An Angry Reaper
A/N: This is in response to the Reptillia28 challenge. There are MANY Cliche, CRACK and OTT (Over-The-Top) elements to cover serious parts as well as plot holes in canon.
2/1/2020: SINCE WE STILL SOMETIMES GET TRULY IRRITATED PEOPLE REVIEWING, LET THIS BE THE FIRST THING TO GET OUT OF THE WAY.
THIS IS NOT REAL. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO TREAT THE ENTIRE TIME-TRAVEL+BASHING+OMG!HARRY IS SUCH A BAMF! TROPE+ AND ANYTHING ELSE YOU COULD CARE TO THINK OF AS SOMETHING THAT IS GOOD.
THE ONLY THINGS THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SERIOUSLY ARE THE FACTS THAT
1: THE REAL-LIFE AUTHOR DID CHANGE BECAUSE THE FIRST HARMONIOUS CANNONS PASSED AWAY
2: THE ARSENAL MATCH (FANFICTION HAS UNDERREPRESENTED SPORTS)
3: BASHING OF THE HAREM TROPE
4: HOW VOLDEMORT WAS KILLED
EVERYTHING ELSE, EVEN SOME ANGSTY AUTHOR'S NOTES ARE FAIR GAME. TREAT THEM AS YOU WOULD WISH. SO YOU WILL FIND THE DREADED HADRIAN.
This is a HARMONY story - Harry/Hermione pairing because it is required. They won't jump into relationship just because they can. They will disagree a lot, initially. It eventually becomes smooth. The objective is to win with as many of those who died in the first timeline remaining safe and intact; so as such moral compunctions will be severely dimmed. Destroying Voldemort and everything related to him takes precedence. This is chiefly a REVENGE story with lots and lots of blood being spilt. No Death Eater of any sort is redeemed. Ever. No matter how much canon may try to redeem said Death Eater or Death Eater spawn, or even worse, however much the DE in question may be romanticised. Minimal fluff.
Alternate ways to deal with all sorts of bashing as well as usual cliche tropes. This means a ridiculously rich Harry, will in turn look to actually use it and not buy useless things and say "okay, here take the money" unless it suits the purposes. Bashing will see-saw. No person who is bashed will remain bashed, unless the person is a Death Eater. And the Marauders are heroes. And there will be blood. Lots and lots of it.
There will be digs within the story at various odd tropes. For eg., Harry being the shortened form of Harold/Harrison/Hadrian/Hearty the Hart-humper or anything of the sort. Harry won't be OOC, as much as an Anti-Harry. There is enough explanation at the end for it.
Reviews are appreciated. Flames are not.
"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure. "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that meaaaaaaaaaaaaa…." The mist, King's Cross Station and Professor Dumbledore all dissolved with the wave of the wand of a woman in emerald green robes, with her back turned to Harry. Her hair was tied up in a bun. She turned around violently, her features contorted in unrestrained fury.
"WHY YOU INSOLENT LIT-" she started screeching, in a manner eerily reminiscent of Molly Weasley in full flow.
"Professor McGonagall?" asked Harry worriedly. "Please tell me you aren't dead too!" he almost pleaded.
The woman stopped in mid-screech, totally flabbergasted, then with her entire body slacking comically, flopped down to the floor. She looked at Harry with an expression that was a curious mixture of anger, exasperation, pity and an almost Snape-like loathing. It was enough to make Harry stop in his tracks; Professor McGonagall could have never assumed that expression. "Eight. That's how many times I HAVE HAD TO SEE YOUR SORRY FACE! EIGHT BLOODY TIMES YOU HAVE DIED BEFORE YOUR TIME! AND THIS LAST ONE! WILLINGLY GETTING KILLED BASED ON THE WORDS OF THAT DIRTY, EVIL MANIPULATOR! WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA?"
Harry gaped at the woman open mouthed as she burst into the tirade. Finally deciding that he had to defend himself and Dumbledore from a woman he didn't even know- no matter how much she resembled Professor McGonagall- he responded in kind. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU CALL DUMBLEDORE AN EVIL MANIPULATOR? HE WAS YOUR FRIEND AND SUPERIOR, PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL! HE LED ME ON THE PATH TO DESTROY VOLDEMORT ONCE AND FOR ALL, EVEN AFTER HE DIED!"
