Harry abruptly came awake and almost instantly became aware he was nude, causing him to reflexively use his hands to cover his groin. Six years in a dorm with four other blokes was one thing, he'd seen more of them than he'd ever wanted, but being in an unknown place without his clothes or even a wand was something entirely different. Particularly since he didn't remember removing any of his garments. It wasn't cold, but the sudden lack of clothing was a little unnerving as was the change in climate.
Immediately, he began to systematically scan the area, looking for any kind of danger, people who could either help or be a danger to him, and perhaps more importantly; clothes or even a blanket to take care of his modesty. The scan didn't produce any of it, in fact, there seemed to be nothing at all around him, just a large expanse of white which didn't seem to differentiate between the ground and what logically should've been above it. The ground beneath him was neither hard nor soft, nor was it warm or cold. It was just there.
He rose very carefully, trying to keep his hands in front of him the entire time but only partially succeeding. Mostly because he needed one hand to boost himself up off the ground if he didn't want to risk falling into an ungraceful heap and exposing all to whoever might be looking. Once he was up, he carefully placed his hands in front of himself again and reassessed the situation; the last thing he remembered was Tom Riddle sending the Killing Curse at him, the Curse hitting him in the chest, and then suddenly he woke up here. Wherever 'here' was.
He was still trying to figure out what was going on when he heard the sudden click-clack sound of a woman's footsteps coming from behind him. When he'd turned around to face her, she spoke. “Mr. Potter, come with me, please. I was really hoping we wouldn't have to do this again so soon, but come along, we have limited time and a lot to talk about.”
The abruptly appearing woman was short, had long black hair, hazel eyes, and a fair complexion. She was wearing a pair of black leather trousers and a deep blue blouse with semi-transparent arms. In short, she was beautiful, even if she seemed to be at least a decade older than him. She didn't look happy to see him though, on the contrary, it seemed like she was rather annoyed with his appearance but trying not to take her temper out on him. Which he appreciated, even if he didn't know what he'd done to attract her ire.
None the less, he obediently followed, trying not to feel uncomfortable. Especially since the strange woman hadn't commented on his lack of apparel. The two of them walked for a few minutes before she finally reached out her hand and touched a door handle that hadn't been there a moment before. A second later the rest of the door became visible when it was opened and the woman walked through it, with Harry following her lead. As he passed through the door he felt an odd sensation and when he walked out on the other side he was suddenly wearing a comfortable and fitting pair of blue jeans, a dark green t-shirt, and black books. He also suddenly became aware that he wasn't wearing his glasses, and that he hadn't been wearing them when he woke up either.
He blinked and moved his hands away from his groin and into a more natural position. Being clothed again was great, but he wasn't entirely sure if he liked that someone or something had done it for him. Not that he was complaining, being dressed was definitely better than the alternative, but it was just a little unsettling. On the other side of the office, his guide was clearing her throat pointedly and when he looked up she indicated a cozy looking chair in front of her desk. He followed the unvoiced direction and walked over, and as he was getting in front of his chair she sat down in hers. Once they were both settled she looked him straight in the eye.
“Welcome to the Afterlife Waystation. My name is Prudence Halliwell, and I am your Grim Reaper. If you want, you may call me Prue.”
“Harry Potter,” he replied automatically, “and if we're on a first name basis then I'm Harry.” He was still a little stuck on the 'grim reaper' part of her introduction. “So, I'm really dead then?”
“Yes and no.” Well, that really cleared that up, Harry thought a little sarcastically to himself. “As I said, this is the Afterlife Waystation, meaning you could go either way. You can pass on and spend eternity with your loved ones or you can go back and try to fix what the meddling old fool broke. You're not supposed to be dead at this point in time. If it hadn't been for Albus Dumbledore interfering where he had no right or reason to everything would've ended much better than it did.”
Harry frowned, “What did Dumbledore do?” He'd suspected for years that the celebrated old wizard wasn't as great as most people claimed, his moral compass didn't point North if Harry's own upbringing and his years at Hogwarts was any indication, but he wanted specifics.
“The better question is what didn't he do, but I digress. The cliff notes version on what he did do; he arranged for your parents to be killed to set the prophecy in motion since he didn't believe he'd be able to get rid of Augusta Longbottom and her relatives and thereby getting control of Neville Longbottom. He also had no viable option as to who should raise Neville instead, since the boy is a pureblood and someone would've demanded custody. He did get Frank and Alice out of the picture, and by having the other boy the prophecy might reference raised by a strict and domineering woman like the Dowager Longbottom ensured he was cowed if not as bad as you were.
