AN: So where the hell have I been, huh?
So back in October, my husband and I bought a new house and the majority of my freetime that month was spent moving and unpacking. My mom also came and visited for a week, so there was hosting on top of that. Just when things were settling down and returning to normalcy, and I finally had time to write again (Literally – I wrote about 12 pages on a Wednesday night and was all excited to have time the next day to write some more), when I got laid off the very next morning. So there was the emotional roller coaster of that whole thing. I'd worked there for seven years, and most certainly didn't see it coming. Anyway, I've ended up starting up my own business and I enjoy it and I'm making a pretty penny at the moment, but I'm busy ALL THE TIME. Seriously – no free time, what-so-ever. When I'm not working, I'm taking care of my kids, or cooking or cleaning something. So yeah – it's been a bit exhausting.
On top of that, it means I've had no time to really write. I've managed to pluck down a few paragraphs at a time, over the months, and finally felt like I'd hit a reasonable chapter break.
It's a long chapter – 22 pages long. Enjoy.
I intend to keep going, but no guarantees on how long it'll be, before I get another full chapter finished.
– – – – –
Harry stepped out of the bathroom across the hall from his room with nothing but a bath robe on, while he toweled at his head with a soft woolen flannel. He came to an abrupt stop as he found himself face-to-face with a rather cross-looking Draco Malfoy.
"Where the hell were you!?"
"Huh?" Harry blinked.
"You didn't come back! I was worried sick!" Draco exclaimed, looking distressed.
"Worried?" Harry echoed in honest bewilderment before he shook his head and chuckled fondly. "Draco – I went to the Dark Lord's manor, not on some raid or something. What's there to be worried about?"
"What's there to be worried about!?" Draco exclaimed. "Are you mental? You went to the Dark Lord's Manor, and then you didn't come back! I think that's cause enough to worry!"
Harry stepped around Draco to walk across the hall to his room and the blond followed, pouting indignantly the whole way.
"Draco, don't be silly. You know that he and I are the furthest thing from enemies – what did you think would happen? That he'd kill me? Merlin, you're worse than Sirius. You should know better."
"I –" Draco started to defend himself before huffing out in annoyance and shutting the door to Harry's bedroom. "Fine, whatever. I apparently worried about you going to the home of the most terrifying and powerful wizard of our age, for no reason. Do forgive me," he drawled in annoyance.
Harry rolled his eyes and walked over to his wardrobe but hesitated as he considered the transfigured clothes from Marvolo instead. They were quite nice, honestly, and they smelled of the other man. It wasn't like Harry had worn them for a long period of time before the shower. In the end, he sided with ridiculous sentimentality over anything else and picked the shirt and trousers back up off his bed after grabbing a clean pair of pants.
"Not that I haven't undressed in front of you plenty of times in the dorm back at school, but do you intend to continue gaping at me, or can I have a moment's privacy?" Harry asked airily as he slipped the pants on without removing the robe.
A quick glance over his shoulder showed him that Draco had blushed slightly and turned to scowl at the opposite wall. Harry chuckled and shook his head fondly before removing the robe and slipping on the rest of his clothes.
"I do appreciate that you were worried about me, Draco. Thank you for your concern, but, as you can see, I'm fine," Harry said as he buttoned up his shirt.
Draco continued to scowl sulkily but did finally sigh and nod his head. "What were you doing all night, anyway? Why didn't you floo back when it got late? Or at least floo to let me know you weren't coming back?"
Harry shrugged helplessly. "We were just... busy. And it didn't really occur to me that anyone here would actually think to be worried when I didn't return for the night. It got late and Marvolo offered me a bed for the night."
Draco frowned. "Who's Marvolo?"
"Oh – sorry. The Dark Lord," Harry said, rolling his eyes and grinning.
Draco blinked at him. "I thought his alias was Marcus. Where does Marvolo, come from?"
"It's his middle name. His real middle name. Marcus is a completely fabricated alias, as I'm sure you know."
"But why would you call him by his middle name?"
"Because he hates his first name?" Harry offered up, with an amused grin. "His first name – real name – is Tom, which was his father's name, so he hates it. It's probably worth mentioning that he killed his father when he was sixteen. Marvolo was his grandfather's name – not that the man was worth much, but he was a wizard, and a descendant of the Slytherin line."
"Wow... how can you possibly know so much about him? How did that happen?" Draco asked, a bit stunned.
Harry shrugged. "I actually learned most of it during my first life. Dumbledore had decades to try and dig up as much dirt about the man as he could, and he shared some of it with me while trying to prepare me for my destiny," Harry said sarcastically.
"That's so weird... it's still hard for me to really wrap my head around the idea of you having killed the Dark Lord in your previous lives."
"Nearly every one of them," Harry said with a dismissive but somewhat tired tone.
"And he's really okay with you calling him by his middle name?" Draco asked, dubiously.
"Well, it was weird for me to call him Voldemort, because he's practically a completely different person now than he was in any of my previous lives. It was just sort of a necessary mental disconnect for me – separating 'Voldemort' from the man I've allied myself with now. I mean, I know that they're the same person, technically, but he's got his sanity restored now, where as the creature I faced in my previous lives – the man that I killed repeatedly – was completely off his rocker. So I needed a different name for him, and he wouldn't put up with me calling him Tom, because he hates the name Tom. 'Marvolo' was a compromise."
"I can't believe he'd let anyone get away with calling him anything by The Dark Lord," Draco said.
Harry snorted. "Yeah, I'm not doing that. I mean, sure, I'll refer to him as 'The Dark Lord' in certain company – like your father, or you – but I wouldn't call him that to his face. That'd be just weird. Besides, he's not my Lord. He and I are partners. We're equals – I'm not one of his subordinates. I don't think that even he would want me speaking to him that way – it would just be too weird for how our relationship works."
"I guess I just have trouble imagining anyone who knows who he really is, treating him like a normal person," Draco said, shaking his head in mild disbelief. "I mean, I get that most people think that he's just a wizard with a lot of money and growing political influence, and sure, they can treat him normal, but that's just because they don't know any better, and he keeps his power hidden..."
"But that's the thing – I know him better than anyone else," Harry said with a smirk. "To me, he's a man with strengths and weaknesses – he's got his faults and I am intimately acquainted with them, but I also see his strengths more clearly than others, as well. I get to see his humanity. You've really only interacted with him twice, and neither encounter was particularly lengthy. The first time, he was annoyed with you for interrupting us, but barely paid you any attention otherwise. And the other encounter, he was intentionally trying to scare the living crap out of you, so your point of reference for him is very narrow. He doesn't let many people – meaning any people – really get to know him because that gives him more power. If he's seen as this demi-god of a wizard by his followers, their loyalty is more secure. Either through awe, or terror, or both. I'm not necessarily in awe of him, although there are times... but I'm definitely not terrified of him."
"I suppose I can see that," Draco said slowly. "Although, I can't quite imagine how you could not be terrified of him. His power... it was staggering."
Harry chuckled and shrugged.
