Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 27

07102014-12102014

27

“Hang on,” he said, holding up a hand. “If we end up needing to use those bracelets, how the hell do we keep together?”

Tom pulled out his bracelet and slipped it on, disappearing completely. “Use Aura Whisper.”

He blinked. Would that actually work? “Laas Yah Nir!” he Shouted, then said, “I’ll be damned. Point taken.” Both Viktor and Tom were marked by the gaseous gold of a non-hostile. Thinking back, he did vaguely recall that Valdis had told him invisibility could not fool a dragon’s eyes.

Tom reappeared, bracelet in hand. “Right. You keep us together if necessary, if even whispering to each other is not an option. I have no idea what kind of reaction we’ll get from the goblins if we return their crown, but it’s worth trying. They may be able to give us information through various branches about possible followers and perhaps even the fortress itself. If Grindelwald did not create it by himself, as I did here, he probably killed those who did in order to keep the secrets it holds safe. Goblins, however, may be of exceptional use in figuring certain things out.”

At just shy of 1am they appeared in a shadowy corner of the main floor of the British Ministry of Magic. While Tom could get them past the initial wards he could not get them an additional nine floors down directly. Tom nodded at him so he used Aura Whisper to get an idea of how many people were around. No one was on their floor or the one below, but he could see ghostly shapes farther beyond. “The third floor is the DMLE?” he whispered.

“Yes,” Tom whispered back.

“Okay, there’s at least a skeleton crew there, but I can’t see deeper than that.”

“Below that is the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes,” Tom replied. “There might be people there, but we won’t be stopping at that floor. The same with Magical Transportation on the sixth floor.”

“Then let’s go,” he whispered.

Tom set off, slipping from shadow to shadow, and Harry followed with Viktor. They entered one of the lifts and Tom sent it down to the ninth floor. He Shouted again, to see if there would be any guards waiting; there were none. He swept his gaze around and realized that while there was a concentration of “life” on the ninth level, it was more like a grouping of small spheres . . . swimming, some lazily, some with darting motions like fish. It made him think back to Tom’s joke, but the shapes themselves were wrong for such a thing.

“I don’t see anyone down here,” he whispered. “Not anything that looks human-shaped, anyway.”

Tom looked at him sharply, then his expression relaxed. “The brain room is probably what you’re seeing.”

“Brain room?” Viktor asked, looking a bit sickly.

“The Unspeakables study many things,” Tom whispered as the lift doors opened. He cautiously checked visually, then slipped out. “One of those things is the brain and thoughts. They keep a tank full of brains in one of the rooms.”

Not fish, then. Harry grimaced and followed, tugging Viktor along. Tom’s explanation would certainly account for what the Shout showed him. His sight had shown them as blue, which made little sense to him. Ignoring a set of stairs off to one side and down a long, straight hallway tiled in black was an innocuous enough door. Tom led them there and opened it. The three slipped inside to a circular room with a floor he might have thought was still, dark water were not for the fact that they could walk just fine on it.

The door they entered by closed and the room began to spin, the blue-white light from the torches on the walls blurring into an almost textured streak of neon softness. Everything jerked to a halt. “Getting out is easy,” Tom whispered. “It’s getting anywhere else that takes some effort. I have a mental map of this place, but not the credentials to get the doors to work as they should. However, Harry, you can tell me where the brains are. We’ll use that door because I know where to go from there. A random door might take us to the Hall of Prophecy or the Death Room.”

He nodded and Shouted, “Laas Yah Nir!” A moment later he stepped up to a door that was no different from any of the others.

Tom stepped up and laid his hand on the surface; it swung open. Before he went through he whispered, “Do not get near the brains, do you hear me? Stick close and don’t get too curious. Those things will attack if you attract their attention.”

Once inside Harry’s stomach lurched on seeing the tank and what was causing the non-standard glow. Pearly-white brains swam around in a large tank, trailing wisps of darkness. Tom tugged on his sleeve and led them off to one of the several doors on the perimeter, and through it. Down a corridor, through another door, and ever onward. Eventually they arrived at a nondescript door at the end of an L-shaped hallway. Without being asked he Shouted again and saw nothing. He nodded at Tom, who opened the door and passed inside.

