Chapter 2: The first step to Hell
Those words circled through Harry’s mind while he sat in his compartment of the Hogwarts Express observing the other students on the platform while stroking the feathers of his familiar Hedwig whom he had missed dearly. With the other hand he played with the pendant that hang from a thin golden chain around his neck, it was the resurrection stone, one of the deathly hollows that had appeared next to him when he arrived in the past. The cloak was securely locked in his trunk while the wand was placed in his wrist holster next to the wand he had acquired from Ollivander.
He had to smirk on that memory; Ollivander had tried to pair him with Voldemort’s twin wand again but that thing had exploded spectacularly and had been beyond repair. Now he had a jet-black elm wand with a twin-core of Rougarou hair and horned serpents horn. The second wand he had only bought to not alarm Dumbledore of the fact that he had the elder wand now though he wondered what the old meddling fool thought where the wand disappeared to since it had been his, not that it was of any use to him anymore since Harry became Master of Death.
That brought him back to his initial thought.
Hero…he could only laugh about that. Oh no, Death granted him his deepest wish, a chance to right his wrongs and this time he would do it the right way. No more running to death like a good little boy, no more saving people and most definitely no more listening to that old demented fool that thought him to be his little golden poster boy.
Harry chuckled darkly upon that thought. Should Dumbledore think that Grindelwald was evil and Voldemort the worst Dark Lord in recent history then he would be in for a very nasty surprise because he would be infinitely worse and it was entirely Dumbledore’s fault.
Luckily Death had the Horcrux in him removed because would that have been awkward. Not because he was overly concerned that the soul shard of one of the darkest persons of recent history had resided in his scar but he had learned from Death that he was immortal when it came to any unnatural cause of death. But how would he be supposed to get rid of it without dying in the first place? He also had no intention to make Voldemort immortal thank you very much, he wanted to get rid of that idiot as soon as possible after all so that damned Horcrux had to go. And it had gone, though interestingly not without leaving most of the knowledge of the former Dark Lord behind. A nice and handy little gift, Harry had to admit.
Though what left Harry wondering was Death’s statement that all of this came “at the cost of all he held dear”. What did Death mean by this? What did Harry hold dear? Thinking about it, he came to no satisfying result. Sure he liked his friends Ron and Hermione and he would miss them should they be ripped from him but he wouldn’t despair over it. His family he never got to know as well as Sirius, Remus and all the others like Tonks or the adults of the Weasley family. The only other one he could think of was Snape but again he wouldn’t despair should he lose him. Well, he would have to see what Death meant exactly.
He was ripped out of his thoughts however, when he spotted a group of redheaded people, the Weasleys. That made him remember when he had first met his friend Ron. Would the boy accept that he was not the light saviour he expected him to be? Or would he shun him and run for the hills because he was dark? Not only dark but also evil?
What about Hermione? He remembered that she was a bad know-it-all in the beginning taking everything that she had read or that any authority figure said at face value, especially when it came out of Dumbledore’s mouth. That he would have to get out of her quickly should she being able to accept him for how he was now.
For now however, it was pointless to muse about things he didn’t even know the facts about. He would have to wait and see what time brought him and time he had enough.
Watching the crowd of students, parents and other guardians on the platform his thoughts were drawn to what happened to the Dursleys. Oh yes, what he had done to them was a true masterpiece, torturing them thoroughly for what they had done to him, it was truly a good thing that his wand the Deathstick came without any traces whatsoever. So he could cast even as a minor whatever spell he fancied and adding to it some wards against detection of the darker spells, let’s just say he had had very much fun with his relatives.
Oh yes, he had been extremely creative with his punishment, it still sent shudders of pleasure down his spine remembering it, he doubted that even Snape could have been any more creative…what the Accio spell could be used for…so harmless in the daily use but pretty bloody if used correctly. Or Wingardium Leviosa…more power and well…head meets ceiling. Not to mention the Aguamenti charm, waterboarding on a completely new level. All that was even before he delved into the darker spells, the Cruciatus curse while extremely effective was for unimaginative idiots.
That was when Death had revealed another little gift Harry inherited thanks to his title as Master of Death, he could resurrect the dead (unfortunately only without a soul) and command them. Resurrecting his family after killing them and commanding them to go on as they normally did…it should throw of Dumbledore from what he was truly doing during the holidays without them giving anything away. The nice thing of this was that despite that while they now had no soul anymore they still were living, you could compare them to braindead puppets with only the basic functions of their bodies working so that they wouldn’t start to decay.
