Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Locus :: 11

11

Karkaroff was hiding out in a remote area of Poland. No doubt he thought that since his master had yet to come for him he was safe, though not safe enough to rejoin the greater world. A mistake on his part no matter how one looked at it. Voldemort and Joshua simply released a colourless, odorless sleeping gas (even though their target was assumed to already be asleep), waited for it to take effect, and tore down the man’s wards. All that time spent on curse breaking came in handy.

Voldemort took care of securing his faithless minion as Joshua scoured the house for anything of importance or value. After that they returned to headquarters and tossed Karkaroff in a warded cell, minus anything except a robe to cover him. “We’ll bring him in when I introduce you,” Voldemort commented, then led Joshua to the meeting hall. There he produced another chair—almost throne-like—for Joshua’s use. “Ready?”

Joshua shot his lover a sidelong look which made Voldemort shift minutely. “Yes,” he said with a smirk.

Voldemort waved him to one of the chairs and then called a house-elf. “Tell Lucius to come to me.”

The elf bowed low and popped away, and Voldemort took the other chair. ‘I expect that once I’m done with my opening amusements Bellatrix will decide she needs to kill you.’

‘Not the least bit surprising. But she does need to actually act first,’ he responded, pulling the hood of his robes up to shadow his face. ‘I have only ever murdered one person, after all.’

Voldemort scoffed. ‘I hardly think that counts. It was an act of mercy and you know it. Killing Bellatrix will at least let you know how you feel about the whole concept.’

‘I suppose so.’ He shuttered his expression when the door opened.

Malfoy entered and walked quickly up to the dais, dropped into a bow, then said, “You called, my lord.”

‘He’s well trained,’ Joshua commented. ‘Barely even appeared to notice me.’

“Yes. Your arm, Lucius.” Moments later Voldemort was pressing his fingers against the Dark Mark, calling his ‘faithful’ to him. Malfoy stepped back once Voldemort was done and simply stood there, waiting, his eyes focused on some spot on the wall behind the chairs.

‘Very well trained,’ he added approvingly. ‘I assume he can think for himself?’

‘Yes. He generally gets the job done. You probably remember his father from school.’

‘Did he ever join you?’

‘No. I gathered up my group once I returned and continued recruiting from there, but Abraxas never seemed interested.’

‘So what do you think Bellatrix will do?’

‘Perhaps a sneak attack.’

He would have to use a few charms to heighten his senses, then. No sense giving her more of an advantage than necessary. The question was when she would act. He came back to attention—though his expression had never once wavered—when all the Death Eaters were assembled.

Voldemort rose and took a step forward. “Greetings, my faithful. I have a few things to say today. The first of that is to remind you all of our purpose. What we do we do”—he paused significantly—“for love. For love of our magic, our world, and our traditions. For love of our families and children. To try to keep ourselves from the taint of muggles who rush ever forward simply because they can, never stopping to question whether or not they should. Cultures are assimilated and destroyed. Heritage and traditions are thrown away like stinking corpses in favor of the latest new thing. That is why we have a new motto, my faithful.” Voldemort turned and brandished his wand, using it to carve words into the smooth grey stone of the back wall.

Joshua caught the message from his lover’s mind.

Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.

Voldemort turned back to the Death Eaters and smiled at them. “I want each and every one of you to think on that. I want all of you to decide just what you’re willing to do.” He focused suddenly on Lucius. “You love your wife, your son?”

“Yes, my lord,” Lucius replied quietly.

“Love them enough to die so that they might live?”

Lucius nodded.

“Love them enough to kill so that they might live?”

Lucius nodded again.

“What about the rest of you? There must be someone or something that brought you here, something you want to protect with all the tools at your disposal. Something we all share in common, one way or another. A united purpose. Some of you cower before me, and yes, there is excellent reason for that. But what makes you stand up, proud to be here, willing to fight? Where does your vision of the future intersect with all these others?” Voldemort paused, letting that sink in, then said, “One might say Dumbledore is one thing, and you’d be right. But we must also consider the laws we live under. Ridiculous, unfair laws which we break without a second thought. Laws which should be stricken. Corrupt officials who steal from our people, who must be bribed to do the right thing. Think about it.”

