A/N: This story is a response to Reptilia28's challenge. I will be switching off writing this with my other fics so there may occasionally be long gaps between chapters being posted, but I will never abandon a fic without warning.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters belong to JKR and others. That being said the cosmology presented in this story is as much of an original creation as is possible when dealing with something that has been written about since the dawn of time.
Harry Potter and Death's Bargain
It is amazing how much thinking a person can squeeze into the last seconds of their life. Harry Potter had plenty of time to wonder about how his life had come to this moment, standing in the forbidden forest watching the sickly green killing curse as it seemed to crawl toward him. A small portion of his brain informed him that the curse was not actually moving any slower than normal, he was just thinking faster than he ever had before. There was definitely something inherently unfair about the fact that his brain waited until the end to kick into high gear, if only his brain had worked this fast when his thoughts could be put to use, maybe his grades would have been better. That would have made Hermione proud. Oh Merlin, Hermione was going to be pissed at him for going and getting himself killed. If Harry wasn't absolutely certain that he would never see his best friend again in this life he would have been terrified of facing her reaction, as it was she would probably spend the first few minutes of her afterlife hexing the shit out of him. Wait a second, when had he started thinking of Hermione as his best friend? Maybe it had always been that way, it had definitely been true after fourth year, Ron had abandoned him, but Hermione had stood by him through everything. Sure sixth year things had been... tense, but they had never stopped being friends, and it wasn't like Ron had been a better friend back then anyways. It really didn't matter now though, he was going to die, and he knew it. Why couldn't that green light move a little faster? All these thoughts were making it hard to stoically accept his fate.
Suddenly Harry was standing in a room, in front of a desk, and sitting behind the desk was a petite blonde woman. "Hello again Mr. Potter." The woman said sweetly with a kind smile.
"Please, ca-" Harry began
"No problem Harry." the blonde interrupted him.
"How did you know that I was going to ask you to call me Harry?" Harry was quickly becoming confused.
"It's always the first thing you say when you come in here Harry. Your second question is usually what my name is. It's Sharron by the way, unfortunately damn Greeks couldn't pronounce it right and now everyone thinks I'm some creepy old guy who works on a boat, and ever since we had to close down the customer service entrance on the River Styx I can't tell anyone to let people know what my name really is, but I digress. How are you feeling this time, anything you want to get off your chest before I let Adrian know you're here?"
"Um, I think I'm good, but I'm a little confused. You keep saying that I've been here before, but I don't even know where I am, and I don't remember ever being here before." Harry said calmly.
"Oh right, you're just always so polite that I forget you don't actually remember dieing before. Well Harry, it's like this, you just died, you are currently standing in the waiting room, I'm the receptionist here. Once you're ready I'll be passing you along to your assigned Angel of Death who will handle all the paperwork involved in your death." Sharron explained.
"So I'm dead," Sharron nodded sympathetically "I guess that was kind of inevitable, might as well get moving on then." Harry said a little sadly.
"You're definitely taking better this time. Just go through this door here, and head to the end of the hall." Sharron said with a sad smile. Sharron had grown to like Harry Potter after all his visits to her waiting room, but she had never seen him be okay with his death before, except the first time he had come into her office. It was really heart-wrenching to see an eight year-old child who's life was so terrible that they actually welcomed death.
"Thanks Sharron, I guess this is goodbye." Harry smiled to the blonde before going through the door. The hall was long, and it was beige. It was absolutely amazing to Harry that there could ever be a place in any world where the most descriptive word that could be applied was beige. The hall absolutely screamed quiet, creeping, bureaucracy. When Harry reached the end of the hall there was a single door set into the wall, Harry walked up to the door and knocked.
