Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 07

07

29092012-06012013

“Come closer and see, see into the dark.” — The Cure, A Forest


He shared a compartment with Kevin, Neville, and Luna on the way to London. Kevin looked ever so slightly uncomfortable about Luna being there, but kept his mouth shut on the matter. ‘Well, at least he’s not completely dense,’ Harry thought. He was soon caught up in a discussion about whether or not platypuses were magical or mundane creatures. Luna argued for magical, Neville against, Kevin abstaining, and Harry dabbled on both sides depending on what was said and how he reacted to it. Luna could not imagine that something as ridiculous looking as a platypus could be non-magical and Neville (who somehow knew a whole lot more about Darwin than Harry ever thought possible) ranted on about the theory of evolution with equal passion.

Harry was honestly surprised, not with Luna, but with Neville. So little time had gone by, not much more than a year, but Neville’s time with the Hufflepuffs had obviously helped him greatly. Kevin eventually unbent enough to join the fun, and the ride passed by filled with friendly debate and giggles and laughter.

On arrival at Kings Cross Harry said his farewells to everyone and went off to catch a train. He had to, at the very least, appear to be staying with his aunt, but there was nothing stopping him from spending the majority of his time elsewhere. The very first thing he did once he was free and fully back in the muggle world was to buy maps. Those were studied diligently in his room and his efforts were duly rewarded with a set of coordinates and an image of the area in question (thanks to a trip to the library and one bookshop).

Getting there was no problem at all, and the time difference was minimal enough. The last eruption in the area had been around 2000BC so he was unconcerned about that. Actually being there and being able to wander around, however, was monumental. The scope of his self-made task was huge. “I didn’t get this far by being afraid of hard work,” he muttered to himself and began scouting the area carefully.

It was nearly a fortnight before he noticed one of the smaller calderas had a very interesting feature to it. There was a large crack, a seemingly natural fault in the steep inner side, cast largely in shadow. Unfortunately break was only two weeks long and he had a train to catch the next day. After heaving a huge sigh Harry marked the spot firmly in memory and returned to Little Whinging. The work had been dry, dusty, and mostly thankless, but at least he was that much closer to some kind of an answer.

The ride back to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts was much the same as before, except this time they argued about leafy sea dragons, something Harry had never before seen until Luna produced pictures for him. How bizarre! And, he thought with mild astonishment, how enchanting. Kevin had seen some in person and was pleased to relate that tale to the others, and Harry noticed that his sort-of friend no longer appeared to be uneasy around Luna.

But as welcome as that was it remained true that Harry would be stuck in the castle for the next six months. Voldemort was right—he had to assume that only so much pushing could be done before Dumbledore would finally wake up and start paying attention, even if he was no longer headmaster.

But how did that compare to what he knew of the man from before? He cursed himself again for being so utterly blind. Oh, people always said things such as how, for example, that a person like Tom Riddle should have been able to overcome his childhood conditions, but truthfully they had no real idea what in the hell they were talking about. True, Harry did not grow up to be abusive to others as he had been abused, but that was probably more luck than anything else. The British wizarding world, such as it was, had very little to do with that outcome, so they could not be praised for his first time through whereas they might be blamed for Tom’s. Was Dumbledore evil, or just . . . an idiot? And more fool he for never seeing it. He briefly considered bringing it up with Derek or trying to delve into Dumbledore’s mind, but tabled that decision again. Funny how being able to know anything instantly (or close enough thereto) made one more eager to learn things the hard way. Derek had said Dumbledore was not a classically evil man, but considering what Harry knew he had done this time around. . . .

It was only when he noticed Kevin eyeing him a bit oddly that Harry realized he had gotten lost in his thoughts again, and made an effort to rejoin the current debate. And even then he was not all there, the undercurrent stream of thoughts rather chaotic and unfocused, circling around the topic of Dumbledore and his own idiocy in the past.

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The thing is,” he said, “I’m kind of afraid to find out.

Voldemort gave him another one of those looks. “Isn’t that rather foolish?

Yes,” he said slowly. “The shattering of illusions is always painful.

Indeed. But if he is more than just an idiot and we depart, that would leave him with how many impressionable muggle-borns?

Harry half rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling. What Voldemort was not saying was that even if Dumbledore was an idiot (and in theory, one high on his own press) the muggle-borns might suffer for it. A part of him saw it as a Slytherin Voldemort manipulating a Gryffindor Harry, but another part scorned having to use those labels at all. If Dumbledore was just an idiot, though, he was still going to kick off at some point and his influence would wane. After all, it was not as though people were rabbiting on about what Merlin would think or do while proposing legislation.