The two continued to talk for sometime after that, although Harry did manage to steer the conversation away from Marvolo fairly quickly after that. Harry also eventually grabbed the protean-charmed book and sat cross-legged on his bed scribbling out the directions for brewing the various versions of his aging potion, while Draco rambled on about a number of different topics, ranging from the huge number of owls that had arrived that morning with letters for Harry in response to the 'Letter to the Editor' from the previous day; to the results of the Quidditch match between the Kenmore Kestrels and the Falmouth Falcons.
And while Draco spent a lot more time going on about the Falcons, Harry was far more interested in the letters. Apparently Lucius was having the house elves sort through them and Harry made a note to go collect them later in case there was anything important contained therein. Draco told him that the manor's wards prevented Howlers from getting past the front gate, so if there had been any – and Harry was sure that there had probably been at least a few – then they'd never actually made it into the house.
Harry also told Draco about Sirius' impromptu visit to the manor that morning, as Draco had missed it entirely, and hadn't even realized that his mother's cousin had paid them a visit.
The pair joined Narcissa and Lucius for lunch, and Lucius basically repeated to Harry what Draco had said earlier about how he had instructed a house elf to separate the mail, and promised to show Harry the room where the elf had been sorting them. After that, Narcissa actually struck up a conversation with Harry, expressing her curiosity over the level of relationship that Harry held with her cousin Sirius.
Lucius looked anything but interested in any suggestions of extending invitations for further contact with Sirius Black, but Harry did end up promising Narcissa that he would look into encouraging Sirius to keep in touch. Harry was honestly surprised by her interest, as he'd never been aware of any attempts on her behalf before, to initiate contact with Sirius, but at the same time he also acknowledged that he'd never really known the woman before, and had made a lot of wrong assumptions about her in previous lives. She was an especially extreme example of the Malfoy's tendency to put on different personas depending on the company they were interacting with, and Harry had never before been on the inside of her 'friendly circle' – or whatever the hell it was he found himself considered, now. He had the somewhat amused suspicion that if he asked her, she'd insist he was family. And technically, it was sort of true.
After lunch was complete, Lucius made an excuse about meeting with someone in London and quickly flooed away. It was a Saturday, so Lucius did not actually have any work at the Ministry to attend to, and Harry got the distinct impression that Lucius was not entirely comfortable around him at the moment, and was actually avoiding him. This actually served to amuse Harry more than anything else.
Later on, in the afternoon, while Harry was sitting out in the garden and Draco was shooting through the air after a new snitch his mother had just given him, Harry felt the wards shift around the grand manor, indicating that someone had just been permitted to enter.
Harry was not actually tied to the Malfoy's system of complex wards, and thus was not actually notified by the magic of the wards themselves with any details about the arrival. Despite this, Harry was quite a bit more sensitive to slight shifts in things than your average wizard was, after all these years of learning just how to properly listen, so he felt something anyway. Learned-sensitivity aside, it was actually the identity of the wizard in question, who had just arrived, that most obviously alerted Harry to the arrival.
Harry set the book in his lap aside and stood from the garden lounge he'd been relaxed in. Narcissa was sitting not far from him, sipping a cool amber-colored beverage of some sort, and she sat up a bit straighter, turning and glancing back towards the manor, no doubt having actually received a notification from their wards, as she was actually tied into them, unlike Harry. She paused and looked over at Harry. "Were you expecting Lord Veras to pay you a visit?" she asked.
"Expecting? No, not so soon," Harry said absently. "I'll go see what he wants."
She nodded and went back to her drink and her book, while Harry walked back towards the etched-glass doors of the conservatory. Draco, apparently having taken notice of Harry's departure, landed his broom and followed.
Harry walked briskly through the halls to the entrance hall where he found Marvolo standing in wait, a smirk on his lips. Harry couldn't help but grin at the sight of the man – he looked rather brilliant, really. But then again, Harry didn't think he'd yet to see the man looking anything but perfectly edible. Even back when he couldn't even fathom the idea of actually becoming romantically involved with the man, he'd found him attractive. The realization now that this stunning specimen was actually his, was actually quite thrilling. Even if the objective part of his mind, capable of taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, still found the idea of he and Voldemort being a couple, utterly ludicrous.
That part of his mind just made him want to laugh, more than anything, now. Sure, it was ludicrous, but it was also surprisingly brilliant, too.
Without even thinking, let alone hesitating, Harry walked right to the man and the two embraced. Marvolo pulled him into a deep kiss that sent Harry's senses alight with magic and wonder, and he moaned into the kiss, pressing himself against the other man and delighting in the wonderful tingles that shot through his whole body.
Harry pulled back, a wide smile on his lips. "Hey."
Marvolo snorted, but smiled back fondly. "Good afternoon to you, as well."
"I wasn't expecting you to visit so soon."
"I received some unexpected good news," Marvolo said, as an accomplished smirk curled his lips. His eyes flickered over Harry's shoulder, and as Harry was about to turn to see what had caught the man's eyes, when Marvolo was suddenly coming back in and kissing him again. Harry moaned with a moments surprise before giving in to the kiss and enthusiastically participating.
A startled noise from behind him pulled Harry out of his enjoyment of the moment and he turned to find a pale, stunned-looking Draco, standing in the hall behind him, holding his broom in one loose-gripped hand.
Harry let out a slow sigh before turning back to glare at Marvolo. "You did that on purpose," he said in a flat accusatory tone. Marvolo simply arched a single brow, unapologetically.
Harry snorted and shook his head. "I can't believe you feel threatened by a fifteen year old," Harry muttered, rolling his eyes. He huffed out another sigh, disentangled himself from Marvolo's arms and turned to grimace apologetically at Draco.
"I really would have rather you not have found out about it this way," he said simply.
Draco's adams apple bobbed with a heavy swallow. His lips were pressed into a thin line, which was only slightly better than the open gaping he'd been doing a moment earlier.
"Look... uhm... hey, Draco, you know back when we were chatting up on the astronomy tower and I told you I couldn't imagine dating anyone that I couldn't feel at least equal to, and you asked me if I intended to just be alone forever, because there was no way I'd ever find another 600-year old wizard and I jokingly said I didn't particularly care and that I'd kind of accepted that I'd never find someone I could reasonably see myself getting involved with?" Harry asked, still with that apologetic grimace. "Well, that was before this happened. In fact, this happened, just last night. And I really didn't see it coming. It just sort of did."
Draco nodded somewhat numbly.
Harry heaved another sigh. "Look... we'll talk about it later, alright?"
"I don't know why you would feel the need to apologize to the boy," Marvolo said dryly and Harry turned to glare at him. "You certainly never made any commitment to return his affection. You, in fact, told him that you could not return his affections – correct? You do not owe him any explanations or apologies."
"He's my friend and I prefer to at least attempt, to take the feelings of my friends into consideration," Harry argued. "I had hoped to reveal the change in our relationship gently. You have absolutely no tact in situations like this." Harry paused, glaring for a moment. "Which reminds me! You will be releasing Draco from that ridiculous contract you shoved down his throat, yesterday – behind my back."
"I will not leave your secrets so vulnerably exposed," Marvolo refused imperiously.
