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Frozen to the Bones

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Albus Dumbledore sat quietly in the enormous hall, staring at his lap. Normally he would've been marvelling at the architecture around him, the exquisite sculptures and paintings and other art work. The entire hall was lined with them left and right, and the light streaming down from the carefully placed windows hit them just right, with magical precision, making each artwork glow. Each and every one of them was a sight to behold, but he didn't look up. Looking at them served no purpose; they were, after all, the art of the new, dark era.

How had everything gone so wrong? The thought circled endlessly in his head and he tried to look back. Had there been some sort of hint, a slip, anything? Something to give away how… badly their saviour would turn out? There must've been something, anything. Some inclination, a hinting smile at wrong point, a hint of malice perhaps? Something, anything. Had he missed something? Had there been a point where Harry Potter could've really been their Saviour… instead of becoming their Conqueror?

He sighed and finally glanced up. At each side of the bench he was sitting on stood a silent guard, both clad in black and both masked, but nothing like the Death Eaters had been. These men wore black armour that covered every piece of their skin, dragon hide and basilisk skin and who knew what else, and the masks were only the fronts of protective helmets meant to shield from any damage, rather than to hide a person’s identity.

It was somehow worse than what the Death Eaters had been like, however. The white skull mask had given the Death Eaters some semblance of personality, identity. The Knights of Walpurgis on the other hand were cold and aloof, and above all faceless. In some cases people even wondered if they were humans at all or some sort of magical creation, like the golems of old.

The former headmaster of Hogwarts looked away. He’d once entertained the thought of trying to fight the Knights. He was powerful and knew magics most people had forgotten or never discovered. But, despite his own attempts to enhance that image, he was no fool. The Knights were in perfect physical condition - their magic would've already been flying by the time he managed just to grip his wand.

Steps echoed over the hall, and looking up Albus saw a person, a woman with blazing red hair, approaching him. She wore an outfit similar to the Knights’, except she was without a helmet and she had a white cape trailing after her. She stopped to stand before the defeated wizard. "Lord Potter will see you now," she said briskly, while Albus wondered who she was, what was her position in Lord Potter's army, what did she do - where did she come from. He didn't think he had ever seen her, before.

It didn't matter. There were a lot of things he didn't know about Lord Potter's army or reign - he didn't even know who the young lord's partner in power was. Then again, no one did. Sighing once more, the old wizard pushed himself to his feet. Immediately the Knights stepped forward as well, and as Albus turned to follow the young, formidable looking woman, they trailed after him, in perfect position to slice him in half if he made the wrong move.

"I don't suppose you might know what the Lord wishes of me, my dear?" Albus asked, without much hope for an answer.

She said nothing for a moment before reciting, possibly from memory, "The Lord's business is his and his alone. It is not our place to pry," she simply said, and led him to large double doors. Before Albus could ask anything else - not that there was anything to ask - she stepped forward and pulled the doors open. "He is waiting for you," she said, and waited until he and his guards had stepped inside, before closing the doors behind them, not entering herself.

Past the doors there was what looked like a study mixed with a library. The room was circular, and specially constructed bookshelves circled the space, leaving gaps only where there were windows. Above, the ceiling was as much artwork as the pieces along the corridor, and the floor was covered by another magnificent fresco. The space in the middle was taken by a U-shaped desk, in front of which were a couple of chairs and a pair of arching couches. The entire room, it seemed, was circular.

There was no illusion of equality in the room, though. The desk and the man sitting at it were the highpoint and focus of the room, and the eye would've been drawn almost forcibly to him by the room's design, even if the presence around the young man hadn't already commanded attention as well as it did.

Lord Potter - the young Potter Albus had thought he’d known - had never seemed a particularly awe inspiring figure. He’d been a skinny young lad with messy hair constantly falling into his eyes, more made of knobbly knees than anything else. This man before him, wearing dark robes and with Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem adorning his forehead, was like a completely different person.

"You can step outside, thank you," Lord Potter said, nodding to the Knights who slammed their fists over their hearts, bowed their heads and backed away, all in one smooth motion of submission. As they closed the door behind them, leaving Albus alone with the young man he most certainly did not know, the lord himself eyed his guest without an expression on his face.

"Is today the day you will kill me then, my boy?" Albus asked, after the silence had gotten too tense and the stare of those expressionless green eyes had gotten unbearable. "I must say, I do wonder what took you so long."

To his surprise, Lord Potter laughed sharply at that, and it was actually a somewhat joyous sound, not cold and cruel like the older wizard had expected. "Kill you?" the younger man asked, standing up. His hair was longer than Albus remembered ever seeing it, and as he stood there, in the centre of his domain with the window behind him and light shining upon him, he looked like one of the high elves of old – beautiful, and horribly so.

"Come, sit," Lord Potter said, circling around his desk and approaching the arching couches instead. Without waiting for Albus to comply, the young lord fell to sit on the couch, crossing one leg casually over the other, elbow resting on the couch's backrest. "I'm not going to kill you, Albus Dumbledore, Grindelwald's bane. I will tell you a story."

As Albus cautiously sat down on the couch across from the young Dark Lord, Potter clapped his gloved hands. In answer, a tea table loaded with a tea set and several bowls of different snacks appeared to the middle of the room. "Go on, take some," the young lord said, waving a hand at the former headmaster. "If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn't use poison to do it; you can trust me on that."

Albus sighed, and nodded, reaching forward and fixing himself a cup of tea just the way he liked it. After taking one of the pastries as well, he leaned back and eyed his young host. "What kind of story do you want to tell me then, my boy?"

"Mine. And yours, in a manner of speaking," the young man answered, reaching forward to take some tea as well. "After all this time it seemed like the thing to do. To give both of us some closure, you know?" he smiled faintly, while straightening his back again with a tea cup held delicately in one gloved hand. "First though… you must have some questions."

Albus considered it for a moment, eyeing the young man thoughtfully. He hadn't seen Lord Potter in a long while and, though the rumours and stories of the young man's deeds had spread far, he hadn't really been sure what to think about the young man anymore. Was he evil? Lord Potter didn't act evil. Albus had questions, many, many questions, but… none of that mattered anymore, really. "What are the Knights of Walpurgis?" he asked finally, glancing towards the door. He wasn't really that interested, and there was nothing he could do…

But it was curious. No human had ever claimed to be one, and no one knew where they came from. And, as far as Albus knew, no one had ever, ever succeeded in killing one. The Knights had taken down the Aurors and hit wizards seemingly without breaking a sweat, without suffering any casualties. Though Albus doubted that Lord Potter would've ever shared the weaknesses of his undefeated servants, knowing something would be… something.

"That's all?" Lord Potter asked calmly. "No whys, no hows, no demands for explanations?"

Albus smiled sadly at that. "Would they make any difference?"

"Knowing what the Knights are wouldn't make any difference either, Headmaster. But we're not here to make a difference, are we? Whichever way this conversation goes, nothing will change for me. Or for the world, as I made it," the Dark Lord answered, shaking his head. "You disappoint me. I was looking forward to those questions. A villain's lengthy monologues are one of the highlights of my life. I don't get to indulge myself in them nearly as often as I thought I would."

"Your takeover was too complete. Those who want to know, know better than to ask," the older wizard said, sipping his tea. He was a little amused, despite himself. And more than a little bemused. This conversation wasn't going at all like he thought it would. "If you want to tell me a story, my boy, do start from the beginning. I'm afraid I might've forgotten some parts."

