Thanks so much again for the kind reviews!
Reviewer 'Jay' pointed out to me though, that Hogwarts apparently only has one Head Boy and one Head Girl. The Wiki page confirmed this to be true. Honestly, I always automatically assumed it was like the Prefects, mostly because it's known that during the Marauders era, Lily and James were Head boy and Head girl. Surely, I thought, naively, if there's only two instead of eight, they would never be allowed to be of the same house? I should have known better with Dumbledore being Headmaster at the time. Anyways, long rant short: this version of Hogwarts has a Head boy and Head girl in each house now since I already mentioned at least four people with this status *helpless shrug*. I'll try to keep it in mind for future stories.
Chapter 69 - Initiation
They looked like Dementors. Two rows of black-robed, hooded figures that he had to pass by, faces not visible at all apart from something gleaming at the lower part. Masks, Barty reminded himself. Silver masks, not the ugly sucking mouths of Dementors. The Death Eater took one more shaky breath before casting the shadows of his past away and stepping forwards, eyes trained only on his Lord.
The Dark Lord looked glorious as always even in his simple attire and amongst ruins. Perhaps it was partially because of it, the surroundings were a sharp contrast to the extraordinary features of the one that Barty had vowed to serve for the rest of his otherwise worthless life. The picture of power, of magic.
He reached the end of the line – a much shorter line than should be the case in his opinion, but he understood that they were still lying low and all truly loyal were residing in Azkaban still.
Barty still wasn't sure why they were here, or what was happening. After a tiring day of running errands, none other than Lucius bloody Malfoy had waited at Riddle manor and whisked him away to a small, dark chamber where he'd resided for almost an hour. During that time, his mind had raced a thousand miles an hour to figure out why, instantly jumping to the most fearful conclusions it procured. Upon stepping out a minute earlier, he'd been met with the ominous sight of silent, waiting Death Eaters in full garb, which did nothing to calm his nerves. Clearly, this was some form of punishment about to happen.
He'd tried everything to fix his previous mistakes, the bloody trail he'd left should have gone cold now. His Lord had ensured it, set some members of the Hand of Magic on the case to make the right witnesses disappear, and Barty had tortured all information out of their captives that was available. Had it not been enough? Had this mistake been so grave to warrant a public expulsion? Or worse, an execution? He couldn't tell, it was not Barty's role to decide on the severity of his own actions, that remained the task of the Dark Lord alone. Unlike with his biological father, Barty would not resent this man for passing judgment, whatever it may be.
Kneeling, he found the grass to be unpleasantly wet, robes soaking up the water instantly. His knees were freezing in an instant, yet the Death Eater did not move a muscle. He wished that he had been allowed to wear a mask for this occasion so no-one would see the tense lines on his face. Maybe that had been a privilege already taken away as he was to be cast from these ranks anyways. No point in giving a failure a piece of comfort. Barty wanted to beg for mercy, point out that everyone standing behind him had committed a more sinful crime - denouncing the Dark Lord's name – and had been forgiven all the same. He clenched his teeth together and lifted his head. No, begging was not an option. That would show that he did not put full faith in the conclusions his Lord had come to.
It was hard to face the man he'd come to care for so much, so his eyes instead drifted to the mossy stone walls and pillars. The ruins were of an old castle on the moors in which an eccentric alchemist had lived and died centuries ago, leaving behind a well of magic beneath the surface. This place had left a stark memory, as it was the first location he'd witnessed one of the Dark Lord's speeches at, together with several other Hogwarts students who'd snuck out. How ironic that it might end here.
With utmost precision, his Lord placed candles upon an altar-like slab of stone and lit them, before holding a twig of sage in the fire, the aroma instantly spreading through the ruins.
''Bartemius Crouch, only of his name by grace of death,'' the Dark Lord addressed him, voice carrying far and clear. ''Born to heretics, you chose to follow the right path despite all you'd been taught. You have borne my mark from the age of sixteen, one of the few to be given that privilege. Your thirst for knowledge has been an unending source of strength for you, and your loyalty has proven to withstand the foulest of places and the darkest of curses. Rise and step forward.''
The praise was so unexpected that Barty kept waiting to hear a 'but' even as he got to his feet and staggered up the few stairs to the raised platform their Lord was standing on. As soon as he was in front of the man, only the altar separating them, he instantly lowered himself to his knees again. No need to challenge fate. A pale hand reached out expectantly, and with only a moment's hesitation to figure out what was required, Barty offered his marked arm. The Dark Lord's fingers held it in a tight, icy grip and pressed the tip of the familiar bone-white wand to the skin. The Death Eater marvelled for a second at being so privileged to touch one of the most powerful wands in history, then winced in surprise as it suddenly made a shallow cut right across the Dark mark, blood welling up and slowly sliding down.
''Bartemius. I saw your potential the very first time we met in the dusty shop that is Borgin and Burkes. Yet I could not predict to which heights you would soar. You shed your family, overcame hardships, even pushed aside your own pride in favour of loyalty. You sacrificed part of your flesh so that I may live again. You sacrificed your time to ensure I would have the strength to lead again. Because of this…'' in the breath-taking seconds of silence that followed, another cut was made, though not in Barty's arm. He watched, wide-eyed, at the crimson droplets that dripped into his own wound from above. They were heavy as lead, burning as they mingled.
Movement nor speech felt within his grasp at the moment, so Barty's mind tried to make up for that by picking up speed, trying to figure out what was going on. A blood-bonding ritual of some sorts, that was for certain… it was a topic he knew well enough, but this one had a much simpler set-up than most he'd seen. No shared food, no ribbons, not even a circle or runes. Even as Barty was subjected to the ritual, his curious mind couldn't help but attempt to decipher its meaning. It was neither a marriage nor would it leave them blood-brothers. So what in the world…
''Adiuro mihi hunc hominem. Adiuro mihi hic sanguis, meus discipulus, meus filius.''
A shockwave went through him, though for once more due to the words than due to the surge of magic that followed. Barty lifted his head to stare right up into the sanguine eyes of the Dark Lord. They gave away no hint of emotion. 'Filius?' he mouthed, feeling dizzy. Then, he had no space left to say anything, as his arm felt like it was burning up. Barty gnashed his teeth together, which worked for a total of four seconds before he released a scream. Neither receiving the Dark Mark nor cutting off his fingers had been as painful as this. It was as if flames crept under his skin, threatening to turn him into ash from the inside. Black spots danced in his vision, so he closed his eyes until it was over.
He awoke with a start. The candles were but mere stumps and nothing was left of the sage apart from a smidge of fragrant ash smeared onto the stone. As Barty turned around, he noticed that the other Death Eaters were still there, unmoving and silent. How much time had passed? His arm stung like a fresh wound, so he turned to look at it, fully expecting to see a scar. Instead, he gazed upon the Dark Mark, which had turned the same shade of silver as the artificial fingers on his right hand.
