Thank you everyone for your amazing support! You guys are the best! :D
To my guest reviewers:
Gauss: I did not necessarily mean that Harry himself would become a politician. The Death Eaters' goals are mostly political and he will be caught in that to an extent, but I don't really see him taking over the Wizengamot with his shaky background story in the past ^^'
Kauketk: Thank you! I really love time-travel fics and I wanted to offer an original take on the concept, so I am happy to see that I managed so far ;)
Love it: Wow! Thank you for your nice comments! I'm glad you like my Healer!Harry and Nondark!Harry. I must admit to you that Harry not being Dark, creepy or psychopathic, as you said, makes it harder to build a credible relationship with the Dark Lord. But that is one of the aims of this story: to show how a "noble, good-hearted and kind, brave, and idealistic" Harry would deal with difficult decisions and moral questions and how, in the middle of all that chaos, he might get surprised by what he finds. ;) On the question of whether this is a parallel universe or not, I'm afraid even the Unspeakables in the future didn't know, so you might not get a definite answer on this in the story. Feel free to continue looking at the world for that perspective and you might or might not find a confirmation later on the story!
rainnie: I imagine Harry's ego might be a bit bruised from being taken down by Snape as well ;)
esde: It is one of my goals to make this story as non-bashing as I can. I will try my best not to make the Light side evil just because I chose to make Harry infiltrate the Dark side. ;)
Guest and Littoistenjrvi: (yes, I copy-pasted your name :P) Thank you! :D
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Chapter 5: Puzzles
"Who cast the lightning bolt?" asked the Dark Lord in a deceptively calm voice.
The gathered Death Eaters looked at each other uncertainly, but none of them stepped forward.
"I set very specific objectives for this attack and none of them were to show how much of a strike force we really have by incapacitating a dozen of Aurors in one spell. I thought I made myself very clear about this. Each of our targets is calculated to make a maximum impact and, as annoying as Aurors might seem to you, they hold practically no political power and are therefore mostly irrelevant to our cause. Or is there anyone here who did not agree and thought it more important to prove their point by straying from the directives I gave you?" Voldemort continued in a low voice, growing angry at the lack of reactions from his servants.
"My Lord, if I may," said Yaxley, stepping forward and bowing deeply to him. The Dark Lord had to give it to Yaxley; the man was bold. He did not hesitate to speak up in gatherings, contrarily to the mass of Death Eaters who thought that he wouldn't notice them if they were looking at the ground or to the side.
Sometimes, Voldemort likened his servants to a class of anxious teenagers faced with a strict teacher. The comparison never ceased to amuse him, especially when one considered that most of them were rich and decently powerful Purebloods in their own right. But if Yaxley fitted somewhere in this portrait, he was the annoying teacher's pet who always talked too much, but rarely had the right answer.
Voldemort nodded his permission to speak regardless, hoping that the real culprit or anyone else with relevant information would feel the need to correct Yaxley's false assumptions afterwards.
"My Lord, I noticed that neither Malfoy nor Snape are here. One of them is probably responsible..." he started.
"Crucio," interrupted the Dark Lord, because there had to be limits to his patience sometimes and he hated to repeat himself.
Yaxley collapsed on the ground with a scream but, thankfully for him, Voldemort mercifully cut off the spell after a few seconds. He knew that torture wasn't an optimal strategy to make the rest of his Death Eaters speak up, but he still had to keep a strict discipline if he didn't want to lose his grip on his men.
"Do not make me lose my time. If you had listened to the reports, you would know that Lucius was severely injured in the battle and Snape, as his good friend, has gone to give him the appropriate Potions and will come back here do his report after Lucius' condition is stabilised," he explained, before making a dismissive wave of his wrist. "None of them is able to do a spell of this magnitude anyway."
Voldemort paused and observed his Death Eaters while they absorbed the information.
"Now, does anyone have anything to tell me that hasn't already been said?" he asked again.
One of his servants lifted a hand hesitantly, the other hand over his ear as if he was listening to something.
"Mulciber, anything to report from our friends, the Aurors?"
The Death Eater didn't say anything for a moment, still listening. After a few seconds, he dropped his hand and said:
"The Aurors think that you were there, hiding under a powerful Disillusionment spell and cast the lightning bolt because you were not satisfied with how the battle was going."
The Dark Lord sat back on his chair with an amused smile.
"So, the Ministry is clueless to my tactics as usual. I cannot say I am surprised. What of the Order?" he asked to a tall Death Eater on the right side of the room.
