During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
I I I
Having Voldemort's perspective on things was changing Harry.
For one thing, he was thinking farther ahead than ever before, and taking the time to classify things he'd never thought of before.
For example, he now considered Voldemort to be a classic 'Dark Slytherin', because Slytherins loved power, and Tom Riddle was working harder than anyone had in nearly a century to gather all power to himself, while at the same time denying it to others.
Dumbledore, however, on the same model came in as a 'Dark Ravenclaw', in that Ravenclaws loved knowledge, and HIS classic operational scheme was to gather all information unto himself, while carefully denying it to others. Most of what he did was gather more and more knowledge to himself via spies and informants and whatnot, and control who else knew what. Because if he could control what others knew, he could easily dictate what they'd do.
Both of them used very similar means to set others running about at their beck and call, and to make themselves indispensable to their own followers. Voldemort used his power to force people to do his bidding. But Dumbledore used his knowledge to trick people into doing his, 'For the Greater Good'. And, since they didn't know the reasons why they shouldn't, they did them!
Exact same patterns of behavior, just different means of accomplishing the same thing. Each wanted to rule the magical world, and each sat at the heart of their own webs, like a spider tugging strings. Only rarely did the creature at the center of each network get involved directly in anything other than the routine management of their organization.
It was shocking how many parallels there were between them.
To continue along this line of conjecture, Harry supposed one could postulate a 'Dark Gryffindor' could be concerned with gathering all glory unto himself, and for that he wondered if Gilderoy Lockhart had actually been a member of that house. Although there had been only limited signs of his having used his glory to get others to do things other than buy his books.
But what could you call a 'Dark Hufflepuff'? Someone who wanted to gather all friends to himself? How could that even be considered dark? Well, okay, supposing they took those friends by the same foul means other styles of Dark Lords took the things they wanted, by cheating, stealing, hurting and killing, but that behavior didn't exactly make any friends, now did it?
Oh well. He'd have to study more history, but he didn't think offhand history had produced any Dark Hufflepuff Lords to use as a comparative example.
Which, when you think about it, might be one reason some considered them a house of duffers.
I I I
Care of Magical Creatures class had been wonderful, a splendid affair with truly informative hands on interactions to go with meaty lectures. Harry had loved the flight the hippogriff had granted him, and made ovatures to the beast so as to be allowed to do many more of the same in the future.
Other brave students had ventured the same. Hermione had even done so, pronouncing the entire experience more pleasant than her rides on a broom.
Harry privately suspected that most of her reluctance to indulge in the typical form of magical flight came as a result of the poor quality of the Hogwarts brooms, and had already purchased Hermione a better one for her birthday. It was neither fast nor stylish, but it was stable and gave a gentle, easy ride - qualities he was sure would appeal to her.
She didn't need a racing broom to learn on any more than she'd enjoyed the broken down, swaybacks they'd used for flying class. The first obstacle they had to overcome together was her fear of falling off, only then could she start to become a proficient flier.
And it was one of those skills too useful not to need every so often.
Care of Magical Creatures class came to an end, and Harry volunteered to help put some of the noble animals back in their pens. Hermione was even helping. But he was off alone, cut off from view by the shack, when a soft chuckling came from behind a stable wall.
"Potty, Potty, Potter," Bellatrix singsonged, coming out with her wand."Do you know what the Dark Lord plans for you?"
Harry went stiff, then allowed his features to contort in a rictus, and pushed magic out into his eyes for them to glow red. Copying Voldemort's features and expression was hardly a chore, since he knew them so well."Bella, you came, my most trusted servant!"
"Yes, my lord!" She sang rapturously.
"The boy," Harry breathed, imitating Voldemort's voice from his first live conflict with the possessed Quirrel. "Has use to me, as I told you. Leave him among his friends. They won't suspect him, and when I return, they will be an extra source of power to me."
"Yes, my lord!" Bellatrix sank to her knees in adoration.
