Three Can Keep a Secret
Summary: Harry Potter. Antonin Dolohov. And a Secret.
AN: I've been batting this idea around in my head for a while now, and finally brought it before The Fanfiction Forum for some feedback, and now I bring it to fanfiction dotnet for your enjoyment.
Without further adeu.
I I I
With a ragged gasp, Antonin Dolohov awoke.
"I hadn't expected you to wake up quite so soon."
Dolohov struggled. He was slumped against a wall, his arms spread apart and there where manacles on his wrists, wrenching his shoulders. He squirmed, struggling back to sit upright and relieve the pain shooting down his arms.
His breathing was ragged and muffled by the rough cloth bag tied over his head. He could see nothing, only absolute darkness. Some kind of charm on the bag?
He recognized that voice.
"Still, I finished my preparations earlier than expected as well, so I suppose it's a happy coincidence."
"...Potter?" Dolohov rasped. "What the devil are you playing at?"
"I suppose it should be obvious." Harry Potter replied. "I kidnapped you."
"For what?" Dolohov sneered. "You won! You won. There was no reason!"
"Well obviously," Potter dryly responded, "I thought otherwise."
"Is this your pathetic mudblood justice, then, hunting down an old man? Do your worst; I do not fear you." That was, strictly speaking, not true. But Dolohov was tired of being a fugitive, and one did not follow a Dark Lord for decades as such a master dove deeper still into black waters if one would be held back by something as urbane as fear.
"Crucio." Potter whispered, very close to Dolohov's ear.
The world erupted into pain. It was like fingers of lighting dug into his flesh and tugged on his very nerves; his senses were alight with blazing agony.
Then the world stopped, the pain was gone and there was only darkness, and the rasping sound of Dolohov's breathing, heavy and quick, throat ragged and raw from screaming.
"I am here on very personal business."
That Dolohov could understand. It was comfortable, this familiar thing. Besides, although Potter had a wicked Cruciatus, it still wasn't as bad as his Master's had been.
"Revenge?" Dolohov said, and although Potter couldn't see his twisted little smile he was quite sure the boy could hear it in his voice. "The Child of Prophecy, the Boy-who-Lived, Dumbledore's protégé… is going to torture me for revenge?"
"Well, not quite." Potter said. "I suppose it's only fair to say that I hadn't particularly planned to torture you at all, but… well, it seemed a little Cruciatus was the best way to show I was serious."
"A little Cruciatus, just to establish the mood, hmm?" Dolohov said. "How… nostalgic."
"I am simply speaking the language you understand." Potter said. "So that when I tell you, right now, that I will kill you within the hour… you know it isn't a bluff."
Dolohov was afraid of death. But, again, he had spent his whole life doing things he feared for a man he feared; Dolohov would end his life the way he had lived it, without regard for his fears.
"Why?" He asked. It was only good form to explain, after all, and Potter had always been a good sport about that sort of thing. Not to mention that Dolohov was quite honestly curious. Really, what would drive a successful, upright man to kidnap someone and kill them in their basement? Dolohov was dying to know. Quite literally, now that he thought about it.
"It must have been… more than twenty years ago, now. An older Muggle couple had their daughter and her new husband over for dinner." Potter began.
"And I showed up and killed them?" Dolohov interjected.
"You honestly don't remember?" Potter asked.
"Well…" Dolohov hedged. "I was always the best at navigating the Muggle world among us all, so Master sent me on those kinds of errands quite often."
"I see." Potter said, quietly. Dolohov had hoped to bait him into another Cruciatus with his flippancy, but it seemed the boy wasn't willing to fall for it—quite yet. Dolohov was going to try and drag as much dark magic out of Potter as possible, hope the boy would do something really unforgivable—it would be bad form, after all, to let a chance to pull someone to the Dark pass him by. Especially if it was his last chance.
"No, here you killed the elderly Muggles, but were surprised from behind by the younger gentleman."
