Alternity: A Harry Potter Alternate Universe

What if it all had happened differently?

As a result of mishearing Sibyl Trelawney's prophecy, back when it all started, Lord Voldemort didn't try to kill baby Harry Potter. He adopted Harry, renamed him "Harry Marvolo", and has experienced great good fortune ever since. Wizarding Britain fell before him; the legitimate government came under his hand, and he set himself up as the Lord Protector of the realm. Activating the ancient magic of the standing stones, he sealed the British Isles off from the rest of the world, and set to work exterminating, enchanting, or enslaving all the Muggles in his purview.

Alternity is a transformative work of fiction, done in the style of journals written by the Harry Potter characters. It ran from 2008 to 2015, written in realtime over the course of seven years. It explores an alternate version of the events of the series, examining how each character might have been different (or the same) if what-might-have-been had come to pass.

The background

Harry Marvolo, the Lord Protector's son and heir apparent, lived the first ten years of his life ignorant that he had been adopted. His childhood was one of privilege and progress, as the old Muggle buildings were slowly razed and replaced with palatial wizarding structures. Despite rationing — the British Isles are not exactly self-sufficient — Harry has never known want.

But life was not so lovely for everyone. The vast majority of the Muggle population — the 'Sleepers' — were sent into a magical stasis and warehoused away for future use. Those Muggles on whom the Sleeper potion didn't work, as well as Muggleborn witches and wizards, were enslaved in work camps or used as personal servants for high-ranking purebloods. Even the majority of purebloods found themselves lacking the luxuries they once found commonplace: coffee, chocolate, citrus, cotton. Transfigured goods can only carry one so far.

The wards the Lord Protector raised around the Protectorate prevent passage, save for at the old customs-house at Dover — which was thoroughly under control of the Protectorate's government, of course. They also kept most of the rest of the world from thinking too closely about the fact that the United Kingdom no longer existed. Those who were able to remember viewed the Protectorate as a dangerous, fanatical failed state, locked away in isolation.

All was not lost, however: Albus Dumbledore, whose Order of the Phoenix opposed Voldemort's rise, fled the Protectorate before the wards were raised, along with other wizards and witches who had fought against Voldemort and would be among the first to be killed by the new regime. The Order of the Phoenix remained active, even in his absence. Thanks to the efforts of its operatives, a sanctuary on the Isle of Man named Moddey Dhoo was created for those Muggleborn children they were able to save, and several of the Order's double agents were highly placed in the Protectorate's government — including Minerva McGonagall, who took the Dark Mark and served as Headmistress of Hogwarts, and Arthur Weasley, who oversaw the Muggle work camps.

The year Harry Marvolo began attending Hogwarts, the Lord Protector devised a system of magical journals for people to communicate...and to be spied upon. Fortunately, the Order was able to crack the spells: they could use the journals to send messages to each other privately, ORDER ONLY.

The story begins on September 1, 1991, as Harry arrives at Hogwarts.

Reading Alternity

Alternity played out over seven years, beginning on LiveJournal and moving to Dreamwidth at the beginning of Y2. Now that the game is no longer running in realtime, there are several ways to read it.

On Dreamwidth

Events in the game were "recapped" each week, with each post linked from a recap post weekly. You can read those by year on the [community profile] alt_fen Dreamwidth community, following each link to read the in-game posts the recaps link to. (The recaps are listed in reverse chronological order, so you'll need to use the 'Previous' links to go back to the first recaps of the year and then follow them forward.)

Recaps: Year One - Recaps: Year Two - Recaps: Year Three - Recaps: Year Four - Recaps: Year Five - Recaps: Year Six - Recaps: Year Seven

There are also quarterly 'previously on Alternity' summaries for the first three years of the game, highlighting only the important plotlines:

Intro for Non-Potterites - Year One, Autumn - Year One, Spring - Year One, Summer - Year Two, Autumn - Year Two, Spring - Year Two, Summer - Year Three, Autumn - Year Three, Spring - Year Three, Summer

Offline reading

If you want to read everything from the beginning without having to click on each link, or prefer to read offline, we have PDF copies of all the game posts and comments, from the very beginning, by month.

Some posts in the game do contain spoilers for future game events — there were a few cases where someone would return to an old entry and leave new comments on it, years later. In the table below, we've linked the 'redacted' version of the PDFs, in which future-spoiler comments have been removed. The list of when you can revisit those comments and read them is beneath the PDF table, along with links to the non-redacted versions for you to download and keep after you've read through the whole work.

Year One: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Year Two: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Year Three: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Year Four: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Year Five: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - June - July - Aug

Year Six: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Year Seven: Sep - Oct - Nov - Dec - Jan - Feb - Mar - Apr - May - Jun - Jul - Aug

Codas

Spoiler-avoiding reading timeline, for if you've read the redacted PDFs:

And, if you want a copy of the unredacted PDFs to save once you've read through the game once:

May Y2, unredacted - September Y4, unredacted - October Y7, unredacted

(One caveat: We made the PDFs well after the months for which they collate, so some of the posts and comments from older months may have incorrect and/or age-inappropriate icons. We did our best.)

The format

Alternity was somewhere between a story and a roleplaying game (RPG). On the one hand, the player-authors coordinated plotlines and goals ahead of time, through heavy mailing list discussion and frequent realtime chat, before writing everything out in journal entries and comments. On the other hand, the writing itself was spontaneous and not highly edited; comment threads often took on a life of their own.

The original incarnation of Alternity, circa 1999, was a shared fanfiction universe. Some of the original authors included Slytherin Dragon, Tinderblast, and Colin, as well as Flourish (who spearheaded the revival); there were close to twenty collaborators. While it was prominent in early Harry Potter fandom, most of the original Project Alternity notes and stories have been subsequently lost to time and the internet.

One of the key inspirations for this reboot of the Alternity universe was the LiveJournal roleplaying game Nocturne Alley. Some Alternity players took part in that game, as well as being active in its fan community. Not everything was the same, but it was definitely a part of our lineage.

Player-authors

While Alternity was still running, we didn't reveal who played whom — we thought it ruined the fun and broke the illusion, and we preferred our readers to feel like they were actually getting missives from an alternate Hogwarts. Once the game concluded, we revealed the cast list as it appeared on the last day of the game. Some characters did change hands from time to time throughout the game, either because of player departure or to balance players' time; we've done our very best to reconstruct the historical played-by list on our wiki.

The extras

We've had a few cool images, letters, and extra stories, come up throughout the game. Here are some of these supplementals, collected for your perusal...

You can find much, much more in our Alternity Docs Project wiki, which indexes (nearly) everything and everyone we ever referenced in the game. (We began the wiki in Y5, when we outgrew our previous recordkeeping system quite decisively, so much of the less plot-critical older content was only spottily migrated; we're still filling it in.) There's a guide for alt-fen, introducing the wiki organization, and a post about the background of the wiki and how to use it. Please note, the wiki has heavy spoilers for anything and everything, so consult it cautiously! But if you need a quick refresher on places or people, that's where you can find it.

There's also the Alternity AO3 Collection, for fanfic inspired by Alternity — some of it is from player-authors, but anyone who's written Alternity-inspired fic is welcome to add it to the collection!