Title: Curse of Fate
Author: Mistress Nika
Rating: PG-15 (Yes, 15. That's somewhere between PG-13 and R)
Summary: Thousands of years into the future, vampire Harry only wants to join his loved ones in death. However, his curse of immortality is absolute. Therefore he sends himself back into the body of his infant self, vowing to this time refuse eternity. When do things ever go according to plan? Unexpected changes to the timeline, people who aren't as they once were and more send his life spiraling out of his control.
Pairings: Harry/Lucius(main), possible Harry/Severus, possible Lucius/Severus, possible Harry/Lucius/Severus, Sirius/Remus, Theo/Hermione, possible Theo/Blaise, possible Hermione/Ginny, Draco/Luna, possible one-sided Harry/Luna on Luna's part, possible Hermione/Pansy, Cedric/Eleanor(OC), past Harry/Ginny
Warnings: AU, het, slash, angst, language, violence, time travel, VampireHarry, DarkLordHarry
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon when Harry was pulled from his blissful slumber by a high pitched shriek. In an instant, he was out of bed and heading down the hall in his pajamas. A bleary-eyed Remus joined him halfway to the origin of the shriek, having been awakened as well.
Just as he was about to fling open the door to one of the guest rooms, it slammed open on it's own. A wild-eyed, sleep-tossled Pansy flew out the door and collided with Remus who prevented her from hitting the floor.
A hissing voice followed her out, sounding just as frightened as the young girl.
'Nellie does not like this! No, no! Nellie does not like this at all! Puppy, save your Nellie!'
Harry bent down and scooped the terrified snake up as Pansy pointed an accusing finger at her.
"It was in my bed!" she cried, hiding behind Remus.
'Nellie was cold!' the snake explained petulantly.
Harry just shook his head, draped Nellie around his shoulders and headed back to his room with a slurred, "Too early."
Several hours later, Harry was awake again and semi aware, sitting at the kitchen table and staring blankly into his morning cup of blood. Nellie was still wrapped firmly around his neck, singing to herself in soft hisses.
'Nellie's got her puppy and puppy's got his Nellie and the sun is shining and Nellie is happy...'
'Nellie,' Harry hissed at her in annoyance.
Oblivious, she sang on. 'Because the sun is high and Nellie is safe and the scary girl is gone so Nellie is happy again...'
'Nellie,' he tried again.
'And Nellie wants a froggy or maybe a little bunny because she is hungry and-'
'Nellie, don't make me incinerate you!' Harry finally hissed loudly in anger.
The singing abruptly stopped.
'Puppy's a pyromaniac.'
His head hit the table with a dull thud. Once again, he questioned the wisdom of buying a completely mental snake.
"Rough morning?" Remus asked as he slipped into the seat to his left, Sirius taking the one to his right.
Tilting his head to the side, he stared blankly at the smiling werewolf for a moment. No one should be that cheerful in the morning, even if it was closer to lunch.
"Nellie's singing," he stated blandly, "and speaking of herself in the third person. She's been doing it for the past three hours and I'm becoming homicidal."
Their only response was to laugh.
Harry didn't find it funny.
As of last night, he was now officially in the second stage of a born vampire's maturation. The first started at age six when bloodlust first hit. Age ten brought an increased need for blood, greater sensitivity to sunlight and a desire to become nocturnal, even though it was unnecessary. Put simply, he was tired, wanted to sleep and his snake wouldn't shut the hell up.
"Sirius and I are going to visit the pack later today," Remus said, ignoring Harry's belligerent attitude. "I've been away too long and Dorian's last letter said they were anxious to meet the both of you. Would you like to come?"
Harry gave him a look that said "Are you mad?"
"I think we should take that as a no, Moony," Sirius said with a chuckle. "Well," he continued, patting Harry on the head. "Just don't go back to bed. You don't want to become used to sleeping days."
"Sirius," Harry growled, "I've had over a dozen children of my own who've gone through this same thing. I think I know what I should and shouldn't do."
Sirius shrugged. "Just trying to be parental," he said, giving Harry a patronizing smile.
Harry raised his head and thumped it back down on the table hard.
'Puppy's a masochist,' a happy voice chirped from around his neck.
Harry looked at her in disbelief. 'Where are you learning these words?'
Several weeks had passed and Sirius and Remus were both still gone. Apparently, they were having a hard time convincing the werewolves that, although Harry was calling himself Voldemort, he was not and that, even though both of them bore the Dark Mark, it did not make them evil. Several of the pack had felt betrayed by their leader's actions, but Remus claimed they were close to resolving the trust issues and shouldn't be gone too much longer.
Though his godfathers were not in the house, that didn't mean he lacked for company.
Petunia and a significantly slimmer Dudley had come around to give their regrets for missing the party. Dudley'd had a bad reaction to one of the potions he was taking and was too ill to attend. Harry said it was quite alright and gave Dudley the piece of cake he had saved for him.
An unexpected and frequent visitor was Draco Malfoy. He started coming each time with his father, who visited a couple times a week to inform Harry of the goings on in the Ministry and Hogwarts, any new information on his house guests and to receive any orders, either for himself or to pass on to others.
At first, Draco would sit in the parlor while Lucius and Harry met in Harry's office. Afterwards, he would exchange a few words with Harry and leave with his father. The third time, he managed to talk himself into the office and listened in on their conversation, though he likely didn't understand the majority of it. By the fifth visit, he stayed after his father left to have dinner with Harry. After that, he began coming without his father and it became very obvious what he was doing. He had taken Harry's words at the party to heart and was trying to befriend him.
