Disclaimer: this story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros
1. Sorting Troubles
"You will survive yet again, Mister Potter," Poppy Pomfrey said.
Harry grimaced; he could've told her that two hours ago, before she'd started prodding him in all kinds of places. She always did that, and it had gotten worse since the war had escalated. He supposed he couldn't blame her.
"How's Hermione?" he asked.
She'd gotten hurt too in the attack on Hogsmeade. Sometimes he wished he'd never started the D.A. back up again in his sixth year, but he knew that all the students needed to learn to defend themselves, especially if they were close to him. Being close to him had cost Neville, Dean, Seamus, Ginny, and Ron their lives. And those were only a few of the more recent deaths.
Madam Pomfrey's face became an impassive mask, one he had come to know far too well in the last two years.
"How bad is it?" he asked.
Madam Pomfrey shook her head.
"She's not going to make it through the night. I'm sorry," she said softly.
Harry got up from the bed, and walked towards the end of the hospital wing, where he knew the dying patients were kept. Hermione was lying on a bed, looking paler than the sheet beneath her. Harry had to grab the edge of the bed to keep himself on his feet, silent tears running down his face. He couldn't handle this; he couldn't lose Hermione, his last friend. He just couldn't.
Hermione's eyes opened, and she looked at him with understanding. She was always understanding, no matter what happened. She reached for his hand, and he grabbed it like a lifeline.
"It's alright, Harry," she said.
Harry shook his head. He wanted to say that it was not alright, but couldn't get a sound out of his throat.
"It's not the end, I thought up a plan. You can undo all of this. Remember third year?" she said softly, but urgently.
Harry's eyes widened at the implications. Time-travel, of course.
"But a timeturner won't work. I'd have to go back two years, that's too far."
"No, not two years; eight years, to just before you went to Hogwarts. You can prevent the deaths of Cedric and Sirius, and start searching for the Horcruxes much sooner. The Headmaster doesn't have to die, and neither does Snape," she explained.
Of course she would mention Snape; she'd been obsessed with proving his innocence after sixth year. She'd managed it, too, but not in time to prevent the Ministry from administering the Kiss to him. Harry'd never liked the man, but he could admit that he'd deserved better.
"Then how? I'd love to start over, with what I know now, but how?"
"There's a little red book in my chamber, behind the painting of the little mermaid. The code is my wedding date," Hermione said. "It will explain the entire ritual to you. I meant to provide some directions for changing the time-line while preventing you from straying too much, but it seems you'll have to figure that one out on your own."
Harry frowned for a moment; Hermione wasn't married. But then he remembered her telling him of her engagement to Ron. She'd also said what her ideal wedding date would be, but because of the war, they had decided to wait. The whole thing seemed a bit complicated to him, but he was sure it would be clearer if he read the book.
"Clever, 'Mione," was all Harry had the chance to say before almost being bowled over by Madam Pomfrey.
"You'll need to take your painkillers now, Miss Granger," she said, holding out a potions bottle.
"The right date is in two days, you'll need every minute to prepare," Hermione managed to add before the painkillers knocked her out.
Two days later, Harry stood in front of Hermione's tombstone.
"Tonight's the night, Mione. It'll be fine, I'll see you on the first of September," he said, before turning back to the castle. He still had a plan to complete.
In an abandoned classroom in the dungeons, he re-checked the markings on the floor once more. He was glad Hermione had done all the equations, because he didn't understand anything of the Arithmancy part of the ritual. He vowed to take it instead of Divination when he re-took his third year. He was glad he understood the rest of it. If everything went right, he would transport his spirit to the past to reside in his eleven year old body. His current mind would merge with that of his past self, retaining his knowledge of the future, but dulling it slightly, which not only took care of a paradox where there were two Harry Potters at the same time, but would also take care of a great deal of his nightmares. Not to mention protect the memories from Occlumency and all kinds of truth potions and spells.
Seeing that everything was set, he paged through the book again. On the last page, Hermione had written a single sentence, and underlined it five times.
