The rising sun found Harry sitting in the front cave of the Hogsmeade base, sipping a mug of coffee that Winky had brought him and contemplating the day ahead of him. He had no doubts that it was going to be trying, not in the least because he had to convince Master Reed that what he was doing was worth his while, and possibly end up compelling the man to obey him if he seemed reluctant. This wasn't something he could screw up – the building of the island was very important to his plans; it was going to be a haven, a place where people could rest and know that they were safe, a place that those in danger could breath a sigh of relief when they reached. He'd talked about it a lot with the Founders, friends, and thought about it in his own time. It would take a hell of a lot of work, but each success would make it all worth while.
More importantly than that, it would be a home.
Harry considered the idea with a warm feeling in his chest. He would have somewhere that he could finally call his own. Somewhere that he'd built with his own two hands, which would live through the ages. He didn't have a particularly positive view of his life expectancy, but at the moment he let himself consider, just distantly, that he might live long enough to have a family. Someone he could pass his home onto, and people he loved. The idea seemed gloriously impossible, but it was nice to daydream once in awhile. After all, a life without dreams was not a life at all.
Considering Master Reed, Harry really didn't know what he was going to expect. From talking to the sales witch in Mercury Avenue during his first trip there he'd gleaned that the man certainly had skill and a reputation to go with it if he had worked on the Malfoy Manor, but aside from that he hadn't learnt much. Harry had a sneaking suspicion that the man was going to be rather elitist in some respects, if he truly hadn't taken on another job since the Malfoys. He was certain that if Salazar took control he would have no problems dazzling the man, but Harry wanted to be able to achieve it by himself, impress the man that would, to all intents and purposes, be building his permanent home.
He sighed, rubbing his temples. There was just so much to do.
"Worried, little one?" asked a melodic voice from behind him.
Harry sighed. "You know I am."
The ghost settled beside him, looking out over the misted landscape still shrouded in the pale light of the morning.
"There is much for you to do," Salazar conceded.
"Too much," Harry whispered, "Far too much. But I feel excited about this island though. It's all finally happening."
He felt more than saw the ghost slant his gaze over to him. "Indeed it is. What are you planning to tell Master Reed?" There was a slight sardonic twist in the man's voice as he mouthed the word 'master'. Harry chuckled.
"You don't bow to anyone, do you Salazar?" he asked. The ghost smiled.
"Why would I ever need to?"
"Good point," Harry conceded. "I don't know what I'm going to say to him," he continued. "I figured I'd just play it by ear. I won't know what to do before I see what he's like."
"It's not wise to go into such a delicate situation such as this without forethought," Salazar cautioned.
Harry tore his eyes away from where they strayed over the village of Hogsmeade and the tiny figures just beginning to move around, turning to his mentor. He looked strange, almost non-existent silhouetted against the faint morning light. As if he were fading into the sky. "What do you suggest I do?"
Salazar shrugged eloquently. "Consider what lengths you are willing to go to in order to convince the man. What are you willing to reveal to him of your plans?"
Harry frowned. These same questions had been troubling him too. "I suppose it's pretty obvious that I'll have to tell him it's a project of a large scale, and when I tell him that it needs to be able to resist erosion by the sea, he's probably going to assume I'm building an obsidian castle on the cliffs or something."
Salazar's lips twitched. "It will be necessary to reveal your whole plans eventually, although I suggest you do so gradually until you believe there is no way that he can betray the information."
Harry hummed. "I guess I'll have to bind him by contracts and vows," he guessed. He hadn't considered that before. In fact, looking back he hadn't considered much at all. Merlin he'd be so lost without Salazar, floundering to stay afloat in problems of his own devising.
"I would give careful consideration to what Vows you want him to take, and remember that an Unbreakable Vow is one not many wish to take," he finished, and Harry could feel a hint of amusement radiating down the bond.
He snorted. "Not surprising really. Who'd want to die if they messed up or made a mistake? Not to mention if someone rips the information from their mind."
Salazar paused, watching something over his shoulder, and moments later Anguis slithered into view, head butting Harry's arm until he let the snake coil around him once more.
"I was cold," the snake mumbled grumpily, and promptly tucked its nose into his shirt and went back to sleep. Harry laughed, feeling the coils vibrating from it. They constricted once in annoyance, and Harry forced himself to stop.
"I do believe your pet is feeling protective," Salazar observed with a hint of a smug smile on his lips. Harry raised an eyebrow to show him his disbelief.