Harry was at a loss. Sure, he liked the boy just fine, but he was still just a boy. He couldn't interact on the adult level that Harry did, though he gave it a grand shot and did better than many other children would have. After several consecutive days of Draco, he finally decided that he would just have to learn how to interact on a child's level instead. In a year, he would be doing a lot of it and it would help to have practice.
For his part, Draco seemed to be very understanding. He didn't expect Harry to act like a child and the fear he'd originally held of him slowly vanished as he realized that Harry was not going to hurt him if he got annoyed.
Harry started taking Draco into Aurum Village since there wasn't much for a child to do at the house. They would visit the sweet shop first as Harry, when spotted, was immediately set upon by the village kids. Draco's favorite was the dark chocolate drops, Harry preferred the Honey Wands and the kids went wild when he bought them Choco Spray. Several parents had sent him notes threatening to burn down the shop if just one of their kids came home covered in chocolate again.
Harry had considered several times whether he should wipe the children's memories of the night of his birthday party. Originally, he had intended to, but on the second outing with Draco he changed his mind about the young Malfoy, if none of the others. A young muggleborn girl a few years younger than them had run headlong into the blonde boy, knocking them both down. Instead of sneering at the girl and calling her a mudblood, he helped her up and dusted her off. As she smiled and ran off, Draco had turned to Harry with wary eyes, as if silently asking for his approval. Harry had smiled and treated him to an afternoon at the theater. He had obviously learned something and far be it from Harry to take that away.
After that, Harry had invited each of the other nine over for an afternoon in the village followed by dinner. He kept his mind to himself, as he hated intruding on another's thoughts, especially little children with no defenses, when it was not warranted. He either arranged a run-in with someone obviously not of pureblood and decided whether or not to erase their memories on how they treated the person or made comments designed to elicit an honest opinion. Each of them, while still holding some disdain for muggles, considered muggleborns and halfbloods either equal to a pureblood or close to it. Instead of seeing in blood status, they now saw in social status. While someone of noble blood such as Draco or Pansy would still consider them beneath them, it wasn't because their blood wasn't pure.
All but two of the children got to keep their memories intact. Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe simply lacked the mental capabilities to change so quickly. They also lacked the ability to keep a secret. Although Harry's secrecy charms would keep what they had seen a secret, if they were told anything else, it would be a constant battle for Harry, casting spell after spell on them. In conclusion, it was just far too much work and the two boys were excluded from the list of those "in-the-know".
Unfortunately, one thing he couldn't seem to break the children from was using the term 'mudblood'. They'd heard Harry using it around Death Eaters and seemed to think it was acceptable. He only took heart in the fact that they weren't using it as maliciously as before.
Within two months of the party, Harry was surprised to find himself with a rather interesting circle of friends.
Draco was most definitely the ring leader of the others. He kept them in line, spoke to Harry on their behalf and carefully steered them away from him when he knew Harry was not in a mood to deal with them. He reminded Harry a great deal of a younger Lucius.
Blaise, although the youngest of the group, seemed more mature than most of the others. Perhaps it was having so many of his 'fathers' die that made him the rather quiet, intelligent young boy he was. He was caring and incredibly intuitive, yet sly and cunning beyond all of the rest combined. You wouldn't know the boy was up to something until it was far too late. Overall, he reminded Harry of a Slytherin Remus.
Pansy still clung to Draco every chance she got, but Harry was now able to separate her from him with just a look. Pansy, while still holding a residual unease around him, had slowly warmed up to him and was even known to joke around with him a bit. After getting through the facade of the superficial little girl she had styled herself to be, Harry realized she was incredibly bossy and spoiled, but could be kind when she wanted to. She was mostly just show.
Theodore Nott, called Theo by his friends, was loyal to those he deemed worthy, protective of his friends and simply mean-spirited to most others. He enjoyed hurting people almost as much as his father did, but managed to keep it under control most of the time.
Eleanor, the youngest Bell daughter, was the oldest of the group at twelve. She had no friends it seemed and basked in whatever attention Harry and the others gave her. Like her father, she was incredibly timid, but Harry knew that underneath lay a good person that just needed a little help to break out of her shell. She reminded Harry of Neville during his first few years at Hogwarts, only the girl had a nearly photographic memory that allowed her to excel in most areas of study. Harry had felt a bit guilty at first at using her as his "spy" inside Hogwarts, until she had told him the story of Dumbledore and the Howler. She seemed to brighten with each laugh she got for it and continued to send Harry letters after returning to school detailing everything that occurred each week.
The six, five after September first, became regular fixtures in Aurum. At least once a week, Pansy would drag them shopping and the vendors kept a full stock of some of the best items in anticipation of the Parkinson girl's expensive tastes. Every shop owner knew that the young children, not even in their teens yet, were allowed nearly unlimited spending by their wealthy parents and took full advantage of it. Draco was a fan of the theater and they were regulars at the various plays the local troupe performed. Blaise insisted they go horseback riding at least twice a month and Eleanor had shyly asked if they could take music lessons since her father had forbidden her, claiming that she should stick to her books instead. Therefore, each of them took weekly lessons from Mistress Elizabeth, an accomplished musician trained in many different instruments who lived in the village. Rumor had it, the elderly woman was once a world famous violinist.
A few slip-ups made in public in which one of the children accidentally referred to Harry as "my lord" made them nervous at first, until they realized most of the townsfolk called Harry the same thing and did not equate a suspected Death Eater's child calling him that with him being the Dark Lord. Nevertheless, Harry quickly began teaching each of them Shadow Occlumency. He simply planted a hint of a shadow in their minds and taught them how to manipulate it to cover what they didn't want others to know. It was simple, yet effective. It couldn't block out things like visions, psychic attacks and possibly possession like normal Occlumency shields could, but a person could search for ages in their minds for something and never find it.
