Greater Than, Lesser Be
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Jonathan walked through the doors of Gringott's bank as if he owned it. As the youngest member of the 'inner' group of Harry's employees, Jonathan was in a unique position from the moment he signed on to Cloak & Dagger. He was barely twenty and still spotty when he joined, and in the near decade that past, he was still one of the most charismatic and shrewd on the team.
He was also considered, thanks to his age, to be perfect for the role that needed to be played out.
While Camilla and her son were surrogates along with Remus, with their roles defined to aid the young Harry Potter, Jonathan's role was that of liaison. His first contact was a current employee of Gringott's Bank, recently back in the UK from Egypt, by the name of William Weasley.
The choice of Bill Weasley was two-fold: the first, he was a skilled curse breaker and asset to Gringott's; the second, he was young, impressionable, and although it was uncouth of Harry Houdini and the rest of the seven to say, financially struggling.
It made Jonathan's job slightly easier.
Bill was supposed to meet him in the main lobby of the bank and then the two would go to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. While Jonathan had some reservations about bringing a Weasley in on the plot (for obvious reasons), Harry seemed to think highly of Bill Weasley.
Jonathan wasn't the type to doubt Harry.
The young Weasley was not difficult to spot. The young, twenty-something Pureblood was tall, with long red hair tied back into a ponytail. Gangly to the point of almost being called scrawny, Bill Weasley wore trousers, boots, and a non-magical button-up with a leather jacket. There was not a single wizards' robe in sight. Jonathan found he liked that.
Tugging at the bottom of his blazer, Jonathan strode up to Bill Weasley with a smile on his face. "William Weasley?" he asked, as soon as he was a few feet away.
Bill nodded, looking at Jonathan from head to toe. "Mr. Randolf?"
Jonathan held out his hand, and Bill shook it. "Shall we?" asked Jonathan, indicating back outside the bank and towards lunch at the Leaky.
Along the way the two made small talk, with Jonathan asking about Bill's family – he wanted to get a better idea of the family Harry cared for so much before their betrayal – and work in Egypt. The conversation continued even as they sat down and ordered their midday meal.
"Excuse me, Mr. Randolf, but I'm not entirely sure why you want to meet with me," began Bill hesitantly. "Do you have an interest in curse breaking?"
Jonathan smiled as he thought back to the smells required to contain the Horcruxes. "In a manner of speaking," he admitted, eyes twinkling.
Bill relaxed and the two chatted about curse breaking spells and manoeuvres and techniques Bill used in Egypt, as the server placed their stews on the table.
"Was there something you needed to be curse free?" Bill asked finally.
Jonathan paused. The answer was yes, but Bill was not supposed to be on their team for another few years. His job was something altogether different.
"Actually, Bill – if I may call you Bill?" at Bill's nod, Jonathan continued. "What Cloak & Dagger would really like is for your help in another matter."
"My help?" asked Bill, incredulous. "You're a multimillion galleon company with several offshoots that generate one of the largest revenues in magical Britain! What could I possibly do to help you?"
Jonathan laced his fingers together and leaned back in his seat. Casually, he waved his wand and set up an advanced, adapted form of Muffilato.
"Mr. Weasley, Bill – what Cloak & Dagger wants from you is something that you can possibly procure for us," began Jonathan carefully. "We would, of course, pay you to do this job – but in addition, should it result in the termination from your job at Gringott's, we are more than happy to offer you unconditional employment at our headquarters in Dorset."
Bill narrowed his eyes. "What exactly do you need from me, Mr. Randolf?"
There was no way to beat around the bush anymore. Jonathan inwardly sighed and crossed his fingers under the table where Bill couldn't see.
"Cloak & Dagger needs you to steal the blueprints to the Pureblood vaults located on the lower level of Gringott's."
Back in Dorset, Harry and Remus were in the middle of a meeting with Camilla.
"Chatter's indicated that the Department of Magical Games and Sports is already geared up for their big meetings to begin organising the Quidditch World Cup and the TriWizard Tournament. Preliminary meetings are set to begin next Thursday, and we've been invited to them as well." Here, Camilla paused. "Well, to the Quidditch meetings anyway."
Harry nodded. "That was to be expected. To insinuate ourselves for the TriWizard, we need to give them something. I think a couple hundred thousand galleons would suffice as a sponsor, don't you?"
Remus frowned. "That's a lot of money to be throwing into the Tournament, Harry. Are you sure that won't tip the scale into changing events?"
Harry shook his head, rubbing gently at one temple with a free hand. "I don't think so, Remus. Essentially we just need to be there and have a high enough standing and reason to be at each task, as well as at the final task. I need those cameras and screens set for the third task."
Here, he frowned. "What exactly are our sales figures on the MageBox?"
Camilla pulled out a second folio thick with paper and began searching through. "We launched the MageBox commercially in 1991, worldwide. Through discounted sales of our staff at Cloak & Dagger as well as Mostafa's Quidditch Association, there were sales of over 500 units. After the Quidditch demonstration, the sales jumped from 560 units to over 1200, globally."
Harry waved off the global figures. "Local, please."
Camilla nodded. "After the launch of our storefront property in Diagon Alley, we sold over 3000 MageBoxes to the British wizarding community. We're looking at one in every second home, almost."
Remus was nodding along as Camilla read her data, while Harry was looking thoughtful. "So pretty much you either have a MageBox if you're living in Britain, or you know someone who does."
Harry nodded thoughtfully and rose from his chair in front of Remus's desk. He stood by the window for a moment, and then began pacing.
"Harry?" queried Remus gently. "What's on your mind?"
"They're releasing the location for the Quidditch World Cup final in a week, right?" Harry asked Camilla, turning to face her.
Camilla nodded, checking her Chatter transcripts. "Yes, this Friday."
Harry pursed his lips and made a decision. "On Friday, I want the MageBox to have a special reduction in price and subscription. Every Briton will want one of these in their house so that they can watch the Cup if they didn't get tickets. If it was a matter of price previously, it won't be now. I want a huge campaign from our marketing team on this, and it needs to get done and out in five days."
Camilla and Remus began making notes as soon as Harry began speaking, their pens flying across their paper.
"As for the meetings, Camilla, when you go to the TriWizard one, try to swing it so it looks like they're asking for us to be a sponsor, instead of it coming from us suggesting it. I want to make it seem like they're in our debt, so we can call some shots," continued Harry, resuming his pacing.
"Is Ludo Bagman one of our customers?" asked Remus, his thinking cap on as he tapped the end of his pen against the tabletop.
Camilla frowned and rustled through the papers again, searching for a complete listing of their British customers with the MageBox. She finally located the 'B' section and skimmed a finger down the list. "He is."
Harry snorted. "He's a douche, but our ticket in this as well. The man was involved in both the Quidditch World Cup and the TriWizard Tournament in my previous existence. He'll be a firm supporter for us getting our screen contract at the Cup, and with his gambling problems and problems with the goblins we might be able to swing his support our way if we suggest quietly settling his debts."
Remus pulled a face. "Isn't that bribing him to do what we want?"
Harry shook his head. "Not if we don't tell him what to do. A few well-placed sighs, whines from our mouths and he'll bend backwards to stay on our good side if we've paid off his massive debt."
Camilla smirked. "So we will only need to worry about Crouch, then?"
"Pretty much," said Harry absently, as he went to sit back at his seat, facing Remus. "Only for the next year or so, anyway – until his son has got him under the Imperius."
"I don't like how we're technically accessory to murder, Harry," said Remus quietly. "We know about these deaths that will happen and we're doing nothing."
"We're preserving the timeline so that when we do change it, Remus, we'll be saving thousands of lives," argued back Harry tiredly. Clearly, they've had the discussion before.
Remus tightened his lips against the weary response to his question, but if he felt any further moral necessity to share, he chose not to. At that point, a knock on his office door had everyone in the room turning to face it; Jonathan walked in.
"Whoa," he began, his eyes taking in the tense atmosphere and scowls on his colleagues faces. "I come with good news."
"Oh?" asked Harry, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah," grinned Jonathan, who was still standing in the doorway. He reached behind, just out of sight of those within the room, and yanked a sheepish, and nervous, Bill Weasley to stand next to him.
"May I please introduce Mr. William Weasley, formerly of Gringott's Bank, London branch?"
Arthur Weasley was a patient, kind-hearted man with very little ambition to proceed any further than being the Department Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Department in the Ministry of Magic. He liked tinkering, he liked creating, but he certainly did not enjoy the paperwork and there would be even more were he promoted to another, higher position.
His middle son, Percy, was under the impression that Arthur wasn't ambitious and it was his love for Muggle "toys" that held him back in work; this was not true—it was Arthur's own pleasure in remaining comfortably where he was, despite knowing that with several hungry mouths to feed and children to clothe, he would always be sacrificing something for someone.