"I've already sent off an owl to my solicitors firm and they'll be drawing up a more reasonable contract. It should be here tomorrow and once it arrives, I fully expect you to come here and perform the ritual to dissolve the contract you made him sign."
Marvolo huffed and glared off to the side before turning back to glare at Harry. "Fine," he bit out in obvious annoyance.
Harry smirked a bit before shaking his head with an exasperated chuckle. Then, quite suddenly, he pointed over at Draco while maintaining a glare at the wizard opposite him. "Draco is a friend. You cannot seriously feel threatened by that – it's ridiculous! Perhaps some small part of me finds it amusing to think that you feel jealous over Draco Malfoy, but a much larger part of me will quickly find it very annoying, so you need to get over it."
Marvolo gave him an annoyed, narrow-eyed glare and the two remained in a silent staring contest for several long moments before Marvolo huffed, rolled his eyes and glared at a wall instead. "I am not jealous, nor am I threatened by Lucius' brat of a son. To even suggest such a thing is absurd," he drawled.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Right. Of course," he said sarcastically before looking back over at Draco with another apologetic look. "Hey, he and I have got some matters to deal with, so I'll see you later, alright?"
"I... right," Draco said, seemingly too off kilter from the entire thing to say anything else. Or perhaps just too intimidated by Marvolo standing there, as the man was exuding waves of magical power without even the faintest attempt at muffling any of it.
"If Harry does not return for the night, inform your parents that he is in my home," Marvolo said in a commanding tone. Harry felt the man's magic flare and he rolled his eyes at the Dark wizard while Draco flinched and paled slightly.
"Yes, my Lord," Draco replied quickly.
"You may go," Marvolo said to Draco imperiously.
"Yes, my Lord," Draco said just as quickly and after a brief glance at Harry, he turned and left the hall.
Harry huffed out a breath before looking over at Marvolo and crossing his arms across his chest. He arched a single brow but said nothing.
Marvolo frowned in obvious annoyance and remained silent for a moment. "I am not jealous of Lucius' spawn," he grumbled and turned towards the floo.
Harry snorted. "Just keep telling yourself that. I, however, can feel your emotions and am not nearly as inclined towards denial."
Harry laughed and followed Marvolo to the large hearth.
"So why are we taking the floo and not just apparating?"
"You said you despise apparating," Marvolo said, pausing and looking back at Harry blankly.
"I hate side-along apparition. Apparating myself is fine, and I've been to your place once already, so I can apparate back easily."
"In that case, I'll see you there," Marvolo said with a nod of his head before spinning on the spot and disappearing with a soft woosh.
Harry chuckled and spun, copying the man and reappearing an instant later in Marvolo's entrance hall beside the other man.
"So what am I doing here? You never actually said," Harry asked as the pair began to walk down the hall.
"As I said, I recieved some unexpected good news. About eight months ago I set one of my followers to the task of locating a manuscript for me. It's a book that I read while traveling through the middle east in my late 20's. The book is exceedingly rare as most copies of it have been destroyed, and I will admit that I did not have high hopes that he would succeed in locating a copy."
Harry's brows raised with interest. "But I take it that he did?"
Marvolo turned to look at him, smirking. "He did."
"So what's this book? Why are you looking for it?"
"For quite some time now, I have been thinking about what you've told me in regards to how the various magical communities dealt with the muggle's discovery of our existence in the future. The Russian wizards, specifically, and their establishment of an isolated and heavily defended preserve for magicals, very early on in the conflicts – a magical nation unto itself."
Harry nodded his head. "The magical capitol, Baykal. They began forming and fortifying it only a couple years after the muggles started using their tech to dismantle our notice-me-not wards and identify our magical villages and shopping districts."
"Yes – you said that the Russians took up arms because their muggle government was one of the first to demand total registration and confiscating wands, where as many others larger muggle nations eased more slowly into the total assault on wizards rights."
Harry nodded again. "It also helped that the region – Russia and surrounding countries – had such a significantly large magical population. They succeeded mostly because they didn't hold back in their defense of their rights and their claimed space. They used dragons, wyverns, dementors, ritual magic and lethal means to fight off the muggles that tried to attack the wall they created. It also helped that they built their city-state in a mostly unpopulated area that was pretty vast and mostly unwanted, simply because of the shitty climate."
"Yes – Russia benefits from having large expanses of unpopulated land," Marvolo remarked.
"Unpopulated for a reason," Harry said with a sardonic smirk.
"Yes, quite true. Not the most habitable of spaces, but magic can make up for a lot of that."
Harry nodded. "Yes, and it did. They practically terraformed the region and had an artificial climate system setup within the magical country's boundaries, a good twenty years before I died in my longest life."
Marvolo hummed and paused to pull open the door to his study, motioning Harry inside and then closing the door behind them. "As I said, I have been considering this information for some time now. You expressed the desire to try and emulate their strategy, in improving the chances of survival for Britain's wizarding population. And while our willingness to fight them with the full extent of our powers and capabilities is unquestionably there, we lack a reasonable space to escape to, where we could build sufficient walls and wards to keep our population safe."
Harry frowned seriously and nodded in agreement as he sat down in one of the wing back chairs by the hearth. Jörmy slithered over and raised his head towards Harry's hand as it hung over the side of the arm rest and absently ran his fingers over the serpents head and neck. "It's something I've thought about as well. I was thinking about taking a big chunk of my inheritance and investing it in a few muggle companies that I know are going to go huge in the next coming years and use it to buy up a big chunk of land somewhere, but I don't know of any available real estate large enough to house all of our population, let alone a chunk of land that big that's actually for sale. And even if we could find it – we'd still be in the middle of populated Britain. There's not exactly a lot of vast open spaces here that could be effectively defended."
"I have a better idea," Marvolo said, smirking widely as he sat in the chair opposite Harry.
Harry's brow arched. "Oh? Do tell."
Marvolo waved his hand and a book sailed into his hand from across the room where it had been resting on his desk. He flipped through it quickly to a ribbon about half way through and handed it over to Harry with a smug look on his face.
Harry took it and glanced over the page for a moment before his eyes widened.
"Geothermal manipulation? Is this a ritual for creating a volcano?"
"Yes, it is."
"A Volcano? Seriously? Okay, but... why?" Harry asked, dumbfounded.
"How are islands formed?" Marvolo asked simply.
Harry's eyes widened. "You intend to create new land? That's it, isn't it? You're suggesting that we create an island!?"
"That's – that's brilliant."
"Yes, I know," Marvolo said airily.
Harry shook his head and chuckled. "You're modesty astounds me."
"I am brilliant and I know it. You can hardly blame me for being proud of that fact."
Harry grinned, shaking his head fondly as he went back to reading the page that lay open in his lap.
"This should work... but it'll take some time for the land mass to grow to a large enough size to house our population," Harry said as he continued to read.
"Yes, it will," Marvolo agreed. "It will require maintenance, every other day, at a minimum, to keep the lava flow going consistently and in the formations we desire."
"I won't be able to do that once I'm back at Hogwarts," Harry said with a frown as he flipped to the next page and began to skim over the arithmantic tables and charts for the ritual. "Also – how will we do this if we're in the middle of the ocean?"
