Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: CIA :: 03 :: Candidates

03 • Candidates

When Voldemort stepped into the kitchen it was to see an expression of unease and surprise on his mate’s face, and looks of curiosity on those of their guests. And then Harry said, “If you don’t mind, I would prefer to wait until after lunch to answer that.”

Armand indicated that a delay was quite all right, then brightened when salads were slipped onto the table.

Voldemort took his own seat, inclining his head by way of greeting, then pulled a plate toward him. Before he began to eat, however, he said smoothly, “I trust you gentlemen have enjoyed your morning.”

Armand shot a covert look at Harry as Marius answered, “We have, thank you. Armand and I spent time converting that room you set aside, and doing a little bit of exploring. I think our stay here will be pleasant.”

Voldemort was satisfied for the moment, and that seemed to cover social form. Harry returned a few minutes later with the actual meal, and, for once, provided wine, which occasioned a look of surprise.

Harry rolled his eyes slightly. “Your metabolism practically negates the alcohol content, so why not? Now eat, before I have to start glaring. And to fill you in, Skeeter did not leave any information for us, but I have sent her a request and placed money in the vault. On a related note, my account manager has alerted me to the dangers regarding my inheritances, so I’ve set into motion the process of securing things.

“While no one has actually approached Gringotts to try to make a claim, there is a contingent of would-be players who have been squabbling over me like some sort of prize. Until they figure out who comes out on top I won’t have to worry about them. And as Nitpuff pointed out, by then they won’t have anything to claim. It will only take two days for him to finish up, and I gave him a solid bonus for his troubles.”

Voldemort nodded, then gave his mate a pointed look, waggling his fork for emphasis.

Harry rolled his eyes again. “All right, all right. You’ve been so good about letting me feed you properly, and I suppose maybe it’s a bit rude to expect our guests to remain silent during meals—well, Armand, since he actually eats—so I won’t get upset if you talk, okay?”

“I promise I will not neglect the food,” Voldemort said. “While I am pleased to hear that Nitpuff remains your loyal advocate, it only serves to underscore the fact that the Ministry needs to be rebuilt.” Then he looked at Armand and Marius. “Which, in an oblique way, brings up the subject of those books floating about in the public eye. Is there some reason why they are so filled with fallacy?”

“To some degree,” Marius said, “it’s a matter of self preservation. If people don’t know exactly what we’re capable of, it’s harder for them to completely subdue us. For example, you should already be aware that it is the incubus’s choice to bond, not a potential partner’s, and that choice is guided by instinct. It is extremely difficult to get an incubus to bond against their better judgment.”

Voldemort glanced at his mate, then looked back to Marius and nodded. “Yes, we have discovered certain other interesting facts along the way, though mainly inadvertently.”

“Also, it is unusual for one of our species to live outside a colony or settlement. Bond mates generally accept living in one without undue difficulty, though it can be a bit troubling at first for their family members or friends to have to deal with the restrictions. You two are, of course, unique in your circumstances.”

Harry snorted softly.

Conversation switched to less serious topics for the remainder of the meal, and Voldemort rose as Harry swept the dishes away to the sink. He shot a questioning look at his mate when he turned back, then nodded when Harry shook his head slightly; Harry was not yet hungry. And on that note he took his leave, back to an afternoon of being a dark lord.

*

Harry heaved a bit of a sigh as his lover left, then turned his attention back to their guests. “We can have this conversation in the garden, or in one of the sitting rooms. It is a lovely day out.”

“The garden is fine.”

He nodded and swept up the unfinished bottle of wine, nodded at Armand’s glass, then said, “Please follow me, then.”

Once out back he made for one of the shade trees and conjured up a small table and several chairs, then sank into one as he set the bottle down. A sharp whistle brought Moony and Percy over, both taking a seat near him.

Harry reached out and grasped Percy’s chin firmly and stared into his eyes. “These two men are my guests, Weatherby. You will not ever attempt to service them, do you understand?”

Percy’s eyes flicked over and looked at the men for a short time, then nodded, so Harry released him. “Good boy. Now go play or lie down.”

His pet let out a bark and crawled away a short distance before dropping to the ground and curling up for a nap. Harry then looked at Moony appraisingly. “Moony, these are Armand and Marius. Unless and until they give their permission for you to use their names, you will call them sir.”

“All right.”

“Now, it was not my intention for you and Weatherby to be disturbed, but I confess, I neglected to ward that side of the doorway. Now, having seen you, they are understandably curious, so I shall give you a choice, pet. If you wish, I will explain personally. Or, you have the option of telling these men in your own words who you are and why you’re here.”

