Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 05

05

12072012-04082012

“If I could turn the page in time, then I’d rearrange just a day or two.” — Fleetwood Mac, Little Lies


Harry felt more than a little bemusement when the response from Voldemort was a very simple, “You interest me.” After a bit he shrugged and thought about the upcoming year. Ginny Weasley would not be in danger due to the diary, which was something of a shame. He wondered if Lucius had come up with the same plan and was now in a panic over the diary being missing. Would he find some other way to try to discredit a family he loathed? Would the new head actually do something about the shameful quality of teaching at Hogwarts? Should he hold off on arranging an “accident” for Ginny this year?

When his letter arrived with his supplies list for second year he shifted to Diagon Alley and exchanged more stolen funds for galleons, then got his shopping done as quickly as possible. Oddly enough, despite having gone on the same day as before, there was no sign of Lockhart, nor had that man’s books been on the list, which boded well, he hoped.

The remainder of the summer passed quietly, with only a handful of accidental deaths happening in Little Whinging. There had been a few particularly vocal adults in town who ended up quite drunk one evening and managed to drown in a few inches of water left by a heavy rainstorm. Such a pity no one had found them in time to prevent the tragedy. Harry thought it was miraculous that more people had not moved out of town.

The train ride was spent reviewing his text books with Kevin Entwhistle and Neville Longbottom, so things were quiet, broken only by a pause for lunch and to buy a few sweets off the cart for a treat. It was not until they were getting fairly close to Hogsmeade that the books went away, robes were slipped on, and they got around to discussing how their summers went. Neville was a bit close-mouthed on that subject and Harry and Kevin simply let it lie.

When he entered the Great Hall and glanced up the head table it took every ounce of self control not to chuck a wobbly on the spot. Oh, McGonagall was seated as Headmistress, but off to her side was Albus Dumbledore. What the buggering hell was he doing up there? Was she still going to teach Transfiguration or—? His gaze slid over and he felt a strange sense of relief at seeing Quirrell. The host’s eyes locked with his for a moment and the faintest sign of a smirk appeared before the man’s expression rearranged itself to say “still nervous, but more confident this year”. Harry tilted his head to the side in thought, then nodded faintly before heading to a seat at the Ravenclaw table.

The second he and Kevin sat down Kevin hissed, “What is Dumbledore doing up there? He was sacked!”

Harry sighed and shook his head. “I wouldn’t doubt he called in every favor owed him. The only thing I can think is that he’s taking over for McGonagall or Binns.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Kevin said thoughtfully. “That makes sense. I hope it’s history, then, since I’m not sure I trust his judgment in a wand class.”

Flitwick was the one to usher in the new students and Harry figured he had been promoted to McGonagall’s erstwhile position. It was vaguely humorous to see a man smaller than they were leading them and having them try on the hat. Flitwick needed a step-stool just to manage things.

Once all the new students were seated at the tables McGonagall stood and called for silence. “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. There have been a few changes. I am now headmistress and Professor Flitwick is deputy. Professor Binns has stepped down and taking his place will be Professor Dumbledore. I will continue to teach transfiguration and Professor Sinistra is the new head of Gryffindor.”

Harry breathed a faint sigh of relief, though he wondered what Dumbledore thought about the fact that Quirrell was continuing as the defense professor.

“Aside from that the usual applies as always. The forest is forbidden to all pupils, as is spell casting in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held the second week of term and anyone interested should contact Madam Hooch. Finally, starting this year, schedules will be distributed in your common rooms this evening. Now, let us all eat.”

As he was filling his plate he felt some disbelief that that was it. The replacement of an ineffective teacher and a slight change in when schedules were handed out. Perhaps there would be other changes, but he would have to wait and see. He had to wonder what Dumbledore would be like in class. It was too bad it was required as he would prefer to stay as far away as possible from him, and this gave the old man far more opportunity to be around him. Would he use it as an excuse to disseminate his belief system or actually do what was right?