Harry sported a content grin thinking about what he had done when suddenly the door to his compartment opened and Ronald Weasley poked his head in. Turning around to the boy, he saw that Ron’s eyes briefly flashed to his forehead where his scare was half hidden by his fringe. Harry had told Death that it should remain even if it was awkward to be stared at because of it. However, it would be much more awkward to explain how it suddenly vanished, especially to Dumbledore and for now, he wanted to lay a low profile, at least until things settled in Hogwarts after him arriving there.
“Hello, would you mind me joining you? Everywhere else is full,” Ron asked with a sheepish grin.
“Highly doubtable” Harry retorted.
“Err…what?” Ron asked confusedly.
“It is highly doubtable that everywhere else is full since this train is able to contain about a thousand people while I would say that there are at the moment somewhat around 800 students. However I have no problem with you joining me,” he now grinned.
Ron stared at him for a moment blinking owlishly before he set into motion. When he tried to heave his trunk into the racks, Harry had his wand drawn with a flick of his wrist and a quick levitation charm later, the trunk was securely stored.
“Thank you. You can already perform magic like that? This is awesome,” Ron rambled with awe written all over his face. “My name is Ron by the way, Ron Weasley.”
“Harry Potter, nice to meet you Ron,” Harry replied which let Ron stare at him even more.
“Wow, you…you’re Harry Potter? Do…do you have it? …the scar I mean,” he started his eyes growing even wider but Harry who grew irritated by the other boy’s behaviour quickly interrupted him.
“First things first. I might be the Boy-who-lived having defeated a Dark Lord at the age of one but I am definitely NOT some light poster boy and even less the person, you or anyone else for that matter expects. What happened ten years ago came at a very high price, my parents died that day and I actually find it disgusting how everybody celebrates my victory while completely forgetting their sacrifice, which was actually the reason for why the Dark Lord was defeated in the first place,” he explained in an ice cold voice. “If you have a problem with that or only see my fame, money or titles and not me, for who I am…get lost.”
Ron again only could stare at Harry, thinking through what he had heard about Harry from others. According to them, their saviour was the symbol of everything light and good. What Harry just said however, pointed into an entirely different direction. A suspicion formed in his head but he was known for his ability of strategic thinking and should anything of Harry’s statement be correct then he was more Slytherin than anything else. Ron knew from own experience and stories from his brothers that Slytherins were closed up when it came to their secrets, so he needed a plan to get behind Harry’s statement. First step: appeasing him.
“I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intention to insult you or degrade your parent’s sacrifice,” he said in a low voice. Harry only blinked at him lost for words; it seems that he hadn’t anticipated this…good. “Sure, at first I only saw you as the Boy-who-lived but only because it was all I knew about you,” he shrugged helplessly, step two: handing him an olive branch, he chuckled lowly. “You’re right, you’re nothing like everyone thinks you are and I want to get to know you not the Boy-who-lived because you seem to be much more interesting,” step three: offering genuine friendship.
Harry looked at Ron in open curiosity. That was Slytherin level of manipulation probably to get to know what he meant with not being the light poster boy. Had that always been hidden in Ron but he never showed it or had his little travel in time changed the boy so much? But no he couldn’t have changed him that drastically in that short amount of time he now was in the past and without even having met him before. He had to admit that he loved the new side of his hopefully soon again best friend.
“Who said I’m interesting in any given way?” he inquired.
Ron smiled upon that while looking Harry straight into the eyes. “Your demeanour, your choice of words…I would bet everything I have that you’ll end up in Slytherin,” he chuckled.
Okay, that statement derailed everything Harry thought he knew about his best friend. Had he really just said that he would land in Slytherin without so much as blinking not to mention that he didn’t lose even one word about the “slimy snakes” and praising the great, great Gryffindors?
“I would have bet that a boy coming from a light family that was in Gryffindor for centuries would be more biased against Slytherin considering the ongoing house rivalry between those two houses,” Harry probed a bit confused.
“And here it seems that we both have our secrets,” Ron now grinned broadly.
That was when suddenly the door to their compartment opened revealing a bushy haired brunette.
“Hello, has anyone of you seen a toad? You see Neville has lost his,” she said in a bossy voice.
