Actions

Work Header

Another Day in Paradise

Chapter Text

Waking up in the small, cramped Cupboard Under the Stairs was a highly unpleasant experience after having had a proper bed for seven years, or at least a much better sleeping arrangement during that time. First, he'd gotten the small, dingy bed in Dudley's second bedroom after the Acceptance Letters from Hogwarts started arriving and the Dursley's suddenly realized someone might have figured out where they forced him to sleep. In an attempt to ensure that little piece of knowledge didn't make it to the neighbors, and thereby making them look anything but normal, they'd moved him upstairs and into an actual bed rather than keep forcing him to sleep on the thin foam mattress he'd slept on up until that point. The bed wasn't great, he was still sleeping on a foam mattress, but it was thicker and better suited for his weight and size. Anything was an improvement over the small and thin foam mattress down in the cupboard, so he'd been thrilled with the upgrade. Sort of.

Then there had been the four-poster bed in Gryffindor Tower for the next six school years; that bed had been the best by far. In between the bed in the upstairs bedroom and the bed in the boys' dorm at Hogwarts, there had been the cot in Ron's room at the Burrow. Later on, there'd been the bed in one of the guest rooms at Grimmauld Place, and finally the bed in the magical tent. All of the beds had been preferable to the worn out mattress he'd outgrown years before he began his education at Hogwarts. The tiny space hadn't improved matters at all, despite his mall stature.

At least he was waking up. Prue had sent him back to the evening before, ten minutes prior to the time Dudley had originally pushed him down the stairs. He'd managed to avoid that particular death by walking faster than his obese cousin could manage and thereby getting to the stairs first. By the time Dudley had gotten to the top Harry had been half-way down. The spoiled child had thrown one of his infamous hissy fits when his plan had gone down the drain, or down the stairs, as the case was, and Harry had been locked inside the cupboard for the rest of the day with no meals and only half a glass of tepid water to hold him over.

The sad thing was that Petunia and Vernon hadn't even bothered to ask what their nephew had supposedly done, he'd just been ordered back into the small space for upsetting their precious son on his special day, and then they'd locked the door using both barrel bolt locks. At least they hadn't added padlocks, not that it really mattered since it still wasn't possible to open it from the inside. The glass had been delivered two hours later by aunt Petunia.

Right after having been locked into his 'room' he'd sat down and pulled up both of his pant legs, and then, as he couldn't see anything other than his own smooth legs, he used his hands to feel his way down his own legs starting from the knees. Around his left ankle, he felt the tell-tale thin chain and he quickly found the lock and removed it. In his hand was an unassuming gold chain. It had no special ornaments or additions, it was just a series of intertwined ovals hooked together to make an anklet. Removing it had caused an odd sensation, however, and his mind cleared of its cobwebs. Harry had smiled into the darkness and begun planning.

The second thing he noticed upon waking up hours later was the painful hunger turning his stomach into knots. He stared into the darkness and towards the door where there were usually small streams of light if the hallway light was on. Another painful cramp quickly made him decide to try his new traveling ability sooner rather than later. Physically his younger body was used to starvation, but his nearly 18-year-old mind had long since gotten used to regular meals, even when he'd been on the run. The meals had often been meager and unappetizing, but they'd always had some kind of nourishment.

Not really knowing how Shadow Walking was activated, other than a need to get away from danger, he imagined himself being transported from his small, dark 'room' and into the back of the wardrobe in the hallway, and suddenly found himself sitting beneath the coats and on top of his aunt and uncles shoes. The abrupt change from sitting on the worn out mattress to his relatives' hard and bumpy shoes was uncomfortable, particularly since he was much skinnier now and lacked the muscular padding he'd had as a 17-year-old. Harry gave a quick mental 'thank you' to Prue or whoever might be listening that Shadow Walking was silent as opposed to the load crack caused by most magical people when Apparating.

He quickly scrambled off of the shoes on all fours to avoid getting tangled in the coats above him and more or less fell into the shadowed hallway before noticing it was thankfully either very late at night or very early in the morning. Judging by the lack of sunlight streaming through the windows in the sitting room, and the electric lights overhead being switched off, it meant his relatives were fast asleep in their beds. Which was a good thing, because he didn't want to what kind of punishment he'd get if they'd seen him suddenly appear on their footwear.  At least he was used to the semi-darkness caused by the weak moonlight and the street lights outside.

Getting up on his feet, he walked quietly on socked feet into the kitchen and grabbed the first piece of food he came across, which turned out to be an apple from his aunt's snack bowl. Unlike her husband and son, she had always tried to keep a somewhat healthy diet as long as it didn't conflict with the greasy and unhealthy food they wanted. A quick check of the wall calendar revealed it to be the 23rd of June, 1990, as per the magnetic circle around the date. Or rather, it was early on the 24th since aunt Petunia always moved it to the correct date when she first came into the kitchen in the morning.

