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"I refuse to go to Britain," Harry repeated fervently.
"But our Lord needs you, and he'll pay you well, Frost," Harry's old friend, Hermione, insisted. It was a shame that she only knew him as Charles Frost, and not as Harry. That was what losing one's memories would do, however.
"He doesn't need me," Harry insisted. He needs anyone but me, he thought. "There are plenty of other bodyguards out there for him to hire besides me."
"True, but I'll be blunt. You're the only decent one who's jobless right now, and by the looks of it," she started, looking at his small shack distastefully. "You could currently use a well-paying position."
Unfortunately, it was true. Harry did need a job. As a British exile, he didn't feel that accessing his parents' wealthy Gringotts account would be very wise, even in a different country. Doing that would be like shouting, "Here I am, Voldemort! I, Harry James Potter, am in Madrid, Spain! Bet'cha can't get me! Nyah, nyah!" …No, announcing himself like that was definitely not on Harry's list of priorities, which meant that he had to get by on what money he could make.
While his job guarding the wizarding King of Spain had gone well for four years, that had been a year ago, and his job hadn't exactly ended well. He took a Dark severing curse meant for the king, which knocked him unconscious. When Harry had woken up, the king was dead. If he had known the counter to the severing curse, he probably would have been able to keep fighting and save the king's life. But he hadn't spent enough time learning the Dark arts, so the king was dead, and there was nothing he could do about it. Unless he started learning Necromancy. But that was definitely a big no-no. The prince had told him to 'take it easy', but he really only wallowed in depression and self-blame for the next month. After that, he spent the rest of the year studying a mix of martial arts and Dark magic.
He had planned to put himself back up for hire in just a week, but Hermione had found him first. She looked different -younger, despite being physically older than when he last saw her eight years ago. There were less lines on her face, and her old bushy hair now hung in a high, somewhat less bushy ponytail.
"You're right, Ms. Granger. However, I'm sure I'll be able to find a… more convenient job soon," he attempted to argue.
His old friend appeared as stubborn as ever, however. "'Convenient?'" She exclaimed, aghast. "I assure you, this will be an incredibly 'convenient' job," she started acidicly. "You'll merely use the International Floo Network, with myself as your escort, and I will take you to our Lord. He will give you instructions from there. As for the actual job, He won't even be in the public eye very much this year. You'll have everything you need provided by us, including your food, room and board, library and more! And to be honest, this job probably won't be that difficult. Everyone fears our Lord, and He can take care of Himself. This will probably be the most 'cushiony' job you'll ever have! Not to mention one of the most well-paying ones, too…"
"I need some time to think about it," he said noncommittally.
The woman narrowed her eyes. "Why do you seem so against working for our Lord? Is it the new administration? It's been eight years since it was put into affect, and I, for one, know how helpful it has been to our people! The school curriculum is more varied, muggleborns are brought into our world as soon as they're born, magical creatures have more rights, the-"
"All right, all right, H-Ms. Granger! I know! I actually… I -I think-" he seemed to find speaking difficult all of the sudden. His voice lowered slightly. "I… approve… of most of the new administration's changes," he bit out reluctantly.
Hermione tilted her chin up, looking at him assessingly. "You didn't actually answer the question. Why are you so averse to working for our Lord?"
"…It's not your Lord that's the problem," he seemed to admit. "As… idiotic as it may seem, it's really the weather. It's always so cloudy in Britain -I want to see the sun every once in a while, understand?"
"Oh, completely," Hermione drawled sarcastically, looking through the shack's dingy window at the stormy sky. When did Hermione learn how to speak that way? Harry wondered wistfully. He had certainly missed a lot in the last eight years, hadn't he?
"Look, Mr. Frost," Hermione began seriously, "The weather doesn't matter. You are in need of a job. We're offering one. I highly recommend you take it."
"I'm sure there's someone el-"
"Are you aware that you aren't actually a Spanish citizen? Did you know there are no formal records of Charles Frost's birth, citizenship, or schooling in any country in the world? I've done my research. Charles Frost suddenly appeared out of nowhere eight years ago -coincidentally, right when our Lord gained full control of Britain. Now, I don't care if you're one of the old exiled muggleborns, and honestly, neither does our Lord -as long as you take the job. But if you don't… you won't stand a chance. Even with minimal effort, I, let alone our Lord, can easily prevent you from ever having a job again…. Of course, the decision is up to you," she said, an angelic smile adorning her face.
