Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 18

18

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“They shout about love, but when push comes to shove, they look for things they’re afraid of.” — Rush, The Weapon


Ever since viewing the memory Narok had sent—and oh wasn’t it lovely to see the shock and frustration on Dumbledore’s face at the realization that the vault was empty and that Narok was not about to “help” in any meaningful way because the owner of the vault having quietly emptied it was perfectly “legal”—Harry had been keeping an eye out for a visit by the old man to his sire.

Eventually the telltale he had added to James’s wards triggered and he stood, invoked the power of the Cloak, and shifted away. As soon as he arrived he sent, ‘Dumbledore is about to meet with James,’ to explain his abrupt departure, though he expected Voldemort had understood immediately.

He watched as the old man let himself in—the height of rudeness, really, or hubris—and strolled down the hallway after a quick spell. James was actually out back with Harry’s twin and on seeing Dumbledore said, “Okay, Dylan, I need to talk with the headmaster.”

His twin frowned and the corners of his mouth drooped, but he nodded and slouched off sulkily. Harry rolled his eyes in revulsion and followed the two adults. Once they were comfortably ensconced in a private room and set with a tea tray Dumbledore aimed a grave look at James. “I am sorry, my boy, to be forced to give you bad news.”

“What?” James said impatiently. “Something went wrong? Surely they didn’t question your authority in this?”

“No, that is not the issue,” Dumbledore said with a slow shake of his head. “No, it is that there is no gold in the trust vault. It is empty.”

“What!? The goblins confiscated it?”

Harry rolled his eyes; yes, as if the goblins were going to do so simply on the strength of a missing person report rather than trying to abscond with the money from convicted wealthy Death Eaters.

Dumbledore shook his head again. “They were just as surprised as I was. Apparently Harry decided to empty the vault at some point. Perhaps it is connected to his mysterious disappearance, though how he could possibly have arranged to escape his confinement during the second task, enchanted in sleep as he was, I do not know.”

“Timed portkey?” James offered.

“Perhaps. But when would a mere fourth year have learned such a skill? It matters not, my boy, in the long run. The money is gone.”

James sighed, almost bitterly it seemed. “Oh well. I really wanted to give that money to Dylan, but I guess that’s impossible. Do you think Harry is dead?”

Dumbledore shrugged. “I do not know. None of the spells I try are helpful. If he is that is one less concern.”

“Well, what about the Book of Souls? Would that show?”

The old man looked thoughtful at that. “I shall have to look.”

‘Derek?’

‘He will find no answers therein,’ came the prompt reply. ‘The issue will remain clouded.’

‘Okay, thanks.’ He waited around for a while and was preparing to leave when Dumbledore said something of actual interest in response to James’s vague query.

“Yes, I have continued to look for his suspected Horcruxes. I have leads on several possibilities.”

James smiled in relief. “So when he does come back, if we’ve already found them, we’ll be able to deal with him once and for all. Excellent.”

“Yes, but do not get too far ahead of yourself,” Dumbledore cautioned. “This is all predicated on the single reason I can think of and find which would explain why there was no body. And at that, until and unless we are certain that Harry is dead. . . .”

James sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I know. None of this is certain.”

A few minutes later he had shifted back to № 12 and took a seat. “Okay, so, Dumbledore suspects you have Horcruxes, has some ideas on what they might be, and possibly where you might have hidden them. Not that it’ll do—oh.”

Voldemort gave him a look, part wary and part expectant. “I live in terror of those times when you get ideas,” he joked. “What is it?”

Harry grinned at him. “It just came to me, the most ridiculous idea,” he said and began snickering madly. “If we had Horcruxes from someone else and could transfer them to replicas of what you used. . . .”

Voldemort laughed delightedly.

