AN: I want to express my appreciation for the support you've shown me in the reviews after the first chapter. Thank you!
Here is the new chapter, enjoy!
Chapter 2 - Third-floor Corridor
The Stunning Charm was a very useful spell that allowed someone to end a fight in an instant, without any repercussions. It had also become one of Harry Potter's most used methods of 'falling asleep' in the past, during the war. It offered him an instant sleep, devoid of any dreams or nightmares. Unlike the effects of a Dreamless Sleep Potion, however, leaving himself stunned for hours had a rather unpleasant side effect: when the effect of the charm ended and he woke up, he would be nauseous and his head would throb from a headache. He was used to that feeling though. Furthermore, it was very much preferable to hearing the screams and the ruckus caused by the hyper children on the train.
Taking a look at his wristwatch, he saw that it was 6 o'clock in the afternoon.
"I've slept for seven hours. We'll arrive soon; I should get changed."
"First years! First years over here!"
The half-giant's voice and stature were unmistakable. He smiled at the sight of his old friend. But that smile slowly disappeared when he remembered that this was a world different from his own. While some people could be the same, others could be very different. For example, Sirius Black.
After waking up in this world, finding out Sirius's whereabouts had been one of the first things that had come to his mind. Given that he had been in an orphanage, it had been obvious that his parents were dead but he had still hoped that he could help his godfather.
After a visit to the Records Room of the Ministry of Magic (it had been quite the hassle for a wee 11-year-old boy to arrange for a meeting with one of the Genealogists working there), Harry found out that Sirius Black did not need his help at all. Sirius was very much alive and active, not locked in Azkaban. Sirius had never been friends with James Potter. He was not his godfather. In this world, he was a proper member of the Black family, one that had been sorted in the Slytherin House and all that. Harry had a hard time imagining Sirius as a person that loved the green and silver colours when his room at Grimmauld Place had looked like an explosion of gold and red. It was completely different from the image in his head.
'Maybe it's for the best?'
With the mind of a 40 years old man, he could not help thinking that maybe it was better that Sirius had never been involved with him. It looked like that in the present Sirius Black was a very wealthy and well-respected member of society as opposed to spending 12 years in Azkaban, tortured by Dementors. He did not have a dirty past like the likes of Lucius Malfoy either.
Following Hagrid along with the rest of the first years on the narrow path that led to the Black Lake, gasps of amazement erupted from the children. The sight of Hogwarts at night was as majestic as he remembered it.
"No more than four in a boat!" Hagrid called and the first-year students were quick to group up with the friends they had made during the train trip.
Seeing as almost 30 years passed since Harry had started his first year at Hogwarts in his previous life, his memory was rather blurry. He could not recognize the girl and the other two boys that hopped in the same boat as him. Instead of making small talk with them, he just admired the night view of the castle silently.
The countless candles floating in the air, the ceiling charmed to look like the sky outside, and the 4 tables filled with hundreds of students belonging to the 4 Houses of Hogwarts... nostalgia washed over him when he entered the Great Hall.
While most of the first years were fidgeting nervously under the older students' gazes, there was a small smile on his face as he listened to the Sorting Hat's song. His memory of his former classmates was refreshed as Professor McGonagall started doing the roll call and the young children stepped forth and sat on the stool to be sorted.
Soon, Professor McGonagall called:
The sudden chorus of murmurs and gasps that came from the people in the Great Hall was remarkably similar to how everyone had reacted to his name in his past life too. The pudgy-looking boy walked confidently towards the stool and sat down. Barely a second after the hat was placed on his head, it shouted:
The House of the lions burst into loud cheers and clapped vigorously.
The rest of the sorting was more or less the same as in his past (as far as he could remember it). At the very least, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were still sorted into the Gryffindor House, Draco Malfoy and his two friends, Crabbe and Goyle into Slytherin, and so on.
If there was something different, it was his own Sorting.
'I'm not the Chosen One in this world.'
Harry Potter was nobody special here. He was no different than other children whose parents had fallen at the hands of the Death Eaters in the war a decade ago. With that said, without a murderous Dark Lord obsessed with killing him, Harry was free to live his life as he pleased. He had absolutely no intention of pretending that he was stupid or to purposely not make use of the knowledge and skills that he had obtained in the past. As he had discovered in his past life, he did not hate being famous if it was due to his own hard work and efforts. He would not mind if people took notice of him for his excellent academic results or Quidditch talent.
When the Sorting Hat was placed on his head, a short mental conversation with the ancient artefact was enough to convince it of where he wanted to be: Ravenclaw. It would not be strange if the most brilliant student of the decade came from Ravenclaw, would it?
'Merlin, how I missed this!'
He almost moaned as he took a big bite of a baked chicken leg. It was tender and succulent and the lemon juice squeezed on top of it made his mouth water.
'It's worth living again just for this!'
He had not eaten such good food in more than 10 years. Ever since the Weasley clan had been exterminated, he had seldom spent any time going to restaurants or cooking sumptuous feats for himself. He had been too obsessed with vengeance, too deeply immersed in war and the study of martial magic to enjoy life anymore.
