Author's notes: All right, boys and girls, this is a twist on the much repeated Don't Fear the Reaper Challenge. Basically, Harry dies at age 17 while fighting Voldemort and winds up in the Afterlife facing his Death Angel. In thus story I go with a Reaper. The Reaper tells Harry he has a destiny to meet his soulmate, some Granger girl, beat Voldemort and live to a ripe old age. Problem is Harry keeps dying before this can happen and if he dies one more time the Reaper is going to get fired. So he's going to send Harry back in time, with his memories for one last chance to get it right.
The twist I'm throwing in is that Harry is actually a girl. He was born a girl but was made to appear Male for reasons that will be explained. So part of this will be Harry being changed back into her proper, female body and the whole process of dealing with all that entails.
Obviously this is a Fem!Harry story and there will be FemSlash as her soulmate is still Hermione. This is your warning if that's not of interest to you. I've got 8 and a half chapters finished but I won't update rapidly, just right now some life stuff is bogging me down and I wanted to post something for someone to enjoy even if I originally wanted to have this story finished or mostly finished before I started publishing. I'm still working on my other stories just... things aren't good right now and I need a little good.
Disclaimer: I dont own Harry Potter or anything else.
Enjoy chapter one of A Fair Life
A Fair Life
Meet the Reaper
This is… nice, Harry thought, absently looking at his surroundings. Very calm and peaceful. The calm and peaceful surroundings that he was considering were white. A lot of white. The walls, the carpet, the ceiling, furniture, even the clothes he was wearing. All white.
Speaking of… where did these clothes come from? he thought, looking down at the garments adorning his body. He was wearing a white, long sleeved shirt made from some light, gauzy sort of material as well as a similar pair of trousers and even thin white slippers on his feet.
"Potter, Harry J.?"
As a soft voice interrupted his inspection, he looked up to find a young looking woman standing a few feet from him. She was wearing a simple, floor length white dress made from the same material as his own clothes that just brushed the tops of her bare feet. Her light brown hair fell down her back in cascading waves and she had warm blue eyes set into a heart shaped face. In one hand she held a clipboard with a single piece of paper secured to it.
All in all, Harry thought that she was very pretty.
"You're beautiful," he said, before he even realized that he was going to say it.
The woman smiled. "Thank you, that's very nice of you to say. You are Harry Potter, correct?"
Harry blinked slowly. "Yes, that's me."
The woman hummed, her eyes tracing down the paper on her clipboard for a moment before she clucked her tongue and let out a sigh. "Oh, dear. He's not going to be happy about this at all. Well, better get it over with. If you'll follow me, please?"
Without waiting for him to respond, she turned and started to walk away. Absently, Harry rose to his feet and followed her, his steps carrying him until he was walking beside her. Later, he would be unable to recall how long it was that they walked, only that it was a long time and they never once spoke or came across another person during their journey.
Eventually, they arrived outside of a white door, almost invisible against the white walls. The still unnamed woman raised her hand and knocked twice.
"Yes?" a voice called from the other side of the door.
Reaching out she grasped the knob and turned it, pushing the door open just enough for her to look inside and speak to whoever was in the room beyond. Her voice was soft enough that, even standing just behind her, Harry couldn't hear what she said.
He certainly heard the response though.
The woman answered.
"Potter? Potter, Pot… Potter!"
There came a loud crash, a scrabbling sound, followed by the unmistakable noise of papers flying through the air. A few heavy footsteps reached their ears before the door was abruptly yanked open and the woman stepped to the side as a man filled the doorway.
A very, very large man.
Harry didn't think the man was as large as his friend, Hagrid, but it was probably a close thing. He was big enough, at any rate, that to exit the room he would have had to duck, as well as turn sideways, in order to fit through the opening.
Like everything else in this place, he was dressed entirely in white. White shoes, slacks, belt, dress shirt, and blazer, all of which fit his large frame as if perfectly tailored for him. Harry supposed they probably were, no way a guy that big bought anything off the rack.
"Potter!" he bellowed, icy blue eyes wide in apparent shock, and perhaps a bit of terror. "No… no, no, no!" One massive arm shot forward and Harry let out a startled yelp as he was suddenly grabbed and yanked through the doorway, the door itself slamming closed behind him as he was swung about into the middle of a cramped, messy office.