“You, on the hand, didn't have any close magical relatives other than your father and the Blacks, and with him and your mother deceased he was free to control your life. Your godfather getting arrested for the murder was part of the plan, both to get him out of the way but also to make sure no one would even suggest you'd be placed with any other member of the Black family. In 1981 Walburga Black was still alive and remained so until 1985. The other options were Bellatrix Lestrange, Andromeda Tonks, and Narcissa Malfoy.
“He arranged to have you raised by your magic-hating relatives without any knowledge of your family, your status in the magical world, or even the simple fact that magic is real. As you got older he placed a block on your magic so your relatives wouldn't place you in an orphanage due to accidental magic. When you began your education he placed an anklet around one of your ankles to slow down your ability and interest in learning. When you arrived at Hogwarts he modified the anklet to ensure you excelled in Defense Against the Dark Arts. That little piece of jewelry was also modified to give you a proclivity to break rules, particularly to make sure you would participate in his yearly 'tests'. Another feature was a loyalty charm aimed at Dumbledore, and to a lesser degree to the various Weasley's.
Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose. He'd suspected his 'adventures' every year had been planned, at least partially, but actually having it confirmed didn't make him feel any better. Instead, his stomach felt like lead. Being raised in a household where anything unnatural was banned and curiosity was a sin, it was rather strange for him to suddenly begin breaking rules. Especially the kind of rules he'd broken so often at Hogwarts. Rather than comment, he simply nodded for her to continue.
“In March 1991 Dumbledore wrote an illegal marriage contract between you and Ginevra Molly Weasley in order to guarantee the Weasley family's cooperation. It was signed by Albus Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, and Molly Weasley. The two required witnesses were Elphias Doge and Severus Snape, neither of whom saw a problem with the situation.
“Arthur and Molly Weasley received 50 Galleons a month from your Trust Vault starting on August 1st, 1991. On your fourteenth birthday, it was raised to a 100 Galleons a month until you turned seventeen. Which means by the time you committed suicide by Dark Lord they'd received more than 5000 Galleons. They wanted money for your last year and their daughters last year, but Gringotts Law states that once someone comes of age they need to personally approve all money transfers. Any attempts to get you to approve it using magic or potions would've been detected by the Goblins and rejected.
“One caveat with the money was that they couldn't use much of it until you'd married Ginevra as it's a known fact that they are poor, and if they suddenly began spending a lot of money, people would start asking questions. So the agreement was that the two of you would get married within three months of her graduation. Dumbledore would then make sure you had a child by your first wedding anniversary, followed by your tragic death about 6-8 months later.”
He knew Ron was greedy and jealous of the money he had, he was jealous of anyone who had money, but this was too much. Stealing from him and setting up a line theft was something he'd never thought any of them were capable of. It just... He swallowed, somehow he didn't think this meeting would get any better any time soon.
“By marrying you and having your child Ginevra would get control of one-fifth of the Potter Estate. She wouldn't be able to sell any of the properties or even get access to more than one, nor would she get access to most of the heirlooms, use any of the titles, or even get most of the money, but she would still have been incredibly rich. It was decreed by a Head of the Potter Family centuries ago that a surviving spouse would have limited access if her husband passed away before her. The widow would be able to live in the luxury she was used to, within reason, but she would not get complete access to everything. If there was suspected foul play she'd get nothing, and she would also lose custody of any children. Neither Dumbledore nor the Weasley's were aware of the restrictions, but it wouldn't really have mattered in the long run. By raising your child their way, the child would've been loyal to them, and the Potter family would've been bankrupt within 25-60 years.”
Harry couldn't do more than stare. He was rich? And he had properties, as in more than Potter Cottage in Godric's Hollow and Number 12 Grimmauld Place in London? Why had no one told him about this? After a quick inquiry, Prue told him the Potter family owned five homes/properties in Britain and nine in various other countries.
After fuming for a couple of minutes he literally shook his head to clear it. The more he thought about it the more sense it made. His fellow students and many of the adults he'd come across had often looked strangely at his clothes. At the time he'd thought it was because he was wearing muggle attire rather than a wizard's robe, but now it became clear it was because of the poor quality and how ill-fitting they were. The Gryffindor's had occasionally asked to borrow money from him, and on some occasions expected him to pay for everything. When he'd told them he didn't have money, or at least not enough to pay for everything they'd often accused him of lying or being stringy.
