Chapter One

The Early Years

Death came as a relief to her.

Sighing, she drifted toward the only smidge of light among the darkness. Without a body, she felt light as air, all her worries and concerns from her life ebbing away as she distanced herself from it.

What would greet her at the end of the tunnel? Did heaven and hell truly exist? If so, she seriously hoped she was heading towards the former.

As she reached the exit, her senses were enveloped by a searing brightness. Once it dimmed, she began to feel sluggish – pained, even.

"She's beautiful," a man whispered.

"Well, she is my daughter," murmured a woman.

"Our daughter," the man corrected.

The woman merely chuckled in response, and she could actually feel the vibrations caused by that action.

As she finally pried her eyes open, everything began to click into place. Talk of a daughter, a weary yet content couple peering at her, the way she could barely move her body… She was re-born – with her memories intact.

Her ear-shattering wails pierced through the night.

Alexandra Fortescue. That was her new name.

It sounded…rather pretentious, considering the simplicity of her old name. But that didn't really matter anymore. Because, as time went on, she found herself forgetting little tidbits about her old life. It was as if this new life of hers was battling with the old in order to assert dominance and reign control of her mind. Despite technically being seventeen, she acted more like her new age more often than not, crying when she was hungry, crying when she needed her diaper changed, and generally crying for no good reason.

Still, a part of her old self lurked in the back of her mind. It was that part which allowed her to be more observant than the average baby, to develop far more quickly than a normal infant should have – which was why she was quick to understand just when and where she had been reincarnated into.

Alex was one month old by then, and was slowly but surely regaining control of her limbs. The first few tries had resulted in the slapping of her parents' faces, which annoyed them at first before her amused giggles melted their irritation away.

Her mother, Julia, peeled Alex's chubby little hand off of her cheek. "You can't beat up Mummy as much as usual any more, sweetie," she said wryly. "I have to go back to work starting from today."

Alex blinked up at the woman. Work? What kind of work?

A large pair of hands scooped her up from behind, and suddenly she was peering up at her father instead. "But that means you get to be with me instead!" he declared, grinning down at her. "I can't wait for you to see the shop! It's a shame you can't eat anything, though."

A restaurant? Perhaps a café? Alex contemplated his words as Julia readied herself for her departure. She grabbed a handbag and a…cloak? Judging by the lack of technology in their house, Alex always assumed the current time period was the late 20th century, several decades prior to her previous life. She didn't know much about this current time period, but she was certain they didn't wear robes or cloaks.

"Right," said Julia, coming to a stop before them. She pecked her husband on the lips and tapped Alex's tiny nose with a smile. "I'll see you two tonight. Try not to destroy anything, okay?"

Alex felt Florean's scoff travel up his torso. "We'll be fine. Besides, I'm sure you can fix any damage we cause, can't you, Mrs Auror?"

Oh no.

Julia smirked as she headed to the fireplace. "I can but it doesn't mean I will." Grabbing some powder in the jar from the ledge, she stepped into the fireplace and smiled in their direction. "Have a good day."

And then she vanished into thin air.

Oh yes.

She was in the world of Harry Potter. Hogwarts, magic, the Wizarding Wars, prejudice, harassment, terrorism…

She started crying again.

Diagon Alley was surprisingly drab. It was like the entire place was cast in darkness, and it might as well have been, what with the war going on. Many stores along the streets were closed down and boarded up, and the brave few that kept theirs open saw fewer customers with each passing day. Even with both parents working endlessly, Alex could tell they were struggling to get by.

But then everything changed on October 31st, 1981. Lord Voldemort had been defeated, his followers scattered and rounded up, and peace was restored. Or so claimed the papers.

Diagon Alley was finally allowed to bloom to life, and the abrupt change left her wide-eyed and open-mouthed. It was as if someone had just added colour to the world. Streams of people ran up and down the street, laughing and celebrating without a care in the world. Business boomed all over, and for the first time ever, Alex saw what her parents actually looked like when they didn't have the weight of the world on their shoulders. It shaved years off of them.

Generally, though, the first few years of her new life weren't too interesting. Most of her time was spent sleeping or crying, as well as eating and excreting. Even spending time in her father's ice cream parlour (for he was none other than the famous Florean Fortescue) was boring, since she could hardly see anything from her perch on his back. Child carriers, magical or not, left her with little to do.

One perk was seeing the occasional celebrity. Well, presumably so, anyway. The only ones she could really pick out were the gaggle of little Weasleys (sans Ron and Ginny), a girl whose hair changed in colour with every flavour of ice cream she drooled over, and even the occasional sight of Albus Dumbledore. She didn't know who was more excited – Florean or herself.

Seeing such crucial characters both mollified and worried her. A complete contradiction, true, but Alex's very existence was the epitome of such. While the familiar faces assured her that she was in world of Harry Potter she had known so well in her previous life, part of her wondered if she had actually landed herself in an alternate universe, one that was fundamentally different from the world described in the novels.