Derek was a great help by answering a few questions and shortly after he and Voldemort had come up with a plan. True, they could puzzle out how to create a Horcrux detector or something and see if there were any just laying around, but it was far simpler to find several members of the community who were on the wrong side of evil and induce them to create Horcruxes and storing those fragments of soul into receptacles that they chose for them, replicas of the ones Voldemort had used all those years ago. Their victims then had their memories altered and the bodies from the process (also on the wrong side of evil) were taken care of.

The anchors were set aside until Harry had shifted to Dumbledore so as to get a look into the man’s mind, and were then placed appropriately, cursed to a fare-thee-well, and warded strongly.

“You realize, of course, that we will have to provide a dead Harry Potter,” Voldemort said after their little prank had been set.

“Yeah,” he replied with a sigh. “I’ll have to let Luna know ahead of time, but for all we know they won’t release that information to the public and it won’t matter.”

“What is it about this Luna girl?” Voldemort asked a bit demandingly.

He looked over with a slight frown. “She’s special. As Derek explained it she has this talent that’s a bizarre combination of Legilimency and foresight that allows her to sort of read a person’s mind and then see parts of the future based on the information she’s obtained.”

Voldemort’s brow furrowed. “Derek?”

“Oh, sorry. Death. He told me he prefers Derek. Anyway, Luna is special. Sure, she was a bit wary of me when we first met this time around, mainly because I’m a psychotic whackjob, but she soon enough realized I was, well, nice mostly. I’ve kept in contact with her and I know she and her father are just waiting for the word to pack up and move. As to a body, maybe yes, maybe no. I’m thinking that if we did we’d have to screw with their minds to definitely not release that information so that they could still, if they wanted, pretend my twin is me for some reason.”

Voldemort hummed thoughtfully and nodded. “Leaving options open for them isn’t a terrible idea, especially if any of them come back to bite them.”

They talked for quite a while longer regarding their plans and the best order in which to proceed, but Harry eventually felt burned out and said, “Well, anyway, I think now that our prank is set up it’s time for a little celebration of that.” After getting a raised brow in response he said, “I think I’ll learn a new skill.”

“Do I even dare ask?” Voldemort said a bit warily.

“Well,” he said, rising to his feet only to move to stand in front of his partner, kneel, and place a hand on the man’s thigh. “A new skill, yes.” His hand moved upward. “You interested in helping me?”

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“Mwua ha ha!” Harry said.

Voldemort’s nostrils flared in annoyance. “Must you do that?”

“Hey now, I didn’t get to go to the Dark Lord Academy like you did, so I have to fake the whole evil laugh thing,” Harry retorted childishly, then pointed. “Ooo, hang on, you have that look in your eyes. Do I need to find you someone to torture?”

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Bloody man-child! If nothing else this sort of thing was good for teaching him to control his temper. Of course, with his luck, that was exactly why Harry kept doing it. “I am going to assume,” he said slowly, “that Dumbledore just found a Horcrux?”

Harry smiled at him and nodded. “The cup. He is presently blitzed out of his mind on that potion you had in the basin and James is struggling to get them both out of the cave, rather like what happened when I did it. You’ll be irritated to know that Dumbledore is still capable of casting fire whips even in his current condition. This is interesting, though. He didn’t find any of them until the summer before my sixth year—the diary didn’t count—so he’s getting along early this time. Maybe because I’m missing and possibly dead? I can’t very well do his dirty work if I’m not there for him to order around.”

That sounded like a rational extrapolation given the previous and present facts. Dumbledore had obviously woken up to the idea that he would have to stir himself to action, lacking a pawn who would have to die anyw—“Oh. I think I just got one of those ideas of yours,” he said a bit breathlessly.

Harry’s brows rose in interest. “Really? Tell me.”

“Harry needs to die for this prank to ultimately work, so, we arrange that. But—and here’s the fun part—we arrange for Dumbledore to do the deed.”

Harry’s expression morphed into shock, then he began laughing madly. “Oh my god, that’s fabulous.”

