I own nothing. Least of all this.
14) I NEVER MET SOMEONE WHO WASN'T IMPORTANT
"I must admit, when I first learned of this…alliance…I was not particularly expecting you to be a part of it, Orion."
"I could say the same of you, Lucius. Considering your sometimes loudly-stated opinions on the person running it."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Oh, I can assure you gentlemen, I am running nothing here. We are all equals in this room; the only one of us with perhaps more pull than the others would be Auror Moody here."
Moody snorted. "S'cause I'm the only one not bloody stupid enough to do any pulling in the first place. I ask. Bluntly. Something that politicians like you lot could all stand to learn."
Croaker sighed. "Yes well, considering the point of this little rendezvous is to discuss how best to bring in other politicians, perhaps we should stick best to what each of us is good at. Orion; Lucius. I trust each of you have received and viewed the Pensieve recording of Zarathos' introduction to the wizarding world at large?"
Lucius nodded. "Lord Zarathos; and yes. And I am well-acquainted with the various…revelations…contained within that particular memory. But there is a very good chance that our friend Orion here may not be so well-informed. Would you like to explain, or shall I?"
"Considering that I myself have yet to actually see the item in question, much less view its contents for myself, perhaps it would be for the best of you were to do the honors."
And so Lucius Potter did. He laid out the history of the Peverell family in as great detail as he could manage; and when he was done, there was a long moment of silence as everyone present contemplated exactly what the connotations of such a history actually were.
So, this was it. Croaker had not only been told the complete truth of the matter by his…superior, but had been granted permission to reveal the same to the wizards now seated in front of him. If this alliance were to ever truly work, then there had to be an equal level of trust among all partners. If that meant spilling some of the deepest, darkest secrets contained within the depths of the Department of Mysteries? Then so be it.
"There's more to the history of the Peverells than even you know, Lucius. More that even I, as Head Unspeakable, was only lucky enough to have revealed to me quite recently. The Peverells are…or I should say, were, one of the premier Magical Houses of the great empire of…Atlantis."
Orion waved his hand in dismissal. "We'd already guessed as much, Croaker. You don't become the only survivors of the sinking of an entire island without both the luck and the wealth to have a perfect escape plan in place."
"As true as that may be, we believe there was yet another contributing factor at work in the Peverell's survival: their primary focus of study. The area of expertise that earned them their rank in Atlantean society in the first place: Death Magic. Not just reanimation or Inferni, although there are some sources that indicate they were responsible for those as well. I mean actual, proper Necromancy with a capital N. And at the time of Atlantis' sinking, it was rumored that the only remaining members of the family, three brothers, had successfully managed to…to bind Death Itself."
"I really must advise against continuing this line of discussion, Croaker." frowned Dumbledore. "If Lord Zarathos were to discover our speculation upon his past…it is feasible that he should see fit to put a stop to it. Permanently."
Croaker leaned back in his chair. "Be that as it may, Albus, there are some things in this tale that absolutely must be understood by everyone here if we are to deal with the man successfully. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
"An excellent view of things, Head Unspeakable." drawled Orion. "Most reasonable. By all means, continue."
Croaker did so. "Now, each of these brothers was further rumored to have in their possession one…artifact…out of a set. Each represented a particular aspect of Death, and together, they were the source of their Mastery over the Endless. But one of the brothers came to believe that what the family had done was wrong; that their actions had gone against the very fabric of nature itself. He was further convinced when the ruling denizens of Atlantis struck a bargain with certain eldritch creatures to assure their own immortality, a bargain that would result in their own destruction if they did not do as commanded by the creatures."
"Relax, Albus. I'm being as vague as I can possibly can. Now, the eldest of these brothers, a man named Cadamus, while not completely sharing his brother's opinions on the matter, took the bargain as an affront to everything he and his family had accomplished within the last millennium. He spoke up against the rulers' actions…and was condemned for it. The rulers took Cadamus and cursed him, dooming him to a shade of the immortality he had once enjoyed. Forever he would be tortured by the need to feast on human blood, forever driven to consume that which he himself could no longer produce. It was a mockery of not only his family's power, but of the hunger that now flowed through the veins of the rulers themselves. And so Cadamus Peverell became Dracula Velspeme, the very first vampire. Atlantis' greatest weapon of terror."
