Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Locus :: 08

08

It was not until after the holiday break that Voldemort was able to stage a breakout at Azkaban, and ten Death Eaters escaped from the fortress prison.

‘How long before you’ll have the cup back?’

‘Once Bellatrix is recovered enough. But I must warn you, she is as devoted to me as Snape was to Lily.’

‘I know that she has a fearsome reputation,’ he replied, ‘but is she actually useful beyond returning that Horcrux? I assume she is the one to do so because she won’t question why.’

‘Correct. As to her usefulness, I believe she will become a serious problem once you do away with your role as Harry Potter. She will be adamantly opposed to the idea that I will never return her feelings. She will also be adamantly opposed to the idea that anyone stands at my side, that person not being her. Odds are, she will need to be killed, put down like a rabid dog.’

Again, Joshua found it difficult to feel anything but relief at the idea. ‘What of our contemporaries?’

Anger leaked through. ‘Avery and Mulciber disappeared under mysterious circumstances, though both had sons who supported their views, thus mine. However, Dolohov, Lestrange, Nott, and Rosier are all alive, though Dolohov ended up in Azkaban. He was named by Karkaroff and captured not long after. The others never took my mark, despite remaining supporters.’

‘You think Dumbledore captured those two. At least the others should recognize me and be intelligent enough not to question where I’ve been all these years.’

‘They will be.’

Bellatrix was well enough that in April she was able to recover the cup, and by May Voldemort had taken in all the Horcruxes aside from Joshua’s and the locket’s. A trip to the Department of Mysteries, made by Voldemort with no fanfare and with extreme caution (not to mention a sip of felix felicis), revealed that the sphere containing a recording of Trelawney’s prophecy had shattered, leaving behind a collection of glass shards and a label. Anticlimactic, yet utterly gratifying.

The school year ended with what Joshua assumed must be the worst exam scores ever for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and he was pleased to be returning to № 4 Privet Drive. Joshua’s summer was another orgy of studying muggle subjects while being watched by Dumbledore’s minions, and he felt like he was in a bizarre sort of prison, or a zoo without the bars. His OWL scores, when they arrived, showed perfect marks, as expected. He was not, however, given the opportunity to visit Diagon Alley and purchase his things for the upcoming year. They were delivered to him by school owl after he had sent back the form indicating which classes he planned to continue with via a school owl which showed up to collect it.

Surprisingly he was not ‘invited’ on short notice back to № 12 Grimmauld Place. He rather thought that Dumbledore, while convinced that Voldemort had indeed returned, felt that he was safe enough where he was, with minion watchers and possibly updated wards. That suited him just fine, and he was able to get on with his limited excuse for a life. He simply wished that it meant he could meet his lover openly, but that time would come. Somehow. He was also informed by an amused Voldemort that Umbridge had been killed in a freak accident involving the Knight Bus, so there were no worries regarding her terrorizing the school for another year.

His sixth year of schooling as Harry Potter started off with a summons to Dumbledore’s office the morning after they arrived, which he went to warily. “You wanted to see me, sir?” he asked politely once inside the office and seated.

“Yes, Harry. I have finally been able to confirm some very important things, things which will ultimately affect you. But before I get into that I would like to ask you why you did not stand up for the truth last year, against the falsehoods the ministry has been trying to promote.”

Joshua raised his brows in surprise. “I assume you’re referring to the return of Voldemort.” When Dumbledore nodded he said, “Considering the atmosphere at the time I think my personal philosophy was correct. Minister Fudge was having none of it and even sent one of his people here to ‘keep order’. My reputation was damaged enough by having been forced into the Triwizard Tournament, and I knew if I acted rashly and contradicted Umbridge and Minister Fudge directly, all that would happen is I would be vilified in the press and tormented the entire year.

“Besides, I don’t really see why I should be the one to have to stand up and shout. People should know enough to realize you aren’t saying it as some kind of sick joke. And I honestly don’t understand why people seem to think I’m some sort of hero. I was barely a toddler when my parents died and Voldemort disappeared. What could I have honestly done to effect that outcome? I think it had everything to do with my mother’s sacrifice. If anyone is a hero it is her, not me. That’d be like saying I’m a hero because I survived a laser strike due to the person standing next to me having stuck a mirror in front of my face.”