"Anguis hardly gets protective," he muttered.
"Yes, but since the basiliskos has left he has been pining for company," Salazar told him, silvery eyes meeting his own. "He was quite distraught at the fact that both his close companions had abandoned him."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I was unconscious," he reminded the ghost. "Never mind. What about these vows then?"
Salazar turned away, looking back over the landscape. "Ideally you would bind him under and Unbreakable vow, but they have to be felt from the heart to work, and I doubt that he will be so obliging. The discovery of your real identity may make him feel he has been duped."
Harry stared glumly down at the ground. "I could always just intimidate him."
Salazar chuckled. "And have him sabotage your work?"
Harry looked up with a crafty half smile. "Want a body to control for awhile? When's your birthday?"
The ghost looked down at him, lingering surprise on his features. Harry guessed that hearing everything as thoughts first rather took the surprise out of most things. "As much as the gesture is appreciated, I will not be roped into controlling a puppet and doing his work for him."
"I know," Harry admitted. "He's going to get suspicious either way of someone building an island that has practically fortress-like protections out in the middle of the ocean anyway, without him waking up with big blank spots in his memory." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, awkward because of the heavy coils around him. "There isn't an easy way to do this, is there?"
Salazar smirked, anticipatory. "Not at all, unless you discover that he is a lifelong fan of yours."
As it turned out, Master Reed wasn't a fan of much at all. The man was sort of stringy, Harry thought, all leanness and wiry form, quite short, with a sensible mop of dark brown hair and muddy eyes, with a rather nasal voice. He wore rather old fashioned, plain robes and carried himself with a hint of self-importance. He was also astoundingly offensive.
"I came here today thinking that I had been offered a proposition worthy of my time," he said, eyeing Harry with a shrewd look, "and instead I find a child."
Harry raised an insulted eyebrow. "Perhaps I've come to the wrong man then," he replied icily, "I had thought you were one of the most skilled Stone Crafters there was. It seems I was mistaken."
"Perhaps," the man replied, taking a seat just as Harry got up to leave, "it would be best if you told me what it was that you needed done. I was under the impression that it was something of a large scale."
Harry sighed, resettling himself. He had a feeling that this was going to be just as difficult as he thought it was. "All right," Harry said, somewhat grudgingly. Master Reed seemed to have made a rather abrupt turnabout in his attitude, and it took him by surprise.
Reed looked at him uncaringly. "We can iron out the specifics later, but I will need to know what sort of scale you are planning to work on, and, of course, whether you have the finances for such an operation."
"I have the finances," Harry said, unfolding a Gringotts statement he'd had the foresight to request in the name of Tom Grey, sliding it across to him. "That, I believe, will cover the costs of the stone and more, if not your personal fee."
Reed nodded sharply, scanning the paper with approval. "My personal fee is negotiable with each set of spells I perform." He glanced at him, passing the statement back. "You run out of money, and I leave you with what you have."
Harry nodded. He would really need to look into making some investments in the future. He had enough funding for the moment, but not enough to cover nearly all the construction costs of the island, let alone the other spending he would undoubtedly do. He would be poorer than the Weasleys at the end of it all. "That's fine," he replied.
"The sales witch seemed to be convinced that this was something of a Hogwarts-like venture," Reed said smoothly. "I will need to know the specifics."
Harry nodded with a pensive frown. This was the point that things began to get difficult. "I will tell you of it up to a certain point, but I am afraid that the rest of it will have to be under contract and Oath."
Reed didn't even blink at that. Harry guessed it was common procedure. "Understandable."
Harry stopped himself from nodding again, and tried to focus on being quietly confident. He certainly didn't feel like it at the moment. "It will be on a similar scale to Hogwarts," Harry confirmed, "with at least as strong magic protecting it." He watched Reed's eyes narrow, but the other man remained silent, waiting for him to continue. "I will need every protection available, and a complex weave of other spells too."
"And the stone?" Reed asked.
"Obsidian," Harry replied. "It needs to be able to withstand the sea."
Harry watched the man stare into the distance in contemplation, and on the edges of his magical senses he could pick up stray thoughts as he ran over the vague idea in his head. There weren't nearly as many as he would have expected though, and Harry didn't find himself surprised that the man was an Occlumens.
