75 – Lycanthropy
Harry felt as if the room around him was being hurtled through the air, spinning at indirect points, swirling before his vision. He closed his eyes tightly, breathing hard. His head pounded as if it was full of too much blood, as if it might burst open at any moment from the pain of his burning scar. His stomach lurched in agony and anxiety, with neither a moment of pause nor a clear explanation of which wordless memories flickering through his mind tormented him most. Behind closed eyelids, his dizziness and remorse grew ever worse.
He was only vaguely aware of the Pocketwatch he clutched in one hand, which he squeezed to release stress. The gold was warm against his sweating, shaking palm, telling him that he had become slightly more human. He resented his growing soul in the moments of conscious thought he could grasp. He resented the pain of guilt and regret, the process of redemption. From a fist, his pulse beat against the broken Horcrux as if the course of time itself radiated from his heart. This clock bore no cogs or ticking hands. Only stars. Only magic. A constant reminder of time slipping by...
With unease, Harry became aware that he had to get up. He rested against cupboard doors, his head tiled back. It felt heavier than usual and it ached badly. His mind was full of too many troubles, he thought. Too much pain... He became aware, again, that he couldn't be found here. He didn't know how much time had passed since Nott stood nearby, talking to him, but it can't have been long. He reached a hand up to his head, clutching at his scar. All he knew was that Voldemort would be here soon if he did not leave. Voldemort, he thought. Voldemort again...
Darkness swam before his vision. He was trying to remain calm by keeping his eyes locked shut, his ears open. All this security, all these vigilant Death Eaters, and still they could not spot an Order member ready to attack them? He was angry. The pain was gone, but new irritation curled his hands into fists.
"What do we do, my Lord?"
Light slid into his eyes when he lifted his gaze, finally, to the surrounding Death Eaters. He could attack them now for their idiocy, but what good would this do? Their ignorance was deep – too deep for him to accurately eradicate. Avery stood bravely before him, the only Death Eater willing enough to bear the news without delay.
"Search for intruders nearby," Harry answered in a low hiss. His voice was unusually cold, yet familiar. "Pray you don't come back here empty-handed..."
The Death Eaters all stood up at once, eager to begin their hunt. It was then that Nott became visible, standing above Travers, who looked as if he had been slashed with a knife in several places. There was no need for panic at the simple wounds, but the knowledge that Dumbledore had struck with the Order again was infuriating beyond compare. They must have followed the Death Eaters. Dumbledore, the old fool... darkness swam forth again...
The high, dark ceiling of the old bedroom faded into Harry's view once more. It wasn't an entirely comforting sight. Even if Tom was distracted now, he might decide to leave the wounded Death Eater and Nott at a moment's notice to find Harry. He might notice his absence and wonder, suddenly, what could be distracting him elsewhere. There was only one thing Harry could do now. Gathering his remaining strength, he stood up, stumbling and clutching his head once he was on his feet. Darkness clouded his vision, but this time it was due to nothing but dizziness and nausea.
He clutched the Pocketwatch in one hand and leant against the cupboard. There was no way he could leave a broken Horcrux here, not when it was warm and dented; Tom might have caught a glimpse of his mind and he may have seen the Pocketwatch. He didn't yet know of the connection Harry shared with him, but he might still check this hiding place in a day, in a week, to silence the strong suspicion that something was wrong. Harry focused on his breathing for a moment, before taking out his wand.
Willing his determination in powerful bursts, Harry summoned a candlestick from across the room. It would not be missed. He tried to think what magic he'd need to use on it. His head was still pounding and spinning. If he got this over and done with and if he cleaned himself up, he'd be safe... The first thing he did was transfigure the candlestick into a weak replica of the Pocketwatch. It looked almost exactly the same, except it was made of silver instead of gold and it didn't work like a normal watch – the stars and runes inside changed at random, unsure how to act convincing.
Any close study would tell Tom this watch was a fake, but Harry had no choice but to settle with it for now. Using a trick so cherished by leprechauns, he transfigured silver into faux gold. He may have been able to find real gold and morph it, but there was no time. He cast one last charm on the fake Pocketwatch to make it cold before sliding it into place in the cupboard, putting the real watch in his pocket. He closed the drawer, stumbling across the room to crash onto the bed, aching with the change his soul had gone through tonight.
In the time it took for Harry to regain some energy, he concentrated hard on any foreign thoughts or emotions that might shine through his mind, warning him of Tom's movements. He found nothing out of the usual. Tom was furious at the Death Eaters, but his thoughts never turned to the bothersome sense of foreboding that surely caught his attention. Harry lifted his wand to clear the blood from his face. His head and heart ached, but the room had stopped spinning. Nauseous and exhausted, he got out of bed.
The broken Horcrux was a heavy weight of guilt in his pocket and mind when he returned to the Chimera Hideout that night, hidden under the Invisibility Cloak. Tom was ordering his Death Eaters around, demanding information and more effort from them. Nott was nowhere in sight, but Travers was resting in a chair nearby, fully healed and soaked in his own blood. A wave of relief and comfort found Harry when he headed for the bedroom upstairs. He wanted to go to sleep, but he resisted the urge, knowing there was still more to do.
He spent a small amount of energy hiding the Pocketwatch in a cupboard nearby, in a place he guessed Tom wouldn't look soon – not tonight, anyway. Tomorrow, Harry would have to find a better hiding place, somewhere further away. He couldn't let the thought take up too much space in his mind. It was too much worry, too much anxiety. He didn't know if he would rather fix this Horcrux by recreating it, or if he'd keep it broken forever to keep his twisted soul more whole. Whichever he chose, would he tell Tom about it? He didn't want Tom to question what had broken his Horcrux. He didn't want him to begin getting suspicious...
For an hour, Harry stayed in the bedroom, urging exhaustion to leave him so he could pretend nothing had happened tonight. It was with all the energy and effort he could manage that he went downstairs to find the meeting hall empty, the place in near silence. Tom sat alone at the large, dark table everyone sat at during meetings. He looked up from his work when he heard Harry approaching, but he didn't notice anything unusual about him.
"Is everything alright?" Harry asked, standing a few paces away.
"Barely," Tom answered in a scathing tone, turning back to his notes. "There was another attack. Travers was chased by someone, a member of the Order of the Phoenix. It was fortunate Nott was nearby; the Order would have captured Travers for the Ministry to take care of..."
"When did this happen?"
"In the last two hours. The Order must have tracked our movements, following Travers to London. Our Death Eaters were fools not to notice they were being watched. After everything we've taught them, after everything that's expected of them? Security is of the upmost importance and still they do not proceed with caution..."
Harry walked idly towards the table, placing his hand on the back of a chair, but he didn't yet take a seat. He knew he was safe for the moment because Tom was blind with rage, but he felt he might be pushing his luck if he stayed here for too long. The Death Eaters incompetence, no matter how real or unreal it was, left Tom weakened and distracted by anger. A list of excuses to leave swam to Harry's mind, but before he use any of them, Tom noticed his hesitance.
"Do you not wish to sit?"
"Oh... I dunno, I was just thinking."
Tom's eyes narrowed. His inclination to suspicion and scepticism grew stronger than usual when he was frustrated – and he was clearly very frustrated about the day's events. "Where were you tonight, when all of this was happening? You disappeared halfway through a meeting."
Harry was unnerved by his curiosity, but he spoke before unease could touch him. "I was upstairs, reading."
This was the wrong answer. Tom looked warier still. "Reading, when all of this is going on around us? When the Order of the Phoenix is so eagerly thwarting us?"
Harry stepped forwards, taking a seat at the table to stall an answer. "I thought you might want time to yell at the Death Eaters alone," he said. "You know it's difficult, having me around when they're in trouble. They get curious when you avoid blaming me. I was waiting for you."
To his relief, Tom's eyes visibly softened. This answer made sense and it suggested a certain amount of good judgement on Harry's part. Tom's distrust wore off, being replaced by something like sullen brooding that shielded his amusement.
"However foolish the Death Eaters may be, I shan't let it affect what we have," he said shortly. "I shan't let it affect everything we've worked for, everything we've gained through years of careful planning, power, and persistence... Come, let us plan our response to Dumbledore's foolish attacks."
As Tom beckoned him forth, conjuring a new chair beside his own, guilt found Harry cruelly, twisting itself like a knife in the depths of his heart. He had no choice but to follow Tom's request, standing up to take the chair. Several rolls of parchment depicting maps, written notes, and detailed plans of attack were flattened out across the table, resting amongst pots of ink and delicate quills. How many of tonight's plans alone would he have to divulge to the Order of the Phoenix, he wondered?
Tom wanted to seek revenge against Dumbledore for handing Weiß over to the Ministry of Magic. With trust and open confidence, he described all of his plans to Harry, explaining how the growing number of Giants under their control might terrorize Britain and how they might, eventually, be able to turn the Ministry against the Order. Tom's anger grew weaker when enthusiasm took over in a twisted mix of revenge and power. Harry's guilt grew painful the more time he spent listening.
How many of Tom's ideas might he pass onto Dumbledore in secret, to protect the Order from crumbling? And if he told Dumbledore nothing, how many other plans would the Order discover when Harry and Nott gave reports of the Death Eaters' movements? Too many, Harry felt. Even while he and Tom crafted a masterful plan together, he felt like a poising dripping slowly onto these rolls of parchment. Tom opened up to him fully, but he gave nothing back beyond a knife to Tom's exposed, lonely heart.
In fear of breaking down under any further remorse, Harry realised he had to avoid seeing the Marauders and his mother from this point on. There was only one thing he could do to avoid them. He spoke to Nott very briefly the following day to ask when Dumbledore would most likely show up at an Order meeting alone. Nott suggested visiting Bones' cottage in the middle of the week, which he did. He found that the Order Headquarters was indeed very quiet and there were no Marauders around, but Dumbledore wasn't here.
"Do you have any idea when he might show up?" Harry asked Edgar Bones, who sat with Dorcas Meadows and the Prewett twins at an old wooden table.
"He's supposed to be here already," Bones answered. "I reckon he won't be longer than twenty minutes."
"Alright, good. Thanks."
"Take a seat, if you like. We're just waiting for the others to show up."
Harry thought it over swiftly, before nodding and pulling up a wooden chair.
He hoped Dumbledore would be amongst the first to return. If the Marauders came here, it would be difficult to leave quickly. The idea worried Harry deeply, but more than this, he worried that the Prewett twins might recognise who he was. The more time he spent around them, the more he risked influencing memories of when he killed their father. They were talking to Dorcas Meadows, their tone light and uncaring.
"I reckon those Death Eaters are taking on more than they can handle," said Fabian, clearly intent upon belittling his enemies' abilities. "What with fear of the Ministry keeping them on constant alert, I wouldn't be surprised if half of their arrests come from them breaking down under the pressure alone."
"What about the Death Eaters who aren't so weak?" Meadows asked him. "Their constant watchfulness will only make them stronger."
"I guess we'll just have to take care of those ones ourselves," Fabian answered, grinning.
"You've seen the way they fight," Meadows reasoned. "You know they're very strong."
"But we keep defeating them, don't we? We keep fighting them of."
She couldn't argue with that. She smirked, leaning back in her chair.
"I heard you fought well in the last fight," mentioned Harry, driven by curiosity. He surprised even himself when he spoke to the Prewett twins. "I don't think anyone expected you to ward off so many Death Eaters with the others. It was brave of you – all of you."
Dorcas, Gideon, and Fabian all looked at him, stunned.
"Thank you," Gideon said, appearing genuinely moved. "It was – well, it was all we could do, seeing the Longbottoms targeted like that."
Harry disliked the reminder of Frank and Alice Longbottom. He knew they wouldn't have this sort of safety forever.
"I'm not looking forwards to the next fight," Bones admitted, sounding unsettled. "If they're how the Death Eaters reacted to a surprise attack, I can't imagine a planned one."
"I don't think they've gained enough information to plan a full attack on us just yet," Meadows reasoned.
"When they do, we'll be prepared for it, anyway," added Fabian.
"And what if we aren't?" asked Bones. "If we aren't prepared, we won't stand a chance. We clearly haven't been trained as much as them."
"I don't think you're unprepared," said Harry, speaking honestly. "If you can fight against Voldemort and win even in a surprise attack, you've done better than anyone could dream."
The four sorcerers flinched and looked up at the sound of the name. Bone's eyes widened and he seemed, for a moment, completely lost for words.
"But – but he wasn't... I mean, he – You-Know-Who – wasn't in that fight, was he?"
Harry realised, suddenly, that they didn't know this. Dumbledore, surely, had noticed Tom in the fight, but the others might not have. Dumbledore had kept this a secret, probably to avoid scaring the members of the Order of the Phoenix. His caution was foolish, in Harry's eyes – the Order members in front of him weren't terrified or discouraged. They looked nothing but amazed and inspired.
"Yeah, he was there," Harry told them. "I thought you all knew."
"Did you see him?" Bones suddenly asked, turning to the Prewett twins.
"If I saw him, I didn't recognize him," Fabian answered. "A lot of those Death Eaters fought like mad."
