Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Locus :: 10

10

Dumbledore sighed and shook his head sorrowfully. “Harry my boy, you are far too much like Voldemort.”

Joshua managed to look highly offended at that. “You can’t possibly be serious! What are you talking about?” he demanded, eyeing the wand still aimed at him.

“I had my doubts from the day you came to this school,” Dumbledore said. “You looked innocent enough, but your actions over the years. . . . Very Slytherin, too Slytherin, not much at all like a Gryffindor.”

Joshua just stared at him in apparent disbelief and incomprehension. ‘You are nearby, right?’ he asked a bit nervously.

‘I am,’ came the welcome reply.

“I regret to inform you, child, that you, too, are a Horcrux of Voldemort. It explains so very much.”

“You’re mad,” he asserted fiercely.

Dumbledore looked at him sadly. “I’m so sorry, Harry, but it is truth. Your attitude, what I suspect is your ability to speak Parseltongue . . . it all adds up. You are regrettably tainted by the association. If Voldemort is to truly be defeated you must die. But die knowing you were a necessary sacrifice for the Greater Good, and your name will always be remembered as the one who delivered us from Voldemort.”

A second later the old man began shooting spells at him, and Joshua reacted out of pure reflex, dodging nearly everything, whether by his own merits or with the help of that felix felicis. He was hit glancingly, but not fatally, until a lucky shot managed to blast him into a nearby tree. He was trying to get back up, his breathing badly affected by the impact, when a male centaur galloped into view, bow drawn, the colour of the wood in startling contrast to his dark hide and skin.

“What is happening here?” the centaur demanded. “Why do you break the peace of the forest?”

Dumbledore did not even try to explain, he simply changed aim and nailed the centaur with a killing curse. Joshua just had time to see the look of disbelief on the creature’s face before the corpse crashed into him, driving him onto a broken branch.

He coughed, surprised to see blood splatter from his lips, and looked back at the headmaster. The old man was smiling, albeit a bit sadly, but yet pleased. “Wha—!” He could say no more, and suspected his lungs were quickly filling with blood and would soon suffocate him. He also suspected some of his ribs were broken. It was the look on the old man’s face which told him no help would be evident from that quarter. ‘Tom. . . .’

‘I’m here,’ Voldemort assured him. ‘Yes, you’re dying. I will make sure it’s all right. Please trust in me.’

Please. Something he rarely ever said. He coughed again, more blood issuing from his mouth, and he felt a strange sense of weakness overcome him. How exactly did that felix felicis help the situation, he wondered. His eyes were just beginning to close of their own accord when Voldemort appeared with a cackle of maniacal laughter on his lips.

“So, Dumbledore! Broken another tool, have you? Done my job for me?”

Trust. He would trust—in his lover. His eyes slipped closed and his hearing began to go, sounds muffled as though he was under water. He could no longer understand the words being spoken, though a part of him recognized that spells were being cast. He felt so cold, so very cold, but strangely not scared. Dying was . . . easy.

What seemed a moment later he was awake and alert, watching as Voldemort slammed Dumbledore into a tree and knocked him unconscious—perhaps he was not the only one to partake of that potion. His lover quickly moved forward, a stunning spell leaving his wand, then bent down warily to collect some of the old man’s blood in a vial. Seconds later he was up and backing away, closer to—his body?

Joshua blinked and looked around, only to see his dead and broken body there on the forest floor. A part of him screamed in anguish, but sense reasserted itself long enough for him to—float—to his lover and overlap the man, attaching himself to Tom in the most intimate way yet. A second later he heard a startled thought which consisted entirely of ‘—!’

‘I am with you,’ he said.

‘This is the—never mind. Stay with me!’ Voldemort commanded, then moved quickly to push away the centaur’s body and tenderly lift Joshua’s own into his arms. ‘I already have my Horcrux and I must move quickly before I am overcome. Stay—with—me!’