To test them, Harry had them hide the fact that they knew him and then had Sirius, who had somehow progressed faster than Remus in this particular branch of magic, use Legilimency on them. The man was stunned when he announced to Harry that, had he not known better, he'd say they'd never met him. Unlike with regular Occlumency, where he would at least know they were hiding something, he could not only find no trace of the memories, but also no trace of deception, other than the slight giggle Pansy let slip.
Just before Halloween, Harry met with Remus' pack. There had been a few who were wary of him, not only because he was masquerading as Voldemort, but also because he was a vampire. Werewolves and vampires were natural enemies and, though relations had been improving in the past hundred years, some mutual distrust still remained. However, he quickly began to befriend them, except for Greyback who he ended up killing. Though Remus' defeat of him years earlier had dropped him all the way to omega in the pack, he was still rather vocal in his opinions. After enduring an hour and a half of Greyback insulting Remus, Sirius, his parents and Harry himself, he had finally snapped and thrown a Killing Curse at him. He'd wanted to torture him, it was nothing less than he deserved, but refrained to maintain the tentative trust he'd established with the rest of the pack. If anything, his killing of the man only served to ingratiate him to them.
Dorian, Remus' beta and the leader while Remus was away, was an easy-going and good-natured man who took to Harry right away. There was much laughing and back-slapping from him which, had Harry not been unnaturally strong, might have sent him to the ground. It seemed, in their one prior visit, Dorian and Sirius had somehow become coconspirators. The whole of the pack learned that night that setting off fireworks in a cave, no matter how large, is never a good idea.
Annabelle, a fourteen year old girl who looked at Remus with stars in her eyes, also stuck close to Harry, watching him whenever she thought he wasn't looking. Bonds between werewolves, especially those who were bitten at a young age, were strong. They tended to classify people as either enemy, stranger, pack or family. She obviously viewed Remus as a father figure and, as Harry was considered Remus' "pup", saw him as a possible brother. However, as she was not Remus' true family, her instincts were telling her that she would have to gain Harry's acceptance before she could continue to consider herself family. He made sure to smile at her often and engage her in conversation. He even invited her to visit his home, but she quickly refused. She was absolutely terrified of humans of any kind and no amount of coaxing on his part could get her within a mile of a human city.
Come December, Harry had accomplished nearly everything he had on his mental to-do list.
He had made friends and allies of the werewolves.
He had his own group of loyal Death Eaters, including Augustus Rookwood, Adeline Zabini, Lionel Parkinson and Emogene Parkinson who had been initiated into the Elite shortly after his birthday.
He had started training his Inner Circle and Elite in more advanced magic, most of which wasn't frequently used in modern magical society, but wouldn't raise questions if they used it in public. He'd also started them training for battle. Voldemort had done this to a certain degree, but Harry took it a step further. He had them in train in stealth, non-verbal spells, wielding a handheld weapon in conjunction with their wand, utilizing whatever inborn abilities they had in a fight and more. He put a lot of emphasise on dodging, instead of simply conjuring a shield and hoping it held. Or as Sirius like to call it "the art of getting the Hell out of dodge". A few were even learning to cast wandless spells quickly and effectively without overtaxing their magical reserves.
Harry was, in the beginning, rather upset by their reluctance to use blood traits in battle. They'd been taught from childhood that to use such a power against another was an incredibly unfair advantage and a stain on the family honor and they'd let them atrophy. Lucius was the first to agree and the quickest study, as it seemed he'd been training his powers all along in secret. Sirius pouted for days when he found that his ability was next to useless in battle, while Remus had been born with an immense potential to use wandless magic.
He had a support base in his young friends for when he began school and they were slowly teaching him how to be a kid again, or at least how to pretend.
He had moved the escaped Death Eaters out of Lucius' home none too soon as the Ministry raided it a few days later looking for them. They were now secreted away somewhere in the Amazon in one of Harry's smaller homes. Although not under much more than the standard wards, the area was known for a high concentration of magical beasts, so any strange magic picked up by any sensing spells would be attributed to them.
He had searched out and destroyed all but one elusive Horcrux. Even those that he didn't know where they should be at this point in time had been relatively easy to find. He just used his neglected skills in Divination combined with a modified tracking charm to search out all the spread out bits of Voldemort's soul. The only one that wouldn't show up was the locket. He'd searched 12 Grimmauld Place for it and found it missing. After trying the spell and finding nothing, he'd wondered if it had been destroyed. However, when he performed the spell with a little more focus and intensity, he discovered that it did indeed still exist. It was merely hidden. Very cleverly too if it could elude him. He was completely at a loss as to where to seach for it next.
December seventeenth, Remus, Petunia, Dudley, Harry and his six friends, including Eleanor who was home for Christmas, were shopping in Aurum for gifts when a most unwelcome person made an appearance.
They were exiting Francesco's Fine Jewelry, laughing and talking, when a hush fell over the street. Harry frowned, Remus growled menacingly and the other children stared in confusion as Albus Dumbledore, resplendent in his star-covered blue robes, stalked angrily up the street toward them.
Thinking quickly, Harry whispered to Petunia, "Floo the Ministry."
The woman nodded, understanding exactly what he was asking, and ducked inside Gladis' Grocers.
As the aged wizard came to a halt before them, Harry changed his frown to a look of innocent confusion. Remus stepped in front of him, pushing him back and Harry allowed the other children to shield him as well, though he kept a clear view of the man.
"Remus," Dumbledore began in a voice that radiated power and authority, "stand aside. This had gone on long enough."
"Headmaster," Remus said with a sneer that was quite unlike him, "this is a private village. Please leave."