"Surely he wasn't amongst those fighting Dumbledore?" Meadows asked. "I doubt he would have needed others to help."
"Nah, we know that was Dolohov and a few people who helped him before he was killed," Fabian answered.
"Have you seen him?" Gideon asked Harry, his brow furrowed. "You look like you've faced quite a few rough battles."
Harry hadn't expected this question. He thought inexplicably about the amount of times he had stood with Tom alone, discussing love and power, the Dark Arts and their way of living. He nodded once, not meeting Fabian's brown eyes. "Yeah, I've seen him."
"What's he like?"
"Like any Dark Lord, I suppose. Pretty dark."
"I'd hate to meet him," Gideon said, shaking his head at the thought.
"I doubt you will," Harry assured him. "Half the Death Eaters don't even see him unless they've done something that displeases him."
Gideon seemed tempted to ask how Harry knew this, but he weren't foolish enough to. Rumours of Voldemort always travelled far, anyway.
"If you ever did see him," Harry carried on, "it'd probably be the last thing you ever do. Voldemort doesn't waste time before wiping out his enemies."
"Don't – don't say his name," Bones stammered, looking around as if he expected a party of Death Eaters to burst through his front door any second now.
Harry had barely noticed his slip. He was so used to hearing Tom address himself as "Lord Voldemort" that it no longer bothered or scared him. He was probably the only person besides Dumbledore who felt this way, he realised.
"They say the name is cursed," Fabian remarked, explaining Bones' fear. "I don't know if there's any truth to it, but I doubt it's worth the risk."
He might have been wise to fear the name, Harry realised. He thought about how he had run away with Ron and Hermione at seventeen and how they had been captured when the name 'Voldemort' was spoken. Tom hadn't made his name Taboo yet, but one day soon, it might hold a lot of power. Harry was about to mentioning this to the four sorcerers, to explain that fearing a name gave it too much strength, when a sound made him pause.
Down the hallway, the front door was opening. There was a faint click and a rattling of bells. Against his better judgement, Harry froze with the four Order members. All of their eyes were wide, their ears strained. Meadows reached slowly for her wand. Footsteps approached...
"Ah!" a voice called pleasantly from the hallway. It was Dumbledore. "I see I'm not the first one here."
A sigh of relief passed through the Prewett twins. Meadows relaxed from her tense state and Bones still looked as if he was going to be sick. Harry realised, suddenly, what power the name 'Lord Voldemort' held already. If Dumbledore noticed the previously strained atmosphere of the room, he was either used to it or unfazed by it entirely. He was with Elphias Doge.
"Shall we wait for the others before beginning this meeting?" asked Dumbledore.
"I think so," Meadows answered. "We are too few, so far."
Harry stood up, looking at Dumbledore.
"Ah, Jonathan. It's good to see you here. Is there news?"
"Sort of," Harry answered slowly. "I was wondering if I might be able to talk with you alone, before this meeting starts?"
"Certainly. Let us walk."
Dumbledore indicated the back door of the house. They headed outside, leaving the conversations that started up amongst the other Order members. Harry much preferred the calm, open atmosphere of the outside world. There was a large stretch of countryside visible past the garden of this small cottage, where meadows and forests stretched for miles and mountains towered in the far distance. It was a crisp, frosty winter's evening and the sun was touching the earth's horizon. Sharp winds carried faint snow through the air, obscuring the farthest view.
"What is troubling you, Jonathan?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes focused on the winter shrubbery that greeted them as they walked. "It's uncommon for you to participate in any Order meeting, most of all so early."
Harry wasn't sure how to word his request. It would seem strange if he specifically asked to avoid seeing Remus, Sirius, James, Peter, and Lily for the rest of his life (or theirs, more conveniently). He found a way around this directness by saying, "I'm not sure if I can show up at these meetings, anymore. Tom is suspicious, I think. I'd be better off passing on information through Nott, but that might mean the information I give you is slower."
Dumbledore thought it over calmly, contemplating the sight of a large cherry tree before them as they walked onwards, stepping on hard, frozen earth. "If Lord Voldemort's vigilance is growing stronger, it is indeed logical that you should visit us less often."
Harry could see strange, wriggling magical moss clinging to the cherry tree. In the distance, fir trees bowed and nodded in the wind. "So, you don't think it will cause problems if I supply information less often?"
"No, I don't think that should harm us too much. Assuming, of course, that you still warn us if Voldemort plans another attack."
"I'll warn you about that, yeah. Or Nott will, really."
Dumbledore inclined his head gently, watching as silver sunlight broke through mist and clouds above them. "I rather thought being involved here might do you some good, Jonathan... but it is perhaps best that you do not get too involved in the plans we're crafting here."
For the first time, Harry was taken aback. He looked at Dumbledore, who's blue eyes were fixed on a bird flying overheard. Did Dumbledore not trust him? Did he want to use Harry as nothing but a one-way feed into Voldemort's plans, into his heart? Harry knew it was probably guilt that drove him to this confusion, but he couldn't help it. He began doubting Dumbledore.
"It is a grave situation," Dumbledore said, not seeming at all bothered by it. "It is dangerous, having you so involved with the Death Eaters. The only person currently in more danger than you is Christopher, I believe."
Harry had no idea how fond or distrustful Dumbledore was of Nott, he realised. He couldn't tell if Dumbledore was more interested in Nott's misfortune or in his use to the Order. Bitter winds billowed around them, making Harry shiver. "I just hope he stays safe..."
"Even as a Werewolf, he is safe amongst us," Dumbledore assured him tranquilly. "He's given us some very valuable witches and wizards through talking with a young wizard, Remus Lupin, and offering him the same protection."
Harry nodded somewhat impatiently. He knew all of this and he wasn't keen to talk about the Marauders. He soon found, however, that Dumbledore had more to say about them.
"You knew about Remus Lupin, did you not?" he inquired. "It seems that you knew he was a Werewolf long before that information could be available to you... You have predicted many events, in fact, that could not have been mere guesses."
Harry didn't like where this was going. He clenched his jaw, pulling his cloak in closer against the harsh winds.
"How did you predict these events, Jonathan?" Dumbledore asked gently.
He had theories, Harry was sure. Avoiding his eyes and looking, instead, at the frozen grass, he answered slowly, "I can't really explain that..."
Dumbledore was waiting. What was he supposed to say?
"But I... I might be able to explain it some other time," he said, unsure how truthful his own words were. "In the future."
This might have been a good enough answer; Dumbledore was calm and unfazed. Even if he might be waiting for an answer with burning impatience in secret, Harry felt there was a possibility he might forget to ask again. If Harry could help it, he'd avoid ever admitting why he had known about the existence of the Marauders so soon.
"Did Nott know about Remus Lupin's condition prior to your knowledge of it?" Dumbledore asked, "Or was it you who informed him?"
"It was me," Harry answered, seeing no harm in being honest about that.
Dumbledore nodded once, as if this fitted into a theory he had developed. "It is fortunate, for both of them, that this Order supplies them with a safe place to be."
Harry couldn't deny that. More often than he would be willing to admit, he felt a tremendous amount of relief that the Order of the Phoenix could protect Nott and Lupin for now. This brought his thoughts to the Wolfsbane Potion he was brewing...
"We should likely get back to that meeting," Dumbledore said, perhaps noticing how quiet Harry had become. "Unless you don't wish to stay?"
Harry could tell that Dumbledore didn't want him to stay. "No, I have to get back, I think... There's too much risk in staying around here."
"Then I shan't keep you distracted any longer," Dumbledore concluded, smiling.
Harry wasn't sure how genuine his smile was. Perhaps Dumbledore was just glad to see him leave, or glad to hear he'd never return to the Order meetings. Harry left Bones' Cottage with a troubled mind. He became very aware that his finished Wolfsbane Potion had to be tested soon, especially if Nott was now the only informant visiting the Order. He'd need a way to stay safe. Harry wasn't willing to test the potion on him, even if his life was suffering badly from this condition. It wouldn't be worth the risk – not when death was a very possible option.
Harry knew Nott was stalling everything in his his life – including his own wedding – due to lycanthropy. They rarely discussed it, but Harry could see pain in his eyes when people spoke about Evadne or his engagement, or even when Werewolves were discussed by the Death Eaters. No Ministry would accept them as normal witches and wizards and no Death Eater ever saw them as more than impure beings. Werewolves were given only two options: join a clan and kill or be killed. Most Werewolves would do anything to get their hands on a potential cure or relief, but was it right to kill some of them for it? Would it be right to save Nott and let someone else take the risk?
With each passing full moon, progressively larger groups of Werewolves were joining Tom, some of them new victims of lycanthropy, some of them old wolves who were finally impressed by the revolution. Stories of their killings grew brutal but fewer, as if even the Death Eaters wanted to avoid talking about the mass number of killings, choosing instead to discuss only the most interesting cases. In spite of his better judgement, Harry found himself listening to the names discussed. He knew who most of the Werewolves were and what they did...
One night, a week before the full moon, Harry stood with Black outside a grimy pub in Muggle London, waiting for Crabbe and Dolohov Jr to show up. They were supposed to be here any minute, to explain what had happened the night before – the Dark Mark had been found looming above an apartment building in London in the early hours of this morning without Tom's approval. Five Muggles had been murdered and Tom wanted to know who did it.
Muggles passing by on the street cast furtive, disapproving glances at Harry and Black, who stood in half-darkness near the pub's entrance. Harry knew the Muggles could see they weren't like normal people. Black was almost cringing away any time a Muggle came near him, as if he feared his magical ability might be sapped from him if he stepped too close.
"I can't understand why they're staring at us like that," Black remarked, glaring at three Muggle men who kept looking back and staring as if they couldn't believe their eyes. "If they only knew of the power our world possesses..."
Harry refrained from commenting. While Black surely believed these Muggles could sense his superiority, Harry rather felt it was the way they looked, not the power they possessed, that caught Muggle attention. As wizards, they stuck out quite obviously here. It didn't help that Black was dressed in the finest wizarding suit made of purple silk, with a strange, glowing flower pinned to it. Although this look was fashionable and represented royalty amongst wizards, Harry wasn't sure it had quite the same effect on Muggles.
"I'd be glad to teach them a little lesson in the art of magic," Black added in a low voice. He glared at almost all the 'filthy' Muggles around him, including those who didn't notice him. "Perhaps the Dark Lord should expect a few more unauthorized attacks tonight..."
Harry smirked before he could stop himself. Black was calmed at the sight of it, as if Harry had given him approval to hate the Muggles around them. It was then that Harry saw two brutish figures moving through the crowded street, stopping every few seconds to avoid Muggles as much as possible. Dolohov Jr and Crabbe had arrived.
They weren't happy to be meeting here. Crabbe had his nose scrunched up and Dolohov Jr kept glancing around wildly, as if he expected Muggles to jump on him and attack at any second.
"It's good to see you made it here alright," said Black as they approached. Harry noticed a certain degree of snide disapproval in his tone.
"Yeah, it's lucky," Dolohov Jr replied, his dark eyes reduced to slits momentarily when a Muggle passed in front of him.
"How long have you been waiting amongst filth?" asked Crabbe.
"Too long," Harry answered. "Do you have news?"
"'Course, yeah," said Dolohov Jr. "Turns out it was just Mulciber after a few too many drinks."
A voice chuckled behind Crabbe. Harry noticed, then, that a third man had accompanied the Death Eaters here tonight. Harry didn't recognise him. Black followed his gaze.
"One of them wolves," Dolohov answered, glancing at the man. "He decided to help our little investigation, following blood trails."
The unknown wizard bared his teeth at a crowd of four Muggle girls and three men passing by. They swerved around him, some of them glaring, others laughing drunkenly or staring in fright. In the light, Harry recognised this Werewolf as Jacan Procyon, murderer of three known Muggles and one wizard 'blood-traitor'.
"How did Mulciber break into that Muggle flat?" Black asked, carrying on in a businesslike tone.
"I've no idea. If the Dark Lord wants to know, he'll have to find and question Mulciber himself."
"You couldn't find him?"
"Nah, he's been missing all day."
"Well, I doubt he's got himself killed. We'll know where he is when news comes of another few freshly murdered Muggles."
They all seemed to know the truth in this claim. Harry didn't think much of it – his mind was occupied by thoughts of how perfect it was that a known murderer and Werewolf should appear right now, when he needed one most. With a mix of guilt and pressure, he wondered whether this man would be missed if he disappeared for a little while...
"Is there anything else our Lord might need to know?" inquired Black, addressing Dolohov Jr.
"Well, we saw some Ministry workers investigating the building after we'd already left. He might want to know that they're pretty curious to find out what happened."
"I think he'd expect as much," Harry murmured, tearing his eyes from the Werewolf. "We'll be able to find out if or when they find something."
"We should go, in case we catch any more Muggle attention," Crabbe remarked, glancing around as yet more people stared.
Black turned to Harry. "Should we bring this news back to our Lord?"
Thinking, suddenly, that he'd be wasting an opportunity if he left with Black, Harry shook his head. "I can go tell him myself. I'm sure you have better things to do tonight."
He seemed to have guessed correctly. Black's expression softened as if this was a great relief.