The woman was seething with anger as she heard Harry's outburst. She took several calming breaths, and then tried smiling at Harry. It came out as a grimace and a foul, simpering smile that was oddly reminiscent of one Dolores Umbridge. Giving up the attempt, she counted out loud to a thousand. Harry rightly surmised that he must have pissed her off to a very high level to elicit such a calming measure. When she finally regained speech, it was delivered in a cold, controlled manner, channelling her fury. "You are an utter, absolute imbecile, Harry Potter! First off, I am NOT Minerva McGonagall. I am Cassiopeia, your personal grim reaper. This is much like the accounts of Gringotts, but as you are a fool, you don't know about that either. You see, you were supposed to destroy Voldemort in last year itself, that is, as soon as you came to know about the existence of the Horcruxes. The answer to bind the soul from all his Horcruxes was in the Potter Grimoire. But you never got around to opening it. Heck, you never EVEN CLAIMED YOUR INHERITANCE!"
Harry's head was still reeling from the idea that the simplest solution to defeat Voldemort lay in his own family's magic. Why that was needed in the Grimoire in the first place wasn't something he knew. Right now he needed answers, and it would be worth them all to calm Cassiopeia and to try and understand whatever new madness he had gotten into. "Excuse me, Ma'am...Cassiopeia? Would you please explain what is going on? I am afraid that you have me at a disadvantage here. I clearly am dead, that much I can discern myself. But what was it about this being the eighth time? Please go in a linear manner while you explain. To think that I could have not lost Sirius and Remus and all the others is still a bit difficult to comprehend. I can understand your anger, or try to do so at least if you tell me what all this is about."
Cassiopeia sighed. This was going to take a long time. "Now listen here, Harry James Potter! You asked, so I will tell you everything. Firstly: your previous eight deaths. Well seven, since you know how you came here right now. The first time was when The Death Cheater tried to kill you. Well he did manage it. Then there was that time when you were starved by the Dursleys as a baby, and then again when you were seven. Next, when Voldemort's spirit passed through you as a first year. The Whomping Willow took you and the red-headed idiot out of the game after you crashed the car into it. You were noble when Pettigrew tried to curse Cedric and took you out when you intercepted the curse. When Nagini bit you around Christmas, you completed a good seventh visit. Do you have any questions along this part?"
Harry was waiting for that entirety of her monologue to ask his first question, and the questions increased to three by the time she was done. "Yes. Firstly how did I die when Voldemort cursed me the first time around? If that is true, it makes the blood protection thingy obsolete and redundant, doesn't it? About Cedric, should he have died anyway? Thirdly, why did I never remember you, or any of this? And finally, is Dumbledore totally evil? I know this isn't really related to my deaths, but he put me in with the Dursleys who killed me twice. Well, that's all right now", he finished lamely.
Cassiopeia considered him intently for a while, before shaking her head, and herself out of her stupor. "Good. At least dead, you seem to try and use that brain of yours. Yes the blood protection is redundant. Basically, since nobody but Dumbledore knew where you lived, no one ever came around. He had a version of the Fidelius on the Dursleys and not you, which meant that he delved into their minds to find out all the contacts they ever had and personally informed them about the Dursleys. That way nobody could find them even if they used Veritaserum or the Imperius. They were painstaking efforts on the part of the old man, no doubt about it. And in the short run, it did protect you from The Death Cheater's Death Eaters, but that was only to hone you as his tool."
"How did Sirius find me then? Or the times when Dobby or the letters from Hogwarts and the Ministry came? What about any new contacts the Dursleys made over the years? Did Dumbledore set up some sort of a self-updating keying system or something? Or perhaps a time triggered secret divulging ward?"
Cassiopeia took a loooong look at Harry, and then started to laugh. She laughed so hard, that Harry started entertaining doubts about her sanity. At long last she calmed down. "Oh you can use your brains. Well, since you didn't take up Runes, you don't know how protection schemes interact. Blood Wards were intent based. That meant, as long as you were considered family, the wards would stay strong. Now, consider the magic repelling and Fidelius charms on the house. They had a bad reaction to the rotting blood wards. Eventually, by the time you were six, the Fidelius Charm wore off; indeed, it is considered impossible, but mixing blood runes and such protection charms was never a bright idea in the first place. The protection was totally destroyed by the time you became seventeen. The poor intermingling of protection charms and blood wards, eventually made the protections bleed off."
Harry looked open-mouthed at this doppelganger of his Transfiguration professor as she cracked a joke, or at least tried to.
"You are still caught up with my likeness to Minerva, aren't you? The first three times you came here, you kept calling me Granny Min. Thereafter you called me Professor McGonagall."
