Post-HBP; Following a trail of mysterious messages with a Yin & Yang symbol on them, Harry comes to certain devastating revelations, pushing him down the path to darkness. Dark!Harry, no romance.
Yin and Yang
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.
Chapter 2 - A toast for the Hero’s return
The morning of 29th August 1998 dawned bright and shiny. A gentle summer breeze was ruffling the grass of a forest clearing, in the centre of which stood a dilapidated wooden house known as the Burrow. But the cheerful buzzing of nature suddenly quieted down as a tall lean figure emerged from the tree line. A quick flicker of morning sunlight revealed a pair of emerald green eyes and lightning bolt shaped scar on a pale forehead.
“Home sweet home.” the man murmured, a toothpick clenched between his teeth dancing as he spoke.
His mouth stretched into a sarcastic smile, as if savouring the irony behind his words. But then, the smile disappeared and the figure retreated back into the veil of tree canopy shadows. After all, it wouldn’t do for the world to learn of Harry Potter’s return before the time was right.
Even if the Burrow’s occupants happened to look his way, they would have been hard pressed to recognize their misplaced charge in form of this ominous lurker. The picture of Harry Potter they kept in their minds was that of a gaunt, geeky-looking boy. The Harry Potter who was observing their base of operations today was a gracefully lean man, whose very stance extruded power and competence. He may have appeared relaxed and nonchalant to an untrained eye, but a careful observer would have easily recognized his taut, watchful posture for what it truly was – that of a predator lying in wait.
Even more startling were the differences in the once-boy’s features. His lightning bolt-shaped scar, messy black hair and emerald green eyes were still there, but like misplaced pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they now formed a startlingly different picture. His simple black robes looked worn and many times patched, but glowing runes along the stitches were obviously well maintained and fully operational. His eyes, no longer hidden behind bulky glasses, shone with calm confidence, the kind that could only appear when backed by hard-won experience. The lines of his pale face were strangely deep, as if weathered by more time than it could have passed since his disappearance. With a faded scar over his right cheek and a toothpick nervously dancing between his teeth, it became apparent that Harry Potter had been through more hardships over the past year than even the Fate’s favourite whipping boy had any right to.
The answer to this discrepancy lay in a peculiar hourglass-shaped object handing on a chain around his neck. During the past 13 months since his disappearance, Harry had celebrated not one but five birthdays. And each one of them he spent in exactly the same fashion. He would travel to a different part of the world, lock himself up in some isolated location and spin the dial of his time-turner until his hand turned blue. Twelve turns of the hourglass to travel twelve hours back in time, times two to complete the day and then times 365 for the entire year makes one hell of a lot of turns.
All these hours spent by painstakingly repeating one and the same tedious hand motion were not for naught. Each stolen year Harry had spent by crisscrossing the part of the wizarding world he was currently in, zealously seeking out underground contacts and tutors mentioned in Dumbledore’s notes.
Even with his stolen guidebook and practically unlimited supplies of money he had secured once his vaults were placed under his control, his quest was far from a walk in the park. Many of the masters and contacts Harry had come across were wary of taking a shady student who insisted on keeping his identity secret. His constant need for secrecy and haste was far from endearing for arrogant masters, used to seeing students bow to their every whim. It was only Harry’s undisputable magical talent, relentless determination and deep pockets that managed to get him some of the posts he had aimed for.
Of course, Harry had little choice when it came to the matters of secrecy, seeing how four other copies of himself were rummaging through their own designated areas of the globe at any given moment in time. He was painfully aware that even a smallest hint of what one of his future selves was up to could upset the delicate balance of cause and effect, puncturing a hole through the very fabric of space-time continuum.
That is not to say that one-way communication wasn’t possible. In fact, sending a coded request for distraction to one of his future copies had gotten the Order’s, Scrimgeour’s or Voldemort’s agents off Harry’s tail more than once. The only thing he had to do was post a coded message in the Global Prophet’s yellow pages. As soon as his immediate future self deciphered the code, he would create what they dubbed ‘a genuine Harry Potter sighting’, which usually amounted to accessing one of the international Potter accounts from a local Gringotts branch. The Goblin informants would immediately notify the trackers, which would then predictably rush after the new trail, abandoning their previous pursuit. The Harry who had sent the message then only had to erase his tracks, silence a witness or two and disappear into the night. By the time the foolish investigators realized they had been duped, their previous trail would be long gone. Naturally, as soon as the danger was over, Harry would always Oblivate himself from the memory of sending the message, thus keeping the integrity of the timeline intact. By the time Harry went back to 1997 for the fifth time, he became so well versed with covering up his tracks, that he wasn’t much bothered by his inability to use this tactic anymore. That’s not to say that he wasn’t more than glad to help out his one year younger self when the ‘Junior’ got cornered by Scrimgeour’s mercenaries on his journey through Japan.
The only downside of Harry’s slippery appearances all around the world was further inflation of myths and intrigue surrounding his name. After six months of daily reports and sensationalistic articles, it seemed that all the people were talking about was the mystery surrounding the Boy-Who-Lived. Where was he? What was he doing? Will he come back? Was he even human anymore? Voldemort’s suspicious silence only added to these rumours, elevating Harry Potter’s fame to the heights never seen before.
And while the 17 year old Harry barely starting his adventure was mortified by new and new legions of fans and worshipers inexplicitly getting added to his flock, his 5 years older self was too busy plotting how this development could be best used to his own advantage. Behind the mocking leer he would present to the Prophet articles and people spreading these rumours, his mind remained a closed book, jealously keeping his cold calculations and world-weary cynical attitude to himself.
The Gryffindor Golden Boy had been a nice, if somewhat noisy kid, with a strong hero complex. Even though his childhood was far from an easy one, he still held a firm moral grounding, as well as a certain dose of childish naivety. The man he had grown into had little to none of his old innocence left. After all, practicing the Dark Arts, performing sacrificial rituals and purposefully murdering and torturing people tends to mature even the most good-hearted child rather swiftly.
For five long years Harry had been slowly sinking deeper and deeper in the dark dredges of the wizarding society, relentlessly gathering the strength and knowledge needed for the completion of his destiny and revenge on all those who had wronged him. He had gradually discarded the last vestiges of his old beliefs and values and greedily latched on to the new, darker ones, regardless of the consequences. After all, what’s the point of valuing friendship, when his friends had forsaken him? What’s the point of obeying the basic, unspoken rules of humanity, when the society had neglected him? What’s the point of seeking love, when he had never experienced it? Pain, suffering and ambition, on the other hand, he knew quite well.
That’s why he found it surprisingly easy to make those initial baby steps towards accepting his inner darkness. And as always, after his first deals with the Devil were made, the subsequent downwards slide was well known and almost completely irreversible. Deceitful innocence of his initial compromises had quickly turned into a total disregard of all established norms of behaviour. Sacrifice of animals or human beings, usage of distracting or lethal dark curses, self-defensive combat or callous execution of captured adversaries... For Harry Potter, it all became a blur of detached, cold-hearted decisions, made with the sole purpose of obtaining new and new scrapes of power, on his quest for vengeance and fulfilment of his destiny.
And now, all the sacrifices Harry had made would finally bear fruit. Four and a half long years he had spent travelling the globe, gathering knowledge and power he would need to fulfil his mission. Having finally deemed his combat skills ready, he secretly returned to his homeland and started executing his carefully laid out plans for bringing the end of Voldemort’s reign.
Thus, while common folks were still caught up in hopeful fairytales about their so-called saviour’s sightings around the globe, less prominent circles started whispering about a new player on the field. A mysterious dark wizard started systematically tracking down the most prominent Death Eaters, members of Voldemort’s Inner Circle and openly attacking them. And losing, which was the strangest aspect of the story. Time and time again, this stubborn sorcerer would masterfully locate and isolate an Inner Circle member, only to get soundly thrashed in a magical combat and end up running away with his tail between his legs.
This, mildly said, unorthodox tactic was what had aroused so much interest in the first place. The whole underground seemed to be theorising who was this weird newcomer? Why was he starting fights he couldn’t win? What was his true agenda? Some thought he was merely testing the waters, trying to gauge the true power of the Dark Lord’s forces. Others claimed he was in fact looking for one particular death eater, leaving everyone else out of it. The more romantically inclined rascals were weaving stories about a renegade prince trying to impress his true love, who had placed herself under the Dark Lord’s command. An allegedly reliable rumour even had it that this new player was the real reason behind Voldemort’s sudden silence and not Harry Potter, as the proper channels claimed.
Harry, on his end, found it particularly ironic that both sides were in fact right. He was, however, more than content to let the sheep speculate to their hearts’ desire. Only he was aware of the larger plan unfolding before their eyes. Only he knew that each carefully calculated move was bringing him one step closer to the final reckoning he’s been planning for more than half a decade.
Now, nearly eight months after his return, almost all the stepping stones of Harry’s plan were firmly set in place. Only two last obstacles remained before the final battle - Voldemort’s last Horcrux and the command words implanted in his subconscious. Today, he would hopefully smack both of these annoying flies with one strike.
With that thought, Harry ended his reminiscences, and brought his attention back to the matter at hand. He carefully inspected a rundown wooden house, barely standing together some one hundred meters away from him, in the middle of a forest glade. The unsteady, hive-like structure was surrounded by a small garden, a pen, and a few auxiliary sheds, with only an overgrown dirt road leading to the main street of Ottery St. Catchpole village it was nominally a part of.
