Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 11

11

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“But if you wait around a while, I’ll make you fall for me. I promise, I promise you I will.” — When in Rome, The Promise


He noticed over the passing days that Voldemort was acting far more humane around him. At first he couldn’t think of a reason why. Eventually it occurred to him that perhaps Derek having reassured him in his scary sort of way had made a real difference. With the specter of death not looming quite so large perhaps Voldemort was more inclined to be relaxed around him. But then he had to wonder—had his outpouring of woes and uncertainties and disappointments (even in himself) made Voldemort think about his own youth? Drawn parallels of some kind? Admitted, even if only to himself, certain commonalities? Whatever the reason, Harry was not inclined to go rifling through the man’s brain.

Derek’s advice had been spot on and they were steadily working their way through S-14, slowly learning the secrets behind the writing of Ages. Harry was feeling far more confident that their best case scenario was in reach, and was consequently in a fairly good mood rather than obsessing over the many hurdles they might have to face. He was also noticing that certain members of the Guild of Writers seemed to have a natural flair for it and suspected those people were natural linguists. If that was true it boded well for Harry and his abilities. Voldemort’s mastery of the language was coming along beautifully, as well.

Barty was, unfortunately, a bit bored, so Voldemort had set him to scouring the Black library for anything that might be of interest, with a particular focus on Harry’s searches on why certain magics had been banned. He was also given a few primers on the D’ni language to learn from when he became burned out on history.

During their own breaks they discussed who from Hogwarts should be in the tournament, and what sorts of ideas they could come up with for altered tasks. “If we’re going to have four or five—eh, let’s say four, one for each house at Hogwarts—students for each task we need to devise some kind of group event for at least one of them,” he said.

“Such as a free-for-all duel?” Voldemort suggested.

Harry wrinkled his nose in thought. “Yeah. I could kind of see dumping the lot of them into an arena of some kind, possibly with a set amount of supplies they could fight over. You know, food, medical potions, since they would only be going in with their wands. The last one standing gets the most points.”

Voldemort’s gaze drifted off to the right, to stare out the window at Kerath’s Arch. “Preferably with some creatures in there people wouldn’t mind seeing killed. It would increase both the danger level and the excitement,” he finally offered, then flicked his gaze back to Harry.

“Mm. That sounds good. I could write up a death for, say, McLaggen under those circumstances, and in doing so could force certain creatures to be chosen. Something along the lines about how he was badly injured by creature A, which made him, for whatever reason, too damaged to get away from creature B, which ate him. Something like that.”

Voldemort unbent enough to smile. “You said that the second task involved the rescue of hostages.”

“Right.”

“The first task was against a dragon, but I think we can come up with something else considering that I sincerely doubt the ministries are going to authorize twelve dragons to be transported over. Hostages, though, should not be an issue for the second task. So, let’s say . . . that part of the supplies includes items that function as a kind of key or shortcut in the process of rescuing a hostage, but there would only be four of them, perhaps. You could still effect a rescue without having one, it would just be more difficult.”

“The participants may or may not realize that they were something to fight over, but still, I like the idea. Depends on whether or not the officials would bother to mention them.”

Voldemort smiled again, though it was a bit nasty in nature. “We can always imperius Crouch Snr and get him to push for a mention.”

“And possibly for the first task’s creature,” he said with a nod. “So maybe some sort of vault with twelve locks, one per participant, where the hostages are. Or even four with three each, or whatever, so that they didn’t all converge on the same spot. The egg recovered in the first task gave us clues to where our hostage would be found, so. . . .

“The final task was a maze, but it was quite boring for the audience because the walls were so high they really couldn’t see anything. I’m okay with a maze again, but surely there would be some way to keep an eye on them, maybe project images onto screens so the audience can see what’s happening.”

“Of course,” Voldemort replied. “That is in the same class as the enchantments that allow the ceiling of the Great Hall at Hogwarts to function. It also applies to the enchanted eye that Moody wore. Set them up so they can levitate and follow a particular target, and what they ‘view’ is directed to a screen rather than a single person’s brain.”