Until his eldest, Bill, Floo'd through to the Burrow, looking pale and shaky. His arrival occurred during the middle of dinner, before Ron's third year and Ginny' second. Percy was Head Boy; Molly cooked a special dinner in celebration.
When Bill walked into the kitchen, Molly stood and exclaimed, "Bill!" moving forward to embrace him. She stopped, abruptly, upon seeing his wide blue eyes.
"Son?" asked Arthur, also rising from his seat as conversation stopped at the table. "What's happened?"
"Mum," began Bill, blinking, "Dad…"
"Bill?" asked Arthur, gently.
"I quit Gringotts," the eldest Weasley blurted.
There was a moment of shocked silence, before Molly tentatively asked, "Bill? Dear? Why would you do that?" Panic quickly overcame her as a suggestion popped into her mind. "You're not going back to Egypt, are you? It's dangerous, Bill! I thought you wanted to be close to home!"
"Uh…" stuttered Bill, glancing at his calm father, "I will be close to home, mum. Actually, I'll be working out of Dorset."
Molly paused, and Arthur frowned. "You've taken a new job, Bill? But you wanted to work for Gringotts for quite some time."
Bill nodded, running a hand through his long hair. He walked slowly to his usual seat at the kitchen table and slowly folded his lanky body into the chair. "I know, but… I received a job offer I couldn't refuse. At all."
Understanding suddenly bloomed on Percy's face, but the teenager kept silent. Arthur glanced at his middle son before looking back at Bill. "Are you sure that's what you want? You shouldn't sacrifice your dreams and hopes for money, Bill."
Bill laughed, colour slowly working back into his face. "I won't admit that the money didn't tempt me, but the job is interesting and I can still work with curse breaking."
"Where are you working?" asked Molly, settling back into her seat with a friendly tone now that she realised Billy wasn't moving out of the country for a dangerous job. She handed her son a plate of food.
Here, Bill paused before casually stating, "Cloak & Dagger Incorporated."
The twins' jaws dropped, forks clattering to their plates, while Arthur asked, "What?"
Bill nodded, reaching for the plate from his mother's hands. "Yeah, I thought so too when one of their Department Heads sent me an owl, requesting to meet me. But they needed me to do something for them and offered me employment. The salary is amazing and I can stay here in the UK."
"That's not what I meant," began Arthur. "I meant that Cloak & Dagger is one of the Ministry's largest suppliers and offers hundreds of Galleons for charity events and luncheons. Their CEO and the Minister are on first-name bases! They're also one of the hardest companies to be hired into. Bill, son—I… congratulations."
"Thanks, Dad," said Bill, stuffing a forkful of food into his mouth.
"When do you start?" asked Percy, curiously.
"Tomorrow," answered Bill with a shrug. "We signed confidentiality agreements so I can't say what I'm doing but I know that it's time sensitive."
"And you're important to this job?" asked Ron, bluntly, eyes wide. "What do you have to offer than someone else doesn't?"
Ignoring his youngest brother's poorly chosen words, Bill answered, "Cursebreaking talents. And they liked me."
Bill flashed Ron a grin and winked at Ginny, who giggled.
Ron scowled. "So how much are you gonna make then?"
Bill shrugged, although Arthur could see how much his son was affecting his blasé attitude, if only to rile Ron. "Starting salary wage."
Molly nodded. "A few hundred galleons then," she said knowledgably.
Bill shook his head. "No, mum—their starting salary wage is forty thousand British pounds… or over a thousand Galleons per year."
Ron was practically green with envy while the twins—here, Arthur narrowed his eyes—well, they admired to company's creativity enough to understand how much talent each hire had. They were nothing but pleased as punch for their elder brother, if not scheming a way to get a tour of the Cloak & Dagger facilities.
Percy's fork fell to the floor as Ron wailed, "So unfair!"
With a gleam in the middle son's eyes, Arthur saw Percy's ambitions changed from working at the Ministry to getting a job at Cloak & Dagger.
Well, at least he won't be a Ministry stooge anymore, thought Arthur, with a mental shrug.
23 December, 1993. Gringott's Bank.
"Enter stranger and take heed," muttered Piers darkly, standing in a very dark vault in Gringott's Bank.
"Oh, shut up," muttered Jonathan, snappish. "It's not like you're the one on a pulley!"
"Can both of you keep quiet?" snarled Yui, as she turned away from her hydraulic tool and lifted the protective mask with her gloved hand. "I'm trying to concentrate here!"
Harry patted her on the shoulder reassuringly. "Just keep working on it, Yui, I'll keep them quiet." And he did with a well-placed eye glare.
Three hours ago, they had successfully snuck into Gringott's bank in Diagon Alley as, during the first hour, they entered under the reason of visiting their business account vault, which, given the size of the gold in it, was located fairly deep in the underground labyrinth.
Over the course of several months, they spent numerous hours within their locked vault whenever Harry or his Department Heads visited Gringott's, setting up an established and legitimate request for needing several hours in their vault to overlook accounts and payroll. While they did not subcontract out to Gringott's, Harry ensured that Cloak & Dagger invested in enough "risky" businesses that the goblins—greedy bastards that they were—always took a hefty percentage for transaction use. It kept the goblins happy and it kept Cloak & Dagger happy.
Bill Weasley had certainly come through for the team, producing the Gringott's floor plans and vault access designs. Remus and Bill were able to locate the Cloak & Dagger vault and once Remus was fairly confident in reading the Gobblegook goblin language and decipher the strange keynote symbols the goblins used, they planned their break in.
Unfortunately, they were pushing their time limit. Currently, Harry, Piers, Jonathan and Yui were in the vault above the Lestrange ancestral vault. Luckily, when Harry acquired Grunnings Drill Company years ago, he had no idea that they were branching out to various quarries and oilrigs throughout the world—making Grunnings a very profitable and enterprising company. Helpful, too, Harry decided, as he "acquired" several hydraulic rock hammers and drills for this exact purpose.
Yui used a special precision rock splitter that was portable and durable, but also easy to use in small areas… like loaded vaults. Currently, Harry and his friends had punched small, crawl-only holes in the vaults they passed through on their way to the Lestrange vault. The vaults were also full of galleons and heirlooms that Piers was able to "rearrange" the furniture to hide their holes.
It wouldn't last forever, Harry knew, but he wasn't worried about being discovered. The treaty the goblins signed with the wizarding world stated that unless invited into the vault, goblins could not enter… and most wizards didn't look around their vaults other than to grab money; no house elf would displease their master by telling them about a hole in their vault!
"Yui, you've got about five more minutes to break through this if we're going to stay on schedule," said Harry, glancing at his wind-up wristwatch.
The young woman scowled behind her protective mask but remained silent. Harry watched from a distance as Yui made a final, small circular hole. Several holes of the same size made the same pattern, creating a dotted outline the size of a sewage hole. Using a hydraulic saw, Yui would then cut through the stone, playing connect the dots until the piece fell into the vault below.
With a loud hisssss the hydraulics shut off and Yui removed her mask, looking up at Harry with lines on her face from where the straps bit into her skin. As she grinned widely at her boss, as the stone piece fell from the vault floor they were in and landed with a large crunch.
"Ready Jonny?" grinned Piers, as he and Harry griped the ropes for the pulley system Jonathan was strapped into.
"No," mumbled Jonathan. He sighed and sat on the floor next to the hole, and stuck his legs through. Wearing an all-black nylon suit, Jonathan looked like the cat burglar he was: several pouches along his hip belt contained flashlights and other necessities, such as dung bombs and smoke screens. A small backpack contained a flat-packed iron container that would they hold the Horcrux to minimize its impact.
With a nod at Harry and Piers, he pushed off and slipped through the hole, holding his breath and praying the pulley system would hold his weight.
Jonathan was slowly lowered into the large vault, apprehension causing him to sweat and licked his dry lips. It would be the first time he would be allowed to retrieve a Horcrux without Harry's presence.
One Jonathan felt his feet touch the solid stone beneath, he tugged on the pulley string to signal slack. He heard the soft sound of the rope hitting the stone floor around him as he was given slack. Jonathan began patting his hips, knowing that Piers strapped a magically infused flashlight in one of the belt pockets. He fumbled a moment or two before retrieving the flashlight and twisting the bottom handle.
A thin stream of light emitted from the flashlight and illuminated a ferocious-looking stuffed hellhound. Jonathan shrieked, the girly sound pitching high and echoing around the vault.
"Jonathan?" called Harry, sounding very far away. "Are you alright?"
"Fine!" called Jonathan, staring at the glowing red eyes of the hellhound. He did not want to tell anyone he freaked out over a stuffed dog.
