Chapter 1: Nightmare on Privet Drive
Harry woke with a start, his heart pounding in his head and his body shaking. He drew in shaky breaths, hoping to calm himself from the demons that raged inside his own mind. But his demons didn't go away when his eyes opened. They still whispered to him. His eyes still pounded. Harry hadn't slept well since the third task in the Triwizard Tournament. Ever since then all he'd seen was Cedric's lifeless body in front of him, flashes of green light, and...Voldemort. Voldemort had risen that night, in all his terrifying glory. Harry remembered being strapped to the statue in the graveyard, he remembered feeling helpless as his own blood was taken from his body. He remembered feeling the Cruciatus Curse that Voldemort cast on him, the pain that raced through his veins as he tried to fight it off. He'd seen the Cruciatus Curse performed before on a bug in a classroom, but it was nothing, it did nothing, to prepare him for what happened when the curse was placed on him. He was not prepared for the feeling of every molecule of his body being ripped apart from each other repeatedly.
Harry pushed the thoughts from his mind as he stood from his bed and scrubbed his hands down his face. It was pointless to dwell on thing such as these. He looked out the window, noticing the sun just barely peaking above the horizon. Dawn. For a moment, however brief, Harry felt peace. He watched as the colors of the sun danced over the horizon, the yellows, the oranges, the fiery reds. But the red of the sun reminded Harry completely of another red, a vibrant blood red of snake's eyes. Voldemort's eyes.
Harry turned his back to the window, opting to quickly dress himself. He tiptoed out of his room, managing to not make any noise. It was easy enough, he rarely made any noise anymore. He had gotten so used to sneaking out of the Dursley house that it barely took any willpower to try. Once out the front door, Harry made his way to the park nearest to the Dursley house, a place where he spent most of his time now. He didn't want to spend his time indoors in the Dursley house. They hated him in there and he hated them just as much. He knew Dudley at least could hear him scream in his sleep and while Dudley would never confront him about it alone, he had recently acquired his own gang and a hundred extra pounds to his frame and he felt no qualms about confronting Harry with a group behind him. So Harry generally avoided Dudley.
In fact, Harry generally avoided everyone. The most human contact he had was when he was lying in the bushes below the window at the Dursley house, listening to the news. He always listened to the news. But not this morning. This morning he just wanted to alone. Alone was proving his only comfort. Alone was proving to be his only way to live. The Dursleys knew something wasn't exactly right with him when he immediately got into their car after whatever warning Mad Eye had for them. Hermione and Ron wrote to him, but their letters were vague and contained nothing interesting. He waited for news from them but got nothing. So instead he listened to the Muggle news, hoping and praying that there was nothing and yet some part of him wanted something so that he wouldn't be so in the dark. But this morning, as the darkness was chased from the world by the sun, he didn't care. News be damned. He just wanted silence. The silence that wrapped the world wouldn't last for long. Soon people would be waking up, soon people would be going to work. But for now, it was quiet. For now, Harry's own demons were kept at bay inside his own head.
Harry walked back from park when the sun was at its apex and he felt like he was going to overheat. The summer had been incredibly hot for some inexplicable reason and everyone was suffering for it. Harry decided to move on from the park before Dudley, or as he was now called, Big D, decided to torment another ten year old in the park he was currently walking away from. He didn't know where he was walking to until he found himself back on Privet Drive. Why he ended up here, he didn't know. Maybe it was because Number Four was the only home he'd ever known or because some part of him would always be trapped within the walls, just like some part of him would always be trapped inside that graveyard. Harry noticed Ms. Figg staring outside her window, watching him. Harry raised his hand to wave, a gesture which she returned. Harry's eyes dropped to the pavement and he continued until he was outside Number Four. He didn't want to go inside though, why would he?
Instead Harry lowered himself into the bushes below the window, a place he'd gotten quite comfortable in time and time again. There was no news playing at the moment, so Harry just lied there while his aunt and uncle shuffled around on the inside. But Harry didn't care, eventually he would be pulled out of the bushes, he knew it. Someone would find him, they always did. It would likely be Dudley, who much like Harry, often left the house. Harry didn't even realize that he had dosed off in the bushes until he was woken up by the sharp noise of the news clicking on. Thankfully, he didn't jolt himself away enough to hit himself on anything and alert the Dursleys to his presence. So instead he just stayed there, listening to the voice inside speak. Of course, his listening was ruined by Dudley who saw fit to drag him out of the bushes and drag him quite forcefully inside.
This pattern repeated often. Leave, come back, listen to the news, be carted inside for a trial by Vernon Dursley, repeat.
Harry sat on a swing at the park near the Number Four Privet Drive. He couldn't get the latest dream out of his head. It still repeated even without closing his eyes. He could hear his mother's screams echoing inside his mind, her desperate cries to leave her child alone. Take her, not Harry. Not Harry. Flashes of emerald green seemed to color everything Harry looked at. When Harry looked at the ground, he saw Cedric's lifeless body. He saw the Hufflepuff colors spread proudly across his chest, but that chest didn't rise and fall with breath anymore. Harry could swear that if he reached his foot out, he could touch the body of his fallen Hufflepuff friend.
Harry's day was about to get worse when Dudley and his friends decided it was a good idea to walk into the same park. Naturally, Dudley narrowed his gaze on Harry and immediately began to taunt him about how he could hear Harry's screams through the walls. Of course this didn't really get to Harry. Harry knew he had nightmares. It was when Dudley began to taunt him about his mother. His very dead mother. Dudley's own aunt.
Harry's temper got the better of him and he had his wand out and aimed at Dudley who immediately knew the risk that Harry Potter posed in this moment. Harry could hear his heart thundering in his ears and his blood rushing, pounding through his veins. He almost felt the same anger he felt that night, when he was face to face with Voldemort. But this wasn't Lord Voldemort. This was Dudley Dursley, his idiot cousin who wasn't worth the anger that was pounding through Harry's veins now. He lowered his wand, trying to calm himself. He could hear Dudley's friends cackling like hyenas in the background, but Dudley had gone sheet white. His face had gone slack and the air around them had gone cold.
"What are you doing?" Dudley whispered to him, as though if he said it any louder it might actually mean that Harry was actually the cause of the sudden ice storm brewing around them on the hot summer's day. Harry looked around, seeing the clouds, feeling the wind as it rushed through the trees.
"I'm not doing anything." Harry answered, though he could feel himself already starting to be drained. He knew what was coming without seeing them. He could already hear the screams, he could see Cedric even clearer than in his nightmares. "Dudley." Harry whispered. "Run."
Though Dudley lumbered in general, he somehow kept up with the much swifter Harry Potter. Harry ran with his cousin on his tail. But it was futile, their attempt to flee. The dementors caught up with them. Dudley couldn't see them, but Harry could. Harry couldn't comprehend what happened at first. There were two dementors, one for each of them. How could there be two of them? Harry was knocked to the ground and his wand knocked out of his hand. Dudley was pinned to the wall by, to him, an unseen force. It took everything in Harry to conjure a patronus, but his stag easily rushed the dementors away. The first dementor was thrown off of Harry with the stag’s horns and the second was hurled away from Dudley with the stag latching itself onto it and rushing it out of the storm tunnel the two boys were currently taking shelter in.
Harry closed his eyes, fighting off every nightmare he'd ever had. He could hear the Basilisk in the tunnels in the Chamber of Secrets. He could feel Tom Riddle's cold and calculating eyes on him as the Basilisk venom spread through his veins, burning and weakening him. He could see Voldemort's blood red eyes in the back of Quirrell's head. Harry opened his eyes to see Dudley shaking on the ground in front of him. He had to get him out of here, he had to get moving. He had-
That voice. He knew that voice. Where did he know that voice? A choked sound distracted him from his thoughts as he once again brought his attention back to Dudley. He had to get Dudley home. He picked himself up off the ground and walked over to Dudley, managing to heave his massive form off the ground. "Come on, Big D. Let's get you home."
Neither of them spoke again until they were through the door of Number Four where they were both accosted by Petunia and Vernon Dursley. Harry's aunt and uncle doted on their son and immediately accused Harry of having done something to him, an idea that was given even more of a foothold by Dudley. To make matters worse, an owl decided to fly right into the Dursley living room. Of course this owl brought nothing nice to say as a Ministry howler decided to tell him he was going to be expelled from Hogwarts.
But Harry wasn't listening to anything else after that. Before he knew it, he was up in his room, the door shut and it was locked from the outside.
Harry walked down a dark corridor. It felt as though he had been here before, but he didn't recognize the place he was in. He reached his hand out in front of him to open the door and suddenly there was light everywhere. The room he had just entered was nothing like the corridor he exited. The room had a fire blazing in the far corner, a mirror on the with a gold frame, a long mahogany table, and red chair surrounding the table. The carpet was crimson and the walls were covered in crimson and gold wallpaper. There was also a window facing a graveyard where the sun blazed through. He crossed the room toward the mantel and fireplace where the mirror hung and looked at his reflection, only it wasn't his own face which stared back. It was the snake-like face of Lord Voldemort.
Voldemort didn't seem to care much for staring at his own reflection though. Instead he turned and walked toward the table. There, he met Nagini, his very large python who Harry Potter had once been promised to as dinner. "There there pet." Voldemort whispered to the snake. "All in good time."
Harry woke to a tapping on his window. His heart was racing and he was drenched in sweat. As far as nightmares went, it wasn't the worst one he'd had, though it might have been the strangest. Harry rubbed his eyes and put his glasses on as the tapping at his window happened again. In her cage, Hedwig cooed at the visiting owl. Harry stood, running his hand through the mess that was his hair before opening the window. The owl flew inside and dropped a letter at Harry's feet before going to Hedwig's cage. Harry picked up the letter before opening Hedwig's cage so that the owl could get some water. Hedwig didn't seem too pleased with Harry's offer as she exited her cage and flew to Harry's shoulder.
"Relax." Harry told his owl softly. Hedwig hooted her reply, but it didn't sound thrilled. "I'm certain you get water wherever I send you, it's the least we can do in return." Harry told his owl who instead of replying decided to groom his hair. Harry focused on the letter in his hands. The only thing written on the outside was a name, his name. Harry opened the letter, turning it over in his hands. He recognized Sirius's handwriting as he began to read the letter.
We've been told what's happened. Don't leave the house again, whatever you do.
Harry threw the letter aside, disappointed and a little angry. On his shoulder, Hedwig hooted her disapproval at his sudden movement. Harry apologized to the bird on his shoulder before sitting on his bed. He looked at the other owl which cocked it's head at him before flying out his still open window.
"They want me to stay." Harry muttered to his owl. "Don't leave the house again, whatever you do." Harry quoted. "They treat me like a child, not like someone who just two months ago was tortured like an adult. I'm not an adult, of course." Harry assured his owl. "But I'm not a child either. I've never had that luxury."
Harry pushed his palms into his eyes and his chest heaved in a sigh. He moved to lied on his back and he felt Hedwig move with him until she was sitting on his stomach. He carefully moved and began to stroke her wings, feeling her slightly lean into his touch. Hedwig seemed like a strange owl to him, but he couldn't have picked a better owl, especially when she was his main source of company. But as Harry stroked the soft feathers of his snowy white owl, he began to dwell on the strange dream he had. That nightmare had been very different from all the ones before it. This one felt like it was happening in the moment, like he was actually there and seeing through Voldemort's eyes. Voldemort. The very thought of the man gave Harry chills.
When Harry closed his eyes, he could still see his pale white skin, the black as night robes, and blood red eyes. Harry's eyes flew open again and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He breathed, trying to calm himself and he stroked Hedwig's feathers, his reminder that he wasn't in the graveyard anymore, Voldemort couldn't touch him.
I can touch you, now.
Harry partially sat up and pulled Hedwig toward him, needing something to cling onto. Hedwig hooted in his arms and Harry let her go. She cooed at Harry before looking at the window and then flying to her cage. "You could go you know." Harry said to her. "The window is open, and I have no right to ask you to stay cooped up here." But Hedwig just hooted at him as if he'd made a ridiculous request and instead decided to groom herself. Harry looked away from her and stared up at his ceiling. He didn't know how long he stared at the ceiling. He heard the Dursleys' leave the house, apparently for some lawn competition though Harry didn't really care. He was still staring at the ceiling. Night fell and his eyes started to feel heavy again when suddenly there was a crash downstairs. Harry flew out of bed making Hedwig ruffle her feathers in her cage. Harry grabbed for his wand and immediately pointed it at his door, readying it for whatever was coming through his door.
He heard the locks that the Dursleys no doubt put on his door click open one after another until he was suddenly confronted with four or five wand lights in his face. Harry blinked, trying to adjust to the sudden brightness in his dark world.
"Hello Harry." A voice said, a voice Harry instantly recognized. Harry's wand lowered and his heart started to slow from its rapid, adrenaline fueled thundering in his chest.
Harry looked around at the other people standing in the doorway to his bedroom, only recognizing one other face. "Professor Moody."
"Potter." Moody grunted.
Harry twirled his wand in his fingers, a nervous tick he didn't even realize he was doing. Moody's eye watched the movement as Remus introduced everyone currently standing in Harry's very small doorway. One man, Dedalus Diggle, seemed rather upset that Remus went through the trouble of introducing him to Harry, insisting that the two of them had met before. Another one of the guests standing in his door, a small witch with fiery pink hair named Tonks, offered to help Harry gather his belongings. Harry was too polite to refuse the help when it was offered and Tonks seemed nice enough. Remus and the other wizards left to go downstairs and Harry and Tonks gathered his belongings.
"Oh!" Tonks exclaimed after a moment. "I have this for you."
She handed him a letter that was addressed to him fine handwriting on it. Harry had seen the handwriting before, only earlier tonight.
Dear Mr. Potter,
After further consideration, the Ministry of Magic has decided to postpone your expulsion and destruction of your wand pending a formal hearing on August 12th. At such time an official decision will be made regarding your attendance at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry turned to Tonks to ask how she had the letter and why it didn't come by owl when Tonks answered the question for him. "We intercepted it. We were on our way here to come get you when we intercepted the owl from the Ministry. Remus thought it was best that we delivered it to you ourselves because we didn't know what it might say."
Harry nodded. "I'm not being expelled." He told her. "And they're not breaking my wand either."
"That's good news." Tonks said, a smile ghosting her lips. But a knot was forming in Harry's stomach. A hearing. They wanted him for a hearing. If knots kept forming in his stomach he might actually look like he had muscles just from how much stress was building in his body.
"They want me for a hearing." Harry whispered. He wasn't even sure that Tonks heard him but she stopped moving around the room behind him.
"A hearing?" She asked.
Harry handed her the letter so she could read it. Why he suddenly felt the need to trust this witch with the eccentric hair, he didn't know. Yet he did. He heard her mutter a soft 'oh' and when she went to hand the letter back to him he told her she could hang onto it. He knew the date would be branded into his head and he didn't want the constant reminder looming over him. He had enough reminders looming over him. He had a scar on his forehead which reminded him of his dead parents and the life he would never have every time he looked in a mirror and he had a scar on his arm, jagged and angry, every time he looked down or even so much as twitched. He was tired of reminders.
Harry and Tonks ventured downstairs, Hedwig, trunk, and broom in tow. Remus asked Harry to send Hedwig ahead of them, something she seemed to protest but eventually she did. Then Remus sent Harry's trunk and Hedwig's cage away somewhere, though he supposed he'd find out soon enough. Mad Eye checked his pocket watch and checked it again as Harry watched the other witches and wizards stare at the objects of the Dursley house as though they were magical and not the witches and wizards currently standing in it.
Eventually they ventured outside at Moody's command. Harry looked around and noticed everyone with their brooms. "Mount brooms!" Moody commanded. Harry suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. "When I say kick off, do so. Don't break ranks." Harry waited, partially wondering how they were going to avoid Muggles seeing them. But he'd already broken the Statue of Secrecy once, what was one more time. Moody commanded them to lift off and they moved at the same time. And Harry was flying again.
The wind whipped through his hair and he felt himself gliding above everyone. No one looked at him, at them. Of course they wouldn't. No one ever looked up. It was dark enough that the large group of wizards was able to hide among the clouds. Harry didn't know where he was going, but he was just following Moody. They landed outside a strange set out of houses. Harry dismounted his broom and they walked toward the houses with Moody tapping his walking stick on the ground. The ground shook and suddenly another building appeared, slowly being drawn out of the surrounding houses. Harry watched as the windows formed and the door righted itself with the number 12 appearing perfectly on its center.
Harry followed the others inside and watched as Tonks nearly fell over tripping over an umbrella stand. He almost felt his lips pull into a smile when he saw a familiar face at the end of the hallway, inside a door, that distracted him from Tonks' pratfall.
"Sirius." Harry breathed and he took a step forward, wanting desperately to be in his godfather's arms. But he suddenly found his path blocked by Mrs. Weasley. "M-Mrs. Weasley." Harry stuttered.
"Everyone's upstairs." She said with a tired grin on her face as she began to push him upstairs and away from Sirius. She continued to urge him up the stairs and toward a certain bedroom. Harry looked back at Mrs. Weasley with his hand on the doorknob and she waved her hand at him to get him to go in the room. Harry turned the doorknob and entered only to be accosted by Hermione the moment he entered. He could feel her practically crushing his ribs the moment his foot stepped through the threshold. Harry didn't know if he should hug her back or attempt to find a spell to pry her off.
"Goodness Hermione. Let the man breathe." Came another voice. Ron. Hermione pulled away and Harry could suddenly see when her bushy hair wasn't blocking his view. He could see Ron who seemed like he had grown even more than the last time Harry had seen him. His red hair stuck out completely against the blue backdrop in the room. Harry looked at him and Ron seemed to shift on his feet.
"What is this place?" Harry asked, breathing the silence.
"It's headquarters." Ron answered.
"For the Order of the Phoenix." Hermione elaborated as Harry's face no doubt was plastered with a question mark.
"You couldn't have told me about this?" Harry asked, feeling the anger starting to boil within him. "I've gone all summer without a scrap of news."
"We wanted to tell you, honestly." Ron's eyes were begging Harry to understand, to be ok with their lack of communication. "Only-" Ron trailed off, looking away from Harry as though anything else in the room were far more interesting than his best friend.
"Only?" Harry pressed, hearing his own voice rising and unable to do anything about it.
"Only Dumbledore made us promise not to tell you anything." Hermione answered, tears welling up in her eyes. Ron rubbed the back of his head.
"Dumbledore." Harry repeated. He felt anger rushing through his veins. Harry turned away from the two of them. He took in a deep breath before turning back. "Why would-"
"He said it would be best. That it would help you. It would keep you safe." Hermione's voice was pleading.
"Safe." Harry muttered. "I have never been safe. I saw Voldemort come back. I fought him." Harry's voice was dark. "He tortured me. Safe." Harry turned back to Hermione. "I don't blame you. I wouldn't. I can't. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm sure Dumbledore had a good reason."
Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded, trying to breath and bringing a smile to her face.
"Where are we though? The place?" Harry asked, changing the subject.
"It's Grimmauld Place. No one actually stated who it belongs to. They just brought us here. Fred, George, Mom, Dad, Ginny, and I." Ron said. "We got here at the beginning of the summer."
"When did you get here?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Not long after Ron." Hermione said cautiously, as though she was worried that anything she said might set Harry off again.
"And what's the Order of the Phoenix?" Harry asked.
"Dumbledore formed it after You-Know-Who rose to power the first time." Ron said.
Harry nodded not saying anything, instead he walked to the window. He heard Fred and George pop into the room but he didn't care enough to turn to look at them. He waved them off when they offered to let him listen in on their attempt to eavesdrop on the Order. But Harry was staring out the window, focused on the view of the street. Another gilded cage. The others left the room, leaving Harry alone. He watched as rain began to fall, hitting the window with soft pats and suddenly a large shadow came flying at the window. Harry looked at his snowy owl on the other side of the glass and smiled as he let her in. She hopped through the open window and toward the perch in cage. Harry shut the window and looked back outside. He stood and watched the rain for a few more moments before sinking into a chair near the window.
The patter off the rain lulled Harry to sleep.
Nagini slithered over his body, hissing bitterly about some plan that she wasn't in agreement with. He reached out a pale, skeletal hand to calm the snake and hush her disapproval. The snake hissed but didn't speak anymore. He pulled his hand over the snake's head and she calmed down. He turned back to what he was doing and stretched his fingers over the pages. Harry knew he this body wasn't his. This hand, this was Voldemort's hand. He'd been like this before, where he saw what was going on with Voldemort. He remembered seeing the caretaker murdered and Voldemort plotting his death over and over.
Voldemort was plotting something, something big. But Harry couldn't see what was on the pages, he couldn't read anything. All he knew was that Voldemort talked to Nagini and moved. He was in Voldemort's body every time it happened. It was as if his mouth was Voldemort's mouth and his body and Voldemort's body were one in the same.
"Harry." A voice whispered.
Part of me wanted to explore the Harry and Tonks friendship more. I feel like that got wasted in the books and REALLY wasted in the movies. So I wanted to give that a chance in this.
Chapter 3: The Order of the Phoenix
"Harry!" Hermione shook Harry awake. Harry's eyes flew open and he gasped for air, lurching forward in the chair he sat in. Hermione jumped away as Harry's body jerked. He wiped sweat away from his brow and looked up at the very concerned face of Hermione Granger. "Harry are you alright?" She asked as she knelt down next to him again. "It seemed like something was wrong and then you started to twitch in your sleep."
Harry nodded and would have spoken but his mouth felt like ash. Instead he just looked back out the window again, noticing that the rain had stopped. "Mom wants us to come down for dinner." Ron said after moments ticked by intense silence.
"Ok." Harry answered quietly before standing on shaky legs and following his friends out of the room. They had just made it down the stairs when two pops echoed throughout the house, signaling the arrival for Fred and George right next to Mrs. Weasley who jumped at their sudden appearance.
"Just because you can use magic without consequence does not mean you can whip your wands out for everything!" Mrs. Weasley chided as Fred and George laughed their way into the kitchen. "Ah Harry!" Mrs. Weasley said in greeting. "We'll be eating in the kitchen."
"Harry." Mr. Weasley greeted.
"Mr. Weasley." Harry answered, shaking the older man's hand and stepping aside to let Hermione and Ron pass him. Harry had to dispense with pleasantries before he could eat. Before anyone else could say hello to him, Harry was pushed aside by a rather annoyed Severus Snape.
"Potter." Snape sneered as he passed, cloak billowing behind him as he made his way to the front door. But Harry didn't answer. Instead he watched his professor leave, mild shock consuming him. He turned back to the Weasleys to confirm if Snape was in fact a part of the Order when someone else distracted him.
Harry pushed his way between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and right into the arms of Sirius Black. He felt the knots in his stomach finally begin to loosen and he himself begin to relax. Sirius. Here was Sirius. He gripped his godfather tight, a gesture which the man returned. "Sirius." Harry breathed.
"Come on. Let's get you some dinner." Sirius said, keeping one arm around Harry and pulling him along with him into the kitchen.
Harry was not prepared for the sheer number of people in who occupied 12 Grimmauld Place. Besides himself, Ron, and Hermione there were Fred, George, Ginny, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Sirius, and every now and then Remus. Order members came and went from time to time. Currently there was Moody, standing guard at the kitchen door; Kingsley, who Harry had met earlier that night; and Tonks. Mrs. Weasley seemed to enjoy having everyone around and was more than willing to attempt to feed everyone who entered the kitchen. Harry hadn't seem Dumbledore and didn't even know if he had been at Grimmauld Place for the order meeting earlier tonight. Mrs. Weasley plopped down a large bowl of food in front of him and ordered him to eat under the guise of him looking deathly thin.
"I swear we can never get enough food into that boy." Harry hear her mutter to her husband as she passed him. She continued to hand out bowls to everyone until everyone had food. Harry sat adjacent to Sirius who was sitting at the head of the table and directly across from Remus. Next to Harry was Ron and next to him was Hermione who was locked in conversation with Tonks and Ginny.
"Tonks is an Auror." Remus explained as he saw Harry's eye wandering the table. "Mad Eye's protégé."
