~Chapter Eighteen: A Way Out Part 1~
That night found Harry at his first ever Death Eater meeting. To say he was less than pleased was an understatement. He stood with Draco and Luna to the left of the Dark Lord's throne while Lucius was to the right. Severus was down in the first line of Death Eaters along with the Inner Circle; though many of them weren't present. The Inner Circle held Azkaban as their home and had done for many years. Tonight however that was about to change.
Harry stared blankly around the room trying to detach from the situation. Severus would have to inform Dumbledore about the meeting which given the circumstances would also include a mention of the Elementals. It may have been unavoidable but Harry still desired to wait before that blow out happened. Instead he focused on Draco and Luna.
Draco seemed to pride himself on being boosted in over the Inner Circle's heads to stand beside their master. Of course for the son of a Death Eater not to mention the right hand man, it certainly was a huge achievement at such a young age. So he stood like his father, straight-backed with his chin tilted upwards arrogantly. It created an image of self-importance none but the Malfoy's could possess.
Luna, as usual, was busy searching for creatures she would tell him about later. She even had her goggles on and was looking around quite obviously, causing the Death Eaters nearby to shift away. No one told her off for wandering around the Dark Lord's chamber knowing they would be instantly punished. Her father wasn't present since he was neutral and couldn't take part in any meetings but that didn't appear to bother her too much. Harry knew that she was entirely focused on locating her creatures.
Sighing quietly, Harry turned his attention towards Voldemort who looked utterly uninterested. Not surprisingly really when you thought about some of the reports his followers returned with. They weren't only dull but they hadn't accomplished anything notable. They were utterly useless and it didn't reflect well upon the people bringing the news in. How were they to win a war when the leader did all the work?
As if sensing Harry's thoughts, Voldemort turned towards him and smirked with an unholy gleam in his eyes. Harry didn't even bother reacting to him. It wasn't worth his time to worry over what evil thing the Dark Lord would plot next. Whatever it was would happen regardless of his protests.
The Death Eaters had probably been simply thrown off guard with their master's appearance. Though less snake, it was obvious the Voldemort wasn't entirely human. Yet his power washed through the room brushing against as many people in an intimidation tactic. It was a wonder some of the Outer Circle Death Eaters hadn't fallen into whimpering piles. Wait... never mind. Harry watched as a few heads bobbed and fell from view.
The endless reports finished and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. This may have been his first meeting but he never wanted to stand through that again. Unfortunately the Dark Lord wasn't finished yet. Harry almost groaned in impatience for this all to end.
"My faithful, as you can see we have three familiar faces to my left." Voldemort began standing before his followers.
Oh dear Merlin, Harry thought, the Dark Lord is parading us before his Death Eaters. What else is going to occur during this meeting that I don't want to hear about?
Harry didn't even bother turning to look their way he just kept an eye on Luna who was half way down the chamber practically combing through an Outer Circle Death Eater's hair. The poor man was horribly flustered, attempting to pay attention to his master. Even if it was funny no one dared to snicker at his misfortune.
"Elementals have been tied to my ancestral line since Salazar Slytherin and now I have been blessed with them as well. It is time, my followers, that you are introduced to these individuals who hold the key to our victory."
The Dark Lord stood motioning towards them grandly.
"Draco Malfoy is my Air Elemental. He is loyal to our cause through this father, Lucius. Luna Lovegood is my Water Elemental though she comes from a neutral family. Then there is Harry." Voldemort paused to turn to Harry who was doing his best to ignore this pompos gesture. "He is my Earth Elemental as some of you have come to realize."
"They hold significant value to me and you will not touch them. Only I have the pleasure of punishing them for either failure or disloyalty. If you choose to ignore this I will use the same curse you used but tenfold." Voldemort hissed, baring his teeth.
The entire group agreed with a simple, "Yes, my Lord."
Voldemort's smirk grew with his next words. Harry froze.
"With their aid our plans shall be enacted tonight. With the dawn of the New Year approaching we shall go and retrieve the remainder of your number from their imprisonment in Azkaban."
