This takes place after Goblet of Fire. As always, I do not own the main characters, they are the property of J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter and the Dagger of Death
by Xanthia Morgan
Part One: The Blade Wizard
Eskew Slagger picked his way carefully down the shadowed, rutted path that led to the Riddle House. The house was closed and dark, but cracks in the shutters showed red light. "Like knife cuts ooze blood," Slagger thought. He smiled at his grim analogy, if you could call the cold, razor thin curve of his lips a smile. He knocked on the heavy door and waited. After a few moments the door creaked open and a thin, harried face peered out. Peter Pettigrew, Wormtail to his master, heaved the door open wider to get a better look at the visitor. "You're late," he sneered. "Lord Voldemort doesn't like to be kept waiting."
"Well, Lord Voldemort," Slagger replied nastily, "is lucky I could come at all. Since his return to power my business has been booming and I'm an extremely busy man. No one wants to walk the streets with just a wand anymore. My blades are much in demand."
Wormtail snorted and gestured the knife maker inside. He pushed the door closed and it latched with a thud. Wormtail moved forward and gestured toward a dark hallway. "This way," he said quietly. "Lord Voldemort is in the parlor." Slagger followed the man who betrayed James and Lily Potter to an open doorway. "The blade wizard is here," Wormtail announced, then stepped aside.
Slagger entered the parlor, his eyes taking in the richly appointed furnishings and gleaming silver candlesticks. A wide hearth with a roaring blaze filled the center of the far wall and a large armchair was pulled before it. The dark wizard known as Lord Voldemort sat waiting, his legs crossed, a glass of brandy dangling from one hand. He motioned for Slagger to come forward as he called out a greeting. "Eskew, how nice to see you again."
"Voldemort," Slagger replied curtly. "You're looking well."
"Yes," Voldemort hissed, "aren't I? Enough pleasantries, have you what I asked for?" Voldemort set down his glass and leaned forward in the chair, his fingers steepled as he watched Slagger approach.
The blade wizard drew himself up haughtily. "Of course I have it. Did you doubt that I would?" Voldemort only smiled. Slagger continued. "I have but to work the final spell and it's done."
Voldemort's smile vanished. "What do you mean 'final spell'? I thought your instructions had been very clear. My assistant was given very specific orders on this! Wormtail, is that not what I asked you to do?" Voldemort's quiet, menacing voice carried to the doorway where Wormtail stood. He tripped over his feet, barely catching himself, as he hurried to his master.
"I told him you needed an energy source . . . that you needed a link. Wasn't that right? That is what you told me. Isn't it?" Wormtail looked to Slagger as if for confirmation. "That's what I told you. I told you what you needed to know."
Slagger nodded. "That is so. He told me all that, but what I need to know is - what kind of energy source? Different sources require specific spells. Do you need a long or short term source? That will determine the length of the blade and the type of spell. Also, I need to know if the blade can be removed. If you want it to stay in, I need to set protective spells on the hilt." Slagger shrugged. "It seems a simple task but it is really quite complicated. You needn't fear my discretion. I keep my clients' secrets, as you are undoubtedly aware."
Voldemort stared at the dagger maker, trying to determine whether the man's loyalty was solid enough to trust him with a potentially fatal secret. Slagger was one of the few wizards who did not carry the Dark Mark yet held Voldemort's favor. He admired that the man was totally without conscience and willing to do anything for money. Still, he hesitated.
"I know you can be, shall we say, discreet. I also know that you value gold above all else and would very likely create a blade to kill your own father were the galleons stacked the right way."
Slagger laughed nastily. "I'm afraid that's very true. But you know that I am faithful to you, my lord." He bowed slightly but could not disguise the sarcasm in his voice. Voldemort stared at him, his snakelike eyes seeming to see into the blade wizard's very soul. Slagger raised his head haughtily and returned the cruel gaze. Voldemort's eyes narrowed and his mouth thinned. Still, he continued to stare. After a few moments he noticed a slight sheen on Slagger's forehead. His lips curled into a smile. If he could make the man sweat, he could make the man fear. Fear was a powerful tool and Slagger was afraid, no matter how flippant he pretended to be. After another moment he nodded and released his gaze.