Voldemort returned to his seat. “Next. I’m sure you’re wondering who sits at my side. Lord Locus, if you will. . . .”

Joshua slipped his hood back, a faint smirk twisting his lips, amused when certain parties in the crowd shifted in surprised recognition.

“I know, it has been a long time since some of you have seen him. He is more than my right hand, he is my equal. His voice and my voice are one and the same. Do not forget, lest you remember why you cower. Now, we have someone who has betrayed us. He will answer to that betrayal today. Lucius, Antonin, go to the cells and retrieve the prisoner there.”

Both men bowed and slipped away, returning several minutes later with Karkaroff.

“Look upon him, my faithful. A coward who refused to uphold our brotherhood. He sniveled in court, names of his fellows slipping from his lips in an attempt to avoid Azkaban. You remember, do you not, Rookwood? This is the man who led to your capture. Rosier, he gave the name of your son. He gave yours, Dolohov, and yours, Mulciber, and yours, Travers. Would any of you like to show Karkaroff just what you think of what he did? Do feel free. I am most interested to see how you explain it to him.”

The next half hour was very educational for Joshua. It was amazing what people could do when they were severely pissed off and without a leash. He made mental notes the whole time, knowing he would have to face off against Bellatrix soon enough—very soon if the look on her face was anything to go by. She was just as unhinged as Tom had warned him of. He came back from his musing when Karkaroff breathed his last.

A house-elf was called to dispose of the body, then Voldemort said, “A reminder to any here who would think of betrayal. I want all of you to begin thinking about what needs to change. The next time I call you to a meeting I expect you will all have ideas to share. For now, you may go about your business.”

The attack came a week later.

Bellatrix had worked herself up into a fine froth from what he could see. Naturally, as he knew the workings of the Dark Mark he had kept a close eye on where she was at all times and knew she had been lurking about, spying on him with crazed eyes and murder in her heart. Joshua had to wonder if she had even managed to twist the organization’s new motto, deluded herself into thinking that her ‘love’ of Tom was all the justification she needed for slitting his throat—but not before torturing him first.

So he knew she was sneaking up behind him that day as he was headed toward the upper reaches of the building. He knew she was there as he passed into a generally disused section of that floor. Joshua waited until he could feel the spell she had cast to take one step to the side and turn. “Bellatrix. It seems your aim was a bit off. And you are considered a skilled Death Eater for what reason?”

She simply stared at him for a moment, then shot another spell, just barely missing his head. She did not even speak, which to Joshua meant she was either so angry that she could not, or for once in her life did not see the point in crazed banter. Somewhere in her addled brain she may well have the idea that obsession equaled love. That did not improve her aim, however. Joshua let her make her attempts for another minute, then sighed slightly and twitched his fingers. The trap he had laid previously out sprang to life, neatly capturing the witch and knocking her unconscious.

‘Nice work,’ Voldemort complimented him. ‘She always was incapable of believing that anyone could ever best her—aside from me, that is.’

‘Mm. I admit to being at a bit of a loss. Kill her now, or make an example of her in front of the others.’

‘Well, we already did make an example of Karkaroff,’ Voldemort pointed out.

‘No,’ he said slowly. ‘You made an example of him. I just sat there and looked pretty. Well, in all fairness, I suppose I should make an example of her, but I really can’t be bothered. People will learn.’ He eyed her still form with distaste, took up his wand, and wordlessly cast the killing curse. And, after tucking his wand away, he neatly sidestepped the body and headed off to meet his lover.

“I’m sure someone will find her,” he commented once he was in the same room. “They might even wonder what she did and how to avoid the same consequences.”

Voldemort gave him a long look. “How do you feel about it?”

Joshua smiled, remembering a long ago conversation. “It’s no different than what we’ve done our whole lives, just a little more final. No, I’m not entirely okay that I had to do it, but it had to be done. We can’t afford to have people twisting your words to suit their own ends, with whatever false rationalization they come up with, to in the end deliberately disobey. It’s obvious the only thing she cared about was her obsession with you, and everyone else could go hang. I sincerely doubt she ever cared about your message. Either way, no matter how stupid it sounds, we’ve both died for each other. I wasn’t going to let someone like her get in the way.”

