A Touch of Evil
Let's Watch It Burn
"Harry, we need to talk," Terry spoke softly, his voice barely registering above the din of the other students preparing their breakfasts.
Harry looked up at him from his seat between Neville and Hermione, a glance at Neville had the Gryffindor boy sliding down a spot, leaving room for the Ravenclaw to join them. "What's wrong Terry?" Mirage knew his general was smart enough to avoid too many public meetings if it wasn't absolutely necessary.
Terry shook his head slightly, first tapping his throat, then his wand, silently asking if there was a ward up making it safe for him to talk. A slight nod from Harry had him finally speaking, "My house is getting suspicious about you." He started, "In the past few years it was noticed that you had been making steady progress in your classes, as well as reaching out to people in other houses, especially Slytherin. This year though, you've fallen back to the shadows. The oddity is getting talked about, definitely in Ravenclaw and probably in the others too. I know you don't want to reveal too much too fast, but you may want to start acting more like you did last year. You are drawing more attention to yourself by falling back, than if you had continued to make steady progress."
"So that's why you came over now," Harry stated, realizing the truth. "You think it would be a good thing for me to be seen talking to people in other houses. I had thought I might be laying the act on a little too thick, you just confirmed it."
Hermione added in her opinion, "I agree with Terry, while it is good to not show everything, you are holding back too much. Maybe pick a few classes that you could start excelling in, make your progress realistic. If Dumbledore finds a way to question you, the truthful response would be you are getting serious in preparing for the war. You won't be on the side he thinks you will be on, but you would be preparing for the war."
"If Dumbledore found a way to question Harry, he wouldn't ask open ended questions. He is too smart for that. He would ask specific questions, like 'which side are you on?' and 'who are you working for?' That last one Mirage may be able to work around, he is working with someone not for someone, but it would still be too close to be sure of success." Neville's voice joined in the conversation, much stronger than Terry ever remembered hearing the timid Gryffindor. Mirage was not the only Gryffindor with a mask.
Harry weighed what they were saying, and realizing they were right, agreed with them. "All right, I see your points. I have gone too far. Thanks for warning me, that's why I wanted people I trust working with me. I think Hermione's plan could work; any suggestions for which classes? Neville is right, I doubt I could fool Dumbledore, but at this point it's his spies I need to fool, not him."
"Try Transfiguration, and Charms, both would be useful in the war adding to your cover, and it would get you some wiggle room with those teachers. Potions or Defense would be a little to dangerous, you are supposed to be opposing Umbridge not buttering up to her, and Snape is too Dark for Dumbledore to allow you much closeness with him. I would go with middle of the road or slightly above average in his class. Don't explode a cauldron trying to put distance between you, because that could hurt someone, but don't be outstanding either." Terry advised, not prepared for the smooth chuckle Harry couldn't stop from escaping.
"No problem following that order in Potions, middle of the road is about the best I can do. With a partner like Draco I pass fairly well, but Potions is an art I'm just not very good at, amount of power doesn't matter much in that class. I agree with keeping a low profile in Defense, I already have an agreement with Umbridge, and changing how I act around her at this point would attract more attention than it would deflect. I am good at Charms, I haven't let myself slide much in that class this year, Flitwik would notice that. I can put more effort in and it would make him happy, not to mention more willing to listen to me when the time comes. Transfiguration doesn't interest me much, but it does make sense that I would work harder in more than just one class, so I can steadily progress in there. If Dumbledore thinks I'm sucking up to McGonagall, she is one of the ones in his pocket, he will feel more secure in my being in his control still. It could buy us more time to get sorted through the students, see who has potential." He planned aloud, giving these three access to information the others didn't. If there was a betrayer on his side, he was going to narrow down the information leak, after all a spy couldn't reveal what they didn't know. He could find out what information was getting to the other side, and find the betrayer before the truly deadly secrets started coming out.
"Speaking of Umbridge," Terry couldn't hold his curiosity in any longer, and since Harry seemed to be in an agreeable mood, he decided it was as good a time as any to ask his question. "How is the Inquisitorial squad doing? I have seen a lot of new faces at the meetings but don't know if they are from the interviews or because their friends dragged them." Harry had only allowed his Slytherin Generals in the Inquisitorial squad. It would be hard enough keeping his own involvement from Dumbledore, if all his high-ranking officers were involved someone was bound to slip up.
