothing else. The fact that he was not the Boy-Who-Lived in this world either only served to sweeten the deal.

"Speak of the devil and he shall appear," Harry muttered to himself when he noticed that the already bustling platform suddenly looked like it had caught on fire.

Dozens of camera blitzes flashed at the same time as a squad of reporters shoved and pushed at each other like a bunch of rugby players in their quest to get a closer look at the famous family. Their yelled questions were left unanswered, however, because said celebrities appeared to be in a hurry.

Surrounded by a team of four Aurors, the Longbottom family made their way on the 3/4 platform unhindered by the journalists or the enthusiastic crowd.

"How lucky..." Harry said softly as he looked at the pudgy 11-year-old boy holding his parents' hands.

That's right. Unlike him in his past life, Neville Longbottom, the child of prophecy in this world, had not lost his parents. Frank and Alice Longbottom were alive and with their minds intact too, while Neville himself still sported a lightning-bolt scar in the middle of his forehead. Harry would even say that young Neville seemed quite proud of his scar if the way that he parted his fringe from the middle as if to show it off was anything to go by.

Nevertheless, he did not look at the famous family for more than three seconds. He had never liked it when others stared at his scar in the past so he would not do that to others either. Not paying much attention to what he was doing, he absent-mindedly pointed his wand at the trunk and Hedwig's cage and levitated them into the train.

Peals of joyous laughter came from the compartment next to his. Yells and sounds of foot stomps came from the corridor as three energetic boys were running after a fourth. He even heard a thud and the sounds of glass shattering in the distance.

'Bloody hell! Were children always this loud? Was I this loud and rambunctious too?!'

It had been more than a decade since he had last been around children. He had not interacted with children ever since the Weasleys and their children had been murdered by Voldemort after his second resurrection. He could still vividly remember the scene of the Burrow in flames, with the Dark Mark floating above it in the sky. It had happened on New Year's Eve, in the night between 2004 and 2005. After that, he had been nothing but a recluse and a fighter. He had spent more than a decade either holed up in his own home studying magic or on the battlefield, cutting down Voldemort's forces. He had not interacted with children anymore outside of the situations where he rescued them from war-torn zones.

A squeal that sounded strangely similar to that of a dying pig startled him from his thoughts. He swore they were being that loud on purpose. No way that someone could be that obnoxious without even trying to! In a fit of anger, he pushed the door of the compartment open and hollered:

"SHUT UP!"

His yell had been so loud and so unexpected that, for a moment, the entire carriage quieted down. But then, even louder laughter burst from the surrounding compartments. The squeaky voice of an 11-year-old boy would never inspire any sort of authority. If anything, it was hilarious.

Five minutes later, even his mastery of Occlumency could do little to stop his growing ire. He was sorely tempted to just go to every compartment and cast a Muffliato on them but that would only create more trouble for himself in the long run. They would no doubt start asking: how did a firstie know how to cast area-of-effect silencing spells?

'Colloportus.'

Once the door of the compartment was magically locked, he also cast a weak Notice-Me-Not Charm, just enough to keep busybodies away from inspecting his compartment without a good reason.

With his needs for privacy taken care of, Harry lied down on the seat and then pointed the tip of his wand at himself.

'Stupefy.'

He went to sleep.