Their reactions had really confused him since he was under the impression that the only money he had was in his Trust Vault. Stupidly he hadn't considered that that vault was for his schooling and that there was another family vault containing the rest of the Potter wealth which he'd get access to once he turned 17. He'd based his view on Hagrid's comment on his first visit to Gringotts and for whatever reason, he'd never bothered to ask about his estate and how much gold he actually had. Which was stupid, since he knew his parents hadn't worked after graduation and instead lived off of the Potter wealth while fighting Voldemort. Logically, the money hadn't been taken from his Trust Vault.
“So meeting the Weasley's at King's Cross Station was a setup so Ron could befriend me and set the stage.”
Prue gave him a sympathetic look, “Unfortunately, yes. Rubeus Hagrid being sent to explain everything to you was also a setup. He wasn't in on it, but his blind faith in Dumbledore has worked against him since he was expelled as a Third Year. Your headmaster has been taking advantage of him ever since. He's not a great thinker and as a result, he forgot to tell you a lot of things he has always taken for granted, including how to get onto Platform 9 ¾.“
Something else dawned on him, “Hagrid had my vault key the entire time, and he didn't give it back to me after I'd gotten money for my school things.”
She gave him an approving nod, “Correct. When your parents were killed everyone's access was revoked, and in order to reopen it, a Potter needed to withdraw money from one of the vaults. After that, it was only a matter of having a key.”
“Wait! Who could withdraw money and why?” That didn't make sense, it was a family vault only his parents should've been able to use it.
“Unfortunately, your parents trusted Dumbledore too much and allowed him to withdraw gold to fund the Order of the Phoenix. Unknown to them, he stole money for his own benefit. Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and a few others also had a key. However, they neither used nor abused the privilege. Sirius had his own inheritance and after their death, he was in Azkaban; Remus has always been too proud to accept charity, and Peter didn't use it because he was too afraid to get caught. The two other people didn't use it either and both were killed within a month of your parent's murders.”
Harry couldn't sit still anymore and restlessly got up to pace. The office wasn't overly large, but it wasn't small either. One wall was filled with filing cabinets, another had wall-to-wall bookshelves Hermione would no doubt have loved, the third had the door but nothing else, and the fourth consisted of a large window showing the expansive whiteness he'd woken up in.
The people he'd trusted with his life had all conspired to rob him blind, steal his child, and kill Harry himself. At least no one could get anything now that he was dead. If he remembered correctly, then all vaults without a direct heir or heiress simply went idle until someone claimed it down the line. Which begged the question; how did the Goblins know there would be someone to claim those vaults?
“The good news is that I can send you back to a time of your choosing. However, the offer has a limitation since I can only send you back to one of your previous deaths.”
That was as far as she got before, however, before Harry interrupted. “What do you mean 'one of my previous deaths'? We can only die once and that's it!”
She gave him a reassuring smile, “Not quite. People like you, people who are given a destiny at birth, may get up to 13 chances to fulfill that destiny. You have just died for the 12th time and are therefore on your last chance. Normally we rewind time, then only make small adjustments to the timeline in order to ensure our charges doesn't die the same way a second time. We then reinsert them about ten minutes before the unsanctioned death without any memories of the Waystation. But since you're on your last chance you'll be allowed to keep your memories this time so your chances of succeeding are improved and the chance of you dying prematurely again is lessened.”
Harry had stopped abruptly when she dropped that little piece of information. “How and when did I die the other times?” It was morbid, but if he had to go back to the aftermath of one of them he needed to know. The information was important so he knew when the best time to go back was, but also so he could avoid getting killed that way again.
Prue leaned back in her expensive looking chair and began talking. “The first time you died you were barely three years old. Your cousin was sick and his parents focused all their attention on him, completely forgetting about you. As a consequence, you starved to death in your cupboard. It was an accident on their part, but still unacceptable.
“The second time you were six and your Aunt hit you in the head with a frying pan. The force she used was strong enough for you to hit your head on the wall, it cracked your skull open. She panicked, threw you in the cupboard, and before Vernon came home from work you had died.
“The third and fourth time you were six and seven years old, respectively. You came home with a better report card than your cousin and your Uncle beat you to death for the imagined insult. This is the reason why you keep deliberately dumbing yourself down and why you've convinced yourself you don't understand things as well as you truly do. It may or may not be a side effect of the anklet.
“The fifth time you were nine and accidentally Shadow Walked from the ground and unto a school roof to get away from your cousin and his gang. When you came home your Uncle beat you nearly to death and threw you in the cupboard. The entire Dursley family ignored you for a week and told the school you were sick. They didn't open the door until they realized where the foul stench was coming from.”