Shelves upon shelves upon shelves greeted them, filled with boxes, crates, glass jars, and so much more. Display cases littered the floor, lit by some unseen method to cast a soft glow of more of that steady blue-white light. He sighed at the sheer amount of plunder, aiming a grimace at Viktor.

“Is there any kind of organization to this?” his husband asked.

Tom eyed him incredulously. “These are wizards we’re talking about. We’re lucky they manage a department per floor or room. No, we have to do this the hard way, my friends.”

“Okay, fine,” he whispered. “Let’s start down one side and around back up. I’ll check every so often to see if anyone has popped up while seeing what’s in the center.”

Tom and Viktor nodded, then headed right. Harry stayed nearby as they went through the shelves, running his eyes over the displays. Nothing so far that resembled a crown; and given some of the goblin-wrought weaponry he had seen he thought he would have some idea should he see it. By three they were part of the way down the right-hand side and Harry had already checked everything not along the walls, so he started helping with them, still occasionally pausing to check for warm bodies in the vicinity.

They had finished the right wall when five rolled around and Tom called for a halt. “We’ll simply have to return tomorrow,” he whispered, then led them out.

They were back again the next night, and the next night, taking all the same precautions, and finally found something of interest. Viktor had pulled a box down and was about to put it back when he stopped, taking a closer look. Tom noticed and peered in as well, then let out an odd sigh. “I think that might be it.”

Harry stood up from where he had been checking the lower shelves (it was so much fun being the short one of the bunch) and had a look as well. The headpiece had a distinctly otherworldly quality to it that stood out, and a jaggedness that somehow bespoke the harsh realities of a group of people beholden to the outcast Daedric Lord. “I think so, too,” he whispered. “Is it spelled in any way by the Unspeakables, you think?”

Tom got out his wand rather than use his focus rings; even he had not yet mastered their use, not in such a relatively short amount of time. A battery of spells later and Tom said, “It seems clean of any wizarding influence.” A large silk bag was produced and turned inside out, then Tom carefully captured the crown with it and tucked it away. “Let’s finish checking the rest of these, just in case.”

Nothing else of particular interest showed up, at least that Harry was aware of; but for all he knew Tom had been shoving things into his pockets the entire time over three nights. Considering that much of the inventory was likely stolen to begin with, who was he to object if the man had? The only reason he had not considered just stripping the room bare like any good thief was the fact that it would be noticed at some point, whereas a handful of items would not. He supposed it depended on whether or not the goblins made a fuss over the crown noticeable to the wizarding population and tipped off someone who still remembered the original theft.

Their exit from the building went smoothly, causing Harry to wonder about the utter laxness the British displayed when it came to their seat of power. Not in any of the three nights had they any trouble whatsoever, and never had to use their bracelets. Back at Skyrim they sat down for a quick talk.

“I am extremely leery of having any kind of meeting at Gringotts itself,” Viktor said, starting things off and gaining a look of respect from Tom. “That gives them far too much control over the situation and I for one don’t relish the idea of having to fight my way out if they go all weird on us.”

“Stonehenge at midnight?” Tom mused.

“Well, if Serana were back we could ask about whether or not there are any shrines,” he said.

“We don’t have to do this straight away,” Tom said. “We can afford—or so I hope—to wait until we have some information back from various sources. For now, let’s get some sleep.”

Harry and Viktor nodded and headed to bed, though Harry set the alarm for ten. Better to be dragged out for the remainder of the day than take longer to readjust to the normal sleep-wake cycle.

Luna had a letter to share at lunch. “Charlie says that they don’t have a lot of control over the dragons on his reserve and half the time don’t even know where they nest. Because of that he’s not sure how many of them have actually left to join the mayhem.”