Now Dolohov remembered. He still had a scar, in fact, from where the fire-poker had landed across his back. "The beefy footballer with that ridiculous mustache?" Dolohov smiled. "I was never as skilled with Crucio as some of my comrades, but I managed to make that Muggle sing like a bird."
"Charming." Potter said dryly. "Well, since you put the Dark Mark up before committing the crime, the Aurors showed up in time to save him before he was consigned to the permanent spell damage ward in St. Mungos."
"A pity." Dolohov said, with real regret.
Potter made some non-committal noise in his throat. "Well. The Elderly couple were Howard and Lillian Evans; their daughter was Petunia, and her new husband—the one with the mustache—was named Vernon Dursley."
Dolohov knew those last two names from somewhere.
"Vernon and Petunia were my uncle and aunt. Howard and Lillian were my grandparents." Harry said quietly. "The Aurors Obliviated the both of them, of course."
Dolohov snorted. "They were real amateurs by that point. I can't imagine he was very stable, with someone simply wallpapering over a dark curse like Cruciatus with some ridiculous fake memory."
"No." Harry said quietly. "He was paranoid and suspicious and hateful of magic for the rest of his life, and he never—quite—knew why."
Dolohov waited for Harry to continue, anxious to hear the rest.
"Are you familiar with Golshanker's Theorem?" Harry asked.
Dolohov blinked, although doing so was meaningless. "I can't say I have… wasn't Golshanker that cursebreaker who wrote all those books? About warding and such?"
"Very good." Harry said. "Yes, Golshanker's Theorem states that powerful, nonspecific warding spells corrode other spells inside them. Things like expanding charms, or notice-me-not charms. Such magics tend to be very paranoid and distrustful of other magics."
Dolohov had to smile at that. "So whatever Dumbledore did to protect you in their house ate away at the Oblviate."
"Yes." Harry admitted. "Although it took several years."
"So, what?" Dolohov said. "Your uncle asked you to kill me?"
"Oh no." Harry said. "He never told me. When he died—nine years ago—he did tell my cousin, however." Harry stood, and began to walk back and forth. Judging from the sound of his shoes, the ground was some sort of stone. Of course, the numbness in his rear had already told Dolohov that much.
"But my cousin told me on his deathbed, four years ago." Harry said. "Hypertension and the related heart problems are quite common in the Dursley line, I'm afraid."
"So your cousin asked you to kill me." Dolohov concluded. "I have to admit to some disappointment. I mean, a deathbed Oath to avenge what the dying could not is properly poetic, but it has a certain stink of melodrama. I rather think Lucius better suited for the role."
"Not quite." Harry admitted. "Dudley—my cousin—found religion in his twilight days, you see, and thus wasn't thinking about revenge."
"Ah yes, that tiresome God the Muggles are always going on about." Dolohov said, almost fondly.
"Wrong religion." Harry said. "Dudley found a book by the Dali Lama in a bookstore in a train station somewhere and it grew from there." Harry sighed.
"No, Dudley's dying wish was something much easier and more difficult."
Dolohov snorted, but this was entirely not the direction he had expected it to go. How intriguing.
"What is the difference, he asked me." Harry said. "What is the difference between a wizard and a Muggle." Although he couldn't see him, Dolohov could very well imagine the bitter little smile on Harry's face, when you recognize a cruel joke you can't help but think is a little funny. "He was dying, when even the meanest squib would live. He accepted that, and was resigned to it, but couldn't help but ask… why."
Harry began pacing again. "So we talked and talked, and I didn't have an answer. It isn't blood; the Muggleborns prove that. And the Unspeakables have been looking for that spark, that spark of magic that separates wizard and muggle, for decades—centuries!—without luck."
"But there is a difference!" Dolohov insisted. "Even you agree! Our magic makes us superior to those lesser specimens."