Harry blinked. “Now why didn’t I think of those? Same with linked mirrors, I suppose.”

Voldemort favored him with an uncharacteristically indulgent look before saying, “The point is that it can be done. Why they did not do so last time around is probably a matter either of lack of brains or not wishing to go to the expense.”

“Or maybe they were so impressed with their supposed cleverness in terms of the task compositions that it never came to mind that watching would be a colossal bore after dragons,” he opined. “Well, for the first task, how about. . . .”

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“No,” she said, “despite their looks the pangolin’s closest relative is not the armadillo!”

“And you have proof?” Kevin more or less demanded.

Luna whipped out a book and started flipping through the pages.

Harry rolled his eyes discreetly and gazed out the window at the swiftly-moving landscape, far more occupied with what they had learned thus far during their time at Ae’gura. They were so close to having a proper handle on the higher form of the language and being able to start testing a proof of concept. He expected, though part of him was against doing so, he could ask Derek if their initial effort was not only safe but precisely what they were after.

If so they could create a linking book to their starting location—probably one of the rooms in the palace—choose to use the new descriptive book they’d have created, and once there create a linking book to that same spot so the descriptive book could safely be stored away. Then they could move on to creating a nexus and a whole new world. He so badly wanted to be able to move away from it all, to build something of worth of a hopefully enduring nature. Then again, he was effectively immortal, so he would be around to do his best to ensure it retained that worth. Voldemort, too, given that he had the means to ensure the man’s longevity, even if he did rather consider it to be cheating. Derek was interesting company, but Voldemort was human, or was mostly, and it was the company of a human through the years he would more likely welcome over that of an agency.

Luna seemed both to notice his distraction, and, judging by that odd look on her face, knew something of why—or at least a possible why. She also left him to it, not trying to draw him into their debate. He sincerely hoped she would be one of those to join the emigration. But that made him think of her father. Xenophilius was not a bad man, and had been forced into a very hard choice. Still, should he come along, he could be used to funnel information about Earth to the public of their new Age, assuming anyone was interested. And if he could create an Age with the creatures Luna so often spoke of, that could provide much in the way of amusement.

He eyed Luna speculatively, wondering if she would indulge his curiosity or if she would revert to thinking she was being mocked. But . . . her treatment had been much bettered this time around, so perhaps she would take it in the spirit it was presented. She shot him a smile—almost a smirk—and went back to arguing passionately with Kevin and Neville. Harry huffed a very quiet laugh; were he that sort, Luna would presently be his first choice. ‘Okay. Derek?’ he thought. ‘Is she actually knowing, or does she just come across that way?’

A moment later he heard, ‘She has a particular talent, not entirely unlike one of your own, so yes, she’s knowing to a degree. It is a combination of things, I suppose. She can more or less discern people’s thoughts, but more than that, those thoughts lead her mind to the resulting possibilities. She isn’t quite a natural mind-reader or even a prophet, but something similar.’

‘Which tells me I can most likely trust her. After all, once she got past her initial wariness, she’s been helpful and, insofar as I’m aware of, has never spilled any secrets she may have gleaned from me.’

‘Mm, yes. She was, admittedly, a bit taken aback on first seeing you to realize just what a bloodthirsty psycho you were in opposition to all the previous hype.’

‘Oh, Derek, you say such sweet things! My heart is all a’flutter.’ And then he conceived such a weird thought.

‘No, Harry,’ Derek sent, obviously having caught it. ‘I do not have emotions in the normal course of things. They would be a monumental detriment in my. . . line of work. It is only with you, my master, that I possess anything resembling humanity.’

‘Oh. Perhaps to make the ‘relationship’ easier? I had noticed you were being at your scarily best with Tom.’

‘Perhaps,’ Derek said agreeably. ‘I have certainly noticed I am somewhat influenced by your personality, but it is still true that death is my nature and my work, so assisting you in a little mayhem is. . . . Or even in suggesting it.’