And depending on how many dragons were as skilled and stealthy as Paarthurnax it would be next to impossible for mere humans to keep track of the beasts until they were right there brazenly flaming down humanoids and eating them. Or frosting them, except that made Harry giggle quietly over the idea of some dragon patiently wielding an icing spatula so as to cover a human in buttercream frosting before consumption, just to add that something special to the taste of flesh.

Viktor gave him an odd look, but Harry could not bring himself to explain. Luna also gave him a look, but she aimed a smile his way, also. “So, more or less a dead end,” she finished. “I doubt we’ll get better information from any of the other reserves.”

An insistent pinging set up in his mind, causing Harry to look at Viktor in bewilderment, then get up. He followed the direction of the sensation, Viktor with him, and met up with Tom and Severus in the entrance hall. The four of them exchanged looks, with Tom shaking his head in confusion, and headed out, down toward the gates.

Outside the perimeter, in plain view through the bars of the gates, was a man. He appeared to be insensate, but was wearing, of all things, a bright green bow on his head. Tom put out a cautioning hand and stepped forward, triggering the gates, then slowly approached the figure. Dangling from a cord around the man’s neck was an envelope. Tom cast a flurry of detection spells before summoning the envelope to him and opening it. He spent a minute reading the letter inside and looked back up, a strange look on his face.

“If this is true, that is Barty Crouch Jnr, delivered to me as a gift,” Tom said.

“One of your Death Eaters?” Viktor asked.

“Yes. I thought he was dead. Azkaban,” Tom replied, then cast a few more spells. “Behind him should be a house-elf, his caretaker. His identity checks out, though his features have been changed. The letter writer claims they did so to keep those, and I quote, ‘fools in the British Ministry from getting any ideas’.” Tom sighed. “Well, I can’t find anything on him to be suspicious of. Let’s bring him up to one of the unused suites.”

Ten minutes later they were staring at Barty and a house-elf. Tom had sent one for a pensieve and that was sitting there on a table. After another sigh and a look at each of them Tom woke Barty up. The man slowly opened his eyes, trying to make sense of his surroundings, then fell to his knees, staring up at Tom with worshipful eyes. “Master,” he breathed.

Tom reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Barty. Care to explain how it is you live?”

“My father,” Barty said slowly, then launched into a story about his dying mother, his father caving to her wishes, and the swap effected which saw him free of Azkaban, yet imprisoned anyway by his father via the imperius curse. He also explained about the elf when prompted.

“And how you were delivered to me?” Tom asked warily.

“Two men, my lord,” Barty replied. “My memory is a little fuzzy at first, and I could not understand them.”

Harry glanced at the pensieve, then Tom, who nodded and said, “Start thinking about it, Barty. I’m going to remove a copy of your memory.”

The blond nodded and closed his eyes, then nodded again. Tom produced his wand and touched it to Barty’s temple, then pulled away a silvery strand which he looped free and deposited in the pensieve. “All right, let us watch, then.” But before he activated the device Tom called for Pelk and set him to keeping an eye on their guests. Tom chose the projection option on the pensieve as a further caution. Harry took a seat next to Viktor on one of the sofas so he could watch in comfort.

Barty’s memory was hazy at first, something Harry attributed to the curse, but he could see with increasingly clarity. A man, presumably Barty’s father, had just used the imperius on Barty and spoke instructions—mainly to keep him subdued—when the window behind the older man slid open and two men slipped in noiselessly. One was of Asian descent while the other was indeterminate aside from the paleness of his skin.

The Asian man knocked the father out, smirking when the man hit the floor with a thud. The other man started casting spells at Barty, who in memory was still blond, but had rather different features. The Asian man lifted his wand again and pointed it at the father, but not before he crouched down to force the man’s eyelids open with his other hand. Several minutes later of not much happening aside from the two men performing Legilimency on beings in the room the Asian man drew back with a smirk and said, in Japanese, Oh, what a prize this one is.

And?the other asked coolly.

What a hypocrite. I say we steal the kid and deliver him to his master. Daddy here can flail around in a panic after he’s woken up to realize his biggest secret and shame is missing and might come back to haunt him.