She kept her eyes peeled for any telltale signs of her theory (or as much as she could as a newborn). Maybe she was an in parallel universe where Dumbledore was Minister and Fudge wasn't, or one where Dumbledore walked around dressed as a lemon, or maybe one where he got by on rollerskates instead of walking like the common people.

Clearly, she had given this a lot of thought – there wasn't much else she could, glued to her parents' sides as she was.

Man, did being a baby suck. She couldn't eat anything besides mush. Granted, magical baby food was enchanted to taste somewhat more palatable, but it was nothing compared to how the ice cream she saw every day must've tasted.

"Mummy," called a squeaky voice. His voice was hushed, as if he was aiming for a whisper, but the boy didn't quite have the grasp on the action yet. "The baby keeps staring at my ice cream."

"You should give her some of yours, Percy," declared a grinning teenage boy, his ginger hair matching the rest of his family's.

Percy stared at his vanilla ice cream contemplatively. Before he could decide, though, their mother clicked her tongue. "Don't be silly, boys," she reprimanded them. "She can't eat ice cream yet."

That didn't seem to stop the youngest of the bunch. The pair of identical toddlers wobbled over to Alex, and tried their hardest to reach up to her and hand her their shared cone. Alex giggled at the sight, as did Florean.

"Thank you, boys, but you heard your mother," he said, firmly but gently. "It'll be a while yet until little Alexandra is ready."

Alex pouted at the reminder, but the twins agreed readily enough. They ran back to their mother, who was shaking her head in bemusement. "So sorry, Mr Flortescue. Fred and George can be a handful sometimes."

"It's fine, Mrs Weasley. They were just trying to cheer my little girl up – and it worked, too!" He winked at said twins, who beamed back at him with ice cream-coated grins. "And please, call me Florean. Hearing Mr Flortescue makes me want to turn around and look for my father."

"He was a wonderful Defense professor back in my time," said Mrs Weasley, smiling. "I'll call you Florean if you call me Molly."

"Of course." In one flawless movement, Florean scooped up a serving of strawberry ice cream, placed it in a cup, and handed it to Mrs Weasley. "On the house."

As expected, Mrs Weasley blushed and refused to accept his hand-out. After Florean's insistence that it technically wasn't free, since he received his daughter's smile in return, she caved and accepted with a smile.

If the Weasleys weren't regulars before, they were from then on. They popped in roughly once a month, not only purchasing a snack but taking the time to play with her when the shop became really busy. The older two, Charlie and Bill, often entertained her by pulling faces or whipping out magical toys which always dazzled her. Fred and George mostly poked and prodded her, acting as if they had never seen a baby before. Percy didn't really interact with her much, so she was forced to interact with him instead, crawling into his lap and pawing at his face.

Mrs Weasley was her favourite. She told her about wizarding fairy tales, enchanting not only Alex but her own children as well. Alex learnt a lot about wizarding folklore from her, such as the legend of Merlin and even that of Count Dracula. Her parents rarely had time to story-tell, so drained were they whenever they returned home from work.

This continued for a while, until Mrs Weasley came in to tell them she was expecting a baby herself. The visits slowed to a stop after that, so occupied was she with her growing family. Alex was facing boredom once more, waiting for the day she could get away with knowing how to read without drawing too much suspicion. Until then, though, it seemed she had to settle for sleeping the time away.

Alex's fork fell out of her limp hand and onto the tiled floor with a clang.

She couldn't believe it. She refused to.

"But I don't want to," she murmured, fists clenching on her lap.

"You have to, Alex," Mum said firmly. "It's for your own good."

Her lips twisted into a pout of their own accord. "But I already know how to read and write." Probably even better than the both of you magical beings combined.

"School isn't just about reading and writing," added Dad. "You learn all sorts of things! Like, um, maths and… oh, what was it again?"

Alex had to laugh at her dad's earnest but fruitless attempts. Mum wasn't as amused. "Every child needs to attend school. Unfortunately, because your dad and I have to work, we can't teach you ourselves. We also can't hire a private tutor."

Alex sighed, unbidden guilt rising once again. Her family wasn't poor, but they weren't wealthy either – and she largely suspected it was her fault. Children didn't come cheap, after all.

"Okay," she conceded. "I'll go."

School was a nightmare. She had known that in her past life, and now it was steadily reiterated by the screams and shouts of the animals around her. St. Grogory's Primary School was a nightmare. But it was the only one her parents knew of, due to its proximity.

Well, there was one silver lining at least. Because of her almost-prodigal intelligence—snort—she had managed to prolong her absence from school for a good five-and-a-half years. At ten (and a half) years old, though, her parents finally decided it was time to send her to hell- er, school.

She wasn't sure why, though. Her first instinct was that her parents wanted her to socialise with those her own age, but she could do that well enough at the shop if she really wanted to. (She didn't.) Maybe they thought she could only learn so much from books and the basics they could teach her in the spare time. Or—and this was the one she dwelled the least on—maybe they were preparing her for her future in the muggle world, in case she never showed any knack for magic and turned out to be the first squib in their families for a decade.