"As you know, my powers have returned to me, as well as my form. However, to achieve my full abilities will take time. Time I do not want to waste. I need energy from another source. I cannot drain Wormtail, he is, for the moment useful to me. I cannot go on as I have, draining lesser wizards in one shot. It is exhilarating, but the effects are sadly temporary. I need someone young and powerful. Someone who's abilities could possibly equal my own. Someone to whom I already have a connection. A blood connection."
Slagger looked puzzled. "I thought all your blood relatives were dead, my lord."
Voldemort laughed. "They are. I made sure of that myself. The person to whom I am referring is not a relative. Nonetheless, we do share a bond of blood."
Slagger had withdrawn a small notebook and was writing furiously as Voldemort spoke. He nodded and muttered to himself. "Four and a half inch blade, one inch across at the top." He looked up. Thrown or thrust?"
Voldemort stroked his long fingers against his chin thoughtfully. "Thrown, I think."
Slagger nodded again and wrote as he spoke. "Four and a half inch hilt balanced for throwing. Excellent. Now I assume you won't want the blade removed?"
Voldemort nodded. "No other wizard or Muggle is to remove that blade, Slagger."
Slagger regarded him slyly from under his eyebrows. "No other wizard? You're certain that's what you want?"
Voldemort nodded again. "Or Muggle."
Slagger looked puzzled for a moment. Then the answer dawned on him and his knife edge smile returned. "If you will but give me a few moments, I will have exactly what you need."
Dudley Dursley stood at the far end of Privet Drive and kicked morosely at the gravel by the roadside. Since he'd returned from Smeltings at the end of the school year, his life had been one miserable day after another. First, the school nurse had sent home a letter stating that, while Dudley had indeed lost some much needed weight, he should continue to modify his diet over the summer. She had enclosed a printed guideline that had Dudley eating lots of what his father deemed 'rabbit food' and had essentially forbidden him the sinful treats he loved most. She had also suggested lots of 'exercise' and so his parents had been forced to limit his television watching and game playing to three hours of each a day. This meant that his other endless hours were spent outside 'playing'. Dudley hated the outdoors. The only time it was any fun was when he was Harry hunting but since returning home at the end of term, Harry spent so much time in his room that Dudley was deprived of one of his favorite summer pastimes. Oh, it wasn't the hunting part that Dudley liked so much, it was the catching. And even that hadn't been all that much fun these last couple of years because Harry almost always managed to get away from him at the last minute. The worst part of the whole summer had been when his father said that, since he was becoming a man, it would be good for him to have a little responsibility around the house. So Dudley was given the awful job of taking out the trash. His mother had been so proud that he'd been given a 'job' that she paid him
five pounds a week.
It still made Dudley angry. Harry was the one who took out the trash. He always had. It galled him that he was given one of Harry's jobs and Harry didn't have to anything extra in return. He sat down hard on the curb and began to beat a large stick against the pavement, wishing it was Harry's head.
"What's this then? Sumpin' got ya bothered there does it?"
Dudley raised his eyes sullenly. An old pushcart was stopped in front of him. He looked up to see a weathered man, about his father's age he guessed, observing him closely.
"Don't seem right, it don't. A fine day such as this an' a fine young man such as yerself seemin' so outta sorts. Tell old Tom about it an' see if he can't make it right."
Dudley studied the man. He seemed a good enough sort. After all, he'd called him a fine young man. And he so wanted to tell somebody about his problems. No one at home wanted to listen, that was certain. His parents were so afraid of Harry's killer godfather that no one dared say "Boo" to the freak.
"My cousin. He gets everything," Dudley whined. "And I have to do all the work."
"Aye, lad. I see how 'tis now. No one understands ya at home. Yer cousin is gettin' all the attention and yer poor self is left out in the cold. A pity, it is. A fine boy like yerself deserves better 'an that."
