Thanks to everyone who reviewed/added this story to their story alerts/reviewed. I appreciate it more than I can say – and I hope that I will be able to update more frequently, now that I'm back in a place where I can do so. Also, not mine.
Two days later, Harry sat stiffly on Prince's couch, struggling not to move his leg. Despite Prince's gruff ministrations, it appeared that nothing could be done for it. His voice, while slowly improving, would also likely retain permanent damage.
It had taken Harry nearly half a day to convince Prince to let him move off his couch. The man had been determined to keep him there – more, he suspected, out of suspicion than genuine concern for Harry – and had only grudgingly permitted Harry to move after he had tired of Harry's constant, polite, requests. Harry had used his newfound mobility to scour the house for old history books, newspapers, anything that might shed some light on when he was…
… Also, as long as Prince was satisfied that he was reading, he would be less likely to suspect Harry of his true goal in searching the house. He had to get into Hogwarts somehow, after all.
He had struck gold on the first goal when he found a small cupboard at the back of the house. For whatever reason, Prince had stuffed away almost three years worth of Daily Prophet back issues – Harry had muttered uncomplimentary comparisons to Prince's descendant under his breath as he dragged them out –
Just like you, Potter, to complain about something that's aiding you –
After sorting through almost two years' worth of newspaper, he stopped, raising his eyebrows at the headlines he encountered.
HOGWARTS HEADMASTER INJURED UNDER SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, one screamed. The next, dated a few days later, stated that DIPPET REMAINS IN CRITCAL CONDITION IN MINISTRY HOSPITAL. Harry paused at a picture emblazoned on a article dated three weeks later HOGWART'S DUMBLEDORE TO BECOME NEW HEADMASTER. Dumbledore, looking supremely uncomfortable, wearing plain black robes, stood at a dais. He was flanked by an unhappy –looking, as well as much younger-looking Slughorn and a stern man Harry didn't recognize. Harry glanced down at the picture caption, and started. The reporter identified the stern man as Lord Albert Potter, member of the Wizengamot and Hogwarts Board of Governors. Strange, Harry thought, scrutinizing the picture carefully. There really wasn't much of a family resemblance –
Stop dithering, Potter, and figure out how to get us into Hogwarts, the voice whispered harshly.
Harry sighed, and leaned back on the cushions. His original idea had been inspired by Mad-Eye Moody – or, rather, Barty Crouch. There was no earthly way Dumbledore would let a suspicious character like Heinrich Evans into Hogwarts, he had reasoned. He suppressed the pang that accompanied that thought; he'd loved the old man in his own time, and Dumbledore's death had hit him hard. Seeing him here – seeing him alive – was both brilliant and painful… but knowing that Dumbledore did not trust him, Harry, was hard to bear. He found himself wondering what Dumbledore would do if he knew the full story… if he'd help…
Dumbledore was a brilliant man, after all, if anyone could return Harry to his own time it would be the greatest headmaster in Hogwarts history.
Potter, shut up and get to work. You know as well as I that we don't want to have that conversation at this point, now do we? How do you think Dumbledore would react to being told that he was dead, you were on the run, and I was systematically slaughtering Mudbloods? He'd lock you up for certain.
Harry pushed the voice out of his mind, yet again, and went back to thinking on how he could infiltrate Hogwarts unnoticed and get into the library. And then ignore the fact that he was depending on a soul fragment of a sociopathic dark lord to get him back to his own time.
If he couldn't go to Hogwarts as Heinrich Evans – he'd have to go to Hogwarts as someone else. That meant either a Polyjuice Potion or a strong glamour charm. The problem, of course, was, first, determining who he would impersonate – second, obtaining the Polyjuice Potion to transform – and, third – he winced slightly – making certain that the person he impersonated wasn't available to trip the whole thing up. On the whole, he'd prefer to avoid this plan.
He might be host to a soul fragment of the Dark Lord, after all, but that didn't mean he had to act like it.
"Bloody hell," Harry muttered under his breath in frustration, finally straightening back up and wincing as his leg ached painfully. He supposed that it would be possible to just use a glamour charm, but, really, he didn't trust his glamours against Dumbledore's magic. And as McGonagall had once pointed out, the teachers were fairly good at magic himself.
"Bored, boy?" Harry started, nearly jumping out of the couch, as he heard Prince move behind him. He was certainly quiet – either that, or Harry's war-trained senses were beginning to fail.
Getting slow, Potter. By all means, continue, but preferably when we're back in our own time.
"Yes, a bit," he responded quickly, shutting the voice out of his head yet again and trying to look innocent. He thought he succeeded rather well, as Prince moved around the couch to face him; he might have been successful. Prince looked irritated, but no more so than usual.
