Harry realizes that he did not simply go back in time but across it as well. He is no longer the Boy-Who-Lived but is instead the one who died, but what good did it do?. In this new world he soon...
Chapter Three: The End of the Beginning
Harry needed some time to think, and a safe place to do it. The myriad possibilities that this second chance gave him swam across his consciousness while at the same time subtle problems continued to peck at him. There just too many things that didn't tote up properly. Why had Vernon and the rest failed to recognize him? They had seen him a mere fortnight ago. And how could the ruins of Godric's Hollow be more devastated now, a year before he would first see it? Could the house be self-repairing somehow? That simply didn't make sense, but then nothing did. He needed to think. And to rest. And quickly.
He Apparated to a small chain hotel that he, Ron, and Hermione had used once in their search for the Horcruxes... or that they would be using in a few years. Harry shook his head to clear away the thoughts. He needed to sleep... now. Renting a room, he thoroughly locked and warded the doors and windows before shedding his filthy cloak and collapsing into bed. Morning would be soon enough to tackle the migraine of problems he had to deal with.
Morning became afternoon as Harry slept for fourteen straight hours. After a long soaking shower, where the tepid water the hotel provided was boosted by Harry to near scalding temperatures, Harry first cleaned his robes then transfigured them into suitable Muggle attire. Next he took a handful of notes from the case, warded and disillusioned it, and finally stuck it to the ceiling of his room with sticking charm. Satisfied that no nosy maid would find anything of any interest, Harry left to find some food.
In a small local pub, sitting before a bowl of stew and a pot of tea, Harry considered his situation. Things just didn't add up. He had been to three different places since he had gone back in time and none of them were exactly how he remembered. They were very close, yes, but the differences were too great to ignore. He needed more information and to get that he needed to go back to the Wizarding World... to Diagon Alley.
So after finishing his meal, Harry went to a local department store where he bought a few changes of Muggle clothes, magic would only go so far in keeping things clean as far as he was concerned. Then he returned to his hotel, extended his stay for another night, and changed.
Wearing jeans and a pullover, with his cloak slung over his arm, Harry Apparated to an alley near the Leaky Cauldron. Tossing the cloak around his shoulders, he pulled the hood over his head to prevent anyone from recognizing him too easily; any use of a glamour would be sure to attract unwanted attention from any passing Aurors. Walking quickly through the pub Harry opened the portal and passed into Diagon Alley.
The Alley was just as empty as Harry remembered. There were few people about and those that were were doing their business with as little fuss as possible. There were all the closed shops that he recalled. Ollivander's was boarded up and Madam Malkin's looked to be ransacked. Harry passed Florentine Fortesque's Ice Cream Parlor and wondered if he had enough Wizarding money to buy himself a sundae. Maybe he should go to Gringotts and convert some of his pounds, Harry thought as he passed a small group of men gathered around, reading the Daily Prophet. Glancing at it in passing Harry noticed the headline:
Ministry Denies Cover-up in Concealing the Return of You-Know-Who
Dumbledore Vindicated and Returned to the Wizengamut
"Fat lot of good it will do either of them," Harry cursed under his breath. Fudge would be out of office within days and Dumbledore dead in less than a year unless Harry figured out how to change things. "Hey, wait a tic!" That headline mentioned Dumbledore but nothing about him, 'The Chosen One'. Harry wasn't egotistical enough to be jealous but he did recall that the papers had been full his so-called martyrdom at the hands of a malicious Ministry. He scrounged in his pocket for a couple of Knuts and tossed them at the man holding the paper as he snatched it away. He ignored the shouted complaints of the men and walked away while scouring the paper in his hands. He was pleasantly surprised that he couldn't see a single mention of his name in the entire paper when he suddenly came to a complete stop across the way from Number 93 Diagon Alley. That was the site of Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. It was the only spot of color in the whole Alley as brightly colored signs warned passers-by of the danger of You-No-Pooh. Harry slowly raised his head from the paper and looked across at the building. There was a film of dust covering the windows and a sign on the door read: To Let.
Harry stumbled back and collapsed against a storefront. The angry men came up to him and snatched back their paper, tossing his coins back in his face along with several insults. Harry just stared at the empty building. This wasn't right. Things were too different. Something had gone horribly wrong.