Voldemort nodded, though his eyes told Joshua that his lover would no doubt be watching him carefully for any more episodes, and said, “We should move on to discussing Dumbledore, then. I have been, while we were separated, working on a book, though I would never see it published under my own name.”

“You could always imperius that disgusting reporter—what’s her name?—into claiming it as her own work,” he suggested. “Would it be enough, though? He can lie like a champion, and way too many people trust him. One grandfatherly smile and the twinkle in his eyes would make most people ignore the evidence.”

His lover looked deeply thoughtful. “We could attempt to lay a geis upon him to tell only the complete truth, but cornering him long enough to do so would be quite a trick.”

“House-elves?”

“Perhaps. If we could work up a reasonable plan we could release the book and lay the geis. Eventually Dumbledore would either shut himself away or run. We could even try marking him with a variant of the Dark Mark, so he would be unable to truly hide from us. My only concern with a geis is his knowledge of the ritual.”

“If we had him cornered though to lay a geis, could we not secure any documents he has and expurgate any related knowledge of how from his mind? He would know he used a ritual to kill people and steal their magic, but not exactly how. Although, actually, having anyone know he stole magic and created false muggle-borns is just asking for another kind of prejudice to erupt. Change the alleged purpose of the ritual? Maybe to trying to siphon their magic for his own? People do see him as incredibly powerful, after all.”

Voldemort nodded slowly.

“Famul,” he called, and was rewarded with his house-elf popping in a second later. “I have some questions for you.”

*

Dumbledore, self-proclaimed genius, was not very smart. Or rather, he was so smart he assumed that no one could ever pierce his genius and trickery. He liked slight of hand and deception, impressive structures which were, in reality, nothing more than smoke and mirrors. It was this hubris—and the help of some house-elves—which allowed for Joshua and Voldemort to quite nearly waltz into the man’s bedroom and do whatever they pleased.

Shortly after they arrived Dumbledore was fully under the influence of the Draught of Living Death to ensure he would not inconveniently wake up and interfere with their plans. And as satisfying as it would have been to just kill the man—and he could see that his lover was restraining himself with great effort—they needed to destroy him. As someone had once said, there are worse things than death.

Joshua and two elves stood guard while Voldemort plundered the depths of the old man’s mind. And even then they were sweeping the room for anything of interest. It was a long two hours before his lover came back to normal consciousness, his face drawn and weariness in his posture. Voldemort pointed off to one side, at an innocuous enough table. “Behind it, there’s a hidden compartment. Dumbledore found it inconvenient after a while to keep having to return to his home so he brought his things here.”

The elves scurried over and began investigating, moving the table and quickly enough finding Dumbledore’s secret stash. Hubris again, to not take into account how house-elf magic differed from human magic. Joshua quickly flipped through the journals and books, disgusted with what he was seeing. “Is this the only stash?”

“Yes, oddly enough. I need to rest for a short time before I can start removing and altering his memories, now that I’ve located them. And I’ll probably have to rest again before laying the geis.”

Joshua frowned and ran a hand across his forehead, then rubbed his face. They had shared the body. He could focus his power through Tom.

“Maybe, yes,” Voldemort replied to his unspoken thoughts. “We’ll try it.”

Thus they did, sharing the load nearly equally as Voldemort used his much greater experience and finesse in dealing with the old man’s memories. And again, after they had both rested, to lay upon him a geis—this time supported even by the house-elves—before they slipped away, a slow-acting antidote having been infused into Dumbledore’s veins and a mark left on him which he should not, in theory, ever notice. Back at the house they moved as one to their suite and into the bathing room. Joshua absently sent magic at the tub to start the water running and began to strip, stopping when Voldemort came up behind him to wrap his arms around Joshua’s body. “The first step—complete.”