Dumbledore sat back and began stroking his long beard thoughtfully. “You . . . remember something of that night?”

Joshua nodded. “When the dementors were around, yes. What little I can remember is Voldemort urging her to stand aside, but she refused and kept offering her life for mine. She died in a flash of green light. There was one more, but. . . .”

“I suppose,” Dumbledore said slowly, “I can understand your point of view. However, there is something about that night you are not aware of, and I feel you have reached the age where I must tell you, so you can be prepared for what is to come.”

Joshua shook his head. “What do you mean, sir?”

“My boy, there was a prophecy spoken, one that foretold your birth and your role in the conflict with Voldemort. I have watched you during your years here and I know you are capable of keeping a secret as important as this.” Dumbledore got up and moved to a cabinet along one wall, motioning him to join. Inside was a rune-etched basin filled with silvery liquid: a pensieve. Dumbledore tapped one of the runes with his wand and both watched as the misty form of Trelawney arose and spoke the words Joshua already knew.

Back in his seat a few moments later, Joshua had a hard time deciding how to respond. He settled for saying, “That is alarmingly vague.”

“Though I cannot be sure how it is you survived that night, I am certain I know of how Voldemort has cheated death. I propose to show you a series of memories regarding his life, to help you to understand how he became the person he is today. Among those memories are clues to his survival, and clues as to what must be done to enact his true defeat. Perhaps together we can make the first step toward that end. Please come to my office after breakfast on Saturday and we will get started.”

Joshua decided to take that for a dismissal and stood. “Yes, sir,” he said, then quit the room. He gathered up study materials from his dorm and retreated to a secluded spot in the library, a place where he was guaranteed to avoid Ronald, who was back to being an overeager puppy. ‘Such a waste of time,’ he thought.

‘Agreed. Yet it will cause him to believe that you will follow his plans. With any luck he can be manipulated later on. Joshua, I have located something important, a possible way for you to complete the third trip, via a ritual I have found.’

He shivered at the mention of rituals. ‘Details?’

‘The ritual will send a person back to a specific time for a set period. You disappeared three years to the day from our last NEWT, on the evening of the twenty-first of June, 1948. Or at least, that is the last night I ever saw you. Naturally, this ritual is banned by the ministry, but I have it on good authority that experiments have been done by the Department of Mysteries.’

‘Let me guess. You “borrowed” the book from the Unspeakables while you were checking the prophecy? I suppose that felix felicis was handier than I expected it would be.’

Voldemort chuckled lowly in his mind. ‘Correct. They eventually decided it was too powerful of a ritual and too dangerous to the timeline, and downgraded their operations to the use of time turners. Now, depending on how your sessions with Dumbledore go, it may be that you can put forth the idea that your own use of felix felicis is what uncovered the book, and that you brought it to him with the plan of going back, getting close enough to me to be able to find what I used for my Horcruxes and where I hid them. You would then, presumably, return and pass this information on to him. He would believe you trusted him on a deep enough level to be inclined to agree with the plan.’

‘All right. The first trip was pure wish magic, I think combined with the fact that I do hold part of your soul. The second was our spells colliding and perhaps our wands reacting to each other. I would never agree to something like this had Dumbledore been the one to suggest it, but just the fact that you were the one who happened upon the ritual while under the influence of felix felicis. . . .’

That Saturday Dumbledore explained about the circumstances surrounding Tom Riddle’s birth, and the mistakes Merope Gaunt had made, though much of it was conjecture. Dumbledore had no solid proof that she had used love potions, but the evidence made it extremely likely.

It wasn’t until over a month later that he was shown a memory of when Dumbledore arrived at the orphanage to invite Tom to Hogwarts. Joshua could see what Tom had meant when he said he was sullen. He came across as being a bit disturbed, in fact, which surely caused Dumbledore to begin forming the opinion that Tom was practically dark from birth.

