Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 16

16

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“To me you’re like a growing addiction that I can’t deny. Won’t you tell me, is that healthy, baby?” — Seal, Kiss From a Rose


They were escorted back to Narok’s office, and Harry was pleased to see seating for them already present, a little table between the chairs, and a tea service waiting. It seemed the goblins had learned from their last encounter.

Voldemort opened the meeting with, “Greetings to you, Narok. Has the Host come to a decision?”

“We have,” Narok said gravely. “We are prepared to negotiate a banking treaty, as well as negotiate terms for the transfer of ownership of that island in return for building infrastructure.”

Voldemort let loose a chilly smile and nodded, then got down to business, Harry keeping a weather eye on Narok to ensure that the goblin was not playing them in any way false, and to give Tom hints. And while he sincerely doubted that there would be a repeat of the previous meeting he had written up the odd potential death scenario just in case, black book resting on his lap and a fountain pen held loosely.

Insofar as the bank was concerned the goblins would be responsible for administering it just as they presently did so for the one they were sitting in. The warding would be their responsibility, Voldemort and Harry having come to an agreement on that mainly because Harry could bypass anything the goblins came up with. In many ways the bank in Serpens would fundamentally be a copy of Gringotts UK, with certain improvements the goblins had come up with over the centuries but had not been in any position to implement.

Harry had written down the specifics of the exact size of the island, approximately 7.5 million km2. Analogous to Australia, though not the same recognizable shape. The goblins were prepared to do a whole lot in return for a land of their own, and easily agreed to build the bank, the school, all government offices, and indeed, the other basics of Serpens. The estates they had been marking out would also be built, but they were of a secondary concern. Harry and Voldemort still had to get blueprints of certain manors to be duplicated.

Past that, however, would be a different deal entirely. Even so, the goblins understood that the quarries were not their property. The only unequivocal ownership they would have would be their continent and anything they choose to build or bring there. Even the bank would be jointly owned by the Host, Voldemort, and Harry.

‘They are playing this very, very cleanly,’ he sent to Voldemort. ‘Seems my little prank really shook them up, knowing that one of us can get to their sanctum undiscovered. That and they desperately want a land of their own.’

Narok chose that moment to bring up the subject of rule of law.

“With regard to your lands,” Voldemort said, “you shall decide for yourselves, for your race. If that means you make it illegal for any non-goblin to attempt access, so be it, even if that means death. Citizens of Ophiuchus will be made aware and must suffer the consequences of their own actions. Or stupidity, as the case may be. However, with regard to all other territory intended for the mingling of all races, rule of law applies. Race is irrelevant with certain exceptions.”

“For instance,” Harry said, “a vampire who refused to use certified donors, blood banks, or animals for their needs, and instead went after the innocent and unwilling, would fall under an exception law. A veela who deliberately went about alluring the populace and causing mayhem would fall under an exception law. If that same veela was simply inexperienced in their powers and required training, that is something else entirely. Same for an immature vampire. In those cases they would be required to receive training, and their guardians might well come under censure for allowing it to happen in the first place.”

Narok nodded thoughtfully and pursed his lips briefly. “You realize that the centaurs would likely demand their own land.”

Harry snorted. “British ones, perhaps. Certain others, from countries where they have been ill treated. There are numerous places where centaurs aren’t treated much differently from any other race and intermingle freely.”

“So . . . the Host is getting a special deal because we can do for you what a race like the centaurs cannot?” Narok hazarded.

“Correct,” Voldemort said. “We are on a something of a schedule. The sooner we have the basics in place the sooner we can begin the exodus and shake the dirt of this planet off our feet. True, house-elves can, to an extent, do construction work, but they are hardly the equal of the Host, either in skill or speed or mining.”

“Which reminds me,” Harry interjected. “While mining you will very likely come across something we call fire-marbles, those glowing spheres you saw that we’ve been using for a light source. I don’t know offhand if there are any at the quarry sites, but if so, they need to be collected.”

