Whether you have a beautifully organized staff or a ramshackle crowd of minions, keeping them all loyal is important. Any clever clogs can think he's won over loyalty with a charm or magic oath, but real villains want more. They or their end goal (see Message for a discussion of how ideology can drive your followers) are so compelling that their followers go above and beyond oath obligations. A true follower stays by your side until the bitter end… or glorious triumph.
Of course, there was a major problem when it came to hosting seven vampires. They all needed blood. Not nearly as much as Harry had assumed- they reassured him a bit each week was enough, although they did look a little thin…
So that was how Harry found himself buying potions ingredients in bulk- he figured the only way he could get enough blood without mugging random people was to provide it himself. Considering that he wanted to be somewhat conscious for the building of the castle, he figured Blood-Replenishing Potions were the way to go.
So he found himself immersed in the odd smells and sights of an apothecary, scooping up bulk quantities of the ingredients for potions. It would probably be a good idea to eventually contact the suppliers, just so Harry wasn't seen buying the ingredients for blood replenishment potions on a weekly basis. He figured he could just chug them- Mr Weasley was taking one every hour after getting bit by Nagini, he thought…
"Harry!" A familiar voice cried, and Harry turned to see Hermione approaching him, slipping between crates piled high with spines and leaves and roots.
"Hermione. How's it going?"
"How's it going?" Hermione asked. "I should be asking you that! Have you read the papers?"
Hermione sputtered for a second before picking up steam again. "They're saying you've been seen with, you know…" she leaned in. "A vampire."
"Yeah." Harry shrugged. "And?"
"Harry!" They seemed to be drawing some attention, and Harry cringed a little.
"So what? They're vampires, they needed help- would you refuse to help a werewolf?"
"Vampires are dangerous all the time, though…" Hermione said.
"Didn't people used to think werewolves were dangerous all the time? Little more than animals?" Harry asked. "They just need help, Hermione. They… they wouldn't survive out there."
"What do you mean?"
"The youngest of them remembers Crimea, Hermione- I can't just dump them in the streets." Hermione's eyes widened. "If they're up to it, you can talk with them- later."
Hermione seemed satisfied with that, before she did a double take at the ingredients Harry was busy buying. "A Blood Replenishing Potion? Really, Harry?"
"Well it's either that or I go after a blood bank somewhere."
After setting aside some room in Grimmauld Place's basement to serve as a potions brewing lab he got to work. One of the vampires seemed somewhat willing to help out, especially when Harry explained what he would be brewing.
"I'm flattered that you would go to all the effort, Sir…"
"Say, how did you get blood before?"
"The old master brought it- in vials at first, then eventually these odd clear bags. It got the oddest taste later as well…"
"Sweet Merlin, really?" Harry groaned, the maid looking confused. "I'm betting he started robbing blood banks once they became popular. The anti-coagulants probably explain the taste…"
"A blood bank?"
"Muggle facilities for collecting donated blood- they use it to heal people, since they don't have potions."
"Interesting…" They fell into a comfortable silence as they managed the bubbling potions- Harry had no clue how long a batch would last.
Once they finally finished, Harry addressed the elephant in the room. "Well… how do you do this?" Harry asked. "Do you just bite straight in or…?"
She flushed. "Well I suppose so… do you have a preference for where I bite?"
"You can bite anywhere?"
"Blood is blood- a major vein should speed it up, though…"
"Alright," Harry shrugged and pulled up his sleeve. "I'd prefer if I could hide it… Oh, and before you go biting into me, could I get a name?"
"Elizabeth." She leaned in, there was a tiny bit of pain, then a sort of cool numbness radiating from the area. Did vampires have some natural, inherent anesthetic?
If he wasn't having his blood drained from him, Harry might have flushed at the way she sat so close against him for minutes on end, but thankfully he managed to keep himself from looking like a complete fool after she stopped lapping up his blood and pulled back, a few minor smears on her face.
After quickly cleaning and closing the wound with his wand, Harry finally indulged his curiosity. "So how was it?"
"Good, sir." Before she could start babbling about her gratitude or anything, Harry cut her off.
"Like, compared to other blood you've tasted, how would you rate mine? Does blood from different people taste different enough for you or have favorites?"
"Definitely not the worst I've had… but not the best, either. Above average, definitely." Hey, that wasn't too bad, now was it?