"My Lord, we know their meeting is scheduled for tomorrow evening, but all the trackers we have managed to place in the last few days were disabled before today's battle," explained Jugson nervously. Voldemort would not punish him for his failure, however, because he knew only too well how slippery Dumbledore's lackeys were at times.
"After this meeting, you will speak with Antonin and Thorfinn on the best solutions for long-distance monitoring. The Order members check themselves for any sort of tampering too often to take the usual measures. You will have the research room number 4 this week if you need to work on customising a spell. Report your findings to Armand Lestrange if you have interesting results, as usual," ordered the Dark Lord. Jugson, Dolohov and Rowle bowed and nodded at each other in confirmation.
The meeting continued and Voldemort decided to let the mystery of who cast the lightning bolt rest and not talk of it again that night. It niggled at the back of his mind annoyingly, but he knew he would find the person responsible sooner or later. Perhaps Severus or Lucius would have the missing clue to this puzzle.
He gave tasks to his spies in the Ministry and kept the Wizengamot members behind to discuss the new bill they were drafting about werewolf rights. When he saw that his servants were getting tired and that they had done as much as they could for the night, he dismissed them and ordered them to come back that weekend to resume their work with Lucius, who would hopefully be healed by that time.
When everyone had left, he extinguished the lights and stayed in the dark, empty throne room to think over his plans and prioritise his objectives. The darkness soothed his sensitive eyes and calmed his raging headache. He always found it easier to think after meetings, when the distractions were gone and the silence had returned in the headquarters.
He pulled on the chain around his neck and closed his hand around his Locket distractedly. He turned it in his hand and looked down at it when the gaudy piece of jewellery caught a glint of moonlight. The large metallic 'S' on its front shone as he angled it in the light and it made him think of building a training room for his Death Eaters, that would be filled with mirrors which reflected spells at their casters. It would help them work on dodging and protecting, which was the weak point of a good part of his curse-enthusiast servants.
Suddenly, a cloud obscured the moon and the room was plunged in the dark once more. He wondered if he should go through the Horcrux ritual as he planned. The enchantments on the cave were nearly done and he got his research division unknowingly helping him develop the debilitating liquid that would be the last layer of protection for his Locket. He could send his servants out on different missions and take a few days to finish the preparations and perform the ritual without anyone the wiser.
Something held him back, however. He had felt a strange sense of loss just as he sent his servants to attack Diagon Alley that day, and the mention of that lightning bolt had left him strangely agitated. It wasn't that the spell sounded that difficult to achieve or particularly original. Many spells, after all, were inspired by natural phenomenons. He had never seen, however, one that did not originate from the caster directly, but started out of thin air paces away from him and it intrigued him.
The pain of his migraine spiked abruptly and it felt as if his head was compressed in a vice. His vision swam and he had to close his eyes to avoid seeing his dinner again. As he clenched his fists tightly and waited for the wave of pain to pass, he wondered if reaching his goal of six Horcruxes would allow him to detach himself from those worldly concerns, or if it would only worsen his deteriorating physical state.
With a sigh, he stood up and headed to the Tower's infirmary. He straightened up before he entered, not wanting to let his servants see a weakness. He needed not have bothered.
Only Julius Avery was there, patrolling between the beds in his usual overpriced robes that looked out of place in this setting, and dosing his patients with heaps of Sleeping Potions in a quest to stop their moaning. The Dark Lord knew that his old classmate didn't like his appointment at the infirmary and did not particularly try to make his patients' sojourn pleasant. As long as Avery managed to keep most his men alive, however, he could not object to his methods, even when he recognised that they were less than optimal. It wasn't as if he had better options, short of assigning himself to the task. And even if he was tempted to intervene sometimes, he had learnt with the years that the key to leadership was delegating and that his time was better invested planning and research.
He walked up to the bed of one of his injured servants. Wilkes had been there for about a week, and it was getting increasingly obvious that young Snape's Potions would not suffice to allow him to miraculously walk away from his injuries.
"Not much time left for that one, I reckon," said Avery from the other side of the room as he sorted through the Potions cabinet.
"Deaths are not good for the moral of my men, Julius," he commented, silently wondering how many Sleeping Draughts the patient had been dosed with to be so immobile while his right leg was rotting off at an alarming rate.
The glass door of the Potions cabinet closed with a frustrated clang and Voldemort shot his servant a warning look. Avery might have more leeway than the others because of their long and profitable association, but it would not do for him to forget his place.