The other man nodded. We can use the Dark Mark to divine the location of his master. We should probably take the elf as well. It is devoted to him.

Harry glanced at Tom, who looked upset.

The Asian man nodded, his expression saying he more or less expected that response.You’ll fix the bond?

The other flicked his wand into view and did something to the elf, not anything Harry could recognize; there was no visible leakage and no verbal component to give him clues. The man then slid his hand under Barty’s sleeve and again did something, his eyes closing briefly. Tom’s scowl was approaching monumental proportions at the sight. As the man pulled away Harry could see something on the back of his hand, but the length of his sleeve falling back into place quickly hid it.

It’s in one of the national parks,the second man said. Go ahead and fix his appearance. No point in setting him free if his looks will only get him in trouble. We can go back to fighting those interesting manifestations after we drop him off.Then he aimed his wand at Barty again and the memory abruptly ended.

Harry, not wanting to state the obvious and upset Tom further, said, “Well. They seem to be familiar with the Malfoys.” They had to be considering that Barty looked like a cousin at this point. His hair was that characteristic white-blond rather than the previous straw-blond and his features had become much sharper and more refined, as befitted the supposed lineage. His eyes had gone from brown to a silvery-grey, but his skin stayed that same milky-white. If he looked closely he could see traces of the man from before, but not easily.

Barty just sat there quietly, staring at Tom.

Tom finally relaxed and said, “Barty, welcome back.” He turned to Harry and Viktor and said, “You two are fine to go. We’ll discuss this later. Severus, you stay here with me.”

Harry nodded, trusting that Tom would handle things, and wandered off with his husband to the kitchen to remedy their interrupted meal.

Barty integrated well enough once he was brought up to speed on the current situation, and his devotion to Tom made him agreeable. He was set to working on spell mastery and focus rings, no longer having a wand of his own.

Serana was still out canvassing the clans so there was still no news from that angle, but the wizarding papers were making it clear that the magical population was taking advantage by sweeping into areas bombed by Grindelwald and warding it against the muggles, increasing their territory.

Tom decided, after a morning of Harry being schooled by Severus, to take Harry and Viktor on a little trip to Trondheim. The magical area was fine, though the muggles were being terrorized by draugr, and Tom thought it would be a fine idea to go get in some experience. They stepped outside the warding of the shopping district and Harry looked around for witnesses before Shouting, “Laas Yah Nir!” He turned in place and stopped on spotting a mass of gaseous red. “That way,” he said, pointing.

The three of them walked cautiously in that direction, eyes out for muggles, and were just about to turn a corner when something shot up into the air that way, a sphere filled with swirling mist. A moment later music began to blare from it, causing a confused look to bounce between the three of them. Harry sidled along the wall and crouched down, Viktor above him, Tom above Viktor, and the three of them peered around the corner like school boys spying on an ill-liked professor.

Those two men were there, wands out, facing down innumerable draugr. Then the Asian one began to dance, almost strut, to the music, a flame whip appearing from his wand, and sing. “When the world is on your shoulder . . . gotta straighten up your act and boogie down. If you can’t hang with the feeling,” the man warbled, whirling the whip around and decapitating two of the draugr with a sharp snap.

He was slightly tone-deaf, Harry noticed.

“Then there ain’t no room for you this part of town,” he continued to sing, snapping that whip around with easy lethality. “ ’Cause we’re the party people night and day. Livin’ crazy, that’s the only way.”

Harry looked up past his husband to Tom, who had the weirdest look on his face. He reached up to tug on the man’s sleeve to get his attention.

“So tonight . . . gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf . . . and just enjoy yourself.”

Tom looked down and nodded, so the three of them straightened up and moved around the corner for a better view.

“Groove, let the madness in the music get to you. Life ain’t so bad at all if you live it off the wall,” the Asian sang, casting a sultry look at his companion before snapping the fire whip up between the legs of a draugr and splitting it in half. “Come on, Tom, sing it with me!” he cried gaily.