As he slowly began to chew on his ill-gotten fruit, he reached out and opened the cabinet above the sink and carefully took out a small milk glass. He then carefully filled it with cold water after allowing the tap to run for a while. He took great care to eat slowly and chew his apple carefully so as to avoid aggravating his stomach pains by rapidly consuming his food. Likewise, he drank slowly for the same reason. The last thing he needed was the starvation-induced pain to intensify due to his own impatience.  It was a lesson he'd learned the hard way when he first arrived at Hogwarts. Back then he'd hidden it well, after all, hiding pain was second nature to him at that point, and no one had noticed anything amiss. In subsequent years, he made sure to eat more slowly when he arrived at either the Burrow, Hogwarts, or Grimmauld Place. In accordance with keeping a low profile, he'd made sure to eat at a slightly slower pace than normal at all meals, and chew his food properly. Not only did it help his digestion, but it also made his eating habits look that much better than Ron's.

While eating he got a second apple and an orange from the bowl and put both into his pockets. HE'd forgotten to change out of his clothes and into his pajamas the night before, but his time it worked to his advantage. Pajama bottoms didn't have pockets, at least his didn't, but his oversized jeans did. He found several empty soda bottles under the sink from yesterday's birthday party and rinsed them out before filling two of them with cold water from the tap. Harry briefly entertained the thought of taking a third bottle to urinate in, but with Shadow Walking, he could simply take a bathroom break somewhere else without anyone being any wiser. Sitting in his cupboard with a full bladder for hours on end until the Dursley's deemed it appropriate for him to use the loo was something he'd happily forgotten about.

A couple of bananas, half a bread, some of Dudley's healthier snacks which Petunia bought in the hopes he'd eat them, and three carrots also made their way into his pockets. He took two mouthfuls of milk straight from the bottle before he decided to return to his prison cell. He needed to hide his loot somewhere they wouldn't think to look if they discovered there was food missing and couldn't blame their son. Granted, the likelihood of his cousin, the baby whale, taking anything even remotely healthy to snack on wasn't even in the ballpark, but the Dursley's were perfectly capable of deluding themselves into thinking he would do just that. Or at least, Petunia Dursley could convince herself of that, and since she was the one keeping track of the food he was relatively safe.

Stealing food from his relatives wasn't feasible in the long run or even in the short term. A small amount could work if he was careful, but not enough to get himself up to a respectable weight for his current, physical age. Water wouldn't be a problem, but milk might if he didn't take precautions. He could steal it from the neighbors, especially if he chose houses several streets over, but the grocers would probably work better as long as there weren't cameras. Unless he could get his Cloak in the next few days... Which was unlikely. There was also a problem with storage and keeping the food cool for preservation. He needed to practice wandless Parselmagic, and not just to ensure his food supply.

Shadow Walking into Hogwarts would be easy enough, but Dumbledore's office would be more difficult. Not because it would be difficult to access, but because of the magical portraits of the former Headmasters and Headmistresses. They were magically obligated to inform the current Head of the School if anyone entered or attempted to enter the office, which was one of the ways Dumbledore knew who was on the other side of the gargoyle. Which meant he was back to wandless Parselmagic.  In addition to learning temperature and preservation charms for his food and expansion charms for his cupboard to help his growth, he also needed to learn how to do the invisibility charm wandlessly so he could get into the Headmaster's office unseen. The portraits would see any object being moved around or removed entirely from the room, either by him carrying it or putting it into an invisible bag. If nothing else, they would not be able to tattle on him since they would be unable to see him and therefore were unable to give a positive identification.

On the bright side, he was unlikely to become a suspect since he was supposed to be hidden away in Surrey without any knowledge of the Magical World, let alone where the Headmaster's office was or how to get into it undetected. After considering the issue, it was more likely the members of staff would become suspects since the school had let out by now. Harry spent a good fifteen minutes entertaining himself with the imagined reactions of the various professors to being accused of stealing an invisibility cloak, particularly one that didn't even belong to the old wizard. The mental images caused him to end up having to stifle his laughter so no one would hear him.

An entire month passed before he felt secure enough in his ability to perform the Invisibility Charm in Parseltongue without an image of a snake nearby. It didn't help that he had to practice in between working as a House-Elf for his so-called relatives while simultaneously avoiding their abuse as much as possible, and, of course, staying out of Dudley and his gang's reach. It was usually solved by going for long walks in the neighborhood in areas they didn't frequent, hiding in one of the parks nearby if he knew they were someplace else, or spending time in the library.

He had spent much time in the Little Whinging branch of the library over the years to avoid his 'family' and all of the uptight neighbors who believed their lies about him, but shortly before he got his first Hogwarts Letter he'd forgotten all about it. But this time around it would be different. He'd begun by regularly going to the library, rather than only when he had at least two hours to spend there. That way he learned more, even if he had less time. In an effort to expand his knowledge of the muggle world, he began secretly borrowing books. He couldn't get a library card because he needed parental permission, which in turn meant he'd alert them to one of his sanctuaries, but he was still able to sneak a few books into his bag without anyone noticing.

Harry also spent as much time as he could in the Children's Section, reading any books he could find containing magic. By reading those books no one would think anything was amiss when he waved his hand or his entire arm around 'pretending' to do something magical. His body was nine, nearly ten years old and it was perfectly normal for most kids that age to want magical powers. The Librarian and other visitors probably thought he was adorable unless they knew about and believed the Dursley's lies about him being a troublemaker and a thief.

He also practiced the Disillusionment Charm as a backup plan, but turning into a human chameleon wasn't ideal for what he wanted to achieve. If the portraits were looking closely they'd be able to see what amounted to his silhouette against whatever was around him, and that could be very bad for him. He also tried to learn the Freezing Charm wandlessly so he could stop the portraits from seeing anything at all, but he was unable to master it on more than a few things at once so that was a bust.