Joshua exhaled and leaned his head back against his lover’s shoulder. “Soon.” He squirmed slightly when a kiss was pressed against his neck, then resumed stripping when he was released, gladly and gratefully easing into the then full tub. Voldemort slipped in beside him and they both just relaxed for a time.

Eventually his lover reached over for a washcloth and soap, then began the sensuous process of very thoroughly cleaning Joshua. He was half hard before Voldemort even got close, but that changed very quickly. His lover did not even give him a chance to return the favor, instead running the cloth over himself quickly and efficiently, then tossing it to one side. Joshua welcomed when he was pulled out of the water and hastily dried off, then pushed onto the bed in the next room. He smiled in anticipation at the hungry look on Voldemort’s face.

*

“Step two,” Voldemort said with a smirk, “has been initiated. Skeeter has been given the command to see the book released.”

“And we can just sit back for a while as all hell breaks loose,” Joshua said with satisfaction. “I do so like the idea of winning a battle of the wits against that senile old crackpot. I think . . . in celebration of a book being released, a book should be burned.”

“I agree. There should be no evidence for anyone to find of that ritual. With any luck it was the only copy. That it is handwritten suggests so. If not, we shall have to hope for the best. Once he flees the truth we shall hunt him down.”

“And then?” he questioned. “Do we kill him then, or. . . ?”

“I confess I had not given that too much thought. My plans are nebulous. So often plans are destroyed before they even have a chance to begin. I was considering having one of the dementors administer the Kiss. He would technically still be alive and they could keep trying to find him to force out more truth, but we could prevent him from being found.”

He nodded, seeing the possibilities. “Then we could kill the body after a while, make it look like suicide. We’d just have to figure out a good place for him to be found. And once that’s over . . . we could get on with things. Fixing the ministry, finding more land, figuring out what to do about the security risks muggle-borns pose.” He paused, then grinned.

“What is it?”

“Maybe we could call upon the tales of old,” Joshua said. “Changeling children. Except there wouldn’t be any fae involved. Substitute orphaned muggle babies for muggle-borns. But it would only work if we could tell at birth, not some time years later when they first show accidental magic. I admit, I don’t know a thing about how the names are recorded.”

“Rookwood does,” Voldemort informed him. “We can figure something out. It’s an interesting idea. Even more so if we can safely use potions to alter the children to resemble their new parents, sort of like a blood adoption. It’s too bad Severus was—” He shook his head. “I have other minds at hand of that bent I can tap if necessary. You and I did very well, though, so we may not need to.” He shot a speculative look at Joshua. “And you do have the most interesting way of looking at things at times.”

He felt unaccountably like blushing for a moment. After a second he simply smiled and nodded. His lover was simply telling the truth. “Do you think the Death Eaters will come up with good ideas, or will they be spouting elitist pure-blood garbage?”

Voldemort actually sighed and ran his hands over his face, ending up with his chin cradled on his palms. “I have no idea. I tried to get through to them. I realize that they probably have no idea where this is coming from, this change. Perhaps the older ones do, having seen that you have returned—I don’t know. It isn’t as though it ever once crossed my mind to ask their opinions of you. They saw me as I was, then later as a crazed man, and now this. The newer Death Eaters, though. . . . I expect some of them to think I’ve gone soft and attempt to rebel, even with the example of Karkaroff’s death. We shall simply have to wait and see. And, in the end, if there are those ones as I expect, I must deal with them. It is possible they would never have come to this point without a leader. They may have remained ever in the background, wanting, desiring, yet not acted. And having brought them out it would be my responsibility to see that they would not become like a rogue Bellatrix.”

Joshua laid his hand on Voldemort’s knee. “We’ll handle it together. As much as I wish I had never had to leave you, it did prompt you to dig deeper. Without that we would never know the depths of Dumbledore’s depravity. In that respect the pain was worth it to me—even dying. Who knows how they work”—he waved a hand vaguely up toward the ceiling—“but we’re together now. You’ve done a lot of evil, Tom, but you’re making up for it. I’ve done evil. We’ve both suffered greatly, almost as if that suffering was pre-payment for now. Perhaps to make us appreciate each other even more, to see with better clarity what to do. You have always believed in me, and I will always believe in you. Whatever must be done we’ll do it together. If there must be deaths my hands will be as bloody as yours. I know it was not technically my fault, yet I cannot help but feel responsibility for you going insane. I knew when I went back the second time what would happen to you and I burned. I was assailed by doubts. I knew nothing I could try would change anything, and I tried anyway because you were the most important thing in my life. I couldn’t not try. And—” He broke eye contact and swallowed hard. “I’m getting off track. I’m not sure where all this is coming from.”