Harry grit his teeth, thinking hard. Plans were formed and discarded within the span of milliseconds, but he could see no alternative to taking the job. He doubted creating yet another alter ego would solve the dilemma, and he really did need the money. Surely, he could find some spells that would hide his true identity from Voldemort. Perhaps some of those ancient Egyptian spells he learned from his year spent curse-breaking…
"I'll do it," he said with finality. "I'll meet you in the northern corner of the International Floo Lobby tomorrow at…. Do you have any preference about the time? I'd like a time after lunch, if possible."
An infuriating smirk tugged at his old best friend's lips. "How would four be?"
"I said after lunch, Ms. Granger," he quipped, smirking slightly.
Hermione blinked. Sounding slightly unsure, she tried again, "How would six be?"*
Harry flicked his eyes towards the ceiling in exasperation. "Fine." He didn't want to look at her.
"I'll take my leave now. I appreciate your cooperation."
Oh, I'm sure, Harry thought sardonically as he heard the 'pop' of her apparation. 'Cooperation', my-
One of his alarm spells went off, interrupting his thoughts. It was time to feed his rattlesnake, Fang. He had named it after Hagrid's boarhound, surprisingly enough. The snake was certainly just as cowardly as Hagrid's dog had been.
Harry had first met Fang in the black market. The snake was going to be used as potion ingredients, and Harry had taken the liberty of buying the doomed animal as soon as the snake started showing his all too trusting personality. "I love my owners," the snake had told him. "They always feed me and tell me how much I'm worth to them!" Apparently, Harry's 'saving people thing' applied to more than people. Besides, he had argued with himself, a snake would be one more defense he could use against would-be assassins.
"What am I going to do with you?" Harry mused aloud after Hermione's visit. He couldn't very well take Fang with him to Britain. Voldemort would be all too curious about his bodyguard's ability to use Parseltongue.
"Respell my heat rock?" the snake asked. Harry chuckled weakly, thoughts lost in the past.
No matter how hard he tried, Harry was never able to keep a low profile. Just for once, he really wished life would be boring.
When Harry was searching for Voldemort's Horcruxes with Hermione and Ron, his attitude had been rather cynical and dark. It only worsened when Ron ditched them, and Hermione found a spell to 'destroy' the soul shard within the locket. Except the spell hadn't actually destroyed the fragment. Oh no, that would have been way too easy. Instead, the spell, a relatively simple charm that was used by mind healers to assist them with their patients, actually sent the soul fragment back to Voldemort.
Needless to say, the Dark Lord was rather curious about his returning sanity, and he decided to inspect the links between himself and his Horcruxes. To his utter amusement, Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the epitome of all that was Light and good, was also a Horcrux. His Horcrux. He took great delight in informing the boy.
Harry, however, was not amused. Already in a spiral of depression after Ron left, he thought he had only been a tool to Dumbledore, and what good had the wizarding world done for him, anyway? He pointed his wand at himself and cast the soul repairing charm, only to find somewhat painfully that, while most of Voldemort's soul had returned to the snake-like man, a sliver had grown attached to Harry's own soul, and the repairing charm had only solidified the bond between them. Hermione… Hermione had lost the majority of her memories in the backlash from the spell. He left her with the Weasleys, feeling lost without her guidance.
Harry left Britain to its own fate, then, sending a letter to the Daily Prophet telling Voldemort, "You live your life, and I'll live mine," effectively canceling the prophecy. It was painfully simple. He just wanted to get away from it all.
He first went to Egypt, where he spent a year as a curse breaker's apprentice, then to Romania, where he learned he was not meant to be a dragon keeper, then to France, where he learned he was not meant to be a carpenter, either, and then to Spain. Spain was an interesting place. He should have left as soon as he noticed. He went on a treasure hunting expedition, which actually went fairly well. However, just as he was bargaining with wizarding Spain's royalty, an assassin simply had to make an attempt on the king's life. Harry's 'saving people thing' simply couldn't abide by that, and he leapt to the man's defense.
It had been Halloween, and he had been twenty. Now, he was twenty-five, and he had already made a name for himself as one of the best bodyguards of Europe…. That may have had something to do with Spain's on and off again revolution. People were always trying to assassinate the king. After five years of failure, someone had finally succeeded (on Halloween, no less), and Harry was out of a job.
"Good afternoon! Are you ready, Mr. Frost?" Hermione asked all too happily.
"Right then. I'll go first." She grabbed a handful of purple, special long distance floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. "London!" She exclaimed clearly as she tossed the powder down. She disappeared with a rush of purple flames.
Harry sighed heavily, fingering his shrunken trunk in his pocket. Maybe he should just leave now -abandon the whole 'Charles Frost' charade and start anew. He had always liked the name Jacque…. But what could he do? If he went back to being a bodyguard then surely people would notice that right as the prominent Frost disappeared, a new talented figure with a similar style appeared on the scene. Maybe he could teach… No, teachers were too few and too noticeable. Auror? No. Professional Quidditch player? Definitely not. He could always be a shopkeeper… No, just no. He could, but -no. It was much too boring. He did not want to be a shopkeeper. Besides, something about going back just compelled him to leave. He had to know what Britain had become in his absence.