"That's why she was one of the people who came to get me tonight." Harry said. Remus nodded. "Why tonight? You've left me alone all summer. Why tonight?"
The table fell silent at Harry's question.
"Why did you cast the patronus Harry?" Sirius asked.
"There were dementors." Harry answered seriously, looking his godfather square in the eye.
"That's why." Sirius answered. "There's no reason for you to have been attacked and yet suddenly you were attacked very brazenly at your Aunt and Uncle's house."
"You think it was Voldemort?" Harry asked. The room was so quiet one could have heard a pin fall.
"There have been disappearances." Sirius said, after a long moment. "It's just the way it happened before. Voldemort is on the move." Harry could see Mrs. Weasley shifting uncomfortably in the corner of his eye at Sirius's words but he wanted to know more. He needed to know more. "We think he may be after something." Sirius paused. "Something he didn't have last time."
"Like a weapon?" Harry pressed.
Sirius was about to answer when Mrs. Weasley swept in and stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. "He's just a boy!"
"He's not your boy, Molly." Sirius answered.
"Well he's as good as!" Molly's voice rose. "If you keep telling him this much you might as well induct him into the Order straight away."
"Good! I want to join." Harry's voice interrupted whatever retort Sirius had for Mrs. Weasley. "If Voldemort's raising an army then I want to fight."
"You're just a child, Harry. You, Ron, Fred, George, Ginny. None of you are old enough to be fighting a war."
"Voldemort didn't think so when he tried to murder me at a year old." Harry answered, his voice even but low. Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth to answer but Harry cut her off. "He didn't think so when he murdered my friend right in front of me. Actually, he didn't murder Cedric. Wormtail did, at Voldemort's command. But Voldemort did torture me and then try and murder me again. So don't tell me that I'm not in this war."
Kill the spare.
Everyone avoided Harry's eyes as he turned back to look at Sirius. "Is there anything else I should know?"
After a long pause, Moody's voice cut through the thick silence. "Show him. He'll find out soon enough."
Remus sighed before producing a copy of the Daily Prophet and setting it in front of Harry. 'Potter or Plotter' the title read. The picture beneath was the picture of him from before the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, back when Cedric was still alive.
"They've been attacking Dumbledore as well." Remus said, his face pinched. "Fudge thinks that Dumbledore is attempting to make a bid for Minister of Magic and has used Voldemort as a tool to get there. He thinks that he's gotten you to go along with it and that Cedric's death with the perfect device to propel him along on his bid."
"But why? No one in their right mind would think-"
"That's the point, Fudge isn't in his right mind. It's been twisted and warped by fear." Remus answered with a sigh.
Harry stood, pushing himself out of his chair and walked toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Sirius asked.
"I need to think." Harry answered, ignoring any possible protests that could have followed him out of the room.
Harry pretended to be asleep when Ron entered the room that they were sharing. He heard Ron come closer to the bed Harry was lying in before he shuffled to his bed, seeming to accept the fact that Harry was asleep. They lied in silence for a long time until Ron's snores filled the room. Harry turned on his back and stared at the ceiling. He had forgotten what it was like to sleep in the same room as Ron and part of him found it comforting. Even after all these years, Ron still snored. There weren't many things that Harry felt were normal in his life. Hermione could always be counted out to sniff out a library, Ron could be counted on to be loyal and likely inhale a mountain's worth of food, but Harry-
Harry felt less like himself than he ever had after he came back from the third task in the tournament. Nothing felt the same and yet everything was. The world around him hadn't changed. He'd lived with the fear of Voldemort looming over him in some form or another since he was 11. In his first year at Hogwarts, Voldemort had taken up residence in the back of one of his professor's heads. In his second year at Hogwarts, young Voldemort, Tom Marvolo Riddle, had attempted to kill every Muggleborn, Ginny Weasley, and eventually Harry himself. Third year had been surprisingly Voldemort free but the constant threat was there. But forth year? Voldemort had been everywhere even before Harry stepped foot back on the grounds of Hogwarts. The Death Eaters at the World Cup, the dreams, Barty Crouch Jr. posing as "Mad Eye" Moody, the Triwizard Tournament, and eventually Voldemort himself rising from whatever form he had previously occupied into his terrifying dark glory.
I can touch you now.
Harry remembered the horrific pain that ripped through his body before the Cruciatus Curse even touched him. Whatever it was, it put the Cruciatus curse to shame. Harry knew only because he'd had the torture curse done to him moments later. It made Harry want to rip himself apart just to stop it. He tried not to think about it, he pushed it down whenever the thought came up. But sometimes the thoughts came back. Sometimes he remembered feeling his back against the statue in the graveyard. He remembered Voldemort's cold skeletal hands as he reached a long finger for his scar. He remembered as the pain began to rip through his body, as if his blood was pumping it through every vein and every nerve. It felt like he was being burned alive from the inside but at the same time it felt like he'd had acid poured through into his lungs. It felt like he was being electrocuted and drowned at the same time. The Cruciatus curse was more like having knives pulled through his every organ at once.
Harry turned back on his side and closed his eyes. Sleep Harry. You have to sleep. He commanded himself. Sleep.
"Nagini," Voldemort was speaking, "Things are going to be different in the coming months. You're going to need to be on your best behavior." The snake curled her large form around Voldemort but didn't answer him, instead she simply placed her head on his shoulder. If Harry didn't know any better, he'd say that it was almost love between the snake and her master. But this was Voldemort. Voldemort walked around the same room that Harry had seen him in nights before, except Harry wasn't in Voldemort's body this time. He was watching them. Voldemort wasn't anywhere Harry could recognize now. There was a graveyard out front but it wasn't the one Harry had been in the last time he and Voldemort came face to face. The room they were in was the exact same as Harry had last seen it, down to the roaring fire in the corner. Voldemort didn't seem to notice that Harry was in the room, unlike the dreams that he'd had before which ended with Harry's repeated death at Voldemort's hand.
Voldemort inhaled sharply before unraveling the snake from his body and setting her down on the large chair in near the fireplace. "Everything is going according to plan, pet." Voldemort told the snake as he looked out the window.
Harry's eyes opened as he heard the creek of the door. He blinked as the identical heads of Fred and George poked in the room. Harry slid on his glasses as they gave Harry a look as they quickly pressed their index fingers over their lips at the same time, motioning for Harry not to wake up Ron who was currently sleeping on his stomach in the bed next to him. Harry help up his hand in an attempt to pause their inevitable advance on their little brother. Harry rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt before carting a hand through his hair. He didn't want to be in the middle of whatever trick the twins were about to play.
"Bathroom?" Harry asked quietly as he passed the twins in the door. George pointed to a door just slightly down the hall and Harry nodded his thanks. He left the room and just closed the bathroom in time to hear Ron's terrified, groggy scream echoed from the room he just left.
Harry's hair was still wet after his shower as he made his way down to breakfast. He barely had any time to eat before Mrs. Weasley decided to put everyone to work.
"So this is what the Order of the Phoenix is." Harry muttered as he, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Ginny, Sirius, and Mrs. Weasley chased doxies around Grimmauld Place. "De-doxifying and sneezing from dust."
Next to him, Sirius barked a laugh and ran a hand through his much healthier looking black hair. "Sadly at the moment, yes." He turned to Harry with a grin. "I'd say welcome but I don't think this lives up to your expectations."
"Not really." Harry muttered as he moved out the way of an incoming doxy.
It took them the whole day to get rid of the doxies in the house. When Harry and the others finally made it to the last room, Harry was distracted by a tapestry on the wall. He found himself tracing the lines one the tree, recognizing mostly the last name. Black. Eventually he felt more than saw someone join him.
"This is my family's house." Sirius said. "My house." His voice was low, sorrowful. He pointed to a blackened spot on the tree where underneath his name sat. "My mother did that the day I ran away. We had a terrible fight. I didn't want to be anything like my family. I never was. They were all Slytherins. Naturally my mother wasn't too happy when I was a Gryffindor. My brother, Regulus-" Sirius paused for a moment and Harry could hear his voice tighten with pain, "My mother approved of him much more."
Harry looked over the tapestry, seeing two names he recognized. "Bellatrix Lestrange?" Harry asked. He knew the name from when he saw into Dumbledore's pensieve. Bellatrix had been one of the people responsible for the torture of Neville's parents. So had Barty Crouch Jr.
"My deranged cousin." Sirius answered, his voice laced with hatred.
"Narcissa Malfoy? You're related to the Malfoys?"
Sirius nodded. "Narcissa is Lucius's wife."
"Draco's mother." Harry said, feeling oddly strange. "Draco Malfoy is your cousin."
"Yes. All pureblood families are related in some way." Sirius rubbed the back of his neck. "Bellatrix is the worst of the three sisters. Narcissa was raised much like everyone else in our family, much like my parents and their pureblood mania. They believed that being a Black practically made you royalty. Andromeda is nothing like her siblings." Sirius reached up and pointed to Andromeda Black's name. "She married a Muggleborn. You've met her daughter." Sirius smiled at Harry's questioning look. "Nymphadora Tonks." He explained.
"So if all pureblood families are related," Harry began, "Are you related to the Weasleys?" Harry found it rather funny trying to draw a connection between Sirius's dark, curly hair and the fiery red of the Weasley family.
"Arthur is my second cousin, once removed." Sirius said and Harry smiled.
"What about-" Harry stopped himself, thinking about Sirius's best friend, his father.
"Your dad?" Sirius supplied. "You?"
Sirius pointed to a woman on the tapestry, Dorea Black. "Dorea Potter née Black. James and I could never quite figure out how exactly she fit into the Potter family. We figured maybe she was a great aunt of his or something." Sirius's voice turned sad at the mention of his best friend.
"You said you ran away." Harry said, looking at the picture of Dorea. "Where did you go?"
"Your dad's. I was always welcome at the Potters."
Harry wanted to ask more but Mrs. Weasley came in and started pushing everyone to get back to work. Everyone had stopped the moment Harry and Sirius got distracted. Before the end of the day, the whole house was free of doxies and everyone was exhausted. Sirius though seemed more than happy to have the company, even tired company, around the table. The whole day he had hummed happily when working next to people and now he smiled at everyone as they sat at dinner. Remus had come over to find a mostly comatose kitchen except for Sirius who seemed to have more energy than ever. Sirius insisted that Remus eat with them and Remus couldn't refuse the expectant smile that came across his friend's face. Harry nearly found himself asleep in his food more than once and he didn't know how exactly he was going to ascend the stairs to get to the room he shared with Ron. Secretly, he hope Mrs. Weasley's attempt to distract everyone from the Order would also distract him from whatever strange dreams were plaguing him.
Harry and Ron leaned on each other as they made their way up the stairs, both of them falling asleep on their feet. Harry discarded Ron in his bed and could swear he could hear his friend snore before he his head contacted the pillow. Harry changed into his night clothes and lied down on his bed, turning over onto his side and easily falling asleep.
Harry barely felt like he'd gotten any sleep when he was being woken up by Hermione.
"If you're going to tell me that I need to get ahead on summer studying I'll remind you that I might be expelled." Harry groaned as he turned from his stomach and grabbed for his glasses. But Hermione shushed him.
"The Order is here."
"What?" Harry sat up, all grogginess completely gone from his mind. "What time is it?"
"It's 2am." Hermione said as she moved to go wake up Ron. Harry could only see her by the candle she held. Ron jolted away, giving a small yelp as he did. Hermione told him the same thing as she did Harry before the three of them left the room. They were met in the hall by Fred, George, and Ginny before they made their way toward the door.
"It's been spelled, we can't get near it. They might anticipate that someone got up at least to use the bathroom." Ginny said before throwing something that Harry couldn't identify at the door. It ricocheted off with a slight spark where it contacted the spell on the door.
"Well, I guess we'll try these again." Fred said before lowering an ear toward the door.
"Extendable ears." George explained to Harry.
Even in the dark, Harry could see the meaningful looks Fred and George were sending him. They both were finding new ways to express their gratefulness to him for having given his reward from the Triwizard Tournament to them for their joke shop. Harry gave a slight nod before their attention was diverted back to the ear still in Fred's hands.
"They tried again."
"How long do you think they'll keep trying."
"Until they get what He wants."
Harry didn't recognize most of the voices of the people talking.
"He's relentless." Sirius.
"But Harry's safe here. Yes?" Mrs. Weasley.
"Of course he is!" Sirius.
"They're going to go at each other again." Hermione muttered, shifting uneasily on her feet.
"What about when he goes back to Hogwarts?" Tonks.
"Don't tell me you all haven't thought about it? Trouble follows him around as if he had it on a leash. I know better than anyone that Hogwarts wasn't just built to keep the people inside safe, but to keep things inside safe from people." Tonks's voice was strong and Harry wondered what exactly she'd been through at Hogwarts.
"She's not wrong mate." Ron said to him.
"It's not like I go looking for trouble. It just seems to find me."
They heard more talking and shuffling as footsteps sounded like they were coming near the door. "Get back!" Fred and George whispered in unison and they plastered themselves against the walls, ducking in hopes not to be noticed. Fred managed to pull the ear up just in time before light flooded the hallway below. Harry could hear the sound of Moody's leg hitting the hard floor below before he grunted and returned to the room he had just left.
"Something tells me we won't be able to hear anymore tonight." Harry said quietly to the others. They nodded before each went back to their respective rooms. Only Harry, Ron, and Hermione were left in the hallway. "Have either of you seen Dumbledore here at the meetings?" Harry asked when the others had gone.
"Once or twice." Ron said, rubbing his eyes.
"He hasn't been here recently as far as I know." Hermione said. "Why?"
"I want to talk to him before-" Harry looked away from them. "Before my hearing. Before there's a chance I might be expelled and have my wand broken. I want to know what the plan is. I just want to know. I've been in the dark for so long."
Before Ron and Hermione could say anything else, Harry went back into his room and lied back down, placing his glasses on the table next to his bed. Sleep claimed him quickly.
Harry didn't know what to expect when he woke up the next morning, but he probably should have expected more cleaning as that's exactly what Mrs. Weasley was intent on having them do. Moody and Tonks were around today but Sirius hadn't joined them for breakfast yet. Harry wished he had some excuse, any excuse, to get out of cleaning all day. Tonks had just come down the stairs when she tripped as her usual clumsiness lead her to do and the curtains on the wall were suddenly ripped open. Harry had never seen what was behind those curtains and now he realized why. The portrait behind them started screaming, ranting and raving about Mudbloods and blood traitors in her perfect home. Mrs. Weasley and Tonks attempted to wrestle the curtains closed when Sirius appeared on the stairs next to them.
"Enough with your screeching!" Sirius bellowed. Tonks and Mrs. Weasley closed the curtains and Sirius followed them down the stairs. "My mother." Sirius told Harry. "Charming woman. Isn't she?"
Mrs. Weasley allowed just enough time for Sirius to eat before demanding everyone start cleaning again. She wanted the house to be spotless. "I'll never understand why mothers don't want people to know that we live places." Ron muttered bitterly as they were sent to different rooms to clean. Once again, they converged on the same room at the end of the day. This particular room, however, had a very interesting case in it.
"Be careful." Sirius warned. "Like a few pureblood families with their strange mania, that case contains a lot of dark magic objects."
One object in particular seemed to intrigue the whole house. It was a small, glass case and inside was a large, oval locket of heavy gold with a serpentine S in green jewels on the front. Everyone had their attempt at trying to pry the case open to get the locket out but it wouldn't budge no matter what anyone tried. When they made an attempt to throw it out, however, Harry stopped them.
"Do you mind if I keep trying? I'm curious."
"Suit yourself." Sirius handed the case with the locket inside back to him. Harry muttered a thanks before taking the locket up to his room and setting it inside his trunk. Something about the locket felt off to him, and he couldn't quite put his finger on why.
Chapter 4: Return to Hogwarts
Sorry I've been away for so long. I took the MCAT in August and then I've had classes badgering me for the last couple of months.
Mrs. Weasley fussed over him at breakfast the day of his trial. Harry, however, couldn't eat. Instead he stared at the bowl in front of him, the food looking less and less appetizing by the second. He found himself turning the spoon between his fingers.
"Oh, Harry you should eat." Mrs. Weasley crooned.
"'m not hungry." Harry muttered.
Ron and Hermione watched him, their lips pursed. They'd often seen Harry like this, before games, during tense times of the year, and now as he awaited the trail that would determine the rest of his life. Harry looked at his friends, giving them a terse nod and they smiled back in what they seemed to hope were hopeful smiles but really came across as grimaces.
"I suppose we should get going." Arthur murmured, standing to give his wife a kiss on the cheek before gesturing to Harry who followed him out the door.
Harry supposed he should have expected everything that came at him during his trial, what he didn't expect was Dumbledore completely ignoring him. Harry's surprise was further compounded by the fact that Arabella Figg was his witness, despite never having seen the women during the dementor attack. It surprised him as much as the witches and wizards set to judge him, Fudge included. Harry had to restrain an outburst in the middle of his trial at the woman for having seen every bit of torture he'd endured at the hands of the Dursleys and never once commenting or attempting to help him. When he'd even attempted to talk to Dumbledore, the man walked right past him as if he were a Muggle portrait.
Hermione had been overjoyed when he'd come back with the news that he would not be expelled. It was something else that shouldn't have surprised Harry.
I'm going to bed before you come up with another clever idea to get us killed, or worse expelled.
Harry smiled as Hermione droned on and on about the benefits of staying in school and how it would continue to help him.
"What are you smiling at?" She asked when she finally noticed.
"Oh, I was just remembering." Harry answered as he began to quote Hermione only to have Ron join him to finish it. Hermione rolled her eyes and began to reassure them that she was in fact correct that getting expelled was a fate worse than death. Harry internally begged to differ that there were other fates worse than getting expelled.
The next day, owls arrived with a list of supplies and two Prefect badges, one for Hermione and the other for Ron.
"That makes everyone!" Mrs. Weasley crooned proudly, looking at Ron's prefect badge before proudly pinning it to his chest.
"What are George and me? Next door neighbors?" Fred retorted but his snark was ignored.
"It's probably for the best that you two never made Prefect," Harry said, sitting between the twins, "I'm not sure Gryffindor tower would survive."
"You make a point." George answered.
The next day, they somehow managed to cram everyone together long enough to get them into Diagon Alley for supplies. Harry wondered around with Moody ever on his heels. Moody's eye darted from place to place but every now and then would settle for an alarming amount of time on the spot where the locket hung under Harry's shirt. Every time Harry noticed, the eye would dart away and swirl around, looking at everything and everyone before settling back down on the locket again.
"Moody, can I ask you a question?" Moody only grunted in response. "Your eye-" Harry started, feeling uncomfortable about how to ask but fortunately Moody answered for him.
"It's charmed and can see through most things and seems to have an issue with that locket of yours." Moody grunted. "Be vigilant. Many pureblood families have a flair for dark artifacts."
Harry nodded but said nothing more, raising a hand to rub at the lump of the locket under his shirt. Moody followed him in and out of the various stores he went into to obtain his supplies. It was strange how calm it was when it was just Moody and Harry. The two of them had broken off from the group the moment they'd entered Diagon Alley. Harry hoped he could be alone but that didn't appear an option when he heard Moody clunking along behind him. So, Harry slowed his pace to allow the auror to catch up to him and they went along their way. Now they were slowing making their way back through the mass of people in front of them toward the crowd of red headed Weasleys Harry could see in the distance.
Harry was slightly distracted when a stranger bumped into his shoulder while walking between him and Moody. Moody grunted and his eye twirled rapidly, following the stranger. Harry turned slightly to see who had run into him and to mutter an apology but all he caught a glimpse of was chestnut brown hair.
"Did you-" Harry began but was quickly cut off by the look on Moody's face. "What?" Harry asked.
But Moody didn't answer. Instead he placed a hand on Harry's should and steered him away from the crowd and back toward the Weasleys. Moody finally loosened the grip he had on Harry's shoulder when they met the others, but no one dared ask what happened based on the look on the auror's face. Tonks, who'd stayed with the Weasley's during the trip to Diagon Alley, twitched with every movement as she was clearly dying to know what had caused her teacher to become more tense than normal.
"What happened back there?" Ron asked when they were alone.
"Some guy bumped into me and I don't know. Something about him must have gotten to Mad Eye." Harry answered with a shrug. "Nothing seemed off to me, but it was enough to get to him."
"It's just because it's you and everything you've been through, he's probably just-" Ron trailed off.
"Being vigilant?" Harry supplied, managing to make Ron, and even Hermione who'd been unusually silent, smile.
"Did you see anything about the person who ran into you?" Hermione asked.
"Brown hair." Harry answered, "Nothing else. They were gone before I could even say anything."
Hermione nodded but didn't say anything else.
Harry was staring at the inside of the Chamber of Secrets. The basilisk body was on the ground in front of him, exactly in the position he last left it. Water lapped around the edges of the massive snake as his hand reached out to touch the thin scales. "What has the world done to you?" A voice asked.
This voice and this hand weren't the ones Harry was used to seeing. This wasn't Voldemort's voice nor was it his pale, skeletal hand. The hand pulled back and the footsteps echoed along the chamber. "Oh dear." The voice was almost loving, "What happened here?" The hand moved to look at the spot where a fang was missing in the giant serpent's mouth.
"Survived a basilisk bite have we, Harry Potter?" A light chime distracted owner of the voice and suddenly the surroundings changed.
Harry was ripped from the dream as he sat up straight in the bed at Grimmauld Place. Something tugged at the locket around his neck and Harry blinked at the blurry figure just inches from his face. Hurriedly, he grabbed for his glasses only to find the blurry figure come into view as the house elf, Kreacher.
"K-Kreacher." Harry stammered, looking at the house elf who blinked at him. "What are you doing?" Harry whispered, trying to avoid waking up the snoring form of Ron in the other bed.
"Kreacher needs this locket." The house elf's voice was near frantic as his grip tightened on the locket around Harry's neck. "It's Kreacher's locket."
"Keep it down!" Harry whispered frantically, looking over at Ron.
Kreacher too looked over at the sleeping red head before turning big eyes back to Harry. "Harry Potter does not understand. Kreacher needs this locket." Kreacher whispered.
"Why?" Harry asked. Kreacher refused to answer but instead tugged harder at the locket around Harry's neck. "Kreacher please, tell me why you need this locket." But the house elf refused despite Harry watching his lip tremble. Something was compelling him to answer, even if he didn't want to.
James and I could never figure out how she fit into the Potter family.
"Kreacher, you can trust me. I have Black blood." Harry paused. "Why do you need the locket?" The elf started before letting go of the locket.
"Master Regulus ordered Kreacher to destroy it but no matter how hard Kreacher tried he could not do it." The elf curled in on himself. "Kreacher has punished himself for failing Master Regulus but Kreacher cannot destroy the locket."
"Kreacher," Harry began, "What if I tried?"
"No!" Kreacher yelled.
"Shh!" Harry quieted the elf, looking over at Ron who turned over in his bed.
"Listen, I know people who might be able to help, and you wouldn't have to punish yourself. Let me help you Kreacher."
Reluctantly, the house elf gave a nod. "Kreacher," Harry started as an afterthought, "Don't tell anyone."
The house elf nodded again and disappeared with a pop.
Days later, Harry found himself staring at the Hogwarts Express and for the first time felt himself wishing he weren't taking it. Ron and Hermione excused themselves to meet their Prefectorial duties which meant Harry was alone, but not for long. He was suddenly joined by Ginny and Neville who brought him to sit with Luna "Looney" Lovegood. Harry couldn't quite put his finger on the blonde who sat across from him, but she wasn't the worst. Harry was quickly reminded of the worse when Draco Malfoy sauntered forward, a Prefect badge plastered across his chest.
"You should be careful, Malfoy." Harry said without looking up at the vibrant blond hair of Draco. "Your ego is getting so big soon it won't be able to fit inside the train cars."
Malfoy sneered something in response before he was dragged away. Harry shook his head and happened to look up just in time to see Cho Chang. Memories flashed in his mind of Cho and Cedric at the Yule Ball, Cedric with Hufflepuff colors displayed proudly across his chest, the blank look in his eyes after his body had been encased in the vibrant emerald of the killing curse. Harry turned away and toward the window, gazing at the country side as it passed.
