Natural Order by moshpit

Summary: If you’ve got a chance to do it over again, why putz around? You know the game, you know the players, and you know the goal. It’s time for Double Jeopardy, where the scores can really change.
Rating: R starstarstarstarhalf-star
Categories: Post-HBP, Buried Gems
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2008.01.08
Updated: 2008.01.08


Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Hello Again
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Royal Gifts
Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Frosty
Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Tangled
Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Home

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Hello Again

Author's Notes: See the end.

“Oh, hell no, bitch!” Harry barely noticed the words he shouted as he silently Summoned Voldemort’s smouldering carcass back to his feet. The enfeebled once near-immortal form had been trying to limp away from the scene of his defeat. “You’re not getting away like that, Tommy boy.”

It was with pleasure that he channelled extra power into a Cutting Charm that was aimed at the broken figure’s knees, neatly amputating both legs. With a quick flick, the wounds were sealed, just like the missing wand arm on his foe.

“We’re going to play a game, Tommy,” Harry said with glee, “and you’re going to just love it. I know I will.” Harry gauged the distance carefully and then really pumped his magical strength into a Banishing Charm, sending the crumpled body into a tree on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. “Ooh, too bad, I didn’t make the goal.” At the least, Voldemort would not be escaping any time soon, his body now far too broken for even accidental magic to move it anywhere about England now.

Harry whistled and absently strolled over to the shattered body. “Did that hurt, Tommy?” There was only a glazed look in the red slits that passed as eyes. “Awww, that’s no fun. Enervate!” When the form on the ground let out a high-pitched cry, Harry giggled. “Welcome back, Tommy. Feeling better?”

Blood trickled out of Voldemort’s mouth, but Harry really would have been hard pressed to care at all. “You know, Hermione truly was a brilliant witch.” Harry carefully moved his wand in the pattern she had taught him, silently willing the magic to do what he wanted. He was richly rewarded when Voldemort’s ears lit up with the blue flames that Hermione had once been so good with. It took a different variant to make something living burn like that, but she had been the smartest witch in the school. “It’s a shame you had her killed like that. It means I have to make sure you suffer more than she did.”

Harry did his best to ignore the pitiful mewling coming from the once proud Dark Lord. “Really, try to be an adult about it. You’re crying like a firstie caught by Filch the caretaker.”

Voldemort had no idea just how lucky he was that Ginny had died painlessly, otherwise Harry would have spent years finding new ways to torture a human body. Her death would still be paid for in blood, but it required nothing beyond what Harry felt compelled to do for Hermione. The brutal savagery imparted upon his virtual sister had been beyond even what animals might do to each other. How much more so was it when a human, graced with the power of introspection, did such to any other living thing, let alone a sentient one?

When Riddle’s ears were fully melted and charred away, with the flames working their way around his head, Harry extinguished them. “There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?” It mattered not at all that the figure would never hear any sounds again. Between the blisters and the mass of distorted flesh where there once were ears, it was nearly certain that no intelligible hearing was possible by the broken body before him.

The next bit of transfiguration required a fair level of precision and control, so Harry paused to take a deep breath. He moved his wand through the proper arcs and conjured a large tub around Voldemort’s body. Slowly filling it with water, he was content when there were a good two inches in the bottom. It was tricky, but he successfully created a small magical pump that caused the tub to act as an inverted fountain, sucking water from the bottom and pouring it in a uniform ring from the top edge back inside the tub. The running waterfall would prevent anything from escaping. The water was shallow so that the Petrification spell would not drown his now-paltry foe. After all, he would be deprived of the show should the broken body flail about.

“Before we move on to the next little bit, Tommy, I need to make sure this works. I hope it’s as good for you as it was for dear, departed Bella.” Harry cast the first SuperSensory Charm. “That’s ten.” Then he did it again, careful to layer it on top of the first one. “That’s one hundred.” Four more times, and Harry smiled. “There we are, one million times amplification of your senses. Let’s just test that, right?” Harry lazily flicked out the Tickling Jinx and watched as Voldemort’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.

Lifting the curse, Harry gave him a smile that he was sure Umbridge would have envied. “Just one more check, there, Tommy, before we move on.” Harry Transfigured a bit of twig on the ground into a fat, ripe Habenero pepper. Gently picking it up, he jammed it forcefully into Voldemort’s mouth, taking great care to tear it open on the teeth. This time, one of Voldemort’s eyes actually did bulge out of its socket briefly before they both closed in unconsciousness.

After a fast Scouring Charm into the mouth and an Enervate, Voldemort’s eyes were open, and Harry was surprised that there were actually tears coming out. Who would ever have guessed that Voldemort could cry, and, moreover, that if he did so it would not be in blood?

He knew Tom was unable to hear him giggling, but that was all right. This was about vengeance, not about gloating final speeches and lessons on how master plans needed no explanation. The final stage was ready. It was with almost casual ease that he enacted the NEWT-level bit of Transfiguration, and Tom Riddle’s clothes became, ounce for ounce, a horde of fire ants. His body was the only island of safety from the water, and the ants would not be amused by the continuous disturbance of the fountain.

Harry ignored the wildly spinning eyes and the swarming mass of ants floating up and latching on to their victim. The pallid skin was turning an angry, bright red as the naked form was covered in acidic bites. Harry remembered reading about the invasive pests and how they were slowly taking over parts of the world that were non-native habitats, destroying local ecological balances. Only cold weather stopped them, so should any few escape his water barrier here in what was once merry olde England, they would not last out the winter. That was assuming that what was left of cratered England would have cared in the first place.

Ron had looked as red as his hair when the goblins’ protections around the Horcrux in the Lestrange vault had finally killed him. It was a terrible way to go, burned to death while buried alive by Galleons. It was ironic, in some bizarre and horrid way, that Ron, confused but loyal in the end, had died in a pile of what he had complained so bitterly about never having.

Voldemort’s eyes were no longer thrashing about. Indeed, they were not even visible under the swarming mass of ants. As far as Harry could tell, his foe was no longer breathing. The shifting and bulging mass of ants was far from finished, however, and that was just fine in Harry’s opinion. It was somewhat depressing, though, to realise that Voldemort had been allergic to the bite of the fire ant — a pity that his death had come far too soon.

Harry settled himself down by the tub, content to wait for the ants to devour the remnants of the worst Dark Lord in history. He was unwilling to risk anything remaining behind that some misguided follower might try to revive or use as an emblem of power. Resigned to a long wait, he Summoned the book he had found on temporal theory and went back to his reading. He really wished Hermione had survived, since she was always the smartest person around, and this book held the key for the crazy idea that had been hounding his brain for years now. Well, usually she was the smartest witch ever, and he could easily forgive her occasionally hormone-induced slips. He had, after all, been the victim of his own hormones a time or two.

oOo oOo oOo

It was dark, stuffy, and smelt of horrid things when he opened his eyes. Sitting up, he slammed his head sharply into the ceiling, and he paused to wonder at the situation. Reaching out, he realised that he had found himself stuck within his cupboard once again. The utter darkness made it impossible to see, but the long-since memorised contours of sheet rock, nails, and storage bins made it absolutely certain that he was back. His final act of killing himself had done the trick, and now he was here. Or there. Whatever, he was back, and back in a way that would cause the world to change forever.

When Hermione had died, so had most of the great Horcrux Hunt. It had taken a few more years, years in which he buried himself in the few books that had survived the fall of Hogwarts. Britain was a smoking ruin, and Voldemort had been working on replicating the effect on the continent. Harry had been on the run ever since the fiasco that led to the fall of Hogwarts, carrying the diadem and doing his best to learn more magic as fast as possible. Harry knew he had no chance in a flat-out duel. What he needed was an ambuscade. An ambush with impeccable bait. Which was him. Or, rather, a Polyjuiced and Imperiused Snatcher that looked like him, right down to the faded and worn pants.

Getting up, Harry flicked out his hand, smashing apart the cupboard door that kept him locked up. Oh, how he loved wandless magic. Snape had shown him the secret, reluctantly, as Harry scoured the dying man’s mind with a forced Legilimency rapport. No matter how, Snape had shown him in those memories of his mother that it was, after all, possible to control magic without a wand. Harry had spent those years on the run learning more than just wanded magic, and this knowledge was going to pay off — pay off in ways that went beyond what anyone expected or understood. And it was all starting right now.

If he had done the calculations correctly, and Dumbledore’s portrait made it clear that he had, he was back on 22nd July, just over a week before his birthday, and two days before his first letter was due from Hogwarts. One minute after midnight, on 22nd July, that was. The day he was leaving the Dursleys forever.

The rapid thumping and stomping of his uncle storming down the stairs was amusing in a way that Harry had never felt before. Here was the man who had so terrified him, who had starved him, who had heaped abuse on him in emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical ways. It was odd to find himself in his younger body, looking up at the towering and very wide bulk of an obese xenophobe with anger-management issues. The man was an utter moron, and Harry decided that the actions should fit the body.

Before his uncle could roar at him, Harry levelled a wandless and silent Obliviate! at the rotund man. Vernon should now be at the mental equivalent of third form, with everything since that moment lost to a slate wiped clean. Not that Harry thought there had been much there to begin with, all told.

“Who’re you?” Vernon looked around wildly at the sound, at the house, and then at his own body. “What the bloody hell? Mum! Muuuuummmmyyy!” Vernon took off running up the stairs, stumbling every few steps, and Harry laughed as he walked out the front door, charming it shut with a Permanent Sticking Charm. He knew the world was his oyster, but the reality was that he had no desire to have it. He wanted his friends, he wanted his life, and he wanted his girlfriend. The rest of the world could bugger off and leave him alone — well, once he finished his job, at any rate. If his Aunt Petunia requested help, Harry knew she would have to admit why he might have had such a nasty outburst of ‘accidental magic’ directed at his uncle, and he was sure that McGonagall and Dumbledore would love to hear that explanation.

With a sharp twist, Harry disappeared from the front garden of Number Four, Privet Drive, only to reappear outside the Leaky Cauldron. Focusing his wandless magic, Harry Glamoured himself into the shape of an adult, looking much like a cross between a twenty-year-old Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, before he walked in. The place was quiet, two lone patrons at dark tables in different corners, with a low fire burning merrily in the central hearth. A person Harry had never seen before was behind the bar, reading a heavily dog-eared copy of the Prophet. The man looked up at him curiously.

“I need a room for a month,” Harry said, knowing the glamour would mask his voice as well as his body. “Sorry for the hour. I’ve got to run down to Gringotts to get the money for it, so how much do I need?”

The man shook his head with open puzzlement. “Gringotts doesn’t open ‘til eight, lad. G’on up to room, err,” he paused to pull out a key, “room seven, and you can settle up with Tom in the morning, eh?”

Harry had forgotten how open and friendly the wizarding world had been before the apocalypse. No matter. It worked in his favour now, at any rate. A quick pop to Gringotts, a bit of blood, a fifty Galleon fee, and he would have all new locks on his vault and a handy new key. He just needed to be sure he was in Muggle London by about nine in the morning two days hence so that his letter from Hogwarts would not be addressed to someplace magical. With a very hearty “Can you have me woken at half-past seven? Thanks,” Harry happily trundled off to bed. It was a relief to be whole, away from the Dursleys for all time, and ready to crack this oyster open like a rotten egg.

oOo oOo oOo

The thumping on his door roused him abruptly from his dreamless sleep. Another advantage to being on the run for years and studying magic was that he had found ways to do the same thing most potions did but without the potion — and that meant without the nasty side-effects. The Dreamless Sleep Charm, as he had dubbed it, was a blessing to know. The tormented dreams, shattered fragments of memories mixed with his mind’s own vitriolic substances, made sleep a hell on earth. Or at least, they used to, before the routine casting of the Charm gave him sound sleep again.

Harry had just over one month before the school year began, and he knew he needed it. His body was weak, his diet had been terrible, and he absolutely had to find out where people lived in this day and age, before everything became a blasted, rubble-filled pit of death. The forthcoming month-and-change would get plenty of healthy meals into him, would let him begin to recover some of his physical conditioning, and would give him time to stealthily locate the people he needed to. At the same time, as his health and strength improved, so would his ability to finesse his magic again — once he had a wand, at any rate.

As soon as he obtained his new Gringotts access, he had things to buy: special toys, books, an official wand, a less-than-official wand, his companion and guardian angel Hedwig, and all of that was not considering the clothes and other basics he needed to obtain.