"You will need to specify what you are building before I am willing to consider the idea," he said finally, with a hint of sarcasm. Harry tried his best not to bristle. This was it, after all. He would have to Obliviate him if he disagreed. Making sure that his magic securely blocked any eavesdroppers, Harry replied.
Reed's eyes widened dramatically, before he seemed to get a hold of himself. "I am not to be toyed with Grey," he snapped back irritably. Harry could fully see why he thought he was being duped.
"I'm not joking," he assured him calmly. "There used to be a habit of creating islands, didn't there? But it's rather gone out of practise. It isn't impossible."
"To create an island you would have to sink stone thousands of metres to reach the sea bed!" he growled. "You are a fool if you think you can achieve what thousands of years of deposition have not."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Then make it float," he said plainly, the idea just occurring to him. It would certainly make it a lot simpler. The man spluttered.
"I am not interested in jests," he repeated. Harry repressed a sigh.
"I told you," he reminded him, "I'm not joking. If you can't do it, I'll find someone else, who is probably a little less skilled and we'll go our separate ways." Of course, he didn't intend to leave the man with the knowledge of his plans or anything more than an unsuccessful meeting, but there was no need to tell him that.
He got what he realised was the rather unique privilege of seeing Master Reed gape at him for a moment, opening and shutting his mouth before he seemed to remember himself. "Don't be dense," he snapped back, eyes a little distant, "if this is what you really intend to do, then there is no better man than me. I am not the top of my field for nothing, and anyone less would not be able to complete this task nearly adequately."
Harry's pupils contracted in frustration at the man's manners, but at least he seemed amenable to the idea. "Good," Harry replied promptly. "But I would like to stress that your discretion in this matter is absolutely necessary. If it comes to finding someone else with a little less skill and a little more secrecy there is really no choice."
Reed looked positively insulted at the idea that he might not be able to hold his silence. "I will have you know," he said pompously, "that every one of my contracted works has been exercised with complete confidentiality. I am skilled enough to protect my mind and repel those who might steal the information, and there is a company policy of removing certain of the memories if the construction is of great importance. No, no, I am the only man for the job."
Harry couldn't help be a little shocked at his self-assurance, but shrugged it off. If he really was as good as he said then it would be worth it. He wasn't the one who trusted someone else to remove important memories. "Good," Harry repeated. "Then perhaps we can discuss the contracts and Oaths before we go into greater detail."
They spent nearly an hour haggling over the contracts without even speaking of money, settling on a policy of secrecy tied by several minor Oaths and one major one. In the end Master Reed ended up closing more loopholes than Harry did, although an icy touch on his shoulder told him that Salazar had watched over the proceedings carefully. He input a few suggestions, and soon Harry had what he thought was an airtight contract and a man under several vows of silence and co-operation. He blanched slightly at the idea of not revealing the identities of anyone assisting him or seen whilst working, but Harry assured him that it was 'a family thing'. Harry himself had to go under one oath to prevent him leaking out some of the techniques the man would be using, and similar information, but in the end they had an agreement that both of them approved of.
"Excellent," Reed hummed with satisfaction. "Now, outline to me what basic plans you have, and I will look over them."
Harry nodded and removed the Book from the pocket of his robes, laying it on the table. He'd prepared for this eventuality by making all other pages than those relevant blank, and he directed Reed to the beginnings of his ideas. He watched the Stone Crafter's expression change from incredulously raised brows to one of frowning concentration as he was absorbed by Harry's notes.
"You don't mention anything about making it float here," he said finally, gesturing to the Book.
Harry shrugged. "It only occurred to me recently, but it's simpler than manipulating stone at the bottom of the ocean," he said flatly. Or messing with lava, he added silently. Godric's suggestions had been interesting but…daunting.
Reed hummed, unconvinced. "Well Mr. Grey," he said, sliding the Book back to him, "it's going to be a very time consuming project. It's not impossible," he said with a hint of doubt in his voice, "but it's going to be…revolutionising."
Harry raised his brows questioningly.
"Many of these spells and wards," he said gesturing to the Book, flipping it back open, "will need to be structured very carefully, even more so since you are using obsidian." He frowned. "I would prefer you to be absolutely sure that you want to use obsidian," he said "There are many other rocks that could easily take the place that are both considerably cheaper and easier to work with."
Harry paused to think that over. The man obviously knew his stuff, and he'd take his advice if he thought the change was worth it.
"Obsidian has the allure of being a very visually pleasing rock," Master Reed continued with a hint of disdain, "but that is a poor reason to use it."