He nodded thoughtfully. ‘So will you be able to tell me if the first Age we create is . . . right?’

‘Certainly. I am as curious as you are to see what will happen if the Light gets its way here on Earth, so it behooves me to facilitate your success. And that includes things such as your Luna’s creatures.’

Harry smiled faintly, pleased.

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‘And that’s that,’ he thought as Dumbledore sat back down after the opening statements McGonagall allowed him. ‘The school will be all in a pother over the Triwizard Tournament and—hm. With Derek helping with certain things, that might actually be a fantastic way to disappear, even though we hadn’t planned it. Damn it, I wish I could communicate with Tom the way I can with Derek.’

‘You rang?’ Derek asked, startling him into flipping the fork he’d idly been fiddling with onto the floor.

‘Bugger,’ he thought, twisting over to retrieve it and toss a cleaning spell at it. He ignored the amused looks of his house mates and sent, ‘Er, not exactly. And I don’t see how you could help anyway, not with that.’

‘Really?’ Derek drawled. ‘You are my master, Harry. All my powers are at your disposal.’

He frowned in confusion. Now what in hell was that supposed to mean? He couldn’t possibly mean—could he? ‘Are you saying I can speak telepathically with anyone? And—’

‘Hear their responses? Yes. But I would suggest you be very selective on that front.’

‘Well, yes. I can’t imagine at the moment I’d want to talk to anyone aside from you and Tom—maybe Luna,’ he sent, gratefully loading up his plate now that McGonagall had started the feast. ‘Certainly not Remus or Sirius, not Tonks or Bill or Kingsley, and I can’t for the life of me think of any other adult who even makes the list for brief consideration. The students are all, well, young. Luna only because she’s already got such a leg up on things and apparently doesn’t have a problem with me being a sanguinary little shit. I like Kevin and Neville well enough, but they don’t need that kind of insight. They’re just boys. And speaking of which. . . .’

‘Yes, his family is abusive, even now. His grandmother is so wrapped up in trying to make Neville into Frank that she gives no thought to her actions meaning the obliteration of her son’s child, or that Frank would likely flay her alive for what she’s doing if he could. I think . . . that if you wish to take him with you it will be necessary to gently guide him into seeing his family for what it is, plus probably needing the cooperation of the goblins to abscond with the majority of the family money.’

‘And the others?’

‘Well, they’ve stopped putting him into near-death situations to provoke a magical response, but they’ve spent so many years assuming he’s a squib that they can’t quite get beyond it now, despite him being here at Hogwarts and obviously being capable of casting spells.’

‘I can think of one thing immediately that might present an entrée to convincing him his family is nuts: muggle newspapers. It seems as though they have stories about abused kids far too often, and I’ve seen more than one detailing information about dodgy teachers.’

‘Dodgy. . . . Ah, I see, you mean as a way to show that Dumbledore’s acceptance of people like Snape and Binns is abusive in and of itself, or at least a willing accomplice to such. Guilt by association, aiding and abetting, even if that’s only by turning a blind eye to their actions.’

‘Mm. And if this goes the way I’m thinking it will now, I’ve only a year to do it in. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I expect Neville will be startled out of his socks if a supposedly dead Harry shows up after the fact to invite him on an adventure. On a side note, since I’m feeling bizarrely brave right this second, has Sirius ever once considered escaping for my benefit?’

There was a long, long pause. ‘No.’

‘. . . I see,’ he thought stiffly. ‘And what of Remus? Has he ever thought about visiting me?’

‘Yes, but those thoughts are generally fleeting, as he always manages to come up with reasons or excuses to never do it, often connected to Dumbledore’s wishes or what he assumes they would be.’

Harry stabbed his fork down into a carrot so hard the metal bent. ‘God damn it. I really need to work on not showing my temper so obviously.’

Kevin nudged him and aimed a puzzled look his way.