''Behold,'' he heard, and whirled around again. His Lord had moved to the other side of the two rows, in front of the courtyard's entrance, ''Bartemius will be my right hand from this day onwards until death. Any and all of you will defer to him, follow his orders… is that clear?''
A few murmurs rose up from the cloaked people. Although most were in agreement or deference, they did not sound too happy, and the person closest to Barty dared to throw a glare at him. A huge weight had lifted from his chest. The Dark Lord's right hand… after everything, even after his most recent slip-up, he'd been granted such an honour. ''I shall not let you down,'' he spoke clearly, descending the staircase. Before passing by the first person, someone broke the line. Barty halted, and he wasn't the only one.
''My Lord, Crouch is one of the youngest among us!'' someone spoke up. Crabbe, if Barty heard correctly. He'd forgotten that Crabbe had recently been let in on the fact that the Dark Lord had returned. Everyone of the original Inner Circle had been now, in preparation for Ostara. It was not something he was very happy about. He sneered as Crabbe took another step forwards and gestured towards him. ''Half of this time, he's been hiding away, not pulling his weight while the rest of us-''
The Cruciatus curse hit the man square in the chest. The rest all subtly moved away from the thrashing and screaming figure. Barty pulled his eyes away from Crabbe to observe the face of his Lord. He looked… ticked. When the torturing curse was lifted, the Death Eater lay crumpled on the floor for a good while still, shaking.
''Next time I need someone to give up part of their body for me, I'll consider your gracious offer of volunteering, so you can be on equal grounds with Barty,'' their Lord chuckled humourlessly. ''Let us hope that I won't need more than three fingers then.'' Crabbe finally got it together again and withdrew back in line, harshly being pulled up by two others.
Feeling bold, Barty strode forwards, ignoring the line of Death Eaters who almost mechanically bowed as he passed, stopping only when in front of his Lord again. Respectfully, he went down on a knee and kissed the hem of the man's robes before standing up straight.
''You might be the only person present of whom I know they won't let me down,'' his Lord mused, eyes wandering over the rest. ''Let us return home.''
The word 'home' now had an entirely different meaning, Barty was pleased to note. With a skip in his step, he followed closely as they exited the ruins.
It took a while to get used to this new role. Not so much regarding other Death Eaters, Barty absolutely loved finally being able to say what he wanted straight to their faces without consequences. What bothered him most was that it appeared that his Lord expected some sort of new dynamic between them as well. It was noticeable through little things: the dropping of his full first name in favour of just 'Barty' or the more casual asking for advice that he couldn't image ever being trusted with before. Ever since being granted this new position, he was never explicitly told to kneel anymore - though he did anyways – nor was he cursed for asking too many questions. However, Barty had no idea how to handle this. Their relationship had been clear-cut before and while it could be tough, he liked knowing what he was in for. So far, no strict new ruleset had been laid out, so he wasn't completely certain in doing anything and felt like winging it half of the time.
After a week of doubts, he finally manned up and approached the Dark Lord right after the other returned from the office. The man had barely sat down grabbed a book when Barty approached and spoke: ''My Lord, with all due respect, I would like to discuss your expectations of me.''
The older wizard halted his movements, hand hovering over the cover he'd just been about to open. With a quick glance, Barty saw it was a tome on spells used for hunting. Interesting choice. ''Do you find your new status disagreeable?'' the other asked with a quirked eyebrow.
''No, of course not!'' he hastened to reply, sitting down on the floor at the Dark Lord's feet so he would stare up rather than down. ''I feel honoured for having received such a unique chance. It is a relief to not be grouped in anymore with the likes of… well…''
''I understand that perfectly,'' the Dark Lord cut through Barty's awkward words with a hint of impatience. ''You have shown that you can handle leading, this week was already a success. So, what is the issue?''
Nervously, Barty scratched the stubble on his cheekbones. ''Do you wish for me to behave differently than before?'' he asked. ''Here, I mean. With you. My Lord.'' He ducked his head.
He heard a heavy sigh and a bit of muttering that wasn't quite audible enough to catch. ''I suppose that it was unrealistic of me to think that you would adapt without verbal communication… Barty, there are several reasons I had for creating this position for you. Your skills, naturally, as well as your tendency to think on your feet. Yet the decisive point was your ability to question my choices. Even fearing the consequences, you more than once tried to explain why my behaviour at times was… unacceptable. I didn't show much gratitude for that before, but have come to see that you were risking your own health to keep me on a straight path. Without it, I might have gone insane again and burned this entire Muggle town to the ground or made other questionable decisions. Truth be told, both Evan and Nagini were a large factor in allowing me to not only tolerate but appreciate that foolish bravery of yours.''
Ruby eyes bore into his. ''Now, alleviated from the burden of having the exact same status as other people whom I absolutely do not want to question even a single one of my actions, you may speak more freely. Respect should not stand in the way of common sense. I… trust you to have my best interest in mind rather than your own. Thus, you may advise me how you see fit. No matter how much I disagree with them, your words shall no longer be punished, only your actions. While of a slightly different nature, I have a similar arrangement with Evan, which appears to work until now. As long as you show deference in public and continue being civil, you may speak more openly at home. Although, speaking of Evan…'' the other trailed off a bit and his features turned harsher. ''That is the one topic I do not appreciate advice on unless asked. I know your stance on the matter already.''
That specifically did not sit well with Barty at all. The last news he had about it was that both of them were somewhat aware of each other's feelings. ''That should not be a problem,'' he nonetheless spoke. ''You did assure me that you would reserve any actions for-''
''I was wrong,'' his Lord admitted bluntly. Barty's stomach coiled unpleasantly, alarm bells ringing in his head. ''Recent conversations have left me to see that I wish to secure his place at my side. As it is sure to come up, I will inform you now of the fact that I am… courting him. So far, Evan does not appear to find that disagreeable. In either case, it is not your business and that is the last of it, understood?''
''Yes, my Lord,'' he managed to get out, mouth entirely too dry. ''Anything else?''
The Dark Lord leaned back again and shook his head. ''No, your opinion is appreciated regarding any other topic, from the way to deal with enemies to strategies abroad. In fact, there one thing I'd like to discuss right now. As you are surely aware of, it is a matter of time before I'll be replaced as Head Editor of the Daily Prophet. I've scouted for the mood in the French Ministry as well, and this is one point where they'll side with the Brits. The newspaper has brough governments all over too much trouble. Expected, but also annoying. Before they can bribe me into an early retirement, I'll still tackle Dolores Umbridge and hopefully the case of Evan's guardianship. It all depends on how fast everyone moves. Instead of making a scene, I plan to take the money and be quietly replaced. Considering how few know of my second identity, my personal reputation won't be damaged by doing so and it will allow me more flexibility in setting up new plans quietly. The Ministry will be happy enough if I go out of the picture. My only concern now is trying to pick my successor. It cannot be anyone even vaguely linked to our side before as then Dumbledore could get suspicious and discredit what we've worked for before. Gossip might arise about the previous articles being influenced by the Dark as well. Converting someone new is also problematic for several reasons, such as not being able to be ensured of their loyalty in such a short time-span.''