Harry just sat there stunned for several minutes, staring at the empty building across the street and trying to comprehend what had gone wrong. He finally calmed enough to realize that he still didn't have enough information. He needed to find out exactly what was happening in this world and how far it differed from what he had known. Getting to his feet, Harry sought out the offices of the Daily Prophet.
The pretty young receptionist at the paper gave him a winning smile when Harry asked if they had any back issues of the Prophet that he could read. She pointed to a large waiting room to her right and said that the last week's papers were there if all he wanted to do was read. She asked that he not do the crossword as then others wouldn't have the pleasure of not doing it either. Harry smiled back at her and said he would try to behave himself. Harry sat in a comfortable chair and began with the oldest paper they had.
It was in the Sunday Prophet that he found the heart of the matter. It contained, as one of many sidebars to their coverage of the return of Voldemort, although they still never explicitly said his name, a timeline of the rise, fall and return of the Dark Lord. He saw nothing of note different than he remembered until he reached the date of Halloween 1981, the date in his memory where his parents were killed. The entry simply said:
October 31, 1981 - He Who Must Not Be Named is mysteriously killed, or so everyone thought, while attacking the home of an unspecified Wizarding family in Wales. One other casualty, a fifteen month old baby boy, was also found dead at the scene. To this day no one knows what happened to cause You Know Who's (temporary) death.
That must be it, Harry reasoned. For some reason, the attack on Godric's Hollow happened differently. His parents didn't die, but he did, his mum's sacrifice never giving him the protection he needed to survive Voldemort's Killing Curse. Yet somehow the spell still managed to backfire enough to destroy Voldemort's physical body, driving him away from Britain for thirteen years.
Harry quickly scanned the rest of the timeline. In June of 1994: At the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, Dumbledore claimed to have information but no real proof that some of You Know Who's followers used an ancient and obscure Necromantic Ritual to return the Dark Lord to life while killing the Champion, Cedric Diggory of Hogwarts. The Ministry categorically denied the Dark One's return and began a smear campaign designed to discredit Headmaster Dumbledore.
Things from this point continued pretty much along the same lines. After a year of operating in secret, the Death Eaters led a raid on the Department of Mysteries. A force of Wizards loyal to Dumbledore arrived to prevent the Death Eaters from obtaining some unknown artifact and several Ministry Workers, including at least four Aurors and the Minister saw You Know Who himself escaping when it became obvious that the attack would not succeed. And now Dumbledore was once again revered as the leader of the Light and Fudge's administration was collapsing around his ears.
Harry sat there stunned. His whole life he had fought to make himself worth something. Ever since being introduced to the Wizarding World and Hogwarts, he had tried to live up to everyone's expectations of him, of The Boy Who Lived. And now, here he was in a world where he didn't live and he saw that it made no difference. His life, all his struggles, didn't really make things any different. Harry could only assume that if he simply disappeared then this world would find some way to destroy Voldemort in around five years. He simply wasn't needed. He had gone through all that, he had become that which he hated, a Dark Wizard, all for nothing. He hung his head into his hands and fought back the tears. Maybe he ought to just go and throw himself off the Astronomy Tower again. His life was pointless anyway.
'Why did I ever bother?' Harry wondered to himself. Why didn't the Dursleys just drown him like the runt dog that Aunt Marge always said he was. Harry saw no point. That damnable Prophecy was totally useless. Even with baby Harry dead, Voldemort still came to the Ministry, he was still seen and revealed. Sirius was still dead. Wait! Sirius! Harry dove back into the paper. There was no mention of Sirius, or anyone, dying during the raid. No mention of anyone being captured either, for that matter. Harry scanned back in the timeline. There was no mention of Sirius Black escaping in 1993, what would have been his third year. There was the mention of the second, mass breakout from Azkaban and the LeStranges and the others all mentioned by name. Where was Sirius? Going back to 1981, Harry reread the entries but there was never any mention of Sirius, or even the Potters by name. Dumbledore must have been able to keep their identities quiet in order to spare them. This article was totally lacking in any real detail. Harry wondered if there were any of the older papers still around for him to look at. The Hogwarts Library kept several decades of old Prophets but Harry didn't know if anywhere else did. He went back to the young receptionist to ask.