With a mocking smile, Dumbledore countered with, "I'm sure you have only what's good for the boy at heart, but you have no say in the matter."
Remus' features were twisted in outrage as he shouted, "I am his godfather!"
"And a werewolf, and a suspected Death Eater..." Dumbledore continued. "The Ministry would never make you his guardian. In fact," he twinkled with a kind smile, "perhaps we should clear that little matter up right now, for the boy's sake, of course."
Before anyone could react, Remus' wrist was in the old man's deceptively fragile hand and his sleeve was being ripped from his arm. Harry heard a gasp from Mr. Francesco who had come out of his store to watch the scene. The Dark Mark was clearly emblazoned on scarred flesh for little more than one incriminating second before it faded from view at Remus' mental command.
With a quick, unnoticed spell by Harry, the stunned shop owner collapsed into unconsciousness. To the others on the street, it appeared as if he had fainted. Luckily, none of the other villagers had been near enough to see Remus' bared mark. He would just have to memory charm the man later.
Dumbledore stared stupidly at the place where the skull and serpent had been until Remus wrenched his arm angrily from Dumbledore's slack grip. The man seemed stunned that the Mark had simply vanished like that.
"How dare you assault me!" Remus shouted, playing to the crowd and casually turning his now unmarked arm so that others could see it. "You're supposed to be a paragon of all that is good and just and here you are, attacking an innocent man and trying to kidnap a child! You should be ashamed of yourself!"
Murmurs started up from the gathered crowd along with lots of nodding. They expected more of their beloved leader of the Light.
"It vanished..." Dumbledore murmured, as if unable to comprehend the fact. Harry didn't blame him. It shouldn't have been possible, not with wizard-kind's current level of magical advancement. There were plenty of tattoos that could vanish on command, but the Dark Mark was no ordinary tattoo. After a moment, Dumbledore seemed to mentally shake himself and he glared dangerously at Remus. "I don't know how you managed that, but I'm certainly not leaving Harry with you now." With that, he pushed Draco aside and reached past a shaking Eleanor to grab Harry by the shoulder.
Only to recoil in shock and pain as a fine dust that smelled strongly of lemons was thrown into his face. He reeled back with a howl of pain, scrubbing frantically at his eyes. Half a dozen heads turned to see a livid Petunia with one hand on her hip and the other holding a bright yellow box labeled Martha's Non-Magical Mess Remover for Muggles and Their Clothing.
"I told you," she scolded, shaking a finger at Dumbledore like he was an unruly child. "I told you, didn't I? It's your own fault! I told you that if you set foot in this village I'd burn your eyes out with laundry detergent! I warned you to leave my nephew alone and now look what's happened! You really brought this on yourself. Now scoot, before the Aurors arrive!"
Harry was trying in vain to stifle giggles along with the rest of his friends and half the village. Dumbledore blinked at the angry squib with his red, watery eyes. Harry was certain the man was also seeing double as he was actually looking about three inches to her right.
"Too late, ma'am," a stern voice interceded. Jonathan Michaels and three other Aurors had just exited the grocers. The Death Eater Auror clamped a restraining hand on Dumbledore's shoulder. "Mrs. Dursley has filed a restraining order against you concerning her nephew, one Harry Potter. Though it's not been processed yet, you'll have to come with us."
"What?" Dumbledore asked, looking stunned. "I'm Albus Dumbledore," he said, as if it were unthinkable that he should be prevented from doing anything he wished.
"I'm aware of that, sir," Michaels replied patronizingly as if Dumbledore were a little child, or perhaps feeble of the mind. "Mrs. Dursley has made several complaints against you in the past year claiming that you are harassing her, her nephew and Mr. Lupin and may have some unsavory motive in mind concerning the boy. Please don't make us shackle you, sir."
Harry burst into laughter as a thoroughly befuddled Dumbledore was led away, to the temporary floo in the grocers and on to the Ministry of Magic. Draco's angered, haughty yell of "My father will hear about this!" just before the men disappeared only caused him to laugh harder.
That was possibly the best Christmas gift Harry had ever received.
Dumbledore ended up being charged with assault on Remus and property destruction for the torn robe sleeve, but the charges were quickly dismissed. Remus was still a werewolf and Dumbledore was still a respected public figure.
With Dumbledore's claim that he had seen the Dark Mark on Remus' arm, he was brought in and his arm bared before the group of investigating Aurors. He was poked and prodded by two Unspeakables in an attempt to get the Mark to appear, but to no avail. With no proof, he was let go.
Dumbledore was unhappy at that. Of course, he was even more unhappy when he was brought in by Aurors a second time after Lucius had stormed into the Ministry and demanded he be arrested for assaulting his son. Once again, the charges didn't stick as Draco didn't have any injuries to show for the so called assault, but by then rumors were once again rampant concerning the headmaster.
It seemed the general public didn't know what to think. Some thought he was losing his mind. Some thought he was abusing his power. Others thought old age was finally catching up to him. One particularly vocal critic, who just happened to be a reporter for the Daily Prophet and answered to Rita, even called for him to be institutionalized and thoroughly evaluated by mind healers.
The total lack of Death Eater activity also made the public wonder if Dumbledore's claim that Voldemort had returned was more of his nonsense. It was entirely possible that the Death Eaters had been acting on their own when they freed their comrades and were not intending to restart the war. Hell, they may not have even been Death Eaters!
Harry thought they were getting too complacent. Voldemort was still out there. Until Harry could find and kill him one last time, they shouldn't be letting their guards down. The snake-faced bastard had to know his plans had gone aray when he felt the missing bits of his soul begin to return to him. No doubt he was already making plans while still in exile.