A quick half-turn and he was in another place entirely, one he did not recognize in the least. He watched as Voldemort placed his body on a bed, cast several spells, then collapsed. The pain his lover was going through drove him from Tom’s body—not all of it was connected to the assimilation of the Horcrux, either. It seemed a lifetime later that Voldemort carefully stood up, his face drawn and haggard with remembered pain. Joshua overlapped him again. ‘I am with you,’ he repeated.

His lover sighed with relief and nodded. “We must prepare—I have prepared. We can do this quickly. But first, I must repair the damage to you.” He muttered as he cast, saying it had been the strangest sensation indeed to feel someone else sharing his body, even so tentatively. When he was done Voldemort had carefully stripped Joshua’s corpse—even of the ring—and Joshua saw that he looked perfectly alive—except for the not breathing part.

‘Now?’

“Now we do the ritual.” And so he did. Voldemort had already, without his knowledge, pilfered from the grave of James Potter. Famul was summoned—and promptly went into hysterics. A huge cauldron was already waiting, a fire was lit beneath, and Joshua’s body lowered into the murky fluid within.

He shuddered, not that he technically could.

“You need to enter as well,” Voldemort said, a slight grimace on his face. “Settle into the body.”

‘All right,’ he said, sending a feeling of love to Tom, and followed his instructions.

“You will not turn out as I did,” Voldemort assured him. “The circumstances are not the same.”

After that it went quickly. James Potter’s bone was tossed in, Famul sacrificed a hand—his left—and Dumbledore’s blood was added. Except—the time between then and when he emerged seemed like yet another lifetime, this one of unceasing pain, through which he had to wonder if this was punishment for perverting the natural order of things, for daring to defeat death. He stumbled out and promptly collapsed, straight into Voldemort’s arms.

“Rest,” he was urged. “You only just died. The shock alone. . . .”

*

When he awoke it was dark out and he was lying on a bed, neatly tucked under the covers. Voldemort was sitting on a nearby chair, his face drawn, staring out one of the windows. Famul was nearby also, sporting a silver hand, much like Pettigrew’s. He sincerely hoped the poor thing was all right. While he normally did not have much use for the creatures, this one was special. “Tom,” he rasped, and was pleased to see Voldemort’s head snap up. “Hey.”

His lover launched himself up and sat beside him, leaning over to kiss his temple and stroke his fingers through Joshua’s hair. “Welcome back.”

“I feel surprisingly well,” he managed to say, “but I don’t recommend dying that way to anyone else.”

Voldemort glared at him, then his expression softened. “It seems the felix felicis worked well. You didn’t die by anyone’s direct hand. It was an accident.”

Joshua smiled at the directness and the line of thought. “I had wondered. You believe this means our connection to the Elder Wand is unaffected, right?”

“Precisely. A nice bonus, if you will.” Voldemort smoothed the hair back from his forehead again before asking, “Are you hungry?”

To his surprise he was, so he nodded.

“Famul, bring a light meal for your master,” Voldemort ordered, then turned his attention back to Joshua. “I wish I’d had the time to do more to Dumbledore,” he said regretfully.

“But you couldn’t. Staying would only have placed you in danger.”

Voldemort nodded. “I had him completely helpless.” He shook his head. “You are far more important.”

“And Harry Potter is officially dead, so no more pretending,” he said with heartfelt relief, a slow smile blossoming across his face. He reached up and pulled Voldemort’s face to his and kissed him soundly.

Famul arrived at that moment, squeaked, and nervously shuffled over to the bed with a tray. “Masters. . . .” he said uncertainly.

Voldemort pulled back and helped Joshua to properly sit up, then took the tray from the house-elf, placing it over Joshua’s lap. “Time enough for you to get up. For now, eat.”

He took the spoon and started to eat the soup awaiting him, then was struck again by what had so recently happened. His hand began to tremble, soup splattering all over the tray and covers, and he quickly set it back down. “Sorry. Give me a minute. I’m suddenly feeling more than a little traumatized.”

His lover simply nodded. “Perhaps the bread instead?” he suggested.