Dumbledore let him stew on those things until after the holiday break, then invited him to his office again. Joshua noticed almost immediately that something was wrong with the old man’s left hand. It was blackened and claw-like. “Sir, are you all right?” he asked with fake concern.

“Ah, just a bit of magical backlash, Harry. Nothing to worry about.”

‘He obviously found the fake ring, was tempted by it, and put it on,’ Voldemort commented. ‘The curse will severely weaken him over time. It may even kill him.’

Joshua nodded in response to both of them. ‘To use it to see his sister again, I suppose. Or perhaps his parents, as well.’

The old man started the session with a memory of Morfin Gaunt, Tom’s uncle, who was obviously lacking in the head. But Joshua already knew that, having been there himself, even if he had not directly met the man. It had only been a few years, so his memory was still sharp; a direct look at Morfin was ugly, but not surprising. A bit shockingly, Dumbledore also had a memory of when Tom asked Slughorn about Horcruxes. It was also shocking to see himself in that memory, but Dumbledore’s attention seemed riveted on Tom, not on the other Slytherins in the room.

“So, is that the answer?” he asked, waving one hand about vaguely. “These Horcrux things?”

Dumbledore nodded. “A Horcrux is a most evil thing, the darkest of arts.”

“But what is the point?”

“Harry,” Dumbledore said seriously, “splitting one’s soul requires the death of another, murder in cold blood. It is then possible to trap that piece of one’s soul in an object, making it a Horcrux. The reason why Tom would do this is due to his fear of death.”

“You mean like how his name means flight from death, yes?”

“Correct. Having a Horcrux means that you are anchored to this world—not like a ghost. Ghosts are people who were so afraid of the next great adventure that they never passed over, but rather stayed in that unchanging and, I think, ultimately unsatisfying pale shadow of life. Someone with a Horcrux could be struck down, yet return. I would not doubt that others have made them, and there may be Horcruxes hidden in this world, just waiting to be found and their creators brought back, even thousands of years later.”

Joshua pretended to think about that, crinkling his brow, then said, “But wouldn’t splitting one’s soul cause the person to . . . I don’t know . . . lose something? Er. . . . I mean, would that explain why Voldemort seems completely mad?”

“Yes, exactly. Splitting one’s soul causes instability. This can lead to madness of varying degrees. If Tom really did create six Horcruxes, to result in a seven-part soul, well . . . you can imagine just how how badly this would have affected a person of already questionable nature. Even a single Horcrux can be devastating.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “So, what we’re trying to accomplish is figuring out what he might have used for them, and . . . where he would have hidden them. Then we could retrieve them, destroy them, and he would be, er, vulnerable.”

“Precisely.”

Joshua grinned, then frowned. “Though I really don’t get this whole ‘power he knows not’ bit.”

“I believe that has everything to do with love. Your capacity for love, that is. Tom has never once shown the capacity for love, and I believe he truly has no understanding of what it is or just how powerful a force it is.”

Joshua mentally snorted at the absurdity. Not only was the man utterly incorrect regarding Tom’s capacity to love, he was drawing conclusions about Joshua’s own based on . . . what? He had no made no obvious connections to anyone, had no visible friends, and yet he was ‘obviously’ capable of love where Tom was not? Perhaps Dumbledore’s own inherent evil blinded him to many a thing.

“I think that’s enough for today. Think on these things, as always.”

“Yes, sir. You can be sure I will.” He started to leave, but stopped and said, “Sir, that is what happened in the graveyard, then? A Horcrux bound him to this world, and because of it, that. . . .”

“Yes, Harry.”

“I think I understand why people are so . . . afraid to face the truth. They’ve thought for so long that it’s been over, that their lives are safe. Accounts of that time are terrifying, and to have to hear that he’s not really gone, well, isn’t it human nature to practice denial against what frightens us? Most people just aren’t prepared to deal with it, and just can’t bring themselves to believe it. It’s foolish, very foolish. The minister is a prime example of this. It’s just a shame that he can’t find the courage to face the truth, and a shame that more people won’t listen to you, but I understand. No one wants him to be back.” He turned his head to the side and nodded, then left.

