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The many deaths of Harry Potter

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"You've got to read the directions before you start the potion," Harry said.

Boils covered Neville's arms and legs, and face. Harry wondered if Snape would allow him to buy Neville a full body apron and face mask.

Given how dangerous poisons seemed to be, they probably all should be wearing protective gear. Harry made a mental to always check his supplies before starting potions. Tampering with his supplies might be a very good way to assassinate him if the kind of injuries Neville had sustained from a harmless potion were any indication. What risks would there be when they moved onto more dangerous potions?

Harry couldn't imagine trying to teach a class like that, especially when students like Crabbe and Goyle didn't seem any brighter than Dudley. It wasn't any wonder than Snape was so irritable all the time, even if he didn't turn out to be a Death Eater.

Glancing around, Harry realized that this was the first time he'd been in the hallways while almost being alone. He'd made sure to always stay with groups of other students, even if they'd studiously been ignoring him.

"I hope you know the way to the infirmary," Harry muttered.

"This'll be my third time this week," Neville said glumly, wincing as Harry took his arm.

Harry stared at him. "What happened?"

"I twisted my ankle on one of the moving stairs." Grimacing, Neville said "I can't even keep myself from getting hurt, much less do any magic."

"I didn't transfigure my needle either," Harry said. That and potions were the only real pieces of magic they'd tried during their first week. "Hardly anybody did. They've got to teach us the basics before we can do real magic."

"Like not falling down? I seem to have a real problem with that."

Harry sighed. "I think you're just too anxious, and it's making you make a lot of mistakes."

Anxiety was becoming a constant companion for Harry, but at least he was keeping himself under control. It was exhausting, though, and he suspected that he was anxious a great deal of the time when nothing was even happening.

While it was possible that Voldemort was in the castle simply to kill him, it was just as likely that he had some other plan in mind as well. If he did, then he couldn't be plotting to kill Harry every second of the day.

It was more likely that he'd simply wait until a good opportunity presented itself and he'd kill Harry when he finally let his guard down.

"I can't think when Snape is hovering over me," Neville complained.

"Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and calm down, or you'll just make more mistakes," Harry said. He paused and then grinned. "Obviously that's not true once your cauldron melts. That's when you run away."

"You didn't get splashed at all," Neville said. "I've never seen anyone move so fast."

Harry shrugged. "I've gotten good at dodging things."

He'd never thought that Harry Hunting would be useful, but it had helped him avoid a few of the more obvious incidences of bullying over the past few days. He still got caught sometimes, mostly because he was unfamiliar with magic, but he was learning.

Neville hesitated. "I'm sorry about the others. A lot of them are convinced that you've turned dark and some of them worry that you'll join up know who."

Harry laughed mirthlessly. "There's not much chance of that."

It was very unlikely that Voldemort would even offer Harry that kind of choice. Even if he did, Harry would be a fool to take him up on it. Most likely he'd kill Harry in his sleep the first night they joined forces. Harry had seen enough to know that he could never trust him.

Voldemort needed Harry dead for more than one reason. The prophecy meant that a certain portion of the population would give up hope the moment Harry died. Taking over would be much easier if people thought Voldemort was unbeatable.

As long as people had hope they would continue to resist. It didn't matter whether the prophecy was true or not; what mattered was that people believed it was. The believe that Voldemort would return had kept his followers together, and the believe that Harry would save them all had kept the rest of the wizarding population from giving up.

Killing Harry meant the rest of the wizards gave up, and Voldemort's path to power was assured.

Neville directed Harry to the infirmary. The nurse seemed reasonably competent, and she sent Harry back to class.

Absent hallways full of students, Hogwarts seemed much larger and more ominous than it ordinarily did. The paintings on the wall comforted him a little, but Harry was still wary of walking alone.

His footsteps echoed oddly in the hallways, and Harry frowned. The walls were covered with paintings and tapestries; there shouldn't have been any echoes.

He glanced behind him nervously, but he didn't see anyone.

Harry started to walk again, but this time he listened for the echo. The footsteps seemed louder and closer now, and when Harry stopped walking, they stuttered on for an additional step or two.

Exploding into a run, Harry fled down the hallway, cursing the fact that his school robes were a little harder to run in than his usual muggle clothes. He glanced behind him and he still didn't see anyone.

He turned to go down the nearest set of stairs, but it wasn't until he was on a moving staircase that he realized the danger he was in. He fell an invisible force yanking his legs out from under him, and a moment later he found himself flying out into empty space.

He only had a moment to hope that when he reset he'd be able to talk the hat out of Slytherin.

Awakening, he found himself confused. This wasn't his cupboard, or his room at the Dursleys or even his room in Slytherin.

