Harry Potter, the Master of Death, was bored.
This wasn't unusual. He'd lived life many, many times after all. Had jumped dimensions and traveled in time more often than he could count. Had grown up as Harry or Harriet Potter, and had watched other Harrys and Harriets grow-up and grow old. At some point in his existence he'd fallen in love with and married almost every student who'd ever gone to Hogwarts in his first life, both male and female versions.
He'd defeated Voldemort so often it had become a game. His best attempt had been defeating Voldemort three weeks after becoming aware of his master of death status at age 11, on his own, with no special magical powers, save those from his first life. The look on that world's Dumbledore's face, who'd been the rare combination of both good and competent, when he'd given him the memories on arriving at Hogwarts, had been priceless.
He'd been a dark lord and light lord, had collected almost every Animagus form possible, both magical and non-magical, had lived in dimensions where the rules of magic were so different from his first life that the biggest threats were not Voldemort, but necromancers, elementals, demons, and fairy queens. He'd even fought across multiple dimensions at the same time, leading the forces of light or darkness into other worlds, and brought friends, lovers, and enemies with him on his travels across lifetimes, growing up and old with the same person many times before they'd grown tired and asked for the eternal rest.
He was staring out of the window of the Hogwarts Express, a pad of muggle paper on his lap, notes strewn around the compartment, his ideas for this lifetime.
What should he do? As far as he could tell, this dimension was pretty similar to his first life. He'd grown up with his magic hating relatives, who'd been highly unpleasant but not physically abusive. His knowledge of being the master of death had kicked in when he'd touched his Hogwarts acceptance letter, and a selection of memories, chosen before he'd been born into this world, had filtered into his mind over the next few weeks. He'd already tried a bunch of rituals and magics to test the rules of this world and had found nothing special.
Harry looked down again at his notebook.
Idea after idea of how to make this life more challenging, each one with more self imposed limitations than the last.
He stared at the last item:
Persuade Hannah Abbot and Voldemort that she is the true girl-who-lived and guide her to defeat Voldemort by the end of the fourth year (100 points). Bonus points if Voldemort is defeated using her Animagus form (20 points). Bonus points if Draco Malfoy falls in love with her (20 points). Bonus points if Dumbledore declares Susan Bones to be the true girl who lived instead (20 points). Lose five points for each time you must save her or her immediate friend's lives.'
He slammed the notebook shut and sighed.
The door to the corridor slid open and a very familiar girl with bushy brown hair stepped in. Another familiar, slightly shorter, chubby boy was standing behind her, softly crying.
"Have you seen a toad? Neville lost one," the girl said, her tone bossy, clearly indicating her right to be there and to ask.
Harry was already reaching for a book in his bag.
"Hello Hermione. No, I haven't seen Trevor but there's a spell in here you'd probably find useful if you can learn it." The challenge hung from his words while Hermione stared at him in surprise.
"How'd you know who I am?" she asked, taking the book Harry proffered her and glancing down at the page he'd left open.
"I'm a seer."
"Oh, are you really? I haven't read much about divination yet, we don't get to choose it until third year and I've been too busy reading all our textbooks for this year which I think I've managed to learn by now, I do hope I'm not too far behind, neither of my parents are magical at all so I imagine I've still got quite a bit of catching up to do, this spell is a forth year spell, do you really think I could learn it?"
Ahhh, the 11-year-old Hermionian breathless monologue. Harry drank it in like a glass of fine wine.
"I know you can" Harry intoned, with the emphasis on 'you'.
Hermione's eye's widened, and after a few seconds staring at Harry, sat down with the book and started reading. After a few minutes she started practicing wand movements.
In the mean time, Harry had waved Neville over to a seat opposite his. The boy was still sniffing.
"Don't worry. Even if Hermione can't summon Trever by the train's end, he'll turn up on the boats. Trust me."
"Is that a seer thing too?" he stuttered through the occasional sniff. Harry nodded.
"Being a seer is really rare you know," He glanced up at Harry with slightly red and watery eyes. Harry just nodded again.
"Why are we going on boats?" Neville asked.
"The first-years take small boats to the castle over the lake while the older students take carriages. It's to give the older students time to get seated in the great hall before the sorting ceremony begins. It's also a far more beautiful way to be introduced to Hogwarts; the view is magnificent from the lake."
"You're a first year too aren't you? How'd you know?"
Harry tilted his head slightly while fixing his gaze on Neville.
"Oh right. Seer. I forgot"
"Well, for the view, yeah. The rest I read about in here," Harry pulled out his copy of Hogwarts a History from the small pile next to him.
Hermione looked up from repeatedly tracing movements with her wand. "Oh I've read that book, it's ever so good, I think, and it's so good to know so much about where we're going to be learning for the next seven years, its so amazing, which house do you think you'll be in? I hope I'm going to be in Gryffindor".
What to do. What to do. Harry knew at this point he could pretty much sort Hermione himself with his next words, and he still had no clue what he wanted to do with this lifetime… nuts.