To keep the Ministry on it's toes, Harry ordered a small attack on Diagon Alley. They weren't to kill or cause any permanent damage, only incite chaos and panic.
After much pleading and puppy dog eyes from Sirius, Harry agreed to let him lead the attack. Since no one was to be hurt, certain Death Eaters with a liking for the Unforgivables were not allowed to be a part of it. Sirius led a team consisting of Narcissa, Bell, Nott, Crabbe, Goyle and Emogene Parkinson whom Harry had learned was incredibly gifted at stealth and had a mind like a steel trap.
The attack had started out relatively well. They started throwing curses high and wide, purposefully missing their "targets", and the shoppers and inhabitants of Diagon Alley panicked appropriately at the sight of seven attacking Death Eaters. They screamed, they ran, they hid, they flooed and apparated away. It was when the Alley was almost empty, the Aurors had shown up and Sirius and company were preparing to leave that things turned sour.
An angry witch who had lost her parents to Death Eaters in the last war had hidden in a dark side alley. When a pair of black cloaked figures passed by, she stunned them. Sirius ordered Bell, who was closest to the fallen two, to activate their port keys, but the man panicked himself and fled...in the wrong direction. He was caught seconds later by Aurors. The four remaining Death Eaters, faced with overwhelming opposition from Aurors, were forced to retreat, leaving behind their three fallen companions.
It had taken a full day and a half for the news to reach Harry, who had been incommunicado off searching for the locket Horcrux. He'd assumed that such veteran Death Eaters as they would have no trouble with such a minor task, but apparently he'd been wrong. He'd returned home to find an angry Lucius, a worried Remus and a frantic Sirius. Lucius quickly informed him of what had happened. Harry had grabbed Lucius' arm and sent a burst of magic through his Mark to those belonging to the three captives, knocking them out.
When Lucius had left, the Ministry had been interrogating the three. When the Marks had negated the effects of Veritaserum, they'd tried other methods. They'd been tortured and bribed and it was Bell who finally broke. Thankfully, Harry had not been mentioned yet, but he had confirmed that Voldemort was back.
He'd told about how the new Dark Mark was given to the Elite and Inner Circle, how it could be hidden on command, how it was a portkey directly to "the Dark Lord" and how it stopped all attempts at stealing the bearer's secrets through Legilimency and potions.
He'd told them about the new seperation of castes. The lower ranked Death Eaters never saw the Dark Lord anymore. They recieved their orders from one of the Elite and counted themselves lucky to be spoken to by an Inner Circle. He told how the Elite were those who organized the lower Death Eaters, led attacks and held a position of command. He told how those who bore the silver masks were the Inner Circle, favored above all others by the Dark Lord. They were far more powerful than any other Death Eaters. They were intelligent, loyal beyond any doubt and, as they recieved training from the Dark Lord himself, were truly a force to be feared.
When the paper arrived the next morning, Harry was immensely glad that he had knocked them out when he did. Bell had just started naming names. Sirius and the Lestrange brothers had been named as Inner Circle, but Bell was reported to have been interruped in the middle of another, the only bit they were able to hear being "Lu-". He had suddenly screamed, grasped his arm and collapsed into unconsciousness. No spell or potion had been able to wake him yet and they were considering cutting off his arm to free him from "You-Know-Who's spell". Goyle and Crabbe were in similar situations, but no efforts were being made to wake them as they hadn't been cooperating.
An extremely angry Harry had immediately gathered all the Death Eaters for an attack on the Ministry of Magic.
March third, Severus Snape was in the middle of teaching his second year Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff class. No cauldron's had exploded, no one had back talked him and one Hufflepuff had cried when he vanished her potion, insulted her and gave her a detention. All in all, it had been a pretty decent class so far.
He was stalking around the room, shooting hateful comments at the twelve year olds for the slightest mistake, when a shooting pain in his left arm caught him off guard. With an involuntary hiss, he grabbed his forearm. The shooting pain quickly settled to a throb and burn reminiscent of being branded, much like how it had been when he'd had the damn thing slapped on him.
He quickly became aware of the eyes of each student watching him warily. The Ravenclaws had narrowed their eyes in thought while most of the Hufflepuffs' had widened in shock and fear.
He quickly let go of his arm, drew himself up to his full height and glared menacingly at them. They all cringed back in fear.
What did he care if the little brats knew he was Marked? It was a matter of Ministry record, after all. He'd never denied being a Death Eater and he'd never renounced his loyalty. He'd just given up others to stay out of Azkaban and everyone assumed he was a good little spy. Far be it from him to say otherwise.
"Get out!" he barked at them, the students immediately scrambling to put away their potions and obey.
Actually, as he clenched his fist to stave off the pain, he noticed one little Hufflepuff girl looking far calmer than her classmates. Bell, he noted. He'd thought her to be one of the meeker Hufflepuffs, jumping at her own shadow. As a matter of fact, she had cried earlier when he'd told her that her head was made of straw and she shouldn't even bothering coming to class if she couldn't pay attention, no matter that her potion had been nearly perfect. Now she seemed almost at ease while the others were rushing for the door, murmuring about "the greasy Death Eater git".
Ah well. He would ponder her later. Right now, he had things to do.
He locked up his classroom, grabbed the items he'd saved for just such an occasion from his office and flooed directly to the headmaster's office.
Only to have a tin of sweets shoved under his nose the moment he stepped out.
"Ah, Severus," the old man twinkled at him with those annoyingly happy blue eyes. "Sherbert lemon?"
"No," he sneered. "I've been summoned."
With a grace born from years of practice, he quickly threw the Death Eater's robes on over his own, pulled up the hood and slipped on the mask.
"Do you really think that's a good idea, my boy?" Dumbledore asked, casually retaking his seat. "I was under the impression you had been discovered as a spy."