Every single listener's face now wore an expression of utter horror; Dumbledore included.
"The official story put forth by the rulers was that Cadmus had been executed; but the remaining two brothers knew better. And so they searched, trading what little power they had left for any scrap of information on the whereabouts of their missing family member. It wasn't until they accidentally rearranged the letters in Cadamus' new name that they finally realized what had been done to their brother. That Cadamus' artifact was now in the hands of the highest-ranking official in Atlantis, the Chief Warlock, merely sealed the matter in their eyes. And so, they acted. The original brother, the one who had believed their House's accomplishments to be abominations, began to make preparations to set things right, while the youngest, Antioch, worked his way into the good favor of the Chief Warlock himself. It was he that suggested the course of action that ultimately doomed Atlantis; and it was the other that was prepared for when the inevitable finally occurred. The armies of Atlantis made their final march…and the second brother broke his connection to his artifact. Thus freeing Death Itself to do what he could not. Atlantis fell that night, and the only survivors were those whom Atlantis had wronged in some way; the vampires, the werewolves, the goblins. Among them Cadamus, who took for himself the new name of Alucard to remind him of what Mastery of anything inevitably ended up costing, and Antioch, who was able to escape using his own remaining artifact. The one that I believe is still in your family's possession to this day, Lucius."
Lucius' face went white as he realized exactly what the Invisibility Cloak stored in his Family's Vault truly was.
Orion cleared his throat. "And what of the other? The second brother, the one that released Death?"
"Up until recently, we could only speculate upon his fate. If Antioch ever saw him again after that night, it was never recorded in our files. Theories have ranged from him paying the price of his soul to keep such a series of events from ever occurring again, to him being merely dragged down to the depths along with his fellow wizards, to being eviscerated by Death for his family's failure. But there have come to light…certain…facts…that seem to suggest something else entirely: that the second brother survived that night, and after uniting all three artifacts, for however brief a time, was able to reverse the enchantment and bind himself eternally to Death; becoming It's servant instead of It's Master. To forever walk the Earth, going where Death instructed, to ensure there would be never again be a bargain-striker or a Master of Death. And the name of this second brother, this man who achieved immortality by willingly giving up his life, was…Hadrian. Hadrian Peverell. Or, as you might know him today, Harry Potter. Lord Zarathos."
"…I think that's putting it mildly, old chap." Lucius shook his head. "Cor. The Herald of Death. The Grim Reaper himself."
"Yes, I think we get the point, Lucius."
"It's all very well for you, Orion, you're not bloody related to him."
"Actually." Croaker cleared his throat. "It has long been speculated that the Black family's aptitude for the Dark Arts was perhaps the result of an infusion of vampire blood somewhere down the line."
"…OH, COME ON!"
Lucius howled with laughter. "Not so high and mighty are you now, eh old boy?"
"Hmmph. At least if it had to be a vampire, I'm glad to know it was the most powerful one you could have asked for."
Lucius twirled his mustache. "And Zarathos…I suppose we should call him Harry, now…Harry did inform my younger brother that the whole reason for his existence was a Potter-Black alliance. We were thinking a marriage; but it seems we were mistaken. And there is certainly no stronger alliance than brotherhood."
Croaker nodded. "Indeed. Now, as I said before, I myself have yet to actually witness Harry's first confrontation. In fact, only two people in this room, as far as I know, actually have. Conversely, those same two are the only ones who have yet to hear the truth surrounding the second incident that our mutual friend was drawn into dealing with. Victoriously, as Destiny would have it."
Lucius frowned. "You mean Greyback, I presume? The werewolf?"
"No, Mr. Potter." Dumbledore sighed. "He does not. And since I fear my own ability to recount the…incident…without accidentally revealing something dangerous, I shall pass this one along to my friend Auror Moody here."
Said Auror merely grunted eloquently in response. "Right; there's been a lot of explaining gone on round here, and if I'm being honest, I was out for most of it. So if I spout off something you lot want me to draw connections to in regards to whatever the hell it is that you were just talking about, you're gonna be sorely disappointed. So, here's what happened, best we could make out…"
"So tell me, my friend. Just how fares the tender young offspring of your dear departed brother?"
