I'm sorry to say that this will be the last fast-updated chapter in some time. I will leave for Japan in a few days and will only arrive at my apatment-and thus have internet access- around the 10th of September. I won't have time to write before that either... I'll try to write as much as I can when I'm there but I'll probably have to socialise quite a lot mroe than I'm used to so don't expect weekly updates anymore... I'll try to stick to once every couple of weeks.
Thank you all for your support and reviews!
It was the first time Harry visited this room in the house, and he felt a bit apprehensive when he entered through the heavy doors of black wood into the impressive chamber. It was larger than he'd thought, perhaps magically enlarged every time it was necessary to add new pieces of wall. He had never had a need to come here before, in the far back of the house, and his eyes flicked over the grey slates of stone the walls were made of, silver letters covering them.
A slight cough was immediately echoed back to him, but he ignored it, softly sliding his fingers over the many, many names engraved in the stone, magically preserved to prevent erosion. The stone made a soft hissing sound when he traced it with his fingers as he walked further into the back, towards the newest names that had been added. At last, he stood still, face crestfallen as his eyes roamed over the stone.
Rodolphus Lestrange, Pureblood, Died with honour at the 26th of January in the Battle of France.
Rabastan Lestrange, Pureblood, Died with honour at the 26th of January in the Battle of France.
Gregory Crabbe, Pureblood, Died with honour at the 26th of January in the Battle of France.
The list went on and on… every Inner Circle member and Second circle member who had given their lives yesterday were here, and Harry frowned when seeing that their blood status appeared to be more important to list than their age or middle names. Nott was on here as well, together with Rookwood and the other Carrow Twin, forever separated in death on two separate pieces of wall, unlike the Lestrange brothers, as they had died on different dates.
Marvolo had told him this room was keyed to the Dark Mark, and as soon as a member died, their name and blood status was placed on here, after which the House-elves would make sure the additional details were added. Harry sighed in relief when not finding Weasley on here, or Malfoy. Many others seemed to have been spared as well, although his stomach clenched when finding both Laveena and Alain on there, two of the Ef's. He hadn't expected any of the elite fighters to go down. After some time, he also found Dyanira's name, and wondered how Devaki would cope with her twin sister having been killed. It would also mean that Marvolo would not have a majority anymore in the Ef's, unless some of the others had fought with the other side and died.
Shivering lightly, he walked back to the doors, itching to leave the Memorial Room behind him. He wandered aimlessly through corridors and rooms, avoiding the usual paths for once so her could think for a longer time, and wouldn't have to speak to anyone. Finally arriving in his room, he flung himself down on the bed, his body still needing more rest than he'd thought. Remembering his medicine, he groped for the bottle on his nightstand and sat up, carefully measuring a spoonful of it and swallowing the awful-tasting, bright yellow liquid. He hadn't dared to look at the label to see the list of ingredients…
He looked up in surprise as two snakes slithered in, and he smiled, not having seen them around for quite some time.~Arzòn, Nagini,~ he hissed, greeting them. ~Pleasant surprise seeing you here.~
~Young Master~ Nagini hissed back, heaving her body in the air before sliding down on the bed and over his lap. ~Have you been taking good care of my human?~
Harry got an amused smile on his face like always when Nagini casually reminded him or Marvolo that she saw Marvolo as nothing but her pet. He stroked her scales while Nagini's brother also joined them, nudging Harry's side. ~Of course I have. And he took good care of me,~ he answered her.
~I'm glad to hear that, Amigo~ Arzòn hissed, pleased. ~We were a bit worried, there has been no mating smell in the nest for a long time.~ Harry spluttered a bit, growing flaming red. Had the snake just said that they could smell it whenever he and Marvolo… Embarrassed, he kept silent, just giving a noncommittal hum. ~Are the both of you alright in that regard? It hasn't led to hatchlings yet so… have you given up?~ the snake prodded on, completely oblivious to Harry's mood.
~They're both male, you idiot,~ Nagini answered for him. ~Two males can't get eggs.~
~Then why did they try?~
Harry groaned, silently saying a prayer to be released from this conversation. He was too tired to move though, and just let himself fall backwards. ~Because it feels nice Arzòn,~ he at long last answered. ~but we've both been too busy the past weeks~
~But you're not busy now are you?~
He put his hands over his face, snickering at the absurdity of their two pet snakes inquiring about his and Marvolo's mating behaviour.
