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Chapter Fifty-Nine—Night Skies
He stands at the edge of the forest and looks out over a Muggle village. His chuckle is soft and deep, and he doesn't think that anyone close enough to hear him would manage to keep from fleeing.
Then again, it's not as though he wants to avoid terrifying the Muggles.
Lord Voldemort lifts his yew wand and enhances his senses, seeking out the small mice scurrying through the leaves near him. Then he Summons them and sets about Transfiguring them, finding a simple pleasure in the sharp movements of his wrist and the way the magic glides out of him.
In a few minutes, large wolves surround him instead of mice. Their jaws gleam with foam, and their eyes as red as his when they catch the light. They look at him, and Lord Voldemort nods towards the village.
"Slaughter them in their beds," he says.
The wolves run down the hill, silent until they get inside the soft gleam of lights from the village. Then their howls ring out, and terrified screams answer them. Some people turn on more lights, and Lord Voldemort hears the growl of some kind of machine, but he doesn't care to see what it is. The Muggles are not going to have any kind of weapon capable of stopping creatures as big and bloodthirsty as his creations.
Lord Voldemort watches with a small smile as the wolves drag the Muggles through windows and doors, and break into their houses to slay them there. One wolf comes out crunching on a child's arm. Blood sprays through broken glass. The screams soar for a time, and then die away, as if the Muggles have seen the wisdom of bowing to the superior species.
One of the wolves comes trotting back up the hill, night-darkened bracken crunching beneath its paws, and bows its head to him, mouth full of flesh. Lord Voldemort reaches for it. An adult arm, this time. From the rings on the fingers, doubtless a woman's. The end of it is an explosion of blood and slivers of bone where it was torn from the shoulder.
Lord Voldemort smiles, and brings the hand to his lips. It smells tempting when he darts his tongue out to sample the air. Like juice, and meat.
He opens his mouth and begins to feed.
Harry comes flying out of sleep, gripping his forehead and trying not to gag. He can hear the stirring next to him that is Theo sitting up in bed, and winces. He didn't mean to wake his friend up.
He reaches automatically down to the bed beside him, and hisses in frustration when he finds no Chaos. But the firestone is there, and Harry cradles it close while he listens to Theo climb out of his bed and come to Harry's curtains, yanking them open.
"A bad one," Theo says quietly. "I didn't share it this time, though, other than a feeling of terror at the very end."
"I don't think that you can join me in my dreams and guard me there unless I'm there," Harry says. His voice is a croak, and he blinks and reaches out to the table next to him for the glass of water that he always fills before he goes to bed now. After he swallows, he continues, "If it's just a vision, there's nothing to really guard me against."
"Except that you get traumatized." Theo sits down on the bed. "You really need to get better at Occlumency."
Harry stares at him over the side of the water glass. "No shit."
"I could ask my father for books on Occlumency," Theo continues, ignoring that. "It would be a good test of his plan, whatever it is, to lull me into trusting him. If he sends the books, then we could look and see whether he'd tampered with them. If not, we could use them."
"Professor Snape has tried his best to teach me Occlumency." Harry leans the glass against his inflamed scar, then lowers it and picks up his wand from the table to cast a Chilling Charm. "I don't think books are going to help all that much."
"You never know. Sometimes a book can phrase things in a new way that a teacher can't match."
"Yeah. Okay." Harry wants to say that Theo shouldn't have to go to that trouble, but sending a letter isn't much trouble, and it's not like Harry will let Theo get lured back into his father's clutches while they're both still breathing.
"What are you going to do about the village he slaughtered?"
"Shit. I didn't realize you saw that much. I'm sor—"
"Shut up, you're being annoying." Theo lowers his voice as Blaise turns over in his bed, probably not wanting to be annoying himself, or at least not deal with roommates waking up and yelling at them about their sleep being disturbed. "But the Ministry refuses to acknowledge that he's back, and you don't have any allies who can spy on him. What are you going to do?"