“The Burrow... the same old shithole,” Harry murmured snidely, clenching his toothpick even harder as he absentmindedly waved his wand, placing himself under the effect of an advanced invisibility spell.
A closer inspection revealed that the household was actually slightly different from what Harry remembered during his last visit, six years ago. The backyard was now sporting a large cauldron placed on a pyre behind the tool shed and a long table, stretching along the entire backside of the house. The side field sported several rows of uncomfortable looking benches, in front of which stood an elevated circular platform. The only addition on the house itself was a new cubic section in its hive-like structure. Still, even with all this permanent and temporary changes, the Burrow still radiated an air of the same idyllic, if slightly unorthodox, old-fashioned countryside household Harry remembered from his childhood.
However, any illusions he might have had about the Burrow’s apparent harmlessness were blown away by a simple long-range detection spell. Harry’s wand lit up like a Christmas tree, indicating a 20 meters wide ring of layered wards, starting some 10 meters from the edge of the woods.
Harry smirked, pleased that his information was proven correct. Unusually strong barrage of wards could mean only one thing - the Burrow had become the new headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
So the whole Order will probably be there when I strike, he concluded with some satisfaction, the kind he experienced every time pieces of his plan would neatly fall together. But why are they keeping it in there? Do they even know they have it?
“Better make sure the damn thing is truly there,” he murmured, as he waved his wand over his scar and, for what seemed like a hundredth time, cast one of the only two spells he had crafted during his travels. His customized Horcrux locator charm quickly latched on to the soul magic residues in his forehead and used them to locate all the soul fragments of the wizard who had cast the curse. Two emerald green rays of light visible only to Harry shot out of his curse scar and zoomed over the countryside. One stretched all the way to the northern horizon, leading on to Voldemort’s base of operations, somewhere in western Scotland. The other beam shot straight forwards, disappearing inside the harmless looking house in front of him. Harry ended the locator spell and nodded to himself, mentally confirming his previous conclusions. Slytherin’s locket, Voldemort’s last surviving Horcrux, was being kept somewhere inside the Burrow.
Harry couldn’t help but appreciate ironic twists and turns Fate had woven around this particular item. By all logical standards, Slytherin’s locket should have been the easiest Horcrux to locate and destroy. The old bastard Dumbledore had systematically followed its trail through a procession of dubious hands, finally tracing it down to a cave on the England’s southern coast. But just when it seemed the accursed thing was finally within Harry’s grasp, it slipped away like a wet soap, disappearing without a trace along with its mysterious thief, self titled R.A.B. At the end of the quest, all he had to show for his effort was, as it turned out, Regulus Alphard Black’s amusing but useless message and the death of one of the world’s most powerful wizards. Not that it was a bad thing, now that he thought about it.
It took Harry five long years of training, including the construction of his own locator spell, before he was finally able to track down the real locket. His elation was, however, stifled out when he realized the accursed thing was surrounded by the most formidable defences he could have possibly encountered, sans Voldemort himself.
Five years ago, he and Dumbledore could have simply waltzed into the Burrow, had some tea and scones with the Weasleys, retrieved the Horcrux, wherever it was, and went on their merry way. But thanks to Yin-Yang’s wake-up call, his target was now at all times surrounded by dozens of hostile wizards, any one of whom could completely disable him with a single command word whispered into his ear. He didn’t know whether to cry, curse, or simply applaud to Fate’s impeccable sense of irony.
Neither, he told himself. I’ll grit my teeth and get the fucking job done, like I always do! Today is the perfect chance I’ve been waiting for and I’ll damn well make the most of it. I refuse to spend another day of my life hiding like a rat!
Determination swelling inside him, Harry disillusioned himself and snuck in for a closer inspection. Slowly and carefully he crawled along the entire perimeter of the wards, casting precise detection spells every few steps. It took him almost an hour of meticulous work to make the full circle and get back from where he had started. As he retreated back into the woods, he mulled over the results, compiling a complete picture of the Burrow’s defences in his mind.
As expected, the warded zone surrounding the property made for one very respectful layer of defences, considering they were of the unobtrusive kind. Visual and sound alarms, anti-travelling wards and automated defences were all tied up to a set of tri-polar sensors, consisting of blood scanners, dark detectors and mental probes.
“Nice work, Bill,” Harry sneered at the most likely creator of defences. “Perfect little light-sided, neighbour-friendly set of wards.”
Even through his disdain for the lack of proper lethal fortifications he had gotten used to during his half year long apprenticeship with a Siberian rouge ataman, Harry was well aware the challenge ahead was nothing to laugh at. As is usual with law-abiding dwellings, the main problem weren’t the wards themselves but the system they were a part of. Unlike dark wizards, light-sided defenders didn’t have to obliterate the attacker completely; they only had to last long enough for the ‘cavalry’, in form of the Ministry’s aurors, to arrive.
That’s why Voldemort maintained a wide network of Ministry insiders, spies and auxiliary units, allowing him to at least partially cover this problem by delaying the Ministry’s response. Harry, on the other hand, had no organization to back him up. Thus, his choice of tactics was reduced to only two options - speed or stealth. And seeing how he would face more than 40 grown up wizards, it was clear that the former would be quite impossible, even for someone with his skills.
“So, then it’s sneaking in and backstabbing the bastards. Just as I thought,” Harry nodded to himself.
I already have the blood key aspect covered, so at least that’s a third of the problem down, he mused. Anti-dark wards shouldn’t be much of a problem too. But what to do with intent scanners? Try to dissolve them completely? Alter the list of inquiries? Try to block out the probe? Or...
Harry’s brainstorming was interrupted when two very familiar figures groggily stumbled out of the Burrow’s front door.
“But mum, it’s barely six in the morning! Why do we have to do it now?” whined the lanky figure of Harry’s ex-best friend, one Ronald Weasley.
“He’s right, mum. Can’t we have a few more hours of sleep? Pleeeease?” piped in shorter figure of his sister and Harry’s ex-girlfriend, Ginevra Weasley.
“That’s quite enough, both of you. The guests will start arriving in a few short hours and I want the garden de-gnomed long before that. And be mindful that I expect more enthusiasm from the two of you once Bill and Fleur get here. After all, it’s not every day your brother is getting married!” The shrill voice of the traitorous cow, Molly Weasley, could be heard through the hovel’s door.
“Yeah, only every three months,” Harry had to strain his ears to hear Ron’s snide comment, before bristling at his own stupidity and casting a hearing amplification charm on himself.
“Don’t you play smart with me, young man! You know very well why we had to postpone the wedding a few times before. With everything that’s been going on...” Molly caught herself and sighed irritably. “Well, it’s all in the past now. We better use this time, while You-Know-Who’s attention is elsewhere, to focus on the brighter things in life.”
“His attention is elsewhere?” Ginny asked thoughtfully. “So the Order knows why he’s been so quiet these last few months?”
Molly huffed at her own slip-up and snapped back, “That talk is not for this day of celebration and certainly not for children’s ears!”
“Hey, I’m not a child anymore!” complained Ron.
“You’ll stop being a child once you get a job and start supporting yourself. Until then, your task is to de-gnome the garden and then report to me for more chores. We have a long day of preparations ahead of us, so you better get started. Now, off you go! Shoo!” Molly finished in a no-nonsense voice and slammed the door behind her, leaving the two kids to groan pitifully at the empty space where she used to stand.
Harry could clearly hear Ron muttering how he didn’t need to search for a job because his future should have already been secured, but then he quieted down and sulkily started combing through the garden. Ginny’s disposition didn’t seem much better either, having obviously found it distasteful to sully her royal self by chasing garden pests through the mud.
Seeing that the show was over, Harry dispelled the hearing charm and fell back into the tree line, trying to push down his anger.
Got so used living on my back that even a few minutes of honest work are too taxing for the rotten bastards, he fumed, thinking back to all those hours he had spent happily doing the exact same work his ex friends now deemed beneath their level.
But the worst part was the realization how little they have changed since his escape. He mentally knew he was now almost five years older than his supposed age group, but he has never had this fact shown into his face as convincing as this. Looking at them now, as young and deceitfully innocent as they were in his memories, he could almost imagine his teenage self stepping out of the house and joining them in the garden; Laughing and joking carelessly, completely unaware of the knife slowly sinking into his back. That image alone was enough to make his blood boil with righteous anger. He quivered in desire to jump in there and strangle the backstabbing scum with his bare hands. Thankfully, ever since Dumbledore’s mind alternators were removed, his cold calculating mind had been keeping a tight leash on his temper.
Easy there, tiger. Don’t do anything stupid. Their time will come, he soothed himself, slowly getting his brain back on track.
Where was I? Ah yes, the intent scanners. So... dissolve, alter or weaken... Harry trailed off, absentmindedly observing as the first gnome started sailing through the air towards his position. Suddenly, his eyes lit up with an idea.
Or have someone else do the job for me, he mused, his eyes shining cunningly.