~He has to heal for now. He got injured yesterday and has only been released from the healing place this morning. Do give him a rest, darlings.~
"Hey Marvolo," Harry smiled.
"Sorry for their nosiness. I hadn't thought they would confront you with this too."
"You want to tell me they've pestered you about this as well?"
"Last week, after which I finally satisfied Nagini by pressing you up against a wall."
"For ten minutes," Harry pouted. "And here I thought it was a coincidence. Did you really have to be pestered into having sex with me?"
"I hopefully won't have to anymore… Now get back to healing so I can pound into you once more."
"You don't have to be so crude about it," Harry huffed. He shrugged Nagini off, who hissed in displeasure, but allowed him to place the covers over himself. "And I'm working on it, I just took my medicine, so you won't have to bug me about that anymore. Something completely different though… would you care to update me? As I've been out for a day and haven't really spoken to anyone yet, I haven't yet had the chance to be informed about what's all going on. I went to the Memorial Room earlier to take a moment of silence for the dead, and to find out who actually did fall and who are still with us."
Marvolo had moved to the bedside and sat down while Harry spoke, the snakes instantly going over to him as Harry wouldn't pet them anymore. "Of course love," he spoke as he scratched Nagini's snout. "You know of Dumbledore already, of course… But his death wasn't even the most shocking point of the battle. Just before you blew yourself up, Charlie Weasley appeared with an army of around eighty dragons. It seems we've finally found the culprit who 'stole' the dragons. They all went with him willingly, and I spoke to him briefly. He is completely on our side and was relieved to find that some of his brothers are here too, and that his father is living with the Twins. Of course, his mother's death was a shock to him…"
"You killed her already then?" He didn't quite know how to feel about that piece of news.
"There was no use in keeping her alive. She didn't really know anything of value either, which was rather disappointing. However, the Order is as good as done for… The only old members who remain possible threats now are McGonagall, Flitwick, Bill Weasley, Kingsley Shacklebolt and, though I loath to admit him as a threat, Hagrid. The rest are either dead or at our side. Of course, they have new members… roughly seventy members remain after last battle. That is still quite a force, but they have lost their leader, and consist mainly of sixteen- to twenty-years-old who wanted a taste of battle. Some are still students at Hogwarts and were pardoned from last lessons to join the fight, others are recent-graduates who still supported Dumbledore. An army of, excuse me for saying it, children, won't be much of a threat."
"I'm younger than they are, and I killed quite a few. The Twins as well… and then there's Ron, and Malfoy."
"You only after you had thorough training, and look what happened. The Twins are a rare, absolutely brilliant bunch. Both Ronald and Draco were refused from participating in the battle because it was too risky. Lucius and Narcissa refused to let their son go out to battle, and I believe Arthur made sure Ronald wouldn't go. I agreed with both those decisions."
"You let them fight last time."
"Last time was a surprise attack, and far less risky, as we knew our forces overpowered them greatly. Even as they sent for reinforcements, we had the upper hand at all times. In France, we had a bad position to start with, and we might have lost if the dragons would not have made an appearance. It is not a certainty; there was still a chance at victory, but at far higher costs than the case was now. Why do you think I wanted to place you under better protection spells?"
"I'm sorry… really. I just hope that the Death Eaters won't lose all the respect they've grown to have for me when I don't participate anymore."
"I've been thinking, and you could perhaps look through my eyes? That way, you could still see what is happening and call for necessary backup or make emergency Portkeys and send those out?"
"That's an idea."
"You could also help Slughorn with his potions."
"Urgh. Less of a great idea," Harry groaned. "Preferably not, but I will if it's really necessary. "Any other updates apart from the dragons? I'm glad to hear that they've been found, and found to be supporters of the Dark on top of that."
"Well, the armies of other countries got a great blow, and if there is to be a next battle, it will take them weeks to recover. That won't mean there won't be anymore battles, of course. I plan to raid some of their Ministries myself now they are weak, and the other continents might find themselves forced into battle as well."
"Do we have enough people left for raids now?" Harry doubtfully asked.