The other visibly deflated at the reminder and passed a hand in his long grey hair while he swept the room with a glance and walked up to him.
"There is only so much I can do when there has not been a Healer in the past twenty generations of Avery's," he complained in a tired voice while he leaned on the foot of an empty bed.
"I doubt there has been a talented and ambitious entrepreneur in the last twenty generations of your family either and look at all you have managed to build in so short a time," argued Voldemort, used to the argument by now. Avery had always felt dragged down by his less than stellar familial history and he had invested more than a few evenings when they were both in Hogwarts to convince the other to follow his ambition and go in the Potion Ingredients trade. The Dark Lord's investment had more than paid off, since his former dorm mate had build an impressive empire and a long list of contacts throughout the years that benefited the Cause greatly.
Avery had a small smile at that and distractedly took a piece of imaginary lint off his Italian designer robes.
"I remember what you used to say to me and Armand then: 'Be proud of your Magic, but have the ambition to strive for your full potential, regardless of your ancestry.' Those words carried me to where I am today and I can't say I ever regretted following them or you, my Lord," he added with some nostalgia, before he sighed. "I just don't think I am used to my full potential here in the infirmary. I am not like you, who only have to glance at a book to master a new discipline. I am too old and too set in my ways to take up a demanding skill like Healing. Besides, I have had some great ideas recently and I've been dying to try them out with the research division."
"We need someone here more than we need another researcher, Julius," Voldemort pointed out.
"Let me train one of the new ones to take my place," suggested Avery. "What about that Snape fellow? Potions and Healing aren't so far one another after all."
The Dark Lord shook his head.
"He is doing his Mastery in Potions and he is already a good spell creator. I do not want to spread him thin. Or worse, to give him the idea that we depend on him."
Avery barked a laugh, then.
"Oh, you're right. That fellow does think a lot of himself, doesn't he? And he's always so glowering and dour. He needs to realise that he doesn't cast the brightest Lumos in this group."
Voldemort let his oldest servant speak while he analysed the injuries sustained in the battle that day. From them, he deduced that his men relied too much on their Shield charms and not enough on physically moving out of the way. Also, it seemed like Slashing hexes and fire spells were in trend for the Aurors this season. How unoriginal.
"He fancies himself a martyr, I heard. Something about a tragic love triangle with a Muggle," ranted on Avery in the background.
When his ears started buzzing and his pulse pounded in his head, he turned around sharply and Silenced his servant with a twist of his wrist.
"Avery, you are supposed to collect intelligence on my men, not gossip," he reminded the other, annoyed. "And I do not care if one of them suddenly develop the same unhealthy attraction for goats than Albeforth Dumbledore, as long as it does not interfere with their work for me and their dedication for the Cause. Until then, I do not want to hear more about love interests or peculiar fantasies from you. Is that clear?"
Avery nodded, abashed and fearful suddenly. The Dark Lord gave him an unimpressed look and reigned in his frustrated Magic slightly, to put the other more at ease. He had never been under the illusion that his servant was particularly brave, but the constant reminder that even those who knew him best would never be comfortable in his presence was more than a little annoying. That he had done his best to imprint just that conclusion in their minds when they were in Hogwarts could explain it, but sometimes, he would appreciate a little more daring after all these years.
"O-of course, my Lord," Avery stammered when the Dark Lord lifted the Silencing spell.
"That will be all for tonight, Avery," dismissed Voldemort, knowing that the other had done all he could at the moment for the injured Death Eaters and needed to sleep to able to tend to his business the next day.
Avery looked relieved when he bowed in submission and left demurely the infirmary.
Alone again, if one didn't count the near-comatose patients, Voldemort went to the Potions cabinet and examined its content. He noted with satisfaction how well stocked it was before he took a minty green Potion from its shelves and downed it rapidly. His headache immediately calmed down to a simple tension in his temples that he massaged away distractedly as he looked at the neatly labelled stock.
He wouldn't have told Avery, or anyone else for that matter, but he felt a certain connection to Snape. Sometimes, he wondered if his life would have been similar to the young man's, had his mother never stopped feeding his father Love Potions. Would he have also grown up under the shadow of an abusive Muggle father? Would he have still achieve so much under such circumstances? Perhaps this connection was the reason of his leniency over Snape's unrequited love. Well... leniency was a strong word for his tolerance, since he would not hesitate to punish or kill the young man if he disobeyed him or became a traitor to the Cause.
