Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 13

13

19072014-20072014

“It’s a dead man's party. Who could ask for more? Everybody’s comin’, leave your body at the door.” — Oingo Boingo, Dead Man’s Party


The days continued on until a little over a week later the Yule Ball was announced. Harry had already tinkered with Fawcett and was thus expecting it when she hailed him in the corridor on the way to lunch. “Potter! Hey, can you stop a minute?” she asked.

He eyed her with false curiosity and nodded, saying to Kevin with a shrug, “I’ll meet you there.”

Fawcett caught up with him and produced a smile, twirling a lock of hair around her fingers nervously. “Thanks. Have you heard about the ball yet?”

He just nodded.

“Yeah, should be fun. Er, I was wondering—see, the champions are required to have an escort and, you know, dance—so I was wondering, would you like to accompany me?”

He blinked slowly at her and crinkled his brow. “The only thing I know how to do is waltz. I wouldn’t be much of a date—well, not that it’d actually be a date. I mean, I’m just saying, you’d be lucky to get an opening dance out of me because I rather loathe all that, but I was forced to learn because my aunt thought it was only proper.” He rolled his eyes. “So, as long as you understand that ahead of time. . . .”

She looked a bit taken aback by what he said, but gamely pressed on. “Oh, well, that’s fine I suppose. I know for certain that the champions have to open the ball, but after that—maybe just once or twice more if another waltz comes up?”

“I guess so,” he replied slowly. “I had actually planned to go stag, but . . . you’re a fellow Ravenclaw, so, okay. I’ll help you out and be your escort. Oh, my dress robes are a dark green. Will that be a problem?”

She shook her head. “Thanks, Potter. I, er, really appreciate this.”

“Sure,” he said indifferently, and turned away.

As he started walking he heard one of the girls trailing her whisper harshly, “I can’t believe he said yes, Siobahn!”

He smirked mentally and continued on to a safe spot, then shifted to № 12.

Things continued to roll along, and Harry’s campaign of muggle newspapers in Neville’s vicinity—along with somewhat dramatic pronouncements about how some families were just plain evil to do things like that to their children—was going very slowly. But then, as he had earlier commented, magic folk were seriously lacking in the logic and common sense departments.

He actually did give Fawcett more than a couple of waltzes, more out of boredom than anything else. Still, it would look good to the watchers, even if he did want to crawl under a table and shift away to safety instead. He had also written out his plans for the deaths of Bole and McLaggen (who, as it turned out, had to import a date), so the officials would have no choice but to rationalize their inexplicable decisions regarding the second task.

By the time the twenty-third of February had rolled around he and Voldemort had completed their Age book drafts and had them approved by Derek. They were waiting to create the linking books until after Harry went missing, when there would be fewer distractions. That evening, as he was leaving the Great Hall after dinner, Flitwick called him over and then led him away from the crowd.

“What’s this about, professor?”

“Ah, Mr Potter, that will need to wait until we have some privacy,” Flitwick replied, continuing to lead him away. They were still on the ground floor of the castle so Harry wondered if he was being led to the staff room. And indeed, it seemed so, and they were shortly inside the inner sanctum of the staff. “So, Mr Potter, as you know the second task is tomorrow,” Flitwick started with.

“Yeeees?” he said, doing his best to look confused.

“Well, the thing is, each of the champions is going to be required to—” Flitwick broke off, looking just a shade shifty-eyed. “They each will have to rescue a hostage.” He looked at Harry expectantly.

“. . . And I’m being asked to be a hostage?” he ‘guessed’.

Flitwick looked relieved at this evidence of his quick mind. “Yes,” he confirmed. “You were Miss Fawcett’s date for—”

“Escort,” he said quickly.

“Er, yes, escort. For the Yule Ball. So we would like your permission to place you as her hostage.”

“Ah, man, that’d mean I’d miss watching the task,” he muttered, then said, “I see. But what exactly would be required of me? And how much danger would I be in? I mean, the first task was pretty rough for some of the champions. I bet some of them are really regretting that they entered—however that was accomplished.”