Completely ignoring his fifth grisly death at the hands of his so-called family, Harry had a question. "What's Shadow Walking, and can I do it again?”
“It's an exceptionally rare form of magical transportation. The only people who have been capable of it have been Parselmouths, and even then there have only been three people who've been able to do it, and yes, you're the third. No, Voldemort can't do it and he's not aware of it. You can do it whenever you want as long as you're covered in shadow and the place you're traveling to is also in shadow.
“The second person to display the ability was Salazar Slytherin. You can find his notes on it in the Chamber of Secrets. However, you need to Shadow Walk to get into his office and library because there are no doors or windows in those rooms. Riddle only managed to find three rooms; the entrance, the main hall, and the Basilisk's Chamber. You should know though, there are many more rooms under the castle, but you need to find Salazar's office first. There are also two more entrances to the Chamber, created by Salazar when he realized none of his descendants had his special travel ability. The entrance from the bathroom was created by someone else centuries after his death.”
Prue took a short break in her explanations to drink some water and offered Harry a glass as well. Which he accepted as he suddenly realized he was parched.
“The first was a Norse witch named Ylva the Younger, who only found out about the ability when she tried to escape an arranged marriage and succeeded because of it. She went on to become an exceptional woman and witch. As an aside, you should really try to find the books she wrote. This will require you to learn Ancient Runes, specifically the Norse ones. The sooner you learn them the better.
“Oh, and Harry?” He looked at her expectantly as he sat back down in his chair. “Shadow Walking can't be traced, and neither can Parselmagic if you don't use a wand, so you don't need to worry about that. Shadow Walking will also get you through all kinds of wards as if they're not there.” The smile on her face complimented the mirth in her eyes.
This had definite possibilities! He could go wherever he wanted without anyone knowing about it. Combined with his Cloak and there was nothing he couldn't do! He began to silently plot but was quickly distracted by his Grim Reaper.
“I'm sure you're planning some creative uses for that skill, but we still need to continue this meeting.” He quickly apologized for his lack of concentration, but he was definitely going to make some plans involving his newly discovered way of secret travel.
“Back to your Unsanctioned Deaths. The sixth time you died was on your cousin Dudley's 10th birthday. He decided to give himself a present and violently kicked you down the stairs. You broke your neck on one of the steps and was dead before you hit the floor.”
Harry winced. Dudley was a spoiled, entitled bully. He was also a coward and a thief even back then. But he hadn't believed the other boy was capable of cold-blooded murder. Especially not at the age of ten. It certainly changed his view of his cousin, and if he was worth trying to save or not.
“The seventh and eight times were both magical creatures. In your second year at Hogwarts, you, along with the youngest Weasley boy, were eaten by Aragog's descendants. In your third year, you were careless and got your soul sucked out by a Dementor.
“The ninth time Severus Snape reflexively used the Killing Curse on you after you entered his mind during the so-called Occlumency Lesson in your fifth year. He genuinely believed it was acceptable for him to rummage through your mind, but you returning the favor was entirely unacceptable to him.
“The tenth time happened during the Summer before your sixth year. Arthur Weasley accidentally made you overdose on love potion since he didn't think you were falling for Ginevra quickly enough. The eleventh time you were given an overdose of love potion by Ginevra herself during the school year. And you know what happened the twelfth time.”
He nodded as he looked down at his lap. He needed to die to kill the piece of Voldemort stuck behind his scar. He wished there was another way to get it out, but to his knowledge, there wasn't.
“What you need to understand is that Dumbledore's final lie was that you were a Horcrux. It isn't possible for a human being to become a vessel for someone else's soul, even if it's just a small part. Attempting it would kill both the intended vessel, the person with the mangled soul, and any other soul pieces.”
“WHAT?” Harry yelled out in shock. “But, but...” He didn't have words, couldn't form a sentence. Everything had hinged on destroying the Horcruxes, and eventually on him being the final one.
“Albus Dumbledore was dying due to his own greed, the need for forgiveness from the sister he had never paid much attention to, and because he didn't want anyone else to get what he considered to be his. Mainly he wanted the glory for killing a second dark lord, but he also wanted the Potter and Black gold, and both of your family libraries. He wouldn't be able to reap the benefits of his manipulations so in his infinite wisdom, he decided the Weasley's wouldn't get anything either. Claiming you were a Horcrux was just one of his many backup plans. He told the Weasley's you would survive the Killing Curse a second time because it would go straight for the mutilated piece rather than your whole soul. That way the children would encourage the Horcrux Hunt, but it made Molly Weasley nervous which was why she tried to keep the three of you separated during the wedding planning."
