Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Locus :: 09

09

On the way to № 12 Grimmauld Place Joshua stopped at Diagon Alley, having finagled a trip out of Dumbledore. And in truth, his escort had no reason to suspect anything, as apparently Dumbledore had said nothing out of the ordinary. While Joshua was there he met briefly with his lover, during which time he handed over his ring, already having put his valuables through it. In return Voldemort handed over money in a mokeskin pouch, a few odds and ends, and some rather interesting information. Perhaps it was undignified to be clandestinely meeting in a restroom, but there were not a lot of other options, not with people escorting him.

“Shockingly, your uncle is clean. He’s not embezzling, secretly smuggling anything, nor carrying on with his secretary.”

Joshua blinked at that. For all his uncle ranted on about being normal, he had rather thought it was denial of the fact that he was doing something illegal, aside from being guilty of child neglect. “Guess we’ll have to manufacture something, then.”

Voldemort agreed and snapped his fingers, causing a house-elf to appear.

Joshua blinked at the abruptness and cast an inquiring look at his lover.

“Just in case,” Voldemort said. “If something happens to you after you return. . . .” He then proceeded to transfer ownership of the house-elf from himself to Joshua.

Joshua then eyed the little creature and said, “Famul, I will be absent for some time, and I order you to stay with Lord Voldemort and obey him until I am again able to command you. Lord Voldemort is my voice and my will while I am unavailable.”

“Yes, master,” Famul said fervently.

“Famul,” Voldemort said, “return to headquarters for now and await me.”

Famul immediately bowed low and popped away.

“I have also arranged other items,” Voldemort said vaguely, then touched his face tenderly and sent him off.

Joshua headed to the bank to withdraw most of his money. He’d worry about the minting dates after he went back. ‘While I’m thinking of it, where should I be when it’s time to come back, do you think?’

‘That run-down cottage we used as a base for a while. I’ve been keeping an eye on it and it remains deserted.’

‘Still? I’d have thought some vagrant would have drifted in by now and fixed it up. Free housing—not very good, but free.’

Voldemort sent a mental shrug. ‘Just appear there. I’ll go there before you start the ritual, to guard your return. When you’re properly alone check the bag. I’ve provided you with everything you need to do the time ritual, right under Dumbledore’s nose.’

Joshua nodded reflexively.

‘It’ll be destroyed when the ritual is complete.’

‘And if I accidentally have the book there with me, it will also? It’s just a copy, so. . . .’

‘Correct. Leave no loose ends.’

To that end Joshua spent his time alone at № 12 Grimmauld Place going over his supplies and scouting out a spot to handle things, away from the prying eyes of others. He was actually surprised that Dumbledore would do this at headquarters, especially with Sirius and Remus living there, thinking it would be bad news all around for either of them to be involved, assuming they would even agree it was a sound idea.

Lupin acted like a mildly exasperated stranger, that exasperation directed mainly toward his friend, and Black continued to awkwardly hover on occasion, always just about to say something, but never actually doing so. Joshua preferred it that way.

It was about a week after his birthday, in the dead of night and in the place he had chosen, that Joshua decided to act. Dumbledore still had not broached the subject of the ritual with him, which was fine in his opinion. A large sheet of unbleached, untainted cotton was spread out, designs already traced onto it. He worked outward in, covering the guide lines with the mixture specified by the book, and double-checking every part before moving to the next.

In the end it was him at the center, along with his things, waiting for completion. The book he was taking with him, to destroy on the other end. A short note of apology had been placed on his bed, simply stating he had gone out for a bit. Even if Black should find it he would not understand, but Dumbledore would, which was the point. It would not win him any favors, either way.

The ritual itself was simple, yet complex. It involved a lot of chanting, difficult for someone who, unlike a brainless girl gossip, spoke only at need. In the end he was gone, leaving behind a ritual cloth burned to fine ash.

*

Joshua yawned hugely and glanced around sleepily; the ritual had taken a lot more out of him than expected. His first action, after quickly destroying his copy of the book, was to put away his pouch. After that he corrected his appearance and changed into nightclothes. He was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

“How do you think you fared?” asked Tom the next morning.

It took him several moments to figure out what his lover was asking about. “Well, I think. Maybe not perfectly.”

Tom nodded. “We can continue our projects in the usual place while we wait for the results. All we need do now is suffer through the conclusion of this year, and then we’ll be free.”