"Yes. Our army got thinned, it's true, but enough remain. I also received several letters from creatures in other countries now, that heard of the result of the battle and want to join us. We can expect more werewolves and centaurs fighting alongside us next time, and if the location is planned long enough beforehand, more Giants will be able to join as well. Meanwhile, I shall wait to see if any other witches and wizards of the opposing countries, or of the countries who aid us, will come over. Some already fought in France, but I expect more now we were victorious. People are always drawn to the side of the strongest, after all, as the consequences of being on the wrong side usually has disastrous effects when a war is fully over. Even if their Governments oppose us, individuals might be swayed. Also, as we have the dragons on our side, many people will flock to us, from Asia mostly, where dragons are a sign of great luck and prosperity. None there would want to fight against an army of dragons."
"I wonder if more dragons will join too," Harry pondered. "They were only reported missing in Europe, so I imagine Charlie will only have freed those in the areas near him, and on the way to Britain. Have you heard anything from the Goblins?"
"I sent a letter out to Miss Granger this morning, and apparently I had been just a tad too impatient, for my owl returned to me twenty minutes ago with finally something I can call good progress and a decent report on it."
"Owl… you don't mean that owl that more resembles a demon from hell do you?"
"The exact one. What do you have against Desecratus?"
"He's bloody evil. You sent that to poor Hermione? The report you got didn't happen to be stained with blood did it?"
"Not at all," Marvolo answered, amused. "And he looks more evil than he actually is. He's very well-trained Harry."
"Did you raise him along with your Basilisk?" Harry muttered, earning him an even more amused look. "So, what did she have to say?"
"She finally established a network of people the Goblins believe. Many of my Death Eaters are or were among those. Sadly two died in the last battle, but enough remain. Also, I am thinking of honouring them with a visit myself. If you're thinking of having the Goblins fight for us though, then I have to disappoint you. I wish for them to show their support, but if I were to send them out into battle they would only accuse me of using them. No, I shall leave them further alone, although I hope that an alliance with them will make future dealings with them easier. A complete new banking system will have to be thought of if Muggles are to share our world. There is not enough gold and silver to make Galleons and Sickles the going currency for millions of people. I do not know if Goblins will be interested in dealing with Muggle money, however. They have done so out of necessity on a small scale for Muggleborns, but find it a worthless business as paper does not have worth in their eyes, and they are always reluctant to part with their gold in exchange, though they have to by Wizarding law."
"Have you already thought of something?"
"Perhaps make the bank smaller… a lot of Wizarding shops could go out into the Muggle world, leaving Diagon Alley a place for shops that sell items that solely wizards and witches have use for. Muggles have no benefits in wand shops or brooms, as they can't use them, or potion supplies as potions often require some spellwork during its creation as well. For a non-magical user, some potion supplies can be very harmful. To make sure these items are kept in the hands of wizards, a dual monetary system can be set up, with Wizarding money reserved only for those items, the gold maintained by Gringotts, and Muggle money for everything else. That will require magicians to open bank accounts at Muggle banks, of course. And those banks and Gringotts can work together for currency exchange."
"Muggle banks are often very competitive though… Perhaps throw the complete Muggle banking system down the drain and create a system of two banks? One being Gringotts and one for 'normal' currency? That would also prevent the banks from going bankrupt. Gringotts never had problems with that as it was the only one of its kind, so the same might go for the other one."
"I'll note that idea down, but I have to be careful with it as it will make both banks a monopoly. The Goblins only care for their money, but with a human bank it might make for unfair power plays and corruption. Furthermore, I doubt that the Muggle banks will be happy to hear about that idea. Many will have to close down. It doesn't make sense to have five offices of a bank in a small city, as is now usually the case because there are so many. It will lead to the rise of unemployment rates."
"It seems as if, the more magic makes life easier, the fewer jobs are needed…" Harry said. "In that regard, Muggles might not be very happy with it. They will still have to pay for whatever they need, whether it's been created by magic or otherwise. If they don't have jobs… and those will disappear in a lot of sectors for them, from politics to energy companies and banks."
"There will also be some new positions available. Of course in information centres, but also in new primary schools, in additional schools for Muggles who want to follow the theory of magical courses and in centres where people can go to if they find it hard to deal with magic suddenly all around. I want not only wizards working there, but also Muggles. And then there are Hospitals, where we will need Muggles who have been trained at St Mungo's to recognise and administer potions, as we can't miss all Healers there… It would be more effective in some regards to have magicians installed everywhere, but we are with too few to realise that. That's where Muggles come in, and thus also new placements for Muggles."