"Do my best to learn Occlumency, and warn the people who will listen to my warnings. And get as good as possible at defensive magic as fast as possible, so I can kill him." The glass of water feels better against his scar this time.
"You're not going to do that without us."
"Did I say I would?" Harry rolls his eyes and settles back against his pillows. "I'm going to train you lot, too, so that you can defend yourself if he or his Death Eaters corner you. And I'll ask Professor Snape for extra training on Occlumency, although I don't know if it'll make any difference when nothing so far has."
"I'll get those books. It's possible that if my father won't send them to me, then the Black library has copies."
"That's another thing about this summer that I'm not looking forward to," Harry murmurs, closing his eyes. "Dealing with Draco."
"He won't be a problem."
"If you hurt him, Theo, then I won't speak to you again."
"Did I say that I was going to hurt him? I'm just going to speak to him and make clear where some things stand."
"Did I say that hurting him would only cover physical wounds? I mean it when it comes to threats, too, or insults, or taunts that you're giving him because you want him to attack you and give you plausible deniability. I am not going to tolerate it."
There's a surprised silence next to him for long moments. Then Theo sighs explosively. "If that's the way you feel about it. I'll keep anything I want to say to myself. But I do reserve the right to raid the Black library for those books you need, and I won't care if he's staying in the Black house at the time."
"Don't speak to him. Don't look at him. Leave the room if he enters. And then we won't have a problem."
Harry feels bad a second after he gives that order, but he's not going to rescind it. And if Theo is going to insist on treating him like a lord, well, Harry is going to use that obedience. Nightmares like the one he had tonight have made it clear that he can't afford to neglect any advantage.
Theo waits in silence for a few seconds, then chuckles. The link between their minds might let him sense some of what Harry is thinking about, but even if it doesn't, he sounds pleased. "Good night, my lord."
Harry rolls his eyes without opening them, and waits until he hears the rustle of curtains that means Theo has settled back in bed. Then he cuddles Chaos's firestone closer to him, and goes back to sleep hoping to dream only of her.
WEREWOLF SLAUGHTER AT MUGGLE VILLAGE IN SCOTLAND!
Remus gives a disgusted sigh and tosses the paper down. "Doesn't anyone who writes for it care that there wasn't a full moon last night, and therefore the creatures that devastated a Muggle village couldn't have been werewolves? Probably not."
"None of them have any sense," Sirius mutters above his own copy of the paper.
"Of course not. But then, I don't think that any of the Prophet writers have an eye on anything but the money they can make." Narcissa blots her mouth for a second with her napkin and fixes a gaze on Sirius that makes him internally groan. He's sure that he won't like what comes next. The only saving grace is that it's too early for her whelp to be at the table. "I want to know what preparations you are making to fight You-Know-Who."
"Of course I'm going to help Harry as much as I can." Sirius frowns at her. "But I don't know what coordinated effort you want me to mention. I fought in the Order of the Phoenix in the last war, but that was an effort led by Albus. I don't have a reputation as a leader or the contacts he does."
"But there are people who will follow you for the sake of the Boy-Who-Lived and the Black family's reputation."
Sirius snorts. "Those two groups have hardly any overlap."
"You can make them have it, though." Narcissa leans forwards, her eyes glinting in a way that makes Sirius even more uncomfortable. "Or do you think all Dark wizards and witches want to follow the Dark Lord?"
"Of course not." If nothing else, Harry's visions suggest that very few Death Eaters have returned to Voldemort yet. But Sirius still folds his arms. "How can I make a place for Dark wizards and witches when they'll probably still want to practice Muggle-baiting and Muggleborn-killing and manipulate Harry for their own ends?"
"They would be willing to accept a compromise that need not include some of the…extremes."
"Oh, you know that? Been talking to them, have you?"