The muggle-borns were always going to be a problem—unless there were enough people included in this happy and somewhat idealistic thought of their own country to be a viable and thriving breeding population. Maybe he should focus on what he wanted rather than what may turn out to be irrelevant. That being so, Voldemort was still correct. Harry was being a touch cowardly in avoiding thus far the truth about Dumbledore. The present time, sitting there with Quirrellmort, was not appropriate for plumbing the depths of that particular issue, though.

The muggle-borns are on their own for the moment in my eyes,” he finally said, then changed the subject. “You went to school with Minnie. How do you view her now?”

The tone Voldemort used in answer said very clearly that he was aware of and annoyed by the evasion. “That would depend. It is not as though I have bothered to look recently. I would say, however, that offhand observation tells me that her spirit and passion for justice has been worn down and blunted by the years or circumstance and she probably has more than once allowed herself to be led.

Harry nodded vaguely. While McGonagall had objected to his placement with the Dursleys—a point in her favor—there were a number of times during his schooling when she had utterly failed him. In general terms that was hardly a surprise as he was a student and had been treated as any other—mostly. He rather thought that her being deputy, head of house, and professor was just too much for her to handle. Flitwick managed to visit the common room once per week and just talk with the students of his house. He was approachable and friendly, but not one of them was mistaken in the impression that he would fail to hand out punishment if warranted. Ravenclaw wit and cleverness had obviously been employed in spades previously to prevent Flitwick from learning about how badly Luna had been bullied.

McGonagall, on the other hand, was rarely if ever seen in Gryffindor. She had done nothing about the ludicrous amount of points Snape had taken (and for equally ludicrous reasons), nor bothered to investigate (to his knowledge) when Harry, Ron, and Hermione had gone to her about the danger to the Philosopher’s Stone. She had done nothing about the flak Harry had gotten about possibly being the Heir of Slytherin, not even within Gryffindor. So much for your house being your family! She did have her good moments where she stood up for Harry or other students, but there were just as many times when she just . . . failed.

The house system itself was divisive and—‘Oh, for fuck’s sake,’ Harry thought. ‘I feel like I’m wasting time thinking about these things, especially knowing that even if I do find us a place there is no such thing as a utopia. We’re still going to have problems.’

‘Of course you will,’ Derek responded. ‘But they’ll be your problems, in some ways unique to wherever you end up.’

Harry cast a quick glance up, then nodded slightly. He turned his attention back to Voldemort and said, “What do you know about werewolves?

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He was in some ways very frustrated with Harry Potter. Even with the evidence against the notion Voldemort had been sure he could manipulate the man-child easily enough, and yet it simply was not working. It had the side effect of—reluctantly!—increasing his respect for Potter. Harry had a way of sidestepping things. He was also distressingly blunt at times. It was a curious mixture of Gryffindor and Slytherin.

And Potter was not the only one bored out of his mind. True, he had twice tried to obtain the Defense position and had been denied, but now that he was there, his host teaching it, he realized that whatever illusions he had harbored had been just that. Without the backing of the ministry the changes and adjustments he would have wanted to make would be . . . denied.

If Potter did manage to chase down that lead to a successful conclusion (and if not, maybe he should reconsider the Iceland idea or something like it) he would ensure that Defense Against the Dark Arts would morph into Offensive and Defensive magic and tactics, a far less prejudicial way of looking at things. And if the utter idiots in charge of the school thought even halfway to that same idea they may already have broken the curse on the position for real.

It was a good thing he had an excellent memory; most of what he had been doing recently was considering people and creatures suitable for an exodus. For all that Voldemort had always been confident that he knew exactly what he was doing he found that Potter had easily challenged that sense of superiority. What did he want?—what a question, one he had recently been reluctant to properly explore even in his own mind. And yet, such a question did much to clarify exactly what it was he felt was important.

Not posturing. Not pure-blood propaganda. Not necessarily killing off the muggle infestation—though the thought of a nice plague did sound interesting. Those silly muggles often experimented with things they should never touch. But yet, he must admit, thoughts of that nature were secondary to the scenario presented to him.

Vampires would be a problem unless people were willing to become certified donors or the vampires were willing to live off the blood of animals. Werewolves, as far as he could be certain, served no useful purpose whatsoever. Even if they brought along werewolves such as Remus Lupin, who could more or less be depended upon to never so much as think about biting someone, they would still, in the end, in theory, have no werewolves.