Do not change the timeline too much, or any information from the future will be nullified by the changes.
This meant he had to change as little as possible. Up until fourth year in the tournament, he wouldn't change anything. There, he would make sure to reach the trophy first, alone, and he would take Wormtail out, and take him with him. Voldemort, he would leave behind for Crouch, so that he would have a body. You can't kill a spirit, so that part was necessary. Then, the hunt for the Horcruxes would be opened, and Sirius would be cleared, so he wouldn't fall through the veil. From that point on forward, all was open. He just hoped the Horcruxes would stay in the same locations, so he could round them up quickly, or at least keep an eye on them.
It might have been easier to just go back to the beginning of his fourth year, but something about his growing magical core at that time made it impossible for the ritual to be completed successfully. There were a lot of equations behind it, and Harry didn't understand any of it, but he trusted Hermione's calculations. She'd obviously known he might have to do it on his own, because she'd frequently explained things in a simple matter. She'd written that if they were to bring him back when his magical training at Hogwarts had already begun, there might be an adverse reaction with his magic, so it should not be tried. The ritual was dangerous enough as it was without adding another factor into the equation.
He checked his watch; it was time. According to Hermione's book, all he had to do was stand in the exact centre of the markings and chant a long spell in old Welsh. It had taken him almost a day to get it memorized, and if he said something wrong, he'd probably blow himself up. But he was too tired of his life to care. He had nothing to live for anymore; it was either doing it all over again, or dying. He didn't care. He'd rather die trying to change things than by the hand of Voldemort. There was just no chance of defeating him, and Harry knew it. Even if he could be defeated, the Wizarding World was in a shambles. Too many had died. This really was the only way, and even Hermione, who was still a stickler for rules even during the height of the war, had realized it. Harry took his place, and with a deep breath began his chanting.
"Chyrch 'm bacia at 'r heibio i righting camau a yn cyfnewid hanes , yn cyrchu dangnefedd unto 'r dirio , chyrch 'm bacia i mewn hysbryd , chydia ag ag 'm heibio i."
Almost seven weeks after the ritual, Harry was dropped off at King's Cross station. The ritual had worked, and Harry had awoken in his cupboard on the day his Hogwarts letter, the first one, had arrived. It had been hard to pretend not to know anything, not to know Hagrid, who'd been one of the first casualties after Voldemort's resurrection. In fact, it had been much harder to act like a clueless eleven year old boy then he'd thought. But he'd managed it, although he wasn't sure how he'd manage now. He was going to see the Weasley family, which had died out with Ron's death three months ago. Well, eight years in the future minus three months would be more accurate. As he saw the achingly familiar and very much alive redheads, he took a deep breath.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but do you know how I can get on the platform?" he said, showing Mrs. Weasley his ticket.
"Of course, dear, first time at Hogwarts?" she said, just as spontaneous and loving as he remembered her. "My Ron's a first year too. Now, you just walk through the wall. If you're a bit scared, it's best to do it at a little run."
Harry smiled, and turned his trolley around. In no time, he was through the wall and looking at the Hogwarts Express. With a smile on his face, he grabbed his trunk. Unfortunately, he'd underestimated his own strength, being used to an adult body. The trunk clattered noisily on the floor, almost causing him to drop Hedwig's cage.
"Let us –"
"Help you –"
Even before Harry had turned around, there was no question of to whom the voices belonged. He was glad he was used to the twins talking like that, it made them a lot easier to follow than the first time around. They helped him get his trunk in the empty compartment he'd pointed them to. Harry hoped that everything worked out as before, and Ron would join him. And indeed, Ron did. As soon as Ron was inside, Harry cast a surreptitious wandless notice-me-not charm. That should keep Malfoy away, and hopefully keep the antagonism down. Harry reasoned it shouldn't have too much effect on the timeline. The rest of the way was spent chatting about Quidditch, Ron's family, and - after Harry had taken the charm off the door long enough for the witch with the trolley to offer them sweets - chocolate frog cards. Finally, they reached Hogwarts.