Harry nodded silently. "There's so much to think about when re-starting a complete nation," he joked. "To think we're not even half-way there…"
"Well, certainly a third," Marvolo smirked. "The Order is practically done for and the Ministry will soon be at our feet. I am faced with a difficult decision however… To either approach the Muggle Government after Sirius has been chosen for Minister, or to first see out the war with the other nations. Any thoughts on that?"
"I am hardly a good strategist," Harry said, not feeling very confident. "I even always lose in chess. If your pride will allow it, you might go talk to Ron."
"Weasley?" Marvolo asked, surprised. "How so?"
"He's a master in strategy. Both on the chessboard and out of it.
"My Lord," the nervous boy said as ruby eyes pinned him down. He had been invited per owl, which had arrived yesterday afternoon, and he now shuffled into the Dark Lord's study. Harry was nowhere in sight to his disappointment. Charlie had told him about what had happened on the battlefield, but he didn't know what had happened after Voldemort had disappeared with his friend to take him to a Healer after Fawkes' rudimentary treatment.
"Weasley, come in. Leave the door open."
He was glad for the last request. Closing the door behind him would have given him a sense of finality that he didn't like in the slightest. He wracked his brain about whether or not he had done anything wrong that he could have been called for. The last time he'd seen the Dark Lord was when he'd briefly stayed here before moving in with his brothers. With leaden feet he approached the desk and sank to his knees, glad of that he was expected to bow his head as it would hide his nervous expression.
"Don't look as if you are expecting a green flash any moment, boy," his Lord snapped, and he paled, quickly looking up and shrinking a bit. He'd never gotten used to the Dark Lord, even more so now he looked… less than human, certainly less than in the two days he'd stayed at the manor. And even then he'd avoided the man as much as he possibly could… Harry had to be genuinely insane…
"What did you call me for, My Lord?" he finally asked as the silence went on, the scrutinising gaze directed at him.
"You were… recommended to me," Voldemort answered, and for a moment Ron was confused. Since when did he, Ronald Weasley, youngest son of a whole clan, have treats that would recommend him to someone like the Dark Lord? "I heard you are a good strategist…" Even the tone it was said in was doubtful, as if Voldemort didn't really believe it himself and very much doubted his decision of inviting Ron here, but at once, the teen didn't feel nervous anymore. Strategy… yes, he most certainly was good at that…
Insight, knowledge that didn't come from books and wasn't based on facts, was one of his fortes, one that he had hardly been able to use at Hogwarts, making him look more stupid than he knew he really was. Excitement fluttered in his stomach at the prospect of using it, of dealing with situations at hand, analysing it and deciding upon the best course of action… Not feeling as if he had to be modest about it he said: "I am," and he looked up, knowing his expression was controlled now, relaxed. He was itching already to tackle problems.
The calculating look with which the Dark Lord regarded him didn't bother him anymore. He knew the man didn't like him and thought Hermione, for example, far more useful, but he knew that was about to change. He was surprised, however, when Voldemort stood up. "Follow me," he simply said, and Ron stumbled to his feet, half-running to catch up with his Lord, who was walking with fast, determined strides. They went down a flight of stairs and finally stopped at a beautifully decorated door, its polished wood gleaming in the light as it was pulled open.
The room surprised him, or rather, the interior did. A giant drawing table, several types of Wizard games and other equipment stood in the light room. He had not come across this one during his stay, and it definitely surprised him that Voldemort had a room for art and other past-time activities. It was empty apart from the two of them, and he was gestured towards a couch, the table in front of it having a very familiar chequered pattern. Ron smiled with excitement as chess pieces rose upwards, coming out of the table, although he was surprised to find that they weren't black or white, or even brown and white. Instead, one set was grey, some pieces darker than others, and the other side consisted of whitish pieces, though most had only a white front.
"Is there any significance to the colours?" he hesitantly asked.
"They change according to the situation," Voldemort answered, hardly an answer at all. On closer inspection, he noticed with unease the queen on his side, the white-and-black mix, had strange shapes around where the eyes would be if the piece would have had a face. Another thing that bothered him was the network of cracks that covered some of the pieces on both sides, including his own king.
"How come they're not moving?" he asked. The sinister aura the pieces gave off obviously screaming dark magic, but the pieces themselves were lifeless.