The young man chuckled and lowered his cup to rest on his knee. "The beginning. Alright." He chuckled softly. "There are many ways to go about that. Do you want me to tell you my story… or yours?" he asked, resting his elbow on the backrest again, and his cheek on his knuckles. "Or shall I skip all that, and start with how I slipped away under your noses and began to take over the world, hm? That would speed things up, but you would miss some minor details. Like the origins of the Knights of Walpurgis."

"You… encountered them before you…" Albus started before trailing away - because how was that possible?

"I did not as much encounter them as I came into close intimate contact with all the information I needed, for the Knights to exist here," Lord Potter laughed softly and shook his head. "It is all very convoluted, really. And among all the evil deeds I've done to get to this point, the Knights… the Knights are the worst one. Do you know where the name for the Knights of Walpurgis comes from?"

"I… have theories, but of course nothing I would put my money on," Albus admitted.

"It is the name Voldemort contemplated giving to the Death Eaters," Lord Potter explained, shrugging his shoulders. "Walpurgis Night is one of the most powerful magical dates there is. The original Witches' Sabbath, you know. If you look into his actions, Voldemort was always most fond of that particular time of the year because, deep down, he was always more a Ritualist, than he was a Dark Wizard." He chuckled. "But he ended up naming his followers Death Eaters instead, because it was more intimidating and it reflected upon him, upon his own name. Flight of Death and his Death Eaters. All to escape the very thing they seemed to worship. It is almost… poetic, when you think about it."

Albus frowned slightly, lowering his cup. "So, the Knights of Walpurgis we know today are a… slight upon your predecessor?" he asked. "Or a token of respect?"

"More a slight than token of respect, but more than that, it was me thumbing my nose at Voldemort. There is power in Walpurgis Night. And now, in turn, the Knights of Walpurgis carry that power within them. My followers get strength from their name in a way Voldemort's people never did. He was a fool to not take the name," the young lord answered, chuckling. "But also, I chose that name because the Knights of Walpurgis were created on the eve of Walpurgis."

Albus nodded slowly. "How do you know this? About Voldemort?" he asked.

"He told me, once upon a time. Not to mention the fact that he and I, we shared an intimate connection for many years," Lord Potter answered. "I know him, no doubt better than he knew himself. Not that it matters much either way, he's been dead for quite some time now. Him, and all aspects of him."

 The former headmaster eyed the younger man silently for a moment, not taking the not-so-sneakily offered opening to ask. He knew that Lord Potter knew about the Horcruxes - he had to know, to be able to defeat Voldemort. There was no use in asking.

"You're no fun," the young man sighed, throwing a pastry crumb at the elder man. "Defeat made you boring, Dumbledore. Fine. More of the Knights later, then." He leaned back a little and considered the elder wizard for a moment. "Do you recall how your Harry Potter died?" he asked suddenly.

The former headmaster winced a little at that, knowing the other wasn't asking because he didn't know - of course he did. No, it was because the young Lord before him knew it was one of the old man's greatest sources of guilt. It was one of those things he thought could be the reason for all of this. Because it was. Because Harry Potter had died - because Albus hadn't been able to face the knowledge that, without Harry, the upcoming war would indubitably be lost.

"He died of complications from being bitten by an Acromantula and then being exposed to the Cruciatus Curse," Albus said slowly, frowning. Harry's last act on earth had been to face Voldemort, see him resurrected, and then return with poor Cedric Diggory's body to warn them. He’d died in unendurable agony in the Hogwarts' hospital wing, as the exposure to the pain curse had only made the poisoning worse and progress faster. He had been fourteen.

The young Dark Lord before him smiled slightly. "That's the reason why I took over your world," he said softly. "That, and all the things leading to that point. His friends, the muggleborn Hermione Granger and the pureblood Ronald Weasley, they told me a lot about your Harry Potter, all the steps he took towards his inevitable death. Facing the forbidden forest and a possessed teacher in his first year, a basilisk and the wraith of a teenage Dark Lord in the second, a horde of Dementors and a mass murderer in his third, until finally, in his fourth, a deadly tournament. A long, long line of brutal challenges."

Albus frowned. Put that way, Harry's life did seem… brutal. "His life was difficult. He was faced with many hard obstacles," the old man agreed with a sigh. "Perhaps too hard."

"Hmph," the young Dark Lord snorted, and for the first time during the conversation, there was spark of cold heat in his green eyes. "None of it was too hard. Or it wouldn’t have been, if you’d been able to use the precious resource you had in him correctly. First year, following the line of bread crumps to the final enemy beneath the castle, battling to the death over a Stone that grants immortality. It is all very romantic, very adventure novel if you will. Very subtle. Very idiotic."

"Excuse me?" Dumbledore frowned.

"And the second year," Lord Potter continued, waving a negligent hand. "Cats and ghosts and students being petrified, with everyone knowing who was behind it. The Heir of Slytherin, just like fifty years previous. And in the end, this mystery was solved by a handful of second years, and there went young Harry Potter, ignorant and naive and only armed with a wand and two years’ worth of spells, to fight with the monster. Phoenixes and hats and Swords of Gryffindor aside, he was practically defenceless, wasn't he?"

The former headmaster eyed him for a moment. "Are you saying that I should've been the one to face the snake? Had I had the chance -".

"Then there was the third year which, I recall, was particularly tough on the boy," the Lord Potter continued, ignoring him. "Everyone went to particular lengths to hide the truth about Sirius Black from him, or what was supposed to be the truth. But that was alright, he was quite busy trying not to lose his mind and soul to the Dementors, wasn't he? And at no point did you tell him that due to the whole incident of 1981, his soul was rather loosely attached, no. And in the end, what happened? A little boy and girl fighting werewolves and Dementors and getting tangled in time and lies. What a sweet turn of events."

"I know I made mistakes," Dumbledore grunted. "But he came out of them alright, didn't he? Harry Potter was a survivor."

"No, my dear old man, he was a fool," Lord Potter said. "Fourth year, and the challenges of the tournament prove it. Facing a dragon on a broom, and the Lake with gillyweed, and then walking into the maze full of monsters. He got bitten there, didn't he, by a young Acromantula? Something any wizard of seventeen would've known how to fight against - why it only takes one spell to make skin impervious to such bites, doesn't it? But he was fourteen and didn't know the spell. And so he was bitten. And regardless, he went ahead and took the cup with Cedric Diggory, and fought the Dark Lord. And then, the tragic hero he was, he died, bringing the dark news to you."

Albus opted not to say anything this time, and with a slightly malicious smile the Dark Lord before him continued. "And here, my good Lord Dumbledore, the so called Beacon and Leader of the Light, is your worst mistake. Your hero was just martyred. All the evidence was there in him, the after effects of being put under extensive Cruciatus Curses, the wound from a magical knife. The perfect, undisputable proof that the Dark Lord Voldemort was back. Except… what did you do?"

Albus' eyebrows rose a little, as for a moment he considered asking if the young man seriously thought that was worth it, for people to lose their guiding light, their hope. Then, with a slight inward shock, he realised what the other was saying. If he had announced Harry's death, if he had given his body to the Aurors for examination, if he had… "I covered up his death and explained his absence by telling people that he had gotten grievously wounded and was recovering," he said quietly. "And a month later -"

"A month later you summoned me, to take his place," Lord Potter agreed, snorting softly. "Your biggest mistake. And not just the fact that you summoned me, per say. But because you, once more, failed to utilise the resource that was Harry Potter. Have you ever thought what would've happened, if you hadn't done that?"