Even as his brain started ironing out finer details of his newly concocted plan, his hand snapped out a silent broad-range locator spell towards the screaming creature. Once the gnome landed with a dull thud, it was then an easy task to track it down and stun it before the poor creature had a chance to realize what was going on. The same process was repeated several more times, leaving Harry with a sack full of unconscious garden gnomes.
Finding no more pests to harass, Ron and Ginny trudged off to report to their mother, grumbling about lack of sleep and general unfairness of their sorry little lives.
Thanks for the help, mates, Harry sneered at their retreating backs. He then snuck back into the tree line, from where he safely removed the invisibility charm and apparated away. Same as his ex friends, he had a long day of preparations ahead of him.
When Harry apparated back several hours later, wedding preparations were in full swing. Order members and family friends were running around under shrill guidance of Molly Weasley, setting up decorations and utensils needed for the wedding. After numerous delays over the last year, everyone seemed very eager to finally get this wedding over and done with. Harry found it amusing that his attacks against Voldemort’s lieutenants were actually the reason behind the ceasefire that had put everyone in such a good mood.
Scanning the yard with omnioculars, he zoomed in at the bonfire behind the tool shed, where Arthur Weasley and a stately-looking French gentlemen were huddled over a huge smoking cauldron. He recognized the soulfoil brandy, a mildly alcoholic beverage that is traditionally brewed on the wedding day, as a joint venture between the bride’s and groom’s fathers. As custom dictated, it will be used in a round of toasts on the opening of the celebratory banquet. Harry knew this would be the perfect opportunity to reach all the targets in one strike.
His hand automatically slipped into his pocket and gently caressed three morphus orbs of his own design. Each one was filled with a perfectly balanced cocktail of several deadly poisons and hindering solutions, mixed by the best potion master Knockturn Alley could provide.
Well, that accounts for the target and the weapon, he mused. Now to see about the method of delivery.
Harry pulled out his wand and started twirling it in a complicated pattern, his forehead furrowed in concentration. A golden drapery tickled out of his wand and stretched between two trees in front of him, before fading away into nothing. With another flick, Harry removed the disillusionment charm from himself, relieved that one-way invisibility wall was firmly in place.
He then took a deep breath and started another complex incantation, his forehead furrowed even more than before. Glowing blue velvet sipped out of the wand and started climbing up over the inner side of the invisibility wall which separated his makeshift camp from the Burrow’s glade. A minute later, the entire view was covered in blue light, which after another long swipe of Harry’s wand, started fading away. The Burrow became visible again, but none of the wizards and witches milling around could be seen anymore. The household looked completely deserted, even though one could see utensils and decorations disappearing and reappearing at various places in the backyard.
Harry smiled in satisfaction at successful casting of an extremely difficult ‘selective invisibility net’. It was a bother having to do so, but he knew his next step wouldn’t be possible if his ‘method of delivery’ thought the Weasley backyard was milling with people.
As the final touch, he swiped his wand over his eyes and performed another incantation, enabling himself to see through his own illusion.
Done with the logistic preparations, Harry sighed wearily, knowing that the really daunting work had yet to start. Resignedly, he retrieved one of the stunned garden gnomes from a sack thrown against a nearby tree and carefully laid it down on the grass. Bill Weasley’s anti-dark wards would stop him from placing the blighter under Imperius or some compulsion charm, but who’s to say that Dark Magic is the only way to gain someone’s cooperation? In fact, the spell he intended to use was actually a healing charm, originally designed to help human patients recover from long-lasting brain damage, or at least temporarily restore their mental faculties. Applied on a gnome, it would hopefully augment its intelligence to a level where the thing could be engaged in a sentient conversation. Reluctantly, Harry brought up his deeply repressed feelings of compassion, fuelling them into one of the lightest spells he had cast in a long time.
“Acuto cordis,” he spoke softly, a kind-hearted expression looking almost foreign on his pale, scared face. Bright light enveloped the unconscious gnome, before slowly congregating and disappearing inside the creature’s head. Harry had little time to feel pleased with his successful performance, before he was hit by the painful after-effects.
“Blasted territorial magic,” he growled through clenched teeth, trying to force the bile down his throat and stop himself from retching all over the blissful looking gnome. The dark magic that saturated Harry’s bloodstream viciously rebelled against the invasion of foreign, poisonous emotions that threatened to weaken its grip on his soul. Only through sheer willpower did he manage to convince his tainted instincts that light magic was merely a tool and not a deadly enemy that needed to be exorcised at all costs.
Thankfully, the other spell he needed to cast was in a blissfully neutral part of the emotional spectrum.
“Vernacula clades transfero,” Harry intoned, focusing on the wand movements and pronunciation, rather than emotions. The lesser breed translation charm settled over the gnome’s head, before once again disappearing inside it.
Now, for the incentive, Harry decided, as he retrieved a shrunken sack of exotic acerbreath garlic from his backpack. He restored the bag’s size and retrieved one disgusting vegetable from it, before dropping the whole stinking thing against a nearby tree. In a moment of foresight, he disillusioned the sack with other garden gnomes he had captured and put a scent-absorption charm on it.
I’ll try with the carrot approach first, he mused as he banished the undetectable sack behind a nearby tree for a good measure. If that doesn’t work, I can always set a couple of the blighter’s friends on fire and see what he makes of that.
With a silent double-flick of his wand, he renewed the tracking charm on the sleeping gnome and finally woke it up. The moment the creature’s eyes regained focus, they widened in panic at the sight of an intimidating wizard looming over it. The shaking gnome started whirling its head left and right, desperately seeking a way out. Just as it was about to pounce towards a nearby bush, it heard the human speak.
“Hello there, little friend!” Harry greeted the filthy thing in a boisterous tone, trying to imagine how some light-sided idiot would handle the situation. For obvious reasons, images of Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger were on the forefront of his mind. He tried to suppress a nagging feeling that his old self could also be added to that group.
The gnome froze in place, partially from the surprise at being able to understand human speech and partially from the fact that a high and mighty wizard had taken his time to try and communicate with a lowly household pest.
“What’s your name, little fellow?” Harry forced a smile, trying to calm the little beast before it suffered a heart attack.
The creature’s transfixed expression remained in place, while its mouth almost automatically blurted out “I Gnarf.”
“Ahh, that’s such a nice name. I’m Harry, pleased to meet you,” Harry beamed back, but the gnome wasn’t listening anymore. Hearing its own squeaky voice speak out in a human language was apparently too much for the poor fellow. It jumped up a foot into the air, before running off towards the bushes as fast as its mismatched legs would carry it, screaming bloody murder in the process.
Harry sighed dejectedly and fired off a quick flipping spell at the gnome’s rapidly retreating back. Even with a temporary enchanted brain, it took the numbnuts several seconds to realize it was running in the wrong direction, right towards the enemy.
“Yikes! Tosser!” the gnome cried out in English, which only served to make its consequent horror-struck scream even louder. Thankfully, the annoying voice was cut off when the creature tripped on its own disfigured feet and ended up tumbling right over to Harry’s boots, yelping painfully at each pebble it hit on the way.
Having had enough of playing around with the simple animal, Harry brandished his wand and transfigured a horseshoe-shaped enclosure behind the idiotic pest’s back. He watched dispassionately as the creature inched backwards faster and faster, only to slam straight into the rampart, letting out another frightened yelp in the process.
“Just stop, alright!” Harry snapped in frustration, afraid that the wretched thing might start wailing again. To his surprise, the gnome did clamp its mouth shut but then it dug itself as far against the wall as possible and stuck its tail out, shaking in fear.
Harry sighed in exasperation. He’s expecting me to take him by the tail and throw him, he realized.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt you, alright?” he spoke in the gentlest voice he could muster. He was half-tempted to simply put the gnome under a trustfulness charm, maybe even the one that Dumbledore liked so much, but he knew very well that the Burrow’s precise ward would deem any magical manipulation of free will, no matter how small, as ‘dark magic’.
“We’ll just have a little talk and then I’ll let you leave, no harm done. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
The gnome thankfully lifted its head from between its arms and gave him a fearful look. After a few more encouraging nods from Harry, it opened its moth, as if to say something, but then it thought better of it and merely nodded.
“You can speak, you know. It won’t hurt you. I simply... made you able to speak English... Human,” Harry explained patiently, realizing that he should try using simpler words that the gnome’s still limited intelligence could comprehend.
“E... English?” the gnome, Gnarf, asked in a barely audible voice, flinching at the unfamiliar and yet understandable word coming from his mouth.
Harry’s smile grew wider. “English is a human language, Gnarf. Speaking it doesn’t hurt at all! See?”
The gnome appeared to be lost in thoughts. He started murmuring random words under his breath, at first very carefully, as if testing them out, and then louder and louder. “H-h-hello... G-g-narf... D-day... Folks... Potato... Hole... Dirt!... Food!.. Hall!.. Fire! Toss! Worm! Carrot! Onion!”
Harry’s forced smile slowly turned sour as the deranged creature started yelling out every word from his dictionary, obviously enthralled by hearing them in a strange language. By the time it started jumping around excitedly, Harry was on the verge of blasting the annoying pest into smithereens and starting it all over again with a fresh one. Only the thought of having to go through another light magic casting kept his wand at bay.
“Tomato! Cot! Barglunia!... Barglunia... pretty? Barglunia pretty! Gnarf... love... Barglunia! Gnarf... and Barglunia... make folkling! Hah! Gnarf... fuck! Hah! Fuck Barglunia! Gnarf Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fu- Ouch!”