"Yes. She was James' godmother. She was under a Vow by Dumbledore to keep information about your parents to herself till you recognised her. The Horcrux in your head suppressed your memories. Your own godbrother, if you will, Neville, you couldn't try to befriend till the fifth year, though after that you were a far better friend. Luna's mother Celeste was your mother's friend. Both were Unspeakables in training. You didn't look out for her. You see, if the Horcrux had been removed before, you would have kept their memories, and would have done much better with wiser and better friends by your side. That was one of Dumbledore's many mistakes. I won't tell you about them, except this one. When you had the Goblin-sword impregnated with Basilisk venom, he could have told you about your scar. He had known for far too long. Fawkes could have healed you again, as he would have thought you to be pure-hearted and self-sacrificing." She looked again towards Harry as she added quickly, "Not that you aren't. As for Cedric, you are responsible for his death, in a way. You stopped Sirius and Remus killing Peter, but you didn't take the proper precautions to ensure that he would meet his end. You could have stunned him or asked those two to do it. You stopped one death, but that death in later interactions has to be counter-balanced. Your actions led to Bertha, Cedric and Emmaline Vance dying."
Harry contemplated upon this gory pronouncement sombrely. So death was necessary for all, but he should have ensured the right ones went out at the right time to protect his friends and family? Cassiopeia caught on to Harry's train of thoughts. "Yes. You should have done that. But we aren't here for a philosophical discussion of right and wrong. We are talking about the world that you had and still have an important part in. Before you ask the question, yes, you will go back. Unlike the previous times when your memory was wiped off, this time, you will retain your memories for fair use. That means any scholastic and academic usage of memories is strictly forbidden. You asked why memories are wiped off. The reason is simply this: people get scared and complacent; a curious mixture though it is. How would you like to know you died and still had a few chances, and then end up wasting those chances? It is normal human tendency to be flippant about next chances till you realise the next is the last one."
"What do I do now?"
"That is the question isn't it? Well, firstly, your job was not just destroying Voldemort. He was simply, a minor inconvenience. Your job was to introduce Wizards and Witches to magically modified, enhanced or invented technology. The success of the scheme dictated that you should have been properly raised in the mundane world. Not that it helped really, but there you go. Ideally, you would have taken Ancient Runes, Arithmancy and CoMC as your electives and combined your knowledge of muggle machines with magic for really new magical technology. That was your true destiny. The old idiot made it all to mean that Voldemort was the be all and end all of your life."
"What else was there that I could have lived with when Voldemort was lurking around?" Harry asked indignantly. "Even if the old man did control me, with Voldemort around, it wasn't as if I could just prance around delving into the beauty of magic! Barring Padfoot's and McGonagall's animagus forms, barring the Patronuses...or Patroni, I haven't seen beautiful magic at all!"
"Very true," agreed Cassiopeia. But beauty, just as it can be seen, can also be experienced and imagined and born out of creativity and curiosity. You had, as do many magical people, the power to connect with your core and have several animagus forms, even magical animals, barring the phoenix. Nobody is that pure of heart, and that translates into their magic. It isn't really as much about the inner animal as it is about the will to do so and the magical power to transform and sustain the form. Most people don't connect to their core and only assume the form that comes easiest to them, which they then dub their natural form. The point is that if it was so, it basically means that you are stereotyping or boxing up each person's personality. A person never remains the same, change is constant, and it reflects in the magic. You would have introduced this idea to several others. Besides, you could study several creatures, magical or otherwise, and think up new creatures. That was curbed, for without letting you see the world without pain or Voldemort, your curiosity was atrophied!"
"So Dumbledore merely controlled not only my life but also my mind without the imperius? He was just as evil as Voldemort, but better at disguising himself? Why now? What happens to me and what role do you play in all these events?" He realised he was rambling and not even making any sense as he just spewed the questions as they came to him, as he challenged the veracity of what Cassiopeia said.
"Evil would be the wrong a word for Dumbledore. Was he evil? I will let you decide that. Was he manipulative? Yes. Did he think that he was infallible, omnipotent and all-knowing? Yes. Did he take steps to make people do and behave as he felt was for the best? Yes. He was a man who saw the forest and forgot the trees, so to speak. Well that's not entirely correct. He knew exactly which trees he wanted chopped down. He was wise in some ways, but most certainly not omnipotent and omniscient as most people thought him to be. He really wanted the Death Cheater gone, but that was solely for the reason that his ideas, his reign or more importantly, as he saw it, his legacy, wouldn't be challenged. His misplaced idea of forgiveness was purely detrimental in the long run, but more importantly it was his way of making people beholden to him."
Harry made a moue of disgust. Yet another adult's image had cracked. True he had his misgivings during the previous two years, but this...
Seeing that his disbelief regarding her words was crumbling, and that there were cracks in the pedestal on which he held Dumbedore, Cassiopeia pressed on. "He knew about Voldemort's Horcruxes. He even had memories from people who had long since died. Why, after you destroyed the diary, did he not tell you about the scar? Why wait for three years and for Voldemort to return to start searching for the remaining pieces? Why did it fall to two hardly of age kids to find and destroy such evil magic?"
"Why indeed?" Harry faintly murmured as he ruminated over what she said. "But then what is your motivation in this matter?" he returned to his questions regarding her doggedly.