He had a list of requirements to fill, and they all started today, when he would begin reforming magical England into the place it should be — a place where people like the barkeep Tom and his odd-but-sweet friend-to-be Luna could live happily, regardless of their differences from the rest of the world. And it was his job to make it that way, no matter what.

oOo oOo oOo

So far, Harry’s plans were playing out. Hogwarts was unaware of his newly forced independence, and the change in Vernon Dursley had, it would seem, gone unnoticed. That was more likely due to the Dursleys’ fear of explaining what might have triggered him to run away so suddenly, but the exact reason was uninteresting. Harry further surmised that his immediate reply owl carrying his acceptance of Hogwarts enrolment stemmed any questions that Dumbledore might have directed at Mrs Figg had Harry not responded. He had spent some quality time in Knockturn Alley and now had a second wand that responded almost as well as his phoenix-feather wand. They would both be quite satisfactory before he picked up his third wand.

His trunk was a pleasant three-compartment one, as he had been unwilling to spend outrageous sums of money for a seven-compartment model. Three was more than enough. That translated to one compartment for his public life, one for his private life, and one for his toy collection, most of which also came from Knockturn Alley. That last compartment had taken over a week of enchantments to make it strong enough for him to be comfortable with it, and the few items in there were — as yet — no challenge to the protections.

As he stood in the shadows, he enjoyed watching the passers-by. King’s Cross was bustling with human activity and life, something he was still readjusting to in some ways. His covert trip to Hogwarts, on the other hand, had been surreal in ways he was unprepared to fully contemplate. The castle had not been a crater with no stone bigger than a fingernail left behind. The town beside it had been flourishing, not covered in dried blood and dismembered human remains. It had been worth the risk of discovery, however, to see it with his own eyes and to adjust to the old reality, his new reality, that the school and the village were still there. Of course, filching his father’s Cloak from the office of the Headmaster had been the real point, but he was happy that the tears he had battled upon seeing his old home were over and done with. It would be too hard to explain later in the day if he was overcome with emotion at his supposed first arrival at the best school for magical learning in the United Kingdom and possibly all of Europe.

He caught a flicker of red out of the corner of his eye, and there she was. Ginny was walking beside Molly. They were talking quietly, but Harry could tell what it was all about already. Ginny wanted to go, her mother was telling her no, and Ginny felt that she was being left behind for eternity. No matter. Harry planned to change all of that in short order. Hedwig hooted softly, and he would almost swear his owl was glaring at him for his blatant interest in the youngest Weasley.

Ignoring the odd look from his owl, he waited until all of the Weasleys had departed through the barrier and then gave them another five minutes by his watch. That was more than enough time for the boys to get on the train to escape their mum, leaving only Ginny and Molly on the platform. Harry had almost four full minutes before the train would leave, so he rushed through the platform barrier, wheels spinning in his head.

Molly Weasley was standing by the windows of one carriage, shouting at her boys to release some creature that was fighting to get out through the windows. Ron was nowhere to be seen, but Ginny was standing forlornly by the cart Harry knew the family had been using. With a careful air of confusion, he deliberately tripped and fell down next to her.

“Oh! Are you all right?” Her voice was high and a tad squeaky, but that was fine by Harry. He was just happy to hear it again.

“Yeah,” he said, slowly getting to his feet. “Sorry ‘bout that. I’m Harry.” He stuck his hand out, but Ginny had gone terribly pale.

Her eyes were glued to his forehead, and he would have sworn he heard an “Eeep!”. With an exaggerated wink, Harry decided to force the issue. “You are?”

Ginny seemed to get herself under control, blushed furiously, and slowly took his hand. “Ginny. Ginny Weasley.”

Harry gave her hand a squeeze and let go, eyeing the clock on the platform telling him that he had two minutes to get on the train. With his trunk under a Featherweight Charm, he would have no problems, but he wanted to get something fixed now, rather than letting it go. “It’s nice to meet you, Ginny. Will we get to meet again soon? Or just at the end of the year?”

The whistle of the train was loud and shrill, and Harry hefted his trunk. “Yes!” Ginny was practically jumping on her toes at the idea he had blatantly put in front of her. “We can meet here when you come back at Christmas!”

Harry winked again, noting the flush that brought out, and said, “I’ll be looking forward to it. Bye, Ginny!” He hopped on the train as Molly stalked back to her daughter, clutching some flailing, furry creature with about seventeen legs too many. Ginny paid her no mind, however, as it was obvious to Harry that she was chasing after the train and waving to him. Harry stuck his head out of the small stairwell on the carriage and waved back. “See you at Christmas! Bye!”

Harry strolled down the last carriage, knowing where he would find Ron. This time, however, Ron was by himself, since Harry had not been there, waiting to be discovered. With a smile on his face, Harry pushed his way into the compartment and waved to the redhead. “Wow,” he said, “with hair like that, you must be a Weasley. Right?”

Ron looked completely perplexed for a moment before he nodded slowly.

“I met Ginny Weasley right before I got on the train. She’s nice, but we didn’t have time to talk. I’m Harry, Harry Potter.” Harry stuck his hand out again.

The Weasleys, Harry decided, were rather similar in their reactions to some events. The eyes glued to his forehead again left him somewhat annoyed. “Yeah, yeah, it’s a scar, right, and you’re a Weasley. But which Weasley?”

Ron flushed brightly before he looked down. It took a moment, but he finally looked back up and then shook Harry’s hand quickly. “I’m Ron.”

“Well, Ron,” he said brightly, “it’s nice to meet you. D’you mind if I join you? Everywhere else is full.”

Ron mutely shook his head and then darted his eyes to the floor.

“Don’t worry about it, Ron.” Ron looked up, but Harry could tell he was still embarrassed. “I’d no idea, see, that I was known at all. I lived with these really nasty Muggles after my parents were killed,” Harry started as the train moved out of London. He was going to set Ron straight on all the avenues of jealousy, as soon as possible.

oOo oOo oOo

Malfoy’s visit, if possible, had been even more annoying than it was the first time Harry suffered through the arrogant wanker’s arrival. It was right after Malfoy left the compartment that Harry motioned Ron to be quiet and stuck his head into the corridor. He had a perfect shot at the blond idiot, and he made sure his arm was completely hidden from Ron’s view before he extracted his unregistered wand. One silent and time-delayed Bladder Busting Hex later, Harry sat back down with a glance at his watch.

“What was that for?” Ron asked, obviously puzzled at the behaviour.

“Just making sure he was leaving. I though we might try to lock the door if he was coming back, yeah?”

Ron shrugged dismissively and went back to explaining Quidditch rules to him. Harry enjoyed sitting with his friend, and he spent quite a bit of time making the appropriate responses and asking the right questions. In reality, however, he wondered how he could reset Ron’s behaviour and get his future best friend to see how good his life was, despite any issues of older brothers, money, or fame. It was a way to pass the time, at any rate.

Thirteen minutes after Malfoy had left their compartment, Harry stood and stretched theatrically. “Wizard’s Chess sounds brilliant, Ron, really. I’ve got to find the loo, though, so I’ll be back in a bit. If you can set up the board, I’ll give it a go when I get back, right?”

Ron nodded enthusiastically and waved Harry out the door. “Sure, Harry. You’ll see how wicked it is!”

Harry chuckled as he left the compartment and started walking up the carriage. As he reached the door to the next carriage, he looked around quickly — no one was there to see him. With one swift motion, he covered himself with his Invisibility Cloak, and then he hurried to the very first carriage. There were a couple of students he had to dodge around as they moved about the corridors, but Harry knew Malfoy liked to claim the car closest to the front. Once the meetings were over, none of the prefects or Head Students wanted to be near that car, except perhaps Percy, as it reminded them of their duty when they would rather be sitting with their friends.

Harry arrived, slightly out of breath, just in time to see Malfoy rush into the corridor and jump into the loo that Harry was standing by. Harry waited patiently, listening for the sound of water in the sink, whereupon he gave the ferret a slow ten-count before slamming open the door. A fast Petrificus Totalus left Malfoy stiff as a board, leaning against one wall, while Harry closed the door behind him and locked it.

“Hello, Malfoy. Fancy meeting you here.” Harry grinned at him in a positively evil way. “We’re going to play a little party game. It’s called Twenty Memories. I’m going to look in your mind, little ferret, and if you’re innocent, you’re free to go — with a Memory Charm, of course. Otherwise, well, I’m afraid you’re in for a really bad day, kid.”

Harry had never mastered Legilimency, but he had no need to. He knew enough ways to get around someone’s ability to concentrate on mental shields that it would be trivial to get into the young Malfoy’s mind. Almost immediately, he began searching for memories of learning the Dark Arts.

To his surprise, Malfoy had not been taught any Dark magic at this point. Harry had long suspected it, but it was not there at all. Malfoy’s father had been teaching him the glory of using Dark magic, from what Harry could tell, and the man positively expounded on the bravery and cunning of the Malfoy family to embrace what others naively feared. The pureblood supremacy dogma was already firmly entrenched, even though the younger Malfoy had not actually used Dark magic directly. That left Harry more comfortable about looking deeper into Malfoy’s memory.

He found memories of exploring the hidden room of Dark artefacts under the study floor, and he watched as Lucius tried to teach his son how to be a proper pureblood. But it all came to a stop when he found enough to make him nearly retch. Lucius had supervised teaching Draco how to torture animals. Burns, cuts, dismemberment - the young Malfoy had participated and found it . . . exciting, almost arousing. The deliberate cruelty to Dobby, the elf who died to save Harry’s life, left him shaking in rage. Draco’s obvious enjoyment made Harry feel sick in so many ways that he wanted to hurl whatever bile was in his stomach all over the floor.

In the future, he knew, Malfoy was a coward and a fool, trapped in a reality which was far from what he wanted it to be. But he was also too weak to fight, to escape, or to even try to do the right thing. He bumbled from one cruelty to another, killing hundreds along the way. Death Eaters brought into Hogwarts, raids on houses of rebels, sessions of Muggle killing . . . all without a hint of courage or rational thought.

The tiny room and the palpable fear radiating from the ferret were too much to deal with, so Harry absently Vanished the frosted glass window with a touch of wandless magic to let fresh air in. It might help him think of a solution to the problem.

Beyond his incompetence and the wake of death and near-death that followed Malfoy’s movements, there was a further, over-arching issue that was fighting inside Harry. Malfoy had, in the end, been the one who killed Ginny. Ginny, at Harry’s plea, had stayed to watch over the Room of Requirement while he and Hermione tried to find the diadem. Ginny had still been devastated over the loss of Ron, but she had known that the game was for keeps. Apparently, so had Voldemort’s younger followers. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle had killed her just so they could chase after Hermione and Harry.

Now, it was obvious that the pattern was already set. How many more might suffer if the boy lived? How many lives might be damaged? Even if the father were removed as a source of influence, the indoctrination to bribery, supremacy, and sadism would pass on from this child. Harry looked out the window, studying the terrain the train was soon to cover, as he tried to determine a course of action. It took a lot out of Harry to make his decision, but at the last, the decision was made.

“Evidence, Malfoy, is something you really don’t want left behind.” Harry used his unregistered wand to silently mummify Malfoy in his own robes, taking extreme care that no space was uncovered, not even the toes. With that done, Harry then Transfigured all of Malfoy’s clothing into solid lead. The floor creaked dangerously, protesting against the massive weight resting on so small a footprint. After one permanent Disillusionment Charm and one temporary Engorgement Charm to widen the window, Harry levitated the entombed Malfoy heir out the window and scanned the ground ahead. As they came to a bridge over a broad river, Harry dropped the Levitation Charm and watched Malfoy disappear into the murky waters. Two flicks later, the tiny frosted window was restored, the only evidence of Malfoy’s whereabouts stored in his unregistered wand.

It was without a spring in his step that Harry went back to play Ron’s favourite game. Harry knew that in some games, it was impossible to win, even if you paid any price. Playing chess against Ron was just one of them.

oOo oOo oOo


The mechanism of how Harry got back was liberated from Viridian’s story, NoFP. Credit to him for the mechanics, though I’ve no idea who was the first to come up with the do-it-over idea in HP-fanfic. I also took the liberty of using his notion of an apocalyptic world before Harry came back — it’s the only way that it would make sense, really.

This will be a very short fic — just five chapters, and each chapter fairly short.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

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Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Royal Gifts

Author's Notes: See the end.

Ron was standing on his right, and Hermione was next to Ron. Neville was on Harry’s left, and as far as Harry was concerned, everything was just about perfect. Crabbe and Goyle were huddled together with the pug-faced Parkinson heiress, alternately whispering and looking about urgently.

McGonagall was slowly working her way through the names. As she called out the names of the brainless thugs that were Malfoy’s sycophantic followers, and later his witless masters, they were blatantly sullen in their loss of a leader. Harry caught Snape looking around furtively, but nothing had been said yet. When the man’s gaze locked onto Harry during one of his sweeps of the first-years, Harry just smiled broadly and waved vigorously, trusting his Occlumency to be sufficient to handle any probe. The deep scowl was the only outward sign of his success, but Harry knew it was his own vacant smile that retarded Snape’s further efforts in watching the new arrivals.