The gnome’s animated pantomime of the action on his mind was rudely interrupted when a rather stinky piece of garlic slammed straight into his head, flipping him all the way over to his back. Gnarf shook his head and straightened up, his eyes darting around confusedly, looking for the source of a newly formed bump on his head. Harry gave the acerbreath garlic he had just banished a pointed look, hoping the idiotic creature wouldn’t take offence at his method of delivery. But he needn’t have worried. All previous concerns seemingly disappeared from the gnome’s limited mind, as his eyes fell upon the most revered vegetable in his crude culture.
“Njambo! Look! Njambo! Pretty njambo... Tasty njambo...” Gnarf finished mumbling incomprehensively through salivating lips, while inching closer and closer to the garlic laying a few feet away from him.
“Ahh, so you’ve noticed my... njambo,” Harry noted calmly, as he swished his wand, rolling the piece of vegetable several inches away from the gnome and towards his own feet. He made sure to put a special emphasis on the owner of the food.
Gnarf snapped his head up, as if just realizing the human was still there. His eyes started darting from Harry to the acerbreath and back up, as if measuring his chances of making a grab for it and escaping intact.
“Do you like it?” Harry gently squatted down, bringing his head closer to the gnome’s level.
Gnarf gave him a suspicious look, before carefully nodding in confirmation. “Njambo good. Njambo... smells nice... and tasty,” he added for good measure, obviously pleased with his newfound sentence-forming skills.
“It is, isn’t it?” Harry nodded back, hiding his own disgust at the thought of actually eating the almost acidic vegetable in its raw form. “Do you want it?”
The gnome’s stare became even more suspicious, but he nodded obligingly.
“Alright then,” Harry shrugged. “Come here and take it.”
Gnarf leaned back in surprise, looking rather confused by this unexpected development. “Tosser... Dark Tosser... give... little Gnarf... his njambo?” he asked carefully, his sentences becoming smoother with each try.
Harry smiled forcefully, trying not to curse the creature for the insult. “Yes, it is my gift to you. Go ahead and take it. It’s yours.”
Gnarf took a step forward, but then stopped, giving the wizard another suspicious look. “Dark Tosser... no toss Gnarf?” he asked feebly and then added with more conviction, “Gnarf hate tossing. Gnarf flies. And then Gnarf lands. And then Gnarf’s head hurts. And then Gnarf gets lost. And then Blargrat comes and takes Gnarf home. And then Gnarf punished. And then Gnarf must clean potty hole for...”
“No, I won’t toss you.” Harry said aloud, interrupted the gnome’s whining session about the unfairness of his insignificant little life. Probably spent too much time around Ron, he added mentally. He felt somewhat amused how accurately the gnomish term for ‘human’ had described the only wizard family this tribe had ever met.
“No toss Gnarf? P-p-promise?” the gnome asked fearfully, his eyes widening in apprehension and hope.
“No toss,” Harry nodded, wincing at the crippled English he had instinctively used.
Thankfully, the gnome didn’t notice Harry’s embarrassment, as he was too busy jumping all over the garlic, hugging it like it was a long lost relative – which, judging by the garden gnomes’ general appearance, it might as well be. After a whole minute of watching the dumb creature alternate between nibbling and hugging the piece of stinky vegetable, Harry’s patience was once again running thin.
“Gnarf,” Harry called, snapping his fingers behind the creature’s back. The gnome jumped back, holding his precious prize protectively away from Harry. “Do you want more?”
“Want...more?” the idiotic creature asked confusedly.
Harry nimbly pulled out another stinky fruit from his pocket and presented it to the gnome, whose eyes budged in wonderment. “More njambo,” he clarified.
To Harry’s surprise, the gnome didn’t immediately jumped at the new piece of vegetable. Instead, his eyes started darting confusedly from his acerbreath, to the one in Harry’s hand, and back. “Gnarf...already... have njambo. This Gnarf’s njambo! Gnarf’s njambo good!” he stated firmly, before hugging his own piece of garlic protectively, as if trying to reassure it that he won’t cheat it with some other njambo strumpet, no matter how pretty it looked.
“Yes, yes I agree, it looks quite lovely,” Harry quickly appeased the gnome. “But don’t you want more? Two njambos are surely better than one.”
Gnarf’s eyes kept darting between the two vegetables, as if trying to determine whether his arms could hug both of them at the same time. “But... but Gnarf’s njambo huge! Gnarf’s njambo... plenty! Gnarf eat his njambo many suns!”
Goddamn communistic midget, show some fucking greed! Harry swore mentally, wrecking his brain for some new avenue he might exploit. The gnome’s rant about the fear of tossing came to his mind.
“Gnarf, you like your njambo, don’t you?”
The gnome nodded vigorously.
“But you also like your... little friends. Other... garden gnomes?”
The gnome seemed a bit uncertain there, before shrugging in acceptance. “Folks yell at Gnarf and then Gnarf sad, but then Folks help Gnarf and then Gnarf happy. Folks Gnarf’s folks,” he nodded, sounding rather sage for such a lowly creature.
“Of course, family is important,” Harry confirmed. Unless they stab you in the back, he added mentally. “So, don’t you think that your tribe... the folks, would want their own njambo?”
Gnarf thought about it for a second, before nodding vigorously.
“So, wouldn’t they want you to get them some?”
“Mmh-mmh”, Gnarf shook his head in negative, frowning disapprovingly. “Gnarf not picker. Gnarf digger! Gnarf dig halls and Gnarf dig holes and Gnarf dig hovels and Gnarf dig potty holes! Gnarf good digger!”
“But you can also pick food, can’t you? It’s not that hard,” Harry said irritably.
“No, Gnarf not pick food,” he denied sadly, his shoulders slumping. “Blargrat says Gnarf likes food a too lot. When Gnarf pick food, Gnarf gets happy. And then Gnarf... spoils food. So Blargrat tells Folks Gnarf not to pick food.” He then straightened up and stated firmly, “Gnarf good folk! Gnarf not pick food!”
If Harry thought the gnome’s denial was a bit too vehement, he didn’t show it. Instead, he licked his lips thoughtfully, trying to figure out how best to present his next point to the stupid creature. “But we are not talking about picking the food here, are we?” he asked reasonably. “We are talking about merely taking the food that has already been picked. Right?”
Seeing the gnome’s confused expression, Harry slowly leaned in, careful not to startle the animal. He pointed out a nearby wild berry with his left hand and intoned, “Picking.” He then raised his right hand, still holding the garlic, and said suggestively, “Taking.”
He repeated the process several more times in front of the confused gnome. Internally he sighed bitterly at how low he had fallen; from clashing minds with some of the greatest wizards in the world, to lecturing English syntax to a deranged household pest.
Gnarf carefully followed Harry’s action, wrecking his little brain with this new concept. “Blargrat tell Gnarf not pick food... Blargrat not tell Gnarf... not... take... food? Gnarf... not... pick food. Dark Tosser... pick food. Dark Tosser give food! Gnarf take food! Gnarf not picker!”
Harry leaned back and sighed in relief. It was more an old neon tube slowly blinking into life than a bright flash of a light bulb, but it would have to do.
Unfortunately, Gnarf’s unexpected mind-storm had seemingly taken him a step too far. His face suddenly closed off and his eyes narrowed. “Blargrat says Tossers not give food. Tossers guard food. Folks pick food. Folks hide from Tossers. Tossers toss Folks. So Blargrat says! Blargrat knows!” he recited, staring at Harry suspiciously. “Dark Tosser lie,” he concluded sharply, surprising both himself and Harry by his bold logical reasoning. Harry suspected that the gnome was just now realizing how to utilize additional brain power provided by the spell. Shifting his toothpick thoughtfully, carefully considered his answer.
“But I have given you that njambo over there, haven’t I?” Harry asked pointedly. “Doesn’t that make me different from all the other Tossers?”
Gnarf didn’t seem so sure of himself anymore. “Red Tossers not give food to Folks. Red Tossers toss Folks. Dark tosser give food to Gnarf. Dark tosser not toss Gnarf,” he mused, before his tiny eyes narrowed into a cute-looking glare. “Why Dark Tosser different?”
Harry observed his reluctant pawn calculatingly for a few seconds. Finally, he decided to simply be honest and take the plunge. “I need your help, Gnarf. I am giving you njambo because I need you to perform a task for me in return.”
Gnarf face was again clouded with confusion. “Help? P-perform... task? Give njambo and not give njambo...” he stuttered perplexedly.
“Look at it this way. You’re a digger, correct?”
Gnarf nodded carefully.
“You dig out tunnels and holes for the folks, and in return, they give you food and shelter. Right?”
The gnome seemed rather puzzled by this explanation, obviously having never contemplated on the organizational chart of his tribe. Still, after several expectant looks from Harry, the creature returned a small, shy nod. “Gnarf good digger. Gnarf digs and then Folks happy and then Folks give Gnarf food. Gnarf gets good food,” he added proudly.
“And I’m sure you deserve nothing less,” Harry nodded. “So, the same way the folks give you food when you dig tunnels, I will give you njambo if you do something for me.”
Gnarf’s face pinched in contemplation. “Dark Tosser want Gnarf dig?”