Flitwick coughed quietly and gave him a strained smile. “You would be put into an enchanted sleep, Mr Potter, and then placed into one of the vaults which have been created within the arena. Each vault can only be opened by its respective champion—and of course the officials—so you’d need not fear being in danger from any of the, shall we say, hazards of the event. As soon as each vault is opened the hostage within will awaken and the officials will be alerted, though I expect since everything will be recorded and displayed on screens they will know it’s about to happen. You and Miss Fawcett will then be removed from the arena.”

“I see,” he said, furrowing his brow in false consternation. “Just out of curiosity, what happens if I say no, sir? I mean, I’m being asked kind of late, aren’t I?”

“Yes, well. . . . Should you decline I must tell you that you’ll still be isolated until just before the start of the task.”

“Mm, so I can’t, should I be so inclined, toss out any hints.”

“Correct, Mr Potter. I know it is a very sudden decision I’m asking you to make, so please, take a few minutes.”

Harry looked off to the side, to all accounts deep in thought, and he let several expressions flit across his face to give lie to him seriously considering what he was being asked to do. Eventually he heaved a sigh and said, “Well, I only agreed to go with her because she’s a fellow Ravenclaw, so I guess I may as well follow through with support for my House. All right, professor, I’ll be a hostage.”

Flitwick stared at him for a moment, then nodded. “Let me escort you to the isolation area, then.”

‘Yo, Tom,’ he sent. ‘I’m being hauled off to some isolation area now that I’ve agreed to be Fawcett’s hostage.’

‘I expect, then, that Death will be removing you from the enclosure in the arena as quickly as possible.’

‘Correct. The first possible moment, waking me back up, and removing any other spells. I’ll turn back an hour or two so we can travel to Hogwarts together to watch the task.’

‘Fine. I will expect you in the morning.’

They arrived in a generally unused section of the castle that had been converted to a set of temporary dorms and Harry was shown to a room for the night. He whipped a book out of his pocket and read until it was late enough, then went to sleep. In the morning elves provided them with breakfast before Flitwick and numerous others came to prepare them. One moment Harry was wide awake in the makeshift common room and the next he was staring at Kerath’s Arch. ‘That was a bit trippy,’ he thought and thanked Derek, then fetched out his time turner and spun back two hours. Shortly thereafter he was just outside № 12’s kitchen.

Voldemort and Barty were already there as he walked in and the table was being loaded with platters by an elf, so he sat down and nodded a greeting to both men. “Good morning.”

Barty returned the greeting as he began loading up his plate and Voldemort nodded. Harry grabbed a few things just to be sociable, having deliberately not eaten his fill at the school.

“What face do you plan to wear hereon in?” Voldemort inquired.

“Oh, that.” He cast his mind back over the multitude of faces he had encountered in the muggle world and decided on one fairly quickly, shifting his face and form to match. The only concession he made—for he intended for the most part to sport a set of killing curse green eyes to go with Voldemort’s blood red ones—was to retain the original’s liquid black colour.

Voldemort raised his brows. “A Japanese man?”

He shrugged. “Sure, why not? I stole it from a muggle musician—a singer. And my name for this form is Yuki Fuse, by the way.”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, Yuki,” Barty said, reaching for some eggs, “if I were the type I’d be all over you.”

Yuki aimed a sultry look his way—or at least he was hoping it was sultry. “Thanks. I figured being drop-dead gorgeous for once might be interesting.” He thought Voldemort was suspiciously silent on the matter but for that one question and wondered if the man was internally shaking his head.

They took their time eating, discussing their upcoming plans, with Barty expressing his interest and excitement over finally getting to see Ae’gura. Before they knew it an hour had gone by and it was time to head out.

‘So, Bole and McLaggen will die during this?’ Voldemort asked, eyeing the arena and the displays. The screens were situated such that the champions had no way to see them and thus could gain no clues regarding their opponents’ actions.