And Harry had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. It had never crossed his mind that it might've been a lie. A misunderstanding, perhaps, but not a lie. Dumbledore had been dying, why would he lie at that point? Harry forcefully put it out of his mind, it was done, and he would get a new chance to fix everything. He could still win.
“What was supposed to have happened?” Apparently, that was the wrong thing to ask, because there was suddenly a metaphorical thundercloud over Prue's head. Harry, having so-of survived the Dursley's and the Magical World, instinctively backed away a little.
“You were supposed to be raised by Sirius Black and/or Alice Longbottom, except Albus Dumbledore stuck his crooked nose in your business. Had Sirius been allowed to raise you, you would've been prepared to take on Tom Riddle in your fifth year and kill him. Sirius would've become the pioneer of updating the Magical Education in Britain and making sure non-magical subjects were added to the curriculum so no one would accidentally break the Statute of Secrecy out of ignorance of the real world. This would have lead to more magical people marrying non-magical people, which in turn would've expanded the magical population as well as strengthening the so-called pureblood families. Which in turn would have led directly to a much fairer government where people would've been judged on actual skill rather than how inbred you are. Something that can only happen if the majority of the Wizengamot are no longer purebloods.
“You would've met your soulmate, some Granger girl, in Diagon Alley before your first year and made instant friends with her. Over the next two-three years, you would've grown closer and eventually become a couple sealing the soulbond. You two would then have spent the next two centuries or so together. Instead, the Old Manipulator stuck his crooked nose in again and made sure you met and befriended the youngest Weasley boy. Thankfully, soulmates will always try to be close to each other so the two of you managed to become friends regardless.
“You were also supposed to follow in the family footsteps of becoming a specialist in warding, ancient languages, and battle magic. In addition, you should've become the new face of Parselmouths in not just Britain, but Europe and later the World. You would've made people understand that the ability doesn't make you evil, but instead that it's a useful and very practical skill. It would've revolutionized Healing, Warding, the interaction with snakes, lizards, and certain dragons. Once again, Dumbledore interfered, this time by getting Ronald Weasley to convince you to take the easier subjects rather than what would actually be useful to you. Care of Magical Creatures is understandable, it's a useful class and would be helpful in dealings with reptiles and if you should come in contact with certain other creatures. But really, Harry, DIVINATION? What were you thinking?”
At this point, Harry blushed profusely. In hindsight, that had been one seriously bad choice and he'd regretted it almost instantly once he'd gotten into the Divination classroom and met Professor Trelawney. He still had no idea why he didn't follow Hermione when she stormed out and quit the class. He could've quit the class after third, fourth, or even fifth year, but for some reason, he had continued with the class. More of Ron's influence, probably.
At least, he didn't take Muggle Studies. During the time alone hunting Horcruxes, Hermione had told him that the class had been hopelessly outdated and it had more prejudice than facts. The professor had also refused to listen to her corrections and insisted she had to be wrong despite living in the muggle world. After checking, she'd found that the book had been written by a pureblood in the 1920's who had never interacted with muggles, that he'd relied on second-hand information, and what his bigoted family had told him. The book had never been updated either. How that was accepted into the Hogwarts curriculum was anyone's guess, but it did sort of explain Mr. Weasley's strange obsessions.
Then what Prue had said finally caught up with him, “Hermione is my soulmate?” On second thought, that wasn't really surprising. She had always been there for him, always supported him, and she had been a better friend than anyone he had ever met. She didn't use his fame and she was simply there for him, even if that meant spending a lot of time in the library. It was peaceful there at least. It was familiar territory since the school library and the local library had been his sanctuaries back before he got his first Letter, after all, Dudley didn't like to read so he'd avoided them at all costs.
“Yes, Hermione Granger. Intelligent, loyal, attractive. She's your soulmate and you need to initiate the bond as quickly as possible. You don't need to jump straight into a relationship, but you need to convince her to kiss you. It will obviously initiate the soulbond, but one of the better side effects is it removes any and all potions and spells used on either of you and prevents them from taking hold again. It also allows you to feel each other's emotions up to a certain point, while completely blocking everyone else out. Obviously, you won't feel her menstrual cramps and she won't feel your Quidditch injuries if she already knows about them, but you'll know if the other is happy, sad, angry, grieving, and so on.