"In Gryffindor you will be the best of the worst. In Ravenclaw you will be the best of the best. In Hufflepuff you will be the equal to all. And in Slytherin you will be the better of no-one."
Hermione blinked before frowning. "Dumbledore was in Gryffindor. Are you saying he is the best of the worst".
"No. But you are not Dumbledore. You are Hermione Granger, which is far better, trust me," Her eyes widened again at that, "and the house Dumbledore was in has no meaning to where you will become the best version of Hermione Granger you can be." Harry held her gaze until she broke it, looking back down to the book Harry had given her where she'd progressed from basic wand movement exercises and had started the intermediate movement progressions.
"Do you… know something?" She asked quietly.
"Things you can only find out be making choices and living life."
She looked annoyed at that "Are seers always this cryptic!?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Because the more definite the knowledge of the future, the more certain the future will not be so."
Hermione hesitated at that. "I… guess that makes sense."
Neville was watching the interplay between the black haired boy and Hermione with fascination. The idea of being the equal of everyone else held a great deal of appeal to him. He knew his Gran wanted him to be in Gryffindor, like his father, but every bone in his body called him elsewhere.
Hermione was now looking at the black haired boy as if for the first time. Her eyes drifted over the pile of books to his left, the notebook on his lap, the myriad of notes that lay around him, and finally back to his deep emerald green eyes, which stayed fixed with hers, as if waiting for something.
She finally stepped over to him and held out her hand to his. "Hermione Granger. Its a pleasure to meet you."
Harry smiled and took her hand before shaking it. "The pleasure is mutual. I'm Harry Potter."
Her eyes went wide again. Neville sat straighter in his chair.
"Are you really? I've read all about you in Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizards and Witches of the 20th Century… None of them said you were a seer though."
"That's because I haven't told any of them yet. You're actually the first people I've ever told, and I'd like it to remain that way for the moment."
As the two nodded the door of the compartment opened and a blond haired boy walked in, flanked by two much larger boys, and he STILL didn't know what he wanted to do with this lifetime. Arghhhh!
"They're all saying that Harry Potter's in this compartment, so it's you is it?"
Harry smiled. He'd met Draco at Madam Malkin's and had kept his options open. Draco could be a massive annoyance or a perfect ally depending on how his parents brought him up and how he decided to play. He couldn't see a good reason to go all massive enemy on him yet. He stood up and stepped over to Draco his hand out.
"That's me. Harry Potter, defeater of the Dark Lord Voldemort, scion to the ancient and noble house of Potter, and scion to the most ancient and noble house of Black."
Draco's flinch at the name turned into wide-eyed shock. "Scion of house Black? How? My father said I'm supposed to be."
"Sirius black is my godfather, and he named me successor to the Black line in his will."
"But. But. Why would he… do that?!" Draco's look of shock and confusion deepened.
"Why indeed," Harry smiled, "but I fear we're getting ahead of ourselves. I've introduced myself but I believe you've yet to do so my noble friend."
Draco straightened. "Draco Malfoy, Scion of the noble house of Malfoy. But… you already knew that didn't you." Harry nodded. "How? If you don't mind me asking. I've not seen you at any of father's parties and I've heard no-one in the wizarding world's seen you since the night you defeated the dark lord."
"As scion of an ancient and noble house it is my prerogative to learn the histories of the families of our world."
Hermione's eyes slightly narrowed. That hadn't been an answer, but the blond haired boy seemed not to have noticed.
"Well at least you seem to know what you're doing. I was afraid I was going to have to teach you everything."
Draco then frowned before continuing, "but may I then ask why you're keeping this company?" his gaze swept with distain over the compartment taking in Neville and Hermione.
"The Longbottoms have been allies of the Potters since time immemorial. As for the Grangers… Well, you'll see the power that lies in her blood once we get into class, and I'll leave it to you to speculate as to its origins." Harry's grin widened.
Draco looked towards Hermione, very uncertain. "Well, OK then," he said eventually. "I look forward to seeing you all at the sorting and feast". He stepped out of the door."
"I look forward to watching your sorting into Slytherin, Draco Malfoy."
Draco's uncertainty changed to a smirk before the door slid closed, the two boys at his flanks, ignored and forgotten.
"Well that was… interesting" Hermione eventually said. "Very formal. I felt like I was in a Victorian novel. I've read a bit about pureblood customs of course, in a History of Magic, but I never thought that even the children would be like that." Harry's insinuation there might be more to her family than she knew hadn't been lost on her but she decided to stay quiet for the moment.
"How can you stand him Harry? You do know what his family did in the last war, right?" Asked Neville.
"Sure," replied Harry, "but Draco is just a kid trying to make his parents proud. He hasn't done anything wrong yet, and with the right friends he might never."
Neville looked dubious but said nothing.
The three then settled down to the rest of the train journey. Harry and Neville swapping stories of their upbringing while Hermione assiduously practiced the summoning charm.