Cheers erupted from the gathering. Having the strongest of their number amongst them would grant them even greater power. Even currently they outstripped the Order of the Phoenix ten to one. With their stronger allies they would utterly obliterate the Light when the time came. It would be swift and leave none questioning who the true power in this world was.
"Indeed and with my beloved Elementals it shall be an easy task to accomplish. Head outside my faithful and be prepared to apparate. My Elementals, you shall apparate with your mentors." Voldemort instructed.
As soon as he finished speaking, his minions began to move as instructed. Apparating could only occur on the grounds thanks to Voldemort's paranoia. Anyone attempting such a feat would immediately bounce off the wards. Anyone stupid enough to attempt apparating into Voldemort's lair deserved to bounce off the wards.
Sighing, Harry made to move towards Severus but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
"Oh no dear one, you shall accompany me while Luna travels with Severus." A voice whispered in his ear.
Harry cringed. He'd known Voldemort wouldn't allow him to travel with Severus even with the whole relationship thing sorted out but he didn't want to arrive in the one place he probably hated the most with the person he hated the most. It would bring back a whole lot of unwanted memories he didn't want to have to deal with.
Severus seemed to understand this and attempted to intervene. "My Lord, Harry has a rather severe reaction when it comes to the Dementors perhaps it would be more prudent if he were to travel with someone who didn't cause them to swarm him?"
Voldemort didn't even reply to Severus. He simply gripped Harry's shoulder tighter and manoeuvred him out the door and into the crowed of already waiting Death Eaters. Harry really didn't want to go to Azkaban regardless of whether or not he was setting prisoners free. He just didn't ever want to come across another Dementor.
"Follow me my faithful." Voldemort hissed eagerly as he wrapped an arm more securely around Harry before disapparating.
Harry swayed a little as they touched ground once again but luckily Voldemort had yet to relinquish his grip so he didn't tumble. He knew the man was simply keeping him close because he was awfully possessive but he was glad that Voldemort hadn't allowed him to tumble to the ground before the Death Eaters. His pride would never have recovered from that.
Upon gaining his bearings he looked around to realize he wasn't actually on the island yet. The group had apparated as close to the shoreline as possible knowing that the wards prevented all from apparating or disapparating on the island. From Sirius' stories he had told of only a single boat that transported prisoners to and from the prison so how were they going to get across. Harry looked around and realized that many of the other Death Eaters shared his own confusion yet none were willing to ask the Dark Lord who was simply standing at the shoreline looking out towards the island.
There was no way that everyone would be able to get across on that slim little boat that barely looked capable to carry one person over. The Dementors wouldn't come to them in aid either. Their only interest resided in taking the souls of men. So who was going to get them across? Harry cursed silently to himself as Voldemort turned to look directly at him.
Voldemort obviously believed his Elementals were strong enough to get an entire army of Death Eaters from one destination to another. Harry simply stared at him in disbelief. How could the Dark Lord just appear here and demand something none of them have practised beforehand? They could kill any number of Death Eaters in this attempt but it didn't appear to truly matter to Voldemort as his grin turned vicious.
Unless he wanted to kill off a few of the weaker Death Eaters, Harry realized in disgust. He had known that the Dark Lord was still slightly insane due to the ritual at the end of his fourth year but with three elementals he should have been at least sane enough to realize this plan had little success.
"My dear elementals, you shall be helping in this next part."
Draco puffed up in pride at that comment though Harry thought he could see worry in the emotions that flickered across his face. Luna wasn't paying attention at all. Harry shook his head and turned away from their marvellous leader. He didn't agree with this method of transportation.
Harry knew that since it would be their first time taking people to travel with them some would be killed in the attempt. How many were killed all depended on how hard they concentrated on their task. The harder they concentrated the more people were likely to live. However Harry didn't believe that they should depend on their level of concentration since any slight distraction could have everyone killed excluding the three elementals and their master.