He shook his head and produced a sheepish smile, then unbent the poor blameless fork. “Just a stray thought. I was wondering what might well go horribly wrong this year. Maybe things aren’t so strange for anyone raised in the wizarding world, but from my point of view things have been downright weird at times since I was brought in.”

Kevin’s eyes went briefly unfocused, then he sort of smiled. “Yeah, I can kind of see what you mean. I wonder how many people are going to try to put their names in despite what Dumbledore said.”

Harry chuckled soundlessly. “Oh, I don’t doubt plenty of people will try. Mind you, I think the whole thing is stupid. I mean, come on, how many people do you think can name any past winner? The fame is apparently quite fleeting. And while a thousand galleons is a lot of money to most people our age, it’s not like that’d set you for life, so is it really worth the possibility of dying? He says they’ve made it much safer, but I for one don’t hold a whole lot of trust in our ministry, especially when most of the people involved are probably getting on in years and don’t remember what it’s like to be seventeen and at that general level of spell knowledge. And—he said the age thing was new, so think about it. How many people had to die before, at heaven knows how young an age, before someone finally wised up and said no more? God forbid they actually tailor the thing to suit a range of ages, no. Instead they discontinued it. It’s like saying that instead of it being the fault of the adults it was the fault of the students for not miraculously being up to snuff.”

“Something tells me you won’t be one of those people trying to sneak your name in,” Kevin observed with an amused smile.

He snorted in response. “Good God no. You know, I’m really kind of grateful I got sorted into Ravenclaw and have friends who more or less ignore that whole Boy-Who-Lived thing, but if I ended up in the tournament?” He rolled his eyes expressively. “If I were going to do something that stupid I might as well change my name to Gilderoy Lockhart and act like a complete wanker in public.”

Kevin laughed. “You think he’s full of it, too, huh?”

“I don’t much trust anyone who whores himself for attention that way,” he replied snidely. “If people stopped to think instead of staring fatuously at his blinding smile they might realize that all those amazing deeds are something we have only his word for. Where were the newspaper accounts? Nobody ever heard anything until another book came out, so if the incidents really did happen I’d bet Lockhart got wind, raced to wherever it was, and obliviated the pixies out of everyone involved after getting the information he needed.”

“You know,” Kevin replied thoughtfully, “that’s not a bad theory.”

He could only hope that Kevin would go on to start an investigation and eventually expose Lockhart for the fraud he was, but if not, no matter. He could always arrange for an accident later on. Being defenestrated by pixies would be a start (instead of the man’s wand) to make up for that first class, but Harry was sure he could come up with something far more creative given a proper application of thought. For that matter, he still had to figure something out for Trelawney. She might stay boring this year, or she might have regained her confidence.

When a selection of desserts replaced the main meal Harry reached out and grabbed a selection of nibbles and wrapped them up in a napkin for later. After a quick question to Derek he grabbed a couple of other things to stow away, then served himself a slice of chocolate cake.

“You planning to have a binge later on?” Kevin inquired.

Harry favored him with a sarcastic smile. “Of course! My aunt has everyone on a diet because my cousin is a fat pig. You try eating salads and plain baked chicken all summer.”

Kevin stared at him for a few moments, then nodded and turned back to his own plate. Harry got the distinct impression that the boy said nothing more on the subject so as not to provoke a rant. A few minutes later the tables were cleared and they were released. He quickly lost himself in the crowd and slipped off down an unused hallway. As soon as he was in a safe place he shifted to № 12 and headed to the library.

Tom and Barty were situated in comfortable chairs reading, so Harry pulled out his gifts and caroled, “I brought presents!”

Both looked up in startlement and aimed confused looks at him. “Aren’t you supposed to be at school?” Barty asked. “I could have sworn it was the first.”