Voldemort said not a word, he just pulled Joshua to him and wrapped him in an embrace.

*

Over the course of the next few days the general tone of public opinion went from disbelief to suspicion to outright demanding when it came to the alleged actions of one Albus Dumbledore. They so wished they could witness things personally; as it was they were forced to rely on what little the children of Death Eaters could report back. Dumbledore was particularly scarce about the school, it seemed, and the head table during meals was eerily silent when he was present, almost as if the other staff members were prevented from having it out with him in public. Though, it was possible they simply did not feel that hashing out the truth in the middle of the Great Hall was a wise idea.

It took a full week before word came back from various sources—of which Lucius was one—that the ministry ‘invited’ Dumbledore to come talk with them. They knew right then that a decision had to be made. Did they kidnap him before he was supposed to show up, or did they wait to see what would happen? Would the old man do a runner? What choice did he have? Not go? Go and say nothing? Or would he alter people’s memories to reflect what he wanted?

Joshua shared a rueful look with his lover. “We didn’t think of that.”

Voldemort heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “He might not be able to. Technically that’s deception. Saying nothing isn’t lying, it’s refusing to answer, and silence in itself is a type of answer or truth. Altering memories, though, and giving them false ones is lying.”

He couldn’t quite suppress a sense of skepticism that it might be that simple. “Can we afford to take that risk?” he asked, tapping his chest absently with one finger. “If he does manage to alter their memories, would an anonymous tip spur the ministry into checking for the obliviation charm—if Lucius brought it up to Fudge? And then we kidnap him?”

“I think that’s a workable plan. We will need to work fast, though. Perhaps a gift from Lucius to Fudge, a little bauble which would allow us to know if the man has had his memories altered if and when Dumbledore shows up for that chat.”

“Something he can wear which will record what spells are used against him?”

“Capture the echo of the magic, to be deciphered, like using Priori Incantatum on a wand, except at a distance.”

They looked at each other and nodded. Within a day, well before the meeting was scheduled, Lucius was given a set of cufflinks which displayed the crest of the most prominent family in Fudge’s ancestry. It was a flattering gift and held little other value aside from the precious metals used, so the chances of it being considered a bribe was negligible. That alone made it mildly suspicious.

Even so, they learned very quickly that Fudge knew and practiced rather a lot of strange spells.

The day of the meeting came and Dumbledore actually showed up. Joshua was almost shocked by that knowledge, but his lover expected it. And as much as the restriction of having to wait for another to act chafed that was exactly what they did, eyeing the monitoring crystal linked to Fudge’s cufflinks with a certain amount of cynicism.

Joshua huffed when it happened and Voldemort looked both smug and annoyed. “Figures he would try it. He is so convinced of his superiority, so blind,” Voldemort said distastefully.

“But it remains to be seen how successful he was,” Joshua pointed out, then called, “Famul.” When the elf had appeared he said, “Tell Lucius to come.”

Lucius duly arrived and was instructed, then sent off. He returned several hours later with a faintly grim expression. “My lords, I convinced Fudge that something was off about his memories and escorted him to a healer, where it was found that while none of his memories had been removed, they had been muddled. I can only assume that Dumbledore did attempt obliviation and something caused it to go wrong.”

Joshua tilted his head toward his lover while still keeping his gaze steady on Lucius. ‘Either we worded that geis badly or he is more powerful than we anticipated. Still, he was not entirely successful.’

‘Mm.’ “What was Fudge’s reaction to knowing his memories had indeed been tampered with?”