"Don't worry about the logistics of the ritual. I've already got several things in mind for that."
Harry shrugged. "Alright. But that still doesn't do anything about the problem of me no longer being around to help out, once September starts. I imagine your schedule won't really allow for constantly disappearing all the time, either. If I'm reading this correctly, we'd need to be on the island for a solid twelve hours at least three times a week. I mean, we could always enlist stand-ins – it would require more of them to fill in for what the two of us could do on our own, but some of your followers could probably do this in our stead. But then, they've got the same problem with disappearing for prolonged periods of time without reasonable explanation."
"Yes, that is precisely what I was thinking as well. It has led me to reconsider the prospects of breaking some of my old loyalists out of Azkaban."
Harry blinked – surprised by the suggestion at first, but then turning the idea over in his mind a few times to imagine how such a move might work out. "Yeah... that actually might work. I mean, before, breaking them out was a bad idea just because there was nothing they could do that would be useful. In fact, they'd probably just get in the way and cause trouble."
"Precisely. They cannot wield political power, or even be seen in public. They cannot work as spies, and I have no use for random acts of violence at the moment. If anything, they would prove to be a liability and a nuisance, since I would have to find some place to house them, and would have to worry about them going stir-crazy or slipping out into public and being seen or caught."
"But if they were relocated to an island of our making, they could work on maintaining the volcanic magic and the growth of the land, and also be responsible for transforming the land into something habitable," Harry remarked, looking both surprised and intrigued. "It might just work out. Of course, your old Death Eaters in Azkaban will probably require at least a month or two months to recover from their stay with the Dementors before they'll be strong enough to be of any use to use for this."
Marvolo nodded in agreement. "Probably true, yes."
"So, if we wanted them ready to take over things in time for me to go back to Hogwarts, we'd need to break them out... well, now. That's kind of short notice, and I can't help but wonder what sort of impact a mass break-out from Azkaban would do to public support of some of our initiatives."
"I was thinking that we might need to go with something more subtle."
"How so?" Harry asked, frowning in curiosity.
"I was wondering as to the possibility of swapping out a select group of followers with replacements. Other people who could take their place, much like how Barty Crouch's father was able to get his son out, unnoticed, by leaving his dying wife there in the boy's place."
"Oh... that is an idea," Harry mused. "I know of a potion – it was created some ten years from now, I think, by someone trying to find a way to make Polyjuice last longer than an hour. She ended up inventing a potion that was permanent. It needed a sample of blood instead of hair, but that's hardly a big deal. Added bonus – the potion doesn't take a whole ruddy month to brew. Takes about 5 days, instead. So we can definitely replace the Azkaban Death Eaters with believable alternates, and if I get started on the potion right away, it should be ready and we can do the break-out in a week."
"We can place the replacements under the imperius to keep them docile, outside of the standard moans and screams all inmates make," Marvolo added dismissively.
"Yeah, but how the heck do we break into Azkaban with a group of imperioused people, break out some of your old Death Eaters, give the replacements the potions and ditch them in the cells, and then leave with your Death Eaters; all without anyone the wiser?" Harry asked, somewhat incredulously.
"Simple. We walk in; do just that; and then leave," Marvolo said, smirking.
"Uh..." Harry trailed off, dubiously.
"I have already received oaths of fealty from the Dementors," Marvolo said through a smug grin. "They have agreed to give me free entrance to the prison, whenever I want it. They will let me walk in, and walk back out, without a fight – and, without notifying the Ministry, of course."
"I know there are some human guards... right? We certainly had wizards stationed there after the war..."
"Aurors are only stationed on the island three days out of the week. It is, obviously, not an ideal assignment for any wizard. No one wants to spend time around Dementors – Ministry employees included. The only times when more than one Auror is actually there are during the monthly inspections."
Harry snorted and rolled his eyes. "Of course. So do you know for sure which days won't have any human guards on duty?"
"I have obtained that information from the dementors; representative I have been working with; so yes."
"Well, brilliant. Sounds like you've got this all figured out."
Severus apparated into the now familiar entrance hall with a soft crack and felt the pull on his mark, calling him towards the same large room where the first Death Eater gathering had been a year prior. This was unusual entirely because that meeting had been the only large-scale gathering that he had been summoned to in all that time. Any meetings with the Dark Lord after that point had been more 'small scale'. Generally one-on-one meetings with just Severus and the Dark Lord, or Severus and Lucius, and maybe one or two others. Always a small enough group that the meetings ended up taking place in the Dark Lord's study, instead of the large converted-ballroom.
Severus pulled out his wand and conjured himself a bone-white mask, since he had neglected to bring one with him. It was usually unnecessary since the smaller gatherings were always with people who knew who he was anyway, but if this was going to be on a larger-scale, he preferred at least an attempt at anonymity.
No sooner had he donned the mask when another crack echoed through the hall behind him. He turned to look over his shoulder while shifting so that his back wouldn't be exposed. The man he saw standing there was only vaguely familiar, and he was clearly nervous, if his fidgeting was anything to go by. The familiarity existed solely because Severus remembered the man from the first war – he had been marked young and at the tail end of the war, and had very little participation in any raids before the Dark Lord's first fall, and was never named or arrested.
Severus was positive that the man had not been summoned a year ago, but had no way of knowing for sure if he'd been summoned at any point since then.
"Oh! Are we supposed to be wearing the masks?" the man exclaimed and Severus felt his lip curl in annoyed distaste. "I – I don't still have mine."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Then conjure one," he muttered before turning and swiftly walking down the hall towards the ballroom.
There were already four others in there when he entered, and one of them was obviously Lucius. The hair was unmistakable. Severus went over to stand beside him and the two remained silent for several minutes as the hall slowly filled up. The rookie from earlier appeared to have managed to conjure himself a mask, as he was wearing one when he entered the room a minute after Severus.
After five minutes Severus did a quick tally of those in attendance and was mildly surprised to find that there were 22 wizards and two witches present. The last meeting had only had fifteen, and Severus had been able to successfully identify all of them by the end of the gathering. He was fairly sure that he had no idea who some of these extra additions were, today.
Barty Crouch Jr. came in, not bothering with a mask and went over to Lucius' other side. "Hey Malfoy – do you know what this is about?" he asked in a quiet voice as he leaned into Lucius' side.
Lucius turned his head slowly and was no doubt arching a single brow beneath his mask, if the silent pause was any indication. "No," he said simply a moment later.
Crouch sighed and rolled his shoulders before looking around bored. "It's been a while since he summoned me. Not a lot of good I can do him, you know? Makes me wonder what this is about."
"I suppose you'd best be quiet and just wait, like the rest of us," Malfoy drawled.
Crouch rolled his eyes and turned his attention to the front of the hall.
The door in the back of the hall opened then and Crouch stood to attention, along with most everyone else in the hall. Severus had been prepared, to some extent, for the wave of magical power that always preceded an entrance by the Dark Lord, but the amount of magical power he felt seeping into the room was staggering enough that he felt his knees go weak. A small gasp escaped Lucius lips from beside him, but the blond remained stoic otherwise. The same could not be said for quite a few of the others in the room, however.