“I saw a rat, a snowy owl and a boy with red hair but no toad, no,” Harry replied curtly, he really would have to get this attitude out of her. “Who are you anyway? It is quite rude to enter a compartment without so much as knocking and then not even introducing yourself.”
Hermione looked at him as if he suddenly decided to grow a second head, while Ron looked at him in interest.
“My name is Hermione Granger,” she finally brought out. “Who are you?”
“This is Ron Weasley and I’m Harry Potter,” Harry introduced them both.
“You’re Harry Potter? Nice to meet you. I read everything about you. You…” she started to ramble but Harry interrupted her as quickly as Ron had been, when he started about the entire Boy-who-lived nonsense.
“Ms. Granger, I would advise you to not believe everything you read. For once I have lived in the muggle world the last ten years and only have gotten to know about magic when I have received my acceptance letter,” he tore into her. “Then there is the fact that it was the sacrifice of my parents who died that day that I survived. So do yourself a favour and stop relying on books.”
“But…” she began but again was interrupted.
“Nothing but. Books of history are written by the victors so it is only a one-sided story. Despite that, I’m the sole survivor of that night so how can anyone assume to know what happened?! I for my part only remember fragments of it and I never gave any interviews about it,” he growled lowly.
Hermione was stunned not knowing what she should say to that.
“Another thing is that Books and especially newspapers only tell you what certain people want you to read. One of the prime examples for this is our esteemed headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Do you know how many books he removed from the Hogwarts library only because he declared them dark? So much knowledge lost because of the doings of one man.”
Oh yes, Harry knew what Dumbledore had done. So many classes the man had cancelled, books he had banned…the list was endless and only because he had thought the subject dark or because there had been said to be no budget for it. What a revelation it had been when Harry had looked through the man’s office after his death. One thing was for sure, Dumbledore was the worst hypocrite right after Riddle. Declaring certain magic dark and forbidden and having practised it himself all the time. A prime example had been the blood wards around Privet Drive. Oh no, they hadn’t been erected by his mother’s sacrifice, no it had been the headmaster.
“Dumbledore is a great man. He did so much for the magical world, defeating Grindelwald and keeping Voldemort away from Hogwarts making it a sanctuary,” Hermione defended the man.
“Ah yes? Tell me, how hard is it to defeat the one person you know best? Yes, Dumbledore and Grindelwald have been close friends, lovers even; they planned to rule the muggle world together as their superiors. That was until Dumbledore saw that their plans wouldn’t work. He left Grindelwald with a new plan in his head, having pushed him so far that he went on with their plans alone, waging war over Europe along the way. Dumbledore has done all this only so that he in the end could defeat his former lover and appear as the hero that saved everyone,” Harry explained in a smug voice having read Skeeter’s book “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore” had been another eye-opener. “And that Voldemort never attacked Hogwarts has absolutely nothing to do with Dumbledore. Voldemort saw Hogwarts as his first and only true home and he didn’t want to damage the castle, which would probably have happened during an attack.”
“You’re lying…that are all lies…you have no proof for this,” Hermione shouted though it looked as if her faith was crumbling, the seed of doubt surely being planted in her mind.
“If you don’t believe me try to get your hands on a newspaper from the 13th August of 1899, there is even a photo of the two in it,” Harry scoffed.
Hermione glared at him. “You’re wrong and I’ll prove it,” she said but it wasn’t with the determination the girl normally showed when enamoured with something, yes the seed of doubt truly was planted and only time would tell whether she would become his friend again. With a last glare, she left the compartment and the two male occupants to themselves again.
It was several minutes of utter silence where both thought about what just happened. Harry mused how he could convince Hermione to accept his true self while Ron mused over what Harry said in the last minutes.
It was Ron, who finally spoke up. “You know for someone who knows the magical world for what…two month, you know quite a lot,” he muttered.
“Is that so?” he replied with a smirk.
“You just said yourself that you only got to know about the magical world when you received your letter which should have been about two months ago when you reached the age of eleven. No normal person can dig up such information in such a short amount of time especially when they’re new to this world and don’t know where to look,” Ron retorted.
“You listened to what I said…good, though I won’t tell you the secret behind that for now. What I tell you though is that Knowledge is power and power is what I strive for,” Harry snickered. “I have blackmailing material on nearly everyone in a position of power and believe me I’m not above using it if necessary. What I told Hermione was just the tip of an extremely large iceberg.”