"I'll answer your questions about me as you asked them," she conceded, seeing that he was going to behave like a dog with a bone. "As to why now, I can send you back one more time, but this time the odds are severely against you, and moreover, it is more than just your life at stake. There is a set of extenuating circumstances at play here. I will touch upon that again. I know, you are trying to make sense of all this and failing miserably, but hear me out. My initial outburst was my frustration at your repeated unauthorised deaths. You see, it is marked against my work, a black mark, if you will, and that makes me a failure. Your job was to ensure the proper fulfilment of your destiny for the, forgive me for this, Greater Good of the magical society. My job was to take out as many hitches. I knew of that Horcrux in your scar, but couldn't remove it until you were told about it. The reason is quite simple really. It would have been damn difficult to prove it to old man Whiskers. My failure meant that I would be demoted to a lower, generic Death Manager. I am your personal DM by the way, as you must have sussed out?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
Harry nodded in understanding, before asking the first of the two questions that were now troubling him regarding his eventual fate. "What was my life supposed to be like?"
"You were supposed to beat the Dark Lord, become a political power with the backing of your Godfather, pass a law for compulsory inheritance tests for muggle-born witches and wizards to prevent bigotry and for the resurrection of family lines, start your magical technology firm, live to the age of 162, and marry your soul mate. Also, you were supposed to know about your family- your true family; every single soul of your true family- not those things ingratiated to you, like the Weasleys, though they were doing some things to help you as they had sworn, by fealty to House Potter; nor the things foisted upon you, like the Dursleys."
"I have a soul-mate? What is a soul-mate anyway?"
"That's all that registered with you?" asked Cassiopeia smirking in a teasing manner. For Harry, who was accustomed to Minerva McGonagall's stern face, this would have been comical had the situation not been so serious. "Yes. Some Granger girl, what was her name?"
"Hermione was my soul mate? What? She is with Ron, and I am-was with...Ginny?"
Instantly Harry knew he had made a mistake. He could see his DM's face redden as she worked up an inordinate amount of rage. "YES HERMIONE 'SHE IS LIKE MY SISTER' GRANGER IS YOUR SOULMATE. NOT THE REDHEADED FANGIRL."
She fought desperately, snorting like a raging bull occasionally, before calming down with deep breaths. "Yes Hermione is your soul-mate. Or, to be precise, she is one of five probable soul-mates. She is the one that you are closest too. Funnily, you are younger than them all. Think about it. Why would you love somebody who looks so much like your mother? It's cringe-worthy, honestly. If that doesn't scream of an Oedipus complex, I don't know what does. She looks like your mother but her eyes are like your father. Wouldn't she be more akin to a sister if you ever had one, physically? Then she goes and doses you with jealousy potions keyed to her and another for your soul-mate keyed to her brother, and brings her idiot of a brother on-board for the plan, and he went after your soul mate. But that is not the worst part of it all."
"There is something worse than being drugged?"
"The poor girl was brainwashed by her mother. Remember, whatever happened, is most certainly not her fault, as it was of the circumstances, and then that blasted Diary. I am being a bit generous here, but Molly Weasley made you a positive idea for little Ginny to latch on to when the girl had to be happy in less than favourable conditions in her childhood. You, in absentia became a beacon for her. You have to save her from herself, in this case; for the obsession would become a slow march into something much worse for her - and for you as well. In a way, Percy falling out with his family was a big part of it all. Molly Weasley's idea of happiness was a big, happy Weasley family. You an Hermione were, for her, the ingredients that would really make the One Big Happy Madness complete."
Deciding to keep that matter aside temporarily for further rumination he asked, "You said something about the Weasleys being ingratiated, and something about a fealty. What was that?
"Well, the fealty was the reason why she really was looking out for you at King's Cross station on the 1st of September, 1991, and that was the proper thing to do, after Hagrid had forgotten to tell you how to get through to Platform 9 ¾. I won't tell you anything about the fealty oaths. Go find it out yourself. However, understand that in this matter they have not cheated you. It was not their place to bring the matter up."
"At least that is something..." Harry muttered
Cassiopeia shook her head. There was so much to get done, so much to be told to him, that it was really not funny. "There is a more important and unrelated matter that you have to consider. It pertains to the topic of soul-mates. I must tell you the rider. If you die now, Hermione dies too, as far as her love is concerned. In other words, she will be unable to love anybody or anything ever. No going back. The same goes for the other four girls too. Though, we do take interest in such situations. Since you aren't as close to the four girls, they'll not bear the brunt as much as Hermione will. Do you understand?"
Harry who had already gone green at the idea of Ron and Ginny dosing him up to the gills with potions started shaking with horror at the idea of his death causing Hermione's loss in terms of a complete life. The information overload was starting to get to him, and he was overheating like an overclocked processor.