Alucard laughed. "You know just as well as I Arthur that of my brothers, only one was ever dear, and only one is departed. And as to the tender, young side of things? I'd say he's well over a thousand, so not so good on that front. Bastard's almost as sadistic as I am."
"Yes, well, give a few more millennia and I'm sure he'll be up to your level. Have the leaks in Gringotts been dealt with?"
"Of course. It was quite a pleasure to watch another professional at work, even if he does place more trust in magical artifacts than I myself."
"Oh? Do tell."
"For one, he appears to be inordinately fond of a particular sword that he himself apparently created. 'Dark-Drinker', I believe he called it. Ironic. The blade was practically soaked in Dark Magic, but had been twisted back on itself in the most impressive display of self-cannibalism I've ever seen. The more he kills with it, the more powerful it grows, but the more ravenous as well."
"…And doesn't that remind you of a tale of a certain other group of foolhardy wizards that you yourself relayed to me?"
"It did, at first. Until I realized that Harry himself was drawing absolutely no power from the exchange. The sword is incapable of enticement, because it has nothing to entice with. If it were sentient, and there is a chance it may become just that once it devours enough…I'd say it would probably be driven to madness by that knowledge. As I said, impressive self-cannibalism."
"Hmm. And the other trademarks of a Dredgen?"
"All present. The Thorn without a Rose, the arcing webs of lightning (although they were focused around a blade this time), a Golden Gun that rivaled my own in size…all there. But there was…something else, too. Something that, I think, might have to do with his status as the Master of the Endless."
"…It seemed as though…forgive me, it is hard to describe to someone without my senses…it seemed as though his very blood had been turned back on itself as well. Whether as a result of his unbinding from the flow of Time, or from something else, I cannot say. All I know is that when one of my wayward descendants saw fit to drink of him, the effect was almost instantaneous death. Or, it would have been, if a bullet from Harry's gun hadn't ended him first."
Sir Arthur Helsing was many things; unprepared was not usually one of them. And yet, he found himself continuously being surprised by this…Harry Potter. Lord Zarathos, as decreed by Magic itself. And somehow, also a Dredgen. The Dredgen. The Master of all the Endless.
And also their blade of execution.
"And he just gave you one of the Hallows?'
"Sir, it is entirely possible that Harry feels as though some reparation ought to be made on my behalf. His fellow Dredgen did not linger for very long, as you will remember. Certainly not long enough to develop even a partial cure for my…affliction. If this were his way of offering me a chance to see my only dear brother one final time, I will not argue the point."
"And neither should you. Your brother saved the world itself, that day. Even if he himself didn't know until it was too late."
So many questions…and only one way he knew of to gain any answers.
"Should Mr. Potter see fit to contact you again, you are to offer him your services as if he were himself a Helsing. Order Forty-Two is now in effect, Alucard."
"Oh, and one more thing."
"If the worst should happen, does Helsing possess any chance at all of putting him down, permanently?"
"Sir Arthur, I doubt very much that anyone in the entire world has that power. Good day, sir."
"Good day, Alucard."
Voldemort stared out over what had once been his only tie to his Magical heritage.
Now, nothing remained. Not even the land itself. It had all been burned.
It was too much to hope that his Horcrux had managed to survive that. Even if Zarathos had been completely ignorant of his use for the Stone that had once lay in that Shack, even if he had only sought the Stone to keep anyone from misusing it once again, the end result was still the same.
A part of the Dark Lord's soul had now been lost forever.
It was fortunate that he chose to inspect the damage himself. He truly could not afford to lose any more followers, and any that accompanied him would have likely found themselves dodging curses and ducking hexes as Voldemort took out his wrath upon the surrounding landscape.
When at last his rage was spent, he gathered himself, and Apparated back to his headquarters.
It was extremely unfortunate that all his efforts to spare the lives of his servants was wasted when he received the news that was waiting for him.
"Soooo." He hissed. "Zarathos is to present himself in front of the entire Board of Governors as the new Defense Against The Dark Arts Professor, hmm?"
The unnamed sycophant was shivering in fear. "Y-yes, my Lord."
