Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 09

09

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“You don’t know what we can see. Why don’t you tell your dreams to me? Fantasy will set you free.” — Steppenwolf, Magic Carpet Ride


He continued to make Trelawney’s minor predictions come true over the course of time leading up to the holiday, and she was becoming very pleased and proud about her successes, despite both of them knowing her words were utter bollocks, and far more confident. It never seemed to occur to her that most of her alleged predictions were of the gloom and doom variety, and she was predicting pain and suffering without considering the consequences.

It was then that he started stage two of his plan for her; he sneaked into her quarters and enspelled her. He had every intention of leaving the castle during the holiday and staying mainly at the underground city, referred to by the D’ni as Ae’gura, with an eye toward trying to find the descriptive book for Earth. If he could find that he could go over it with utmost attention and attempt to write a new one, minus any passages relating to muggles or magical sentient beings. The exodus, in theory, should take care of that issue.

The spell, however, should allow him to keep track of anything she said, as this time it was connected to her personally, and act if need be. Thinking ahead to when Voldemort would be reembodied he arranged another friendly talk between student and professor. “There’s something you should probably know,” he began. “A servant of yours is being held under the imperius curse, away from you and the rest of society.”

And this would be?”

“Barty Crouch Jnr,” he replied, hoping that Quirrell just didn’t ask. “His mother begged his father to get him out of Azkaban, going so far as to take his place using polyjuice. The wife was dying—from what I don’t know—so she knew she’d not be there for very long. The father arranged for the swap using what pull he still had. The son was brought home and the wife died while in her son’s semblance. The father let it be known that his wife died, and since the body at Azkaban seemed to be the son, no one questioned it. The point being—”

That I can arrange for his rescue.” Voldemort looked thoughtful for several long moments. “I assume this happened originally, then.”

Harry nodded. “I don’t recall offhand how you learned of it, but you did rescue him, I think sometime during this upcoming summer. You used him to replace one of the old fool’s people, the, ah, really paranoid one, and your man ended up taking your host’s position here in order to forward your plans of the time. It’s tied into the upcoming event, which I assume will still happen. Still, there’s no real reason for your host to not be here, so the son could be used for other things. From what I could tell he’s very loyal to you, but I’m not too sure about his state of mental health.”

And this event?” Voldemort persisted.

It is a tournament, one that they stopped holding quite some time ago because of the death toll for those involved, if that gives you enough of a hint.

His companion managed a crafty look before saying, “Let me guess. I somehow arranged for you to be a competitor. It sounds like something I would do.”

Harry nodded again, a slight smile on his lips. “And I ended up being the enemy in your ritual that time due to the machinations of your minion, at your command. I think the paranoid one will work fine. And the son as the other, since he is intelligent and loyal, rather than so afraid of you as to fold to the pressure like a certain cowardly rat. Anyway, yes, you did, and caused a lot of trouble for me at the time. A good portion of the school turned against me. I’d prefer to avoid that this time and there’s no real reason for me to be in it. That said, I wouldn’t be against causing trouble in terms of adding extras just to cause confusion and muck up the plans for the tasks. They’re only designed for three people, and it wasn’t too difficult for them to accommodate one more. Many more, however. . . .”

Voldemort nodded slowly, a wicked gleam entering his eyes.

Do the other two schools have houses like this one?”

Voldemort made an approximation of a brow raise and shook his head. “No. Yes, students are housed in groups, but by year and not as done here. For that to work we would have to force, say, four students from each school if we wished to keep it even. Or, if we wished to cause trouble for the old fool and the government we would do so only for this school.”

Harry paused, considered, and smiled. “I think I like that idea. Any trouble we can throw his way is a bonus. The other two schools would be very suspicious and angry. Your man used a confundus charm, or so he claimed, to swindle the cup into accepting the fourth name, and at that he put it in under a fake school. I don’t know if your host has that kind of power or subtlety, but I know I do.”

