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.
... ... ... ...
There is always more than one choice, a different road to take. One moment, one thought, one small seemingly insignificant decision. When Lily Potter could have conceived in November, she did not until December. Harry was born in August.
The Potter family never went under the Fidelius charm and Sirius Black never went to Azkaban. Peter Pettigrew still roams the underground, dividing his attention between both light and dark. Waiting, as always, for an opportunity to strike. Voldemort is at large, having never been defeated, as savage and evil as ever. The world goes on...
And Neville Longbottom, you ask?
... ... ... ...
Freshly shaven, clean and in comfortable new robes, Harry waited impatiently at a table in the Three Broomsticks for his old Headmaster to arrive. He played with the salt shaker in front of him, spinning it around in circles. Every few seconds his green eyes would flick to the clock hanging above the bar where Rosmerta was glancing at him wearily.
A light bell chimed, and Harry looked to the door to see Albus Dumbledore appear, frost speckled down his ridiculously long beard. Harry had to blink twice, the clashing guava and mandarin colored robes sending spots to dance before his sight. The old man walked first to the counter and chattered with Rosmerta for a moment. She pointed him in the direction of Harry and Dumbledore strolled over, cradling a large mug of butterbeer in his long fingers.
"Mr Evans?" Dumbledore greeted him, looking Harry over.
Harry's heart stopped cold at the sound of his voice, but he looked up at the should-be-ghost and smiled, holding out his hand to shake the one offered. "Professor Dumbledore."
Dumbledore smiled back, seating himself opposite the younger man. "Just Albus is fine, thankyou."
"So long as Hadi is fine with you," Harry watched as Albus' features relaxed slightly. Hadi Evans had been Harry's code name within the members of the Order, despite his protests at something so totally cliche. Harry had thought it awfully corny at the time, Hadi meaning 'guiding to the light', but it was a name he knew well and it was his friends that had given it to him.
"I must be honest with you then, Hadi," Albus paused to take a small sip of his butterbeer. "I was planning on cancelling the subject of Divination altogether."
Harry raised an eyebrow, trying to keep his face straight. To think that he'd ever see Albus again, alive and whole. A shiver crept down his spine at the utter unnaturalness of the situation. "That would be a shame, I do believe Divination has been taught at Hogwarts since the school was created. Regardless of its magical accuracy."
"And what school did you attend?" Albus leaned back in his chair, his magic reaching into Harry's mind to find it powerfully blocked. "Your accent is British."
"Yes," Harry had planned the story of his life out that morning, even though he doubted if he could fool The Great Fooler Himself, Albus Dumbledore. "I grew up in Italy and attended a small magical school there, but I've been visiting London all my life. My English teacher was British."
"And how old are you?" Dumbledore asked politely, taking another small sip.
"You look younger - "
"And I'll take that as a compliment." Harry laughed into his Gillywater.
"Can you prove your skills in Divination?"
Harry observed Dumbledore for a moment, happy to see he'd mostly kept the doubt invisible. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Of course, Harry had never possessed even the slightest hint of skill in the subject. But Dumbledore didn't know that and there were many things Harry knew about this man he probably shouldn't. Harry could be a good actor when he wanted to be.
"You're greatly troubled," Harry dropped the smile off his lips and met Albus' eyes squarely, his voice quivering theatrically, laced in sarcastic melodrama. "And there are only worse times ahead. Much worse than you could ever imagine."
Albus tensed for a moment, then looked away quickly to hide his silent chuckle.
"Of course," Harry continued, "anyone could have told you that." He rummaged in his pocket for a moment, producing a pair of red socks. Little green dragons flew around them in patterns, breathing a fire that was sure to warm your toes. Harry passed them across to Dumbledore, smiling again. "Call it a late Christmas gift."
Albus' eyes twinkled beneath his half-moon spectacles, his only sign of recognition. It was all Harry needed, but he felt he should push it. "I saw them and thought of you. And, of course, socks are the ideal present."
Dumbledore gave another tight smile. "And why is that?"
"You can never have enough socks." Harry snickered.
"Indeed," Albus agreed, leaning back in his chair and thinking the young man over.
Harry knew the interview was finished, although they'd hardly been talking for five minutes. Under the Headmaster's heavy scrutiny, Harry felt his queasy uneasiness from the day before resurface. He suddenly had an unbearable desire to get out, to leave. "I can await an owl, if you'd like. I'm staying at the Leaky Cauldron."
Dumbledore waved the query away. "No need, Hadi. I'd be a fool to turn you down." His light blue eyes stared hard at Harry for a moment longer. "I have a feeling about you, Mr Evans."
"Ah!" Harry threw his hands in the air. "So you posses the inner eye too?"
Dumbledore laughed. "You remind me of a previous Professor that taught here."
Harry again raised an eyebrow. "And who is that?"
"Sybill Trelawney." Dumbledores' smile faltered. "Was that."
Harrys' heart sank. "Was?"
"She died," Albus rubbed his temple, "a few years ago."