The headmaster shook his head slowly, while the young Lord swung to his feet. He bypassed the tea table and instead walked to the bookshelves, opening a cabinet there and taking out a bottle. "Imagine if you will Harry Potter's death, announced in the Daily Prophet. And they would've run the story for days, for weeks, because it would've been the juiciest news of the decade," the lord said. "And with each article, both the journalists and the people would've demanded more details and back story, because printing the same thing again and again isn't profitable."

The young man poured the wine into a glass, and then turned around, sipping the drink before continuing. "And so, probably mere days after his death, Voldemort's rebirth would be on the cover of the Daily Prophet - and now with the death of a National Hero, a boy of merely fourteen and another of seventeen, on his conscience. Imagine, how it would've united the entire wizarding world against Voldemort - and when he was still so very weak, his most devout followers in prison, and those on the loose still fat and dull with their previous freedom."

Albus' hands fisted on the hem of his robes and he looked away. "It might not have gone down such a path," he said, but he knew he was grasping straws. What Lord Potter was saying was true. Harry's death would've united the people against a common enemy.

"Of course, that didn't happen," the young lord continued, swirling the wine in the glass. "Instead, no one knew - neither about young Harry's death, nor about Voldemort's resurrection. And those very few that doubted were proven wrong when I entered the Hogwarts express in the fall, taking up Harry Potter's name."

"But you are Harry Potter. Not the one originally from this reality, perhaps, but -" Albus started, remembering. Sure, the young man had been a bit confused in the beginning, and in the end had had to be drilled with the relationships, skills and behaviour of the original. But aside from that, Harry Potter and the young man who had become Lord Potter were identical in every way.

"I might've been once," the young man agreed, amused. "But let's not get into that just yet. How long do you think it would've taken for the magical subjects of Britain to defeat Voldemort, with that sort of motivation powering them? How long it would've taken for them to turn into an army and a task force, how long it would've taken for the magical scientists of Britain to figure out how Voldemort survived - how long until all the Horcruxes would've been taken down?"

Albus scowled, and didn't answer. It wasn't worth answering.

Lord Potter smiled softly. "Alright then. Tell me - would Harry Potter have died that night, if you had, let's say, started him on some extensive training when he joined the magical world? Or, I don't know, a couple of years previous?"

"I never could've. I wanted Harry to enjoy a normal childhood, unburdened by -".

"By his fate?" the young man asked, and snorted. "Precisely. You knew, my dear old man, you knew that one day he'd come face to face with Voldemort. You knew that that day might be coming so soon, as within the year. You knew, no, you led him to that meeting with Professor Quirrell. You foolish old man, knew every step of the way what he'd need to do. And what’s more, you knew that the fate of the entire nation hung in the balance, if not the entire world."

Lord Potter leaned forward a little, and stared hard into Albus' eyes as the old man faced him uneasily. "And you did nothing to prepare him for it. Oh, sure, you put challenges in his way to measure his capability. Possessed teachers, basilisks, and hordes of Dementors. But that wasn't as much training him, as it was fooling around, leading him by the nose," the young man snorted again, tilting his head. The Diadem of Ravenclaw was a gleaming presence upon his brow, a reminder of the power behind his logic.

The young man shook his head. "And don't try to defend your actions by claiming old age or soft heartedness," he added. "You have no heart, Dumbledore, and the potions you douse yourself in keep your mind as sharp as it can possibly be. You're not senile, sentimental old fool - no, you're just a fool, plain and simple."

"I should have turned Harry into a weapon, then, is that what you're saying?" Albus asked, helplessly angry now.

"Yes," the young Dark Lord agreed mercilessly. "You should've. You should've trained him to fight and defend himself from day one. You should've prepared him in any and all the ways you could. You should've trained him, gotten him teachers and tutors and forced him to master every form of combat humanly possible. If you had, you would've had a whole different world on your hands, and only at the cost of one little boy. Instead you circled around the subject like a vulture, and sacrificed not just him but those around him. I wonder how many would've died if Harry hadn't, that day, just to prepare him, when all the preparations should've been nearly complete already."

Lord Potter shook his head, and sipped his wine again. "That is why I took over," he said softly. "Not because of revenge - what the hell do I care about what happened here? This is not my world, and I won my wars back home a long time ago. And not because I'm unnecessarily evil and just get off on power. No, I took over because you, Albus Dumbledore, are a fool who cannot grasp the intricacies of power enough to command one little boy's fate. Left in your hands, the magical world of Britain would've imploded in a matter of years, no doubt."

"And you think you’ve done any better?" Albus asked, his voice gaining a hard edge.

"Only a fool would think I haven't. Look at Britain, old man. Look at Europe," Lord Potter said, waving a hand. "Is it downtrodden, still stuck in the dark ages, barely surviving and existing merely by happenstance? No. I turned us into a superpower and I gave us a purpose."

"You're facing a war with the United States," Albus snorted. "Not to mention China and the fact that they're most likely going to form an alliance. You're leading your so called superpower to its doom."

The young lord smiled almost pityingly, shaking his head. "So it would seem, wouldn't it?" he agreed, lowering his glass and folding his arms again. "But we're here to talk about the past, not the future, aren't we?" he asked almost kindly, and chuckled. "And all the mistakes you made."

"And your world was much better off, then, was it?" Albus asked, angry despite himself. He knew the young man was trying to rile him up - and succeeding at it very well - but he didn't care anymore. Having his supposed mistakes thrown at him wasn't making him feel all that agreeable, and in the end none of it really mattered.

"It was, in a way," the young lord agreed and smiled. "Remember what I told you and the Order, in those days after you summoned me? That I had been raised in an orphanage because the Dursleys died in a car crash and though I’d gone to Hogwarts, I hadn't been friends with people such as Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, which was why I had to be coached at such things?"

"Yes," Albus agreed slowly, frowning. That should've been it, he realised. Harry Potter raised in an orphanage, a muggle orphanage that had, no doubt, not understood the boy and his mysterious powers. So many similarities with Tom Riddle. He should've known to be wary then, he should've...

"I lied," the young man said. "The Dursleys did die in a car crash, true, and I was the cause of it - I was two at the time, I think, and very hungry. They didn't feed me very well. My magic rather accidentally lashed out, causing Uncle Vernon to drive directly into a tree truck - and thanks to my magic, I was the only survivor. And I did go into an orphanage, but only for a couple of days before your alternate version came and got me out. After that I was put under the care of a trained wizard, who had the strict instructions to make sure my magic wouldn’t lash out in such a manner again."

Albus frowned. At first he suspected it would be the Weasleys taking care of Lord Potter, but the young man had said a wizard. Who then? Alastor? He would've been skilled enough no doubt, and would've been able to teach a young boy to control his own power… but something about Lord Potter's face said differently. Something about the long hair, the way he stood, held his arms. There had always been a strange underlying elegance in the young man, unintended and untrained, not the sort taught in great halls by pureblood wizards, but there nonetheless, and somehow powerful.

"Severus?" Albus asked, frowning and then smiling as the young man nodded. "Oh, but that's wonderful. He overcame his grudge against James Potter, then?" Perhaps he should've considered it as well. It had always seemed such a waste to him, the way Severus and Harry had always fought and hated each other, when they’d always had such a potential…

Lord Potter smiled. It somehow looked about as expressive as a brick wall. "That would please you, wouldn't it?" he asked, coolly amused. "Severus Snape, the Death Eater spy and such a tortured soul, trying to make up for his horrible mistakes, taking care of a little boy and growing more understanding in the meanwhile, forgiving the past and himself and turning over a whole new leaf."