“No,” Harry said, as he retrieved one of the ally-sized morphus orbs from his pocket and showed it to the gnome. “I want you to sneak all the way to that big... pot over there,” he pointed at the half-covered cauldron simmering behind the tool shed, “and stick this... shiny nut to its side.”
Gnarf was looking at the sphere nervously, his brief bout of confidence gone in the face of a strange offer. “Gnarf go to jumbo pot... and... put... shiny nut? No... no dig? Gnarf good digger! Gnarf very, very good digger!”
“No Gnarf, I don’t need anything dug,” Harry snapped, clenching his fists in frustration. “I merely want you to take this nut over there and stick it to the fucking jumbo pot’s plating. That’s it,” he explained impatiently and thrust the orb towards the annoying creature.
Gnome jumped a back and put his hands behind his back, shaking his head vigorously. “Blargrat says Tossers’ thingies naughty! Blargrat says Folks not touch Tossers’ thingies!”
“Gnarf, if I wanted to hurt you, don’t you think I would have done it already?” Harry hissed irritably.
But the gnome was already inching backwards, clutching his garlic possessively, obviously trying to make a clean break with it. “Blargrat says Gnarf digger. Diggers not pick. Gnarf not pick. Folks not like Gnarf pick. Blargrat not like Gnarf pick. Gnarf go home. Folks happy. Blargrat happy.” He gave Harry a slightly apprehensive look. “Dark Tosser... Nice Dark Tosser... let Gnarf go home?”
Harry glared at his reluctant pawn, wondering what would the little shit think of his all-mighty leader if he saw him running around in circles with a flesh eating curse inching up his tail. Still, he decided to give the carrot approach one last try, before pulling out the stick and smacking the annoying pest over his lumpy foolish head.
“Of course I will let you go, Gnarf. I promised I would.” Harry said, while summoning the bag with garlic behind his back. “Although, it is a shame that some other gnome will get praise for bringing all this njambo to the tribe, instead of you,” he noted offhandedly, while opening the bag so that Gnarf could clearly see its content.
Gnarf’s precious njambo hit the ground with a dull thud, as its owner froze in complete shock, blinking disbelievingly at piles and piles of the precious vegetable enticingly bouncing inside the bag.
“You like it, Gnarf?” asked Harry carefully.
Gnarf had enough brainpower left to offer a vague nod. “Njambo... many njambo... many, many, many njambo...” he kept chanting bemusedly through drooling lips.
“You know, all this njambo could still be yours,” Harry said carefully. “You only have to deliver this... nut for me and you can have it all. Very simple,” he said while dangling the orb in the gnome’s eyesight.
That had clearly been a mistake, as Gnarf instantly blinked himself out of his daze and took a hasty step backwards, shaking his head in blind refusal. “No, no. Blargrat said not trust Tosser... Blargrat said Tossers toss... Blargrat said run from Tossers...”
Haven’t we already been through this? Harry mused, before his eyes fell on the garlic the creature was possessively holding, A small smirk formed on his face.
“But Gnarf, you have trusted me with this other njambo I’ve given you,” Harry almost laughed when the gnome gave his piece of vegetable a startled and slightly betrayed look, obviously having never thought of that little detail. “By Blargrat’s rules, shouldn’t you give me that njambo back before you leave?”
Poor Gnarf was at this point almost in tears, hugging his precious acerbreath for all it was worth, while furiously shaking his head in denial. “No, no. Gnarf trust Dark Tosser. Dark Tosser nice Tosser. Dark Tosser give good njambo. Gnarf likes his njambo-”
“Right, right,” Harry nodded impatiently. “So, if I’m such a good bloke, wouldn’t it be nice of you to help me out a bit? After all, it’s only fair, after all I’ve done for you.”
The gnome was slowly backing away and shaking his head, although not as furiously as before. Even through his reluctance, he managed to shift to another excuse with a surprising ease. “No, Gnarf not allowed. Blargrat said Gnarf not picker. Gnarf not naughty. Gnarf not pick food. Gnarf-”
“But Gnarf, this is not just any old food we’re talking about,” Harry stayed relentless, moderating his voice so that the pest would be forced to stop his retreat and lean forward. “Don’t you think the folks would make an exception for a prize like this?”
Gnarf shuffled nervously, murmuring under his breath. “Gnarf not know... Not pick food... Not naughty...”
“In fact,” Harry leaned closer. “Wouldn’t they be pleased with you for bringing them this gift?”
Poor gnome was pressing his hands over his bat-like ears, still shaking in denial. “No... Not trust Tossers... Not pick food...”
“Just think about it, Gnarf. The folks are always bringing you down, not trusting you with anything other than digging. This is your big chance to prove them wrong. Show them that you can handle food as well as digging. I bet they’ll even promote you into a picker if you do this right.”
Gnarf stopped shaking head and perked up a bit. “P-p-promote? P-picker? Gnarf... become picker?”
“Yes, I’m sure of it,” Harry smiled when he saw the gnome make an unconscious half-step forwards. “If you bring all this njambo home, I bet even Blargrat will be pleased with you!”
“R-realy? Blag-Blargrat not yell... and tell Gnarf get away from food and go dig?” the gnome gulped and gave Harry a hopeful look. “Blargrat tell Gnarf... Gnarf good folk?”
“Of course!” Harry confirmed magnanimously. “And not just him. I bet all your little friends... the folks will congratulate you! You’ll be their hero!”
“Gnarf be... h-hero?” the gnome gasped in wonderment, while slowly making another tentative step forwards. “Folks not tell Gnarf... Gnarf naughty dum-dum? Folks tell Gnarf... Gnarf good? Folks... like Gnarf like Gnarf like Folks?”
“I’m sure they will,” Harry nodded. He suddenly smirked as an idea hit him. He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially. “And not only them. Just think of how proud will Barglunia be of you.”
That was obviously the selling point Harry has been looking for. Gnarf straightened up, a glazed look on his face. “Bar-Barglunia? Barglunia like njambo. Gnarf... give njambo to Barglunia... Barglunia... like Gnarf?”
“Yes, yes! All the girls like fancy gifts,” Harry exclaimed encouragingly.
The little fellow perked up even more at this newfound revelation, stumbling faster and faster towards the bag’s opening, his hands reaching out in front of him. “Barglunia not say Gnarf nasty dirthumper! Barglunia say Gnarf sweet huggy pumpkin! Barglunia not hate Gnarf and tell him go away! Barglunia like Gnarf! Yay!”
The gnome threw himself headfirst into the sack and started throwing vegetables around, jumping all around while squealing in ecstatic glee. “Barglunia tell she like Gnarf! And then Gnarf tell he like Barglunia! And then Gnarf fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!...”
Harry noticed rhythmic movements inside the bag and grimaced as he finally realized what Gnarf’s comments about ‘spoiling food’ actually meant. With a vicious swipe of his wand, the sack buckled, throwing the euphoric gnome out on the grass, two acerbreaths lovingly clutched to his chest and crotch. With another flick the pieces of garlic were wrenched from the confused creature’s arms and sailed gently back into the sack. One final flick sealed the opening shut, hiding the treasure cove of food from Gnarf’s disappointed look.
Harry gave the dazed gnome a hard stare and crossed his arms resolutely. Even interacting with filthy pests was humiliating enough for a dark wizard of his standing. Having to clean gnome spunk from his bargaining chips was definitely not what he had signed up for when he decided to go all fancy and creative with breaking the Burrow’s wards.
“No... no njambo?” Gnarf sniffed, looking up at Harry with a pathetic crestfallen expression on his face.
Something deep inside Harry’s chest stirred with what he recognized as pity and sympathy, but for some reason, the only thing he wanted to do was laugh mockingly at the thought of leaving the perverted little pest high and dry. Still, he quickly moderated his scornful expression, trying to sound sincere and understanding.
“Of course I’ll give you njambos, Gnarf. I promised as much,” he said. Once again, he pulled out the morphus orb from his pocket and placed it on the grass, a foot away from Gnarf’s feet. “But first, you need to keep your part of the bargain and do that chore we had agreed upon.”
Gnarf looked at the orb, furrowing his brow in thought. “Go... go to jumbo pot... and...”
“Take the shiny nut. Sneak up to the jumbo pot. Put nut against the pot. That’s it,” Harry explained. “And once you return, all this njambo will be yours.”
“And Barglunia!?” Gnarf jumped ecstatically.
“And Barglunia,” Harry nodded. “After all, hero always gets the girl.”
“Hero Gnarf get Barglunia,” the gnome sighed blissfully, and closed his eyes, as a thin thread of drool poured out of his mouth. Only when Harry carefully pushed the morphus orb an inch forward did the gnome snap out of his daydreaming and brought his attention back to the issue at hand.
After a few more encouraging nods from Harry, Gnarf finally approached the dreaded orb and started examining it carefully from all sides. Harry held his irritation in check while the gnome put the orb through all the safety tests his puny little brain could think off. After a whole minute of sniffing, spitting, prodding, kicking and licking, Gnarf finally took the orb and lifted it triumphantly over his head, a proud expression shining from his face.
Harry resisted an urge to roll his eyes at the creature’s antics. He asked encouragingly, “All ready then?”