"We don't have to go back there, do we?" Dolohov Jr asked, his eyes drifting in the direction of the pub. He'd never drink here, but he clearly liked the idea of celebrating a long day of investigations.
"You don't have to," Harry answered. He became very aware that the Werewolf wouldn't follow the Death Eaters tonight. "I'll save you the risk of being yelled at by the Dark Lord. I'll tell him I let you go."
Dolohov Jr laughed thickly and joyously, seeming more like his dead father now than ever. Crabbe was equally as approving. Harry saw Procyon look around idly, clearly thinking about where he'd go next. Harry had a plan.
"I'm glad all this worked out," he said abruptly. "I'd better go now."
"Good luck talking with our Lord," said Crabbe, his tone a cross between pity and laughter at Harry's luck. He was a very new Death Eater, Harry mused.
The others said their farewells and soon Harry was making his way through the Muggle crowd, disappearing into it. Ignoring the strange glances people shot at him, he made his way to the nearest side-street, which was cast in shadows. He reached into his pocket and waited for a group of Muggles down the road to turn the other way. When he felt they were distracted, he grabbed his Invisibility Cloak with both hands and threw it over his shoulders, disappearing from sight.
One Muggle had stopped in the street, staring at where Harry just was. In the horrid orange light of the street lamps, the Muggle kept watching, his mouth agape, but there was nothing left to see. Harry hurried back to the main road, hoping Black, Dolohov Jr, Crabbe, and Procyon were still waiting around. The two young Death Eaters were gone and Black was saying something to Procyon, who nodded in understanding. Black soon turned away.
Harry advanced towards Procyon, almost bumping into several Muggles in reluctance to take his eyes off the Werewolf. It wasn't likely that he'd Disapparate in public, but there was no telling how careful or careless Tom's followers might choose to be. Harry didn't know what his full plans were when he drew near Procyon, but he knew nobody would see him missing any time soon. No one would ask questions about where Harry was right now and Black, Crabbe, and Dolohov Jr had no reason to suspect he had turned back to follow Procyon tonight.
The Werewolf was walking casually towards the street. Harry walked several paces behind him. He could see every movement the Werewolf made while he remained undetected. He wished, not for the first time, that Tom had ordered them to meet in a less crowded place. It was difficult to navigate around Muggles without catching their attention. Harry soon withdrew his wand to create a soft, subtle barrier around him that Muggles would drift around absentmindedly. The Werewolf wouldn't notice the lack of people behind him.
Harry knew who Jacan Procyon was. His name came up often in Death Eater discussions and when he was spoken of, each new story proved to be more gruesome and inhumane than the last. He was almost as bad as Fenrir Greyback and Gavin McDarline, in Harry's opinion. The Death Eaters weren't allowed to talk about their work or to share names of other Death Eaters, but talking about Werewolves was the exception. Tom's clan grew in numbers steadily and names did almost nothing to help Aurors capture the murderers amongst them.
Procyon turned so abruptly, Harry almost missed it. He headed down a shadowy street. A middle-aged Muggle man headed straight for Harry and almost crashed into him, seemingly. Due to his direct approach, he didn't know whether to go to the left or right of the invisible, magical shield. He stopped dead instead. Muggles were bumping into him, becoming agitated and suddenly aware of the gap where Harry stood. Before their sudden curiosity grew to awareness and before Procyon noticed the cluttering people, Harry slipped into the side-street too.
He thought, at first, that Procyon was trying to avoid something he had seen up ahead, but it became clear from his haughty, bothered expression that his patience for Muggles was merely wearing thin. He wanted to be alone. What he didn't know was that Harry wanted this too. The street grew darker the further away they got from the main road and in solitude, Procyon believed he was growing safer every second. As a Werewolf and a follower of the Dark Lord, he believed no one would dare attack him.
Harry gripped his wand more tightly under the Invisibility Cloak, preparing for what would come next. It would be easy to attack Procyon, because confidence grew into a weakness in the actions of the arrogant. He believed that because he was able to attack weaker people in his beast form, he must be superior and must therefore unbeatable. He didn't realise there is greater power in intelligence and awareness. Feeling as if he shouldn't waste a moment more, Harry attacked.
Procyon was down in one movement when the spell struck. The muffled crash of his heavy form hitting the ground didn't catch the attention of anyone, not even the people slumbering and relaxing in the flats up above. Harry advanced towards the Werewolf's unmoving body, taking off the Invisibility Cloak for a better view. This attack was so easy, it baffled Harry to think the Ministry struggled to capture Werewolves in their human form. He wondered dully if the Ministry would even care about his immoral actions tonight. To them, morality mattered nothing compared to results; they wanted Procyon dead and they likely didn't care how it was done.
Harry pulled on Procyon's shoulder, making him roll over onto his back. He was out cold. Harry wasn't sure what he wanted to do next. It was as if he was acting out steps of a plan that became clear only when he was close to the next step, looking at it through a fog. He had his attempt at the Wolfsbane Potion waiting in an abandoned house that he could Apparate to with Procyon. He knew his actions were wrong, but if he did all of this for the right reasons, would that make it okay? He didn't want to hurt this wizard or to leave him harmed for the rest of his life. His sole motivation was making Nott and Lupin and every other Werewolf's life better.
So, focusing on his belief that his actions weren't immoral, Harry took the Werewolf's limp hand in his own and stood up. He span on the spot, Disapparating from London in an instant. He arrived at an empty stretch of countryside where no artificial lights surrounded them, so the stars above would have been crystal clear if the moon wasn't shining brightly. It was exactly a week before full moon. The circumstances were too perfect for Harry to completely ignore.
He levitated Procyon's limp body through the air and headed for the entrance to the empty house. Once inside, he produced a thin mattress for the Werewolf to rest on. He then searched in his pockets for any items that might cause him to escape. There was nothing but a sack of gold and a wand. Harry took these away, heading into another room to lock them in a chest for now. There were only three rooms on the bottom floor of this tiny house, one of which was occupied by this chest and a large cauldron on a table with ingredients and books scattered around it.
Harry turned towards the cauldron, which was empty. The Wolfsbane Potion was being held in several small phials secured on a rack nearby. This abandoned house hadn't been used in decades and none of the Death Eaters had ever been here, so Harry's potion and ingredients were entirely untouched. He took one of the phials full of potion and returned to the main room. He couldn't afford to waste time.
He'd have to wake Procyon up now. He hesitated for a moment when he realised the Werewolf might recognise him, but he decided not to wear a mask; his voice could be recognised, anyway. He planned to modify the wizard's memory once this was done, so everything would be forgotten. He had learnt advanced magic concerning memory through Tom and it would be the most convenient solution. He approached the resting wizard.
Procyon's eyes slid open. He appeared dizzy and unable to see for a moment, but he tried to sit up, swaying where he was.
"Where... where am I?" he croaked. "Did you – did you attack me?"
"I had to," Harry murmured, seeing no harm in being honest. "I needed a Werewolf and you were one."
Procyon stared, his eyes darting around the room every few seconds. "Where are t-the others?"
"They went home and out," Harry reminded him. He looked away, choosing instead to pay attention to the phial in his hands. "Remember?"
"But you – your su-supposed to be talking t-to –?"
Harry was barely listening. He uncorked the Wolfsbane Potion, catching Procyon's full attention. The potion emitted faint green smoke.
"W-what is that?"
"A remedy," Harry answered in a low voice.
Procyon was astounded at first, then dubious.
"It hasn't been tested yet," Harry explained. "It's a brand new potion."
He prepared for Procyon to be suddenly terrified or angry, but he found no trace of these reactions in his face – in contrast, a wonder-filled look misted over his eyes. Harry realised, with a start, that Procyon was nothing short of amazed. He was a murderer and a proud Werewolf who grew stronger each passing month, but a possible escape from his condition tempted him and made him feel lucky. Harry realised in a whirl of relief and disbelief that this didn't have to be a terrible, criminal act. This was a glorious discovery, in Procyon's eyes, an unheard of opportunity.
"You're going to test it on me?" the Werewolf asked, sounding delighted.
Harry was momentarily mystified by the change in situation. He had prepared himself to sedate Procyon, to fight him off, to use defensive magic against him, so the thrilled tone and eagerness he showed threw Harry off quite a bit. It was then that he realised he could have made a deal with almost any Werewolf without capturing them against their will. They all wanted this potion to exist, so apparently the risks meant nothing to them.
"If you – if you want to, yeah," Harry answered slowly. He held the phial in one hand, his wand in the other. Procyon's eyes were locked on the potion.
"Why would I want to miss an opportunity like this?" he asked, mesmerized.
Harry gave no answer. He didn't understand why this potential escape or relief should enthral Procyon. He thought Tom's Werewolves were proud and angry because they enjoyed being these fearsome beasts. Maybe, he realised, they were only proud because they were given no other choice. Despite the pain and regret Harry had witnessed in Nott in relation to his lycanthropy, he realised now that he didn't know how bad the illness was for an actual Werewolf.
"You'll be taking a big risk by testing this potion," Harry explained, driven by sudden honesty and fairness. "This potion was just a theory a few months ago. You'll be the first person to ever try it."
"I'd be willing to take those risks."
"Are you sure? I don't know what it will do – it could paralyse you, impair you, cause you to develop some sort of illness, poison you, or even kill you. It contains aconite, or wolf's bane."
"I reckon I've seen my fair share of life," Procyon answered calmly. "I don't have much to lose, anyway, and I might not have much choice, seeing as you knocked me out and dragged me all the way here for this."
Harry wanted to say he still had a choice, but he wasn't entirely sure if that was truthful. He had prepared himself to force this potion onto Procyon and they both knew it. Stalling for time, Harry conjured a simple wooden chair, taking a seat.
"My whole life's been a risk, since I got infected," said Procyon, speaking more to himself than to Harry. "Any day now, I could get captured by the Ministry. Any month, I could lose control and do something I really regret, so why not gamble a bit more? Even if I go all-in. It isn't as if I'd be missed." He laughed at the thought. "It might be a quick death, anyway."
His careless view on all of this went against everything Harry had feared about immoral actions and death. To this Werewolf, living a life of pain wasn't worth it, and if he had a chance to change this world's view or to change this illness, it was worth the price of any risk.
"I hope you know, this won't cure you forever," Harry explained. "It only manages the affects of lycanthropy – it stops you from mentally turning into a beast. You'll have to take it every night for a week before the full moon."
"That's still a better cure than any," Procyon reasoned. "And if it works, you'll give me some more of the potion? For later use?"
Harry hadn't thought this far ahead. This situation was moving too fast for him to fully comprehend. He realised quite shortly, however, that it was only fair of him to give Procyon this cure, if it worked. He only wondered how it might change Tom's wolves. "I'd be willing to do that, yeah. Or I could teach you how to make it – the knowledge is more valuable than anything."
Procyon nodded slowly, thinking it over. "This could change how the Ministry thinks of us, you know. I could walk a free man, again."
"I'm not sure how soon the Ministry would forgive your murders," Harry said before he could help it.
The Werewolf grinned boyishly. "Well, they don't have to know about that, do they?"
Harry didn't suppose anyone would rat him out. Humour didn't comfort Procyon for long, however. Reality caught up with him when he saw the commiserating look in Harry's eyes.
"We only do all that because we're left with no choice," Procyon said. "All of us. That's the truth of it. This illness, it takes over. It starts ruling more than you'd ever think possible. What choice did I have, but to join people like me, to give into being a Werewolf? My clan is my protection. I choose to accept my illness, to accept inhumanity, because struggling against it just isn't worth the risk."
There was something genuine in the way he spoke. Harry didn't feel the need to comment on the things being said, even if it was changing his view on Werewolves. Harry watched Procyon closely, thinking. It felt strange, but somehow right, to talk to this wizard now like nothing bad had happened.
"How are we going to do this, then?" Procyon asked, moving on form his sentiment. "We may as well get started, if I need to take this a week before the full moon."
"Tonight is the first night you'll have to take it," Harry told him. "So, whenever you're ready, just drink this and we'll see what it does."
"If it doesn't kill me, I'll have to take it all week?"
"Yeah, every night."
Procyon wet his dry lips, staring at the potion with a daring, prepared look. "Pass it here, then."
Harry did so at once. The potion emitted soft smoke and for a moment or two, the two wiards did nothing but watch it, transfixed. Then, in a whirl of spontaneity, Procyon raised the phial to his lips.
"Let's just hope this works."
He drank. It was a long, visibly uncomfortable action; Procyon's face screwed up as if he'd never tasted something so bad. When he was done, he took the phial from his moth, urging Harry to take it while he gasped for air and let out a note of disgust.
"How do you feel?" Harry asked at once.
"That was bloody awful! You couldn't change the taste, a bit?"
He didn't look faint or ill. Harry thought he'd give it a few minutes to kick in, though. "Well, I wasn't exactly thinking about it in terms of taste."
"It's barely worth the cure," Procyon joked, laughing. "I don't feel any different."
"That's probably a good thing."