"What in the blazes do you think you're doing here?" the man snarled angrily. "Are you trying to get me fired? Really? Because if you are, you're doing a damned good job of it. I don't think anyone else has ever had this much trouble from a client before. Even that Jeanne girl didn't give my predecessor this much trouble."
"I don't even know where 'here' is," Harry protested, struggling weakly against the hold on his arm. "And I don't know who you are, either. We've never met before, so why would I be trying to get you fired?"
The man's face settled into a shocked expression again for a moment before it twisted up in distaste. "Right," he muttered, absently letting go of Harry's arm. "Memory wipe, you wouldn't remember our last meetings." He sighed and straightened up to his full height, towering over Harry. With a wave of one hand dozens of scattered files lifted off the ground and flew through the air, neatly arranging themselves into a filing cabinet set against one wall. A chair moved across the room and set itself in front of the large desk that took up most of the space in the office as a single, very thick, file rose from a shelf and settled on the desk. The man walked around behind the desk itself and picked up a white leather office chair, setting it upright from where it had apparently fallen over on the floor.
"Well?" he said as he sat down. "Are you waiting for an engraved invitation? Take a seat, we've got work to do."
Slightly nervously, Harry took the offered seat, carefully eyeing the irritable giant across from him. "Umm… Sir?"
The man looked up from where he was paging through the file.
"I'm sorry, but… who are you? And… what is this place? How did I get here?"
The man sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't know how many times I've asked that repeat clients get a partial memory restore," he muttered. "Having to tell the same story multiple times gets old." He leaned forward and folded his hands atop the open file. "This place is, what I like to call, The Waystation. It's a stop over point for individuals after their death to go over some paperwork before they move on to their next destination."
Harry's eyes widened and the man nodded.
"You guessed it, Harry. The fact that you're here means that you're dead."
"Oh." Harry's voice was very small as he spoke and he glanced around again. "And… who are you, again?"
"I don't have a name, none of my kind do, but I am a Reaper. It's my job to guide departed souls on to their next destination, wherever that may be."
"A Reaper," Harry repeated. "Is… is there a reason that I'm so calm about all this? I would think I would be more upset to find out that I died."
"Part of the nature of this place," the Reaper said. "The whole shuffling off of the mortal coil thing can be a jarring experience, especially for people that died violently, or while in battle, like you did. Last thing we want is for someone to go from combat to suddenly being here, still in 'fight mode', and hopped up on adrenaline to boot."
Harry nodded. "That makes sense, I suppose."
"Just give it a few minutes and you'll be back to normal once the shock has worn off."
Indeed, even as the Reaper spoke, Harry felt a bit of the unnatural calm that had possessed him since his arrival start to slip. Not a lot, but enough that traces of worry began to filter through.
"So, what happened?" he asked. "Are my friends okay? Did we win, at least?"
"Well, it's encouraging that one of the first things you ask is if your friends are safe. Before I answer you, though, why don't you tell me what you can remember?" the Reaper suggested.
"We were at Hogwarts," Harry said, slowly gathering his scattered thoughts together as he spoke. "Voldemort was attacking the castle…" His eyes suddenly widened again. "I was fighting him!"
"Right, that's good," the Reaper said, flipping toward the back of the file in front of him. "That entire battle did… rather a lot of damage," he said in a somber tone.
Harry wanted to swear. He wanted to curse and rant and get good and furious, but he couldn't. Whatever was keeping him calm in the face of his sudden death was still in effect.
"All that… everything we went through… it was all for nothing?"
"At this point? Yeah, pretty much."
Harry seemed to collapse inward, slumping down in his chair in defeat.
"Of course, since you keep failing to complete your destiny, we'll need to send you back, again."
Harry perked up at that, straightening in his seat as his bright green eyes came up to fix on the imposing figure before him. "Send me back? Wait… again? How many times have I been here?"
"Finally, he gets it," the Reaper suddenly burst out, leveling an annoyed glare in the teen's direction. "I've only mentioned repeat clients and you being here before a few times now."
"Well excuse me, I'm a little distracted by the whole being dead thing," Harry snapped back, ire rising in his chest.
"Good, you're starting to drop the calm. We're going to need you firing on all cylinders going ahead, so keep that up." The large Reaper leaned back in his seat, eyeing Harry for a moment before he leaned forward again, hands once more folded atop the file. "There are some people, Harry, that have a destiny about them. Well… correction, everyone has a destiny. Every living person has a fate, a predetermined goal they're supposed to achieve in their life.