His fellow Ravenclaws seemed a bit conflicted by the change in history professors. True, it likely meant they would no longer have to maintain the in-house system they had set up as a response to Binns’s deficiency, but the idea of having Dumbledore as a replacement after his own displays of inadequacy. . . . Schedules were handed out in the common room and Harry groaned softly on seeing he had History on Mondays right after Snape. Defense was after lunch and perhaps this year it would be a better class given Quirrell’s change in demeanor. There was nothing to look forward to on Wednesdays at all except a free afternoon. Friday, though, would bring an early start to the weekend.

At ten o’clock they walked into Potions with the Hufflepuffs. Harry was rather shocked to realize that Snape had toned down his taking of points and could almost imagine McGonagall having taken a good look at the records, resulting in a talk with the man. What had not changed was the amount of vitriol spewed or the complete lack of anything resembling teaching. As bad as it was he was more dreading History of Magic next.

When they arrived at that class, shared with Gryffindor, Dumbledore twinkled merrily at them all and waved them into seats. Harry made sure to sit at the very back, with Kevin joining him. Hermione chose a seat right up front, which was not unexpected. She probably still thought the man walked on water. In less than a minute she had out parchment, quill, and ink and was sitting there, straight-backed, and with her writing hand poised over the parchment in anticipation. He shook his head faintly and got out his own supplies.

By the end of the hour he did have to admit that the man managed to make history seem almost interesting, but he was out of there the second the bell rang, practically quick-stepping to lunch. He would spend the afternoon working on what little homework he had been assigned and relax mostly until Charms late the next day.

When Monday rolled around to Defense after lunch he again sat in the back. He understood why Kevin so often sat next to him, but he was a little surprised to see that Neville sat to his other side. Rumors had already been flying about Quirrell’s increased confidence in his classes so Harry was interested to note that he had correctly interpreted the expression on the man’s face at the opening feast. Quirrell stuttered far less, for one thing, making it possible for the students to take proper notes. He also seemed to have developed a faint sense of humor, and whenever his back was turned to the class Harry could feel Voldemort eyeing him. Every so often a knowing smirk would flit across Harry’s face in response.

In retrospect he was surprised that any of his ‘letters’ had made it to Voldemort, or the replies to him. He knew Dumbledore had placed mail wards. Perhaps it might be that his own wards had the side effect of negating parts of that? Maybe he did need to speak with Kreacher to see if the bond had transferred. However, he could tail Quirrell and find out where in the castle he lived, get a glimpse of the inside—or just attempt to read it straight from the man’s memories—and shift in long enough to drop off spheres.

He did just that the next Monday, sifting through Quirrell’s memories at a rapid pace without the man ever being aware of the intrusion. The map had been used all the previous week to chart out the man’s normal movements, but he persisted for another just to be safer.

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I just thought I’d check before I made any plans for the demise of Snape. Do you intend to question him at all, say, once you have a body again? Because if so then I’ll wait. And I must say I am outraged that Dumbledore weaseled his way back into this school. If he’s still here for the next school year then I’ll take that to mean you don’t plan to quash him and I’ll make my own arrangements. On a side note, it’s nice to see that Quirrell’s act was toned down this year. Makes class more bearable.

I do sort of wonder what’s to become of him, though. Will he survive when you do finally act? And if so, do you plan to key in an exception for him to the curse on the position? Some people might actually be foolish enough to think it’s my presence here in the castle interfering with that, but I suppose if they want to ignore a more obvious reason that’s their prerogative. I don’t think anyone has ever accused wizards of having much common sense, so this is par for the course. Until next time.

He sighed mentally. The boy did raise some excellent points. However. . . .

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Harry was rather surprised when he got into bed and realized something had been left there: a sphere. He glanced around casually, spotting no one, but just to be on the safe side he nudged the sphere under his pillow for later. In the meantime he decided to ask a few questions. ‘Derek, do you have a few minutes to chat?’

After a short pause he heard, ‘Yes. What is it?’