"The caretaker, Filch," Harry wheezed out in Voldemort's tones, copying how the dark lord might say things if he were in this position. "Replace him. You will find polyjuice in plenty tucked in the passageway behind your old dorm room. I have supplied you with a bed, and furniture there. Refrain from killing the caretaker, only subdue him and control his memories so he does not realize his situation. You may release him at nights, when you have no need of his appearance, to pursue his cleaning tasks. This will free you to watch over this body during the day, when Potter is out and vulnerable."
"Of course! Genius, my lord!" the insane Death Eater sang his praises.
Harry found controlling the woman to be easy. She'd believe anything he said, so long as he was copying Voldemort's distinct hushed and hissing whisper. "Confound the caretaker's pet, that it pays heed to your commands. Cause no disturbance, that you be not suspected, and avoid the Headmaster's eyes. Dumbledore routinely scans the minds of those around him, and Filch has no occlumency to protect him, so your shields would alert him to your disguise."
"He shall never know of my presence, my lord," she swore, deep in rapture.
"Snape is not to be trusted. He is the Headmaster's creature, and seeks to profit by my present weakness." Harry offered no explanation for how he 'knew' this. But, strictly speaking, he knew Snape had enjoyed antagonizing and provoking the son of his schooltime nemesis when the child was weak, so in a way it was true.
Bella's face had contorted into a scowl of barely controlled fury. "May I be permitted to deal with him, my lord?"
"Ah, Bella," Harry modulated his Voldemort voice so it was softer, almost in fond (if evil) tones. "In return for your long term of unbroken loyal service, I grant you this boon - you may kill him, but only by means which do not imperil your disguise, even if he should return as a ghost."
"Thank you, my lord," Bellatrix abased herself, proud as she could feel her lord's amusement over her request.
In truth, Harry was amused, because Snape was as loyal to the Dark Lord as it was possible to get. Harry had Riddle's own memory of ORDERING Snape to approach Dumbledore to spy for the Light, and murders of Order members skyrocketed once Snape began supplying Tom information on them. That Albus had allowed this proved that bastard was every bit as ruthless as the man he'd claimed to oppose.
Really, all Dumbledore and Voldemort had been was rivals fighting for control of the same world. They were not so different as many supposed.
But setting one Death Eater on another, granting one permission to kill the other, truly tickled Harry's funny bone. Would that he could arrange for all of his enemies to dispose of each other!
Brrr! Suddenly he had an idea of how Albus had become the sort of creature he was. Harry quickly gave final instructions to the lady he'd duped. "Watch over this body, which shall soon be mine, that it comes to no harm. I give you this charge, Bella, trusting you above all other Death Eaters. Do not fail me."
"It shall be done as you command, my lord!" Bellatrix sang from where she groveled in the mud, face down on her knees.
Harry relaxed the muscles of his face and withdrew the magic making his eyes go red, then went off to the stables as if he could not see Bellatrix, and put his hippogriff away as Hagrid had tasked him to.
Faking possession was actually easier than he'd thought.
When he came back from stabling the hippogriff, Bella was gone. Harry went back to the class area, where Hagrid was talking with Hermione. Aquick and subtle mind scan revealed that neither had overheard, or knew anything concerning his giving instructions to an escaped Death Eater.
Filch had already been tasked by Dumbledore to keep a closer eye on Harry. So this was a gain for him in every department, replacing one of his enemy's agents with a bodyguard of his own, and Dumbledore would simply accept the attention Filch was paying to him as carrying out his own commands.
The actual caretaker could even make regular reports when she released him to go cleaning, and if Bella had been thorough in her memory and Confundus charms (which he felt certain she would be), then Filch would believe he'd been on diligent watch over Harry, and seen nothing out of the ordinary.
The best way to blind a spy was to not let it know it wasn't seeing anything. And creating a blind spot in Dumbledore's web granted Harry some freedom. Not much, not yet, but the rest was coming.
I I I
'Aha! So that's where it is,' Harry thought smugly to himself.