Harry looked up sharply, catching the appraising look in his eye. "I didn't choose it because it looked pretty," Harry said. "I wouldn't care if the island was made out of dung if it still worked as effectively."
Reed snorted. "Crude, but your point is made," he muttered.
Harry frowned, drawing on what he remembered of Salazar's advice during his last visit. "I was under the impression that obsidian is one of the most long-lasting options."
Master Reed nodded shortly, lacing his fingers together behind his head as he looked at him. "It can last a millennia or more, for spells. However, it isn't going to stand as long as other rocks against the elements, particularly the sea."
Harry nodded. "But there are spells that can protect it, aren't there?"
"There are," Reed conceded the point, "but salt water interacts strangely with magic. It is one of the reasons that Azkaban is situated out in the ocean rather than on land. Wizards do not work well at sea," he said with distaste. "There are, naturally, ways around the problem, but weaving them through the rock will be difficult. Perhaps," he paused, "it would be more practical to ask how long you wish this island of yours to last rather than what rock you wish to use. The two are intrinsically linked."
"I want it to last for as long as possible," Harry replied immediately. "I also want spell decay to stay at a minimum."
A hint of wariness appeared in the man's eyes. "I see that many of your wards are Dark in nature," he said with a nod to the Book.
"Yes," Harry said unfazed, "and Dark magic decays at a greater rate than Light."
"Indeed, it is why the Dark fortresses and castles have not lasted into our age," Reed agreed.
"I was under the impression that once they would only decay at a minimal rate when fastened to a stone," Harry continued, silently grateful that the man's passion for his new project seemed to outweigh his suspicion.
"And obsidian would hold them the best out of all the stones," Reed mused, "except for perhaps black diamond, but that is out of even your league."
Harry definitely agreed with that. He wasn't rich enough to go about making an island out of black diamond when he could do just as well with obsidian. Black diamond was just…ludicrously excessive.
"Do you think that it would be the best for what I want to do?" Harry asked finally, when the Stone Crafter appeared to have no incentive to continue.
"Yes, it would indeed," he said. "But perhaps…" he paused looking vaguely at the pages of the Book.
"Yes?" Harry prompted.
"I am considering the possibility of creating a layer of a more durable rock over the surface of the island, or at least where the sea will eat away at it," Reed told him. "It would make it stronger. You would use obsidian for the base and other rocks for different purposes. A layer of black diamond would help protect it, and would make the spells surrounding the island truly formidable."
He raised his head, looking at Harry as if seeing him for the first time. "I am not usually a man with prejudices Mr. Grey," he began, and Harry got a sinking feeling in his stomach. "I pay little attention to politics; business is business after all, but I have a feeling that this job will give me no inconsiderable amount of unwanted attention."
Harry didn't deny it, he merely waited for the man to draw his own conclusions.
"For a…project this large, it would suggest that you or whoever you are working for is a rather important figure," he said finally, all hints of the slightly arrogant man gone, and in his place one who was trying very hard not to alarm his customer.
"I am," Harry replied slowly, wondering just how to phrase his reply. "But this," he said tapping the page, "is not for conflict. It's a sanctuary. I follow the Light," he finished, lying through his teeth. In the political sense, he followed the kinder principles of the Light side, but magically speaking it was a gross overstatement.
Reed regarded him for one long moment, seemingly struggling with himself as the previously ignored implications of an island surfaced. "I am happier thinking that you are building a family heirloom for future generations Mr. Grey. Please don't displace that notion." He firmly pulled the Book back over, frowning at one of Harry's diagrams thoughtfully.
Harry nodded in respect for the man's decision. He was sworn to secrecy after all.
Salazar? Harry called out to the ghost.
Little one, he replied. Harry could feel his smirk down the bond, even as he stood invisible.
The properties of black diamond? What do you think of his idea? Harry asked. Reed was certainly a Master, but when it came down to it Harry trusted the Founder's opinion more.
He has made a valuable suggestion, the ghost affirmed. Black diamond does indeed take to Darker spells the most effectively, although you will not be able to afford the stone without further earnings.
Harry caught the sarcasm in the word 'earnings' and tried hard not to let a scowl appear on his face. All right. I'll find a way to get more money. But it all seems to make sense so far?
Yes, Salazar replied calmly. Although the diamond will need to be selected and cut particularly carefully so that it does not crack or damage, but I can already see in his mind that he is aware of that.