"Enter." came a silky voice from the other side of the door. Harry opened the door and looked inside the room. Sitting behind a large ornate desk carved from some sort of black wood was a man who looked to be in his mid forties. He had short salt and pepper hair, a well trimmed beard, and gray eyes hidden behind a pair of wire framed glasses. "Mr. Potter, back again are we. Tell me Mr. Potter, is it really so difficult to just not die. All you had to do was beat one second rate Dark Lord. That's it! He never even had all that much going for him in the power department, and even less when it came to sanity. All you needed was one half-way decent plan and he would have been beaten easily. But NO, you have to go and die SEVEN FUCKING TIMES! Seven, and now management is breathing down my neck because your on your last shot from Fate, and if you screw this up we could end up pushing Armageddon up twelve centuries. And the worst part is it's not even your fault. If it weren't Albus Poncy Worthless Bastard Dumbledore, we could have avoided most, if not all, of those death, and if not we could have played our trump card a hell of a lot sooner. But No, Albus Dumbledore can't leave anything alone. You were supposed to learn about the prophecy the first time you ran into Riddle,hunt down the horcruxes before he ever regained a body, and then kick his ugly ass one more time for good measure, all while hooking-up with your soul-mate, some Granger girl, so you can both live to the ripe old age of 243."
Harry for the most part just waited for the storm to pass, but then something stuck to his brain as it went rushing past "Wait, Hermione is my soul-mate? That makes sense... but wait a minute that doesn't make sense. I mean right at this moment, you say the word soul-mate, and the only person who comes to mind is Hermione, she's smart, kind, understanding, and beautiful. She's the best friend I've ever had, and she's the only person I can think of who I know sees the real me, and not the Boy-Who-Lived." he said the title with unmasked disdain "But up until the moment I died if you had asked me I would have said I was in love with Ginny Weasley, I would have said she was funny, and witty, and beautiful, but now I think about her, and she's confrontational, temperamental, her humor is cruel, and now that I think about it, I don't even like redheads, not to mention she was a creepy stalker up through fourth year."
"Yes, well, you can thank your illustrious headmaster for that." The man behind the desk said sarcastically. "Unfortunately I can't really go into details at the moment, but I can tell you that at the end of your life you were under the influence of love potions keyed to Ginny Weasley. Unfortunately we're a bit off topic, so let's start from the beginning, my name is Adrian Lichfield, and I am your assigned death consultation liaison, or Angel of Death. You have just recently died for the seventh time. The first time you died was when your Uncle beat you to death on your eighth birthday. the second time you were killed by a troll because Ronald 'Troll-Brain' Weasley couldn't perform a simple levitation charm. The third time you were killed by a cursed bludger that beat you to death because it kept coming after you even after you were unconscious on the ground, though to be fair the house elf didn't really know too much about the magic he was playing with. The fourth time you were poisoned by a basilisk, and since Dumbledore hadn't given explicit instructions to his phoenix to keep you alive Fawkes didn't heal you. The fifth time you were killed by a dragon, and the sixth time, well your little distraction in the hall of prophecy went horribly right and you ended up with a shard of glass through your neck, bled out right there on the floor. Your most recent death I'm sure you understand at least the mechanics of, even if you don't understand the reasons behind it, but the most important thing you need to know is that there was never a horcrux in your scar, Dumbledore knew there wasn't but let you believe it anyways. Now because of the regulations regarding the activities of the Neutral Powers you are only allowed to be sent back to the mortal plane seven times, so no matter what you are on your last shot."
"Neutral Powers?" Harry asked with a confused look on his face.
"Yes the Neutral Powers are the powers of the middle planes, our job is to prolong the game that the Upper Powers, those you know of as gods and angels, and the Lower Powers, those you know of as devils and demons, have been playing since the dawn of time. The Neutral Powers, Death, Fate, Destiny, Chance, Nature, Love, Time, Chaos, and Order, are allowed to intervene in the mortal plane within certain limits to prevent direct intervention from either side. " Adrian explained slowly so as not to overload Harry with too much information.
"And direct intervention would be bad?"