"You have not outright said it, but you implied that Molly was not party to drugging us. But you have dropped a few 'tantalising' hints. And even that is unsure, because you are not accepting the statement nor denying it. Why did the two youngest do it?"
Cassiopeia smiled; at least he was understanding that what was and wasn't being said were both just as important. However, his expressions and tone caught her a bit short. Cassiopeia misconstrued it as misdirected anger, and went about explaining things further.
"You don't believe me, do you? Well, ask yourself this. Why would a girl with a moral compass stronger than the best magnet you could find cheat to get a boy onto the Quidditch team, but get jealous of her best friend who should have always been trusted for the simple matter of using a potions book with tips? War time implies that any and all suspicions must be fully tested. She wouldn't buy it. Where did the flowery scent of something at the Burrow come from? You have been there far too many times to not notice it before. Both of you have failed yourselves and each other. Anyone could see that the two of you fell for the two ever so conveniently. But you don't know the worst part of it all. She loved you or at least had a crush on you since your first year, after the troll incident, and it only intensified after you saved Sirius. You felt a little about her too, but as you had been brought up in an environment totally devoid of love, you never understood what she meant to you, or what you were feeling for her. The potion doses the Weasley idiots fed you – and mind you, since it went against their loyalty oaths, it was betrayal; and it was also line theft – confused you as you tried to fight off the insidious dosage by replacing the object of your affections with somebody totally unrelated."
Each word was making a deeper wound on Harry's heart. He had failed Hermione. He had trusted Ron, and Ron had betrayed him. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny had turned his feelings into a sham. The worst was Dumbledore's betrayal. "When did they start?"
"They started just after the third year; just after Sirius and the Firebolt incident. It was when Ronald Jealousy Weasley's single biggest emotion reared its head, once again. Why should Harry Potter get everything? But by that time, everyone around you had realised what Hermione meant to you, except of course, you. So he decided that he wanted the one thing that meant the most to you. Think of the locket, boy. His fear wasn't losing her. It was losing to you." Cassiopeia smiled as Harry's face paled with dawning comprehension. "By then, Ginevra had made her intentions of bagging the boy-who-lived to her mother already, just as she had been brought up to think." Harry noted that she still studiously avoided making any mention of Molly's actions.
Harry just sat down, though that was a relative term, considering that all around him was just an all-encompassing white that stretched to infinity. He was reeling from the shocks he was receiving. Cassiopeia had shown him the manipulations that almost everyone he looked up to and trusted had embroiled him in. Those that had truly cared for him were dead, or snatched away like Hermione. "Why? Why did they all betray me like this?"
The sadness and hurt permeating through his voice made Cassiopeia feel really bad. "There never really is an answer to such a question. You were a trusting fool, for the most part. You were trying to find the love of a family because you had never experienced it, and the Weasleys were in a very opportune space. You wouldn't ever have believed such an act of them."
"I have lost. I have lost everything," said Harry with a dead voice, with an equally dead stare.
"Do you feel sufficiently distraught and guilty enough that you are willing to do just about anything to correct the situation?"
Harry, who by now had started to cry silently, looked up to Cassiopeia with increasingly reddening eyes and rasped out, "Yes."
"Good. Now, when the Horcrux in your scar will be removed when you go back, it will unlock your magical core. Dumbledore bound it to prevent that vile thing taking you over. For all intents and purposes, it was an excellent decision at that point of time, if you look at it from one, partially obscured point of view. I'll not tell you whose point of view. I'll not give you all the answers. Whether or not he had any ulterior motives is something you have to find out on your own. When he realised that there was a surety of the existence of the Death Cheater's bits and pieces, he could have given you the chance to remove it yourself..."
"After I fought the Basilisk", piped in Harry.
"Yes. It was the simple task of piercing your scar with the fang or the sword of Gryffindor. Fawkes saved you then. Your self-sacrifice and a small nudge from me will mean he can save you again. There is the small matter of your core being unbound violently, though. We have to look into the matter."
A small door with a red-and-gold knocker materialised behind her. She marched towards it with Harry in tow, and knocked thrice. The door opened of its own volition to admit the two into a well furnished office. She sat him across the table as she herself occupied the official chair. Drawing a sheaf of official looking forms, she peered at him piercingly for a moment. "You have two options as of now. Go back to the time stream where you left it, or go back to a time of your own choice. If you choose the former, remember that you will not have the chance to claim your soul mate, because you are more likely to not burden a grieving family, even though you yourself have lost far too much than they all combined, have ever lost. Remember that. Should you then pursue any dangerous profession, you will be left having to prevent any chance of death as you know what that will mean for her. The second option stipulates that you go back to sometime within the past seven years. The limit exists for a reason. Most people can't adjust properly to a previous time. Moreover, I don't think going through the Dursley horror with the Horcrux is advisable. It would also make it easier to realise and deal with all manipulations in situ. If you stew too long, you will find that your paranoia will be boundless. So, what would you choose?"