‘Mm-hm,’ he replied lazily, only half listening to the chatter around him and watching the officials speaking to each other prior to the opening of the event. They had arrived almost an hour early in order to get decent seats, and even then people were still arriving and being relegated to seats either very low down or out on the fringes where it would be that much harder to see what was going on, even with the screens in place to display each of the champions. They, of course, had managed seats roughly about center and halfway up the stands. ‘I shouldn’t like to spoil how it goes, though. You should be able to appreciate it properly when it happens.’

He got an elbow to the side for that and looked over in surprise. ‘What was that for?’

‘So sorry, that was unintentional,’ replied Voldemort with admirable innocence.

‘Liar. Curb your impatience. If you don’t like what I dreamed up you can elbow me then, but perhaps a bit more gently,’ he said with a reproachful look. ‘That kind of hurt. You got me right in the rib.’

The time finally rolled around to the stated start of the task and Bagman got up and used his wand to place a sonorus on himself. “Greetings, everyone!” he said cheerfully. “We are just about to begin the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. For your benefit, as the champions have already been instructed, allow me to explain what is to happen. Each champion has had a hostage selected for them, and each of those hostages has been hidden somewhere in the arena. The champions’ essential task is to locate and release their hostage, at which point they will both be transported out here to a waiting area.

“However, the arena only contains a finite amount in the way of supplies for our courageous champions, and plenty of hazards they must either overcome or avoid. The centaurs were gracious enough—”

‘More like threatened,’ Yuki commented snidely.

“—to allow us the use of part of their forest in order for us to have a properly sized field of play. The supplies I mentioned are located at the approximate center of the arena and the champions will be stationed in a rough circle around them. Obviously, there may be a bit of a fight over them, but none of them are, strictly speaking, essential for their task.”

Someone nearer to the officials’ platform called out a question and Bagman nodded before saying, “Yes, the champions cannot hear us right now, though they do know most of this already. Now, the task will run for a maximum of eight hours, so if necessary we will be serving lunch out here, never fear. Any champion who has not yet managed to rescue their hostage by that time will be scored purely on their nerve, inventiveness, and so forth, but obviously lack any points for the actual goal of the task. Champions who do succeed will be given points for that based on how quickly they managed it, in addition to the other, more minor categories to be judged.

“And now, without further ado, let us begin!”

The screens lit up with pictures of the central area of the arena, despite there not yet being any champions in place. Within moments they were, transported into place by portkey, and each screen acquired a label, a name, floating just above and glowing at the edges. A final screen, tuned to the supplies, showed a numerical countdown floating above the pile. 10. . . 9. . . 8. . .

The champions exploded into action the moment the count hit zero, some of them racing out of sight and others heading straight for the supplies, though what they expected to find amongst them Yuki wasn’t sure. He knew that there were four aids to make opening the vaults easier, but he was not sure they did. The audience most certainly did not.

One particularly enterprising Beauxbatons student managed to down four other champions with stunners and another with petrificus totalis, then began quickly rummaging through the available supplies. Within minutes she was racing off into the tree line only to be surprised when a bright red worm about five feet long burst up through the ground and spit at her. She shrieked in surprise, and then in pain as her clothing began to disintegrate and her skin burn, and jinked off to the side. Her screen showed her fleeing, branches whipping at her face and body, until she stumbled into a shallow pool and began rinsing herself off.

Another screen showed Delacour, who had climbed up a tree so as to get a better look at the area the arena encompassed—and probably to see if she could spot any of the vaults. Krum had somehow managed to fashion himself a broom and was using that for speed and evasion. The task itself was surprisingly boring for quite some time, but then the first of the deaths he had scheduled was coming up, so he gave Voldemort a mental nudge and sent, ‘Okay, Tom. Keep an eye on Bole’s screen.’

Voldemort’s disguised reddish-brown eyes—rather like he had tried to cover the ‘natural’ red with brown contact lenses—shifted to focus on that screen, a look of muted anticipation on his face.

‘I may have to explain my reasoning after the fact,’ he offered. ‘It’s not like these screens give us sound, too.’

Voldemort spared him a quick, searching glance, then refocused on the screen. Bole was stumbling through a lightly-wooded area and happened upon a cluster of resurrection ferns, Yuki having remembered them from his first year at Samhain. He had no idea who would appear for the young man because he had not bothered to be quite that specific.