Voldemort cleaned the Potion vial with barely a twitch of his finger and placed it with the other empty ones. He left the Infirmary and went to his study to plan the charms and runes he would use in the new training room. He had barely sat down that he felt Snape's Dark Mark seeking permission to enter the Tower. He allowed it and sent directions to his study so that Snape would know how to find him.
A moment later, the young man who looked like he hadn't slept, let alone showered, in a week appeared in the door frame with a low bow and a nervous countenance.
"Welcome, Severus," said the Dark Lord in a neutral tone.
The young man did not straighten from his bow and spoke to the floor in rushed words that tumbled out of his mouth uncontrollably.
"My Lord, I deeply apologise for my absence at the meeting tonight. Lucius was badly injured and..."
"I had deduced as much from the others' reports," interrupted Voldemort with a slight coldness in his tone that made Snape's face snap up to look at him at last.
"Yes, there were attenuating circumstances. However, see to it that you do not miss our gatherings in the future, or I might not be so understanding. Do you understand, young Severus?"
His servant hurriedly composed his face in a neutral mask as he nodded and bowed again, but not before Voldemort saw both relief and worry in his expression.
"How is our friend Lucius, then? On his way to a swift recovery, I hope," he inquired lightly.
"My Lord, he has been completely healed, but not by my hand. A strange man pulled him out of the battle and healed him wandlessly, or so Lucius says. Neither of us recognised him and I'm afraid that I Stunned him before he had time to explain his motivations. We were not sure what to do, so we brought him back to Malfoy Manor and are waiting for your instructions on what to do with him," explained Snape.
The Dark Lord sat back on his chair, thinking of how best to proceed.
"Show me your memory," he ordered.
Snape went deathly still.
"My Lord, due to my precipitous actions, I'm afraid I haven't seen much of the man before he was Stunned and Lucius' memory would give far better..."
"Crucio," cast Voldemort. He stood up for his chair and walked up to the man who was twisting and convulsing uncontrollably on the ground. He lifted the spell after a few seconds.
"I am disappointed in you, Severus," said the Dark Lord in a concerned voice. "You know better than to contest my orders. Just because I will also ask Lucius for his memory does not mean that I would not like to see your...unique perspective on the event."
Snape shakily got to his knees and kissed the hem of his Master's robes.
"Of course, my Lord. Please forgive me. It won't happen again," he choked out before obediently looking in Voldemort's red eyes.
"See to it that it doesn't," he said sharply before diving in his servant's mind.
A few seconds passed and felt like an eternity to Snape, before the Dark Lord leaned back and went to sit at his desk again. His extraordinary mind worked at full speed, analysing every detail of what he saw, before it reached a conclusion.
"I want you to transmit these instructions to Lucius: Keep this 'Harry' at Malfoy Manor for as long as possible without making him feel like a prisoner. Do not reveal him anything incriminating about your allegiance or this organisation, but interrogate him subtly on his background, his views of the current conflict and his motivations for healing you. Permission to share the general goals and positions of the Dark sect and this movement in particular, but do not disclose the names of members, the location of the headquarters or any tactical information. Permission to court to our side if you deem it appropriate. Report to me as soon as possible," he ordered, looking firmly in Snape's black eyes. "Dismissed," he added once the other had nodded in confirmation.
The Dark Lord smiled in amusement as Snape exited the room a bit too fast to achieve the confident billowing of robes he was aiming for. They grow up so fast, he thought with mock nostalgia before he snorted and looked back at the sketches of the new training room he had made.
Well, the mystery of the lightning bolt was all but solved, but it revealed another deeper, more interesting enigma underneath.
He always did love a puzzle.
There were mornings when you woke up progressively, as if you had to sluggishly climb through layers of sleep to reach wakefulness.
The morning after a Stunner was always abrupt and entirely unpleasant. If no one cancelled the spell, your Magic would work on eroding it until it broke and you'd suddenly wake up, tired and drained after hours of efforts and no rest.
From Harry's experience, the only way for the awakening to be even more unpleasant was to be Stunned in a battle. Then, you would wake up often hours after the battle was over and your body would have to cope with the rapid transition between being frozen to being completely alert and pumped with adrenaline in a matter of seconds.
Which was why, instead of appreciating the plush and comfortable bed in which he was lying, Harry shot up to his feet abruptly, his hand extended in front of him and his Magic snapping around him, ready to be channelled against his enemies.