Elizabeth, who Harry had quickly started to call Liz, tagged along on another trip to get stuff. Harry had already mail ordered a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, but he wanted more. Getting every single book ever would probably be impossible, but Harry would certainly try.
Admittedly, it was also very funny to watch the vampires just gawk a little at London, both muggle and magical. More books were gathered for the library, and medical supplies were acquired- from both parts of London. Harry certainly wasn't going to settle for one half of the potential tools and knowledge he could get his hands on.
Of course, people noticed Harry Potter traipsing around London with a vampire- a blond instead of a brunette, this time. Another photo was taken, and the Daily Prophet went wild.
POTTER CAVORTING WITH VAMPIRES?
[Two photos are plastered across the cover of the paper. The same one from the last issue, matched by a second showing Harry Potter walking next to a different vampire- tall, blonde, svelte. They're arm in arm.]
After his recent misadventure with a vampire a few nights ago, Mr. Potter has been spotted again- with a different vampire entirely! Other than raising a number of questions about his apparent proclivities, it makes this intrepid reporter wonder what political statements Potter is attempting to make. After his recent defeat of the Dark Lord, is he perhaps more inclined to showing mercy to dark creatures?
A small portion of the castle was finished- nowhere near the full scale of what Harry hoped to one day accomplish, but enough to be lived in. Harry was very proud of his wandwork- there was a particularly slick bit that automatically slid thick shades over the windows a few minutes before dawn and lifted them after sunset. It would be a cold day in Hell before Harry gave up windows entirely, but it kept the vampires safe.
Designing the castle for vampires, house elves, people, and his newly acquired snake friend was no small feat. Natural lighting was, of course, a no-go, although Harry managed to whip up something a little more modern than torches in sconces. He seemed to thrive with practical applications- maybe the reason he was so good at DADA back on Hogwarts was all the practice he had in the field?
The island was basically livable now, and they had moved in, at least for part of the time. The vampires had a terrible scare the first time a cargo ship passed by- one of the big ones, piled high with containers. They ooh'd and aah'd and marveled at the sheer size of the thing- which was fair enough, Harry figured.
Harry had his own little scare when a colony of mermen started circling the island- thankfully, they didn't swarm from the sea to attack or even seem too upset with him. Honestly, Harry couldn't speak a word of Mermish, but they kind of gestured at each other for a while in a way that might have been a negotiation. They seemed happy, sort of, when they went down under.
Figuring that that particular mess was handled, Harry got back to work on the castle- coming back inside to a hearty dinner of fish. It seemed as if Kreacher had whipped it up, although one of the vampires stood watch over the dish. "Did you catch these?"
"No, sir. The mermen gave me some earlier. Maybe they're grateful?"
"Maybe." Harry decided to not contemplate this for too long before he got a headache.
Inadvertently, Harry was only feeding the rumors that had started about him as the days went by. His efforts to introduce the vampires to the modern world so they could stand on their own looked an awful lot like dates to passerby... So Harry began to get a reputation. He was clearly entangled with a coven of female vampires- whether they had him in a state of thralldom or if they were his servants/submissive vampire harem was completely up in the air, and the subject of surprisingly fierce debate.
The subject of less spirited discussion were all the books being bought up by Harry Potter- the rarer and older, the better. One night he had walked into Knockturn Alley and bought up every single book in the entire length of the place, all of which were tucked inside the handbag of the black haired vampire who accompanied him.
Occasionally, a wizard would try to track them into muggle London- Potter and the vampire typically lost the tail pretty quickly, just because they blended in (or at least, Harry could guide his vampire well enough to blend in from a wizard's point of view). Whether or not he knew it, Harry made a statement every time he rolled up to Diagon Alley in muggle clothes, accompanied by a similarly dressed vampire.
Meanwhile, Harry tried his best to look after the vampires that fallen into his care, in addition to providing a significant amount of blood- thankfully, they seemed to have filled out a bit now that they were getting blood more frequently. If Harry hadn't killed him already, he would have gone back to that old bat's castle to kill the vampire again- what possible reason was there to starve your workers?
Other side trips included getting their eyes checked- Harry definitely understood how much not having proper glasses sucked- and while he wasn't quite lucky enough to see Mary, the one he had already assigned the role of librarian to, in glasses, he had to admit that the ones who used them looked quite sharp. One of them also managed to pester Harry into getting a new pair- something a bit more sleek and modern. Of course, he snuck a few careful enchantments on them, to keep them from breaking or falling off his face along with making his vision a bit better than should be physically possible, and more broadly that was what he was hoping for: the modern intermeshing with the magical.
