Summary: (AU) The final battle has been won, but was it worth the cost? Harry, alone and determined, sets out to rewrite history for a better world. Pity the bloody time-turner isn't working right…
Disclaimer: All belongs to the one and only J.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...
He stood, barely alive but with a shake of relief. It was over. Limping slightly, the Boy-Who-Lived waded through the mass of bodies, both friends and foes alike mingled and mattered, making his way back up to the broken castle, previously a school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry looked numbly around the office, heart thudding hard and jagged nails breaking through the palms of his hands.
The delicate silver instruments stood as they always had, neatly arranged on their spindle-legged tables. The walls lined in the same heavy volumes of books, an empty perch where Fawkes had once resided. Nothing had been changed since Dumbledores' death. The portraits hung in their respective spots, pictures of empty armchairs and ominous blank spaces. Harry frowned, thinking where and why the Headmasters and Headmistresses had retreated into hiding.
Even the portraits had left him.
Harry was, well and truly, completely and utterly alone.
He walked around to the front of the late Headmistress, Minerva McGonagalls', desk. He sat in the soft leather armchair, trailing his long and bloodied fingers along the shiny wooden surface.
Lord Voldemort had been defeated, but all else was lost.
Was it worth it?
What was the point in living when all the ones he had ever loved were dead?
Harry held his eyes shut for a moment, a hand moving to massage his throbbing temple. In the back of his mind he registered the complete stillness of his scar. An ironic smirk played across his lips. How he had longed, begged, and screamed for this peace just days earlier, but now... He really just didn't care any more.
Harry took a deep shuddered breath, searching back through his mind for the instructions his mentor had given him so many months before.
… … …
A tapping had awoken him early that morning - far earlier than he'd have liked - before the sun had even risen. But the appearance of Fawkes at the windowsill, registered groggily through fast blinking eyes, had been enough to get Harry leaping out of bed with more enthusiasm than he'd found in months.
He opened the window as carefully as he could manage, and the Phoenix had merely swooped in, dropped a roll of tattered parchment, and left him as quickly as it could.
Trying not to feel too offended at the birds indifferent flight, Harry had picked up the paper and returned immediately to his warm bed. Fixing his glasses safely to his nose, he unrolled the letter slowly under the covers, and there was no great surprise to see the familiar thin, winding script. Who else was eccentric, potentious enough to assign a phoenix the work of an owl?
"Time travel is a very dangerous thing, Harry," it had read, and Harry could hear Dumbledores' voice swimming around his head, strict like it rarely had been. "We could only risk it if all else was lost... if there was not a glimmer of hope remaining...
"You'll be close now, so very close to the end. But I want to give you another option, Harry, not because I believe you will fail, but just as a fail-safe. Just in case circumstances take a turn for the worst, as they have of late as I write this to you.
… … …
Would he be going against Dumbledore by acting now? Voldemort was gone forever, yes, but little else had been gained.
Not a single magical life had been left innocent, unharmed or happy.
Harry knew he could do better, given the chance. He would not make the same mistakes again. This time, when the Light conquered, he would not be the sole survivor.
Harry would be cleverer. He would be braver. He would fight alone, and no-one would give their life to protect him.
For a moment Harry remembered that there were still a few good people left, who had not fought the night before, and he shouldn't be so selfish as to risk their wellbeing. But they had not been close to him, and as cold as it was, Harry did not care for them. All the people that did matter were gone, and that was what had brought him there now.
Pushing these thoughts away for another less painful time, Harry looked back down at the desk in front of him. What else was there to loose, really? His situation definitely could not get any worse now - he'd happily welcome death if the time-turner somehow managed to fuck up. Only his bloody luck would stoop to such levels.
Harry let out a groan of indecision, drumming his fingers on the soft wood, caught in a cloud of last minute jitters.
The option was so tempting, seemed so much like the right thing to do.
Without another seconds thought, before he could persuade himself otherwise, Harry opened the left hand draw of the desk to reveal a small golden pocket watch, just as Dumbledore had said there would be. He placed it in front of him with shaking breath, biting his lip to calm his nerves. He looked at the dial, carefully fixing the date to 1981. To the year that brought about his wretched destiny.
And before he could back out, Harry looped the chain over his head, careful not to bump his broken arm.
Pain seared through his body and Harry shut his eyes tight, unaware of the blurring colours and shapes rushing past him.