Twisting his mouth in a grimace, Jonathan began searching for the Horcrux. It did not take long before he felt a pull towards one part of the vault, behind a large stack of coins.
Drink from me, Jonathan, a voice soothed. I will fill your parched throat and tongue with sweet nectar…
The Horcrux was on a small rise, which Jonathan discovered as an overturned gold bedpan. The voice continued to mock, plead and beg Jonathan to touch it, but the young wizard knew better. Forewarned, after all, was forearmed…
Jonathan pulled out the iron container from the backpack and began snapping the pieces together in a makeshift puzzle, locking each one in place. Once the pieces were assembled, he opened the lid and carefully slid the container over the Horcrux/Cup of Hufflepuff, ensuring that it did not touch the sides of the iron container.
With a trembling hand, Jonathan took a deep breath and in a single motion scooped the iron container and snapped the lid shut, listening to the dull and muffled bangs as the Cup rattled against the sides of the container.
Jonathan cradled the container as he walked back to where his slack rope coiled underneath the sewer-sized hole. There was too much rope dragged along the floor to where he found the Cup, so the young wizard used his free hand to start tugging the extended rope back towards him. Once he was satisfied there were only a few feet of rope extended beyond the broken tiles and pieces of rock from the vault ceiling, Jonathan tugged firmly on the still hanging rope.
The slack began to lessen and slowly Jonathan was lifted from the Lestrange vault back into the vault above. Piers was pale, Yui was tense but Harry… the wizard looked pleased.
Piers and Harry grabbed an arm each and hauled Jonathan away from the hole, and Yui moved behind him, beginning to unclip the harness and rope from him.
"Got it?" asked Harry, unnecessarily.
Jonathan nodded and passed over the container, feeling a weight off his shoulders as he did so. He never even noticed that weight had been there in the first place.
Harry smiled thinly in triumph, cradling the container. Another Horcrux down, and only three more to go.
Early June, 1994: Near Little Hangleton
Remus and Harry were in their posh company Bentley, enjoying their smooth trip to Little Hangleton's town hall, where they would be meeting with a town employee. Having made the appointment several months ago, Harry and Remus were hoping to please the townsfolk by purchasing the old Riddle mansion and gain the floor plans for their final attack on Voldemort.
The ride was quiet as Remus enjoyed watching the scenery and Harry caught up on some memos and reports from Piers, Justine and Jonathan.
"Harry's been sending me some owls lately," commented Remus suddenly, looking from out the tinted window to Harry, beside him in the back seat.
"Oh?" questioned the time traveller, glancing up briefly. "About what?"
"It seems Sirius Black was spotted near Hogsmeade a few weeks ago," answered Remus. "He's heading for Hogwarts."
"And Weasley's rat, I'm sure," replied Harry with a grimace and twitch of his nose. "I'm surprised it took him this long. I'm sure he made it into Hogwarts earlier in the previous timeline. Slashed the Fat Lady's portrait."
"Things can change. Our Harry's not going to look for him."
Harry barked a laugh. "Are you saying that I did the first time around? All I knew was that Sirius Black was a murderer who escaped the Az. I didn't even know he was my godfather until I overheard Fudge with McGonagall and Flitwick during the Christmas holidays."
Remus shrugged, reaching into his pocket for a pocket watch; he clicked the bronze lid off, checked the time, and replaced it. "Well, Harry was asking about him. Wanted to know more about why he was so dangerous."
"Did you reply?"
Remus glanced back out the window. Almost guiltily, he stated, "Yes, but I didn't answer him."
Harry frowned. "If you did that to me, back when I was thirteen, I wouldn't be pleased. So I doubt he is, too."
"We'll be arriving soon, Mr. Houdini, sir," called the driver as a privacy barrier lowered briefly. "Five minutes, top."
"Thank you, Clarkson," replied Harry with an easy-going smile.
The car eased up next to a semi-ramshackle building, one that emitted the feeling of neglect and old-world grandeur that had long since faded. The old mining town was half-rotted and falling into disrepair as its citizens left for greener pastures.
An elderly man was waiting on the steps leading into the town hall, an eighteenth-century, one-storey building with a glass and copper dome that was smudged brown and green from dirt and ozone.
Remus exited the car first, followed by Harry on the other side. The elderly man began down the steps, pausing as Remus stepped up two to meet him.
"Mr. Lupin?" the man questioned, bushy white eyebrow rising.
Remus smiled. "Good morning, Mr. Ravenbrook. Thank you for meeting Mr. Houdini and myself."
Ravenbrook, the elderly towns worker, nodded at Remus and then turned to Harry. He looked the young CEO up and down before politely gesturing towards the heavy entrance doors. "Shall we?"
The two Cloak & Dagger men joined Ravenbrook up the steps and into the oppressive building. They did not stop to comment on the filtered light from the dome, or the dirty polished marble flooring with chips and dents in it. Instead, they walked down a small corridor off the entrance foyer and through a heavy-looking dark pine door.
Ravenbrook motioned at two faded red wingback chairs that stood before his desk. The furniture in the room matched, creating a heavy, dark feel with red velvet curtains drawn at a single window; a large leather-upholstered swivel chair behind the desk and a wall filled with green-bound books. A stern-looking man in waistcoat frowned down at Remus and Harry from a heavily gilded gold frame high above and behind Ravenbrook's desk.
"I must admit, when the town repossessed the old Riddle mansion in the 50s, we thought it would have sold quickly," began Ravenbrook quietly, as he reached for a folder he had set aside previously on his desk. "But when no one decided to purchase after the first decade or so, the town and bank were not too worried. Since, however, we have been concerned. Mr. Bryce, the groundskeeper, has remained on retainer, continuing his maintenance of the ground despite his… dubious background."
"We are well aware of the unfortunate circumstances that surround the Riddle mansion," stated Remus calmly. "We also understand that the town would be grateful to have a money-sucker such as the Riddle mansion out of its possession. Mr. Houdini and myself don't mind a short sale."
"After all," added Harry quietly, as he laced his fingers together in his lap, crossing his right ankle over his left knee, "I'm sure there aren't any other buyers."
Ravenbrook pursed his lips, eerily reminiscent of Minerva McGonagall, but did not rise to Harry's bait. He cleared his throat. "That being said, the town and bank are happy to accept your purchase offer of £1.5 million, including the closing costs."
Both Harry and Remus knew that the mansion was worthless, rotted in places and missing foundation and support beams, but they also wanted the building. If the town and bank thought they were planning on flipping the mansion, regaining the value, or using it as a private residence, then they would be sadly mistaken.
Neither Remus, nor Harry, had any desire to fix the old building. The government overlooked the building, never giving it a historical grade and therefore leaving it vulnerable for demolition. One day, Harry was sure, once everything was over with Voldemort, he would have the mansion torn apart, brick by brick.
"Included in the portfolio are the deeds to the property, the building plans as you requested, and all the copies of the keys we could find from our backroom," continued Ravenbrook. "Of course, there is the matter of Mr. Bryce…?"
Remus and Harry shared a glance. Harry knew that Frank Bryce would die in a few months time, when Pettigrew and Voldemort would return to the mansion and use it as their base. However, Remus' plea to save at least one person tugged at Harry. Was Frank's death necessary? What did he prove other than to die by Voldemort's hand, unsuspecting of who the intruder was?
And better yet, what if Harry received the vision again before the World Cup invite and lingered over it? Worrying about Voldemort and his agent at Hogwarts? …even the first time around, Harry remembered the vision but didn't think it serious enough to warrant immediate concern to his wellbeing, even after his name came out of the Goblet of Fire.
"I would appreciate it if you offer him an attractive pension and severance pay from our purchase deal," began Harry cautiously, not looking at Remus. "Please make him aware that it is his choice if he would like to retire from being the Riddle groundskeeper or not."
Ravenbrook nodded and Remus inhaled sharply. Harry reasoned it was the best he could do. Voldemort wouldn't care about a muggle either way, but at least the offer for Frank Bryce to leave was on the table. He wasn't changing or deviating from the original timeline too much.
Ravenbrook shook hands with Harry and Remus, handed them the folder and the rusty ring with several different sized keys on it. The man ushered the two out of the office and out of the building quickly, the door to the town hall shutting behind them firmly.
"How nice," muttered Harry, glancing back once before starting down the steps and towards the Bentley.
Sighing, Harry turned at faced Remus, looking up at the werewolf. "Don't say it Remus. Don't. I've done what I could for Frank Bryce and if he's a smart man, he'll take the money and live comfortably for the rest of his life. No matter what, the people of this town will think him a murderer. With some money, he might be able to live a quiet life away from this Godforsaken town."
Remus tightened his lips but gave a sharp nod; he was taking orders from the man who was holding tightly onto the cards he needed to ensure a winning hand. However much Remus disagreed, he knew what they were playing with. Someone was bound to lose their life somewhere along the way… Remus just hoped it wasn't his friend.