‘That . . . was masterful.’

Joshua smirked faintly. ‘I do have my moments.’

It was several months later that Dumbledore shared a memory of Tom’s visit to Hepzibah Smith. “Two days later she was dead, her treasures gone missing. The ministry convicted her house-elf, Hokey, of accidentally poisoning her mistress’s evening cocoa.”

Joshua made a noncommittal sound. “But this was like before, right? Like Morfin. Voldemort did it, modified Hokey’s memories, and the wrong person ends up paying the penalty for a crime they didn’t commit. I can understand why he’d want the locket, but the cup? Just because it was reputed to have belonged to Helga Hufflepuff?”

“I think he still felt a great pull toward the school and that he could not resist an object so steeped in Hogwarts history. Now, ten years later Tom Riddle returned to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said, and selected another memory.

Joshua cringed to see the face of his lover. His features were waxy and oddly distorted, and the whites of his eyes were tinged red like blood. Voldemort and Dumbledore verbally fenced, the meeting obviously doomed to failure, which it was. Joshua knew why his lover was, in part, so attached to the school, but Dumbledore had other ideas, not that he was entirely wrong.

“We have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort,” Dumbledore informed him after the memory ended. “An interesting revenge for the refusal, but quite tiresome.”

Joshua shrugged that off. “Sir, his face!”

“Ah, evil, Harry. The effects of Horcruxes and various Dark Arts, in this case manifested physically. Voldemort traveled far and wide, learning from many, experimenting with things best left alone and forgotten. He is an exceptionally brilliant man, I do not dispute that, but intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom. An amoral pursuit of power is a dangerous thing.”

‘Funny how you’re so blinded to yourself that looking in a mirror probably shows some rose-coloured mockery of the truth, yet you can say such things with a straight face,’ he thought. ‘Sometimes I think you just saw Tom as a threat to your own pursuit of power, and acted accordingly, except you never did manage to deal with him as you did so many of your other enemies.’

“This, I’m afraid, is the last of the relevant memories I have or have obtained,” Dumbledore informed him.

“Then what now?”

“Now I do my utmost to locate one of the Horcruxes. And when I have, you may go with me if you wish.”

Joshua widened his eyes. “You’d let me help? I mean, I’m only sixteen.”

“Harry, in the event that something should happen to me, this task would fall to you. So yes, I would let you help. But for now, do not worry too much. Run along and rest assured I will let you know when the time comes.”

That time came in mid-May. Dumbledore had tracked down what he thought was a possible location for one of the Horcruxes, a sea cave not terribly far from a village the orphanage staff had taken them all to on a holiday. As they were swimming to the entrance Voldemort was in his head, explaining what would happen inside. As well, he shared a plan he had just conceived, involving the two of them managing to win the Elder Wand from Dumbledore.

Joshua was nodding slightly as he listened, the action covered by how badly he was shivering after a swim in the ocean, and already planning how he could handle certain aspects. Things were fine until they arrived at the island. Dumbledore insisted he be the one to drink the potion, and made Joshua promise to obey, to keep feeding him the potion until it was gone. It was the only way, as Joshua well knew, to get at the item at the bottom of the basin.

And despite how delusional Dumbledore was acting by the time Joshua could snatch the locket from its resting place, he was able to rally enough to protect them from the inferi who rose from the murky waters of the cave. Outside it was a struggle to get back to land, and with Dumbledore so disoriented, it was Joshua who apparated them to Hogsmeade. The old man collapsed at that point, able only to feebly speak.

“I have to get you to Madam Pomfrey!” he said fiercely, not bothering to try to dry either of them off or warm up. He put an arm down to help Dumbledore to his feet but the old man was surprisingly heavy.

“Rosmerta,” rasped Dumbledore, pulling out his wand. He started to cast some spell, but failed due to weakness and exposure.

