"Five hundred thirty-four million, one hundred and seventeen. Five hundred thirty-four million, one hundred and eighteen. Five hundred thirty-four million, one hundred and nineteen..."the thin, scruffy boy with haunted eyes and a bored expression on his messy-hair topped face incanted, took a huge breath, then plunged forward. "Five hundred thirty-four million, one hundred and twenty!"
A golden glow surged forward, out of the small, hourglass necklace he wore and surrounded him. As he began to fade from view - bits of rubbles and broken furniture becoming visible through his fading body, a maniacal laugh and shout could be heard, fading as quickly as he was:
"Yes! I've done it! Yes!"
The castle was silent once he had gone. Too silent. Deathly silent.
He landed, catlike and soft on his feet in the exact same place in the same castle, but this one was faintly humming with noise and activity, late at night though it was. He looked round him, but he was alone in this hidden corridor, and he relaxed a little, easing off the balls of his feet to stand upright. He shook a battered, thin wand out of his pocket and waved it lazily through the air.
"Tempus et dies." he incanted, and a series of numbers floated in the air in front of him.
"Lemme see..." he mused. "Eleven twenty-eight pm; August thirty-first, nineteen thirty-eight...yes!" he leaped into the air and pumped his fist. "Voldemort starts school tomorrow!"
With that, he pulled a shimmering length of cloth out of his pocket and threw it over his head, completely disappearing from view, save for a long string from the hem of his trousers trailing on the ground behind him.
"This will work, Harry. I'm sure it will work." he muttered to himself as he started up a long flight of stairs, then fell silent all together.
Harry rounded the last set of stairs stood at the base of the gargoyle which barred the way to the Headmaster's study. He'd just decided to take off his cloak and try some passwords to get up when the gargoyle suddenly jumped to one side, and startled, so did Harry.
He pressed himself against the wall, silencing his breathing as two sets of footsteps pattered down the stairs towards him.
"Headmaster." he could head one person say in a remonstrating tone, "I promise you my concerns are warranted. The boy could be dangerous. I'm sure he was terrorizing the other orphans; do you want him to do the same to this year's students?"
The two men stepped past the gargoyle and continued on. Harry darted past them before the gargoyle could begin to close and waited on the staircase for their voices to disappear.
"Now, now, Albus." a quavering, elderly man answered, "All eleven year old are little terrors, why I could tell you some..." the gargoyle shut with a click of finality and all sound from the hall was cut off. Harry darted up the short staircase and pushed the wooden door at the top open, then gaped at the utterly different room.
He recalled it full of tomes, whirling magical devices, and overstuffed chairs.
The room as it now had many of the same tomes, yes, but the chairs were stiff, hardbacked, and rather than eye-grabbing devices there were small figurines dotting every surface. Harry muttered a spell under his breath and all the portraits froze. He checked them all with a gimlet gaze before pulling off the cloak and prowling around the office.
Finally, he tugged open a drawer and saw what he was looking for. Rapture crossed his face as he pulled the battered old hat out of its drawer and without further ceremony, plopped it on his head, sitting gracelessly on the floor as he did so.
"Wait! You didn't let me sing the song!" a petulant voice sounded. It was just as Harry remembered.
"Sorting hasn't started yet; won't till tomorrow." he thought at the hat, a note of apology in his thoughts. There was a pause, then a ruffling sensation in his head, and the hat sighed.
"You're out of Time. What are you doing, little Slytherin?"
"You Sorted me into Gryffindor!" Harry thought, full of outrage.
"Because you begged me to, apparently. More the fool am I in my dotage, I suppose. You're a Slytherin to the core if ever I saw one, young man!" the hat scolded. "Trying to live up to the Gryffindorish model of bravery nearly got you killed on ninety-three point five occasions, I see!"
Harry stopped, gaped, then soldiered on. "Point five?"
"Well, trusting a twelve year old to brew Polyjuice for you clearly counts as half an occasion. The odds were markedly against you surviving any side effects from improper brewing."
"That's beside the point." Harry thought at the hat impatiently, "I came here to change the future."
"I can see that as well, young man." the hat thought irritably, "Though why you expect me to help is beyoonn.."
The hat stopped speaking as Harry brought his memories of the pain, bloodshed, his mother's dying scream, the war, the death, the tears, the funerals to the forefront of his mind and let them linger there, letting the images speak for themselves. The hat cleared its throat.
"Well what did you have in mind, then?"
Harry told it.
The next evening when Assistant Headmaster Dumbledore fetched the hat out of its drawer, he was bemused and concerned to see the hat cackling where it lay, but after it assured him that it had merely thought of a dashedly good joke, he let the matter slide and took it down to the Great Hall for the Sorting.
Dumbledore read out the first name, already knowing where the lad would go. It was so simple to predict these children, based on their families and the very look on their faces when the hat was lowered over their head. Oh, certainly there were one or two surprises a year, but never...
Dumbledore gaped at the hat, and yanking it off his head quickly, so did the Avery boy.
The sorting only got stranger from there: eight muggleborns, six light family children, two neutral family first years, and a Black, and a Nott went to Slytherin.
A Crabbe, a Goyle, the other Avery twin, nine muggleborns, and four neutral family children went to Ravenclaw. A Crabbe! A Goyle?! The entire hall was dead silent.