Joshua knew Voldemort had not acted this way when he had been reborn, but. . . . so much had happened then, and he had had time to be used to the idea. In point of fact, he had no idea how the man had reacted once Harry was back at Hogwarts.

“Somewhat strangely,” Voldemort said vaguely, then nodded at the bread.

He blinked. “I didn’t realize I had thought that loud enough,” he replied, then took up the bread, nicely buttered already, and had a bite.

“As I said, your circumstances are different. As part of that, you look exactly like yourself.”

He continued to eat his bread, pondering that, and wondered if Tom meant that he had no snake-like taint. And why would he?

“Because part of my ritual involved strengthening myself with a potion made from Nagini’s venom,” Voldemort explained. “You were—fresh. Your own body. There was never any need.”

Ah. Bread finished he began on the soup again, this time with a much steadier hand. Funny how he was sharing thoughts so much more easily now. Perhaps because they had briefly shared the same body?

“Perhaps.”

He wondered what Famul was making of this mostly one-sided conversation and laughed slightly, casting an amused look at his lover. Then he wondered—‘Why did I still have one? You did not.’

“Method of death, perhaps. I don’t really know. Maybe the potion interfered. Had your body vanished Dumbledore would have been highly suspicious, I imagine.”

No point in worrying about it, he supposed. Pudding was fresh strawberries with cream and a little sugar. After that he was ready to get out of bed. Famul took the tray and disappeared, so Joshua slowly—just in case—got out of bed. Voldemort—almost incongruously—hovered nearby to catch him if he stumbled.

“I feel fine,” he said. “I think I’m going to be a bit mental for a while, but I feel fine right now. Where is my wand?” Voldemort arched a brow, then produced it from the bedside table and handed it over, so he gave it a quick wave, feeling reassured when he felt familiar warmth creep up his arm. “Er, who do I look like?”

His lover snorted softly. “Potter.”

Joshua grimaced and quickly remedied that, walking over to a mirror on one wall to assure himself of the results, then adjusted to age himself up to something closer to his lover’s apparent age. “Is this our bedroom?”

“Yes and no. Do you remember that project we were working on before you left?”

He turned around slowly, excitement suffusing him. “You finished it?”

Voldemort nodded, his expression rather smug. “Doing it by myself was hardly a pleasure, but it is complete. We have a home in dead-space. And to that effect, I have a gift for you, a permanent portkey which will take you there. All I need to do is key it. This building is my nominal headquarters, but nothing of true importance is here in case it should ever be found. I do have others as fallbacks, but this one is it for the time being.” He removed the ring from his finger and expanded it, then retrieved another one, remarkably similar in nature to the one Joshua already wore. A closer look revealed that it was mirror smooth on the outside, but the inside surface had a single, perfect groove. “I just need a little blood,” his lover stated.

Joshua promptly offered up his hand, watching curiously as Voldemort scored a thin line around his left ring finger, just enough to make it bleed, then slipped the ring into place—like a wedding ring, he thought.

Voldemort gave him an odd look. “It will be set shortly. For now, if you feel up to it, I shall give you a tour. You can always apparate into this room—you’ve already been keyed.”

He nodded, willing enough to see new sights, and have a chance to get his equilibrium solidly back. The next day a newspaper was tossed onto the table next to his plate, so Joshua glanced over and paused, his eyes widening slightly. “Oh, so I’m big news again, being dead and all. And look—you killed me!” he said with a laugh.

“Are you surprised?” Voldemort said dryly.

“Hardly! I can’t imagine Dumbledore would take the blame when you so conveniently showed up, and even if you hadn’t I expect you’d be blamed. And how interesting that the centaur Dumbledore killed isn’t even mentioned. I wonder how he explained that one, or if the other centaurs assume you did that, too. I have to wonder if he even recognizes them as thinking, feeling, sapient beings.” He paused and added slyly, “You do sometimes slay me with your humor.”

Voldemort arched a brow at him. “You are in an exceptionally good mood today, especially after that screaming nightmare which woke us in the middle of the night.”