“This isn't Occlumency, it's much more powerful and impenetrable. It gives your mind the appearance of a large, black, and empty void. You should still learn Occlumency and Legilimency as they both improve memory, learning, and helps you to identify anyone who attempts to enter your mind. Learning Legilimency also helps you improve your Occlumency shielding, mainly in what kind of shields you create, and in that vein, you should use a mixture of both magical and non-magical traps. It will confuse magical people since they most likely won't know how do deal with it or even recognize what it is.
“The third thing the bond does is put the two of you into an ironclad betrothal contract that can't be broken by anyone but the two of you, and even that is exceptionally difficult and not recommended. It also renders all other contracts on either of you null and void, regardless of their legality. Copies of the contract will be delivered to you by both the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts Bank. Oh, and kissing Hermione will also give her back her memories of her original life, so you won't be dating what would've been a much younger girl when you're actually seventeen going on eighteen.
“I recommend you seek her out prior to September first so the betrothal will be kept as quiet as possible. The Old Manipulator will probably find out sooner rather than later, but it will be too late for him to try and break it. You can also use his attempt to interfere against him since tampering with a soulbond is one of the few occasions where the law doesn't care about blood status. Even a union between a pureblood and a completely non-magical person is considered sacred.”
Harry's head was spinning at this point, but despite all the bad things, there were some pretty great ones. Hermione with all of her memories intact being on the top of that list. He would always need her, but this time around he was going to be more of an equal to her instead of just leaning on her and expecting her to be the brain to his brawn. He wasn't as smart as her, but he could hold his own. He was sure of it. The two of them together would change everything, particularly after removing Dumbledore, the Weasley's, and the Dursley's from the equation.
“You also need to remove Dumbledore. He should've died in his sleep in 1994, but due to having the Philosopher's Stone he lived several years past his time. I'm not sure why it didn't save him from the cursed ring, but you need to make sure he doesn't get the Stone in the first place. Half of his plan with that stunt was to test you, the second was to gain control of the Stone since unlike Nicolas Flamel he hadn't figured out the formula. Swipe it from Hagrid, if you decide to go back that far, it would put some unexpected problems into the man's plans. But that might cause some of your knowledge to become useless. The choice is yours.”
Swiping it from Hagrid shouldn't be too difficult, especially after he'd gotten something to drink at the Leaky Cauldron, but he'd need to think about it. Check with his own memories when the best time would be. He'd get the gentle giant into trouble with Dumbledore, but since most magic had little or no effect on giants and half-giants there wasn't really anything Dumbledore could do short of accusing either of them of stealing it. It was doubtful he'd do that since alienating either of them wasn't in his best interest.
Prue fixed him with a stern look, “You need to get it right this time, if you don't the balance of good and evil will be tipped too far in evil's direction. That will be catastrophic for everyone. The world will suffer for a thousand years, and I will be demoted to spend a century as a paper-pusher for some low-grade idiot. So please, make sure you get rid of Dumbledore and Riddle, get your godfather cleared of all charges, initiate the soulbond, take control of the Potter Estate, and make sure you get a proper education in both worlds.”
The stern look intensified and Harry swallowed again. For such a small woman she sure knew how to look intimidating, and suddenly he wondered what she'd done when she was alive. If she'd ever been alive. He was willing to bet she'd been a force to be reckoned with if she had been. He nodded obediently in acceptance of her order.
Take control of the Potter Estate. That should be simple enough as soon as he got to Gringotts. Initiate the soulbond with Hermione. A little trickier, but definitely doable. Get an education in both worlds. Again, tricky, but he was sure Hermione would agree with this, after all her prospects in the magical world weren't good, even if the Death Eaters and their ilk didn't take over. Get Sirius cleared. That would take some fancy maneuvering, but again, doable. Kill Riddle and Dumbledore. Get the Stone away from Dumbledore and he should be gone within a few years. Getting the Horcruxes should be much easier now he knew where they were and how to get them without being detected. So that was doable as well.
Prue kept talking for another two hours, giving him information and suggestions on how to fix things and alternate ways to get stuff done, but eventually, she ran out of information she was allowed to share with him and he ran out of questions.
“Our time is nearly up. Have you decided when to go back to?”
“There is really only one option if I want to do this right, and that's to go back to Dudley's 10th birthday. I don't fancy spending another year at the Dursley's, but it's the closest to my 11th birthday. I can also try and improve my grades for Primary School. Which should help in my self-study later.”