The look in the Dark Lord's eyes said it all though. He wasn't going to concede on this point. The only thing Harry could do was give advice so that some may survive.
"If you're going to do this your way then you might want your Inner Circle and the people you actually need as close to us as possible. Otherwise they will be killed with the others." Harry whispered to the Dark Lord keeping his eyes set firmly on the island in the distance.
Harry knew that if any of Voldemort's Inner Circle were killed by them then they would be punished for it regardless of whether or not they had meant for it to occur. He knew some of their number would die today through their own mistakes but he wasn't about to risk the lives of his siblings because of their misfortune.
The closer a person was to the elemental the greater likelihood that they would survive this travel since their powers would expand and contract during the journey. The contraction of their powers would likely cut someone out of the safety net of their abilities and in Draco's case drop them mid-air. Luna would accidentally drown anyone and Harry would bury them alive. It would be a horrifying death for them and one that the others would probably delight in much to his disgust.
Harry knew instantly he had made the correct decision about revealing that fact to the Dark Lord when he told his minions to surround Luna and Draco by rank those with the highest rank on the inside and those with a lower rank on the outside. Confusion flowed through Harry at this. Curious, he turned towards the Dark Lord who stood slightly behind him.
"If you allow me to take some people as well it will lessen the burden placed on Draco and Luna." He commented.
Voldemort's grin was malicious and unsettled Harry in a way that he couldn't possibly explain. This Dark Lord before him was insane there was no doubt it. As much as he wanted to deny it he couldn't. The closer the Dark Lord moved towards Azkaban the further from reality he slipped. It was unpleasant and Harry was positive he didn't want to be around him in such a mood.
"Why would I do that little one? You are mine and only those I find truly loyal and trustworthy will ever come near you."
"You don't trust anyone with my welfare other than yourself." Harry dead-panned finding it difficult to communicate with an insane Dark Lord.
The chuckle that left the Dark Lord was anything but reassuring.
"Luna, Draco, Harry and I shall go over first then you will follow do you understand?" Voldemort commanded.
Sighing, he felt Lord Voldemort wrap his arms around his waist which was highly unnecessary. He ignored it, concentrating on his task as he nodded to Luna and Draco.
Breathing deeply he focused on the ground beneath them. The ground opened up beneath them before swallowing them whole. Darkness surrounded them and Harry was becoming increasingly aware that Voldemort's arms weren't remaining in the one place. They brushed against sensitive areas that Harry would rather never have to think about with the Dark Lord in the same sentence. Harry's breath hitched when they roamed down further. He became acutely aware of Voldemort's lustful chuckle in his ear and cringed. Voldemort was purposefully distracting him.
Harry felt his ability control contract around them leaving them with only a minimal amount of room to move. It was both a good and bad. Voldemort no longer had the space to roam Harry's body however one false move and they were both dead. If he hadn't been so concentrated on keeping them alive then he would have turned around and immediately told him off. However he didn't really want to be buried alive with Voldemort of all people so he forced himself to ignore the hands.
Slowly his shield expanded back to its regular size. It was almost painful to watch the area around them gain slowly. If he had been claustrophobic they would never have survived. Luckily they finally arrived. What felt like minutes of being underground had in reality only been seconds. Harry immediately wished never to do that again.
"Good work my little snake." Voldemot purred in his ear.
Harry shivered. He watched without a thought as Voldemort signalled for the others to travel. If he had that much trouble with only one person he couldn't imagine the frustration and lack of concentration he would have had bringing an entire group over. Many of the group would be killed. It was an unbearable thought, one that Harry knew Luna and Draco would be forced to live with.
Draco was the first to arrive. Relief flooded him upon seeing both Draco and Lucius alive. Luna arrived next and immediately concern flooded Harry. It was obvious both were physically fine. However the torment pouring off both the Air and Water Elemental revealed they had lost people on the way over. Sure they both took measures to hide their loss from the others but the connection between them didn't allow for emotions to remain hidden.