Harry changed as they neared Hogwarts, feeling the not in his stomach loosen slightly as he knew the school he called home was close. Hermione and Ron had entered the compartment before and Harry found himself entertained by watching Ron attempt to understand Luna Lovegood. They exited the train car at the castle but instead of being greeted by Hagrid, they were greeted by Professor Grubbly-Plank whom Harry remembered from seeing briefly the year before.
As if he couldn't help himself, Draco made a snide remark about the likelihood of Hagrid ever returning, prompting Harry to lunge at the blond. Ron and Hermione restrained Harry while the monsters that were Crabbe and Goyle blocked Draco with their bodies.
"He really has gone mad." Draco muttered.
"Just stay away from me!" Harry yelled, fighting out of his friends grips. "I'm fine." He muttered, making his way toward the carriages.
Harry pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes as he walked forward, walking automatically toward where he knew the carriages were before he suddenly heard a huff that distinctly didn't sound human. Harry slowly dropped his hands to see a nearly reptilian horse in front of him. The all black creature huffed and stomped where it stood, harnessed to the carriage behind it. Its opal eyes gazed at Harry and he stared back, shock not allowing him to process the massive black creature in front of him.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice thick with worry.
"What's that?" Harry asked, sounding breathless.
"What's what?" Hermione asked, looking nowhere near where Harry was currently gazing.
"Pulling the carriage." Harry elaborated.
"Nothing's pulling the carriage, Harry. It's pulling itself like always."
"They're called Thestrals." A smooth voice behind him answered. Harry turned to see the voice's owner.
A tall boy, no older than Harry walked up to where Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny, and Luna stood. He had dark brown eyes, chestnut colored hair which was neatly tamed with only a lone curl falling over his forehead. His skin was pale, but it didn't look unhealthy. His frame was lithe, and he walked with cat like grace. Every fiber of his clothes was perfectly in order, nothing was out of place.
"They can only be seen by those who've seen death." The boy continued. He cocked his head at Harry ever so slightly before leaping into the carriage with surprising grace.
"Well? Are you coming, or do you feel like walking the whole way?" The others slowly climbed into the carriage with less grace than their companion and it began toward the castle.
"I hope there's pudding." Luna said in her dreamy voice.
When they reached the castle, Harry and the others started toward the Great Hall, but the boy stopped short and began looking around.
"Aren't you coming?" Hermione asked.
"Not quite yet. Unfortunately, there is someone I need to see before I can join everyone." He turned his head and his eyes landed on Harry. "Though I do hope to see you again." Then he turned on his heal and left.
"Strange, don't you think?" Hermione asked.
"Very." Harry answered.
When they were seated in the Great Hall, the Sorting Hat began its usual ballad, which Harry found himself ignoring. Then the First Years were sorted and still, Harry didn't feel the need to pay attention. He only mustered the energy to clap when the hat rang a cry of "Gryffindor!" that echoed throughout the entire Hall. Harry couldn't help but notice how people were sitting at a far distance from him, how they whispered about him until they looked his direction.
"Before we begin our usual introductions and announcements for the year," Dumbledore began as he stood at his podium, "We have quite the unusual circumstance this year." Students began to shift in their seats, eager to learn what unusual circumstance was in store for them this semester. "We have a transfer student." The whispers started immediately, and people began shifting in their seats in an attempt to see the mysterious transfer student in their midst. Harry, and others, watched as the doors to the Great Hall swung open and in walked the boy Harry had met on the carriage.
He walked forward with an easy confidence. His robes billowed around him, reminiscent of Snape but with much more style, Harry thought. It seemed to make him more appealing as he stepped up to the stool where Dumbledore was watching him closely. "Thomas Raadsel." Dumbledore introduced, gesturing to the boy in front of him. The boy, Thomas, inclined his head politely toward the headmaster. McGonagall lowered the Sorting Hat onto his head where it sat for a few seconds before crying out, "SLYTHERIN!"
The whole table erupted as Thomas swept toward the table, his robes changing into the Slytherin emerald green.
"Oh great." Ron muttered. "Another snake."
Harry turned away from the new arrival but was acutely aware of yet another pair of eyes staring at the back of his head.
It didn't take long for the dinner to be derailed yet again as Dumbledore began to introduce the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge was a mass of pink that made Harry's eyes ache. She was reminiscent of a toad and her voice was incredibly high pitched.
"She was at my trial." Harry whispered to Hermione. Hermione sighed. "What's it mean?"
"It means the Ministry's interfering at Hogwarts." Hermione answered tersely.
Harry could already see Fred and George plotting their schemes against the pink abomination at the front of the Hall, all the while Harry couldn't shake the eyes that hadn't once stopped looking at him since they entered the room. As they were dismissed to leave to their dorms and Harry gave up hope of seeing Dumbledore, Harry caught the eye of Thomas yet again. A slight smirk played across the other boys lips before Draco blocked his view, showing off the Prefect badge pinned to his chest and waving his hand ahead of them, presumably to show him where the Slytherin common room was.
"You coming Harry?" Neville asked at his shoulder.
Harry was in a dim corridor with a single door at the end. It felt like he was low to the ground and when he tried to move his limbs, it very much seemed like he didn't have any. He moved to and fro, winding along the ground as he inched closer and closer to the door. Suddenly, he reared back and was near the handle when a clatter behind him caused him to move very quickly into the shadows. A wand light came into view and its owner right behind it. Tonks. The light pointed at Harry and he felt himself hiss angrily before striking forward. Tonks jumped out of the way and Harry slithered away quickly before disappearing into the shadows where Tonks and her bright wand couldn't follow.
Anger filled him and he shook. He coiled around himself in the shadows of an office green light filled the room and a figure stepped in. Harry quickly jumped through the fire and was suddenly in a strange area he didn't recognize.
"Shh pet. Next time."
Chapter 5: (Not So) Pretty in Pink
Sorry I have been away for so long. But here I am, writing this instead of studying for finals.
Harry glared at the pink abomination in the front of the room. Dolores Umbridge was nauseating, in every sense of the word. The very sight of her made Harry's gut wretch and every word out of her mouth made his blood boil. If he didn't know better, he honestly would have thought he was sick. However, Umbridge made a very good case for attempting to enter himself into the Hospital Wing just to avoid her. Harry could feel everyone around him tense, Gryffindor and Slytherin alike, at the very mention of not using wands in class. It was Defense Against the Dark Arts! Someone exclaimed. How could they not use wands? Another asked. Not using magic? Harry thought.
The Ministry is interfering at Hogwarts.
Fudge isn't in his right mind. It's been twisted and warped by fear.
"Why aren't we allowed to use magic in class?" Hermione asked.
"It is the view of the Ministry that you'll be learning these spells in a safe, risk-free way."
"What's the point of that? If we're going to be attacked it won't be risk-free?" Harry snapped.
"Students will raise their hands when they speak in my class," Umbridge answered firmly. "Who do you know that would want to attack children, such as yourself?"
"Oh, I don't know?" Harry began with faux thought, "Maybe Lord Voldemort."
"That's a lie!" Umbridge trilled, her voice raising just an octave.
"So then according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped dead of his own accord." Harry's blood began to boil, and he again saw the black and yellow of Hufflepuff colors encased in vibrant emerald. He could feel the students around him shifting in unease at his argument with Umbridge but everything in him was begging him to not let this go.
"Cedric Diggory's death was a tragic accident," Umbridge answered, trying desperately to sound placating but to Harry she just sounded patronizing.
"That's a lie!" Harry cried. "It was Voldemort! I saw him. I fought him!"
"Detention Mr. Potter!"
Harry huffed, knowing there wasn't much more he could do no matter how desperately he wanted to convince her, to convince them all. They wouldn't listen. He turned his head to glance ever so slightly out the window before meeting eyes with the new student, who simply smirked and gave a knowing nod. He turned his attention back to Umbridge who ordered them to open their books to the first chapter.
"Mr. Potter. A word, please." Harry sighed as he nodded to Hermione and Ron before he turned to look at his professor. He moved to the front of the classroom, standing in front of the desk as the room emptied out behind him. He looked at the professor in front of him, clutching at the sleeves of his robes slightly while the papers on the desk in front of him were adjusted.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall?"
"I trust you won't be getting yourself into too much trouble this year Mr. Potter." Harry looked away from his professor, swallowing thickly. McGonagall looked over the brim of her glasses at him, adjusting them slightly on the brim of her nose to do so. "I see."
There was a tense moment of pause as his professor watched him. Harry looked back at her and she let out a heavy sigh. "Off you go then."
Harry nodded and turned to leave, ignoring the feeling of McGonagall's eyes boring into the back of his head.
"What was that about?" Ron asked the moment he exited the room.
"She knows I already got myself in detention with Umbridge," Harry muttered bitterly.
"Rotten pink toad," Ron mumbled, shaking his head.
"Toad?" A voice asked as someone suddenly appeared at Harry's other side. "What toad?"
Harry turned to see the new transfer student walking at his side.
"Umbridge." Harry clarified, slightly shocked at the Slytherin's boldness.
"Indeed." The boy hummed, "Her face is rather toad-like. But I find myself appalled more by her choice of clothing. I prefer green myself." He gave his companions a wolfish grin.
Harry and Ron exchanged a glance as the Slytherin continued to walk next to them on their way toward the dungeons.
"Potions next?" The boy asked without glancing at Harry and Ron.
"Yes," Harry answered for the both of them.
"Something wrong?" The boy asked, noticing the curtness with which Harry spoke.
"It's just that," Harry paused.
"Slytherins and Gryffindors don't typically get along." Ron finished, making certain to keep Harry's body between his and the other boys.
"Ah." The boy said, tapping his chin. "I'm new here, you see. I don't quite understand the rules of fraternization. Who you can and cannot talk to. Seems rather arbitrary don't you think?"
The three began to descend the stairs to the dungeon.
"I never caught your names by the way." Dark eyes blinked at Harry. He vaguely realized that they were not the dark brown as they seemed the other night but rather an onyx color.
"'m Ron," Ron muttered, clearly avoiding the boy's eyes.
The boy grinned, "Thomas."
Their conversation was quickly halted outside the door to the Potion's classroom as Harry and Ron were joined by Hermione who eyed the Slytherin boy warily. Draco attempted to make jab after jab toward Harry which he made valiant attempts to ignore since he couldn't afford detention with Snape as well as Umbridge.
Soon, Snape's form darkened the doorway and the students filed their way into class, Draco preening the whole way through hoping his godfather would notice the shining Prefect's badge pinned to his chest.
"Prat." Ron muttered bitterly while glaring at Draco.
"You will be working in partners today. Choose wisely." Snape warned as the class began to settle in.
Draco's eyes shot to Thomas, but the boy ignored him completely and instead moved to sit on the bench next to Harry. Harry felt himself do a double-take.
"How are your potion making abilities?" Thomas asked without looking at Harry.
Harry swallowed and looked away.
"I see." The boy answered.
"There's still time to choose a better partner," Harry answered, his eyes quickly darting to Draco who was glaring daggers at him.
"I'll take my chances."
With Harry taken, Ron found himself paired with Hermione. He squirmed under her demands as they worked on the potion as she wanted everything to be perfect. Harry couldn't help but think that maybe it was what Ron needed, a firm hand. Maybe he needed someone to keep him on track as he and Harry together often found themselves distracted or working to read about the potion too late to notice something wrong. Hermione, however, was always at ease with her ability to make a potion it seemed, and Ron did whatever she ordered.
It surprised Harry how well he and Thomas worked. They moved surprisingly in sync but in near total silence. When Snape demanded their potions be turned in in a vial, Thomas easily extracted the potion and placed it on the desk in front of their professor. Snape's face contorted into a mixture of disgust and some other emotion Harry couldn't quite place as he cleaned his bench while Thomas returned. Hermione turned her and Ron's in seconds later and Snape looked completely indifferent. The four left the classroom, ignoring the still glaring Draco Malfoy.
"You should give yourself more credit with your ability. Clearly, you're not horrendous."
Harry said nothing.
"Well, this is where I leave you three," Thomas said with a glance toward the Slytherin common rooms. "Hermione, Ron." He gave the two a nod before turning his eyes to Harry. "Be seeing you, Harry."
The boy was off before the trio had time to react.
"Strange," Hermione said, eyeing Harry.
"Very," Harry answered as he reached a hand toward the locket under his robes which had suddenly become very warm.
Harry knocked on the door in front of him. He'd been staring at it for a few moments now but decided it was time to finally get it over with.
"Come in." The voice on the other side answered.
If Harry thought Umbridge herself was an explosion of pink, it was nothing compared to her office. The walls were covered in nothing but the color pink and over them were dishes with a wide variety of cats. The cats meowed at him when he stepped into the room and he very suddenly remembered the inside of Mrs. Figg's house. In the center of the mass of pink was the toad herself. She looked as if his very presence was a stain on her fuzzy carpet. She gestured to the desk adjacent to her own and Harry moved there wordlessly. On the desk was a piece of parchment and next to it, a quill.
"You're going to do some lines for me." She said as she stood to walk next to him. "You're going to write, 'I must not tell lies.' Can you do that?"
Harry bit off the remark that jumped to the tip of his tongue and instead nodded. "How many times?"
"Oh, let's just say however many times it takes for the message to sink in."
Harry looked away from where she was standing over his shoulder and toward the parchment. He picked up the quill and turned, ever so slightly toward Umbridge. "You haven't given me any ink."
"You won't be needing any ink." She answered softly.
Puzzled, Harry turned back to the parchment and began to write, noticing the ink that exited the quill was a crimson red color. It wasn't long after he began to write that he noticed more. The other hand he was not writing with started ache. It was dull at first, similar to an itch that needed to be scratched, but soon the pain grew until it was searing. Harry gasped as he wrote his next line and looked down at his hand. He watched with a combination of amazement and horror as the redness that had begun to grow on his hand several lines ago started to carve itself into something much more recognizable.
I must not tell lies.
Harry stared as Umbridge came next to him, leaning gently on the desk.
"Something to say?" She asked sweetly. Harry stayed silent. "I didn't think so. Because deep down, you know, you deserve to be punished."
She gently reached for his hand as a drop of blood dripped from the letter "I".
"I think that's enough for today. You may leave."
Harry dropped the quill and reached for his bag as Umbridge moved toward her desk. Just as Harry opened the door to leave, he heard her clear her throat, calling his attention back to her.
"I'll see you at this time tomorrow again, Mr. Potter."
Harry practically ran back to Gryffindor tower. His heartbeat thundered in his ears and he could feel practically feel his magic racing under his skin. He entered the common room and was only stopped by an exclamation of his name. Quickly, he hid his hand and turned toward Ron and Hermione who had claimed places near the fireplace.
"You waited," Harry said, attempting desperately to sound normal as he tried to reign in his temper.
"Of course, mate," Ron answered like it was utterly ridiculous that they wouldn't have.
Harry felt himself relax slightly as he looked at his friends.
"I'm a little tired. Umbridge and all." He rubbed his head with his unblemished hand. "I think I'll head to bed."
He didn't let his friends answer as he ascended the tower.
Harry saw flashes of the same door from the other night and whispers filled his head. He couldn't focus on what the whispers were saying because the door seemed to reoccupy the entirety of his attention. The hall didn't seem to be lit except for the door with its large, round handle in the center. The closer he got to the door, the more excited he felt. It felt like he was succeeding. Suddenly, there was a brilliant white light behind him and he was forced away from the door.
"What happened to your hand?" Harry tensed at the question as he turned to look at the person who asked him the question. Thomas's eyes were glued to his left hand. Harry moved his hand, attempting to remove it from Thomas's view only for the boy to grab his wrist with a firm grasp. The boy moved his hand back into view only now both Ron and Hermione could see it.
"It's nothing," Harry said, ripping his hand out of Thomas's grasp.
"That's not nothing," Hermione answered before Thomas could say anything. "That's from Umbridge isn't it." But it wasn't a question. Hermione already knew the answer.
"I said it's nothing, Hermione."
Harry marched ahead of them as they walked toward Hagrid's hut. It was distinctly dark without their half-giant friend. Professor Grubbly-Plank didn't seem right as she stood near the it.
"She's hurting you," Thomas said bluntly as he easily caught up to him.
"You should tell Dumbledore or McGonagall. Someone." Hermione said, catching up to Harry and Thomas, Ron in tow.
"No." Harry's reply was firm. "Leave it."
Before Hermione could reply, Grubbly-Plank began her lesson.
Chapter 6: Dumbledore's Army
Harry dreamed of hands and lips. Hands caressing his sides, gripping his hair. Lips kissing his neck, running over his lips. He could hear breathing, intense heavy breathing, accompanied by moaning. He could feel a hard body pressed against his.
And he wanted more.
"Do you dream of me often, Harry?"
Harry blinked awake, his eyes seeing only the Gryffindor red curtains surrounding his bed. Around him, snores echoed off the walls. He turned himself onto his other side, trying to forget the memory of onyx eyes that had implanted itself into his brain. He closed his eyes and tried to think about something else, anything else, to lull himself back to sleep. But onyx eyes and tempting lips kept coming to the forefront of his mind. He didn't understand why he was dreaming of Thomas. He barely knew the boy, he tried to tell himself. However, in the months since the start of school, Thomas seemed to find Harry wherever he was. He could feel Thomas's eyes on him during meals, during games, during classes. They walked between classes together as the Slytherin seemed to prefer the company of three Gryffindors rather than his Slytherin counterparts.
So, to say that Harry didn't know the other boy well was an understatement. Part of him felt like he knew the other very well. There was an ease between him and Thomas. Hermione had remarked, when she thought Harry wasn't listening, how much Harry and Thomas were alike. And it was true, though Harry tried to push it out of his mind as often as possible. He tried to push most thoughts of Thomas out of his mind as often as possible. Especially when he found himself watching Thomas's jaw when he focused during classes, or when he found himself watching the cat-like grace the other moved with.
Harry sighed as he turned his face into his pillow. He didn't want to think about Thomas. He shouldn't be thinking about Thomas, right? Harry scrubbed his hands over his face. Maybe he needed someone to talk to about this.
Ron? He doubted Ron would understand.
Sirius? He didn't quite know if he'd be comfortable talking to his godfather about something like this.
Harry sighed, at a loss for what to do.
He remembered the prior year, having the same fluttering that he got when he looked at Cho that he now got when he looked at Thomas.
Oh god, he liked Thomas.
Harry groaned into his pillow. Next to him, Ron snored loudly, muttering in his sleep about spiders.
Harry tried again, desperately, to think about anything else other than Thomas. He needed to sleep.
It had been revealed earlier that Umbridge was named High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, a title she clearly thought she deserved well before she was named it. As a result, Hermione started to badger Harry relentlessly about being the "teacher they all needed." Harry couldn't help but roll his eyes at Hermione's exaggeration.
Who'd want to be taught by me? I'm a nutter, remember?
Just trust me, Harry.
And he did. He trusted Hermione. If he had to name someone he trusted, he would name Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. So, he left things to her. Before they went to sleep, she had told him to be prepared for the following day. Now, Harry found himself struggling with the very critical task of sleeping. He turned on his back and looked at the blurry ceiling above him, begging for sleep to reclaim him again.
Eventually, it did.
Twenty-eight people, not including Harry, sat in pure silence in the Hog's Head. The owner of the inn had vanished not long after people had begun to filter inside and take seats. Harry sat in between Ron and Hermione. In front of them were Ginny, Dean, Neville, Cho and a friend, the Patil twins, Colin and Dennis Creevey, Fred and George, Hannah Abbott, Katie Bell, Susan Bones, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Anthony Goldstein, an unknown Hufflepuff, Michael Corner, Lavender, Luna, Lee Jordan, Terry Boot, Ernie Macmillan, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, and Thomas.
Harry's heart felt like it jumped into his throat the moment he saw Thomas stride through the door. Much like everyone else, he was out of his school robes, but his all black clothing clung tightly to his lithe form. The boy gazed onyx eyes over the Hog's Head in disgust like it was the embodiment of disease until his eyes landed on Harry. There they stayed. Easily, Thomas avoided the others in the room, moving until he was leaning against a wooden pole which didn't seem to provide structural support. His arms crossed, and he kicked on leg out in front of the other, making his posture look more relaxed than he likely was.
"Who invited the snake?" Someone hissed lowly.
Thomas's eyes left Harry for a moment, searching the room for the source of the comment with malice before returning to Harry, once again at ease.
It wasn't long after Thomas's arrival that the room grew deadly silent.
Hermione finally broke the silence.
"You all know why we're here. We need a teacher. A proper teacher. One who's had real experience defending themselves against the Dark Arts."
"Why?" Someone asked though Harry didn't bother to look for who. Instead, he kept his gaze above everyone, not wanting to look anyone in the eye.
"Why?" Ron repeated incredulously. "Because You-Know-Who's back."
Harry could vaguely see Thomas shift.
"Says who?" The same voice asked.
"Dumbledore says," Hermione answered.
"Dumbledore says because he says." Harry finally looked for the owner of the voice, finding it to be the unknown Hufflepuff. "He could tell us more about how Diggory died." The Hufflepuff said after a pause.
"Look, I'm not going to entertain you so if that's all you're here for then you can just leave now." Harry stood, turning his back to them. He didn't notice Cho's attempt to withhold tears at the mention of Cedric.
"Harry-" Hermione began but he quickly cut her off by abruptly turning around.
"Look," He began, "Facing this stuff in real life isn't like trying it in a classroom. In class, if you fail you can just try again tomorrow but other there, there's a very real chance there won't be a tomorrow if you fail. It's not like getting a bad grade. Being tortured or watching a friend die right before your eyes," Harry paused finding his eyes fall to Cho who was silently crying in her seat. "You don't know what that's like." His voice was soft, but he knew everyone had heard him.
"You're right," Hermione said quietly, gently pulling him back into his chair. "That's why we need your help, Harry."
Harry bowed to Thomas. There was a wicked gleam in the other boy's eye as he bowed back. The two turned and walked a few paces away from each other before turning and facing each other again. Both moved into ready positions and there they held themselves. A second ticked by and then before the other could react, Harry yelled, "Stupefy!" The other was easily stunned and dropped quickly.
Around them, the others applauded as Harry quickly moved to pick the other boy off the ground.
"You alright?" Harry asked as the other dusted himself off.
Harry turned to the others in the room. "Who's next?"
Everyone began clamoring to be the next to duel.
"Ron! Hermione! You're next." Disappointment was the first reaction Harry heard from the crowd followed quickly by people realizing just who Harry had called to be the next duelers.
The crowd dispersed around the room again as Ron and Hermione positioned themselves in the middle, bowed, and moved to opposite sides. Harry wasn't surprised when Ron suddenly flew backward but it took a severe amount of restraint to keep himself from laughing.
Harry then paired the remaining members of what had been sarcastically named "Dumbledore's Army" off and set them to practice more on their own. He couldn't help but feel pride as he noticed the general improvement that appeared with everyone in the room. As the holidays neared, Harry felt himself beginning to relax more, hoping that perhaps things might actually be alright for a little while.
It didn't feel like an hour had passed when the room began to empty as people snuck their way past Filch. He thought he was alone in the room as he looked at the picture of the original Order of the Phoenix that Sirius had given him before he left on the Hogwarts Express.
"Who are they?" A voice asked at his shoulder.
Harry turned to see Thomas looking at the same picture he was.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "The original Order of the Phoenix." Carefully, he reached up and pointed to one person who looked very nearly like him.
"That's my father, James." He pointed to the woman next to him, "That's my mother, Lily."
Thomas hummed. "He looks like you."
"Looked." Harry corrected without realizing it.
"Oh?" Thomas asked, shifting ever so slightly to look at Harry. "What happened to them?"
"They were murdered by Voldemort."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Harry swallowed thickly.
"Who do you live with now then?"
"My aunt and my uncle," Harry answered curtly.
"I take it you don't like them."
"That's not what I would say."
"What would you say?"
Harry sighed, running his hand through his hair. "They don't like me."