Albus frowned slightly at the tone of the young man's voice, as Lord Potter laughed quietly. "I'll credit Severus Snape for one thing," he said, and held out his arms, showing himself. The dark robes, the wand holster at his hip, the flat expression on his handsome face, the Diadem of Wisdom on his brow. "He wasn't much of a father, but he did make me into the exact thing the world needed. That one, and especially this one."

The former headmaster frowned slightly. He didn't like the sound of it. "How did Severus…?"

The young lord laughed now. "Don't look so worried. He didn't abuse me, of course not, with you visiting every other day and doting upon me. I can't say my childhood was too warm, of course, it couldn't be with such a man, but it was beyond doubt very strict. Severus Snape is an atrocious teacher in the classroom, but one on one he can make miracles," he said, and laughed again. "Well, I did feel the brunt of his wand and hand a couple of times, I'll give you that, but I probably deserved it."

"Then how, why…"

"Why do I hate the man?" Lord Potter asked. "Because once upon a time I loved him, of course. It was at his feet I learned potions, magical theory and science, transfiguration, dark arts and all the defences against them. I learned so well, in fact, that in the end I didn't go to Hogwarts as a student, but as apprentice under his care. I wrote my OWL's at the age of twelve, and my NEWT's at fourteen, and I broke records. I was so proud of myself, too."

Albus eyed him silently, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Then, the day after, he told me to pack my bags. He was done with me - and I was ready to do my duty and win the war against Voldemort," the young Lord continued. "And then he wanted nothing to do with me. Of course, I didn't believe it at the time, so I went out, striving to do my best and be the perfect hero they wanted me to be. And I was good, oh, I was so good. I put the Aurors and defence specialist around the world in shame. I fought and defeated Death Eaters, dark creatures - vampires, Dementors, werewolves. Even dragons and giants. I even unearthed the secret of Horcruxes by myself, and found and destroyed them all. Just to make my sod of an adoptive father proud of me. Or even just to acknowledge me."

The young lord laughed again. It was a horrible sound now, flat and cold and still somehow carrying a tone of aged hysteria. "I had the bad habit of never looking at the people I killed - it made it all too real, seeing their faces. It made them seem human. All I needed to see was their robes, and masks and arms, and they were guilty enough. So, imagine my surprise when later I found out that he had been spying on one of the Death Eater gatherings I’d attacked and defeated," he said, shaking his head and grinning. "I’d killed him, my supposed father, and not even noticed. And he’d said nothing in the fight, either, hadn't called out to stop me - no, he fought hard and very nearly got me before the end. His final lesson to me, I suppose. The suicidal bastard."

Albus swallowed, looking away from the young man who seemed to brim with some sort of monstrous mixture of mirth, fascination, and absolute fury.

"Well," Lord Potter said after a while, still chuckling that horrible choked chuckle. "I still defeated Voldemort, of course, and was awarded for it. It happened all so very smoothly. A nation was saved, I was hailed as a hero, people threw themselves at me in the hope that some of my supposed power would rub off on them. It was so very… joyous."

The old wizard sighed, eyeing the young man. He didn't look happy. "Did you take over that world too, my boy?" he asked.

Lord Potter smiled, shaking his head. "Oh, no. I sat back and watched - and followed my orders, of course. I got married to a lovely young woman by the name of Ginerva that my Dumbledore presented to me, and it was the happiest event of the century for all the wizards and witches around. I even had three children. It was very idyllic really; we even had a white picket fence around our house. Well, mansion."

"How old were you when we summoned you?" Albus asked. He’d thought Lord Potter and the original Harry Potter had been the same age, when the latter had died and the former been summoned. The second one had come out of the summoning looking not a day older than the one they’d so tragically lost. But then… magic could do some wonderful things. Wonderful and horrible.

"I was in my forties," the young Lord answered calmly. "I was watching Minister Weasley leading our world into a war, actually, when you summoned me. He was such a muggle lover, Arthur Weasley, that he thought that uniting the Magical and Muggle sides of the nations would be a splendid idea. Most magicals didn't see it that way - and most muggles weren't happy about it either." Lord Potter shook his head. "I was rather looking forward to it, really."

"You were looking forward to a war?"

"Yes. I was hoping it would destroy the magical world. At that point, I rather hated it all," the young man admitted. "The fact that my wife wasn't the most amiable person around and… enjoyed herself more with others than with me had something to do with it, I suppose. That, and the fact that Minister Weasley used me as his stepping stone to power and that I was little more than a shiny trinket the Ministry waved around. I wanted to be a scientist," he mused with a strange tone in his voice. "But such professions weren't good enough for a public figure, so I was a career celebrity instead, and my wife made a living out of being my wife. Her scandals did bring us plenty of money, of course, the papers licked it all up eagerly, but it was ever so… dull."

"Sounds like… an unhappy life," Albus murmured, a little horrified. And this man thought he’d done wrong, by letting Harry Potter live his life as a boy, rather than as a weapon?

"I was dissatisfied, I suppose," the young lord chuckled, and turned to face the former headmaster. "But, what I wasn't, was neglected or misused. I was a tool, and my world's Dumbledore, and later Arthur Weasley, knew exactly how to utilize me - Ginny too, of course, she became a master at it. However, in the end, it all mattered little - and then, eventually, I was summoned here, by you - to be not just a tool, but an even lesser one than I had been before. Unlike the people of authority in my world, you had no idea what to really do with me."

"Shouldn't that have made you glad?" Albus asked, frowning.

"Maybe, but to be useful was all I knew. I was… disappointed in you, in your order. In comparison to the people I knew, you were just a punch of headless chicken, aimlessly waddling around," Lord Potter sighed. "Hermione Granger might've had the right idea, but she was too soft hearted, Ronald Weasley was a fool no matter what angle you looked at him, and Ginny, well, she was one of the biggest disappointments. And Snape isn't even worthy of mention, that bitter bastard can't hold a candle to the one who raised me."

"I'm sad you feel that way, my boy," the former headmaster sighed. And he really was. He hadn't thought the young man was this badly twisted. It made little difference now, but it was all so pitiful. To measure the worth of people on how well they manipulated others, it was… pitiful.

"I'm sure you are," the young Dark Lord agreed with a snort.

"Was that why you decided to become a Dark Lord, because you weren't… utilised properly?"

"I told you, I became what I am because you don't know how to utilise anything properly. But your misuse of my person, and of Harry Potter the First, is what made me notice your many flaws, yes," the young Dark Lord agreed.

Albus frowned at that. It made a horrible sort of sense - though he didn't know which was worse, the sharp sort of evil of Voldemort's that was concentrated onto a goal; or the logical evil of Lord Potter's that moved to compensate for something he saw as a flaw. Voldemort's evil had been aimed to a certain end - but Lord Potter's goal had been met and everything else was just a domino effect.

"How did you do it?" the former headmaster finally asked. "No one knew anything until the end, and then…" then Voldemort had been dead and the Ministry had been under Lord Potter's thumb and it had been too late to stop it.

"I… utilised a resource often forgotten," the Dark Lord answered, smiling a sharply satisfied smile, shaking his head. "It was ridiculously easy too. With people blissful in their denial about Voldemort and you bustling about, making a fool of yourself by trying to make people notice it, slipping past you all was child's play. All I needed was the invisibility cloak which you left to me, and a portkey - which, of course, was easy enough to make."