Harry swiftly scanned the people and realized none of the Inner Circle was missing. That was something at least. It meant they would be praised for their attempt rather than punished later upon their return.
Voldemort held him close, giving orders to the surviving Death Eaters none of who seemed fazed by the death of their comrades. With at least half of the Outer Circle no longer amongst them that left the others with brighter opportunities to gain their master's favour. If Harry hadn't been caught in the middle of everything he might have scoffed at the rather Slytherin tactics some used to reach their goals. He would bet at least half of them had purposefully killed their comrades.
"Now, Draco, blow down the door so we may begin."
Harry sighed. The theatrics of the entire situation were out of hand all due to the insanity of the Dark Lord. He hoped with the last Elemental that would right itself. At least then perhaps they all wouldn't be killed when the next war began.
Once the doors were blown open, Harry knew what was going to happen. The Death Eaters would set about freeing their comrades and those who desired to join the cause. Then the other inmates would be tortured for fun as well as any human guards that they could locate. It was going to be a horrific scene and one the Dark Lord approved on. Not that it mattered to him since Voldemort would be making an alliance with the Dementors. Harry sincerely prayed that he wouldn't be dragged to go and witness that. He wanted nothing to do with the Dementors.
Luckily enough Voldemort seemed preoccupied with the raid and immediately released Harry to enter Azkaban. Looking around, he realized that many people had already entered excluding Luna and the one person he desired to speak with, Severus.
"Do you think the Order will come and stop this?" Harry wondered finally after escaping the Dark Lord's grasp.
Severus shook his head. Even with the scowl firmly on his face, Harry could see that Severus didn't like this situation any better than he did. They were both firmly ignoring the terror and pain around them as a result.
"This was a surprise attack that he planned alone. No one else aided in the preparation. Only the Dark Lord knew of the full extent to which this was going to happen. I didn't have time to alert the Order or anyone else so they will find out along with the remainder of the Wizarding World tomorrow morning. Explaining this won't be easy."
"What will we have to explain?"
A scream overhead interrupted them. Two Death Eaters were torturing a guy near the blown out wall of the prison. Unluckily, the poor guy fell as he twitched from the curse. The ground around Harry acted instinctively and wrapped around them easily teleporting them away from the spot they were just standing. When the earth around them cleared they turned to see a man lying sprawled in the dirt obviously dead.
Having fallen from that height while under the curse, Harry would consider it a miracle if he did survive. Severus gave him a withering glare for moving them without any warning before answering his original question.
"Unfortunately, several facts will need explaining once this gets out. Regardless of how careful we are, Dumbledore will discover the identities of most of the people present which include: Luna, Draco and us. Then we will need to explain why we did nothing to cease any of the torture. There are other facts but we will have to discuss those later. On the bright side, you will finally have access to an Order meeting."
Harry scowled. He had known keeping everything from the Order wouldn't be a feasible idea for long. They certainly did have their ways to discover the knowledge the Dark Lord kept. However he hadn't wanted that to arrive so soon.
"Well we'll just have to work around the facts then won't we?"
Severus nodded realising their conversation was coming to an end as the cold seeped towards them ominously. The presence of the Dementors weren't bad so far but he could feel the chill and knew that they wouldn't be remaining at Azkaban. Harry however was lost in painful memories.
The door blew open violently while his mother held onto him facing toward the crib so he would be protected by her body.
"Stand aside." The cold voice spoke.
"Please! No, not Harry! Not Harry!"
"Stand aside you silly girl!"
"Not Harry anything but Harry!"
A cackle of laughter, a scream and a flash of green were the answer…
The cupboard was dark. He didn't like it for as much as he wanted it to be a safe haven it wasn't. The small space was a prison. The room was dark and musty with only a small grill on the door for any relief to the smells.
Unfortunately this led to his current situation. His uncle's breath smelt putrid to his small nose.
"This is where freaks like you deserve to be."
Harry shivered. At least he wasn't being beaten.