Thomas nodded. "My parents are dead too. I lived with one caregiver, but they passed, and I moved here. A friend of my godfather was able to talk to some people and that's how I was able to get into Hogwarts." Thomas tapped his chin. "You no doubt know Lucius Malfoy is on the Board of Governors for Hogwarts?"
Harry nodded, feeling himself tense. "That's how you know Draco."
"Yes. Though I don't quite find him my liking for company."
Harry nodded again but this time said nothing. Instead, he turned away from the pictures, including that of Cedric Diggory, and moved to where the Room of Requirement had proved chairs. Thomas followed, sitting across from him.
"What do you think you would do after Hogwarts?" Thomas asked after a long silence.
Harry started at the question. He never really thought about life after Hogwarts. Most of the time he never thought about life after the school year. He was convinced he would die before the end of term exams.
"I suppose I'd be an auror."
"What about you then?" Harry asked, feeling heat begin to lick at his neck.
"I'd want to be a teacher. Maybe Defense Against the Dark Arts."
Harry snorted. "Good luck with that."
"Why do you say that?" Thomas asked.
"No one lasts more than a year at that post."
Something flashed across Thomas's face, but it was gone as soon as it came.
Thomas's foot tapped on the floor. "We should return to our common rooms. Don't want to be caught out after curfew."
Harry resisted the urge to comment on how often he had been out after curfew and instead nodded, looking around the room once more before following Thomas out the door.
"Do you dream of me often, Harry?"
But soon the dream shifted. Instead of pale skin, it was black floors. Instead of pink lips, it was rows upon rows of shelves. Harry felt the floor underneath him. It was as if he himself was slithering along it. He could taste the air. It tasted of fear. Ahead of him was a wand light, glowing brightly in the dimly lit room. As he moved closer, he could see distinct, fire red hair. The man holding the wand turned and Harry struck. Teeth clashed with frail flesh and he could taste blood on his tongue. Over and over teeth met bone and venom met blood.
Arthur Weasley's body shook on the floor of the Ministry of Magic.
"Do you dream of me often, Harry?"
Chapter 7: To Dream
Harry launched himself out of his bed. He grabbed his glasses with one hand the front of Ron's shirt with the other. His heart was in his head and sweat was dripping down his face. He knew he must have looked like something terrifying as Ron's bleary eyes focused on the frantic Harry Potter in front of him.
"Harry?" Ron muttered, rubbing his eyes. "What's going on?"
"It's your dad." Harry's voice was frantic as he tried to tug his friend out of his bed. Across the room, others had begun to stir at the sound of Harry's loud voice and the ruckus he was causing. "He's been hurt. We have to get the professors. Dumbledore-"
"Harry what are you talking about? It was just a dream." Ron tugged himself free of Harry's grasp, but Harry grabbed him again, hauling his friend out of the bed with surprising strength.
"No, you don't understand." Harry grasped his friend's shoulders, willing him to understand. "It was real."
Harry didn't notice when or how someone had gotten Professor McGonagall, but the professor suddenly appeared at his side. Ron's face had gone pale as Harry held a firm grasp on his arm, hoping to at least keep his friend upright. He turned to his professor who saw all she needed to see in the faces of the two Gryffindors. They were quickly whisked to Dumbledore's office. Harry's body started to feel like lead on the way, but he forced himself to go. All he could think about was Mr. Weasley. Surely Dumbledore would know if he was alright and...
And would know what was going on with him.
Dumbledore. The man had avoided him. Naturally, it caused Harry to result in drastic measures, as was seen in the formation of the DA. But Dumbledore couldn't ignore him tonight. He'd be a fool to. It seemed like it took a lifetime to reach the headmaster's office, but they were suddenly there, and it was utter chaos.
The other Weasley's had arrived at some point as Dumbledore instructed professors and portraits in various tasks. There was an audible sigh of relief at hearing that Arthur Weasley had been reached in time, he would live. But now Harry was getting antsy. Dumbledore only spoke to him to get information then had avoided him the rest of the time Harry stood in his office. Harry was more than a statue or Muggle portrait that could be seen momentarily then ignored. Dumbledore paced in front of him, back and forth, still directing and organizing things.
"Professor." Harry tried getting Dumbledore's attention, but the man ignored him. Harry waited to for a minute and then two for Dumbledore to respond, to even look at him. But the man didn't.
"Professor." He tried again. Still nothing.
He could feel the locket against his chest getting warmer. He could feel a tugging at the back of his mind. He could feel anger building in his gut.
"Look at me!" He yelled. Only then did Dumbledore look. They stared at each other for a moment, Harry's hands balled into fists. Before Harry felt his whole body deflate. "What's happening to me?"
The room was dead silent as Dumbledore watched Harry. Harry could see the thoughts churning in the man's head but still, he said nothing. Behind Harry, the door opened, and someone walked in, but Harry didn't care. He was still looking at Dumbledore. But whatever momentary interest Dumbledore had for Harry seemed to vanish.
"Ah, Severus." Dumbledore was looking over Harry's head.
"You asked for me, Headmaster?" Snape's voice came from directly behind Harry.
"I'm afraid we can't wait, not even until morning. We will be vulnerable." Dumbledore's voice was quiet. "Gather your things. You'll depart in the morning for St. Mungo's."
"What about Harry?" Ron asked as Harry felt himself being led from the room by Snape. Harry turned and looked back at his headmaster, wondering if he was considering not letting him go.
"He will go with you," Dumbledore said after a moment of silence.
Snape led Harry out of the headmaster's office, pushing him in front of him all the way down to the dungeons.
"It appears your mind and the Dark Lord's are linked," Snape said, answering Harry's unasked question. "Whether or not he is aware of this connection is unknown. Pray he remains ignorant." Snape pushed Harry in a toward a chair in a room he didn't quite recognize. "When used properly the power of Occlumency can help shield the mind. I will attempt to penetrate your mind and you will attempt to resist." Snape turned to look at Harry from the desk he had been working at. "Prepare yourself."
Despite Snape's mediocre warning, there was no amount of warning Harry could have gotten for suddenly having his mind invaded. It was like having his nails scraped along the inside of his skull. He still would prefer it to the Cruciatus curse, however. Memories flashed in front of his mind; faster, faster, faster.
"Concentrate, Potter. Focus."
The locket against his chest burned, but it wasn't burning his flesh. It was like the locket itself was angry. Harry let out a choked scream and Snape let up. Harry felt his body double over, gasping for breath.
"You would think that for someone such as yourself you would be better at resisting."
Maybe he was delirious, but Harry laughed.
Thomas's face flashed before his eyes, onyx eyes and chestnut hair. A brilliant smile and high cheekbones. A lone curl and pale skin.
"Feeling sentimental?" Snape jeered. Harry suddenly withdrew the memory, because it wasn't a memory. This was a dream, and he knew exactly where this dream was going.
The flashes before his eyes changed and suddenly there was Sirius Black. Harry could feel relief pull at his heart but again, he could feel Snape's presence tugging at the memory, demanding to see it. Harry resisted, trying desperately to keep the memory of seeing his godfather to himself. He almost succeeded, but suddenly there was Snape, watching him reunite with his godfather after the dementor attack.
Harry nearly collapsed as the two withdrew from his mind. They'd been going for hours and his body was shaking. He expected Snape to look at him with disgust at his failure, but the man didn't. Instead, he just watched him as Harry sat down in the chair, wiping sweat from his brow.
"You may leave for the night." Snape's voice broke through the silence.
Harry knew surprise was written all over his face. But Snape just waved his hand and Harry stood, walking out of the room. He started to leave the dungeons when he ran, literally, into another person.
"I'm sorry," Harry muttered, turning to make sure the other was alright, only to find he was staring up into the face of Thomas.
"No need to apologize, Harry." Harry swallowed. "I was just taking a walk before curfew. Care to join me?" Harry, not trusting his voice, nodded. Thomas waved his hand in front of them and the two of them began to walk next to each other. "Any particular reason you were in the dungeons tonight, Harry?" Thomas asked after a few moments, breaking the silence.
"Lessons with Snape," Harry answered, not looking Thomas in the eye. It wasn't technically a lie. But he was careful never to say what the lessons were in. Thomas nodded as they continued to walk. They began to ascend the stairs up toward the first floor, the second floor, the third floor. Harry didn't even realize that he was suddenly outside Gryffindor tower when Thomas suddenly stopped.
"Well, this is where I leave you, I suppose." Thomas sighed as he looked at the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"I guess," Harry answered, though he had a strange feeling in his stomach that he couldn't place, and he wasn't certain he wanted to. They stood in silence for a few moments before two Gryffindor third year girls ran up behind them. The pair stared at them with wide eyes, especially Thomas who smiled at them. The girls giggled and dashed through the portrait before their faces could get much redder. Harry resisted the urge to laugh while he turned to look back at Thomas who was staring at him.
"Another DA meeting coming up soon?" Thomas asked. Harry nodded. "I look forward to it." Thomas turned and began to descend the stairs away from Gryffindor tower. "Goodnight, Harry. Sweet dreams." The last words were spoken so softly that Harry wasn't certain he'd heard them.
"Goodnight." Harry returned, finally finding his voice again. He was just as bad as those third years, he thought as he scrubbed his hands over his face.
He absently said the password to the portrait and walked through, flopping down on the open chair near the fireplace next to Ron and Hermione.
"That bad huh?" Ron asked. Harry looked at him. "I mean if I had to take an extra potions class with Snape, I'd feel just like that too." Ron looked around at the people near them, seeing the Common Room wasn't empty.
"You're right." Harry sighed.
"Any progress?" Hermione asked, unable to keep concern from leaking into her voice.
"Some," Harry answered absently.
"Something wrong, Harry?" Ron asked, noticing Harry's short answers. Harry looked back and forth between his friends before ultimately sighing.
"I think I'm just tired. I think I'll turn in early."
Harry would never admit there was a slight, vindictive glee in him when Fred and George approached him about putting Puking Pastilles in Filch's food. However, he found himself dismissing the twins when he caught a glimpse of Cho Chang between the two of them. She was staring up at the picture of Cedric Diggory that was pinned on the wall in the Room of Requirement.
"Would you excuse me?" He asked, slipping between the two who turned to watch him approach Cho.
He gently touched her shoulder as he walked up behind her to alert her of his presence. She didn't react but instead kept staring up at the picture of Cedric. Harry looked up at him too, seeing his face smiling down at them as if they were his favorite people on the planet. Indeed, they probably were. Everyone was probably among his favorite people on the planet and Harry enjoyed that about Cedric. He remembered when Cedric fought to redo the game between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor when Harry could no longer compete as seeker because the game wasn't fair anymore. Cedric would have been a great man. But now he was dead.
Harry looked away from Cedric and instead looked at Cho who finally looked over at him.
"Learning all of this, it makes me wonder if he knew it too."
Harry nodded, remembering watching Cedric in the maze with Viktor Krum. "He did. Cedric was really good." Harry sighed. "It's just that Voldemort was better."
"You're a great teacher, Harry. I've never been able to stun anything before."
"I wouldn't say that," Harry answered with a smile.
Cho laughed, wiping a tear from her eye.
Cho was silent for a second before she turned to him fully and before he knew it, she was leaning toward him. But it was wrong, it felt wrong.
"Cho." He stopped her. "We shouldn't." Harry looked at the ground. "It's not fair to you or to me to put ourselves in this situation. You're still mourning Cedric and so am I. For now, we'll just make him proud."
There was nothing but pure and utter joy across Cho's face. Her arms wrapped around him and when she pulled away, her face was shining but with a different type of tear than what she had been shedding earlier. She left before Harry could process what he had just done.
"That was kind of you." Another voice said after Harry had stood alone for a while.
Harry turned to see Thomas standing in the corner, one foot kicked out over the other and leaning against the wall.
"How long have you been standing there?"
Thomas shrugged. "I realized I left something and came back to get it just in time to see that lovely little show."
Harry felt his face burn as he turned away from Thomas, looking for the book he'd brought with him for the day. He didn't hear Thomas approach him, so he suddenly turned into the other.
"Are you sure that was the only reason you didn't let her kiss you?"
Harry looked up into Thomas's face.
"Are you certain there was nothing else holding you back?" Thomas began to move forward and Harry backward. "Is there really nothing else?"
Harry's throat felt tight. His back suddenly collided with the wall behind him. Thomas's hand came next to his head and they stood there for a moment. Harry's heart was hammering and his stomach churning. Thomas was so close to him that he could feel the heat radiating from his body.
"You can tell me to stop you know." Thomas's voice was quiet, nearly a whisper.
"What if I don't want you to stop?" Harry asked, his voice coming out in a breathy whisper.
A look flashed across the other's handsome face and something flared in those onyx eyes that Harry couldn't place before Thomas's free hand grabbed the back of his head and pulled him forward. Harry went willingly, and their lips collided.
It was Harry's first kiss and it felt like fire.
Their bodies came closer and Harry felt his arms wrapping automatically around Thomas. Thomas grabbed at his hair, wrapping his fingers in Harry's wild locks. By the time they broke apart, both were breathing heavily. Thomas's pupils were blown wide and his arms were still wrapped tightly around Harry.
They stood there in each other's arms staring at one another for a long time.
"We should go. Curfew." Thomas said with a sigh, releasing Harry from his grasp reluctantly. Absently, Harry thought how much he hated the curfew and again about he had broken it time and time again. Thomas handed Harry the book he'd been looking for earlier.
"I've been wanting to do that for a while," Thomas said nonchalantly. Harry felt redness creeping up his face. Thomas moved toward him, placed his hands on either side of Harry's face, and kissed him again.
Harry hated it when Thomas pulled away. Why did Thomas do this to him?
"To be continued," Thomas said with a sly smile. "Goodnight Harry."
Harry was accosted the moment he entered Gryffindor tower. Ron and Hermione had heard from Fred and George about Harry staying behind to comfort Cho Chang. Naturally, the four of them jumped to their own conclusions about what would happen when Harry and Cho were left alone as it was known that Harry had liked Cho the year before and even asked her to the Yule Ball.
"What happened?" Ron asked, quickly noting Harry's disheveled appearance. "Did you kiss her?"
Harry could distinctly hear a thwap of something Hermione used to hit Ron followed by an exclamation of pain. "Not exactly."
"Not exactly!" Ron exclaimed. "You either kissed her or you didn't mate. There's no 'not exactly' about it."
Harry sat down with his back to the fireplace, wrapping his arms around his knees. "I didn't kiss her."
Ron and Hermione sat down on the couch in front of him. "What do you mean you didn't kiss her? Who did you kiss?" Hermione asked, immediately catching onto his emphasis.
Harry sighed, burying his face.
"Well, who did you kiss, mate?"
Harry hesitated for a few moments longer before finally muttering into his knees, "Thomas."
Harry lied in bed, staring up at the ceiling. He could sleep with thoughts whirling through his head. He could still feel Thomas's lips on his and it made his stomach clench. It wasn't an uncomfortable feeling, but he didn't know where to go from here. Hermione and Ron had been no help when he told them about everything that happened with Thomas. Ron's ears had turned various shades of pink and Hermione had been unusually silent. Harry sighed and scrubbed his hands down his face. Around him, people snored and huffed in their sleep, but Harry couldn't sleep anymore. He'd been woken up by yet another dream of Thomas.
He could feel Thomas's hands in his hair, he could feel Thomas's lips on his own.
Do you dream of me often, Harry?
It had been two days since everything happened with Thomas and he knew he would have to see Thomas again. It was the last week of classes before the holidays and Harry would have to spend most of them with Thomas's eyes following him everywhere. There was also one more DA meeting before the holidays and then there would be time away from Thomas. Harry sat up in his bed and finally gave up on sleep. The sun started to peak over the horizon outside the window. Harry could see the rays stretch over the mountains surrounding Hogwarts like fingers grasping the edge of a cliff.
Harry swung his legs over the edge of the bed and he decided to ready himself for the day.
He just finished readying himself when Ron sat up, bleary-eyed, in his bed.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked.
"I'm going for a walk. Couldn't sleep," Harry said. "I'll see you at breakfast."
Harry left the room before Ron could answer. However, he wasn't as far ahead of his friends as he thought he would be because Hermione was sitting in the Common Room, her nose buried in a book. Hermione looked up the moment he stepped off the last step of the stairs.
"Morning," She said, eyeing him.
"Morning." He returned.
"Where are you going so early?"
"On a walk," Harry answered and then paused. "Would you like to join me?"
Hermione looked at him for a moment. "Sure. I want to talk to you anyway."
Harry repressed a sigh. He knew it would come eventually.
Hermione followed him out of the portrait and down the stairs until they were outside. Snow covered the ground and it crunched under their footsteps. The two of them were silent for a long time before Hermione finally spoke up.
"Why didn't you tell me that you were feeling something for Thomas?"
Harry ran his hand through his hair. "I didn't think you'd understand. And honestly Hermione, I thought you'd look at me differently."
To that, Hermione laughed. Harry stopped in sheer surprise at Hermione's reaction.
"You think I don't understand being attracted to boys?" She asked after she turned to look at him. "And I would never look at you any differently. Harry," She sighed, "I've seen the way you look at him. You're my best friend." She looped her arm through his. "You're no different to me, Harry Potter."
Harry sighed. "It's just so confusing, Hermione." He tucked his hands into his pockets, keeping his arm looped through Hermione's. They started to walk again. "Last year I like Cho. And now Thomas."
"And there's nothing wrong with that Harry," Hermione said looking around at the snow-covered ground. "You can't help who you like. It's like having magic. You can't help having it. It's part of you."
Harry felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Of course, Hermione would know better than anyone what it was like to feel like everything was wrong because of something completely innate.
Harry stopped again but this time, turning to face Hermione who also turned at his sudden stop. He pulled the witch toward him, his vision clouded with fuzzy brown hair as he hugged her.
"Thank you." He whispered.
"Breakfast?" Hermione asked after Harry finally pulled away from her.
He nodded as the pair made their way to the Great Hall.
Thomas waited as everyone slowly drifted out of the room. Voice after voice wished for Harry to have a happy holiday, which he returned until he and Thomas were the only ones left in the room. The door closed with a loud slam behind the last person and Thomas's onyx eyes met Harry's. Harry swallowed hard.
"You've been avoiding me," Thomas said it like it was a simple fact but Harry winced.
"I didn't know what..." Harry's voice drifted off as he met Thomas's eyes again. Thomas was looking at him with an intense stare, but he wasn't exactly looking at Harry. His eyes had focused on Harry's chest. Harry looked down and noticed the locket had slipped into view accidentally.
"Where did you get that?" Thomas's voice was laced with curiosity and something else Harry couldn't quite decipher. Harry swallowed. He'd managed to keep the locket hidden all year and no matter how much he tried he couldn't open it. He hadn't been able to get Dumbledore's attention to ask him for help, so Harry was on his own. Harry wasn't certain if it was the locket or his own heart he felt thrumming against his chest, but he was floundering for an excuse.
"It's a family heirloom," Harry said finally, hoping his weak voice didn't betray him.
Thomas's onyx eyes flashed to his and for a long moment, he was completely silent. Then Thomas hummed, looking away from Harry. Harry tucked the locket back into his shirt, resisting the urge to breathe a sigh of relief. He didn't know what compelled him to keep the locket hidden from everyone. Maybe it was Kreacher's frantic eyes upon seeing the locket around Harry's neck. Maybe it was the way the locket seemed to react to certain situations. But something made Harry want to keep it secret from everyone, Thomas included.
"So, if you haven't been avoiding me, why have you barely said a word to me this whole week?" Thomas asked, looking down at his nails as if they were the most fascinating things in the world and he honestly couldn't be bothered with Harry across the room.
"I was embarrassed," Harry answered, looking down at his feet. He didn't hear Thomas move across the room toward him until Thomas's hand was under his chin, lifting his head up so Harry had no choice but to look in his eyes.
"Embarrassed about me?" He asked.
"No!" Harry exclaimed then he huffed. "Embarrassed about myself. I just couldn't understand what I was feeling, the fact that I like you when I liked Cho the year before."
"You're bisexual, Harry. Nothing to be ashamed of." Thomas shrugged. "Besides I am definitely beautiful enough to fall for."
Harry rolled his eyes at Thomas who flashed a smile at him. "You're a little dramatic aren't you?"
"A little." Thomas hummed in agreement before the hand that was still under Harry's chin wrapped around the back of his head and pulled Harry closer. The kiss wasn't soft or chaste, it was hard and demanding and Harry felt himself crumble under its weight. He grasped Thomas's robes, pulling the other boy closer and Thomas went willingly. Harry couldn't resist the urge to touch Thomas's hair, finding it as soft as it looked while Thomas's other arm wrapped around Harry's body, holding them together.
When they finally broke the kiss, both breathing hard, Thomas turned Harry's head to the side, latching himself onto Harry's neck. Harry felt a moan escape his lips and he knew his face turned slightly red at the reaction. Thomas, however, seemed unfazed and continued to tease the skin at Harry's neck.
"Don't worry, I didn't leave a mark," Thomas whispered in Harry's ear. "Don't want your caretakers worried over the break now do we?"
Harry shuddered at Thomas's voice before Thomas's mouth was on his again. Thomas was kissing him so hard it was almost as if he was after his soul and Harry was putty under his grasp.
"You're mine, Harry Potter," Thomas whispered, holding onto him tightly. Harry was in such a state of stupor he couldn't answer, nor register what Thomas was actually saying. Instead, he just grasped the other tightly as once again Thomas kissed him.
Harry could see the massive snake coil as she coiled around Voldemort's body. He couldn't see most of Voldemort though, as if he were seeing the world through Voldemort's eyes. Voldemort reached out and stroked the head of his loyal pet, the snake hissing in response. There was a fire in the corner of the room as Voldemort paced back and forth, the heavy body of the snake curled tightly around him. The snake whispered something that Harry couldn't quite hear but Voldemort could.
"You did well, pet. Everything is going exactly as planned."
Harry blinked awake at the window in Grimmauld Place. Ron was shaking him with a bright grin on his face which he always got on the same day every year.
"Wake up Harry! It's Christmas."
Harry slid his glasses on his face, following Ron who bounded excitedly down the stairs. They were greeted by Mrs. Weasley on the first floor who was accompanied by Sirius. Sirius stretched his arms out and Harry was there in a second, folding himself into his godfather's embrace.
"Happy Christmas, Harry," Sirius said softly against Harry's hair.
"Happy Christmas, Sirius," Harry answered, realizing absently that this was the first real Christmas he was spending with Sirius. Hermione was down a few moments later, attempting to dodge the hugging that was at the bottom of the stairs only to be trapped in the middle of the twins who quickly wrapped her in a hug from both sides.
"I'm quite comfortable, I don't know about you Georgie," Fred said with a contented sigh.
"I am too, Freddie. I could stay here forever."
"Not with me you won't!" Hermione fought her way out from between the twins, but Harry couldn't resist the urge to pick on her for a moment longer. The moment she was free of the twins' grasp, Harry wrapped his arms around her.
"You let me go right now, Harry Potter!" She demanded.
"Sorry, but we're not in school right now. You can't hex me to get me off of you." Harry heard a bark of a laugh somewhere behind him but most of his view was consumed by Hermione and her attempt to free herself from his grasp. Finally, Harry let her go and Hermione huffed in exasperation, but her eyes showed that she wasn't as annoyed as she let on.
Breakfast and the opening of a few Weasley jumpers later and they were on their way to St. Mungo's to see Mr. Weasley. Harry tucked his hands into his jean pockets, thankful for the fact that the sweater Mrs. Weasley made him was quite warm. He was surprised to see the green fabric with a large gold "H" in the center at first.
"I told you last year," Mrs. Weasley had said, "Green matches your eyes."
Now they were walking into the room of Mr. Weasley yet again and Harry couldn't be happier to see the man upright and chatting with everyone who walked in. His eyes lit up at the site of his family and he sat up even further to see them all. Harry's mind showed him the vivid image of Mr. Weasley lying in a pool of his own blood, barely breathing and writhing on the ground. Harry forced the image away in favor of the newer image of Mr. Weasley, slightly banged up, but mostly unharmed and with a smile across his face.