Everything went exactly as before, up until the sorting. Harry was sorely tempted to make contact with Hermione, who was just as anxious for the sorting as Harry remembered, by comforting her, but he didn't dare change the timeline that much. He decided to wait for the troll incident, not wanting to ruin their friendship, or missing out on it, by doing something wrong.
Harry had been dubbing things over in his mind; he almost missed McGonagall call his name. Ignoring the whispers, he walked towards the three-legged stool and put on the Sorting Hat. Suddenly, he was glad the ritual Hermione had found included some sort of Occlumency shield around the part of his mind that contained his memories of the future. He didn't know how much the Hat told Dumbledore, but this was something he wanted, no, needed to keep secret. He couldn't be stopped, his mission was too important.
"Ah, mister Potter, a keen mind, lots of courage and ambition. Oh, yes, I know exactly where to put you. It's going to be …" the Hat said into his mind.
Harry relaxed, safe in the knowledge he would be sorted into Gryffindor. At least he hadn't had to argue with the Hat not to be put in …
Harry sat frozen on the stool for a moment. He didn't understand how this could've happened. But how wasn't important, the fact was, it had happened. And with that, the timeline was severely compromised. In a daze, Harry walked towards the Slytherin table. Before he knew it, he'd shaken hands with Malfoy, Nott and Parkinson. He shook himself away from his thoughts. He would have time to make plans later tonight, when everybody was asleep. For now, he'd have to be on his toes. After all, he'd just landed in the snake pit.
Looking up towards the Gryffindor table, he saw Ron sitting there, talking to Dean and Seamus. He tried to catch Ron's eyes, but it didn't work, as Ron was either focused on the conversation with his housemates, or his food. A small stab of fear ran through Harry. This alternate sorting had really messed things up, and he feared for his budding friendship with Ron. Would a ride on the train and his reputation as the Boy-Who-Lived be enough to override Ron's prejudice against Slytherin? It had taken Hermione three days after she'd uncovered evidence to clear Snape's name to get Ron to believe it. That didn't give Harry much hope.
"So, Harry, what's your favorite subject?" Malfoy asked.
Harry looked up. He really didn't want to be drawn into the conversation, but he didn't want to make too many enemies either. After all, it looked like he was stuck in the snake pit for the next seven years.
"I don't know, we haven't even had classes yet," he answered.
"What do you mean, you don't know? After the basic training you should have at least some idea what you might like," Parkinson exclaimed.
"Yes, well, unlike you, I'm Muggle-raised. My family isn't magical, so I haven't had any basic training," Harry answered back, slightly peeved at the girl.
"Didn't you receive the standard Muggleborn basic training booklets?" Malfoy asked.
Harry looked at him. What was Malfoy talking about? Basic training booklets?
"Wizarding history booklets? Wizarding etiquette booklets? Wizarding customs booklet? Dealing with magical creatures booklet? Using magic in everyday life booklet? Magical laws and regulations booklets?" Nott said.
Harry just dumbly shook his head. He hadn't even known all those booklets existed, let alone received them. Could it be that he had missed some crucial information that could have helped him, by never getting these things? And more importantly, why hadn't he gotten them? More of Dumbledore's machinations, perhaps. The man was a fighter for the light side, that was for sure, but Harry didn't like his methods one bit.
"Well, no worries, we'll just talk to Snape, he'll get them for you. That way, you know the most important things," Malfoy said.
Harry's mind felt like a rollercoaster. Malfoy helping him, despite his non-magical background, was just too much to handle right now. For the rest of the meal, Harry just concentrated on his food. He didn't want to think about changing timelines, booklets he never got or nice Malfoys. It worked, for the most part.
When dinner was over, Harry stood with the rest of the first year, and started to follow the prefects to the Slytherin common room, but Malfoy pulled him back. Harry frowned angrily.