The gnome nodded and put the orb under one arm, before waddling off to his own acerbreath garlic. Harry felt the urge to slap his forehead in exasperation when the stupid creature started trying to pick up the stinking fruit and place it under his other arm.
“Gnarf you can leave that here, I’ll be looking after it until you return,” Harry mumbled tensely, while massaging his aching temples. Seeing the gnome’s panicked expression, he sighed and relented. “Alright, alright, take it, knock yourself out.”
With one final frustrated wave, Harry leaned against the tree and started performing all the calming meditation techniques he knew, while watching an eight inch tall gnome trying to take a hold of a 4 inch wide garlic and a 1 inch large orb at the same time. Surprisingly, it took him only half a minute to find the optimal configuration.
Perilously balancing both objects, Gnarf waddled back to Harry and gave him a surprisingly smug look. “Gnarf good picker!”
“You sure are,” Harry nodded, his lips twitching a bit. “So, do you know what you’re supposed to do? Tell me.”
The gnome frowned in thought. “Go to jumbo pot. And then put shiny nut to jumbo pot. And then go back to Dark Tosser. And then take many, many njambo! And then fuck Barglunia!” he jumped in excitement, nearly dropping his load.
“That’s right, little guy!” Harry chuckled in amusement. Internally, he was relieved that the stupid fuck had finally figured it out. “So, are you ready?”
“Go on, then! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get Barglunia! Come on, now! Run!” Harry clapped, steering Gnarf into action.
For a second the gnome eagerly shuffled in place, before trotting off towards the edge of the makeshift camp’s invisibility wall. However, he barely managed to cover a couple of feet, when a blue wave of magic overcome him, freezing him in mid step. Harry lowered his wand and inspected the petrified statue of Gnarf carrying a garlic and small glass orb, smirking slightly at what could easily be described as a horny expression on the creature’s face. He then placed a few preservation and stabilization charms on the frozen figure and retreated back to his tree. With a distracted wave of his wand he conjured a comfy armchair and plopped down into it. At last, he truly sighed in relief, satisfied that phase one of his plan was finally completed. All he had to do now was wait for an opportunity to present itself and then release his newly created pawn on its mission.
• • • • •
Hours stretched, while the Burrow’s backyard gradually filled up with appropriate banquet and wedding facilities. The large central table was now sporting a white sheet, expensive-looking tableware and two long lines of conjured chairs on each side. Above the table hung several canopies, decorated with animated vignettes and dozens of multi-coloured balloons. The lawn around the corner of the house was playing host to a standard wedding setting. Row after row of stiff, white benches led to the elevated altar, now decked with beautiful golden decorations dancing on the arch over it.
After a few hours, it became obvious that the Weasleys planned to conduct the marriage ceremony in the makeshift open chapel to the side of the house and then move the party to the backyard, for a feast and proper celebration.
Just as I predicted. This will give me the window of opportunity I need, Harry thought, making several merry twirls of the ever-present toothpick in his mouth.
Around twelve o’clock, the furniture and decorations were all set. The workers started retreating into the house and re-emerging bathed, trimmed, pressed and dressed in their best formal robes. Soon, the core of the wedding group was sitting around the main table, amiably chatting and obviously resting from the hard morning’s work. Eventually, the scared groom himself came out of the house and sat at the head of the table. His bold marking of territory was met by good-natured teasing from his family and especially his father, who had gotten merely one of the side seats. The guests started arriving several minutes later, some flooing directly into the Burrow and others apparating to the edge of the wards and walking into the backyard.
At a quarter to three, almost the entire Order was gathered in the backyard, as well as a good number of French speaking people and even a couple of Ministry officials. Only Fleur and a few of the girls were still missing, but from his limited knowledge of wedding customs, Harry suspected that they would be hiding inside the house until the ceremony started and then make a grand entrance.
For a moment, Harry wondered if there was a way to spare the Delacour family from the Weasleys’ fate, but he quickly squashed these counter-productive thoughts. Collateral damage has always been and always will be an unavoidable part of any battle in civilian surroundings. Only a fool would try and fight against such a fundamental reality of war.
• • • • •
It was now five minutes past three and the wedding ceremony had yet to start. People were alternating between looking at their watches and scanning perimeter of the wards. Occasional pops of apparation and swooshes of the floo system could be heard from within the household.
Ahh, so they’ve finally noticed Mad-Eye Moody is missing, Harry realized. A satisfied smirk stretched over his face at the memory of the old auror’s downfall late last night. Tracking down the paranoid bastard had been a pain in the arse, but once he finally had him cornered, Harry found it surprisingly easy to outduel the old dog, even with his hearing muted. Mad-Eye Moody might have been a respectable dueller once, but his time had long since passed. Without the manoeuvrability to dodge his spells, nor the magical reserves to outpower him, the crippled auror’s shields had little chance to outlast his relentless onslaught of dark offensive magic.
No wonder the old two-faced bastard was so paranoid all the time, Harry mused. I would be too, if I’d pissed off a bunch of dangerous criminals in my lifetime and lacked the skills to defend myself.
He noticed that McGonagall, Arthur, Bill, the French guy and several other ringleaders were now huddled together over some sort of written message they had found, obviously discussing what they should do next. Harry had known that taking Mad-Eye’s magical eye and paranoia out of the equation may cause problems, but he was confident that the fools would swallow his planted note about Moody having to attend some urgent business abroad. Indeed, a few minutes later, Arthur whispered a few words to one of the Ministry wizards, who then invited everyone to move on to the makeshift chapel on the side of the house, notifying them that the ceremony was about to start.
The time is finally here, Harry suddenly realized as he stood up from his armchair. Excited butterflies fluttered in his stomach, but over the years, he had grown accustomed to the feeling and even learned to like it. He watched as guests slowly trickled out from the backyard, taking their places on the side-field benches. He noted that the tool shed and the house were almost completely occluding Gnarf’s approach path, but the gnome would still have to be careful in some parts of the backyard.
He better be. After all, hiding from the ‘tossers’ is essential for his kind’s survival, Harry mused, as he leisurely keyed Gnarf into his invisibility ward, so he could see through it.
It took almost ten minutes for all the guests to settle down, largely thanks to French guest’s constant complaints about the ‘barbaric conditions’. Once the snobs were finally hushed up, a ministry wizard dressed in silvery-white robes climbed up the stage and started speaking. Seeing that everyone’s attention was finally occupied, Harry approached the frozen gnome, brandishing his wand. With one wide swipe he dispelled all the restraining spells holding Gnarf in place, and with another, he gave the creature some momentum.
The gnome was instantly unfrozen and propelled forwards, roughly simulating his earlier speed and direction. Still, the artificially recreated momentum was far from perfect. The creature gave a startled yelp, before stumbling over his own feet and falling face first into the dirt. His cargo gone, Gnarf tumbled a few additional feet, before finally stopping several meters away from his starting point.
After a few seconds of painful twitching, Gnarf slowly lifted himself up and looked around confusedly, as if wondering what had made him fall this time. His confusion got a whole lot worse when his eyes fell on the Weasley household. Even from the distance of several meters, Harry could sense the complete bewilderment his pawn was feeling at seeing a bunch people and decorations that hadn’t been there just moments ago in his personal timeline. The gnome anxiously shuffled in place for a few seconds, before turning back towards the forest, obviously intent on running as far away from the freak phenomenon as possible. He was, however, stopped by the sight of the acerbreath bag enticingly dangling from the wizard’s hand. Harry gave the creature an encouraging smile and a nod, ensuring him that everything was fine and urging him to go on with his mission.
To his delight, the gnome’s face hardened into a mask of determination. He whirled back resolutely and started collecting his fallen cargo. Soon enough, Gnarf was once again ready to go, balancing the acerbreath and the morphus orb perilously one on top of the other. Throwing Harry another smug look, the gnome trotted off on his merry way, easily passing through the invisibility wall and entering straight into the Burrow’s ward perimeter.
Now I see if my gambit pays off, Harry clenched the toothpick in his mouth harder, as he watched the gnome trot through the booby trapped area, completely oblivious to dozens of scans and tests that were being performed on him.
Gnomes are not directly tied into the wards, but as the Burrow’s permanent residents, they should be excluded from the visitor notification alarms. Ill-intent detectors will probably merely brush over Gnarf’s simple mind, not detecting any plans to harm the household occupants. What am I missing...Ahh. The cargo he’s carrying doesn’t contain any active charms, transfigurations or enchantments. And even the faint magical tell-tale signs of potions and alchemic runes on the morphus orb will be covered by the gnome’s magical signature. Hmm... I should be in the clear, Harry mused thoughtfully, enjoying the excited twitters in his stomach. There was something decidedly chivalrous in pitting his wits and skills against a more than competent Gringotts ward expert, which William Weasley certainly was. Challenges like this were one of the few things that made him feel truly alive.
His good mood was, however, slightly dampened when he noticed the amount of ruckus the damnable creature was making while trying and spectacularly failing to remain inconspicuous.
Good thing all the traitors are behind the edge of the house, he grumbled mentally. No wonder these stupid animals get caught and tossed out so easily.
After several trampled tomato plants, two wrong turns and one overturned bucket, Gnarf finally found himself in front of the simmering cauldron. Harry took his omnioculars and leaned in eagerly, knowing that a simple hand movement was all that stood in the way of victory.