"We just started going through the Sixth years, all the Seventh years are done, and a handful of third through fifth years have come to Madame Pomfrey to get treated and were referred to us. The younger students are still too scared to come forward on their own, but I was expecting that." Harry informed him. "Most of the new faces are my doing. Any of the students I think have potential are given a note for a private meeting. I talk to them and explain some of what's going on, and more importantly that there is a place they can go to learn how to fight back. Once they join the main meeting I keep watching for any sign of the Essence, once I see that, I will go from there."
"When do you want to start training the newly found Dark ones?" He asked.
Harry's eyes narrowed, that was very sensitive information, and trust had only been built so far with his newly recruited Generals, he would have to settle for a less definite answer, "When they are ready. I won't risk the whole plan by getting too far ahead of myself. It won't be all at once, they will be added into the specialized lessons slowly."
Terry nodded, "Makes sense, well I have to head to class, see you later." He excused himself when he realized their time was almost up if he wanted to make it to his first lass on time, there were too many staircases between him and Charms.
"You made a good choice with him," Neville observed as the Ravenclaw retreated.
"I know, I really hadn't thought of that before. My partner has proven that you need good people working with you to succeed, as long as they listen when you order, they are worth the occasional aggravation." Mirage agreed.
"Careful Harry, you aren't sounding like yourself right now, that was Mirage talking. You are supposed to be revealing yourself slowly." Hermione reminded as the Darker personality came to the surface. Terry was a friend to Harry, but to Mirage he was a follower; just like the Death Eaters were to the Dark Lord.
"You realize you just contradicted yourself right? Mirage and Harry are both me, Mirage even more so, but I get what you meant. I'll tone it down once I take the ward down. Do you two think his class suggestions were the right ones?" They did make sense, but another opinion wouldn't hurt.
"Yes, it would give you a solid cover, and you are good enough in those classes it wouldn't be too much effort to excel in them with everything else going on. It's probably taking more out of you to perform lower, it would make holding your shield easier if you did tougher magic more often." Hermione analyzed.
Neville made a sound of agreement, "I don't know what is like to hold a shield like you do, but you have to admit it would be nice if you got to show off a little bit. No one will follow you if they don't have even a vague idea of how powerful you are."
"Why Neville, didn't know you had it in you, are you the shyest Gryffindor telling me, the Golden Boy, to show off?" Harry teased relaxing a bit with his friends around him.
"That's exactly what I'm saying," Neville replied with a smirk almost as devilish as his blonde lover. "No matter if they are Dark or Light, the students and teachers have been expecting a lot from the Boy Who Lived. Give them the show they are looking for. The Dark ones will feel your Essence, the Light ones will see your power, you will have both hanging off you if you play your cards right."
"We're almost late for Potions. We'd better get going," Hermione interjected when she realized how late it was getting to be.
The two boys followed her lead down to the dungeons. Harry had partnered with Neville for the current project. Between the two of them they managed not to blow something up, but Harry didn't think there would be any difficulty in keeping a low profile in this class. His best grades happened when he was paired with Draco, and there was extenuating circumstances involved there. Thanks to his work with Severus his theory had gotten solid, but his practical would never be Master level. Mirage was fine with that; he would rather fight than brew.
During the class he used the direct link Legilimency Severus had shown him to fill him in on the new plan. Mirage would be coming out to play, a little at a time, but the results would be interesting to say the least.
With that frame of mind, Harry through himself into the act in the weeks that followed. His grades climbed steadily in the classes they agreed on, and in his social life he started to publically mingle with the students in his Defense Club. Which proved to be a boon for Draco and Neville, they now had more excuses to spend time with each other since both boys were known friends of Harry.
It worked. Students suspicions steadily decreased, and their faith in the Boy Who Lived was steadily growing. So it wasn't any surprise that towards the end of November, Harry was asked to a meeting with Dumbledore.
He had been expecting the meeting, but not the person sitting with the Headmaster. Orange red hair, freckles, and an angry expression mostly covered the lingering confusion that filled Ron Weasley after the use of one too many Obliviates.
"I think we are overdue for a little chat Harry, don't you?" Dumbledore invited him into the room, motioning him to the chair next to Ron. Three steaming cups of tea were already poured and waiting for his arrival.
"Have I done something wrong Headmaster?" He spoke testily, his anger at the Headmaster hadn't lessoned in the last few weeks, it was publically known the Golden Boy was not happy with the leader of the Light.