"I prefer it when they don't talk back to me," came the reply, and Ron shivered lightly, getting the feeling that that was a hidden warning. "Shall we begin?"
Figuring that the Dark Lord had no white in his side at all, Ron started off with one of his preferred moves if he was confronted with an opponent whom he knew was going to be difficult to fight against: the knight, the only piece of the back row that was allowed to jump over the first. He loved to use the knights as much as possible. They were the most unpredictable and useful, and he would never forget the time he had played knight in his first year on the giant chessboard.
Voldemort did not retaliate in kind, instead moving a pawn two steps forward, which would enable him to free one of his towers and give the opportunity for the only backward move the pawn was allowed to take if another piece would end up diagonally behind it. Ron did the same, but with the pawn in front of his left bishop. He planned on leaving both towers as they were for as long as possible as they were the only pieces the king was allowed to be switched with once, provided that the tower hadn't moved yet beforehand.
He kept his usual, useful strategy in mind, to defend his pawns for as long as possible instead of sacrificing them early in the game to create space like most people did to give the stronger pieces more room, instead trying to get them all the way across the board so they could grow out to be additional queens, and be far more useful than any other piece, except maybe his knights and the queen he already had.
As the game went on, Ron was having a harder and harder time to stick to that strategy, as Voldemort seemed to have expected it and targeted the pieces he valued most first. One thing he had noticed though, was that Voldemort was not only protecting his king to the maximum, but also the queen, refusing to put it out on the board, which Ron thought rather strange. Of course, it was good to not put one of the most useful pieces in jeopardy at first, but it wasn't useful if standing still for the whole game either. Only when he looked at it carefully and saw it had a small, lightning-bolt shaped crack on its 'face', did Ron realise that Voldemort may be doing it unconsciously.
Well, while Ron liked his friend a lot, if Voldemort was giving away his handicap, then Ron would fully exploit it. He knew it would cost him one of his knights, and he wasn't very happy with that, but neither of them had enough pawns left to get many queens out of it. If he could take out the only one Voldemort had that would leave him with a great advantage. In a rather insightful move, he was able to take one of the Dark Lord's bishops, and could slay the queen with his next move, which could move nowhere as the defence the man had built up around it was so strong that it left the piece with no way to move. The only way it could go was forwards, but it would land in another square it could be slain at no matter how far it would go.
A nervous movement at the corner of Voldemort's mouth was the first thing to break his poker-face, and Ron knew that he had made a good move. The next minute was a long one, and with terrible slowness, Voldemort moved one of his knights at the side of the field, completely foregoing the queen as there was nothing to be done instead of a futile attempt to save her one more turn. With a feeling of irrational victory, Ron took the queen, and less than a second later, his knight had been mercilessly slain by the king, a tad harsher than had really been necessary. A chill went up his spine as he got the strange feeling of bloodlust rising from the dark grey king, and he gulped, trying to tell himself it was all imagination.
His victory didn't last long. While only able to take one step at a time, Voldemort's King seemed to slaughter his entire army single-handedly, and his defences broke in no time at all. On the first 'check', he had to use the move with the tower already, and while it went better after that and he was able to build up some walls again, even getting a 'check' on Voldemort's king twice, he had to admit that he would be defeated pretty soon.
At long, long last, the final word of the game broke the silence.
"Checkmate," the man said, but while Ron had often found it said with gloating when one uttered that word, it was said with a neutral, almost thoughtful voice. Ron sighed and flicked over his king, which had, ironically, been defeated by a knight. Voldemort leaned back, the chessboard sinking into the table again, and Ron did not dare ask what the man was thinking as fingertips were placed against each other and red eyes stared at the ceiling.
"That was one of the most entertaining and challenging games I've had in a long while, Mr Weasley," he finally heard, and Ron tried not to gape at the compliment.
"For real? I… I mean, thank you… My Lord."
"I wonder what would have happened if I had had a magical chessboard…"Voldemort mused. "Most likely, my queen would have nagged me long enough until I let it free of its constrains, after which it would have blown up your king as if we'd been playing exploding snap." The humour in the voice was unmistakable, though Ron had a hard time admitting it was there.
"I heard about that from Charlie," he finally answered, a slight smile playing at his lips, hoping he wouldn't be going too far. "Is Harry alright now though?"
"He's upstairs, resting, but yes, he's recovered completely," Voldemort said in a pleased tone, although Ron didn't know whether he was pleased over Ron getting the reference or over Harry's recovery.