He took a book off his nightstand and opened it so he could pretend to read. ‘I’m rather curious about something. I know that muggles have fantastically horrific weapons, but to my knowledge they were only ever used twice. They still exist, though, in far greater quantities. It seems like every time I turn around another war breaks out somewhere, though I expect that we’ll be safe enough for a number of years yet if last time is anything I can go by. Still, there was another flare up just recently. So what are the odds they’ll be used again?’

‘War has been busy. There is a miniscule chance at any given time that some idiot with the ability to do so will launch nuclear weapons and initiate the end of the world,’ Derek replied.

‘All right. That’s about what I expected. Now, while I’m rather fond of my Iceland idea, I do realize that all those people living there have never done anything to me that I’m aware of, so advocating to Voldemort that we kill them all off is really pushing the boundaries of common decency. With that in mind, are you aware of any place on this planet that we magical sorts might actually be able to have as our own?’

The pause that time was much longer, causing Harry to wonder if any kind of answer was forthcoming. Eventually Derek said, ‘There is a very huge secret on Earth. Within are more secrets.’

Harry frowned at just how vague the response was, wondering if it was being hinted that this was something he would ultimately find more satisfying to unravel on his own. Even so. . . . ‘And do you mean secret in the sense of a secret being kept, or. . . ?’

‘The latter.’

‘It’s not like a Mayan city or something along those lines hidden in a rain forest that no one has found in centuries?’

‘No, not exactly,’ was the somewhat unhelpful reply.

Harry huffed. Sometimes finding the right questions was really aggravating. ‘Sounds to me like it is a city, though.’ He suddenly snickered and added, ‘I know. It’s a city secretly created by aliens!’

The pause that followed was flavored with a sense of amusement. ‘Kind of.’

‘Hm. And would the secrets this secret contains explain the secret?’ he asked with a grin.

‘Oh yes, assuming one could understand any of it.’

So a linguist would be useful, most probably, and he already fit that bill by virtue of his circumstances. ‘Is it in terms of placement secretive in the same sense that Petra is?’

‘Not quite that obvious, but in the same vein, so to speak.’

‘Petra is situated in a natural enough flaw, but in theory could be seen from above if the circumstances were right. Your answer tells me that is unlikely for this secret. That means it’s likely the city—for I will assume it is indeed a city—is either situated inside a mountain or other elevated structure, or is underground, and there is nothing externally to ever suggest such a sophisticated secret exists. I could also assume it’s likely that the entrance to this secret is in a place where people would not normally go. How am I doing so far?’

‘Very well, actually. I’ll give you a more solid hint. Think volcanoes.’

Harry blinked slowly. Two of his room mates wandered in and began to prepare for bed, so he turned the page in his book. ‘My patience suddenly grows short. Which volcano?’

‘Weeeeell . . . Jebel Marra, Sudan.’

‘Good lord,’ he thought, absently turning another page and giving a quick nod to Kevin. ‘All right, I’ll figure it out from here. Somehow. I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing.’

‘Always happy to help. Or frustrate,’ Derek replied sunnily, then vanished from sensing.

He knew that pretty much every thought in his head was open to Derek if the ‘man’ was paying attention, so it had to be good if Death had brought it up. In theory, the perfect answer, or near enough. More to the point was when he would find time to go investigate—that is, once he figured out where Sudan was.

It wasn’t until all his room mates had fallen asleep that he pulled his bed curtains closed and set up a privacy ward, and then finally activated the message.

Harry Potter. You continue to interest me. Do as you will with Snape as I expect he’s of little real use to me, and given the sheer depth of his hatred for you I sincerely doubt he would listen to and faithfully obey even me on that subject. If nothing else his body language would betray him. I expect I know enough about you now, what with the myriad hints you’ve been dropping like breadcrumbs outlining a torturous path to the past, that I need not waste my time investigating the man personally.”

A purely mental pause of surprise interposed itself on Harry’s behalf.

