~Chapter Fifteen: Order and Letters~
Albus Dumbledore felt unsettled. There were a few things that could truly unsettle the wizened man. After all he'd been through so much that many things simply didn't surprise him anymore. He'd seen it once and could anticipate what would follow. Yet there were still moments, no matter how repeated, unsettled him so much the rattle his very being.
One was the unusual visits from his brother. Those he couldn't handle without numerous lemon drops on hand. They were always filled with accusing looks that chilled him. He was more than aware that day had been his fault. The blame couldn't solely be placed with his lover regardless of how much he wanted that. No, he continued to have the shared blame forced upon him now that Gellert was suffering in prison far from Britain. The next was Voldemort and since his brother currently wasn't in the room that left him as the sole reason for his discomfort.
Within the ranks of the current Dark Lord, rumours were beginning to emerge. Death Eaters that could still frequent the wizarding world without being accused were speaking about their master. This proved an excellent source for the Order but what they were hearing wasn't what they had expected. The Dark Lord was beginning to change. This would make him unpredictable. It certainly presented a problem for the Order.
According to Severus' earliest reports, Voldemort had been back on track where he left off the previous war. Drenched in madness, the man hardly had a decent thought that could be used tactically. Then at the beginning of July he'd sequestered himself away in his library only to then call for the Malfoy family.
He threaded his fingers, deep in thought. This summer, what could have changed so monumentally this summer to alter the Dark Lord's plans? He'd yet to call Severus to him about this matter but somehow he had a feeling his spy wouldn't be as helpful as he'd hoped. No, everything was being left up to him.
Pacing, Albus stared at his own books. What was in Riddle's library? That was the main question. It was the entire starting point for this change so logically something within the library had sparked the change. Riddle could have collected any number of books on his travels. However Albus could only begin to guess what that library contained.
Many of the books would contain dark forbidden knowledge not uttered in centuries let alone practiced. Some of those books might be legal but many of them would be banned by the Ministry. Some of them, Albus feared, would also come directly from Slytherin himself. If that was indeed the case, the Order could be in more danger than he initially believed.
Salazar Slytherin had written several sets of books in his lifetime. Not many were well known and very few could read them as they were all written in Parseltongue which infuriated Albus. One set had been found amongst the Headmaster's belongings before he took the post. Dippet, not knowing Riddle's connection to the line, had kept them safe for the time when a Parseltongue arrived back at Hogwarts to claim everything. He'd hoped to have Harry translate them but their current relationship wasn't what he would like it to be. Regardless, there were still many sets that the Dark Lord could have possession of.
One of the most well-known series was based solely on Parseltongue. It explained how the ability became a part of the Slytherin bloodline, how Slytherin had managed to mix his blood with that of a snakes. The very first book alone would be worth millions of galleons should anyone be able to locate it. However it appeared to be lost to the ages.
Another was thought to be about the dreaded Basilisk. Albus believed this book had a tie in with the Parseltongue books only because he had a theory the Basilisk was the original creature to grant the ability to the Slytherin line in the first place. However that was merely a theory until he had the books to prove it.
The set he knew for certain existed was about Potions though many of them would be illegal to brew. He had the set sequestered away for the time being. Until he could be certain both Harry and Severus (for who else would brew his potions) were on his side he couldn't hand them over. Doing so without knowing could indeed prove to be quite reckless given the circumstances.
Yet there were many more that were unaccounted for. Not that it would do many people good. Only Harry and Tom would be able to translate the books. However the knowledge and power within were almost too good to pass up even fir Albus Dumbledore. Yet there was a huge problem. If Tom were to be defeated then Harry would be the only person on Earth capable of translating the books. If Tom won then there wouldn't be a hope in the world of him being able to read them. He would need to think very carefully upon this. Yet he needed to get back on topic…
One series of books must have captured the Dark Lord's attention. Which series it was however he couldn't say. Regardless it was beginning to take a rather large scale effect. Numerous plans he'd had in place for events such as this were beginning to unravel at an alarming rate. He barely had enough momentum to keep the few pieces he had in place. If only that were the one concern on his mind, he lamented.
He now had growing concern over Voldemort's connection with Harry. It appeared that Voldemort's change in behaviour had begun to affect the Saviour quite greatly. To begin with he'd held concern that the connection would be a problem but with Voldemort's change it was having an increased effect that he had seen coming.