The trip to St. Mungo's had been more than awkward after the initial sight of Mr. Weasley though. During their exploration, Harry and the others came across their former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart. Visibly, the man hadn't changed much, but he would babble incoherently from time to time and then offer them autographs with his dazzling smile. At one point, he turned to Harry looking at him with an intense stare.
"Have we met before?"
Harry bit back the fear that rose in his throat. The last time he'd seen Lockhart the man was pointing Ron's broken wand at him and attempting to erase his memory. "No, sir," Harry answered. Lockhart stared at him for a moment longer before he seemed to give up trying to remember where he'd met Harry before and was led away by an orderly. Harry and Ron exchanged nervous glances.
The next encounter shook Harry to his core. He had known about Neville's parents long before he saw them with his own eyes. But seeing it made his heart crumble. Neville glanced at them, a shy look on his face while his grandmother puffed herself up as if daring them to say something about the state of her son and his wife. Harry gave Neville a nod and Neville nodded back, letting out a clear sigh of relief before the left. It was then that Harry was forced to admit he'd known about the state of Neville's parents for a while and that he'd promised to keep it a secret. Guilt nagged at his gut for how he found out about the state of Neville's parents and it was accompanied by rage.
My deranged cousin.
They returned to Grimmauld Place and were immediately greeted by Sirius who was holding a package.
"This came for you." He pushed the package toward Harry. "Remus and I did everything we could think of to make certain there was nothing wrong with it." Harry took the package and examined it. It was wrapped in simple green wrapping paper. There was silence for a moment before Sirius broke the silence again. "Who's Thomas?"
Harry could feel heat creeping up his neck and he pushed himself out of the crowded entryway which no one had moved from since entering the house. Hermione and Ron immediately followed him with Fred and George snickering in the background.
At this point, Remus ventured out of the kitchen to investigate what exactly was going on and was swiftly met with the downcast eyes of Harry Potter.
"Who's Thomas?" Sirius asked again, genuine curiosity laced through his voice.
"Thomas is a transfer student," Hermione answered for Harry, taking the eyes of the adults in the room off of Harry and onto her.
"Transfer student?" Remus asked. "I didn't know Hogwarts took transfer students."
"Neither did we," Hermione responded, still answering for Harry who was examining the package in front of him. Ron was shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, Tonks watched everyone in the room, Ginny avoided looking at anyone altogether, Fred and George stood with smiles on their faces that couldn't quite be deciphered, and Mad Eye's eye whirled.
"Why would a transfer student be sending you gifts?" Remus asked.
His question was met with silence. Harry hadn't looked up since Sirius handed him the gift from Thomas. He did absently notice though that Hermione had placed herself between him and the adults in the room.
"Well out with it. We haven't got all day." Moody grunted.
"Why does it matter?" Harry finally looked up at the adults in the room.
"It matters because of who you are, Harry." Mrs. Weasley answered softly. "We don't want you hurt."
Harry resisted the urge to comment on it and instead just shook his head.
"Why don't we just leave this alone?" Ron suggested, his ears starting to turn pink. He still didn't look at anyone, shifting from foot to foot anxiously. Mrs. Weasley, however, knew her son too well and it was enough of a hint to tell her the whole story.
"Oh!" She exclaimed.
Harry sighed before turning and leaving the room and everyone in it.
"Harry!" Ron called after him, but someone must have kept Ron from joining him because he didn't follow.
Harry found a corner and unwrapped Thomas's gift, opening the box under the paper, to find a wand holder and a note.
I thought you might find this useful.
Harry swallowed thickly, his eyes resting on the leather wand holder. Why would Thomas get him a gift? They'd barely known each other for a few months. Harry let out a sigh pressed his head against the window he was sitting near, letting the cool air calm him slightly.
Being away from Thomas allowed him to think on the other a little more. There was no reason for this attraction he felt to Thomas and that Thomas seemed to feel toward him. They barely knew each other and yet they were drawn to each other. Thomas's eyes followed him since day one and more and more Thomas had become a stable part of Harry's life. He'd been there with the founding of the DA and had helped Harry in more than a few classes. Snape hadn't found a reason to throw Harry in detention all semester and even Umbridge with her overbearing presence had been eased by Thomas. But why?
Harry closed his eyes and for a moment thought of the dreams of Thomas that had plagued him for months.
He opened his eyes when he heard footsteps coming toward him. Sirius approached him carefully.
"May I sit with you?"
Harry gestured to space in front of him and Sirius sat down.
"I'm sorry," Sirius began. "I didn't mean to pry. I'm just worried about you is all. And being locked in this house..." Sirius's voice trailed off as he looked around at the walls. Harry nodded. It must be hard on him, Harry thought, being trapped in a place he hated that reminded him of a terrible childhood. It's what he felt like every summer at the Dursley's.
"It was a wand holder," Harry said after a long moment of silence, throwing it into the lap of his godfather. "That's what Thomas sent." He turned to look out the window as his godfather examined the gift.
"Practical," Sirius commented. Harry hummed.
"Can I ask, are you and Thomas?" Sirius shifted uncomfortably in place, setting the wand holder between them.
"What do you want from me, Sirius?" Harry asked, his voice relatively silent.
"I want you to be safe. I want you to be happy." Sirius answered.
Harry turned and looked his godfather but the look in Sirius's eyes showed he was far away. Harry didn't answer and finally, his godfather looked at him again.
"Did you ever like someone part of you felt like you weren't supposed to?" Harry asked. Sirius nodded solemnly.
"Once." Sirius's head turned toward the stairs and for a moment it looked like he was listening to the people downstairs. "But that was a long time ago." Sirius turned to look at him. "Love isn't wrong, Harry. It's love that will win this war. It was your mother's love that saved you. It's my love for you that keeps me worried about you. We need love, Harry."
Harry nodded and turned back toward the window. They sat in silence for a long time.
"So, you like Thomas, huh?" There was a teasing note to Sirius's voice. Harry let out an exasperated sigh.
"Can we not talk about this?" Harry asked.
"We could, but it is my job as your godfather to know these things. I could always go ask Ron." Sirius laughed. "Poor boy was redder than his hair."
Harry laughed, shaking his head and looking at Sirius who smiled at him. Harry hoped that Sirius's comment on Ron might have dissuaded him from pressing the subject further, but Sirius did.
"All right!" Harry exclaimed. "Might've snogged once or twice." He muttered, hoping Sirius hadn't heard. But it was clear from the look on Sirius's face that he did. He grinned widely and pressed Harry for details. Harry couldn't help but feel much calmer after talking to his godfather than he did beforehand.
Even though I have written quite a few chapters this month and will probably write a few more, I just wanted to take the time to wish everyone Happy Holidays. Whatever holiday you celebrate I hope it's a good one.
Chapter 9: Caught
Harry adjusted his jacket on his shoulders. They were about to leave Grimmauld Place for Hogwarts and Harry felt a twinge in his gut. He didn't want to go. Sirius approached him a package in his hands. It was wrapped in simple blue wrapping paper with a white bow, but Harry could see the mischievous glint in Sirius's eyes.
"I wanted to give this to you sooner but," Sirius looked around at Moody whose eye was twirling. "Well, you'd better just take it." He thrust the package into Harry's hands. "Don't open it here. Open it when you get back to Hogwarts." Sirius ran a hand through his thick, black hair. "It's something your dad and I used to use." There was a sad note in Sirius's voice for a moment before he smiled again. "I thought you might find it useful now." Harry tucked the package in with his other belongings, noticing Hermione eye it warily before she bounded down the stairs.
"Thank you, Sirius." His godfather wrapped him in a tight hug which Harry eagerly returned.
"You'll write, yes?" Harry nodded against his godfather's shoulder.
"Good." There was a pause as Sirius pulled back. "Keep that group going." Sirius winked.
"How did-" But Sirius cut off Harry's panicked question.
"You didn't really think the Hog's Head was a good place to conduct a private meeting, did you?" Harry looked away, embarrassed. But there was pride to Sirius's voice and Sirius patted his shoulder. "Don't worry," Sirius said and that was all.
"Harry," Hermione suddenly appeared, "It's time to go." Harry nodded giving Sirius another quick hug before he disappeared out the door, seeing a sad smile on Sirius's face.
Harry supposed he shouldn't have been surprised that he was thrown right back into Occlumency lessons immediately upon arriving back at Hogwarts. Classes hadn't even resumed but Snape has summoned him from his dormitory to start up his lessons again. Harry trudged down toward the dungeons and was met with Thomas along the way. The other boy's eyes lit up with something Harry couldn't quite place as he joined him along his route toward Snape's office.
"Have a good holiday, Harry?" Thomas asked.
"Yes," Harry answered. "Thank you for the gift. I'm sorry I didn't get you anything in return. I wasn't expecting anything."
Thomas gave him an incredulous look. "You don't value your own worth that high, do you?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked but Thomas didn't elaborate as they were outside Snape's office. Snape looked at Thomas and Thomas back at Snape. There was a silent exchange that Harry couldn't decipher before Thomas turned on his heal and marched away. Snape turned to the side and let Harry enter before shutting the door behind him with a click. Snape didn't say much to Harry as he moved across the room. They didn't speak much during the lesson either. Instead, it was Harry attempting to push Snape out of his mind again and again.
"Freak!" Dudley screamed.
Harry blinked at his cousin, unaware of what he had done. They were in the kitchen of the Dursley house, light shone through the window. On the stove, bacon cooked, and the smoke filled the kitchen. Water for tea boiled in the kettle, yet to let out the telltale scream of its finality, ready to be used. Dudley, ever the large round boy, sat across the table from Harry. Harry was incredibly thin, bird-like in his stature. Dudley's plate was piled his with food and Harry had barely eaten a scrap, whatever his Aunt deigned to feed him at the moment. In the other room, Vernon Dursley sat, looking at the paper in his hands, ignoring his son and nephew in the kitchen. Petunia Dursley, flitted around the kitchen, tending to Dudley when he so much as looked like he would call for his mother.
The last slew of insults from Harry's cousin had come from the salt shaker that Dudley had knocked off the table. The shaker didn't hit the ground, however. Instead, it paused in midair. Harry's green eyes had gone wide with panic, worried that the spill would be blamed on him and he wouldn't eat for the rest of the day. So, the shaker froze in the air.
"You're a freak!" Dudley yelled. Harry grabbed the salt shaker and put it on the table before Petunia could turn around to see what Dudley was screaming about.
"Mummy!" Dudley yelled, pointing at Harry, "He's a freak. Get him away from me." Petunia looked at her five-year-old nephew.
"Off with you," She huffed, turning her nose up at her nephew.
Harry's head dropped and slowly he left the table. He opened the door the cupboard, unaware of Severus Snape standing inches away, and slid inside, closing it behind him with a soft click.
Harry forced Snape away from the memory, but not soon enough for Snape to have seen the whole thing. Harry's body was shaking from exertion and he wiped the sweat that had begun to form off his brow. Snape didn't look at him as he straightened himself, squared his shoulders, and waited.
It felt like hours before Snape addressed his presence in the room again.
"Leave, Potter." Snape's voice was like ice and for some reason, Harry was frozen. "I said leave!"
Harry was spurred into action, by the second demand and he found himself moving toward the exit.
"Be careful around Mr. Raadsel." Snape murmured before the door closed forcefully behind him.
Harry trudged back toward Gryffindor tower tired and confused before he readied himself for bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
"We believe the escape was organized by notorious mass murderer, Sirius Black." Fudge had commented. "Cousin of escapee, Bellatrix Lestrange."
Below Fudge's comment was a picture of Bellatrix, screaming and straining against her chains. Her black hair was wild and untamed, flying in every direction. It seemed as if she were trying to attack Harry himself on the other side of the photograph. Harry looked over at Neville who'd become deadly silent as the paper had been read aloud at the table that morning. He wanted nothing more than to ask Neville how he was doing but he knew it would be worse to call attention to Neville than it would be to let him be for the moment. Neville caught Harry's eye and gave him a slight nod which Harry returned. Then he lifted his head up and immediately saw a head of white blond hair across the Great Hall. Draco Malfoy, nephew of Bellatrix Lestrange.
"We need a session," Harry whispered to Ron and Hermione, looking away from Draco before the Malfoy heir spotted him, "Sometime this week. Preferably tonight."
"Agreed mate." Ron nodded before stuffing another spoonful of food into his mouth. Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. At least Ron had an appetite. Harry barely had one since his Occlumency lesson with Snape over two days ago. Hermione nodded in agreement but said nothing.
Eventually, the three of them got up to leave, and Harry idly noted Luna walk in front of them with no shoes. He blinked in surprise before a mass of people overtook him and he couldn't see her anymore. Unfortunately, his day took a turn from odd to awful when he saw the utterly pink abomination that was Dolores Umbridge. Harry finished his classes for the day and had just rounded a corner when he saw her.
Her upturned nose and toad-like face stared down at him as he watched a younger student run from her, clutching his hand. The younger student, clad in Hufflepuff colors ran into Harry and didn't really seem to realize what he was doing as he threw his arms around the older student. Harry could feel his body shaking as he absently wrapped an arm around the young Hufflepuff, his eyes fixed on Umbridge. Her only reaction was to smile at him sweetly, folding her hands in front of her.
"Something you'd like to say, Mr. Potter?" She asked, her voice laced with malice covered with a thin layer of sweetness. But Harry said nothing. He pulled the younger boy with him as he walked away from Umbridge until they were out of her view.
The boy cried into his robes and Harry looked around for someone, anyone, to help him but they were alone in the corridor.
"We need to find you some help for your hand," Harry said. The boy pulled himself away from Harry, blinking up at him with wide blue eyes.
"I found you didn't I?"
Harry couldn't help the small smile that pulled at the corner of his mouth. The boy couldn't have been more than a first year, but he seemed so much smaller than that.
"Come, let's get you to Madame Pomfrey."
Less than a week later, Harry found Umbridge and McGonagall in the middle of a tense argument.
"Are you questioning my right to discipline students, Minerva?"
"Not at all, Dolores. Merely your medieval methods."
A crowd had gathered, watching the two professors. Harry knew exactly what had caused this. His eyes flitted between the two professors as they traded words back and forth. Umbridge had been named High Inquisitor of Hogwarts months ago and they had watched as she attempted to send Professor Trelawny off Hogwarts grounds which had occurred mere days before. It had been the first time Harry had seen Dumbledore since the attack on Mr. Weasley when he emerged to safeguard Sybill Trelawny's home at Hogwarts.
Dumbledore still avoided Harry though when Harry had tried to get his attention. Now, things were escalating further. Would Dumbledore show his face now or would he stay away in his office as he had been all year?
He didn't miss Umbridge's threat about further control over Hogwarts as the crowd began to disperse. Harry stayed for a few seconds longer, making eye contact with Umbridge. She stared back at him, a sweet grin on her face. There was rage building in him, though. McGonagall grabbed Harry and ushered him through the crowd, away from Umbridge who stood like a statue on the stairs, gazing at everyone below her.
Harry turned to Professor McGonagall as she hauled him through the crowd, wondering where exactly they were going until they were sequestered away safely in her office.
"You did the right thing, taking that boy to the Hospital Wing," McGonagall said after a long, silent moment.
"I just didn't want him to be in more pain," Harry answered.
"Give me your hand, Potter." McGonagall's voice was low, quiet almost. It seemed as if she were afraid of what she would find when he raised his hand. She examined his hand, the words I must not tell lies written in the same handwriting she'd seen for years now. McGonagall dropped his hand and swept over to her desk, her emerald robes trailing behind her gracefully. Harry followed her silently.
"Did you tell Umbridge that Voldemort returned?" McGonagall steepled her fingers and looked at Harry through her thin framed glasses.
"Yes," Harry answered nervously.
McGonagall hummed and pulled something out of her desk drawer. She set it down and opened it up, pushing it and its contents toward Harry. "Have a biscuit, Potter."
Harry blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"I said have a biscuit, Potter."
Harry paused for a second more before taking a biscuit and thanking his professor.
"You have a class now, do you not Mr. Potter?"
Harry nodded. "Yes Professor."
"Then off you go." Harry nodded and turned to leave. He could feel Minerva McGonagall's eyes on him the whole walk out of her office.
"Umbridge is using Veritaserum on people." Hermione hissed in Harry's ear. She had just sat down at breakfast, her bushy hair obscuring her lips as she whispered urgently in Harry's ear. It took everything had for Harry to keep him from spitting out his drink.
"Do you know what this is?"
"Bubble juice, sir?"
"Veritaserum." Snape sneered. "One drop of this and You-Know-Who himself would spill his darkest secrets. The use of it on a student is, regrettably forbidden."
"I thought the professors weren't allowed to use Veritaserum on students?" Harry whispered back, keeping his head low.
"They're not allowed to use illegal blood quills either," Hermione said, lifting Harry's hand.
"What are you two whispering about?" Ron asked, sitting down across from them. Hermione quickly shushed him before telling him what she had told Harry. Ron's face paled and he swallowed. "Suddenly, I'm not hungry."
The trio sat in silence for a long time, exchanging one worried glance after another.
Harry happened to glance up, noting the Draco with his Inquisitorial Squad badge pinned under the Prefect badge on his chest.
"I'm calling a DA meeting," Harry whispered. "Tonight."
Harry and the others gathered. He planned to tell them about the looming shadow of Dolores Umbridge, however, he found that Patronuses were easier to cast when the weight of a villainous toad wasn't pressing on one's shoulders. Harry watched as patronus after patronus filled the room. He laughed as Ron's patronus, a Jack Russell Terrier, barked at him eagerly before running rampant around the room. Hermione's patronus, an otter, skittered around her. Harry noted Luna's patronus, a hare, as it bounced around her before moving rapidly upward as if seeing if it could touch the sky. There were a couple though that didn't produce patronuses.
Harry started with Neville. The Gryffindor boy's brow furrowed in concentration and he said the incantation over and over, eyeing the other patronuses in the room before trying again frustration obvious in his posture.
"Neville," Harry's voice was soft. "Relax. Don't compare yourself to them, or even me. It's your memory, it will take time." Neville sighed at him and Harry could see his body deflate.
"I'm trying, Harry."
"I know, Neville." Harry patted his arm. "You can do this."
He left Neville to keep trying and ventured toward Thomas who was twirling his wand in his hand.
"Thomas?" Harry asked, feeling curiosity and worry lace together in his question.
"Yes, Harry?" Thomas answered, sounding bored.
"Is something wrong?"
"No. I just know I won't be able to produce a patronus. There's no point in trying."
Harry opened his mouth to ask why when suddenly the room began to shake. The lights from patronuses began to dim as another blast caused the room to shake. The chandelier overhead rattled. Harry approached the center of the room, feeling Ron and Hermione at his sides. The room shook again. People started to crowd behind him. The room shook again. Harry watched as the mirror on the wall in front of him began to crack. Again, the room shook. The crack expanded. Again, it shook and again it expanded over and over until the glass crashed to the ground.
"I'll make this easy." Harry could hear Umbridge on the other side. "Bombarda maxima." The wall blew inward. Debris flew in every direction and Harry found himself coughing in the dust. When it settled, he looked at outward at the people gathered on the other side. The room the DA was gathered in had gone completely dark, the only light coming from the corridor outside. Several Slytherins stared at them, near bloodthirsty looks on their faces, Malfoy among them. With the Inquisitorial Squad was Marietta Edgecombe, Cho's friend, with the word Sneak written across her forehead. Filch stood at Umbridge's side and Umbridge stood with her wand raised, pointed at the various students on the other side of the wall she had just forced down.
Harry looked around, making certain everyone was ok after the collapse of the wall.
"Get them," Umbridge demanded.
The Inquisitorial Squad descended on the room, grabbing whoever they could as others ran. Harry was among the ones grabbed as Umbridge ripped the paper off the wall shaking it greedily in her fist. Hermione and Ron struggled against their captors as Umbridge marched back toward them.
"I have you now!" Umbridge declared, shaking the paper in Harry's face. Harry watched as the name Thomas Raadsel vanished off the paper as if it had never been there and as he looked around, he noticed Thomas was no longer in the room.
Chapter 10: Vanished
Harry tore through his belongings. There was only one thing on his mind, finding the Marauder's Map. Harry finally found it, waving his Holly wand over the parchment and whispering the words. The intricate design appeared on the front, greeting him as it always did. Harry opened the parchment all the way, searching for one name in particular. He scanned over every name. Dolores Umbridge was in the Headmaster's office, Severus Snape was in the dungeons, Minerva McGonagall was pacing in the Transfiguration classroom, Harry Potter was in Gryffindor tower. But Harry couldn't find the one name he was looking for. He scanned the map over and over before letting out a yell of frustration.
Ron came up next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "What's going on?"
"Dumbledore's gone!" Harry waved his hands frantically. "Used Fawkes and just vanished."
Harry started to pace.
"That can't be the only reason you're upset, mate." Harry could hear Ron shift behind him. "I haven't seen you this mad since..." Ron's voice trailed off. Harry knew exactly what Ron was talking about. Since the summer when he felt like Ron and Hermione had kept him in the dark about the Order.
"Thomas's name vanished off the paper." Harry withdrew the paper from his pocket after he'd managed to snag it from Fudge and Umbridge. "He vanished completely from the Room of Requirement. And now he's not even on the map."
Thomas gone. Dumbledore gone. Harry ran his hands through his hair, making it look much wilder than it already was. Snape had warned him, he should have listened.
"What if he's still in the Room of Requirement?" Hermione asked, coming up behind Ron and Harry silently, making Ron jump. She looked over the map. "It's possible that it wouldn't show up on the Map. He could be in there."
Harry's eyes widened as he grabbed the map and his cloak before rushing down the steps toward the Common Room.
"Harry!" His friends called after him, but he was under the cloak and out the portrait before they reached the bottom of the steps.
It felt like he flew up to the seventh floor. Thomas's name still hadn't appeared on the Map so Harry began to pace in front of the entrance to the Room of Requirement. Somehow it had repaired itself, or maybe Thomas had done it from the inside if he really never had left. The locket burned against Harry's chest and rage boiled in his blood. This was unlike any rage he'd felt before and it almost seemed like there was something egging him on. A door appeared in front of him, cracking slightly to let him inside. This door, however, was different than the one he'd used to enter the room the DA trained in. Harry stepped inside and the door closed behind him, vanishing the moment it clicked shut. Harry looked around at the room, momentarily awestruck. The room was filled with objects, nearly to the ceiling in piles. It was dimly lit by small lanterns that seemed to hover in the air. Harry looked at around at the room not seeing anyone else. Carefully, he walked forward, trying not to make any noise.
He approached stack after stack, wand at the ready until he heard a whispering in the room. It was soft at first but the closer he got, the louder the whispering was. The locket on his chest twitched and his scar started to burn. Harry kept forward, approaching the stack where the whispering was coming from. He narrowed it down to a box, simplistic enough in nature, but it sang to him, begging him to find it and take it.
"I knew you would find me in here." Thomas's voice distracted Harry from the whispered promises from above. Harry spun, looking for the other. Thomas came around a stack, nearly strutting as he did so. "Oh come on love, don't be mad. I can explain."
Harry wanted to snarl. Don't be mad? Thomas left them at Umbridge's mercy.
He let out a hex, aimed straight for Thomas's chest. Thomas was ready though because the hex hit a brilliant white shield.
"If I duel you will you let me explain?" Thomas's voice was sweet as honey. It only made Harry angrier. He let out another hex, then another. He finally took off the cloak, revealing himself to the other boy, who's onyx eyes turned nearly hungry at the very sight of Harry Potter. But Harry didn't relent. Spell after spell, they traded blows. Harry unleashed all his pent-up anger. The stacks were blown aside amidst the chaos he and Thomas were creating. But the look on Thomas's face said he was enjoying this too much.
Harry suddenly felt himself flying backward only to hover in midair. For a terrifying moment, he hung there. He could see the ceiling above him, he could feel the locket hanging slightly off his chest, he could again hear the whispering, and then he could feel Thomas's breath on his neck.