''Or being trusted with the knowledge that you are Noctua,'' Barty added. ''Or at least are working towards a similar goal. They could jeopardise what we've worked to achieve while thinking they are pleasing you.''
''Correct. Any that I would trust with that information are people who have already been suspected of being Death Eaters before, which brings me back to my first concern.''
Barty propped a hand under his chin and thought about the dilemma. It was true that there were too many factors in play to easily pick someone. They couldn't be too close or not close enough, needed to still be in their sphere of influence after being appointed this new role, and also be someone who could actually handle running a company. It was made more complicated by the fact that the national newspapers of two countries were run by one person now. Someone with a knack for international communication was needed, or else they'd have to search two successors. Then, a light went off in Barty's head.
''There are still a few other people who know,'' he pointed out. ''You needed to reveal your identity for the first articles regarding creature rights.''
The Dark Lord frowned. ''Only towards a specific few, who were all quite obviously creatures. Unless they do the same as I and take on another identity… yet I would not trust another to play a new role with as much conviction as I did. Plus, many of our non-human allies are not involved enough in the human world to run a newspaper for mages.''
''There was one person that day who fits all requirements though.'' Barty grinned at his own idea. ''Involved in politics, having connections in both Britain and France, proven to be magically and intellectually apt, and most importantly: on our side without anyone being aware of it. Last I heard, she moved to Britain to work at Gringotts as a curse breaker after her grandmother passed away, so she shouldn't be too hard to find either.''
''Delacour is too young,'' the Dark Lord spoke dismissively. ''We both know that age is no true indicator for aptitude, but many do not see it that way. She has no experience in the field of journalism either. Also, would the Ministry really allow her to replace me when it was Delacour herself who was the face of my first wave of controversial topics? ''
Thankfully, Barty was quick to find counterarguments: ''She is a Triwizard Champion, heralded as a witch with experience far above that of her peers. It helped how diplomatically she attempted to handle the double victory between her and Evan. Plus, the creature issue did not stir up problems with the government yet. Yes, they handled it poorly and enabled us to act to stop the slave trade before officials could, but the topic itself was not something we blamed the government for apart from a couple of involved politicians. Many on top genuinely had no idea about it. They cannot put that on Delacour, who merely sparked the conversation that brought it all to light.''
He received a none-too-convinced hum. ''She is… an option. I'll have to think about whether she is the best option. Anyone else?''
''Truthfully, no,'' the Death Eater shrugged. ''I could try to find out if there are any particularly capable members in the Hand of Magic who are fighting for our cause without yet knowing who pulls the strings. There may be promising talent there. However, I am worried about what revealing the truth will do to some. It could lead to set-backs.''
''Try at least. I will have the final say about whom you'll initiate, and memory wipes are always an option. So, if that was all, I have some research to do,'' the Dark Lord spoke. Barty hesitated for a moment, having had one thing on his heart for quite a while now. Perhaps he'd gotten brazen by the new power he'd been granted, or the man's previous promise of not being punished for words…
''I'd like to address one more topic,'' he spoke, peeking up to gauge his Lord' mood. He received only a small wave to indicate he could continue speaking. ''I am concerned about Black…''
None too surprising, that name caused an instant reaction. The book was cast aside and the Dark Lord leaned down, eyes burning with passionate hatred. ''What did the mutt do?''
''I don't know, and that's what bothers me!'' Barty spoke, holding up his hands. Carefully, he tried to sort through his arguments to compose a coherent point that would not instantly get rejected. ''From what I gathered, the only reason why Black is even interacting with anyone on our side is Evan. While undoubtedly a strong motivator, it still makes him a wild card. He's cut off from the outside world, surrounded only by members of the Order and constantly under Dumbledore's influence. The only one who could reach out to him openly from our side is Severus Snape and… well, they don't have the best relationship, never had. I am concerned that prolonged exposure to nothing but Dumbledore's viewpoints will once again make him doubt that the Headmaster does not want the best for his godson. The recent news of Evan's family passing away will put Black in a tough spot. He won't be able to get guardianship himself, but Dumbledore is sure to use Black against Evan in this matter: it would be odd for anyone in the Order if Evan would not pick the choice that is supported by his godfather. We need to have a way to contact Black about this, inform him of our reasoning and convince him of our points.''
''You think you can get through to him?''
Barty fidgeted. ''More than most, I believe. During Yule, it was surprisingly pleasant to speak to Black, so I know that he's at least open for conversation with me. He's quite expressive. We share some experiences too. Rejecting our families over political beliefs, spending time in prison… I find him to be an interesting person to speak to. Besides that, reaching out in the first place would show that we are trying to uphold our promises. According to the agreement he made with you, he'd be allowed to visit to have a taste of the outside world now and then. Due to multiple factors, he hasn't had a chance to make use of that. I realise that it won't be easy to contact Black in the first place, but we can show goodwill by trying.''
His Lord's nostrils flared, it was clear that this idea was not one of the man's favourites. Barty was about to drop the subject when the man spoke: ''How would you convince him of endorsing the Malfoys?''
''It's no secret that I am not too thrilled about the Malfoys becoming Evan's guardians either,'' he started. ''Can't stand Lucius for one, and the thought of Draco becoming essentially Evan's sibling makes me want to curse the little brat. I only find it agreeable because it's the only real option we have. They're the only ones who could beat the Tonks' family, who are influenced by Dumbledore. Surely by explaining that reasoning to Black, he'll also be able to get around to the idea. Just like me, he doesn't need to like it. It's what's best for Evan. We cannot have a man who is actively looking to kill that precious kid, have any semblance of control.''
''You're putting a lot of faith in the questionable ability of Black to think logically.''
The Death Eater shrugged. ''Maybe, but the least I can do is try.''
Scrutinising eyes searched his face. ''So the only reason you wish to contact Black is for our cause?'' There was careful restraint in that deep voice that bordered on dangerous. Barty fidgeted again. Honestly, he wasn't entirely sure why he couldn't let go of the idea of talking to Black. Sure, a large part of it was because he was paranoid that the ex-Auror would slip up and risk their entire operation. Another part was concern for Evan. But there was something else. At Yule, there'd been something like kinship, which he hadn't felt in years.