"Now, they still have free will. They make their own choices, it is simply that things will happen around them that will, hopefully, lead them to the point where they can fulfill whatever destiny it is that they have. Most people don't actually complete their destinies. In fact, with most people it isn't even a problem when they don't. Their destiny is usually something small. But there are some people who have a destiny that will affect the world at large, and those people, when they die before completing their appointed destiny? We send them back so they can get another chance at completing it."
"So I can still beat him? I can still beat Voldemort?"
"No, you can't."
Harry flinched, staring aghast at the man.
"But you just said-"
"I said that we send them back. Right now, you don't have the skill, or the power, to beat Voldemort. Seriously kid, he's got more than fifty years on you in terms of skill and magical knowledge. Do you really think a seventeen year old kid that hasn't even finished school will be able to beat him?"
"Then what's the fucking point?" Harry snapped. "Isn't my destiny to beat Voldemort? That's what the prophecy said, only I can kill him."
"Right, but you need certain things before you can do that, and so far you've been increasingly stupid in getting what you need to get the job done. You pushed away your friends. Hell, you didn't even make many friends to begin with. You didn't get together with your soulmate, like you were supposed to. You didn't think for yourself. You didn't train. You didn't do anything to increase your chances at winning the fight once you came face to face with old snake lips. Then, to top it all off, you listened to a senile old coot that seemed to think the best he could do to prepare you was give you a scavenger hunt with some of the most obscure clues possible, and expect that to defeat the most powerful dark wizard to have lived in centuries!"
By the time the Reaper finished his rant he was standing, both hands balled into fists, his knuckles resting on the desk in front of him as he leaned over, closer and closer to Harry as he finished with a bellowing shout that shook the filing cabinet against the far wall.
Harry had shrunk down in his seat again, this time in something approaching abject terror as the imposing figure loomed larger and closer with every passing second. After several long minutes where the only sound was the Reaper's loud breath as he fumed, Harry managed to find his voice.
"S-soulmate?" he asked.
The Reaper blinked and fell back into his seat, all trace of anger vanishing in an instant and he suddenly burst out laughing. "All of that," he chuckled. "Everything I just said, and that's the detail you fixate on?"
"W-well… I think it's a somewhat important detail," Harry tried to defend himself as he sat back up in the chair. "I mean… a soulmate? What does that even mean?"
"All right, kid. For right now, just sit back and shut up. We've got quite a lot of information to go over and it'll be easier if you save your questions 'til the end." He glowered at Harry when the teen opened his mouth, glower shifting to a smirk when his jaw snapped shut in fear.
"Good. Now pay attention, there will be a quiz later." He flipped back through the file for a moment before he stopped and placed both of his hands flat against it.
"This file, is your life," he said. "Everything of importance that has ever happened to you gets placed into this file. When I say everything of importance, I mean that specifically. There is another file, a master file, that literally documents every single second of your life, but most of that is superfluous information and has no bearing on your destiny and the steps taken toward you reaching it. So, it's summarized into this, much smaller file."
Harry eyed the six inch thick file, marveling over the fact that it was only a summary of the important details, and reasonably pleased that it didn't likely contain the stupid or embarrassing things that he's done in his few short years alive.
"Now, when I say that when someone dies before completing their destiny we can send them back, I don't mean that we get an unlimited number of times to do so. We can only do so twelve times and this is your twelfth death. This is your last chance, the very last opportunity you'll get to get this right, and because it's your last chance, we get to bend the rules a bit.
"To start with, your destiny is boiled down to this: You are supposed to prepare yourself for Voldemort, meaning training, gathering friends and allies to help you in the fight. It's not something you can do alone, so you'll need to ditch that lonely hero shit right quick. You also need to get together with your soulmate because, while the old coot was sort of right in that love plays a part in the power you're supposed to have, it's not some special protection or anything like that. Without your soulmate, you won't have the proper motivation to train and to improve, and beyond that, to fight. If you have your soulmate waiting for you, or even fighting with you, you humans have proven time and time again that you will fight harder than ever to protect her and the life that the two of you could have together."
Harry had to nod his head at that. If he'd had something more solid and tangible to fight for… he might have done better. He would have fought harder. If only she hadn't-
"After beating Voldemort, you're supposed to live to a ripe old age with your wife. I won't tell you how old since I don't want to spoil the surprise, but suffice it to say you'll have plenty of time to enjoy your life and you'll die, happy, surrounded by your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. That's the idea at least. But you keep dying before you get a chance for any of that to happen." He looked down at the open file.