Harry grinned a bit psychotically. “Yep. Now, Barty, I have some Jaffa cakes for you—I know how much you like them,” he said indulgently. “And, Voldemort, some Bakewell tarts for you, cherry ones.” He placed the goodies on the table and took a chair for himself. “I had this really weird urge earlier,” he confided. “I rather wanted to pose Moody’s corpse and cover it with a thin layer of cement, then replace the statue in the ministry lobby with it. Perhaps in a dueling pose next to a set of dustbins.”

Barty’s head thunked onto the table surface and Voldemort gazed up at the ceiling briefly. Harry ignored their reactions and pulled out some treacle tarts for himself. “So, Dumbledore announced the tournament. I’ve decided who amongst the Hogwarts lot will compete. I figure I can just do a little memory modification to ensure they enter and have reasoned ideas for having done it, especially since three of them will be using a false school name. I figure I can probably do the same for Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. After all, wizards in general have no damn logic or common sense so it may not occur to any of them to question more than a couple of the extras on how or why.”

“True,” Voldemort said in a somewhat resigned manner.

“Now, something occurred to me earlier,” he continued, glancing at Voldemort. “It didn’t make sense to, er, copy a past idea before, but given how far along we’ve come on other matters. . . . I was thinking, assuming we’re ready, that Barty here could ‘kidnap’ me from the stands right near the conclusion of the tournament, so there are plenty of witnesses. After all. . . .”

Voldemort nodded slowly, obviously getting the point and remembering what he had said about the previous go around’s events. “Can your . . . source . . . confirm the viability of our efforts?”

Harry was mildly surprised that his partner in crime had jumped to that line of thought, but also impressed. “Yes,” he replied, nodding. “I asked about that earlier, after which I thought about reusing that idea. Having that surety. . . .”

“It would make a certain kind of sense,” Voldemort agreed, “and remove you from the scene in a drastic way, rather than you just never going back. Unless, of course”—his gaze flicked over speculatively—“you wanted to make some kind of private statement to Dumbledore later on, after he’s become bewildered over the fact that his arch nemesis has yet to fulfill his side of the bargain and go off on a mass killing spree of muggles and muggle-borns and blood traitors.”

Harry’s mouth tightened, almost a pursing of the lips, as he considered that, his gaze going unfocused and aimed in the general direction of a stack of books on the table they had copied from the stash in Ae’gura. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I’ll have to think about it, and we have time. Though it would surely sow confusion if a letter arrives one day from me when he was probably certain of my death by then. It isn’t as though after a staged kidnapping that anything further need be confirmed, leaving the entire issue in doubt.”

“You should probably get back,” Voldemort suggested. “Surely your house mates will have noticed your absence by now. You can always return later, after they have retired for the evening.”

He blinked and looked over. “True. People do tend to eat themselves into something of a stupor on feast nights. Yeah, I’ll be back in a while. We can work on our first effort?”

Voldemort nodded so Harry got up, gave each of them a nod, and shifted away. He returned to Ravenclaw at a stroll, absently noshing on treacle tarts, until finally he ended up in his dorm room.

“You certainly took your time,” Kevin commented.

“Hm? Oh, I wandered around a little first,” he replied, letting one hand slide down the nearby wall in a slow caress. “Saying hello again to the old girl, I guess you could say.” He bit into the final tart and ambled toward his bed, hoping that Kevin would get the hint. Not so much later on he tossed sleeping spells at his dorm mates and shifted back to № 12, to the library. Barty was industriously working away with one of the D’ni primers and some parchment, doing translation exercises, and Voldemort was scratching away with a quill in an attempt at writing a vault Age for them.

Harry sat down next to him and began reading over the man’s efforts, a part of him vaguely noticing that this was one of the rare times he was so very physically close to his erstwhile adversary, and it really wasn’t so bad. “I wonder sometimes,” he said. “If something like a nexus really is just a protected pocket somewhere out there in space, and a world automatically gets slotted into a viable system, like how Earth is in the right orbit with relation to Sol. Or even if what this really does is expose a multitude of alternate dimensions and it’s more of a case of jumping back and forth.”