'Damn the old man,' Severus cursed inwardly.
Fawkes chirped at him knowingly from his perch.
'Damn the bird too.'
"With the three captured by the Ministry and Bell spilling his guts, he could be closing ranks," he rationalized. 'Bell,' he realized. 'The girl's father is a Death Eater.' Keeping this knowledge to himself, he continued, "Or he could be gathering all of us for an attack. I had thought myself higher in his favor, but with this restructuring as Bell has described it, I could have been thrust into the bottom caste and left uninformed along with many others."
Dumbledore stroked his beard and nodded thoughtfully. "Mmm, that's quite possible. It would make sense."
'Damn it, man! Let me go!' He grabbed his left forearm and winced. "He's getting tired of waiting, Albus." he said pointedly.
"Of course. Of course." the old wizard said imperiously. "Go on then and stay safe. Let me know what he's up to as soon as possible."
With an irritated growl and a nod, he pressed two fingers to his Mark and vanished.
Harry diverted those baring the old Mark off into the large, nondescript and rather gloomy basement room where they would wait patiently for orders. The Elite and Inner Circle immediately appeared in the ballroom where golden sunlight illuminated the room, flashing off gilded portraits and hanging chandeliers.
They bowed and quickly took their places. The Elite stood in a neat row, waiting to be addressed. Rodolphus and Rabastan joined Harry, Sirius, Remus and Lucius to stand over a table strewn with maps.
"Rabastan, Rodolphus, you'll enter with your team from here," Harry instructed, pointing out a hallway on a map. "Crabbe and Goyle should still be in adjacent cells and only lightly guarded. They'll wake the moment you get within twenty feet of them. Sirius and Remus, you'll lead the attack on the Minister's office. Use your Marks and portkey to me the moment you feel like you're in danger, or whenever Moody shows up. Whichever comes first."
A spattering of tense laughter answered him.
"As for Lucius," Harry continued, turning to the blonde, "you'll take a team here," he tapped the map again," and kill Bell. I don't tolerate traitors. Make him hurt. Make him bleed. Make an example of him. Should anyone else ever think of betraying me, I want his mangled corpse to flash before their eyes in the knowledge that I'll do the same to them."
Lucius nodded grimly.
"Good," Harry said, turning away from the table to face the others. Sirius, Remus and Lucius took their places at his side while Rodolphus and Rabastan stood behind them. Addressing the others, he said, "Crabbe and Goyle may have been stupid enough to be captured, but they have refused to talk through pain of torture and threat of death. Their loyalty warrants a rescue. Bell does not. Dolohov and Nott, you'll go with Lucius. Indulge yourselves. It may be sometime before you're allowed to again."
The two crueler Death Eaters smiled nastily.
"Michaels, you'll go with Rodolphus and Rabastan. They'll need your knowledge as an Auror to find and free Crabbe and Goyle."
Michaels gave a short nod and thanked his lucky stars he was off today. The Auror's Office was going to be a mess. He dreaded to think of the sheer volume of paperwork involved afterward.
"Narcissa, Adeline, Rookwood, you'll be with Sirius and Remus. Cause as much noise and confusion as you can."
Narcissa gave an amused smile as Rookwood looked at her with a hint of disdain. She was perceived as weak and this would be her first real mission. He obviously didn't expect much from her. Oh, how he'd be surprised.
"Emogene, you'll take a large group of Death Eaters and attack Diagon Alley again, exactly twenty minutes before the others attack the Ministry."
"The same tactics, my lord?" she questioned. "Lure in the Aurors? Keep them busy and away from the Ministry?"
Harry nodded. "Exactly. Twenty minutes before that, Lionel, you'll take a group and attack Hogsmeade. This is to distract the Order and Dumbledore in particular. However, you are not to engage him. You are progressing well, but are still far from his equal."
Lionel nodded seriously.
"Once again, I must stress that the only fatality should be the target, in this case, Bell. The Ministry is our enemy. Dumbledore is our enemy. Innocent bystanders are not. Injuries to Aurors are to be expected. However, for every civilian killed by a Death Eater under your command, I will hold you and the one responsible under the Cruciatus for one minute. Is that understood?"
Each of the eight cast their eyes to the floor and answered with, "Yes, my lord."
"Good." He turned to Lucius. "Lucius, take whatever other Death Eaters you want, but make sure Snape is counted among them. Let him report back to Dumbledore about our cruelty, not our mercy. Also, pull him aside and tell him the attack is going to be on Hogsmeade in an attempt to take Hogwarts, then give him time to send a message to the old man."
Severus waited anxiously along with scores of other Death Eaters pressed together like sardines. It seemed he had been right. Each and every Death Eater had been summoned for something big.
The room they were in could almost be described as cavernous. The walls were gray stone, the floor was gray stone, the ceiling was so high he couldn't tell what color it was and the only light was from a few candles floating aimlessly over their heads, casting everything in shadow. The only door was a massive, red double set of obviously heavy things with black iron handles in the shape of serpents. Everything he expected of the Dark Lord's new hideout.
Someone bumped him harshly and snarled at him to move. Severus spun on the offending Death Eater, sneered at them and snapped back with his characteristic wit.
The man's eyes went wide behind his mask, he whispered "Severus Snape" in what might have been awe or fear and quickly backed away.
Severus smirked to himself. He still had it.