Rather than going straight for Hogwarts Castle he'd decided to go for something smaller, such as Grimmauld Place and the Horcrux inside it. It was the 29th of July, two days before his tenth birthday, so he considered this an early birthday present for himself. Particularly since Petunia and Vernon had decided to take their son to London for the day. Harry, of course, wasn't invited, but since Mrs. Figg was out of town and no one else could take him he had been left outside one of the parks a fair distance away from Privet Drive. Uncle Vernon sternly told him to not do any funny business, and to return to Privet Drive by 18:30.

He obediently walked into the park and headed straight for a playhouse as he heard Uncle Vernon's company car drive away. Thankfully, he didn't need a ruse, but he was still careful since there were people there. Mostly mothers with young children, but also a few older siblings who'd probably been ordered to take their younger brothers and/or sisters to get some fresh summer air. He took a quick detour between the playhouse and some trees before he wandlessly performed the Invisibility Charm in Parseltongue on himself as soon as he was out of sight. He had yet to be able to perform any kind of Parselmagic non-verbally, but it could still happen with practice. Maybe. He suspected the vibrations in the sibilant language had to be spoken, or rather hissed out loud in order for it to work, so it was rather unlikely but he intended to keep trying. A swift look down his own arms, torso, and legs confirmed the spell had worked and he immediately Shadow Walked to Grimmauld Place.

A moment later he was in the Drawing Room on Grimmauld Place's First Floor and looking directly at the Black Family Tapestry as that was the most memorable item in the room. Harry's green eyes sought out the burned off spot where Sirius' name should've been by their volition. He would've aimed for the cabinet the Horcrux was stored in, but he couldn't remember what it looked like. He was reasonably certain it was made of glass, or at least the doors were made of glass. After he did a 180-degree turn and then swept the other half of the room with his eyes, he got his suspicions confirmed; the cabinet was made entirely of glass and he could see the golden locket inside.

Rather than dawdling he quickly walked over to the cabinet and very slowly opened the door before he gently removed Slytherin's cursed Locket while listening for the sound of footsteps or Elf Popping. Once he had it in his right hand he closed the glass door with his left hand as gently as he'd opened it, and then immediately Shadow Walked out of there before Kreacher could realize he had even been there. Or before the insane House Elf became aware that something had been stolen from the house he was supposed to protect (and keep clean) in the absence of his incarcerated master.

A moment later he appeared in a copse of trees next to the lake in St. James' Park in Westminster, London. He and Hermione had briefly stopped there for a breather during the Horcrux Hunt. It was a beautiful place with tall, green trees, artificial rivers, and other recreational areas. Harry wasn't there for the view however, he needed somewhere to hide the pieces of Voldemort's soul where no one would think to ever look for them. The hiding place also had to be somewhere people wouldn't accidentally find any of the soul pieces, as the last thing he needed was muggles affected by the evil inside them.

Harry quickly scanned the area and, for some reason, the first and best hiding place that came to mind was high up in one of the trees. The likelihood of anyone climbing up there was pretty slim, and the chance of a magical person getting up there was pretty close to non-existent. Upon making up his mind he took out a small brown and green bag from one of his pockets, which he'd spelled with both a Featherlight Charm and an Undetectable Expansion Charm before leaving Privet Drive, and from inside it, he took another bag made of Acromantula silk. He'd stolen the silk bag from Knockturn Alley the day before when he'd realized it was one of the few things that could shield the soul piece so it wouldn't affect its surroundings.

He put the Locket inside the black bag and then put the black Acromantula bad inside the brown and green one before he zipped it up. He then put the bag in his pocket and Shadow Walked up onto the highest and thickest branch he could see from the ground and then began climbing even higher. Once he was relatively high up, or rather as high as he was able to get given his size and inexperience in climbing, he pulled the bag out again before he tied it to one of the smaller but sturdier branches.

He spelled it with an Impervius Charm to keep it dry in the inevitable downpours. Before that, he had added a few other spells to keep it safe and ensure it would not be discovered by anyone, including curious birds and other animals. He meticulously made sure it was hidden under thick foliage before he tightened the cord. Once he was satisfied it was secure and not visible he smiled and nodded to himself before he returned to the ground. Harry walked once around the tree, checking it from all angles to make sure the bag could not be seen from the ground, and when he returned to his starting point he double checked and, once he was satisfied, he pulled out a hunter's knife he'd stolen a week before. Instead of trying for something intricate he just made three more or less vertical lines between 10 and 15 cm. long on the trunk. The lines were subtle enough not to be discovered at a casual glance, but Harry would be able to use them as a guide the next time he came here.

----------

On his tenth birthday he decided to celebrate, not with cake and wrapped presents, his 'beloved' relatives would never have allowed that in a million years, but by going to his most hated professors home in Spinner's End. He'd realized quickly that the chance of Dumbledore tightening Snape's leash was not happening, at least not enough to make a difference. The old Headmaster had gotten too comfortable using the Death Eater to not just keep the level of education low at Hogwarts, but also to gather information. Harry had long since suspected, and he'd gotten it confirmed by Prue, that both Snape and Dumbledore used Legilimency on the students, their fellow faculty members, and anyone who visited the Castle. Snape also did much of Dumbledore's dirty work around the Castle, in Knockturn Alley, and by gathering information elsewhere. Once Voldemort had been resurrected he'd made sure Snape was in the Dark Lord's favor, regardless of who he had to sacrifice to keep him there. All for the 'Greater Good', of course.