His hair moved like silk in the wind as he danced closer to his companion, who reached out and pulled him in for a rough kiss. “Your singing voice is still for shit, Yuki, but your dancing has gotten immeasurably better,” the companion—another Tom?—said before releasing . . . Yuki. “And in case you hadn’t noticed, we have company.”

Yuki danced away again, hips moving in a way that should be illegal, the flame whip disappearing. “Yeah, gimme a second! I want to see if these undead things can line dance,” he said laughingly, then aimed his wand at a cluster of four. “Mwua ha ha!”

The other Tom reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose and shake his head slightly. It was then Harry saw that the man was indeed marked on the back of his hand, though he could not quite make it out. A look at Yuki showed that both his hands were marked. He glanced down at his own, then at Viktor and Tom.

Tom—his Tom—moved forward, so Harry followed, still eyeing Yuki more than the other Tom. Yuki was singing again, and appeared to be using a non-verbal imperius curse on the draugr with only minor success.

“Mind if we join in?” Tom asked, one brow arched at the other Tom.

Dark green eyes gave them a once-over, then the man inclined his head. “Certainly. There’s plenty for everyone. Yuki!” he called.

The Asian man danced back over, looking a bit disappointed. “It doesn’t work very well, unfortunately. So, who do we have here?”

Viktor sucked in a breath and pointed. “That symbol,” he growled.

Harry looked closer and blinked. Both men had Grindelwald’s symbol on their right hands. But in addition to that, they bore the symbol for the Daedric Lord Meridia opposing, and Meridia was known to hate the undead. A contradiction?

Tom reached out to place a calming hand on Viktor’s arm, gently pressing it down.

“Oh,” Yuki said, smiling slyly. “Viktor Krum. Which means you”—his gaze shifted to Harry—“must be Harry. Oh dear, that means we have a minor name issue at hand,” he said, eyeing Tom.

The other Tom rolled his eyes. “Yuki and Tom Viator, but you can call me Viator to save confusion.” Then he turned away briefly and shot off a few spells at the encroaching draugr, exploding them, sending body parts and equipment flying.

“Tell me something,” Yuki said to Viktor, his black eyes gleaming, “do you even know what the symbol is, or do you just assume it’s something Grindelwald made up? See, this is kind of like the swastika that Hitler used. The symbol itself was in use ages before that, in Japan, India, Ethiopia, and many other places. It’s the same with this symbol. So before you get all trigger-happy. . . .”

Tom stepped in with, “It’s the symbol of the Deathly Hallows.”

Yuki grinned, nodding. “Give the man a prize. Oh, wait, we already gave you a present. It’s not every day you’re having a bit of fun and stumble over a known opponent to the Dark Arts actually using them on someone in the supposed privacy of his own home.”

“Champions of Meridia, huh?” Harry muttered, then pulled out his quiver and slung it in place, then retrieved his bow. “You people have fun talking. I want some practice.” He stepped around to the side and forward a half dozen paces, grabbed an arrow, nocked it, and drew. He dropped three draugr before Viktor stepped up off to the side and started flinging shock spells.

“Oh, we’re not using wizarding magic?” he heard Yuki ask, then saw the man run by wielding an ebony katana that glowed a sickly green. More singing erupted and even Harry found himself singing quietly, at least to the tunes he recognized and knew the words for. He also realized he must be slightly tone-deaf himself if Viktor’s wince was anything to go by.

Half an hour later and quite a bit of moving around that section of the city saw them having cleared out the draugr within easy reach. Harry Shouted, “Laas Yah Nir!” again and did a slow turn. “There’s another group off to the south,” he said, “fairly large from what I’m seeing.” The analytical part of his mind noted that Yuki and Viator were both the gold of a non-hostile.

Yuki nodded, not even questioning his abilities, and reached up with his left hand. The music sphere shot into it and switched off, and was tucked away.

“You two look fine for more,” Tom observed.

He looked at Viktor to see his opinion, then nodded at Tom. “No reason not to,” he said, securing his bow and pulling out his dragon dagger to strap to his thigh. They began walking again and Harry pulled a water bottle from a pocket to refresh himself. After taking several sips he glanced sideways past Tom and asked Viator, “Why do you feel like Tom?”