"Oh yes," she said brightly. "The paper's morgue has copies of all the old editions in its records all the way back to 918 when the paper was founded."
Harry began to get excited. "That's wonderful! Would it be possible for me to see them? You see, I'm preparing to write a book." The girl suddenly brightened even further. "A textbook actually, on the modern history of Dark Wizards in our society. Lot's of stuff on Grindlewald and Vo... I mean You Know Who." Harry ended in a stage whisper when he saw the girl react to his beginning to say Voldemort's name.
"Oh, that sounds terribly exciting," the girl gushed. "Old Binns was always so dull, it's about time somebody made history exciting again."
Harry smiled, some things always stay the same he thought to himself. "Well, can I get into the records then?" he asked hopefully.
The girl's smile fell away. "I'm afraid not. Only Prophet employees can access the morgue. Or representatives of the Ministry?" she added suddenly hopeful again.
Harry shook his head. "Are you absolutely sure I can't get in? Isn't there someone I could talk to?"
"I'm afraid not. The last time someone was let down there, they started altering the Quidditch scores. Some lunatic fan of the Chudley Canons trying to give them a winning season for a change."
Harry left the building dejected. He had to find out if Sirius had escaped, or even if he was still alive. Grimmauld Place certainly didn't look lived in, but then it never did. Harry began to wander down Diagon Alley, wracking his brain to come up with a way to find out the truth. He was brought back to the present by a commotion up the street. A wizard had been pushed into the street and hexed by a trio that was now standing over him. Harry hurried up to find out what was going on.
"And don't you dare to accuse me of something again," he heard a familiar drawling voice, "unless, that is, you're wizard enough to back up your words."
"Lucius Malfoy," Harry spat. The paper hadn't mentioned anyone being captured during the Ministry raid and so Harry assumed that he had managed to escape and was still walking the streets as free as a bird. Well, now he had two things to live for in this world. Freeing Sirius and seeing that Malfoy finally got what he had coming.
"And just what are you looking at?" he heard another all-to-familiar voice say. Draco.
"Not much," Harry replied as disdainfully as possible.
"Do you know who I am?" Draco asked in disbelief. "Do you have any idea who it is you're talking to?"
Harry looked the Slytherin up and down, taking in the expensive robes and immaculately gelled hair. He finally returned the blonde's sneer with one of his own. "Well, if you don't know perhaps a trip to St. Mungo's is in order. If the healers there can't restore your memory then they can at least remove your head from your arse. The view will improve for you if not the rest of us."
Draco stood there sputtering when Lucius pushed him aside, wand already drawn. He had just begun to speak a curse when Harry idly waved his wand and banished him into the gutter. Another wave summoned the snake-handled wand and with an easy snap, Harry dropped the pieces into the dirt. Draco made to move when a glare from Harry froze him in place. Harry looked over at Narcissa, ready to put the proud bitch in her place as well, when he noticed a strange gleam in her eye. Suddenly a new plan took shape in his mind and he stepped towards her.
"Dearest lady," he said as gallantly as he could muster. "I certainly hope that these two boors haven't been imposing there attentions upon you?" He smiled as he saw the gleam in her eyes notch up a bit. "If you'd like I could dispose of them for you and then possibly escort you to a more civilized place? It wouldn't do for a lovely lady of your obvious breeding to be seen near this sort of trash."
"That won't be necessary," she said calmly but without a hint of dismissal. By this time Lucius had regained his feet and stood next to his wife.
"How dare you!" he snarled. "How dare you speak that way to my wife!"
Harry looked at the now wet and dirty robes his enemy wore and answered, "How could such a beast have wound up with such beauty? Did you use some sort of love potion on her?" He stared the man down accusingly. "You should be ashamed. A man obviously as lucky as yourself, to have such a wonderful woman as his companion, should be spending his time trying to make himself worthy of her rather than dragging her through such scenes. Is this how you prove yourself to be a man in her eyes, bullying innocent people? Absolutely pathetic." He turned back towards Narcissa, "My apologies, dear lady, if I have offended you. I merely wished to protect you from such boorish behavior. I didn't imagine that you could be their chaperone. If there is ever anything I can do to aid you, please, you have but to ask."
"And just who in Merlin's name are..." Narcissa stopped Lucius mid-rant with a hand on his elbow.