Harry had secretly practiced the Switching Spell in between his chores and other magical pursuits. He'd never been to Spinner's end, but he did know the address as he'd accidentally seen it while looking through some paperwork in Dumbledore's office. Why it had been in the open he had no idea, but it was beneficial to him now. Thinking back, it was probably an attempt by the aged Headmaster to get Harry to do something but ended up not working. After all, why would he want to go to one of his professor's homes? Particularly one he despised and who absolutely loathed him and all things Potter?

With the Invisibility Spell covering him completely he Shadow Walked to Spinner's end and strolled leisurely over to Severus Snape's childhood home. It proved to be surprisingly well kept considering the potions master spent ten months out of the year in Scotland and probably didn't hire anyone to do the maintenance work for him. Magic could only get him so far, especially in a muggle neighborhood where people expected to be able to see you work on home improvements.

Getting inside was easy enough but as a precaution, he silenced his feet and put a Cone of silence around himself. He gently opened the door, mildly surprised to find it unlocked, and snuck inside. He breathed carefully despite the Cone of silence around him. You never knew if a spell might fail, especially since his magical core had yet to stabilize at this age. Once he was in the door he spent the next ten minutes or so going from room to room trying to find his missing Potions Professor, but it wasn't until he walked down into the lower ground floor he found the man. Unsurprisingly, he was in his own personal potions lab, brewing what looked like a dozen different potions.

Studying the man from right inside the doorway showed the wizard wasn't aware there was an intruder in his home, which in itself was strange given his paranoia at Hogwarts. But then again, Hogwarts was full of curious students and probably equally curious professors. The house in Spinner's End, on the other hand, was most likely unknown to most and those who did know and were likely to visit, would probably either knock on the door or ring the ancient looking doorbell to announce their presence.

Snape's entire concentration was focussed on the potions in front of him. A cursory look around the laboratory revealed several more workbenches, all of them with evenly space cauldrons on them at various stages of completion. Some of them were bubbling merrily, others were simmering, and a couple appeared to have just been started. There were shelves around the entire room, except for two large blackboards - one on each side of the room. Both of them were covered in potions recipes, scrawled there in a hurried hand and full of Snape's shorthand. The shelves were full of much of the same things as his classroom at Hogwarts was, in addition, there was a lot of what Harry assumed were rare ingredients, and several of the shelves were clearly dedicated to finished potions.

Harry, however, remained hidden and spent the next half an hour observing one of the most hated Hogwarts faculty members of all time save a certain relative of his godfather. Surprisingly, he didn't sneer once, but he did glare a few times at some of his misbehaving cauldrons. It was a slightly surreal experience, but eventually, he performed the Switching Spell on an ingredient he knew Snape would put into one of the cauldrons next, and exchanged it with one he knew would cause it to explode. He then repeated the action twice more to ensure the man didn't have a chance to fix it before it caused what would hopefully be a fatal 'accident'.

Right after switching the ingredients he quickly summoned Snape's wand as the wizards back was turned. Then he cast a Parselshield more than twice his own size in front of himself, just in case there was some kind of magical forensics, later on, to investigate what happened. Given, of course, Dumbledore didn't arrive first and simply declared the whole thing an accident to cover for whatever else might be found in the Death Eaters home. Possibly to remove something he'd lent to Snape or to steal something of Snape's he coveted.

Deeply focused on his work, the Potions Master didn't notice his wand had gone missing and instead continued adding to the carious cauldrons until he got to the first one Harry had tampered with. Harry held his breath as the wrong ingredient was added, then the second, and finally the third. Three seconds after the last of the volatile components had been added the first cauldron exploded. Quickly followed by the other two, killing the deprived man within minutes. Snape attempted to reach for his wand, presumably to cast a shield, but didn't manage to get his hand far enough. He never knew his wand had been stolen.

Inside the doorway of the lab, a shocked Harry Potter stood and just looked at what he'd done. Severus Snape was dead. Severus Snape was dead and all it had taken was a little lack of attention from the man and a Switching Spell. With that little piece of magic, he had not only ended a human life, but he had also saved hundreds if not thousands of students from his horrible 'teaching' and seven years of mind rapes. Maybe even physical rapes, he honestly had no idea if Snape or the Death Eaters, in general, had raped anyone, but the probability was high for the terrorist organization. It seemed like war and physical assault went hand in hand.

In a daze, he Shadow Walked to St. James' Park and simply wandered aimlessly around in the park's pathways and trails for a few hours, ruminating over what he'd done. Killing Voldemort when he was physically and mentally 17, nearly 18, was one thing, but while he was still mentally 17 going on 18 he was physically 10, nearly 11, years old and that changed things. It was also different because Voldemort had actively tried to kill him for years and the Battle of Hogwarts had been the final showdown. Snape, on the other hand, had just been his usual miserable self and doing one of the few things he enjoyed, and then Harry had broken into his home and tampered with his ingredients making him inadvertently cause a fatal disaster.