Then he passed out.
Harry opened his eyes to find himself lying on the hard stone floor of a small alleyway, rain lightly soaking through his tattered cloak. He pulled himself to a sitting position, leaning his back on the rough wall. There was blood on his hands, blood in his mouth and under his nails, blood absolutely everywhere he could bloody well see. Harry grinned - he had never felt so alive.
But what the hell was he doing there?
Then he remembered. The pain. The battle. The death. How could he ever forget?
Harry looked to his left, down into a bustling street. The small section he could see was oddly familiar, but it took a group of passing hags to make it click - Knockturn Alley.
Harry shuddered, finally remembering the time-turner. His stomach swam, and he couldn't stop the bitter chuckle of apprehensive excitement that escaped him.
He wondered why he wasn't still on Hogwarts grounds. Back in third year, when Hermione and himself had gone back, they had started in the hospital wing and ended up in the Entrance Hall. Maybe the amount of time Harry had skipped just brought him away further. Or maybe the time-turner brought you back to the place where your previous self was...
Harry shook his head, immediately regretting the action as a wave of nauseousness swept over him. Slowly, the Boy-Who-Lived stood. He drew the black cloak around him loosely, pulling the hood up to cover his face. He couldn't let himself be seen, or who knew what kind of trouble may ensue. After all, Harry had lost count of the times people had told him he was a mirror image of his father. Harry grinned at this, scrunching long bangs firmly over his scar. You wouldn't even notice the white lightning bolt if you didn't know it was there. At eighteen years of age, battle worn and ready to retire for life, Harry may finally get the chance to have his first real conversation with his dad. He could hardly wait.
Harry gritted his teeth, ignoring the growing pain in his arm, and sluggishly began to walk ahead. Limping slightly, the black clad figure emerged into the street, blending straight in to the gentle flow of people heading back to Diagon Alley.
The first thing Harry saw that he thought quite odd was the large boarded up windows of Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop. As far as he knew, Harry could not think of ever hearing that the famous joke shop had been closed, however temporarily. But, of course, he would be the last to admit himself knowing in the ways of 1981. The fluorescent bandannas and big frizzy hair of the eighties made him gag - what had they been thinking?
Still, a sick feeling knitted itself into his stomach then, planting a seed of doubt that grew tenfold as his eyes glazed over the Alley. A grumpy old witch behind him gave Harry a sharp jab as she pushed impatiently past.
Spotting an abandoned 'Daily Prophet' lying under a nearby bench, Harry quickly continued his way forward. As he came to the bench Harry retrieved the paper, absently making his way to Fortescue's. Old habits die hard.
That was when he stopped still again, gaping at the newspapers date with wide, disbelieving emerald eyes.
29th December, 1997.
That was the date of a year ago exactly, when Harry would have been in his seventh year at school, if he hadn't been otherwise occupied tracking down the Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione.
So, it hadn't worked at all. What was he meant to do now, in this time line? Scowling, he took a seat at one of the ice-cream parlour's lonely tables. The rain continued to drizzle down on him and Harry's scowl deepened.
But why was Gambol and Japes closed, when Harry knew it shouldn't be? And why was Fortescue's, that had closed in his sixth year, simply bubbling with lively business? Harry looked around the Alleyway, surprised anyone would even be outside at all, let alone that shops would be open, so soon after Dumbledores' death! As he had remembered it, most people should be afraid to step outside of their doorsteps. Harry leant back in his chair, the growing feeling of unease becoming unbearable.
A mop of dark red hair caught Harry's attention, reminding him instantly of one Ginerva Weasley. The petite, smiling woman stood alone outside the junk shop, her back to him, riffling though an old book bin. Yes, Harry thought as he watched the older woman fondly. She does remind me of Ginny.
Harry shut his eyes tight for a moment, controlling the roll of guilt and sickening sadness at the memory. Ginny...
Upon opening his eyes again Harry saw that the woman had turned around and was now talking to a tall man with bespectacled hazel eyes and dark messy hair. Just like Harry's. She left the tattered old books alone, linking her arm in her husbands and the pair made their way on in the direction of Quality Quidditch Supplies. The dark haired man laughed, wriggled his eyebrows suggestively and pointed around the corner to a desolate public toilet block. The red-haired woman hit him.
It was Harry's parents.
Harry bit the inside of his cheek, quickly tasting the unmistakable rust of coppery blood run between his teeth. His parents were alive? How was that possible? Where the fuck was he?