The mermen who had settled around the island on the Dogger Bank considered themselves quite lucky, all things considered. Their little group had spent generations living on the Dogger Bank, growing strong off of the great amounts of fish in the area, even as muggle fishing grew more intensive, more likely to catch a merman in those trawling nets. The island recently lifted from the seabed was a curiosity, perhaps even an annoyance, until the anti-muggle wards went up.
While there were some communication issues between the Lord of the Isle- a black haired man with brilliant green eyes- and the merpeople, they got the gist that they could stay. Of course, the merpeople repaid this generosity in kind. If it seemed an awful lot like tribute, that was because it basically was, considering that the Lord was clearly the one who had lifted an island from the sea with ease. One of the Lord's maids would take the proffered fish, which clearly showed that he was receptive to the gifts.
On the other hand, Harry felt like he was taking advantage of the mermen, or at the very least, not paying them back in kind. So he tried to repay the favor by giving the mermen steel spears and knives- gifts that were worth their weight in gold, if not more, to a people who had no fires to heat and cast metal. A wizard, sharing metal with the merfolk? That was something unusual.
IV. A Library
A true dark lord has access to a number of texts less daring minds would consider bannable, but that the lord recognizes for their utility, regardless of concepts like darkness. Of course, spending hours researching spells to propel your next scheme is both boring and quite possibly not in line with your Villainous Style. Of course, it should be noted that the previously mentioned lessons about loyalty are especially critical when dealing with your researchers- they will be some of the most dangerous people on your team, for good and for ill…. Defend them, and your library, well.
The library was going to be the first major room completed in the castle, in large part because Harry was running dangerously low on space in Grimmauld. It would make the most of a lot of stuff Harry had only tested before- massive use of space expansion charms to make space for what looked to be dozens of shelves, just to start with- Harry basically tossed a few books about library organization at Mary and told her to run it as she saw fit after he had finished with the heavy lifting.
Figuring out how to make the shelves slide around so you could summon the shelf you wanted straight to you was a bit of a trick, but it was certainly impressive. He was also working with Mary on some sort of magical catalogue to keep track of the whole thing, with a sort of built in summoning system.
Harry was curious about those muggle computer things that seemed to be all the rage these days. Harry had admittedly missed much of the progress on that front while at Hogwarts (not to mention that his pre-Hogwarts circumstances made computers less than accessible…) but hoped to eventually make them work. Of course, that would mean they needed power and maybe even a phone line...
Strangely enough, Harry found himself contributing to the library in his own small way. Talking to snakes let you learn things: about how they viewed the world, their habits and lifestyles, and most critically, their interactions with magic. He had no idea what he'd do with the book when he finished it other than maybe pass it on to another Parselmouth, but Harry had to wonder how much money he could make just by slapping the name Harry Potter onto a book and selling it…
Well, it wasn't as if Harry was hurting for cash, what with his own savings, the stuff he 'borrowed' from the vampire castle, and the significant rewards for killing Voldemort. He could afford to spend wildly- it wasn't like he'd need a lot of money if he made the castle self sustaining...
After putting a roof over the library, Mary could begin doing library work during the day, but Harry wasn't done with the place quite yet. Where he thought it fitting, he put up the occasional mundane, non magical painting. With some offense intended towards Phineas Nigellus Black, Harry had absolutely no desire to have paintings peering into his private life, thank you very much.
The library also became home to a growing collection of display pieces: several looted from that old vampire's castle, others liberated from Grimmauld Place, and a few odd artifacts fished up by the Mermen. After all, people used to live on the Dogger Banks when they were still above water- it wouldn't be surprising to get the odd potsherd or fang from an ancient beast.
Issues began to arise when the Mermen started fishing up… curious things from the depths. Interestingly, there was some evidence about just how long people had been practicing magic for, because some of the items dredged up were unmistakably seething with it, carved with symbols that made Futhark look positively modern. That very much seemed like a Hermione or Mary problem, so Harry in large part decided to leave most of the relics in the library as trophies- he decided to carry an odd looking horn with him, though. He just had a feeling…
Once the girls seemed comfortable with their lives in the castle, Harry decided to invite his friends over for dinner- not too many, just to keep anyone from getting overwhelmed, but he figured that Ron, Neville, and Hermione would suffice without spooking them too much. Harry apparated them in, still trying to keep some semblance of secrecy when it came to the island's location.