Sirius clenches his hand around his wand before he can stop himself. Remus shows his teeth. It wasn't full moon last night, but that's only two days away, and this close to it, Remus definitely has the senses and the strength of a werewolf. And since he's been taking Wolfsbane regularly and had Sirius's company on the full moon nights, he seems healthier than he has been in years.
"You insult me with your assumptions that I would have betrayed my son's sanctuary to any of them." Narcissa examines her nails. "There are some who would be willing to ally with Harry, yes. But better, the Blacks."
"I'm not going to repeat my mother's nonsense."
"Did I say anything about that? I was thinking more of your grandfather's principles."
"He allied with Grindelwald. And you want me to follow in the wake of that?"
"He only allied with Grindelwald until he realized that Grindelwald wasn't healthy for the family. Then he pulled the Black money and power away from him. It was one of the reasons Grindelwald had to agree to fight Dumbledore in single combat." Narcissa rises an eyebrow. "Or did your parents not teach you that?"
As a matter of fact, Sirius doesn't remember his parents ever telling him that, and it's not like he spoke to Arcturus all that often. He strikes out to get Narcissa to stop staring smugly at him. "Oh, yes, that's what I should do, pander to the conceit that the Blacks are so wealthy and pure-blooded when we're going to be fighting blood purity."
"No, you shouldn't. But use the illusion of that, the idea that someday you might allow the Dark wizards and witches I've spoken to to influence your godson, and they would flock to your side."
Sirius pauses. It's not obvious, but it is a good plan, when he thinks a bit about it. There's one major problem, though. "There aren't enough of them."
"So promise something to someone else." That's Remus, surprisingly. He's leaning forwards, his elbows braced on the table. "With Albus gone, there's a power gap, and it means that a bunch of people are still flailing around trying to decide what to do, because Albus ordered them around for years, and there's no obvious leader to fill the hole."
"And so?" Sirius asks impatiently.
"They can't object to some of the things you might try to recruit other people to your side. They'll fall in line instead of raising an organized opposition." Remus stares at him. "Promise Wolfsbane to the werewolves."
Sirius jerks. That never occurred to him. Still… "I honestly don't have the Galleons to purchase ingredients for all the doses we'd need. Or the skill to brew it myself." He doesn't even think of asking Severus to brew it. The man is going to be consumed this summer with teaching Harry and probably Harry's friends who are going to be living with him, and he's busy with teaching during the school year, too.
"You have someone who's skilled and willing," Narcissa said, tapping a finger on her own chin. "And you have some of the Malfoy money at your disposal, too, the trust I made Lucius start for Draco when he was young that he couldn't have circumvented or tapped into no matter how much he changed his will."
"Draco would be willing to contribute money to werewolves?" Sirius blurts out.
"I would not," Draco says firmly as he comes through the doorway and sits down at the table. He frowns at his mother.
"For the war effort, I would think you would," Narcissa says calmly. "We're talking about starting an alliance of Dark wizards and witches, and other magical beings, that can effectively oppose the Dark Lord. We can use some of your trust money to do it."
Draco juts his chin up. "Only until my next birthday. My trust money is mine when I turn sixteen, and I don't want it used to help stupid werewolves."
"You see?" Sirius mouths to Narcissa, whose eyes are narrowed. She might persuade her son around yet, but it doesn't look likely.
"There are alternatives," says Remus. His eyes are bright with a viciousness that Sirius last remembers seeing during the first war with You-Know-Who. "Something I had to resort to myself, in the years before I came to live here."
"I don't want you having to do that," Sirius says, and frowns at his friend. Remus only rolls his eyes.
"What is he talking about?" Draco demands, digging into the eggs that appear in front of him. They're perfectly poached, as always. Kreacher really does love the little git, but then, like speaks to like.
"There's a black market out there for werewolf saliva, fur, and blood," says Remus, and smiles when Draco chokes on his eggs. "Of course, most of the time the people who want it just hunt down and kill werewolves, since that's not illegal." The bitterness in his voice should be what makes Draco choke, but Sirius is accustomed to the world not arranging itself to his wishes. "But that limits the supply, and it doesn't work for fur. Even a full pelt stripped from a dead werewolf doesn't mean much, since it reverts to human skin and hair when the sun next rises."