The werewolf sighed again and joined Harry in the car. They eased away from the town hall and then onto the motorway, back towards southern England, the two settled in for their long drive.
When it was only an hour into the drive, with Harry snoring softly beside Remus, Remus felt his Chatter system mirror vibrate. Frowning, he tapped the incoming symbol on the bottom of the mirror, activating the connection.
A panicked, younger version of the man sitting next to him filled the screen. "Uncle Remus!"
"Harry?" asked Remus, sitting up straight in his seat, the seatbelt biting into his chest as he did so. Beside him, Harry snorted and woke up, instantly alert. "What's wrong?"
"I—I don't know where to start," began the younger Harry, glancing behind. Remus and Harry could hear some strange noises in the background, shouts and scuffles. "I was out with Hermione and Neville for Buckbeak's execution – you remember me telling you about it, how Hagrid's lost the appeal?"
Remus nodded, Harry listening attentively next to him.
"Well, we went out to see Hagrid and offer him some words of support," continued Harry, quickly and almost babbling. "Hermione's idea, you know? We've been helping her look up laws… anyway, while we were there, Fudge and Dumbledore and this other guy showed up and Hagrid shoved us out his back door with the cookie jar. When Neville went to open it, we found Ron Weasley's pet rat! Neville wanted to return it to him—he's been a right prat about Hermione's kneazle, Crookshanks, eating him—but the damn rat bit Neville's hand and took off towards the Whomping Willow!"
The younger Harry took a deep breath while the Harry next to Remus had an uneasy feeling as to what happened next.
"Neville and I chased after it; Neville had it in his hand when this massive black dog came out of nowhere, snapped up Neville and the rat! Bit hard into Nev's arm, Hermione and I heard this terrible crunching noise…" the teen paled.
"Harry," began Remus patiently, although Harry-the-time-traveller could see the tension in him. "Where are you now?"
"Hermione says we're in the Shrieking Shack! The dog wasn't a dog, Uncle Remus! He turned into Black!" stated the panicked teen. "He's been going on and on about how he wants Weasley's rat! What is going on?"
Harry, beside Remus, raised an eyebrow lazily. "I'm guessing you're regretting not telling him everything when he asked in his owl, are you?"
Remus shot a glare at Harry, before turning back to the mirror. "Harry, where's Sirius now?"
Harry paused in the mirror, frowning slightly before tilting his head slightly and angling the mirror. Remus could see a dirty and ravaged-looking Sirius Black standing at the other end of the upstairs room in the Shrieking Shack, eyes staring at the rat in Neville's hand. Hermione stood off to Neville's side, her wand aloft.
Remus was certain that Snape would arrive soon, create some havoc, and then Pettigrew would escape. However, Remus owed Harry an explanation now, given his sticky situation.
Sighing, Remus instructed, "Harry, hand the mirror to Sirius. He won't hurt you."
"He hurt Neville!"
"He didn't mean it. He's not all there in his head, but he would never hurt Neville, or you and Hermione, intentionally. Please."
Harry swallowed but followed his uncle's instructions; the boy was in awe of the werewolf, the one who told him of his parents' legacy and took him from the Dursley's to the Potter ancestral home in Wales. He would trust him explicitly.
The mirror was handed cautiously to Sirius Black, who reached for it with a tentative hand. Once he glanced into the frame, though, he nearly dropped the mirror in response.
Remus nodded. "Padfoot."
"You look the same as when you visited me in Azkaban. How long ago has that been now?" asked Sirius slowly, his grey eyes raking over Remus's haircut and the edge of his designer suit jacket. The lush interior of the car completed the image.
"About two years now, Padfoot," answered Remus carefully. "You found Peter then?"
"Yes," hissed Sirius, his face contorting from pleasantly surprised to rage-filled. "He's been here at Hogwarts the entire time! Why didn't you get him, Moony? Why didn't you see him?"
"I am no longer welcomed at Hogwarts," answered Remus darkly. "Dumbledore and I have had a… disagreement."
Sirius's face turned from rage to confusion; Harry worried about the state of his mental health and if it was that bad the first time around. Why hadn't he noticed?
"Moony, what is going on?" asked Sirius, the angry tone changing to pitiful worry by the end of the plea.
Remus sighed. "Padfoot – Harry doesn't know about you. Get Pettigrew, keep him alive and get the fuck out of there. As soon as you can. Hand the mirror back to Harry and I'll make sure he doesn't argue."
Sirius's face twisted into confusion and disobedience, but he was a dog animagus for a reason; he obeyed better than gave orders. Pack was important.
The mirror went back to Harry, who overheard the conversation. "When I get back to the mansion, Remus, you'd better have a good reason for this," the teenager cautioned.
Remus nodded, but inwardly shivered. That stern, dead-eyed look was one he was scarily familiar with; in fact, when the conversation of Frank Bryce occurred not more than an hour ago, he saw it in Harry "Houdini's" eyes.
"I know, Harry," replied Remus, thickly swallowing. "We'll talk soon. Get Neville to the hospital wing and call me later tonight. Give Sirius the rat. It'll all work out."
The two said goodbye and the call ended.
Beside him, Harry was casually checking his nailbeds. "It won't work out."
"You don't know that!"
"Of course I do; Snape will show up, he and Sirius will snark at each other, Harry and his friends will blast Snape for insulting Sirius who now bears your mark of approval and Pettigrew will escape," answered Harry, as though he was talking about the weather. "That's the way it'll go. Sirius will remain on the run until we catch Pettigrew next year. It was going to happen this way."
"It hasn't happened yet!" bit back Remus, glaring at his friend. "You're changing the timeline! What makes you think this won't change?"
Harry's eyes darkened. "Experience."
Later that evening, an exhausted Remus came to see Harry past midnight in his Welsh home, only stopping in the Floo long enough to tell him Harry sent an owl, detailing that Pettigrew escaped and Sirius was on the run. Hermione and Harry used her time-turner to help Sirius escape, giving him Harry's Chatter mirror to call Remus with later.
Harry nodded, and closed the Floo connection. He didn't have the heart to tear Remus down any further by telling him "I told you so."
Remus and Jonathan met Sirius across from 12 Grimmauld Place a few weeks after the end of the Hogwarts school year. Harry had written Remus earlier in the summer, asking if he could "ask Mr. Houdini for another Chatter mirror," due to giving his previous one to Sirius. Harry also mentioned that Neville had tickets with his Great Uncle Algie to attend the Quidditch World Cup in a few weeks, and asked Harry to join him with Hermione.
Remus gave his approval, and Harry sent a custom-designed Chatter mirror to his mini-version personally with a typed letter as an early birthday present. The mini-Harry's brief note to Remus, thanking him for forwarding his request to Harry Houdini, was the last contact the Marauder had with the teenager since. It was clear Harry was holding a grudge against Remus for withholding information on Sirius – especially the role of Sirius as his godfather – from him.
"Remus," greeted Sirius carefully, under hooded eyes. "Who's this?"
"Sirius, meet Jonathan Randolf," said Remus, motioning towards the young wizard, who gave a nod in reply. "He's one of my employees at Cloak & Dagger. He also knows about your innocence."
Sirius remained guarded but accepted Remus's word as they travelled back towards the Black London home.
"We'll need to go in quietly," said Sirius, although both Remus and Jonathan knew about Mrs. Black. Harry readily shared his memories of the place with the two for this mission.
The Black home was as dark and foreboding as Harry's memories portrayed it and its name proclaimed. Sirius, grumbling, led them through the main hallway and towards the room Remus asked to see: the drawing room with the Black Family tapestry.
The three men silently stood, looking at the large tapestry spilling from the ceiling to the floor and curling over it in spots. Sirius knelt and brushed tenderly against a blackened spot on the tapestry, where a line joined Orion Black and Walburga Black. He traced it down to a faded red Regulus A. Black, and where his name should be.
"Please call him, Sirius," asked Remus quietly, after a few minutes of silence.
Sirius grumbled, stood on creaky knees and shouted, "KREACHER!"
A pop signalled the house elf's entrance into the room, where he paused upon seeing Sirius and his companions.
"Nasty blood traitor returns! Mistress would be so horrified at his filthily friends," the insane house elf began muttering, wringing his hands and glancing around the room with his beady eyes.
"Kreacher," stated Sirius, fighting to control old urges of anger and disgust at the house elf, "As your master, I am commanding you to listen to Remus Lupin and obey his every word. Do you understand?"
Kreacher began spewing more abuse at the head of the Black family, but Remus interjected quickly. He knelt in front of the tiny house elf, shutting Kreacher up quickly as he did so.
"Kreacher," began Remus, quietly, "I know what happened to Regulus that night when he went with you and the Dark Lord to the cave."