"Come on, Harry," Malfoy said. "Let's see professor Snape right now. He's our Head of House, by the way."
Snape was about the last person Harry wanted to see, and he would bet Snape felt the same way, but Malfoy didn't give him a choice. Malfoy dragged Harry to the head table, where Snape was still seated. As they approached, Snape sneered in their direction, but Malfoy didn't take any notice.
"Professor Snape, could we talk to you for a few moments?" Malfoy asked.
"Can't it wait until tomorrow, mister Malfoy?" Snape answered, less biting than Harry had expected.
"I'm afraid not, sir," was Malfoy's answer, although Harry had already started to nod his head.
Snape stood, and walked from the Great Hall towards his office. Harry didn't have a choice but to follow him, as Malfoy was still gripping his arm. Once inside the office, Snape gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk. While the boys sat down, Snape did too. He sat leaning backwards, looking relaxed, but his dark eyes took in every detail. Harry avoided his eyes, for he had no wish for his mind to be invaded.
"What would be so important that it could not wait until tomorrow?" Snape asked.
"Harry never got the Muggleborn booklets, sir," Malfoy said. "If he gets them tonight, at least he can read through the basic training ones before classes tomorrow."
With Malfoy's words, Snape leaned forward.
"And why, pray tell, would you need those booklets, mister Potter?"
Malfoy opened his mouth to answer that, but Snape silenced him with a single look. Harry bit his lip; he really didn't want to be here.
"I was Muggle-raised, sir," was all he said.
"I see," Snape answered, sounding like he knew that answer was coming, but the slight widening of his eyes belied that. "I will see to it that you receive them from one of the prefects. Be sure to read at least the first chapter of each booklet about the courses. That will give you the bare basic facts needed to get through your first lessons. You can read the rest of them tomorrow afternoon."
With that said, Snape brought them to the Slytherin common room and told them the password, Iunctum quod amicitia. When they entered, they saw that most of the students were still in the common room, catching up with their friends. The common room looked exactly like Harry remembered it from his second year, only what had then been an empty and cold room was now full of life and warmth. He wondered if it was just the fact that the scene was similar to what happened in the Gryffindor common room after the summer holidays, or if it was just his own perception on things that made the difference. Whatever it was, it didn't matter much. Malfoy was, yet again, pulling him towards a small group of first years. Nott and Parkinson were there, as were Crabbe and Goyle, to whom Harry was introduced.
After the introductions, Harry zoned out of the conversation. He wasn't interested in talking to the Slytherins, he needed time and peace to think. He needed to work on a new strategy for befriending Ron and Hermione. He needed to change his plans, and he couldn't concentrate on anything, for all sorts of thoughts kept running through his mind. It was a good thing a prefect sent them to bed, after giving Harry his booklets, for Harry was in no mood to converse with Malfoy's little group, and they were insistent on drawing him into the conversation. Harry wondered what they saw in him, seeing as he wasn't exactly of the same inclination about blood status and all that rot.
Once in bed, Harry let his mind go to the most important topic at the moment: his change in plans because of his faulty sorting. Hermione might still get trapped by the troll, so he wouldn't worry about that yet. But Ron might pose a problem. He would have to try and talk to Ron the next day, see if his sorting had influenced Ron's opinion of him in any way. Only after he knew how Ron would react could he make more concrete plans on befriending Ron.
With that problem solved, at least partly, he started to devise a strategy to try and survive in the snake pit. He needed to keep his distance from all of the Death Eater children, which amounted to everyone except Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass. He couldn't hang out with two girls all the time, let alone such girly-girls. So he needed to make friends among his year mates without being to close to them. Of course, he could also be a loner, until he had friends in other houses, but it seemed that Malfoy's group, with Malfoy himself in particular, wasn't going to let him be a loner.
With a sigh, Harry stopped thinking about that particular problem. He would just judge any situations as they came up, trying to keep his distance to the rest of Slytherin for the time being. With that as his last thought, Harry fell into a restless sleep, completely forgetting to read his booklets.