Harry would no longer speak with any of his friends. Miss Granger and Mr Weasley had both expressed concern over this fact given that he'd now begun to follow the likes of Draco Malfoy. Neville Longbottom and the other Gryffindor boys were occasionally amongst the group but they didn't show such an affinity to Harry as Mr Malfoy did. Even Miss Weasley had turned to him to express her concerns. These only fuelled his own but none as much as the relationship between Harry and Sirius.
The relationship between Harry and his godfather had become rather strained during his stay at Grimmauld Place. He'd pushed away his friends during this time and the distance between Sirius and Harry had only grown while Harry spent most of his time within the Black Library. It was yet another connection between Harry and the Dark Lord that didn't fuel him with much confidence.
But what really worried him was the reverent looks Kreacher had begun to give him. Instead of listening wholly to Sirius, as was his right as Lord Black, Kreacher had taken to ignoring Sirius and listening only to what Harry said. He may grudgingly listen to Sirius' orders but they were few and far between given Sirius' obvious disgust when seeing the creature. Harry on the other hand had taken to ordering Kreacher around like a true Pureblood and the orders tended to work against what the Order were attempting to do within the house.
Kreacher, as instructed, had taken to moving personal items around the house. No one could find their belongings once they realized an item was missing. Then there were the numerous opportunities Kreacher took to mess the house up. Once Molly Weasley had cleaned an entire room, making it spotless, Kreacher would return and restore it to its original state of destruction and decay. Everything was beginning to pile up and it certainly wasn't leading where Albus needed it to go.
Honestly he couldn't believe everything he'd predicted was falling apart. He'd believed that the Dark Lord would attempt to go straight for the Prophecy which he'd fallen to many years beforehand. Yet he'd resisted and gone straight into the library forcing Harry to act in the same manner. Obviously there was something greater than the knowledge of the Prophecy tempting him to change his course. Albus Dumbledore needed an answer to this…
The Order all turned to him eyeing him with questions they had. Of course it was the most paranoid of them all that began the questioning.
"Why have we gathered?" Mood growled.
"And where the hell is Snape?" Sirius growled.
Albus sighed. Sirius may have been innocent and he may have been more lucid than many of the ex-prisoners but he couldn't move past childhood rivalry. That was probably one thing that Harry currently found irritating. It wasn't that difficult to deduce especially when most of the Order felt the same way.
"We are gathered here for information and Severus is currently occupied with other tasks."
He couldn't tell them that he doubted Severus. That would only lead to endless trouble within the Order that he definitely didn't need at this time. Besides the gloating Sirius was likely to spout wasn't worth it.
"As I have feared, Voldemort has altered from his previous course of action."
Silence fell upon the group. Albus took this as a sign to continue.
"Voldemort isn't showing the usual signs of collecting more supporters. From what I can tell there hasn't been much movement on the Death Eater front at all and this brings great concern."
Tonks frowned. "I thought he wanted people to remain ignorant of his return?"
"At first given the circumstances, I to, believed that was what he desired. Recent events however have made me rethink this. Earlier in the year, Severus passed on information that Voldemort had spent the better part of June acting as per usual. It was only at the beginning of July that he'd begun sequestering himself away in his library searching for something he'd not speak of to his Death Eaters."
Numerous questions were spat out at once leaving no room for Albus to answer any of them. In the end he merely waited for them to fall into a natural silence.
"I can't say for certain what it is Voldemort is after. More than likely he has found a reference to something within Slytherin's books that he wished to pursue. To make matters even worse I believe that this isn't merely connected to him. Whatever this is, it is connected to other people. I already suspect that it is has a connection to the Malfoy family because of their movements. What I fear is that Harry also has some kind of connection to this plan as well."
Sirius and Remus perked up immediately. The Weasley family also became quite alert at this having noticed the marked difference in Harry's attitude the past few months. However that also brought up another highly marked question.
"Where is my godson?"
Given it was the Christmas Holidays Harry usually would have spent it either at Hogwarts or more commonly with Sirius given that he was finally in a location where they could spend the time together. It obviously wasn't a secret then that Harry wasn't at either location. Sometimes he wished that the Weasley brood would learn to keep their mouth shut and let him handle these situations.
"He is currently spending his holidays in the company of the Malfoy family."
A huge uproar proceeded. He really needed obtain a method of keeping them all silent so only one person could speak at a time. Once again he waited for them to quieten.
"Why did you allow him to go there?" Remus demanded.
Albus sighed. "As Headmaster I have little choice in the matter. As long as his guardians approve then he can spend his holidays wherever he so chooses."
"His Aunt allowed him to go to Malfoy Manor." Molly screeched in outrage.