“Granger, Hermione!”

Harry was amused when Ron loudly whispered “Go for Gryffindor!” as she left. Her light flush as she took her seat and the Hat was deposited upon her brain casing was a tell-tale sign that things really were changing quickly. After Hermione’s initial appearance and departure, Harry had speculated openly with Ron what it must be like for an only child, raised by Muggles and never hearing of magic, to suddenly find herself alone and friendless in a scary new world. There were no known rules and no comfort of familiarity, and humans feared change. Harry had taken pains to exaggerate his own discomfort and to portray Ron’s unwitting nobility in befriending poor Harry as the true act of compassion mixed with bravery.

When Hermione had come back near the end of the ride, Ron had boldly stepped up to the plate and invited her to join them. The impromptu discussion of the pranks his twin brothers pulled, along with the realisation that his failed spell had come from them, had shortly left them all laughing together. When Neville looked in on them, claiming to be after Hermione, Harry had encouraged him to join them in their compartment.

“Malfoy, Draco!”

McGonagall’s voice cut across Harry’s idle reminiscence, and he was amused to see her stern composure take a turn for the worse.

“Malfoy, Draco!”

Her voice called out again, but this time it carried a faint hint of disapproval. At this point, most of the students and staff were looking around in an exaggerated manner, as though they expected the boy to arrive from thin air.

“Malfoy, Draco?”

As the silence stretched out, Harry did his best to think of anything other than an unmarked, watery grave that was likely to never be found. It was far more than the future-Malfoy deserved, but the pre-emptive strike against current-Malfoy was one more thing his mind would use against him if he let dreams come.

The silence was finally broken as Snape and Hagrid converged on Dumbledore and held a quiet conversation. Snape returned to his seat with a frank look of utmost loathing on his face, while Hagrid bustled out the back door of the Great Hall and disappeared. McGonagall, at a gesture from Dumbledore, continued calling names.

“Moon, Levi!”

A rather short and non-descript boy ran up to the stool, and Harry was distracted by Ron whispering in his ear. “What d’you reckon that was about?”

“Dunno,” Harry said after a moment. “Maybe he fell asleep and didn’t get off the train?”

Ron laughed quietly, obviously amused by the opportunities for blackmail such an event might make possible. “I hope that’s true!” Ron’s expression could only be called gloating.

“Potter, Harry!”

Ron’s soft clap on his shoulder was the final contact Harry had before the Hat was dumped on his head, obscuring his vision.

Hmmm, difficult, very diff– by Merlin! This is not allowed! Harry’s muscles froze, and he could feel the Hat rapidly shifting through what he had been doing, from that day backward.

Stop! Harry yelled in his own mind. Take a hard look at what happened to this school and to you before you judge me!

The memories ran back farther and faster, becoming nothing but a blur in Harry's own mind. Disjointed images flashed through his consciousness, memories of broken bodies, burned ruins, and the years of desolation following the fall of Hogwarts. As abruptly as it began, it stopped.

You are familiar with the Ring of Gyges, Harry Potter?

I’ve heard the story, Harry replied.

What do you offer to avoid becoming the unjust in your plans?

This was unexpected. It was apparent that the Hat would either let him carry on or else bring everything crashing down. What, exactly, was Harry trying to do, and what would he offer the Hat? What would the Hat value above all else?

Unity, peace, and prosperity. I will unite the Houses here, I will reform Wizarding society, which has become so corrupt, and I will see to it that agents of chaos are no longer able to influence life – by whatever means necessary.

The Hat was silent for a long time, and Harry became uncomfortably certain that the entire Great Hall was focused on him. Surely he had not been on the stool for long, but by the growing silence all around, perhaps he was quite wrong.

Harry Potter, I will agree to let you continue, but I will demand one condition. When your adjustment to the balance is complete, you must come and talk with me. Do you agree to these terms?

On my magic, I so swear. Really, what choice did he have?

“Gryffindor!” The faint clapping reached his ears as he strolled off to his table, leaving the Hat behind to continue the Sorting. He was unsure what the Hat wanted, but at least he was being left unfettered. The opportunities stretched out before him. Before he could unify the school, however, he had to be sure the balance of power shifted properly.

oOo oOo oOo

Harry waited patiently, letting the night drift on. He had asked that the window be left open, to allow the cool night air to swirl about the dormitory room. The cool air and warm blankets would cause the boys around him to sleep more deeply, and he needed that advantage on this first night in the castle. Time was ticking away, and he had a tight schedule to keep.

When his watch revealed the hour as two in the morning, Harry knew it was time to get on. Parting his curtains ever so slightly, he silently cast Accio Wormtail! As the rat shot across the room and into the pillowcase Harry was holding, he immediately cast an Imperturbable Charm around his bed, followed by a Stunner on the rat that was struggling in the bag.

After he dumped the motionless rat on the bed, Harry cast a charm to reverse the Animagus transformation involuntarily. With the man Peter Pettigrew Stunned and silent on his bed, Harry cracked open his trunk to the special third chamber, the chamber where he kept his toys. There were few items in there at present, so it was easy to pull out the special manacles he had picked up in Knockturn Alley. The Anti-Apparation, Anti-Portkey, and Anti-Animagus manacles had cost a pretty penny, but in the end, Wormtail was going nowhere once Harry had them properly locked on.

Pulling out a bit of rope, Harry tied the shackled Pettigrew’s ankle to his belt and then cast a Mobilicorpus Charm to get the fat body floating docilely. The final piece of the puzzle was a long letter, written to explain who the cuffed man was, why he had been hiding, what it meant for Sirius Black, and how to verify everything. The scroll was shoved in a pocket, and then Harry was almost ready to leave.

Three Disillusionment Charms later, with an extra Stunner and Full-Body Bind tossed in for good measure, Harry made his way to the one-eyed witch, determined to fix another problem immediately. As soon as he reached the end of the tunnel under Honeydukes, Harry knew he was outside the protective wards of Hogwarts, and he tapped his wand in the proper sequence to temporarily deactivate the Anti-Apparition component to the manacles. Grabbing firmly onto Pettigrew’s throat with one hand, Harry Apparated them directly onto the lane outside a small home in the area near Brixton.

Harry immediately re-activated the Anti-Apparition feature before pulling the scroll out of his pocket. He opened it near the end, scrolled around until he found the right spot, and then used a Severing Charm to separate the bottom piece from the rest. After pocketing the removed piece, Harry attached the larger portion with a weak Sticking Charm, and he made sure the scroll was obvious by attaching it across Pettigrew’s eyes. Cancelling the Disillusionment on the disgusting body, Harry floated it over to the door – where he used Pettigrew’s head as a doorknocker and slammed it into the hard wood a few times. The loud thumping noise was followed almost immediately by the front door opening to reveal a rather angry Kingsley staring out in the darkness, his wand trained on the bundled carcass.

When Kingsley failed to notice any threats, Harry watched him pull the scroll off and read it. The tall Auror’s eyes kept flicking out into the darkness of the night, but Harry was content to wait him out. He was particularly happy when Kingsley slowly paled as he worked his way through the lengthy explanation, which culminated when the Auror removed the manacles and tossed them into his house, grabbed the body, and Disapparated with a loud crack!

Chuckling to himself, Harry Apparated back into the tunnel between Hogwarts and Honeydukes and slipped back into the castle proper. Once there, he went straight to the Owlery, where he called down both Hedwig and a random owl.

“Look, girl, you’re far too beautiful, people will recognise you. I can’t let you carry this, but I’ve got another letter I want you to deliver tomorrow, all right?” She nipped a little harder than was necessary at him, but she flitted back into the ceiling perches. Harry focused on the random owl and extracted the remaining piece of parchment from his pocket. “Right, take this to Rita Skeeter as fast as you can.” Securing the scroll to the owl’s leg, Harry scratched it briefly behind the ears before it took off into the night sky.

The wheels were spinning, the plans were rolling, and he needed to wrap up tonight. Harry stole back up to his dormitory room, removing the Invisibility Cloak along the way. With that safely stowed, he extracted from his trunk’s third compartment a plain, ordinary, dubiously magical pet rat he had purchased at the Magical Menagerie. One permanent Transfiguration later, said rat looked exactly like the now-missing Scabbers. Harry firmly pointed to Ron’s sleeping form and whispered, “He’s your new master, and your name is Scabbers. In you get!” Harry stuck the rat in by his friend’s feet and happily went to his own bed. With the Dreamless Sleep Charm in place, he was secure in the knowledge that tomorrow would be a wonderful day. Pettigrew was arrested, Crouch was implicated, anyone involved in the original or any subsequent cover-up would be tarnished, and best of all there was no creepy adult male sleeping in his friend’s bed.

oOo oOo oOo

Black was framed!

Pettigrew Alive!

Massive Ministry Cover-up!

by Rita Skeeter

Harry wanted to laugh outright at the headline in the Prophet, but instead he had to put on airs as though everything he was reading – about Black’s supposed treachery and the new truth about the so-called hero, Pettigrew – was completely new.

Hermione, Ron, and Neville were full of outrage and horror on his behalf, so he just bumbled along as well as he could, mimicking their expressions and outcries of disbelief. He could feel the eyes of the Head Table’s occupants on him and knew he was being watched closely. He knew none of the staff would approach him to discuss it, given how they avoided it during his third year before, but that actually made things easier for him. He could pretend to be innocent and absorbed in classes rather than dealing with the unwanted attention from classmates and instructors.

The one thing he was most certainly looking forward to, beyond writing another lovely note to Rita, was his first Potions lesson, but that would have to wait until Friday. In the meantime, he had correspondence to work on.

oOo oOo oOo

It had been a bad week for the pureblood movement. Between Kingsley’s raids and Rita’s articles, the best thing that could be said at Hogwarts was that if you were not a pureblood racist, you were amused. The Avery family, the Malfoy family, and nearly every banner Dark Lord supporting group had prominent members sitting in holding cells, hard pressed to explain Dark artefacts and incriminating evidence of bribery or dubious financial transactions. Harry was the most pleased with the well-publicised results of the Malfoy Manor search. He had further encouraged his correspondents to look closely at the campaign contributions for each politician, as well as the timing between sizable charitable donations and some of the more egregious laws that had been passed over the last decade. With so many Dark supporters headed for Azkaban soon, Harry was content to know where he could find them, should they need to be dealt with on a more permanent basis.

All in all, it looked like Fudge, Umbridge, and Crouch – to name just three Ministry officials – were all one short step from criminal charges themselves. Harry was having a hard time not gloating as he moved about the castle, ignoring the whispers and pointed stares, instead focusing on the relationships he wanted to build among his friends. He hassled Ron into telling his family, especially his sister, what it was like at Hogwarts. He pushed Hermione to help them get their homework done early, so they could spend the evenings having fun. He all but begged Neville to help him with chess against Ron, knowing that there was no chance he could win on his own.

His week had received an extra boost when Wednesday’s Prophet announced that Sirius Black had been freed and Pettigrew given the Kiss. Harry expected to hear from Sirius at any moment by owl, and the anticipation was simply excellent. At the same time, every opportunity that Dumbledore made to subtly be ‘available’ should Harry have any questions was quickly deflected by a sudden emergency nearby. Harry knew that the game would be impossible to continue for too long, but he wanted to be sure things were well in hand before he risked the first meeting with Dumbledore.

Harry went out of his way to avoid making eye contact with Quirrell, as that would be a sure sign to Voldemort, who was sharing the DADA teacher’s body. He had no illusions that Voldemort would fail to detect his Occlumency skills immediately, which in turn would lead to far too many complications. Instead, Harry did his best to maintain a low profile, determined to be good but not outstanding in the class – or not yet, at any rate.

By the time Friday rolled around, Harry thought that life was getting better and better by the second. As expected, Snape took roll at the first class. When he stumbled over Malfoy’s name, glancing about furiously, Ron nudged Harry sharply in the ribs. Aurors had appeared and searched the place thoroughly, and reports had them searching the train and the tracks all the way back to London. Nothing was found, and the Malfoy heir was finally listed as a runaway. The outraged letters to the editor of the Prophet from various pureblood families were predictable, but Harry tried hard to avoid thinking about the situation. He would only have to keep the game going for a little longer, and then he could take the steps he planned on to eliminate his future knowledge – as well as his actions to secure a new future this time around the wheel.