Kreacher's eyes locked on Remus, and the elf turned from a dark green hue to pasty celery. Jonathan watched from the doorway, ready to defend his friend and boss if the elf didn't full listen. He needn't worry.
Remus had both Sirius's and Kreacher's attention as he continued. "Regulus was a very brave man, and he entrusted something to you, didn't he? A locket?"
As Remus spun the tale and won over Kreacher, Jonathan watched as Sirius Black cried for a brother he never got the chance to tell how proud he was of him.
November 1, 1994
"Harry's name came out of the Goblet of Fire last night," was the first thing Remus said as he entered the boardroom at Cloak & Dagger.
He glanced at those sitting at the table: Sebastian, Edith, Yui, Justine, Camilla, Jonathan and Piers, then at Harry. None had looks of surprise and Remus knew he wasn't surprised either.
Harry sighed, tapping at the old edition of the Daily Prophet on the table. The Dark Mark hanging above the Quidditch World Cup stadium flickered and hovered in an unseen wind, lopping continuously. "It seems Voldemort is back to his tricks and Pettigrew and Crouch are at his call."
"We knew this would happen, Harry," said Sebastian, folding his hands on top of the table genially. "We have planned for this for quite some time."
Edith nodded from beside her co-worker. "Everything you've asked of us, we've done without question. We've helped you plan for this – from gathering the Horcruxes to creating the technology we need to be compatible with magic."
Camilla smiled gently. "Edith and Sebastian's improved Wolfsbane has guaranteed the werewolves to be neutral at the very least in the upcoming war. We've had thousands of letters come in since we marketed the formula after our trials."
"And we've got the Ministry right where we want them," added Justine, happily in her Australian accent, blue eyes bright. "We're signed on for the Third Task. We'll be exclusively broadcasting the final task of the tournament for the entire world to see. No matter what happens that night, Voldemort can't escape the media."
Jonathan and Yui shared a smile. "We finally worked out the pinhole cameras and the communication earbuds. We tested it in the test run at Little Hangleton scenario and it went through smoothly. Everything worked according to our calculations."
"And I've got the Joe's up and running at the crack of dawn, going over the various plans we came up with for the Third Task," finished Piers shortly. "I'll run them into the ground before we send them out in June."
Harry looked at his employees, his friends and those he shared his burden with. His emerald green eyes met theirs, then travelled to his werewolf friend, standing at the other end of the room and at the foot of the table.
"We're ready for this Harry," said Remus quietly. "We've got the ring. The diary. The Cup of Hufflepuff. Slytherin's locket. We're targeting Voldemort and Nagini in June. All we need to do now is get Harry in for the ritual."
Harry grimaced at the thought. While he went to face Voldemort as a martyr, as Dumbledore intended, he promised that this version of himself would never have to feel like he was a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. He would always have a choice. Facing Voldemort in the original timeline allowed the Avada Kedavra to release the Horcrux that shared Harry's body, but it was a risky gamble.
So was the plan Piers came up with.
When Justine and Jonathan were searching the world for more information on the spell that sent Harry to this alternate dimension, Piers was doing some quiet searching of his own. While Harry never completely knew what the man did for the South African government, Harry had an idea, as the man's reflexes were as good as Moody's and the dossier Harry had on Piers indicated he worked more along the lines of Harry's previous job. His lowly position was a cover-up.
It also meant that Piers had numerous friends who owed him favours. Favours he called in.
And someone had the information Piers needed. Not only did they find the spell that sent Harry back in time, but the contact also had information on how to extract a soul from a body.
It was dodgy, it was Dark magic, and so old that Piers's contacted warned the man against trying it unless it was absolutely, save-the-world necessary.
Piers said it was and the man agreed to perform the ritual.
Harry sighed. "Then contact Harry, Remus, and pull him out of Hogwarts tonight. We'll send the company Concord to Piers's contact and have him complete the ritual as soon as he can."
"No need to send the jet to Mexico," answered Piers. "I've had Javier in England since he came back with the information we needed. He's currently happily vacationing with our werewolf friends at the Cornwall house."
Edith and Sebastian made startled noises at that, worried about the safety of their werewolves.
Piers sent them a look. "I honestly don't know which you'd have to be worried about, but let's assume the werewolves can look after themselves and Javier is more than capable of handling them."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Let's just get this done with, shall we?"
Camilla joined Remus in travelling to Hogwarts in order to pick up Harry. While they were gone, Piers retrieved Javier Morandez, his contact, and brought him to the Cloak & Dagger headquarters.
"I like your company name," was the first thing the short Mexican said in a thick accent. Harry expected him to be oily and feel dirty, but the man was rather pleasant and jolly. He wore washed out jeans and a comfortable looking button up with cowboy boots. Harry was certain he would mistake the man for a non-magical easily.
"Thank you," replied Harry automatically. "So what do we need to get you for this ritual? And why tonight for the ritual?"
Javier produced a list from his pocket and passed it to a waiting Jonathan. "It is not much. Some purified water. Salt. A container." The man eyed Harry speculatively. "Piers says you used iron containers in the past to hold the soul?"
"Good," answered Javier. "Then all we need is the four symbols of our world: earth, fire, water and air. The subject of the ritual will be the soul."
"Why tonight?" asked Yui, echoing Harry as she watched Justine dart down the hall for the herbology wing for earth; Sebastian went off looking for water, and Edith began muttering about finding a lighter.
Javier smiled thinly. "It's the Day of the Dead. November 1st is also known as the Día de los Inocentes… the Day of the Innocents, or children. In our culture, we celebrate the dead by remembering the departed fondly on these days. Why should we not, on the Day of the Innocents, help protect a child from an evil soul inhabiting his body?"
"Will the ritual work?" interjected Harry quietly.
Javier paused. "I am not certain. I've read about the ritual succeeding before in the past… but things were different then. The Gods were remembered and the sacrifices were plenty. We had more reason to be thankful for our living relatives and more reason to fear and honour the dead through the unknown. We can hope."
Harry's stomach tightened into knots. Hope, indeed!
Remus and Camilla returned with the young Harry Potter with three hours to spare before the Day of the Innocents ended and the Day of the Dead officially began. While Harry Potter had no idea there was a piece of Voldemort's soul holding onto his body, Harry did know that Remus was offering a way for his visions to end.
After the Quidditch World Cup, Harry felt Remus had suffered enough from his grudge of withholding information and confessed to the werewolf that he had a strange dream about Voldemort a few weeks before the Cup.
He described an old mansion located on top of a hill and overlooking a cemetery. He was floating along the scene, until he came upon an older man – not magical, he assured Remus – who was intrigued by the light in one of the mansion's windows when the building was supposed to be empty.
Harry followed along in the dream as the man explored the empty building until he reached a first-floor drawing room. A fire was going in the hearth and a short, rat-like man was kneeling in front of a battered armchair. Another figure, dressed in dark robes was speaking to someone in the chair.
There was some dialogue and a large snake – then an Avada Kedavra. Harry knew that the man was dead.
Remus, at the time, hung his head. Frank Bryce was as tied to the Riddle Mansion as the Riddle family was… and as much as Voldemort was tied to the place.
Instead, Remus said he would send out some 'feelers' about Harry's visions and see if they could come up with a way to stop them, so that he didn't feel incapacitated by them. The feeling of helplessness and despair was evident as Harry retold the story, aching to help the man but unable to.
As such, Harry bolstered his courage. He was a Gryffindor! He was not afraid of a ritual that would end his visions. He trusted his Uncle Remus.
It was Harry's first time to Cloak & Dagger as well, so he was excited at the prospect of seeing his uncle's workplace. Unfortunately, they arrived through an Apparition point rather than outside, but Harry was still in awe as armed guards patted Remus, Camilla and Harry down and searched them for tracking spells and devices.
They found three, all with Dumbledore's signature on it.
They were quickly disposed of and Remus led his young charge through the corridors and then towards the gym where the Joe's trained. The room was similar to that of the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts, able to mimic and become whatever training scenario the Joe's needed.
In this case, they needed a ritual room.
Yet, when Remus and Harry arrived, it was like nothing Remus had ever seen. He expected a ritual room to be cold and hard, filled with heavy rock and metal composites. Instead, the training room was a barren desert, with a few shrubs and cactus here or there, barely littering the eerie landscape.
The elder Harry was standing a bit away, talking with Piers and another man Remus assumed was going to lead the ritual.
"Stay here," he told Harry, walking off towards the men.
"Hello Remus," said Harry the elder as the werewolf was within hearing distance. "No problems at Hogwarts?"
"A few tracking spells but nothing our Joe's couldn't handle," answered Remus tightly. He glanced at the unknown man. "Remus Lupin. I'm Harry's guardian."