Several fell to their knees, and Severus was fairly sure that the startled cry he heard came from Avery.
The tall, imposing figure of the Dark Lord, cloaked all in black with hood drawn up and magically concealing his upper-face, stepped through the open doorway with proud, imperious grace. The magic was rolling off of him, the same as ever, and it by itself was more than enough to set many of the men in this room, trembling with fear and awe. But the magic did not stop with the Dark Lord's entrance. A second figure appeared directly behind him. This one wearing slate-gray robes, rather than black, but still with the hood up magically concealing the upper portion of his face.
It was this second figure that Severus found most shocking. Not because he was walking in with the Dark Lord like an equal, but because he seemed to radiate the same tremendous level of magical power as the Dark Lord did, which was a feat Severus would have previously believed impossible. Never in his life, had he imagined that a single man with as much power as the Dark Lord possessed, could exist, until he encountered the Dark Lord. But to encounter a second?
He always suspected that if Dumbledore were to fully unsheathe his own magical power, it would be comparable, but he had never yet born witness to such an occurrence. He'd gotten small tastes of the aged wizards power from time to time, but never the full thing, he suspected. This was the first time in his life, that he had experienced a second wizard with such a monstrous supply of magical power, and to encounter these two men at the same time, was astounding.
A shuddering breath escaped Lucius' lips and he, as well as everyone else gathered in the room that was still standing, fell to their knees as the Dark Lord and the gray-cloaked stranger strode confidently to the center front of the meeting hall.
"My loyal Deatheaters," the Dark Lord called out in a pleased drawl as he settled into position in front of those kneeling before him. The gray-cloaked wizard stood just behind his left with his arms folded behind his back and his head high. "It pleases me greatly to see you all gathered here before me. For some of you, this is your first time being summoned to my side since my unfortunate fall, more than a decade ago. There have been clues, no doubt, to indicate my return, yet you had not been summoned until now. That you all have come when I needed you pleases me and your loyalty will not be forgotten."
He paused and looked over the group of men all still on their knees with heads bowed.
"You may raise your heads, my Death Eaters," the Dark Lord said in a light, high tone, and Severus caught a smirk on his dimly shadowed lips. "No doubt those of you who have not been called until now, and those of you who have been called only once or twice over the last year, are curious as to what reasons I have had for leaving you out of my machinations. The simple answer is that the skills many of you present to me have not necessarily been of use during that time. That, however, changes now." He paused to look out over the gathered crowd that watched him with rapt attention. Severus couldn't help but tense slightly as he wondered just what was about to happen that would require the Dark Lord to suddenly summon such a large group.
"I have taken a distinctly different road in my bid for control and change, since my return to physical form. The time spent as little more than specter and smoke permitted me much opportunity for reflection on past mistakes. In the previous war we relied far too heavily on fear and violence. We made the people cower before us – too afraid to stand against us – and the Ministry too weak and incompetent to stop us. At the time I felt it was a tactic that was proving quite successful, but there is, of course, a fatal flaw in such methods," he paused dramatically to observe those gathered who were all watching him with rapt attention.
"A wise man once said 'However strong your armies may be, you will always need the favour of the inhabitants to take possession of a province'. I wish to control Magical Britain and turn it into a nation that we can once again be proud to call ourselves citizens of. A Magical Nation where we are not denied our basic rights and do not cower in the shadows from muggles. But even more than that, I want to rule this nation without eternally struggling against one uprising after another.
"If we take magical Britain through fear and violence, we will always be seen as the conquering foe to be rebelled against. There will always be those who believe they need to save the people from us. Instead, I want the people to see that it is I who am saving them. Saving them from an inept, corrupt, government that cowers to the whims of the muggles, and keeps the people ignorant and weak while stripping us of our rights and our history.
"To this end, I have been working for the last several years. Using stealth and cunning to spread my power and lay a foundation for the work to come. A regrettable result to this strategy is that I have had no true opportunity to address the pressing issue of the most unfortunate of my loyal Death Eaters. Namely those, presently incarcerated, in Azkaban Prison."
Several of those gathered seemed to shift with surprise at this, and Severus had to admit that he himself had not seen this topic coming either.
"The reality is that, right now, a mass breakout from Azkaban of Death Eaters would be very counter productive to the political and public machinations I have had in the works. Before now, I have had far too limited a space for housing them and would not be willing to put them up for the rather indefinite period of time that would have been necessary, as they would be the focus of an intense man-hunt by the Ministry. And on top of that, they themselves, would serve no useful purpose towards my plans. And yet, I have dwelled on their predicament. They were loyal to me and have suffered greatly for our cause. Surely you all would like to know that if you too were to be caught and arrested by the Ministry, that efforts would be made to free you?
"To expect loyalty and service from you is to hold responsibility for you as well, and I am not a man who disregards my responsibility. The time has come to free your brothers in arms from the clutches of the Ministry. The time has come for us to go to Azkaban."
This declaration was met with several startled gasps and quietly whispered exclamations of shock.
"Ah... do not fear, my Death Eaters. I could not possibly be giving you a simpler task. I have already made arrangements with the Dementors of Azkaban for clear passage in and out of the prison. We will go on a day where my intelligence has guaranteed there will be no Aurors or other Ministry wizards, stationed on the island. This is not a matter of storming the prison by force – in fact, stealth and speed is of the utmost importance. I do not wish for news of a mass break-out to hit the public – or even the Ministry. We shall be using Barty's father's model as a guide," here the Dark Lord paused and motioned his hand to Crouch who blinked while several looked to him curiously.
"Barty here was imprisoned in Azkaban at the same time as the Lestranges, and yet, he kneels here with you all now. He is believed long dead by the Ministry as his father was able to slip him out of the prison by leaving someone else behind in his place. We shall be bringing a group of men and a woman with us to the island; using a newly developed potion to permanently duplicate our comrades' appearances, we will leave the dopplegangers behind while leaving the island with our fellows.
"No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution," the Dark Lord said imperiously. "The Ministry must not know of our actions. They must not know that we are regrouping and rebuilding our power. They must not know that I have returned. These are our realities if our goals are to be achieved. This mission to Azkaban must go off without a hitch and so I have called you all here to finalize plans for the attack and call for volunteers. Now, which among you can cast a Patronus?"
Severus considered it a distinctly pathetic reality that quite a few among the group did not raise their hands. A glance at those around him also told him why the Dark Lord had gone to the trouble of summoning in a larger selection of his old followers to this meeting, as several individuals from the group initially summoned a year ago, were among those who could not, apparently, summon a patronus. Apparently having political influence, or a Ministry job had no actual relation to one's magical ability. How shocking.
Avery, Jugson, Goyle and Crabbe – all of whom had been present before, now remained kneeling with their heads bowed in shame. Several of those who Severus was only vaguely familiar with, or presently unaware of their identities, in contrast, had their hands firmly in the air. The Dark Lord proceeded to ask those who had raised their hands a series of additional questions, narrowing the group down further until he was apparently satisfied with the abilities of his chosen raid party. He'd also assigned two of those gathered – a witch and a wizard who were apparently currently in the employ of St. Mungos – to the task of looking after the health of the freed Death Eaters, once they were actually free.