He closed his eyes.
'This has to be Nirvana.'
It was as if his very soul was being healed. He was shaken off from his blissful thoughts when he heard the people at his table becoming louder than it was usual for a dinner in the Great Hall:
"Look, there's an owl!"
"What's she doing here?"
"Did someone get mail on the first day of school?"
"Oh! She's so beautiful!"
Influenced by the voices, Harry also looked up. A snowy owl was flying towards him.
"What are you doing here, girl?" he cooed at her, his face involuntarily stretched by a fond smile.
She landed on his shoulder gently, as to not scratch him with her talons. Then, she nipped at his ear affectionately and hooted at him.
"You cheeky little bugger, you came here just for food, didn't you?"
The owl barked at him and bonked him on the head with her beak, throwing him a look as if to say - how dare he disrespect her kind intentions like that?
There were not many things that could still warm up the cold heart of a 40-year-old war veteran but the sight of the clever owl playing coy made him giggle in delight, just like an innocent 11-year-old boy would.
He stabbed his fork into a grilled pork sausage, choosing the biggest one he could see, one that was too big for the owl to comfortably hold in her beak.
Harry grinned at Hedwig teasingly.
Hedwig looked at him mockingly.
Then, with a flutter of wings, both the fork and the sausage were snatched away by the owl with her talons and she flew up, leaving the Great Hall. He had still not gotten over his surprise when his fork landed painfully on top of his head, eliciting laughter from the other Ravenclaws at the table.
"Such a smart and beautiful owl! What is 'er name?" came a voice from a few seats away.
Turning his head towards the speaker, his eyes momentarily widened in surprise. It was a 14-year-old girl with blue eyes and long silvery hair. Though she was still young, she showed signs of becoming a beautiful woman when she grew up. It was someone he had never expected to see at Hogwarts in his first year.
'Fleur? The heck is she doing at Hogwarts now? She wasn't supposed to be here until my 4th year. Is this another anomaly of this world?'
Despite the rush of thoughts and theories in his mind, apart from the initial flash of surprise, he just smiled in genuine pride for his owl.
"Her name is Hedwig. She is brilliant!" he said but then he asked: "How did you know Hedwig was a she?"
The girl replied as if it was a matter of fact: "No way an owl that beautiful was male!"
He snorted at her reasoning but did not continue conversing with her. She was a 14-year-old girl and he was a middle-aged bloke stuck in the body of a prepubescent boy. They had nothing in common.
Nearly two months had passed since the start of the semester and Halloween was around the corner. Having just finished writing his Transfiguration essay, Harry grabbed his backpack and left the library.
'This is so boring!'
He wanted to pull his hair out of frustration. Transfiguring matches into needles, casting the Levitation Charm, listing minor hexes and their wand movements in the DADA class, and learning how to cut ingredients and stir a cauldron... it was similar to a senior high school student returning to primary school to learn the multiplication table. It went without saying that he was breezing through anything the professors threw at him. He was the first to master any spell in class and while he did not raise his hand to answer random questions, whenever a professor asked him something, he always gave the correct answer.
In the eyes of the professors, he was a rarely seen genius, good at everything. Even the Potions professor could not find any faults in him. Severus Snape had tried several times to catch him unprepared with tricky questions in the first three weeks of school but as Harry had answered each one of them perfectly and did not go out of his way to provoke his ire, Snape stopped antagonizing him and just treated him as he treated other students that were not in his House.
Harry did not know the reason why the potion master had suddenly given up on making his life difficult but he would not look at a gift horse in the mouth. In the first place, he did not even know if this world's Snape had the same past and hatred for his father as the one from his previous life.
'I can't make any assumptions.'
Many things were different in this world. He was not the Boy-Who-Lived, Sirius was not his godfather, nor was he in Azkaban, for some reason Fleur Delacour was studying at Hogwarts from the first st year instead of Beauxbatons, and Neville Longbottom was completely different from the timid and accident-prone boy that he used to know - it looked like having supportive parents present in his life had made a completely different person out of him.
He was halfway to the Ravenclaw Tower when the yelling of a group of boys reached his ears.
'Them brats are so full of energy! Fighting and bickering every day.' he thought and chuckled.
If there was one thing he found entertaining in school, it was watching Neville Longbottom and his group fighting against Draco Malfoy and his group. Casting a Disillusionment Charm on himself, he went to spy on their altercation. He was filled with anticipation to see which side would win before the portraits on the walls alerted a prefect or a professor to come and stop them.
"You're going to pay for it, Malfoy! I'm going to teach you a lesson for insulting my friends!" young Neville shouted and drew out his wand angrily.
The boy in question scoffed unimpressed. "Tell me, Longbottom, how has your family not gone extinct yet? What, with how you're picking up all the trash you meet... First a blood traitor and now you've even hooked up with a mudblood!"
Next to Neville, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley became livid.
"Flippendo!" the redhead boy shouted and the blonde Slytherin boy was blasted backwards and made several flips in the air before finally landing painfully on the floor.
Crabbe and Goyle, Draco Malfoy's friends, also aimed their wands at them to hex them.