The man nodded politely. "I am Javier Morandez. I will do the ritual. Is your Harry ready?"
Remus licked his lips. "Yes."
Javier smiled gently. "Good. Let us begin. Mr. Houdini, does your ceiling open to the sky? It would help to be open to nature for this ritual."
Harry nodded and glanced at Piers, who turned and waved up at the catwalk above the training area. Jonathan, who was wearing the communication earbud he and Justine designed, waved back at hearing the suggestion. Moments later, the roof began to pull back, opening from the middle.
"I will need room for this," explained Javier. "Would you mind waiting up there with the others, Mr. Lupin? Mr. Houdini?"
"Of course," agreed Harry quickly, grabbing Remus's sleeve. Turning to the werewolf, he said quietly, "We've done all we can. Piers vouches for this man. We now leave everything in his hands."
Remus wasn't happy with that, but followed Harry out of the training area with Piers and towards a set of nearby stairs, which would take them to the catwalk. Once there, Remus and Harry joined Jonathan, Justine, Sebastian, Edith, Camilla and Yui. Piers had left to collect the things Javier needed for the ritual, which the others had brought down from their departments and left in convenient bags by the training room entrance.
The Cloak & Dagger employees and owners watched as Javier approached a rather fidgety Harry, speaking to him quietly. None thought to give Javier an earbud in case anything went wrong, but whatever the man was saying was enough to calm Harry Potter.
When Harry nodded, Javier clasped him on the shoulder and turned to wave at Piers. The South African handed Javier several small bags containing the pieces he asked for, and then stepped back. Moments later, he joined the others on the catwalk.
Silently, they watched as Javier directed Harry to stand in a cleared, sandy area of the desert scenario the room created. A few words later, Harry was lying down in the sand, squirming as he tried to get comfortable.
Using salt, Javier created a circle around the teenager. He said something else, but instead of verbally responding, Harry held up a hand and made a thumb's up sign. Remus chuckled.
Javier went to the bags and extracted a bowl. He placed it at Harry's right, near his hand, if it were extended at shoulder height. Using a lighter Justine found him, he ignited the coals in the bowl. Across, at Harry's left, he placed a bowl and poured water from the metal container. At Harry's feet, he placed a clump of earth from the Herbology department.
"Fire to bind, water to soothe, earth to ground, and air to cleanse," intoned Javier in a clear, loud voice. He turned and retrieved the last item from the bags: an iron container, etched with protective runes.
"A container of the earth, forged in fire, cooled in water, and bound by air to capture and contain the soul," the Mexican continued. He placed it at Harry's head. Then, as he slowly began to walk around Harry's prone body, he began to speak.
It didn't sound like Spanish. It didn't sound like Latin. The words pouring out of his mouth was something Harry had never heard before but once before—the night Ginny cursed him back in time.
The language was dirty, the accent heavy on Javier's tongue as he spoke. In the salt circle, the young, teenaged Harry began to tremor. Then, he began to shake and those shakes turned into writhing. His hands dug into the soft sand, clenching against some unseen force and his back bowed, lifting him from the ground.
Javier continued to speak, walking around the teen, never breaking in his voice. Yet, Harry could see sweat beginning to bead on his forehead and drip down onto his shirt. Whatever hold Voldemort's Horcrux had in the teenager, it was tight.
Slowly, as the minutes bled together and midnight approached, an inky black mass began to creep out of Harry's lightning bolt scar. It was slow, resisting the call and chant of Javier, but the Mexican persisted.
The inky black mass began to form and join, parts and pieces of it merging until it became a ghastly skull, teeth chattering in anger and eye sockets burning with black fire.
The bowl of water churned and the fire across flickered and nearly died out; but Javier gave one last, mighty shout and the inky spirit was forced upwards and into the container. The iron lid slammed shut and tightly latched.
Javier slumped, spent, and Harry calmed.
All was silent on the catwalk, until Remus turned and raced down the stairs, the others footsteps behind. The werewolf raced across the uneven sand, his steps faltering here and there, but he skidded to a stop and slid down next to Harry, breaking the salt circle.
A shaky head reached out to touch the teen, but retreated briefly. He tried again and this time smoothed back Harry's damp black hair. The scar that plagued Harry from October 31st, 1981 was faded, a dull red that was easing off to a shade lighter than Harry's natural colouring.
The teen was breathing evenly, deep asleep. Across, being checked by Harry Houdini and Piers, was Javier, watching Remus with dark, steady eyes. "He will live," the Mexican said softly, smiling at Remus. "The ritual worked, and your Harry Potter lives."
"Thank you," murmured Remus, reaching and gathering Harry into his arms. "Thank you."
The Third Task. June 24, 1995.
Harry had to swing some serious weight to convince Fudge that he should be allowed at the Third Task of the TriWizard Tournament, but after much wheedling and some threats, Fudge agreed. Although Harry was planning on staying as far away as he could from the younger version of himself, he felt that there was enough of a difference now that the two were only the same through their DNA.
That being said, Harry waited patiently outside the Champions tent as Ludo Bagman went over the rules for the maze. Harry distinctly remembered being outside for the rules and cannon blast, but this did give more privacy and kept the champions in anticipation.
"…now, before we finish, someone would like to speak to all of you," finished Bagman, sounding pleased. Harry bit back a smile.
"Who?" questioned Fleur in a light, French accent.
"Mr. Houdini, the CEO of Cloak & Dagger," answered Bagman, cheerily. "He is a major sponsor in the Tournament. It is only natural he would like to see the Champions before the Final Task."
"Vot vor?" grumbled Krum, but Bagman ignored him. Instead, the man stuck his head out of the back of the tent, spotted Remus and Harry standing there patiently, and beckoned them in.
"Mr. Houdini, Mr. Lupin, so pleased to see you here," the man gushed. "Allow me to introduce our four Champions: Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons…"
The French girl who would grow up to marry Bill Weasley gave a small curtsey and smile. Harry leaned over her extended hand and kissed it.
"Bonjour, Mademoiselle," the time travelled smiled. He straightened and reached into his suit pocket for the small velvet case he knew was located there. He found the one with the embossed Beauxbatons crest in silver on the outside and held it out for the French girl to take.
Fleur tittered, opening the case. "Oh!" she gasped.
By this time, Harry Houdini had moved on to Krum, shaken his hand and offered him the Drumstrang case. Remus presented Harry and Cedric with theirs.
"What are these for?" asked Cedric, pleasantly surprised, as he looked down at the Huflepuff crest pin that he received.
"Goodwill," replied Harry with a tight smile. "I couldn't make a Hogwarts crest for two Hogwarts champions, but I figured house affiliation would suffice."
Harry Potter took his and eagerly affixed it onto his TriWizard Tournament standard uniform/robes.
"Thanks Mr. Houdini, sir," said Harry Potter, smiling widely.
A tired, older Harry smiled tightly back at his younger self, wondering how the boy and those around could not notice the similarities. Perhaps, thought Harry, he changed too much in the decade he'd been in this dimension.
Nodding, Harry accepted the sincere thanks from the other champions and left the tent, giving Remus a quick moment with the younger Potter and a few words of encouragement for all the champions.
Remus parted the TriWizard tent, stepping into the fading light of a setting sun. Harry was looking up at the quickly darkening sky, frowning.
"Are you ready?" asked Remus quietly. "It'll only be a few hours of wait until…"
"I know," replied Harry softly. "And I wasn't ready the first time this happened. But I'll be damned if I let Potter go through this. I'll be ready, Remus."
Remus nodded, and together the two left the transformed Quidditch pitch, heading towards Hogsmeade where they would Apparate back to Cloak & Dagger.
Just after they passed through the gates, Harry stopped Remus with a hand on his arm. The werewolf turned to his friend questioningly.
"I made my will, Remus," said Harry, firmly. "I want you to know that. I've prepared for this moment and whether or not I die, I still want you and mini-me to have everything."
"You're not going to die," argued Remus, rather weakly. The inner wolf in him had been restless the past month, causing stomach ulcers and heartburn. Remus knew something was up; he had a bad feeling about tonight.
Harry smiled gently, the silver in his hair by the temples gleaming in the dusk. "I've escaped death once before, Remus. I can't cheat him a second time."
"You're the Master of Death," argued Remus back, hissing the title. "Of course you can cheat death!"
Harry looked up just as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon. The moon was slowly appearing, the sun's rays bouncing off the rock and lighting it up in the darkened sky. The sun's rays, however, tinged it a blood red.
"I'm not going to cheat this time, Remus. Not anymore," declared Harry firmly, and then Apparated away.
Remus closed his eyes in defeat. When he opened them, they were filled with determination. He may not be able to save Harry Houdini, but he wasn't going to fail his best friends' child.