Moony glanced at them, then asked Harry, “Who are they?”

“They are guests, here to ensure that should I become pregnant, nothing goes wrong. Lord Voldemort and I sought out help from my own kind while in France, and they consented to come and stay for a while. They are under an oath, as well, so they will be unable to speak of anything they learn here outside these walls, except where it pertains to my specific situation, and then only with their matriarch.”

Harry ignored the fact that both men looked mildly confused at the exchange and waited through Moony’s bout of thoughtfulness to see how he would respond.

“I will tell them. They know who. . . ?” Moony trailed off while eyeing him, presumably due to his lack of a false face.

“Yes,” he said simply.

Moony nodded and shifted to face the two men, then launched into a long but still succinct explanation of his part in the grander scheme of things, and he did not in the least spare himself when it came to fault or blame. When he was done he looked back to Harry.

“That was nicely done, pet. You may stay or go, your choice.”

His pet appeared to consider that, then moved to sit next to his chair, leaning against it for partial support. Harry reached out almost automatically to run his fingers through Moony’s hair as he gave his attention back to his guests.

“Unorthodox,” said Marius quietly, “but perhaps merciful.”

Harry arched a brow before responding. “I suppose that depends on your definition. If not killing an enemy is merciful, then yes. However, there are worse things than death, as a number of people found out over the past few months.

“However, in Moony’s case, once he has served his four years, I will not bar his way to freedom. At that point he may leave if he chooses, though he will never be able to disobey me, much like you would heed the words of your matriarch. While I am not a werewolf, I am his Alpha.”

“I must suspect that you were responsible for the string of deaths recently,” Armand said.

“Yes, I was. I began that before I became a dark lord, though. It was pure vengeance on my part. I know, you two weren’t present for the initial discussion I had with Rialis, so you don’t really understand even the basics. I think, perhaps, it would be all right for me to loan you a journal we recovered. It would help a lot to explain some of the situation I was in before, and I know that Tom was very careful in his wording of that oath you both took.

“There are a lot of times when I react to something without thinking, and I honestly don’t know if it’s because of what happened to me, that I’m not entirely sane, or if it’s a species thing. Perhaps if you understood more you could help me with questions like that, above and beyond the primary reason for your visit.”

Armand tilted his head slightly. “Not entirely sane?”

Harry chuckled and absently played with Moony’s hair. “Well, you might think that simply due to me being a dark lord, but really, I know I’m not. If not for Tom, I would. . . .” He shook his head. “No, it would be better for you to read the journal first.

“In any case, it’s a bit like how I felt when I first entered the wizarding world, not having any kind of a clue about anything magical. And then, I suddenly am smacked in the face with the truth that I am an incubus, and I’m right back at the beginning, totally clueless regarding most aspects about what should have been a given. Well, technically, it should never have come up.

“Either way, it’s not something that I find easy to discuss. As for the deaths, however, I can say I am not by nature a cruel person, with one glaring type of exception. I’m already black with the deaths I was forced to cause. A few more. . . ?”

Harry shrugged a shoulder and brought a foot up to rest on his knee. “You’re welcome to use this garden any time you wish. It will give you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without any risk of being noticed. The walls are one-way, just like the windows of the house itself. And you will find, should he be inclined to conversation, that Moony is intelligent and knowledgeable. The only caveat is that you must not harm any snake you find.”

Moony shifted at that point, and when Harry looked at him directly, asked, “Pregnant?”

He couldn’t prevent the smile that erupted. “I sincerely hope so, pet. Oh, I always wanted a family at some point, and now things have calmed down to where it should be feasible, so I feel safe enough to attempt it.”

“He takes good care of you.”

“Yes, he does,” Harry said, then looked back at his guests. “You said two weeks before you could tell?”

The conversation quickly became an exhaustive explanation of pretty much every stage of pregnancy for an incubus, and even how it differed from that of a succubus, human female, and several other species.

The next morning Harry went off to have his meetings with his boys, Melkanson first, then the entire team, after having turned over the journal at breakfast, and made a quick shopping trip to acquire the things Armand had expressed a desire for before returning in time to make lunch. Neither of the men was very talkative, and Harry could detect a certain gleam in their eyes that bespoke deep anger.

He saw very little of them during the remainder of the day, excepting dinner, and he spent the next morning back with Nitpuff at Gringotts finalizing the transfer of his money and property to the relative safety of Justus Bane’s purview. Lunch was again quiet, and their guests seemed even more upset. After they indicated that they would repair to the back garden, Harry went off with his lover to get his own lunch, then joined them, settling with ease into the remaining empty chair.