"Digging through my things, Evans?" Prince asked harshly, jerking his head at the old newspapers Harry held. Harry held back a grimace – perhaps not.
"Well, it's not like you gave me much to do, in any case," he retorted sharply. "Honestly," he continued angrily, going on the offensive, "Do you have anything in here that's recent?"
Prince's lips pinched together. "Daily Prophet's a load of rubbish, boy, and you'd know it if you had any sense," he muttered. Harry held back a splutter of pained agreement. "You want to read something," Prince took out his wand and waved it wearily at a black cupboard across the room which had, despite Harry's best efforts, remained stubbornly closed, "read those. You won't get in much trouble with that, at least," he added, with a twist of his lip. They glared at each other for a moment, before Prince huffed and stalked away.
Harry slowly got up from the couch, wincing again as his leg protested, and hobbled over to the cupboard. He leaned on it, regaining his breath, as he fought to focus his eyes on the titles of the books; for some reason it seemed darker over here than in the rest of the room. Once he had succeeded, he gasped – and heard Riddle's voice gasp in as well.
The cupboard was lined with books on the Dark Arts. He doubted anyone who had not studied the subject would recognize the titles; these were old, old books, some thought lost long ago. He carefully lifted his finger and ran them along the cupboard, hovering an inch or two above the spines, careful not to touch – yes, there was Cygnus Black's A History of the Dark Magicks; there was Simone Beaufont's A Compendium of Theoretical Dark Curses; William Filch's Theories of Magic; Aloysius Thomas' Defense Against Charms and Curses. And – last – his hand hovered in front of the title, he was scarcely able to believe it –
Salazar Slytherin. Manifesto on the Theory and Creation of Magick. The book, it was rumored, that Lord Voldemort had taken inspiration from – the book he, Ron, and Hermione had desperately tried to find but been unable to – the book that Neville Longbottom had died for, as he tried to sneak the only remaining copy out of Lord Voldemort's personal library –
Harry leaned back, frowning. What were the odds that this book had turned up in the home of a healer, who lived in a bad part of London?
Potter, this must be a trap of some kind. Tom's voice echoed urgently in his head. The healer –there's no way he could have something like this – not this sort of treasure!
Harry frowned, thinking on Riddle's comment. He certainly saw the logic – on the other hand, Riddle was also not obliged to tell him the truth. It was also possible that Riddle simply did not want him, Harry, to read a copy of the Death Eater's Bible.
Harry stared at the book for a moment longer, undecided. This was too good an opportunity to pass up… what if the spells to create the Horcruxes were in this book? What if there was a way to unmake them, without use of Fiendfyre or Gryffindor's sword, or the like? Riddle's voice grew louder, as it echoed through his skull –
Harry clapped his hand to his scar, felt the wrist with the lamia-skin wristguard tingle, then burn, as he resolutely reached into the cupboard and carefully pulled out the book.
The lamia-skin wristguard was burning painfully, almost unbearably, as he gazed at the cover of the book. It was bound with a very, very old leather; despite its apparent age, the binding had not cracked, nor had the pages turned yellow. In fact, Harry thought, as he turned it over in his hands, it was almost as though it had been published merely days ago. It could have been straight off the printing press. He made his way back to the couch, sitting carefully, mindless of the pain in his leg; it was almost a counterpoint to the burning pain in his arm. Riddle's voice still blathered in his skull; distractedly, Harry wondered why he was still attempting to persuade Harry to stop reading the book, when it was perfectly obvious that it was only encouraging him to do so…
Of course, Harry realized, too late, as he opened the book and felt something pull him towards the pages, that might have been what Tom had intended for him all along.
Albus was grateful for the distraction, when Abner's – Prince's, he hastily corrected himself – Floo call came.
He threw the forms aside, mindless as they landed on the phoenix paperweight – ignoring it as it protested with a squawk. "Abner – Prince – what is it?" He asked.
Prince raised his eyebrows, a strange look with the soot falling around his head. "Dumbledore – have I come at a bad time?" He inquired slowly, tilting his head to see behind Dumbledore and into his office.
"No, no," Dumbledore quickly said. "I'm just – relieved – to have an excuse to put aside the paperwork…" he waved a hand at his desk to illustrate. "I don't know how Dippet ever managed…" he realized what he had said, and darted a sidelong glance at Prince.
Prince's face had drawn back into a scowl. "Quite," he bit out. "Of course, Dippet was a natural at paperwork – not quite as good at battle tactics, but then, I suppose we all have our talents, don't we, Albus?"
Dumbledore did not quite manage to suppress a wince of pain. "Abner –"
Prince snorted. "Don't even start, Dumbledore. Headmaster. At the moment, I have need –" his eyes flashed – "Of your expertise."