“Incensed, sir,” was the ready reply. “His intention of questioning Dumbledore about the validity of that book of Skeeter’s was thwarted. He is now more than ever convinced that Dumbledore is evil and must be sent to Azkaban. After all, the old man reacted in no way familiar to him, such as that of a guilty man willing to make deals—”

‘Bribes,’ he said, mentally rolling his eyes.

“—and his actions say much about his guilt. Fudge has ordered the DMLE to capture Dumbledore and drag him back in chains. He outright stated that he would prefer Azkaban over the veil simply because it might teach the old man some humility.” A faint sense of amusement radiated off Lucius at that.

“Well done, Lucius,” he said. “You may go.”

Lucius bowed respectfully and quit the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

“I believe that’s our cue,” Voldemort said simply.

*

‘Why would he come—oh, right.’

Voldemort favored him with a dry look. ‘Sometimes I wonder about you, my only.’

Joshua made a face. ‘Pardon me for not quite reaching your level of deviousness,’ he replied with mock defensiveness.

Voldemort cracked a faint smile and jerked his chin toward the building. ‘Shall we?’

‘We shall.’ He promptly disillusioned himself, cast spells to hide his scent and any sounds he would make, and skulked into the building, knowing that his lover would be nearby and similarly disguised. There seemed to be no one on the ground floor and a quick check of heat sources led, not upstairs, but below, so there had to be a cellar.

‘Over here.’

Joshua followed the mental pull down a hallway, then around a corner. There, through an arch into what looked to be a kitchen, and nearly invisible in the shadow behind a staircase, was a door. ‘It’ll probably squeak like hell,’ he thought, then used a few diagnostic spells to see if there were any wards to contend with. Once he was satisfied he carefully, slowly, loosened and removed the hinge-pins, gratified when he realized that his lover was using magic to hold the door steady. A bare minute later the door had been floated away and noiselessly set down on the floor.

The staircase was ill lit and looked like it would groan under more weight than a cat, so Joshua was pleased when he felt Voldemort casting spells to envelop the descent in a shroud of silence. Down they went, silent as the grave, into a scene painted in blood. Dumbledore was breathing harshly, but had a triumphant look on his face as he stared at the corpse of his brother.

‘Tidying up any possible loose ends, I must assume,’ he commented.

Voldemort’s response was to nail Dumbledore with a stunner at short range, the spells disguising him falling away like silk slithering down his body. ‘I am tempted to just kill him now, but that can wait a bit longer. Help me get this potion into him and we’ll be away momentarily. Someone will find the body, I’m sure.’

Shortly thereafter Dumbledore was tucked away in a very special cell—long enough for a dementor to be called, anyway—and was administered the Kiss without further ado. A wide grin appeared on Joshua’s face, despite the fact that seeing someone be Kissed was indeed as horrifying as advertised. The grin turned into shock when a phoenix flamed into the room and trilled melodiously, the song sounding both exultant and frightening. The very fact that Joshua was more comforted than damaged by it told him he had—mostly—stayed on the correct side of the line. A glance at Voldemort showed a rather pained expression, but he did not seem to be in any quantifiable pain. The bird’s song came to a neat ending and it stared intently at them each, eyes unblinking, then flamed away.

Joshua cleared his throat and said, “All right, that I was not expecting. Come to think of it, I seem to have curious blank spot on this subject.” He shot a questioning look at Voldemort.

“I always thought it was strange that he had one. I have to assume he found a way to bind one to him to enhance his reputation. We both know just how unscrupulous he was. And frankly, much of what anyone knows about phoenixes is pure conjecture. Legend might be based in truth, but it is also a breeding ground for falsehoods and exaggeration.”

He hummed slightly, nodding. Was there much point in worrying about it? The bird did not seem to be inclined to harm them, but rather appeared pleased it was free, regardless of the fact that those who freed it were not exactly paragons of Light. He waited as Voldemort summoned a house-elf and gave it very explicit instructions regarding the soulless Dumbledore, then joined him on the walk back upstairs. “I suppose that Lucius, being so ‘close’ to Fudge, can inform us of the best time to end this.”

“Agreed.”