“And if we work it such that it was some sort of accident he would never, ever breathe a word of it. That way your twin could still be pressed into duty if necessary, but Dumbledore would think all of the Horcruxes had been dealt with. Then, when we accidentally-on-purpose run into the man, well. . . .”

Harry swooped in long enough to give him a hard kiss. “Wonderful. I love it. Though, it’s a bit unfortunate we didn’t think of this earlier. Dumbledore being blitzed out on that potion would have been a fantastic excuse for Harry’s accidental murder.”

He started running the other Horcrux conditions through his mind, looking for one that might have the same result. “Perhaps that Harry somehow found out about the Horcruxes and was trying to destroy them himself,” he said, thinking out loud. “And he gets there too late to actually deal with it, but Dumbledore mistakes him for a foe and manages to kill him.”

“Yes, yes,” Harry said absently. “And he’ll never know for sure because ‘Harry’ is now dead. He’ll just assume. And then cover it up, of course.”

‘Okay, think,’ he said to himself. ‘The ring, the locket, the diary, the diadem.’ “The ring would be the most obvious by location, perhaps,” he said. “Possibly the one we placed behind that portrait in the Slytherin common room.”

“Yes, but you would have had to be completely off your rocker to put protections in place behind Salazar that could harm students of your house,” Harry pointed out. “Kind of hard to recruit them if they’re dead.”

He nodded. “And even most seventh years couldn’t manage to get the portrait to open. The locket is theoretically safe back there. People not in Slytherin can’t even see the portrait, though I have every expectation Dumbledore, having once been headmaster, can. McGonagall. Maybe Flitwick as deputy.”

“I don’t know which would make the most sense to him considering we put all the fakes in places that made sense to us by association. Maybe he’s starting early on in your life and working forward? That’s the only thing I can think of to explain why he went for the cave first.”

He nodded again. “There’s a certain logic to that, yes. Perhaps the locket would be best. As soon as he opens it it will attack and distort his perceptions.”

Harry snickered. “Imagine me, dead in the Slytherin common room. So . . . Mundungus Fletcher can play me, for the crime of originally stealing the locket from Grimmauld Place and trying to sell it in Knockturn Alley.”

“All right, so we need to not only permanently alter Fletcher’s face and body, but have him in place and ready to play the part. We can set up telltales in the castle to let us know when Dumbledore is heading toward the Slytherin common room. We can have Fletcher ready with a few comprehensive memory charms, some compulsions, and we should be able to just drop him into place.”

“And then the death I write would kick in,” Harry finished with a decisive nod. “The only quirk might be Dumbledore wondering where the hell Fletcher has gotten off to, but from what I remember he was known for drifting off to make shady deals, getting drunk, and other such fun activities.”

“I doubt very much he’ll go after either of the ones in the school until term ends,” he remarked. “I really can’t see the man sneaking in the Slytherin or Ravenclaw common rooms in the dead of night to deal with such dangerous objects. That means he’s likely to go for the ring or the diary.”

“Yes, I agree. Telltales will let us know, in any case, so—oh, no. I have a time turner. All we need is to know when Dumbledore is going after the locket. Then I turn us back, we deal with Fletcher, and get ready to pop him into place. So we don’t need to capture him early.” Harry smiled, obviously pleased with himself.

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Lucius had finished his initial task so Voldemort set him to figuring out the situation as pertains to staff for the new school. “We’re starting with the UK first,” he said, “so what we need are English-speaking professors. We’ll worry about the other countries afterward. We want at least one professor for each subject.” He slid a list over (Muggle Studies was conspicuously missing) and continued, “Again, from amongst the Dark or Neutrals. We have no need for Light-minded fools. The only person I can think of offhand would be Quirrell, but that depends on whether or not he thinks he can evade the curse on that position at Hogwarts. Prospects with multiple languages are an asset, but not required to start. Questions so far?”

“You will be interviewing them personally, my lord?”