The glass which he had just dropped was cutting up his feet. Blood was coating the floor like water. His aunt didn't appear to care as tears streamed down his eyes.
"Stupid boy look what you've done that was my grandfather's crystal!"
She hit backhanded him sending him sprawling.
The rain kept falling. He was locked outside yet again and it was raining.
The people passing by didn't care that he was alone and out in that weather. All they cared about was getting home. Families. They were supposed to care for one another.
All he could think was why his parents had left him with his "family".
His Aunt Marge stood before him. She did the one thing he feared, she released her dog.
"Sick him Ripper!"
A touch on his shoulder jolted him back from his memories.
"Harry, are you alright?" Severus asked concern filtering through his voice.
Severus had immediately seen how Harry had frozen with their proximity to the Demetors of Azkaban. Since their third year Harry had never been able to stand the Dementors. Sure he could avoid them by using his Patronus but in a situation like this using a Patronus would only be disastrous towards their master's goal. Without thought he wrapped Harry in his arms hoping that the touch of another person would drag him away from whatever was ailing him.
Harry leaned eagerly into Severus' touch. He hated Dementors. They always brought out the memories that Harry was eager to never witness again. At times he had thought about obliviating them from his mind but then he rationalized that without those memories he wouldn't be the person he was today and he liked who he was. It was a problem he had to live with.
"Severus, what are you doing with my little one?"
Both tensed upon hearing that chilling voice. Awkwardly they broke apart from each other. They hadn't really kept track of what was occurring around them during the attack and now they were surrounded by Death Eaters all waiting for Severus to be punished for touching something that belonged to their Lord.
Harry looked into the sea of new Death Eaters and immediately spotted the ones that had been imprisoned. They were all covered in grime from head to foot with ratty, unkept hair. However that wasn't what revealed them as prisoners, it was the insane look they had in their eyes. All of them had it yet some were more noticeable than others.
Bellatrix Lestrange had a deranged smile on her face accompanying the insane gleam in her eye. Thankfully next to her Rudolphus and Rabastan looked relatively saner though looks could be deceiving when it came to Slytherins. They were known members of Voldemort's Inner Circle alongside Lucius and Severus though it appeared the two latter people had better cunning than the former.
"Harry, come to me."
Without much choice in the matter Harry moved closer towards Harry and away from Severus. However he wasn't giving the Dark Lord any satisfaction. He walked calmly away from Severus however he didn't actually move within touching distance of Voldemort. No he was too angry with his master to allow him anything to do what he wanted and wrap his arms around him.
No he was tired of playing the helpless victim any longer. He wouldn't allow the Dark Lord to control him like he had been any longer. He wasn't going to hang off Voldemort's every word like Draco nor take everything as it came with Luna. Voldemort however didn't seem to recognize the spark in Harry's eyes and chose to address his loyal followers.
"My faithful we are finally all together. After many long years I have returned to my body and can continue our great and noble plans. We shall create a new world order from the ruins of this one! Now let us return to our headquarters and celebrate our triumph this night!"
Voldemort instantly rapped an arm around Harry and disapparated from the scene leaving the ruins of the wizarding prison for the Aurors to locate in the morning.
Laughs surrounded Harry. It was about two in the morning and everyone was still celebrating their success at releasing the prisoners of Azkaban, the Dark Lord's most faithful followers. They had also gained a few new recruits, most joining out of vengeance to their prosecutors. He really didn't care that they were all celebrating their successful raid of one of the most secure locations in the wizarding world. No he was angered over the creatures.
The Dementors had been brought back with them and he could hear his mother screaming his name in his ear. The chills that surrounded the entire manor were enough of a reminder that they had just been to visit the prison but they remained around as if they could sense Harry's thoughts.
The escapees didn't feel anything at all for the cold that seeped in through the doors and windows. They were used to the Dementors effects. Severus was also alright along with all of the Slytherins who normally lived in dark damp places. That left Luna but fortunately she had been dismissed as soon as they had returned leaving Harry as the only one suffering.