When Snape was about to call out Parvati’s name, Harry did a silent and wandless Langlock Curse on him. It would have been far too obvious if he did it on his own name, but the name just before his would work quite well. It took a glacial moment before Snape extracted his wand and spent a few furious seconds trying to remove the curse. At last freed from the effects, he glared at the classroom one student at a time.

“Who did that?” His rage was easily evident in his whisper.

Harry made sure his hands were in plain sight, his wand tucked in his bag, and his eyes wide open and firmly on the man’s face. Preparing for this confrontation had been a tremendously embarrassing quarter-hour of his life, the most embarrassing moment in his old or new life even with several strong Notice-Me-Not Charms about him, but he was prepared for this first lesson. He was all but demanding that Snape take a moment to use Legilimency on him, as he desperately wanted to use the memory he had prepared for this moment.

It was almost too easy. Snape’s eyes locked on his, and Harry could feel the probe start. Immediately, he focused solely on what he did shortly after securing his freedom from the prison Dumbledore had placed him in. Snape would find himself looking at a naked Harry Potter frolicking in the giant flowerbeds of Hyde Park whilst random Muggles walked right past. He would be able to see Harry eating flowers, rolling in them, and rubbing vigorously against them. Harry had taken particular care to frolic extensively with a set of very vibrant, over-sized yellow daisies.

Within heartbeats, he felt the mind of the professor withdraw abruptly, and the man’s eyes opened wide. Snape took two steps back and was forced to stop by the blackboard behind him. Harry continued to gaze at his teacher with wide-open eyes, trying for the most vacuous expression he could. Inside, he laughed himself sick, planning the next stage of some well-deserved payback for the man.

Snape shook himself visibly and abruptly went back to the roll call. When Harry’s name was called, Snape shot him a vile look, but Harry just waved merrily while keeping his vacuous expression on. Almost all of the students around him gave him puzzled looks, since he had never acted in this manner before, but no one was willing to say anything.

With a sour expression, Snape began the class, ignoring Harry completely.

oOo oOo oOo


This will be a very short fic – just five chapters.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

Back to index

Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Frosty

Author's Notes: See the end.

As the second week of October drew to a close, Harry had to admit to himself that he was happy with life, and he had been for so long now that it was a very surreal change in life. He had performed as a stellar student in class, although he was careful to always be behind Hermione in ‘learning’ something new. At other times, he deliberately flubbed it until after Ron or Neville got it right, always being careful to mimic their mistakes, whether the errors were in focus, movement, or words. Sirius had written to him the day after his first Snape prank, and they had taken up a lively, almost daily correspondence, giving Hedwig quite the workout. While his godfather’s health had been quite poor at first, it was steadily improving, and Harry had answered Sirius in the last letter that he would be thrilled to spend the winter hols with him and an old family friend by the name of Remus Lupin. He was excited to get a reply, hoping for it that day. The next step would be subtly convincing Sirius to let Harry move in permanently.

Meanwhile, in the three times that Snape had subsequently tried to use Legilimency on Harry, he had kept the rather alarming flower-filled memory locked in his mind. The day after each attempt, Harry always managed to leave a bouquet of vivid yellow daisies somewhere in the castle where he knew Snape would discover them. Harry could never remember seeing the man with a visible tic on his face before, but the last time Snape had appeared after a flower incident there had been one raging on his face, distorting the man’s eyebrow. When the headmaster tried Legilimency that same evening, Harry had focused on the tight, narrow confines of his cupboard, letting the claustrophobic feelings surge violently. There had been no subsequent attempts.

The pureblood bigots, as Harry liked to think of them, were being decimated in power and prestige. The Daily Prophet was still avidly reporting on scandals, not only implicating elected officials but also levelling charges of bribery, preferential treatment, and more among the Dark supporters. Harry’s initial evidence and pointers had mushroomed into something that was far beyond his own knowledge, and he was thoroughly enjoying the fallout. Between priming Kingsley and baiting Rita, the pair had simply unleashed the hounds of hell in an effort to root out the corruption or the juiciest gossip of the century, depending on their respective interests.

The month of November had been slated to handle dozens of lengthy serious court cases, and the Prophet – with Rita Skeeter being her usual nasty self – was at the centre of the clamour. Harry had to admit that it pleased him greatly that her venom was now directed at those that truly deserved it, which hitherto had seemed to be something novel in the magical world. The various students of those families under investigation found themselves pulled from Hogwarts, with few returning. A few of the older Slytherin students were being charged with crimes as well, while the younger ones were finding that the financing of their education was no longer possible as a result of the sequestration of their family assets by the ministry. Those students that did manage to return were humbled greatly, their formerly superior attitudes now replaced with ones of open worry and hidden fear.

Harry had once again been picked for the Quidditch team, but for completely different reasons. With Malfoy gone and many of the nastier Slytherins afraid or missing, Neville had no chance to lose his Remembrall after a broom accident that never happened. For that matter, Neville had no problems controlling the broom with the gentle reassurances that Harry and Ron had been giving both Hermione and Neville. While most of the students flew as directed, when Madam Hooch gave them some free time near the end to play, Harry had cut loose a bit. He tried hard not to show off and just look like a good but natural flyer, but in hindsight his relatively slow and tame performance of a Wronski feint had probably landed him the job as Seeker. Wood was ecstatic, and Harry had badgered Ron and Neville into helping him train, since he obviously had no knowledge of the game. Hermione had volunteered to get involved as well, though she preferred to stay on the ground and toss the balls back up to whomever was throwing them for Harry.

Hermione had, naturally, been the best at Transfiguration, and she led their quartet in revision for those lessons. Neville had demonstrated his superior knowledge at Herbology, while Harry had shown strictly outside of class that he was excellent at DADA. It was the redirected Ron, however, that surprised him – Ron was almost a natural at Charms when he was not trying to be lazy. With the tightening of their group and the encouragement for Hermione to help them, Ron’s laziness was nowhere in sight, and Harry had high hopes that his jealousy would never surface.

As they made their way out of the Great Hall that Saturday morning, Dumbledore called out to them. “A moment, Mr Potter, if you please?”

Harry knew there was no avoiding this meeting, so he waved his friends off. “Go ahead and start without me. If we can get our homework done this morning, we’ll have all weekend to try out some of those moves on the pitch or those spells Hermione found in the library.”

He watched the others head off, and he had a sinking feeling in his heart as Dumbledore motioned him to play follow-the-leader. Harry knew where they were going and knew he was in danger of being on the receiving end of a serious Legilimency attempt. He had to block it, but that would mean revealing secrets to the headmaster that he was completely unprepared to deal with. Sadly, there were no students nearby he could sabotage in some manner – spilled books, getting seriously stuck in a trick step, chased by a suit of armour – to defer the pending confrontation.

As he followed Dumbledore into the office, he dropped into the chair the headmaster pointed to, smiling at Fawkes. “That must be a phoenix,” he said while nodding at the bird sleeping on a perch. “I’ve heard of them.”

“Indeed, Mr Potter,” Dumbledore said with his own smile and a slight twinkle to his eyes. “Fawkes is a phoenix. But I have things I must discuss with you, and we shall have to chat about him later.”

Harry knew it was serious, since the headmaster rarely missed an opportunity to talk about random and obscure bits of magic. “Is there something wrong, sir?”

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, and Harry realised the man was sad. It was an unusual expression for the headmaster, and Harry was hard pressed to remember if he had ever seen such before. “I should think so, Mr Potter, or if you don’t mind, may I call you Harry?” Harry nodded his acceptance, and the headmaster continued. “I don’t think I can recall a year of more upheaval than we have seen the past two months alone.”

“Err, are you talking about those articles in the Prophet, sir?” Harry was very concerned at that thought, since he knew exactly why those events were happening now.

“Yes, Harry. I hope you don’t think poorly of the magical world, despite a few bad eggs suddenly appearing.”

Harry cautiously let out a sigh of relief. Perhaps he would be safe after all. “No, sir. There are bad Muggles, just as there are bad anything, I suppose. I like being here. It’s much better than living with my, uh, relatives, sir.”

“Is it?” Dumbledore’s twinkle almost disappeared at that statement. “We shall have to discuss that later, perhaps. Harry, I called you here because I have received a letter from Sirius Black, with whom I know you have been in contact. He has asked that you live with him, instead of your relatives, as that is what your parents desired.”

Harry stopped breathing for a very long moment. Sirius had asked directly for Harry to live with him, and now Harry would not have to hint or push Sirius into making the request. “Wow, that would be wicked! Err, as Ron would say, sir.”

Dumbledore smiled faintly at Harry but did not seem to share in the excitement. “Perhaps it would, Harry. I am happy to tell you that you will be spending the winter holidays, as well as the Easter ones if you choose, with your godfather. However, there are… other factors that must be considered before we can talk about making the arrangement permanent.”

Harry decided then and there that such a vague answer was not going to fly with him. Putting on a confused expression, he looked carefully at the headmaster, his Occlumency shields fully active. “I don’t understand, sir. Are you my guardian in some way? If my parents wanted me to live with him, then I should.”

Dumbledore frowned and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, there was no twinkle at all, and the man’s degree of exhaustion was evident. “Are you willing to defer an answer to this until a bit closer to the summer? There are things I must discover before I will know whether it is safe.”

Harry felt new levels of hope that he would escape from this meeting unscathed. “I suppose, sir. I’m thrilled he asked, truly, and if you need to be sure it’s safe, I don’t mind waiting. But I don’t see why it would be safer with my relatives than with him, especially considering what they think of me, err, us, sir.”

“Very well, Harry,” Dumbledore sighed. “If I find it unsafe, I shall try to explain to you the whys and wherefores of your safety.”

Harry wanted to shout in triumph, for he knew that there would be no roadblocks to living with Sirius. Before the academic year was up, Harry had every intention of seeing this game over and done with. “Okay, sir. I’ll wait to hear from you then, right?”

Dumbledore gave Harry a smile, and he was happy to see a bit of twinkle back in the man’s eye. “Very good, Harry. I won’t keep you any longer. Enjoy your time with your friends.”

“Thank you, sir,” Harry said as he stood. It was hard to leave as fast as possible without showing he was in a rush.

oOo oOo oOo

“Ginny!” Harry called, spotting the redhead standing next to her parents. Ron was walking beside him with Neville and Hermione right behind them. “How’ve you been?”

Harry had sent no letters of his own, but he had obliquely pushed Ron into sending a letter to his family every few weeks. Harry would always catch him just before he was finished, asking Ron to put a “Hi from Harry” to everyone, with a question at the end of the last letter before the holidays – “Ginny, will you be on the platform?” The response had come atypically fast, a very short one-line response from Ron’s sister. Mrs Weasley had sent the normal reply days later, but that one line was hopefully going to live in Harry’s memory for a long time. I’ll be waiting – Ginny.

Mrs Weasley’s reply had explained at length about how they had been planning a big trip to Romania, but that the ongoing scandals and raids had left Mr Weasley, in particular, more than busy, and he could no longer get other than a day or two off. Harry felt slightly guilty at that, but not enough to offset the glee he felt when the headline of the Prophet that morning had proclaimed the imminent dismissal of Fudge and his entire cabinet, not to mention the pending criminal charges that Auror Shacklebolt was preparing.

Harry was very happy to see Ginny standing there blushing and smiling back at him, but he was also happy to see Sirius standing not two yards away from the Weasleys. They had apparently been in deep conversation, as the group collectively turned to face him. Harry knew he had to change tactics immediately, or else there would be repercussions – if he focused on Ginny, everyone would find it odd. He had to appear to favour Sirius for now.

Harry turned away from the blushing and smiling redhead and faced Sirius head-on. “Sirius! It’s great to see you in person!” Harry stopped an arm’s length from his godfather, immensely pleased to see him standing about in public, looking healthy and well-dressed – something he had no memory of ever seeing before.

“Hello, Harry,” Sirius said with a smile, though Harry could see the tension behind it. Harry knew it was nervousness at meeting face to face at last, and he helped out his godfather by grabbing him in a hug and squeezing as hard as he could manage. When he stepped back, Sirius was beaming brightly at everyone nearby, and Harry knew he had done the right thing.

Harry quickly introduced Neville and Hermione, which earned a look of uncertainty from Ginny, but he winked at her when no one was looking, causing the return of her blush and smile. He hoped that whatever memories he would leave himself when his plan was complete would let him beat Neville, and thus Michael Corner, to the prize, assuming Ginny still wanted to go out with him, but all of that was years away. Worse, to his current mind, he would never remember what he might be missing one way or the other in the end, but the goal was for his friends to be happy and safe – even if that meant a different relationship outcome this time.