“Yes. Start funneling the names to me as you discover them and Harry and I will make arrangements for the interviews. Once we’ve found our staff you can move on to healers, craftsmen, potioneers, farmers, shop keeps, that sort of thing. We want to have at least the basics in place before we begin moving the general public in. And then once we’re more or less done with the UK we can move on to another country, such as France, and start the process over again. Talk to the men in Serpens for ideas if necessary, even if I won’t be allowing any of them to come back to Earth.

“Barty has already been briefed on our plans so he’s been working on arranging for districts by language, at least in terms of housing, but anyone can live most anywhere so long as they can afford the swap. In terms of government workers, well, some of those will be your fellow Death Eaters. If there are any in the ministry here they will have to be carefully vetted. Part of the damn point is to have a consistent set of laws with consistent enforcement and punishment, not a bunch of nepotistic buffoons taking bribes hand over fist to arrange certain outcomes.”

He looked over at Harry and asked, “Am I forgetting anything?”

“Nothing jumps to mind,” Harry replied slowly, obviously searching his memory. “I suppose we could advertise for those positions. Dumbledore might become curious, though, if we did that.” He began muttering to himself, “School staff, hospital staff, farmers, crafts, shops. . . .” Then he said, “We could attempt to pinch a bunch of house-elves from Hogwarts on the strength of you being in the Slytherin line, I suppose. We already bought up everything available here and while they’re handling the farms right now we really need them elsewhere if possible. I think Hogwarts alone has like a hundred of them and we’re going to need a good number working at our school. Which reminds me, we really need to start naming things. The school, the hospital, the shopping district.”

Voldemort arched a brow, remembering something. “You may be right about the Hogwarts house-elves, but what about you? There’s been a rumor circulating that you came down the Gryffindor line.”

Harry blinked at him in surprise. “Has there really? I’ve never heard that. Have you, Lucius?”

The blond’s brows raised at the question. “I, er, yes. I have heard the rumor, my lord.”

Harry frowned; and then vanished. Voldemort assumed he only did so for Lucius’s benefit. A few moments later his partner flicked back into view and said, “Nope. Totally untrue. I’m closer to the Slytherin line because of the Peverell family.”

“Ah, yes,” he said. “I remember now. In any case, you may be right. We’ll have to check that out at an appropriate time.”

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By the time June had rolled around Dumbledore had managed to track down both the ring and the diary. The warding and traps they had placed were done so with a mindset of arrogant insanity, so while they were tricky and dangerous, they were something Dumbledore would be able to manage with care and patience.

In that amount of time they had managed to hire on a surprising number of staff for the school. Apparently there were a lot of people out there who had wished to go into teaching and could not due to the almost nonexistent turnover at Hogwarts. And nobody really wanted the Defense position there. Quirrell had decided to join the exodus, so as soon as the school year was over he planned to turn in his resignation, stating his reason for leaving being the disappearance of Harry Potter, whose attendance he thought was the reason the curse had been in abeyance. And, after that first year when he had purposely been ineffective, his teaching of the subject had not been all that bad.

All of the people they hired were vowed to secrecy while on Earth, signed to binding contracts, and told to be ready to leave on the fourth of July, the day after the students left Hogwarts for the year. They would have all summer to work up their syllabuses and arrange the schedule of classes—subject to Harry and Voldemort’s approval, of course. They were also given copies of what Harry had pilfered from Hogwarts along those lines, including the book lists. If necessary they would arrange for a temporary book shop—assuming they had not yet acquired at least one real one, and a publisher—to sell the required texts to the incoming students for that first year.

The goblins had already done a massive amount of building, including any number of townhouse-type homes in the city, so any family of those hired on could live in those until their actual homes were built. Unlike Hogwarts they were not aiming for single people; staff would have plenty of opportunity to visit home if they were not already occupied in some task at the school.

Lucius had moved onto healers and potioneers and was doing quite well in tracking down people they could use. The third task had gone off without a hitch, with Krum managing to be the craftiest of the bunch and pulling the win. Fleur came in second. Cedric, third, lived through the experience. The remainder lived, the purposely added champions, but had done nothing to distinguish themselves.

