Chapter 1: 12 Unsanctioned Deaths
This is a response to Reptilia28's Don't Fear the Reaper Challenge.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, and Charmed belongs to Aaron Spelling.
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.
Chapter 2: Gathering Magical Trinkets
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.