Generally, Barty did not get along with most of the Dark Lord's followers, speaking to them only on a professional basis. Talking to Black had felt like hanging out with his mates at Hogwarts. It was something he missed, especially knowing that the people he'd cared about back then, friends whom he had laughed with and gone on trips with, were all people he'd likely never see again. It was the curse of having been sorted into Ravenclaw at a time where the Dark Lord had recruited pretty much only Slytherins. Even if at one point in time, they'd seize the government and try to change their world, Barty was in an entirely different position than his previous mates were. To a lesser extent, some of that loneliness was healed when Evan was around, but Barty always felt like he was walking on his toes there. He didn't care what the Dark Lord thought - okay so maybe he did but could not allow himself to – Evan was just a kid. A headstrong, dense and foolishly brave kid who had too much of life pushed onto him at once. The teen needed a lot of guidance and protection still, and it didn't look like anybody else was really providing that. Barty couldn't risk seeing Evan on an equal level as someone his own age. If he needed to complain about adult problems and responsibilities, he'd have to find someone else to drink his sorrows away with. Cue Sirius Black.
''Barty, I asked you a question.''
He shot up straighter at being called out. ''It's not the only reason,'' he admitted guiltily. ''I don't really know how to describe it.'' At least not to someone who had a hard time grasping human connections. It was already a huge step that the Dark Lord let anyone close now. Understanding the bonds between people without being involved himself at all was likely too much to ask. Barty would not have any idea on how to begin explaining it. ''But that does not invalidate that I mainly want to speak to Black for the reasons I stated.''
The other's head tilted slightly to the side, gaze not wavering. ''You speak the truth,'' he finally concluded. Barty exhaled shakily in relief. ''I will contact Black for you. He may be unreachable personally behind those wards, but post will still get through. A massive flaw of the Fidelius charm is that it only works on humanoids. According to Lucius, the Daily Prophet and other post is delivered there, so I will simply send Black mail. Unless Dumbledore specifically made the House unowlable recently, there should be no problem with that method. Besides, I'm not planning on using any magic, so my signature shouldn't set off any alarms.''
''How does Lucius know any specifics about the Order's headquarters?'' he asked, trying to slightly cover the disdain in his voice by keeping a neutral expression. ''Does he have more contact to Snape?''
''I've been informed that he has a new inside source. I'll leave him the benefit of using that exclusive information as long as it gets to me for now. He seems to be in a better mood now he can pass on useful knowledge to me. If I ever need more details than he can tell me, I'll confiscate it. For now, I will leave him the illusion of power. We are not directly at war with the Order and I already know their rough plans.''
It didn't sit well with Barty. Combining this with the fact that the Malfoys were likely getting guardianship of Evan, meant that he would have to watch that family a lot more closely. Absentmindedly, he trailed his fingers over the silver skull and snake embedded in his skin. Lucius had better not take a single misstep…
Memories of the sort of date with Voldemort carried Harry through the next weeks. It helped that he had a few physical reminders in form of the now-dried flower and the envelope he'd been given, which turned out to contain an invitation card for the Ostara ball. Harry wasn't entirely sure why Voldemort had given it to him this time, as last year he'd directly received it from the Malfoys. Perhaps they didn't think there would be an opportunity for it, or felt like they'd be obligated to also invite Sirius again. In either case, he'd certainly needed something to be cheered up with Umbridge out for blood and the heavy questions of debated guardianship hanging over his head. Dumbledore hadn't breathed a word about the Tonks family being in play. It looked like the Headmaster was perfectly fine not involving Harry himself. For his 'protection' again, surely, he bitterly thought. Each time his mood was down now, he'd look at the gleaming, silver-lined card in the knowledge of that he might see the Dark Lord soon again.
Well, it wasn't that they didn't see each other in between at all, but dreams were always far less fun. Even during sleep, Harry couldn't catch a breath from studies with Voldemort relentlessly speeding through material. Any awkwardness over discovering that their last visit had been on Valentine's evaporated as soon as Harry landed in a dream, as he had gotten quite good at separating those meetings from real-life talks. He could respect Voldemort's wish to solely concentrate on education instead of personal matters, mostly because Harry desperately needed it. During daytime, his extracurricular activities were stacking up higher and higher as well, runes now joined with both reading up on healing and trying to decipher the Necromancy book further.
Even one of his favourite hobbies, watching Quidditch matches now he didn't play anymore, was not a moment of relaxation nowadays, which Harry painfully had to admit was Ron's fault. The rest of the team still managed to pick up their Keeper's slack and win - barely – but it was hard to ignore fourteen of fourteen goals that Ron had attempted to block with many wild arm gestures and little tactical flying. Once again, the fact that they were technically victorious didn't seem to matter to Ron, who had a face like a thunder cloud all evening, ensuring that no-one actually celebrated and quietly stepped around him. Harry tried to distract his friend by offering training of a different kind, annoyed when Ron flat-out refused and started complaining.
More and more, Harry was drawn to spending time with Hermione, who was positively glowing after her Valentine's date with Viktor. He was content to listen to her breakdown of the conversations she'd shared with her boyfriend about international news, the workings of magic and his new part-time job as a Durmstrang tutor. It turned out that alumni often returned to assist professors and tutor students during after-school hours. While Krum was amazing at Quidditch, he was aware of that most professionals had to quit their career mid-thirties latest and the Bulgarian wanted to have different working experience to find something suitable afterwards. Harry honestly couldn't image the typically gruff man teaching anyone, but Hermione gushed about her boyfriends' educational abilities, so he must have a side that Harry hadn't seen before.
As much as he loved Hermione though, he thought it was a great shame that Ron was drifting away from them so much. He'd honestly felt really good about having someone to confide in regarding dark magic, and Ron appeared to be more and more open-minded about it. His friend had loved the book on the classification of spells, and casting weather magic together had been incredible. Harry missed it. Additionally, there was the fact that he didn't want to continue training on his Animagus form without his best friend, so he was pretty much stuck there until Ron was more agreeable again.
Trying to ignore how absent Ron often was, he and Hermione organised more D.A. meetings, held homework sessions and generally tried to keep each others' spirits up. They visited Hagrid once more, who'd mysteriously received another number of injuries that he didn't want to talk about; and talked about plans for the future. Well, Hermione did while Harry kept silent, stumped on what to do after Hogwarts. It wasn't as if he hadn't given it any thought at all, quite the opposite. It seemed so impossibly far away though…
''You need to have some idea of what you want!'' the girl sternly spoke. They were sitting on a stone windowsill in one of the more unused towers, enjoying the privacy and the amazing view over the Black Lake. It was a great spot for conspiratorial talk as it was easy to create a solid silencing barrier here without people disturbing it, plus there were no portraits around. ''There will be career talks soon, remember?''