He grabbed the floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. "London," he said unenthusiastically.
He did not like International Floo travel, he had discovered a long time ago. He felt like he was being dissolved, then put back together, and then twisted into a knot. He didn't like it -not one bit.
He landed as ungracefully as ever, sprawled out on the black marble floor like an uncoordinated child. Out of mere habit, he leapt to his feet as quickly as he fell. He looked around, locating all the physical exits, and reached out with his magic to sense the wards and spells on the place. Several employees and passersby stared at him, wide eyed and amused. He shook his head and glared at them. "Ahem," came Hermione's voice.
Harry nearly had a heart attack. Please tell me Hermione did not turn into a mini-Umbridge! Please! He turned around quickly, giving her his full attention.
"If you're done, Mr. Frost, I'll give you a tour of the Ministry, and then I'll take you to the Minister's office. Our Lord will meet you there." She began to walk off without waiting for a response.
Harry nodded absently and followed her, dread building in the pit of his stomach. He had a bad feeling about this.
Harry was adjusting the wards on his shrunken trunk just outside the Minister's office when Voldemort found him. "Liquidus dimmitto," Harry mouthed silently, twisting his wand around in a wide figure eight and tapping the small trunk. He pretended not to notice the all too recognizable, powerful presence standing not two feet away.
"Interesting. Not many people would remember to take such small precautions with their possessions, Mr. Frost. I commend you," spoke a smooth voice.
Harry almost decided not to look up, dreading what he would see, but when he did, he blinked several times in surprise. Lord Voldemort's previous creepy, snake-like visage was gone. Instead, Lord Voldemort stood tall and proud. Still pale, but now with a real nose, lips and hair, he appeared more like an older version of the Tom Riddle Harry had met in the Chamber of Secrets. His red irises were the only things remaining that looked like the Voldemort Harry had faced long ago in the Department of Mysteries. Harry wondered what had brought about the change. The return of most of his soul, or something else?
That doesn't change who he is, though, Harry reminded himself. I must never forget that.
"A pleasure to meet you…?" Harry trailed off questioningly.
"You may address me as 'sir'."
"A pleasure to meet you, sir." Harry remedied. He was grateful he didn't have to call the man 'My lord' or any such thing. He didn't know if he'd be able to go through with it.
"And I you," returned Voldemort, offering Harry his hand.
Harry shook the hand firmly, not wanting to appear tentative, and received a jolt of energy for his trouble. I really hope that happens with everyone he shakes hands with… Somehow, Harry didn't think he was that lucky.
"Do you deal well with side-along apparition?" Voldemort asked.
"Yes…" Harry answered, eyes narrowed.
"Good," said the man, placing his hand on the younger wizard's shoulder, and Harry suddenly felt like he was being pushed through a large rubber tube.
Harry landed with a lurch, but managed to remain on his feet. Voldemort dropped his hand quickly, eyeing Harry distastefully.
"Welcome to my current quarters," said Voldemort formally. "I'll give you a tour of the areas you'll need to know. To begin with, this is the Grand Hall."
They appeared to be in some sort of old castle, one somewhat similar to Hogwarts, although perhaps a good deal smaller. As Voldemort showed Harry the kitchens, the library, the guest rooms, ball room and more, he also told Harry his duties. Harry (still called Frost) didn't have many, surprisingly enough. He was supposed to watch the wards constantly, and if there was a problem, it was Harry's responsibility to take care of it. Intruders were to be placed in the dungeons, and technical difficulties were to be "fixed and improved upon". Occasionally, Voldemort would need help in a ritual, and Harry would have to be that helper. The few times Voldemort attended public events were when he would truly need Harry to watch his back.
"This door leads to your suite, and the door further down leads to my own. You will always knock before you enter unless you have genuine reason to believe I need your help," the man said darkly, implying he would never need something so pitiful as help. "Now, I'm going to the library to read. You may take some time to unpack and view your rooms, if you wish, but I expect you to begin inspecting the wards today. There are also several hidden passageways in the castle. Find them. You may view it as… a test of sorts. Of course, you shouldn't have too much trouble with that." The man smirked. "You were always an expert at exploring castles, weren't you, Harry?"
Harry's glamored blue eyes locked with red. Hopelessly, Harry thought, I should have been a shopkeeper…
*A lovely suggestion from FreakFreak. Apparently lunch (siesta) in Spain goes from 2pm to 5pmish.
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