"Pushed down a flight of stairs by your cousin when you were five. Neck broken by your uncle when you were nine. Killed by the Whomping Willow when you were twelve. Mauled by a werewolf at thirteen… Honestly I'm amazed the acromantula and the basilisk didn't kill you but you either got lucky or did a damn good job in those circumstances. Suffice it to say, most of your deaths have been pretty stupid things to have happened and should have been avoidable. You'll need to be a lot more careful, you'll need to simply be better than you have been in the past. Do you understand everything so far?"
Harry nodded slowly. "I… I think so… but, why are you telling me this? You talked about memory wipes. I'm not going to remember any of this when you send me back. And what does it matter even if I could? I'm in the middle of the fight with Voldemort. You already said I can't beat him and I won't be able to just escape and leave everyone else to die so I can train for who knows how long."
"That's part of what we can do differently this time around since it's your final shot. First, you'll be able to keep your memories." He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a small stack of papers that he dropped onto the desk next to the open file. "Second, we're going to send you back a lot further than we have before. You've racked up quite a lot of karmic good will with what you've done and Karma owes you one, so she's going to use that capital so that we can drop you back in your life at a point where you'll be able to do some real good, before everything went completely down the crapper."
The more the Reaper talked, the more optimistic Harry began to feel. Going back in time and keeping his memories? That could be a really good chance, just what he needs to get things done properly. Depending on when they send him. Fifth year? Fourth? Maybe even third year? He could get Sirius free if he stopped that damn rat from getting away.
"Wh- who is my soulmate? And again, what does that really mean?"
"A soulmate is pretty much what it sounds like. One person perfectly matched to you, and you to her. Now it's not like those silly Soul Bonds you hear of. Kissing her won't have you instantly married and emancipated or any of that. But getting together will mean that you'll have someone in your corner, always. Someone who will stand by you, push you, motivate you. Someone who will honestly care for and love you for you, and nothing else."
"That sounds great," Harry admitted, attempting to push back thoughts of a girl that he'd once felt exemplified everything the Reaper just said. "So, who is she?" he asked, trying to sound cheerful. "Do I already know her?"
"Do you… of course you know her! Known that girl for years. What was her name?" He started paging through the file again looking for the name as he muttered to himself. "Honestly, I don't know why you two kids weren't already together, I mean, you only lived together for months. You went to school together and have been best friends your entire school life. What was her name… some Granger girl, I think… Aha! I was right. Soulmate: Hermione J. Granger."
The Reaper looked up from the open file, a wide, beaming smile on his face, expecting to see joy, elation, maybe surprise. What he did not expect was the completely and utterly dejected air the kid was giving off at the revelation of who his soulmate was.
"You've made a mistake," the kid muttered sadly.
"Hey, we don't make mistakes around here. We might not always have all the information right away, but we don't make mistakes. What's your problem, kid? This is good news. Now you'll get a chance to do things right."
"Except Hermione isn't my soulmate. She can't be."
"She can, and she is."
"NO! No, she's not!"
The Reaper actually leaned back in his chair at the outburst from the teen in front of him, completely confused. What was going on here? "What are you talking about? You didn't even know what a soulmate was a few minutes ago. What makes you think you can claim to know more than we do on this matter? The two of you have been meant for each other since your souls both still resided in the Aether, before either of you were even born."
Harry remained silent, the anger that had sparked in his green eyes gone, leaving them dull and lifeless as he stared at the desk in front of him, not really appearing to even be seeing it in whatever stupor he'd fallen into.
"It's just not possible. Hermione doesn't want me."
"What makes you so sure of that?"
"Shouldn't you know?" Harry asked, a little spark of anger igniting back up as he eyed the open file.
"Look, I don't know every single minute of your life, kid. I do have other clients and other things to do, so why don't you just explain it to me so we can get moving on this?"
The kid let out a sigh, slumping down in his chair for a moment. "You're right… Hermione and me… we have been best friends since I saved her from that troll in first year. She's always stood by me, even when I was being an idiot. She's never turned her back on me, except in sixth year, and even then she didn't turn her back we were… we were just at odds, for some reason.