"I like you angry." Thomas's voice was quiet and laced with something Harry couldn't quite place. "Your eyes light up very vibrantly. Like emeralds." Thomas began to circle him. "I first saw it with Umbridge, when she tried to challenge you about the return of Voldemort." One of Thomas's hands trailed down Harry's leg, but Harry was frozen, unable to move much less fight Thomas off. "I've seen it again, here and there." Thomas was again by his face and his hand reached up, turning Harry's head until their eyes met. "You're beautiful when you're angry, Harry Potter."
Thomas's lips crashed against his for a moment then Harry landed harshly on the ground. He grunted upon impact, feeling the wind knocked out of him and his glasses shift awkwardly on his face. Before he could move, Thomas was on him. The other straddled him, straightened his glasses, then grabbed the locket chain, hauling him into a near sitting position.
"Now will you let me explain? Or would you prefer to continue fighting me?"
"I might consider fighting you." Harry huffed.
Thomas smirked. "You won't." He let go of Harry abruptly, causing Harry to rock backward, and stood. He offered his hand to Harry.
Harry eyed him for a moment before taking the other's hand and standing. Thomas let him brush himself off before wandering away. Harry followed him until Thomas lead him to a table and a couple of chairs. Thomas waved his hand for Harry to sit and he did, keeping his wand in his hand in case he decided to hex Thomas into the nearest stack.
"I put a variation of a vanishing charm on the quill when I signed my name. It was insurance in case we got caught. I did it well before I started to court you, Harry. When Umbridge thought it would be brilliant to break the school, I simply put a Disillusionment charm on myself. It would have been smart for all of you to have done that by the way. Umbridge couldn't have caught you if she thought there was nothing to catch."
"You self-serving git!" Harry yelled.
"Slytherin," Thomas answered sounding bored and deciding to examine his nails.
"I thought you didn't understand the way Hogwarts did things." Harry retorted, his voice laced with disgust.
"I'm a fast learner."
"So, you let us all get caught just to save your own skin?" Harry threw his hands up in the air.
"That was not my original intention, no." Thomas tapped his chin. "That was just the consequence." Thomas eyed Harry. "You don't have to believe me. But I don't want you being used as her plaything. It was never my intention that you ended up in her toadstool."
"Intention or not, we all are now. All except for you and Marietta."
"Is that who that was?" He had piqued Thomas's curiosity with that statement and there was again a gleam in Thomas's eye that Harry couldn't place.
"Yes. Though it appears Hermione got her revenge pretty quickly." Harry remembered seeing the word Sneak written across Marietta's forehead.
"Poor girl." Thomas hummed, feigning sorrow. "She'll never get the word off her head."
Harry only hummed in agreement before rubbing his neck.
"Do you forgive me, love?" It was the second time Thomas had used that word and this time, it caught Harry's attention.
"We'll see," Harry mumbled, standing. "You'll have to earn it." But he and Thomas both knew he had already forgiven him.
"What do I have to do to earn the forgiveness of the Golden Boy?" Thomas asked, standing too but not letting Harry leave. Instead, he blocked Harry's path with his body. "Would you like me to beg?"
Harry laughed before he could stop himself. "No. No, I don't want you to beg."
"Then what do you want, Harry Potter?" Thomas moved closer.
"Maybe a kiss to start?" Harry asked, shyness suddenly creeping over him. Thomas however, wasn't nearly as shy. He moved quickly, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist and pulling him closer before their mouths collided.
"Is Thomas still alive?" Ron asked the moment Harry reentered the Gryffindor common room.
"Yes," Harry answered.
"Shame," Ginny muttered, passing him on the way toward the girl's dormitory. Harry didn't have time to ask what was going on with Ginny because Hermione quickly got his attention.
"We all have detention tomorrow." Harry felt himself sigh, looking down at his hand as he did.
"Great." Harry absently rubbed his hand as he looked away from it. "I don't know if I can take any more excitement today."
"We were just waiting up for you, mate," Ron said before standing. Hermione stood too, tossing the paper she was reading on the table in front of her. They said no more to each other that night.
Detention with Umbridge went fairly quickly but her reign over the school felt like a suffocating shadow. Harry now no longer had a reason to see Thomas outside of classes and even in classes, Umbridge was everywhere. Being named High Inquisitor wasn't enough for her, it seemed. She had become the Headmistress of Hogwarts since Dumbledore's departure with Fawkes. Her tyranny spread, punishing everyone she could get her hands on for the smallest reasons. It culminated on a dark corridor on a late Saturday night when Harry found Fred and George comforting a young Slytherin boy. What the boy had done, Harry had no idea, but even from a distance, Harry could see the sparkle of tears on his face and the way he clutched his hand. It appeared not even the Slytherins were free of Umbridge's tyranny.
Umbridge approached Fred and George as they comforted the young Slytherin and Harry who stood at a slight distance, her pink robes standing out against the grey and brown of Hogwarts.
"I told you once before, Mr. Potter," Umbridge narrowed her eyes at him, "Naughty children deserve to be punished."
Harry could hear the twins plotting behind him as Umbridge swept away. He looked over at the young Slytherin who he normally wouldn't have given a second glance to. The boy blinked at him, tears still streaming down his face.
"Do whatever you have to," Harry muttered to the two behind him before walking away, not even certain if they had heard him.
To say that the day took an explosive turn was an understatement. He could hear the whoops and hollers of Fred and George long before the twins appeared on their brooms. The Great Hall exploded in a flurry of fireworks in various colors. Large and small fireworks of every shape and color exploded around the room, some even seeming to explode just for Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Harry watched gleefully as Malfoy was chased around by one of the twins' fireworks, which left an impression of his terrified face on the wall. Crabbe and Goyle were chased out of the Great Hall completely by the fireworks and just when Harry thought it wouldn't get better, he saw the massive firework they set loose.
The dragon roared its way around the room before finding the pinkest thing it could to attack, Umbridge herself. She ran, hoping to escape the firework but her stubby legs couldn't take her far away fast enough as the dragon clamped down around her, singeing the fringes of her dress and dulling the bright pink with ash. The students ran out of the Great Hall like a flood, following where Fred and George led as they escaped Hogwarts.
"Give her hell for us Peeves!" Was the last call Hogwarts ever heard from them before they left in a hail of fire and shouts of joy.
Harry was among the crowd below clapping at the disappearing figures when his world started to swim.
"Give it to me." Voldemort looked like he did when he first emerged from the cauldron, a form Harry hadn't seen for months. He was in the same room Harry had seen Arthur Weasley attacked in. Harry instantly knew the room was inside the Department of Mysteries. He remembered the door from the trip to the Ministry with Arthur Weasley what felt like a lifetime ago. Voldemort was circling someone, like a hawk circling its prey.
"I would rather die." Sirius's face was covered in sweat and his eyes were filled with pain.
"Crucio!" Voldemort yelled and Sirius screamed. He let it up, asking again but still, Sirius didn't relent. Again he applied the curse and again Sirius screamed.
Harry gasped as Hermione's face suddenly came into view. Behind her, Ron and Thomas stood. He was on the ground with people still clapping all around him, oblivious to the fact that Harry Potter had fallen amongst them. Hermione's face was filled with concern, Ron's with worry, but Thomas was completely stoic. The three watched Harry as he gasped for breath, looking between the three of them before finally settling on Hermione.
Harry ran toward Umbridge's office with Ron, Hermione, and Thomas on his heels. There was no stopping him, even when the others tried to talk some sense into him. He had to check on Sirius. There was only one Floo in the whole of Hogwarts that was unguarded by the Ministry and Umbridge, the one in Umbridge's office. So, that's where Harry ran. He dodged students left and right who were still running to see the spectacle Fred and George put on, or maybe to see the carnage they inflicted on Umbridge. He burst through the door to Umbridge's office and threw Floo powder in the fireplace without a second thought. The others stood guard outside, blocking the door, except for Thomas. Thomas stood just inside the door, grimacing at the disaster that was Umbridge's office. He looked completely out of place due to the sheer amount of pink surrounding him.
"Grimmauld Place," Harry muttered into the Floo before sticking his head through. "Sirius!" Harry yelled.
There was no answer to his call. Harry called again but the person who answered was actually Kreacher. Kreacher hobbled over to him, looking wary. The house elf looked at the Harry Potter head, poking out of the fire.
"Master Black is not in."
"Kreacher, where is he?"
"Master Black said he was stepping out for a moment. Kreacher does not know where he went."
Harry sighed shifting slightly in the fireplace. The locket fell into view and Kreacher's eyes followed it. For a moment, Kreacher looked upset but his face returned to the same look he had before. "Master Black is gone."
Harry wasn't able to say much more because he was distracted by a noise behind him. He turned out of the Floo to see a brilliant white shield projected over him, Umbridge with her wand aimed at him, and Thomas looking very much like he wanted to murder someone.
Everything happened so quickly, Harry had no time to process. He was currently tied to a chair in Umbridge's office with his friends around him, each of whom was restrained by various members of the Inquisitorial Squad. Draco currently had his hand bawled in the fabric of Thomas's robe and Thomas looked like he would gladly murder everyone in the room. Umbridge had called for Snape and suddenly his bat-like figure darkened the doorway. Snape looked around the room and finally settled on the disaster that was Dolores Umbridge.
"You called for me?" He sounded completely bored.
"Ah yes, Severus. Did you bring the Veritaserum?"
"I'm afraid you've used all the available stores, the last of it on Ms. Chang." Snape folded his hands in front of himself. "Unless you wish to poison him, but otherwise, I cannot help you."
Umbridge looked completely frustrated as she let out an exasperated huff, turning on her heal. Snape turned to leave the room but Harry couldn't just let him leave.
"He has Padfoot." Snape stopped and turned slightly. "He has Padfoot at the place where it's hidden." Harry willed Snape to understand. Snape's eyes met his for a moment.
"What is he talking about?" Umbridge demanded. "What is a padfoot?" Her head whipped back and forth between Harry and Snape. Snape's black eyes flitted from Harry to Umbridge and it looked as if Snape hadn't heard word Harry said.
"No idea." He turned on his heal and left, leaving Harry and the others at the mercy of Umbridge.
"Very well." Umbridge shifted uneasily from foot to foot before wobbling over to her desk. "It seems I'm left with no other choice." Umbridge leaned on the desk. "The Cruciatus Curse ought to loosen your tongue." Harry tensed. Why did it have to be the Cruciatus Curse again? He unconsciously gripped the armrests on the chair, bracing himself for the pain.
"That's illegal." Hermione protested.
"What Cornelius doesn't know, won't hurt him." Umbridge overturned the portrait of Fudge on her desk. She rolled her wand between her fingers before aiming it at Harry. Behind her, Harry watched Thomas twitch. Harry shook his head. He looked back at Umbridge who took in a deep breath. Around him, he could feel people tense. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ron brace himself and he could see Hermione twitching, wanting to turn her head but unable to turn away at the same time. Harry let out a breath and at the same time, he heard Umbridge utter that fateful word.
He honestly didn't think he would ever be able to say there were forms of torture that were worse than others. Umbridge's Cruciatus Curse, however, paled in comparison to Voldemort's. Voldemort's felt like a thousand knives had ripped themselves through Harry's body simultaneously, dragging themselves through his veins and nerves. Umbridge's felt more like hundreds of paper cuts. The pain hurt at first but it dulled over time. Harry was determined not to scream, so he clamped his teeth shut, feeling his jaw ache as though the screams were threatening to rip themselves out. When Umbridge finally let up, Harry's body doubled over on pure instinct to protect himself. He was panting as though he'd just run a race. He could feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead, making his hair stick to it. He looked up, seeing the frazzled Umbridge looking at him, a disbelieving look plastered plainly across her face.
He did secretly thank the foresight of the Inquisitorial Squad for taking away their wands because behind Umbridge, Thomas was seething. He was certain there would have been more than one Unforgivable cast that day if Thomas had access to his wand.
"Anything to say now?" Umbridge asked, her usually sweet-sounding voice laced with something he couldn't place. It reminded him of the way Moody's voice had sounded after he demonstrated the Unforgivables in class last year. It was Dark Magic and it was already affecting Umbridge.
"Tell her Harry!" Hermione practically screamed.
"Tell me?" Umbridge's attention immediately turned to Hermione. "Tell me what?" Harry also turned, his eyes wide. He didn't want Umbridge's attention on anyone but him.
"Well if you won't tell her where it is, I will."
"Tell me where what is?" Umbridge demanded.
"Dumbledore's secret weapon." Hermione forced out. Harry felt his eyes go wide, wondering what exactly Hermione was talking about.
It was infinitely satisfying to watch Umbridge get dragged away by the centaurs. They were incredibly unhappy with Umbridge, and the Ministry in general, for restricting their territory. However, Umbridge's hatred of "half-breeds" was notorious. There was no way the centaurs would pass up the opportunity to drag Umbridge away.
"Potter!" Umbridge shrieked. "Do something! Tell them I mean no harm!"
Harry stood out of the way of the centaurs and a very frightened Grawp, Hagrid's half-brother, as he watched Umbridge heaved up by the centaurs, one grabbing each arm. "I'm sorry, Professor. I must not tell lies."
Umbridge screamed protests as they dragged her away. The satisfaction was gone quickly, however, as Harry quickly remembered what got them in the whole mess in the first place. Hermione thanked Grawp as Harry grabbed at her arm, beginning to pull her away. They heard the crash of Grawp sitting on the floor of the Forbidden Forest as they ran. Harry was still shaking from the Cruciatus Curse Umbridge had inflicted on him, but he willed himself not to think about it. There were more important things and people to worry about right now.
They were quickly met on the bridge between the castle and the forest by everyone else who was in Umbridge's office.
"How did you get out?" Hermione asked, grabbing her wand as Ron handed it to her. Harry took his wand from Thomas, silently thanking him.
"Did you know Thomas can do wandless magic?" Neville waved his hand toward Thomas. "Knocked them all out pretty quickly."
"They'll wake up with headaches but it won't be too awful." Thomas shrugged. "Don't want to hear about how Draco will run off to daddy now do we?"
"So, how are we going to get to London?" Ginny asked.
"Look, I appreciate all that you have done but it's too dangerous," Harry said.
"Dumbledore's Army was supposed to be about doing something important. Or are those just words to you?" Neville demanded. Harry looked between his friends. First at Luna, then Ginny, then Neville, then Thomas, then Ron, and finally Hermione.
"Then how are we going to get to London."
"We fly, of course," Luna answered, a slight sigh in her voice.
Harry, Luna, and Thomas helped the others on their thestrals before climbing on their own. Harry wasn't too pleased about using the thestrals to travel, but they were limited on time and resources. The creature looked at him, its ivory eyes appearing to bore into his soul before turning forward again. They were off quickly, soaring through the air. For a few moments, Harry forgot they were almost certainly racing toward their deaths. Instead, he was just flying. He looked back toward his friends, making certain they were all still there. Hermione looked like she was going to lose it and for a moment, he remembered the flight on Buckbeak.
I don't like flying!
Harry faced forward again, urging the thestral to go faster if it could.
The Ministry of Magic was strangely empty upon their arrival.
"Wands at the ready," Harry whispered, drawing his own wand before starting forward. Harry retraced his steps from the last time he'd been in the Ministry with Mr. Weasley. It felt like a part of him automatically knew where to go. He found the door and for a moment, he hesitated. The dreams came back to him. Him slithering along the floor, Arthur Weasley lying on the ground, surrounded by a pool of his own blood; aurors he knew showing up to confront him, Sirius being tortured by Voldemort. Sirius. Harry blew out the breath he'd been holding and reached toward the handle in the center of the ominous black door. It turned easily and Harry pushed the door open.
Shelves upon shelves of glowing glass balls greeted him on the other side. Harry and the others walked forward, each summoning their own wandlights. The moment the door closed behind them, it moved out of the way revealing more shelves. It seemed to extend forever. Harry looked up at the numbering on the shelves, remembering that in his — memory? vision? — Voldemort and Sirius had been in row 97. They started walking, Harry at the lead, counting out rows as they went. However, when he got to the 97th row, it was completely empty. Harry turned to the others.
"He should be here."
Neville had gotten distracted by something, Harry could see it, as he watched the other boy approach one of the glass balls.
"Harry," Neville turned to him, "It's got your name on it."
Harry walked forward, past Ron, past Hermione, past Luna, past Ginny, past Neville, until he reached the shelf. Gently, he grabbed the ball and pulled it down. Harry adjusted his grip on the ball when it began to speak.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches born to those who have thrice defied him.
A noise distracted Harry and the speaking stopped. He looked away from the ball to see someone approaching in a Death Eater's mask. Harry raised his wand and he felt the others quickly join him. At his side was Neville and the others were quickly distracted by their own Death Eaters. They were surrounded.
"You know," The Death Eater in front of him started, "You should really learn to tell the difference between dreams and reality." The mask came off the Death Eater's face revealing Lucius Malfoy. Lucius smirked at him before stepping slightly closer. "Now, hand me the prophecy."
"Why don't you come and get it?" Harry demanded. Behind Lucius, a cackle echoed throughout the chamber. Bellatrix Lestrange stalked forward, similar to how a cat might stalk its prey. She was on the prowl and she found her newest toys.
"He knows how to play." Bellatrix cackled again.
"Bellatrix Lestrange." Harry could hear the anger in Neville's voice and feel the rage coming from the other boy.
"Longbottom isn't it?" Bellatrix asked, her eyes narrowing on him and her grin twisting in a sickening smirk. "How's mom and dad?" She whispered.
"Better now that they're about to be avenged." Neville lurched forward but Harry stopped him.
"Why did Voldemort need me to come and get this?" He asked, distracting the two Death Eaters.
"You dare speak his name?" There was a combination of reverence and disgust in Bellatrix's voice that Harry did not want to begin to dissect. "You filthy half-blood!"
"Now, now," Lucius said, attempting to placate Bellatrix at his side. "He's only curious, aren't you?" Lucius eyed the witch at his side before turning to Harry. Bellatrix looked like she was out for his blood like she would enjoy nothing more than to tear him apart piece by piece. "Prophecies can only be retrieved by those about whom they are made." Lucius stepped forward again. "If you give it to me, I can show you the secret. Don't you want to know why?"
Harry twitched. Lucius was playing him, he knew which buttons to push. Unfortunately, it wouldn't get the right reaction. "I've waited 14 years," Harry muttered.
"I know." Lucius feigned sympathy.
"I guess I can wait a little longer. Now!" Harry yelled. Spells started to fly and in the midst, Harry smashed the prophecy.
"You fool!" Lucius screamed before Harry's Stupefy hit him right in the chest.
The teens scattered and battles raged across the Department of Mysteries. The locket burned intensely on Harry's chest but he couldn't be bothered with it as everywhere he turned, there was another Death Eater. They fought more and more, spells and hexes flying in every possible direction.
I'm going to die. I'm going to die. Harry thought over and over, dodging what he honestly thought was the Killing Curse. He and the others found each other again only to rush through another door into a freefall. Harry's heart pounded as the floor neared closer and closer until suddenly, it paused. The ground was right in front of his face, but he didn't touch it. He was hovering above it then suddenly dropped into it.
"Everyone alright?" Harry asked, brushing himself off as they all stood. He looked over at Neville who was unable to speak but held up his broken wand. Harry sighed before his attention was drawn to a white veil in the center of the room. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Hermione asked, panicked. "Harry we should just get out of here."
The locket twitched on his neck as if it were trying to pull away from the veil as Harry walked toward it.
"I hear them too," Luna said, walking toward the veil as well.
Above them, Harry heard slamming and pounding and before Harry could react, they were being attacked yet again and suddenly, he was alone next to the veil. He looked around to see his friends being held by various Death Eaters, their wands pointed at his friends' throats.
"Did you really think children stood a chance against us?" Lucius asked, nearly strutting around him. Before he had a chance to say anything else, however, there was the distinct crack of apparition. Lucius turned on his heal only to face the smug face of Sirius Black.
"Get away from my godson." The next crack, Harry suspected, was Lucius's nose as Sirius heaved a heavy punch. Lucius practically flew sideways and other members of the Order of the Phoenix started appearing in the room. Death Eaters and Order members started scrambling, fights raging everywhere. Sirius pulled Harry to the side, out of the line of fire.
"You need to get your friends out of here."
"No!" Harry protested. "I want to stay here and fight with you."
Sirius sighed, a hint of pride crossing his face. "You've done beautifully. Now, let me take it from here."
Harry didn't have any time to protest further when Lucius Malfoy suddenly aimed a curse at them. Harry and Sirius dueled Lucius and a Death Eater Harry couldn't name. Around them, other battles raged as Harry noted that his friends scrambled behind the fight he was currently in, Tonks with them. Harry knocked the one Death Eater out of the fight with a congratulating remark from Sirius before Sirius sent Lucius flying into the wall behind him.
Harry smiled at his godfather before there was a sudden cry from Bellatrix. It rang off the walls of the bleak room they were in and suddenly Sirius was bathed in a halo of emerald light. Sirius stumbled backward before his body was engulfed in the veil behind him. Harry reached for him, feeling the scream rip from his lungs but not really hearing it. Arms wrapped around him and a voice begged him to stay, to let Sirius go. But he screamed and struggled against the arms.
"Harry, please. Stay." Remus. Harry, vaguely recognized the voice as that of Remus Lupin. But soon another voice filled his senses. Bellatrix started to laugh. The high-pitched shrieking laugh of her's got Harry's attention. Rage filled him and his vision turned red. He tore away from Remus, away from the veil, and after the Dark Witch. Bellatrix's wild, Black hair was enough for Harry to follow. Her laughter filled the corridor as she taunted him.
"I killed Sirius! I killed Sirius! Are you coming to get me?" Bellatrix led him back out toward the Floo network entrances that Harry had seen both on entering with Arthur Weasley and earlier that very night. She led him right to...
I just want you all to know that this chapter took me forever to write because I got caught up watching The Good Place.
Chapter 12: Thomas
I know the last chapter was rough. This chapter might be a little rough too.
Harry blinked at the boy in front of him. Thomas stood with his arms folded, watching Harry and Bellatrix. Bellatrix's eyes flew back and forth, a wicked gleam in them like she had a secret that she desperately wanted to share. There was silence for what seemed like forever as the three stood there, exchanging glances. Finally, Thomas moved, shifting from one foot to another, black eyes fixing on Bellatrix.
"You've got to mean it, Harry." Thomas's eyes shifted back to Harry. "She deserves it." There was something off about Thomas's voice. It made Harry's skin crawl but he couldn't put his finger on it. A shiver ran up Harry's spine and the locket twitched on his neck, this time instead of pulling in the opposite direction, it seemed like it was pulling toward Thomas. "You know the spell, Harry." Harry twirled his wand in his fingers but he knew there was no way he could force himself, no matter how angry, to cast the curse on Bellatrix, even with Thomas goading him. But, why was Thomas goading him?
"Pity," Thomas murmured before his black eyes focused back on Bellatrix. "Bella, dear Bella," He crooned, "You may go."
Bellatrix's eyes lit up with the same emotion Harry had heard before in her voice. It seemed like reverence.
"Thank you, my Lord." She gave a bow before running past him toward the fireplaces. Harry heard the distinct flair of the Floo and Bellatrix was gone. Harry, however, was dumbstruck. My Lord?
"Oh come now, Harry. I know you're not a Ravenclaw but I also know you're not daft." A wicked smile pulled across Thomas's face. "You're a smart boy." Thomas stalked forward until they were inches apart. "Figure it out."
Harry swallowed, feeling the locket begin to jerk harder against his neck. "It seems one of you recognizes me at least." Thomas's eyes focused on the locket around Harry's neck.
The flair of the fireplace distracted Thomas for a moment and behind him, Harry could see the form of Dumbledore appear. Harry was completely frozen. There was no way, it couldn't be, it was impossible. Dumbledore wouldn't have let — would he?
"It was foolish of you to come here tonight Tom. The aurors are on their way." Dumbledore looked at Thomas warily. But it wasn't Thomas. Where black eyes had been, red slitted ones were starting to form.
Thomas laughed, a bone-chilling laugh, "Good. Let them come!" He exclaimed. Thomas — Voldemort as Harry was beginning to realize — turned back toward Harry, his red eyes focusing on him. "I need them to come. It won't do to have them focusing on you anymore." It didn't register to Harry that Voldemort had spoken in Parseltongue because to Harry, it rarely differed from English.