"I doubt it was agreed upon like that Molly. More than likely Harry's Aunt simply didn't care where he went provided he didn't return home for that period of time. I believe their family is currently in Norway. They wouldn't have been able to get arrange anything for him at such short notice." He explained.
Several of the Order members frowned at his choice of words but they didn't say anything and he didn't explain anything. Harry chose not to tell them about his home life and Albus wasn't about to let them in on that little secret either. For the time being everything would be alright but he felt when the summer holidays arrived that everything would change then.
"So he's surrounded by Death Eaters and Dark Supporters all day every day. Why didn't he simply come here?"
"This is why I believe the connection between Harry and Voldemort to be stronger than I originally believed. Though he seemed reluctant to go to Malfoy Manor he still left with the Malfoy's. I have Severus attempting to keep an eye on things there but it is rather difficult when he can only show up on the odd occasion without arousing suspicion."
"He should try harder!" Sirius snapped.
Everyone sent annoyed glances towards Sirius. Albus allowed them to. Sometimes that man needed to be taken down by his peers.
"What do we do from here?" Kingsley asked.
"We wait for the end of the holidays when Harry will once again be within Hogwarts' walls." Albus explained. "From there we will be able to have better access to him and from there learn what went on during his stay at Malfoy Manor. Severus should also be included in that discussion. He'll be able to grant us another view in this situation."
Everyone fell silent. Having their saviour away from them certainly wasn't something that was all that comforting especially when he was spending the time with Malfoy's. The group couldn't help but feel rather forlorn.
"What of the prophecy?"
It was finally the question they had all been thinking. Protecting the tiny thing was taking too much of their time and not everyone could continue to do so. People at the Ministry were beginning to become suspicious even with the use of Invisibility Cloaks. It wasn't safe for them to do so anymore and they weren't going to continue if it didn't mean anything.
"I doubt that the Prophecy shows any interest to the Dark Lord anymore." Albus confirmed. "I won't insist on having anyone protect or watch it any longer. Other concerns are taking control now. However for the moment I want Sirius and Remus to get in contact with Harry and see if we can't get him to see where we are coming from."
Sirius eagerly nodded whilst Remus simply tilted his head in acceptance.
"What about my children? They want to keep in contact with Harry as well!" Molly insisted.
Albus permitted them to send letters though he rather doubted it would change the relationship between them. If anything it would probably only make everything worse. However he wasn't going to alienate the Weasleys. He needed all the help he could get at the moment and if that meant taking risks with Harry that was what would have to happen. Albus could only hope that it worked.
Letters weren't something Harry was used to receiving especially by the bucket load. On occasion he received letters during the summer holidays from his friends but truly that was it. Winter holidays were usually reserved for lying about doing nothing, playing in the snow and unwrapping presents. Certainly this was not his idea of fun…
Still at the Riddle Manor he had chosen to actively seek out the library. It was either that or sit and listen to Death Eater meetings by the Dark Lord's side. Of course he hadn't counted on the increased influx of letters from "concerned" people. Most of those people were people within the Order of the Phoenix. How he had received these letters he wasn't certain. According to his dear master he shouldn't be able to receive any mail from anyone. It appeared that Hedwig simply defined all logic even magical logic. Harry was rather smug about this. Hedwig merely preened.
Yet the letters posed a rather large problem. He wasn't sure whether to even bother opening them. With only his name on the front, he couldn't really tell who had sent him what. Truthfully he knew some would be important and would likely need answers. He was after all expecting a letter from Neville about potential Neutrals. Harry sighed; all he could do was open them.
The first was signed by Hermione Granger. He immediately leaned towards the fire and threw it in. That friendship had sailed long ago. The next two were from Ron and Ginny Weasley. They followed Granger's letter. Seriously he wasn't going to even bother with them anymore. He had other thing to worry about their broken friendship aside.
The next letter was from Luna. In her usual way of words she described her holidays and the days that were likely to follow. Harry easily depicted that Luna's time as a free Elemental was running near zero. Soon she would be called and yet now that he was bonded to their master this actually relieved Harry. It was still frustrating but his mind already knew that they would be safe. Luna had obviously known all along but it was different being able to feel it.
For the first time in his life he was safe. He had a rather ridiculous family around him that was true but it was something he'd never had before in his life. Even though he would rather have had this family without the Dark Lord he was admittedly fine with him being present for the time being. It was a sobering thought.
Putting Luna's letter aside he reached for the next one. It belonged to Neville. He'd sent the list and it included everyone. Some of the family names he'd never even heard about before. However that mattered little. Now he could make arrangements to get everyone out when they wanted to. Each family name had a date next to it. Harry assumed these were the dates they would like to leave by considering most of them were set during the school summer holidays. Not that it mattered, he could work with that. Smiling he placed that beneath Luna's letter.