The spy eye on Bole swooped around to focus on his face and everyone could see the young man’s complexion pale and then go faintly green. In the edges of the image he saw that the fern targeting Bole appeared to be shaking angrily. Bole started nodding almost absently and then began speaking, though Yuki was not good enough at lip reading to catch all of it. The only thing he could catch was a, “I know, you’re right.”

Bole, after another minute of ‘conversation’, used his wand to transfigure a nearby broken branch into a beater’s bat. His wand went away into a sheath on his arm, and he calmly and resolutely proceeded to bludgeon himself to death with his bat by shattering the vertebrae at the back of his neck. He toppled to the ground almost in slow motion, the bat falling free and reverting to a branch thus freed from his magical influence.

There was a pause, a hiatus, before members of the audience who had been watching Bole erupted. Voldemort eyed him sidelong and sent, ‘I allow I found that to be amusing enough, but yes, I would like the back story to complete the picture.’

Yuki smiled at him, briefly lowering his gaze. ‘Well, there was this incident my third year during a Gryffindor/Slytherin quidditch match where he wailed one of my team mates with a beater’s bat and then claimed he thought she was a bludger. So, I arranged for him to be berated by the form of a family member intent on making him understand what an utter shit he is and more or less demand he atone for it. The funny thing is I understand it happened this time around, too, so. . . .’

‘Ah, let the punishment suit the crime.’

He nodded. ‘Occasionally, anyway. Because really, I can’t think of any crime Snape ever committed to warrant being split open via tentacle rape. I nearly laughed myself sick over that.’

Voldemort twitched. ‘Yes, well, it took a great deal of control to prevent my own laughter from showing through Quirrell.’

Yuki reached over to pat Voldemort on the arm. ‘I am glad you enjoyed it,’ he replied, then glanced at the various screens again. Bole’s was dark. Fawcett was hiking along, wiping the sweat of exertion from her face with her shoulder and upper arm, and her hair was sticking out oddly. Her clothing was holey in places and singed in others, making him think he had missed her having an encounter with one of those Mongolian death worms.

Krum seemed to be flying a search pattern, while Delacour was fleeing from a pack of nifflers after her for the shiny bits on her clothing. An unfortunate Durmstrang student had walked over a snare trap and was presently hanging upside down, his wand just out of reach on the pine needle-carpeted forest floor. And, since it was magic holding him up, it wasn’t as though he could manage to swing his arms up high enough to free himself.

McLaggen had developed a habit of shooting stunners at any other champion he came across, presumably in the hopes that slowing them down would benefit himself, but he in no way seemed to have any idea of the location of his search.

Yuki was pleased and a bit gratified when he saw Fleur actually find her vault. She was one of the few who had obtained an aid and seemed to have an idea what it was for, and shortly the vault was opened to reveal Gabrielle. Once the girl was free of its confines and being hugged by her sister, they were both transported from the arena. Remote-activated portkeys, he assumed. Still, he was very pleased that her original failure was mitigated here, especially given that she was the first to succeed.

‘How long until the other one?’

He glanced at his watch. ‘I’m not actually certain. It’s contingent on Fawcett getting near her vault. Since I had no idea how long that would take I figured I would group them, so to speak, and then we’ll be able to leave if we want.’

‘And because Fawcett’s involvement isn’t linked to a death you could not force the issue of her finding it at a specific time.’

‘Right. But I can link it the other way around. And for all we know right now they placed the hostages randomly. If you get bored, though, I suppose I could ask Death where mine is and then shift in long enough to her position to give her a nudge.’

‘Something tells me you prefer not to rely on his knowledge if you can avoid it,’ Voldemort commented evenly.

Yuki looked over for a second, head tilted, then returned to watching the screens. ‘Yes, that’s correct. The fact that I have such easy access tends to make me more determined to do it properly most of the time. We had an amusing Slytherin-style discussion about the big secret, where I narrowed it down to something vaguely similar to Petra, and he then said a volcano was involved. I admit I got impatient at that point so he told me the exact one. I still did the exploring personally, though I did get him to tell me how to make the map to simplify matters as we went, and it’s something my elves were able to handle, as well.’