Armand opened the conversation by saying, “You really are an excellent cook.”

Harry smiled after a brief pause, and inclined his head, then got down to business. “You both seem quite troubled.”

Marius snarled. “I am not a violent man, but this. . . .” He indicated the journal that had been placed on the table.

“I think I can better understand,” said Armand, “why you claim to be less than completely sane.”

Harry flashed them a grin and nodded. “I am not. But I am not a basket case, thanks to my own efforts, and that of Tom. Still, it may be now that you can see, at least a little, why I felt no hesitation in eliminating certain people from this world. It’s not that I expect or even ask for either of you to condone my actions, though.”

“As I said, I am not a violent man, though I would not hesitate to kill in defense of my mate—”

“Which goes for me as well,” Armand interjected quickly.

“—and what we have read therein,” Marius continued as though uninterrupted, “is certainly grounds for those with the will to do so to seek revenge. What they did is an abomination.”

Harry shrugged one shoulder and said mildly, “Well, Snape never did like me. As I told Tom, that was something I could almost handle. The others, however, came as a crushing blow of betrayal. I was stained possibly beyond redemption by what they forced me to, so I hardly thought playing judge, jury, and executioner was anything to worry about.”

“You have certainly eliminated the main players in this nasty little game, not to mention within the political arena,” Armand stated. “And . . . they certainly found out to some degree that lack of knowledge was to their detriment.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “I agree, but. . . . Even at the end, Dumbledore seemed to think he had some measure of control over me. He ordered me to kill Tom, as though I would have no choice but to obey. I still don’t really understand why. Obviously, that didn’t work out for him. Maybe he put too much faith in magic he refused to personally enact, and didn’t fully understand.”

Marius snorted. “Another reason why incomplete or misleading literature regarding our species benefited you.” Then he shook his head and said, “What of the others? Those left behind?”

“You mean like the remaining Order members?” When Marius nodded Harry said, “I really don’t know. I suppose they will continue to work against Voldemort and Thanatos, but the heart of their organization has been ripped out and crushed. I think . . . my former head of house is the one left with seniority, but I can’t be sure.

“And I think she was far too inclined to trust in those above her, like Dumbledore, rather than think for herself to the required degree, so I question her effectiveness. Besides, our goals are not what that side expects of us, and they have no real idea any longer what they’re supposedly fighting against. It’s a bit strange, now I think about it. I know a number of the Death Eaters are quite keen on torturing members of the opposition, but who exactly is the enemy at this point?”

Armand arched a brow and said, “Contentious Ministry officials? Hardcore proponents of existing restrictive laws?”

“I suppose so. It’s kind of a problem, you know? Once you become a dark lord and have people bound to you, you can’t just walk away without creating a huge mess,” he said with a half grin.

“Your aforementioned torture-happy Death Eaters?” Marius asked dryly.

“Mm.”

*

And it turned out, there were a handful of people leading the pack insofar as who might actually gain control over the potentially dangerous Harry Potter, alleged incubus. No one in the general community seemed to care about the fact that the man hadn’t been seen in years, and it was apparent that Madam Malkin was being exceptionally discreet about her own visits from him. The only other person probably thought she had been imagining things that day in Diagon Alley.

One of those attempting to lead the pack was Rufus Scrimgeour, Head of the Auror Office. His reasoning, to those with even half a brain, was specious at best, with many questioning how he could claim (with a straight face, no less) that he only had the best interests of Potter in mind.

Politically minded citizens were quick to point out that Scrimgeour, who happened to be one of the candidates for minister, could use not only Potter’s presumed vast estate to back his candidacy, but also his nature to sway the outcome of the election. They considered it all to be a conflict of interest, as well.

The second up to bat was Bill Weasley. He claimed that Harry had been an honorary member of his family since practically the boy had stepped on the Hogwarts Express for the first time. As the current head of the family, he professed a desire to protect his ‘brother’ from those who would seek to use him for their own nefarious purposes.

For his part Harry had been mildly amused having learned of Bill’s thoughts on the matter, and wondered just how much under suspicion he was by the man for the deaths of most of his immediate family, or if the bid was entirely innocent in nature.

The last of the three was Aberforth Dumbledore. Someone had leaked a copy of the decree Fudge had signed for Albus, thus propelling his brother into the limelight as the logical choice—that is, if people were to consider Potter as something to inherit. Aberforth had been witnessed as saying at one point, with a rather bemused expression on his face, “Yes, but does the young man know about the care and feeding of goats?”

