Last Time: Harry offers Ron some life advice and Peter Pettigrew breaks Augustus Rookwood out of Azkaban.
Book 3: Famine
Harry stumbled forward and went into a somewhat graceful roll to his feet as the portkey deposited him back at the arrival point. Long distance portkeys were a pain. Portkeys were bad enough, but long distance ones were even worse. He straightened himself up and tugged at his clothes a bit to get them back into a presentable fashion.
The sound of Flitwick landing and chuckling behind him told him that the Charms Master did not share his same disposition for Portkeys.
"Harry!" The excited cry caught Harry by surprise and he stepped forward a bit, holding out an arm as Susan practically tackled herself into them. Absence apparently did make the heart fonder, as he found himself wrapping her up in a warm hug. "Welcome back!" she said happily.
Harry smiled a bit warmly even if it was a small smile. "It's good to be back Sue." He said softly. He leaned back to get a better look at the redhead. Her long hair was cut, cut much shorter. "You cut your hair." He said, reaching up. It just barely brushed her shoulders.
Susan bobbed her head and turned her head a bit. "How do you like it?" She asked excitedly.
Harry reached up to touch the soft strands, barely using his fingertips. "It looks good on you Sue." And she had a healthier complexion too, a little darker in skin tone, saying she had seen quite a bit of sun. She wore a white blouse with a blue swishy skirt that came to her knees. Her once round face was starting to get the angles and definition that Amelia had, baby fat finally coming away.
Puberty was definitely hitting Susan Bones like a truck.
Harry chuckled a little bit and put his hand flat on Susan's head and drew his hand towards him where it barely touched his mouth. This earned him a slap to the chest, but given he was wearing a dragon hide vest underneath his over coat, he barely felt it.
Susan herself could barely believe that Harry had changed as much as he had. It barely felt like a month, yet he was almost a full head taller than her and she could see where he was getting even leaner. She poked his chest. "You need to eat more. You keep working out, pushing your boundaries, but don't supply yourself with enough." She said.
His hair was getting shaggy. In fact, she reached up to touch it carefully. It was a testament to how far their relationship had progressed in such a short time and what a month away from one another had done to bring them closer that he allowed her to touch him like that. "Any longer Harry and you'll start looking like Snape." Not like it was ever going to happen, but Harry's hair was getting a bit out of control, even keeping it drawn back the way he did wouldn't work forever.
She had to admit, he cut a fine figure in the professional black slacks, emerald green dress shirt, black Norwegian Ridgeback vest and black overcoat. But most impressively was the bronze rapier at his side for his position of seventh in the dueling tournament.
Harry touched his hair a bit. "Yeah, I should probably cut it." He said.
Susan leaned in and hugged her taller boyfriend again and buried her face against his chest a bit. "You look older. Is it because of-…" She trailed off.
Harry nodded softly. "Yes. After helping Hannah, I knew it was a matter of time before the blowback occurred." Harry said in a soft whisper. And he knew his features were starting to look gaunt. He should probably take Susan's advice to start eating more, he made a mental note to ask Millie to start adding some more carbs into his meals as well.
Possibly a dessert more than once in a blue moon. Treacle Tart was quite good.
Harry gently stroked Susan's hair. He could feel her trembling just so softly. It told him something had happened. His eyes glanced over to her aunt. Amelia looked full professional. Charcoal robes with a white blouse. But he noticed the bulkiness under it. Amelia was wearing a dragon hide vest. And not the kind like Harry wore that was part of the formal clothes he was wearing.
Hers was designed to take some nasty curses to it.
Her monocle was in as well, something she didn't often wear all the time. The fact she wore it while coming to meet them said a lot. Harry could see the Auror level wand holster on her arm as well, something that would have her drawing her wand faster than Harry's more commercially available holster. It could also double as a shield with a code word activating it. And her blue eyes were like steel. Hard, firm, and taking everything in as she strode forward.
She went directly for Flitwick and took a kneel to speak to him. "There's been a situation." She whispered softly. Had Harry not been focusing on her so intently, he would have missed her whisper. "Rookwood escaped. Someone broke him out." She spoke.