"Blimey, mate, how long have you been at this?" Ron asked.
"Finished lifting the seabed a few weeks back, I think- we've been building the castle itself now."
"You lifted the seabed? Please tell me you remembered to make it unplottable, right?"
"I did remember, Hermione. It's all hidden away from prying eyes. In fact, I'd really prefer if you'd keep this on the downlow. I don't want any uninvited guests, yeah?"
They nodded in agreement as Harry gave them what passed for a tour. The first stop was of course the library- Harry knew he was running the risk of Hermione getting enraptured, but it was just about the best part.
The library was mostly quiet except for the sound of pen on paper. Thankfully, Harry had managed to show Mary the benefits of ball point pens, which she had adopted in the stead of a quill. As they walked in, she turned to greet them- "Mr. Potter, sir-" she didn't quite pale when she saw Harry's friend, as she couldn't get much paler, but she fell silent for a second. "... and friends. Welcome to the library."
"Hermione, Ron, Neville, I'd like to introduce you to Mary- she keeps track of all the books I've managed to get my hands on. How's it going?"
She gulped, and for a moment Harry wondered if she would speak at all, but thankfully, she built up the courage. "It's going well- I've taken the liberty of modifying the Dewey Decimal System to fit magical subjects better, if it pleases you?"
"It uh, does." Harry certainly wasn't going to object.
"That reminds me…" She pulled out her wand and clearly pronounced "One hundred and fifty nine." The shelves flowed around each other for a few moments, before one slid over in front of them. "Developmental psychology, comparative psychology, applied psychology… here!" She pulled out a thin book. "This is a text on Occlumency I thought I'd recommend, Sir- I thought you might find it useful."
Of course, Harry took it- why wouldn't he?- and guided his friends out of the room. Admittedly, it was more dragging when it came to Hermione, but he managed- it wasn't like there was much left to show them, though. One of the other maids, with help from Kreacher, had set a table for them, where they sat down for a meal of some of the biggest crab Harry had seen in his entire life.
Ron seemed more than a little dazzled by it all- the vampire maids, the island, the food- but he spoke between bites. "How'd you get your hands on this, Harry?"
Harry shrugged. "Trading with the mermen." Before Ron could respond, he went into a minor coughing fit, while Hermione and Neville looked down at their dishes with hesitance.
"Calm down, you three- if they were going to try something, they would have succeeded days ago. Eat up- it's good." Harry certainly wasn't going to complain about tuna the size of foals, even if he did have a bit of trouble finishing it all- he certainly wouldn't be lacking for leftovers to pack for his next trip.
"Are you going to move here, Harry?" Neville asked.
"That's the plan," Harry said. "If you could recommend some plants, I'd appreciate it. Maybe ones that can capture people without killing them?"
"Are you worried someone will come after you, Harry?"
"Worst case scenario, it gives some overzealous reporters a scare, best case scenario it stops someone or something genuinely dangerous, if it's ever used." Harry was quiet for a moment. "Say, where do you want your room? Upper floors, or somewhere lower?"
"I, uh… I think I'd prefer a lower floor."
"Alright- Ron, and Hermione, you want a room saved for you?" The rest of the dinner passed somewhat normally, although Harry seemed very keen when it came to suggestions for new features for the castle.
Most of the vampires found something to do, eventually- Mary ran the library, Liz brewed the blood replenishment potions Harry needed so many of, and the oldest of the vampires- the one who lived around the English Civil War-, Margaret, had become something like an aide or secretary for Harry. Admittedly, she had a few issues when it came to facing the issues of modernity, but Harry found it kind of endearing- he tried not to revel in it, though. As cute as she may have looked puzzling over a phone, he was trying to teach her to survive in the modern world.
"Good master, thou has received mail." She passed him a thick, heavy envelope of a pretty looking paper, written to a Mr. Harry Potter- no address, thankfully, meaning the island was still somewhat secret.
Popping open the thick wax seal, Harry began to read.
"Good master, if I may be so bold, could you indulge the curiosity of a servant such as myself…?"