"Oh," Harry turned his gaze downwards, fighting his own memory of the Divination Professors' death. Her wondering insane soul, drained of all life force and personality, innocent subject to the Dementors Kiss. "That's terrible."
"Hmm," Dumbledore drained the last of his mug. "Thank you for the socks."
"It's a pleasure."
They both stood and walked to the exit together. Dumbledore thanked Rosmerta and they stepped outside into the freezing cold wind.
"School starts in three days," Dumbledore said, turning to face him. "Can you come in tomorrow, meet the other staff and settle into your quarters?"
"That'd be great." Harry smiled, and with a last wave and a crack Dumbledore apparated away. Harry wondered fleetingly for a moment if he'd gone to Grimmald Place, or an Order meeting, or perhaps even Godric's Hollow. Shaking the thoughts of Sirius and his parents away for the time being, Harry settled into a leisurely pace to re-explore Hogsmeade.
I've just given the Divination job to a young man under the name of Hadi Evans, claiming to be Italian. He seemed weary around me, almost incredulous. Would you do a background check? I don't trust him.
When he could waste away his time no longer, Harry found himself standing outside the shabby little library. He had never been into 'Hogsmeade's Hogsreads', always getting his books from Hogwarts and later Diagon Alley. Hermione had been there a few times when Ron and himself had stayed too long in Zonkos, but Harry had only ever walked past the old library.
But if he were to build a new life for himself, he would need to get a few basic facts straight. Like the fate of a dear friend, Neville Longbottom.
A frog croaked as he entered the store, but other than that no acknowledgment to his presence was made. The library consisted of rows upon rows of shelves, all reaching up higher than should be possible. An empty counter to the left side and a set of spotty couches, armchairs and oak tables to the right.
Harry made his way quickly past the vast range novels to the history section, marked out with a large sign in elegant, cursive writing.
His emerald eyes skimmed over the spines of the books, looking for the most recent additions to the collection. Content with the pile he held in his arms, Harry sat himself on a musty, dusty old couch. It seemed (and smelled like) no-one had ventured to the seat in quite a long period.
The first book, "Modern Hero's in Today's Times", Harry knew to have four chapters dedicated to mysterious speculations surrounding The-Boy-Who-Lived. He closed his eyes a moment, sending a quick prayer for Neville's well being.
The round, smiling face of a seventeen year old Neville Frank Longbottom smiled up at him on page thirty four, just as Harry's did in his world. Below the picture was a prophecy Harry knew far too well, though it had certainly never been a public release, and a short, precise article.
Neville Longbottom: The-Boy-Who-Will-Save-Us
Destiny laid it's hand on Mr Longbottom at a young age, but the prophesied wizarding Hope is yet to ever let us down. Being the only magical child born in July of the year the prophecy was made, the fate of the world rests in his hands to defeat the Dark Lord, namely one He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or You-Know-Who.
Since the prophecy was released world wide, the Longbottom's have been in hiding (rumoured under the Fidelius charm) and successfully remain to this day out of evils clutch. However, as his eleventh birthday came and went, Neville left the security of his childhood home to attend the famed Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as have all the Longbottoms' in their long line of pureblood heredity.
Neville is currently seventeen, a proud Gryffindor (much to everyone's delight) and enjoys Herbology, Bingo and watching Quidditch. Next year he intends to enrol in Auror training, following in his loving fathers footsteps.
There have been...
"Can I help you there?"
Harry jumped, snapping the book shut. In front of him stood a tiny, elderly witch with white curly hair and deep burgundy coloured robes.
"Would you like to borrow those, Sir?" she smiled down at him, showing ugly crooked yellow teeth.
"Er," Harry glanced outside to see the rain drizzle down, his good mood long past. "Yes, thankyou."
The witch beamed at him, probably the first customer she'd had in years and performed a quick lendoser charm on the books. Harry got out of there as fast as he could.
Harry retreated into Honeydukes as the rain turned from a drizzle to a steady downpour, books shrunk and feather light in his pocket, the last remaining snow melting to brown-grey slush. Harry shrugged his shoulders in his wet cloak, making small puddles around him. His hair hung in tangled stands across his face, small drops of water clinging to his glasses.
The sweet shop was much the same as he remembered it, the only large difference being the pretty black-haired witch at the counter. Harry gave a start as he realised it was Cho Chang smiling up at him.
Harry gave her a weak smile back, then quickly broke the eye contact and hid up the front of the shop, furthest away from the witch. It really wasn't like Harry to hold grudges, but Cho was his one exception. Fifth year had been hard and she had not made it any easier. But, Harry reminded himself, this is a completely different Cho. I've never met her before, after all.
"I've never met you before."
Harry jumped again, not realising that his first though-to-be-loved one had crept up behind him. "No, I'm new here," Harry explained slowly, eyes lingered over her casual blue robes, the amicable curvy figure easily showing through.
"Where are you from?" Cho Leant back against a shelf of Chocolate Frogs, eyeing Harry up and down.
"Italy," Harry smiled, "I've just got the Divination job at Hogwarts."
"Oh, that's great! Congratulations" Cho smiled back. "I'm Cho Chang, I just finished with Hogwarts last year."