Harry noticed Flitwick's form tighten, his spine straighten and his mouth set into a hard frown. Brows furrowed and his fist clenched. Harry had a feeling that were was definitely History there, and if Harry was to hazard a guess, this Rookwood was the man that Flitwick had to personally drop.
So why was he broken out of Azkaban?
"Auntie's been like this for the past week." Susan said in a soft whisper. "She's barely home to eat, and it scares me. They're conducting sweeps all over the place, and I've heard rumors about Dementors being taken away from Azkaban to search for him."
Harry frowned at that. Dementors. "Stay close to me as often as you can if we're ever in their search area. They won't bother me." He told her softly.
Susan nodded and noticed that Flitwick and her aunt were looking their way. She smiled a bit, though a touch forced, and touched the bronze rapier. "I heard your matches on the radio. Auntie made sure I knew whenever you were dueling." She said.
Harry touched the rapier and nodded his head. "Yes, I suppose bronze is good enough."
Susan reached up and tapped his nose. "You did fine." Susan said admonishingly. "Only ten duelists get rapiers, and you made it to seventh. You were in the running for a silver one. And you were the one that gave up without even dueling that round."
Harry chuckled ever so softly. "You're right Sue. Bad luck though. Savanna Shaman Necromancer. He simply wanted to win far more than I did. It happens. I'd have had to use some more serious spells and I didn't want to kill the man."
Susan rolled her eyes. "After what you did to Li Wei?" she asked.
Harry shrugged his shoulders again. "Youngest tournament champion ever, hometown of Hong Kong, he was arrogant. Though I admit, mixing magic with Chinese Kenpo in the form of Magical Foci on his wrists and ankles to help in manipulating water did make for an interesting combination."
"How did you win? Even the commentators couldn't figure it out." Susan said.
"Ancient Grecian Wind Curse. The Curse of Atlas. I burdened him with the weight of the skies upon his shoulders, no more than a little more than he could have feasibly handled. I simply dumped about seven hundred pounds of dense air on his shoulders and back. He couldn't move, my knife was at his throat and that was it."
Susan shook her head at her boyfriend. "You are one scary individual with how much you know." She said simply. And it was true. Harry, once he didn't have other commitments, was very capable of being a sponge for knowledge, soaking up details others might not be able to.
Harry chuckled a little bit and took her hand, giving it a little squeeze. He had missed her since Hogwarts, and he was happy just being around her. He could feel their magic mingling nicely. The common ground of Necromancy allowed them to become closer. "How's your physical training going?"
"So you're the one I have to thank for Susan making use of my training area?" Amelia asked, stepping over. She arched a brow at the pair. "Not unhappy with my niece, are you Mister Potter?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm ecstatic with your niece, Madam Bones." He said simply. He noted he was starting to approach the woman's own height. A few healthy growth spurts in the coming years and he would definitely be as tall, or taller than, the woman. He wondered if Susan would be that tall. "I merely stated my reasoning to why I do such physical training. Susan and Hannah came to me of their own accord. Of course, I may have pushed them after that, and pushed quite hard. But that is their fault. They picked me."
Amelia's lips, for the first time since Harry had seen the no nonsense woman that day, quirked into a smile. "Think you can keep up with an Auror then?" she asked amused.
"Pick one and I'll out pace them. Except perhaps Kingsley. That man is tall. Keeping up with his stride will have me sprinting at full speed to out run him." Harry was glad to see Amelia smiling. The woman didn't deserve the headache that had come with the escape of Rookwood.
"I'll have to set up an exhibition. Now then, I do believe that Susan and I came to take you and Flilius out to lunch." Amelia said.
Harry nodded and walked close to Susan as they made their way towards a simple café. Despite his tastes towards the higher end of things, Harry found himself quite enjoying the café food. Two BLT sandwiches and an order of treacle tart.
However, Harry felt like he needed to address the giant rampaging dragon in the room between the four. He looked over to Filius who was enjoying a kidney pie. "Who is Augustus Rookwood?" Harry asked.
There was a noticeable pause and a stiffening. Susan likely didn't expect him to ask and she kept shooting worried glances over to Amelia. Amelia's jaw clenched and her shoulders went rigid. Filius' jaw clenched and he set his fork down slowly. His shoulders sagged a moment. "Heard that then did you?" He asked tiredly.