“We’re getting close to when he may move,” Voldemort said. “Perhaps a tracker on Fletcher?”

“Hm?” He looked up from the report he was reading. “Oh. Yes. Not a bad idea. We’ve only got a few days left before the next move. Guess we should be prepared to have to step out of one of the prep meetings for ‘a moment’. Suppose I could silently call a house-elf with a prepared message so we’d have the excuse. Er, oh. Okay. Elf with a message, I step out and shift over invisibly to see when exactly we need to get Fletcher in place, then return. Then after the meeting is over—again assuming we’re in one at the time—we can turn back and take care of that issue. And since I’d be there invisibly for only a short time it won’t cause any problems to be there twice.”

Voldemort narrowed his eyes in thought. “Are you capable of temporarily extending the power of the Cloak over me? Dumbledore might be addled at the time, but. . . .”

“Huh.” He bit his lip and shrugged. “Let’s find out.” He invoked the power of the Cloak for himself, then simply imagined it extending to cover his partner, not having any better ideas of how to test it. Thankfully it worked. He then let the image in his mind dissolve without changing his intention of covering Voldemort as well. The invisibility held. Ten minutes later it still held, so he dropped it. “I’d say that was a successful test. I mean, I already knew it could cover multiple people, but that was while it was still just a physical object, and while we were all much smaller.”

“It should be fine, then. I assume it dropped not because it hit some limitation but because you told it to.”

He nodded.

As it turned out they were not in a meeting when Dumbledore advanced on the Slytherin common room, making it simple for Harry to shift in. The moment the old man had figured out how to get the portrait open and actually started to he sent, ‘Tom, mark the time—now. He’s opening it.’ Then he shifted back and became visible again. “Okay. How long do you think we’ll need to go back? You’re doing the memory charms, so you’ll have a better idea of how much time we need.”

“To be safe, let’s assume two hours for that, plus extra time to get Fletcher. So, four, because Merlin only knows what might decide to go wrong and impede us.”

So back they went and Harry checked his tracker; Fletcher was skulking around in Knockturn Alley, which helped immensely. No one would think to report a kidnapping from there, assuming it was even witnessed. Fletcher was shifted to the Chamber of Secrets and he set about with the Elder Wand to alter the man’s features and physique. The face had to be perfect, but the physique merely needed to be an approximation. After all, it wasn’t as though Harry had made it a habit to parade past the headmaster in his pants, so the old man should only have a general idea to go on. He could have used polyjuice, he supposed, as Fletcher’s death would have locked in the change in appearance, but there was always the chance that someone—namely Dumbledore after he was no longer affected by the protections of the locket—might run some tests and discover the potion had been used, and further realize that he had killed some unknown and not actually Harry Potter.

Once he was done Voldemort moved in to begin the extensive alterations to the man’s mind, those to make him actually believe he was Harry for the relatively short amount of time it would be necessary, and suppressing his actual identity for that same time. They did a thorough search of the man, confiscating anything Harry would not have, including the man’s wand, and altered his clothing to resemble something Harry might reasonably wear after having been presumably kidnapped and possibly held captive for all these months.

If nothing else the changes, both mental and physical, should cause the man to move oddly, adding verisimilitude to the deception. They waited patiently until it was time to act, and then Harry shifted them all to just outside the Slytherin common room entrance. A quick hiss from Voldemort caused the door to open and Harry cast a compulsion on a now awake Fletcher. After that he quickly went invisible, extending the protection over his partner, and shifted them inside so they could watch.

Dumbledore had just removed the locket from the space behind Slytherin’s portrait, with James watching on anxiously, and opened it, triggering the first layer of protection, when Fletcher stumbled into the room and down the steps into the immediate area of the common room. He tried to say “professor” and did, but it came out as something of a threatening growl.