"Everte Statum!" Crabbe shouted.
Ron was knocked back more than 15 feet and slid on the floor for 10 feet more before his body finally came to a stop.
Goyle was about to cast his own spell too but Neville acted much faster than him:
Goyle ended up falling on the floor as stiff as a sack of potatoes.
Seeing his partner defeated like that, Crabbe lost his sense of reason and, forgetting that he was a wizard, he rushed like a bulldozer at Neville instead of casting another spell, more intent on beating him up with his punches. But the brown-haired girl's Trip Jinx made the burly first-year boy fall flat on his face.
Harry chuckled under his breath.
'That's 2 to 1 for the Gryffindors.'
The two enemy groups had drawn their wands against each other three times already from the start of the year and they had verbal spats on a daily basis. For him, hearing children screaming dumb insults at each other was top-notch entertainment.
'Was I this silly and dumb-looking in the past too? Now I see why Dumbledore has never taken Draco's threats to his life seriously.'
A creepy meow was heard and the still-standing Gryffindor first years stiffened.
"Shite, it's Mrs Norris. Neville, Hermione, run!" Ron said and broke into a sprint.
Neville was quick to catch up to him and the two boys ran as fast as they could.
"Hurry up, Hermione!" Neville yelled over his shoulder.
The girl in question bit her lower lip, an uncertain expression on her face. She did not hesitate for much longer though and came to Goyle who was paralyzed on the ground by Neville's Full-Body Bind Curse.
"Finite Incantatem!" she chanted and the curse on the Slytherin boy was lifted. "Hurry up and run. Filch will be here any moment now!" she said and without waiting for the boy to reply, she also ran after her friends.
Harry looked in amazement at young Hermione's gesture of kindness. He had not expected her to take the initiative to help the Slytherins out. Nonetheless, he could not afford to waste more time either as his Disillusionment Charm was not perfect invisibility. He would risk being found out if someone looked at him with attention.
While he was climbing a large moving staircase from the 2nd floor directly to the 4th floor, a horrible cry startled him so badly that he lost his footing and stumbled. He almost took a bite out of the granite steps.
The scream had come from the forbidden third-floor corridor! Although nearly 30 years had passed, Harry would never forget for as long as he lived the scare he had gotten when he had seen Fluffy, a huge three-headed dog for the first time.
'Should I go and see what happened? Or just leave and pretend I didn't hear anything?'
He was torn. On one hand, his 'saving people thing' had never really gone away even after decades of war in his previous life. He would always help someone if he could. But on the other hand,
'I swore I won't get involved with Voldemort in this life too.'
He did not want to get mixed up in another war again. Three Wizarding Wars in his previous life had been more than enough.
'I carried my cross once. It's Neville's turn to carry his - he's the Chosen One now.'
In this new life, he wanted to be just Harry.
In spite of his conflicting thoughts, his body automatically went through the motions as if it had a mind of its own. He cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself once again and he left the staircase when he reached the third floor.
Only a few seconds after he stepped foot on the third floor, he heard a rapid series of footsteps and someone rushed past him so closely that they almost brushed against his shoulder. He turned around abruptly but he could not see anything.
'An invisibility cloak!'
Though he did not know who was the one that had run past him under their invisibility cloak, a fresh and elegant scent reached his nose. It was faint, but he became sure of it:
'It's a girl!'
The unexpected variable convinced him against trying to be a hero and he decided to scurry away instead of checking the situation with his own eyes.
'That scream! Holy shit, did she murder someone?!'
Harry made up his mind. He ran towards the Ravenclaw Tower without looking back.
The next day at breakfast, Harry was still thinking about what happened the previous day, about the scream that he heard from the third-floor corridor.
'If someone really died, Dumbledore won't be able to cover it up.'
It was when most of the seats at the tables were filled up that the Headmaster stood up and clinked a teaspoon against a glass.
The Great Hall quickly quieted down, all looking at Dumbledore and wondering what was the serious and grave face for.
"It is with my deepest regrets that I have to inform you that our Potions Professor has suddenly resigned from his post due to a very lucrative business opportunity that had come his way. As it stands, the Potions class will be cancelled until I find a replacement for him."
Harry studied the old Headmaster's face intently. A highly accomplished Legilimens such as himself did not necessarily need to invade someone's mind to understand what they were thinking.
He could tell just from looking at Dumbledore's facial expression that he was lying. When three quarters of the student body present in the Great Hall unreservedly burst into thunderous cheers, celebrating Severus Snape's sudden retirement, the old wizard looked like he had just taken a bite out of a lemon.
"Bloody hell!" a cuss word came out of his mouth when he noticed that Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick looked distraught as well.
'Someone really killed Snape! Bloody hell!' he repeated himself 'That girl was definitely involved in it somehow!'
He almost started laughing out loud. He had been complaining about his first two months of school being terribly boring. It looked like some higher power above had listened to him and given him a pet project to work on. Harry did not even try to pretend that he was not interested. He was dying of curiosity to find out the truth, to see who was the one that killed Severus Snape.