Listening to the conversations going on around him, he learned that most of the others had not been summoned since 1981 either. He felt a bit better at that. Perhaps he hadn't been forgotten or tossed aside. Perhaps his master simply hadn't had a reason to summon him yet. He hadn't realized it before, but it had hurt that the man he had spent so much time serving so faithfully had seemingly thrown him away without another thought. Surely, he would have known that Severus was still loyal? He hadn't given up anyone vital to the Dark Lord. If he truly wanted to betray him, he could have given up people like Lucius Malfoy. Important people. He hadn't thought his master would have been angry at him. After all, he was worth far more to him free than in Azkaban.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he missed the opening of the doors, their great clanking and creaking muffled by the press of bodies and the murmur of conversation. However, he did not miss when close to two hundred Death Eaters went down on their knees. He quickly followed suit, casting his eyes to the floor briefly and then looking up through his lashes at those entering the room.
He was not surprised, though perhaps a little hurt, to see a conspicuous head of long blond hair and the silver mask the blonde wore. There was a time when he would have entered the room at his master's side too.
Or perhaps not. The red-eyed form of the Dark Lord was suspiciously absent. Surely what Bell said wasn't true? Surely his master would show himself to his Death Eaters. Why would he not? He loved the way they bowed and scraped before him, how they fought for the honor to kiss his robes.
The doors closed as the last of the thirteen people entered, five in silver masks, the rest in white. He was surprised to see three women, none of them wearing silver masks. The Dark Lord was notoriously against women as Death Eaters, with Bellatrix the rare exception and he definitely expected to see her in silver. The pale-skinned, dark-haired woman had to be her, but she seemed to have recovered completely from her stay at Azkaban. From what he could see, she was just as beautiful as when she went in. The blonde women carried herself with just enough arrogant poise to be Narcissa. He had no idea who the dark-skinned, dark-haired woman could be, but she walked like a tiger stalking her prey and had a look in her eyes reminiscent of a dangerous predator.
"Up," Lucius commanded with a curt gesture to the kneeling men, all of whom were instantly back on their feet. "The Dark Lord is otherwise engaged," he began, his voice echoing off the bare walls to reach the entire room. "For those of you who don't know, things have changed. These eight," those at his side wearing white masks stepped forward, "are the Elite. They will form teams as needed, lead attacks, give instructions and relay orders to you from higher up. You will respect and defer to them. You will obey them or you will be punished."
The eight stepped back and the other four wearing silver masks stepped forward.
"We are the Inner Circle. We are far more than simple servants and count ourselves as companions and advisors to our master. Our word is law and is to be obeyed as if it were the Dark Lord's. You will rarely see us in meetings as any orders from us will be relayed through the Elite. From this moment on, you will bow, not kneel, when an Inner Circle Death Eater enters a room. Failure to do so will result in punishment.
"There is a strict chain of command that you will follow. My wife, Narcissa, leads the Elite. Descending from her is Antonin Dolohov, Adeline Zabini, Emogene Parkinson, Augustus Rookwood, Lionel Parkinson and ending with Theodore Nott. If you have business with the Elite, I suggest you take it to either Nott or the Lady Parkinson. The last member of the Elite is a spy and shall remain unknown to you. Never approach him."
Severus was surprised to not hear Bellatrix counted among them. The woman he'd assumed to be her was, in fact, Emogene Parkinson who was physically similar to her with face covered and shrouded all in black.
"If, for some reason, you need to speak with an Inner Circle, you will go to Rabastan Lestrange. Above him is his elder brother, Rodolphus. No one is to speak to either Remus Lupin or Sirius Black, for any reason, unless spoken to. Understood?"
He didn't give anyone time to agree as he continued on. "I am the Dark Lord's Right Hand. No one stands above me save my master. If you have urgent information for the Dark Lord, and I mean urgent, you may come to me and I will take it directly to him."
He paused to appraise the nervously shifting Death Eaters, his eyes roaming over them like a master surveying his peasant servants, searching out any who were too weak to continue their work.
"Now, as for why you're gathered here today. Some of you will have guessed a major offensive is in the works. You are correct. However, not all will be taking part. My companions will now choose the most capable among you for this task."
At this, Sirius, Emogene and Lionel stepped forward and began to move amongst them, pulling people aside and sending them to the front.
Lucius' piercing gaze roamed over the assembled once again before Severus was pinned with a sharp look.
"Severus," he called out. "Come here, will you." He almost managed to make it sound like a request and not an order.
The sea of bodies parted and made way for him, not wanting to impede his progress, as he made his way forward. He didn't take his eyes from Lucius' the entire time.
When he reached him, the blonde man put a hand on his shoulder as if they were old friends and spoke lowly. "Come with me," he said. "I have things I wish to speak with you about. Things that aren't meant for prying ears."
With that, Lucius led him out the doors and into a long dark hall. At the other end of the hall were a pair of doors which Lucius opened and beckoned him through. As he followed, he suddenly found himself outside, in a forest. Glancing back, he saw that the doors did not attach to a building, but instead stood straight, supported by nothing but air.
Lucius watched his friend study Harry's enchanted doors with amusement. They were specifically designed for this and would vanish afterward. It allowed Lucius to take Severus into the forest surrounding Leonis House without traveling through it.
It had been nearly a year since he had seen the other man. Severus was one of the few Lucius could count as a true friend and, even though he had utter faith in Harry, he couldn't help but doubt that Severus was a traitor. If anyone had reason for loyalty, it was him. He was Dark, through and through. For him to be a spy for Dumbledore was unthinkable. Harry had never steered him wrong before, but he couldn't help feeling slightly guilty for lying to the man.
"Severus," he said, gaining the man's attention. "I'm going to be very honest with you, my friend. I need your help." He paused for effect, then lied through his teeth. "Narcissa is pregnant."
"I see," Severus said, knowing there had to be more to it than that for Lucius to come to him.
"It's not mine," Lucius continued. "I need your help to terminate the pregnancy early before it ruins us."