Harry did remember, McGonagall had informed them about upcoming talks. Ever since, he'd tried to figure out what to say during it. ''We haven't even finished our O.W.L.s yet, so what is the point?'' he asked in exasperation. ''Possible careers highly depend on which courses we can take at N.E.W.T. level, and each teacher has different requirements for that! I mean, many cool careers require you to take potions for seven years, but there is absolutely no way that I'll get an O in that, which is the only acceptable grade for the git.'' Even with remedial potion classes, Harry doubted he could up his skills that much in only a couple of months.
''So you have thought about careers you'd be interested in and looked at their requirements?'' Hermione concluded.
''Of course I have, but none of them are within my reach,'' he crabbily answered, mentally cussing Snape out. ''The more I practise it, the more I thought about healing if I'm honest, especially now that I got some books from Madam Pomfrey. However, becoming a Healer requires a heap of N.E.W.T.s… Potions, Herbology, Transfiguration, Charms… All core courses that I'll at least have five years, but if I don't pass my O.W.L. in a single one of those, I can forget about that path. The only thing I'm absolutely sure about is that I never want to work for the Ministry as long as people like Umbridge are around.''
''There will always be people like her,'' Hermione mentioned, which he fully agreed with. Even if Voldemort would completely overhaul the system, the man's followers weren't picked by how nice they were. Whatever government would replace what they had now, there'd always be power-hungry bastards and lax people willing to look the other way for a bit of gold to line their pockets.
''I know, so I'll never work there then. A couple of years ago, I might have considered Auror as a career, but then so much dirt got dug up, and the whole situation with Snuffles makes me hesitant about it too. Not to mention that I'd still need to pass the same exams.''
''I'm surprised that you're not considering becoming a teacher. You're doing so well with the D.A.''
Harry thought about that suggestion for a while. One of the reasons that talking with Hermione was so pleasant, was that she hardly ever pressed for a quick answer, preferring if he took his time and gave a well-thought out reply instead. It truly hadn't even crossed his mind before. Maybe part of that had to do with the current Headmaster, whom he'd have to work with. Another part told him that he couldn't do it, wasn't good enough. Even during the training sessions, he relied heavily on other people to help with training. Then again, most regular classes were held for about twenty people, not forty. ''There's several pros and cons to teaching, I suppose. I like the work itself, seeing the way people improve under my guidance is very satisfying to watch, knowing that I could help them improve. However, there's a lot more to it. I'd have to have outstanding results in one course to be considered right after finishing Hogwarts, and would suddenly have my former teachers as colleagues. Not to mention that I'm unsure if Dumbledore would allow it. He's refused younger people on principle before, wanting them to get experience in other fields first,'' he explained, thinking of Voldemort. ''It wouldn't hurt to ask McGonagall about it nonetheless. Not sure which O.W.L.s are important in that case other than the topic I'd want to teach. How about you? Any ideas for the future?''
''I don't mind anything as long as I can make a difference. Even if that means working for the government to fix it from within. There's so much that needs change, a fresh outlook. The Department for Magical Creatures or Law Enforcement have interesting prospects. There are also international organisations to consider. If that doesn't work out, I can always try to become an author. I spent so much of my life loving literature that it would be amazing to add a piece to libraries. Have a few ideas about that already.'' Interest piqued, Harry tried to fish for those ideas, but Hermione only gave a secretive smile. ''I'm not sure yet if it works out, so I will tell you once I have something more concrete.''
''At least you certainly have all options open,'' Harry shrugged. ''With your marks, anyone would be crazy not to hire you.'' She gave a bright smile at that.
They left their musings about careers for now and instead discussed plans for their Defence group. Last session, Harry had started with healing charms, which had been met with much enthusiasm. The Twins were ecstatic about it for all the wrong reasons, apparently instantly noting down possible uses to improve the products they were testing. The rest was just glad that they didn't constantly have to ask other people for help when the heavier training sessions left them scraped and bruised. One of the tips that had been in the Healer's helpmate had been that healing worked better with established trust, so Harry had made everyone form a pair with one of their friends to practise on. As they were an odd number, he himself didn't pair with anyone, alternating with demonstrations on different friends of his.
After that, Hermione breached the topic of Harry's unfortunate family situation. Tactfully, she didn't directly mention the murder, instead asking: ''Any update on looking for guardians? I noticed that you haven't mentioned it during D.A. training.''
The 'as recommended by Ron and I' hung in the air.
Harry shifted, feeling his legs becoming numb from sitting on the stone windowsill for so long. The sky outside was darkening already, so he told a shortened version in which he mainly gave her the information he got from Sirius about the Tonks family being in the picture. ''I'm very hesitant about them to be honest,'' he admitted. ''Sirius vouches for them being good people, but I don't know them personally at all. Tonks didn't speak very highly of her own mother, and from what I heard, her parents are… loosely connected to the Order but lying low or something like that. Not sure if that's a very stable environment. Also, my biggest problem is that they're being pushed forwards by Dumbledore.'' He hesitated, still unsure how Hermione would take hearing hostile words regarding the Headmaster. ''I… have my problems with Dumbledore,'' he admitted. ''I fear that this is only an excuse for him to dictate what I can do and where I can go via other people, like he does with Sirius. It's not a good sign that I had to hear of this news from my godfather in the first place. The Headmaster himself hasn't approached me about it yet.''
''That could have many reasons,'' the girl tried to reassure him. ''Maybe you did a few things that he frowned upon, but he is still training you, right?''
''Not so actively anymore. He's been busy and I refused his last attempt cause he so tactfully wanted to have a teaching session right after finally informing me about the murder. It's not even so much the secrets, as the fact that I don't understand why the Headmaster of my school should be involved in my personal life. Yes, he's powerful and was a great foe to Voldemort, whom he wants me to defeat, but that should not give him the right to mingle in my personal matters, right? It feels… weird.''
''In a normal situation, you'd be right,'' she explained patiently. ''But I have long come to see that things work differently in the Wizarding World. We're so few that everyone is bound to play double roles. Professor Dumbledore is our Headmaster, but he's also the Supreme Mugwump of the Wizengamot, a highly acclaimed researcher, a master transfigurist, Leader of the Order of the Phoenix and the one who took down Grindelwald. You cannot dismiss anything he does in other roles as 'not his business' because he's our Headmaster. With the threat of V-Voldemort around the corner, you need his guidance, assistance, even protection. It sounds to me as if he is looking out for you by instantly trying to search for a family that would not take advantage of you.''
Said like that, Harry could see the other side of the coin. He'd been so focused on Dumbledore finding ways to manipulate him that he had rejected all other possible motives. Still, it couldn't happen, it was far too high a risk. With heavy heart, knowing she'd be against it, he said: ''Mione, I really don't know what to do. Thing is, the only ones who could rival the Tonks' would be the Malfoys.''
As expected, she looked at him with shock. ''The Malfoys? Harry, surely you can't consider-''
''Why not? Draco and I… get along now. Sirius and I were both invited to one of their balls last year too and no Death Eaters jumped us or anything.'' He knew these were weak arguments, especially compared to her carefully constructed explanation of why he should consider the Tonks'.