Dudley warmed to his audience and continued to complain. He told the peddler all about how he couldn't watch tv or play video games and how he was doing all Harry's work. He was feeling so good about feeling sorry for himself that he never mentioned that he didn't actually have any work to do, other than take out the garbage, and he got paid for that.
The stranger was a good listener and was very understanding of Dudley's plight. He nodded and made sympathetic clucking noises and kept repeating what a fine young man Dudley was and what a shame his ungrateful cousin was so selfish and demanding. He waited patiently while Dudley rambled on and when the boy finally stopped for breath he jumped into the empty space.
"I know just what yer needin', young man, indeed, I do. Yer needin' sumpin' to take yer mind off yer troubles. Sumpin' that's just fer you." The peddler rummaged around in the bottom of the pushcart and pulled out a long, cloth-covered package. "Try this on fer size," he beamed.
Dudley took the package and unwrapped it. Nestled against the black velvet was a gleaming dagger. The blade was of shining steel, the hilt was in the shape of a dragon and ornately carved, right down to the scales. Dudley ran his finger against the blade and pulled back when the sharp edge bit into his skin.
"Careful, there, laddie, 'tis razor sharp, 'tis. It's a throwing dagger. There's none like it anywhere in the world." The peddler watched as Dudley studied the hilt with greedy eyes.
"Are these real emeralds?" Dudley asked, pointing to the dragon's eyes.
The peddler looked up and down the street, as if checking to see that they were alone. He leaned close to Dudley' ear and whispered "That they are, laddie. That they are. It's said that this here blade once belonged to King Arthur himself, although I canna say for certain that it's true. I can only tell you that this knife is very special. I wouldn't let just anyone have it, and that's the truth."
Dudley's ears perked up and he glanced sideways at the stranger. "Have it?" he asked innocently, mindful of the twenty odd pounds he had in his pocket.
"Have it," stated the peddler. "With the sad treatment yer gettin' at home, I can guarantee yer not gettin' any pocket money. I can see that plain as day. No, this is a gift from me to you. I been in your situation, laddie, I know how it feels to be the outcast. You take this from me."
"Thanks," said Dudley.
"Just promise me one thing," added the peddler as he started to wheel the cart away.
"What?" asked Dudley suspiciously.
"You're not to use this on a person. That's understood now."
Dudley held the wrapped knife close to him. "Oh, no," he smiled sweetly, "I won't."
The peddler walked away down Privet Drive. "Good lad. Well, I'm off. Take care now. And remember what yer old friend, Tom Riddle, told you about the knife. You're not to be using it on just anybody."
Dudley's sweet smile turned mean as he headed toward home. "I won't use it on just anybody, Mr. Riddle," he whispered. "I promise."
Harry sat with his elbows propped on his knees, chin in hand, staring out his bedroom window into the afternoon sky. He'd sent Hedwig off with a letter for Sirius days ago and she still hadn't returned. "It's not as if I even knew where he was," Harry thought morosely. He knew that many of his wizard friends were out in the world, recruiting other wizards for the inevitable battle against Voldemort. But still, he wished he knew where Sirius was at least. Harry had considered writing to Albus Dumbledore, asking his godfather's whereabouts, but he knew that the Hogwarts' headmaster wouldn't be able to tell him, even if he did know. Harry sighed. He'd wanted to go with Sirius after the Triwizard tournament. He'd wanted to go anywhere, actually, but back to Privet Drive. However, Dumbledore thought it best that he return to his aunt and uncle. For some reason he thought Harry would be safer there than anywhere else. Harry sighed again and straightened. A fresh warm breeze wafted through the window. Harry took a deep breath and shrugged. "No use wasting a perfectly beautiful day sitting here," he said aloud. He put on his shoes and headed downstairs.
"Where are you going?" Aunt Petunia asked crossly from the living room doorway. She was cleaning and didn't want him mucking up her spotless house.