Of course, Harry had no intention of ever letting anyone find him as his original self, so most of it was simply an entertaining show to follow. Still, he continued to be rather curious about Bill and Aberforth. Scrimgeour was liable to end up dead if he wasn’t careful.

“I wonder if I should arrange a meeting,” Harry mused one afternoon while sitting with his lover and their two guests out in the back garden. “I mean, I know that Bill married Fleur, and she’s part veela. The laws here can’t touch her because of the amount, but I should think she’d be sympathetic, and have heavily influenced Bill as a result.”

Voldemort shrugged. “Not in this country, Harry. And not Dumbledore.”

Harry shook his head. “I might be curious, but not totally crazy. That old man looks way too much like Dumblefuck, which inclines me toward grievous bodily harm, not chatting over tea.” He paused with a thoughtful look before saying, “I might spare the goats, though.”

Armand snickered softly, then said, “Judging by her name. . . . This Fleur is Fleur Delacour? Formerly of Beauxbatons, Triwizard Champion?”

“Yup, that’s her. And I think, considering that when she failed to retrieve her sister from the lake that one time, and I did, mainly because I was an idiot, she probably still holds a soft spot for me.”

“If you wish to set up a meeting, Harry, we can,” Voldemort said. “But it will be at a location of my choosing, with protections that I approve of.”

“Okay,” Harry said agreeably.

*

Bill Weasley was relaxing at the home of his wife’s parents in France when an unfamiliar owl swooped in to land on the table he was sitting at, and then stuck out a leg. It took only a few moments to retrieve the letter it carried, and it began to preen its feathers.

“Waiting on a response?” The owl gave him a quick look before resuming its preening, so Bill nodded and opened the missive.

Bill,

It has come to my attention that not only does the wizarding world believe I might be an incubus, but that you are one of the three main contenders for the position of my . . . caretaker.

I can assure you that no such keeper of my wealth and well-being is necessary, but I am willing to meet with you to discuss current events. However, given that I seem to be quite nearly a hunted, wanted man at present, such a meeting will only occur under certain conditions, so that I might assure myself that no uninvited parties can interfere.

You may, if you desire, bring along Fleur. It has been quite some time since I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with her, after all. There are other considerations, of course, but a letter is hardly the appropriate place to speak of them.

Should you wish to meet, please indicate this in your response, and I will reply with the necessary information. I can also supply you with a portkey should you desire, though given the prevailing uncertainty of the times, I would understand should you decline the courtesy.

Regards,
Harry

Bill exhaled gustily and blinked, then read the letter a second time. He hadn’t actually been sure that Harry was even alive; topics at meetings of the Order had a marked tendency to gloss over the young man entirely when he was present, making him wonder just exactly what was being kept from him and Charlie.

Also of interest, or perhaps as a cause for puzzlement, was that Harry had said nothing whatsoever about the shocking deaths of half the Order, including most of the Weasley family. Did Harry just not care, or was that part of what he hinted at when it came to other considerations?

His attention was dragged away from contemplation at the sound of clicking, so Bill looked up to see Fleur walking through the French doors onto the balcony. She kissed his cheek once she was near enough, then took a seat.

Bill said nothing, but rather handed over the letter.

*

Harry, wearing his true face, waited patiently at the fringes of the wards Voldemort had erected. The meeting could go several ways, he supposed, but he could always do a little meddling with the man’s mind, and even Fleur’s, should it be needed.

He smiled faintly when the couple appeared several yards away and turned to look at him. “Will you submit to an identity check?” he asked bluntly.

“Harry?” Bill frowned faintly and came closer, then stopped when a quelling hand was raised.

“I am inside the wards,” Harry warned them. “You may not pass through without invitation, and for that to happen there are several conditions. First is the identity check.”

“And other than that?”

“Once inside these wards you may not disapparate or portkey out. My intent today is to engage in a civilized discussion, and as such, threats will be answered with extreme prejudice. If you are uncomfortable with any of that, I will understand, and we can say our good-byes.”

Bill’s eyes narrowed for a moment before he chuckled softly. “You’re as paranoid as Moody was.”

Harry smiled faintly. “I believe I have good reason to be. And as insulting as it may sound, the wards are there to help prevent anyone from attempting to kidnap me. Any tracking or monitoring charms either of you were sporting were negated by a larger, secondary ward the moment you arrived.”