If anything, Procyon looked quite happy to be alive and well. Harry reached for the cork and plugged it back in the empty phial. If this potion really worked, if he'd managed to brew it correctly already, he felt as if everything was worth it. He wondered, suddenly, if this would cause a noticeable percentage of Tom's Werewolves to leave. He'd have to remain anonymous as this potion's creator, if so.
"What are you doing all of this for?" Procyon asked him eventually, leaning back on the thin mattress. "Is this a part of the Dark Lord's research?"
"No," Harry answered slowly. "It's... more of a personal project."
"You don't believe Werewolves are lesser beings, then?"
"No, I don't."
Procyon found this unusual. His eyes narrowed curiously. "I don't see why a Death Eater would try to help half-breeds like this."
Harry shook his head. "You're not a half-breed, though, are you? This is an illness."
It was common for Werewolves to take on the labels other witches and wizards gave them, Harry felt. Perhaps Procyon indeed thought of Werewolves as less, like other people. Perhaps he believed it did change the value of blood-status and blood-purity, as if that even mattered. If that was the case, he'd probably start questioning how dedicated as a Death Eater Harry was. To cover his own tracks, Harry started talking.
"Death Eaters should believe in blood-purity, not in who's sick and who isn't," he said, thinking fast. "I honestly believe this is an illness and nothing more – it doesn't change your blood-status. The Dark Lord is powerful because creates new magic, he's more advanced in studying the Dark Arts than anyone in history, so isn't it right to carry on in his footsteps? To... to do more research into these things? This revolution is about changing the wizarding world, breaking out of wizarding suppression."
"But this isn't Dark Magic," Procyon mentioned. "This is a cure. What's that got to do with wizarding supremacy?"
It took Harry only a second to find a suitable answer. The lies came to him so easily, he surprised even himself. It was unnerving. "I'm trying to create purer wizards. I – I know this will sway cured Werewolves into believing in the Dark Lord, so maybe they can fight as Death Eaters, one day. That's hundreds of witches and wizards the Ministry has lost because of their hatred of beasts and their love of Muggles."
Procyon's brow furrowed and he shifted fully onto his back, so he could stare at the ceiling and think about this. "That's certainly something worth looking into... I'd do anything to see the world change like that..."
Harry knew he was convinced. He would probably just believe Harry was a smart, slightly insane Death Eater who brutally tested the extent of magical power whilst abusing the freedom and protection of Lord Voldemort. That was better than being a potential spy. He felt it was lucky, suddenly, that he had acted so irrationally by snatching Procyon. Any Death Eater would have.
"Let's just hope this cure actually works, before we start thinking about how it'll change the world," Harry murmured. "You still might get ill."
"I feel fine," Procyon assured him. He sat up on the mattress, propping himself up on his elbow. "How are we gonna continue testing this, anyway? Should I keep coming back here so you can see if I'm alive, or should I take those potions home with me?"
Harry had planned to keep Procyon locked up for a week, in truth. He realised now that it would save him a lot of time if this potion was tested elsewhere. If Procyon did it on his own, Harry could significantly reduce the risk of Tom seeing he was gone.
"Yeah, you might be better off taking the Wolfsbane Potion home with you," he said. "Maybe you should write down the results of the potion, as well, so there's some documentation."
"To send you it through owl?"
This seemed a logical step. If Procyon died in the next week, the information could be taken by the wrong hands. "Sure, yeah. In fact, give me your address and I'll send you an owl tonight with the place you should send your notes to."
He assumed it went without saying that he'd have to set up a safe address for this to work. He wasn't going to risk receiving this information at any of the Death Eater Hideouts, in case Tom or one of the Death Eaters found the letters and became a little too intrigued. Harry thought he might be able to use an abandoned house, or his and Tom's unused house, or even the Order headquarters without complications.
He summoned a piece of parchment and a quill. Procyon heaved himself up off the bed to take it.
"Write your address here. I'll go get the potions and your belongings."
Procyon nodded. Harry turned away, in the direction of the back room. He thought it best not to tell Procyon he had locked his money and wand away in a trunk. He retrieved them absentmindedly, levitating them through the air. Turning to the desk where his cauldron and ingredients rested, he grabbed a small case padded with silky material and set the six phials of potion inside it, closing it. He wondered, for a moment, if it was wise to give away the potion so easily...
"Who should I address these letters to?" Procyon asked when he returned to the main room.
"Jonathan," Harry answered. "Jonathan Smith."
Procyon smiled. "Hiding something, are you?"
"Why would I be?"
"About your name. I've never heard them refer to you as anything but 'Our Second Lord'."
Harry slowed to a stop, startled. He supposed the name 'Jonathan' was probably too unspecific and informal for someone of his position, but to be considered second to the Dark Lord... He didn't feel like it suited him.
"You're almost as feared as him, I reckon," Procyon carried on idly, thrusting the parchment and address into Harry's hands. "I can't say it's all that surprising."
Harry took the address, still unsure what to say. The address seemed valid. Even if it wasn't, he'd be able to track of all Procyon's moves from this point on. Did the Werewolf know this? Did he, perhaps, fear Harry, causing him to take these tests without question? If he did, he'd never show it.
"Here's your wand and your money," Harry said, levitating the two items forward, "and here are the potions."
Procyon wouldn't be able to run with the Wolfsbane Potion and turn a profit from it – not without the knowledge of how to brew it. There weren't enough potions in that case to last through even one full moon. From this, Harry had to assume Procyon was making a real deal with him.
"Thanks," Procyon said, taking the case from mid-air.
He pocketed his gold and reached for his wand, placing in the sleeve of his robes. When he looked up, he seemed healthy enough and in good spirits. He grinned at Harry as if tonight's events had been an adventure very worth it.
"What you're doing here is revolutionary," he said, "which seems only fitting, given how the world is changing. It's rare to meet wizards who value Werewolves and even rarer for those wizards to not be one himself. I respect that. If this test don't work, I wish you luck in sorting it out."
Procyon reached out a hand for Harry to shake. It was a form of agreement, he realised, an unbreakable vow without the use of magic. He accepted with little hesitation, feeling Procyon's muscular hand around his own.
Harry wouldn't normally put his trust in anyone, lest of all a follower of Lord Voldemort, but somehow he knew Procyon was being honest. He saw more sincerity in this Werewolf's smile than he'd ever seen in Dumbledore or in the members of the Order of the Phoenix. Procyon was an honest crook and an honest murderer, but he was willing to be brave to stop hundreds of Werewolves becoming what he had become. There was odd, pure honesty in that.
– X –
Back at the Chimaera Hideout, several Death Eaters were waiting around for their Lord to return from a small mission. Harry was glad to see Tom's absence – it meant he could pretend he had returned here earlier than he really had. Tom would have no reason to suspect he had been anywhere but in London with Black and the others.
Harry felt calm when he walked past a table where several Death Eaters had begun a card game. Nott was standing across the room, almost hidden by the bulky forms of Goyle and Avery. Without catching the attention of the others, Harry drifted towards him, glad to see Avery and Goyle had begun arguing about something insignificant.
"Hey," he said, stepping forwards to catch Nott's attention. They wouldn't be overheard nor particularly noticed here. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Nott answered. He seemed to mean it, but he looked pale and ill, like he always did in the days that led up to the full moon. "Are you?"
"Yeah, I am, thanks. Listen, I was wondering if I could ask you a favour? I need a safe address to receive some letters at."
Nott's brow furrowed. "Why?"
"It's for research," Harry explained shortly, refraining from glancing around in case he caught the Death Eaters' attention. "Related to, er, your condition."
Nott understood at once. He nodded. "I'd be happy to let you use my address."
"Alright, brilliant. Thanks."
"So you've – you've completed the potion?"
Harry was relieved that he had a safe address and he felt a need to be honest with Nott. He would have preferred to keep it a secret that he was testing the potion on someone else, but it was too late now. Nott would figure it out on his own.
"Yeah," he said. "I found someone willing to take it."
It was impossible to tell what Nott thought about this. He nodded once, his tired eyes staring into Harry's own for a long moment. "That must have been dangerous."
"No, it isn't yet."
"But will you be there?" he asked. "When he... the test subject..?"
Harry gathered Nott meant 'will you be there when he transforms at the full moon?'.
"I'll be there, yeah."
Nott glanced to their left, as if he wanted to say something he hoped no one could hear. "But you're sure you won't get hurt?"
It was neither a plead for caution nor a request for reassurance. Nott knew he was smart and strong enough to avoid mistakes. He was asking this for an unsaid reason. Before Harry could work out what it was for, he answered, "I'm sure."
He thought this answer might have worried Nott. He seemed eager to change the subject, telling Harry something else that was on his mind. "If there's anything else I can do to help, all you need to do is ask."
Harry could tell he was being genuine. He nodded once in thanks. "I'll pick up the letters at the next meeting, yeah?"
Nott would understand he didn't mean a Death Eater meeting. "I'll be sure to bring them."
To ensure they weren't found talking when Tom returned, Nott left shortly after this, disappearing into a crowd of Death Eaters. It would be a few days before Harry could safely take part in another Order meeting, but he knew he'd be able to get a clear idea of the Wolfsbane Potion's success through several day's worth of letters from Procyon. His only fear was that Procyon might get ill by tonight and never get around to writing a single letter.
Tom returned to the hideout less than twenty minutes after Nott drifted away. A lot of Death Eaters had news to bring him. It took almost another hour before he was free and in that time, Harry waited in the library upstairs, where he was currently hiding the Pocketwatch. He took up a book to read, taking a seat on a comfortable black couch. When Tom came upstairs, he appeared exhausted and agitated. His dark eyes stared out of an enchanted window.
"We've been running into more trouble than ever with our trades," he said, "yet the heart of our problems, the true challenge we face, still resides in our quarrels with the Order..."
This was all unsurprising and not at all news. Harry closed the book in his hands. "Black and I found out what happened last night, with the Dark Mark looming above London. It was Mulciber. He had a few too many drinks, I think."
"That's nothing a few words with him won't fix... He didn't return here, with you?"
"No, I haven't even seen him. He ran off again last night. I expect he'll be here in a day or two, though – you know what he's like."
Tom certainly did. He paced the room, his dark eyes thoughtful and annoyed.
"Aurors started an investigation on the bodies found there," Harry told him, "but that's hardly unusual. We can have someone at the Ministry throw them off, if anything makes them suspect Mulciber again."
"It's all the same," Tom responded shortly. He was unwilling to give the problem much thought, which Harry felt was probably for the best. "His attack shan't harm us. If anything, it may have shaken the Ministry further."
"As if they need to be shaken any more."
Tom turned to look at him, his pace slowing. He heard something odd in Harry's tone. "What do you mean?"
"Half the Ministry is struck trembling at the very thought of you, Tom. You've made even the bravest Knights scared – and it isn't just them who fear your name, anymore. Almost everyone seems to."
"As they should," Tom said delicately, after a short hesitation. He seemed almost surprised to hear it. Harry assumed no one had dared to speak to him about this.
"Some people seem to think your name is cursed," Harry carried on, thinking about how the Order reacted to it. He was curious to see what Tom thought. "I don't know what they fear might happen if the name 'Voldemort' is spoken, but they're terrified. They seem to think you'll show up, somehow, like the name summons you."
"Good," said Tom, perhaps pretending to be unfazed now. "That's how is should be, is it not? Perhaps I shall make their fear a reality..."
"How would you do that?"
Tom's red eyes turned to his, full of thoughtful mirth and mischievousness. "I could curse the name as readily as I cursed the Defence Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts..."
Harry learnt back in his chair, thinking it over. Tom's eagerness to go through with this impressed him, a bit. "You think you could do that again? That wasn't easy."
"It would be advanced magic, very advanced... Yet can you imagine the impact it would have? We could know who speaks my name and when. We could use it as a tool, to track down anyone foolish enough to become familiar with the idea of Lord Voldemort..."
"It's not a bad idea," Harry admitted, wondering now if he was to blame for the creation of the taboo.
"It would be perfect... Complicated, but I shall find a way..."
If Tom managed to create this magic now, Harry wondered why Dumbledore had encouraged people to say the name 'Voldemort' and not 'You-Know-Who' when he was a child at Hogwarts. Was it to encourage a larger number of people to use the name between wizarding worlds, so when Voldemort rose again, he wouldn't have this power?
"What have the Death Eaters been calling me?" Harry asked, the thought striking him suddenly.
"Why would they call you anything?"
"Well, they have to call me something. What name do they refer to me by? There was one Death Eater, just today, who called me 'Our Second Lord'."
"Truly?" Tom asked, suddenly alert. A smile broke across his face.
Harry paused. He had no idea why this idea would please Tom. "Yeah, but I don't understand it."
"Why ever not? You are not one of them. They can see this."
"What do they see me as, then? I'm not their Lord."
"Well, if they have deemed you their Second Lord, they surely accept you as something close to an equal to me."
An uncomfortable knot felt like it formed in Harry's stomach. He paled at once and hoped his nervousness didn't show. Shaking his head and standing up, he said, "That's not true, though."
The corners of Tom's lips twisted up. "I don't believe they are quite wrong."
Harry hated to hear this. He wasn't going to allow that assumption to stick in Tom's mind if he could help it. Why should he be glad to hear and assume that Harry was almost as powerful as him? Normally, he hated competition. Was it merely that Harry was on his side?