Voldemort adopted a thoughtful expression. Eventually he said, “And how exactly was it set up?”

Eh, the old fool set the cup up in the entrance hall and drew an age line around it. At least two people I know of tried aging potions to get by, but that failed. Your man, as I said, used an overpowered confusion charm, I assume after checking the entire hall to make sure it wasn’t witnessed. I know how to be invisible beyond anyone’s ability to see past it so it shouldn’t be an issue. My only possible regret is that I can think of two people I’d love to put names in for, but they’re dead. One I killed and one got himself killed.”

What house was the proper champion in?”

The house of the loyal and hardworking.”

Voldemort approximated a brow arch again, presumably in understated surprise, then smirked faintly. “Should I assume this would have been the other possible enemy?”

Harry grinned. “Yes. I don’t actually know just how Light he is, but I presume he’d be an enemy. I’d find more satisfaction in using the paranoid one over someone barely an adult and not yet out of school. At any rate, if you want any help in rescuing the son I’ll be happy to assist. Just let me know. I’m sure you can figure out a safe place to stash him while he recovers.”

He left shortly after, leaving Voldemort to contemplate his next move.

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Harry was happily scanning through descriptive books when his bug on Trelawney finally coughed up something that sparked his memory of the first time, enough so that he set down the book he was holding and instead produced the book Derek had gifted him. He sat back to listen to the relevant parts of the conversation after expanding the field of focus. It also had the effect of reminding him that it was time for lunch, but that could wait a little.

“Sibyll, this is a pleasant surprise!” he heard Dumbledore say.

“I have been crystal gazing,” said Professor Trelawney in her mistiest, most faraway voice, “and to my astonishment, I saw myself abandoning my solitary luncheon and coming to join you. Who am I to refuse the promptings of fate? I at once hastened from my tower, and I do beg you to forgive my lateness. . . .”

“Certainly, certainly,” said Dumbledore. “Let me draw you up a chair—”

There was a short pause, a faint thud, and then Trelawney suddenly uttered a kind of soft scream. “I dare not! If I join the table, we shall be thirteen! Nothing could be more unlucky! Never forget that when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die!”

“We’ll risk it, Sibyll,” he heard Professor McGonagall say impatiently. “Do sit down, the turkey’s getting stone cold.” After another short pause McGonagall continued, “Tripe, Sibyll?”

It was at that point that Harry’s concurrent search of his memory saw him beginning to write in his book.

“But where is dear Mr Filch?” Trelawney asked.

“Perhaps he is not feeling the holiday spirit,” Dumbledore suggested. “It does happen every so often.”

“But surely you already knew that, Sibyll?” said Professor McGonagall.

“Certainly I knew, Minerva,” she said quietly. “But one does not parade the fact that one is All-Knowing. I frequently act as though I am not possessed of the Inner Eye, so as not to make others nervous.”

“That explains a great deal,” said Professor McGonagall tartly.

“We can hope he will change his mind,” Dumbledore said, then continued, “Derek, have you had any of these chipolatas? They’re excellent.”

Harry suffered some confusion at that, then assumed it was a student at the table he could barely remember, probably a Hufflepuff. Conversation became fairly stilted and boring so Harry started checking through the descriptive books again, keeping one ear open.

And then Trelawney shrieked loudly. “My dears! Which of you left your seat first? Which? Was it you, Mr Chambers!?”

Harry started writing again, having vaguely recalled that name as one of members of the Ravenclaw quidditch team in his fifth year, as McGonagall said coldly, “I doubt it will make much difference, unless a mad axe-man is waiting outside the doors to slaughter the first into the entrance hall.”

Several people laughed nervously and conversation returned to the same polite nothings. That is, until the screaming started.

The next day’s Daily Prophet gleefully reported the sad happenings. It seemed Filch had finally snapped. Questioning by the aurors, complete with veritaserum, revealed that Filch had lost the struggle with sanity after decades of living with the shame of being a squib in a fully magical school, of not being able to properly vent his fear and anger, and so on and so forth. Poor Mr Chambers had been met in the entrance hall by an axe-wielding Filch and hacked into pieces.