That was an absolute no-brainer as far as Harry was concerned. "I'll go back in time of course! I would like to have your advice as regards the 'when'."
"I am sorry. I am not allowed to take such decisions on my client's behalf nor am I allowed to advise them in such a delicate matter. After you have made your choice, I can give you pointers and hints or even full-fledged plans to get around various situations."
Harry pondered over the matter for some time. He had to go back to before he and Hermione were given potions and after he had defeated the Basilisk. He realised that he had never laid hands on the Sword after that till the day Snape gave it to them. That also meant that he had to do it when there was a reference. So he had to go right after he came out of the chamber.
"Quite a good choice, I must say; a perfect one, rather. If you are sure, please sign these forms. As the fine print really is fine, and no one ever really bothers reading the forms all the way through, I will give you the gist of them. You will retain all situational memories including the Horcruxes and the hunt. Since returning five years into the past will mean a commensurate disparity in knowledge levels, I will erase your academic knowledge, but keep the spells that you have used in battles intact. You will of course retain this conversation. I will create a new memory of everything that occurred in the Chamber of Secrets. Do try to use every bit of this knowledge well. Bring out that inner Slytherin. Your mum was almost sorted into Slytherin too, but she was a muggle-born, so that never came around, thankfully, or she would've been around that bastard Snape. Remember, when protecting the innocent do not be afraid to kill. Do not force those whom you have seen together to get together again. I am speaking of course, about Remus and Nymphadora. Apart from destroying Voldemort, freeing Sirius and getting together with Hermione, do not under any circumstances interfere with the natural course of events. Am I clear?"
Harry then asked the second question regarding his eventual fate. "What happens if I fail again?"
With a truly malicious grin-grimace combo expression, Cassiopeia answered, "We both go to hell, quite become my apprentice."
"How does one become an apprentice in getting burnt?"
"Who said anything about getting burnt? Hell is just lots and lots of paperwork. Even bureaucrats in ministries don't have that sort of paperwork for the poor people who apply for their help to submit. Guess who will do a bulk of the paperwork if you and I go down there?" she asked with a widening grin. Harry shuddered and gulped.
"Right," Cassiopeia said as she sat Harry down in front of her, and instructed him to sit cross-legged, erect, eyes closed and with the palms placed on his knees. "Right now, I am going to help you understand yourself. Whatever that thing called Snape taught you about Occlumency was a train-load of decomposed dragon dung. Why does one need Occlumency? It is simply not a manner in which your secrets remain your own. It is more than just personal privacy. It is the first step towards self-realisation."
Harry opened his eyes briefly. "Are you going to ask me to clear my mind?"
"No. I think you need an explanation here. The mind is an intangible component of any living being. You could for that matter, split an intelligent, self-motoring living being into three aspects: body-the physical, mind- the intangible, and the soul- which is the link between them. Now think of the soul as a conduit for your mind, just as a wand is a conduit for your magic. You could have no more blocked off Riddle's thoughts by clearing your mind than a flobberworm could have eaten a blast ended skrewt. The soul piece in your scar- and remember, that part is important for later- was a conduit for Voldemort's mind. You could stave off the intrusions only when Voldemort himself used Occlumency. That is a big pointer to the fact that he was, or is an idiot. He never realised that you- or a part of you- was a Horcrux."
"But when Dobby died and I was burying him, or even while fighting at Hogwarts, I could block him off, and I knew he was thinking something. How did that happen?"
"Excellent! Think of the conduits. When you blocked him off, you were able to fill your mind with the anguish in your soul for your friend, or the excitement and adrenaline rush of the battle. Your own soul and mind are by far much more powerful, uncorrupted and whole as they are compared to Tom's fragments." Harry nodded in understanding, and promptly closed his eyes again.
"Now the true Occlumency that I will teach you, involves understanding yourself, as I said. Slowly, steadily, try to remember each incident as you know it. Think of what happened. Think of your actions or reactions. Could you have done something differently? Do not let guilt or anger or any emotion cloud your judgement. You have infinite time here, for time has no meaning. Forget the adage "hindsight is 20/20". Let your life flash before your eyes. Most importantly, judge the situation, and not the people involved." Harry did just that. He continued with the process and got a very different view of what he had done, what had happened to him, the actions that irked him, and the things that made him happy. It was rather enlightening to see his life through a third person's perspective. If he had to make a one word comment about himself, it would be, "Idiot."