Yuki laughed and said, “Because he is Tom?”

Harry exhaled in frustration and had more water, then said, “Is it simply because you know as much of the Dark Arts as he does?”

Viator chuckled softly. “No.”

A truly bizarre thought occurred to him then, which at first he dismissed with a roll of his eyes. Still, it nagged at him. Viator felt almost exactly like Tom magically. Over the years, as his sensitivity had increased, mainly from learning how to recognize enchantments and enchanting actual items, he had come to realize that each person had their own unique feel to them. Normally it was not something he paid much attention to because his subconscious felt the signatures of those around him, identified them, and let the matter drop. But he had expected these two strangers to ping against his senses. Neither of them did.

Yuki had said something which was meant one way, but could be taken another: literally. The world had been reborn before, so. . . . With that in mind he shrugged and said, “You are—”

A sharp crack made him break off; Yuki had appeared in front of him out of nowhere, his body curling in on itself somewhat as Viator’s wand went up to cast a killing curse. Harry’s hair covered his eyes momentarily as his head whipped around, trying to figure out what happened. A gun fell from a window in a building up ahead, a body following it, tumbling down like a rag doll.

“Yuki?” Viator asked, seemingly unconcerned.

“Eh, I’ll be fine,” Yuki replied, straightening up and dropping something to the ground which hit with a metallic clink.

It was then Harry saw the blood; the man had taken a bullet for him. His eyes widened in horror and he dropped his water bottle. His hands came up automatically, healing spells erupting to help Yuki recover. “How—?”

Yuki turned around to face him and smiled. “Really good situational awareness. Thank you for the healing, Harry.”

He nodded dumbly.

“I don’t think you’d have died from that,” Yuki said, head tilting to one side, “but still.”

“Thank you,” Viktor said hoarsely.

Harry shook himself and combed his hair back out of his eyes. “Yes, thank you,” he said gratefully, ready to say more, but subsided when Yuki dismissed their gratitude with a careless wave of his hand. He bent down to retrieve the bottle and stow it away, then stepped back and Shouted again, checking for any other beings in the vicinity. “We’re okay for the immediate vicinity.”

Tom sighed faintly and said, “Please keep checking, Harry. I’d rather that not happen again. It seems with the breakdown of normality the muggles are getting desperate. Even if you see something non-hostile.”

“I will,” he promised.

Yuki laughed again and produced that sphere, tapping it before throwing it upward. Music started blaring again as he said, “If there are murderous muggles around I may as well enjoy myself,” he declared gaily, then danced off over toward Viator.

He was just getting ready to finish his earlier thought when a roar brought him up short. His bow was back in hand a second later and an arrow readied as he pivoted toward the sound. Out of the clouds came a Norwegian Ridgeback; either it was there for them or there were muggles around. Another Shout revealed the dragon closing in on a mass of gaseous blue. “A lot of indeterminates, so we have to be on guard for them turning on us,” he reported.

“Fine,” Tom said. “Distance attacks, then.”

Of course, by the time they got there most of the humans were already dead, burned beyond recognition. A few had found shelter from the fury of the dragon, but not many. Harry watched the dragon carefully even as he released arrow after arrow, ready to Shout to force it to stay grounded.

Yuki just charged right on in, despite what Tom had advised, warbling away and treating the dragon as something of a dance partner. “Has Yuki always been crazy?” Harry asked Viator as he loosed another arrow.

“More or less,” Viator replied, amusing himself by using his wand to pry scales off the dragon and pile them up neatly at his feet. The dragon did not take kindly to that, but Yuki was keeping it distracted, bouncing around like he was made of rubber and sticking it with that katana every so often.

Shortly thereafter it died and Viktor stepped up behind him to steady him as the dragon’s soul streamed to him. By the time he came down from his high and used Aura Whisper again the remaining humans were dead from their injuries, but the mass of hostiles was still off to the south.