The young man chuckled, a reminiscing look about his face. "Ah, it almost makes me wish I had had a partner in crime back then, it was all so magnificent. The first thing I did was portkeying directly to the Ministry, and stealing a time turner. Then I used it to traverse the muggle world for a month or so without anyone noticing, accumulating wealth. All the while to everyone else it looked like Harry Potter was at school, like he was supposed to be. I won some dozen lotteries in different corners of the world, under different names, without anyone noticing - and in France, I took half of my accumulated wealth and changed it into galleons under the name of Carl Walpurgis. I became the wealthiest magical male of Europe at that moment."

Albus frowned. "Why have I never heard of this?" Wealthiest man of Europe, that should have made news, people should've been gossiping about him everywhere. Not to mention that name. Carl Walpurgis should've come to light when the Knights of Walpurgis had appeared.

"Because I bribed people with a liberal hand," Lord Potter chuckled. "I moved to Britain as Carl, while still going to school as Harry Potter. I bought some land, had a castle built - this castle, specifically, all under that name. Oh, certain officials in the Ministry knew Carl Walpurgis very well and were delighted about it. With the gold I filled their coffers with, they were even happier to keep it to themselves. More people in the know meant more people to bribe, and they did not want to share the goose laying golden eggs, as it were." The young lord shook his head. "One of the most important things I did as Carl Walpurgis though, was when I walked into the House-Elf Relocation Office - and bought all the free elves currently on the market."

"House Elves," Albus asked, first with confusion, and then with realisation. "All of them? Ho-how many were there?"

"Seventy in Britain, more elsewhere. In the end, I was the owner of three hundred and forty seven elves," lord Potter answered. "There is one type of tool wizards everywhere abuse with their misuse. House Elves, creatures of magic so very different from our own and, more often than not, immune to our magic. They can slide in and out of the strongest wards made by humans and not even leave a footprint. You have no idea how happy I was to have such an army at my disposal - not to mention how happy they were to be used. Elves and I have a sort of… kinship, in that."

The former headmaster swallowed. "An army of House Elves? You are insane," he said, but he could see it - he could feel it - the power of that concept. There was no creature more loyal to its master than a House Elf. And the better they were used, the happier they were. "What did you do?" Albus demanded to know. Why hadn't he heard about any of this?

"I used the tools at my disposal to the best of my ability," the Dark Lord laughed. "There are no spies like House Elves, you know. They need no maps to navigate, no coordinates to Apparate - you tell them to go somewhere and do something, and they do it or die trying." He chuckled again, shaking his head. "Such good tools they were. I had them spy and spy and spy, until I had for my use a library of dirty secrets and dark spots from people's pasts - a whole warehouse full of skeletons, dug out of people's closets. You couldn't even imagine what a good job they did, after a little bit of training. In the end, I held the reputation and wealth of every person from the Ministry and Wizengamot in my hands."

"So that is how you did it," Albus murmured, eyeing the young man with fascination. "You extorted the Ministry until it was all under your control."

"Eventually, yes. In the beginning I was more interested in gathering intel, so that I knew what choices to make, what paths to take - what would be the most efficient course of action. And, of course, what people to buy," Lord Potter said. "I didn't want the Ministry to only bend to my will, no. I wanted to turn it into another tool I could use, and as it was back then it was of little to no use to me, the haphazard rotten establishment that it was. I needed the Ministry to be efficient. I needed to transform it."

Albus frowned, thinking back. Yes, he remembered that. He’d not heard a sound of Carl Walpurgis, no, or the elves, but he’d seen the change in the Ministry. It had seemed a waste to him, when the Ministry branches had gone through changes and refurbishments, and new, better officials had taken the places of the less efficient ones. And when the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had announced a more liberal recruiting policy while making the AurorAcademy training methods more efficient and thorough… The Auror corps had doubled in numbers within year, and the general level ability of the Aurors had gone up about as much - and yet…

"Why make the Ministry more powerful?" Albus asked finally, confused. It had seemed such a pity that the Ministry hadn't used its newfound strength to fight Voldemort, but in hindsight it seemed even a stranger affair. The Ministry had been Lord Potter's enemy. Hadn't it?

"Several reasons. For one, I needed the resources the Ministry had, and more importantly the ones it could have. And, finally, I needed the Ministry to appear more respectable so that one day, when they bowed me in, there would be fewer complaints," Lord Potter answered. "When the day came when I became a hero, I needed no one to dispute my claim to power - and with the new and improved Ministry at my back… very few did.

The former headmaster shook his head with disgust and amazement. Dastardly was the only word he could come up with to describe the ploy. "It could've turned on you, however. A strong Ministry could've become a strong enemy," he pointed out.

"Perhaps, but the chances of that happening between my bribes and blackmails was minuscule at best," the young lord said, shaking his head.

Albus sighed, shaking his head slightly. The young man had covered his bases admirably. "And… Voldemort?" he asked finally. "The Horcruxes?"

The young man smiled. "Yes. Voldemort and the Horcruxes. That was one of the things I needed the Ministry's resources for," he said, and lifted his hands up, to remove the diadem from his brow.  He held it up, examining the raven design. "This was one of them," he said, turning the beautiful jewellery in his hands. "Voldemort found it and the fool he was, he didn't put it on himself but turned it into a vessel for his soul. I couldn't be rid of the Horcrux inside it myself without destroying the diadem altogether, but with the resources of the Department of Mysteries, I managed. Now it is what it was meant to be, an incredibly useful magical item that increases the wearer's intelligence."

The old wizard blinked with shock, as the young man lifted it back to his brow. He’d always found it shocking that Lord Potter had found the diadem, but to know it had been a Horcrux…! "And the others?" he asked.

"Three others required the same measures. The Ring of the Gaunts was another powerful object I wanted to preserve. I think you might've heard of this," he said, removing one of his two heavy rings from his right hand. He held it up, showing the dark stone to the older wizard.

"It can't be," Albus whispered.

The Dark Lord smiled. "Oh, it can," he said, putting the Ring of the Gaunts - along with the Stone of Resurrection - back on his hand. "So far it’s only been of little use to me, but it is another tool I will one day utilise to the fullest," he added, before tugging at the collar of his robes, and revealing another piece of jewellery, this one an impressive locket with the letter S engraved to it. "This one is another useful one, not that Voldemort ever knew it. Slytherin made it for his wife, actually, and it grants the wearer the ability to speak and understand parseltongue as if they were born with the ability."

Albus frowned. "I thought you already knew how," he said.

"No, I lost that ability when I lost the Horcrux inside of me," Lord Potter answered, motioning at his forehead. "Not that it matters either way, snakes are useful but I have better tools at my disposal. In the end, of all the items Voldemort soiled with is spirit, the last one was the most useful. Helga Hufflepuff's cup - which is not here, obviously, because it is far too precious for me to display so openly."

"What does the cup do?" Albus asked, wondering if the young man would tell him. If, in comparison to a diadem that granted intelligence, the locket that granted mastery of a language, and a ring that gave you a smidgeon of power over the death, the cup was the most useful… its ability had to be something special.

"The cup is, without doubt, the most powerful magical item in the known world," Lord Potter said, smiling. "It is a small piece of the Fountain of Life."

Albus blinked. "If so, why does no one know about it?" he asked a little dubiously. "A cup that grants you youth, surely there would be legends. People must've drunk from it at some point."