The older Avery twin, seven dark family kids, four light family kids, and six assorted half bloods and four muggleborns went into Gryffindor.
And Hufflepuff? Hufflepuff got Lucius Malfoy, Tom Riddle, a Bones, five other dark family children, and the rest were either mixed blood or decided light.
Oblivious to the waves of outright disbelief and shock coursing through the school, the eldery, senile Headmaster Dippet rose to his feet, beaming beneficently, and tapped a knife against his wine goblet.
"The elves will move your trunks to your new rooms, first years, and the prefects will take you to your Houses. To all, old and new, welcome to Hogwarts!" he sat down heavily, and began to eat.
Slowly, everyone else in the hall began to do the same.
Unseen in a corner of the room, under his invisibility cloak, Harry Potter cackled once, then gazed around the room with pride, and slowly, his overtaxed frame, never intended to travel so far back in time with five hundred thirty-four million and twenty turns of the ancient time turner, faded into mist and was blown away by the drafts that wafted through Hogwarts.
Oh, things didn't go perfectly smoothly from there. The elder six years of students weren't best pleased to have such eclectic mixtures in their Houses, but they eventually took it in stride and assumed the Sorting Hat knew best.
Over time, the students eventually adapted themselves to fit to their houses.
Those nine muggleborns in Slytherin became sly, canny, and very quick with wands to defend themselves from their irate elders. Over time, the older Snakes became proud of, even fond of their clever little firsties, and there was peace in Slytherin House. Well, except for that one time when the entire first year class faced down the previous six in a screaming match that sent Slughorn bolting to lock himself in his office and drink himself unconscious with brandy. But that, too was resolved, and under pain of the Furnuculous curse (my, those little firsties were fast with their wands!) the upper classes promised to accompany all eighteen little first years on a grand tour of all the main British Muggle cities, and to also never use the word "mudblood" again.
Crabbe and Goyle, threatened with painful death if they brought the point average of Ravenclaw House down, started a study group, and discovered that despite their decidedly academically-nonexistent childhoods, that books were actually useful. Some of them were quite enjoyable! They also learned, the fifteenth or sixteenth time one of the other Ravenclaw firsties managed to string them upside down on the wall of the common room, that perhaps differences were better settled with words than fists. Eventually, that entire class of Ravenclaws which started in 1938 graduated with honors, every one of them, and they parted ways after Hogwarts amicably, promising to meet up for research projects to help them all get their respective Masteries.
Gryffindor was the most volatile of all the Houses, both that year and for the three after it, but Dumbledore swooped down and shamed them into behaving, if not in private, then at least in public. The prefects of Gryffindor paired a firstie with three older mentors from the House to...guide them...and show them the error of their ways if they slipped and started referring to muggleborns and non-humans with racial slurs. The little firsties learned. Eventually. Though every year, their mentors would have to beat...er, I mean, coax...the bad habits out of them again after they'd reacquired them at home.
Gryffindor didn't have much luck at Quidditch that year, but the year that the slyest of all the Gryffs joined the team and started contributing to tactics? They killed it.
Hufflepuff was...unsettled...for a bit. Nervous. Slightly keen on always having a prefect in line of sight of Lucius and Tom. Nevertheless, kindness prevailed. A braver-than-average firstie discovered Tom was an orphan, and promptly invited him home for the summer. Tom declined. Anthony Bones invited him again the next day. Tom declined. But on the sixty-eighth day that Anthony invited him? Tom accepted. He learned that kindness was met with kindness, and cruelty with cruelty, and found that he had a taste for people being nice to him, for no other reason than that they wanted to be.
Lucius discovered that mudbloo...er...muggleborns were people, too, and that some of them were clever, kind, brave, sly, and...well, one year he noticed that they were awfully cute, too. Ended up dating one for three years. Ended up marrying her two years after they graduated. She was a Hufflepuff, of course. Lucius had learned to love unrestrained affection and loyalty.
Oh, Tom grew up to be a bit of an ass, Lucius grew up to be a bit of a prat, and the Carrows...well, they were rather dim from all the inbreeding but did quite well in Hufflepuff, really...but after Dumbledore offed Grindelwald, the wizarding world knew peace, and lots of it. Why, it wasn't until the Great Exploding Bertie Bott Beans debacle of 1979 that there was a single incident of lethal violence in Wizarding Britain, and even that was an accident.
Quite awhile later, a little boy Potter was born, and he was Sorted into Hufflepuff, because, you see, his parents were overly indulgent and spoiled him, and made him into a bit of a bully, and that same year a little Snape was Sorted into Ravenclaw, and instead of getting a group of friends together and bullying Severus, James surprised himself by becoming great friends with the other boy. They started a study group. Remus was there, and so were Peter, Lily, and Sirius, but they didn't throw hexes, and no one became illegal animagi because lycanthropy had been cured in 1966 by a graduate of Hogwarts who would have normally been out killing mudbloods, but instead was a Potions Master running a shop called Potion Riddles.
So you see, when another little boy Potter was born in 1980, James and Lily called him Harry, and he didn't have any scars, but he did have four little brothers and sisters, and they were all Sorted into Slytherin: just like their mum.