And, not that it was reported in the paper, Trelawney was in the infirmary, heavily doped up. Perhaps she was starting to learn that her predictions had a downside? Well, she was in for a nasty shock if she kept running her mouth without thinking first. McGonagall had been severely shaken up by the incident given that it had been her mentioning mad axe-men.

Saen popped in at that moment, looking conflicted.

“What is it?”

“Saen senses that the—that your partner?—wishes to send you a message via elf.”

Harry arched a brow. “Oh. Well. In this instance, since I am pretty much otherwise unavailable. . . . Er, hang on a moment while I dash off a quick note.” He grabbed a piece of plain paper and a biro and wrote one quickly before handing it over. “He’ll probably have one to send back.”

While waiting he wondered who would take over as caretaker. Hagrid might have been tapped, but considering he was fumbling his way through being Creatures professor. . . .

Saen arrived back a good ten to fifteen minutes later with two notes. The first one related just how amused Voldemort had been over the Filch/Chambers incident and mused on just how long it would take for Trelawney to either snap or never speak another word in her life for fear of it coming true. The second was in response to Harry’s note, agreeing that a mail drop was a good idea for those times he was off spelunking. He nodded, then returned to scanning books.

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He was informed not long after his return that while Voldemort might prefer Beltane for the ritual (to appease his sense of symmetry and the sense of the world awakening from the death of Winter) he would actually be holding it during the Summer Solstice.

That’s fine,” he replied after a few moments mentally calculating times. “The stone should be complete in late May, in plenty of time.” Then he paused, uncertain. “How exactly will this play in? Do you just need elixir or. . . ?”

It will be fine. Though the idea of using the entire stone is an interesting one, even I do not know what effect it would have. I need elixir only.

All right. I mean, I could make another one, but no sense bothering if elixir’s all that’s needed. I don’t personally need the thing except for making gold to sell in the muggle world, but the elixir would be good for keeping you healthy and, effectively, immortal. Speaking of which, I wonder if what’s-his-face and wife have pretended to die and started over with new identities. They would have to, at least for so long as the old fool lives, assuming he actually thought the stone was real, and because of them, in case they knew what the old fool was using it for and assume you’d try to find them once you realized it was a fake.”

Voldemort gave an awkward, dismissive shrug.

Anyway, we just have to get through this year. Get you a new body. And then I can show the wonders of the city,” he said with a smile. “You’ll have to make yourself portkeys to get back from then on, assuming portkeys will even work given the circumstances. Though”—he paused—“if I can work something out with linking books we’d just need protected stations somewhere on this planet and in some other Age as a nexus.

Yes, I recall you explained about the limitations. And portkeys can be traced if not used with care. Same with apparation.”

Harry nodded. “I’ll be pleased when you can take the odd potion to speed up your rate of assimilation for the language. Two people scanning the books and deciphering how the descriptive books are made—or rather, phrased—would be a great deal of help and a time saver. The sooner we can duplicate most of this world the faster I can ditch this school.”

Oh?” Voldemort said. “And not one for the goblins?”

I . . . don’t know,” he said slowly. “If we duplicate this planet the goblins would have a field day digging for metals and gems. Would they really need their own Age to do the same?”

Perhaps, perhaps not. I wonder if they would even think to ask after they realized what we’ll have done. They can be paid a percentage fee for extractions, they can administer the banks, though I hesitate over the idea of allowing them complete control of any associated warding schemes.”

And then again, all we need are private Ages to store our wealth,” Harry pointed out. “No need to trust a goblin for that for ourselves. Any books involved can be protected from outside access, by fidelius if nothing else, and we can be our own Secret Keepers for that. If they argue for a private Age strictly for goblins, and not take, say, the equivalent of an Australia for themselves, they’ll have to make it worth our while.”