Narok nodded again. “And we would have books to link through the nexus to bring us to and from the bank,” he said almost in a mutter. When Voldemort arched a brow he clarified, “The one in Serpens to our new lands. However, that does bring up the subject of our holdings here on Earth.”

“And that depends on what you intend to do in the long run,” Voldemort countered. “Do you plan, as a race, to join the exodus and leave all this behind? Or do you expect some of your number to remain here and administer the banks on Earth?”

“Well, at present there will be only one bank,” Narok pointed out. “But to balance that we will have an entire continent to occupy our attention. And that says nothing for precisely how many magicals you can convince to become a part of the exodus. Serpens is the initial city—the capitol, if you will. It would be foolish to assume others would not pop up over time, which means more bank branches could be opened for local populations. If we were to emigrate as a race it would leave the wizards in a financial crisis.”

Harry smiled. “So? Given the way these governments treat the Host? Why, I had this absurdly amusing idea earlier of, should you choose as a race to leave, pinching the ministry’s gold and then sitting back to watch them flail around in a panic and crash. You already employ wizards. Surely there are some of them smart enough to get the idea should you all vanish and leave behind some instructions as to how to go on.”

Narok shuddered at the mention of such theft, though there was just a hint of amusement at one corner of his mouth.

“That would be hilarious, actually,” Harry continued. “Transfer all the accounts of those leaving, then pinch everything left and put it in the treasury for Ophiuchus. But back to the issue at hand. You could move everyone nonessential to the running of the bank. They could begin setting up your new home. You could even rotate duties so that everyone gets a chance to see Ophiuchus and you still have people here manning the bank with the wizards being none the wiser. If you, at some point, decide to abandon this place, we’ll talk about how to go about it then. Yes?”

“That sounds reasonable,” Narok said slowly.

The full negotiations took a fortnight, which meant Barty was left to hold the reins and ride herd on the house-elf contingent during that time. Lucius was busy gathering up the required information and compiling it, leaving neat piles at № 12 for them. Eventually the banking treaty was signed and the agreement, as well, and Harry and his partner were more or less free to get back to other business, the first of which saw Harry providing a linking book to Nexus for Gringotts UK.

Goblins from other countries would have to ferry through England, because Harry had no intention of having dozens of linking books floating around on Earth, even if they were in the protected depths of a goblin banking stronghold. He made them escort him to the location for their copy of the book so he could personally erect certain protective measures, then left them to it. If they messed it up they would be in a world of hurt; conditions for the book had been written into the agreement.

They were relaxing at № 12, eating an exquisitely prepared meal, when Voldemort asked about James again, and Peter.

“Well, I was thinking before we break out any Death Eaters you want to keep from Azkaban. If we get Peter sent there they might notice some are missing. After that point we could grab the ones you want, dump off Rowle and Macnair. . . .”

“I am a little surprised that we have heard nothing of any attempts at your trust,” Voldemort remarked. “Perhaps they are being cautious.”

“I intend to check in on them soon. I want to know exactly what kind of mindset they’re in, especially my mother.”

“Barty is doing a good job on the other side so we have leeway to get some other things looked into. Go and check on them,” Voldemort urged. “If they are planning something we will then be forewarned and can pass that warning on to the goblins. Just . . . keep a grip on your temper.”

He laughed helplessly at that.

“Yes, yes, I know. Hilarious coming from me,” Voldemort said a bit testily.

“I’m so glad we’re friends now,” he said sincerely. “I’ve never had a friend like you before, and it just feels so right.”

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He was starting to have some very odd thoughts about and around Harry of late, so much so that he began delving into books to try to figure out what had changed since his “rebirth”. Though it had hardly mattered to him in the past he knew that someone somewhere had once done a study on the effects of children conceived under the effects of love potions.

When he did finally track down the reference he plowed into it almost eagerly, wanting to know just what he had been subjected to thanks to his mother’s actions. He learned that his emotions would have been stunted as a result, especially anything that had to do with friendship or love, either agápē or eros. He would be far more inclined to suffer the darker emotions; even his enjoyment had been of the dark variety. Others might feel schadenfreude when they witnessed a person getting what they deserved, but he had always felt it when someone was suffering.