"How did you do it, Tom?" Dumbledore asked, taking Thom-Voldemort's attention away from Harry once again. Harry realized there was no way Dumbledore could risk dueling Voldemort at the moment as Harry and Voldemort were still very close together and Harry couldn't make himself move. However, Dumbledore's question seemed to be enough to get Voldemort's attention. Voldemort turned to face the other man more, his face changing more into the snake-like man Harry remembered rising from the cauldron in the graveyard.
"How did I fool the great Albus Dumbledore you mean?" Voldemort smiled wickedly, his half human, half snake face making him look near demonic. "It was quite simple. Parselmagic. You are not a Parselmouth and therefore cannot speak or see through the magic. Harry, however," Voldemort turned back to him, "Could have if he wanted to. It was loosely based off how I looked like in my younger years with a slight disillusionment charm thrown in to keep people like you and McGonagall from recognizing me until I wanted you to."
Voldemort circled Harry, running a long, now pale, finger along Harry's shoulders. "But that should not have worked on you." Voldemort stopped when he was once again standing in front of Harry. "As I understand it, you encountered my diary. To you, I should have merely looked like my younger self. Or maybe I did to you and you just didn't make the connection." Voldemort tapped his chin.
Harry remembered then.
Survived a basilisk bite, have we, Harry Potter?
For many months now, my new target has been you.
Voldemort had been showing him the whole time, hinting to him his plan the whole time. Harry felt disgusted with himself. He was angry, he was hurt. It was enough to break him out of whatever stupor he had been stuck in. He lashed out, screaming the first spell that came to mind which happened to be Bombarda. Voldemort wasn't expecting it but it didn't matter as he was prepared for any attack and it was Harry who went flying backward. Dumbledore took the opening he was given and while Voldemort was distracted for the moment, cast a spell of his own.
Voldemort and Dumbledore dueled. Spells ricocheted off the walls, fire and glass flew around the room. The giant portrait of Fudge came down with a marvelous crash. For a moment, Voldemort was encased in a giant bubble of water but it didn't hold him for long and the duel continued. The walls shook and the floor cracked open. Fiendfyre screamed at Dumbledore and still, the fight went on. It seemed like there was a hurricane of spells surrounding the two wizards when suddenly, Voldemort vanished completely. Dumbledore turned to look at Harry, who searched the room frantically, looking for red eyes before pain ripped through his body.
Harry wanted to scream but no sound would exit his mouth. It felt acid had been poured in his veins like knives were being plunged into his eyes like ice was being dragged along every nerve all at the same time. The locket burned on his chest, hotter than it ever had been before but Harry could hardly be bothered with it. His body jerked in every direction and he closed his eyes, fighting the sheer amount of pain that rocked through him.
Just when he thought he would fall unconscious from the pain, it stopped. His eyes flew open but he wasn't really seeing anything, it felt like someone was seeing with his eyes like he was a passenger inside his own body. He screamed but nothing would come. He kept trying but there was no sound. There was nothing, no one heard him. There was no one to answer him.
"Harry!" He heard a voice. It was muffled, but he could hear it. It sounded like-
"Harry!" There it was again. Hermione.
"Your friends," A voice whispered in his head. He knew that voice. "They can love you. They can cherish you. They can raise you up and make you their champion. They can exalt you, Harry Potter." Suddenly, Harry could see again. Around him, there appeared to be white dust in the air, separating him and Voldemort, who looked like he used to, from everything else. Voldemort was kneeling next to him. He looked nothing like he did when he was masquerading as Thomas. "But I can break you." Voldemort's hand came under Harry's chin, lifting Harry's limp body up just slightly.
"You know, I had different plans for you, Harry. To take you, hide you away as I do with everything like you. But now, I think, I like you where you are." Voldemort lied Harry down rather gently. "I also enjoy you in the color green, you should wear it more," Voldemort said something in Parseltongue that Harry couldn't understand, his brain was still too addled. "Ah, right on time." Voldemort looked around them at something Harry couldn't see. "Ask Dumbledore about what you are."
Voldemort stood, "Take care of my locket, love."
Then he was gone.
Dumbledore was at Harry's side in an instant and he could feel the older man's hand on his forehead. Harry blinked at him, feeling more like he could move again.
"Thomas," Harry whispered, turning himself toward Dumbledore, "Thomas was Voldemort."
The man's blue eyes gazed at him with something Harry couldn't place, but it wasn't pity. If Harry didn't know any better he would almost say it was empathy.
Harry could barely comprehend what was happening as he was being guided through the flashes of cameras and people asking him questions. Dumbledore's grip never left him as the man held him close. Harry could feel the locket around his neck, cool and heavy.
Before Harry knew it, he was back in Hogwarts, in Dumbledore's office. Dumbledore was dealing with something that Harry hadn't bothered to listen to. Fawkes sat on his perch and Harry paced in the room. Portraits of previous headmasters and headmistresses pretended to be asleep but Harry knew better. When he turned, facing a mirror, Harry saw the outline of the locket under his shirt. Harry grabbed it, ignoring the imprint of the locket on his skin. He threw it as hard as he could, the locket clattered to the ground on the other side of the room. Harry turned away only to find the locket was suddenly on his neck again. He tried again, throwing it again and making Fawkes rustle on his perch. But every time, the locket reappeared around his neck. Harry tried to throw it out the window of the Headmaster's office, hoping he had gotten it far enough away from him. He couldn't see where it had landed. He turned away from the window and once again, felt the weight of the locket around his neck, swaying slightly.
The door to the headmaster's office opened and Dumbledore joined Harry. Harry refused to look at his headmaster.
There was a long silence between the two before Dumbledore finally spoke. "He had us fooled, Harry. He had us all fooled."
"He told me to ask you what I am." Harry finally looked at Dumbledore. "What did he mean?"
Voldemort looked at the diadem in his hands. One thing he had been able to count on was Harry's obliviousness. Harry didn't notice when he slipped the diadem out of the Room of Requirement after their little dueling session. Voldemort chuckled to him, feeling Nagini slither up his body. The massive snake settled herself on his body, eyeing the diadem. He would need to check on the other horcruxes. He knew the locket was safe, it would not leave Harry Potter no matter how hard he or anyone else tried to get rid of it. There was the matter of keeping Harry Potter safe. Voldemort grimaced. For once, he and the Order had a common goal. If Harry Potter was one of his tethers to immortality he could not risk killing the boy.
Diary. Ring. Locket. Cup. Nagini. Harry Potter.
Voldemort tapped his fingers on the armrest of the chair he sat in. This would do splendidly. The diary was lost to him, unfortunately. Lucius had paid dearly for that mistake and would continue to pay as he was currently in Azkaban. Voldemort would rescue him, in time. For the moment, however, he intended to let Lucius rot for his failures. Perhaps he should continue to take out his anger on Lucius on his son? Voldemort smiled to himself at the thought. He had spent months locked together with the Malfoy heir. The boy was irritating, constantly going on about either his father or Harry Potter. It was no wonder most of his classmates thought him annoying.
Voldemort set the diadem on the table in front of him, standing slowly to let Nagini adjust herself on his shoulders. He walked toward the fire, feeling the snake loosen her grip from him slightly. To him, it felt odd to be in this form again. He had spent so many months in the other form, attempting to get close to Harry Potter. It had been too easy. The boy was nice. Voldemort did find himself laughing at one thought. Harry wanted to become an auror. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. Yet it would be ironic if he became the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Since Harry was his horcrux, it would technically be Voldemort filling the position, his hex on the position would be lifted.
There was a knock on the door and Voldemort straightened himself, having to let go of the smile he didn't realize he had. "Enter."
Bellatrix entered with a bow, reverence filling her eyes at the very sight of him. "My Lord."
"Bellatrix," Voldemort looked the witch over. Azkaban had not been kind to her. She had already been mad going in but it seemed that the place had made it worse. She had the same gene as her cousin did for long black hair but now it held a streak of white, likely brought out by the stress of dealing with Dementors every day.
"My Lord, forgive me." Her head bowed slightly. "But the boy-" She left off the rest of her question.
"You want to know why I didn't kill him." Voldemort finished.
He had overheard the prophesy as Dumbledore had played it for Harry. It was so easy to slip into Harry's mind undetected. Even if Harry mastered Occlumency he doubted Harry could keep him out, they were bound in ways that mind magic couldn't overcome.
"There has been a change of circumstances. That is all I wish to say on the matter." Bellatrix knew better than to push the subject. She simply bowed before turning to leave. The door closed behind her with a soft click.
Voldemort turned and walked back towards the desk where a recent copy of the Daily Prophet sat, Harry Potter's face plastered across the front page. "What will you do now, my unpredictable little horcrux?"
Chapter 13: The Locket
Sorry I've been away for so long. Holidays and all. Anyway, enjoy the new chapter.
Harry was lying on the bed at the Dursley's. They avoided him, much as they had the last summer. Recently, he had been avoiding them in return by riding around on trains for the majority of the summer. But at the moment, trains were boring him. So instead he sat inside, letting Hedwig fly around the room above him. The locket hung around his neck, shifted to one side, as he lied on his bed. His leg dangled over the side of the bed and he kicked it back and forth. He didn't know exactly what to do but the not being at Hogwarts meant he couldn't use magic, so he was limited on tasks. Every now and then, his mind would drift back to the conversation in Dumbledore's office. It felt like a lifetime ago even though it was about a month. Harry let out a sigh as Hedwig landed on his stomach.
"Hello," Harry muttered to her before reaching up to pet her wings. The bird hooted at him but otherwise, there was silence in the room.
Harry let the bird fly back to her cage before a sigh echoed through the room that wasn't his. Harry shot up, looking around the room. He saw nothing at first, only the drab contents of the room the Dursley's deigned to provide him. Harry started to lie back down again but again the sigh echoed around the room. Harry stood quickly, pulling his wand out, and looking around the room, the locket shifting on his chest.
"That won't hurt me, you know." A figure materialized on his bed. It was a young man, only a couple years older than Harry by the looks of him. He was dressed strangely Muggle in black trousers and a white shirt. He had pale skin and chestnut colored hair with a lone curl across his forehead. His dark eyes focused on Harry and a lazy smile pulled across his face. "Put the wand down, Harry." But Harry kept the wand up and aimed at the nearly transparent stranger lounging across his bed.
"Stranger?" The man sounded slightly offended, "Harry, we are not strangers. I've known you your whole life and you, my dear Gryffindor," The man stood, "Are the bearer of my soul." Harry felt his hand drop as he studied the man in the room. He sighed. "I'm in the locket around your neck, Harry."
Harry looked down. "You're a horcrux."
"Very good," The man purred, standing. "I am still Tom Riddle or Voldemort, either one I suppose." The man walked closer, getting very close to Harry. "But I see why I like you."
Harry looked at the man, wondering what exactly he was talking about.
"Oh, yes. I forgot. You don't know." Tom turned and gestured to the bed, his slightly sunken in checks making his smile look devilish in the moonlight. But Harry didn't move. "Fine, be difficult. Stubborn little Gryffindor." Tom moved closer. "I've been exploring that head of yours for the last few months. The props of you not taking me off your neck for a while. And even when you did, well I found my way back." Tom grabbed at the locket around Harry's neck and jerked it, making Harry's whole body move with the motion. "You're strong-willed, Harry Potter. Perhaps if the other me had been saner, he would have tried to break you more than just making you fall in love."
"I didn't-" Harry tried but Tom cut him off with a look.
"You did and you do. You still yearn from Thomas. For me." Tom moved closer and Harry could feel him as if he were standing right next to him as if the other were actually real. "As I said, I'm in that head of yours. I know all your secrets, Harry." Tom purred.
"Who are you talking to in there?" Vernon Dursley yelled from outside Harry's door. They rarely spoke to Harry but he supposed hearing voices coming from inside his freak nephew's room would be cause for words spared in Harry's direction.
"Please let me kill him," Tom muttered darkly, his dark eyes turning to fix on the door where Uncle Vernon stood on the other side.
Harry quietly shushed him before answering his uncle. "No one, Uncle Vernon. Just Hedwig." His uncle huffed on the other side of the door before he could be heard lumbering away down the hall. Harry turned back to Tom who was watching him closely.
"You don't love them, they don't love you. They hate you. Why do you stay here?" Tom cocked his head oddly like a bird as he looked at Harry.
"I don't know where else to go," Harry muttered, looking out the window.
"You've been riding around on trains all summer. You could take one anywhere. You could go anywhere. You have all the money your parents left you. So again I ask, why do you stay here?" Tom had again stepped closer to him to the point where their chests were nearly touching.
Harry shrugged but didn't answer and Tom stopped asking. Instead, he followed Harry's gaze out the window.
"How did you do it?" Harry asked finally, his voice no more than a whisper.
"Do what?" Tom answered, still not looking at Harry.
"How did you fool everyone, how did-" He cut himself off, afraid to continue his question.
"I told you how," Tom said, turning his eyes back to Harry. "I even dropped hints. Raadsel means riddle in several languages. German, Dutch."
"You speak more than Parseltongue?" Harry asked, oddly intrigued by the thought.
"Quite a few. English, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Latin." He listed the languages off. "And of course Parseltongue." His finger reached up and drifted down Harry's cheek, a slight touch that felt no heavier than the whisper of a feather. "I hear you speak Parseltongue too. Part of the horcrux no doubt." Harry swallowed the bitter taste that jumped to his tongue. "I found it you know, the horcrux. It's not very pretty, unlike me."
"How do you fit that ego inside the locket?" Harry muttered.
"Magic mostly," Tom answered sounding completely serious, but his eyes gleamed with a mischievous light.
"Why am I even talking to you?" Harry muttered bitterly, anger suddenly rushing over him. "I must be going mad."
"Oh come now, Harry. Where are your manners? We were having a polite conversation."
Dumbledore wouldn't want you to forget your manners, would he?
Harry turned away from Tom and rested his hands on the small desk in the room where Hedwig's cage sat. The bird hooted at him before her wide eyes looked over his shoulder, seeming to focus on Tom. Then the bird refocused on him and hopped off her perch onto the desk and nibbled at his loose shirt.
"Smart bird," Tom said, moving closer. He could feel Tom's presence as he leaned over Harry's shoulder to study Hedwig.
"Why are you even here?" Harry mumbled, his eyes still fixed on Hedwig. He'd spent most of the summer alone only for Tom to suddenly pop up now.
"I'm here to protect you," Tom answered immediately.
"Protect me?" Harry answered sarcastically. "The only person I've ever needed protecting from was you!"
Harry could see an image of Tom, not much older than Harry himself, flash before his eyes. Clad in Slytherin robes with a Prefect's badge pinned to his chest and a smirk across his face, Tom had stared at him in the Chamber of Secrets like he was a meal and Tom hadn't eaten in eons.
For many months now my new target has been you.
I can touch you now.
"Yes," Tom's voice broke him from the waking nightmare he was living. "You did, before."
"Before?" Harry asked, glancing at Tom over his shoulder.
"Before we, he and I, knew how special you were. Before the whole prophecy was heard. Before things came to light that weren't there before." Tom turned him so Harry was facing the other again. "But know this, if you should become a danger to him or me, it will be me who squeezes the life out of you. Just because you are a Horcrux and thus a tether does not mean you are not replaceable. There are others and losing one is a price I am willing to pay."
"You would bring yourself closer to death just to avoid danger?" Harry asked.
"If your existence would bring me closer to death, I would snuff it out to stop it. Even if it means taking a piece of my soul with you."
Tom's lips were on his then, rough and possessive for a moment, then he was gone, likely vanished back into the locket from which he came. Harry stood with his back against the desk and Hedwig fluttering anxiously behind him. His heart hammered in his chest and he blinked at the room around him, wondering what exactly had just happened.
Harry was sitting on his bed when there was a sudden bout of shouting and scuffling downstairs that got his attention. Harry stood and he felt Tom's presence once again, this time hovering behind him at his shoulder.
"What could possibly happen to make these Muggle fools so upset?" Tom muttered.
"Wizards," Harry answered the moment he saw the end of Dumbledore's robes in the living area. It was almost as if he could feel Tom's contempt with the older wizard as Harry ventured to meet him.
"Ah, Harry." Dumbledore greeted.
"Ah, an old git," Tom mumbled behind him, moving around Harry similar to a cat on the prowl. Dumbledore eyes focused on Harry, giving no notice that he heard or saw Tom moving around him. "He can't see me. No one can but you. Not unless I want them to."
Harry could barely focus on everyone talking. The others in the room didn't know about the horcrux who tried to take over the entirety of Harry's focus but his attention was torn away for Tom the moment Dumbledore mentioned Sirius's will. Thoughts of Bellatrix Lestrange flashed across his mind.
I killed Sirius!
"Would you like to kill her?" Tom asked in his ear, his breath hot on Harry's neck. "I can feel your hatred from her. Would you like her to die for what she did to your godfather?"
It was all Harry could do to stay focused on Dumbledore ahead of him and not answer the horcrux who grinned wickedly at his side. It was when Dumbledore mentioned the passing of Kreacher from Sirius's care into Harry's that Harry finally lost his temper.
"No!" Harry spat. Tom grinned next to him, finally glad to see him react to something. "I don't want Kreacher. He's the reason Sirius is dead. He lied! If Kreacher hadn't said that Sirius was out of the house, Sirius might still be alive right now." Harry could feel the anger pumping in his veins.
"I like it when you're angry," Tom whispered in his ear, his hand trailing across Harry's shoulders. "Your eyes are the color of the Killing Curse." Tom moved closer so his body was almost touching Harry's. "You're beautiful when you're angry."
Harry shifted so that his body was slightly away from Tom's but not enough to make the movement look unnatural.
Dumbledore looked at him with sad eyes. "I know, Harry. But unfortunately, Kreacher belongs to the Black family and Sirius left him to you."
"Who would want to be left to him?" Dudley sneered only to be shushed by his parents immediately.
"I could take my time with that one." Tom muttered, studying Dudley closely.
"Try calling him." Dumbledore said, ignoring Dudley's outburst.
"Kreacher." Harry tried. Immediately, there was a loud pop and Kreacher appeared at Harry's side. Kreacher screamed and cowered but Harry beckoned him away, not wanting to deal with the house elf at the moment.
Dumbledore finished with Sirius's will before telling the Dursley's he would be taking Harry with him when he left. Harry's heart fluttered with glee and the Dursley's didn't seem too upset either. Harry went to pack his things when Dumbledore told him not to worry.
"Everything will be there when you arrive," Dumbledore assured him before stepping out onto the street.
"A bit cryptic isn't he?" Tom asked, stepping to Harry's side. "Not to worry, you have me." Tom tapped the locket hidden under Harry's shirt. Harry followed Dumbledore out the door and onto the street. In the center Dumbledore stood, staring at the night sky.
"Lovely night, isn't it Harry?"
"Yes, Professor." Harry answered.
Dumbledore stretched out an arm to him and Harry looked at him closely. "It's best to hold on tight Harry."
Harry took a deep breath before gripping the older man's arm.
Harry gasped as he landed firmly on the street. His stomach was churning and he found himself doubling over. Dumbledore hummed to himself while Harry took a few steadying breaths and looked up at his headmaster.
"I've just apparated haven't I?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Dumbledore answered, quite happily. "And you did quite well too. Most people vomit the first time."
Harry moved closer to Dumbledore, his stomach still churning and his breath still uneven as he stood next to his professor. "Can't imagine why." His muttered. Dumbledore started walking and Harry followed him quietly. He could tell they were still in England because the stars and clouds were in the same place as they had been when they left the Dursley's. He wouldn't have noticed if Dumbledore hadn't pointed it out to him.
Tom appeared next to him, completely silent but his dark eyes were fixed on Dumbledore. Dumbledore walked onward toward a house, seemingly unaware of the snake glaring daggers at him. The three of them walked in silence toward a house with the gate in front of it off its hinges.
"Death Eaters." Tom hummed in Harry's ear. "Whoever is on the other side of that door is important." Tom's eyes slid back to Dumbledore. "Important enough for both Dumbledore and me to want him."
Harry looked at the seemingly innocuous house, wondering who exactly was on the other side of the door.
"I don't know," Tom answered his thought. "It's not like my other self and I talk often."
You can hear my thoughts? Harry thought at Tom.
"Yes." Tom answered him again. "Like I told you before. I am inside your head."
Harry didn't have time to think on Tom anymore because Dumbledore drew his attention back to him. "Wands out, Harry."
Harry withdrew his wand from his sleeve where he had hit hidden in the holster. He knew Tom's eyes had followed the movement appreciatively, glad to see the holster his counterpart had given him was being put to use. Harry, however, ignored him. Instead, he focused ahead of him as Dumbledore's wandlight lit the way ahead of them. Harry followed closely behind his wand at the ready. Behind him, Tom followed, slinking along. Harry could feel Tom's eyes on him, possessive and predatory. They entered the main room of the house and Harry stopped, noting the carnage of the household. Books were strewn everywhere, feathers from the couch and its pillows layered the room, tables were upturned, the place had been torn apart. Harry felt a drop hit his head and he looked up to follow its origin, seeing the ceiling cracked and covered in stains of water and blood.
Dumbledore approached him as he went to wipe the blood off, stopping him and instead, reaching out and touching the drop with a hand that was quite unsightly to look at. The black flesh looked dead and felt cold to the touch. Dumbledore touched the blood to his tongue and then turned his attention to the lone chair still intact in the room. Beneath it, a pair of shoes sat and the chair looked otherwise untouched. The older wizard approached it carefully and tapped it lightly with his wand when suddenly the chair exploded to life. A man's head popped out of the top, arms extended from the sides, and the chair stretched revealing legs at the bottom attached to the shoes that had sat in front of the chair.
"Goodness Dumbledore!" The man exclaimed, his eyes wide as he looked at the older wizard. "You nearly gave me a heart attack." The chair look deflated around him and changed back into normal looking robes. "What gave me away?" His squeaky voice asked. Dumbledore waved his wand back toward the blood on the ceiling.
"Horace Slughorn," Tom said, his voice laced with something that Harry couldn't just quite place. Tom stepped next to Harry, his body turned sideways to face Harry but his eyes were fixed on the man across the room.
"One can never be too careful," Slughorn said as Harry turned his attention back to the other two wizards in the room. "With the Death Eaters about I didn't know who would come knocking." The man's eyes suddenly turned to Harry.
"Oh yes," Dumbledore said, "Where have my manners gone. Horace Slughorn meet Harry Potter." Harry stretched out a hand to Slughorn which the other man took greedily. Next to him, Tom's face darkened. As Harry stepped forward, Tom moved with him.
Harry found himself focusing on Tom more, ignoring the conversation between Dumbledore and Slughorn. Tom's eyes hadn't left Slughorn's face and he kept himself close to Harry. Before he knew it, Dumbledore had left the room and he was alone with Slughorn, or so Slughorn thought anyway.
"You have your mother's eyes." Slughorn commented, breaking the silence between them. Harry blinked up at him.
"You knew my mother?" He asked.
"She was one of my favorite students. An incredibly gifted witch, considering she was Muggleborn." He dropped his voice to a whisper at the word Muggleborn. Harry could feel his body tense.
"One of my best friends is Muggleborn. The brightest in our year." He said proudly.
"Oh, there's nothing wrong with being Muggleborn," Slughorn said, trying to placate Harry's anger. "Look, she's right there." Slughorn pointed to a picture on the shelf near Harry. He absently moved around Tom to look. There were dozens of pictures on the shelf with witches and wizards in all houses. Among them was a young witch with vibrant red hair in Gryffindor colors. Her green eyes shone in the picture as she shifted back and forth on her feet smiling and waving. She wasn't much younger than the picture Harry had of her that Hagrid had given him. She had died not long after that. Tom shifted next to him.
"There was a time that I would have been on this wall too," His eyes roamed over the pictures on the shelf. "No doubt he got rid of me when he heard what I became. If I had succeeded, I would still be there." Tom's long fingers reached out and barely grazed over the picture of Lily Evans. "He never forgot her. Her bravery. Her love for you."