That the very position he had striven for all those years ago, the very title that he himself had desired since his first year in Hogwarts, was to be just…handed over…to an up-and-comer who possessed credentials that even he could not hope to best.
No, no, he couldn't allow himself to think like that, he couldn't…
LORD VOLDEMORT WOULD NOT BE BEATEN!
It wasn't until his vision cleared of red that he realized there was now a rather visceral spray of blood around him in place of the minion that had up until recently been in front of him.
He Summoned every drop of blood from the room…and then drank it.
Ah, that hit the spot. Now, what to do…
The requested servant poked his head through the door. "Yes, my Lord?"
"Discover the time and location for the next meeting of the Hogwarts Board of Governors. I believe it would be best if I were to pay them a…personal…visit."
"Of course my Lord; right away, my Lord!"
Useless, the lot of them. But delectable…and unfortunately, necessary.
Now, what to do in the meantime?
A flash of inspiration struck.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"The Daily Prophet article detailing the death of Greyback. I seem to recall it mentioning something about Zarathos successfully defending others as well as himself. Tell me; do we happen to know just where Greyback's location was on that particular night?"
Carrow squeaked. "I'll find out immediately, my Lord!"
Oh, yes. And when he did…Lord Voldemort would be paying another personal visit.
One that promised pain and death to everyone present, one way or the other.
It had been a bloody stupid idea.
Finding the cave itself had been the easy part; no way hundreds of years of memories could dim his recollections of that particular night. It was getting into the cave that was the hard part.
And in the end, for what?
Voldemort had prepared the area, true. Inferni abounded in the waters, and he could practically feel the wards just daring him to try another method of travel besides boat. A boat that was currently missing. Broom was out, Apparition was out, Portkey was out, even his Blinking was out since he really didn't want to risk alerting Voldemort to his presence. Again.
He sighed. Times like these, he wished he were a through and through Titan or Warlock. Sword-flying would have come in clutch here.
He ended up smacking himself in the head once he realized he'd overlooked the obvious solution. Harden the air beneath him into a floor, but just enough above the water so as not to disturb it. Perfect.
All that thinking gone to waste once he realized the Locket hadn't actually been placed there yet.
Still, at the very least he could booby trap the place. Magicals were all the same; never considering the fact that someday ,someone might just figure out how to harden Muggle devices enough to make them work while practically drowning in Magic.
A few tripmine grenades (plus a few extra surprises) made sure that whenever the Dark Lord actually came down here, he would have a very bad day indeed.
As Harry rode his broom away from the coast, he found himself being drawn back into another set of uncomfortable memories. Memories that reminded him all too much of that night. Memories of another world, another cave…another friend lost.
The very friend who's gun he now carried, as a penance.
They hadn't been ready for the Hellmouth; any of them. But what else could they have done?
He remembered exactly where he'd been when he'd first heard of Crota's assault on the Moon. When he'd heard of the thousand Guardians slain, the Light forever drained from the universe. When he'd heard of Wei's fate, and how she'd managed to crack Crota's sword with the weight of her swing alone.
And when he'd heard Eriana's pleading voice on the other end of his call to Eli, begging, pleading for him to come.
How could he say no?
Their first mistake had been going to Toland. The foremost expert on the Hive, no doubt about that. But they should have been prepared for what he eventually did. Harry should have been able to see it in his eyes. But Toland was a crafty little bugger; always kept his helmet on. Even to the very end.
It had been Eriana, Toland, Eris, Felwinter, Eli, and him. Just six. Six underprepared, under-experienced Guardians against the hordes of the Hive. And after Toland's treachery, it had only been four.
When Eriana fell, it was like something in Harry snapped. He'd thought the likes of Saladin and Zavala would have prepared him for betrayal from behind; but apparently, they hadn't. He had ripped and torn in his rage, from one end of the Hellmouth to the other, until it was done. And when at last they stood together at the end, two Guardians and three Ghosts less than what they'd started out with, he had taken Eriana's cannon, so lovingly crafted for her sweet revenge…and put a bullet through his mouth.
He'd come back, of course. But he still kept that bullet. As a reminder. That at the end of the say, you couldn't trust anyone. Not even yourself. And the greatest enemy you could ever face was the Darkness within.