As Ron introduced his family, which earned Harry a gentle hug from Mrs Weasley and a handshake from Mr Weasley, Neville’s grandmother wandered over. The group became quite loud, introductions mixing with proclamations and invitations to visit. Sirius kept one hand on Harry’s shoulder, and Harry felt it was almost heaven to be standing there with everyone still alive, smiling at each other. When the twins finally sneaked into the group, playing tricks on all and sundry, everything became more chaotic, but it was a happy, raucous gathering rather than a sad or angry one. Hermione’s parents joined them, and it was some time before they all reluctantly parted to go their separate ways.

“Cheer up, Harry,” Sirius said with a smile, “I was talking to the Weasleys about dropping by their place after Christmas. Thought you might like to visit your friends.”

Harry smiled up at Sirius, pleased again at having his godfather with him once more. “That’d be great, Sirius. But I want to spend time with you, too, and learn all about you and my parents. And this Lupin fellow that you tell me I should call Moony.”

Sirius grinned and grabbed onto Harry’s shoulder with one hand and Harry’s trunk with the other. “Hold on tight, Harry, we’re going.” With a quick motion, they Apparated right into the foyer at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. “Kreacher!” Sirius called out in a harsh whisper while Harry was still recovering from the abrupt transport.

It was dark and dismal in Grimmauld Place, much as Harry expected. The floors were clean, which was the only improvement he could discern, but Harry knew how he was going to fix this for Sirius. “Kreacher, you pathetic elf, get out here!” Harry knew Sirius was keeping his volume down to prevent waking the portrait of his mother, but that was a problem for later.

Harry was sad to see Kreacher treated this way, but he knew he had to fix it one step at a time. This would be almost too easy once he had Kreacher’s loyalty. “Traitorous Master called?” the elf grumbled.

“Kreacher, this is Harry. He’s the master of the house in my absence, and you will follow his orders, is that clear?” There was an overt threat in Sirius’ voice, and Harry could see Kreacher cower a bit.

“Yes, must obey filthy half-blood like bad Master says,” Kreacher moaned. “Defiling his Mistress’ house, they is.”

Sirius shrugged at Harry, as if to remind him of the warnings he had received in the letters. “Err, Sirius, where’s Moony?”

Sirius’ smile slipped for a moment. “He’s a little sick right now, Harry. I’ll probably stay up with him tonight, but you’ll get to meet him tomorrow. Is that all right?”

Harry smiled. “Sure, I hope he feels better.” Looking at Kreacher, who was still cowering in the foyer, Harry decided to go ahead and secure the item on the agenda he needed before the full moon that night. “Err, I don’t want to upset you, Sirius, but I don’t think Kreacher really deserves to be treated that badly.”

Before Sirius could verbalise his disgust with the elf, Harry held up his hands in silent entreaty. “Really, Sirius, do you mind if I try to work on him? I’m sure that you and he must have a long history to get over, but I think he’d be fine if given a chance. Since you’ll be with Moony tonight, may I talk to Kreacher about it? Please?”

Sirius looked disgusted at the mere idea, and Harry could see the denial coming. That would make things more complicated, but he had to give Sirius the chance to see another way forward. With a sigh, Sirius shook his head slightly. “You can try, Harry, but promise me this. Don’t trust blindly.”

“Great!” Harry gave Sirius another hug, albeit briefer than the one at the platform. “Now, where’s my room?”

With a laugh, Sirius led Harry up the stairs, but when Harry looked back, he caught the surprised expression on Kreacher’s face. He knew the elf would take some convincing, but Harry had high hopes.

oOo oOo oOo

Harry waited patiently until the light of the full moon was radiating down on England before he decided it was safe to act. Sirius and Remus would be fully occupied tonight, and that meant no interference for Harry.

“Kreacher!” Harry shouted. “Kreacher, come here!”

With a sullen groan, Kreacher appeared before him. “Baby Master half-blood called Kreacher?” The irritation was evident in his voice.

“Kreacher, please have a seat. I need to talk to you.” Kreacher had that surprised look on his face again as he sat on the floor. “I know what your beloved Regulus was doing, and I’m here to finish the job. If you’ll help me, Kreacher, I’ll show you how to do what your master asked of you so that you can honour his request. I’ll also give you his most prized possession, the fake locket that looks like the real one you’ve stashed in the drawing room here. I know how to destroy the real locket.”

Kreacher stared at him, shaking his head from side to side. “Listen, Kreacher, we don’t have much time. You know what Master Regulus was doing, as do I. I have to finish what he started, or else everything is going to get very, very bad. I don’t need your help, but it would make things a lot easier. Aside from finishing his work, I’ll also be able to get Sirius to treat you with the respect you deserve because of your loyalty to Regulus, and at the same time make your Mistress happy.”

“Baby Master promises too much!” Kreacher cried. “Master Regulus died trying, how can Junior Master know better?”

Harry sighed. “Kreacher, I swear that I will not harm you. If you will come with me, I will take us to the cave and extract the fake locket. I will give that locket, the last object Regulus made, to you to keep in his memory. If I do this to prove that what I speak is true, will you help me?”

“Junior Master knows how to finish Master Regulus’ orders?”

“Yes, Kreacher, I do. Help me, and it will all be done tonight. If you don’t help me, it will take me a few days, but I’ll finish it all the same.”

Kreacher sat rocking like a child with brain damage, and Harry knew that Kreacher was, in his own way, damaged horribly. He also knew what Kreacher could become given a chance, and he wanted to see Kreacher happy again. Finally, Kreacher stood. “Take us, then, Junior Master.”

With a smile for how quickly things were going to happen, Harry reached out and gently took Kreacher’s hand. With one massive effort, he Apparated them to the entrance outside the cave. “This is as far as I can Apparate us, Kreacher. I know you can take us straight to the island in the lake, but there’s magic here that stops wizards from doing that.” Kreacher nodded slowly, but Harry paid him little attention as he used his wand to make a small gash in his hand.

Walking into the cave, Harry took Kreacher to the invisible boat, and they crossed in silence to the island, though Kreacher rocked back and forth slowly as the boat moved and tried not to stare at the corpses drifting just below the waters’ surface. He was terrified, Harry could tell, but there was no helping it. Harry needed to secure Kreacher’s aid, and this was the required price to do so.

When they reached the island, Harry picked up the goblet that was waiting. “There’s always a solution to a puzzle, Kreacher. This goblet is the only thing that can remove the potion from the basin, and it can only be poured into a living mouth. The basin and the locket inside are protected from any magic of mine to remove them. But there’s another way.”

Carefully, Harry focused his magic and cast a silent spell at the base of the goblet. A small, perfectly round hole appeared near the bottom of the bowl. With another flick of his wand, he conjured a large basin to hold the potion he was about to extract. As Kreacher watched, Harry scooped out the potion and let it drain into the basin. There were always alternatives, and it had taken Harry some time to realise that Dumbledore’s approach had been simple but far too deadly.

When the potion was drained sufficiently, Harry took the fake locket out, opened it, and handed it to Kreacher after extracting the note still inside. “Here, Kreacher. Keep this in honour of the memory of Regulus. You never failed him. You just haven’t quite finished the last task yet. If you help me, we can finish it together.”

Kreacher had tears in his eyes, and it left Harry feeling rather embarrassed at the open expression of adoration on the elf’s face. Harry handed the note to the elf, giving him the time to read it repeatedly. “We can destroy the real one?”

“Yes, Kreacher. In fact, you can do it all by yourself, once we get to the right place.”

“Junior Master knows where to go?”

“Just like I knew of this room, Kreacher, I know where to go.” Harry gently pulled the chain on the fake locket out of Kreacher’s grip and fastened it around his neck. He tucked the note from Regulus back inside it and closed it with a faint snap. “Shall we do as Master Regulus wished, Kreacher?”

“Yes, Master Harry.” Kreacher was now folding the locket with one hand, and the other took Harry’s outstretched one. Together, they got in the boat and crossed the still waters of the lake. Safely outside of the cave entrance, Harry tightened his grip on Kreacher’s hand and Apparated them back into his room at Number Twelve.

“All right, Kreacher. If you’ll fetch the real locket and keep it on you, I’ll get my trunk, and we’ll go finish this. We have a few more items like that locket to collect though, okay?” Harry watched as Kreacher bobbed his head once and disappeared with a pop. Before he even took one step toward the trunk, Kreacher was back with another pop, smiling and holding the real locket in one fist.

With a snap of his fingers, Kreacher had Harry’s trunk in his other hand, and he looked ready to move immediately. Harry laughed softly and smiled at the elf. “Great, Kreacher. The first stop is going to be a house outside of Little Hangleton, the house of the Gaunts.” Harry reached out one hand to grip Kreacher’s shoulder, and with a crack, they were gone.

oOo oOo oOo

Harry had the Gaunt ring in his trunk’s third compartment, having left a cheap and tawdry plastic ring from the bottom of a Cracker Jack box in its place.

Harry had the Diary, stolen from the Auror department’s evidence room, a copy of The Dirty Dozen left in its place.

Kreacher had added the real locket to his trunk after seeing how well protected it was. Kreacher insisted on carrying the trunk himself, though, which was fine with Harry.

They were back in the house at Number Twelve, and Harry was faced with a difficult choice: break into Gringotts again or arrange for some bribery. Kreacher was moving about his bedroom, cleaning everything with a vigour Harry had missed seeing. The little elf moved almost as though he were teleporting from one spot to another.


The elf stopped what he was doing and looked up expectantly. “Yes, Master Harry?”

“Can you, as an elf, get into Gringotts undetected? I know wizards can’t, but I don’t know about elves.”

“Yes, Master Harry. The goblins use a different type of magic, and they had wizards put down the blocks for other wizards. No elf has ever put in blocks.”

Harry knew his smile was quite diabolical. “It’s possible for one wizard to give a mental picture to another, Kreacher. Is there some way you can see a picture in my mind and go there?”

Kreacher tugged at one long ear for a moment before slowly nodding.

“Excellent. There are two objects to collect left, Kreacher. One is in a Gringotts vault, and the other is at Hogwarts. When we get to Hogwarts, that’s the last one. The problem is the Gringotts one. If you can get the object and come back, we’ll be finished in no time.” Harry checked his watch, seeing that it was shortly before three in the morning. Dealing with the protections around the Auror department had been far too time-consuming.

“Yes, Master Harry.”

“Great. I’m thinking about the place and the object we need. Be careful when you pick it up, Kreacher – it will turn very hot, and many more will appear around it. Likewise, anything you touch is going to do the same thing. It’s how they guard their treasures from thieves. Don’t be fooled, and come right back – the cup will stop hurting you as soon as you leave Gringotts.” Harry closed his eyes and tried to remember the Lestrange vault exactly as it was, where the cup was, and what it looked like. “Try hard to get it the first time, Kreacher. I don’t know if we’ll get a second chance at this.”

Harry suddenly felt as if a giant hot iron had been jammed in his brain, and he cried out, but the pain stopped almost immediately as he heard a pop. Panting, Harry opened his eyes, amazed at how painful it had been for the elf magic to look into his memories. Almost immediately, Kreacher reappeared with another pop, crying in misery. The cup fell to the floor with a clank, and Kreacher held his hand, which was burned severely, to his chest.

Harry bent down, ignoring the cup, and pulled his wand out. “Here, Kreacher, let me help!” With a quick numbing spell, Kreacher stopped moaning, but the hand was seriously burned, more so than he had expected.

“They did trap it against elves, sir,” Kreacher cried, “it went white-hot when I touched it!”

“I’m so sorry, Kreacher,” Harry said as he gently pulled the elf’s hand out. “I’m going to cast a Healing Charm on it, which should help. But we’ll have to get this looked at properly tomorrow and get you fixed up. I promise to take care of Sirius, all right?”

Kreacher nodded, and Harry was happy to see the elf trusted him. Casting the best Healing Charm he had learned from the books years ago, Harry saw the wound scab over, although it was far from healed. “Right. Will you be okay to continue with me, Kreacher? Or would you like to stay here and rest?”

Kreacher shook his head, tears in his eyes again. “Kreacher wants to come, Master Harry.”

“Good. I’m glad to have your company.” Harry picked up the cup and chucked it into the trunk with the other objects. “Let’s go.” Gently taking Kreacher’s shoulder in one hand, Harry Apparated them to the base of the Honeydukes’ tunnel into Hogwarts.

Cautioning Kreacher to be quiet, Harry led the elf straight to the Room of Requirement. Pacing three times, Harry opened the door and moved straight to where the diadem was kept. Taking the trunk from Kreacher, Harry opened it and put the diadem in with the other Horcruxes. Silently, Harry led Kreacher back into the corridor and then to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.

After he opened the entrance, Harry told Kreacher to follow him, and they both slid down the tunnel to the cave outside the Chamber of Secrets. Harry explained what the area was, and what they were going to do about it, as he led the elf right up to the massive doors that opened into the chamber proper.