"I don't support such a childish title, however," Tom carried on, thinking it over more seriously. "Perhaps we shall fashion you a new name, one full of a greater meaning than 'second'. As convenient as it has been to refer to you as 'Jonathan', it is an exceedingly outdated name..."
Harry had no opinion. He drew in a deep breath, looking out of the enchanted window. "I don't want a new name. I don't want them to know me as anything."
Tom tilted his head to the side a little, surveying him. "If that is what you desire... perhaps we shall leave you nameless."
"Do you think that would work?"
"Most certainty," he agreed softly, "if that is what you desire. There is power in anonymity, great power. They cannot categorize and become familiar with that which they cannot name. Familiarity inspires calmness and disregard. A constant indefinability inspires fear and disarray..."
Harry could see the logic in this. For the first time, he was interested, until humour caught him. "Are you trying to make me a secret weapon?"
Tom smiled, taking slow steps forwards. "Not a weapon, no. You are more powerful than anyone dares to believe, for I have taught you lessons in the art of magic more advanced and fearsome than common mortals can comprehend. You have learnt things that my darkest followers could only dream of learning. You have power that they could never hope to obtain, and still you are learning... You are not a weapon to be used, my love. You are a warrior who does not yet need to fight. Even you, seemingly, do not understand what power you possess..."
Tom's sincerity and pride in this belief was clear. He stood only a foot or two away from Harry, gazing upon him as if he were a wizard of great reverence. Harry believed he could indeed be a good fighter one day, but he was still unsure who he might be fighting for. Tom had confidence in him that was like ice to his heart...
"So, how will I stay anonymous?" Harry asked, keen to change the subject slightly.
"Well, it is a convenience that will create itself," Tom told him gently. "The Death Eaters may refer to you as 'Our Second Lord' for now, but soon the name 'Jonathan' will be entirely forgotten. When you begin fighting in this war, none will know you by name. They will know only your power... If, of course, they live to tell the tale."
Harry smirked before he could help it. "I'm still not a murderer, Tom."
"Ah, but in war, nobody murders. You can influence many deaths still."
He said it as if this was a desirable goal. Harry found it easier to say nothing when Tom turned away, walking across the room. Harry was about to voice his thoughts on this war, before he saw where Tom was headed. A cupboard, where the Pocketwatch resided. Harry stepped forwards at once.
"What are you doing?"
Tom turned, his dark eyes curious. "I'm merely getting drinks."
"I'll do it," Harry said at once, closing the distance between them. He placed a hand on Tom's white fingers to open the cupboard door himself.
Tom was suspicious. His red eyes narrowed.
"You've had a long day," Harry said in what he hoped was a calming tone. "I'll do it."
In an instant, Tom's suspicion dissolved. He gave a low hum of laughter, his eyes lingering on Harry for a moment, before he turned away. He took a black armchair across the room. Harry opened the cupboard further and saw the Pocketwatch hidden in a corner. He had to stash it here earlier before he went out, knowing only too well that Tom would have checked the main cupboard in their bedroom for useful artefacts if the Death Eaters needed him.
He knew he was wasting a lot of time and energy by keeping this Horcrux hidden so close. It was the reason for most of his anxiety and guilt and by keeping it here, he risked Tom would find it and discover that he was lying and hiding things once more. A lot of things could go wrong if Tom grew suspicious. He might begin to wonder just how much truth Harry was concealing and the thought alone caused far more stress than it was worth. Harry didn't know how much more lying he could stay on top of, so he decided that night that he was going to have to keep the Pocketwatch on him until he found a permanent place to keep it.
Even as several days passed, the watch stayed in the pocket of his robes. He was planning a secure location to keep it in, but he wouldn't be able to hide it before finishing off his duty to the Wolfsbane Potion. Tom was working with the Death Eaters this week more than ever, so Harry found an easy time to visit the next Order meeting Nott was likely to attend. When he arrived at Bones' cottage, he found Sturgis Podmore, the Prewett twins, Elphias Doge, and Marlene McKinnon sitting around, waiting for more arrivals. He decided to take a seat, waiting for Nott.
In the time he sat waiting, Harry thought about Tom and his broken Horcrux. He was tempted, quite often, to destroy the Pocketwatch entirely, to settle with an undamaged duplicate for however long he'd need it, but he wasn't sure if this was the smartest idea. If he made the Pocketwatch a Horcrux again, however, he'd likely break it with remorse alone, which risked sudden death. If the Pocketwatch was gone entirely, it would be one less thing to worry about. The thought bothered him so wholly that he barely noticed the conversations going on about him.
He was about to stand up, to wait outside instead for some fresh air, when he looked up and found Fabian Prewett watching him. Inexplicably, in that moment, he realised Fabian had owned a watch much like his, once. In fact, Molly Weasley had given Harry that watch for his seventeenth Birthday... Could it be that the two watches were the same? Was this why Harry had had such a huge sense of familiarity when Tom first presented him with this gift? Harry reached into his pocket for the broken Horcrux.
Fabian Prewett's watch had been dented – that much Harry could remember. He had dented this Pocketwatch when he threw a spell at it, testing it as a Horcrux in a rush. A lot of wizarding watches looked quite similar and Harry found it hard to remember being seventeen, but he believed, fully, that there had to be a connection. His suspicions were confirmed when he heard Fabian say, "Nice watch."
He looked up blankly, bewildered by the strength and power of time.
"My dad used to own one like it," Fabian carried on, explaining himself. "It ended up going to my uncle before Gideon and I reached seventeen. It was quite a shame."
"Yeah, I... I heard about your father," Harry said slowly. "I'm sorry that happened."
"Ah, well, you know what Death Eaters are like. It's not as if we won't seek revenge for it."
Fabian laughed in a dry, sad way. Harry gathered from his nostalgia and interest that he didn't own a watch to replace the one his father used to have. An odd mix of guild, wonder, and anxiety pushed Harry into doing something unexpected.
"Listen, do you want to keep a hold of this?" he asked, reaching out his hand. The Pocketwatch rested peacefully in his palm, glinting in the light. "I don't have any use for it, really. You might like it more."
Fabian was bemused, but clearly honoured. It didn't help Harry's guilt much – it made him feel worse, slightly, to take advantage of this opportunity. By giving Fabian this watch, he'd be fixing his problem with the broken Horcrux without destroying or fixing it. It would still exist, just a long, long way from Tom's reach, in the hands of the least expected wizard. Fabian reached out his hand.
"Thank you," he said, his eyes fixed on Harry's with a serious, grateful look.
"This is dented," Gideon commented, laughing lightly and breaking the staidness.
"It's rare," Harry explained. "It's important. You should hold into it."
It felt somehow natural to see the watch in their possession. This was a selfish truce to the Prewetts, on Harry's part. It was the only apology he could give them without explaining his actual crime. It felt better.
Before either of the Prewett twins could say a word more, another Order member arrived. It was Nott. He appeared worn out and sombre as a result of the approaching full moon. Harry stood up, saying a few short words to the Prewett twins so he could speak to Nott alone. They headed into the other room.
"I have those letters," Nott began, reaching into his pocket for a small bundle of envelopes. "There was no post today, but I assume it was just delayed."
Harry took the letters, his brow furrowed. He knew owl post got delayed often in this war, but if he was missing the fifth letter from Procyon, he had no idea what might happen tonight, at the full moon. He'd have to go visit Procyon himself, to get a clear idea on the situation. He ripped open the letters, keen to read the information here and not back at the Death Eater Headquarters. Nott watched him silently.
The first letter read:
The second dose of potion wasn't so bad. Could have been worse, anyway. I can't feel any noticeable changes, but since you mentioned before that that's probably better, I'll take it as a good sign. You can expect a more detailed letter if this starts having an impact.
Harry reached for the second letter, hoping to get a more interesting description.
I'm almost starting to get used to this. Can you believe that? It's a horrid taste, sure, but if that's all it takes to cure this disease, I reckon it's quite worth it. You might be able to change the taste in later brews. That would be a relief. I have a bit of a headache, but I reckon that's just the smell of the potion. I'm sure you'd be familiar with it.
The third letter was equally as short and direct:
I took the third potion an hour ago. After taking it, I felt fine and I was going to write you one of these letters, but nausea took over a bit. Decided to re-write this. I thought the horrid taste and smell caused this headache, but this has been going on for over a day now and I feel close to being sick. I'm not so sure what's happening, but I'll tell you tomorrow of this carries on.
The forth letter was as vague as the others had been. Procyon's handwriting grew shaky and faint in places:
I'm not sure it's working. I woke up this morning feeling more sick than ever and I reckon I've caught a fever. Sweat and trembling and that. Even as I write this, my vision is going all wonky. I know this has never been tested before, but is this supposed to happen? I've drunk the fifth potion and I reckon I'll drink the sixth one tomorrow as well. I have to, don't I? There's no point turning back now. We'll see if this works.
Harry's heart sank in dread. The last letter was missing, which could only mean one thing, if Procyon was getting quickly ill. Forcing a fifth potion on himself could have done any number of bad things – Procyon could have been poisoned, he could have altered himself in some way... Harry was willing to bet on the first guess. In which case, he didn't expect the fifth letter to ever be written.
"I don't think it worked," he told Nott in a low voice, knowing he was too polite to ask.
"How can you tell so soon?"
"It was a dangerous potion to start with. I think it made him ill – if the last letter is being delayed, I doubt it'll bring good news..."
Harry could image Procyon in some shapeless apartment in London, drugged by the poison, struggling more than his pride would allow him to admit. He would have vomited far more often after a few more potions and Harry was sure the sweating and trembling would only have gotten worse. What would have happened next? Would have have resisted the last potion, even going to St Mungo's to cure himself, or would he have forced it upon himself, like he said he would? Was he too ill to write or had he left this world behind already?
Harry hated to think about Procyon being dead. More than this, he hated realising at a slow, sluggish pace, that this meant he was still unable to protect Nott. It could have been Nott who took all of these potions, suffering silently and believing blindly that Harry's abilities could be trusted. He decided not to talk to Nott about this, nor about the guilt that haunted him when he wondered what might have happened. He'd need to revise the potion, to guess what had gone wrong and why.
Before he could visit Procyon the next day to check if he was alright, an article in the Daily Prophet told him everything he needed to know. Aurors had been summoned to Procyon's residence when several of neighbours heard horrific screams and howls from his flat. This happened as early as five O'clock in the evening. To the confusion and bewilderment of every expert on the condition of lycanthropy, Procyon had faced an early transformation. He had died before the Aurors even attempted a fight.
The report went on to say that Procyon was a known Werewolf with ties to the Death Eaters and Aurors had been chasing him for several months. The Ministry was unable to comprehend why he had transformed early and why he had been seemingly poisoned, but Harry felt it would only be a matter of time before the Wolfsbane Potion phials were discovered. It would make it pretty obvious that Procyon was attempting to cure lycanthropy – or something along the same lines. Unless the Ministry somehow discovered who created this potion, however, Harry felt that nothing more would come out of their investigation.
He was forced to put the problem of the Wolfsbane Potion aside for a while, knowing only too well that if he brewed the potion the same way he had last time, the results would be no different. He had to write up theories on what could have gone wrong in the potion and how he could change it. This meant he would have to record several new trials of the potion to test which ingredients and methods of preparation changed the outcome. It would be a lot of work, surrounded by a lot more death and illness...
There would be Werewolves amongst Tom's pack who would happily sacrifice themselves if they knew about this potion, but Harry was unwilling to initiate more deaths so casually. Although almost everyone else in the wizarding world believed the lives of Werewolves were less valuable, he didn't share their view. It would risk his soul being warped further and he knew Tom would see the connection to poisoned wolves and the Wolfsbane Potion instantly. He'd have to think of a better way.
Weeks after Procyon's story was released in the Daily Prophet, Harry discovered that someone had seen more in the crime than the average person bothered to look for. He learnt this through the Death Eaters, who were standing outside a hideout with him one evening. Some of them were only here to pass on messages, but those who were waiting for Tom were discussing a shared story.
"There's a funny little wizard in Knockturn Alley asking questions lately – surely you've seen him?" asked Avery, glancing around at the other Death Eaters. "He's well out of place there."
"I haven't been there in ages," Mulciber murmured. "I didn't see anyone."
"Well, there's a weird wizard there."
"Do you think he's with the Ministry?" Goyle asked. "Or he's an Order spy?"
"Nah, I wouldn't go that far. If he is, he's certainly doing a bad job of hiding it."
"He's down there asking after Werewolves," Avery explained, laughing. "Right in broad daylight! He says he heard something in the Prophet about a potion – I dunno what he's on about, but it's mad."
"I reckon I saw him," one Death Eater admitted, chortling. "I'm surprised he's still breathing. He's insane."
"I reckon he is, yeah."
"You haven't been using the Cruciatus Curse on him, have you, Mulciber?"
Harry heard Mulciber laugh. "Not that I can remember, no."
"You should see how people look at him," Avery carried on, grinning. "The way he's acting now, I'd be surprised if he isn't murdered in two days. I reckon that he-..."