So, lists. By country, even.

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‘All right, so what’s the deal?’

After a short pause came the response, ‘Finally worked up the courage to ask, huh?’

‘Yes,’ Harry replied slowly. ‘I know, I could just use Legilimency, but—’

Derek cut him off with a quiet laugh. ‘But this way involves no risk for information you could obtain either way. Let us classify people in one of four ways, all right? A bit simplistic, but it suffices for now. Good, evil, stupid, and smart. Dumbledore would be good and smart, but his actions and blindness make him more of a good-stupid sort.’

‘Something on the order of him thinking that because one Death Eater repented that all of them are probably secretly wishing they could, which might explain all those “second” chances they keep getting? I mean, look at what Draco did originally. He nearly killed Katie and Ron, had Rosmerta under the imperius, and never did face trial for any of that, all because he had Snape in his corner and because Dumbledore kept giving him chances. Maybe he would have turned out okay in the end, but a lot of innocent people suffered at his hands along the way who were never compensated or their injustices addressed.’

‘Yes, that is one example,’ Derek said agreeably. ‘Then again, he was also stupid enough this time to get himself and his thugs killed. But getting back to Dumbledore, he had what he thought were the best intentions. His plans and execution, however. . . .’

‘You’re saying his willful blindness to even basic human nature has made him stupid, and plans born of such stupidity—not to mention his arrogance, something he might not even recognize.’

‘Correct. Another example would be Severus Snape. He was very intelligent. Circumstances from early on pushed him toward evil, even if he was never quite evil in full. His experiences at Hogwarts pushed him further. He did repent to a degree, as you well know, but even so, a fundamental flaw was introduced into his character and encouraged to flourish. Think back to when he died. He wanted you to look at him, but only to see your mother’s eyes. He spent most of his adult life living in the past.

‘As for another example, let us examine Ronald Weasley. He was also good-stupid, but with his bigotry, lack of tact, selfishness, and so on, you may as well have called him evil-stupid. He wanted so much he was never willing to work for. Instead he ran others down, people he was jealous of, such as Miss Granger for her intelligence, or Malfoy for his money. And what you would not know, but I can, is that even after the war he would have gone on to be just as awful, even with what he was given—mostly undeserved, I must say.’

Harry frowned in thought and decided he may as well ask about that, too. ‘So did he know or not?’

‘He was used, but had he known he would not have objected. Molly and Ginevra gave him supplies before you left and told him they were nutrition potions specially formulated for you.’

He started to object on the basis of Ron not getting anything out of it, but then realized that Ron had. Ron would not be the one knocking back supposedly disgusting potions despite the relative lack of food they had all suffered—no, Ron wanted food, not nutrition. And, Ron had been crafty enough to get Harry to take them without Harry even having noticed. He supposed, thinking further on it, that he had not noticed his waning interest in Ginny while Ron was gone because there was simply too much on his mind—such as despair.

Dumbledore had never once done anything—nor his staff—to stop the rampant racism and bullying going on in the school. Too desperate to see the best in everyone? Using the ones already on his side as disposable pawns in order to try to attract the Dark to switch sides? They, of course, were too smart to not see through that, or too entitled to care. What category did that put people like Crouch in, he who viciously prosecuted those of the Dark?

‘Dumbledore may have been vaguely on track with all this business about love being a power, but he wasn’t around to see the fall out. Though I suspect even if he had been he would have continued to be complacent, despite the fact that nothing really changed. If you were Light you tried to follow the rules, never mind that people on the Wizengamot were accepting bribes hand over fist to do the bidding of the old guard. Kingsley was worse than useless in his role as minister because he refused to do what he knew to be wrong.’

‘Agreed,’ Derek replied.

‘In the end it doesn’t matter how intelligent or brilliant Dumbledore is. He’s got no wisdom rattling around in his brain. His inaction is just as evil as those deliberate. He knew he was dying and he barely gave me any information at all. That’s either ridiculously obstructive or one hell of a back-handed compliment—mostly toward Granger, actually. That being said, I continue to think the answer is to just walk away entirely. And if the situation implodes I can have a good laugh as the old man scrambles in reaction.’

Derek remained silent, but it was not a judgmental sort of silence.

‘Did I get very close to the secret?’ Harry eventually asked.

‘Yes, you did, in relative terms.’