“Can you do that for me, Kreacher?”

Nodding, Kreacher disappeared with a pop. Harry sat down to wait, knowing it would take a few minutes before the elf returned. Aside from the Gringotts raid, this was the most precarious moment in the entire plan, as Hagrid or Fang might hear Kreacher’s efforts at temporary liberation. With another pop, Kreacher was back, with a large and bulky bag over one shoulder. “Kreacher is ready, Master Harry.”

With a deep breath for courage, Harry uttered the Parseltongue to open the doors. Kreacher followed him into the chamber silently, and then Harry closed the doors behind them. Using his wand as a flashlight, Harry surveyed the opening from which the basilisk would emerge. As he turned around and surveyed the walls, he spotted the torches there. A few quick charms later, and the room was dimly lit with the sickly glowing green light he remembered so well.

“Very well, I’m going to make the netting, and then we’ll do this.” Concentrating, Harry conjured a fine-pitched mesh of quarter-inch steel cable extending from the opening of the statue into a large pool on the floor, making a large, strong, sealed container for the snake. If their first plan failed, they would be safe to try something more drastic. Harry walked over and yanked the mesh several times, assuring himself it was fully secured.

When Kreacher gave him a tremulous smile, Harry had to smile back. It would be some time yet before the elf became a happy and content member of the family, but Harry could see it was coming. Flicking his wand about the room, Harry extinguished all the lights. “Go ahead, Kreacher,” he called out into the darkness.

There was a loud rustling, and then he heard Kreacher’s voice. “We’re ready, Master Harry.”

Harry turned back to the statue and cried out in Parseltongue as Riddle had long before. “Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four.”

He could hear the grating noise of the statue moving slightly and the sibilant hissing of a giant snake woken from a long slumber. As the noise grew louder, Harry closed his eyes, yelling out, “Kreacher, eyes closed and open the bag!” Immediately he cast the strongest “Lumos!” that he could manage.

The sound of roosters crowing filled the Chamber, and he could hear a great thrashing about. Suddenly it sounded not like skin on stone but skin on metal, tearing open. While the roosters continued to crow, the snake continued to move, but its sounds were weakening, growing faint. When all noise except the roosters had finally ceased, Harry opened his eyes carefully. The basilisk was dead, its eyes closed and its mouth open.

“Kreacher, it worked!” Harry turned to see Kreacher running toward him, a bright smile upon his face.

“Master Harry did it! Master Harry did it!”

As Kreacher clung to his legs, Harry rested one hand on his shoulder softly. “No, Kreacher, we did it. Now, would you like to be the one to finish what Master Regulus started?”

Harry could see the answer on Kreacher’s face and just smiled at him. “Go on, then, Kreacher. Be careful not to touch the fangs yourself, or you could be seriously injured, even killed, before we can get help.” Harry stood back and watched as Kreacher slowly destroyed every Horcrux with basilisk venom. Harry directed him to be sure that the stone in the Gaunt ring was destroyed as well, just to eliminate that path of future temptation.

Once all the objects were no longer Horcruxes, Harry performed a Scouring Charm on each and put them back in his trunk. “Keepsakes for later, Kreacher, I think Dumbledore will like them,” he said with smile. “I need a dash of venom for one more use tonight, but then we’re done.”

Harry pulled a small steel box out of the third compartment from his trunk. Opening it, he extracted from a mound of velvet padding a small yet thick glass jar, which was filled with a viscous clear fluid. After he gently removed the specially made glass lid, Harry carefully set it on the floor. Reaching into the compartment again, he extracted a pair of very thick rubber gloves that reached to his elbows after he put them on.

Kreacher watched him with wide eyes as Harry used his wand to palpate the venom glands, collecting the potent toxin in the glass jar with the clear fluid. The resulting compound was a weak and lurid green. When he felt that the mixture was sufficiently lethal, he stopped the palpations and very carefully repackaged the jar and the gloves. Relaxing with a deep sigh, Harry gave Kreacher a crooked grin. “Right, then. Let’s round up the roosters and return them to Hagrid before we go home, eh?”

Together, they stuffed the roosters back in the sack, and Kreacher took them back to Hagrid’s coop near the gamekeeper’s cabin. That done, Harry told the elf he would meet him back at the house since Kreacher could leave directly and Harry had to walk back to the tunnel, but Kreacher would have nothing to do with it. Instead, the little elf wrapped his arms around Harry’s leg, and at just past four-fifteen in the morning, they both arrived with a pop back in Harry’s bedroom at Number Twelve.

oOo oOo oOo


This will be a very short fic – just five chapters.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

Back to index

Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Tangled

Author's Notes: See the end.

It was just past four fifteen in the morning, and all but one Horcrux was destroyed. There was one final step, and he knew that the risk here was different from the risk before. Before, the basilisk might have killed them, and then their work would have been for naught. Eventually Riddle would have managed to break back into the Chamber, and all of the Horcruxes would have been there waiting for him.

Now, the risk was much simpler. In some ways, Harry thought that if this failed to work, it would make things easier. If he died and the protections failed, then he knew Kreacher could finish the task Regulus had set. If he succeeded, then the unexpected Horcrux would be no more, and Harry could finish Voldemort off once and for all.

“Kreacher, my friend,” Harry said, “there is one more step. I have told you what we did, and why we did it. But there is one piece of the Dark Lord’s soul left. Sadly, no one but me knows of it, and the price to get rid of it may be very high – for me, at least.”

Harry sat down on his bed and motioned Kreacher to sit in the chair. The elf was still clutching the trunk, obvious happiness replaced by immediate fear. “Master Harry?”

“If what we do next fails, Kreacher,” Harry said softly, “I need you to promise me you will finish the Dark Lord. He is currently living on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head at Hogwarts. If you kill Quirrell, and then kill the spirit that will try to flee, the Dark Lord will be no more, and Regulus’ job will be complete. Do you understand? And will you promise me to see this through?”

Kreacher nodded, and it was clear to Harry that he could sense the solemnity of it. “Yes, Master Harry, Kreacher promises.”

“Do you remember the sign that each Horcrux gave when it was destroyed? The green smoke, the faint cry? Good. Now I need to ask you a question, Kreacher. I must do something to remove the last bit of Voldemort’s soul, which unfortunately is stuck inside me. It’s going to be very painful, and possibly very deadly, for me to remove it. You will be safe no matter what. However, there is one compound that will save me. Will you be able to watch me suffer and not give me the healing agent until after you have seen the Horcrux be destroyed? Even if it means I die?”

Kreacher shook his head back and forth slowly. “No, Master Harry. You can’t be evil.”

“Then let me explain this. You see, when the Dark Lord tried to kill me, he made me an unintentional Horcrux for himself.” Harry paused to point to his scar. “This is that Horcrux. The only way to extract it is for someone to destroy it, just like all the others.” Kreacher started crying, so Harry stepped over to him and wrapped his arms around the little elf. “No, listen, Kreacher. The reason the curse failed was because my mother sacrificed herself for me, so that I might live. His Killing Curse rebounded, but made me a Horcrux. Do you understand?”

Kreacher shook his head, moaning back and forth. “Kreacher, it is like a Horcrux, but not, do you understand? I am not possessed by Voldemort’s soul, but this evil wart must be removed all the same.”

Kreacher nodded slowly, his tears subsiding. “Master Harry is immortal?”

Harry laughed shortly. “Hardly, Kreacher, hardly. Here is what we must do. You must let me destroy this Horcrux with the basilisk venom. I will give you a vial of phoenix tears I purchased in Diagon Alley’s Apothecary. You must wait until you see the signs that the Horcrux is destroyed, and you mustn’t act too soon. Once it is finished, pour the vial of tears on my scar. If I am destined to survive, they will heal me, and it will be over. Either way, you will help me to destroy the final Horcrux inside me. Hopefully, I will survive.”

Kreacher looked scared, and Harry could hardly blame him. He thought his logic was correct, but he had no certainty of it. He was, in a way, about to put his beliefs to the ultimate test. “Kreacher needs it to be an order, Master Harry. Kreacher can’t do it otherwise.”

Harry nodded and gave Kreacher one last hug. “Kreacher, if something goes wrong, explain everything we did tonight to Sirius and tell him all about Quirrell. Show him the remains of the Horcruxes. He doesn’t like you, Kreacher, because he doesn’t understand. If I’m not here, let him help you deal with Quirrell and give him a chance to see you for the great elf you are, all right?”

Kreacher smiled weakly and then sobbed against Harry for a moment. “Master Harry mustn’t go! Master Harry is the first good Master that Kreacher has had since Master Regulus. Please don’t go, Master Harry!”

Harry squeezed the elf in a fierce hug. “Don’t worry, Kreacher. I honestly believe we’ll be okay, and if this works, I can promise you at least two more house elves will join us. We’ll have a good time together, Kreacher.”

Harry gently pushed back from Kreacher and patted his shoulder lightly. Turning back to his trunk, he once again opened it to the third compartment. This time, he extracted two small steel boxes. From the first he extracted a protected vial, which bore the faint mark of a bird in flight embossed on the top, and handed it to Kreacher. From the second, he extracted the thick glass jar, removed the lid, and donned the gloves. “Now, Kreacher, I command you, wait until the Horcrux is destroyed before you use those phoenix tears upon me.”

Kreacher had tears in his eyes, but he nodded. Harry smiled weakly at his new yet old friend and took a large dollop of the basilisk venom mixed with the Muggle compound DMSO. Standing in front of the mirror, he liberally smeared it onto his scar before he took the gloves off and dropped them into the rubbish bin.

Within a few breaths, he felt the pain begin. After he thought that perhaps a half minute had passed, Harry’s eyes were streaming tears from the throbbing and aching. He sat down hard as his legs suddenly stopped supporting him, and the world became slightly darker in that early morn hour. He tried hard not to think about what had happened in the Chamber the last time, with Fawkes saving him at the last moment. Surely the vial of tears were not putrescible and would work all these months later. He needed them to work, for he still had so many more things to do.

As he continued to draw breaths, which became painful in their own right, the limit that his mind could take was finally reached, and everything became black.

oOo oOo oOo

“Harry Potter,” the voice came from the mist, and this time it was not the voice of Albus Dumbledore.

Harry looked around, and he saw a face he had seen once before. “Hello, Regulus. Was I right?”

Regulus smiled faintly. “You were. Your parents wish to have a long conversation with you, but that will wait until you’re ready to join them. The choice is yours.”

Harry nodded and waved.

“Tell Kreacher that I said he has done his job admirably, Harry Potter.”

“I will, Regulus. I’ll see if I can’t turn Sirius around, too.”

The mists faded, and Harry woke up screaming.

oOo oOo oOo

“No, it’s okay, Kreacher, it’s okay,” Harry said for the thousandth time. “Regulus told me to tell you that.”

He had the same old scar, though it now had a very faint crazy swirl pattern on top of it. When he had woken up, his forehead had felt for just a few moments like a hot brand had been pushed onto it, and he had all but clawed his skin off. Kreacher had been frantic getting more of the phoenix tears on the wound, and they had worked their magic in short order. Harry assured his friend that the job was well done and told him Regulus’ message and of the vision he had. Kreacher had sobbed in relief and happiness and was still clinging to Harry as they sat on the floor of his room.

“Will Master Harry deal with the Dark Lord now?”

Harry shook his head and then immediately regretted the act as his head throbbed further. “No, Kreacher. That would be very dangerous. I need to ambush him, for he’s still very powerful.” Harry looked at his watch and saw that it was now close to five in the morning. “I’ve got to get some sleep, Kreacher, since Sirius will be up here soon. You should sleep, too, all right?”

Kreacher nodded and then saw to Harry’s bed and even tucked him in. “Good night, Master Harry.”

oOo oOo oOo

Back at the castle, the holidays long since over, Sirius had continued corresponding with Harry, full of stories of the past and how surprised he was at Harry’s ability to ‘work magic’ on Kreacher. At Harry’s urging, they had also picked up two house-elves, Dobby and Winky. Kreacher had company, and they had two hard-working but happy additions to the family. Sirius had let it be known that the Ministry was planning to formally transfer both the Malfoy and Lestrange estates to him, given their crimes against both Sirius and Harry, as well as the fact that all members of both families had been sentenced to life in Azkaban, all automatically subject to the Kiss if they ever escaped. The Ministry had been more than happy to transfer Dobby to Sirius’ estate, and with Barty Crouch, Sr., in prison and his son Kissed, picking up the disgraced Winky had been easy.