“Aren’t you, too?” he replied, ignoring the reminder. “I’m free, I’m myself, and I’m with you. For the moment nothing else much matters.”

“The older crowd will no doubt recognize you, and that’s all that matters in the end. They will recognize your right to authority. And speaking of authority, I need to explain to you how the Dark Marks work. It can wait until I’ve shown you other things, however, and tested a few things.”

“Such as?”

“Our real home, for one, and to see if the Elder Wand responds to you.”

Joshua nodded and went back to his meal, idly reading the article about his death, then took a last bite, dabbed his mouth with a napkin, and stood up. On the way back to the bedroom to get ready for the day he said, “I can think of one very important thing we need to do.”

“Oh?”

He nodded and remained silent, even mentally, until they passed through the door. Then he sent a slantwise look at his lover. That was all it took.

*

The Elder Wand was stored at their dead-space home. Voldemort retrieved it from its resting place, an innocuous enough box in a storage room clear across the house from pretty much every thing of interest. An odd look flitted across his lover’s face, and then the wand was handed to him. The second his fingers wrapped around the wood he sensed something. “Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like this wand has a type of sentience, and it’s feeling slightly confused over having two masters,” he said quietly. The wand almost seemed to be muttering in his head. It rather creeped him out so he returned the wand to its box and closed it, then curled his fingers around Voldemort’s arm and drew him away, out of the room.

As they walked down the hall he said, “I must wonder if it’s possible for us, each, to grant dual ownership of our Hallows.”

“Truly make us each a Master of Death, or thus as a duo,” Voldemort mused. “Either way, the wand is most assuredly ours.”

Joshua nodded absently and continued on a little farther, then drifted to a stop. When his lover stopped beside him he turned, placed both hands on Voldemort’s face, and closed his eyes, concentrating. He could feel by the way the flesh beneath his fingers moved that his lover was only just holding himself back from asking questions about this abrupt and unexplained behavior, but he ignored that. He had been, though not for long, an intimate part of Voldemort, sharing his body, and they retained their mental connection despite the Horcrux he once carried being reclaimed. Thus he concentrated, envisioning exactly the outcome he desired, and finally opened his eyes. And smiled. “Maybe you should glance in a mirror,” he suggested.

Voldemort arched a brow, then reached up to cover Joshua’s hands with his own, slowly drawing them away. He kissed each palm before lowering them gently and conjuring up a mirror. What he saw made his nostrils flare in subtle surprise; the snake-like taint from his rebirth was gone and it did not seem to be mere illusion. The mirror was sent back to aether and that brow arched up again in silent inquiry.

Joshua smirked at him playfully. “It was just a notion I had. We’re still connected, you and I. Your body was our body for a time. I used that connection to make my powers flow into you. Perhaps you cannot make the change yourself, but I am a metamorphmagus and I can . . . lend that power to you. You can maintain it. That is, if you want to.”

A slow smile stretched his lover’s lips, and then he said, “I know it upset you. Not that you treated me differently for it. I will maintain it, yes.”

*

He had the first inkling that something was amiss when he realized that Joshua’s hands were trembling again. They had been talking about betrayers and those who needed to die—such as Karkaroff, Bellatrix, and Dumbledore—and Joshua had seemed fine. Yet, his lover’s hands betrayed his agitation. He also realized, with a slight start, that Joshua’s mind had gone curiously blank. Even so he appeared to be completely cognizant of their conversation. By the time a few more minutes had gone by he noticed that Joshua’s eyes kept going unfocused, only for him to snap back to awareness almost immediately. Thus he abruptly changed the subject with, “Joshua, do you not feel well?”

His lover paused for several long moments, then gave him the strangest look. “Well?” he asked. “Well?” Joshua started laughing quietly, his ostensible amusement gaining strength quickly.

Voldemort blinked in consternation as Joshua’s laughter turned from quiet to distressingly loud, hysterical and maniacal. Tears ran down the blond’s face as he screamed incoherently and things around them began to explode and burn without warning; it was a miracle neither of them were hit with any shrapnel. Obviously Joshua was not . . . well. In fact, he seemed to be having a breakdown right in front of his eyes. ‘JOSHUA!’