"Quite right you are, Harry. Well, now let me check for a minute." Cassiopeia stared at him intently for some time, before smiling in smug satisfaction. "Yes. You have understood yourself, your thoughts and your actions. Now segregate them. Think of all of this as say, a scientific experiment all behind closed doors and with utmost secrecy. There will be hard thoughts about people causing you tremendous pain. Keep them together. There will be memories that will cause tremendous upsurge of some emotion or the other. Classify them by emotion. Stack them together."
Once Harry was done with that part, she instructed him in the creation of a mindscape. "Your thoughts, and memories of the past, need to be protected. At the same time, you have to protect the new present that you will be creating. So say, there is a two level structure, accessible from the upper storey. The lower storey should be used to store the memories of the past. You will need to keep a central control to compare the present and the past. The higher storey will keep a filter to reject anything that is useless, and segregate it in situ, and send it to the corresponding room behind the filter. Protect each room with some sort of password protection, or say, bioinformatics. Close the main door with several layers of doors or anything you can imagine. It is your mind, and you have the control over it. Lay outer peripheral boundaries with landmines or the like, along with watch towers equipped with snipers. Mix mundane and magical and you will find a very tough to beat mindscape. It will help you develop quasi-eidetic memory."
Harry, with his Marauder sense kicking in convoluted her suggestions with several more interestingly scary defences. "You intend to make someone face a basilisk after playing minesweeper? Not bad," Cassiopeia said approvingly. "And what exactly is this? Parseltongue passwords! There, I've broken them... hey! This isn't fair at all! You have 'Bioinformatics with a Legillimency reversing attack'? You don't do things by half, boy! I certainly wish I could've revealed things to you after the first time you died while at Hogwarts! So many things would've been so easy! You do well if you are really helped."
"You know, you are right, it would have been better if you could've told me everything much before. Thank you, Madam Reaper, you are an excellent teacher!"
"Yes, you can flatter me later. On to animagus training now," she ordered authoritatively. When Harry looked at her blankly, she snapped, "Well, now, choose an animal!" As Harry had decided to return to the end of the second year, Harry didn't give it a second thought, as he chose, "Grim!"
"Well, you have the images of Padfoot, don't you? Superimpose the images on one another. Create a 3-D image of the dog, so that you can visualise it clearly from all angles. Once you can do that, let all your magic flow into the image. Make your magic one with that image." She hollered at him when he got it wrong and was about to give up, she encouraged him, she worked him hard at it, and laughed with him when he went through hilarious partial transformations. In the end though, Cassiopeia had successfully helped Harry into his Pup form.
"And now, for the last of the three things I needed to teach you. Do you know that magic is based on intent?"
"Good. Now imagine that you have a wand. You want a complex piece of magic done. It is absolutely necessary. But you don't know how to do it within a stipulated time. Alternatively, you don't know the spells you require for that. It is in such cases that intent magic is useful."
Harry nodded. It made sense. "Can I use it to bring in all the bits and pieces of Voldemort?"
"No. And that is for a reason. Intent magic against equally strong intentional magic, doesn't work. Otherwise, Voldemort could've by intent, broken down Grimmauld Place's Fidelius too."
"So, intent magic is to be used as a channelled form of not-so-accidental accidental magic. Do you understand?"
"Good." She handed him what looked like the Elder Wand. "Now, by intent, point the wand and build up your entire soul, conduit and magic into the intent. Say you want to create a lion cub or a deer...whatever it is that you wish to do. You can without knowing about conjuration or animal transfiguration spells do what you need to."
And Harry tried and tried. He got a hoof correct, then he got an antler, and then he got spotted hide.
"You are thinking of spells, Harry. Think only of the stag, in full. Fill you mind with the image of the stag. Now you don't want to be a stag so tell your magic to create it."
So Harry tried again. It took him several tries more, but he managed. Then Cassiopeia set him some more exercises. A lion cub, a petrol pump dispenser, a golem, Kreacher, an ant-eater... She did not let him rest. After Transfigurations, it was Charms, and then there were shields. She tested him on every aspect of focussed magic. She tested him on a sentient mannequin.
When she was finally satisfied with his efforts, she declared, "Yes. I pronounce you qualified to take on the mortal world again."
"Wait! I have wanted to ask a question for long. If I died the first time around, it meant that my soul passed on for some time. Why did the Horcrux still remain, then? Also, shouldn't the so-called blood protection have destroyed the Horcrux altogether?"
"They are very good questions indeed. You see Dumbledore knew, that night, that Voldemort wanted to make a Horcrux with your death that night. I had had to intervene to push you back into your body, but as a child, you couldn't consciously use your power to prevent a possession. Before I could do something about it however, you were taken away to those... things. When he left you on the doorstep that cold November night, you were once again teetering to close to another death, but Dumbledore already knew by now what the scar was. So to prevent him from outright killing you under suspicion, I set up a barrier that contained the Horcrux in your scar."