Harry grunted. "But what is magic? How does it make a wizard different from a Muggle?" He sighed. "So we talked, and Dudley was the one that came up with the solution. Hogwarts."
Dolohov's mind raced. "The lists, you mean. The magic lists that find the Muggleborns."
Harry laughed. "How much faster than I! Yes, the lists. I explained the situation to Headmistress McGonagall, and although she disapproved—somewhat—I am me, after all, famous as I am, and the tale was simply too heart-wrenching for her to turn me away. So she showed me the lists, and the spells."
Dolohov smirked. "And there was your proof?"
Harry sighed. "The hell of it is… no. The lists suck. Oh, they are powerful, potent magic, and you cannot hide from them… but so limited! They work fundamentally like the Trace. Only the most unsubtle and inefficient and loud of magics are detected. This isn't the sort of thing you can let leave this room-"
"-but there have been instances where the lists missed wizard children whom were trained from the very first whisper of power. So it's certain that the lists miss Muggleborns."
Dolohov grunted. "True, but such weak scum would be even less fit than those mudbloods you so love."
Harry grunted. "Or those with such talent and skill that they would not be found—consider your Master, had he been more circumspect with his power as a youth."
"So you returned to your pathetic cousin."
"Yes." Harry sighed. "Without an answer. And then Dudley surprised me. He suggested a prank."
Dolohov held in a sigh at how anticlimactic a prank would be.
"What if you fooled the lists? Dudley asked," Harry began, "What if you fooled it with your magic so that it would pick a Muggle child at random and tell Hogwarts they're a wizard?"
Dolohov sneered. "Madness. Such a child would be less than a squib!"
Harry hmmed. "Initially I thought it would be impossible, but when I went to try it was disappointingly easy. There are powerful protections against removing Muggleborns from the lists—foresight of previous Headmasters, there—but confounding it to see false positives was disappointingly easy."
Dolohov stirred uneasily. "But that means—"
"Yes." Harry said. "I told my cousin of my success before he died… three years ago. The first children are in their second year. I have no idea which Muggleborns are the 'real' Muggleborns."
Dolohov began to shake with anger. "You would defile Hogwarts itself with their dirty Muggle blood, you—"
"Crucio." Harry whispered.
"I think you would do well to remember my patience is not without limit, Dolohov."
Dolohov very nearly said 'Yes, Master', which would have been even more embarrassing and awkward than when he referred to Madam Herrinton as 'Mother' in Charms as a Firstie.
"But there is a problem." Harry said. "I think McGonnagall suspects something. Hermione is clever enough to suspect, as well, because I charmed it a little imperfectly… it's taking more Muggles every year. In a little more than a decade, less than a tenth of the students will be found by magic; the rest will be chosen at random from the entire population of the United Kingdom."
"You are a traitor to all wizardkind, Potter." Dolohov seethed. "You would dilute our blood with that fifth, you would drown us in Muggle mud."
"Don't you get it?" Harry seethed, slamming Dolohov's head against the wall.
"There is no difference! There are simply those who were trained and those who were not! A Muggle is just a wizard who was never so obvious in their magic that the rest of us cottoned on!"
"Then why!" Dolohov roared. "Why bring me here and tell me this?"
Harry shook himself, drawing in a rattling breath. "A good question. The Headmistress suspects there is something wrong with the lists, and so do others in the wizarding world. There are not enough, yet. Only when there are so many the results cannot be ignored can they be told. So I decided to hide the changes to the lists. I made it a Secret."
"A variant of Fidelius?" Dolohov whispered.
"Yes." Potter agreed. "I'm one. Dudley is two. You are three. And this Fidelius Charm variant is rooted in a powerful saying, an old muggle saying. Three can keep a Secret if two are dead."
"Damn you, Potter." Dolohov snarled. "Damn you to hell."
Potter was smiling. Dolohov could tell. "Know then, old man," Potter whispered, "that with your death you guarantee the wizarding world will be unmade."