There were vaults beneath Hogwarts, as Gringott's bank hadn't existed back then, and wizards wouldn't have trusted goblins to hold their money even if it had. They'd fought too many wars against each other.
The wizards of today wouldn't trust goblins to do their banking if the wizards had even a lick of sense between them. Goblins lived on cruelty just as house elves lived on service. And you could either be cruel to someone by pillaging their homes, torturing their children, ripping their eyeballs out and dancing on their graves, or you could do it by charging interest rates and ruinous fees.
But the interest rates were less fun, so at some point it was inevitable that a few children were going to go missing. Goblins were like junky addicts who needed their fix, and the more potent the suffering they caused the better. So it was, as it always had been, simply a matter of time before they broke the treaties restraining their actions and went kidnapping innocents again.
The wizards of long ago would have gone to war over such a gross offense. The sheep of today?
Maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn't.
Even Hagrid, who cherished everything deadly, dangerous, dark or nasty had admitted that goblins were not the most friendly folk. Which, coming from a man who'd name a giant three headed dog Fluffy, kept an acromantula as a pet while still at school, kept a baby dragon in a wooden hut and loved every dangerous beast on the books, was the single most ringing denunciation of any magical creature he'd ever heard from the Groundskeeper!
Actually, Harry'd only ever heard Hagrid condemn three things: Voldemort, goblins, and speaking ill of Albus Dumbledore, who'd given him a career when he'd been thrown out of school.
If even Hagrid couldn't love them, it made sense why wizards of the past hadn't trusted goblins.
Hogwarts was actually packed with odd storerooms, some more secure than others, where odds and ends and magical treasures got kept, things like the Mirror of Erised (when it wasn't being used by manipulative old Headmasters to bait traps), since they couldn't all be stored in the Headmaster's office.
However, it had actually taken some degree of searching to find the Goblet of Fire. Like most ancient and potent magical treasures, the artifact had many powers. However, most such things tended to wind up on display in a museum-like atmosphere, where nobody actively used them, or they got put to use for only a fraction of their original functions.
The Goblet of Fire was actually a prime example of such. Its only official use remaining in this age was to serve as a neutral judge to select participants in a tournament that wasn't held anymore. But it actually had a small catalog of wonderful powers. Albus, Harry felt sure, had already made use of several of the goblet's properties for himself.
Harry intended to do the same, but it would take time and preparations.
I I I
On his way back from his discovery in the secret portion of the dungeons, Harry swung by the hospital wing to make a quick check in on patients within.
Where he found Draco Malfoy.
There were worse things to greet your eyes than a helpless opponent. Draco was not Harry's least favorite person, but he came close, and in this sort of situation there came so many possible options for abusing him!
Harry knew enough from Tom's memories to spot a future Death Eater at a glance, and Draco came close to the top of the list - a blindly devoted patriot to the pureblood cause. He'd probably get a mark the instant Voldemort came back. Or, if that failed to happen, he'd follow whatever other dark lord came along, perhaps even striking out to make his own bid in that business.
Beside him on other beds were his two cronies, Crabbe and Goyle, who'd go wherever and do whatever their leader did. So they'd soon have marks too.
Checking the depleted bottles of Skele-grow on their bedside tables, Harry surmised that whatever had happened to the trio, it had broken most every bone in their bodies. Blood replenishing and pain relief potions were also in evidence, so whatever it had been had been ugly.
That certainly explained why the mini-Malfoy hadn't been to any classes yet.
Grinning, Harry drew his wand and worked several spells over the comatose patients, before slipping away to go off to dinner.
I I I
The Great Hall was in something of a tumult, as students craned their heads trying to catch a look of Harry wearing those priceless artifacts. Harry was just waiting for one of the staff's nerves to break and for them to approach him before dropping the next bombshell.
A stiff silence was occurring around him. Ron and Hermione already weren't speaking to each other. On their way back from Hagrid's class, Ron had drawn the girl aside from the other students, come close and asked, since they were best mates, if he couldn't see a flash of Hermione's boobs too.