James whipped around, too startled to go for his wand, while Dumbledore, under the influence and addled, already having his wand out due to his work in freeing the locket, spun in place and cast a stunner so robust that Fletcher was literally spun around from the intensity of it. He knocked into the back of a sofa, flipped over it, and landed on the coffee table. His back hit the edge so hard Harry winced at the horrible cracking sound it caused. A closer look revealed that Fletcher’s eyes were open and glazed and blankly aimed at the ceiling. His chest was not moving.

James sucked in a noisy breath and covered his mouth with one hand, his gaze darting over to Dumbledore. “Oh, Merlin,” he breathed. “You just killed Harry.”

Dumbledore’s eyes were wild, a combination of the effects of the trap and the realization of his own actions. He stared at the body and began shaking his head slowly, denying the sight. “No,” he corrected quietly, the locket dangling from his fingers, “I just destroyed a Horcrux.”

That was apparently not quite good enough for James as he reached up to run both hands through his hair, but—“You’re right, of course. I lost sight of that for a minute. But we need to deal with this. Er, cover it up. Nobody aside from us can ever know what happened.”

Dumbledore eyed James for a moment, making Harry wonder if the old man was about to obliviate his sire, then raised his wand and transfigured the body into a small statuette. “Take that for the time being. We shall add it to our collection and it can be destroyed when all the others are.”

James nodded, clearly relieved that Dumbledore had made some sort of vaguely sensible pronouncement, and stepped over to gingerly retrieve the figure. Some quick work with his own wand fixed the damage to the table, and with that the two were ready to leave. On the way out James could be heard saying, “So just the diadem left.”

Harry shifted himself and Voldemort back to Grimmauld Place and dropped the invisibility. “That went even better than I expected,” he remarked.

Voldemort nodded, a faint smile on his lips. “Just enough befuddlement to not only help with the death, but enough to cause him to forget to question why getting it wasn’t worse. He’s left with a sense of being more clever than I with a distraction of accidentally killing another human being.”

“I have to wonder if he’s ever killed before,” he said. “He didn’t kill Gellert, and I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly who killed his sister. Something tells me he would not have revisited that memory later on in a pensieve to see for sure.”

“I don’t remember you sharing this with me,” Voldemort said slowly, so Harry gave him a precis of the event. “Ah, yes. I see why you would think that. Dumbledore fought against measures to give the aurors a wider choice of action during the war. While even I don’t think the old man is so incredibly naïve as to believe that everyone is capable of redemption, I know he wanted to keep options open on the off chance any of my people sought a second chance. The thought of him killing anyone except by accident is almost unthinkable.”

He snorted, a sound comprised part of amusement and part of exasperation. “Well. Snape did do a lot to advance the Light agenda in the second war, but he did a lot of evil, too, like murdering at least one Order member. That I can at least understand given his position at the time. But Dumbledore gave Draco chance after chance after chance, knowing the boy was supposed to kill him, probably knowing that Draco’s attempts caused near death experiences for innocents, and it wouldn’t surprise me all that much if he knew Draco had Rosmerta under the imperius.

“But no, even with that, and even with all the bigoted shit Draco spewed during school, not to mention plenty of others, he never once did anything that I was aware of to show these kids that decisions and actions have consequences. Instead of teaching them that they could go to him he was teaching them that they were free to do whatever the fuck they wanted and no one would say boo. And McGonagall as his deputy was equally as hands-off. Students knew that complaining got them nowhere because the staff, in general, would dismiss their complaints out of hand. Ah, hell, if I don’t stop now I’ll spend the next hour ranting about the myriad faults of St Dumbledore,” he said with a shake of his head.

Voldemort gave him a rather understanding look before saying, “Yes, well. As Potter said, they’ve only one more to go. That means soon enough we can have our orchestrated little showdown to flummox the headmaster, and then you can move ahead with your plans for Potter’s freakishly bizarre death.”

“Mwua ha ha.”