‘Though what we’re going to do for money. . . .’ Joshua nodded back, and the two of them proceeded with their usual morning routine. The school year ended quietly, and their results arrived just a few days later. Perhaps it was true that grading of the practical portions of exams for NEWTs were done on the spot, with only the written portions having to be done at the ministry. OWL results obviously took second place.

They resided at the abandoned cottage for the time being, resorting to theft to supply money and food—Joshua did not want to dip into the supply of coin he had brought back yet, not until it was unlikely Tom would realize something was off. He considered attempting to invest in stocks, but realized that nothing really sounded familiar to him, and it would be problematic to create identities which would stand the test of time, especially as he would only be in the past for three years.

It was only after he had thoroughly investigated what Voldemort had given him that he understood what they could do. There were pages of information on a number of things, but what really stood out were the results of races and games, things people would bet on. Also included was information on up-and-coming companies, but he figured it would be too difficult for him to bother with, though perhaps he would make sure, before he disappeared, that the things he left behind would be found by Tom. They just needed enough muggle money to begin with. Care, along with changing faces and identities, would provide a start on wealth. Voldemort had even been smart enough to use a dicta-quill to disguise his handwriting.

*

The cave took months to properly prepare. Not only did they have to dig it out, it was also necessary to cover nearly every inch of the walls with runes, to guarantee its stability and also to ensure that no one would stumble over the cave. The entrance was actually a very long corridor with multiple redundant ‘doors’ every so often, each spelled and rune-engraved and requiring a Parseltongue password, with the final exterior ‘door’ requiring blood to access, either his or Tom’s. And at that, the entrance was underwater, in a lake, disguised with illusion and protected by spells to provide a barrier against the water and keep anyone else away. He would like to think that Voldemort would have mentioned if the protections had failed later on, but perhaps the man simply had not thought of it.

Joshua would slip off every so often to place bets and collect his winnings, on both muggle and magical sporting events; Tom very carefully did not ask questions. Once he had a certain amount on hand a portion was set aside strictly for gambling, while the rest was stored through the rings in their own personal vault, to be used for anything they needed.

It was all the work they had done which pointed Joshua’s thoughts in a tangential direction. “I’m wondering,” he said late one afternoon, “how hard it would be to learn curse breaking. I mean, we just spent all that time setting up protections, but how easy would it be for a curse breaker to rip them down?”

Tom arched a brow at him.

“Did we do enough?” Joshua questioned. “Were we thorough enough? Were we thinking creatively enough? What if someone suspected something and came at it from a different angle? Blast through the rock from a different direction? Someone with muggle knowledge, perhaps able to sound out that there is a cavern? Someone who finds this and becomes curious enough to investigate?”

Tom frowned slightly and sat back, his body at once relaxed and tense. “Interesting questions, I admit.”

“There are muggles who delight in finding and exploring caves, hoping to find long lost artifacts or even evidence of ancient cultures. Perhaps I am simply being too paranoid. . . .”

Tom smirked, his eyes alight with interest. “I do not see why you should not investigate curse breaking. Both of us, even. There is no harm in acquiring more knowledge, and if it benefits our protection schemes it is doubly useful.”

“I realize,” he said with a nod, “that technically it would not matter if it were found as it exists, in this state of being. It is within dead-space that we employ it. Even so. . . . And in any case I would like to learn more magic that is useful, not the rubbish we were usually taught at Hogwarts.” He paused and shot a slightly hesitant look at his lover. “There is one other thing I wish to bring up. I plan to make a single Horcrux for myself. Just in case.”

Tom blinked a few times.

“Just one,” Joshua said firmly.

“All right,” Tom said slowly. “How much thought have you put into this?”

He could have taken that badly, but did not. “I know exactly what I want to do, though I would like your help, naturally. There is some research I have yet to complete, but after that it will be fine to proceed. Here’s what I have in mind. . . .”

*

He came ‘home’ from his volunteer job at a hospital in London to find that Tom had the table set with food, wine, and a small wrapped box. “What’s the occasion?” he asked.

Tom favored him with a bland look. “You are ready, are you not?” he replied, taking one of the seats and flipping his napkin open.

“Yes,” he said slowly. As he seated himself he added, “Except for the receptacle.”

His lover nudged the box toward him, a slight smile on his face. “Perhaps this will suit?”

Joshua eyed the package with a vague sense of wariness, then pulled it to him and carefully unwrapped it. Inside the box was a somewhat worn and chipped figurine of Anubis in full jackal form. His brow furrowed as he examined it closely, vaguely making the association between the Horcrux he was planning to make and the god’s link to death, and eventually he looked curiously at Tom, who happened to be smirking. “I know there’s a story behind this.”