Those who hadn't made the cut were told they could leave after another reminder that allowing any of this information to slip into the wrong hands would result in a great deal of pain and punishment, both from their Marks as well from the Dark Lord's own wand. Finally they were left with a group of eleven wizards and one witch, the Dark Lord, and the gray-cloaked wizard, who had remained silent the entire meeting so far.
The Dark Lord walked slowly in front of the group, eyeing them speculatively in silence for a minute before coming to a stop at the front-center position again and facing them all.
"You shall be my raid group for this mission. If any of those among you feel even the slightest doubt in your commitment or ability to complete the mission, tell me now. The mission could not possibly be more well planned out for you, but one incompetent mistake could easily still ruin everything and the punishment you would receive for backing out now would be substantially less than the one you would receive for a grand failure during the actual break-out. Am I understood?" the Dark Lord said in a high, cold, and biting tone. The group remained silent and motionless for the heavy pause that followed.
The corner of the Dark Lord's visible lips turned up. "Good. Now, I think, it is time to introduce you, my loyal followers, to a dear friend of mine. He and I have formed an alliance and he shall accompany us on this mission. He may join us for future missions as well; should his assistance again prove especially warranted by the activities we partake in. Death Eaters, meet Troy Harpter," the Dark Lord said with a dramatic flourish of his arm, in the direction of the gray-cloaked man.
The man in question stepped forward then, while the Dark Lord took a step back but remained standing tall and just as intimidating as ever as he glowered out over the gathered crowd from beneath his hooded cowl.
"Loyal followers of the Dark Lord," the man began and Severus felt himself start with stunned disbelief as he found the voice just familiar enough that the man's potential identity flashed into his mind. It seemed utterly ridiculous, and yet it also explained everything. The idea of the Dark Lord willingly walking beside another wizard, and treating him as an equal in any regard, seemed downright impossible... except for in the case of Harry Potter.
Severus nearly rolled his eyes as the anagram rearranged itself in his mind. Surely the man could be a little less obvious?
Of course, it wasn't really that obvious. Not really. Honestly – who the hell would possibly suspect...?
Even Severus hadn't considered it until the man had spoken. Even he had not realized – even fathomed – that Harry was this powerful.
It was a rather stunning realization.
Severus was pulled out of his stupor and refocused on what Harry was actually saying.
" – first task is going to be a bit challenging for some of you," Potter was saying, "and it will require first-hand experience moving about the muggle world without drawing attention to yourselves. Who here among you has such experience? And I'm talking about legitimate experience – I need people who know how to dress like muggles without looking like fools and attracting stares, and people who know where to go in the muggle cities to find certain types of people."
Those gathered looked around at their fellows questioningly. Severus rather doubted that many of them actually had such experience.
He sighed and raised his hand. Barty also raised his, as well as a few of those that Severus was unfamiliar with.
"Good," Potter said with a nod, "You will be responsible for collecting our ten dopplegangers. We're going with muggles because they'll have less tolerance against the power of the dementors, and no tolerance against the Imperious. Anyone who hears them screaming will just assume they're insane, because anyone who has been in Azkaban for as long as the Death Eaters currently incarcerated, are generally insane, anyway. And the muggles will actually go insane within a few weeks or months, because of their utter lack of defenses.
"More so, we need to get a variety of muggles, as far as age and health are concerned. Being muggles with no magical defenses, they won't last long in Azkaban, but we want to make sure that they don't all end up dead at the same time. It wouldn't be too odd if the Death Eaters start 'dying off' after all this time, but it would be considered odd if they all do it within a month of each other. I want the group of you to coordinate what sorts of muggles you each get. We only need one female, but we need nine males. Stick with homeless people, and perhaps find one or two elderly muggles who live alone and have no family left. People who are likely to go unnoticed if they disappear. Chances are slim that many witches or wizards would notice a news report about a bunch of muggles disappearing suddenly, but I'd rather not even take that risk."
The wizard, Harry, paused then and tilted his hooded head slightly to the side, as if debating what to say next.
"Those of you that raised your hands about the muggle knowledge – have you all successfully cast the Imperius before? Are there any of you who've never cast it?"
Those gathered glanced around at each other and three of them – all Death Eaters that Severus was unfamiliar with – hesitantly raised their hands. Honestly, Severus found it almost humorous to think that this was a situation where one was embarrassed to admit that they'd never cast one of the Unforgivables.
"Alright," Harry said with an acknowledging nod of his head. "Then we'll be having a bit of an impromptu class, here. It's not that hard of a spell to cast – honestly, the fact that it's kind of easy is one of the biggest reasons it's outlawed. I cast it for the first time when I was still a teenager without any instruction or preparation beforehand. The real trick is to really want the other person to do what you want them to do. You've got to be determined.
"Now, you three come out here – we're going to practice it, here and now."
The three hesitated for a moment, glancing over at the Dark Lord who had stood imperiously, but silently, behind Harry, since he had begun speaking. The Dark Lord gave them a curt nod of his head and the three quickly moved to the front of the group where Harry was standing.
What followed was a twenty minute lesson in the Imperius curse. He demonstrated the curse on each of three, stating that knowing what it felt like from that angle would give them a better perspective on casting it, themselves. Then he had the three take turns casting it on each other, until Harry was satisfied that they'd be able to cast the curse on any muggles, with success on the first try.
Severus doubted that they'd really have any trouble – they were all three fairly successful with the spell – and that was casting it against wizards. Muggles had no natural defense against the Imperius, at all.
After that, some more instructions on the mission were dispensed – mostly pertaining to bringing the muggles back to the Dark Lord's manor, when each was captured, and where they were to be taken – then a brief overview of when the actual break-out would be taking place and what to expect from the mission. Then the Death Eaters were finally dismissed.
"Lucius, Severus – remain behind," the Dark Lord said as the group of Death Eaters had begun to disperse. As soon as the room had cleared of everyone except for Severus, Lucius, the Dark Lord and Harry, the Dark Lord make a swift jerking motion of his head and began to stride from the room with Harry at his side an instant later. Severus and Lucius quickly followed suit and the four traveled through the old manor house until they reached the Dark Lord's study. It was certainly not the first time that Severus had set foot in the room, but it was not an entirely common occurrence to be invited there, and his visits there were usually brief.
Upon entering the room, the Dark Lord pulled his hood down and fluidly removed his cloak, revealing the fine, aristocratic face Severus had slowly grown to associate with his master, since his return to physical form. The Dark Lord tossed the robe casually over the back of his desk chair and then proceeded to make his way over to a large leather wingback chair by the hearth where he gracefully took his seat.
Harry mimicked the action, just as casually, although probably not quite as graceful. Harry exhibited none of the hesitation a person might have were they uncomfortable or unaccustomed to being somewhere. The casual behavior told Severus just how comfortable Harry really was here, which was almost surprising, but this was Harry he was talking about. The man even seemed perfectly comfortable in Severus' company in his office back at Hogwarts.