"It's an invitation to the… eighty third annual meeting of the Human-Vampire Coexistence Society?" That was the general gist of the letter- an invitation and a small portkey to what was supposed to be a party in someplace called Savannah, in America. The invitation made it fairly obvious that he should bring a vampiric guest.
"What is thine opinion, master?"
Harry recognized full well that this could be some sort of trap, a plan to lure in vampires… but he had to admit he was curious. He had never been to America, and seeing the sights and talking to the people would be interesting- in addition to buying American books on magic.
"If you're up for it…" Harry said, "we could try it. I would like to see the United States…"
Harry sighed. Right. "The United States of America- the Yanks declared independence from Britain around 1776..."
Cautiously, they prepared for a trip to America- just to be safe, Margaret was provided with enough shawls and layers to hide her completely from any potential sunlight. Presuming that it wasn't a trick, she could simply pack the extra clothes away, and if it was… well, Harry made sure to bring along one of those guns he had looted from the vampiric castle (after checking that it was loaded and functional, obviously). The Americans liked guns, right? Maybe it would be a discussion starter?
When the appropriate date and time finally arrived, Harry and Margaret were swept away by the Portkey- they still sucked, of course- and landed, stumbling slightly, inside what appeared to be a manor. "Hello there! Are you the famed Mr. Potter-" Harry snapped around and pointed a wand at the man before realizing it probably wasn't a trap.
"Sorry about that…" Harry slowly lowered his wand.
The man chuckled. "No problem- I'll admit that our group looks a little… suspect, from the outside. I promise, we're just as interested in the health and wellbeing of vampires as you are. Now why don't I introduce you?"
Harry had to admit that Savannah wasn't too bad, at least not the magical quarter that he found himself in. The party/meeting was being held in some sort of enchanted boulevard, covered in row upon row of live oaks covered in thick Spanish moss, which mostly covered up the sky but allowed the occasional peak through to the shimmering stars above.
He was slightly less enthused about the people he talked with, though, at least the humans. Harry had assumed that the humans were activists, perhaps like Hermione's misadventures with the elves- fighting to see vampires treated with the respect and dignity they deserved, despite their less than stellar reputation. And yes, they were devoted to caring for their vampires- even if that sentiment seemed a touch condescending when their partner was just a table away- at great expense to themselves. Several passionately cursed the wizarding governments of their homelands for not giving vampires full rights.
There was a bit of a catch, though: they did want more rights for vampires, particularly because they wanted to marry them. Suffice it to say that Harry was mortified when he realized the party was basically being held by a bunch of vampire fetishists.
Sure, they talked a lot of talk, and probably even genuinely wanted the best for their lovers… but a man didn't wear fang marks on his neck that proudly if he wasn't a little into it, Harry figured. At the very least, it was a Portkey to the Americas and back- he was practically obligated to get up to a bit of trouble, or at the very least bring back something interesting for the castle. Margaret seemed to be enjoying talking with other vampires so it wasn't all bad.
Still, if one more person started making… implications about what he was doing with the seven vampires that made up his 'staff' he was going to shoot someone. Or maybe test out a few of those curses he picked out while searching those castles?
They decided to leave a little early- and yes, they were actually leaving, not sneaking off into a bush to make sure the vampire of their duo was 'properly fed'- to look around magical Savannah. True to form, Harry bought out nearly the entire selection of any bookstore that was fortunate enough to catch his attention before he was forced to retreat into a hotel by the threat of the rising sun.
Harry managed to pass messages back to the island through Kreacher: in essence, keep up the good work, Harry was just going to be gone a bit in America. A decent part of him was just marvelling at the idea of a vacation in the first place- a comparatively exotic locale, lots of downtime, no one who hated his guts… it was nice.
He spent his first day in another country hiding in a hotel room (after using to magic to cover the windows) reading books and lazing about with Margaret. Sure, he had to take a quick break to draw some blood for the vampires back home (he was their sole supply after all) but otherwise the day was generally a waste. Harry loved it, and he couldn't wait to take a look around magical America once the sun set again.
Next time: Harry gets a vehicle, and I'm open to suggestions. Thestrals are cool and all, and Harry might get some, but he needs to travel the world in style to get cool shit for his castle without worrying about frying his vampires. I had considered the HL Hunley (a sunken Confederate submarine) or some other sunken ship that Harry would raise from the depths… a haunted ship would do wonders for Harry's dark lord PR. Thoughts? Opinions? Hate mail?