She could deal with being a squib. Really, it was best not to get tangled with the shit-hole that was the magical world, but the thought of disappointing her parents was so surprisingly and unbearably painful that she hoped the outcome was otherwise.

Something rammed into her legs, snapping Alex out of her grey thoughts. A boy around seven-years-old was moaning in pain as he pushed himself off the ground, before freezing like a deer in headlights when he noticed her staring down at him in mild surprise.

"I'm sorry!" he squeaked, jumping up. Judging by his immediate wince, it seemed like a regrettable move.

"No problem," she said, brow furrowed. This kid looks weirdly familiar, she thought.

"Potter!" a voice barked. A rotund boy stomped towards them, three snickering kids trailing behind him. "You really are useless, aren't you? You can't even do my homework right!" His arm twitched as if he wanted to grab at the smaller boy, but it stilled when he finally noticed her presence. "Who are you?" he grunted.

She responded with an unimpressed look. "I think the real question is, what're you doing to him? Because it sure seems a lot like bullying."

The boys shared an uneasy look, but their fearless leader cracked his knuckles in what seemed to be a threatening gesture. "You'll leave if you know what's good for you."

Alex snapped her book shut and stood up, noting with pleasure that she was taller than the bully, if only just. "Yeah?" she asked challengingly. "I think you'll be the one leaving."

Before he could retaliate—either verbally or physically—Alex kicked out her feet from beneath her, sending her crashing to the harsh gravel. She landed on her rear and began screaming, much to the shock of those around her.

One of the teachers on playground duty rushed over. "What's wrong, dear?" she asked, panicked.

Sniffling, Alex thrusted an accusatory finger at the bullies. "They said mean things about me and then pushed me!"

The teacher rounded on them like a hawk. "Boys! Is this true?!" She cut off their pathetic stammers with a sharp wave of her hand. "Enough. Come with me. Lunch is over for you lot."

They tried to send her one last dirty glare, but were swiftly reprimanded by the teacher as she herded them away. Fierce satisfaction soared through her, and she smirked at their retreating backs.

"Thank you."

Alex flinched, remembering the other person with her. "It was no problem," she said, grinning slightly. "I'm Alex Fortescue."

The boy began to smile back. "My name's Harry Potter."

Alex's grin widened to the point that it looked a touch insane. "Nice to meet you, Harry. Wanna play a game?"

She knew a lot about Harry Potter – an uncomfortable amount, really. She knew how his parents was stolen from him when he was just a baby, and then he was forced to grow up with a family that would sooner kill him than love him. But that didn't prepare her for the intense reality of it all.

"Really?" he asked, hope shining painfully bright in his green eyes. Doubt overcame him as he bit his lip. "But Dudley and his gang… They'll bully anyone who even talks to me…"

Alex made a show of flipping her dark hair and thrusting her nose in the air. "I can take on a bunch of little boys," she said haughtily.

Reluctant amusement danced in Harry's eyes, thankfully washing away the raw emotion in them. "Well, okay. What do you want to play?"

And that was how she befriended the Chosen One.

They managed to fit in a few games of I Spy before the bell rang, signalling the end of lunch. Harry seemed pretty bummed at leaving, and Alex couldn't help but reciprocate his sentiments. She would pick him over the kids in her class any day. Sure, they were essentially the same age, but Harry had a sense of maturity to him that the others (well, besides her, but she didn't really count) possessed. Then again, abuse tended to do that to a person.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she offered.

Smiling, Harry nodded. Damn, she thought, he's adorable.

As the days trickled by, she and Harry grew closer. He was slowly emerging from his shell, and smiling much more. She wished she could invite him over sometimes, but her house screamed magic, and her parents would never even entertain the thought. So she worked with what she got.

Her 405th day at school was over. Spotting a familiar head of unruly black hair, Alex waved goodbye to Harry with her free hand as the other held onto her mum's. He just managed to raise his hand before he was grabbed by the collar of his shirt and dragged off by a great lump called Dursley.

"Who was that?" Mum asked curiously as they headed out of the school.

Alex swung her arm enthusiastically, forcing her mum's arm to do the same. "My friend."

"Oh? What's his name?"

"Harry," she chirped. "He's in the grade below me."

"How did you meet?"

By the time her tale was over, her mum was grinning in unabashed glee. "Sneaky. But aren't you worried about their revenge?"

"Oh, they've tried," she admitted, aiming for casual despite feeling her mum stiffen. "But I can hold my own. They're rather dumb, and Harry is fast." They only tried to attack her during the breaks, but Alex was always careful to stay within the vicinity of an adult. When they caught her unawares that one time, Harry did as she warned prior and ran off, quick as a flash, to the nearest teacher.

Mum frowned, but said nothing. Alex's chest ached at her apparent concern. If only she knew what the future held…

"Can we see Dad and grab some ice cream?"

Mum rolled her eyes. "Sure, but only one scoop."