His lover went suddenly silent, curling in on himself, eyes luminous with tears. Voldemort moved to enfold Joshua with his arms, now able to hear his mind once again. Delayed shock, insomnia, flashbacks to his death, repressed anger toward Dumbledore . . . and the cunning to be able to hide it from him. Voldemort gently pressed a kiss to his lover’s head. Joshua had been prevented by circumstances out of his control from being there when Voldemort went crazy—indeed, his madness was almost a direct result of him not being there—but he would be damned if he would not be there when his lover obviously needed him so desperately. He would help him through this.

*

Joshua awoke and yawned lazily, then wondered almost immediately what the hell he was doing in bed. The last thing he knew they had been discussing—oh. Heat suffused his cheeks as his memory came back of recent events.

“Do you feel better?”

He opened his eyes to meet Voldemort’s and worried his lip between his teeth. “I feel in control again,” he said softly.

Voldemort nodded, his gaze soft. “When I died it happened extremely quickly. The rebounded spell accelerated so quickly I had neither time to think nor dodge. It wasn’t until after I was a mere spirit and in a place I felt relatively safe that I fell apart. I ranted like the madman I was. Had I real power at that time I’ve no doubt the forest around me would have been devastated.” He smiled faintly, almost ruefully. “I was prepared to return to life. I’d had plenty of time to get it out of my system, what happened, though I don’t think you ever completely recover. I did, however, go a bit crazy again, once you were safely back at the school, but more because I finally understood just who it was I’d been trying to kill. I felt such remorse, such pain. Still, a part of me cannot regret that I went there that night, that I unwittingly started this chain of events by killing your birth parents and trying to kill you. Though, I suppose, the second you appeared in the past those events were fated, set in stone. I wonder at times if we are all pawns to fate, all fools dancing to her tune. Or, perhaps, simply guided in mysterious ways to paths that eventually give us what we’ve earned.”

“What does not kill me, makes me stronger,” he responded. “Friedrich Nietzsche. Except, we did die.”

“And then we lived.”

Joshua smiled. “Yes. I like reading his works. Thank you.”

“Always, my only.”

He nodded; nothing more needed to be said on that matter, at least not in words. “How about we try that again?”

Voldemort drew him to his feet and led him off to the dining room. Famul had food on the table before either of them had the chance to ask, but that only made sense given their location. Once they were comfortably seated and tucking in his lover said, “Karkaroff fled at the conclusion of the tournament. I know where he is because I can track him at any time though his Dark Mark. He did well for himself in the intervening years, but that won’t be enough to save him, especially now that he is no longer the headmaster of Durmstrang.”

Joshua nodded. “Too many people know for him to be useful. I might be tempted to just say let him go and live in fearful misery, but he did betray you. The code dictates—” He stopped, thoughtful. “Did he even join you willingly?”

Voldemort shrugged. “He was one of those who assumed I would prevail. He joined to be on the winning side, and on the side which would allow him to be a bit deviant.”

He wrinkled his nose. “I probably don’t want to know, but I probably also should. Deviant?”

“Karkaroff is a competent wizard but master of nothing. He’s also a coward. If he had a bit more spine and nerve I expect he would be a bully. As it stands he very much liked amusing himself with muggles at attack sites, using potions to make them compliant as he took his pleasure of them. I imagine if he had been able to control it the imperius curse would have been a favorite of his. By the standards of pure-blood society this is deviant because it’s like associating oneself with filth. The rape is somewhat incidental in their minds as muggles are often thought of as nothing more than human-looking animals.”

Joshua sighed, and a moment later conjured up some parchment along with quill and ink. After jotting down Karkaroff’s name he said, “Has he been staying put?”

“Yes.”

“What about Bellatrix? Do you simply plan to AK her, arrange an accident, arrange for her to be captured, or to make an example of her?” he asked, jotting down her name as well.