That is, until his rebirth.

Harry kept causing parts of him to come undone. He had already decided to categorize him as a friend, but when Harry used the word it caused all sorts of peculiar sensations in his chest. He had even noticed, the day of the second task when Harry was Yuki, that he was not immune to the lure of those so-called “drop-dead gorgeous” looks, even if they were not Harry’s, and even more recently, to Harry’s natural looks. This despite the fact that his partner was still wandering around in a fourteen year old body.

I’ve never had a friend like you before.”

Like what, he wondered. Someone Harry could actually trust? Though granted, some of that probably was born of Death’s words. Someone who treated him as an adult? Intelligent, powerful, trustworthy? Relatable?

It just feels so right.”

What did? That he might now be considered equally intelligent, powerful, and trustworthy? Of a similar mindset? Not assuming he had any right to try to control Harry or make his decisions for him? That he was willing to negotiate and discuss and plan?

He had been those things prior, but these feelings—they were new, and they had been sneaking up on him with the subtlety of a creeping vine. Harry liked to tease him, not unkindly. He generally did not get upset or offended when Voldemort snapped at him, and even apologized when he felt it was required. Sincerely. Not in an “I’m scared to death you’re going to crucio me” way.

Harry was thoughtful, kind even, and he was fairly sure that Harry did not go poking around in his head. Well, with the exception of finding out what he liked in terms of dessert, and even then he may simply have asked Death. Harry respected him, and he respected Harry in kind.

So what had changed?

Was it simply just that his body had been recreated from next to nothing in terms of his unlamented sire? Surely the man’s bones held no lingering taint from those potions. The inclusion of the blood of a true enemy? True devotion from the servant? Elixir? Did it mean he was healed? Whole but for the pieces of his soul that Harry stood keeper for?

Was sexual desire supposed to go hand in hand with warm fuzzy feelings?

A part of him wondered just what Harry would do if he indicated his growing desire to bed the man.

He was curious, and he knew he was pushing it, but he went off to find Harry. On doing so he took a seat, accepted tea and nibbles from a house-elf, and then aimed a considering look at his friend. “Just how badly did that Weasley girl violate you?”

Harry looked up and gave him the weirdest look. “Violate?”

He glanced at the ceiling for a moment. How did one ask questions like this delicately? He could not think of a way and shrugged mentally. “Did she rape you?”

Those confused green eyes suddenly cleared and Harry shook his head. “No, actually. She rabbited on a lot about waiting until after the wedding. Why do you ask?”

He looked away again momentarily, feeling slightly uncomfortable. “I have recently found out just what happens when a child is conceived while one of the parents is under the influence of a love potion. It is very likely had she succeeded in her initial plan that any children you sired would have turned out badly, possibly as badly as I did.”

Harry blinked and began nibbling his lower lip. A short time later he impressed Voldemort when he said, “Just guessing here, but should I take that to mean the potion alters sperm and eggs, and the resulting child because of that, causing some kind of unholy mess when it comes to the, er, finer emotions in life?”

He nodded.

“And that’s why you were—” Harry stopped and waved a hand around vaguely, then looked thoughtful, his gaze wandering off to the side. A hand rose up to rub against Harry’s mouth and Voldemort watched with interest as his expression went through a multitude of permutations. After a long silence his friend looked up and said, “I’m pure, and I would be anyway given the ritual I did. I suspect that the same thing has happened to you because of the ceremony.”

He nodded again, again impressed. He was then surprised when Harry began to smile. That smile was more than just pleased, it was almost psychotic in nature. His curiosity was subsequently disappointed when Harry changed the subject at that point.

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After getting the location from Derek Harry shifted to his parents’ home and began skulking around. It was 2am and he expected everyone would be asleep. He was wrong.

James and Dumbledore were having a meeting.

“—think that we can pull it off?” James was saying.

Dumbledore nodded sagely. “Harry has been missing for weeks now with not one hint of his whereabouts. It is entirely possible that he is already dead.”

“But what about the monitors in your office? The wards?”