Harry had been informed that he was due to go from moderately well-off to significantly wealthy in the near future. He thought he might try to take the new Galleons and distribute them to the others suffering from Voldemort’s actions, including the Bones, Weasley, and Longbottom families at a minimum. He also planned to offer loans or free tuition, if it would be accepted, to those purebloods who could no longer afford the Hogwarts fees, given their radical change in status. In the worst-case scenario, he could just dump it into the school bursary fund to support needy students that Dumbledore had told him about in the future now gone.

Harry had enjoyed his holidays, as he enjoyed being back at Hogwarts with his friends. Visiting the Weasley family had been wild and fun over break, and he had experienced both sorrow and joy during his time there. On the one hand, Mrs Weasley did not see him as one of her own, so her hugs were a bit less potent. On the other hand, he had laid a solid foundation for a strong friendship with Ginny while helping her and Ron prank the twins soundly. Of course, having Sirius on their team helped immensely, but they had managed to keep that little fact secret from Fred and George.

No matter what Harry tried, however, now that he was back in the castle he could not find a clear opportunity to ambush Quirrell and to take down Voldemort. He even considered trying it in the middle of class, just because it was the only time he could find the man when he was not in his private quarters, but he discarded it as too likely to get other students killed. There was also the minor problem of explaining what the hell he was doing randomly killing innocent professors with a speech impediment. It was rather a stretch to think there would be a chunk of spirit laying on the floor, dead and ready for examination. All that would be left was a dead body and too many witnesses. He needed a sudden ambush or else superior numbers – very, very superior numbers.

It was nearing the end of February when the plan struck him. Not only would there be superior numbers, but the odds of Voldemort escaping were infinitesimal. Best of all, should the plan fail, there would also be no evidence pointing to Harry Potter, leaving him free to try another strategy later. It became agony to wait for the upcoming Quidditch game that Snape had arranged to referee, but so it went.

oOo oOo oOo

After the match, Harry held back and waited for Snape to storm out of the castle and into the woods, knowing the man would be going to meet Quirrell-Voldemort. As he saw the Potions Master leave, Harry carefully Glamoured himself to look exactly like Quirrell and sped off into the forest on his broom. He was careful to sweep past the place where he knew Quirrell and Snape would meet, and then he headed straight for one of the most dangerous parts of the forest.

As he arrived, he slowed down on the broom and hovered near the ground. He knew his Glamour would make his voice match Quirrell’s as well, and he was counting on it. “Ah, here we are. The right place to gather some nice potions ingredients.”

He heard a rapid rustling and faint clicking from the valley below him. He could hear a few more rustlings from his left. “A beautiful day to be out and about, I should say,” he called in a rather loud voice. When the first Acromantula appeared, Harry grinned wickedly. “Ah, Acromantula eyes! A rare ingredient indeed!” Harry calmly killed that spider and waited as three more appeared. Rapidly, he killed those as well before he heard the weird clicking-screeching they used to communicate.

These were the spiders that had helped tear apart Hogwarts, and Harry had no pity for them. Backing away on his broom just ahead of the spiders, he kept randomly killing them as he flew straight for the spot where Quirrell was supposed to be, leading a merry chase for a horde of hateful spiders, taking care to keep their rage fully stoked.

When he knew he was close and could faintly hear the professors’ voices, he shot ahead at the same time as he cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself. Sweeping around to the far side of the small clearing where Quirrell and Snape were meeting, he hovered amongst the branches to hear their conversation.

“B-b-but S-s-severus, I d-d-don’t w-w-want–” Quirrell was shuddering and moaning.

“Shh! Quiet, fool!” Snape whispered urgently. Harry could hear and see the bushes shaking. “Flee!” Snape cried, but he was stopped immediately by a large Acromantula that dropped into the middle of the small clearing. Quirrell and Snape both moved in different directions, but Harry moved to follow Quirrell – from a safe distance. Quirrell was good, but, as he was on foot, the outcome was almost certain. He heard a sharp cry that cut off from behind him and surmised that Snape would no longer torment him.

When Quirrell stumbled, two Acromantulas dived on his body, and moments later, a shade drifted out and screeched hideously. Harry wasted no time and focused on all the hate he felt for Voldemort, enough hate to come back and kill the Dark Lord all over again. “Avada Kedavra!” he shouted, the green flash of light striking the ghostly form as it hovered in the open. A bright white light filled the air above Quirrell’s body, and then it was over.

Voldemort was dead.

Harry shot back to the castle as fast as he could, leaving the Acromantulas and their food far behind.

oOo oOo oOo

Harry sat in the Owlery, composing his last communiqué to Kingsley, identifying Rita Skeeter as an unregistered Animagus. He further speculated that that was how the woman was getting her inside information, details far beyond what Harry had given her from which to work out stories. He had expected her to use her form; it was what she did, but he also wanted her acid pen to stop writing lies. The magical world was safe and in the process of a very painful reform, and they needed honest and fair reporting now – not the bile-spewing work that Rita Skeeter offered. By the time she would be out of prison, her lesson would have been learned, and the political landscape would be vastly different. They might even have proper libel laws by then.

As the owl winged off into the afternoon, Harry got to his feet. He had one last appointment to keep, and then he needed to spend a lot of time with a mirror and the Obliviate spell.

As Harry reached the gargoyle guarding the headmaster’s office, he realised he had no idea what the password was. “Err, look, I need to talk to the Sorting Hat. It told me to come and see it when I did something, and it’s time. Can you let me up? Or maybe ask the Hat about it?”

The gargoyle looked at Harry with an air of exasperation before the eyes rolled back into the head, and it looked like the creature was squinting hard. Moments later, the eyes rolled back and opened. The stone guardian leapt aside, and then the staircase was ready. “Thanks,” he said quietly, patting the creature on the back.

“Hello, Harry,” Dumbledore said as Harry walked in without knocking. “The Hat was just telling me to let you in and that you need a few moments to talk with each other.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, no longer happy or enthusiastic. He was feeling faintly sick for what he had done over the past months, but it was far better than how sick he had felt before he came back to do it all over again. “We do.”

“You seem rather unhappy, Harry. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Dumbledore was openly concerned, and it touched Harry that the man cared so much, even before they had much interaction. It was painful, but Harry decided then and there that no matter the man’s faults in the past or the future, he was forgiven. And that gave him another idea.

“Actually, there is, sir. Not today, but soon, could we meet regularly? I found out that you knew my parents rather well, and even lived in the same village, and I thought… well, I thought you could tell me what you know.” Harry was unsure what reception the request would garner, but he had hopes that this time around, he could learn from and of the headmaster when it was far from a life-or-death situation. Perhaps they could have years to talk to each other, and Harry could learn so much of the magic he never had a chance to the first time around.

Dumbledore smiled broadly. “I think I would like that, Harry. Now, why don’t you talk to the Sorting Hat and see if it can’t help you with your problem?”

Harry smiled weakly and picked up the Hat. For a moment, he wished Fawkes was there, as the phoenix had always been a source of personal strength. With a deep breath, he dropped it on top of his head.

And so here we are again, Mr Potter. One moment, please. Harry could feel the Hat flipping through all the memories of what he had done since the Sorting at incredible speed. And so you have done as you planned, more or less. Do you think this will unite the Houses? Reform the magical society of England? Even the world? Or are you just deceiving yourself? Was the price worth it, Mr Potter?

I think so. Will everything get better? Not today, not right away. Will it over time? I think it can now, which is better than it was before I did this. No matter the cost, I believe coming back was worth it.

And you must do one more thing, is that correct?

Yes. Will you explain it to him when I’m done?

I will, Mr Potter.

Harry did not bother opening his eyes or saying anything verbally. Instead, he cast a silent and wandless Stunner at the headmaster and was rewarded with a thud as the man slumped in his chair. Harry got to his feet and extracted the Elder Wand from the man’s sleeve. One decisive break over his knee, and it was the Elder Wand no more. Harry left his second wand, the unregistered one, on the desk by the broken Elder. Dumbledore would need a wand to use, after all, and this saved him the effort to get one. Then he pulled out the bag full of former Horcruxes and deposited it on the desk as well.

You were planning to Obliviate yourself, Mr Potter?

Yeah. I didn’t see any other way to do it.

It won’t work. You’ll wind up in St Mungo’s Long-Term Care Ward, you know. You can’t just remove memories like that, it’s all too tied together. You’ll remove everything in the process if you try.

Great. So now what? I can’t go around like this, and I certainly can’t try to keep the friendships and hopes for the future with my old future memories. I’m a walking mental disaster. Maybe St Mungo’s is the right place for me to be.

There is a way, Mr Potter. It will be most painful, but I can erase – not remove, but erase – those things you should no longer know.

Oh. Can you leave some bits?

Such as?

What I know of magic. That was hard to learn. I don’t mind forgetting how to do it until we cover it in class, I suppose, but I’d like to have the abilities, you know? And Ginny. I can’t be in love with her anymore, but can you leave my attraction to her? And the desire to keep my friends together? And the bits about Kreacher, so I’ll know how to treat him? Oh, err, also–

Enough, Mr Potter. I have seen your memories, and I know what to leave and what to keep. Are you ready?

Uh. Not really.

Too bad, Mr Potter. This is not allowed!

oOo oOo oOo


This will be a very short fic – just five chapters. Almost there.

DMSO, or dimethyl sulfoxide if you’re unaware, is a most interesting compound. It’s a by-product of the printing industry, and can be both beneficial and quite deadly. In and of itself, one remarkable property is that it’s a very powerful solvent, and only some things can contain it. Also, as far as I know it is unique in that it will carry many compounds from the surface of the skin directly into the body – i.e., the bloodstream – and not damage the cell membranes it travels through, carrying the drug with it. Imagine, topical application of every drug you might ever need – no shots, no hassles. The FDA does not approve it for human medical use, for several very good reasons, outside of one or two small corner cases. That said, it is used by Veterinary clinics. Some people do use it personally for a variety of ailments, but you can read more about it with Google or maybe Wikipedia if you’re interested. I had a long personal experience with it back in the mid-80’s for a job I had, and it’s not something I’ll forget. The unique property cuts both ways, rather horrifically at times. As one example, migrant farm workers use DMSO to bring comfort to their sore joints and muscles, which it is quite useful for. Sadly, they don’t always wash thoroughly before applying it to their skin, so the pesticides and other compounds they use during the day are carried straight to their bloodstream. As I understand it, many people have died or had permanent neurological damage from such innocent mistakes.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Home

Author's Notes: See the end.

His dreams bothered him at times, though his dormitory mates had long since become accustomed to it. He would be travelling through mists and clouds, sometimes walking across the ground, sometimes flying, and there were voices – faint voices, crying out, crying for him to save them, or crying for his damnation because he had killed them. He tried to set it aside, but sometimes it was hard, which made it difficult to get going in the morning. Thankfully, they were rarely more than once a week, and the right people had learned to recognise the signs long ago.

He was looking forward to the wedding after leaving school at the end of the month. Tonks had finally forced Remus to make an honest woman out of her, not that the writing had been less than clear for the past three years. Hogwarts’ first and only lycanthropic DADA teacher had also been the one to break the rumoured curse upon the position, staying in the job since the second term of Harry’s first year. Harry wondered what random girlfriend Sirius would bring to the event, but regardless, he knew fun would be had by all.

Harry looked up at the sky and enjoyed the clear blue that spread across the horizon, signifying one of those rare summer days in Scotland with nary a cloud in sight. He could faintly see Ron flying about the Quidditch Pitch from here, savouring his last days as Head Boy and Quidditch Captain. Harry was happy for his friend, recently selected as a reserve player for the Cannons, but was happier he was not going there to play. Maybe Ron could turn the team around, but Harry doubted it. Hermione had offered to help Ron plan strategies for the team, but he honestly thought she had no hope for it either.

“Feeling all right, Harry?” Dumbledore’s voice cut through his thoughts as they walked along the edge of the lake. “It’s not the dreams again, is it?”

“Not really, sir.” Harry smiled at the headmaster, secure in their friendship. The man even came around during holidays and summer breaks, spending time with Harry and his motley family at Number Twelve. “Just thinking about everything that’s changing in a week or so.”

“Relax, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a fatherly pat on the shoulder. “Don’t listen to the people who think I’m grooming you to be my successor. I want you to live your life and to do what you want. You’ve earned it, lad. Some day, should you want to come back here once you’ve had a bit of experience in this world, we’ll talk about it.”

Harry laughed softly. “Thanks, I think,” he said after a moment. “It’s not that, really. I just feel like… like sometimes, there’s something I’m supposed to be doing, you know? There’s some battle to be fought, or some big event coming.”

Dumbledore said nothing as they walked around the lake, and Harry enjoyed the solitude with him. It was clear that the headmaster was old, but Harry liked to think his virtual grandfather would be there forever, immortal in a fashion.