The final letter was from Sirius and Remus. Harry cringed. He'd never really gotten around to speaking with them. He knew that ignoring them wasn't a very solid solution but it had been the only solution he'd had this past summer. Now they'd obviously been grilled by the Headmaster who Harry didn't want knowing about Elementals at all. That would be a disaster. Sirius and Remus on the other hand were another matter entirely.
As much as he loved having Severus to speak with he wanted them to know. Harry wanted to be able to tell them everything that had been happening. There were many things he wanted to discuss to his godfather and uncle. But he couldn't. Any word that he spilled to his godfather's would be immediately repeated back to Dumbledore. Those two were too deep within the Light to think for themselves. As much as he wanted them to be part of his life that time was far gone. They'd put their faith in the wrong person.
Harry decided against reading it for the peace of his own mind. Delving into the trouble that letter was likely to bring wouldn't be worth the pain it brought on especially considering its link to Sirius and Remus. He could handle the not being a part of his life at the moment. Betrayal on the other hand was another matter entirely. The letter went straight into the fire along with other Order letters.
Swiftly, he grabbed the letters and tucked them into his robe. No one but him should see those letters. If anyone else did read them especially here it wouldn't do any good. Relief flooded him when Draco walked through the door alone. The Dark Lord was the last thing he needed to deal with right now.
"What is it Draco?" he enquired.
"Aren't you excited for tomorrow?"
Draco was practically jumping around like an energetic child. Harry sighed. Of course he knew what day it was tomorrow. Draco had taken to reminding him whenever he stopped by. To be honest it was irritating. However this was Draco and it was his first time spending Christmas with him. Harry could understand why that would be slightly invigorating for his fellow Elemental even if he would never say the words aloud.
"Draco it's just a day." Harry attempted to reason.
"It's not just a day Harry! It's one of the best days ever! We get presents and spend time with the people we care about. Haven't you ever had a day that was the most relaxing day in your entire life? Your parents aren't under any pressure to act in a certain way. You aren't expected to act in a certain way or abide by any laws or rules." Draco cried out dramatically.
Harry smiled. Something like that would be rather special for Draco and other purebloods. It wasn't likely that they spent much time being themselves even around each other. Christmas was the one time that was allowed to happen. Having never spent a Christmas with his parents to memory, Harry couldn't actually relate but he was happy that Draco did get these moments with his parents even if he ranted on and on.
"Yeah but it's still half a day away." Harry pointed out. "Why are you getting so excited now?"
In all likelihood he would be spending the day around the Dark Lord. It wasn't something he was particularly thought to enjoy. However Draco's smile was sneaky and quite devious.
"Tomorrow, mother, father and I will be enjoying the glorious day with you, the Dark Lord and Severus!"
Draco's smile never wavered. Harry's on the other hand was becoming rather forced. He'd resigned himself for tomorrow. Spending it with the Dark Lord after his epic rant wasn't something he'd desired to do but it would need to be done. Now he would have practically everyone around him and they would know that something had happened between them to fix a part of their relationship. That was the last thing he needed right now.
At least he'd have Severus around for some time. Ever since his Claiming he'd not been allowed near Severus. That had been some very lame revenge for the Dark Lord. Not that Harry cared. Severus had warned him the Dark Lord was likely to do such a thing. It just proved that their master was still lost in insanity.
"It sounds fantastic."
Draco beamed at him.
"The Dark Lord even gave us permission to remain here for the next few days to keep you company as well! We're going to have so much fun!"
"I'm sure we will." It was said in earnest.
Harry stood ignoring the burning letters and allowed Draco to grapple onto his arm. Hopefully they would have been fully destroyed by the time anyone else entered the library. If even a single piece was left behind then someone would be able to repair the letter and attempt to read whatever writing was legible. He didn't currently need that.
"What did you have in mind?" he asked.
Draco smiled, eagerly leading him from the room. The next few days were going to be difficult but Harry had a feeling he was going to enjoy every second of it.
Harry was in a void and couldn't see a thing. He couldn't remember what had happened. Draco had spent the afternoon with him. They'd just been lounging around with Lucius and Severus nearby keeping an eye on them. Narcissa had been off visiting someone so she hadn't been present. The Dark Lord had also been busy so it had just been the four of them keeping each other company and playing silly wizard games. At least that was what he remembered.