Instead of a dirty passageway, however, his bewildered eyes were met with a tastefully decorated bedroom. There were no signs of Lucius or of Snape either.
Harry jumped off the bed and went to the window. He spotted albino peacocks strutting on the grass and immediately knew where he was. Only Malfoys had such outlandish tastes, after all. He relaxed marginally, then, understanding how he came to be there.
Evidently, Lucius Malfoy had insisted on bringing him to his Manor after he was Stunned and might want to compensate for Harry's help by buying him various things as presents. Draco Malfoy had already done the same to Harry, when he had rescued his son Scorpius from a kidnapping. It had made for an awkward conversation, since Harry had more than enough funds at the time and wasn't interested in anything Draco had wanted to buy him. In the end, they had compromised and Draco had taught him what he knew of Potter traditions and customs, with some financial and fashion advises thrown in here and there. At the beginning, Harry had to bite down the urge to scream, insult Draco, laugh hysterically or shift in discomfort, but towards the end, their previous animosity had calmed down considerably and they could talk like responsible adults. Small miracles.
Harry now wondered how this younger Lucius would deal with his perceived debt and what he would offer him. This time, since he had barely anything to his name (and no name yet, at that, since he hadn't followed the list from the Unspeakables), he thought he could tame his pride and accept money, if it was offered. He might have misread the situation completely, after all.
He turned away from the window, taking in the room again as he thought of how he would approach his current situation. He looked down and realised that he was wearing only pyjama pants. Soft, well-fitting, black pyjama pants.
With a frown and a twitch of unease, Harry wondered if someone had taken off his robes to transfigure it on him, or if they did it directly. He didn't have anything to hide (after all, everything that had been lost was regrown quite nicely after the hex), but it had taken him time to grow comfortable with his nudity again after the accident, in part because he had the uncanny impression that anyone, Muggle or Magical, who saw him knew he was now sterile. He had had to redefine his masculinity and his sexuality after the accident and it had not always been easy, but Harry liked to think that he manage to turn a disaster into something not completely negative.
Now, he wondered how he would play the part of a proud Dark supporter to Lucius and drop enough subtle hints to have him introduced to some of his "friends". If Harry were lucky, he would not have to go through the whole scheme he had elaborated with the Unspeakables and could short cut his way through the recruiting process.
Harry frowned as he went to take a shower in the adjacent bathroom. He had not been able to take a shower since his exhausting travel through time and his little mud bath in the Forbidden forest and he did not want to stink if he needed to convince Lucius that he was good company.
The question was, however, what exactly he wanted to convince Lucius of. After all, if his abrupt arrival in Diagon Alley and the subsequent small life crisis had taught him anything, it was that he absolutely did not want to fight the Order or have to kill anyone. And that left him with very little relevance in the Death Eaters.
If he was honest with himself, he was not sure he would be able to be a Death Eater at all. He had never been good with respecting authority figures and didn't think he could play the part of the subservient minion without periodically bursting a few windows with repressed frustrated magic.
Where did that leave him, though? Maybe he could play the part of an inventor. He did know a few spells that had yet to be created, after all, and that would place him in a good position to enquire about the White Wave.
The only problem was that he really wasn't that good, or that interested in magical theory. He had never created a single spell in his life and didn't think he had the type of imagination it required to do it either.
Harry hit his head repeatedly on the wall of the shower. Why had he even accepted this mission? Why had the Unspeakable trusted him with it at all? He was obviously not the right person to carry it to an end. Now, the fate of Wizardking laid on his incompetent shoulders, yet again.
He let his forehead rest on the cool tiles as he closed his eyes for a moment. He had thought he was over his self-deprecating pessimistic insecurities. Obviously, it had clung to his skin like a leech and survived the time jump. He took a deep breath and resolved to be more positive from now on. He was in the past, he wasn't famous, he had another chance at life, a chance to be whoever he wanted to be without having a heap of expectations placed on his shoulders, a chance to like whoever he wanted to like without anyone in the Wizarding World thinking they had the right to give him their opinion on it, and a chance to save countless lives. He just had to stand straight up, smile, and trust in the god of the Potter luck.
So, with this new conviction in mind and a small smile tugging at his lips, he stepped out of the shower confidently, ready to take on the world.
"Eep!" screamed a surprised House-Elf.
"Gah!" answered in a shout an equally startled Harry.