Harry stopped listening as Avery began to describe the public's reaction. If this strange wizard was looking for whoever tried to cure or poison Procyon and if he was interested in talking about Werewolves and the article in the Daily Prophet, surely he had figured out some valuable information? Information, moreover, on the study of lycanthropy?
Before Harry could evaluate the situation fully, an unexpected, searing pain in his scar burst into action and sent him into disarray. He let out a low note of shock and reached a hand up to his forehead, his eyes clenched shut. He caught a vision of Black standing before him, watching bravely as he spoke bad news. Dumbledore had fought the Death Eaters again...
"Are you alright?"
Harry opened his eyes. He was still standing in front of the Death Eaters, who stared at him blankly. He lowered his hand at once, trying to act normal.
"I'm fine," he lied. "It's just a headache..."
Despite his calm tone, Avery's eyes rose to his forehead, which was clearly visible. Great way to hide your identity, Harry thought bitterly to himself. Show half the Death Eaters you own this scar, I'm sure they won't remember it when The Boy Who Lived has one just like it. He tried to flatten his hair over his forehead casually. It reminded him of being a child, watching people gawk at him in wonder and fright.
"Did – did you feel that?" Goyle suddenly asked, alarmed.
Avery seemed close to answering 'no', before he flinched, looking down at his left arm.
"Something's up," Mulciber commented thickly.
"Reckon it's the Order?" Goyle asked.
"There's only one way to find out."
The three wizards, along with many others, took out their wands. They seemed almost excited and glad for a reason to respond to Tom's summoning. Despite knowing that nothing crucial was likely to happen tonight, Harry found himself nervous and tense. He reached for the Elder Wand even though he wasn't going to follow the Death Eaters out on a mission tonight. The wizards around him all Disapparated into thin air, leaving him here to wonder what the Order had done.
Perhaps it was too much guilt and remorse that made Harry fragile to the situation going on, but he found himself restless and disquieted. He went out to find Tom and the Death Eaters before they even returned to the Chimaera Hideout. He learnt quickly that two Death Eaters had been attacked and captured by Sirius Black and the Potters. Tom was infuriated and no Knight or Death Eater was able to call him down in the slightest.
"The Potters have defied me thrice, but they shan't do it again..."
With dread, Harry realised Tom was keeping track of who was in the Order of the Phoenix and how many crimes they had all committed against him and his followers. He made it clear to every Death Eater that he would personally kill every single witch or wizard following Dumbledore if he had to, so in urgency and desperation, Harry decided to visit Knockturn Alley the next day. He went there in search of the strange wizard who might have information of value for him. If he wanted Nott to stay alive as a spy, he'd have to act now...
For once, Avery had neither lied nor exaggerated his story about the strange man. He was dressed in an orange suit with a yellow top hat, talking quite obviously to the dark witches and wizards who passed him by. Harry might have found the sight amusing if the situation weren't so grave. He leant against a shadowed wall of an alleyway, watching the wizard for a few minutes. The wizard spoke openly and obviously about Werewolves, from what Harry could hear. Most of the witches and wizards walking by believed him to be quite mad.
Harry decided to approach the wizard, stepping out from the shadows. The wizard was heaving a great sigh, staring up at the shop sign above him that swung in a soft breeze. The shop itself was closed due to bad business (which was related to rivalry in the Death Eater trades, Harry knew). When the wizard finally noticed Harry was here, he seemed a little startled.
"Why, hello sir!"
"I heard you're looking for someone," Harry said in a low voice, cutting this conversation short. "More specifically, you're looking for anyone involved with that poisoned Werewolf featured in the Prophet three weeks ago."
"Why, yes!" the wizard said at once, more nervous than ever. "I've been interested in following some leads for my research."
"You're looking to transform Werewolves early?"
"No – no, quite the opposite! I believe the way the Prophet presented the story was, er, mislead... Whoever created this potion clearly wanted quite the opposite outcome to the potion – I've been all through the Ministry, trying to gather information on what that exact potion contained, but all they will tell me is it contained wolf's bane, thus it poisoned the poor Werewolf. Tragic, quite tragic..."
Harry considered this, idly glancing at two witches who passed him with cruel, menacing scowls on their faces. "You're looking to create a cure for lycanthropy, aren't you?"
The wizard was alarmed. "How did you -?"
"You're shaking," said Harry calmly. "You're nervous. There's no way you're a dark wizard."
"Yes, well – well..."
Harry turned towards the man, hoping to keep his back entirely to the street without it looking too suspicious. Not that that was uncommon here. He decided he should speak openly about this situation, because this wizard wasn't an Auror and Harry would know if he had joined the Order of the Phoenix.
"That potion was experimental," he said. "It was a test. If I had had the choice, I would have been there with that Werewolf and I would have stopped him from drinking all those potions, but time wasn't on my side. The test was successful, until the last few days."
"You – you're the creator?" the wizard whispered, amazed. "You created this potion? The – the –"
"Wolfsbane Potion," Harry finished, hoping the name would stick. "Yeah, I created it. I used references from Hesper Starky, mostly, to draw theories on how the moon's phases would affect the brew. I'll need to do a lot more testing before it's finished."
"But this is fantastic!" The wizard beamed. "I have been trying to develop this potion for years!"
"Well, in theory, yes! But I would never have the right resources to begin such an experiment – no, never."
Harry could guess as much from the fact that he stood in the middle of Knockturn Alley looking for dark witches and wizards by verbal request, rather than through connections. There was no way this man knew any actual Werewolves.
"I'm Damocles, by the way," the wizard said, reaching out a hand.
"Smith," Harry murmured, accepting the handshake.
"Pleased to meet you, greatly pleased!" Damocles expressed, smiling nervously. "Now... would you like to get a drink, to discuss this research you've been doing? I would be thrilled to discuss theories!"
Harry thought it might be advisable for them to get out of Knockturn Alley before someone attacked Damocles for the sheer fun of it, but he didn't want to go to any public place. He explained this casually and to no surprise, Damocles did not hesitate before inviting Harry to his house. Although he was clearly somewhat witless and too trusting, Harry found that he wasn't lying at all about the research he spent his time on.
Damocles knew precisely what he was talking about concerning his work. He seemed relieved to find Harry not only understood every word he said, but also added deeper theories and details to the things he spoke about. Harry was beginning to believe that this was the man who created (or at least took credit for) the Wolfsbane Potion. The more they talked about it, the more his suspicion was confirmed.
Harry decided to stay in contact with Damocles. He promised to send him some of the research papers he had worked on (because he was, quite simply, glad to get rid of that evidence), and when he did, he and Damocles discovered that their studies interlink in odd ways, with coincidences and secure connections. It became immediate apparent that if they combined their research, they might be able to create the Wolfsbane Potion properly.
Damocles was highly skilled in the art of potion-making and he knew ways to test potions without feeding it to any living test subjects. Harry was tremendously relieved to hear it, even if Damocles added hastily that he'd be glad to see it tested on a real Werewolf some day. Harry knew this wouldn't be a problem. With a lot of work from both of them, they were able to solve their previous problems with the Wolfsbane Potion. Harry made a deal with one of Tom's wolves the following full moon and they found, to their astonishment and joy, that the potion was successful.
Harry couldn't express to Damocles how much this research meant to him, but he said openly and regularly that he didn't want any credit for this project. He ignored it when Damocles persisted that he should take at least some credit. Damocles had brewed this potion with a lot more skill than Harry could have managed and they both knew it well. All Harry needed was the knowledge of how to create this potion, as well as a few phials for the next full moon. Damocles handed all of this over readily. Although Harry could rarely see him after their research was completed, he spoke to Damocles often through letters.
Harry wasted no time before meeting up with Nott when the potion was successfully brewed and tested. He found a chance to see him a week after the last full moon, near midnight. Nott, to no surprise, was alone at his house. He let Harry in happily, but before he could so much as invite him to sit down, Harry told him the Wolfsbane Potion was finished.
"And it's been tested," he said breathlessly. "It worked."
Nott stared at him, astounded. "Truly?"
"Yes," Harry said, grinning. He saw wonder fill Nott's bright eyes.
"Nobody else died, I hope?" Nott asked, genuinely concerned.
"No, not at all," said Harry honestly. "I had better theories this time, better tests – with Damocles, I really think I've sorted this out."
He seemed barely able to believe it.
"So, do you want to try it?" Harry asked, grinning widely. He hadn't felt this happy and this accomplished in years. "This month? I could try to be there, when you test it at full moon."
Nott agreed at once. "That would be brilliant."
Harry beamed at him again. "I have to go back now, but I'll send you a letter with an address where we can meet. I'll talk to you about it soon."
Harry turned in the direction of the door, about to leave.
Nott hesitated for a moment, appearing at a loss for words. A serious look crossed his face.
"Thank you," he said in little over a whisper. "For all of this."
– X –
Harry was unusually calm from that day on. He felt satisfied, for once, and he relished in the feeling, never knowing whether it was finishing off a long project or helping out his only friend that delighted him most. He felt that he was safe for the first time in years. Because of this, Tom too was becoming more serene, but this was both a good and a bad thing; with a level-head, Tom punished his own followers less, but he was more able to create strategic plans against his enemies. Both sides of this war were steadily growing stronger.
For two weeks, Harry planned on making up an excuse to leave the headquarters at the next full moon. He found this wasn't at all difficult. With all of the fights and missions going on, it was hard for Tom to keep track of who was where and when. Harry was glad to keep his promise to Nott and he was keen to see the Wolfsbane Potion's power once again. Nott had taken regular doses of the potion throughout the week with no bad side-effects, which gave Harry hope.
Nott appeared exhausted and ill when Harry arrived, but that was due to nothing but the approaching full moon. They were meeting in a dusty, deserted old house where three Muggles had recently been killed. A few local people had cleaned out the place with chemicals that stung Harry's nose and made him pause momentarily. Nott had turned off the painful Muggle lights above them, leaving nothing but wandlight and a few candles. It highlighted the boarded-up windows around them.
Two armchairs rested in the centre of the room, one already occupied by Nott. Harry took the second one, switching his lit wand to his left hand to reach into his pocket for something – the last phial of Wolfsbane Potion. Nott took the potion from him without saying much beyond 'thank you'. He uncorked it and a few wisps of blue smoke rose from the bottle, disappearing into the air. Nott drank the potion, wincing against the unpleasant taste. Harry wondered what Procyon would have thought of this one.
"It's certainly stalling the process," Nott mentioned, visibly tense. He set the phial down on the wooden floor. "I'd normally be gone by now."
"The moon isn't up yet," said Harry, "not fully, anyway. This is normal."
"Well, it always felt different before. I.. I suppose I'd be more scared, normally."
Harry wondered why Nott didn't feel as scared now. Was it, perhaps, because he wasn't alone? Or because he trusted the skills Harry and Damocles possessed? Harry took in Nott's appearance in more detail, wanting to understand him. He thought he could see scars and scratches on Nott's neck, hands, and shoulders, mostly concealed by his robes. This was common for Werewolves who were locked away in solitude during their transformations; with no prey and no other wolves to fight, they were forced to attack themselves in frustration. Lupin had always been the same.
"There's no reason to be scared," Harry said calmly. "It might take you longer than normal to transform tonight, but you'll stay sane. You'll still be you and you'll have control over your own actions."
Nott swallowed and closed his eyes as if enduring a moment of pain. There was no telling if his pain was physical or mental. Both were as bad, in Harry's eyes. "What if – if this doesn't work?"
"Then you'll be safe here. It's just like any other month."
If he remained sane, Nott would be able to avoid hurting himself as well as anyone else. Despite the logic in this change, however, Harry wasn't sure whether it was an entirely good thing – he knew that the process of transforming hurt Werewolves badly. Some of them, he thought, might be unwilling to gain back their sanity with this potion if it meant more pain. It depended entirely on whether open wounds or the act of transforming were more painful – and whether a Werewolf preferring attacking others instead.
"And – and you?" Nott asked, straining against a particularly painful stab of discomfort.
"What about me?"
"You'll be safe?" he asked. "You'll – you'll be fine, even if I can't keep control over my own mind?"
Harry watched him in the dim light, seeing his blue eyes never waver, even through the pain. This was a test, Harry realised. Nott was looking for something, again, in his answer.
"Of course I will," Harry answered. "I'll be safe."
He was a highly trained Knight and he had worked with Werewolves before – all of which Nott knew well. What was it that made Nott curious and confused? What was he waiting for Harry to say?
"Tom would kill you for this," he murmured. "Especially if you caught this..."
"I won't catch lycanthropy," Harry said, sure of it.
"I don't suppose it would matter if you did..."
Harry had no idea what to make of this claim. Nott either trailed off on purpose or got lost in thought – it was difficult to tell. He sat forwards in his chair, burying his face in his hands and breathing heavily. Harry hoped that his pain would at least end when the physical transformation into a Werewolf was complete.
As if to distract himself from the inevitable pain, Nott decided to carry on talking.
"It's strange," he said, "that you're so confident with all of this."
"Shouldn't I be?" Harry asked.
Nott reacted with something close to a shrug. He rubbed his face again.