Dumbledore turned his back, in a desperate bid to regain his composure, under the guise of straightening the papers on his desk. "Oh?" He asked, keeping his voice steady with an effort. "Of course, Ab – Healer Prince, but may I ask what my expertise is needed for?"
Abner paused for a moment; Dumbledore resolutely kept his back turned. "It's the Evans boy," Prince said after a moment. "Have you decided what to do with him?"
Dumbledore frowned, his back still to Prince. "Not… as of yet," he said. "We can't turn him over to the Ministry – on that we're already agreed – nor can we let him roam free – "
"We can't trust him, free," Prince agreed flatly. "I conducted… a little test, today, Albus, and I was a little disturbed at what I found."
Intrigued, Dumbledore turned around. "May I ask what sort of test?" He asked softly.
Prince looked troubled. "I opened the cabinet," he said after a moment. "Albus, he recognized the books."
Dumbledore stood still for a moment, thinking. The cabinet was enchanted – it only opened in the presence of Dark Magic. Dumbledore himself had never dared attempt to open it – he could admit, only to himself, that he was afraid of what it would reveal.
"But," Prince continued after a moment, "Dumbledore, something strange happened. The books – the only books the cabinet showed were books on Dark Magickal Theory."
Dumbledore paused for a moment, shocked. "Theory?" He asked, disbelievingly.
Prince nodded in agreement. "Theory," he reaffirmed. "And one book on defense."
Dumbledore frowned, thinking. "Interesting," he said slowly. "As it happens, I might have an idea Mr. Evan's suitable employment." He thought for a moment longer, then nodded decisively. "Yes. That would work quite well." Energized, he looked again at Prince. "Where is Mr. Evans now?"
Prince gave a wry smile. "Attempting to read Slytherin's manifesto." He grinned. "You might want to come through and help him, Dumbledore, else he won't have much of a mind left, will he now?"
Dumbledore stared at Prince for a moment, shocked. "What? Why did you – Abner, that was – " Dumbledore paused, and took a breath. "Get out of the way, Prince, I'm coming through." Prince's face vanished from the flames as Dumbledore stepped through, emerging on Prince's fireside rug. Prince emerged from the crouch he was in, looking grim.
"Where is he?" Dumbledore demanded, looking at Prince with narrowed eyes. Prince gestured behind him; Dumbledore roughly pushed him out of the way as he saw Evans' body, shaking on the couch. The book had fallen from his hands to the floor; Evans' brilliant emerald eyes were wide, staring unseeingly at the cupboard across the room. His hand below the wristguard was twitching spasmodically, opening and closing – Dumbledore fancied he could smell burning flesh as he rushed across the carpet to where the boy sat. "Abner – you knew about the curse – why did you do this?" he asked as he knelt down in front of the boy.
"It's been under twenty minutes, Albus," Prince said quietly behind him. "His mind should be unharmed if you pull him out now. And, as for why –" Prince paused, then continued – "I swear to you, I did not know the curse would affect him this badly. You know it's cursed, but you don't know how… and neither do I." Prince gestured slightly at the boy's staring eyes. "Better start Legilimancy, Albus. Save him. And while you do," Prince's face tightened – "Check and see just what he means to do to us all, as well."
Gaping, Dumbledore met Prince's eyes. He opened his mouth, to attempt to refute what Prince had said – to point out that Legilimancy was dangerous, was only used on criminals, was a blunt weapon, could result in catatonia – then closed it. He might – might – be able to use Legilimancy to break the curses' hold on the boy's mind. It would help if he knew what the curse was – but as Prince had pointed out, no-one knew quite how the book was cursed, just that it was.
But, he knew Prince. Prince was capable of making atrocious decisions in the name of the greater good – he was quite capable of sacrificing the mind of someone he suspected was guilty in order to ensure the safety of all. He was quite capable of opening the cupboard, knowing that the book was there, suspecting the boy might be drawn to it, knowing the curse might affect him -
Merlin forgive me, Dumbledore thought wretchedly. I don't know if that's vice or virtue. Ever since Gellert –
"Tick-tock, Albus," Prince said quietly behind him. Dumbledore closed his eyes, and brought his hands up to the boy's temples.
He would try
A/N Dumbledore can use legilimancy because, at this point, Mr. "Evans" is too far-gone to be self-aware. Legally, this is a gray area – usually the only people permitted to do so are certified Healers. Just a bit of clarification. He's reluctant to do so…there are hints on why in this chapter, and I'll address it more as the story continues.
We begin to hint at Dumbledore's early accession to the Headmaster's position… the question you should all be asking is, why? Also, will it last?
Next chapter – Harry at Hogwarts. Also, Harry's job at Hogwarts is revealed.
Reviews are welcome. They make me happy.