The initial explosion had caused a chain reaction, helped along by the other two plus some of the ingredients laying on the nearby countertop. Not all of the potions had been volatile enough to explode but there had been enough to cause the room to be completely totaled. The walls and roof were still intact, but most of the shelving and its contents were completely ruined. As Harry walked over a low bridge in the park, he unseeingly stared at the artificial river below as he allowed the soothing sound of flowing water to calm his nerves.

By killing Snape he had drastically changed the time stream. The consequences would likely be long-term and unpredictable, and who knew how Dumbledore would react to his pet Death Eater's sudden and violent demise. By removing him from the equation, Dumbledore would have to come up with another way to keep Harry down at Hogwarts. McGonagall was strict, but unlike Snape, she didn't abuse her students. They weren't an unfortunate part of her life like they had been for him.

So who was Dumbledore going to hire as a replacement? Horace Slughorn, his Sixth Year Potions Professor and former Head of Slytherin at Hogwarts before Snape took over both positions? The man was a decent teacher if you ignored his need to be 'friends' with famous and infamous people. It all depended on if Slughorn was willing to come out of retirement again, which was relatively uncertain even if Dumbledore used him as a carrot again. There was no impending wat to change his mind about retirement nor a need to seek protection inside Hogwarts Castle and her wards.

More likely it would be someone else entirely. Whoever it was, Harry fervently hoped the new professor was both an expert in the subject and a competent teacher, or his fray into first-degree murder might've been for nothing. It all came down to how Dumbledore reacted to Snape's death. Would he recognize it for what it truly was, premeditated murder, or would he see it as an unfortunate accident? In Sixth Year Dumbledore had told him all magic leave traces, but Prue had told him Parselmagic was undetectable as long as he didn't use a wand. Given that the former's credibility had been shot he was liable to believe his Grim Reaper instead. Still, there were going to be some major changes at Hogwarts because of this.

The question now was; should he kill someone else? Dumbledore and Voldemort were both givens, Prue had made certain he understood they both had to go. The sooner the better for everyone. Pettigrew was easy enough, sort of. He was at the Burrow and was only a Shadow Walk away, but he also needed to get Sirius cleared. If, and it was a big if, he decided on a hit list then Pettigrew was definitely on it. Same with Delores Umbridge, the Malfoy's Cornelius Fudge, anyone with the Dark Mark and maybe the students he knew would take it after Voldemort's resurrection, and anyone who supported Voldemort and the Death Eaters with either gold or political support.

But he was getting ahead of himself. Thinking about killing someone in cold blood was entirely different than actually doing it. Murdering Snape in his own home without giving him a chance to defend himself had proven that. It had been nothing like fighting Voldemort in the future that would never happen now. Back then he'd believed he had no other choice than to fight and eventually kill the self-styled Lord Voldemort. This time he'd made a decision, planned his course of action, and then executed that plan.

How he felt afterward couldn't have been more different. Back then he'd felt a sense of relief that his parents' murderer was finally dead, satisfaction he'd been the one to end the magical terrorist, and shock that he'd not just managed to permanently end the evil wizard, but also that most of the people there was treating him like a hero for becoming a killer. Then the numbness had set in along with the need to be alone. This time there had been no witnesses. no sense of triumph. Just the silent understanding that an evil man was dead and would no longer be able to abuse anyone ever again. It was a grim satisfaction.

He had a little over a year until he would be put back under close scrutiny because of the entire Boy-Who-Lived hippogriff dung. He would still be able to get things done, but he would need to be a lot more careful. The Dursley's didn't really care what he did as long as he was submissive, obedient, his chores were done properly and on time, and he didn't make them look bad to the neighbors. If they went out somewhere as a family, he was simply left at the park unattended, and then told when to be back by. It was kind of surprising the ever-seeing neighbors hadn't noticed this longtime trend. After all the Dursley's couldn't help but brag about anything good happening to them, and a day out somewhere would be worth at least 10 minutes of Aunt Petunia telling Mrs. Next Door about whatever they were going to do, and this would usually be followed up by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon talking in loud voices about their plans while loading the car. Then Bragging about it when they came back home.

Surely someone must've seen him hanging out in the nearby park or on the playground, reading at the library, or simply walking around Little Whinging while his so-called loving family went out for the day to amusement parks, the circus, or simply out to dinner. He was a young child and shouldn't have been left unsupervised for longer periods of time. Or, in some cases. when they went away overnight, for the weekend, or during the summer vacation every year they spent an entire week or two somewhere without Harry. Granted, in the latter case he'd been left with Mrs. Figg, but still, it must've looked odd that the little family who always pretended to be perfectly normal would leave their nephew either at home or with a babysitter when they went on vacation. It was anything but normal, particularly if their accusations against him had been true.

-----

Six weeks later Delores Umbridge, Cornelius Fudge, and nine Marked Death Eaters had been killed, all of whom were high up in the ministry. All of them had been staged to look like accidents, but the sudden deaths had caused panic and many believed the Dark Lord was back and seeking revenge on those of his followers who had abandoned him or hadn't done enough to further the pureblood cause. Bloody idiots. But on the bright side, people were now on their guard and they were beginning to look more closely at all of the Death Eaters who had escaped justice right after their master had been killed nearly nine years previously. His eavesdropping had also told him people were demanding upgrades to the Defense Against the Dark Arts class for the next school year, which pleased him. One upgrade in the curriculum could easily lead to more.