Harry thought again of Gambol and Japes, Fortescue's, and the crowds that should not be there.
He was definitely in Britains Wizarding world.
Just a different one.
Harry groaned, sinking back into the plastic chair. Several people turned his way, then seeing his dark attire swiftly ignored him. He groped for the chain of Dumbledores' pocket watch (aka time-turner) around his neck. It was not there.
What the hell was he going to do now?
Harry took a deep breath to steady his nerves, before stiffly getting up and following his parents. Still laughing, the pair strolled happily into the store, completely oblivious to the cloaked teenager quietly following their footprints.
Harry stopped at the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies, staring fixedly at the newest model broomstick. His brow furrowed for a second - where Harry was sure there should have been a Firebolt III, lay a Cleansweep Surplus. Exactly how different is this world I'm in?
Warm laughter flowed towards him through the drizzle and Harry looked past the display into the shop. And nearly swallowed his tongue whole.
There stood Ronald Weasley, Harry's long dead best friend, talking excitedly to James Potter. Beside him was a boy Harry didn't recognise. He was tall, with a long nose and freckles, dark reddish-blond hair and sparkling hazel eyes like James'.
Harry drew in a deep breath, straining his hearing to reach into the store.
His father turned Ron to the back of the shop and the two gazed admiringly at a shelf of snitches. James looked back at the blond and beckoned him towards them. "Harry! Come over here."
The boy in question looked suddenly up at his dark-haired counterpart, narrowing his hazel eyes dangerously. Harry simply stared back, mouth agape, heart plummeting. Soon enough the blond made his way over to where his father and friend waited, barely concealing a shudder.
Harry's mind flooded him with thoughts. Was there a prophecy here?
Was this Harry Potter the boy who is destined to defeat the Dark Lord?
Harry blanched at another thought - it wouldn't be Neville, would it?
A bell to Harry's right signalled the store's door swinging open, and Harry glued his gaze back to the broomstick. He could feel the group moving further away from him, still mostly unknowing of his presence.
Harry stared at the display a while longer, a warm glow spreading through his body, gently easing his unexplainable fright. He couldn't get cold feet - there was no going back now, even if he wanted to. These were not his parents, not by any means. They belonged to a different world, where they were still alive and had a tall, lanky blond son called Harry. But under a different name, this was Harry's ultimate chance at a new life. A normal life, for the first time in seventeen years.
Here he did not exist.
He could travel, get a job, make new friends and reaquaint himself with old ones. Was Sirius alive here? And Remus? Snape? Ginny? Hermione?
If Ron and his parents were, Harry thought there was a fair chance everyone else would be.
They didn't know this Harry Potter, but maybe that was for the better. There would be no past, no baggage. No-one to judge him before he'd opened his mouth, or believe they were head over heels in love with him at a glance to his scar. No terrible magazine articles or snide, jealous hatred.
No friends or family to die in his hands, because he was the one that had to live.
Harry pushed this thought away, concentrating on this new life that was already blossoming before his very eyes.
It was almost everything he could ever wish for. The people of this world were most probably different from the ones Harry knew, but now they could get to know Harry all over again. The real Harry. The true Harry.
Two young boys moved to stand next to him, goggling excitedly at the broomstick. Resolving to make his way to some place he could rest and heal, Harry left the display, heading back down the alley towards muggle London. Passing past Fortescue's again Harry smiled as he recognised yet another wizard, this one with perfectly curled hair and expensive scarlet robes.
The bright smile of Gilderoy Lockhart faltered as he spotted Harry headed towards him, and he turned his attention back to the double-fudge Sunday and massive bag of fan mail seated next to him.
Harry smirked under his cloak, eyeing Gilderoy's bulging money sack nestled snug in his robes.
Harry almost laughed to himself at the unlikeliness of the situation, the plan already within full swing of his mind. Walking faster, he headed closer to Lockhart, tripping neatly over a loose pebble and knocking the double-fudge Sunday all over his once-professors' immaculate robes.
Lockhart yelped in terror, jumping up to his feet and further smearing the runny ice-cream. His beautiful eyes locked on Harry for a moment, his mouth open to start yelling. Instead a squeak emerged from his throat and he backed fearfully away, tripping over his own chair and falling flat on his bottom.