"Very, if either side sent forces to the mortal plane the other side would be forced to respond in kind. Even a minor conflict between angels and demons could have apocalyptic consequences. In the early twentieth century one angel and one demon simply spoke to each other in Siberia, the resulting blast could be seen world wide and flattened 830 square miles of forest. Had they actually fought each other it probably would have destroyed Asia. Moving on though, Fate is allowed to determine the acceptable time of death for every soul, and assign them a number of second chances ranging from one to seven, however the entire world population can never have an average above two, so they have to be spread carefully, you for instance received the full seven, which you will be using up the last of shortly. Your friend Cedric Diggory received two which he had already used up before he went with you to that cemetery, Sirius Black used all of his three, and Albus Dumbledore used only one of his five before dying at his appointed time. Your soul-mate was given five, and has used up three of them, the first time after the troll beat you to death it turned on her while Weasley ran away. That was the only time we had both of you in the waiting room together - Sharron says it was quite sweet watching the two of you together. The second time she was killed by the basilisk before Christmas of your second year, and the third time was when Dolohov hit her with that flame curse in the Department of Mysteries. The other Neutral Powers are able to intervene in a more direct way by influencing related events on the mortal plane, you will note that none of your deaths occurred at the claws of the very dangerous inhabitants of the forbidden forest, despite your many trips into its depths, you can thank Nature for that. Unfortunately Death is only able to intervene by appointing an Avatar, in order to appoint an avatar though someone on the mortal plane must have gone against the natural order and cheated Death, however only someone who is aware of the cheat and how it was done can be sent back as an Avatar of Death, so until you knew about the horcruxes you could not even be presented with the option as telling you about them would have been overstepping our limits."
"So you want me to be your Avatar? What exactly does that entail, do I get super powers or something?" Harry was starting to get excited about this.
"Not quite Mr. Potter, as our Avatar we have more leeway to when we return you to, and we can also return you with all your memories intact, including ones that were removed before your death. In order to protect the knowledge you have of the afterlife your mind will be protected from any form of mental magics including obliviation. We will also be able to show you a few shortcuts for certain esoteric branches of magic. And as is customary we can grant you an item of power known as an Icon"
"Wait I've had memories removed, what memories?" The idea that someone had been messing around in his head really pissed Harry off.
"Your Headmaster felt that your relationship with Miss Granger was unacceptable, so every time you two got together he would remove any memory of it. He obliviated both of you twice in your first year, five times in your second year, eight times in your third year, twelve times in your fourth year, seventeen times in your fifth year and forty-eight time in your sixth year."
"I think I would have noticed if I had that many huge gaps in my memory." Harry stated curtly.
"Unfortunately no gaps were left, the memories were simply replaced with other memories, by sixth year Dumbledore was growing concerned that you two were practically impossible to keep apart so the new memories were designed to drive a wedge between you. When that didn't work he switched to using love potions to get you with the young Miss Weasley."
"So all those arguments I had with Hermione during sixth year..."
"You were actually off snogging, or shagging, occasionally learning something Dumbledore didn't want you to know. The two of you actually got started on the animagus transformation six times, Miss Granger taught you the first year of material for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy three times, and you had originally signed up to take those instead of Divination, and requested to transfer out of Divination twice."
"Why would Dumbledore not want me to take those classes? It isn't like I got anything out of Divination."
"Arithmancy and Ancient Runes would have taught you to think critically, your grades as a whole would probably have improved, and most importantly you would have not believed his final lie. With the knowledge you would have gained you would have realized that storing a horcrux inside of you would make about as much sense as storing bacterial cultures in a blast furnace."
"And why was it so important to him for me to throw my life away?" Harry was really starting to get upset with Dumbledore
"So your legend could never surpass his own. He spent years trying to kill you off so the prophecy could be nullified and he could defeat Riddle, but he always had that one last plan up his sleeve. Even when he was dieing he couldn't let go of that plan, besides with you dead his portrait could claim all the credit for the entire plan and his legend would still grow. Back to business though, because Miss Granger is your soul-mate every time you two kiss you store a backup copy of the other person's mind, so when you go back all you will need to do is kiss her and all her memories up until the moment of your last kiss will be restored."
"I don't suppose you could tell me when that last kiss was could you?"
"It was shortly before you left the tent to find the sword of Gryfindor, Weasley obliviated you both when he returned and began feeding you love potions again. So you'll only have to get her caught up on a couple months worth of stuff."
"Isn't that cheating though, giving Hermione back her memories, I mean I'm the Avatar not her." Harry was getting to the point where things were making less and less sense.
"It would be if Death were the Power involved, but Love is the Power that handles soul-mates so anything they do is on their heads. As much as I would like to give you all the details now, you have enough to get started with, so there are only a couple of decisions left to make before we send you back. First we need to decide what Icon to give you that will be of most use to you."