It took a minute to calm the poor creature and Harry's fluttering heart. It soon became obvious that Lucius had sent him new sets of robes to wear for the day. His repayment had already started, then. Harry chose to take it as a sign that his positive mindset was already bearing fruits.
He went back to the bedroom and spotted on the bedside table the small money pouch the Unspeakables had left for potential time-travellers. He pocketed it in relief and straightened his new robes before he headed out of the room.
The House-Elf he had nearly killed in fright earlier was there, waiting for him. He followed it down lavishly decorated hallways until he reached a small dining room in which were seated the painfully young Malfoy couple. They got up at his entrance.
Lucius walked up to him and Harry observed how he moved, hoping to see if there was any residual pain. If there was, he was covering it up well.
"Ah, what did I tell you, Narcissa dear. This is a true Healer to the core! His first thought was about my health and not about my gold," boasted Lucius happily. In truth, Harry found it disconcerting to see him so carefree.
The Pureblood seemed to realise this and had an apologetic smile.
"I hope you will forgive my exuberance, Healer, but I feel like a new man today thanks to you. You never appreciate life as much as when you get close to losing it, as they say," he remarked.
Harry nodded, but personally thought he had lived through too many close calls to get too much of a thrill out of it anymore.
"I am happy to see you doing so well this morning. I'm afraid that yesterday, I was not in the best of conditions to heal when I saw you. That poor secondary wand was really not up to the task," he remarked, getting an idea suddenly to explain his lack of proper outfit.
"Secondary wand?" asked Narcissa as she got closer. Harry's eyes drifted to her stomach for a moment, wondering if she was already pregnant with Draco. That would help him confirm the year, if that was the case. The thought scattered when Narcissa put a gentle hand on her stomach and Harry lifted his glance up to meet hers.
"You are indeed a true Healer if you knew so early just from a glance that I was pregnant, mister..." commented Narcissa, before trailing off in askance.
Harry did not contradict her assumption. He would milk his foreknowledge as much as he was able to if it could help him. Sadly, most of his knowledge about the end of the First Wizarding War was about...
"Gaunt," he answered, blurting out the first name he thought of under the pressure of the moment and cursing himself immediately after, thinking of the possible profiles he had built in advance with the Unspeakables. He would rather not have had to use that one, but he couldn't help his momentary slip. At least, he hadn't said Potter.
Both Narcissa and Lucius looked surprised and apprehensive before they regained their polite masks.
"Harry Gaunt, then? I must confess that after so many generations of isolation, I did not expect to ever meet one," he said, extending a hand to shake.
Harry shook the hand and tried to smile, but it came out as a grimace.
"I can't say I am surprised by your reaction. I do not come from the most auspicious background, to say the least. I did not grow up with the Gaunts, if that can reassure you," he said.
And surprisingly, it did, as his host both visibly relaxed at that comment. He wondered how much the Pureblood community had known of the derelict condition of the estate and family.
"But enough about me. Congratulations are in order, Madam," he said with what he hoped was a charming smile.
"Please call me Narcissa, mister Gaunt. You did save my husband's life yesterday," she offered in answer.
"And call me Lucius," cut in his host.
"Lucius, Narcissa," repeated Harry with a nod at both. In truth, he had always found polite Pureblood protocol quite boring, but he bravely soldiered through a difficult breakfast of small talks and barely veiled attempts at digging in his past and was soon rewarded for his patience.
"Mister Gaunt," said Lucius suddenly after his second muffin. "I simply must ask. Earlier, you said that you were using a secondary wand yesterday. Have you lost your primary?"
Thankfully, Harry had gotten a good idea earlier and could now lie effortlessly as he explained it.
"I was caught in a trap. Thieves ambushed me and stole everything I had. Thankfully, I had some money hidden away for emergencies. I was going to Diagon Alley to find a replacement wand when I was caught in the battle."
"A trap, you say? What did they do?" inquired Narcissa, with polite shock.
"They brought me one of their injured associates and Stunned me when I tried to heal him. When I woke up, they had taken everything I had. I headed back to my flat just in time to see it burn down to ashes. I will have to look for accommodation elsewhere from today on, I'm afraid," Harry explained succinctly.
Lucius frowned at him slightly, deep in thought.
"You don't seem too saddened by your loss," he commented.
Harry had to force himself not to stiffen. He had never been the best of actors and, with someone used to masks and games, he had to keep as close to the truth as possible.