"I see." Harry looked at Cassiopeia neutrally for a moment, before he went up to her and hugged her tightly. After all, she may have been just doing her job, or may have been in another realm, but Cassiopeia had cared for him the most. "Thank you."
"You always were a nice little boy when you were young. You have become quite a polite and nice young man," she replied with a smile. "You know, we have spent a mortal equivalent of twelve years here. I think it is time that you take control of your life. Remember to act like a twelve year old, though."
She then gave Harry a plan to follow for the scar Horcrux destruction and included a way to take care of the Weasley and Hermione situation without alienating anyone. By the end of it all, Harry was entirely sure that Cassiopeia was Minerva McGonagall's Slytherin twin.
"Now, before you go, there are some people who wish to meet you." She waved her hand absently, and the door opened to admit four people into the room. Harry couldn't for the life of him recognise them. One of the men looked so much like Harry- like James, but had blue eyes. The woman with him had a heart-shaped face- so very much like Tonks'- and long dark brown tresses running past her shoulders. The eyes- her eyes were a peculiar hazel, just like his father's. The other couple were smiling too. The man had green eyes, while the woman had red hair. Suddenly Harry realised who they were.
"You- you are my grandparents aren't you?" he asked as he inched towards them.
The woman who he assumed was his Dad's mum, Dorea, held out her hands wide and beckoned him to approach them all. She had a very mellifluous voice. Very softly, she replied, "Yes we are, Harry. Come here and give your Grandmother a hug."
"Dorea!" reprimanded the red haired woman. "Grandmothers," she corrected. Dorea pouted. "Yes, I am sorry Julia. Pardon me, if I never forgive that bitch of a horse-faced daughter whom you to gave birth to."
"You will never let me live it down, will you?"
"Absolutely not!" replied Dorea in indignation.
"Ladies!" interjected the two grandfathers in unison. "We have already agreed to show her the full extent of our ire. We are losing out on time with a truly important person, don't you think?" The two ladies looked abashed. Shaking his head with a chuckle, Grandpa Evans gave Harry a gruff hug. "You know, kid, I never did see you. Julia and I died in a car crash a few months before Lily married. Charlus?" he asked of Grandpa Potter, "are the looks a patent family trait?"
"They very well may be, Matthew. The portrait of Godric Gryffindor that I had seen is a testament to that. He looked the same, but had longer hair and preferred facial fuzz. Let me have a good look at you, tyke!" he said, bringing Harry closer to him. "Yes. It's so odd really. It's the Potter face with your eyes, Matt. You, kid, are going to be a lady-killer when you go back in time..."
"Charlus Godric Potter!" reprimanded Dorea. "Do not corrupt your grandson. He is a perfectly sweet kid. Don't pay attention to him Harry. He spoiled James the same way. Now, I understand that you are going back in time to save your dear ones. We realised that nobody ever truly cared whether you were happy or not. So, Matthew and Charlus here came up with the idea to transfer our knowledge and natures to you. Don't worry Cass, no academic knowledge will be given, I assure you. But you know that James was a Marauder, and Lily was very vindictive as well as enchantingly clever. It has to come from somewhere." She turned to Harry again. "You may have difficulties remembering us, as you have never seen us enough to remember us, but remember that we'll always be with you."
"Dorea is right, kid. Let that bastard..."
"Matthew!" Julia reprimanded this time.
"Er... yes, sorry dear. Let your very respectable headmaster find out what happens when he goes up against the grandkid of the two of the finest air combatants in the RAF. Flying does come from both sides, you know; your seeking is spectacular, I must say..."
"Quit rambling Matt. Hammer those cowards a good one. Damn..."
"Charlus!" cried Dorea. "Honestly, Julia and I have to keep control of your potty mouths! Ignore them, Harry. Go down there and take care of your girl, or should I say, girls?" she asked with a mischievous smile.
"WHAT? Wait just a minute! Cassiopeia, whatever you might have said about multiple soul-mates, I don't care. It will be only Hermione!" Harry hollered.
"Not like James there are you?" Charlus asked with a slight frown.
Matthew cut in, "He went after Lily and Lily only Charlus, we both know that. It must run in the family."
"Yes," grinned the Potter.
Cassiopeia threw them all an amused glance as she cut through the conversation there, with a heavy and quick glare at Dorea for bringing that diversion at all. "While you are down there, ponder over how and why Hermione behaved so oddly around Ron's departure and return during the so-called hunt. Answer: potions. Trust sparingly. And remember, when you see Minerva, call her Granny Min! All the best! You must do it! Remember to not cross old man Dumbledore until you have got Sirius free and on your side! Think well and make good allies!"
A blinding flash of light engulfed Harry as the room dissolved into nothingness.