“They haven’t been working well or reliably for years,” Dumbledore said, “and since his disappearance have slowly wound down to utter dysfunction. I believe it is safe for us to assume he will not be a problem at this point.”

Harry sneered, but was gratified that his failure to remember those damn devices had not come back to bite him on the ass. It was possible that Derek had something to do with their recent degradation, but earlier issues might simply have been a result of him being the Master of Death.

“Okay, so we can either send Dylan in or you can go as his guardian,” James said with a nod.

“Correct. I admit, I am unsure as to whether or not the goblins would require verification of identity given that Harry has been missing for so long. Therefore, I believe it is best that I be the one to make the attempt.”

James nodded again. “That’s fine. Everything can be removed and shifted to Dylan’s trust. I’ll have to store it here temporarily, but it won’t be any trouble for me to drop it off later.”

Harry honestly wondered if, assuming there had still been funds in the vault, Dumbledore would be inclined to skim off a fair amount before handing the remainder to James. After all, James would have no real way of knowing just how much money Harry had actually spent, nor how much had come in from gifts or inheritances from grateful survivors. Deciding it just wasn’t worth the potential anger he might be incited to feel he let the question die in his mind and refused to actually check.

He waited through the remainder of the two men’s conversation, then followed James. Once the man was asleep he rifled through his mind to verify a few things. It was true, he found, that James would still not break cover even if Sirius was found innocent, and that he felt a sense of relief that Harry was assumed dead at this point, or as good as. He and Dumbledore thought that one of Voldemort’s supporters had been behind the kidnapping. ‘Well,’ he thought in amusement, ‘I guess you could call me a supporter of Voldemort.’

Harry also checked his mother’s mind. She would like nothing more than to be free of James, but had very few options. She had no money of her own any longer, not after having left it all to Harry. She had the girls to raise and therefore didn’t work. She had unrestricted access to James’s vault early on, but after all the fuss over Harry and their disagreements James had changed that; he had sole control of their finances.

That knowledge helped Harry to make certain decisions. It also helped that he now knew his twin was a clone of James in character. Satisfied with his fishing expedition he shifted back to Grimmauld Place and went to bed.

At breakfast he reported his findings to Voldemort and said, “We just need to come up with a decent story for how Pettigrew was captured. Sure, a strong compulsion on a note we include will go a long way, but it helps to have something reasonable backing it up, no matter how contrived it is.”

Voldemort opened his mouth to answer, but closed it when Saen popped in with the post. Harry took it and saw that Barty had sent an update—he passed that one to Voldemort—and Luna had replied. That letter he tucked away for later, unsure if he was up to whatever might be within.

Voldemort looked up from Barty’s report and said, “Things are going well. Have you come to a decision yet on how James will die?”

Harry grinned. “Yes. It will require explanation, though. So, it’s up to you if you’d prefer to know now, or wait until after.”

Voldemort paused, a peculiar expression flitting across his face, then said, “After.”

He reached out to squeeze Voldemort’s wrist and rather daringly rub his thumb over the back of the man’s hand. “Hopefully you’ll appreciate my twisted logic,” he said with a smirk, then sat back. “Before I catch Peter, you think it might be a good idea to round up your other, still free minions and ship them off to Ophiuchus? Peter’s interrogation would probably reveal plenty of names.”

Voldemort stared at him for several moments, brow furrowed, then said, “Do me a favor and age yourself up. There is no reason you should continue to look that young. And yes, we should.”

He was imminently satisfied with that reaction, and promptly ‘aged’ himself up to approximately twenty-five, the same age he was as Yuki. Derek had clued him in to some of his friend’s recent thoughts and, while he had considered scolding Derek for having done so, realized that it would make no lasting impression on the avatar. It wasn’t that he wished to toy with Voldemort, either. A part of him was genuinely curious, and had been from almost the moment Derek had spoken.

It was the first time he had ever even considered the idea. Cho had done something of a number on him, then Ginny had really screwed him over. Since then, over a decade total, having any kind of relationship with anyone had been the absolute last thing on his mind. Perhaps it was a mistake to consider mixing business with pleasure, but knowing now that Voldemort could actually feel proper emotions. . . .