"Was he the one who… recommended me?"
"Of course. I think I misjudged you the first few times we met. I must say that I now understand why I had such a hard time winning wars before… I didn't have Weasleys," Voldemort said, a new, curious glint in his eyes as he regarded Ron.
"I must say that my brothers seem to have been far more useful as of yet," he surly said. It was true though. While Ron had left Hogwarts to be of use, he had mainly found himself with minor missions and work in the shop to do, while the Twins were the actual geniuses of the Dark now… And then there was Charlie, who had apparently guaranteed victory for their side the day before yesterday.
"I hope that will change then," the man said, on a much gentler tone than Ron had ever heard him use before. "Come, let us return to my study. I have some things I want to show you. In the meantime, I want you to think over what you'd think a better course of action: First fight our war with the magical nations, or contact the Muggle Government and press already if Black manages to win the elections?"
"When exactly will the elections be held?" Ron asked, frowning. "Timing would be of vital importance…" They started their way back to the study, much slower than when they had come here.
"The date has been set for the 8th of February, a month after the first speeches. As there aren't many candidates, campaigns will not have to last longer than that, and we're in the middle of a war and in need for a leader… a legal leader."
"That's only eleven more days…" Ron mused. "I assume you will not go out into battle before that to save votes?"
"I think taking the risk would be good. I expect the war with the other nations to last for a while still, and I heard their armies suffered greater damage than ours. By contacting the Muggles already, they will be forced to act sooner than they'll be ready for."
"On the other hand, their combined forces are still quite strong, and if we are to lose battles while already negotiating with the Muggles, it could make us lose credibility in their eyes. That we are fighting at all will probably affect how open they will be towards us. And then there are the armies of other countries to consider, countries who didn't fight us yet." Voldemort threw in. Ron mentally groaned, seeing the dilemma.
"But waiting would give them all the time they need and want," he said, hesitating. "If we are to control the time of actions to some degree, we shall have one advantage over them already. And depending on how fast the Muggles will be informed, we might get help from their side too. There are major benefits in open magic, after all. Also, the other countries can hardly Obliviate everyone once the news spreads. Irreparable damage and all that."
"Forcing them to accept our views simply because we've already put them into practise?" Voldemort asked pensively. "I must admit that it would severely pull their spirits down when they notice that what they're fighting against has already happened and can't be turned back. Giving people knowledge is not someone that can be taken back or stopped once we get the ball rolling, so to speak."
"Exactly," Ron said, relieved that the other seemed to honestly take his words into account.
"On the other hand, they could openly attack not only us, but declare war on the whole of Britain, magician and Muggle alike. I know that doesn't seem logical… It won't do anything for their current goal, but they could become revengeful and just decide to slaughter everyone who did what they didn't want in the first place."
"That would not solve their problems at all!" Ron exclaimed.
"I know, but people aren't logical. Could we take that risk?"
"If that's what might happen, it also might happen after we defeat the other nations… Rebellion groups who don't agree going on killing sprees. It won't change that," he threw back.
"It will give them both less means and people to do so," the Dark Lord commented. "And we would have legitimate power at our side."
Ron released a frustrated huff. Somehow he was sure that his opinion was a right one, but against everything he said, there was something else… Suddenly, he got an idea and switched tactics altogether. "But what if we would not do it?" he asked, challenging. "That war might last years and years, and we only have a limited number of people if Muggles won't fight alongside us. I heard that the countries who agree with us are passive about the matter, and they won't strengthen our armies. We might be short on people in a couple more battles. Even with the creature armies backing us up, we only have limited resources. And if we finally would win after years of fighting… what then? How many people will be left to run a mixed society? Would we first need generations of hiding again to re-populate before there are enough of us to guide a magical and Muggle society? If that happens now already, we know for certain that we are with enough to withstand any trouble the Muggles will give us."
They had arrived at the study somewhere in the middle of his explanation, and he sat on one of the two chairs at the desk now, one of his feet on the edge of the chair and his head propped up on his knee as he looked at Voldemort.
"That is a… sensible explanation." The other finally commented. "There are many pros and cons, mainly cons, to both options, but when you look at it from the perspective of time and the resources which will undoubtedly dwindle over that time-span… then yes, you have convinced me."