Oh yes, over the years he had collected a massive amount of information on nearly everyone…Dumbledore, Malfoy, Fudge, Snape, Voldemort…the list was endless. The only one he never managed to find anything about was Amelia Bones. He had to admit that the woman was fair and only served justice; she wasn’t corrupt and never listened to either Dumbledore or Voldemort. It was a shame that she had died.
Ron looked at Harry seemingly contemplating something. “Harry, I don’t know how else to formulate it so I’ll be blunt…are you dark?” he asked in the end with an expression on his face that Harry wasn’t able to decipher. Was it fear? Or anticipation? Perhaps even something akin to hope?
Harry looked Ron straight into the eyes for a long moment before he answered with another question. “Would it bother you if I were?”
This was the point where it was decided whether he and Ron could still be friends or not. Should Ron have problems with his affiliation to the dark…he could only hope that it was not the case so he awaited Ron’s answer with trepidation but somehow he had the feeling that Ron wouldn’t have a problem with it.
“Should it? You know looks can be deceiving and not everyone who wears a shining white armour is a good guy,” Ron said with a smirk.
“True!” Harry laughed.
That was when again the compartment door opened this time revealing a blond boy with two goons behind him.
“I heard that Harry Potter is supposed to be in this compartment,” he blurted out without introducing himself, was it today the day of not introducing oneself?
“Who says such a thing?” Harry questioned with a confused expression. The only ones who knew he was Harry Potter were Ron who never left the compartment and Hermione but he doubted that Malfoy would listen to her so it was a good question. However, he had the feeling that Malfoy simply went from compartment to compartment with that question in order to find him.
“That is of no matter” Malfoy retorted, so it was as he assumed his way to find him. “Are you Harry Potter or not?”
“Even if I happen to be Harry Potter, what is it to you? Who are you anyway?” Harry replied with a smirk.
Malfoy’s eyes briefly flickered to Harry’s forehead to confirm his suspicion before he hold out his hand. “My name is Malfoy, Draco Malfoy,” he said with a smug grin upon which Ron had a hard time to supress his laugher. “What? Think my name is funny? For yours I don’t even have to ask. Red hair, dull expression and worn clothes…probably a Weasley. You know Potter you’ll learn that some families are better than others are. I can help you sort that out.”
Harry however didn’t even move, looking at Malfoy in contemplation. “Ron, you strike me as a strategist and tactical thinker. What do you think how I should react to a boy who first insults a friend of mine before offering a probably for me beneficial alliance?” he asked with a look at said boy.
Ron after looking at him in surprise that he was asked for his opinion thought it through. “I’d suggest that you offer a truce for now and postpone your final decision to see whether he is even worthy of an alliance with you,” he said after a few moments.
“Thank you,” Harry gave Ron a smile before turning back to Malfoy. “It seems that for now you’ll only get a truce with me but should you prove your value to me I’d gladly accept your offer of an alliance.”
Malfoy looked back and forth between Ron and Harry in mild surprise. Had a Weasley of all people just made a sound advice on how to handle this situation? Not only a sound one but also one worthy of a Slytherin? Something was going on here and he wouldn’t be a Malfoy if he couldn’t find out what, but everything in its own time.
“Very well, a truce shall it be for now and I have to apologize Mr. Weasley for my harsh words,” he said dipping his head in Ron’s direction who nodded in acknowledgement. “Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, I won’t take up any more time of yours so I’ll leave now and welcome to Hogwarts,” Malfoy said before turning around and leaving the compartment.
For him it was clear, this would be an interesting year. Especially Weasley was a surprise and he would have an eye on the other boy to determine what was so different with him compared to the rest of his family. Sure, he wore like all the other Weasleys second hand clothes and considering that they were as poor as a church mouse it was no wonder but his entire demeanour and the advice he gave Potter testified to his pureblood status. Very interesting indeed. He was also determined to form at least an alliance with Potter and if that meant taking up with a Weasley, so mote it be.
Inside the compartment, Harry turned around to Ron, once the compartment door was closed and they were alone again.
“What do you think?” he asked curiously.
“About Malfoy? I don’t know how much you know about him or his family. In the war with You-know-who Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father was on his side. Sure, he claimed having been under the Imperius Cruse, a curse to control the actions of a person stealing their own free will, once the war was over but I don’t believe that,” Ron explained with a thoughtful face. “On the other hand they have large political and monetary influence in the magical world so they could be powerful allies. However, I think that especially Lucius has only one person he is truly loyal to, himself,” he ended with a snort.