Tom’s smirk became a smile before he said, “Indeed. Such a shame the protections at the museum were nothing to a wizard of my caliber. I thought it appropriate.”

He huffed lightly. “So this is genuine.” Joshua set the figurine next to his plate and smiled at his lover. “I do like it. Thank you.” He already knew exactly who his target would be; his volunteer work had seen to that. There was a young boy in the children’s ward suffering from a terminal case of cancer. Nothing had worked on the child, yet the doctors kept him alive, continued his wretched existence.

The boy’s parents were unwilling and unable to let go, and wealthy enough to keep flinging money at a problem which could not be fixed. In their grief over the situation they had become willfully blind, not only to reality, but to the suffering they forced on their son. The boy himself, Jonathan, understood all too well and was ready to die. He knew this from long talks with the child.

Joshua was prepared to give that child his wish. True, he could simply find an unrepentant criminal, but he did not wish to ‘taint’ his Horcrux. While his act would not be selfless it would give the poor child what he wanted, and painlessly so, as an act of mercy. He might well be splitting hairs, but he was prepared to live with the outcome either way. And now he had a vessel.

Several weeks later he quit his job—coincidentally two days after Jonathan breathed his last—claiming that he did not have the fortitude to handle that again, not that anyone really cared about his reasoning. His Horcrux felt different from those of Tom’s he had handled, but perhaps that was wishful thinking.

What he was unsure of as yet was where he would secure the Horcrux, though he could use the cave. Not knowing how it might be affected made him a bit wary of that option. He also needed to prevent Tom from trying to resurrect him after he went missing. He could not flat out state anything, and hints would have to be bare, assuming he could even speak any. Did Tom trust him enough—truly trust him—to simply swear a vow?

Certainly, if he died after his return Tom would know at that point, but Voldemort had already told him he thought Joshua died at the hands of Dumbledore. What would happen if Tom tried to resurrect him when he was not only alive but in a different time? He grimaced at the idea, still no closer to an answer. Naturally, his lover picked up on his mood, but spoke not, merely arching a brow in a mildly infuriating way. If only. If only. . . .

“Still deciding on a place?”

“Yes. I want something seemingly timeless, very obvious, and at the same time not. Something like a location famous to the muggles, but not necessarily to magicals. For example, a castle that’s been around for centuries, sees everyday use, but where no one would notice if I slipped into the cellars and secured it there, perhaps inside one of the stones. Maybe a magically expanded spot. Perhaps a room that has been closed off for a hundred years or more which could be placed under spells.”

Tom appeared to consider his words seriously, and eventually nodded. “The basic premise sounds reasonable. There would be no reason for anyone to suspect. Let us see what we can find.”

Research provided exactly what he was looking for, thus they sneaked into the chosen castle and down to its depths. The walls were in excellent condition, but that did not prevent them from extracting one of the stones and creating a hole behind it and to the side, where it would not be immediately obvious. The Horcrux was placed inside, wards emplaced at the opening, and the exterior stone was replaced, magic fixing their alterations.

“I want you to promise me something,” he said quietly when they had returned ‘home’. “This is one of those things I cannot explain, you understand. I need you to trust me.”

Tom’s jaw tightened faintly. “I expect I have no choice.”

“I don’t like it any better than you do,” Joshua said a bit snappishly. “You have no idea just how deeply it pains me to not be able to tell you everything. There should never be secrets between us!”

His lover took a figurative step back and nodded, his expression softening. “Yes. What promise do you require of me?”

“If—if I should die. . . .” He licked his lips. “Promise me, swear to me, that you will not use that Horcrux until I am with you in spirit.”

Tom arched a brow, appearing somewhat suspicious, then said evenly, “I could not in any case, my only. You must be there, as part of any ritual.”

Joshua felt a bit taken aback at his stupidity. He knew that.

“Should the worst happen,” Tom continued, “I will keep checking the location for you, as it is known. Thus, I swear.”

He exhaled in relief and nodded. And then reminded himself to check into resurrection rituals, knowing only of the one he had personally witnessed.

*

“I’ve been thinking about our experiments,” Tom said one evening after a long day of studying curse breaking books. “I must wonder at what would happen to a living being held in dead-space for any length of time.”

Joshua bit his lip in thought, worrying it between his teeth. “Perhaps a snake? At least those we can talk to. Though, they’re reptiles and we’re mammals.”

“It would be a start,” Tom agreed.