‘Good.’

He considered asking about Dumbledore’s knowledge of potion use by the Weasleys and almost immediately decided against it. If Dumbledore had known, then obviously he had written it off as high-spirited hijinks by hormonal teenagers or other such rot, never mind that it was akin to rape. After all, this was the man who would have had to sign off on making someone like Draco Malfoy a prefect, a boy who had frequently made his blood purist thoughts known, often in the most racist and insulting manner possible. But that was just one more black mark for the idea that these people ought to be given a chance to express regret or remorse, though why any of them should do so when they never seemed to be punished for their actions was incomprehensible. He had seen it often enough at Privet Drive and it was just more of the same with wizards.

And if Dumbledore had not known, then it meant his spy network in the castle either failed to report it (or Ginny had been cunning enough to do all her related activities away from portraits and such) or had and been ignored. Harry scoffed. ‘Probably like Figg either failed in her duties or was ignored.’ For all he knew Figg had bought into the stories, too. It had not seemed that way once he had become aware of what exactly she was, but who was to say she thought of him as a person rather than an icon?

He shook his head almost furiously and got up, then grabbed several books and some supplies. Minutes later he was downstairs in his usual spot, dealing with useless homework. Luna joined him a short while later, giving him a brief smile, but did not speak until an hour or so had gone by, asking him a question about transfiguration. And Harry, though by no means “talented” the way his father allegedly was with the subject, certainly knew enough to answer her, and could explain things well. Or, that is to say, he could explain things in a very non-Hermione way such that non-Hermione persons could actually comprehend.

As he went back to his own mind-numbingly boring work he considered which would be more amusing—offing Ginny or getting a restraining order. Harry immediately looked over at Luna and asked if such things even existed in the wizarding world.

She gave him a twitchy smile and giggled lightly, shaking her head.

“Bugger,” he muttered.

“You could transfigure her into a crumple-horned snorkack and sell her to a zoo,” Luna suggested mischievously.

“Tempting. Very tempting.”

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Nothing much of import happened during the remainder of the school year in Harry’s estimation. Luna was keeping an eye on Ginny, his conversations with Voldemort were more discussions about a potential government, and classes were, as always, hideously boring. So it was with great relief that he boarded the Express and secured a compartment, sharing with what most would consider his friends. And it was not that he didn’t enjoy their company, but that he refused to become all that close to anyone who would not, eventually, follow to a new home, presuming his success in finding it.

The conversation on the way to London consisted mostly of discussion about yeti crabs, something Harry had never heard of before. Luna had pictures, naturally, and sparked off a lively debate on its origins. Harry could somehow see Hagrid trying to decorate his cabin with them during the winter months.

At the platform he made sure to have a conversation with his companions quite near to where Ginny was greeting her mother, allowing her to overhear him making plans to meet the others for school shopping on the fourteenth of August. “The Leaky Cauldron? Around ten?”

They all agreed, so Harry bid them good-bye and headed off through the portal, making for the nearest café to get something to eat before making his obligatory appearance at the “family” house on Privet Drive. ‘Amazing how Figg wanders by at just the right time to see me glancing out the bedroom window,’ he thought. ‘Oh well, I’ll just set up an illusion to make sure she sees me frequently enough, even if not outside.’

Quite a bit of time was spent packing for his trip as he would be gone for far longer than the last time. It almost made him wistful over the idea of having a loyal house-elf to accompany him, but going after Kreacher was probably a bad idea. So instead he used his extended backpack to carry an inordinate amount of supplies of whatever might conceivably be needed.

He shifted back to the caldera and eyed the crack in the shaded side, then settled the backpack comfortably before approaching it. As he was still in a fairly immature body it looked as though entering would not be a problem. As it turned out it was necessary to remove his backpack and pull it through after him, but the interior widened up quickly enough.

It looked, to his admittedly untutored eyes, like a lava tube, though thankfully not one of the dangerously vertical sort. As such, he supposed, that a little care on his part (such as using a spell to make the bottoms of his footwear a bit tacky) should see him safely along the way without doing something horribly undignified such as slipping and possibly reenacting the Chamber of Secrets slide inadvertently.

Approximately five kilometers later he came upon a breathtaking sight. The tunnel opened up into a prodigious shaft which seemed to go down endlessly. Spiraling around the interior was a walkway eventually lost to the depths. Even with those wonders he was soon enough diverted to simply examining the décor. Who were the people who created this?