Lucius Malfoy, his wife Narcissa, and their spoiled brat of a son, Draco, were still alive. For now. They would all be dead by the time Harry started his First Year at Hogwarts again, but for now, he'd leave them alone. His plans for Malfoy's, Dumbledore's, and some other people would take some time to set up. Besides, their plans and manipulations would reveal to Harry who else would need to be removed from the magical equation.

In the meantime, there were plenty of other people who needed to die, and not just Voldemort's cattle and supporters, but also Ministry employees and related sheeple, and, of course, many of the Dumbledore sycophants and certain members of the Order of the Phoenix in particular. If he was going to create a better society he would need to remove all of those who were standing in the way. Azkaban was not an option since Sirius had proven it was possible to escape from there, so any removal had to be permanent.

Currently, he was setting up a sting to reveal a certain rat to the magical public. If he remembered correctly, then 28th August was the busiest shopping day of the year as many of the parents chose to bring their children to Diagon Alley that day to buy school supplies and clothes for the new school year. Many of them even made it a family outing despite knowing it would be packed with people, and there would be children running around everywhere.  The end result was that the Alley was filled with witches and wizards the entire day, which suited him perfectly. He had something to reveal and what better way to show it off than in front of an alley filled to capacity?

Harry smirked to himself, he had gotten himself some of Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks by using the five-finger discount the day before at Zonko's Joke Shop since he didn't have access to galleons, and he didn't want to stoop so low that he stole money from magical people, not even from Tom's gang of masked terrorists. At least not yet.

He'd placed the firework strategically in a circle on top of a platform the ministry used when the Minister of Magic wanted to speak directly to the masses in Diagon Alley. In the middle, he'd placed a transparent box big enough to fit an overweight man of Pettigrew's approximate height but without space to maneuver much in. At the moment the Animagi was scurrying around the bottom of the box in his brown rat form, desperately trying to find a way to escape. He'd already told the traitor that his temporary prison cell didn't have an exit, but Pettigrew clearly didn't want to take his word for it.

The time-traveler was standing under a vastly improved Invisibility Spell not far from the stage, just watching the crowds and waiting for the opportune moment to spring his surprise on the unsuspecting masses. It was strange to be the observer for once, rather than the main attraction everyone kept staring at and whispering about. It was a nice feeling. It was also a good way for him to see the people acting more naturally than when they knew he was there and paying attention to them.

One of the many shocking things Hermione had told him while they were camping out trying to locate the Horcruxes was how many of the witches had kept trying to date him over the years, and not just for bragging rights, but because of the Potter wealth and influence. Some had even tried because they like Harry for himself. Even a few wizards had made some moves on him. He'd been oblivious, both because he was a young teenage boy unfamiliar with getting romantic attention but also because of what he now understood to be Dumbledore's interference. It hadn't helped that the girls (and boys) had been less than straightforward. It was a good thing they'd all believed Draco Malfoy was the Black Heir or it would've probably been a lot worse. The thought of Pansy Parkinson or Milicent Bulstrode trying to hang all over him like Parkinson had done to Malfoy during all of their school years made him shudder despite the Summer heat in the Alley.

When the clock turned 1300 the fireworks suddenly became visible as half of them abruptly shot up into the air in a shower of colorful lights and explosions, followed by half of the remaining one three minutes later, and finally the last fourth two minutes after that. Harry grinned. It wasn't as impressive as it would've been if it had been dark, but he could only work with what he had, and what he got was everyone's attention directed straight at the now visible box. Two minutes after the last of the fireworks had gone off the little brown rat inside the transparent box was forcefully turned back into a human being, specifically a traitorous wizard by the name of Peter Pettigrew.

Unfortunately, he hadn't factored in the crowd panicking, and in that moment of clarity, he admitted to himself how much of a mistake that had been as the crowd began screaming and running around more or less aimlessly in an attempt to get away. At least, Harry had had the good sense to place himself out of the way so he didn't get trampled by the panicking people. Some of the children in attendance were not as lucky. Harry quickly climbed up on a nearby crate and shot off a few charms to stop people from leaving through the Leaky Cauldron. He would've done the same to Knockturn Alley, but it was too far away. Meanwhile, the crowd was completely ignoring that the supposed war hero was trapped in a box and couldn't get out. They also seemed to have forgotten that they'd hailed him as a hero, not the dangerous criminal they were currently treating him as.

As terrified parents attempted to apparate their children away from Diagon Alley the Aurors finally apparated in more than ten minutes after the supposedly dead wizard had been shown alive and well to the unsuspecting shoppers. A number of masked wizards had apparated in five minutes after Pettigrew was put on display, and attempted to fire a number of destructive spell on the suddenly appearing wizard, but when it didn't have any effect they switched to their favorite sickly green curse. Unfortunately for them, it had no more success than their previous attempts. The green light simply washed harmlessly over the surface of the box causing the terrified man inside to wt himself. The reason it didn't affect him at all was that the spell to reverse the Animagi transformation had an added Levitation Charm attached. So as he wasn't touching the box, any spell cast on it wouldn't help or harm him. The masked people vanished into the crowd as soon as they saw the red-robed Aurors finally arriving. The magical police didn't even seem to notice. Imbecilic amateurs.