"Yes." Harry said.
Filius looked to Harry. "He was my last full apprentice before yourself, Harry." The half-goblin teacher said. "And he was a follower of You-Know-Who. During the trials that took place after His fall, Rookwood was ousted as a marked Death Eater by a turncoat attempting to levy some favor to shorten his prison sentence. He named off mostly those that had bribed their innocent vote or in an individual's case was vouched for as a spy. Augustus Rookwood was the first one he named off that had never even come up. He was an Unspeakable."
Harry remained stoic. Why did things keep coming back to Riddle? He was getting a pit peeved with that mortal's obsessive desires to be ever lasting. He would have to wipe him out, completely and utterly. No followers, no names, nothing left to say he was anything more than a pebble to be tossed aside.
But an Unspeakable? That meant this Rookwood had to have an extensive knowledge of things. They didn't just recruit the best, the recruited people that would end up doing world changing things. If he had been broken out by a sympathizer of Voldemort…
Did Harry destroy all the Horcruxes? Or was the mortal still attempting to cling to life?
"Ten Aurors lost their lives the day we went after Rookwood. I summoned three full Squads and sent off a Patronus to Filius to bring him in." Amelia cut in. Her voice was distant like she was reliving that day.
Flitwick shook his head with a dark chuckle, one full of remorse and sadness and regret. "I… I trained him well." He said. "He was a brilliant battlefield tactician, corralling enemies to traps he sprung on them vicious. There was little he did that wasn't without careful thought." He closed his eyes a moment before he connected eyes with Harry. "Artificer Styled Duelist, main components are Copper. Sub category is an Elementalist with Lightning."
Harry couldn't help but wince at the thought.
Susan however who did not have the dueling training or experience that everyone else at the table was confused. "What does that mean?" she asked.
Harry looked to the redhead girl. "It means he uses a lot of tools. Artificers are known for having bags and tool belts full of innocuous things that could, if used right, prove deadly. The fact he used copper means he knew that the Non-Magicals have found copper to make for a wonderful conduit for electricity. His lightning element would be able to travel and take to the copper well."
Filius nodded his head. "One of his favored maneuvers was to throw a handful of copper balls at his enemies and then shoot them with lightning. The lightning arced and bounced back and forth through the balls, essentially creating a volatile net of lightning. During tournaments and training he'd keep the voltage low to only knock his opponents out. When the fateful day came to arrest him, he kept his lightning connected and actually moved his net, sending enough electricity through to kill three Aurors in one go."
Harry frowned. There Magic went making the impossible possible again.
Amelia took a drink of her tea. "I would greatly appreciate it if both of you kept all of this to yourselves." She said, glancing to both Harry and Susan. "Technically, I'm not supposed to tell either of you any of this. However, circumstances being what they are, I will let this much slide."
Translation: Don't tell anyone anything. Harry and Susan got to know simply because Susan had been there to watch her Aunt slowly work herself into the ground. Harry got to know because of Rookwood's circumstances. Very likely if he was broken out of Azkaban, it was for his knowledge. In exchange for that knowledge, he would likely go after one thing that he wanted very much.
The life of Filius Flitwick.
And Harry was Heir Slytherin and thus the Ward Master of Hogwarts. He would be more in tune with any given situation that would have Rookwood slipping through the Wards.
Before he could stop himself, he gave a grunt of annoyance. And his day had been going so good. He shook his head. "Remind me why I want to go into politics." He said.
"Because most politicians are corrupt individuals who only do for themselves instead of for the collective good and you want to change that." Susan said without missing a beat, undoubtedly having heard the words from Harry a number of times.
Rookwood ate the food that had been procured by the rat quite calmly. It was a considerable deal better than the slop that was offered at Azkaban, and best yet they didn't have to pay a single knut for it. He paused to once again consider the little hideaway the rat had made. While it would be ill suited for their Lord once they brought him back, it did make for a good place for the usual rabble of cannon fodder that their Lord tended to attract for some of the lesser tasks.
Any dumb fool could go, kill a Muggleborn's family and cast the Dark Mark into the sky after all.