It took him a moment to realize that he was in the hospital wing. As he tried to move, he discovered that he hurt all over. Apparently, whatever had caused him to fall hadn't been enough to kill him.

Harry turned his head to see Neville staring at him from the bed nearby.

"What happened?"

"They found you at the base of the staircase almost dead," Neville said. He looked much better than he had before.

"How long has it been?"

"About six hours," Neville said.

Harry scowled and turned back to looking at the ceiling. He couldn't be sure that the murder attempt had been done by Quirrel. He'd have to check and see if Quirrel had been teaching Defense during his accident.

Given the kind of bullying he'd been under, he wouldn't put it past one of the older Slytherins. They'd been waiting to make their move all this time, and they seemed to have much better impulse control than the Gryffindors.

Although it went against the grain, he had to tell a teacher. He wasn't sure how he'd be able to convince them about the face in the back of Quirrel's head; he couldn;t exactly tell them how he knew without sounding crazy.

Maybe if he shared his conviction that it had been a murder attempt and his belief that Quirrel was behind it, that would be enough.

"I've known Professor Quirrel for years, and he certainly isn't in the business of trying to murder eleven year old boys," Professor McGonagall said.

"Someone hexed my legs out from under me," Harry insisted. "This was deliberate."

"I asked the paintings," she replied, "And none of them saw anyone attack you."

For some reason, his head of house had delegated questioning Harry to Professor McGonagall. He'd asked to speak to the Headmaster only to learn that he was away on pressing business with the Wizengamott.

Apparently Dumbledore had enough titles and jobs that he was kept exceedingly busy throughout the year. Harry suspected that he was trying to do too many things without delegating enough. He'd heard Vernon complaining about a boss at work who did the same thing.

Micromanaging, he'd called it. Being too controlling over every little detail meant that sometimes you missed important details. Sometimes you missed the big picture.

Harry suspected that if the most powerful wizard in the free world had been paying attention, he'd have noticed the face in the back of the head of the man who sat less than ten feet from him during every meal.

Sometimes it was better to do one thing well than many things poorly.

Harry sighed. "Could you at least tell the headmaster about this? I'm not just any eleven year old boy. There really are people who would like to see me dead."

"I've heard about your...troubles," McGonagall replied, carefully. Considering that he'd been bald during her first class there couldn't be any way she'd miss it. "Are you sure that this wasn't the result of a prank gone wrong?"

"You don't push someone from the top of the stairs if it's just a prank," Harry said irritably. He was silent for a moment and then he said, "And it's disappointing that I've had more trouble from your house than my own."

"I imagine that some of them are disappointed with your choices," she said, looking uncomfortable.

"You think I'd be in a house with people who want me dead if I had a choice?" Harry asked. He grimaced. "Apparently I'm not enough of a bully to get into your house."

"Mr. Potter!" McGonegall said, stiffening.

"I'm sorry...I'm just a little tired," Harry said. "I know a couple of good Gryffindors. It's just that it feels a little hopeless having two houses dead set against me. It would have been easier if I'd been a Hufflepuff."

Nobody noticed Hufflepuffs. They were safe and they were invisible. Harry sometimes wished desperately that he'd been sorted into that house, even though he knew that the hat had been right.

"I'll let you rest," she said.

As she left, Harry frowned. He'd have thought the Headmaster would be a little more concerned about what was happening with the savior of the wizarding world.

Apparently Dumbledore had enough titles and jobs that he was kept exceedingly busy throughout the year. Harry suspected that he was trying to do too many things without delegating enough. He'd heard Vernon complaining about a boss at work who did the same thing.

Micromanaging, he'd called it. Being too controlling over every little detail meant that sometimes you missed important details. Sometimes you missed the big picture.

Harry suspected that if the most powerful wizard in the free world had been paying attention, he'd have noticed the face in the back of the head of the man who sat less than ten feet from him during every meal.

Sometimes it was better to do one thing well than many things poorly.

Neville was in the bed across from him; apparently he'd been listening in. "We're not all bullies."

"You aren't," Harry said shortly. "Hermione's not...the rest of them I'm not so sure about."

Neville had been gone for only a few hours when Harry had another visitor, someone he hadn't met before. The fact that he was wearing Gryffindor colors made Harry wary.

"My name is Oliver wood, and I'm the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team."

Harry smirked when he realized that he wasn't going to be attacked immediately. "You must be really hard up if you're recruiting from Slytherin."

The older boy grimaced. "I'm here because I talked to Longbottom, and I wanted you to know that we aren't all like that."

"That's not what my experience," Harry said neutrally. "I've had more trouble from your house than from people whose parents want me dead."

"It's just a few bad apples," Wood said. "McLaggen is a tosser, Hooper is a complainer and Jordan can't understand why everybody isn't in Gryffindor. The twins...they prank everybody."