I trust you mean private Ages we write ourselves, and not existing ones,” Voldemort said coolly. “We have no idea if these people yet exist, and if they have linking books to the Ages used in the past.”

All right,” Harry said agreeably. He wandered off a few minutes later, they having exhausted conversational options for the time being, and completed his pending homework in that little nook he often shared with Luna.

A number of people suffered minor accidents or illnesses as a result of someone not keeping her mouth shut. He was on his way to lunch, accompanied by Kevin, when Blaise Zabini had the dubious luck to tumble down a flight of stairs and break both legs. Score another theoretical point for Trelawney. But oh, if only she would predict another death! He idly wondered if it would make her simpering little sycophants like Lavender even more enamored of her, or scared to go anywhere near her for fear of what they might hear.

It struck him halfway through his sandwich that he had not even noticed Hermione of late and glanced over at the Gryffindor table. She was just sitting there, nose in a book, absently eating her food. It looked as though without him and Ron she had retreated into herself. ‘Come to think of it, I don’t even recall her waving her hand around frantically in class always trying to be the one with the answers. Maybe she got a hard talking to from her house mates? Well, she may not be popular, but that goes more than one way. Not popular as a friend, and possibly not popular as someone to torment. They never did that to Neville last time around so I expect that so long as she keeps her head down she’ll have a quiet, albeit lonely, Hogwarts experience.’ If she stayed out of trouble it would stay a state of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for him, and it was very unlikely she would ever be targeted for mischief or death by his hand.

His only real possible concern when it came to Hermione was her blood status, but given his developing relationship with Voldemort it might not be an issue at all, excepting some of the man’s more ardent psychotic followers, and he was already using some of those for the stone. Somehow he had trouble believing that she would join the exodus. In addition to nagging so damn much about returning to school back then she had already been going on about muggle activities such as learning to drive and use computers. To give all that up? To give herself completely to this ‘new’ culture? Never see her muggle parents again? Unlikely.

Neville, on the other hand, was a maybe, as were his other friends. Being in Hufflepuff this time around Neville was blossoming so much faster, and Harry assumed that his bravery would still shine through as necessary. It might even be enough for the boy to finally realize that his family had been, to a degree, abusive. The Dursleys had never made it a secret that they hated Harry and indulged in all sorts of abuse, verbal, physical, and mental, but could not the same be said for poor Neville, minus the loathing? Contempt, perhaps, born of fear, but not outright hatred. Augusta was living in the past to an extent, never having recovered from her son’s torture—and how could she, realistically, when she was reminded on a regular basis?

Still, having noticed Hermione his thoughts turned back to the potential plight of the muggle-borns. Those who were being abused—well, it was a bit obvious that the British magical government had no real intention of actually helping any of them. To cause those children to disappear would not be a problem, though finding them families might be. An orphanage was one possibility, but it would have to be very well funded and have more than enough staff to prevent the majority of conflict. After all, children—especially badly-supervised children—were vicious little monsters only too ready to gang up on a perceived weakness.

The other ones, however. . . . He did not think, with what conscience he had left, that he could rip them from mothers and fathers and guardians who loved them, despite this frightening knowledge. Hermione was one side of the spectrum, Harry another, and Neville a third. On the flip side, even happy and loved muggle-born or muggle-raised students might end up in eventual trouble, even with the worst of Voldemort’s supporters ending up dead. Umbridge was not alone in her views, after all, and she had never been a Death Eater. With a Wizengamot interested mostly in judgments to keep themselves in power they would think little of, if given the chance and enough support, further limiting the power and opportunity available to half-bloods and muggle-borns.

But that was another kettle of fish entirely. Assuming other countries were more liberal there was nothing stopping an intelligent person (or family) from emigrating and still not be deprived of their muggle heritage. Harry gave a slight shrug and decided to worry about it later. Plans were all well and good, but none of it meant much if he—they—could not come up with an Earth-parallel world for them to move to.