Harry removed his own slate-gray cloak and tossed it to the same chair – over top of the Dark Lord's cloak. Severus heard the slightest whimper escape Lucius' throat when Harry's face was revealed. Severus himself, honestly felt the urge to choke, somewhat, but not because he had held any doubt as to Harry's identity, but entirely because of how damn much Harry resembled his damnable father, in his current, older-looking state.
This older version of Harry was probably in his mid-twenties – or rather, he looked like he was in his 20's. Obviously that wasn't his actual age, but Severus figured that Harry's actual age was rather relative, really. Severus had figured, during the meeting, that Harry had probably used an aging potion, just from his height, deeper voice, and his apparent build beneath the heavy cloak. Lucius had already told Severus about Harry's earlier use of an aging potion, so it had been a reasonable assumption to make, when Severus had first deduced the 'mysterious wizards' identity. However, knowing that Harry was going to look older, and actually seeing it, and just how much he resembled his blasted father, were two very different things to grasp.
Severus was fairly sure that Lucius had made much the same assumption about who ' Troy Harpter' truly was, during the meeting, but perhaps he had been less sure than Severus had been – up until Harry had revealed his face, that is. Severus somewhat doubted this, though, since Lucius himself had exclaimed only two days prior, that Harry had demonstrated a stunningly monstrous amount of magical power, and there were so few wizards in the world who could even come close to the power level the Dark Lord possessed. Severus had accepted that Harry could probably do some outrageous things, but he had honestly never anticipated that Harry had this much magical power.
Severus, himself, was still in a mild state of disbelief over Harry's power, actually.
It was easier to doubt his own senses now, as Harry began to muffle his magical aura in the same way he must always muffle it. He apparently no longer felt the need to broadcast his power level, now that they were in a more intimate gathering. The Dark Lord performed no such act, however.
Harry flopped himself with graceless casualty into another wing-back chair, leaving the couch as the only remaining seating around the fireplace, so Lucius and Severus stood by it and waited until the Dark Lord made a motion with his hand to indicate that they should sit. Harry just grinned at them.
"Severus, there is a potion – a variation on the Polyjuice potion – that I will be needing you to brew, in order to perminently alter the appearance of our muggle dopplegangers," the Dark Lord began promptly.
"I was under the impression that the mission would take place a week from now?" Severus asked.
"The potion only takes five days to brew," Harry replied instead. "It's a significant improvement over Polyjuice in a number of ways – unfortunately, or fortunately in our case – it's permanent, and the potion won't work again after it's been used once, so it's uses are limited."
"I see. I assume you will be supplying me with the instructions on how to brew it?"
"Yeah, we can arrange a time tomorrow to go over it," Harry said with a nod before turning his attention back to the Dark Lord with an expectant look on his face.
"Lucius, I have called you here this evening because Harry says he wishes to fill you in on certain... details. Details pertaining to his own history and personally kept secrets. I am of the opinion that the fewer people who are aware of these details, the better, but they are his secrets to tell, and if he wishes to do so, there is little I can do to stop him," the Dark Lord stated blandly, but Severus could see the hint of irritation in the Dark Lord's eyes.
In contrast, Severus caught the slightest flash of triumph in Lucius' eyes, but the blond managed to otherwise keep his face impassive.
"These details are obviously very sensitive in nature, and, as Harry and I do agree that keeping the number of people in-the-know to a minimum is for the best, I will insist that you refrain from repeating it to anyone. As I am here, the information will be considered sensitive within the secrecy restrictions that you are held to by your Mark. As you know, should you ever attempt to betray my confidences in such a situation, you will suffer a great deal of pain. Am I understood?"
"Yes, My Lord," Lucius said instantly.
"Good. As Severus, of course, already knows, so he can remain. We have additional matters to discuss when Harry is done."
The Dark Lord took a moment to glare at both Lucius and Severus. Both them, of course, remained perfectly stoic, despite the oppressive force of the Dark Lord's magic, pressing down upon them. Finally the Dark Lord seemed satisfied and gave a sharp nod of his head before turning and giving Harry a look that Severus thought looked both annoyed and resigned.
Harry just smirked at him before turning his head to look at Lucius and Severus on the couch.
"I get that you've been dying to know the truth for quite some time now. It's probably been driving you crazy that Draco found out before even you did. Before, honestly, you just didn't need to know, and it was just that simple. But I realize now, that you probably deserve to know the truth, considering the position you've put yourself into by agreeing to become my legal guardian, and offering up your home to be during the holidays.
"I do appreciate what you're doing, and the best way I think, that I can show that gratitude, is to just be honest with you. So here goes. Physically, I'm fourteen years old. I was born, fourteen years ago – this body is fourteen years old. But mentally, magically, and spiritually, I'm over six hundred years old. I have relived my life, eleven times. This life, is my twelfth life. I'm not being reincarnated as a new person every life, and somehow remembering it – I'm being reborn as the same person over and over again. So it's sort of a time-travel thing, too.
"My first life, I lived to the ripe old age of 149. I lived a very full and reasonably satisfactory life – got married to the girl everyone expected me to, had a bunch of kids who each had a bunch of kids, and so on. I died of old age, fully expecting to just... die. Move on. Whatever. But I didn't. I died and the next thing I know, I'm being born. I'm an infant, and my mother is there, laying down, sweaty and panting, and crying and smiling down at me as the doctors laid me on her chest.
"It was the most wonderful and horribly confusing moment of my life. I eventually understood that I had somehow started over at the beginning. I still remembered everything that I'd done in my previous life, and I eventually realized that I'd even kept my magic. Of course, as a wizard ages, their magical core slowly grows in size and capacity. I had the magical core of a hundred and fifty year old wizard, and that went back with me.
"My second life, I tried to 'do things better' – fix all the mistakes I'd made – save more people... I don't know. In that life, I lived to be 130 before dying of natural causes. And then I woke up screaming and being held by my sweaty exhausted mother again. You can imagine, I started to get pretty frustrated and panicky over the whole thing. It no longer seemed like an opportunity to 'do things better' and started to become more of a curse.
"When you keep redoing your own life, it gets to a point where it stops having any meaning. My third life I lived to be 112, but after that I stopped living quite as long. My fourth life I died at 62 – killed by muggles in a battle during the great magic-muggle war. My fifth life I killed myself at age 10. Sixth life, I lived to be 35, before I thought that maybe I'd changed what I was trying to change that go-around, and killed myself. Obviously, it didn't make any difference. My seventh life I let a Dementor suck out my soul at age 13 in hopes that maybe that would be permanent. But it didn't do anything. Actually – if it did anything, it cost me 13 years of magical growth. When I was reborn, it was like my magical core was at the exact same level it had been at, at the end of my sixth life. Like the seventh life was just nixed. Not that thirteen years of aging makes that big of a difference, since the core's growth is so slow. But I did managed to detect that difference, and it was the only indication I had that having let a Dementor suck out my soul had any different effect, at all."
Harry took a deep breath then and sighed, grimacing in seeming annoyance or frustration. Severus chanced a glance over at Lucius and found the man sporting an utterly stunned expression. He imagined he hadn't looked much different when Harry had told him the truth, all those years ago.