“Harry, I do not know when next we will have a chance to talk like this, so I would like to tell you something.” Harry nodded when Dumbledore made eye contact, saying without words that this was serious. “There may come a time when things look bleak, when there are Dark powers gathering. If that happens, you must come back here and talk to the Sorting Hat.”

Harry was so surprised that he stopped. “Talk to the Sorting Hat?”

Dumbledore smiled, but the expression failed to reach his eyes. “Yes, I know it sounds like another barmy request from an old man, but I am most serious.”

“Err, all right, sir,” Harry said, unsure what to make of the request. “I’ll do that, but I hope I don’t have to.”

“As do I, Harry, as do I.” Dumbledore began walking again, so Harry joined him.

“Sir, is there something you know that I don’t, something about the future?” Harry was unable to shake a certainty that Dumbledore was trying to hint at something, but this was the first time he had ever noticed it.

“The future is never fixed, Harry, you should know that. Many things we do can change the outcomes once seen, and all I ask is that you remember my request.” There was a hint of humour in the headmaster’s voice as he changed the topic. “And how does your personal life look today, Harry?”

“Better, sir,” Harry said with a chuckle. “She’s not threatening to hex me after that prank, so she must truly love me.”

“You think that she feels that way, or you think that you do?”

Harry shrugged. “I’d hate to think it’s otherwise, really. We’ve talked off and on about what happens next. Next year will be hard, but we’ll certainly stay together. Still, we both also need to decide what we want to do with our lives individually before we can decide how we’re going to manage being together farther down the road.”

“Most wise, Harry, most wise.” Dumbledore remained silent as they continued on, before speaking again as they reached the half-way point around the lake. Dumbledore gestured back to the castle, and Harry stopped to stand beside him, shoulder to shoulder. “It’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it, Harry?”

“I’ve always thought of it as home, sir,” Harry said softly.

“Yes. I feel the same.” They continued to look at the castle, and Harry enjoyed the dual image between the reflection in the quiescent lake and the castle itself. “I’m glad you feel that way, Harry. As long as people feel that, I have hope that Hogwarts will always be here.”

Harry laughed lightly. “Of course it will, sir. Where else will I send my children? It’s not like I’ll even have a choice. She would hex me into next year if I suggested Beauxbatons.”

Dumbledore chucked softly. “Indeed, Harry, indeed.” As he started walking again, Harry resumed his place at his side.

“I was wondering, Headmaster, how well the… Ministry is taking to our use of Malfoy Manor?”

Dumbledore, Harry thought, giggled briefly. When he looked more closely, all he could see was Dumbledore watching him with those eyes twinkling like mad. “I think it’s safe to say, Harry, that they have no say in the matter. But, just between you and me, they could have heard the screaming from some members all the way inside the deepest vaults at Gringotts.”

Harry chuckled lightly as they continued their path back toward the castle. “I suppose an in-depth study of the evidence contradicting every pureblood claim would grate against some people. Not to mention the museum dedicated to famous Muggle and magical inventors and their works, regardless of blood.”

Dumbledore clapped Harry lightly on the shoulder, sliding his hand around and pulling Harry into a one-armed hug. “Harry, my boy, I can’t tell you how proud I am of what you and your godfather have done, have been doing. The changes are far too late for many, but the future generations… I have great hope for the future, Harry, and it’s all because of you. You’ve changed so much for so many.”

Harry smiled up at the man he had spent so many hours and years chatting with, learning magic from, and ultimately, growing up under the wisdom of. “Thanks, sir. I’ll do my best.”

“Ah, I know you will, Harry.”

Harry heard someone calling his name, and as he looked up, he had to laugh at the person running toward them. She never let him be alone for long, and he liked it that way. He looked forward to their future together, in whatever direction their careers took them.

He was happy to hold his arms out in open invitation, just watching her long, vibrant red hair fly as she joined him.

oOo oOo oOo



The original title to this was “Take Two”, but Sovran unwittingly gave me a better title. I was also briefly tempted to use “Double Jeopardy” but I really do like “Natural Order” a tad better.

Due to the interesting reactions, I thought I’d share extensive comments on the story, something I usually try to avoid getting too far into. I prefer people to find their own interpretations and understanding, as well as try to work out the clues in the writing.

Draco + Noise
What happened to the Draco investigation? Harry took a calculated risk. Chapter 1 Harry is insane, unbalanced, driven, and above all, gunning to get his agenda in place. He knew what he was planning for later that night for Pettigrew, and he took the chance that eliminating Draco would be a small ripple compared to the big ripple he was going to cause. Was there an investigation? Yes, and it was becoming large, until the rest happened. Then the manpower was pulled to the corruption, scandals, and so on, and the remaining under-manned team made the only call they could. It happens all the time in real life just like that. Would the investigation be re-opened later? Probably. But by that point, Harry would have been quite safe – either dead or unknowing of his own acts. Could he have just had Draco imprisoned? No, there was nothing to use for that purpose. Bear in mind, this is only partially DH compliant. If Voldemort hadn’t been stopped, what would canon Draco have done? Gone along with everything.

Lack of opposition, timing, constant barrage
Did you deliberately make Harry some kind of uber-powerful person? No, actually, he’s not Super!Harry or some variant thereof. He’s normal Harry, except he knows how to use wandless magic (see Bk7 and the Snape memories of Lily), but he is also older and experienced with years of knowledge from his past life. What you see as an unstoppable Harry is actually Harry causing a massive wave of inertia to swamp “the system” which is loosely modelled after the Augustus situation (if that makes no sense, read
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Fudge’s reign relies on discrediting opponents, underhanded attacks, and so forth – and that’s based on canon alone. Here, Harry is deliberately making a massive change, and forcing the ripples to “keep going” while increasing in magnitude. There’s no chance for the purebloods, Fudge, etc. to take a breath and work out a counter-strategy. They are blind-sided, and it’s too late for opposition to matter much. Instead, if Harry had taken the Viridian/MaxFic/foo route of careful and slow changes, the opposition would have gathered and made an effective counter to his presence. Here, they don’t even know who the opposition is, only that their careful blankets of lies and influence have suddenly been yanked off rather rudely in the middle of the night.

Azkaban is enough
Harry didn’t kill lots of people even though he could have. Why? Mostly because with the changes forced, the Azkaban guards remain unchanged and are still nominally servants of the Empire, err, Ministry. Sentencing the remaining Malfoy family, for example, to many years (or life) there is good enough. Harry had contingency plans in place to “permanently” deal with them, as mentioned in an earlier chapter, but those plans never were called for.

Planned self-obliviate
Harry was planning to Obliviate himself, as you discovered fully in Chapter 4, though there were clues much earlier. He knew he was unhinged, he knew he couldn’t keep going with his future self inside his head, and more than that, he knew he couldn’t keep going with his present-actions inside his head either. He had to remove all future memories, as well as all memories related to what he did to change the timeline so massively. He was perfectly willing to die in the process, but Floppy had an alternative. For the record, and it’s all off-the-page, Floppy’s “treatment” of Harry’s memories left him hospitalized for a while. Dumbledore smoothed over any issues related to it all. This is also one of the driving reasons why Harry was willing to forcibly “nudge” his old/future friends in more positive directions, since he was not going to force changes – merely attempt to alleviate the most acute character flaws from his prior experiences. Was he successful? That’s for you to decide.

What Dumbledore knew
Wouldn’t you like to know? I had planned on leaving it all unclear, but I’ll spill my personal interpretation: in the end, Floppy told him everything. Before the end, Dumbledore had strong suspicions that all was not what it seemed with Harry, and his investigations were ongoing. Unfortunately, he – like everyone else in authority – was slammed with the huge waves that Harry’s actions made. Near the end, it was Harry’s request for Dumbledore to spend time explaining his family and Godric’s Hollow to him that assuaged many fears, and once the Hat told him everything, Dumbledore would have appreciated the pressures and problems Harry faced like no one else ever could. That would lead him amicably to set up the one-on-one sessions to discuss the past and to build a strong friendship to Harry as the years rolled by. Dumbledore’s request for Harry to talk to the Hat should things become dire was actually the Hat’s request of Dumbledore. Was there danger of a future gloom via some other Dark Lord? History demonstrates that there always is.

Snape + Dumbledore + Occlumency off the page
On the one hand, Harry was trying to avoid detection. On the other, he was able to clearly present a consistent image to attempts at mental invasion. Wouldn’t that give up the game? Yes, he did. Snape was unwilling to dig around in Harry’s memory due to the distaste for what else might be in there, but also because it was clear to him that Harry had Occlumency training and was baiting the man. The tic Snape had was less from the daisies than from the frustration of being blocked from Harry’s mind and taunted at the same time. Despite the man’s pettiness, bitterness, and complete lack of maturity, he would have no basis to complain over Harry’s defences, and the man knew it. That didn’t stop him from talking to Dumbledore about it, however, and as already made clear in the text, even Dumbledore checked out Harry’s skill level. See the prior part of this A/N about concerns and investigations.

Why didn’t magic detectors go off? Simple. Based on canon, at that age and before having an official wand or going to Hogwarts, Harry wasn’t accountable. Would the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad have shown up, based on the magnitude of the display? Perhaps, but my assumption is that they have to be summoned. Did Petunia ever contact Dumbledore? No, she didn’t. Vernon is in long-term psychiatric care in Surrey, and Petunia and Dudley are adjusting to a new reality. Perhaps they became better people for it. Perhaps not.

What about NoFP plus knock-offs
“Wow, this was a lot like NoFP, or some other re-do fic.” Yes, in many senses, it was. The first major difference is that Harry went back with all his powers and knowledge ready. Viridian didn’t quite make Harry that powerful from the get-go, though Viridian made him no slouch by any means and NoFP wound up with a Super!Harry in core strength. MaxFic is the only one I know of that had Harry completely “re-learn” and “re-develop” his own magic after going back. Both MaxFic and Viridian, however, took the slow-and-steady approach, which builds characters, explores interesting ideas and what-ifs, and also allows a navigation of the fine edge of sanity for the central characters. I opted to go a different route, obviously, mostly to show that if you really knew the score and what to do, you could do it all a good bit faster. What I glossed over, however, was the extreme risk Harry was taking. If his actions backfired, he very well could have made the future a bigger mess than it already was scheduled to be. For the record, Viridian’s eventual attempt on the re-do idea has set the bar very high, and any re-do fic is always de facto compared to his. I wanted that comparison in the reader’s head to highlight how different this is. Double Jeopardy is also a legal principle, in that you can’t be tried for the same crime twice. I liked the irony of the story summary, as that’s exactly what Harry is doing – to himself, and everyone else.

Harry’s Sanity
Reconciling Harry from Chapter 1 to Harry of Chapter 4 is hard, unless you read carefully and think about it a bit. Making the switch to Chapter 5 is relatively easy since I had the Hat “fix up” Harry’s mental state, albeit at a rather hefty price. In Chapter 1, it’s clear that Harry is very much insane. But why? Think about it. In the first half of the chapter, Harry has been forced into his situation by events and years of hard living, yes. But he also carried around the diadem of Ravenclaw for years, without a sword or handy basilisk (recall, Hogwarts was obliterated, so no way into the Chamber). Bear in mind the canon evidence for what a crusty can do to you, and you’ll understand his lack of sanity is partially artificial as well. At the end of Chapter 1, it’s clear that he is, in fact, bothered by what he did to Malfoy. The Harry in the last sentences is not the Harry in the first sentences of that chapter. Why the change? First, going “back” has undone the corruption of his soul by the long exposure to the diadem. Thus, he’s acting on memory and habit, rather than genuine feelings of Voldemort essence (talk about a bad perfume…). Next, the continued exposure to people, and specifically a non-apocalyptic world, has begun a process of blunting some of the more sharp edges. The pleasure and instant-gratification of seeing his friends, his former girlfriend, all the humans alive and happy at the platform before going to Hogwarts would further this point greatly. Third, time itself is an incredibly powerful healing agent. Lacking the daily reminders and influences of the past, let alone cursed items in your pocket, the passage of days blunts memories of trauma and pain. And finally, having something to focus on, something new, is a powerful means to moving beyond a troubled past. All of these things, combined with the Hat’s ultimate interference, move Harry from Chapter 1 through Chapter 5. However, even though the Hat has done everything it could, you’ll note in Chapter 5 that Harry still suffers from the side effects of his past and future selves. Actions do have consequences, after all. Even when JKR blows it and doesn’t hold people accountable, I will.

Thanks, as always, to the betas. Chreechree, cwarbeck, Reg, Lathac, Sherylyn, and Sovran all lent their usual thoughts and commentary, warranted or otherwise.

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