"I am not a materialistic person. It's too bad, and it will certainly be troublesome for a while, but I'm glad no one were hurt and that's the most important thing, really," he said sincerely. It also helped that he hadn't really lost anything.
He saw Lucius' eyebrows climb on his forehead, as if he was reluctantly impressed.
Narcissa chuckled good-naturedly.
"Oh dear, Healers are almost like another species, aren't they?" she commented lightly.
Then, Harry felt a twinge of unease at lying to them, so he corrected her:
"Actually, I'm not a full Healer yet. I only have a class in Battle Healing. I would like to become a Healer, but I have never really been good at Potions, so I'm not sure I would get in the program..." he explained, embarrassed.
Lucius suddenly sat up straighter and looked at him in renewed interest.
"So, you are not affiliated with St. Mungo's, then?" he asked.
Harry shook his head.
"Maybe someday," he said, before he had another idea to help his mission. "I'm not sure though, because St. Mungo's is really set in its views, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?" Lucius inquired carefully.
"Well, I'm not sure they'd welcome the type of research I want to do, I mean..." he trailed off, feigning uncertainty.
"Do go on, mister Gaunt," urged him Narcissa with a polite smile.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I am rather interested in studying how certain curses can help in Healing. After all, if you think about it, a lot of them actually come from that discipline. For instance, the Skinning curse was created to help in localised interventions and it's only when over-powered and applied to a wider range that it is really harmful. And that's without talking about the Unforgivables," he said, as if his point about them was obvious.
"What about them?" Lucius asked, frowning.
"They are obviously Healing spells! The Imperius is used to make patients in coma swallow their medicine, or to keep their heart beating. The Cruciatus is useful to make dead nerves flare back to life and to defibrillate in case of a heart attack," he said, ticking off two of them.
"And the third," pressed Lucius, now bending slightly forward and observing him intently.
"The Killing curse is used for mercy killing. Your patient is in terrible pain and you want to cut short his sufferings, but you want him to feel as little as possible when he expires. The Killing curse is painless and so swift your patient would barely even see it coming," Harry explained, particularly proud of the little theory he had elaborated a few years before. The Healers he had talked to during his Battle Healing course had politely listened to it then, before telling him that no respected Healer would disgrace himself by doing research on the subject to confirm it. Harry hadn't pushed the issue with them, but he had always wondered if his haunch was right. He had tried to go back at the origin of the Unforgivables, but he stopped his research after more or less confirming that a lot of Healers shared his view, but did not dare to come out and publish their results for fear of being expelled from St. Mungo's.
Lucius did not look convinced, however.
"You do know that they are Unforgivables because of what they do to their caster, more than because of their effects on their victims?" he asked, shocking Harry, who hadn't known. He wondered if that was an example of knowledge lost with the Dark's defeat in his time.
Harry had to think over his answer and consider the few times he had unwittingly cast them in his youth.
"When used out of anger, of spite, of cruelty and other such feelings, they can scar the soul of the caster just as much as they can hurt the one affected by them. However, I believe that when it is used with noble purpose, with the intent to help someone, then it doesn't any negative effect on the soul of the caster," was the interpretation he came up with to explain why he hadn't felt any different after using them.
Lucius sat back on his chair, looking at him pensively. Harry stared back with a neutral face. He was somewhat unsure of how noble his intentions had been when he cast them. Perhaps he had been affected by the casting, but just hadn't realised? Perhaps he hadn't cast them often enough to have any effect on him?
"Well, Lucius, didn't you want to tell something to our guest," interrupted Narcissa.
Lucius turned in her direction and lifted a blond eyebrow, to which she replied with a small nod. It was fascinating to see them communicate silently.
"My lovely wife is right, mister Gaunt. I am not one to keep debts hanging about without repaying them and you helped me considerably when you healed me yesterday."
"I only did my job. It would be unfair of Healers to make their patients indebted to them," Harry pointed out.
"Perhaps, but still. Allow me to repay the favour as best as I can. Considering the unfortunate circumstances that led you to Diagon Alley yesterday, I was thinking of some material help. You will need a new wand as soon as possible, and better clothes than the rags you were wearing when we met. And, since you are also without a place to stay, you are welcomed to stay in my Manor for as long as you want," offered Lucius generously.
Harry shifted in his seat in unease.
"That's too much, Lucius. I can't possibly accept all of that for just healing you once," he protested.
Lucius had a triumphant grin at that, before he controlled his facial expression.
"Well, then, maybe we will need your services again and having you here with us would help tremendously," he answered.