However, Gnarf seemingly had different ideas. First, he carefully deposited the acerbreath down on the ground, making sure it remained within his eyesight. Next, he took the morphus orb and started inspecting it carefully, occasionally glancing at the cauldron. Then, to Harry’s everlasting horror, the dumb creature leaned back and flung the glass ball straight at the cauldron, as hard as he could. A pleased expression on the gnome’s face was wiped away as the orb bounced right off the cauldron’s plating and hit him straight in the head.
At seeing his idiotic pawn totter on his feet for a second, blinking stupidly, before collapsing straight on his back, Harry couldn’t hold it any longer.
“Fucking idiotic fucktard! Fuck!” he screamed in frustration, biting his toothpick in half and furiously spitting the splinter from his mouth.
Me and my fucking ‘innovative’ ideas, he fumed, while furiously strolling back and forth in front of the invisibility wall. I should have just squashed that idiotic gnome into a pulp and broke through the wards like any normal dark wizard would. But nooo, I had to play smart and try to find an ‘elegant’ solution. See where that got me now...
Harry’s mental rant was interrupted when his enchanted eyes caught the sight of Gnarf standing up painfully and shaking the cobwebs out of his head.
There might still be a chance, he thought with new hope. Come on, you stupid little fucker, stand up, that’s it...
Harry held his breath as Gnarf stumbled over to the undamaged glass ball and picked it up cautiously, only to groan in disappointment when the cursed creature leaned back, getting ready for another throw.
But then, Gnarf suddenly froze in place and gently lowered his hand, a look of realization dawning on his face. Harry held his breath while Gnarf carefully analyzed the orb and the cauldron. He then took a few measured steps away from the cauldron, only to once again buckle his arm into a throwing posture. He seemed very pleased that he had taken precautions against knocking himself out again.
This time Harry wasn’t able to hold back a rather unbecoming whimper at seeing his brilliant plan fall apart. His hands clenched into fists, itching to either start throwing curses or pull his hair in frustration. A distant part of his brain wondered whether he’d have any nerves left before the day was over, but most of his conscious mind was too busy thinking of various innovative ways of ending the idiotic gnome’s life.
But then, Gnarf made his move. He took a few running steps, intent on throwing the orb as hard as possible. However, in his eagerness, he suddenly tripped over his own feet and sent himself flying head-first, straight at the cauldron’s iron plating. An incredulous expression dawned on Harry’s face when he saw Gnarf’s outstretched hand pressing the orb against the cauldron, before his head followed, creating a dull ‘gong’. He paid no mind to painful yelps and moans his pawn was producing, while jumping around and rubbing his burned head and hands. His omnioculars were focused solely on the morphus orb, which was hanging securely from the cauldron’s side.
“It’s working!” he cried in incredulous relief when the alchemic runes lit up with power and the orb started sinking into the cauldron’s surface. He knew that the far side of the orb, as well as the cauldron’s iron plating were already dissolved, allowing the cocktail of potions to spill into the brandy. With each new millimetre the orb sunk in, the runes on its back shone brighter and brighter. Elementary particles were being transported from the dissolved contact area to the glowing runes, where they would wait until they are needed for future transfigurations.
Harry smiled proudly at his own creation; Alchemy was far from a flashy form of magic, but it was sure as hell useful, if applied properly.
At this point, the half-orb’s bottom started flattening up and becoming more solid. Accumulated particles were being magically banded together in groups of 26 proton-electron pairs and 30 neutrons, forming molecules of iron, which were then embedded into a brand new cauldron wall. When the last of the runes stopped glowing, the only thing left of the orb was a slightly discoloured patch of iron on the cauldron’s side. Harry smiled victoriously, feeling secure that none of the Weasleys would even give the anomaly a second look, least of all suspect that a dose of deadly poison had been injected through that spot.
Only then did Harry notice that Gnarf’s little dancing act had attracted some unwanted attention from the wedding party. The presiding priest-like wizard had stopped speaking and joined the guests in curiously observing the path of grass between the house and the tool shed, where a silly-looking little creature was jumping, cursing and wailing in what sounded like a mangled form of English language.
Oh shit, Harry thought panicky. He’s gonna tip them off!
As if sensing the wizards’ attention, Gnarf suddenly froze in place and slowly lifted his head, spotting 50 or so ‘tossers’ staring straight back at him. When the realization of his unfavourable position finally hit home, the gnome jumped up in fright, letting go a startled little yelp, before sprinting straight back behind the cover of the tool shed.
Gnarf’s hasty retreat broke the wedding party out of their frozen shock. Startled silence was replaced by curious exclamations, laughter, bickering about the nature of garden gnomes, awwing of the French girls and Molly Weasley’s chastising of her children for not degnoming the garden properly. The hum was eventually shushed by the wedding master’s pointed coughing, and the guests turned their attention back towards the altar, where an amused Bill and annoyed Fleur were still waiting to take their vows.
On his end, Harry finally allowed himself to loll back into his conjured armchair, put a fresh toothpick between his teeth and sigh with relief.
Innovative ideas aren’t without their risks, but they are sure as hell more exciting then pedestrian textbook approach, he mused, while watching Gnarf pick up his acerbreath and head back to collect his prize. He distractedly waved the gnome off towards the bag with his prize, too caught up with his mental celebration to pay his served-up weapon too much attention.
For the next five minutes, he did his best to tune out the gnome’s jubilant cries and blabbering plans for his and his new fucktoy’s bright future. Instead, he patiently observed as the traitor and his half-Veela tart took their vows, threw some kind of wreath into the audience and performed a bunch of other nonsense rituals he didn’t care about in the least.
Finally! he groaned mentally, as bored-looking male guests and teary-eyed females stood up and started trickling back towards the long table, where the feast was about to start.
Harry’s focus was suddenly shattered by a louder than normal exclamation of his pawn, followed by an unintelligible response coming from somewhere behind his back. In a flash, he was on his feet, his wand already out, pointed straight at... a group of dazed looking gnomes stumbling out a disillusioned bag stashed behind a nearby tree.
Fuck, I completely forgot to renew their sleeping charms, Harry chastised himself, while watching Gnarf drop all but one acerbreath he’d been gnome-handling, before running straight towards his tribe.
“Barglunia! Barglunia! Njambo! Gnarf give njambo!” he yelled breathlessly, while holding the abused fruit over his head like an offering to the Gods.
Harry watched half-amusedly as his idiotic pawn grabbed a hold of one particularly lumpy female garden gnome and literally dragged her back to the pile of garlic he had spewed all around the bag.
So that’s Barglunia!? Harry wondered, staring disgustedly at what looked like a mouldy misshapen potato with short uneven arms and legs, which were currently flailing around in panic. No wonder the stupid midget likes vegetables so much.
“Barglunia! Look! Njambo! Gnarf’s njambo! Sweet njambo!” Gnarf chanted ecstatically, not noticing the expression of pure panic and fear slowly growing on the ugly she-gnome’s face.
Harry glanced at the other gnomes and saw that they too were shaking off the after-effects of the sleeping spell and coming out of their trance. Judging by the progression of confusion, apprehension and horror on their faces, they too were unnerved by hearing their village idiot dragging one of their kinswoman around, while speaking in what sounded like a human language. Seeing that they were on the verge of running away, Harry sighed irritably and sent a wide wave of mild mind-numbing magic over the entire group. With some further wand-work, the entire tribe have had their short-term memory erased. They were then promptly stunned and sent tumbling back into the bag, which tied itself up after the last unconscious gnome flew in.
Done with the pesky colony, Harry turned back towards his armchair, where Gnarf was still desperately attempting to talk some sense into the panicking female, not realizing she couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
“Barglunia, not be afraid! Dark Tosser good Tosser! Dark Tosser give njambo! Njambo for Barglunia! See! Here! Njambo!” Gnarf blabbed merrily, while shoving various slobbery vegetables at the terrified Barglunia, who was shakily backing away towards a nearby tree trunk.
“See! Gnarf not filthy dirthumper anymore! Gnarf now picker! Gnarf good picker! Gnarf pick many, many njambo! Gnarf hero!” The gnome pumped his chest proudly as he advanced towards the lumpy girl, following her all the way to a nearby tree.
“Barglunia love heroes! Gnarf love Barglunia! Barglunia love Gnarf!” At this point, Gnarf pinned the female gnome against the roots and started slobbering all over her, which quickly broke her out of her stupor. She started kicking and screaming, but Gnarf was too caught up in his own fantasy to notice her terror.
“Ahh, Barglunia sweet! Sweeter then njambo! Gnarf pick Barglunia... like Gnarf pick njambo. Gnarf pick Barglunia good!” the gnome panted, while dry-humping over the screaming gnome, not unlike what he had been doing to the vegetables only minutes ago.
I guess no one ever bothered to explain the birds and the bees to the poor sod, Harry mused, while watching the spectacle with mixed feelings of amusement and irritation. The amusement, however, quickly evaporated when he noticed that the crowd around the big table had quieted down and Arthur Weasley stood up to give the opening toast.
Fuck! I can’t hear the thing over all this racquet, he cursed, all the frustrations he had experienced while dealing with Gnarf suddenly coming back to surface.