She smiled kindly. “That's a good choice. It gives you the opportunity to change everyone's perception of you, and it gives you a major advantage Dumbledore won't be expecting. You will also have the advantage that you already know the material for all of your core classes. The main difference is that you need to do your best this time around; this includes doing your homework early, read ahead, and read supplementary books. Use Hermione as your guide but find your interests and don't just read whatever she chooses to read and study. Just remember to kiss her before September, and, if you can find the time, get together and make a plan on how to approach your new chance at life.
”Keep in mind that Dumbledore won't check on you, he simply uses Arabella Figg to relay your progress on occasion. Improving your grades in Primary School is unlikely to affect her reports to him, but just to be on the safe side don't mention it where she can overhear it. The last thing we want is for him to swoop in and interfere again."
He was a little tempted to give a slightly sarcastic 'yes mum' in reply but minded his manners. She clearly meant well, and not just because she wanted to save the world and her job, and being rude to her would be a poor way of repaying that. Knowledge is power and she had given him a lot of useful information during this meeting. A lot more, in fact, than any of the people who had claimed to have his best interest at heart during the last seven years had ever given him. Hermione notwithstanding.
While Harry's mind had been drifting, Prue had gone over to the filing cabinets and retrieved a small stack of papers. Returning to her chair, she quickly leafed through them to double check everything was there, and then she told Harry in a slightly more business-like tone of voice. “Now that you've been caught up on many of the things you should've known, been informed of the things you need to accomplish, and have decided when to go back to – there are some contracts you need to sign.”
Harry couldn't help but groan. He was dead, well, temporarily dead, and there was paperwork? There was that infamous Potter Luck. None the less, he wheeled his chair closer to his personal Grim Reaper's desk so he could get a good look at the contracts.
“This is a Standard Return To Life contract. It basically says you agree to go back and try again to fulfill your Destiny. You've signed one of these every time you've been here.”
She handed him the first contract and he carefully read through it. Vernon Dursley was not someone Harry would ever look up to, but there was one thing the man had taught him, even if it was unintentionally, and that was to always read through all contracts and make sure you understood the content and the consequences of it before signing it. The Goblet of Fire tribulation had only reinforced that lesson. So when he came across some legal jargon he didn't understand, he made sure to ask Prue who helpfully explain it all to him.
After he was satisfied he'd understood everything in it, he put the contract on the desk and signed his name on the dotted line. The sheet of paper, and it was paper and not parchment, gave off a warm golden glow for a couple of seconds before it returned to normal and Prue took it back and put it beside her on the desk.
Then she handed him several more sheets of paper. “This is the 13th Attempt At Life contract, it includes a Retain Full Memory addendum to ensure a better chance of success,” Harry repeated the process from the first contract and soon signed his name at the bottom. It glowed for a few seconds and then Prue moved it over to the first contract.
She then handed him a third contract, “This is an Expanded Memory Contract For Soulmates. It ensures that spells and potions to remove or modify your or your soulmates memories cannot take hold. It will also restore all removed or modified memories you've had prior to your return to life. Once you've kissed Hermione it will apply to her as well.”
Harry couldn't help but be startled and a little horrified at this bombshell. “Our memories have been modified or removed entirely?”
Prue gave him a sad look, “Yes, Harry. It was decided that using potions to make sure you behaved in a certain way was too dangerous and the risk was too high for getting caught. So instead, Albus Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, Severus Snape, and Percival Weasley routinely modified your memory when you did something they didn't want you to do, or when you didn't do something to further their plans. For instance, you originally had no interest in going after the Philosopher's Stone, despite the anklet, but Snape modified your memory to make sure you would become curious about it. Ronald Weasley was then instructed to try his best to convince you to go after it.”
Dumbledore and Snape he could understand, especially Snape. Percy was an odd choice, but he was a third year and in Gryffindor, so it kind of made sense, particularly when you factored in where the order came from. What shocked and disappointed him the most was Mr. Weasley. The man had always come off as a mild-mannered and kind person, to find out he had ruthlessly messed with his memories to get his money was devastating.
“Gilderoy Lockhart modified your and Hermione's memories several times after you confronted him about the inconsistencies in his books. Unfortunately, you chose to do this in private rather than during class or in the Great Hall. This gave him the opportunity to mess with your memories. This time around you should find a way to get rid of him early, preferably before he can be asked to teach.”
A light bulb metaphorically went off over Harry's head, “Can I use this opportunity to get rid of Snape and Binns as well? They're both terrible teachers, and Snape is both verbally and mentally abusive towards the students not in Slytherin.”