As the magical populous dissolved into hysteria, Harry Potter, the supposed savior of the British Magical world, was standing calmly off to the side merely watching the utter chaos he had deliberately caused. Rather than being upset, he watched and made mental notes regarding response time, who turned up, who didn't turn up, and how long it took. He also scribbled down notes in a spiral notebook he had brought with him, regarding who attempted to open the box and how. All eight of the Aurors attempted to get the supposedly deceased wizard out but to no avail. An entire hour after the first group of Aurors showed up the new minister finally made an appearance, looking mightily annoyed at the interruption of whatever he'd been doing previously. And didn't that say quite a bit about the man?

The new Minister of Magic was tall, had short, brown hair, hazel-blue eyes, and looked to be slightly overweight if the bulge around his midsection was any indication. His robes were a dark navy-blue with an elegant cut, which made him look commanding and very much in charge. Appearance-wise, this man looked more like a leader of a nation than Cornelius Fudge ever had. His confident demeanor clinched it and caused the frightened crowd to immediately look to him for guidance. It was about time someone tried some crowd control. Hopefully, he was also a better leader or he'd meet an untimely end just like his predecessor.

The unknown wizard quickly took control of the situation and sure he was given a situation report. The Lead Auror, a man Harry recognized as Ambrose Irwin, gave a succinct report by the looks of it, which was quickly followed by the Minister attempting to open the bix with the same luck as everyone else before him. The lack of a viable result worsened the man's mood considerably, but at least he ordered someone else to come and help out. Afterward, the Minister spoke directly to the masses in the Alley and managed to calm them down somewhat.

The next hour was filled with quite a few people apparating in, attempting to open the box, fail, and then disapparated. An increasing number of witches and wizards wore the distinctive robes of Gringotts Curse Breakers. None of them seemed to notice or care that there was still a large crowd in front of the stage. A crowd which included quite a few children and teenagers. Guess he knew what the main topic would be at Hogwarts once the new school year began in a few days.

It took nearly two hours after the initial revelation for the Director of Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones, to arrive. What the heck had she been doing? From what he'd heard about her, she was extremely by the book and should, by all sensible reasons, have arrived with the first wave of Aurors. The second wave at the latest. Madam Bones tried and failed to make even a dent in Harry's magical box and went straight into a huddle with the Gringotts Curse Breakers, the Minister, who Harry really needed to learn the name of, the Head Auror, and some of their fellow Aurors. A privacy shield went up around the group right after and what followed seemed to be a lot of angry arguments and hand waving.

Shortly after, Irwin left the huddle and brought a small group of Aurors over to the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron and they began working on getting it open. Twenty minutes later they managed to break down the weak Parselbarrier Harry had put up to slow down the egress from the Alley. Once the entrance was open they began shepherding people into the pub and either through the public floo or out into Muggle London in small groups. The Apparition Point inside the pub was probably also frequently used to get the witches and wizards home. He always forgot that the only people who could apparate inside Diagon Alley were Aurors and high-ranking members of the Ministry. And, of course, those who either bribed someone into allowing them the secret or stole it.

Eventually, Albus Dumbledore decided to grace everyone with his presence. However, much to everyone's surprise, and Dumbledore's own shock, he had no more success than all of those who had tried before him. Beside the stage, Harry was trying to control his laughter and mostly failing. The Durlsey's were terrible people, so he had to get his kicks somewhere and Dumbledore's public humiliation was a great place to start. The old man clearly didn't agree, as the anger actually showed on his lined face causing many of the spectators to back away in surprise and shock to see their benevolent leader show such negative emotions, and in public no less.

Snape's demise had made the Daily Prophet four days after the fact, and the magical shopping district had been filled with happy students and even some grateful former students. It turned out Dumbledore had been somewhere out of the country for the ICW at the time and Ministry employees hadn't made it to Spinner's End until it was already swarming with police. Or, rather, 'please-men' as the purebloods insisted on calling them.

Aurors and the Obliviation Squad had turned up in full force and essentially caused an even bigger mess with the muggles. The end of the story had involved a large number of Ministry workers, Obliviators, muggle police, and an increasingly angry Albus Dumbledore who had portkeyed straight into the crime scene. It had been sorted out, mainly with help from a group of Muggleborns, but the aged Leader of the Light hadn't come out of it looking too good.

What amused Harry was that none of the law enforcement seemed to care much for the remains of the curious spectators other than trying to keep them from getting too close to the stage. About a third of the original shoppers were still there and watching everything. That meant covering this up was not an option, but there would probably be some kind of 'interesting' spin on it in the Daily Prophet. So he needed to get a newspaper tomorrow. He blinked and dropped his head into his palm. Why hadn't he thought of that earlier? A quick Shadow Walk and he could have the day's morning newspaper, every day. He just needed a safe place to hide his newspapers in case someone got curious. Or another bag he could charm to keep them in. It wouldn't be as organized, but it would do for now.

It took another 40 minutes before Dumbledore and a group of curse breakers managed to cooperate enough to move the transparent box away from Diagon Alley and presumably to somewhere inside the Ministry. Hopefully straight into one of the holding cells there, but it could be a fancy quest suite for all he knew. Pettigrew was supposedly a war hero after all, and logic and intelligence was not something the British Magical World was known to exhibit.