No, the question was not about whether or not Voldemort would be willing to jump into bed with him, but rather about how he would handle whether or not it was simply that in the long run.

He frowned as he considered the problem of those Death Eaters. Where on Earth could they be called to a meeting? If they sent them straight on to Ophiuchus where would they live for the time being? There was room in K’veer, but that was his home, his and Voldemort’s. “Oh,” he said softly, inwardly berating himself for missing the obvious on at least one point.

“What is it?”

“Oh, I was concerned about where we could meet those other Death Eaters, but I realized you could just call them to Malfoy’s. Given what you said about Nott and Rosier, maybe both at once. The same with Crabbe and Goyle together.”

“Avery is also part of the original group,” Voldemort offered.

He nodded. “Aside from that I was wondering where to house them. We could temporarily give them rooms in K’veer like Barty, even if I don’t much care for the idea, but Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott all have sons at Hogwarts. Their wives are unmarked, correct?”

“Yes,” Voldemort replied slowly.

“And I know that even though all three Lestranges were tossed into Azkaban their vault was left alone. The ministry was unable or didn’t try to confiscate it. Which means that if Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott disappear their families would still have access to their gold,” he reasoned out loud. “They could mutter some rubbish about feeling paranoid or having heard some worrying rumors to their wives and that they’ll be in contact, something like that, and then neither the wives nor the boys would be able to spill anything of value should the aurors have a go at them. Theo might be old enough to understand, but the younger sons of Crabbe and Goyle are only just first years.”

“I can have them supply us with blueprints for their—hold on. Your twin. Is your hair colour even the same anymore?”

“What?” he asked, thrown off by the abrupt change. “Oh. We’re fraternal twins, but close enough to identical for it to not matter. As for the hair, his is a red-brown, so they’ll have to alter it if they plan to set him up in my place. Though if they honestly expect you to pop up like a bad penny at some point, I’m not sure if they will.”

“I’m sure Dumbledore does, but given that there hasn’t been the least real hint that I’m around, except perhaps Moody’s disappearance, and the stone’s, they may actually install your twin as you at the school. But you’ve made me remember something, so. . . . How involved was Dumbledore in helping you to find my Horcruxes?”

“Uh. . . .” He frowned, thinking back to make sure he had his facts straight. “The diary I dealt with, not knowing what it was, but that probably confirmed for Dumbledore that you had made at least one, likely more. It wasn’t until my sixth year that—well, during the summer before, I assume—he got his hands on the ring, and the curses you had on it were killing him. Then the locket, only to find it was fake, but I knew of it. Beyond that he showed me a bunch of memories pertaining to you in order to suggest what you might have used. He was dead by the end of the year so we had to reason out the others, the diadem, the cup, the snake.”

“And you.”

He nodded. “And me. Why?”

Voldemort shrugged. “I was wondering if there was any point in scattering fakes around. He can find the fake locket, but never the real one. That alone should send him into at least some measure of despair.”

Harry shook his head. “Mm, maybe. The note in the locket lends itself to the idea that the thief, Regulus, destroyed it, even though he didn’t. Kreacher never could manage it on his own. The thing is, you didn’t want me to arrange an accident for Dumbledore. While we could get him on the road again to dying with a fake ring. . . .”

Voldemort blinked, looked away, then nodded. “You’re quite right on that point. Better that he suspect and be unable to find any, aside from the fake locket, than find them and realize they’re all fakes, and then realize with certainty that I have returned. If his policies are going to run the Light into the ground it helps if he’s alive to do so.”

He hummed in agreement.

“All right,” Voldemort said. “We’ll call in at least two of them this evening, to Malfoy Manor. Though I hope this time nothing happens to arouse your ire.”

Harry smiled a bit ruefully at that. “In the meantime, I need to go warn the goblins.” And on that note, after standing and giving his friend a squeeze on the shoulder, he hied off to Gringotts to see Narok. Once seated and supplied with refreshments he said, “I have come to give you fair warning. I’ve discovered that my sire and Dumbledore do plan to make off with the contents of my trust, and it will be Dumbledore who comes here as guardian. I’m not entirely sure wh—oh.”