"What makes you think it's strange?" Harry inquired. This had to be what his curiosity was about.
"Most people flee from Werewolves, as you know. They hide in terror, never wanting to associate with us, lest they should become one of us. Most people fear their own lives..."
They had discussed this plenty of times already. The Death Eaters were prejudice and hateful towards Werewolves, but Nott knew Harry wasn't. He knew what he was like.
"I explained once that if you were around me during one of my transformations, I could kill you," Nott said, clutching his head with his hands and speaking with his eyes closed. He breathed heavily, concentrating hard on his words. "But your answer was strange. You said that I couldn't."
Harry became very still. He remembered the conversation Nott was referring to. He had hoped, in vain, that Nott would let this conversation slide, but he never seemed to miss details and mistakes like this. In a weak attempt to keep this delicate subject from crumbling down, Harry didn't say a word. He waited. Nott didn't seem to expect a verbal response. Shaking and sweating, he carried on talking.
"I'd say you were just brave, just confident in your power, but I know you're not like the Death Eaters. You find deeper strength in what you know and – and what you believe in. I don't think you're fearless when it comes to death. It's always been an obsession of the Dark Lord's, as well as murder, but he isn't fearless of either."
Harry knew exactly where this was going. Dread held him close.
"Killing always meant so much to the Dark Lord," Nott mentioned, his eyes shut tight, "more than anything else, especially when it came to who you killed... He was obsessed, he – well, you know what he's like. We all knew... There had to be a reason for his obsession over your kills. There's only one reason to explain it on top of your bravery of death and danger. The more I think about it, the more I – I believe you have nothing to fear..."
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair, breaking a spell of his own tenseness. Frustrated and not at all keen to carry on this careful avoidance of the point, he asked, "How do you know about this kind of magic?"
Nott shook his head, his expression worsening. He neither looked up nor sat up. "When it comes to studying the Dark Arts, you're bound to come across Horcruxes eventually..."
The word send painful anxiety coursing through Harry's chest. He glanced at the door of this empty room as if he feared they might be overheard. It slipped his notice, for a moment, that it was their minds and his own connection to Voldemort that were most dangerous, not their surroundings.
"This isn't something you should get interested in," Harry said in a low voice. He knew Nott wouldn't have discovered this if he hadn't shown him the Pocketwatch and hadn't tested it in front of him. It was a fatal mistake.
"I know that," Nott murmured. "I know not to go looking for information on this."
"He'd never allow it. He'd kill you for even knowing that – that it exists."
Nott nodded shortly. Only one thing seemed to bug him. He sat up in his chair, breathing out. "Is it – is it broken, for you?"
This was an impossible question to answer. Although his darkest secret was now known, Harry couldn't bring himself to admit that not only did he have a broken Pocketwatch for a Horcrux, he had a unbroken Mask and Sword hidden away elsewhere too. In a weak attempt to smooth the situation over, he lied.
"No. It's... It's still fine."
Nott nodded as if this was what he expected. He was distracted by pain and he leant forwards again.
"Don't... Don't get involved with this," Harry said in a serious tone. He desperately wanted Nott to forget about this conversation entirely. "It's not worth knowing."
Nott was a skilled Occlumens, but Harry couldn't stand risking conflict and death between Nott, Tom, and himself. He trusted Nott deeply, but the less people involved with Horcruxes, the better. Knowledge could be turned into power and power meant danger, in Harry's opinion. If Tom knew what power Nott possessed with this information, there would be nothing to stop him eliminating such a huge threat.
The subject was dropped from this point on. Harry helped Nott through the process of his transformation and he found that even after Nott became a Werewolf, he was fully conscious. He was able to control his own wrath and pain, despite how horrid these emotions were even to a mindless being. Nott was visibly grateful of the Wolfsbane Potion from that night on.
It was a relief to many when Nott and Evadne had their wedding soon after this. Nott was partially free from the hell that had been forcibly pushed upon him and it was clear to Harry that for the first time in his life, he was truly happy. He had a traditional wedding, to please his parents, but it was full of a lively happiness that few mistook for pure-blood pride. Harry was invited and he attended the party alone. There was a empty seat near the front that he couldn't help feel might have been left for Lestrange. He never said a word about it.
Soon after the wedding, it became known amongst pure-bloods that Evadne Nott was pregnant. Harry was glad to hear it, especially when he saw how happy it made Nott, but as a few early months passed, he began to doubt how good this world might be for a newborn child. Theodore Nott was going to be born into a time of terror and tragedy, of pain and suffering. Harry couldn't ignore how powerfully the Dark Arts were taking over Britain and he was sure Nott thought about it too. He decided that he wanted to do something to make things better.
He had been informed that Dumbledore was recruiting people to the Order of the Phoenix. Almost every member of the Order was searching for strong witches and wizards to contact, but Harry felt he might be able to catch the interest of a wizard few people ever connected to. Mad-Eye Moody. He had known Adar Moody for a short while working at the Daily Prophet, so it seemed only logical to try and talk his son Alastor into joining Dumbledore's society.
Frank and Alice Longbottom were both highly-trained, respected Aurors, but after explaining his connection to Adar, Dumbledore agreed Harry might have a better chance of convincing Alastor to join the Order. Moody was a powerful Auror who was greatly feared by many and he would be a crucial addition to this side of the war. It alarmed Harry a little that he hadn't yet joined. He couldn't ignore the possibility that it was he, and no one else, who had to recruit Moody.
It was almost impossible to single-handedly track down an Auror as highly trained as Moody, but Harry still knew how to contact his father. He wrote to Adar a few times, asking how to contact his son. He left Dumbledore to send Alastor Moody the first invitatio to the Order, but it was his job to meet Moody and discuss details that Dumbledore didn't dare explain in letters. Nobody had any suspicions that Moody might be untrustworthy, so Harry was free to give away any detail necessary to convince him.
They met in a seedy pub in central London, where wizards often gathered in large groups amongst Muggles who were too drunk and oblivious to notice the strange behaviour around them. When Harry entered the pub, it took him several minutes to recognise that Moody was sitting at a table in the back corner, half-hidden in shadows. There was no mistaking him – even now, he had one magical eye that zoomed wildly in its socket. His normal eye was fixed steadily on Harry, waiting.
Harry approached the table, noticing at a closer range that Moody's nose was undamaged and both of his legs were whole. He shook Harry's hand firmly when he introduced himself. With effort, Harry tried to avoid wondering just how much truth Moody could see and sense in his appearance and actions. They said very little for the first few minutes of their meeting, as if both of them were trying to assess the characteristics of the other through stories, memories, and rumours. Both of Moody's eyes were fixed on Harry now.
They ordered two Muggle drinks. Harry let the silence drag on. He knew that while he wondered how Moody's life had been so far, Moody was surely wondering why Dumbledore had sent Harry of all people to talk and why, quite simply, he looked so weary, dark, and eerie. Harry thought, at first, that Moody didn't trust the way he looked, but he realised after a while that his questionably dark characteristics were a point of interest. Since Dumbledore had allowed him to join the Order of the Phoenix, Moody knew there had to be a large variety of witches and wizards there.
They spoke of Dumbledore's letter and the Order's offer. Harry had a feeling that Moody's mind was already made up when they started talking; the questions he asked were slight and the way he spoke of Dumbledore suggested he had high respect for him. He knew Dumbledore was a powerful wizard, renown for defeating Gillert Grindelwald. He knew, too, that the Order of the Phoenix was a strong organisation that was having more luck than even the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in hunting and defeating the Death Eaters.
"There are a few major advantages to the Order," Harry said at one point, trying to give Moody a clear idea of why Dumbledore's society was so important. "We can supply you with information that no Ministry yet knows, to help you chase down individual Death Eaters. You can bring the Ministry messages and warnings safely, as long as you you help us to keep track of our enemies. We could use your skills."
"What makes you think you can do a better job than the Ministry?" Moody asked, curious but callous. "We have the finest trained witches and wizards of the age working as Aurors."
"It isn't the Aurors that are a problem," Harry explained calmly, "it's the Ministry itself. We have quite a few Aurors working in the Order, but Dumbledore thinks the Ministry is unsafe. It's a known fact that not all employees there are against wizarding supremacy. They're not vocal about it, but they're weakening the Ministry from the inside by supplying our enemies with vital information."
Moody seemed to know this already. He surveyed Harry with his normal eye, cracking a complacent smile. Harry decided to carry on.
"Dumbledore formed this Order because he wanted to give the strongest sorcerers of the age a chance to fight this war. He wanted to be sure that as long as our enemies stand, we'll stand too."
"It's one hell of a fight you're putting up," Moody mentioned. "No matter how much or little Dumbledore's Order does, it's given people hope. That's a vital strength."
Harry nodded in agreement. "Even if you're not interested in joining us, we–"
"Not interested?" Moody repeated, laughing in disbelief. "We'd better get you a lighter drink if you're skipping to conclusions like that."
"I just mean, if you don't feel as if you're interested in anything other than the Ministry–"
"The Ministry isn't safe, is it? You've just told me that. I've known it for years. In the offices alone, we have to keep constant vigilance on the information flowing in and out, on the people walking in and out, on the cases closed and opened, on the crooks captured and freed. That alone is enough to drive a man insane."
"I know," said Harry truthfully, suppressing a smile at the sound of 'constant vigilance'. He wondered, for the first time, how Peter Pettigrew was going to remain a spy in the Order while Moody was so alert, efficient, and paranoid. "It's just, some Aurors work for the Ministry because it's a decent job, not because they really care how many criminals are caught."
Moody shot him a steady, serious look.
"You see this?" he asked, pointing to his magical eye. "Death Eaters. I got a spell right to the eye in an early fight with them. No hesitation, no reluctance. They fought with sheer determination, skill, and wrath."
His magical eye twitched into a direct position a few times, but it seemed as if Moody's paranoia caused it to jerk and spin wildly at the sight of any movement across the room. If Harry wasn't so used to it, he might have found the sight unnerving.
"Years ago, these sort of wounds were common," Moody carried on, "but this war grows darker with each passing day. You'd be lucky, now, to walk away from a fight with nothing but a wound like this and a small tale to go along with it. The Death Eaters are merciless. They've been cursed a few times too many and have been brainwashed a fair bit more. But I've still got my eye on them."
The corners of his lips and eyes crinkled in mirth, breaking the seriousness of his words when he sat back in his seat. He took a deep swig of his drink. Harry realised it was lucky that no one had explained how close he was to the Death Eaters. Moody was clearly angry at Voldemort's followers and he was keen to carry on his fathers work by taking out as many of them as he could.
"Why did Dumbledore send you to convince me?" Moody asked in a serious tone, his real eye narrowing. "He could have been here himself."
"I asked Dumbledore specifically if I could be here," Harry answered. "I wanted to be the one to talk to you."
Moody clearly didn't see why. Hastily, Harry carried on.
"A long time ago, I knew your father. I... I suppose I was interested in seeing how much like him you were."
Moody seemed to buy the lie – and if he didn't, he wasn't bothered enough to question it. "You're too young to have worked with him," he observed. "Unless, of course, you worked against him."
"I met him when I was younger, when we were both working as editors for the Daily Prophet. We talked often. He even offered me a job as an Auror."
"So why aren't you one?"
"There were other things going on in my life," Harry answered. "I didn't always agree with the Ministry back then, even if I can see how important fighting for this war has become."
"Aye, and I don't doubt your judgement," Moody murmured, as if this fit into some assumptions he had made. "The Ministry isn't entirely clear-cut, these days."
For the first time, Harry was surprised. His brow furrowed. "In what way?"
"This war has changed things," Moody growled. He stopped for a moment, as if wondering how much he could say. Since he trusted Dumbledore's judgement, he seemed to decide that Harry could be trusted too. In a quiet, gruff voice, he said, "Ever since what happened to the Leach Family, the Ministry has been frail, as Dumbledore clearly knows. There's been a few changes, lately. Nasty changes."
"In staff?" Harry suggested, thinking that perhaps Moody feared Death Eaters were replacing Ministry Officials.
"No, not just that. It doesn't matter who's in charge of the Ministry, not when problems arise from much deeper issues. This war has hardened the good nature of many. We've tried to fight fire with patience and justice, but it's done us no good – now the Ministry is going back to what Nobby Leach wanted. We're going back to fighting fire with fire in the hope that if we become more powerful and feared, we can overthrow the Death Eaters."
An unsettling feeling of trepidation caught Harry. He found himself hanging on every word Moody said, dreading, for the first time, that Voldemort had pushed the Ministry too far. "What have they changed?"
"Quite a few things have changed in the Ministry these last few years, but nothing like this. The Death Eaters have become so brutal that if things stay the way they are now, we don't stand a chance against them. Under Crouch's rule, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is close to giving us permission to use the Unforgivable Curses. Imagine that, eh? A Ministry using spells darker than half the criminals we hunted twenty years ago ever used."
It was impossible to tell if Moody was more fascinated or appalled. Harry had been told at a young age that Moody never killed anyone if he could help it, but for the first time, he wasn't sure how truthful that was. He had known, too, that the Ministry allowed Aurors to use Unforgivable Curses at the height of the first Wizarding World War, but he had never for a moment realised what repercussions such violence might have had.