He, too, Apparated away quietly in the night, just as cheers went up in the stadium behind him at Hogwarts' Quidditch pitch—the third task of the TriWizard tournament had begun.
Harry Potter was wondering why, every time he came across a difficult task that he managed to defeat, the crowd roared its approval. It took him nearly half an hour into the task to realise that Prestige Studios was contracted to film the final task and that the pins that Mr. Houdini actually gave the champions were mini cameras! High above him, the crowd was seeing everything as Harry was seeing it!
This meant they were also seeing Cedric, Fleur and Krum's advancement. Harry, spurned on by this, was turning the corner of the maze cautiously—who knew what was around the corner?
Nothing, it turned out; just several options for him to take. As Harry paused and considered which route to take, he heard a scream and the crowd jeer, voices meshing as they shouted out in fear and anger.
Another noise caught Harry's attention, causing him to look up. Fizzing red sparks blew and wavered in the evening sky, indicating that one of the champions needed to be rescued. Judging from the scream, it was Fleur.
Swallowing a heavy dose of fear, Harry pushed through a random direction. He immediately regretted it as he swerved into the path of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewt, dodging the fire that propelled it in his general direction.
Harry rolled, hurting his shoulder against pebbles and stones on the maze floor; the Skrewt's stinger, similar to that of a scorpion's, jabbed forward and nearly caught Harry's leg. Breathing heavily, Harry rolled out of the way quickly, but not quickly enough for the second attack, which sliced his leg as he rolled.
His trousers were ripped, blood seeping out quickly along the lengthy gash. Pain exploded as Harry clutched at his leg, hissing. He wasn't sure if he could get up and dodge again.
A snort and warm huffing had Harry look up. The Skrewt was hovering above him, its stinger ready to pierce him a third—and final—time. It was in that moment Harry was transported back to Hagrid's class, where he said the Skrewt's defences were laid bare by their soft underside.
Somersaulting forward in a roll, Harry ignored the chafe of dirt getting into his bleeding cut and lay flat on his back under the Skrewt.
"Impedimenta!" shouted Harry. The Skrewt above him wavered and then held, unable to move. Harry, on the other hand, scampered out of the clearing as quickly as his injured leg could carry him—and nearly ploughed into Viktor Krum, his ears ringing from the background noise of the crowd and the screams.
It only took him a moment to realise who was screaming—Cedric Diggory was on the ground, twitching in the dirt under the Cruciatus curse as Krum stood above him, wand held out.
Surprised, but with his quick reflexes, Harry stunned Krum. The Bulgarian teen fell face-first into the dirt, the glassy look in his eyes disappearing.
"Are you okay?" asked Harry, helping Cedric to his feet. The older Hufflepuff breathed heavily for a few moments, looking pale and shaking as his nerves adjusted.
"I… I will be," the older wizard said, glancing down in disgust at Krum.
"He didn't mean it," argued Harry, following Cedric's train of thought. "He wasn't in control. Didn't you see his eyes? He was under the Imperius."
Cedric scrunched his face up, not liking the answer, but agreed. Instead, he sent up a flare of red sparks.
"Who would cast the Imperius on him?" asked Cedric, glancing down at the Quidditch star's limpid form. A quick glance at the young Gryffindor had Cedric discounting Harry—he was bleeding heavily from a leg wound, pale with dark circles under his eyes and blood and grime smeared around one side of his face.
"I dunno," replied Harry quietly. "But someone did."
The two looked in opposite directions, shivering and wondering what to do next.
"Well…" began Cedric, scratching his neck hesitantly. "I was going to go this way…"
Harry nodded, jerking his thumb in the opposite direction. "I was going this way…"
Together, they both looked at Krum, again, and Harry blurted out, "How about we stay together?"
A sheepish and slightly hysterical laugh pushed from Cedric's mouth as he agreed quickly, "Okay! That sounds good."
Both looked at each other and began slowly in the direction Cedric wanted to go. They didn't encounter anything, and after ten minutes finally made a right turn into a clearing. The TriWizard cup stood on a pedestal.
The two wizards stopped, warily looking at the shiny cup.
"Take it, Cedric," began Harry. "You're the real Hogwarts champion."
Cedric shook his head. "No, you've done way more than I have. It should be yours."
The shared a grin and realised the stupidity of their arguments.
"How about together?" asked Harry. "That way it'll still be a Hogwarts win."
Cedric smiled. "I think that sounds good."
The two turned to face the pedestal when a clicking noise caught their attention. Harry turned partway, and saw the huge pinches begin to descend.
Harry leaped out of the way, closer to the cup, as Cedric had his wand out and sent several quick blasts from his wand, hoping to drive the large spider away from them.
Rising to his feet, Harry added to Cedric's spell fire, even if his repertoire of spell knowledge wasn't nearly as large as the other boy's. They slowly drove the Acromantula away from the cup and its clearing, but it hovered just around the large maze greenery, waiting for a lapse from Cedric or Harry.
The two backed up slowly, towards the cup, as the spider moved forward, matching their pace.
"On three?" mumbled Harry, glancing briefly behind him at the cup.
"On three," agreed Cedric. They were steps away.
Harry stowed his wand at the same time as Cedric; the elder boy latched onto Harry's robes and Harry grabbed the cup as the Acromantula surged forward—but they were gone in a swirl of light and the familiar feel of a Port-Key.
Seconds later they were deposited onto the hard ground; silence overcame them.
Harry looked up, frowning from his position, on his belly. He was surrounded by large block of rock and marble, some standing straight and tall and others leaning precariously or chipped. The stone slabs on the ground were engraved and etched with words and designs, while others were broken into pieces or falling into hallowed out, leaving rectangular holes in the ground.
Cedric was a few feet away, on his back and moaning. One hand was behind his head, rubbing it achingly.
"Alright?" asked Harry, glancing around, squinting behind his smudged and dirtied glasses.
Cedric replied, "I'm fine," as he rose to his feet. He too, was looking around.
Harry bit his lip as his eyes focused. The vague shapes around him were tombstones.
Harry's breath caught. Ever since his visit to Cloak & Dagger, Harry did not have visions anymore. One of the first, though, was of the graveyard he and Cedric were standing in.
"Wands out, you reckon?" asked Cedric, his voice tense.
Harry nodded and slipped his wand, just as Cedric did his—but his eyes were focused on something else.
A shape emerged from the darkness, small and huddled. It looked like it was cradling something, protecting something in its arms as the figured carefully made its way towards the two students.
The figure stopped, as though it was watching the two teens. Harry wanted to scream at Cedric to run—he was getting an ill feeling that began in the pit of his stomach and was working its way up to his throat, catching his warnings and efficiently muting him.
"Kill the spare," a high-pitched voice emerged from the figure's arms.
The figure raised an arm. A wand with a glowing tip lit the figure's face up, revealing Peter Pettigrew.
Harry snarled in anger, but froze as his parents' betrayer shouted: "Avada Kedavra!"
The light erupted from his wand, not aimed at Harry, but the handsome Hufflepuff a few feet to his left.
Horror enveloped Harry, but just as the curse neared its target, something caught the Hufflepuff's robes and yanked him backwards just as the curse sailed by. From Harry's point of view, the curse missed but Cedric was lying flat on the ground, seemingly dead from the spell.
His chest was moving up and down, and a trickle of blood slowly oozed out from under him, indicating he cracked his head on the fall down.
Harry turned back to Wormtail, who smirked before aiming his wand at the Boy Who Lived. The man shouted, "Stupefy!" and Harry sank into unconsciousness.
Harry, Remus, Piers and Quentin were watching the third task from four monitors in their security vans, parked at the bottom of the graveyard in Little Hangleton. They were close enough to the mansion to be in contact with the Joe's who were going in to capture Nagini, but they were, more importantly, closer to the graveyard where Harry and Cedric would be transported to soon.
The men were watching tensely. Harry didn't seem to realise that his pin was actually a camera, capturing his journey through the maze in first-person perspective. Fleur and Krum figured it out immediately after their first encounter in the maze as the crowd reacted to their moves; Cedric took some time but shrugged it off and continued with his plan.
The men watched on their screens as Krum, under the Imperius curse, attacked Fleur. The half-Veela witch put up quite a fight, screaming French obscenities at the Bulgarian, before he hit her with a stupefy—but only after hearing her scream for a few moments under the Cruciatus. Whoever was controlling him was kind enough to send up red sparks, though.
The remaining three contestants lulled between challenges. Harry remembered enough of what he went through the first time to ignore what was occurring and begin gearing up. He was in his Hit Wizard uniform, wearing the accessories and weapons he had with him the night Ginny tried to send him back in time to relive his life at the Dursleys and the second Blood War.