"During the hunt… after Ron left… it was just us, me and her. I've… I've been in love with her for… I don't even know how long. She… she's just perfect, you know?" He looked up, almost pleadingly at the Reaper and the large man tried to keep a sympathetic expression on his face. In truth, he didn't know. Reapers didn't have emotions like that. They weren't made to love, so he simply gave an understanding nod and waited for the kid to continue.
"Anyway, after Ron left she was so upset and things were so difficult. It was cold, we were hungry, and tired, and frustrated…. One night, this song came on the wireless and… I just wanted to cheer her up. I just wanted to see her smile. So, I asked her to dance with me, and for a little while it seemed to work. She actually smiled and she seemed less… worn down, I suppose. I couldn't help myself. I was just so happy that she wasn't crying anymore, and that she seemed happy, that I kissed her."
"Well, there ya go. That should've been it. The spark that would have told her you were the right one for her."
Harry shook his head, messy black hair flying wildly about. "No. At first… at first she kissed me back, but then she pushed me away. Not hard, I mean, she was gentle about rejecting me. But when she pushed me back she had this look on her face. It was like she'd just bitten into something nasty that left a bad taste in her mouth. She tried to hide it, but I saw. She told me she loved me, but there was just no way she could be with me."
The Reaper frowned, something about the story disturbing him greatly. "That's not right," he muttered. "She is your soulmate. There would have to be something very powerful at work to keep two soulmates from coming together." He thought for a moment longer before he suddenly lurched to his feet. "Hang on a second," he said as he moved around the desk and over to the door, yanking it open.
"Maria!" he bellowed. "I need the file for-"
"Granger. Hermione J.?" Maria said, cutting him off as she appeared with a file in hand.
"Oh… thank you," he said, taking the file. "Which Reaper did you get this from?"
"No, not that Reaper. Reaper."
"Oh, that Reaper. Okay, I'll make sure she gets this back when I'm done with it."
Maria nodded and walked away as the Reaper closed the door and returned to his desk, already paging through the two inch thick file.
"Doesn't that get confusing?"
"Huh?" Reaper looked up from the file, blinking a few times in surprise at the kid who was watching him in a bemused sort of way.
"That," he said, jerking his head toward the door. "That you're all called Reaper. Doesn't that get confusing?"
Reaper rolled his eyes. "You have absolutely no idea, kid." He paused and looked around for a moment before he leaned forward. "To be perfectly honest," he said in a loud whisper. "I'm not completely sure which Reaper she belongs to. But don't you worry about it, the office issues of the after life are none of your concern. I'll make sure this file gets back to the appropriate Reaper… eventually."
With that said he turned back to the file and flipped through several more pages. "Ah, here it is. Hermione J. Granger, soulmate: Harry J. Potter." He frowned and flipped back to the very first page. "Let's see… parents... age: 18. Sex: Female… Aha!" he suddenly burst out, stabbing a thick finger at the page in front of him as he looked up to smile at the boy sitting across the desk. "Here's the problem. The reason Miss Granger couldn't be with you is that she's a lesbian."
Harry gaped at the man, wondering just what he could possibly be so happy about. "She's… she's a lesbian?" he stuttered.
"Yeah… uh… you do know what a lesbian is, right?"
"Of course I know what a lesbian is," Harry snapped, glaring angrily at the Reaper. "But if that's right then how could we possibly be soulmates? I never had a chance. There's no way in hell that she'd ever be with me. No wonder she shot me down. Kissing me must have been disgusting to her, even if she was too nice to say it."
The Reaper hummed thoughtfully, staring down at the files on his desk in apparent confusion. "That's a good point. And it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. You two are soulmates. That's for sure, so why isn't she straight? Or at least bi? Or…" He trailed off for a moment, his eyes unfocused as he considered the situation before he suddenly moved, startling Harry with how abrupt the action was. He shoved Hermione's file to the side, so much that it slid right off the end of his desk to land on the floor with a loud 'SMACK' and started frantically flipping through Harry's file again.
Finally, he turned to the first page and started reading, muttering to himself as he went.
"Parents: James C. Potter and Lily J. Potter. Age: 17. Sex:…"
He stopped again, staring at the page in front of him for a moment before looking up at Harry. His eyes darted back and forth several times before he frantically flipped through several more pages, eyes moving rapidly across across the page before he suddenly leaned back and leaped from his seat.