"I'm going outside," Harry replied, trying to keep a polite tone in his voice. The older he got the more he realized how much he disliked his family.
"Well, go out the back door. I've just cleaned in here." Aunt Petunia snarled. Harry didn't answer. He headed toward the kitchen. "And take off your shoes before you come back in. I'll be doing the kitchen next," she warned. Harry waved a hand in her direction as an answer and left the house.
Once outside, Harry felt better. The sun was unusually bright this day and the air was fresh with the smells of new mown grass and summer flowers. It was warm but not humid as was typically the case in England in summer and Harry let all doubt and worry fade away as he ambled toward the park several blocks away. "Everything will be fine," he told no one in particular. "I'll get through this summer and be back at Hogwarts sooner than not. Sirius will come home and this whole thing with Voldemort will pass." Then he laughed and shook his head at what his aunt and uncle would say about him talking to himself like this. "They'd probably look around frantically for some kind of ghost or invisible wizard" he thought. He laughed again and felt better than he had in weeks. "I can do this," he said aloud and he picked up his pace. He spied a bird taking flight ahead of him and he felt his own spirits soar as he watched it climb into the sky.
"Come on, Dudley, let us have a go."
Dudley ignored his whining friend, Reginald Hadley, and concentrated on the knife in his hand.
"Yeah, Dursley, let us have a chance with it. You've had it all afternoon," complained Milton Hadley, Reginald's cousin. "You invited us along so let us have it."
Dudley walked over to the tree he'd been using as a target and pulled the knife out of the center knothole. "It's mine! I just got it today and you can't have it yet. I'm still practicing."
"Practicing?" asked Reginald incredulously. "Practicing? You've hit the ruddy target every single time. What is there left to practice?"
"Reggie's right, Dursley. You'd think you were born with that ruddy thing in your hand, the way you've been throwing. I don't believe you that you've never done this before."
Dudley turned to the boys with a superior smile on his fat face. "I'm just a natural, I guess. Some things you're just good at. Or great at, in this case." He flipped the knife in circles, catching it by the handle each time. "I feel as this knives were made just for me. It's balanced perfectly. But then again, you'd expect something that King Arthur had owned to be this fine." He pretended to polish the blade on his shirt, his beady eyes checking his friends' reaction. He smiled when he saw them look uncertainly at each other.
"King Arthur? THE King Arthur? You're saying that knife belonged to him?" Milton sounded doubtful.
"That's what I was told when it was presented to me," Dudley gloated. "That this knife was King Arthur's and it was meant to be mine."
Milton snorted. "I'm not so sure he's lying," ventured Reginald, after looking closer at the hilt. "I mean, those jewels in the eyes look real and wasn't King Arthur's symbol a dragon?" Milton leaned in closer and peered intently at the dragon's winking eyes. "It might be the truth," Reginald continued. "I mean, I've never known Dudley to lie and we've known him since our first year at Smeltings."
Dudley nodded vigorously. "You know I'm a man of my word," he vowed, "and I tell you that's the truth." He had conveniently forgotten all the things he'd told them over the years that weren't true. "This knife was destined to be mine from the beginning. Hundreds of years ago, whoever made this knife was thinking 'Someday this will be Dudley's'."
"Well, you certainly handle it like you've had it for years," agreed Reginald.
"Maybe," said Milton dubiously, "but I still want a go."
"Yeah, Dudley, teach us how to do that! I mean it. You make it look so easy. Almost like magic."
Dudley liked that. 'Like magic' Reginald had said. He smiled. A nasty little smile that came straight from his nasty little heart. He then looked at the two boys, as if evaluating their worth. Finally he nodded. "Alright, then. I'll teach you the finer points in a while. First, I want to see if I can throw it underhand as well I can overhand." Milton and Reginald agreed and watched as Dudley continued to throw at the tree. "You're not the only one in this family who can do magic, Harry Potter," Dudley thought as he watched the knife strike true throw after throw, "and this time . . . " He left the thought unfinished as the blade buried itself into the tree with a satisfying thwack.