"I'm not sure I want to take a side in this war and I have the impression that if I stay here, I won't only be healing you, but also some of your...like-minded associates," Harry said carefully. He thought it would seem less suspicious if he had to be courted to join them instead of just showing up ready and eager to kiss Voldemort's boots. He was also genuinely unsure of how to position himself in the war, so the less he had to lie about his allegiances, the more believable he would sound.
Lucius got up swiftly and glided up to him confidently. Harry couldn't help but to check him out as discreetly as he could, admiring Lucius' strong legs and cursing himself for even noticing the other man the minute he turned on the charm.
"Mister Gaunt...or may I call you Harry? You never said," he asked with a small satisfied smile. He went to lean on the table next to him as if it was completely natural to be standing so close to him.
"Of course," Harry replied, noticing for the first time how weird it felt that he was now older than Lucius Malfoy.
"Harry, then. Considering that you healed me knowing fully to which side I belonged, as you put it, why would you refuse to do as much for others in the same situation as I was?" he reasoned.
Harry sighed silently. He knew it would come down to that decision he made the day before.
"I couldn't let someone injured die when I was able to help him," answered Harry truthfully.
Lucius smiled again.
"There you have it, then. Patients will just appear by you if you stay here and your help to heal them will pay largely for whatever debts are incurred for your presence in my Manor. No need to make a stand. You would just happen to be there at the right time."
Harry thought about it for a moment. It was too good to be true. He would get to meet the Death Eaters and talk to them as he healed them and he wouldn't even have to deal with Voldemort at all or to become one of his minions. And then, as he got to know them, he would learn more about his suspects and get them to talk of research under the guise of furthering his own.
"I told you I'm just a Battle Healer, though. I'm not sure I would even be able to heal them correctly. And if it becomes known that I stay at your place, I'm not sure I would be able to get in St. Mungo's to continue my formation," he pointed out.
"Battle Healing is essentially what you would need. I wouldn't ask you to become Narcissa' mediwizard, for instance. As for your formation, you said you would need to work on your Potions skills before you could even get in the Healer program and I just happen to have a good friend who is an absolute genius in Potions. I would have to ask him, but he could probably come and teach you some of his tricks," Lucius suggested, essentially waving away any concerns he could bring up.
Harry, however, wasn't sure he wanted to put Snape in charge of his Potions learning again. If his younger self were anything like the teacher he had been later on, Harry wouldn't get much better at Potions than he had become at Hogwarts.
He reluctantly nodded, knowing he couldn't get a better position to investigate the Death Eaters, short of becoming one himself.
"Good. Then that's settled. I will talk to Severus and let you know if he is available. I will also pass the word around to some of my closer acquaintances. You should expect to become quite busy quickly enough once the word is out, so if you need to sort anything out with family and friends, now would be the time," advised Lucius.
"Wait, what? Why would those people all trust I could do a good job when I'm not qualified and they haven't even met me? And, for that matter, why would you?" asked Harry.
Narcissa had a polite laugh at that, surprising Harry who had all but forgotten her presence in the room.
"Mister Gaunt, if you managed to heal my husband so well wandlessly, you must be incredibly talented," she praised.
Harry felt himself redden slightly.
"No, I assure you I'm not. I just compensate my lack of talent by pouring in ridiculous amounts of magical power," he confessed. His Magic spiked and churned just in cue, as if to remind him that he shouldn't joke about how out of control it had become.
The two Malfoys exchanged a look at his admission.
"Well, you will do perfectly," decided Lucius as he stood back up. "And now, I think the first thing to care of this morning is your wand. Did you get your previous wand at Ollivander's?"
Harry hesitated, but decided that if they were going together to buy one, it would be weird if he said yes and Ollivander didn't recognise him.
"No, from Gregorovitch," he said, because it was the only other wand maker he knew of.
Lucius had a small sneer at that and Harry suddenly felt more at ease with him. So, the Lucius he knew was still in there somewhere.
"Well, I'm afraid cross-borders travel is not practical at the moment, so we will go to Diagon Alley again, if that's alright with you?" he asked, already moving towards the chimney after giving a small kiss on his wife's cheek.
Harry, by now quite used to Malfoys' imperious way of ordering people around, followed his lead with an amused smile.
Malfoys would always be Malfoys, whatever the time, and that reassured him about his new life in the past.
Thank you in advance for telling me what you thought of this chapter! :)
In the next, Harry will meet some Order members...