''Draco aside, his parents are firmly on his side, everyone knows that! You'd make yourself vulnerable. Better being watched by Professor Dumbledore and hopefully being allowed to spend time at Sirius' place than going to people who worked for the man who killed your parents!''
''Yes, thank you for that reminder,'' he grumbled, not having needed that.
She went silent, observing him with kind, brown eyes. ''Harry, you clearly have other reasons for preferring the Malfoys. Won't you tell me?'' Unable to lie to her face, he swallowed heavily and looked down at his hands.
''I… can't. There's so much going on that I can't push on you,'' he admitted. The knowledge that Dumbledore was out to kill him, the fact that he was in love with Voldemort… breathing even a word about that would completely shatter Hermione's world. He couldn't do that to her. Certainly not now, while she was trying her best to juggle all of her courses while helping with the D.A., avoiding Umbridge and still trying her hardest to get stellar marks in everything. ''But you are right. If it's between the Malfoys or the Tonks, I'll try to get Draco's parents to get custody of me.'' It felt good, admitting that out loud, even though she threw him a noncomprehending, uncertain glance. ''Draco already knows, I explained the situation to him a while ago. He's not too thrilled about it, instantly started whining about wanting to remain an only child and complaining that I know nothing about Pure-blood etiquette. I suppose he's right, but it's not like I am asking to be adopted. The Dursleys didn't either, it's more like a foster family. For the largest part, I'll be at Hogwarts anyways. I'd only be under their roof for a total of four-and-a-half holiday, and that's only if this gets solved before Easter break.''
''Do you think they will give you more freedom when not at Hogwarts?'' the girl asked quietly, as always looking straight through him.
''Yeah, definitely,'' Harry declared. ''Both regarding where I'll go and whether I use magic.''
''Harry! We're not allowed to-''
''We're not allowed to run an illegal student group either,'' he reminded her. ''These rules are made by the Ministry. The Restriction on underage mages is a sensible law when it comes to not risking exposure to Muggles. In fully magical areas, it loses much of its meaning. Ron and I both practised magic at Sirius' place.''
Other than a pursing of her lips, she showed no further disapproval. ''It's getting late,'' she mentioned. ''If we want to have any food this evening, we'd better hurry.''
Agreeing, they went to the Great Hall for dinner like every evening. Upon entering however, something seemed to be amiss. It was unusually quiet. When Harry looked over at the head table, all teachers appeared to be rather stiff and Umbridge's face was a deeper shade of purple than usual. Only Dumbledore acted as if nothing was amiss, loading up his plate.
''What happened?'' he whispered upon sitting down. Neville leaned forwards and quietly spoke: ''Professor Umbridge was apparently the first person to sit in the hall, with that expression on her face. She hasn't moved a muscle since and all staff members are in a grim mood. I can't imagine what's up.''
Leaning back, Harry risked another glace at the High Inquisitor. I'd been a while since Dumbledore and Voldemort had had their first meeting. The Dark Lord had been tight-lipped about progress, but it was not impossible that the man had made a move today. Harry would have given anything to see the article in question, but knew that it wouldn't reach Hogwarts, and the radio was under Ministry control…
After dinner, he snuck out and went straight to the Room of Requirement to get Sirius' mirror. Unfortunately, he wasn't the first to arrive. Luna and Ginny had clearly skipped dinner and were in the middle of practising the latest spells together: binding charms such as Fulgari and Brachiabindo, which had been requested as milder alternatives to the previously-covered movement-hindering hexes and jinxes. They were so caught up in training that they didn't notice him at all though, so Harry opted for simply taking the mirror with him and finding a different safe location to speak to Sirius.
It had been too long again. They'd only briefly spoken once more, where Harry had given his godfather an update on the guardianship battle. Sirius had been very torn in the Tonks vs. Malfoy debate, insisting that the Tonks' were great people and why would Harry want someone like Lucius Malfoy as his legal father? He'd gone on a tangent, enthusiastically describing some of Andromeda's antics. As it turned out, the woman had always been Sirius' favourite cousin, even before both had run away from the Blacks.
''Look, I am not personally adverse to the idea of belonging to the Tonks family,'' he'd said at Sirius' expectant look. ''Honestly, being sort of siblings with.. well, Tonks, would be amazing. I don't really think much of the Order as you know, but she's definitely one of my favourite members, together with the Weasleys and Kingsley. You know I can't let it happen though. Being taken in by any supporters of Dumbledore will just mean that the Headmaster will decide what I do and where I am at any given moment until turning seventeen. He's bound to be paranoid now about me not having my mother's protection anymore. Any 'advice' he'll give them regarding my safety, they will probably follow. That means I can say goodbye to freedom. With the Malfoys, I at least have Voldemort's word that he won't try to mingle and I'm sure that they're reasonable enough to see that I don't need babysitting. Heck, I know that they let their only son cast magic all he likes during summers. Also, you seemed to be okay with Narcissa, right?''
His godfather had grumbled a bit at that, and they hadn't seen each other since. That had been over two weeks ago. He'd tried calling a couple of times, but they always seemed to miss each other. Hopefully today would be different.
Finally settling down in the same tower that he and Hermione had talked in earlier, he called out Sirius' name and waited patiently. That really was the main downside of these mirrors. You never knew if or when the other person would answer, and they'd only catch the call if they happened to have the mirror close by. Harry had had just as much luck with reaching Barty lately… the teen was dying to know how the Death Eater was doing, but they always missed each other.
Minutes ticked by. ''Come on,'' he groaned. ''Don't be absent today of all days! Sirius!'' Was it maybe a full moon? Sirius had mentioned a few times that he spent those with Remus whenever possible. But no, the moon was still missing a sliver. Had something else happened?
Harry looked down in relief as Sirius appeared, all… ragged and wet? ''Were you outside?'' he asked, baffled. ''Is the Black's garden not spelled against a downpour?''
A broad grin appeared on the man's face. ''It is, which is why the few remaining plants in that tiled-up sorry piece of a garden are all dried, dead stalks. I was outside somewhere else and you'll never guess where or how. That's not too important now though, I'm sure that you want to hear the latest news?''
''So my hunch about there being news was right, then?'' Harry asked, intrigued. ''Umbridge looked like a sour grape and everyone else was fidgety. Do tell!''
Instead of telling, Sirius went out of the picture and a lot of rustling was to be heard before what looked to be the Daily Prophet was pressed against the glass. ''Err…'' Harry said, squinting at it. The picture was rather clear, a simple portrait of Umbridge. The headline on the other hand… ''You... you do realise that it is mirrored?'' he asked, trying to make out the letters. He wasn't good at this.