Moody seemed convinced about joining the Order of the Phoenix, so Harry ended their meeting as shortly as he could, saying he would tell Dumbledore the news so the two of them could continue making plans. He left the pub and returned to Tom and the Death Eaters with fright and nagging discomfort as his only company. He couldn't help but wonder how many innocent witches and wizards might die or be tortured at the hands of the Aurors now.
The wizarding world was desperate for a way to find and hunt down the Death Eaters, to stop them causing terror, but Harry didn't for one minute trust the Ministry with the lives of the public. No Auror was cruel enough to willingly kill an innocent man or woman, but how many of them would make the mistake of attacking too early, killing and torturing the wrong people? Possessed men and women could easily take a Killing Curse during a fight if an Auror was convinced, fully, that they were a Death Eater. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair, justified, or even logical.
If the public couldn't trust the Ministry to keep them safe, who could they trust? No matter how dark and powerful the Death Eaters had become, it wasn't right for a Ministry to follow Voldemort's lead and use force, murder, distrust, and hatred as their first motivations. No matter who the Ministry picked as their enemies, they were betraying their own people by willingly using the Unforgivable Curses against them. Was this why Dumbledore had formed the Order of the Phoenix, Harry wondered? To keep a sane group of powerful wizards together?
Harry spent a little while believing this. He believed the Order would win this war through being stronger than the Ministry, through using the light arts to tackle the dark, but he soon realised that this hope was hollow. Dumbledore couldn't have possibly guessed the Ministry would turn this sour – he knew only that the Ministry was full of spies. What was more, Dumbledore and the Order was eager to get as many Aurors on their side as possible. This seemed an innocent desire, until Harry realised something more.
Dumbledore now had a very, very valuable weapon on his side: Aurors who could legally kill, possess, and torture the Death Eaters. As long as Moody and the Longbottoms brought captured enemies to the Ministry on their own, or if members of the Order of the Phoenix explained what the Death Eaters were doing before a fight broke out, no further questions would be asked. Harry watched the progression of violence with a silent, watchful eye on both halves of this war. He realised, for the first time in his life, that everyone fighting was equally as corrupt, desperate, and angry as their enemies.
The first time a Death Eater died at the hands of an Auror, all of Tom's followers were at a loss to understand what had happened. Rumours had sprung up months before about a few Death Eaters following the Aurors willingly, as if possessed, and a few of them even swore they had been hit with the Cruciatus Curse during a fight, but few people ever believed it. It was only when Wilkes was hit with a straight Killing Curse in front of witnesses that they finally took it as the truth. Wilkes' death was so simple, so easy, that many of Tom's followers found it hard to believe. The Aurors were now their equals.
Tom was furious to hear the news, to nobody's surprise. He was stressed and deranged to see several more Death Eaters walk into the hands of the Ministry under the Imperius Curse or through forcible capture, if they weren't just killed on the spot. He began training his Death Eaters more than ever to resist the Imperius Curse, but it was difficult to train them when they were so used to following orders and when the alternative punishment from the Aurors was death or torture. Tom had no greater weapon.
Now that Dumbledore's followers could legally preform acts of Dark Magic that Voldemort had used for years on end, the dynamics of this war shifted. Harry couldn't imagine how valuable he would have been to Tom if he had decided to become an Auror at the age of eighteen. It would have caused complications occasionally, but Tom would have been thrilled to watch him artfully save Death Eaters and spoil Auror missions. Harry decided to not mention it so early, lest it should anger Tom further.
On some level, Harry felt immensely guilty for recruiting Alastor Moody to the Order of the Phoenix. He was the most powerful Auror the Ministry had and everyone knew it. With his power as well as the ability to use the Unforgivable Curses, Dumbledore now had a huge advantage over Voldemort – as if having two Death Eater spies wasn't enough. All sides of this war were twisted and all of them believed they were fighting for what was right, but no one was as stressed and enraged as Tom himself.
Harry knew it was pushing Tom too far. He obsessed over plans and schemes almost every waking hour of the day and no matter what his Death Eaters succeeded in doing, it was never enough for him anymore. His followers were being murmured at a faster rate than ever and for the first time, he feared he might lose this war. He only ever spoke to Harry about this, of course, but Harry felt as if some of the wiser Knights and Death Eaters sensed his fear. It made Tom paranoid and irritable. It was unsurprising when he began to fear for his own safety.
He had plans to hide the Diary Horcrux away, somewhere safe. In wrath against Dumbledore, he decided that no matter how difficult it might be, he wanted to keep another Horcrux at Hogwarts. Many of the Death Eaters had young children upon whom Tom could depend to sneak the Diary inside the castle, but if he wanted to be cautious and wanted to use a very trusted Knight's child for it, he'd have to wait a few years. Tom didn't want to wait. That's why, at just the right time, he was thrilled instead of furious to hear that a Death Eater was applying for a teaching post at Hogwarts.
Severus Snape wanted to work at the great castle, but he felt it was wise to inform Voldemort of the decision before he went through with it. Voldemort saw his chance at once; if Snape became a teacher at Hogwarts, he would now have a very valuable spy within the castle walls. Snape would be able to supply Tom information on Dumbledore's movements more often than he could dream. Even if Snape took the Defence Against the Dark Arts post and lasted for nothing over a year, Tom would be satisfied. His Horcrux would be planted. He'd sent more Death Eaters up there the next time a post opened up.
Time was passing by too quickly for Harry to take. He knew what was going to happen during Snape's interview, but in spite of his knowledge of the future, he hoped childishly that time would change. He hoped that he might have created a new pathway in time, or that he might be able to even after this. In caution, he kept the Mask Horcrux and the Invisibility Cloak close to him. He knew he wouldn't need them yet, but he was scared. He had to remain calm, because he was hurting closer and closer to his past whether he liked it or not.
Late one cold, rainy night, Harry sat calmly in the Chimaera Hideout with Tom and four Death Eaters, Bellatrix Lestrange amongst them. It was a surprise even to him when Severus Snape barged through the doors unannounced; it felt too early for his arrival. He was supposed to be halfway across the country, sitting through an interview with Dumbledore, but here he was, panting and drenched in rainwater, searching for the Dark Lord in desperation.
"My Lord," he began in a strained, breathless voice that was shockingly unlike his usual drab tone, "it is urgent that we speak!"
The four Death Eaters standing up glanced at Snape in curiosity, then looked back to their Lord for reassurance. Tom didn't pay attention to a single one of them. He straightened up in his chair. "What has happened?"
"I have news from Hogwarts, my Lord!"
"Already?" Tom asked softly. His words were calm, but Harry could feel he was tense. Snape's appearance here tonight couldn't mean good news.
"It is news from Dumbledore," Snape panted. "My Lord, it is urgent that we speak!"
After a moment's hesitation, Tom stood up. He didn't take his eyes off of Snape. "Then speak."
Snape's eyes darted to Harry and the four Death Eaters. "My Lord, it might be advisable if we spoke alo-"
"Speak now, or not at all," Tom hissed. "What news has Dumbledore called forth?"
Taking in a deep, shaking breath and standing up straighter in nervous respect, Snape spoke. "My Lord, before meeting with Dumbledore in Hogsmeade – before discussing the open teaching post – another interview took place. An interview between Albus Dumbledore and a Seer, a descendant of the renown Cassandra Trelawney."
"Dumbledore desired to learn his fortune?"
"No, it – it was in the interest of finding a Divination Professor, my Lord, at Hogwarts."
"What use have I for this news?"
"My Lord, I overheard the interview between the two!" Snape explained in a desperate rush. "I wished only to learn more about the Seer herself, as did Dumbledore, but the interview took an unexpected turn. A true prophecy was foretold – a prophecy predicting the downfall of the Dark Lord himself!"
There was a rush of gasps from the four Death Eaters, then silence. Deathly silence that rang throughout the room. Tom's eyes were wide, his senses alert. Harry's head was spinning and he stared, transfixed, at every movement Tom made.
"The downfall of Lord Voldemort?" Tom inquired in a whisper.
"Yes, my Lord!"
"You overheard it? All of it?"
Hesitating and stumbling, Snape tried to gather his thoughts. He swallowed many times, not daring to meet Tom's eyes.
"The Seer foretold that – that the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him – born as the seventh month dies! She said either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives..."
There was no hiding the horror that Tom felt. He stared, never moving, never blinking. At this very moment, it was becoming apparent to him that those who defied him, those who opposed him, were birthing a child strong enough to vanquish him completely. The four Death Eaters were thunderstruck and petrified. Snape looked for a moment as if he had struck gold, but he didn't dare share his happiness too openly. He couldn't possibly know that he had just succeeded in killing Lily Potter in his dedication to the Dark Arts.
Harry was the only one who knew the true significance and meaning of this prophecy. To the others, this meant they might rejoice in discovering this information so early. They might believe they could stop the Dark Lord's downfall, they might think they could overcome fate. Harry knew better. The last part of the Prophecy, the unheard conclusion, flooded to his mind before he could stop it. The Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...
"My Lord," called a breathless, alarmed voice. Bellatrix had dared to speak. "You cannot... My Lord, you cannot truly believe in this Prophecy?"
Tom shook his head to one side as if delirious and distracted. "If Dumbledore believes in it, it would be foolish to deny the possibility..."
Bellatrix's huge eyes darting from her Lord to Snape and back. "My Lord, if Dumbledore knows about this, he will do everything in his power to make sure this – this child is protected! What are we to do?"
Before any answer was given, Harry became aware of a burning, throbbing pain in his scar. He closed his eyes, reaching up a hand to his forehead, but it was too late; he was flooded with terror, wrath and hatred that was not his own. He could see the room swimming before his vision. He caught a glimpse of the petrified Death Eaters, who looked to him for reassurance. He dragged himself from Tom's mind the moment he realised what was happening.
Bellatrix's question was answered by words Harry didn't catch. He worried, now, that Tom had seen into his mind too. If he had, he would have felt the overwhelming anxiety and fear that greeted Harry cruelly. Would these be normal emotions, to Tom? Would it be a rational reaction to the Prophecy? Tom didn't seem to notice anything unusual. He was too distracted by the news and too determined to find a solution to care.
Harry became aware, suddenly, of another pair of eyes on him. Snape had glanced over when he flinched against the pain of his scar. Had the Death Eaters seen both Harry and Tom move simultaneously, with no explanation? Harry was unsure what else could have caught Snape's attention, until he saw a flash of unexpected anguish and wonder in his expression. He had seen Harry's eyes. He looked away, thinking of Lily Potter.
"There is still much we can do in response to this prophecy," said Tom, speaking to the Death Eaters. All of them could feel his anger, they could see it in his burning eyes, but still he sought a solution to the news. Nothing could make him pause or hesitate. "If we seek those who have thrice defied me, we will merely have to wait until July to see which of them birth a threat. We will have spies at the Ministry, at St Mungo's, awaiting the birth. We will know..."
"And when the child is born, my Lord?"
"You needn't fret so much, Lestrange. When the child is born, he will be defenceless and frail. We will know who the parents are and we will be sure to murder the child before he has a standing chance. Dumbledore underestimates our power. He underestimates how efficient my Death Eaters have become, and how quickly we will cut down possible threats..."
He was reassuring the Death Eaters, calming their nerves while he fuelled his own hatred of Dumbledore. Harry wondered how much fear and anxiety Tom was hiding. He had felt a fair amount of terror and dread within him. Later on, he might admit to his weaker emotions, but for now he was determined to act as if this was nothing but a failed threat. He took power in knowing he had caught this problem before it could get worse and the Death Eaters soon matched their own emotions to his.
"I will help you, my Lord!" Bellatrix declared strongly at once, stepping forwards. "I will hunt down and discover the name of any Phoenix follower who poses a threat – they are bound to birth such a child!"
She bowed before the Dark Lord proudly. It was a moment or two before Lucius Malfoy followed her lead with a weaker speech. "I too will serve you more loyally than ever, my Lord. No child can suppress the strength of this revolution..."
Black was the next to bow, but he said nothing more than, "I too will serve you, my Lord."
Rosier stepped forwards, gazing upon Tom bravely. "If Dumbledore is in search of a rival against you, my Lord, we shall protect you or die trying..."
He bowed and Snape followed. Harry didn't know what to make of any of this. Were the Death Eaters hiding their doubts, or did they truly believe Voldemort was invincible? Tom gave a low hum of laughter, looking at his followers with a wave of pride and tranquillity.
"You are very loyal Death Eaters indeed... With your bravery on top of the watchfulness I expect from you, we shan't allow Dumbledore's secret to grow into a threat. It is little under a year before this child's birth. We will wait until he is born, then kill him when we have the chance..."
One year. That's all Harry had until his own birth, until the Chosen One became known to Lord Voldemort. He was unsure what he would do with the precious little time he had left. The truth was coming ever closer and he could no longer pretend nothing was happening. This was a more dangerous time than any he had faced; it was the conclusion of the first wizarding war. He wouldn't be able to hide the truth. His time was almost up.