It was the truly elite that got to go after the bigger fish. But for the best missions, the Dark Lord himself led the charge. Oh, Augustus could almost remember going after Potters. It had been shortly after Lily and James went into hiding, the Dark Lord had hoped to flush them out by attacking James' sire.
Sadly, while the location and food were of adequate standards, his company was not. Peter Pettigrew was still fidgeting, still pacing at the plan. A plan that Rookwood had come up with quite effortlessly as he had thought about the supplies and resources at their disposal. It had been surprisingly limited, but not as much as some might think. After all, the way things work tend to be resources to be considered as well.
"Will you cease your fidgeting Rat?" He snarled as he heard the click of Peter's shoes once more upon the stonework of the subway tunnels. Really, his patience had never been so tried before and he had spent a decade in Azkaban after being ratted out by a traitor.
"Your plan is suicidal, I don't do suicide missions. Even breaking you out was carefully thought out, planned, weighed against the options." Peter argued.
Augustus thrummed his fingers against the hardwood table. "It is not suicidal Rat, if you follow my exact directions."
"No plan survives contact with the enemy." Peter argued. "Remember, I was in the Order of the Phoenix with Mad-Eye Moody of all people."
Rookwood conceded the point there. But really, they weren't done by a longshot. "The plan won't survive enemy contact if you encounter the enemy. Stick to your rat form, Pettigrew, and you will be fine. At best you will be…" He raked a sneer over the rat. "Humanoid… for about thirty seconds. Not nearly long enough to get detected." He said.
"You're giving me information that is a decade old!" Peter argued more.
"I'm giving you information almost a hundred years old, Rat." Augustus drawled. "The stifling of the minds within the Ministry has led it into a downward spiral. They sit upon their laurels and are content to let things go as they be. There is no creativity, there is not spark of imagination. It works, it isn't broken is their mindset."
The ex-convict stood up slowly. "Hogwarts shifts and changes in so many subtle ways because of the imaginations running through it on a near daily basis. The wonder of many, the spark of ingenuity of a child's mind. But by the time they hit seventeen however and begin working at the Ministry, many of them have lost that imagination, lost that ingenuity and thus the Ministry is far slower to shift and change, despite the nature of its magical existence. Everything is locked down by rules, regulations, codes of conduct. A Muggle's toilet has grown teeth and started to bite? Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement receiving a copy of the memo. It lacks the whys, the hows, the whats that the students of Hogwarts bring to her every day.
"It is this stagnation that is making our Lord so powerful." Augustus freely gave the information. He had long since figured it out. "Our Lord is much akin to a child in mindset. He doesn't believe in the impossible and he has delved deeper into the Dark Arts because of it. You cannot make a deal with a demon. He does not believe so. You cannot stave off death. Our Lord has proven otherwise.
"For our Lord, Pettigrew, you will go into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, go to evidence locker E7930.69LV and retrieve our Lord's wand. You will memorize the spells, the codes, everything that I have told you to do so. You will then set fire to the Evidence Locker with Fiendfyre, run away, and cast the Dark Mark so that everyone is aware it was for our Lord. You will instill fear into those that hid behind their money and excuses. I will go personally, alone, to Hogwarts, and I will travel from beneath Honeydukes into Hogwarts behind the statue of the One-eyed Witch, and I will kill Filius Flitwick and cast our Lord's Dark Mark. Any questions?"
At this point, Augustus had maneuvered Peter to have his back to the wall and was looking down at the shorter, rotund man.
"No." Peter squeaked out
Harry adjusted everything to his business attire. He chose charcoal slacks with a matching dress shirt and his usual formal robes over it. He forewent the use of a vest, instead keeping everything professional and tame. The other two Founders' Heirs would be as well. Harry brushed his hair back away from his face, the impassive fury upon it almost setting him on edge himself. He was in fact furious beyond anything he had been in quite a while.
Minister Fudge was attempting to step on his toes, his toes and the toes of the others. Not only was he putting someone in as a teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position due to the lack of finding one by the Founders' Heirs, but the man also had the gall to be positioning Dementors on guard around Hogwarts.
Harry wanted to curse the man into oblivion, but the fact of the matter was that he had to keep his cool. Only he knew the truth behind the Dementors. Only he knew what the emotivores were before they had become the Soul Sucking monsters people knew them to be at the moment.