Making a snap decision, a cold smile crept over Harry’s face. He pointed his wand at the wrestling pair of gnomes and hissed menacingly “Fulmoglobus!”
A neon-blue orb cackling with electricity hit Gnarf straight in the back, quickly spreading over to Barglunia and pinning them both against the ground. The gnomes let out horrified, high-pitched screams, as a high-voltage charge spread through their convulsing bodies. The scream grew in pitch, before abruptly ending as the two vibrating corpses burst into flames, releasing a cloud of oily black smoke. Even when the spell ended, the two dead gnomes were still spasming from electric aftershocks, their charred remains permanently fused together in a hug.
“Well, you sure as hell rocked her world there, Gnarf,” Harry let go a chuckle at his own lame joke, which quickly turned into a full-blown mocking laughter. A distant part of his mind rationalized that he was merely trying to preserve his unique method of entry by disposing of all the witnesses, but the other, darker part of him was simply basking in sadistic glee at obliterating the source of his recent frustrations.
The fused pairs’ rhythmic tremors finally died down, as the last vestiges of the electric charge bled into the burned ground. “Well, at least the little guy’s greatest wish finally came through. He laid the girl of his dreams,” Harry concluded his laughing fit, before banishing the charred husks several feet beneath the ground, along with all the acerbreaths he had brought in.
Just removing the evidence, Gnarf. Nothing personal, he kept repeating in his brain, trying to convince himself that this was truly all there was to it. In all honesty, he actually felt mildly disgusted by himself for his earlier jokes and giddiness.
There’s nothing cool or funny in inflicting pain or causing death. Taking joy in some insignificant pest’s demise was way beneath my level. I should know better than that, he chastised himself sternly, in what was becoming a well rehearsed speech. His duty done, Harry hastily pushed the whole incident to the rear of his mind, with other similar incidents, and resolutely turned back to the more important matters at hand.
Harry once against cast the hearing amplification charm on himself and started listening just in time to hear the end of Arthur Weasley’s opening toast. “...a ray of light in these times of darkness and insecurity. Learn to trust and cherish each other, but also know that the Weasleys’ and Delacours’ joint hearts and minds will always be there to support in the times of need. I’m confident that only when we are united shall we succeed in our endeavours to secure survival of our joint fruits and provide them with a place in the world we all feel they rightly deserve. Admittedly, these last several months have been hard on everyone, but let us all hope that today’s happy union will be a good omen of the brighter days ahead of us.”
Harry sneered at the callous mention of his own escape from their money-grabbing clutches, but remained focused on Arthur, who was currently raising his glass with spiked brandy, mirrored by all the other guests on the table. “Bill, Fleur. May your lives be long and filled with love, harmony and happiness. An maer galu a annan cuil.”
Harry chuckled with glee as every last one of the poor oblivious sods parroted the Weasley patriarch’s Elven toast, before drinking up their poison.
“For good fortune and long life,” Harry mockingly repeated Arthur’s toast in English, raising his butterbear to the congregation before him. “Well, at the last few minutes should feel like an entirety,” he added, before gulping down the beverage and setting his stopwatch to a five minute countdown. The potion master was very specific about the time it would take for the cocktail to kick in, and Harry had no reason to doubt him; after all, both the brewer’s reputation and his well-being were on the line.
I better get on with it, he decided, banishing the butterbear. I wouldn’t want to be late for my own revenge. I have a speech I’ve been itching to give for a long, long time.
Over the next two minutes, Harry banished sleeping gnomes into the forest, dispelled the conjured accessories and cleaned up any tracks of his presence around his makeshift camp. He gave the area one last check-over, before turning back towards the main table, where a tall French wizard was taking up the soap box with his own opening speech.
“Well, what was it they say? Revenge is a dish best served... now,” he smirked, before collapsing the invisibility wall and apparating to the opposite, frontal side of the house.
In steady, determined steps, Harry strolled down the main road leading to the Burrow and stopped just before the first ward line. Hardening himself against a fresh bout of butterflies waking up in his belly, he retrieved a blood red stone from one of his pockets and pressed it against his bare chest bone. He clenched his toothpick in pain as the magical item sunk half an inch into his own flesh and started flashing in the rhythm of his heartbeat. Having made sure that the blood obfuscator saturated with Mad-Eye Moody’s freshly culled blood was properly activated, Harry closed his cloak and walked straight into the first line of the wards.
He felt the flashing obfuscator on his chest heat up and vibrate with magic, leading the subtle tentacles of the blood sensors away from his own blood vessels and towards the Mad-Eye’s blood stored inside the enchanted stone.
Just moments after the blood detectors retreated, having concluded that the intruder was keyed into the wards, Harry felt a new magical presence envelope his entire body.
Anti-dark detectors, he thought grimly, his insides twisting in disapproval at the disgusting light magic sticking its nose where it didn’t belong. The wards shuddered in disapproval themselves, sensing a dark taint in the subject’s magic. The alert level went up a notch, but nothing else happened; After all, dark auras were a common occurrence in the times of war, even amongst the wizards fighting for the Light. Unable to find any active dark curse or even a residue, the probe finally gave ‘all clear’ and, almost reluctantly, retreated its claws from Harry’s body, eliciting a sigh of relief.
Two down, one to go, he thought grimly, as a new bout of sensors weaved an intricate web around his mind. Correctly interpreting the polite knock on his mind’s door for what it was, Harry retreated his Occlumency shields, not wanting to raise an alarm. Having left the passive elements of his mind magic in place, Harry was perfectly aware of the progress the intruding probe was making. Even more important, he was able to decipher predetermined list of questions the wards were asking his cognitive brain centres, as well as hear his own replies.
“Do you work, serve or cooperate in any way with one Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort?” he heard the probe ask its first question in a dull monotone.
Harry said nothing and thought nothing, but electro-chemical reaction in the frontal lobe of his cerebral cortex automatically formed an answer, which the mind probe easily picked up.
“Are you Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort?”
Nice catch, thought Harry. So many ward crafters make mistakes with simple logic like this.
“Are you a fugitive from the British Ministry of Magic?
“Do you consider yourself a dark arts user?”
Harry shrugged mentally at the feeling of disapproval coming from the wards. No big deal. Moody certainly hadn’t been innocent in that regard either.
“Do you mean harm to any known occupant of the premises?”
Damn! Harry swore mentally, as he felt the alert level go up a notch. Oh well. I don’t think the Weasleys would expect anything less from the old paranoid bastard. I bet all sorts of alerts have been lighting up every time he approached the headquarters. He then quickly cleared his mind and braced himself, knowing that the next question will be crucial.
“Do you intend to harm any known occupant of the premises?”
Harry sighed in relief and smirked inwardly at the success of his ingenious plan. Why should I harm them? he thought smugly. All the traitors are already dead, they just don’t know it yet.
Thankfully, after this question, the intruding ward swiftly retreated its probe, seemingly satisfied with the answers it had received. With a new spring in his steps, Harry strolled on through the anti-travelling barrier and another defensive trip-field, before triumphantly emerging on the inner side of the warded circle. Resisting an urge to gloat at his inevitable success, he carefully approached the Burrow’s front door, pulling out his wand in the process.
“We’re in the back yard, Moody!” he heard Molly Weasley’s screech through the house, followed by the French speaker’s indignant clearing of throat.
So the fat bitch is the ward keeper... Predictable. She’s the only one who’s constantly home, Harry mused as he steered right around the house.
Thirty seconds, he saw on his wristwatch and modulated his speed, determined to make a clean and safe entrance.
With each measured step down the side path around the house, Harry’s excitement grew exponentially. While the rational part of his mind rejoiced the freedom he was about to obtain, the dark magic in his veins danced with glee at the prospect of finally getting some revenge for all the betrayals he had discovered thanks to his secret helper.
He paused at the corner leading to the backyard and started the final countdown, almost trembling from excitement.
Ten... nine... eight... seven...
Glancing up from the stopper, Harry took a deep, calming breath, schooled his face into a blank mask and stepped forward.
“Come on, Mad-Eye. We saved you a...” Molly’s voice drifted off when she saw that the figure emerging from behind the corner was definitely not Mad-Eye, regardless of what the wards had told her.
A quiet beep of Harry’s stopwatch rang clearly in the dead silence of the Weasley backyard.
Finally, the second chapter. Since the monster was just too damn long (almost 37K!), I had to split it in two parts. This is part one. The second will be posted within a week and hopefully bring the story well past its mid-point.
NOTE - Version from January 2008. Some rewritten parts and grammar fixes, but no major changes in the plot.
o - Credits and acknowledgments
Thanks to Muttering Condolences for fixing up my atrocious grammar and other errors. Additional thanks to AFC affiliates Japanese Jew and Charmscharles for their helpful suggestions. Special kudos to Jbern, who helped me figure out a crucial element of the plot.
That’s three different kinds of thanks, in case you haven’t noticed. :-)
o - Sources and additional disclaimers
All elements of Elven lore and language are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien, his inheritors and various companies that had bought off pieces of this franchise over the years.
Sindarin translations are made by using software found here:
> www jrrvf com/hisweloke/sindar/df20 html
Encyclopaedic references are from all-powerful Wikipedia
> www wikipedia org
To access links, replace empty spaces (‘ ‘) with dots (‘.’).
I don't own any intellectual property mentioned above.