"Okay what kind of things can an Icon do? Can I get some examples."
"You are already familiar with three Icons of Death, though you may not have realized what they were at the time." Adrian said with a sly smile.
"The Deathly Hallows!"
"Precisely Mr. Potter. Ignotus Pevrell was an Avatar and he was granted the Cloak as his Icon, in order to complete his task he gathered two other Icons of old and gave them to his brothers, but after the job was done Cadmus and Antioch abused the power of the Icons and were struck down for their presumption. Now as for what we can give you, it will need to be something you can explain having without arousing suspicion... shoes are always useful... perhaps a nice coat... Ah I know we can replace your glasses. It isn't uncommon for wizards to place charms on glasses so they wouldn't arouse undue suspicion, and we can give them all sorts of neat functions. What do you think?"
"Glasses would work I guess, I don't have any shoes or coats that I would want to have to keep with me forever." Harry said with a shrug.
"Good then let's get the paperwork filled out for those... let me see... where is that form... Ah here we go, Icon Requisition Form 1037R-B." Adrian pulled a stack of papers out of one of the drawers in his desk and began filling them out. "Now if you'll just sign here." Adrian handed Harry a pen and indicated where he needed to sign.
"You use pen and paper here?" Harry asked as he handed the forms back.
"Of course, does this look like the middle ages to you? Some of the liaison offices have already started going digital and they figure we'll be fully upgraded, networked and paper free by the turn of the century. Though why it's so important to be paper free when the paper isn't even real is beyond me. Now we need to decide when to send you back, unfortunately our options are rather limited. We can only send you back through when the fabric of reality between this plane and your location on the mortal plane is thin enough. Unfortunately you have never been close enough to a summoning to jump through an open portal, though we could send you back through the veil, but that puts things rather late so we'll have to use the natural fluctuations of the fabric to send you back, which only leaves peak moments of fluctuation. So Halloween around 11 o'clock at night. Any year would work, but your fourth year would probably be best since it will allow you to distance yourself from Weasley easily enough." Harry just nodded his brain was far to overloaded to make any good decisions right now. "Good sign here, here, and here." Harry signed quickly in the indicated spots "Excellent now once you get your Miss Granger up to date I'll be popping in to answer any more questions and to deliver your new glasses, so don't take to long." Harry nodded again "Now, when you walk out that door you'll be returned to the mortal plane immediately, good luck."
Harry stood up and faced the door he had come in through. He reached out and turned the door knob, but when the door opened it looked out on a pure white expanse rather than the beige hallway. Taking a deep breath Harry stepped through the door.
A/N: I hope you have all enjoyed this beginning. For those of you who didn't get the reference, the Tunguska Event of 1908 was the result of a conversation between one angel and one demon the resulting explosion was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The result of this is a Cold War between gods and devils for the souls of humanity, the exact reason for this will be revealed later on.
The original challenge from Reptilia28 is as follows
*Harry is killed at 17 during a fight with Voldemort. He's sent to his Death's office (explained later) and finds out that this isn't the first time that this has happened.
*Harry's Death (who can have a human name) is mad at his arrival. Apparently, people dying before their time is a black mark on the various Deaths' records, and Harry is getting perilously close to getting this particular one fired.
*When Harry asks what was supposed to have happened, Death goes off on a rant saying how he was supposed to have killed Voldemort, found his soulmate ("Some Granger girl...") and lived to be a centennial age. But since Harry keeps getting into life-threatening situations for one reason or another, he keeps dying before that happens. Harry is surprised about the soulmate part.
*Death gives Harry a paper to sign that allows him to retain his memories (the previous times, he wasn't given this option for some reason). Harry is deposited to a previous time of the writer's choosing.
*Eventually, Harry gets it right. He kills Voldemort, gets the girl, and lives to a ripe old age of whatever. And Death doesn't get fired.
*Harry had to have died at least three times before this one.
*The memory keeping contract must be included.
*Death must refer to Hermione as "some Granger girl" when Harry's soulmate turns up in his rant.
*Obviously, must be H/Hr.
*Dumbledore's manipulations can be a factor in Harry's premature demises.