It was well known that people of status in arranged marriages took other lovers, often of low birth. As long as an heir had already been produced, a blind eye was turned. However, for a child, which is living proof, to be born from such an affair, it could have disastrous effects upon a family.
Unfortunately for the law abiding purebloods who found themselves in such a situation, abortion was not an option. Terminating a pregnancy after the first month, though possible, was very much illegal in wizarding Britain. For the less scrupulous, one could seek out a Potions Master, as the potion required was incredibly complex and usually far beyond a layman's abilities to create. Normally, a high price was to be paid, not only for the potion but for the brewer's silence in the matter. Lucky, it seemed, that Lucius' closest friend was a Potions Master.
"There will be a price," Severus said, understanding at once what was being asked of him.
"Of course," Lucius replied, expecting that. "Will ten thousand Galleons be-"
"I don't want your gold, Lucius," Severus interrupted. "I want to know why I haven't been summoned. I want to know why I'm not trusted anymore. Is it because I gave others up to the Ministry? I didn't name anyone of great importance and surely the Dark Lord didn't expect me to go to Azkaban when I had means of staying free?"
"It is not for me to-" Lucius heaved a sigh. Trust the man to ask the impossible. "After this battle," he began slowly, "I promise I will tell you, Severus. But you must be patient. Trust me."
Severus eyed him thoughtfully. "Very well. After the battle. But if you withhold information, I will withhold the potion." After receiving a nod of acceptance, he continued, "As for the battle, am I to take part? Or am I not trusted enough for such a task?" The emphasis he put on "trusted", coupled with the trademark sneer, showed his thoughts on the matter quite clearly.
"Yes," Lucius replied. "You'll be going with me to attack Hogsmeade. The Dark Lord plans to lead Dumbledore away from Hogwarts and, while the old man is busy with us, a second team will take the castle. Wait here while I gather a team."
Albus Dumbledore had no doubt.
He had no doubt that something big was about to happen. There had been no real activity since the break out of Sirius Black. He didn't count the mock attack on Diagon Alley. There was no loss of life, no major property damage, not even a twisted ankle. It was as if they were only trying to frighten, not harm. Perhaps to show that they were still there and not to be taken lightly. Now, with the capture of three of his elite, Voldemort would be angry and if there was one thing he could count on from an angry Dark Lord, it was a temper tantrum. He would lash out and it wouldn't be with a farce like before.
He had no doubt that Voldemort was not back to full strength. There was no way he would be hiding out like this if he were. However, his power over his Death Eaters seemed even greater than before. He had defeated death and returned. He had no doubt that in their minds, there was nothing their Dark Lord couldn't do. Such loyalty could be a dangerous thing.
He had no doubt that Severus Snape was loyal to him, despite certain members of the Order's opinions on the subject. Dumbledore could protect him. He was his safety line. Severus cared about one thing and one thing only. Himself. Without Dumbledore's support, he would be stranded, alone and the Wizarding World would turn on him just as fiercely as they had Remus Lupin, if not more so. Severus, unlike Remus, was a convicted Death Eater. Severus would never turn on him, because if he did, Dumbledore would bury him.
He had no doubt that he would receive only a moment's advance warning of where the attack was to be. Therefore, he had already gathered the combative members of the Order in his office and informed them of the impending battle. In a rage induced attack such as this, Voldemort did not give his Death Eaters days notice and time to prepare. Severus would have only moments to slip away and send a message.
With that in mind, he was not surprised when a steel-grey Patronus flew in his window and Severus' voice sounded.
"Headmaster, the attack is going to be on Hogsmeade. They plan to kill everyone and reduce the village to ash. Hundreds of Death Eaters will be joining in the attack. Take everyone and be ready in the village. We're leaving now."
Harry paced back and forth in front of his bedroom window facing the forest. He was waiting to see the streak of silver that would mean the message had been sent.
He could not accompany his Death Eaters on the attack, which would have made it far easier, unless he wanted to reveal to everyone that "Voldemort" was now a child. It wouldn't be hard for certain people to connect a child Voldemort to a suspiciously mature Harry Potter, especially considering the attack on Azkaban came only months before he moved to Aurum and the rescue of Sirius occurred just after.
He refused to allow the lower Death Eaters to see him on much the same basis. Geniuses they weren't and it wouldn't take much for one of them to spill to the wrong person. They were useful for sheer numbers, but not much else. He had always preferred a small team of well trained warriors over a large force of mediocre ones.
A flash of silver light indicating a messenger Patronus shooting off into the distance drew his attention. Good. He wouldn't have to worry about Dumbledore showing up at the Ministry and screwing up his plans. Let him play with the grunts in Hogsmeade and defend his castle while the real battle raged beneath.
"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and the purpose of your visit," the cheery witch's voice announced to the six wizards tightly packed into the red telephone box.
"Death Eaters," Lucius said with a hint of amusement. "We're here to kill you." Dolohov had the audacity to smack him on the arm. The amusement in his voice vanished with a shocked exclamation of, "Ow! What was that for, you idiot?"
"They're never gonna let us in now!" the man replied as if it were obvious.
"O' ye of little faith," Lucius smirked at him. "I think I know the Ministry a bit better than you."
Sure enough, to the surprise of everyone except Lucius, the voice thanked them, wished them a good day and a silver badge dropped down. Dolohov picked it up in wonder and read it aloud. "Death Eaters. Reason for visit: Homicide." He blinked at Lucius from behind his mask. "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle."
Outside, twelve other black cloaked individuals waited their turn. As the other six started the decent into the Ministry, one turned to another.
"Hey, Rody," he asked his brother with a grin. "How many Death Eaters can you fit into a phone box?"