“That is partially up to you,” Voldemort replied. “Do you want to see for yourself how she responds to you stepping up as my equal? Or would you rather just be done with a potentially serious issue?”

Voldemort knew her far better than he ever could. The code did not exactly cover this issue, though it might if she reacted badly to his presence. Was it better to preemptively deal with the situation, or should he stick to the code and see how it played out? Would she have the bollocks to actually attempt to harm him? He shook his head slightly; as tempting as it was to just get rid of her, that path led to personal corruption. “We see what happens. What about Lucius? He had one of your Horcruxes and actually used it against purpose. Granted, that worked out brilliantly for me, but that isn’t technically an excuse for what he did.”

“He’s lucky I was unable to ask him about that until after my rebirth and having found you again,” Voldemort said. “Had I still been in that state of mind and had it been destroyed. . . . I did leave orders with him to use the diary in the event I went missing for any length of time. His idea and my idea of that obviously differ quite drastically, but he did follow orders.”

“Then I’ll leave him off the list. Speaking of which. . . . Now I know you were mad at the time, but the only Horcrux that could function semi-independently was the diary. What purpose was there in having Bellatrix store one for you? The others were hidden normally.”

The response he got was that of Voldemort looking slightly embarrassed. “I have no excuse.”

Joshua arched a brow briefly, then moved along. “We’ll worry about Dumbledore later, and his little Order members, most of whom would likely be useless without him, and generally useless with him. So, off the top of my head that leaves land acquisition, law changes, and my personal revenge. We have a compact of self rule so long as we leave the muggles alone, and it’s obvious the British government hasn’t bothered to enforce penalties against us. I’m not sure they’d hand over title to large tracts of land, though. Might be easier to just steal it out from under them, but they’d probably realize what we’d done. Unless, perhaps, we carved out territory in the middle of one of the national parks.”

“That will be a longer term project, as will the laws.”

“So that leaves my personal revenge.”

“Your whale of a cousin is a drug dealer. He’s almost clever in where he finds places to hide his supply around that house. He tapes packets to the backs of drawers, the undersides of things. . . . But according to his memories he’s a small time dealer. Still, an anonymous telephone call to the muggle police might produce interesting results.”

He grinned. “It would be nice to see him get what he deserves for once. That might even be enough. If that got all over the neighborhood then Vernon and Petunia couldn’t begin to claim they were normal. And perhaps gossip around the office wouldn’t hurt either. No matter what their reputations would be damaged. But we’d need to do it quickly.”

“Naturally,” Voldemort said dryly. “How about we go scout out a place we can watch from, then make a phone call?”

A short time later, relatively speaking, they had ghosted through the house—Petunia never even realized they were there—verifying that Dudley did indeed have drugs stashed in various places around the home, and they were settled in waiting for the police to arrive. And if Dudley was true to form about arriving home for a huge lunch he might even get there in time to be the grand star of the show.

In point of fact he did, swaggering up the walk like he owned the world and entering the house with a shout of, “Mum! I’m hungry!”

Not five minutes later two police cars quietly pulled up and parked. The first pair of officers flitted off to the back of the house while the other two approached the front door, an Alsation beside them, and knocked loudly. It was opened a minute later by Petunia, who looked displeased. She started to say something—most likely cutting—then snapped her mouth shut on seeing the uniforms. After a moment she said, “Yes?”

“Ma’am, we have a search warrant,” the taller officer stated, holding up some paperwork for her to look at.

Joshua stuffed his knuckles into his mouth to keep from laughing out loud as Petunia’s face puckered up. “Surely there’s some kind of mistake,” she insisted. “We’re a decent, normal, law-abiding family!”

“Ma’am, please step back. We need to search the premises. If you interfere or attempt to stop us you will be placed under arrest. Now, may we come in?”

Petunia started wringing her hands and stepped back, allowing them entry, and shortly the door closed, cutting off their view. Joshua and Voldemort immediately disillusioned themselves and moved to one of the windows of the house. It being day the curtains were still open so they had an excellent view, at least of the ground floor sitting room. His aunt was seated on one of the sofas, still wringing her hands, and Dudley had been pulled away from his meal to sit with her. The two officers who had gone around the back were now in the house and two of them were keeping an eye on the Dursleys.