“What would this be for, anyway?”

“A safe place for us. A place no one but ourselves could ever get to. Can you imagine being able to build a home inside dead-space? But it would be useless if staying there too long would adversely affect us. You would have to know the location to ever make a portkey there, and no one would ever be able to find it, much less likely imagine it to begin with.”

“So try snakes with portkeys which delay in the middle, get their impressions, then try trials with us with portkeys which pause for progressively longer periods of time?” he suggested.

Tom nodded. “You know I managed to slow one down. Now that we know more, now that we can stop them as a delivery method for our storage, I expect we can change that to a delay.”

Their ‘home’, such as it was, was actually quite comfortable by that point, and with the amount of gambling Joshua was doing they were acquiring a hefty amount of money—both muggle and wizard—and lived well for their situation. No one ever bothered them at their remote cottage and repairs had been made enough to make it tenable. Thus they passed the time with research, visits to other countries, and experimentation.

Joshua soon came to realize he had been in the past again for nearly three years. Granted, he had a more than passable handle on curse breaking, and they had made great strides in their goal of a secure hideaway, but he could not claim to be expert in the former or finished with the latter. He was going to have to leave his lover again. ‘Yes, I’ll see him again immediately, but he’ll be alone again, and I know what happens to him. I think I can see why he was happy enough to send me back, even knowing, even if it pains me. The him of then knows, but this one. . . .’ He strove to be more attentive to his lover without seemingly doing so, not wanting suspicion to arise. And he was convinced by then that Tom truly loved him. The only other explanation was that Tom was a consummate actor and he a consummate fool—but no, the Tom of then was unmistakable; sharing thoughts did not allow for lies.

He took to brooding on occasion when Tom was not in a position to notice, wondering how he should handle his departure. He was already in the location he needed to be, but. . . . He also took to leaving early some mornings for walks, to lend some credence to the idea that he could have disappeared away from the cottage—captured, as Voldemort had suspected but never been able to be sure of. The evening he was sure was his last he lured Tom into their shared bed by the simple expedient of saying, “Hey,” and giving him a slantwise look. They were both young men in their prime and always ready, if not necessarily thinking about it. Tom took the hint and pressed him down on the covers after a quick wave of his hand undressed them. Joshua suffered a slight moment of absurdity when he realized he would actually need to get his clothes back on after his lover feel asleep, lest he arrive back in his own time naked.

They wrestled for a bit, each trying to assert dominance of a sort, and Joshua ‘won’ when he managed to flip Tom over and slithered down his body. Waiting for his attention was a stiffly erect reminder of just how he affected his lover, and he gladly dipped his head to pay homage. It was not long before he was bodily hauled up and flipped onto his back, Tom taking control of their lovemaking as he generally did, using hands and teeth and lips and tongue to drive Joshua practically out of his mind. And yet, he had a spare thought at that moment to wonder how it would feel when he was back, when their thoughts were linked so intimately, more intimately even than their bodies would be. That was dashed away as Tom pushed into him, driving away all other thoughts.

Later, once Tom had fallen asleep, he quietly arose and spelled himself clean of the sweat of their exertions, and dressed himself, casting frequent glances at his lover. It was not long before he was whisked away again.

And landed flat on his back. His head slowly rose at the sound of laughter to see Voldemort standing there, amusement at his expense more than plain. “Ha ha.”

His lover got himself under control and said, “I’ve been thinking about your uncle. Just how real do we want this to be? I know what he fears and we have much to choose from under the umbrella of his disdain and fear of abnormality.”

An odd thing to start off with, he thought absently, then got up with a helping hand from Voldemort. “Well, we could frame him for something. Or we could just drive him mad. Or at least, make other people believe he was mad. We could—” He broke off when his lover pulled him into a tight hug and kissed his temple, and relaxed into the embrace. At first it felt so strange—Tom had never acted like this in the past—but then, Tom had never felt need to then, had he. Yes, they had met up a few times already in the present, but never with any opportunity to be themselves—not really. Joshua smiled faintly and snuggled closer.

Eventually Voldemort released him—with a touch of reluctance he thought—and said, “We cannot stay here long. You must return.”

“I know,” he replied quietly. “I assume I was only gone for the same amount of time?”

“Correct. Depending on the wards Dumbledore has on that house he may know you disappeared. Therefore we should go to London quickly. The sooner you return there the more obvious it will be that you are safe. He cannot possibly expect that you could return to the exact same location you left from; the magic does not work that way. And he never did check the ritual.”