"It all makes sense!" he burst out as he started moving about the office. He opened drawers, looked through cabinets, even pulled open another door that Harry hadn't noticed that led into a large closet and started rummaging around inside. "It all makes sense," he repeated. "There is no way that two soulmates would be kept from each other the way you two were, especially after spending so much time together, unless something really powerful was at work interfering with things. Granger is your soulmate, and you're gonna get her. Oh, yes you will. We just need to do something to change you back. That's the problem. That's what's been interfering with y-"
"What? What are you on about, man? Change me back? To what?"
The Reaper, practically manic as he tore through his office, suddenly stopped dead and slowly turned to face him.
"Crap," the being said, his handsome face morphing into a look of consternation. "You don't know. Of course you don't, otherwise this wouldn't have been as big a problem."
"Know what?" Harry asked, eyes narrowing suspiciously but the Reaper didn't seem to hear him, apparently having decided to settle into some kind of panic attack, gradually making his way back toward his desk as he muttered quietly to himself.
"Of course you don't know. Why would you? Meddling old alchemist busy bodies that can't keep their crooked noses out of other people's lives-"
"What the hell are you talking about!"
The Reaper paused at Harry's outburst and slowly turned to face him again, unnaturally still after the frantic motion of just seconds ago.
"That senile, old goat… he had the best of intentions really. It's just… good intentioned or not, he was simply wrong and, while what he did might have saved you from some fairly horrifying things… in the end, it's why you've been doomed to fail."
Because that's not foreboding at all, Harry thought as a shiver ran up his spine. "What do you mean?" he asked. "What did Dumbledore do that was so terrible?"
The Reaper sighed and sank into the leather chair behind his desk again. He leaned forward, piercing blue eyes regarding Harry with the kind of solemnity usually reserved for funerals and memorials as he paraphrased something that Hagrid had once said to him on his eleventh birthday:
"You're a witch, Harry."
Harry stared at the man, confusion and bewilderment flooding his body before he suddenly leapt up and snatched his file off of the broad desk, pulling it toward him to scan the page.
Harry stared at the page for several silent moments before slowly lifting his head to stare at the Reaper, his face clearly showing the shock he felt. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he slumped to the floor of the cluttered office in a dead faint.
Slowly, the Reaper stood and leaned over the desk, looking down at the unconscious form of his client for a moment, a considering expression on his face.
"Huh... I think that went well."
Harry woke slowly, clawing his way to consciousness with great difficulty as the pull of oblivion threatened to drag him back down into-
"You done with your little fainting jag so we can get on with this?"
At first, Harry said nothing to respond to the Reaper's voice. Then…
"Excellent! Now pay attention-"
"Wha- what happened?"
The Reaper sighed. "You fainted, Harry. But we really can't waste any more time. You need to get up and deal with this so we can move on."
Harry's eyes suddenly snapped open and he sat bolt upright, looking about wildly for a moment until his eyes focused on the large man sitting behind the desk.
"Oh. Fuck. It wasn't a dream?"
The Reaper shrugged his massive shoulders. "Sorry, kid. Reality bites."
Harry turned on the couch he found himself lying on and put his feet on the floor, resting his elbows on his knees so he could drop his head into his hands with a groan.
"That has to be a mistake," he finally said after first spending several minutes taking deep, calming breaths that did absolutely nothing to actually calm him.
"It has to be! Look at me!" He stood, arms held out wide to his sides. "I'm a guy! I've always been a guy! There is no way-"
"For the first fifteen months of your life, Harry, you were a girl. Then the old man interfered."
Harry simply stared at him for a moment before he moved over to sit in the chair before the desk while the couch vanished behind him.
"Why do you keep calling me Harry if I'm supposedly a girl?" Harry tried to argue. "Harry is a boy's name."
"It's also an acceptable shortening of your real name. That was part of the confusion that we had here, not realizing the truth of your birth gender. You are still Harry J. Potter, even as a girl." The Reaper pulled the file toward him again and looked down at it.
"According to your file, you were born Harleen Janine Potter, the daughter of James and Lily Potter. When your parents were attacked on Halloween night, 1981, Dumbledore went to some extreme measures to try to protect you."
"First, the blood wards around your relatives' house. Those took a bit of time to set up and they actually did save you from several attempts on your life over the years."
Harry blinked in surprise. He honestly hadn't expected that.
"Of course, after your fourth year, when Voldemort took your blood to resurrect himself, they became next to useless. No idea why he didn't attack you anytime after that during the summers when you were vulnerable, but luckily he didn't.