An embarrassed Sirius lowered the newspaper and slapped his forehead. ''Right, obviously. Ahem: 'Shocking restrictions by Hogwarts' Inquisitor. When education becomes political.' I'll spare you the full article as it's rather dry, going on about the division of power between the Headmaster, School Board and the High Inquisitor, but it basically slams Umbridge for skewing it all to one side. It publishes all of the Decrees and goes into more detail on why all of them are using legal loopholes that shouldn't be there. Unfortunately, the conclusion the Prophet came to was that those are all technically allowed by law. The real juicy part comes when it gets to interviewing anonymous students who tell of her punishments. Dialling back Dumbledore's promise of that corporeal punishments would never be allowed at Hogwarts again is already a questionable decision, but allegedly using cursed items to do so? That's not going to go over well.''
''Did they come across any evidence for it?'' Harry asked. ''I mean, the school nurse for example was able to confirm that she's using cursed quills.''
''There's nothing about that written here. They may be using this article to cause enough public rage to call for an investigation in the first place. Getting an objective perspective and all that.''
Harry sighed, none too content. So the Decrees had been found to be legal, and the claims of students were published at being just that, claims. Would this really be enough to make Umbridge tone it down a bit? ''I'm not sure about this,'' he admitted. ''Pretty sure that she has Fudge in her pocket. Would he really fire her from this position just because of some bad publicity?''
''Not at first. It's going to be a long process, but now at least people are aware that something fishy might be going on. Especially parents are not going to be happy. Don't be so pessimistic, kiddo. This is a good thing!''
''Uh-huh,'' he just said. ''Who would be the people who could be sent here for an 'objective perspective'?''
Harry blinked. And blinked again as Sirius still had an unwavering look of triumph on his face. ''Aurors. Employees of…. the Ministry. The same Ministry that specifically sent Umbridge here?''
''Look, just because Fudge employs them doesn't mean that they condone everything he does!'' Sirius spoke, sounding a bit affronted now. Right, he'd been part of the Auror force once… ''Kingsley or Tonks are actively working against Fudge when it comes to information about my whereabouts for example. And even the ones who simply do their jobs… if they find that Umbridge really uses dark items to harm students with, they'll put a stop to it!''
Frustrated, Harry concluded that Sirius didn't understand. ''The problem isn't just Umbridge herself! Yes, it's horrid that she literally tortures students and I'd love to see her go, but it won't end there! The whole issue is that the Ministry is trying to take absolute control over Hogwarts because they are afraid that we'll rise up or something. If Umbridge gets kicked out for her own personal actions, they'll simply send a replacement who'll do the same thing. Her teaching methods are Ministry-approved and consist of nothing but a theory book because we don't need to be prepared for practical magic in the outside world to pass our exams, apparently! The government wants to dumb down education: taking away our power, our information and our contact to the outside world so we'll be entirely reliable on them after graduation and can cast mediocre magic at best. I predict that it won't be long before she starts replacing staff with more appropriate teachers who do the exact same thing and who will also forbid study groups to practise magic outside of class. Two teachers are already on probation, Hagrid being one of them! If the Ministry can send their own people as an 'objective' observer, they'll surely find it more positive rather than negative to see Umbridge's changes! Apart from her cruel punishments, she's doing what Fudge wants!''
Sirius had gone paler, looking more appropriately shocked now. Harry supposed that he should have told his godfather more about this. It looked like he hadn't gotten across before just how serious this was. It was frustrating that this apparently wasn't reflected in the published article either. He was reminded of Voldemort's worries about being taken down due to accusations of libel. Harry guessed that the man likely hadn't been able to publish any harsher accusations if he didn't want to be fired on the spot. Umbridge had already sent out one warning… ''I need to go now, I'll try to find Ron and Hermione to talk about this, maybe announce the details you told me to some other members of the D.A. This is not going to be easy.''
He stuffed the mirror in his bag and cancelled the silencing spells, brooding about Sirius' words while on his way back to Gryffindor tower. He didn't make it very far before finding the path to be blocked by a group of Slytherins.
''Potter!'' Parkinson sneered. ''Walking the corridors all alone? How suspicious!''
''My common room is just around the corner and curfew isn't for another few hours,'' he retorted tiredly. ''Let me pass.''
She put her hands on her hips and puffed out her chest. ''You think you can tell a Prefect what to do, Potter? How funny!'' behind her, Parkinsons' cronies snickered and giggled. Crabbe and Goyle were among them, they'd ditched Draco the moment the blond had not shown public animosity towards Harry anymore.
''Okay, and what do you think you can do against me walking down the hallway during a perfectly reasonable time?'' he snapped, eyes darting between the other students, looking for an opening to sprint through. They made themselves rather broad.
Arrogantly, the girl came closer and leaned down. ''I'll make you pay for cursing me in my own Common room, Potter. Do you have any idea how that looked? Detentions with Professor Umbridge are nothing compared to what I have in mind. How do you think Azkaban feels?''
As much as Harry wanted to take a step back to escape her invasion of privacy, he stood his ground. ''You can't just randomly accuse me of anything that would land me in prison,'' he tried calling her bluff.
''Oh really?'' she mocked. ''Did you forget about the Easter ball last year? I was there, as well as many of my family members. Alongside you and your… wanted companion.'' Harry froze, and his face must have betrayed many emotions as Parkinson smiled evilly. ''The Malfoy family does have wicked secrecy spells, it's true, but they are not infallible,'' she whispered in his ear. ''I've had months since you attacked me to figure out how to get around them. The High Inquisitor surely would reward me handsomely for this information, wouldn't she? You better watch your back, for I am almost there.'' She straightened her back again and cackled, walking back to her friends. ''Run along now, Potter. You don't want to lose points for loitering, do you?''
Umbridge's smile in the morning was just as smug as Parkinson's and told Harry that he'd been right before about the article. She'd recovered quickly, way too quickly. Had she used the time-turner again to do damage control? She was one of the few people who could leave the castle at will without being scrutinised for it. It was well possible that she'd gone to the Ministry to speak to Fudge. Harry felt so powerless, unable to predict her moves or know what was going on behind closed doors. Each time they came close to unveiling her vile schemes, she simply pulled a few strings and undid it all. It didn't help that she had people like Parkinson at her beck and call. The other teachers kept giving Umbridge side-way glances, as if they too could not believe that she was so happy after yesterday's news - although the Prophet was officially banned from the entire castle, Harry was damned sure that at least the staff had their way of getting their hands on the newspaper.
The low chattering died down entirely, gazes fixed on Umbridge. They did not need to be reminded anymore to pay attention to her after knowing what she could do to them.