Voldemort could obviously sense his Elementals discomfort not only from the bond but from the looks and shifting he was doing. They were in direct line of each other since that was how the Dark Lord had positioned himself however he did nothing to help him.
Harry couldn't stand it.
With one last glare at his almighty "master" Harry swept silently away from the joyous celebration. No one stopped him though many cast him a few curious looks as he passed. None would be stupid enough to attempt to stop him from leaving not when he was in a dangerous mood. Not only were the plates and furniture shaking in his uncontrollable rage but so was the actual manor.
Without any thought of where he was going, he ended finding himself in his room across the hall from the Dark Lord's personal rooms. How could that man knowingly put him through that much pain while also attempting to get him on his side of war? It didn't make sense and only further infuriated Harry.
A knock at the door signalled the Dark Lord's arrival and though Harry found it pleasant that he had at least thought of doing that much he didn't want to speak to the man at all. There would be no explaining this away as some punishment. No, he had taken this too far and Harry was going to put his foot down.
"What is the matter my little snake? Have I done something to upset you because it appeared as if you were having such a good time?" Voldemort purred upon entering his room.
"You know nothing about me."
Harry knew that his own voice sounded flat and emotionless compared to Voldemort's impassioned tones but he couldn't help it. He was trying to reign in his temper for a little longer but it wouldn't work especially since the Dark Lord would demand to know what was wrong even if it were obvious.
"Was it because I told you to move away from your beloved father figure, Severus? If so dear Harry then all you had to do was say so. I would have allowed you to remain by his side for the remainder of the night after all we did accomplish a great feat tonight. You should be rewarded."
And just like that the gates crashed open.
"You think that I am upset over the fact you ordered me away from Severus? Ha! If only you knew... I bet you aren't even aware why I'm so angry at you!"
Voldemort was startled by the use of Parseltongue. It was normally used in great emotional upheavals which meant that something was seriously annoying his little one and he had been the cause of it. Harry stalked towards him poking him in the chest so harshly that he stumbled back slightly.
"You crave for me to fight for your cause and yet you insist on doing these things without any knowledge of how it would affect me! Did you know that every time I near a Dementor that I hear the death of my mother on repeat? Did you know that if they remain around me longer I have every single bad memory from my life on play for me to relive?"
Harry so into his rant didn't even realize that Voldemort was completely flabbergasted at his reaction. Sure he had expected Harry to scream at him for a while but this was something he hadn't planned on.
"My life as a child was nearly as bad as yours however where you had solace in knowing that you were alone I knew they were related to me. The continuous screaming in my ear merely make me want to kill you right now regardless of what would happen to me if I were to try! I bet you didn't know that did you? Well at least now you have something to think about."
With one last glare Harry pushed Voldemort out of his room. The door slammed in his shocked face. For once someone had overpowered the Dark Lord Voldemort.
The pain in his wrist was unbearable. Hours ago the third Elemental has been claimed by their Master. Three out of four had turned towards their master and agreed to the claim but he wasn't ready. He didn't want to turn towards the one man his parents had always told him was pure evil. But it wasn't as if he could ignore the band forever.
It pulsed on occasion reminding him every day he left it go the more pain he would be in. Sure it would take years to be under so much pain that he would have to cease working but that wasn't what he desired. He enjoyed work, to be away from the family that had always pushed him away for being too "nerdy" as his siblings put it. He wanted to do something so different from his siblings that they had to acknowledge him as someone better than they were.
Being an Elemental would certainly grant him power and prestige they would never be able to obtain. However he would need to contact Harry Potter. He needed guidance and from what the whispers around the Ministry, Harry Potter was the one to go to. Yet caution stayed his hand. He would wait, he decided, for a sign the tides were turning before he moved.
Six hours later and he had his answer… The Daily Prophet stared up at him. It's headline smirked at him damning him with this Elemental curse.
"Azkaban Escapees Out For Revenge."
I wanted more in this chapter but it started becoming far longer than I desired for this story. So Part 2 shall be next. Enjoy!