The redhaired twins had been the ones who'd made him bald.

"You're what...a fifth year?" Harry asked. "If you don't approve of what they are doing, why don't you stop it?"

"I don't have any classes with them," he said. "And I've tried to talk to them about it, but they've been unreasonable."

"You could talk to your head of house," Harry said.

"You think I haven't tried?" Wood was silent for a moment. "I heard that you were raised muggle, so maybe you don't know what it's like for the rest of us."

"So why don't you tell me, then?"

"You know who is the bogeyman who keeps wizarding children up at night, except he's real. Most of us have lost at least a few family members to him and his followers. Have you noticed how big the castle is compared to how many students are here? That's because there used to be a lot more wizards until the war pared us down."

"Ok," Harry said. He wasn't sure what point Wood was making.

"The one bright spot was that we were told that a savior was coming, someone who would make it all go a end to the dark times."

Wood hesitated. "Getting here and discovering that the savior was a Slytherin was a shock to all of us."

"So?" Harry asked. "So I wasn't one of you. Does that give you any right to pick on somebody who can't even fight back?"

"People get scared," Wood said. "And when people get scared they get mean."

Remembering the Dursleys, Harry nodded. Most of the abuse he'd suffered throughout his life had been a result of fear and resentment.

"So what are you going to do about it?" Harry asked finally.


"Telling me you're sorry and than not changing anything isn't going to help me at all."

Wood stared at him silently. "I've already told you that they won't listen to me McGonagall won't either."

"Bullies won't stop unless someone makes them stop," Harry said. He'd learned that throughout his childhood. Unfortunately, it had never stopped for him.

"So teach me to make it stop," he said.

"What?" Woods asked again.

"Teach me how to defend myself, and I'll make them stop," Harry said.

"I'm pretty busy with Quidditch," Woods said. He looked away. "And teaching a Slytherin to attack a Gryffindor won't make anyone happy with me."

"So don't let anyone know," Harry said. "You think it's good for them to get away with bullying people? If they'll do it to me they'll do it to other people, maybe even people in your own house."

"I'm not sure..." Woods said reluctantly.

"I'll figure out a place we can meet, and we can work around your schedule."

It would require that Harry find ways to be alone, which he didn't feel particularly comfortable with considering that he was in the hospital wing already for being caught by himself.

Wood frowned. "I don't know if you've heard, but I can be a little...intense."

"I don't need to spend four months learning to turn a needle into a matchstick," Harry said. "Intense is exactly what I need."

Harry felt anxious as he knocked on the door. All the other third year Slytherin boys were away studying, but his target was alone.

Wood had finally agreed to help him, but had only agreed to a maximum of three hours a week. Harry needed more training than that, and he suspected that Wood would only be teaching him less dangerous spells.

Adrian Pucey was one of the Slytherins who had looked uncomfortable at the abuse Harry had been undergoing. Listening in on the conversations of others, he was noted for being less likely to cheat or foul others during games.

This wasn't considered a point in his favor with the team, but he was good enough as a chaser to stay on anyway.

Everything Harry had heard about him gave him hope that he would at least listen to what he had to say.

"Come in," the boy said.

Harry stepped inside.

"What do you want?" Pucey asked.

"I want you to teach me to defend myself," Harry said.

Pucey stared at him and then shook his head. "I'm not going to do that."

"You've heard the prophecy," Harry said. "Supposedly I'm going to be good enough at all of this to be a threat to Voldemort himself."

Pucey flinched at the sound of Voldemort's name.

"Everybody seems to think that it's a foregone conclusion that I'm going to lose," Harry said. "The question they should be asking themselves is what if I don't."

Harry stepped closer to where Pucey was sitting on his bed. "If I'm powerful and cunning enough to kill Voldemort...and I'm in Slytherin, what do you think is going to happen to the people who crossed me when I was weak?"

"I can't help you," Pucey said, "The others..."

"The others don't have to know," Harry said. "Teach me in private, and I'll give you permission to bully me all you want in public and I won't hold a grudge."

Pucey frowned. "That seems...unlikely."

"That I won't hold a grudge?" Harry asked. "I'm a Slytherin. I understand self preservation better than anyone."

A contemplative look came over Pucey's face.

"If I lose, then you lose nothing. I'll be dead and won't be able to tell anyone. If I win, you'll be one of the people I won't be coming after. Either way, all you'll be out if a little of your time. Call it insurance."

It took a little time, but eventually the older boy agreed to help him.

For the first time since he started school, Harry began to feel a little optimistic. If he learned to fight back, he'd be able to take control of his own life again. He'd hated the feeling of helplessness he'd had since the first time he'd died.

Actually, he'd had that feeling his whole life. Harry was looking forward to a time when he wouldn't have to feel that way.

He'd taken his first step.