Concentrating on the man's unguarded periphery thoughts, Harry did notice him puzzling over just that. Not for the first time, he wondered how the ghost managed to concentrate on all of those things at once.
Imagine many conversations surrounding you, Salazar told him. Ghosts have no limit on how fast they can process information, similarly to my painting.
Harry nodded unconsciously, and Reed shot him a confused look.
"This seems…viable," he said finally, shutting the Book firmly this time. "You will need to meet me to make more complete plans of the island and go over exactly what you want it to feature, but it is entirely possible, despite what I might have assumed before." He looked up at Harry with an interested expression. "I look forwards to working with you, Mr. Grey."
Harry smiled, for the first time since he'd met the man. "Me too. Is tomorrow all right for sorting out the plans?"
"Tomorrow afternoon," the other man replied, standing and gathering his cloak. "At 2 o' clock. I have an important appointment in the morning."
"Perfect," Harry told him, reaching out to shake his hand. "I'll have a think over what I will need in the island tonight."
"Do," the other man replied, giving him a short handshake and departing swiftly.
Harry followed after him, and when he emerged into the avenue he couldn't help the irrepressible smile that appeared on his face. He stood there in the middle of the road, just smiling.
"I take it that you are satisfied?" he heard hissed quietly by his ear.
"Very," Harry murmured.
The wedding was a quiet affair. Clemence didn't think she would ever be able to look at the grounds of her home in the same way again, when the memories of the wedding would undoubtedly spring up at any opportunity. Caroline had taken her aside before, eyes suspiciously wet as she looked at her only daughter. Clemence knew the traditions. She tried to smile away her fears like she'd always done when she was little.
Looking at herself in the full-length mirror, a white dress clinging to her, feeling as if she were suffocating under the layers of lace and petticoat. It was a truly beautiful creation, but she looked like a waif in it, pale and tired. Dark rings circled her eyes from sleepless nights. She wondered what her future husband would think. Falteringly, she picked up the delicate silver flower that she had been given as her first Courtship Gift and pinned it to the front of her dress. If she was going to be given away, then she might as well face it with all the might she could.
She helplessly scrubbed away her tears and prepared to make her way to the garden.
Draco stood looking supremely cold and handsome in white dress robes, and she noticed that he had pinned a similar flower to his robes, only in gold. It tugged a shadow of a smile from her.
Various guests had come to the wedding, members of the Malfoy family and of her own. Narcissa, the quiet, stony woman who was soon to be her mother in law. Lucius. Several of his cousins and relatives, whose names she couldn't remember. Her own parents, one set of grandparents, her aunt, two uncles. Her younger brother. Laurent, her older brother. She almost cracked when she saw him, his usually confident face transformed with worry. He'd given her a supporting nod and she'd taken courage.
The ceremony itself was simple. They said their vows, and she felt their magic swirling around them, clasping, joining, and entwining. There was something else, something insidious creeping into it, so that she gasped and tried to pull away, but his dry palms held hers in his grasp, and then she couldn't feel anything else, no matter how she concentrated on that peculiar twist to the magic. It ended, and they left one hand in the others grasp. The Warlock conducting the wedding tied an emblematic bracelet around each their hands, linking them.
The party and dinner were tedious. Guests talked to them, tried to impress them with their hints at the wedding gifts and praised them on the union of two strong families. What a union! Clemence hated it, but she looked at her family around her, all so worried for her in her new life, and Laurent, sitting at the end of the table, watching her with a seriousness she had never seen him wear. The bracelets chafed as she tried to eat, and she was unsettled every time Draco adjusted his grip on her hand. She hated it, but she understood that she wasn't strong enough to fight her way out of it, not now.
The ring on her hand was a band of clear crystal, glittering in the sunlight.
When the guests left, they bade their farewells to her home of nearly sixteen years and Apparated to the Trans-Oceanic Floo. They stepped into the large hearth together, ignoring the congratulations of the unknown witches and wizards waiting in line, and Draco wrapped his other arm around her. She tried her best to remain passive, accepting.
They returned to Malfoy Manor in a series of quick Apparition jumps, and a house elf showed them to their wing of the house. Their wedding night was quick and functional, and afterwards they rolled onto opposite sides of the bed, bracelets still joining them together.
This is my life from now on, Clemence reflected emotionlessly. She wasn't sure what to make about that idea.