"Let's see... my eighth life, I lived to be 42 and was killed by muggles. Ninth life I lived to be 28 before I killed myself. Tenth life I only lasted to age 6 before I killed myself, and my eleventh life I lived to ten before killing myself. Pretty much each life I settled on a theory for what I could try doing different, in hopes that maybe that's what I need to change so that I could actually die. Obviously, nothing has actually worked, yet."
"Huh... so it's basically like the wizard... what was his name... ah yes! Avitus of Syracuse?"
"Who?" Harry asked, frowning blankly.
"Avitus... I read... it'd been a very long time. There is a book, written in Latin, in my family's library. I read it when I was quite young. He wrote it himself and it was something of a biography. According to his own telling, he was stuck in something of an endless loop. That he was repeating his own life, again and again."
Harry slowly sat up much straighter in his own chair and a look of stunned interest filled his eyes.
"Do you still have it?"
"I can't imagine why I wouldn't. Nothing leaves my family library without my permission."
"Can I see it?"
"Of course," Lucius said with a gracious nod in Harry's direction.
"I too, wish to see it when next I visit," the Dark Lord stated airily.
"Of course, My Lord," Lucius said quickly bowing his head in the Dark Lord's direction.
A moment of silence filled the space and Lucius looked back at a deeply thoughtful looking Harry speculatively for a moment as if he were trying to work out a puzzle. "So, from what I have gathered from your telling... you're basically just trying to die?"
Harry seemed to shake himself out of his own foggy thoughts and shrugged a bit in Lucius' direction and sat back in his chair. "Right now, I'm just trying to make sure that the Dark Lord wins the war and gains control over the wizarding world of Britain. The eventual goal, from there, is to try and save magical Britain's wizarding community from the muggles, after they discover us and war breaks out. Which, admittedly, we've still got some time before that shit hits the fan. But its a lot to prepare for, so it's good that we're starting early. I'm honestly trying not to think about what comes after this life. It always tends to kill my motivation to get anything done. The idea that everything I may accomplish here will be wiped away in the blink of an eye tends to induce apathy and suicidal tendencies in me."
"Wait – discovered by the muggles?" Lucius said with suddenly registered surprise as he sat up a bit straighter. "You're saying that they're going to realize that we're here and war will break out?"
"Yup," Harry said with a bored shrug. "It gets pretty brutal. We're talking confiscated wands, forced 'registration', public unrest and terrorist attacks on both sides, and eventually even concentration camps in a number of countries – including Britain, believe it or not. Fortunately that didn't last more than two years before saner people regained control of their countries, but the damage was still done. And of course there were some countries in the world where there were officially-run extermination campaigns. They were, obviously, kept very quiet at the times they were happening, and were mostly happening in the smaller, third-world countries."
"Merlin," Lucius whispered in shocked horror. "But... how could they possibly succeed in such things? Surely they couldn't possibly stand up to us, to any reasonable extent? Mere muggles?"
"First, it's important to acknowledge that there are a whole hell of a lot more of them, then there are us. But even without their advantage in population to take into account, this war broke out several decades from now and their technology had advanced even further than it is right now. In my longest life time, they had never found a way to replicate magic, using their technology, but they did develop ways to neutralize it. They could create these fields that nullified any magic in a vicinity, including our notice-me-not wards, disillusionment spells, and even Imperius."
"No –" Lucius whispered, the horror in his voice and face only growing with each additional word.
"Yes. And in all my lives, I've never managed to do anything to stop it. The muggles will discover us – it's inevitable. And war will break out. We will be outnumbered, and things will go very bad for us, for a great number of years before anything starts to get better. Huge chunks of the wizarding population will end up dead, and our culture as we know it, will be decimated. Or at least, it was in my previous lives. I'm hoping that, in Britain at least, we can do something about some of this. That's what the Dark Lord and I are focusing on right now."
Lucius' curiosity perked up. "How so?"
"We are going to create a safe-haven for our people to escape to and live," the Dark Lord interjected, instead. "Harry has told me a great many things about the wizard-muggle war and how it was handled differently by different wizarding countries and which ones had the most success in retaining their lives, freedom, and culture. It was the Russian wizards that I felt were the most successful, and yet, in the beginning, they were the most frowned upon by the other magical world leaders, simply because they turned to violent defense of their rights, the fastest. They also isolated themselves within a huge city-wall of a sort and protected their borders with tremendous force. Harry and I have chosen to imitate this approach in much the same way. The first hurdle was that the wilderness of Russia is vast and unwanted and there was plenty of space to lay claim to, while he, do not have any such luxury."
"So we're creating it," Harry added, with an excited gleam in his eye. "It was the Dark Lord's idea – we're going to use geothermal magic to create our own volcano and use it to grow a landmass until we're satisfied with it's size and shape and cut the land-formation off."
"Create an island?!" Lucius gasped with both shock and obvious intrigue.
"It is why I have decided to finally rescue my old followers from Azkaban," the Dark Lord said.
"They finally have a use," Severus remarked with a sardonic tone. "And if they are on some forming island, they can't be seen by anyone here and start causing trouble."
"Precisely," the Dark Lord replied with a gleam of triumph in his ruby eyes.
"The only real problem is that they're going to take at least a month or two to recover, magically, from their time on the island. I rather doubt some of them will recover at all, mentally, but... well, I suppose we'll see," Harry added. "The Dark Lord and I will probably spend quite a bit of time on forming the new island this summer, although we still need to attend the Wizengamot sessions and attend to some other tasks. But once I'm back at Hogwarts, the Azkaban Death Eaters will take over the island maintenance full-time. Until that time... well, they'll have to be here."
The Dark Lord's lip curled in disgust.
"Well – here and at your home," Harry amended, looking at Lucius, who's eyes widened at the suggestion.
"Yes... I was thinking that perhaps Narcissa would enjoy the opportunity to look after her sister," the Dark Lord said with a gleam in his eye that told Lucius that it was not a mere suggestion, and any arguments against it would not be well received. "The Lestrange brothers, as well. Perhaps one or two others will also join them in your home. I will not be here full-time to monitor those whom I have no choice but to take into my home, and as such, they will be monitored primarily by my house elf. Not the strictest possible security or guidance."
"Not to mention that some of them would probably be right arses to your elf," Harry muttered.
The Dark Lord gave a very slight nod that seemed to indicate that he didn't exactly disagree with Harry's statement. "In any case, that is how things presently stand. Do you have any additional questions at this time, Lucius?"
Lucius seemed to pause for a moment to pull himself together before giving a confident shake of his head. "No, my Lord. I am confident that I understand all that you need of me."
"Good. Harry will probably be returning to your home after this, I suspect," the Dark Lord said before glancing over at Harry with a silent question in his eyes. Harry nodded his head. "Yes. Severus, you will go with them. Harry will provide you with instructions for brewing the polyjuice variant. I want you to get started on that right away – it must be ready for the raid on Azkaban."
"Yes, My Lord," Severus replied.
"Lucius, while Harry is aiding Severus, I would like for you to track down that book for him in your family library."
"Yes, My Lord."