And only Harry knew how they were controlled and corralled. It had been something his predecessor had set up centuries ago, a deal, a bargain struck between the ever knowledge ravenous beings they had once been and the one being capable of granting them an extension upon their Life. An extension that had them serving until the end of the world at which point they would die and their life force would join with the trillions of things dying and having their energy recycled by the Balance.
Truly Death was a powerful monster.
"One thing at a time." He told himself. He finished his preparations and tucked his wand and knife in their usual spots. Dust gave a caw from the foot of the bedframe.
And Harry had been thoroughly enjoying the rest of his summer vacation as well.
Amelia, with the help of Susan and Millie, managed to convince Harry to instead stay over at the Bones' home for the rest of the summer. So far it had been much more entertaining than the lonesomeness of his own Manor. At least with Millie and Edmund, Amelia and Susan, Harry could see them acting like a family. Whenever he was by himself, it was like he was more machine than anything.
Wake, workout, shower, eat, homework, lunch, practice, dinner, study, sleep and repeat. Really, he actually was grateful that Amelia and Susan had been allowing him to stay, even forced him to some extent. But then again, he knew something that they didn't, something he didn't tell Susan yet either. It bothered him.
During the tournament, he often found himself asking 'Why?' when it came to not using the potentially lethal spells, even against the weaker opponents that gave him a minor issue. Why indeed? He was the Pale Rider of the Apocalypse. He was Death. Why not give others a small taste of that incredible might? Why hold himself back?
Harry was slipping. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that if he started down that path, there was only one ending. He would in full become Death. Not just the Avatar of it as he was being the Pale Rider, but he would fully become the Aspect and embodiment of Death. He would be timeless, he would be limitless, he would be stronger than anything the world could possibly throw at him. He would have the power to rend deities down from their peaks, he would have the power to push back those from Beyond the Veil of Death without difficulties.
But in order to do that, Harry had to lose himself. Death was Death. It was not Harry Potter. Death would consume the memories, the wants, the desires of Harry Potter. It would erase anything Harry wanted. Death did not need any of that, it did not need food or water or rest, Death would work tirelessly, reaping souls and sending them to be judged.
Death could care less about the state of the world.
Death would kill Susan Bones without a single thought otherwise.
At this point, Harry was… deeply interested in Susan. Even then, with his arms empty he remembered the feel of her pressed against him and holding tight. He remembered the scent of peaches and cream so very clearly, likely whatever soap she used in her hair. And more than once, he had found his eyes drifting whenever she wore her bathing suit when she went swimming. At least he knew that he was somewhat normal in that regard as he was going through puberty. Susan would likely end up as a fine woman someday.
And he was happy with her.
He did not want that happiness to shatter. He did not want her to worry or think him freakish. He did not want her to be fearful of the day that he finally slid down that slope, that he would kill her and reap her soul regardless of any sweet words he might offered. Harry was sweet on her. He never lied, not to her, if she asked he would tell her honestly and try to argue or defend or explain his position.
Like when he discussed his conviction to be the Pale Rider. He knew it was not likely to happen, he doubted the world would be called to be destroyed prematurely, but it was always a possibility. Of course, there was the matter he would still have to kill Susan in such an event, but Harry knew he wouldn't be able to swing the scythe then.
If the world was called to be destroyed, he would give himself up to become Death. He would take the choice out of his hands.
Morbid as the thoughts were, Harry had to banish them as he stroked Dust on the head briefly before he headed out without the bird. He had to greet Cedric and Aria at the Ministry. He set his face into an impassive look, his gameface. While both Cedric and Aria had family that should have been representing them in a meeting with the Minister, they had forgone it as it was not a matter for Amos Diggory and Walden MacNair.
Harry frowned a bit. It was time to remind Fudge that when it came to Hogwarts, the little man in the lime green bowler hat was not in charge.
A/N: I'm sorry for the delay. I'm going to try and get back to more frequent updates and getting back into the habit of giving 5k and up chapters again. This book is going to fight me took and nail, but I've already got a few twists and turns planned out to make it interesting.
HunterBerserkerWolf, signing off.