One of Narok’s brows shuffled up inquisitively.

“I was just thinking that, when I mysteriously disappeared from the tournament, I left behind some peculiar items for them to find and puzzle over. Perhaps I should leave some in the vault? Or would that be too provoking? It’s one thing if it’s empty, because I could easily have done that as I’ve already done. But if I leave things behind it might come across more as you being tricked in a major way, and I’m thinking that wouldn’t sit well.”

Narok appeared mildly surprised that a human was giving their side of the situation so much consideration. “It would imply that we were incompetent, derelict in terms of security, or in collusion,” he said slowly.

“Mm, all right. I’ll just leave it empty, then,” he said agreeably. “In any case, I’m not sure when they’ll move on this, but you’re warned now.” After a quick pause he added, “And if you should happen to capture the encounter and feel like sharing it later on. . . .”

The corner of Narok’s mouth twitched in response. “I will certainly keep that in mind.”

Harry nodded and stood up, and was shortly escorted out. He shifted back to № 12, to his room, and pulled out Luna’s letter.

Dear 雪,

I am very pleased to hear from you, and I quite agree the second task was exciting. Things here are as well as can be expected, though some are feeling more than a little lost. I have been doing my best to keep things on an even keel.

Flitwick seems a bit despondent, however, over the conversation you two shared the night before the task, but I’m sure he’ll get over it soon enough. I trust that you will inform me when the time is right for that little venture of yours. Daddy and I will be delighted to join you. We saen people need to stick together, after all.

Love,
Luna

He grinned. So Neville and Kevin were all right, but missing him, and Luna was trying to take up the slack. Flitwick was obviously upset over Harry’s questions about his safety as a hostage, but he wasn’t sure if Luna was hinting that she knew in some way that a decoy was to be sent in. Either way, she was set to join the exodus, and that was excellent news.

He fetched out supplies and began to compose a reply, but paused. ‘Derek, where is Luna at the moment?’

‘. . . She is currently wandering around in the Room of Requirement, alone.’ Derek placed a quick image into his mind.

‘Huh. All right. Thank you,’ he sent, then put his supplies away and rose. A quick shift later and he was standing there, invisibly.

Luna looked up suddenly and glanced around, her forehead crinkling faintly, then returned to examining the items stacked up.

Harry was thinking her talents were indeed unique if she could, even in the faintest of ways, sense that something had changed. After sweeping the room to check for bugs of any kind he shrugged and faded into visibility. “Luna.”

She looked up again, then smiled brilliantly, her eyes shining with happiness. “I had a feeling something interesting would happen if I came here. You look well, Harry.”

He smiled back. “Thank you. I wanted to give you a warning.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “And preferably one not needing to be couched in misdirection. You already know so much, I realize that, but this might be beyond your usual. Or it may not, who knows. The point is, Dumbledore intends to bring in a decoy of me. He may, though I am yet unsure, try to install that decoy here. You won’t be fooled.”

She shook her head quickly. “You know I won’t, no matter what story they come up with.”

He smiled again and nodded. “I don’t know how much of a berk he’s going to be, so please do what you can to protect Kevin and Neville?”

Her eyebrow quirked up. “Your brother. . . .” Her eyes glazed over, cleared, and she blinked. “He won’t be able to help himself,” she said, reaching up to comb a strand of hair away from her face. “Yes, I’ll try to keep them from getting hurt.”

“Good,” he said softly. “As to the other issue, we’re hoping this summer, but that might be far too optimistic. Still, I am willing to send you ahead of the exodus if it’s needful. Otherwise you’ll just disappear like all the others. You should probably talk to your father about what sort of home you’d like, if you haven’t already.”

“Would you like me to keep working on Neville?” she asked. “You were trying, but. . . .”

“But my version of subtlety that time was less than effective,” he said with a laugh.

“Well, yes,” she admitted with a mischievous grin, then added, still grinning, “Try his neck. It’s very sensitive.”