“So we should bide our time getting to know him and his loyalties before deciding any further actions,” Harry summed it up with a smirk.
“If you know your enemy and know yourself you need not fear the result of a hundred battles,” Ron smiled himself now.
“You read Sun Tzu?” Harry asked astonished.
“Very…I would never have thought that a pureblood like you would read something from a muggle like The Art of War,” he replied.
“Sun Tzu actually was a squib,” Ron snickered.
“You never stop learning,” this little tidbit he hadn’t known up to now.
The rest of the train ride was quiet and uneventful. Shortly after noon the sweets trolley came by and Harry bought for him and Ron a few sweets. Afterwards they engaged themselves in a discussion about strategies while playing a few rounds of chess. While Harry grew better over his years at Hogwarts before his little travel in time, he still had nothing upon Ron.
Five minutes before the train pulled into the Hogsmead station the two got changed. Ron simply threw his clothes into his trunk while Harry neatly folded his recently bought clothes and placed them in his seven-compartment trunk before locking Hedwig in her cage.
Yes, after he had dealt with his relatives he had paid Gringotts a visit setting a few things right including the small little fact that a certain Headmaster had his key and had it been a surprise that his trust vault was not the only one he had inherited from his parents.
Before he had come back in time, he hadn’t known that it was only the tip of an extremely large iceberg, something a certain old meddling bastard had deliberately kept from him. However, since this time he had gone to Gringotts alone there was nothing that kept the goblins from informing him. Sure, the family vaults he could only access once he either was of age or got himself emancipated at the age of thirteen but that didn’t bother him. For now, he had enough money for what he needed or wanted and the first thing he did was buying some high quality clothes that were acceptable in the wizarding world while not standing out with the muggles.
His next stop had been Flourish & Blotts for an assortment of books on several topics. Not only did he want to upgrade his knowledge about magical history but also things like warding, Occlumency, potions, offensive/defensive spells as well as charms for the everyday usage. After that, he made a trip to Knockturn Alley to find books on the less than legal branches of magic and potions. He found quite a few very interesting ones that now rested in the last and heavily warded compartment of his trunk that couldn’t be found unless you spoke a password that Harry had set in Parseltongue. So the only other that could possibly access it would be Voldemort but he highly doubted that the man would guess it to be “Thanatophobia” which was the fear of dying which Harry had found hilarious when setting it.
The last two months Harry then had taken to both read and practise the magic described in the books or brewing. Sure, he had inherited Voldemort’s knowledge but that didn’t mean that he could execute the things like spells or brewing the potions, that still required practise. He had warded the smaller bedroom and set up a small potions lab within it, sure, it wasn’t Snape’s standard but for brewing potions on an acceptable level, it was sufficient. One of the first potions he had brewed was a nutrition potion to get rid of his malnourished body followed by one to correct his eyesight. How many times had he lost his glasses in his previous life and unfortunately he had been blind without them, well, no longer.
He was ripped from his musing by Ron who told him that they had arrived. Together they left the compartment onto the platform where they heard Hagrid shouting over the masses of students for the first years to gather around him. Though Harry this time hadn’t been taken to Diagon Alley by the man because he had received his letter like everyone else and since he had written in his answer that it wouldn’t be necessary to accompany him, they hadn’t sent anyone, which was probably better because of what Harry actually bought additionally to his supplies. He wouldn’t want them to know what reading material he possessed after all.
Hagrid led the group of first years down a path to the boats. Many gasps and oh-s and ah-s were heard when they saw the old castle for the first time. Another thing Harry swore to himself was that he wouldn’t allow the castle to be damaged this time. In this regard, he was much like Riddle, no matter what, this castle was his first and only true home and he wouldn’t allow her to come to harm if he could help it.
Ron and Harry shared a boat together with Neville Longbottom and Hermione. Harry mused during their boat ride whether or not to convince Neville to become his ally. The last time the boy had too much honour and righteousness in him to even think about joining someone dark but on the other hand that was only once he overcame his shyness and his grandmother’s treatment of him. Perhaps…with some time and the right strategy, he would have to talk to Ron about it.
For now, however they stood together in the antechamber of the great hall waiting for McGonagall to return and take them to the sorting. This will be truly interesting.