“Are you usually this philosophical?” Voldemort inquired with a lazy look at him.

Harry ignored the question and tapped the parchment. “This looks good insofar as I can tell. I can’t see anything off about it. Shall I get confirmation?”

Voldemort nodded so Harry sent, ‘Derek? Do you have a moment to check this draft and. . . ?’

There was a long pause before he heard, ‘It is fine, master. Once it has been done with the proper materials it shall work as you expect with no underlying instability.’

He broke into a wide grin. ‘Then we can move on to doing that, and writing up a nexus. . . .’

‘I see no reason why you cannot proceed. The sooner you are able to get all three done the sooner you can go intimidate the goblins into doing what you want.’

Harry chortled at the very idea. Voldemort quirked an inquiring brow at him so he sent, ‘Thank you, Derek,’ before saying, “Ah, yes, it’s good. We can proceed with this one and move on to drafting the others.”

“And your amused reaction?” Voldemort persisted.

Harry gave him a coy sidelong look and shrugged one shoulder eloquently. “I was just considering ways I can intimidate the goblins when the time comes. I expect they may not wish to take us seriously at first, so perhaps an improbably bizarre freakish accident, right there, right then? Surely one of them in any meeting will stand above the others in terms of being a wanker, so. . . .”

Voldemort smirked and dropped his gaze, slowly turning back to focus on the parchment. “Yes, I can see how that would be amusing to contemplate. And I believe it is wise to consider. Goblins have little enough reason to trust the word of a wizard.”

Harry gasped softly. “I just had a thought. We have so much to do this year and I’m stuck at the school. Sure, I could use a time turner, but. . . . What do you think of the idea of engineering a situation where I’m one of the hostages and I go mysteriously missing because of it. It would get me out sooner—around February, I think. Then I could wear a new face and bear a new name to the general public, and we could start negotiations with the goblins.”

Voldemort adopted a thoughtful expression—Harry could only tell by the minute crinkle of his forehead and the narrowing of the man’s eyes—and said after a bit, “True, the tournament is, at this point, just a way to cause a little mayhem and confusion for the enemy, so you being present throughout its entirety is not essential. Perhaps that would be a wiser course of action under the circumstances. Even after we have the goblins working toward the goals we set for them we will need time for them to actually enact those goals while we are recruiting. We could use a nexus to transport them to the city first, then to the Age, so they have an idea what we’re after and the scope of the project.”

He nodded, wondering what sort of effect that would have on his designs for people such as Neville. Leaving early would cut into the time necessary for his attempt to convince Neville to defect. But he supposed in the long run he could simply try again later, when Neville was older and had been subject to that much more rude treatment. He was not so worried about Luna, expecting almost that all he would need to do is ask and she would start packing.

“I was thinking it might be to nice to replicate that manor—you know, the one in the distance on a small island of its own. I think it’d be nice to live in a place like that. Probably way more room than I’d need, though.” He shrugged and sat back. “Still, a place of such beauty, it’d make up in part for all the shit I’ve been through.”

“You will have to take me there,” Voldemort said. “I am sure the view from a distance is nothing compared to walking its interior.”

Harry spared a second to look at Barty, who was either very engrossed in his task or very politely ignoring their conversation. “We could share it if you like,” he offered to Voldemort. “That way we’d only have to ward one structure so intensively.”

The blank look he got in response told him absolutely nothing.

“O—kay, you just think about that, then. Oh, oh. Can you do me a favor? Can you let Quirrell know he needs to cover for me? If I make the excuse that he’s tutoring me or something several times a week I can use that time to, you know, do real work, with you. It’s either that or I start using the time turner. Suppose that might be safer,” he said as he looked away.

“Use the time turner. Quirrell may well be able to cover for you during those periods, but others may seek his assistance and question your absence. Granted, he was not overmuch in demand previously, so it may not matter. It would still be simpler to use the time turner, so long as you account for the extra sleep you would need.”

“Okay, yeah. After I look over my schedule we can talk about times.”