"I don't believe we have been properly introduced," she said calmly.
Harry put on a shocked look before speaking. "Then please allow me to introduce myself," he said calmly while scrambling for a name to use. "My name is Ha... Harris," he said with a sudden inspiration. "Odysseus Harris, at your service." With this he bowed low and, taking her hand gently, he placed a kiss on its back. A kiss that lingered, just for a heartbeat. Lucius fumed and from the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Draco drawing his wand. Seemingly absently, Harry stepped back and swung his arm in a flourish of a bow that knocked Draco off balance enough to break his concentration.
Narcissa gave him the briefest nod as she stepped away down the street. Harry followed her with his eyes, knowing she would feel his gaze. Lucius blazed as he went with her, whispering harshly, and Draco scurried along behind.
"What on earth do you think you were playing at back there?" he demanded when he felt he was out of the stranger's hearing.
"Now, my dear husband, we know his name," she replied casually. "And you have the chance to find out exactly who it is that you intend to kill before you possibly make another embarrassing mistake." She turned to give him a glare of her own. "Know your enemy, always. Or have you forgotten that rudimentary lesson?" She continued down the street with her husband and son following in her wake.
Harry watched them go with an odd smile on his face. Odd? Hmm, he thought, his plan to goad Lucius into a duel where he could kill him, and maybe his misbegotten son as well, had failed but still all was not lost. That gleam he had seen in Narcissa's eye, he had seen it before on other women. Certain types of women got that look sometimes, usually after a duel or small skirmish. They were excited by violence or the threat of it. It aroused them somehow, and they were always drawn to the most powerful fighter. Was Narcissa this type? Or was she merely intrigued by a new and unknown force in her world? Harry's mind whirled with new plans and possibilities.
Yes, Lucius Malfoy would most certainly be getting his, and very shortly if Harry was any judge of Slytherins. But what about Sirius? Harry needed access to historical records, the Prophet would provide some of what he wanted but he needed to see Ministry records and proceedings as well. The only place he could see finding all of this information was at Hogwarts. Its library would be needed if he was going to succeed. But how to get access?
Harry began walking back towards the Leaky Cauldron and the exit back into Muggle London. He needed to eat and he'd rather not do it here where there were too many unknowns. As he walked, he thought. The wards surrounding Hogwarts had been boosted drastically in his sixth year he recalled. You couldn't even fly a broom across the school boundaries. So there was no way that he would be able to sneak onto the grounds. He needed permission to get on school property and the only people who had permission were students and staff. At 21, Harry knew he would never be able to pass as a student, not even a seventh year. But what about as staff?
As Harry sat in his hotel room that night, cartons of take-away food dropped casually into the trash, he considered. During his six years at Hogwarts, he had been taught by six different Defense teachers. It was likely the same here, after all, the curse that Voldemort had placed on the position was cast long before the prophecy was made so that should still be the same. In his sixth year, Dumbledore had given up on hiring anyone new and had to resort to giving the position to Snape. But Dumbledore had used Harry as bait to lure Slughorn back to teach Potions, hadn't he? Without Harry, would he be able to succeed? Or perhaps he was still grasping for a means of filling the empty slots in his faculty? Harry took a piece of the hotel's stationary and drafted a letter:
Dear Headmaster Dumbledore,
I understand that you are seeking to fill a vacancy within your school. I believe you require someone qualified to teach the Defense Against the Dark Arts? If this is indeed the case, I would like to submit my name as a possible candidate for the post. I have some teaching experience, although I will admit to you that it is limited to a single year of teaching the subject to students aged fourteen through seventeen. I also have an extensive background in actually dealing with various Dark Creatures as well as Wizards.
If you have not yet filled the position, I would appreciate an audience in which we could discuss my qualifications in person and in a level of detail impossible to convey in a letter.
I await your return owl.
Your Humble Servant,
Harry read over the letter. It had enough detail to peak the old man's interest but not enough to answer any of his questions. Knowing Dumbledore's curiosity and love of this sort of mind game, he thought he was almost certain to at least get an interview. He didn't know if he would get the job but considering the level of Dumbledore's past choices, Harry thought he stood a good chance there as well. Tomorrow he would return to Diagon Alley, knowing now that he had no need of a disguise, post the letter and try to find some way to gather more information on this new world he was in.