With her usual pitched, girly voice, she addressed them: ''As you are all blessedly focused on only your studies, as you should be, I'm sure the latest news has not yet reached you. I would like to call your attention to a minor incident nonetheless that will have lasting consequences for all Hogwarts residents,'' she started, clasping her hands together and smiling patronisingly at them. ''To not fill your head with superfluous nonsense, the Daily Prophet was rightly banned, and this appeared to not sit well with the staff of this newspaper. They have launched a personal attack on my image, which I cannot express my sadness about enough. Now, I do not wish to throw around baseless accusation, but it appears that despite warnings, some students have left the castle to meet with reporters and fuel the fire by telling falsities about the way this school is run. I once again would like all of you sweet children to consider that your actions could do lasting damage. This is not a mere game. Naturally, the Minister himself was outraged by this slander. He has promised full support to make this a good and focused learning environment, in which any acts that divert from the rules will have to not only be corrected, but actively prevented. For this reason, starting next week, we will be hosting several guests who will ensure that everyone stays in line so that education will be the prominent thoughts on your mind. Thank you.''
A half-hearted applause followed. Even Dumbledore, who usually was the first one to have a polite smile and attentive gaze when Umbridge spoke, now showed a different expression. The lines on his face were harsh as he practically glared at her from the side. Great, so the planned cooperation between Dumbledore and Noctua hadn't worked in anyone's favour, Harry concluded with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
The whole weekend felt odd after that speech. People tried to act as normal as possible, but whispers with speculations about their new guests permeated every crack of the ancient halls. Everything from Aurors to a werewolf squad was discussed. Harry spent a good portion of his time that Sunday trying to get people's attention on spellwork instead of baseless rumours, which didn't work too well. Frustrated, he called a halt early as no-one's head was in it and the number of injuries ramped up today.
''Guys, if you can't focus, this is not going to work. Look, Padma's finger is the third broken bone today from a stray spell. This is too dangerous.'' The others murmured a bit, but didn't look too peeved about it. ''We're all stressed out, go get some rest. Who knows what tomorrow morning will bring,'' he decided. Depending on who Umbridge would bring on board, their operation would have to be even more under the radar than it already was, which made his anxiety go through the roof. And that in the middle of their expansion plans… Davies and Saeth had joined about two weeks ago, and once they'd gotten the hang of their current spells, six more new members followed, all vouched for by existing ones. There'd been active talks about other people to bring aboard, which would have to be halted now to deal with this new threat instead.
At least turning in early gave Harry some time to read. He used a spell on his curtains to make them light-repellent. Like that, he could close them while no-one was any the wiser whether Harry actually slept or used a Lumos to read. Furious at Umbridge, he tried his best to only envision her corpse when reading Peverell's book. It was far more bearable to imagine working with dead bodies when it was solely her pallid face and empty eyes on his mind when reading descriptions of raising corpses.
… many names for the resurrected. By the classification of Undead as according to the thesis of Malis Ungwidder, all raised corpses fall under the category of 'living corpses' as opposed to 'incorporeal spirits' and 'reborn remains'. Looking more closely, a further division in this category can be made by discerning which combination of Corpus, Animus and Mens the products of the Art exist of. Most consist of a poorly balanced combination of two of these aspects, meaning only the chosen few Glory Necromancers are able to reach the full potential of these resurrection rituals.
Harry tried not to sigh deeply again at the not-so-veiled boasting. Bag of salt, he reminded himself, glaring at the pages.
Using only the power granted by Ruin, it is possible to create armies of will-less Thralls that have to be commanded by additional charms or curses. More skillful Ruin Necromancers can even ball life-force together to create an artificial soul to lengthen the effects. For this, an entire corpse is not even necessary, a few drops of blood or splinters of bone will do to form an undead, moving body. Those who are lucky enough to stumble upon a cursed corpse -through whichever ethical means that may be – may even attempt to create a Draugr, which are often confused with Inferi despite showing a vastly different set of skills.
Due to the nature of their creation, real Inferi can only be created by resurrecting a body and calling a true soul to inhabit it rather than an artificial one. To be tethered for a prolonged time to the will of their master without needing constant magical sustenance and to remember orders beyond simple commands, Inferi need not only a working body and life but also a soul – whether this is the 'correct' one that previously inhabited it is irrelevant. A soul allows them to differentiate between humans so they do not attack certain groups of people specified by their maker, and allows them to recognise various situations to decide whether danger is imminent or not.
Opposed to this are Zombies, a combination of Corpus and Mens. The lack of soul is made up for by implanting memories and giving the body a will – though this will consists only of primal instincts such as hunger or a need to procreate by spreading poison. This makes them much harder to control for the Necromancer, but is an ideal solution for those practitioners of the Art who simply wish to unleash hungry undead upon their enemies without having to give specifications or feed any further magic into them.
On a side note, when we look at various creatures today, it can be said with certainty that many would fall under the category of living corpses as well. Any type of physical undead such as Vampires, Ghouls or Banshees are closely linked to the Black Cosmos without being able to cross over themselves without outside influence. These are wonders of magic that grew to be self-sustaining races. Their source of origin is a field of studies that has consumed the lives of many Necromancers who wished to replicate such a feat and create their own versions. The conclusion I have come to after many years is that speculations in this area are useless. The origin of most Necrophages cannot be proven anymore and are muddled in mystery. It is well possible that they do not sprout from Necromancers but an older form of death magic, before even mages existed. Far more interesting are those undead that we can create and control by known means.
Rubbing his eyes, which had grown tired from deciphering the small script, Harry flipped a few pages further, scanning the text to see if Peverell had mentioned working with magical animals anywhere. It didn't look like it, so Harry would have to delve into experimenting. Joy. Closing the book and turning off the light, he pulled the curtain aside an inch, peering through to see the sliver of fog dancing in and out of the window. If anything, being introduced to the Dark Arts had widened his perception of the world around him. Whether that was a good addition, Harry couldn't tell yet.
He frowned as a memory came to mind. Hadn't this piece of soul vanished at one point? That had been… right after he'd been told about the Dursleys' deaths. Harry had been so distraught by the implications of that news, that he'd almost forgotten the incident, played it off as a trick of the light. But no, while under his invisibility cloak, he hadn't been able to see it at all. It was too late today for experiments with that, as he'd like to not look like a lunatic in front of his dorm-mates, but he really should get his cloak out some time to see whether it still happened. It wasn't for nothing that he could use the heirloom as a Veil, surely.
Letting the curtain fall back in place, Harry put the book under his pillow and closed his eyes.
A storm is a-brewing! Hope you guys liked Barty's POV and seeing a bit of Sirius again!
the pace is going to speed up a bit from this point onwards, because there's thankfully not really much happening in canon that i have to consider. Apart from occlumency lessons, there was a whole lot of drama with Cho and the Quibbler article coming out around this time.
Instead of all that, you can look forward to more details on Umbridge's plans, the D.A, talks with Draco and dreams of Voldemort ;)
Please Read and Review!