He finally snapped out of his unproductive yet satisfying behavior and eyed the walkway with a faint sigh. There was nothing else for it, so he began to walk after getting a drink and snacks out of his bag. It was obvious with even only the barest amount of thought that the shaft had not sprung up on its own. The walls were as smooth as glass where undecorated and unadorned and the walkway was actually a part of the walls, which implied specialized tools or machines.

Harry was just beginning to become badly fatigued when an opening came into view a bit farther down. It was a beautifully carved archway and at either side were lanterns—as there had been along the way—close enough for him to actually examine. Simple enough glass and metal, but not containing flames or anything resembling muggle lights. Inside each “cage” was a glowing blue-white sphere about the size of both his fists together.

Through the arch was a decent-sized room with sleeping alcoves in the walls, still with bedding (which rather surprised him and made him slightly wary), tables, chairs, and various other amenities, but nothing that seemed advanced. Except for one thing, that is. A strange device that looked muggle in design and function. However, he could not quite figure out what it was supposed to do as it was nonfunctional as far as he could tell.

Giving it up as a lost cause for the moment he sat down to have a proper meal, then set up a variety of wards around one of the sleeping alcoves, thoroughly saturated it with cleaning spells, and settled down for a nap.

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At the bottom of the shaft were yet more fantastic examples of carving. The devices along the way he suspected of being lifts were inoperable for whatever reason, and he had to walk like any mortal, not having even considered the possibility of needing a broom, an oversight he soundly castigated himself for. He looked around for quite some time, investigating everything in sight, but did not see any way to progress. Naturally, this ticked him off, and he decided to take a breather, shifting back to his bedroom, and so he could be seen faffing about the neighborhood by Figg.

The next day he returned with a more relaxed attitude (and a broom), and started his investigation again, determined to figure out the obvious puzzle. He eventually realized that the way forward was actually the way down, and that the floor itself was a giant lift. Well, a few spells took care of that and he was shortly beneath the floor and staring a whole new problem in the face.

The room he was in had multiple exits. For a moment there he felt like crying in frustration.

Instead, once he got a hold of himself again, Harry thought, ‘Any suggestions?’

‘I don’t know,’ Derek replied blithely. ‘Do you happen to have a fifty kilometer long ball of string? Because your destination is almost that far away.’

Harry groaned. ‘Oh, God, it’s some kind of maze. And your suggestion implies that there are no markings to help me. Okay, let me see what I can figure out on my own.’ He glanced at the openings again before sitting down right where he was to think. Many creatures navigated by echolocation, right? Perhaps there was a spell of that sort he could exploit so he could check to see if any of the offered paths dead-ended. Sound did not move through air the same way it did water, so normal range would be limited, but a spell might make up for that problem.

And it did, once he figured out what he needed and tried it. There was one problem, however. All the tunnels came back as dead-ends, and he knew Derek would not have sent him on a wild goose chase as some form of prank. One of them had to be viable. He made careful note of the impressions he had gotten back of the termination points and realized that one of them was subtly different, so he got up and went down that tunnel. At the end was something approaching a door. He backtracked, spelled a mark onto the wall of that tunnel, then chose one of the others.

The end of that one was uniform enough that he could almost imagine what kind of machine had created the tunnel, and at first he could not fathom why it simply ended. But further investigation showed hints of instability and changes in the type of rock. That being so he went back to the original tunnel and opened the door. The other side was a large room, a kind of hub, with multiple doors in evidence. Harry sighed, and after closing the door he had come through, marked it with the sōwilō and raidō runes.

Unfortunately for Harry most of the new doors seemed to lead to hub rooms like the one he was presently in, something that made him think fondly of the idea of bashing his head against the wall. ‘Derek? You have a minute?’

After a short pause came the amused reply, ‘Yes. Having problems?’

Harry made a face and glanced at the ceiling. ‘My father and his friends made the Marauders Map, but I never did find out how. Care to clue me in? I think it would be very useful right about now.’

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After finishing his shopping trip (and making sure to be seen walking around the neighborhood by Mrs Figg) Harry prepared a message for Voldemort, asking for a little assistance—something he could manage on his own with enough magic to smooth the way, but Quirrell could do it far more easily without such shenanigans. Hanging around Little Whinging for a spell would not put him too far off course, and if the man agreed it would certainly be worth it.

The next day he received a response and, after checking that he had all he needed, Harry set off to meet the man at the Shrieking Shack. The interior of the building looked just as ruinous as before, which was comforting in a way.