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All right. So here’s a list I’ve made up of tasks for our new world,” Harry hissed, glancing at his notebook. “Compile a list of people and their current land holdings so we can plot out where to move them to. And if they want more they’ll have to fork over some gold. We can create a temporary set of linking books tailored to each to drop them right onto their new properties, preferably with the boundaries already clearly marked. Each of those properties would have a linking book to a public nexus with, at the very least, a linking book to whatever city we fashion to begin with. Obviously, the other big task there is to decide where that city will be and how it’ll be laid out so we can get government infrastructure in place, and a bank.

That public nexus can later have linking books added to additional Ages for anyone to visit and enjoy. You and I can have a private nexus if necessary. Either way, the public nexus will devolve mostly to links to other Ages since people will be able to apparate once they’ve gotten their bearings, though I suppose it’d be handy for minors to move around. Dealing with the goblins, naturally. Figuring out a set of laws, and people to fill roles in said government. As I’ve said before, I think, I’m not too keen on the idea of inherited roles. It opens up too much in the way of hereditary laziness, stupidity, and entitlement issues. Beyond all of that are issues like abused muggle-borns or muggle-raised, because we obviously cannot expect the government to do anything about it, in Britain anyway. No idea what it’s like in other countries.

Voldemort nodded. “Good starting points, certainly. Also, a school, with attendant staff and curriculum.”

Absolutely. It’s a prodigious amount of work, but necessary. If we can get the Age and the basic plans worked out, a lot of it can be delegated. Not like we’d personally be out there constructing every building, just maybe some very necessary offices to start with before bringing in people skilled in construction and warding.”

Voldemort nodded again, then smirked. “It occurs to me that any astronomers will be in paroxysms of either joy or confusion. Even if this new world is a parallel Earth, I have serious doubts about the sky and stars. It may also throw off plenty of others, those who do magics which rely on certain configurations.”

Harry paused in surprise, that not having crossed his mind at all. “Oh, yeah. Stuff like equinoxes and solstices are one thing, but anything that relies on the constellations. . . . I think we can assure ourselves of still having a moon, but the star patterns are something else entirely.”

They tossed ideas back and forth for a while about school curriculum, a goblin deal, and various other issues before Harry had to get back to being a student.

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About the event. . . .”

Yes?”

You once said you have a way of seeing the truth. Obviously, so do I. I propose that we find a minimum of five persons from each school to participate, preferably students who actually wish to compete. Those from this school could be deliberately manipulated to include some you personally have a grudge against, though there is no guarantee that any of them would be badly harmed or even killed. After all, increasing the number of participants so drastically would mean the tasks would most likely need to be redone in their entirety.”

Harry gave Voldemort a thoughtful look before nodding slowly. “I can think of three students offhand I wouldn’t mind seeing in distress. I’ve been doing a little research into past events and I expect you’re correct in them having to scramble madly to come up with something different. There hasn’t been a whole lot of originality so far in expressing the rather simplistic event themes.”

And you had to. . . ?”

He grinned. “A dragon, rescuing a hostage from the lake, and a maze full of traps and creatures. Maybe if some of this school’s competitors are underage it could push the bulk of the redesigned tasks onto the other two schools, with the idea that obviously our bunch cheated in some way, never mind that there would be way too many students to begin with.”

Very possible,” Voldemort said agreeably.

Er, wait, no,” he amended. “They only brought a short-listed bunch of candidates, which meant all of them were seventeen by the time of the choosing. Not saying I wouldn’t put in underage Hogwarts names, but I don’t think we could do it for the other two schools.”

Voldemort shrugged. “Once we know who we want in and the artifact has been confunded, we can make up the entries ourselves and place them in. Then we can set up warding to switch out the entries of any approaching students who make it past the line with blanks.”