He looked around and saw that they were not far from the Three Broomsticks.

‘I’m in place,’ Voldemort informed him.

“Rosmerta,” he repeated. “Just stay here, sir, I’ll be right back. I’m just going to get her, okay?”

Dumbledore nodded and closed his eyes, so Joshua raced off. Voldemort was just around the corner, smiling. Together they carefully aimed their wands around the side of the building shielding them, and as one they cast the disarming charm. Voldemort caught the Elder Wand and fled as Joshua continued on to the Three Broomsticks to get Madam Rosmerta.

When he returned with Rosmerta on his heels he saw Dumbledore sprawled on the ground. “Sir! Sir!”

Rosmerta pushed past him and dried the old man off with a wave of her wand, then had Joshua help her with wrapping a blanket around him, and getting him on a makeshift stretcher. By the time they had delivered Dumbledore to Madam Pomfrey Joshua was exhausted just from the effects of the excitement and adrenaline wearing off. Pomfrey was so fussed over the headmaster’s state that she forgot to insist that Joshua stay, and he gratefully slipped back out, offering to escort Madam Rosmerta back to her establishment. She thanked him, yet declined, so Joshua retreated to his dorm to get a hot shower and fall into bed.

‘The wand has been secured. I think that with us casting simultaneously it might be true that we are now the duel masters of the Elder Wand.’

‘Even if not, it’s one of us, and that’s what matters right at the moment.’

‘Agreed. Before you sleep, please do work on properly handling your memories of the evening. The old man will probably question you over what happened. When depends on how long it takes him to recover.’

‘Thank you for reminding me, Tom. I am so tired at this point it didn’t even cross my mind. I will be so damn grateful when this charade is finally over, when I can be with you again, when I don’t have to be Harry Potter any longer, and don’t have to pretend to listen to that vile old bastard anymore.’

‘And then we find a way to crush him.’ He seemed about to say more on that subject, but instead what came out was, ‘Joshua, deal with your memories and rest. We will continue later.’

*

“Sir!”

“Yes, Harry?” Dumbledore looked old, older than normal, and still quite weak.

“I—” Joshua stopped abruptly, waving a book around. “I can’t believe I was so stupid!”

“What do you mean? What is that you hold?”

“I had that felix felicis for so long, sir! Why didn’t I use it before? Those memories. . . .” Joshua did his best to look almost heartbroken. “But, then I did, and I found this. It—oh, wait, I’m so sorry! I didn’t—sir, are you . . . all right?”

Dumbledore graced him with a smile that was likely meant to be reassuring. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?” he said gently.

Joshua took a deep breath, appearing both excited and nervous. “Are you sure you’re up for it? What happened, it was awful. Are you sure you’re recovered enough? I can’t stress you. Madam Pomfrey would have my head!”

Dumbledore chuckled weakly. “Do explain.”

Joshua shot the old man a look which combined skepticism with elation. “Earlier I remembered that vial of felix felicis I won, so I took a sip,” he said. And in truth, he was not entirely lying, as he had taken a sip to facilitate this very conversation. “I didn’t want the full twelve hours, because that seemed like a waste. I got the strongest urge to go to a corridor on the seventh floor, one that I’ve never really paid attention to before.”

“And you obeyed some rather insistent inner promptings?”

He nodded. “Yes, sir. The next thing I knew there was a door there, so I went in, and ended up in some kind of storage room. I found this book, so I started reading it, and I realized that it might be the answer to what we’re looking for!” Joshua waved the book around again. “It’s got this ritual in it. We need to know about the location of the—” He stopped, glancing around the room suspiciously. “The location of the objects of our search.”

“Ritual?” Dumbledore inquired, looking terribly interested.

Joshua moved closer and took a seat next to the bed, fidgeting restlessly. “Yes, sir,” he said quietly, intensely. “It’s a time ritual. According to this book, a person could go back to a specific time for a set, limited period. Do you know what that means!? You could find out straight from the source! But . . . it’s illegal.” He slumped slightly, suddenly looking depressed. “But I had to tell you. I couldn’t not tell you,” he insisted, giving Dumbledore a look which pleaded for understanding.