Quirrell arrived approximately ten minutes later with two house-elves in tow. “Mr Potter,” he said by way of greeting.

Harry nodded, but when he spoke it was in Parseltongue. “Nice to see you again, and thank you for arranging for my two new friends here. I assume Quirrell knows how to transfer ownership.

Of course. I assume you have brought the payment.”

Harry’s lips twitched in a near smile as he brought up a bag from under the table he was seated at and flipped it open, revealing a wealth of golden galleons.

Quirrell promptly cast a spell to verify the contents, then pulled the bag closer before glancing at the two elves and performing the ceremony to transfer ownership.

Harry nodded again, in thanks, and hissed, “I prepared a little memory for you, so you can at least see something of what I’ve been up to,” then said to the elves, “In the event I need to get a message to this man here I expect one of you can pop back and forth to facilitate that?”

“Oh yes, Master Harry,” Saen said quickly as Cael nodded in agreement.

“Excellent.” He reached into his pocket for a memory sphere—not entirely unlike the ones used for his letters, or for that matter, the ones used to store prophecies—and pushed it across the table toward Quirrell, who somewhat reluctantly picked it up.

Something tells me this offering will give no clue as to the actual location of your investigations.”

Harry chuckled. “Quite correct. Again, I would prefer that your friend here knows as little as possible about the details. What I’ve provided should give you an idea of what I’m facing at the moment, though, and why I wanted some assistance that could not be forsworn. When you are ready to inhabit a body of your own it will be a different story entirely. Of course, if I find what I’m looking for I imagine I will want your help, so it may come sooner than expected. Two minds are better than one, and two ways of thinking are more apt to see the possibilities.

“. . . And should I be expecting anything in particular for the upcoming year?”

He blinked and glanced off to the right, pondering the changes. “Well, no, I don’t think so. I’ve already altered circumstances enough such that the trigger for the year should not exist, so I’m as much in the dark as you are for what’s to come. The rat was a huge factor in things, provoking the escape of an inmate of Azkaban, and the conditions for that no longer apply. If said inmate escapes anyway . . . well, I just don’t know.

And who might this inmate be?” Voldemort inquired silkily.

Er, I suppose there’s no reason to be coy on that point, but as I can’t say the name outright due to your friend being able to understand, I’ll have to be roundabout. The inmate was thought to be the secret keeper for my parents. He was captured right after a confrontation with the rat, after the rat cleverly managed to frame him, and the inmate was so stunned at what had just happened that he cracked a bit, allowing for his capture. He never actually did anything to merit imprisonment, but the people in charge at the time gleefully tossed him in jail without the courtesy of a trial that even your people got.

“. . . Should I be wondering why you have not in some way corrected this . . . travesty?”

Harry shrugged. “Well, that would be the right thing to do, I suppose, but I admit to being a bit jaded on the subject. We’re talking about someone who allowed a minion of the old man’s to take me away instead of doing his duty by me. Someone who never bothered to escape until twelve years had gone by, and then only because he saw the rat and knew it would be at the school. Meaning, he escaped more for revenge reasons, a chance to kill the rat, and never really considered the consequences. Someone who kept mistaking me for my father, though I suppose part of that was the influence of the guards there. He didn’t know me at all and it was easier for him to try to believe that I was just like his best friend, forgetting that I was a real person in my own right. It’s part of the reason I changed the colour of my hair—in case he did escape. It would make it harder for anyone to automatically slot me into being a replica of my father. I have plenty of reasons, above and beyond what I’ve just outlined, to dislike the man, though I won’t necessarily say I hate him. I do know that he would be outraged, disgusted, and vehemently against what I’m doing and proposing to do, so I don’t see the point in making contact.

I see. Can I expect regular progress reports?”

Harry paused, smirked, and hissed, “What’s the magic word?”

“Crucio, the last time I checked.”

He laughed outright. “It’s nice to know you have a sense of humor. It’s more likely I’d let you know when I’ve found something worth sharing, but since you brought it up I will try to keep in touch on a regular schedule, even if it’s just to say hello and that I’m still alive. But for now I won’t have anything to report if I don’t get back to work, so. . . .”

A minute later he was eyeing his new helpers. “Give me thirty seconds or so, then join me,” he said, then shifted to the entrance at the volcano, just inside the choke point. The map may as well cover the entire journey and he could get one of the elves to handle that up to the point where he had left off—he would simply need to mark which passage was the correct one there at the bottom of the shaft.