Cedric, looking fairly unharmed, was the second one to find his vault, followed not long after by Krum. With the original champions out of the arena the only ones left of interest were Fawcett and McLaggen.

‘What did you leave in your vault?’

He exhaled heavily and scrunched his nose. ‘Well, you suggested I leave it in doubt, so. . . . An animated phoenix model, a rubber chicken, a tea pot with still steaming tea in it, a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and a whomping willow sapling. I figured that ought to be weird enough.’

Voldemort actually snorted in amusement.

‘I had some other ideas, but they would have leaned too much toward implicating a champion, and we can all see none of them have had anything to do with my vault. The model and the willow, however, do vaguely point at Dumbledore, as well as the book, I suppose.’

‘It might well prove interesting should others see it that way. Well, while we wait. . . . I reminded Barty to pack up whatever he thinks he needs for our move later today. I expect he can explore the city while we start in on the actual descriptive books. I have no doubt that we can have all three done inside of a week, plus have the blank linking books prepared. We can set up the linking books for Ae’gura to take with us, as well.’

‘Right. And then we can go to the vault Age and set up the pedestal for the linking book back, create the one for our arrival, then start in on the nexus. Can’t treat with the goblins without that.’

‘And then, the new world,’ Voldemort finished, his mental voice sounding almost . . . relieved, perhaps joyous. ‘We can mark out the infrastructure buildings, that replica mansion, perhaps the odd shop space. I suppose we could mark out a few manor groupings with their attendant pedestals.’

‘Hn. Well, if we can get a few recruits that don’t mind going under an oath of some kind, yeah, because then we could actually take them there and say, “So, this parcel of land would be yours for you to build a home on if you chose to emigrate.” Or something along those lines. Though, thinking about it, it’s a bit tempting to enclose all of them with stone fences to clearly delineate the property boundaries.’

‘Or we could take photographs to show. But it might have much more impact to actually link them through and show them in person. It would be helpful to already have the first buildings in place.’

Yuki frowned in thought, eyeing McLaggen, and sent, ‘Actually, if we know who we’re going to target we could try actually building a few of the manors to match who we plan to move into them. The deal being, if they agree to emigrate, they sign over their original property to us so we can arrange a sale. They get a duplicate house and we get something out of the deal.’

‘Now I know I’m slipping. That hadn’t even crossed my mind.’ Voldemort sounded tired. ‘Yes, I agree with you. Something for something, and they would already be getting a chance in a world with no muggles, so they’d have little to complain about when presented with that as part of the deal.’

‘Yeah. But, Tom, please do consider that we’ve been so focused on actually creating the Ages that we haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what happens once we’ve done that much aside from the occasional reference to intimidating goblins. You’re not slipping, it’s just not come up before now. Don’t you dare start losing confidence in yourself or I’ll bitch slap you into next week.’

Voldemort snorted in amusement again. ‘I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how very peculiar it is to speak with someone like this.’

‘What? And not be tossing out a crucio a second later?’ Yuki grinned at him. ‘It’s not like I would ever expect you to become a friend to the world, Tom, but having a friend isn’t such a bad thing.’ Voldemort did not respond to that and Yuki was content to let his comment lie.

Shortly thereafter they were being served lunch, section by section, row by row, and Yuki tucked into a bacon sandwich with enthusiasm. Bacon was one of the fundamental food groups in his opinion, right up there with chocolate. The side of chips with malt vinegar was just a bonus. “Oh, that was good,” he said blissfully, speaking out loud for the first time in hours.

Voldemort set aside his bowl of stew to be collected and nodded. “They generally do have good food here.” ‘I wonder how soon, though. I’ve been trying to decide if all this food is going to come back up shortly from many in the audience.’