"I said nothing about youth. You could drink from it every day for the rest of your life, and it would do nothing to make you younger," the Dark Lord answered, amused. "It would, however, make you live forever. The Fountain of Life grants exactly that, life. If you were on the brink of death, drinking from the cup would halt your death instantly - it wouldn't change you in any way, but you would live, even with grievous wounds. The problem with the cup is that its effect is only temporary, and the moment the water leaves your system, your death resumes unless you have been healed in the mean time. And since the cup seems to do absolutely nothing to a healthy person, the effect has never been noticed."

"Incredible," Albus murmured, fascinated. Then he frowned, and turned to look at the door. Lord Potter had called it the source of his power, so… "Is that how the Knights of Walpurgis are unbeatable?" he asked. "You have them drink from the cup every day."

"Yes, and no," the young lord chuckled. "You missed the point of the cup. It does nothing to make you stronger, or faster, or younger, it only makes you live. I could feed the water from the cup to anyone, but it would never make them into anything like the Knights. The water from the cup is the key ingredient of the Knights of Walpurgis, however."

The old wizard considered that for a moment and then realised what that could only mean. "Key ingredient," he said slowly and stared at the young man in growing horror. "You… created the Knights of Walpurgis. Not just initiated or trained or bought, you created them."

"Yes I did," the young lord agreed, smiling with satisfaction. "Before we get to that, though, there is another thing Carl Walpurgis did, that you need to know," he said, folding his arms. "Aside from accumulating wealth for me to use, and buying the House Elves, it was possibly one of the most important things he did: buying AzkabanIsland."

"What?" Albus asked, blinking. "Why would the ministry sell Azkaban?"

"For a million galleons, they'd sell their souls. Aside from the prison, the island is a worthless piece of land. You can put up a prison anywhere, after all - and when I promised that they could of course keep the prison, that I wouldn't even ask for rent and that I only wanted the island to build a house there where it would be, hm, protected, they were most agreeable. They thought me an idiot for it, sure, but they agreed. They didn't even bat an eye when the house I built turned out more like a laboratory than a house."

"Oh, my boy, don't tell me…" Albus said with growing horror, and the young man laughed.

"Oh, no, no, no. I had no use for the prisoners," he said, amused. "Though keeping an eye on them was useful, especially since, in my world, Voldemort broke into Azkaban to get his followers out, so that was one thing. But no, it wasn't the humans of Azkaban I wanted my hands on." He grinned and eyed the elder wizard curiously. "You see it now, what I did?"

Albus shook his head, more in denial than anything else. He had an inkling and he hoped to all the gods above that he was wrong.

The young lord chuckled. "Well, I'll give you a moment to think it over, shall I?" he asked. "In the meantime shall we move on? It took me about a year from my arrival in this world to create the Knights. By that point I had the Ministry in the palm of my hand, though of course they didn't know that yet. And before you think the Knights are all I have, you're mistaken. I do still have plenty of well-trained House Elves in my arsenal, and they kept at their duties even after, gathering dirt. With the Knights present, however, I could move on."

"To Voldemort and the Death Eaters," Albus agreed slowly and then frowned. A year after his arrival, so, the Knights had been created in 1996. But… no one had even heard of the Knights until 1997, if his memory still served him. And Harry Potter had stayed in school all that time, spending Christmas and the summer at the Order headquarters. "There's plenty of time in between, isn't there?"

"Yes, plenty," Lord Potter agreed, "to insert the final touches to my plans. Despite the common belief, I didn't kill all the Death Eaters, you know. Many of them were useful resources I wouldn't have minded having for myself. Bellatrix for one, Lucius Mafoy for another, and so forth. They had skills, means and connections I knew I would one day need. So, yes. There was plenty of time in between and while the Order thought you were leading me by the nose, with your Occlumency training and other useless crap, I was negotiating with individual Death Eaters."

"…and how did those negotiations go?" Albus asked. He hadn't heard about any Death Eaters since downfall of Voldemort - they had all died in the battles or been Kissed afterwards. As far as he knew, anyway.

"Well enough. It helped, that Voldemort had nearly drained the Malfoy and Lestrange vaults dry by that time, not to mention the others. At first I bribed them, and then I lured them away by showing them the errors of their master's ways, and how painless it would be to serve me instead," the young lord said, shrugging his shoulders. "Bellatrix was difficult to negotiate with until I managed to get Lucius to force feed some mental health potions down her throat, but the others were amiable enough. They knew Voldemort had gone around the bend, as it were. Carl Walpurgis on other hand was smart, wealthy, charismatic - and it didn't hurt that by that time, he travelled with a couple of Knights at his side."

"I can't believe that that was merely it," the older wizard said, frowning slightly. "Voldemort was nothing if not good at ensuring the loyalty of his followers. Not to mention the Dark Marks."

Lord Potter chuckled. "Yes, there was that, true," he agreed. "However, the Dark Mark is easy enough to handle once you know how it works and what words to use - and by that time I already had Slytherin's locket, so I had everything I needed to remove it. I couldn't, though, not if I wanted them to spy on Voldemort for me; and I did. And in the end he held his followers loyalty with their fear. I, on other hand, ensnared them with trust."

"Trust," Albus repeated dully.

"Do you know why people join organisations like the Death Eaters?" the young lord asked, amused. "It's not because of the reputation they get from it, certainly. It's not really the prestige either, not with all of them under Voldemort's thumb, and everyone knows it's certainly not the pleasure. No. They join them because of the power they gain - or think they do. Voldemort gave them the authority to kill and maim and destroy in his name, to show and assert their powers among muggles and muggleborns. In the end it boils down to one thing - them meaning something. When they kill in Voldemort's name, they mean something. Something horrible, but it's better than meaning absolutely nothing."

Lord Potter leaned back in his seat, smiling. "I gave them the chance to mean something much more," he explained. "Being a soldier in a well-known army is great, sure. But I gave them all a group of Knights to command and made them into officers and generals. I gave them the power to decide their own actions, make their own decisions, and truly prove themselves. For a man who’s been a slave for many years... well, it was very sweet to them. Lucius especially lapped it up."

"You… gave them Knights to command?" Albus asked dubiously.

The young man laughed. "Of course it was mostly superficial. The Knights are loyal to me, and me alone - something Amycus Carrow found out quickly enough, when he tried to use his six Knights to kill me. But sometimes an illusion of power is more powerful than the actual thing - and really, the Knights did follow their orders to a point. And they do a very good job, when the orders are precise enough."

Albus shuddered. He could imagine that. And, when he thought about it, there had been the strangest happenings around that time. Certain people disappearing, libraries being emptied, shops being robbed - with incredible skill and not a thread of evidence left behind. He’d also noticed the same happening in the muggle world. Banks had been robbed, museums too, art galleries. And then there’d been a whole slew of accidents that had actually seemed natural at the time.

"Was there any point in it all?" he asked, more weary than curious.

"Well, for some of it, certainly. Some of it was just meaningless tasks that I made seem more important to buff up their egos when they succeeded," Lord Potter said, chuckling. "The killings were, for the most part, meaningless and I had them rob banks just to fill their coffers. It was the books and the art I wanted," he nodded around them. "I had a whole castle to decorate, after all, and I wanted the best."

"And that was it; that was all you needed them for?"

"Of course not. I said it before - I wanted their connections," Lord Potter chuckled. "The Malfoy and Lestrange families are both heavily rooted in France, you know; most of their family lives there even now. And then there were the others, who had similar connections. That was mostly what I wanted - their connections abroad."