However, while I am sure you have excellent reasons for your stance on Dumbledore, above and beyond those you have shared, I think perhaps it might be too soon to act on the matter of his death. As it stands he is a focal point for Light-minded fools. You may not think that is important, but consider that so long as he is alive those fools will flock to him and we will know who and where they are. The other consideration on that front is that if a place can truly be made for us it would be interesting indeed to watch what happens if the Light gets exactly what it seems to want.

Harry supposed Voldemort had a point there.

So, consider. We shall speak again, I have no doubt.

And then the sphere went quiet. Harry sat there for a minute before stashing the device in his trunk. Back cozily in his bed he pondered the message. Voldemort was obviously getting his hints loud and clear, and was intelligent enough to extrapolate from there, even toward a conclusion that most would consider insane. Then again, perhaps suffering from insanity made that kind of leap easier?

And the man definitely had brought up interesting ideas about the Light and the potential consequences of their rather simple-minded goals. If it were at all possible to find a place where those of the Dark—and even Neutrals, most likely—could exist in safety, did that not have the potential to wreak havoc on the whole concept of balance? A faint mew reached his ears, no doubt from Anthony’s cat, a not uncommon occurrence, but it made him also consider magical creatures and their place in the nebulous overall plan forming in his head.

He decided to sleep on things. It would be soon enough to reply to Voldemort sometime the next day, or even a week later. There was no sense in being hasty, after all, and he did have rather a lot to think about.

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It was his decided opinion that he had two major tasks at present. One was dreaming up an appropriate death for Severus Snape, and the other was figuring out exactly where this secret was in Sudan. Still, after his initial reaction to Voldemort’s ‘letter’ had worn off he realized that the man was being awfully cooperative. Was it just that Harry was insanely hard to even so much as damage? Or was it that Voldemort was not as insane as most everyone assumed? He was certainly coming across as being reasonable. . . . Harry shook his head and again decided to table the reply until later.

He finished off his dinner and returned to the common room, heading upstairs so he could gather what books and materials he would need, then returned downstairs. A look around revealed that it was surprisingly full. But then again, it was Friday evening, and it only made sense, perhaps, that his house mates would be eager to get their homework completed now so that their weekend would be free. Only a few spots seemed to have any room at all, one of which was located in a small two-seat nook partially obscured from view by the bookcases that formed its ‘walls’.

Harry became vaguely interested when he realized that one of the seats was taken by Luna Lovegood. She had been such a peculiar girl in his original timeline, possibly due to the trauma engendered by the death of her mother, but quite possibly because she really was a bit loopy. As he made his way over to the empty seat he rather wondered if she was already being bullied by her room mates for being different.

As she looked up at his approach he inquired, “All right with you if I sit here?”

Luna’s more or less permanently surprised look did not waver at the question. She merely nodded and went back to her reading, so Harry took the open seat and situated his things. Within minutes he was working on the first of the essays required of him.

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“Er, Harry. . . ?”

He looked up from his seat on one of the more comfortable sofas in the common room to see Michael looking at him a bit anxiously. “Yes?” he said, nodding at an open spot, and noticing as he did so that others in his dorm were converging on their location.

Michael took a seat and settled in rather nervously. “I—we—noticed that you were sitting with Lovegood the other day.”

Harry blinked slowly. “And?”

“Well, maybe you aren’t aware of it, but there’s been a lot of talk about her,” Michael said quietly.

“Yeah,” Terry added, taking one of the armchairs in the grouping. “We’re a little concerned. You know, about how her reputation might. . . .”

Harry did his level best not to laugh outright or even show any level of amusement—or anger, actually. “Might what? Taint me, or something equally ridiculous?”

Kevin, just then also taking a seat, had the grace to look embarrassed, averting his gaze briefly toward Anthony.

“Let me ask you something—all of you,” Harry said evenly, knowing exactly what they were referring to. “It won’t make any sense at first, but bear with me.” After a pause in which each of them nodded he continued, “What draws the carriages?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Kevin replied. “Magic makes them go.”

“Really?” Harry drawled. “And you know that for a fact? That some spell is responsible?”