The old man gave him an encouraging smile and nod of the head. “Sometimes the best choice is frowned upon by government. Men are constrained by law, but great men know when it is best to bypass that same law.”

Joshua’s brows raised briefly, though not in surprise. He expected this from the old man, given the crimes he had committed in the name of the “Greater Good”. A relieved smile flashed briefly. “You’re very powerful, sir. With this ritual you could go back and . . . and spy on him! Find out where he put them! When you got back we could track them down and take care of this once and for all!”

Dumbledore shook his head sadly, then shot up a hand when Joshua went to object. “Oh, Harry, I am too old for such an undertaking. But you. . . . You are young and strong.”

“Me!? But I’m only sixteen! How could you possibly trust that I wouldn’t mess things up? I thought—” He played at being flabbergasted, his eyes and expression in those moments surely taken as meant. By the time he left things had gone as he hoped. And Dumbledore was so taken by the plan, allegedly blessed as it was by felix felicis, that he never did remember to bring up the subject of his missing wand.

Joshua rode the train back a few days later in an excellent mood. True, he would have to suffer the Dursleys again, but only until his birthday. Dumbledore had assured him he would be brought to № 12 Grimmauld Place, and there the ritual would be done. The old man had even promised to supply him with an amount of coin for this most important venture, as well as ensuring that all coins were minted well before the targeted arrival date. It made Joshua realize that he would need to check over his own meager fortune; anything too new would simply have to be stashed away in labeled sacks.

He was, to some degree, quite surprised that having brought felix felicis into the equation made it so very simple to bypass Dumbledore’s usual cunning. The old man must have sincere faith in the workings of the potion. He had not even asked to see the book itself, and Joshua brought it back with him to study. Voldemort would be with him every step of the way in learning it, and then setting it up.

The Dursleys greeted him, if one could call it that, with their usual muted disdain and fear. He ignored them and retreated to his room, not bothering to unpack anything aside from the absolute necessities.

‘So, explain to me again why these people have yet to suffer an inexplicable yet fatal accident?’

Joshua rolled his eyes in amusement. ‘We can deal with them just as soon as I get back. I mean, I thought about letting you do it while I was in transit, but I’d like to be there.’

‘Fine, I know. So long as the old man thinks he’s winning that point. . . .’

‘Besides, wouldn’t it be more fitting to destroy rather than kill them? They fear, so much, abnormality. We could always frame Vernon for something awful. We’re already planning to destroy Dumbledore’s reputation, so why not theirs, too? It’s like the difference between leaving someone to Azkaban where the dementors torture them for years or killing them outright.’

‘Getting a little bloodthirsty, are we?’

‘I do rather like the sentiment that the punishment should fit the crime. Even if the evidence might have to be wholly manufactured. Speaking of which, why don’t you catch Vernon away from the house and root around in his memories?’

‘I will do so. However, let us speak of something far more important. Dumbledore knows that I have Horcruxes. What are the odds that he suspects you are one?’

Joshua frowned. ‘I never told him about any visions, but—’

‘But your scar is surely something he would have investigated. It is bad enough you survived a killing curse, but to have a scar which cannot be removed?’

‘So what are you suggesting? That I make a Horcrux of my own, just in case?’

‘Yes.’

It was several days later that Joshua was willing to talk about it again. ‘You’re worried that even if he doesn’t know for sure, he’d take the stand of better safe than sorry, or something like that.’

‘Yes, but also that accidents do happen.’

‘Fine. But I’ll wait a bit. I obviously cannot do it here, nor can I do it while I’m at headquarters. So I’ll wait until I’m back then.’ When Voldemort hesitated to respond Joshua suddenly realized that his lover had been trying to hint at something he had already done, that Voldemort knew he would do this and how. His lover had simply mentioned his concerns and Joshua had done the rest, being not only the one to make the actual suggestion, but for when. He laughed quietly and moved on to other subjects.