Harry held out his hand, Cho taking it in her own quickly. "Hadi Evans. It's great to meet you."
"You look very young to be a Professor." Cho held onto his hand, her eyes blinking at the unusual brightness of his own brilliant green ones.
Harry groaned, breaking their hands apart. "I'm twenty one, and that's the second time I've been told that today."
Cho laughed playfully. "Well, you're not much older than me then."
Harry rolled his eyes. "So what's a clever girl like you doing working here?"
Cho tossed her long black hair over her shoulder, rolling her eyes back at him. "I'm saving up for a year before I go travelling. I didn't think it was right to get a proper job, like at the ministry, if I'd only be leaving in a year."
"Very noble of you," Harry leant back on the shelf opposite her, criticizing the differences the women before him bore to his memory. She was chattier, happier - certainly more forward.
"Well, in case you haven't heard," Cho smirked, "London is hardly safe nowadays. Everyone is moving away."
Harry frowned, but didn't reply. What could he say to that?
"You must have divination powers to have got the job at Hogwarts," Cho licked her lips, drawing his attention to them. "Can you tell me my future?"
Harry wiltered. It had been a while since he'd had a proper girlfriend-boyfriend relationship, and long since he had felt any desire to build one. Infact, Harry thought with a small jab of guilt, the last girl he had properly dated had been Ginny, followed by a continuous round of one nighters. Still, looking at Cho then, Harry couldn't help the lust that began to grow, to beat in the pit of his stomach. This was Harry's new start at life and if Ginny was a student here at Hogwarts then he could hardly start something up with her anytime soon - that would be awfully inappropriate. His Ginny was long gone, and the sooner he got that into his head, the better. Even if there was another Ginny living just miles away.
"Give me your hand back," Harry took Cho's manicured nails and turned her hand palm up, massaging the creases and pressure points. Slowly he turned her hand the other way and brought it up to press against his lips.
"I see us having dinner together," Harry looked back at her blushing cheeks. "What do you think of that?"
"I'd love to," Cho laughed.
"Good," Harry dropped her hand as another thought came to his mind. "You don't have a boyfriend, do you?"
"Oh no," Cho snorted. "I went out with this idiot, Cedric Diggory, for ages during school time, but we broke up before graduation."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Why did you break up, can I ask?"
Cho waved his question away. "He got on my nerves."
Why did Cho always suck him in like this? All that crap she went through in his world because 'the love of her life' had died, but if he hadn't they wouldn't have lasted anyway!
Harry looked a bit flustered for a moment before he could carefully hid it. "When do you finish up here?"
Cho looked at the large jellybean shaped clock against the far wall. "It's another hour before closing time at six, but seeing as the weathers just turned wet I don't think anyone will be out." Cho looked him up and down again, excited to be spending an evening with such an intriguing person. He was undoubtabley good looking, but there was something else about him too. The power radiating around him, or perhaps the clashing black hair, green eyes and deathly pale skin.
"I'll just get my bag," Cho turned around, bouncing on her heels to the counter.
Harry took a deep breath, wondering if he was right in pursuing her - a mere distraction to take his mind off of Neville, off his parents and off the entirety of this thrilling Brave New World. But, it was only dinner after all and he was quite lonely - he hated to eat by himself. Yes, it was selfish, but Cho was hardly complaining.
A moment later the shop was closed and Cho was leading Harry by his hand to a romantic French restaurant down closer to the village. Harry vaguely remembered going there once with Ginny, perhaps it was for someone's birthday, and with a slight sinking he realized the prices would clear him straight out from Gilderoy's bag.
But while his new account at Gringotts was fresh and empty, tomorrow he was starting a good job with reasonable pay. He'd make it work, anyhow.
Cho wasn't quite as he remembered, but Harry was no longer the infatuated fifth year that sat googling opposite her. Sure, she was gorgeous and smart, but that didn't make her incredibly interesting. Dinner went by quickly and Harry easily managed to brush all questions off concerning his past. It was a big help that Chos' favourite conversational piece was herself.
By the time it got late enough to depart Harry was mentally exhausted. Cho looked very pleased with herself as Harry opened the door for her and put his arm around her shoulders, warming her against the bitter wind that had started up. Winter in Britain could be nasty.
"I've had such a great time tonight, Hadi." Cho's arm crept over to rest on his waist. "I hope we can catch up again soon, but I suppose you'll be too busy with your new job and everything," she pouted, looking up into his eyes.
"Sure we can meet up again," Harry smiled down at her. "I'll owl you."
Harry inwardly groaned. Why did he always have to be the damn gentleman? "Of course I will."
"Where are you staying?" Cho held her breath as he answered.
"The Leaky Cauldron. You live here in Hogsmeade?"
Cho nodded, looking down at their feet. "I have a flat here. I'm sharing with a friend, but she's out tonight."
"I'll walk you home then." Harry's hand slid down to rest on her hip and he pulled her closer, the unspoken invitation quickly accepted. Yes, his courtesy did pay off every now and then. He supposed it was worth it.
She grinned up at him. "Thanks."