Sounds good. Or putting up a very powerful ward around the real one to hide it, with people putting their entries into a fake that shoots the slips straight to one of us—you, probably—and we hand seed the real one with the names we want after confunding the heck out of it.”

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The remainder of the year was surprisingly uneventful. Trelawney had apparently learned to keep quiet, which Harry felt was a shame as it meant it was unlikely she would crack up in a spectacular fashion.

May rolled around right on schedule and the Philosopher’s Stone was completed, meaning Voldemort could get on with fashioning himself a new body. When he finally did Harry would be relieved to not have to deal with the host any longer—at least, not as a package deal with Voldemort.

The ride back to London was consumed with yet another animal discussion, this time about jerboas. Where Kevin had gotten the pictures from was a mystery, but it was nice to see that he was very much into their discussions at that point. Harry thought they looked like kangaroo mice, and often with rabbit ears. Luna argued that kangaroos were actually the result of magical experimentation on the “adorable” rodents by the equivalent of a mad scientist. Of course, Luna also claimed that dementors were actually Unspeakables being punished for having messed something up and forced to masquerade as the creatures and do guard duty at Azkaban, so one had to take her pronouncements with the odd grain of salt at times.

After his usual stop at № 4 Harry immediately relocated to Voldemort’s summer “home”, dropping off a bag of supplies before going with a Voldemort-controlled Quirrell to liberate Barty from his father’s clutches. Barty Snr was knocked out and his memories modified, things twisted so that every time his son came to mind his thoughts would be shunted away to something else, generally work related. Barty Jnr was released from the imperius curse and whisked away. As a bonus, depending on how one looked at it, the family house-elf elected to stay with Barty Jnr, so they had less work to do in terms of helping the man adjust to his changed circumstances.

Barty took a while to come out of his fugue, but when he did it was with an air of bewilderment. His examination of Quirrell and Harry just made his expression twist even more in confusion. That is, until Voldemort took control again, Quirrell’s eyes flashing to blood red and the features shifting subtly to that of a man with a somewhat tenuous hold on sanity.

“Barty,” Voldemort said. “Welcome back.”

“Master. . . ?” Barty breathed, a moment later slipping down to the floor so he could kneel and look up pleadingly.

Harry rolled his eyes and cleared his throat meaningfully, causing Quirrellmort to toss a brief glare at him. “This is very touching and all, this reunion, but does he really have to kneel like that?” Harry complained. “If he’s as loyal as you claim, well, it’s degrading.”

Quirrellmort clenched his jaw before saying, “I suppose.”

Barty spared a moment to eye the person crazy enough to speak to Voldemort that way, then slowly stood up, shuffling backward as he did so, and promptly sat down when the backs of his knees hit the bed he had been laid out on.

“Better,” Harry pronounced. “Barty, are you hungry? Thirsty? Winky came with you, so. . . . And speaking of Winky, perhaps you should see about commanding her full loyalty?”

Barty’s gaze shifted back to Quirrellmort and when he was given a nod called for the elf to have a serious talk.

Harry set about creating some chairs for himself and his partner, and also called an elf for refreshments. That out of the way he said, “I’ll try not to upstage you like that again in front of one of your Death Eaters, but really, we have to get beyond this weird stage with the guy. We have very little time available to capture the paranoid one and brief your man here on the ritual.

I realize that,” Voldemort said a bit stiffly. “One would think I’d be used to your irreverence by now.”

Harry grinned at him, absently noticing that Barty had been startled from his conversation with Winky by the realization that someone other than his master could speak the language of snakes. “Oh, I pray I never cease making your life exciting.”

Winky was sent away a minute later and Barty gave his full attention back to his master, who launched into a clipped explanation of the events which were shortly to take place. Harry was both interested and disturbed to note that Barty seemed thrilled to find out he was expected to donate of himself to his master’s rebirth and held up a hand at that point and shook it slightly to halt things. “I should point out, perhaps,” he said to Voldemort, “that the last time around the idiot doing the ritual lopped off his entire hand. This fellow seems so enthusiastic that. . . .”