"The second thing that Dumbledore did was changing you into a boy."
"How was that supposed to protect me? If it's true, I'm still not sure I believe this whole story."
"Assuming it is true, how do you think a girl would have been treated in that house? Especially when your cousin got older… as you started to… develop?"
Harry's complexion paled dramatically as he considered some of what he'd heard Dudley say about various women over the years.
"I think I'm going to be sick."
"Swallow it. We don't have time."
"You keep saying that. What's the rush?"
"You're dead. The karmic capital that you've accumulated fades the longer you stand here. The more you lose, the less we have to send you back with. When you got here we could have sent you back to the middle of your third year. Now? Now we're looking at somewhere closer to the World Cup."
That bit of information Harry was able to sum up with a single word.
"Quite, now quit arguing with me and listen."
Harry sighed and nodded to the man to continue.
"Anyway, Dumbledore knew that you'd have a hard time at the Dursleys, but he really didn't have a lot of options on where to place you. None that would have kept you as safe from magical attack, at least. But he made you into a boy using some really advanced human transfiguration and some potions enhanced with Alchemy. He figured that would keep you as safe as possible while you were there, and then he hid the knowledge that you were born female under a modified version of the Fidelius. Only he knows the truth. Where he most screwed up was in not telling you about it when you came to Hogwarts."
"Just telling me? Not reversing it?"
"You were still going back to the Dursleys during the summer. How would they have reacted to a female you showing up? Besides, there are other issues with you being female that have to do with the Wizarding World. It's a male dominated society, Harry. An orphaned heiress to one of the most powerful Houses in their society would be a ripe target for some of the purebloods out there. They'd want to trap you into a marriage contract or something like that. When you go back, you'll have to learn to maneuver amongst the politicians quickly, otherwise they'll start working against you, just because you're a woman."
"Whoa.. hold up… I'm not going back as a woman," Harry blurted out, eyes wide and both hands held out in front of him in a stopping gesture.
The Reaper frowned. "Why not? If you want to be with your soul mate, hell if you want to be at full strength, you need to. The transformation sustains itself by feeding off of your magic. It probably uses at least a quarter of what you have available in order to keep you in that form."
"I still don't believe you, and I'm not going to let you change me into something I'm not just because you seem to think that's what I should be."
The Reaper sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose for a few seconds as if attempting to quell a growing headache. Harry almost grinned at the idea that that headache probably had his name written all over it.
"Do you think there is something wrong with being a girl, or a woman, Harry?" the Reaper suddenly asked causing Harry to start in surprise.
"No, not at all."
"Then why are you so set against returning to your true form?"
"Because I don't know that I'm actually supposed to be a girl. I'm not positive it's true. And… well if it is… I don't know how to be a girl," he nearly whined at the last. "I've been a boy my entire life, as far as I can remember. There's… there's things I don't know that others would have learned growing up. Things that other people know that they don't even think about, it's just normal for them. How am I… how could I adjust to that?"
The Reaper nodded, humming thoughtfully. "Not a bad set of concerns, honestly. Not irrational or dumb by any means. But let me put this to you. When you go back, if you're really a girl and return to that shape, do you honestly think your best friend, your actual soulmate, wouldn't help you? Do you think she wouldn't do her best to make sure you learned what you needed to know? And if you're worried about looking foolish… well, just act as you want to act and don't give a damn what people think. Dress as a boy if you want. No one is saying you need to start picking out dresses and lingerie or something."
The Reaper ignored the brilliant flush staining Harry's cheeks as he finished talking and closed the file before he pulled over the stack of parchment he'd removed from the desk drawer earlier.
"Here's what's going to happen. You're going to go back, as far as we can get you. You're going to be a girl. You're going to get together with your soulmate. You're going to cultivate friendships and find allies outside of Gryffindor and build yourself some support. Look in Slytherin too, they're not all bad eggs, you just need to find them. You're going to train and you're going to get better. You know where the Horcruxes are now, and you know how to destroy them so you should be able to handle that easily."
"That's it? You're not going to tell me how to do any of that?"
"Can't. It's your destiny, Harry. All we can do is point you in the right direction."
Harry grumbled quietly under his breath then pointed at the stack of papers. "What's that?"