He was tightening the straps to his Kevlar vest when Cedric began screaming. He glanced up to see Krum standing over the twitching boy, and from Cedric's camera angle, saw Harry appear around the maze hedge.
There were three views of the same scene, and then time and history changed: Harry Potter and Cedric teamed up.
"We split up," said Harry said, frowning. "I went to see the sphinx and had to solve a riddle. Met the Acromantula and then Cedric and I made a mad-dash to the cup."
The others frowned.
"Let's go, boys," said Quentin into his communicator. "I want everyone into position in three minutes."
There was some noise as the Joe's in the other security vans around them opened their doors and hatches, climbing out and crunching the soil and gravel beneath their feet. Their weight and the added weight of their armour made their steps heavier, but the Joe's knew how to handle this moment. After all, they had been training for it specifically for the past three years.
Harry finished tightening his Kevlar straps and then slipped his Holly and Phoenix wand into one loophole; the Elder wand was hidden on a wand holster. His gun rested comfortably at his back; spare bullet casings and his boot dagger were primed and ready to go.
Remus nodded at Piers, following Harry out of the van and into the dark. Piers was going to coordinate the two attacks at the same time; the Joe's were split between the attack group on the mansion, where Nagini was resting and waiting. Heat seeking goggles were adapted for the mission.
The rest were going into their positions with Harry, Remus and Quentin, to face Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
"Ready?" asked Harry, receiving nods from the Joe's. Harry's trained eye searched every face he could see. He then nodded and strode towards the graveyard, frowning as he heard Piers' voice in his ear.
"Potter and Diggory are at the cup," he said. The Joe's were all on the same frequency, able to hear Piers, while the two attach teams were on a different sending frequency so their voices and words would not overlay each other.
"I estimate you have about five minutes before Voldemort and Pettigrew make a move at the graves," the man continued.
Harry nodded and with a few hand gestures, a group of six Joe's broke from the contingent and made their way around the far end of the graveyard and its hill. Their task was Cedric Diggory.
Harry and the other Joe's slowly moved up the hill, from behind the cauldron and where most of the mausoleums were, giving them cover. A few hid behind larger tombstones and statues.
"Potter and Diggory are gone!" snapped out Piers, just as Harry settled into position near where he remembered the cauldron to be, and behind a large tombstone.
A muffled pop caught the Joe's attention and they tensed. Someone moaned, and after a few moments of silence, a young teen's voice queried, "Alright?"
A few short seconds later, a deeper voice answered. "I'm fine."
Harry sighed in relief and worry. Harry and Cedric arrived safely, but they weren't out of danger yet.
"Team A, target Diggory. Use the tug and get him to the ground at the sign of AK," instructed Piers from their earbuds. "Team B and Houdini are to engage Voldemort and his Death Eaters, only after he has given Potter his wand back. Repeat: engage Voldemort and his Death Eaters after Potter has his wand back. Team C is now in the Riddle mansion."
A shrill voice shouted out the Killing curse in the dark night, causing those around Harry to tense.
A brief crackle and then Piers' voice said, "Team A has Diggory and he is unharmed. Repeat: the boy is unharmed."
Harry let out an inaudible sigh and peaked around the mausoleum, just in time to see Pettigrew stupefy Harry and levitate him towards the tombstone that he knew to be the elder Tom Riddle's. Harry was revived after Pettigrew tied him to the grave. The ritual began.
A sparkle of dust in the air from the grave below Harry Potter indicated the bone of Riddle, senior; a flick from Pettigrew's wand had it deposited in the large cauldron. Pettigrew turned his knife towards Harry, who tensed and struggled against his bonds as the man dug the knife into his uninjured arm, cutting it and collecting the blood.
After that was added to the cauldron, Harry Potter watched in morbid fascination as Pettigrew cut off his hand to add to the ritual. The Voldemort-baby was lowered into the cauldron, which began spitting, and frothing and hissing.
From his position, Harry signalled the Joe's to get ready. Piers crackled into his earbud again: "Update: Team C has located Nagini and is currently engaged in battle. Team B is reviving Diggory."
As Piers finished his report, the cauldron exploded and steam swirled around where the cauldron used to be, creating a thick smoke. Suddenly, a figure stepped out of the fog, unnaturally pale and naked.
"Robe me," the high voice commanded.
Lord Voldemort had returned.
Harry Potter was scared. The man who murdered his parents was standing before him, instructing Wormtail to give him back his wand so that they could properly duel. Harry was sure that the only thing he wanted to do was turn tail back to Cedric and the cup, hoping it would take them back to Hogwarts.
As Voldemort began the long speech about Harry and their previous 'meetings', Harry glanced back at where Cedric was lying on his back—only to see that the Hufflepuff was gone!
Panic engulfed Harry as thoughts began piling on one another in his head. Had Cedric left him? Were there Death Eaters in the forest and the graveyard, waiting to capture him if he ran away? Did they catch Cedric? Was Cedric hiding, waiting to jump out and help Harry?
Eventually, black clouds swirled into existence and tiny pops of Apparition rang in Harry's ears, signalling the Death Eaters. Voldemort postured to them, calling them by name, torturing one here or there if they spoke out of turn.
Finally, Wormtail returned Harry's wand. Harry stared down at it, wondering what his first move should be.
"Surely Dumbledore taught you the proper etiquette of a wizards' duel, Harry?" simpered Voldemort, teasingly. "First, we bow."
When Harry did not, Voldemort's red eyes narrowed and his wand flicked—a crushing force began pushing at Harry's back, urging him to bend in a low, seemingly courtly bow.
Gritting his teeth, Harry did so, pushing up against the force. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the force disappeared and Harry stood straight, eyes firmly planted on the Dark Lord.
"And now… we begin," smiled Voldemort, opening his mouth to begin a curse.
Then all hell broke loose.
A force slammed into Harry, sending him sprawling across the ground, far away from Voldemort and the Death Eaters, who were shouting and screaming in the background.
Harry looked up from his back and saw Remus above him.
"Remus? What-?" began Harry, but his honorary uncle shook his head.
Remus dragged Harry away, pulling him from the fight and off near a cluster of tall standing tombstones. There, surrounded by six men in black, was Cedric, rubbing at the side of his head.
"Cedric!" gapped Harry, woozy in relief and from blood loss.
Cedric looked up at his name and smiled.
"Clark, Higgins, Harry's lost a lot of blood. Check him out," instructed Remus in a tone of voice that Harry had never heard before.
Looking up at his honorary uncle, Harry saw something change in the kind, gentle werewolf that he affectionately knew as 'Uncle Remus' to the fierce and strong werewolf his friends knew when he was in his prime. Harry couldn't focus, though, and his eyes kept drifting to Voldemort and a man who was standing proud and defiant in front of him.
Distantly, he could hear Remus shouting at one of the men next to him, over the noise of spellfire and shouts of injured Death Eaters and the men in black.
"—get them to headquarters, Quentin!"
A man in all black nodded, leaning over Harry. Quentin reached down and ripped off Harry's Hogwarts pin, just as another black-clothed man did the same to a startled Cedric.
Remus had turned back to the battle, and Harry did too, ignoring the sting of the pin ripping his robes and cutting briefly into his skin; the antiseptic on his leg cut, or the burn from the ritual cut on his arm.
There, he saw a tall man, standing firm in front of Voldemort, whose mouth had dropped open briefly in surprise, before rage overtook his features.
"JAMES POTTER!" he snarled, causing Harry's heart to skip a beat.
Dad? He thought dizzyingly, the world tilting off to the side. Seeing Harry beginning to falter, Quentin clasped Harry's uninjured arm. Harry felt the nauseating tug of a Port-Key, but before he left, he saw something that made his heart leap into his throat and burn the image into his mind forever.
Voldemort swung his wand arm out in an arc, a violent green light erupting from it as the Killing curse cut through the air in dizzying speeds.
The man didn't move as the Killing curse struck him—instead, Harry saw, the man's wand was out and resting comfortably in his hand and the killing curse was ferociously fighting against the orange spell from the man's wand.
Yet, it wasn't the wands and their spells that had Harry fixating on the man; instead, he focused on the way the spells lit up his face. Harry greedily drank the man's features in, memorizing his father's face.
He had a strong jaw and blunt chin, thin lips set into a firm line, light reflecting off his glasses and flyaway black hair, just like everyone said James Potter looked like. But that's when Harry noticed something off: he had brilliant emerald eyes behind his glasses.
And a faint, but visible, lightning bolt scar on his forehead.
Quick note [Apr.24.11]: [minor corrections in spelling completed April 27]
This chapter took forever to write. I had the final scene already planned, right from the moment I started this story… but it was getting there. One last part to go and we're done! Funny, I upload on Sunday and I get "grrr" complaints from people even though I honestly don't know why - but for those who left me wonderful reviews about my work, thank you! Thank you so much!