Dumbledore settled back in his seat, lording over the two boys without making it too obvious that's what he was doing, "Now Harry, you are not accused of anything, can't I simply want to talk with one of my favorite students?"
"Not when you haven't so much as looked at me this year. What is it Dumbledore, you don't want to see the little boy you threw to the wolves?" Harry accused, pushing against the tethers holding him, he wanted to see how far he could go with Dumbledore.
Dumbledore looked affronted, "Where did you hear a thing like that? I placed you in the best place for you at the time, where your mother's blood dwells is where you will be the safest. I am grateful you escaped the Death Eaters sent your way, but had you not left, they would not have breached the wards."
Well what do you know, the old Bastard was trying to push more guilt onto him, too bad Mirage was passed that point. After all it really was his fault the Dursleys were dead, and he wasn't upset about it. Killing Vernon was one of his better memories of them when it was all said and done. Still, Dumbledore shouldn't know that, "Are you trying to say it's my fault they died?" He accused, with Ron present would the bastard admit it?
"I'm not saying you killed them, but your blood connection fueled the wards protecting your home, with you gone that connection broke and the wards fell." He explained.
"Why don't you just say it's my fault and be done with all the games?" Harry demanded, honestly curious about this one, but he knew he wasn't likely to get an answer.
"No child should have to shoulder that burden," Dumbledore defended himself, causing Harry's rage to rise with the admission.
Harry knew exactly what to say to that, and he even got to let some of his anger out, "I am no child!"
"No you are not, and it's time you stopped acting like one. Now you are going to tell me where you were this summer, and what you have done to this boy. He has been suffering memory gaps and confusion, all after being sighted in your company, all symptoms of memory modification spells applied too closely together, a mistake no fully trained wizard would make. You are playing a game for adults with a child's impetuousness. If you keep fighting me, Harry people are going to get hurt. Good people, like the Weasleys and Hagrid. They have all helped you haven't they? Even when there was nothing in it for them." Dumbledore dropped the kindly old man act, instead taking on the role of powerful Headmaster, there was mask beneath mask with this man.
That was a bit of a relief it sounded like Dumbledore thought he was working alone, he could exploit that, "I will never trust you again. You admit to putting me with those creatures who aren't fit to call me family. They hurt me Dumbledore, they hit me, and starved me, and kept me locked away like some kind of vermin. I barely survived my last stay with them, and was well on my way to almost dying again until I got lucky and apparated away. You put already poured tea in front of me, knowing full well I know what truth serum is and how it is used. The Weasleys didn't do anything for me that wasn't returned back to them, I would have been proud to share my fame and money with them and they been true friends and stuck by me. No I came out of that camber bloodied and battered, with my good friend's body in my arms, and no one even helped me wash off. All I got was grief because a twelve year old couldn't stop a much older and stronger wizard, not to mention the Basilisk, in time to save their little girl. I am truly sorry Ginny died, but what about me? Why didn't anyone care about the blood on my hands? The nightmares that woke me of the pain of the Basilisks venom running through me?
"If no one believed my story, why didn't you just use a pensieve? Or Legilimency? There are ways of finding the truth, including lacing tea with truth serum, which I have no doubt you did that night too. You knew I was telling the truth, but you let them abandon me. Hagrid has always stood by me, and done mostly right by me. Yet you sent one of the most biased people to me that day. Slytherins took everything from him, his wand, his pets, his hope of a better future; of course he was going to fill my head with bad things about Slytherin. After all most abused children end up there, and you couldn't have that. You knew the only thing that could override the Sorting Hat's first placement, was a personal choice by the student.
"I know what you have done Dumbledore. You are only lucky I still have enough heart left to fight. I am not going to run away and hide, or go off on some quest to off the Dark Lord all by myself. You want me to fight, then you had better show me how." Harry made his point sharply, he stood quickly and was almost out of the office before turning to Ron, almost as an afterthought.
"What was done to him was nothing compared to his own crimes. I have not cast a single memory charm on him, but I am willing to bet the students he bullied had older siblings that could have done something to him. If you want to find the truth, I would start with his crimes and work your way out through them." He advised before leaving with a swish and flourish his mentor would be proud of.
He made it back to the Gryffindor dorms before bursting out in laughter. That was priceless, just priceless, he hoped the old Black Portrait was in residence at the time. He wanted to hear Dumbledore's reaction to his speech.
Yes Mirage was playing a game, but he knew exactly what he was doing, and his opponent better watch out, because he was about to be caught in trap of his own making.