Bill glanced at Fleur, then said to Harry, “I’ve never once known you to attack without cause or provocation.”

“Harry, I can see that the papers were correct,” said Fleur with a smile. “Perhaps that is part of why I was invited?”

He arched a brow. “Well, you would reasonably have some empathy for the situation, would you not?”

She smiled again and nodded. “Will you give us a moment to confer?”

When Harry nodded she pulled Bill back a short distance and they held a quiet conversation in French. He didn’t have the heart to tell them he could hear and understand every word.

Eventually they stepped closer and nodded, so Harry produced a wand and carefully intoned as he cast, checking each of them. Both were who they appeared to be, so he said, “I hereby grant entrance through the wards to William Arthur Weasley and Fleur Isabelle Weasley née Delacour, subject to revocation at the conclusion of this visit.”

A faint splash of colour tinted the air for a moment, then faded. “You may enter,” he said, then backed up a few paces. Once they stepped through he added, “Let us repair to the house, then. I can make lunch if you like.”

As they walked it became apparent that Bill was not a believer in the Dumbledore credo on Harry management. He did not immediately regurgitate the party line and try to make Harry seek out the Order for help and protection. “Going by your letter,” Bill said, “and by what Fleur has sensed, should we take it to mean that you found an acceptable bond mate?”

“Yes, I have. It makes all the hue and cry amusing, watching the reports of the various people jockeying for the role of my custodian. In any case, even if one of them were to gain that position it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on.”

“Why is that?” Fleur asked.

“Because despite the opinions of many, I am not stupid. I will not allow myself to be dragged off to be placed on display like a trophy, for one thing, and for another, even with the approval of the ministry, whomsoever might gain custody will find out very quickly that my fortune and holdings are completely beyond their reach.”

Harry paused for a moment, then said, “Are you aware that there were two divisions within the Order?”

“I’m sorry? And you’ve never been to any of the meetings.”

Harry stopped and turned to face Bill directly. “Two divisions, Bill. To put a dark lord spin on it, there was an inner circle, and then the main order. And no, I never attended any meetings, because I was never allowed.”

“Oh, I suppose that was because of the training,” Bill said musingly, then blinked and added, “What do you mean, inner circle?”

Harry gave him a bitter smile and turned away, resuming the walk to the house. “The inner circle was responsible for the details of my training.”

“Is your bond mate here?” Fleur interjected quickly.

Harry nodded, and didn’t say another word until they passed into the house, and even then not until he had led them into the kitchen. “How does Chicken Kiev sound, hm?”

Before either of his guests had a chance to respond, Voldemort stepped out of the shadows. His appearance, while startling, was due only to the suddenness, and not his current guise, which was once again altered by a glamour. “Harry, do you think it is wise to feed our guests prior to sharing certain . . . information?”

He opened his mouth to protest, then snapped it shut. After an assessing look at Bill and Fleur he said, “I suppose you’re right. Tom, please meet Bill and Fleur. Fleur, as you may recall, was one of my fellow Triwizard champions. Bill, Fleur, please meet my bond mate, Tom.”

A wary set of greetings went around at that, and Harry leaned against the counter with a slight frown marring his brow. “All right, here’s the deal. If you like I will show you exactly what sort of training I was undergoing at the behest of Dumbledore and his sockpuppet minions. I expect seeing that will unsettle your stomachs, so it’s probably wise that food wait until later. I would really hate to see my hard work end up splattered all over the floor.”

He was actually feeling rather good about things thus far. Neither of them had started in yet on him, which meant it was likely they would be open to reality. Then again, it might simply be that both felt so far out of their depth that they were incredibly cautious. “I trust,” he said to Bill, “that you are able to tell when a memory has been tampered with?”

“Yes. It’s part of what you need to learn to become a curse breaker.”

“Excellent.” Harry reached into one of his pockets and produced a pensieve, then placed it on the table. “As you can see, it’s empty. Feel free to check it over now before I put it to use.”

A few minutes later Harry pulled several memories and placed them in the device. One for an episode of Snape force-feeding him potions and the consequential treatment, one of a typical training session with Snape and Moody, and one of a mission briefing. Needless to say, they were each brutal in their own way.

Then he looked at Fleur and said, “I’m not going to give you any garbage about being a delicate female, but if it’s not a good idea for you to be massively stressed or distressed, I would advise you not enter with Bill.” His eyes flicked down to her stomach, then back up.

“Ah, thank you for the consideration, but that is not at issue,” she said, evidently getting his drift.

Harry gestured at the pensieve.