Prue smiled approvingly at him, “Yes. You might not succeed, at least not in removing Snape, but it's worth a try. If nothing else, you should be able to get Dumbledore to rein him in a little. Especially if you've managed to get a good reputation by that point. People will listen, if for no other reason than because you're the vaunted Boy-Who-Lived. Use it to your advantage, point out he's not only verbally abusing you and anyone not in Slytherin, but name purebloods he's abusing as well. Specifically, you should mention Neville Longbottom. His grandmother is on both the Board of Governors and on the Wizengamot. Her reaction alone will get things moving and Dumbledore will have no choice but to acknowledge the problems and make visible improvements.
“Keep in mind many of the students have relatives in high places, including Susan Bones who is the niece of the Director of Law Enforcement. Befriend her, or at the very least make her an acquaintance. Drop hints about what you know about them and they're likely to pass the word up the chain.
He wasn't all that fond of Susan, but it was a good point. He needed to network and that meant getting to know more of the students, and it also meant giving them a fair assessment. Besides, if he was totally honest with himself he didn't really know her or any of the Hogwarts students at all. Most of his interactions with them had been seen through Weasley-colored glasses, and as he'd found out those glasses were rather dirty.
“You will most likely have no problem getting a new teacher for History of Magic. Cuthbert Binns has been teaching, if you can call it that, for a very, very long time. In other words, most, if not all, of the people in charge have had him as their professor and can, therefore, attest to his lack of teaching skills. Anyone who has a NEWT in the subject has done it by self-study, and they've made sure to read quite a few other texts since the Hogwarts History curriculum is embarrassingly out of date.”
She stopped to think about it, “The entire Hogwarts Curriculum is embarrassingly out of date, but History and the so-called Muggle Studies are the worst offenders. I would suggest you get together with your soulmate and plan vacations to other countries during the Christmas and Summer holidays. The Granger's are very fond of traveling and you won't have any problems paying your own way. That way you can get textbooks and other books from the countries you visit. You'll find that many of them are more advanced than your own. However, you should avoid France, Bulgaria, Russia, and other countries with close affiliations with Magical Britain, as they have a similar education level as your home country.
“And finally, this contract allows you to inform your soulmate of the Afterlife Waystation. Understand that she is the only person you're allowed to tell. You literally will not be able to even form the words to tell anyone else, nor will they be able to pluck the information out of your head – or hers.
“Oh, and I almost forgot; When you return all of the blocks and all of the magic on you will be gone, except for the anklet. You need to personally remove it since it's a solid object. The spell residue behind your scar will also be gone, and the scar itself will fade and be barely visible.”
Now *that* was great news! No scar meant there would be nothing for nosy magical people to stare at! He could get his hair cut short without the damn thing taking all the attention. And as a bonus, it would leave the old coot scratching his head wondering how that happened.
On the flip side, when he finally had Hermione back they were going to have a very long conversation. One that included a lot of lists and plans. They needed to compare notes on what happened the first time around and what they had thought happened. They needed to make a timeline for the most important events, the smaller events that caused them, and what they wanted both for their own personal future but also what they wanted to do with the Magical World.
When his Grim Reaper ended the meeting and rose from her chair, he once again followed. After walking through the door he surreptitiously checked if he still had his clothes and gave a mental sigh of relief when he saw that he was still wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He turned his head and frowned at the quickly disappearing door. When he walked into the office it had clothed him but when walked out it did nothing? Seven years of magic and he still wasn't used to all the weird stuff.
After walking for what seemed like both ten or fifteen minutes and no time at all Prue stopped and opened yet another door that hadn't been there before. This time there wasn't another office on the other side, instead, he was met with absolute darkness. Holding the door open his Grim Reaper got ready to give a few last minute instructions and reminders before he got back.
“Initiate the soulbond, reclaim the Potter Estate, free Sirius, network, get a double education, kill the Dark Lords. I know.” Harry grinned cheekily at her.
“Smartass. Or is it smartarse in British?” Harry laughed.
“I'll be checking in with you every now and then to make sure everything goes according to plan, so don't be surprised when I show up. Remember to tell Hermione, but warn her I won't be able to tell her anything about the afterlife or the Waystation. Understood?”
“Excellent. Then all that's left is for you to walk through this door. It will take you back to your nine-year-old self and your last chance at life. Try to fix at least the major problems we've discussed, and make sure you're happy this time around. Good luck.”
Harry straightened himself up and mentally braced himself for the unpleasant year he would have to endure at Number Four Privet Drive, and then put one foot in front of the other until he was through the door.