"Because after Britain, France was the next step, of course, along with the rest of the Europe," the old wizard nodded, sighing. In that, Lord Potter had planned better than Voldemort, whose power had always concentrated on Britain. The young lord before him had never stopped at such small measures, and knowing how early he’d started didn't surprise Albus much. "How you could do all this without anyone noticing is beyond me, my boy," he admitted.

"The time turner, remember? I lived every day twice, sometimes thrice," Lord Potter answered. "And with Portkeys and a horde of Elves, no one ever noticed me leaving. I got very good with my timing too, but then, I am a potion maker and a scientist and timing is everything in science."

Albus nodded, sighing again. "Did your friends ever know?" he asked.

"Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley? Of course not. One worshipped the ground you walk on; the other couldn't keep his mouth shut even if his life depended on it. Oh, I trusted them with secrets," the young man crooked his fingers in the air sarcastically. "Like what girl I supposedly liked and how much I hated Voldemort and that I was having headaches and all that useless chatter. It satisfied them well enough, and you too, I suppose, when they later leaked everything."

The old wizard smiled mirthlessly at that. "Was there ever a single person you trusted thorough this campaign? You and Sirius seemed close at the time."

"Sirius Black?" Lord Potter asked, and then threw his head back and laughed. "Ha! Of course we seemed close. I needed to make sure he'd leave me the Black estates and lordship in his will, so I sucked up to him as much as I could, asking him to tell funny stories about my father and whatnot. Aside from that, though, he was of next to no use to me. The man was a fool, not to mention mentally unbalanced. Maybe, if you had put him through proper medical care, he might've been of use, but even then his prejudices and black-and-white view of the world made him useless, and harmful to my cause."

"What a cruel thing to say about your own godfather," Albus sighed. "There was really no one at your side?"

"Was there anyone at yours?" the young lord asked, snorting. "Did you ever trust anyone with all your secrets, after Gellert Grindelwald? Would you ever?"

Albus had to give him that - he never had. "If you were to die, there would've been no one to take up your cause," he pointed out the flaw that his own plans had always had.

"Ah, well, that's a different thing," Lord Potter answered, shaking his head. "I did have contingency plans. My notes, my transcripts, my memories bottled up, scroll upon scroll of instructions and suggestions. If I’d died, the Knights and my elves were meant to set out and find a suitable successor - and their orders on that matter were incredibly precise, trust me, they would've found a worthy successor, even if they had to go the ends of the earth to find him or her."

"And that would've been enough for you? That your… servants picked someone who might as well be muggleborn and from another country?" Albus asked suspiciously.

"If I were dead, I suspect I wouldn't have cared one jot, but yes. Hell, they could've picked a muggle, and I would've known that they made the right choice, because I was the one to set the basis for that choice," the young lord answered, shaking his head. "Not that that’s an issue, anymore."

"I suppose it isn't," Albus mused, running a hand over his beard. "One thing about all this confuses me a bit, I must admit. In school, all while doing all of this, preparing for your wars… you, Miss Granger and Mister Weasley started the Defence Club. What purpose did that serve for you?"

The young man blinked at him and then snorted. "It should be obvious. I needed to keep up with the image of Harry Potter, the boy hero. Madame Umbridge gave me the perfect opportunity to do that, when she came bustling in like a pink female version of the devil himself. She did more for my cause than anything before, I think, because while Voldemort was a distant evil, barely believable and most likely fake, she was tangible and there, in everyone's faces. And I, by uniting the school's... hm... better side to rebel against her, became what both you and everyone else wanted to see me as. A champion of freedom against oppression. A slightly troublesome and slightly troubled champion, but a champion nonetheless."

"Everything you did, every step you took, it was all for appearances, all a means to an end, then?" Albus asked, shaking his head. No wonder he hadn't suspected anything - the boy had planned it all so carefully.

"Hm... Yes," the young lord agreed. "Though I admit, it took me a while to decide what to do with you, and your Order - and in the end, some of the kids in the defence group were a bit of a problem too. As far as appearances went, you were useful. But in the long run, you all were more of a hindrance than anything else."

"You needed us to set up the final battle, didn't you?" Albus asked, frowning.

"I did. And I needed you to boost me up after Voldemort died, to lift me to the pedestal from which I could properly work. But, when the day came that people gave my title that pesky little extra word, then I knew you'd become a nuisance," the young lord sighed, shaking his head. "When I start planning the so called final battle, I first had different location in mind. The MalfoyMansion's grounds, perhaps, or Little Hangleton where Voldemort was resurrected. But the necessity of dealing with the Order was what chose the final battle field. It ended up being more fortuitous than I thought at the time, though."

Albus frowned, thinking back to it. It had been one of the most horrible, most magnificent things he’d witnessed, the battle at Hogwarts. It had even happened on a storybook stormy night - Voldemort had attacked with all his Death Eaters and dark creatures, with hordes of Dementors, vampires, werewolves, giants… It had truly been a war then. To know, that it had all been a set up - though he’d suspected that there was something more behind it, he’d always thought it had just been Lord Potter taking advantage of what happened. But to know he’d arranged it meant that he had also arranged the Hex.

"How did you do it?" Albus asked, feeling too old and too young at the same time. The battle had been ferocious, horrible - over half of the Order had fallen, taking down about as many of their enemies with them. But the survivors… the survivors had had it the worst. Of the less than fifty that had survived, more than forty had come out fatally ill - Order members and Death Eaters alike.

The young lord smiled grimly. "Hm... Well, next to the creation of the Knights, the Hex was maybe another of my worst deeds," he mused. "Unlike what people think though, the Hex wasn't a spell or a curse or anything like that. It wasn't a disease either - no, the Hex was a potion, a type of poison. And I really must thank the Department of Mysteries for it; they were the ones who created it, some two hundred years ago - a dark concoction that uses humans as ingredients, quite vile. All I did was dug it up and put it to use."

Albus frowned. "Potion? But that’s impossible - so many people got ill, it’s impossible they all ingested it..."

Lord Potter chuckled. "No, they breathed it in. It was quite foggy, that night, wasn't it? Foggy and rainy and miserable," he said, smiling before explaining rather brutally, "I poured the potion all over Hogwarts grounds before the fight and the rain started, especially in the more open areas. The potion in question reacted rather interestingly with water, you see, and the moment the rain started, the poison became airborne. And everyone has to breathe."

Albus let out a choked sound. The night had been horrible, but the dawn that had followed had seemed so great and hopeful. Voldemort had died at the hands of their second Boy Who Lived, and everyone had celebrated through tears. The Death Eaters had been captured, a new minister had been elected, and with Harry giving speeches of hope and strength, the rebuilding had begun. The young man had been the beacon of hope and light and the great new era…

The first victim of the Hex had gone without notice - people died in Azkaban all the time, and no one had cared for the life of Death Eaters, after all. But then one death had become many while the fighters of the winning side had started getting ill as well. One by one, the fighters and veterans of the Order of the Phoenix had become infirm, young and old alike. Albus didn't know how he’d escaped the illness, or how young Potter had. He had credited it to their power at the time - that whatever dark curse Voldemort had cast hadn't been strong enough to take two light wizards as strong as young Potter and himself ….

As the horror dawned on him, the young man before him smiled lazily. "I fed you the antidote in that tea we shared on the morning before the fight," he said almost nonchalantly. "And this is the part where you thank me."

"I could never… you killed them all," Albus whispered. Minerva, Molly, Arthur, Remus, poor young Nymphadora. "Your own godfather too, you killed even Sirius with that poison," he said, wide eyed at the memory. Potter had sat at Sirius's bedside for days, weeping and snarling at the healers to do something - and it had all been an act! And the boy had even killed his own Death Eater allies - Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix, and so many others had died in Azkaban mere months afterwards.