It was tactless and tasteless and oh so quintessential Ron! Who now sported a bright red slap mark upon his cheek.
Harry supposed he shared part of the blame for the situation, as the one who'd destroyed her pure reputation in the first place. But Ron's hamfisted approach to a claimed girl was just too funny!
Not that he was about to admit that. Ron was to blame for his own actions. Plus, Harry didn't want any part of the silent cold shoulder Hermione was delivering. Of course, she'd found an effective way to snub Ron while still sitting near each other (because Ron was hiding behind Harry), and she'd simply been to speaking to Harry in Old Norse. Neville understood them, so it was making for some fun conversation.
The Ancient Runes class was smaller than Divination or Creatures, but Harry had found enough willing participants to hand around the half dozen language lozenges for Old Norse he'd brought along, earning some goodwill and favors by so doing.
I I I
That evening, when all the students were wending to their beds, Dumbledore joined a small group of Ministry Aurors clustered around the beds of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, there awaiting testimony from the young men concerning who threw them off the train.
Madam Pomphrey had given this as the hour when they were recovered from their ordeal to the point where they could be woken up for a brief interview. The boys were unlikely to be their most coherent, however the Aurors did need a lead to begin pursuing investigations.
"Madam Pomphrey, if you will?"
The mediwitch nodded, going up to fetch her remedy. "Albus, their bodies were nearly completely destroyed. I can't condone countering the pain relief potions that are keeping them unconscious for very long. They need time to rebuild what has been broken!"
"I know, Poppy. But we must have leads."
The nurse nodded. "Very well. This will only counter the numbing potions for a minute, Albus."
She withdrew a large trout from an ice chest and slapped those students in the face with it, instantly waking the trio of Slytherins up. "Huh?Wha! AAAhh!!" Bodies arched in agony, then froze and relaxed into postures of fear and defeat.
Draco and his cronies immediately broke down crying.
"Mister Malfoy," Dumbledore knelt next to the child's bed. "Can you hear me? I am your Headmaster, and you are at school. Can you tell us who did this to you?"
"T.. th.. the... the Colonel!" Draco whimpered and sobbed.
Dumbledore's expression blanked. "I'm afraid I don't know who you're talking about, Mister Malfoy. What Colonel?"
Draco's body trembled in a mixture of fear and sobs. "The.. Colonel!Colonel Sanders! He came for us... out of the dark... holding a plate of his chicken!"
Dumbledore shared a confused look with the pureblooded Aurors, before turning back to question his student. "Can you describe this Colonel, Draco?Do you know what he was doing on the Hogwarts Express?"
"He's terrible..!" Draco began to get drowsy. "White beard... muggle ... Dark Lord! .... selling chicken ... make everyone ... eat it fortnightly..."
"Can you tell us what he did to you?" Dumbledore pressed earnestly.
"... Southern fried ..."
"I'm afraid he's gone back under the effects of the pain relief potions while his body rebuilds." Dumbledore shook his head sadly before turning to the Aurors who had been questioning the other two boys. "Did you get anything?"
Grimly, they nodded. "Yes. Whoever this Colonel is, he has two accomplices, a guy named Barney, who was purple, and we didn't get the name of the last, but he's a doughboy from Pillsbury. Isn't that near Southampton? I know I heard a muggle once talking about a doughboy, some kind of soldier, Ithink."
"That would seem to fit with the other having an officer's rank," another Auror agreed.
"I shall leave you to investigate these leads," Dumbledore said soberly. Then, when he tried to stand, found himself unable. In shock, he looked down on his hand to see a chicken bone jabbed into his wrist, some substance smeared at the tip, with Draco's hand holding the other end of it, having stabbed him at some point during his delirium.
"FAWKES!!" Dumbledore shouted, just before he fell over, blacking out.
I I I
Sometimes, when you want a Dark Lord out of your way, you've just got to try and kill him.
Disposable agents are all in vogue, too.