“Er, well. . . .” Kevin demurred.

Harry glanced at the other boys and mentally shook his head. “In this case you’d be wrong. The carriages are drawn by thestrals. And before you ask, thestrals are invisible except to those who have witnessed someone dying. Now, don’t take my word for it. Go to the library, ask the groundskeeper, Hagrid, whatever. The point is, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it fails to exist. To tie this back into your earlier concern, I am aware that Lovegood talks about creatures no one around here has seen, never mind heard of. None of you can see thestrals, yet they exist.

“Even if the creatures Lovegood mentions aren’t real, is she harming anyone? Because really, I am strongly reminded of that incident last year with Knightley about Snape. Thankfully you guys were witnesses and present when he confronted me. You can’t know everything, so why are you automatically assuming that Lovegood is crackers? Isn’t that being a bit harsh for something that would otherwise be eccentric? Everyone seems to look up to Dumbledore, yet many people will happily admit they think he’s barmy. So while I appreciate that you guys are concerned, I think it’s unwarranted and a little unfair. And now, if you don’t mind, I would like to get back to my book.”

His dorm mates, while not looking entirely convinced or properly ashamed of jumping to conclusions, all gave nods and wandered off. He had to assume they would do the research, and even if they never said another word on the matter, having then proved his point, they would at least be less hasty in the future. Hopefully.

With that he returned to his book, one on history that was not part of the official book list, and continued to try to get a real idea of the decisions made in the past, not just what Binns had been willing to “teach” about in his soporific ramblings. He was especially interested in at what point the British wizards had begun their crusade against Dark magic—or really, any banned magic, whether Dark Arts or not. Were policy and law changes out of an honest concern for the health, mental or otherwise, of those who might seek to use such magic, or were the changes politically motivated? Plain old clashes in dogma? Was it possible that Light and Dark were so ideologically opposed that a reconciliation was nigh well futile?

Things of such nature were important to the idea of a truly separate nation. There was no real sense in even considering it if things would devolve into the same damn arguments, with people proselytizing or defending their fiefs. And there was still the question—in his mind, certainly—of what to do about muggle-borns. Could it be argued that leaving them to the tender mercies of the Light was ill-advised?

Harry made a mental note to check into, if possible, the home lives of muggle-born students over the past few decades and see how many had been abused because of their ability, and of those, how many had received any help whatsoever. Perhaps if he had not been so wrapped up in his own problems the first time around he might have cared to notice others saddled with abusive muggles. Then again, considering some of the things he had learned during the year after Voldemort’s final defeat, back again at Hogwarts for his seventh year. . . .

Over the next few days, in and around classes and his research, he continued to ponder Voldemort’s message and how he should respond.

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Hello again,” began the message, and Voldemort was surprised to realize that Harry was speaking rather slowly. “I have decided, after a great deal of thought, that you are probably correct regarding Dumbledore. And if he were to die in some deliciously gruesome fashion obviously connected to the Dark—well, he would die a martyr, which is never a good thing. Granted, I could always arrange a freakishly bizarre accident for him, but I’ll just let that subject go for the time being.

However, there is something I have, of late, felt compelled to bring to your attention. To be sure, I’ve been dropping hints, and you are intelligent enough to pick up on them. That much I never doubted. What I did question was your capacity to reason and be rational. You do, after all, have quite a reputation for being completely off your nut.

Voldemort scowled, but noted that Potter was still speaking a bit oddly.

I have decided to be straight with you, not to mention blunt on this matter. I know all about your Horcruxes. In fact, I have them in my possession.

Voldemort saw red and brutally took control of Quirrell’s body, flinging the orb across the room to shatter into a million pieces against the stone wall. When he finally calmed down he understood exactly why Potter had sent two message spheres. He eyed the second one warily, and not a little angrily. Eventually he shook the blasted thing and ceded control back to his host.