Yuki glanced over at Fawcett’s screen and wondered himself. If she got too close too soon, McLaggen would die, and all these nice people might well vomit up all the hard work the elves had gone to. ‘Well, I hope it doesn’t come to that. The smell alone would be horrific, not to mention the possibility of the people behind us decorating our clothes with partially digested food.’ He wrinkled his nose at the idea. ‘It’s just occurred to me that I have no idea what message was in those cocoons, what sort of clues. Half of these guys seem to be wandering around blind. They can’t all be abysmally stupid, can they?’

Just then a Beauxbatons student knocked himself senseless by running full tilt into a tree while fleeing from a death worm. Right before the beast would have attacked and killed him he vanished from the arena, having failed the task.

Yuki shook his head and rolled his eyes toward the sky. When he was nudged again he looked at Voldemort questioningly.

‘I think it might be time.’

His gaze flew back to the screens as he tossed some shielding spells around just in case, to Fawcett, then McLaggen. The boy triggered a snare trap, and on his way to being flipped he not only lost his wand but also disturbed a doxy nest, crushing a number of the eggs. The mature doxies took exception to this and swarmed the boy, stinging him so many times so quickly that anyone with sense had to know he was probably dead before his portkey triggered. Even before he vanished he was foaming at the mouth and convulsing.

‘Was there hidden meaning behind this one, as well?’ Voldemort inquired.

‘Oh, definitely. My sixth year McLaggen tried out for keeper, having missed the trials the year before because, as I recall, he was in the infirmary for having eaten a pound of doxy eggs for a bet. Typical enough Gryffindor behavior, right? What frosted my cookies, however, was that he had to sub in as keeper one game after Weasley was poisoned. Not only did he keep trying to be captain when I already was, he screamed abuse at members of my team while in play, took a beater’s bat from Peakes, and tried to play that position at the same time as keeper. In the process he cracked my skull when he missed the bludger and hit me instead. But I couldn’t have both of them suiciding by beater’s bat, so I went with a doxy-related death instead.’

‘That makes sense. Well done.’

Yuki smiled to himself and kept an eye on Fawcett. She should be arriving at the vault any minute now. And she did, two minutes later, and looked to be very relieved when her efforts finally cracked it. However, when she opened it. . . . The look on her face was priceless. Yuki’s shoulders shook as he tried to suppress his laughter and one hand came up to conveniently rub his mouth and chin. Apparently the officials were more than a little perplexed as it took several minutes before Fawcett was pulled from the arena.

He turned to Voldemort and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting bored. You want to take off?”

Voldemort nodded and rose, waiting for Yuki to also stand before edging his way out of their row and ignoring the complaints. Shortly thereafter they were back at the house and Harry was asking, “I wonder. Now that I’m missing I suppose I should go empty out a few vaults.”

“What about his?”

“I’m not sure. I could. But how much?” He looked over. “One sixth for the number of family members? One fourth for the number of children? Half because I’m pissed off? How much to punish him, but not her?”

“Hn. Let us come back to that one. Who are you going to hit?”

“. . . The Order, the main Black vaults, my trust. Nobody should even notice that they’re empty for a while. Well, unless Dumbledore is using the Order vault on a regular basis for some reason. He has to know you’re back simply because Snape would have mentioned his Dark Mark coming back, but there’s been no activity.” Voldemort started shaking his head so Harry asked, “What?”

“Snape was already dead well before my ceremony,” Voldemort said simply.

Harry smacked himself on the forehead in chagrin.

“Karkaroff is the only one who might reasonably have said anything to Dumbledore.”

It was Harry’s turn to shake his head. “He did say something to Snape. Seemed pretty frightened by it and what it meant. But I don’t know if he would have gone to the old man. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose. If and when Dumbledore notices it’ll be just another mystery, especially if he has the ability to check my trust vault.”

“Would you like help doing this?” Voldemort offered.

“That would be nice. Thanks.” Shortly thereafter they were methodically emptying various vaults (though he decided against the Order vault for the time being), dropping the trunks—extension charms a given—off at the palace as each set of two was filled. Once they were done he dropped Voldemort off at the palace and then went to fetch Barty from the house.