While they were bust trying to open the box, Harry Shadow Walked to the Headmaster's office while still invisible. A moment later he was standing in front of Fawkes' empty perch. A rapid look around the room revealed the bird wasn't there and neither were most of the portraits. He hadn't the foggiest idea of where the Headmaster had kept his Invisibility Cloak so he just began by going through the big ornate desk first. Unlocking spells in Parseltongue opened every single one of the closed ones and even revealed a couple he didn't know where there. When he didn't find it there he moved on to the cabinet nearby, the same one which had housed the Pensive in the future, and once it was opened it turned out the old man had clearly kept it there for a long time. On impulse, he took it, stored memories and all, and put it into the bottomless bag he'd brought along.

He systematically went through the entire office as quickly as he could, and while he found many interesting things his Cloak wasn't there. After hesitating for a couple of minutes he went into Dumbledore's private quarters and went straight to the wardrobe on the other side of the room. After nearly getting blinded by all the bright colored cloaks and other garments he began flipping through them and to his surprise he found it in between a garishly pink cloak and a midnight blue traveling cloak. Once he thought about it, it was a pretty obvious place to keep it.

As he was already in there he continued going through the rest of the room and was almost done when he heard hurried footsteps coming from the office. All his spellwork was still active, but he rapidly moved into a darkened corner regardless and Shadow Walked out of there some twenty seconds before Albus Dumbledore ran into his private chambers, wand raised and lit with some spell. No doubt the remaining portraits had gone to their other frames in search of the Headmaster to warn him of the intruder in his office and private rooms.

Meanwhile, Harry appeared in the Chamber of Secrets many floors below. more specifically, he appeared in Salazar Slytherin's personal office. Seven seconds after his arrival torches all around the room burst into flames, bathing the room in light for the first time in a millennium. A prompt perusal of the office revealed it was free of dust and other debris, which meant it had most likely been under a stasis field or shield, which had been released upon his arrival. The furniture was clearly antique by now, but it was clearly of good quality and in fairly good condition.

The most prominent feature in the office was a large black ornately-made writing desk, with dark green inlays and silver accents. The entire wall behind it and the wall on the left side were covered by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the same style. Every third bookshelf was made to store scrolls instead of books. The right wall was filled entirely by a drawer compartment. Above it was a large portrait of what could only be the Slytherin family as he recognized the man in the center back row of the painting as the same man there were statues of back in the main Chamber. On each side of the portrait was a crest; on the left was the familiar Hogwarts crest and on the right was the Slytherin family crest. On the floor was a simple but clearly expensive green carpet. Behind each of the torches was a mirror, reflecting the light further into the room and giving the illusion the room was bigger than it truly was. The office had no doors or windows, real or magical.

Harry didn't know what he'd been expecting, but this really wasn't it. It was comfortable and calming, not spooky and scary like he'd been half-way expecting due to his previous experience down in the Chamber. When he walked around the positively huge desk he found a large black chair with the Slytherin crest at the upper part of the back. He carefully pulled it backward, half expecting it to crumble into dust under his hand, but it came away easily. He tested its strength, both the back and the seat, and found it sturdy. The seat didn't have a cushion or anything like it, it was rather unyielding. then again, fro, what he remembered from his history classes, back then chairs were hard and straight-backed. Pillows were reserved for sofas and fainting coaches.

He sat down and pulled out his loot from Dumbledore's office, starting with his father's Invisibility Cloak, It was rightfully his by inheritance, so it wasn't theft but he doubted the old wizard would see it that way. Everything else he'd taken, on the other hand, was definitely stolen. The next thing he removed from his bag was the Pensive. When he looked into it after he'd set it down he was shocked to see it contained the liquid/smoke-like substance he recognized as memories. The old coot would most definitely be hacked off about that. Viewing memories, no matter how tempting, would have to wait though. He had more important things to get done.

The next dozen or so objects he removed were books, specifically on the Mind Arts, Animagi, and Power Enhancements. He'd taken a number of other random books as well, just in case the thefts were discovered or the Parselillusions on them failed. The next things he removed were the little puffing instruments he'd long since suspected were connected to him somehow. He'd simply grabbed all of them, not knowing if they were all connected to him or to someone else. Prue had confirmed some of them told Dumbledore if he was healthy, injured, using magic, and one which told the Great Manipulator if Harry was still alive.

She'd advised him against destroying them right away or even removing them from the Castle, which was the main reason he was currently in the depts of Hogwarts rather in St. James' Park or even at Privet Drive. The devices would stay in Slytherin's office along with the other things he'd stolen, except for the book on the Mind Arts and the book on Animagi. Both of them were fairly thin, more like booklets than proper books, so they should be a fast read.

Harry stacked the rest of the books on the drawer armament and the placed everything else neatly beside them. The only things he intended to bring with him was the Cloak and the booklets. The Pensive and the other stuff would be safe down here. Actually, it was probably safer down here than anywhere else.

Just before he was about to leave he began leafing through a random book he'd pulled out of the nearest bookshelf, and after a few minutes of re-orienting himself through the Olde English, he was hooked. Absent-mindedly he walked slowly back around the large piece of furniture, laid the book down as he sat down and got comfortable in Salazar's hard chair, and promptly immersed himself in the new/old book.