“Mum,” Dudley whined, “what’s going on? I’m hungry and they won’t let me eat.”

“It’s all a terrible mistake, Diddykins. Once they’re gone I’ll take you out to a restaurant, all right? Anywhere you like,” she promised.

They were forced to wait a half hour before the other two officers wandered in, each carrying large plastic bags containing other plastic bags, those labeled, with smaller bags inside them, those containing various powders and pills. Joshua had to prevent himself from laughing again.

“Dudley Dursley, you are under arrest for suspicion of drug trafficking. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be given in evidence.”

He lost what was being said at that point due to Petunia’s shrill voice ringing out in protest, but Dudley was most certainly handcuffed as a second officer spoke to him directly about his rights, and another set about trying to calm his aunt to little effect. A glance around the exterior of the house showed that nearby neighboring housewives were starting to gather, heads inclined toward each other and shooting looks at the police vehicles. They all gasped when Dudley was led out of the house and began gossiping even more furiously. Petunia was still shrilling away at the top of her lungs, but the second she spotted her neighbors the volume dropped abruptly and drastically.

‘I think I’m going to drop a few hints to our lovely neighborhood gossips,’ he said, then took off at a run, only becoming visible once he was safely out of general line of sight. An apple was conjured up, which he took a bite from, and he sauntered over to the housewives with a faint smile on his face. “Did you see that?” he said in a scandalized tone. “Those evidence bags had drugs in them. I wonder if they’re going to arrest him for assault, too. All those poor kids in the neighborhood. . . .” He shook his head sadly and had another bite.

“Drugs?” one of them stage-whispered. “Oh my. And you know, my poor Timmy came home one day all beaten up, money gone. He swore it was the Dursley boy, but when I called them to complain they said it was that nephew of theirs. Timmy swears it wasn’t.”

“Hasn’t the nephew been gone for a while? How could be possibly be doing any of that if he’s not even around?”

“Didn’t you hear? It was in the papers. The nephew was murdered recently. They found his body in the tunnel.”

Joshua arched a brow. This was news to him. “No,” he breathed. “Did they really? Then it couldn’t have been him. And besides, that doesn’t explain the bags and bags of drugs they found in the house. I overheard one of the officers say a lot of it was found in Dursley’s bedroom. Just what has he been doing around here? I hope he goes to jail for a long time.”

As soon as the gossip rose to even more furious heights he slipped away quietly, walking off down the street while finishing his apple. Voldemort met him at the intersection with a smirk and the two of them continued on, this time to the nearest police station. A few minutes of maneuvering and placement of tracking charms saw them done, so they returned home to listen in. Dudley, once brought into one of the interrogation rooms, was crying like a baby. Because he was caught? Or because he was hungry?

He was not yet of age so he was simply left there from what they could tell. Petunia would obviously have to call Vernon and get him to leave work early so one or both of them could be present. Given that they set up a series of parchment and quills and tied the charms into them; they could record anything of interest from the various rooms of the station, leaving Joshua and Voldemort to get on with their lives.

“Now that they’re out of the way,” Voldemort said, “let us talk of introducing you to the Death Eaters. You will need a name.”

He bit his lip, partly in annoyance. He was terribly attached to his name. If he was going to use an alias it would need to be something of meaning to him. Joshua let his mind wander back over the years, considering and discarding many an option, until finally something struck him as being near perfect. “Locus,” he said firmly.

His lover gave him a somewhat disbelieving look. “I trust there is some kind of logic behind that.”

Joshua leaned in and kissed Voldemort, then sat back. “Naturally. Aside from the fact that people might mishear it and assume Locust, well, you are my locus. It’s in honor of you. A center or source, as of activities or power,” he quoted. “You’ve been my locus, time and time again.”

A slow smile spread across his lover’s lips. “You always know what to say. And I approve. Lord Locus you shall be.”