"This is a contract, basically stating that you understand that you're going back in time and that this is your last chance to get things right. If you fail, I'm going to end up getting fired and both of us will not be happy about it." He held up a hand when Harry opened his mouth. "Trust me, you don't want to know. This contract also stipulates that you will not tell anyone what you know of the future or the after life. The only exception is your soulmate. You can let her know that you have knowledge of the future, but you can't tell her how until after Voldemort is dead. Do you understand?"
Harry nodded. "So… I can let Hermione know that I know what's coming, but I can't tell her that I died and got sent back in time by my Reaper?"
"That's the gist of it."
"Then yeah, I understand. Except I'm still not going to be a girl."
The Reaper threw his hands in the air. "Dammit, kid… You're really becoming a problem, you know that, right?"
"I don't care. I'm not doing it."
"Look, you want to beat Voldemort, right?"
"And you want to be with Hermione, right?"
"And you want to actually live to see old age with the woman you love? You do love her, don't you?"
"Of course I do! But-"
"Then it's past time to man up, Potter, and grow a pair… of breasts."
Harry could only gape at the man in shock.
"Bottom line, kid, you're handicapped in that form. Your magic is restrained and you can't fight at your full strength. You need to be at full power and you need to have your soulmate. Without either you are absolutely doomed to fail. Even with them it won't be easy, but you've got a better chance-"
"Fine! Fine, you win. But I want your promise that you're not changing me into something I never was. I want a binding oath or something, because I swear, if I find out this is all some screw up and you ruin my life because of your incompetence, I will make sure the rest of your existence is a living hell. I don't know how, but I'll find a way."
Of all the possible reactions Harry could have expected to his threat, a large, tooth filled grin was not one of them.
"That's good," the Reaper said, still grinning broadly. "That's the kind of fire you're going to need when you deal with those idiots that pretend they're leading the Wizarding World. You can't be meek and mild like you have been. Take the bull by the horns and show them they can't fuck with you. And, if it'll make you feel better, I won't change you back."
Harry paused in the act of reaching for the contract to gape at the man. "Wha… you're just going to leave it? After that whole argument?"
"Not exactly. I'm going to adjust an object that you're going to encounter. I'll make it so that it will strip away any magic that's been placed on you. Potions, compulsions, glamours, anything. If you really are male, nothing will happen. But if you're wrong, and you were born a girl, then this false form of yours will be taken away and you'll be returned to how you're supposed to be. Sound fair?"
Harry considered that for a moment before nodding. "Yeah… I think I can agree with that."
"Good, then start reading so you can sign that contract and we can get going on this, we're edging past the first week of your fourth year, now."
Nodding again, Harry settled in to read. Luckily, though the stack was a good inch thick, it wasn't exactly complicated and stated precisely what the Reaper had said it did. If everything he'd said was right, and Hermione really was his soulmate… he didn't like the idea of lying to her about everything. How was he supposed to convince her he knew some things without telling her how? He'd have to think on that once he was back.
Within half an hour from starting he'd finished reading the contract and signed each page where it was required, using a pen supplied by the Reaper. Once the last page had his signature on it he stacked everything together and handed it back.
"All right, kid. This is it for us. You know what to do right?"
Harry nodded, nervous apprehension filling him. "You've given me a list of points to check off with no idea how to go about most of them. Yeah, I'm weellll prepared."
"Drop the attitude, kid," the Reaper snarked, glowering at him but with a hint of amusement in his eyes. "I told you, we can only point you in the right direction, the choices are still yours to make. Though I'd also recommend finding a way out from under the old coot's thumb. Again, he's got the best of intentions, but he's been blinded by his own fame and reputation. He'd be a powerful ally to have, but not if he's just treating you like another pawn on his chessboard. And make sure you work on your Occlumency. File says Hermione taught you a lot during your scavenger hunt, but you still need work."
"Just add to the pile why don't you?" Harry grumbled under his breath.
"Yeah, yeah. Train your ass off, kid. Do everything you can think of to win this. But don't forget to live a little either, all right?"
"Hey, can I ask a quick question?"
"You just did, but go ahead and ask another one."
"Who was that Jeanne girl you mentioned before?"
The Reaper blinked and gaped at him for a moment before he seemed to shake himself. "You know what? Here's something else for you to do. Figure out a way to get rid of Binns. He's clearly fucking up everyone's education if you've never heard of Jeanne D'Arc."
Before Harry could respond the Reaper lifted his arms and clapped his massive hands together once. A bright flash of white light filled the room, followed by blackness, and Harry Potter knew no more.