Harry patted the heavy money sack now hidden in his own cloak and reached a hand down to Lockhart. He smiled, although no-one could see from under his hood. "I'm so sorry, Lockhart isn't it?"
Gilderoy's chin wobbled and he took Harry's offered hand, rising slowly from the ground.
"It's an absolute honour to meet you," Harry lied.
Lockhart's cheeks flushed and a quick look around them to count the onlookers gave him courage enough to answer. "Oh, yes... of c c course."
Harry shook the hand he still held, holding his head high. "I'm so sorry for the spill," he gestured to Gilderoy's robes.
Lockhart saw this as a wonderful opportunity to show the public how kind and generous he really was. "Oh no, don't worry at all." He flashed the crowd his multi-award winning smile.
Harry laughed quietly, slowly backing away. "Alright then, if you're ok."
Gilderoy laughed too, turning to address the onlookers. "Actually, I was just reading some fan mail! Anyone have a book handy for a free signing?"
Harry snickered, continuing on his way to the Leaky Cauldron. He stopped shortly at a potion store, purchasing a pain killer drought and 'Beatrice's Bone Blunder Fix'.
He reached the shadowed Inn just as the rain stopped. Entering, Harry found it much the same as it had been lately in his world - disserted. Tom stood at the bar, talking in a hushed voice to a vampire, the single customer.
Smoothly Harry talked to Tom, acquiring a room for the night. It was just down the hall from where Harry had stayed in his third year. When Tom left him, Harry drowned the potions and ran himself a much needed bath. Feeling fresh, revived and exhausted, he shut the curtains and retired to the large welcoming bed. Finally closing his eyes Harry willed sleep to come, but thoughts, prospects and possibilities overwhelmed him.
For a while he simply lay there, tossing from side to side, before finally giving up on sleep. He reached for the newspaper he had dropped before, flicking quickly through the pages. Nearing the end of the employment section, Rita Skeeters' name caught his eye.
… … …
Divination Professor; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Article by Prophet Journalist, Rita Skeeter
Since the school year began on September First, students attending Britains most highly esteemed school, Hogwarts, have once again been forced to retain knowledge of the worthy subject 'Divination' through dull textbook readings.
With Professor Caroline Stickcal's mysterious death earlier this year the position has remained vacant through the first term. Rumours have begun to spread of the job leading to dark and unfortunate deaths to its occupant, which may be a factor in why the current Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, is unable to find a teacher for the position.
Another reason, perhaps is that the elderly Dumbledore, (one hundred and sixty two this February), has finally bitten off more than he can chew - what with the increasing number of Death Eater attacks drawing his attention away from his duty and foremost obligation as Headmaster. Is the most powerful wizard battling for the light putting too much concentration to extra-curricular activities? Is it time for the Ministry to step in, or do you believe it appropriate for our youth to continually be underprivileged in this important role of their lives?
Any witch or wizard, with a standard knowledge in the field of Divination, wishing to apply for the haunted position is asked to owl the Headmaster as fast as he or she can.
… … …
Harry frowned, dropping the newspaper to the floor beside him. How long had this Professor Stickcal been teaching? And had Trelawney taught before her? If Dumbledore never met with Professor Trelawney for the Divination position, then maybe she would never have made the prophecy. But then, someone else might have.
If there was another prophecy here, (stating a person from this dimension was to be the Dark Lords' downfall), then it wouldn't be Harry's obligation to fulfil it at all. Even if he had the power and knowledge, which he certainly did to defeat his Voldemort. On the other hand, if there was no prophecy, then this world might simply be tragically doomed to the fall of Light.
And Harry could play the hero again, if he wanted to. But did he?
The earlier thought of a 'normal' life slowly dispersed and left Harry with the familiar weight he had obediently carried for the last three years.
However, there was no way anyone here would know he possessed the means to vanquish Voldemort, so he shouldn't feel it was his duty to do so. He had, after all, already killed the Dark Lord.
In this world Voldemort was alive and looming, as earlier articles in the paper made clear. But this Harry, as the Boy-Who-Lived, did not exist.
Harry pulled a pillow over his head, snuggling deep under the covers of the four-poster bed. He thought of the Divination position and his current money situation. Maybe he'd write to Dumbledore in the morning...
Finally sleep overtook him and Harry smiled, dreaming of a big, shaggy grim.
A/N: Edited (2nd/8th/o6). Thanks for reading! Reviews are much appreciated :)