"Yes, I did," the young man agreed. "And afterwards I rose from supposed mourning to be the symbol of hope for all of magical Britain, more loved than before for my suffering and for my survival. It worked even better than I thought it would, really. When I took up the lordship of the House of Black and combined it with the Potter family to make myself into Lord Potter, people cheered me on, nation-wide. They wanted a strong hero, after all the others withered away."

Albus swallowed dryly. Yes, they had - he himself had too, hadn't he? He had watched Minerva wither away, and had consoled himself with the fact that at least they had someone like the Boy Who Lived to be strong for them. This… impossibly cunning Dark Lord before him had manipulated them all masterfully, turning them all into his stepping stones.

"You killed so many people, and for what?" he murmured, eying the young man before him with mixed feeling of horror and disgust - and sadness. "Did you feel any remorse?"

"Over the people who died due to the Hex? Hm... No," Lord Potter answered, smiling crookedly. "I'm quite proud to say that things like remorse were trained out of me a long while ago. I did muse, every now and then, on whether or not the people who died could've still proven useful, but in the end I do believe I gained much more than I lost. I gained my lordship - and after that, nothing really significant stood in my way."

Albus chuckled a tad hysterically at that. When Lord Potter had walked into the ministry with his legion of the Knights in tow, the fight had been short and decisive - and Britain had fallen like a house of cards. There had been no opposition left - they had either all turned out to be Potter's allies, or too infirm to do anything. And it had been so fast too – by the time Albus himself realised it was happening, it had already happened. And by that time, there was no Order of Phoenix left.

"You took over our world, and made us bow to you without us realising," the former headmaster said, shaking his head. "Severus raised you to be such a Slytherin, my boy."

"I won't deny that," the young man chuckled, rubbing his knuckles over his chin. "Do you have any questions left, Albus Dumbledore?" he asked.

The old man chuckled feebly. There was nothing left to ask, but then, there had been nothing in the beginning either. "What are the Knights of Walpurgis?" he repeated his earlier question, though at this point he rather didn't want to know.

Smiling knowingly, Lord Potter glanced towards the double doors of his office and nodded his head. In answer, two Knights of Walpurgis, who had been perfectly invisible until then, came into view. Albus shuddered slightly. He hadn't even realised they were there, and usually he could see under invisibility - but at this point, he wasn't really surprised. Lord Potter had an armoury of hidden weapons up his sleeves, it seemed.

"Remove your helmets, Knights," the Dark Lord ordered, and in perfect unison the two knights moved and smoothly took off their helmets. The old wizard winced at the sight of them, wanting to look away but unable to.

The Knights were pale as death, their faces resembling more skulls with skin, than actual faces. Their heads were completely hairless, and at each side there was a long, slightly floppy pointed ear that resembled strongly those of House Elves. The most striking thing about them was the fact that they had no eyes, only holes where eyes should've been.

"You're a monster, my boy," the old wizard said, his voice thin now. Now that the masks were removed, he could feel the slight coolness, radiating from the creatures, horribly familiar. The armour and masks apparently usually suppressed the effect. "You are, beyond doubt…" the old wizard shuddered and finally managed to tear his eyes away. "C-can they still…?"

"Eat souls? Oh yes. They are a perfect amalgamation of a Dementor and a House Elf - deadly, and loyal to the bitter end," Lord Potter answered getting up from the couch and walking closer to his creation. "They have the ability to accumulate and drain strength from their victims like Dementors do, and then they have House Elf magic. And above all they, like Dementors, cannot be killed because they exist on the line between life and death, even more so, with the life water from the Cup of Hufflepuff floating in their veins. "

Albus shook his head, unable to find the words. The Hex was bad enough, but this, this was… unspeakable, so horrible that he couldn't even try and imagine the poor House Elves used for this, this… barbaric experiment. They must've been so terrified. "How dare you?" he asked finally, his voice faltering a little. Manipulating a whole world, killing the guilty and innocent alike, and this, this abomination, it was too much "How dare you…?!"

The young lord chuckled, and patted the cheek of one of the Knights of Walpurgis, before stepping back. As the Knights immediately re-donned their helmets, Lord Potter turned to Albus Dumbledore. "Aren't you happy you begged for help, rather than dealing with the problem yourself?" he asked, sitting back down on the couch across from the older man, looking highly amused.

"Someone will defeat you, Harry Potter. Good will always rise up to vanquish evil," the former headmaster said. "You and your… your abominations will be defeated."

"The knights cannot be defeated," Lord Potter answered calmly. "And neither can I. Like Voldemort, I have taken steps to ensure that I will live to see my reign last for as long as it possibly can. Britain might fall, all of Europe might fall, in the following years or decades, but I will remain. And, considering what will soon happen in America, I rather doubt anyone will have any time to give me any trouble."

"What? What will happen - what did you do?!" Albus demanded to know, jumping to his feet.

"Nothing much," the young lord said, absently polishing the Stone of Resurrection against the chest of his robes. He examined the ring and hummed. "They will soon find a bit of an… infection on their hands, shall I say. The Stone of Resurrection might not be able to bring back the dead - but well, the next best thing works just fine for me. Humans leave behind so many graveyards, you know. And with a little bit of magic, to tie the result into a persistent version of the influenza… all you need is a small bite, and voila. And the dead, as you know, are a hungry bunch."

Dumbledore stared at him with wide eyes. "You cannot be serious," he whispered. How many people lived in the Americas? How many millions? Maybe, if he left now, there might be time to warn them, to stop it, maybe…

A soft chuckle stopped his train of thought, and he turned to look at the young lord who was regarding him with amusement. "Ah, there he is, the Leader of Light, Lord Dumbledore," Lord Potter said softly, amusedly. "Thinking he can save the world. Tell me, my dear old man, do you think I'd let you leave this place, knowing all of this, hm?"

The old man stared at him, his back stiff. Then he gritted his teeth, wanting to spit at the bitterness of it all. He couldn't leave, of course not. Potter's castle wards put Hogwarts and Gringotts together to shame - and the place was filled with the Knights. And, as he’d known since the beginning, Lord Potter had no intention of letting Albus leave. "What will you do with me?" he asked.

The young man smiled. "Quite a bit," he said, tilting his head. "Did you know that in some ways, a wizard's magic is stronger than any other energy in the world? House Elves are tricky and Dementors are ethereal, but a wizard's power, ah, that is strong. And you are one of the strongest wizards to ever have existed."

Dumbledore scowled, waiting.

"And it's not just spells that can be powered by a wizard's magic, either. Devices can be too." The Dark Lord mused softly, standing up again. "I'll find a use for you too, Albus Dumbledore. A magic like yours could power so many things. I have some enemies to take care of, and some of them are so far away… China, Russia; the whole of Asia, more or less."

Dumbledore nearly stumbled onto the couch as his instincts screamed at him to get away as the young Lord approached him. Lord Potter smiled almost kindly, while reaching out to touch the older wizard's chest. "I wonder what it would be like, a nuclear missile, powered by a wizard's magic. What sort of damage it could cause…"

While the old, long since defeated wizard stared, wishing against all hope that he could reason with this young, horrible man, Lord Potter smiled softly. "Fear not, Albus Dumbledore," he said in what would've been a mockingly soothing tone, if he hadn't sounded completely serious. "I will make use of you yet."