I expect you’re wondering why I have them and what I plan to do with them. You see, I know exactly what someone like Dumbledore would do, assuming he could ever stir himself to direct action, and we both know how unlikely that is. But given that I have been less than cooperative and have no intention of ever being cooperative, he might actually manage to figure out where you hid them and do something about it. Obviously, that option is no longer open to him.

Call me crazy, but I figured that I should probably be proactive about ensuring the protection of a potential ally’s life. And, to be honest, none of them were all that well hidden. There were too many obvious ties to your past and to your followers. It wasn’t as easy the first time around to deal with them, but there were far too many tilted windmills in my life back then. And hey, yes, that is confirmation of something you no doubt suspect.

So, I have them. They are extremely safe. You have no idea how safe. Though there are fewer of them now for reasons I had no reason to suspect, that is not to say that any part of your soul is missing. It was explained to me by an expert, one with unimpeachable credentials. I realize that none of this is reassuring to you right now and I’m going to have to ask that you trust me for the time being. That sounds a little silly given that you did attempt to kill me more than once last year, but. . . .

How I got them this time isn’t something I’m yet willing to discuss, nor will I yet reveal my expert’s identity. I will tell you, however, that you inadvertently left a piece of your soul in me that night, which is presumed to be the reason why I gained the ability to speak and understand Parseltongue. It’s no longer in me, of course, but the ability remains.

Anyway, now that I’ve confessed about that, I want to say I’ve got a lead on something very interesting indeed, something which could be of use to us in the short and even long term. I need to find the time to either slip away from the school to investigate or wait until break. Hopefully it pans out and would be a far better alternative to my whimsical notions about Iceland. I’ll let you know once I have something concrete to share. Until next time.

Voldemort came to the angry conclusion that he was going to have to check on the locations of his more accessible Horcruxes, though he strongly suspected that Potter was not lying and had already collected them. How he could possibly have managed to get his hands on the ones given into the safekeeping of Malfoy and Lestrange, though. . . . Even so, what were the odds he would even have bothered to check had Potter not said something? He had always been so very sure of himself.

Poor Quirrell did not get much sleep on subsequent weekends. The diadem, indeed, was nowhere to be found in that room, and attempts to require a room containing it failed. The ring was missing from the shack of his crazed Gaunt relatives. The locket, however, appeared to be fine, but Potter’s words forced Voldemort to look closer. Or rather, sense the situation with more than just his eyes. He discovered very quickly that the basin contained a locket that looked correct, but held absolutely no resonance with his soul, so the only explanation was that it had somehow been replaced with a duplicate.

He eventually sent a very short message asking what specifically were the descriptions of these alleged Horcruxes. The sphere he got in response started off with an amused chuckle.

All right. A diary; a ring; a locket; a cup; and a diadem. Five of the six you had intended to create. The ring is no longer a Horcrux and neither am I. Those portions of your soul now reside in the cup. And if you were wondering about the cave, I have a name for you: Regulus Black. You used his house-elf when you set that up, but were unaware that he ordered said elf to return to him after you were done with the creature. So he did, thus Regulus knew exactly where to find one of them. Regulus brought that same elf with him and ordered him to retrieve the locket and destroy it. Regulus died, of course. I imagine the inferi got him. The elf held onto that locket, unable to complete his master’s order, right up until I pinched it out from under his nose. I trust that answers your question.

So he was right in his suppositions, no matter how insane they had seemed. Potter had done all of this already and was changing things this time. Had he gone back? Or had he jumped dimensions? Going back made little sense in reality, not when you parsed the variables related to time travel and paradox. Perhaps an attempt to go back had resulted in a dimensional split? Did it really matter? Assuming the conditions were the same up to that point, he supposed not.

Potter knew of his Horcruxes, had them, and had at some point in his past destroyed them, and presumably but not explicitly Voldemort. So what made him shift from the exemplar of Light to one opposed, if not necessarily opposite? What had gone wrong? Was it incorrect to assume that he had seen his final defeat? And yet, even had he lived, why would Potter start over again and actually help him if the issue was being incapable of said defeat? ‘I’ll just have to ask,’ he thought. ‘He may even answer.’