However, it was entirely too dark for his liking. For all he knew he could be locked up in some dungeon. Though that wasn't likely as he could walk in any direction for what seemed like minutes and not hit anything. Harry was beginning to believe this was all an elaborate illusion. At least he knew he wasn't truly dreaming. All of his dreams centred around family or friends. This void was probably something his mind had created due to something his mind was slowly attempting to come to terms with.
"Mine… my little one…"
Arms wrapped possessively around his torso keeping him safe and secure in the warmth they provided. Where had he felt that before? It was familiar and yet he couldn't quite place it… Sirius? A growl answered him though he was positive he hadn't spoken a word. Yet it wasn't Padfoot's growl but a possessive growl of a human. Whose was it? And then there was that voice. It calmed him for some unknown reason, soothed his worries.
"Mine… my Harry…"
Oh Merlin. Arms explored his body. Oh Merlin. It was Voldemort. Harry keened uncomfortably. It was a dream sent to him by Voldemort. Everything held such a possessive ting to it created to show who he belonged to. Merlin he didn't even know whether or not this was actually Voldemort or an image sent to him to mess with his mind and make him more obedient. He was so confused.
His name spoken in Parseltongue sent shivers down his spine. That reaction had stalled the roaming hands at least but allowed Voldemort to chuckle instead and tighten those arms around him in what Harry assumed was a hug. He found Harry's reactions amusing. Why? Why did the bastard of a master torment him so?
He could feel the arms disentangling themselves from him as if they were fading from memory. What was going on? Why were the arms and that voice changing? They weren't as calm as before. Why was that? Why was the tone changing?
Groaning Harry opened a bleary eye and glanced around trying to find what had woken him from his sleep so early in the morning rousing him from his confusing dream. The answer came with a blond haired, silver eye Malfoy who was pulling at his covers and practically jumping in place. There was a reason Draco was present, Harry was certain, however for the life of him he couldn't quite remember what that reason could be.
"What do you want Draco?" he grumbled.
It was too early in the morning to be thinking so why was Draco dressed and attempting to pull him out of bed? Too early… he just wanted to close his eyes for one second…
Draco huffed and gave another tug.
"Get up Harry! Do you even remember what day it is?"
Harry growled warningly.
"No nor do I care so let me sleep!"
"But Harry the Dark Lord prohibits me from opening any of my gifts without you present! How am I supposed to wait until you decided to crawl out of bed?" Draco demanded. "He even instructed me to wake you! You have to get up!"
Harry twitched in annoyance before he rolled over and ignored the fuming Air Elemental. Christmas… this was about presents and celebrating… it was too early… He simply desired to sleep...
Draco knew immediately what Harry was planning to do. Sleeping wasn't an option on this day. Harry had seemed enthusiastic yesterday. Perhaps he underestimated what it took to wake Harry in the morning. Perhaps he just needed a little more assistance. After attempting to move Harry around, Draco childishly stomped his foot knowing his father would disprove but not really caring. Harry was frustrating.
"Damn it Harry! Get out of bed now!"
Harry growled. He'd had enough of listening to Draco it was too early in the morning for this! Using his elemental abilities and a swipe of his arm, he removed the stone beneath Draco's feet so he fell into a hole in the floor closing it up so only Draco's neck and face were visible. His head was visible and there was enough room for Draco to turn around on the spot but there was no way he was being released from the trap without Harry's help.
During the span of three seconds Draco had actually gone into shock. He hadn't realized that Harry had such control over his abilities. Not even he could do something like this on purpose but now that he looked at it Harry was half asleep... perhaps that was the reason? Harry wasn't actually paying attention so he didn't consciously trap him. When he wasn't released he gave a little wiggle.
"Harry, come on now this isn't funny. We have to be swift and return to the Dark Lord before he becomes angry at out disappearance."
The silence wasn't reassuring.
Draco huffed and promptly sneezed on the dust that was on the floor. He couldn't believe that Harry had fallen asleep again after trapping him like this. How was he supposed to know that Harry wasn't a morning person? Well at least that explained why he got along so well with Severus. They were both remarkably grouchy in the morning.
Whatever, he was now stuck until someone came to get them once they didn't show up how long that would take he didn't know. However he was praying that the Dark Lord had short patience this morning and demanded their presences quickly. That was a long shot though. He wasn't even sure whether the Dark Lord would miss their presence. Were they that important? Oh well, all he knew was that Harry was once again asleep and he was stuck in the floor whilst Christmas was happening without them. Damn he could be here for a long time.
This is the only thing I've been able to write since I'm busy with Uni. I'll attempt to get more done for the next month. Sorry guys!