Ron leaned back in the chair, trying to not openly show his pride at the compliment. While before, he had seen the man as nothing but intimidating, it was almost pleasant to have a discussion with him.
He regarded the Weasley boy with a contemplative look. He had to admit that for once, his judgement had to be revised in favour of someone, not something that happened often. He had seen Ronald as a nuisance before, lazy and unintelligent, but it seemed as if he had just been looking for the wrong kind of intelligence. It still made no sense to him how such a good strategist could have such a… disorganised mess as a mind, but perhaps that was precisely the reason for his insightful logic.
Of course, he himself had also deduced upon what the best course of action would be, and had come to the same conclusion as Ronald, but it was always good to have a fresh opinion, especially if he himself played the devil's advocate by defending the strategy he liked least. It pleased him that the boy had not let himself be deterred and had ended with the same conclusion as he'd initially had, but with a good substantiation of his statement.
The outcome of the test he had put up for Weasley had actually surprised him even more than the discussion that had followed after. Harry had told him the boy was good at chess, but he would never have guessed just how well Ronald could play. It had already started with his unusual, but obviously confident opening move, and the way he had exploited Marvolo's weakness, which he hadn't even noticed he had until the very last moment, was brilliant. Of course, the result of the play had not been unexpected. The only one who could sometimes outwit him in chess was the Vampire King, and their battles could last hours on end. A fifteen-year-old boy –or was he sixteen now?- hardly provided as much of a challenge. But again, he had to admit that the boy had played far, far better than expected.
He opened a drawer, taking out a map with a large number of coloured dots on it that Eyolf had given him through Sameer some time ago, and he handed it to Ronald. It had bugged him quite a long time, for the sole reason of that he could easily make out what all of the colours meant, except for the purple ones. The others had either marked Order headquarter locations, magical communities or the known location of Death Eaters, but the purple ones were a mystery to him. He had personally visited the sites it marked, only to discover nothing of value. And yet, Dumbledore must have had some reason to place them there. The only thing they had in common were that they were in civilised parts of the country, but that was all. They were magical, non-magical, village, city with or without magical creatures or plants… There had been dots in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but also in non-descriptive Muggle villages, while other cities had no purple dot near them in miles. Even with his heightened senses after the completion of the last Horcrux, he had seen nothing that could connect all of the places.
One might think that he was denigrating himself by letting someone like Ronald have a look at it, but he didn't care. He might be looking for far too complex meanings, wanting to link even the colour of the dot to meanings he couldn't find. He explained his problem to the boy, who looked obviously surprised. After the boy's request to visit some of them, he merely pulled the memories of the places from his mind and put them in a bowl.
He nervously tapped the wood of the desk, his sensitive fingers feeling every irregularity in it, even when touching it for a hundredth of a second. He sensed change in the teen's body after he had been submerged into the bowl for a while. His aura, which had been very flowing and unbalanced as one tends to do when nervous or confused, had stabilised, the outer edges shimmering with bright colours, shaking slightly as if laughing. With narrowed eyes, he waited until Weasley retreated, and when he regarded the amused grin on the boy's face, he snapped: "Well?" Had the boy really found something of use that he, Lord Voldemort, had not been able to spot?
"It seems, My Lord, with all respect, that Dumbledore was just being his barmy old self," Ronald replied, his eyes shining with humour. "I think that he figured that, as he had a map with dots anyways, he might as well use it even more. Purple is his favourite colour you see, and the map must have looked empty to him without it."
"Just tell me what you found boy," he said, irritated now.
"Sweetshops," Ronald replied, a laugh escaping him. "Dumbledore was addicted to sweets. He once had a long, enthusiastic talk about one of his favourite Muggle sweet shops, and I saw it in one of these memories… I can't speak for the larger cities, as the spots were too large and covered too much, but especially in the smaller villages I noticed that there were shops that sold all his favourites."
Marvolo groaned, putting his head in his hands. No wonder he hadn't found anything out of the ordinary. "Even in death he drives me absolutely insane," he complained.
Yes, finally, Ron comes into view.. he was Dark before but.. I finally have him where I want him...
Also, I'm sure a lot of you are glad to notice that the Twins survived the battle hmm?
Also, I think the chess scene is my absolute favourite. I haven't enjoyed writing a scene that much in a long time. I'm crap at chess myself, but I do know all moves and tricks, and writing about a theoretical match is FUN.
Read and Review!