"Doesn't that happen to the material taken from the living werewolf, as well?" Narcissa asks quietly.
Remus shakes his head. "Not if you take a small amount. It's the same principle as being able to use hair from a living person for Polyjuice, but it stops working if the supply is dead." He taps his fingernails hard on the table. "I only managed to use my blood and saliva most of the time when I was living on my own, since I could only access my fur when I was transformed and, well, I was usually mindless then. But Sirius can use a few Shaving Charms now that I'm on Wolfsbane."
"You're going to be a bald Moony," Sirius snickers, and Remus rolls his eyes and shoots a Stinging Hex at him under the table. Sirius refuses to give him the satisfaction of yelping.
"This will raise us enough money?" Narcissa asks, leaning forwards intently.
Remus nods. "I think so. Like I said, the fur is an especially rare and valuable ingredient, and I can donate more than most werewolves would be willing to. The ones who embrace their wolves, well." He grimaces. "And the ones who couldn't afford Wolfsbane are usually too dangerous when they change to make such a bargain."
"Isn't anyone else disturbed by this?" Draco demands, putting down his fork. Good, they did throw him off his appetite, Sirius thinks. "Someone is basically volunteering to be Potions ingredients?"
"You could always make a donation, and then I wouldn't have to do as much of that." Remus smiles at Draco.
Draco actually looks like he's thinking about it, but then shakes his head. "I want some kind of future for myself, apart from the war. I need my money to do that. And that might be the only money I have if I can't figure out some way to get control of the Malfoy assets."
Narcissa is giving her son a misty smile that seems to indicate she's proud of him. Sirius snaps his fingers to get her back on track. "Fine. So we'll start with this for now, and I know Harry will want to help with some of the Potter money, and I have some to spare. And you think that we'll get the werewolves on our side?"
Narcissa nods at once. "The Wizengamot never passed some of the worse laws that the members proposed when Dumbledore was in control there, but on the other hand, he never proposed all that much helpful legislation, either. I don't think he cared that much." She tilts her head. "This will bring you some opposition, but also some support."
"And the Ministry hasn't admitted Voldemort is officially back yet," Remus says suddenly. "That means they'll have a hard time opposing you when you start gathering support, other than just saying it's not necessary."
"They could still put up a vicious struggle." Narcissa smiles a little. "But if they try to pass legislation that is aimed at punishing werewolves or Dark wizards or witches, or centaurs, or anyone else who might join with us, then the wider effect will be driving more people to our side."
"Creatures?" Remus asks, staring intently at Narcissa for some reason. "Or people?"
"I can learn to call them anything I wish," Narcissa says, and sips from her cup of breakfast tea.
Sirius thinks and listens to them bicker. In the end, there is only one path forwards, which Narcissa probably knew when she brought up the bloody plan.
"All right," he says abruptly, when Remus is making some obscure philosophical point about creatures that seems to be boring Narcissa. "Let's try this. If I have to be a figurehead of some sort to do some good, then I will."
"Dear cousin." Narcissa is sitting straighter now, her head tilted a little. "By the time I am done with you, you will be much more than a figurehead."
"Doesn't anyone care what I think?" Draco mutters, stabbing his fork into a piece of sausage.
"Not as long as you stay out of our way," Sirius tells him, which is true. They don't need Draco's support to do this. They just need him not to betray any secrets that he knows.
Draco's mouth falls open, which gets him a quiet look from his mother, but Sirius ignores that. Honestly, his mind is burning with excitement. Harry wrote him a letter the other day saying that he wants to fight Voldemort, but he doesn't know how other than trying to get good at magic and protecting his friends. But a single person can't fight a war.
Now, they may have a way forwards.