Several hours later, towards the end of the line, Neville and Harry sat and watched as Hermione opened the door and with all her power attempted to cast the summoning charm. 30 seconds went by and nothing happened. "Oh well." Hermione looked exhausted and dejected. "It is a fourth year spell after all."
Harry just kept watching the door while smiling. And then, Trever the toad slid his way into the compartment, dragged slowly on his back by an unseen force.
"Trever!" Neville half shouted with relief.
Hermione looked stunned.
Harry stood up and put a hand on her shoulder. "Welcome to Team Awesome Hermione."
- W:PSBPnIoFP -
"First-years! First-years this way! All right there Harry?"
The trio had alighted from the train and made their way to the boats, being lead, and briefly greeted, by Hagrid.
Their party was joined by a red haired girl Harry immediately recognized as Susan Bones. Harry briefly wondered if he should start trying to play any of the games outlined in his notes, but quickly decided against it. He just couldn't be bothered.
The flotilla slipped through the quickly darkening countryside before rounding a corner and revealing Hogwarts Castle. The sight still did things to Harry's insides, even after Merlin knew how many tens of thousands of years. Hogwarts would always be his true home, no matter how many he made outside its walls. He held a sliver of hope this Hogwarts would be sentient, but knew it was unlikely, especially with just how close to his first life this world seemed.
The boats had docked, and the group assembled in the corridor outside the great hall, waiting for professor McGonagall to lead them to the sorting.
Harry's eyes swept over the faces of his soon to be classmates. Every one familiar, every face containing memories of love, hate, conflict, and peace. Then his gaze slid over the face of a girl with long jet black hair, and stopped with the force of a nundu hitting a mountain.
He didn't know her.
No. He studied her face carefully. There was something familiar about it, but he couldn't place it. He did know this person, he was sure, but he just couldn't… like a name on the tip of the tongue, this face…
She was tall for an eleven year old and she held herself with the poise and self assurance of a pureblood. Indeed, she was standing next to Daphne Greengrass and their forms looked close to identical. But her clothes looked poor. Second hand. But well maintained. While everyone else was nervous, fidgeting, and swapping stories of possible challenges and death defying dangers they were about to face in the sorting, she just stood, surveying the faces around her with the same detached interest he'd been using just a few moments earlier.
Their gazes met and he quickly broke his stare and looked away.
Maybe she was the younger or older female version of a male student he'd never gotten to know before. That did happen sometimes.
A smile spread on his face.
Or maybe she just has a really low probability of existence. A unique set of circumstances needing to come together to ensure her birth or her magic?
Anyway, something to look forward to.
Professor McGonagall had returned and was now leading them in a line to the front of the great hall. The sorting hat was brought out and duly sang its song. Nothing special. In some worlds it would sing something much more interesting. Sometimes it had even detected his existence in the world, or even at Hogwarts, and had sung about that, much to the shock of the staff and students.
Slowly, the students were called up. There weren't any real surprises, although he did smile when Hermione went to Ravenclaw and Neville went to Hufflepuff. Then, it was his turn.
The traditional muttering greeted Harry's walk to the hat, hundreds of eyes staring or craning for a look at what they merely believed to be the savior of their world before the darkness of the hat fell over his eyes.
"Bee in your bonnet Harry Po—What the?!"
"Oh, Merlin, no."
"This is too much."
"Sorry about that."
"Then let's get this over with quickly. You've been the heir to each of the founders at some point in your existence, and the courage, willingness to work hard, love of knowledge, and cunning you've amassed makes any house an option. So, go on. Where do you want to be?"
"Mmm, well whatever I end up doing, I've generally found that creating an all star team from all four houses often works best. Being in Slytherin makes that more difficult at first but more effective once the dynamic is established. So, go ahead. Slytherin for me… and I assume the rules you are bound under in this reality forbid you from disclosing details of your discussions to others?"
"You assume correctly. Very well… SLYTHERIN!"
The murmuring that had filled the hall died instantly. Neville and Hermione started clapping but quickly stopped, the shocked silence deafening their attempt to welcome their friend. Not even the table of snakes moved a muscle.
Harry stood up without fuss, walked over to his new house, and sat himself beside Draco. "Surprised?" he asked the Malfoy heir.
"I guess I shouldn't have been." He muttered before they both turned back to the remaining first-years.
Harry's eyes immediately zeroed in on the one student left he was interested in and their eyes met for the second time. Harry registered the same shock in them the rest of the hall had. Almost certainly not muggleborn then, and while the rest of the line had resumed their nervous fidgeting, the tall black haired girl continued to stare before realizing he was also staring at her and looking away.
A loud choking noise from professor McGonagall drew his attention. The witch had been staring at the names list before turning to headmaster Dumbledore, confusion and worry in her eyes, whom just gave a nod and a wave to continue.
'Interesting reaction,' Harry thought, 'I wonder what that was about?'
The professor turned back to the hall.