Quirrellmort gazed at him for a moment, expression blank, then looked back to Barty. “You will not go overboard for your part,” he clarified. “Just . . . strip the skin from your forearm or calf. That can easily enough be healed.”

“I’ll do the healing part,” Harry volunteered. “No sense in Barty being in agony for any longer than necessary.”

Barty seemed a bit taken aback at this evidence of consideration for his well-being.

You do realize that he thinks of you as a father figure,” Harry commented after a searching look at the man. A vaguely startled look was aimed his way so he added, “Oh yes. You gave him all the attention his father never bothered to. It’s part of why he’s so devoted and loyal. He doesn’t actually believe you care, exactly, because he’s not sure you’re capable of it, but he’s wholeheartedly yours.”

A funny look rippled across Quirrellmort’s face like the shadow of a high-flying bird over uneven ground. It was fascinating to witness. After a few moments his partner went back to his explanation and instructions.

Harry nodded in satisfaction some time later, assured that Barty fully understood the plans. They left him to rest and repaired to Voldemort’s sitting room.

How exactly did you say it went last time? Capturing the paranoid one?”

Ah, because of his wards a disturbance was made outside his home, with the dustbins. When he came to investigate he was knocked out and whisked away,” he replied. “It was deemed easier to get him to come outside his wards than to try to get inside them.”

Voldemort nodded. “So, a wild animal or a cat.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know exactly where the man lives, so the odds of a fox being there isn’t something I’d be able to gauge. But yes, that sounds reasonable. I can find out easily enough,” he added.

Voldemort gave him an inquiring look, but Harry shook his head and said, “No, not until you’re in your own body. I can take you to the city—after your host has been placed under a vow, just in case—and then I think perhaps I can be a lot more forthcoming about certain things.”

How long will it take you to find out? As you pointed out earlier we don’t have a lot of time.”

Maybe as little as fifteen minutes. I’ll go now and come back as soon as I have it. Here, to this room.” Voldemort nodded again so Harry called upon the power of the cloak to disappear from view and shifted away to the ministry. He spent a few minutes tracking down Amelia Bones and then searched through her mind. She did not know, surprisingly enough, but Harry suddenly remembered a time at the Burrow, when Amos Diggory had firecalled to obtain Mr Weasley’s help after the aforementioned incident with Moody’s dustbins. Bones did know where he could find Diggory, so he went off to search him instead. Shortly thereafter he was back at Voldemort’s, abruptly flicking into view and taking a killing curse to the chest.

Voldemort let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “Would you consider not startling me like that in the future?”

He unrepentantly shrugged. “I know where he is.”

Moody was retrieved with very little fuss and stashed away in an interim cell after being relieved of his magical eye, false leg, and anything really aside from a simple robe. Harry realized that the difference this time was that Barty would not be taking the man’s place, but that could not be helped. Were it not for the possibility of an adverse side effect during the ritual he would have dosed Moody with Living Death to ensure he remained in no position to cause trouble. It would hardly do for Voldemort to be reembodied only to drown because he was too sleepy to get out of the cauldron. Instead, he set Cael on the man with instructions to keep him subdued.

Say, that reminds me.” Harry looked at Voldemort curiously. “I know this is that house, so what happened to the caretaker? I know what happened last time, but. . . .”

He decided to take a holiday.”

“. . . One he’ll be coming back from?”

Voldemort frowned at him. “Yes.”

Uh huh. So this place is temporary. It’s interesting, actually. I mean, why would the Riddle family set things up so that the estate was kept, with a caretaker, instead of selling everything and the money going somewhere? What was the point? They’re all dead, so it’s not like they can use the place. They didn’t know about you until you barged in all trigger happy, so it’s not like it was being kept until you could claim it. I never really thought about it before, but. . . .”

Voldemort shook his head slowly, his expression clearly stating that Harry was batshit insane for wondering about things like that.