Joshua sighed and nodded. “All right. May I have my ring back?”

Voldemort promptly handed it over, waited for him to wear it again, then took Joshua’s arm and apparated them to an alley not far from the Leaky Cauldron. “Fix yourself,” he whispered.

Joshua rolled his eyes and assumed the seventeen-year-old form of Harry Potter, altered his clothes, and pulled up the hood of his robes. “You realize, of course, that I’m not licensed to apparate,” he whispered.

“Naturally. I will walk with you most of the way. The wards of that place do not extend out—I have checked. I will see you to near the door. But, I think, conversation should remain—” ‘—in our thoughts.’

‘Agreed. Shall we?’ he asked. It was about a mile to № 12 Grimmauld Place, and while London after midnight was perhaps not the safest place to stroll in they were not disturbed in any way, despite their anachronistic robes. Charms were wonderful things, after all. They discussed the various Horcruxes that ‘Harry’ had ‘located’ in the past and how to disseminate that information. Voldemort suggested more felix felicis—it should protect him for the time being from any untoward lines of questioning.

He parted from his lover with reluctance. ‘Soon, hopefully.’

‘Soon.’

He could see Voldemort watching from the shadows as he slipped the remaining distance to the house. A tap of his wand opened the door, and only moments later Dumbledore strode into view, a strange look on his aged face.

“We’ll talk in the morning,” Dumbledore said. “For now, I suggest you rest.”

Joshua nodded and slipped up the nearby stairs, grateful to be away from the man so easily, and gained his room with relief. He cast an alert ward behind him and began stripping off his clothes, shortly sliding beneath the covers and laying back. ‘At least I’ll have the opportunity to use it.’

‘Mm. Set an alarm, and sleep well, my only.’

*

Dumbledore drew him into one of the many unused rooms for their little talk and immediately began scolding him for his actions with a look of disappointment on his face. Joshua rather thought that anyone who looked up to the old man would feel deep shame at this point and strove to look repentant. But then, Gryffindors were supposed to be reckless, were they not?

“I just thought,” he said, trying to explain himself, “that it was better to do it so late, you know? Then the others here wouldn’t become involved, or be suspicious in any way. This is supposed to be secret, after all, and it was highly illegal. And I made sure to be to close by when the time came, so as to minimize any danger.”

Dumbledore nodded and gently remonstrated for another space of time, then finally got around to the point: the Horcruxes.

“Oh yes,” he replied eagerly. “I found out a lot! I really think we can do this.” He then proceeded to explain in detail what he had ‘found out’ while in the past—Voldemort prompting him the entire time—the items, the locations, anything of interest. He was pleased to see that the old man’s eyes gleamed at the information. “Those spells you taught me were inordinately helpful. I know he didn’t suspect a thing,” he continued, ignoring the laughter in the back of his mind.

“Excellent work, my boy. I knew you would be able. You should have more trust in me when I say these things.”

Joshua tried his best to look embarrassed. “Well—right. When do you think we can begin? Maybe with the closest one?”

Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. “We have time before the start of the school year, certainly. Yes, the closest one would do nicely, I think. We shall soon go to Hogwarts, Harry. Technically we are not supposed to house students at the castle during the summer, but I think it is necessary. Make sure your things are packed. I will let you know when it is time to go.”

“Yes, sir,” he said, choosing to interpret that as a dismissal. A few minutes later he was back in his room, going through the items in his trunk. Anything of value—not that there was much—would go through the ring. Everything remaining could be easily replaced, and most of it was unnecessary anyway at this point. The moment it was safe to he would never be Harry Potter again, so it was not like he was worried about passing any classes.

A few days later Dumbledore escorted him to the castle and waved him off to Gryffindor tower for the time being after an admonition to come to his office for lunch, after which they would head for the forest where the diadem of Ravenclaw was hidden.

He thought it prudent to once again take a sip of felix felicis before setting out. It was just a feeling he had, a gut urge, one he could not explain nor wished to examine too closely. Lunch was mundane enough, with conversation covering their expected plans, and shortly thereafter the two were striding across the extensive grounds and into the forest.

They were looking for the landmarks Voldemort had supplied to Joshua when Dumbledore suddenly said, “No.”

Joshua frowned and look over his shoulder, saw where the old man’s gaze was, and looked there as well. He saw nothing. A second later he ducked as a bright green light flashed by him, twisting around to stare at Dumbledore in patent disbelief. The old man had his wand raised and aimed at him. “What on earth—!?”