Stand aside, girl.
The words were like a whisper in his ear. He heard them when the Dementors got too close but now he heard them because Tom reminded him.
Tom's eyes shifted to a different picture. "Regulus Black."
"Who's that?" Harry asked, mostly to Tom forgetting that he and Tom were not alone and glad for the change of subject. He was reminded, again, that he was in the presence of his parents' murderer and now there was an overwhelming feeling of guilt in his stomach that he did not want to face. It was Slughorn who answered the question.
"Regulus Black. No doubt you know his older brother Sirius died earlier this year," Slughorn let out a sigh. "I taught the whole Black family, save for Sirius."
"Slughorn used to be the head of Slytherin house," Tom commented, answering a question Harry didn't know he had.
Dumbledore chose to reenter the room at that time. "Well, I suppose we best be going. I'm sorry we couldn't change your mind old friend." Harry gave a nod to Slughorn and turned to follow Dumbledore who started for the door. Silence followed them as they exited the house when suddenly Slughorn appeared in the doorway.
"All right I'll do it." Slughorn then made several more demands which Dumbledore agreed to before they parted, leaving the man looking up at the sky and shifting uneasily on his feet.
"What was that about, Professor?" Harry asked when they were far enough away. Tom was silent next to him, looking around as if everything else was more interesting than the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore.
"Do you remember what we discussed when we last talked Harry?" Dumbledore asked. Harry nodded and the man continued, "Slughorn is the key to understanding how Tom came to learn about horcruxes and how many he made."
Next to him, Tom hissed. "I don't mind you using my real name, but him." Tom didn't need to finish.
"Slughorn will try to collect you," Dumbledore said, looking around at the street before finally stopping in a rather deserted area, "And it is imperative he should return to Hogwarts." Dumbledore stretched out an arm to him and Tom vanished from next to him. Harry took a deep breath before grasping Dumbledore's arm. The feeling of apparition pulled at his naval and suddenly he was deposited in water up to his knees. Harry was gasping and again he felt like he would lose the contents of his stomach. It was dark where he landed and he looked around for Dumbledore but the man was nowhere in sight. He looked ahead of him to see a house in the distance, tall and glowing with light. The Burrow. A smile pulled at his lips as he trudged forward through the marsh he was in.
He entered the house, listening to people chatter in the floors above him. Near him, Hedwig hooted at him in greeting.
"Is that an owl I hear?" Hermione.
"His stuff is here but no one's seen him." Ginny.
"Who's stuff?" Ron.
"Harry's. Is he up there with you?" Ginny asked.
"I think I would know if my best friend were here."
"Did someone say Harry?" Mrs. Weasley.
"Yes. Apparently, he's wandering around the house and no one's seen him."
"Really," Harry answered, finally joining the conversation. Ginny was closest so it was she who got to him first. She wrapped him tightly in a hug as he heard footsteps thunder down the stairs. As she pulled away, Hermione grabbed him and wrapped him in a bone-crushing hug and his vision was obscured by her curls. Ron was next and Harry couldn't help but notice how much his best friend had grown over the summer. It seemed like every summer break his friend grew more and more. Mrs. Weasley grabbed his face, examining him and clucking over him like a mother hen.
"Why didn't you tell us you were coming?" She asked, a smile on her face and in her voice.
"I didn't- Dumbledore." Harry stuttered out.
"Oh, that man!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed.
"That one," Tom said in Harry's ear his eyes focused on Ginny, "She likes you."
Harry found himself stuttering and heat creeping up his neck and glad that people weren't paying attention to him. At the moment, Hermione and Ginny were talking about something that Harry wasn't paying attention to in the first place and Mrs. Weasley was asking Ron to help Harry up to his room.
"Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. Don't you remember the poem she wrote for you in your second year when you were in the Hospital Wing? Don't you remember the glares she shot Thomas when she thought you two were together? She likes you, Harry Potter. Such a shame."
"What's a shame?" He whispered to Tom.
"You love someone else." Tom vanished after that and Harry didn't have time to focus on what Tom said as he and Ron were suddenly taking his belongings up the steps to Ron's room. Ron was chatting with him about something but Harry's mind was buzzing in a way that he couldn't focus on anything.
When he lied down to sleep, he found himself dwelling on Tom's words.
You love someone else. You love someone else. You love-
Harry's eyes slid shut and he drifted into sleep.
Thomas stood before him just as Harry remembered him except now the other boy's eyes were blood red.
"Hello, Harry." Thomas greeted him. They were standing in a sitting room, a fire in the hearth next to them and it crackled every so often. Thomas stood a few feet away from him, dressed impeccably as always. His hair was in place, neat and perfect with a lone curl across his forehead. He wore all black, black trousers, black boots, and a black silk, button-down shirt. His hands were folded behind his back but his eyes were focused completely on Harry.
"Why am I here?" Harry asked.
"It's customary when someone says hello to say hello back." Thom-Voldemort, Harry had to remind himself.
"Hello," Harry said through gritted teeth. "Now why am I here."
The other chuckled. "Harry. There is no need to be so hostile. I am still Thomas to you. That has not changed."
"Not changed?" Harry was furious. "You're Voldemort! That changes everything. You killed my parents. You tried to kill me on several occasions. Then you infiltrate Hogwarts, become my friend. You make me trust you. You make me-" Harry cut himself off before he could finish his sentence. The heat was starting to crawl up the back of his neck again.
"I make you what, Harry?" There was a purr to Thom-Voldemort's voice. "What did I make the Boy-Who-Lived do? What did I, Lord Voldemort, make the Chosen One do?" He stalked closer to Harry. "Tell me, Harry Potter."
Tom's words echoed in his head from earlier, the ones that had been circling on his mind as he drifted off to sleep. It was the same reason he was filled with overwhelming guilt every time he looked at his parents' pictures and the reason he could not face himself fully anymore. He looked away from Thomas and toward the fire. He didn't want to deal with this, he didn't want to be here.
"You can't admit it, can you?" The other asked, so close his breath was hot on Harry's skin. "Because you feel like you have betrayed your parents by admitting it. You feel you've betrayed your very cause by admitting it." His hand came to Harry's chin, forcing Harry's head back, making Harry's eyes meet his own. "You're mine, Harry Potter. Whether you like it or not. Your soul is mine, your blood is mine, and your heart," Thomas's hand dropped to Harry's chest, just above his heart. "Your heart is mine too." Thomas's voice was a whisper, but Harry heard it as if it were a scream. Harry felt Thomas's hand continue to move and suddenly his chest was exposed and the burn the locket had left was exposed to the air. "I have made my mark on you Harry Potter." Thomas's lips were brushing his as he spoke. "I've claimed you." His hand touched the scar on his chest. "You. Are. Mine."
Then Thomas's lips claimed his and Harry couldn't help it, he gave in. His lips melded to Thomas's demanding need. Their bodies pushed together and Harry thought he would suffocate under Thomas's touch. Thomas's arms wound around him and crushed him against his body. His body trembled under the other's touch and for a moment he could think about nothing more than Thomas in his arms.
"You're going to be waking up soon," Thomas said when they finally pulled apart, both breathing heavily. It seemed to jerk Harry into his sense. He froze. Thom-Voldemort laughed. "I see you remembered yourself again."
The other placed his hands on either side of Harry's head, looking deeply into Harry's eyes. "Do you dream of me often, Harry?"
Harry bolted straight up in the bed. He was covered in a thin layer of sweat. Light started to peek through the window and in the room near him, buried under a mountain of blankets, Ron snored softly.
Do you dream of me often, Harry?
Hey guys. If you'd ever like, you can find me on Tumblr under the same name, Neurowriter14.
Chapter 15: The Warning
Harry stepped out of Ron's room quietly so as to not wake his friend up. Ron was still asleep and Harry knew he would sleep all day if given the chance. That being said, it was still quite early in the morning and most of the house was probably still asleep at this point, but Harry didn't want to risk falling back into a dream like the one he had. Instead, he dressed and pulled on his shoes before going down the stairs toward the front door. He'd hoped the morning air would help clear his head from the thoughts that still ran in circles around his mind since the moment his eyes snapped open. He tread carefully so as to not wake anyone else up but was met on the first floor by Mrs. Weasley who was quietly working to make breakfast. Her eyes lit up when she saw Harry and she glanced around him to see if anyone else had joined him on his journey down the stairs.
"It's just me," He whispered. "Ron was still asleep when I left the room."
"And what are you doing up so early dear?" Mrs. Weasley glanced down, "And with shoes on?"
"I had a strange dream," Harry admitted, "I had hoped to get some fresh air to clear my head before the start of the day." Mrs. Weasley eyed him skeptically. "I promise I won't go far. I'll stay within view of the house." He promised.
"All right dear." He thanked her as he slipped by her toward the front door.
The Burrow wasn't a very large house width wise but height wise it was massive. No matter where Harry moved he would be in its shadow, so he resigned himself to pace along the edges, just along the field of tall grass that surrounded the house. He would be out of easy earshot, he knew, but not out of eyesight. Harry sighed when the morning air filled his lungs, surrounding him like a cool blanket.
"Sleep well?" Tom asked him, suddenly appearing at his side. Harry didn't answer him but kept walking along the edge of the grass. "You were moaning in your sleep and speaking in tongues. It's a good thing Mr. Weasley is a heavy sleeper." Harry felt his face flush. "So, you are paying attention to me. I thought you were ignoring me."
"Ignoring you and willfully not answering you are two different things," Harry said finally. Tom hummed at him but there was a smirk on his face. "Why are you here, Tom? What have you come to torture me with today?"
"Who says I came to torture you?" Tom's eyes lit up with a mischievous gleam. "Maybe I came to finish what my other self started. Maybe I came to seduce you and take you in this field here." Tom waved his hand toward the tall, yellow grass next to them.
"You did see what happened," Harry commented, ignoring the rest of what Tom said, though he felt the flush coming back to his face.
"Of course," Tom answered.
"And how much do you know of Voldemort's plan?" Harry demanded.
"Everything." Tom examined his nails as if the conversation were starting to bore him.
"You wouldn't tell me if I asked would you?"
"I guess it would depend on what you asked, I suppose." Tom looked back at him again, this time shoving his hands into his pocket.
"How can I trust that what you tell me will be the truth?"
Tom smiled at him. It was a toothy grin that reminded Harry of a cat. "You can't."
Harry's stomach clenched. Tom could and very well would lie to him if he thought it suited him. Harry hadn't realized he stopped walking and he resumed his pacing around the edge of the grass. He also had no way to know if Tom was lying to him. Tom was inside his head and likely knew every little thing he was thinking and everything about him, he could easily fool Harry if he wanted to. Yet there were things Harry wanted to know.
"How long have you been poking around in my head?" Harry asked.
"About a month after you put the locket on," Tom answered. "At first I was just going to kill you, but there was something interesting about you that I couldn't quite put my finger on. So, I waited. Then I felt the other me, Voldemort, near you. I had to know what was so special about you, so I started looking and haven't left that raven-haired covered head of yours since."
"How much did you see?" Harry asked.
"Everything," Tom answered. "I saw your entire childhood. I saw your life at Hogwarts and your life elsewhere. I saw your attachment to your friends. I saw your love for your parents. I saw you defy me at eleven. I saw you destroy my diary at twelve. I saw you free your godfather at thirteen. I saw your trials in the Triwizard tournament. I saw the death of Cedric Diggory. I saw you fight me and I saw you come out the other side alive." There was something in Tom's voice that sounded almost like Tom was impressed with him. "And of course, I was there all last year. I felt your pain with Dolores Umbridge. I felt your pain with Sirius Black. I felt your hatred and your anger toward Bellatrix Lestrange. I felt your love for Thomas. For me."
"I didn't-" Harry began, but Tom cut him off.
"Don't lie to me, Harry," His voice was low and threatening as he turned to face Harry, cutting off his path. "I was there just as you were. You deny it and you can continue to deny it to the world as much as you like. But you know you fell. The great Harry Potter fell."
Harry swallowed and Tom straightened himself out again, moving out of Harry's path. They were silent for a moment as Harry let his own internal war rage yet again.
"You said you were there for everything," Harry began, letting his mind return to another question he had.
"Yes," Tom answered, his voice returning to its earlier more pleasant tone.
"Was that you goading my anger?"
Harry had thought he felt something goading his anger, something pushing him to be angrier than he wanted to be. He now knew why.
"You said you know all of Voldemort's plans. How? Can you communicate? You've been locked up in the Black house for however long until I took you out last summer."
"Not exactly. It's more like an exchange of information and it can only happen at certain times. Last night for instance. I am not like you." Harry's quizzical look was all it took to keep Tom talking. With a sigh, he continued. "I'm not alive. You are a living horcrux, even if you are only a partial, incomplete horcrux. I have no living vessel as I am contained in that locket around your neck. If I wanted to become living I would have to suck the life out of some other living thing, preferably magical."
Harry's mind briefly and unwantedly flashed back to Ginny's cold body on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets with sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle standing above her, a smirk plastered across his handsome face.
"Exactly," Tom said snapping him out of his thoughts. "The diary tried to drain her life in order to try to resurrect itself."
"How do I know you won't do that to me or to someone else?" Harry demanded, suddenly very worried about the locket that was permanently attached to his neck. To him, Tom felt very solid and in the Chamber, that Tom had been incredibly solid too. "How do I know you're not already doing that?"
Tom laughed, suddenly and loudly, making Harry jump slightly. "If I wanted you dead, you would be dead already. At the moment, you are worth more to me alive. Incomplete horcrux or no, you are still a horcrux which makes you valuable. And I have grown rather fond of you. As for your other question, it would not due to have two Voldemort's running around. It would be rather confusing don't you think? As it is, no one would believe me if I were to say who I was and it would more than likely get me killed or hunted like a dog by the Death Eaters and aurors alike. My other self would have no mercy for me at that point, I know I wouldn't."
"You would let yourself die?" Harry asked, surprised but somehow at the same time not.
"Of course, if I challenged my own right to power. The best way to ensure my rise is the lack of challengers."
"I thought one of the things you feared most was death, but letting yourself die you bring yourself one step closer to it."
Tom shrugged. "There are others. Just like with you."
Harry ran his hand through his hair making the unruly locks wilder. Tom followed the motion with his eyes hungrily.
"Mr. Weasley," Harry said suddenly. It was enough to make Tom blink at him.
"What of him?"
"After the attack on Mr. Weasley, I had a dream of Voldemort telling Nagini that she had done well. Was that related? Was the attack on Mr. Weasley planned?"
"Yes," Tom answered. "He didn't know the extent of your connection to him or the other horcruxes, such as Nagini, and it needed to be tested. He thought perhaps you were connected to Nagini and, at that point, he didn't know you had me around your neck. So, he sent Nagini to attack whoever guarded the prophecy that night. If you reported the attack, it meant that you, like him, could see the horcruxes and him as well, much like how he can."
"So, he didn't know it would be Mr. Weasley that night?" Harry asked.
"No. The attack was aimed at whoever was guarding. The fact that it was your friend's father was entirely coincidental."
Harry didn't know what to feel with the information he had just been given.
"Any further questions?"
Harry shook his head.
"Good, because now it's my turn."
"Your turn? How could you possibly have questions? You know everything about me." Harry huffed.
"Just listen to me, you stubborn Gryffindor." Harry's mouth clicked shut. "He knows that Dumbledore is hunting horcruxes. Dumbledore's hand is evidence of this. I know he moved the horcruxes but Dumbledore must have suspected the original hiding spot of one of them. He was likely met with a nasty surprise as a result." Harry remembered the black, rotting looking flesh on Dumbledore's hand, shivering internally at the memory. "Dumbledore's hunt for horcruxes leads in one direction." Tom looked at him pointedly.
Harry felt himself stop in his tracks. "Me? You think Dumbledore would- he wouldn't."
"Of course he wouldn't. The man loves you as if you were his grandson, Harry. But you are a horcrux. You are on the list of things that needs to be destroyed. You will need to die if I am to die."
Harry swallowed thickly. There were too many emotions threatening to rip their way out of his throat at that moment. He looked back toward the Burrow where lights were starting to light up the various rooms. He thought of his friends at that moment. He thought of Hermione with her bushy hair and her wide smiles. He thought of the moment they became friends after he and Ron had saved her from the troll in first year. He thought of Ron, whose family had shown him how to get onto Platform 9 3/4 and who had sat with him on the train. He thought of Fred and George who had been like his own big brothers throughout the years. He thought of Ginny, the young girl who had hidden from him in his second year and the brilliant seeker who had stepped up last year when Umbridge's tyranny had threatened to tear apart the school and him along with it. He thought of his parents and Sirius, all three had died fighting for what they thought was right. And now here he was being told he had to die because half a prophecy had been delivered to someone driven insane by the act of ripping their soul into shreds. He bared a piece of that soul.
"Why are you telling me this?" Harry asked finally.
"To warn you." Tom was studying him. "You're still thinking of fighting."
"You killed my parents. Sirius is dead because of Bellatrix. Countless others are dead because of you. What am I supposed to do? Just stand aside because I fell in love with you?" Harry threw up his hands and then his breath caught in his throat. Tom was grinning like a mad man and the truth of what Harry had just admitted caught up with him. He slumped and sat on the ground, facing the Burrow with the rising sun at his back.
The morning sunlight seemed to set the Burrow ablaze with light as the windows danced with color.
"Why did Voldemort give the diary to Lucius?" Harry asked after a long silence between the two of them. Tom had joined him on the ground at this point, both looking at the Burrow in front of them.
"I didn't," Tom growled, anger creeping into his voice. Harry didn't answer, waiting for Tom to continue. "I gave it to his father to guard. I went to Hogwarts with the man. He was loyal and ambitious. I knew he would guard it with his life. I never expected his son to do something as stupid as slipping the diary into the cauldron of the young Ms. Weasley."
"It seems like a risky thing to do," Harry commented, leaning back and propping himself up by his arms behind him. "Leaving a piece of your soul with a follower. It seemed unexpected. I didn't think you trusted them enough for it."
"That's exactly why I did it." Harry could hear the grin in Tom's voice. "My other self did it again for a short time, with another follower."
Harry thought about which of Voldemort's followers he would trust with a piece of his soul. Tom waited patiently beside him for him to figure it out. He knew he got it when he could see the grin start on the other's face.
"Bellatrix." He said aloud.
"Exactly. It's not there anymore, of course. But there was a piece left with her for a time."
Harry felt his mood darken.
"Oh come now, Harry. Bellatrix is loyal to me. She would sell out her own sister, who she loves dearly by the way, just for me."
"She's in love with you," Harry said bitterly, remembering the reverence in Bellatrix's voice when she screamed at him to not say Voldemort's name.
"She is," Tom agreed. "And so are you." Harry opened his mouth to argue but Tom continued. "It is different though." Tom tapped his chin. "Bellatrix is completely devoted. She could not be driven away from me even in the madness that Azkaban brought upon her. But you," He could feel Tom's eyes on him, "You love me and yet you would still kill me."
The sudden appearance of Mrs. Weasley cut off whatever meek reply Harry was about to form in response.
"Breakfast, Harry!" She called. Harry waved and stood, brushing himself off. He noted that Tom didn't bother disappearing this time as he ventured back inside. Ron still wasn't awake yet, but Hermione and Ginny were along with Mr. Weasley. The house felt empty without the presence of the twins to liven the atmosphere. Ron eventually made his way down the stairs as he, Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sat around the table, eating breakfast. Tom decided to admire the decor of the house, never straying too far from Harry, but at least it let Harry eat in peace. The quiet morning soon got much more exciting as two owls arrived in quick succession.
The first bared the results of their O.W.L.s and the second the lists of supplies for the upcoming school year. Harry felt his heart sink when he saw the result of Exceeds Expectations next to Potions. Snape was strict and would only take Outstanding for N.E.W.T. level classes which meant Harry would not be an auror like he had wanted.
"I still think you would be better suited as a professor," Tom muttered in his ear as he looked over his shoulder at his result. "I could give you private lessons if you want. I got Outstanding in everything." There was something in Tom's tone that Harry didn't want to evaluate.
As Harry looked over his class list, he found himself grasping at a strangely shaped object which was not a piece of paper. He had been named the captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team.
"I have to say that the thought of seeing you in that uniform is not displeasing." The same tone was back in Tom's voice and Harry had to resist the urge to shutter.
Hermione said something to Harry which he didn't catch though he pretended like he did with a smile. Mrs. Weasley began planning their upcoming trip to Diagon Alley, fluttering about to figure out what all was needed.
"I guess we can finally see Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes," Ron said watching his mother gather item after item only to place it back down.
"That will be the best place to see," Tom said in Harry's other ear. "Diagon Alley isn't what it used to be."
Chapter 16: Draco and the Wolf
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for all your comments, kudos, and encouragement. I really appreciate it. I write this story for you all and I'm glad to know that you all enjoy it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Diagon Alley was completely grey and bleak when Harry and the Weasleys stepped into its normally bustling presence. Some shops looked completely abandoned and others looked like they had been raided and torn apart from the inside out. It looked like a natural disaster had ripped apart the very foundation of the once lively street. The only place with any real life left in it was Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, down the street from where the group had landed.
"Death Eaters from the looks of it," Arthur Weasley commented, eyeing the shops around him. Harry could see him fidgeting with the wand in his sleeve, alert for any attack that might come upon them next.
"What do you suppose they were after?" Molly Weasley asked her husband as the group shuffled forward.
"I don't know." He answered.
"Keeping the Ministry busy mostly," Tom answered, though no one but Harry could hear him.
They bounced from store to store, timid shop owner to timid shop owner until they landed at the lively establishment owned by Fred and George. The place thrummed with life as if it threatened to explode out of it at any second. The inside of the shop was an explosion of color compared the dullness of the alley outside. Noise exploded everywhere with various inventions of the twins' running rampant across the store. Bright colors danced across the walls and floor and the air seemed to feel a little lighter inside than it in the suffocating stillness of the alley outside. Fred and George were on the stairway that lead to the second floor of their shop, screaming happily about products for their customers. They completely commanded the room, as if every whizzing, whirring, and bubbling thing was drawing the entering person's eyes right to the exuberant figures of Fred and George.
The group dispersed on entry, each drawn to their own interest amongst the various points of excitement in the store. Harry recognized various classmates in the store including Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas. It was Dean who seemed to draw Ginny's attention as she immediately went to greet him.
"When did that start?" Harry asked Hermione, who was nearest to him. Hermione looked up to see what Harry was referring to, following Harry's eyes toward Ginny and Dean.
"The end of last year. Why?" Hermione asked, eyeing Harry.
"No reason. I'm happy for them. I just had no idea." Harry gave a shrug, turning to Hermione. Hermione hummed, looking back at the product she had in hand. Harry didn't look at what she was holding, only to find himself jump slightly when there was a loud snap. Hermione yanked it away from her eye and Harry could see now that it was a telescope.
"Hermione!" Harry exclaimed. "Are you all right?"
Fred appeared next to them, his face contorted in horror. "Sorry about that, Hermione." He handed her something in a tin. "Those are Punching Telescopes. Leave a nasty bruise they do. They can only be removed with this." Hermione applied some around her eye, thanked him, and went to hand it back to him when he waved her off. "We have plenty of them. Keep it. It might come in handy." Harry felt himself smile as he left Hermione and Fred, going to look at more of the store.
"Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder?" Harry asked George who appeared next to him at the display he was looking at.
"Throw it and it completely darkens the whole room with smoke. It clears pretty quickly but it comes in handy if you ever need to sneak somewhere."
"I never sneak anywhere," Harry answered, his voice sounding completely sincere but there was a smile threating to tug at his lips. He picked up a piece and twirled it in his fingers. "How much?"
"Nothing. Not for you." Fred appeared at Harry's other side.
"But-" Harry began to protest.
"No." The twins answered in unison.
"You gave us our startup," Fred said.
"We haven't forgotten that." George finished.
Something else demanded the twins' attention, effectively ending the conversation and Harry's protests. He put the powder in his pocket and wandered through the store more.
"I could use some air," Ron said, coming up next to him after a few moments, looking disgruntled. Harry nodded and after a moment, Hermione joined them. The three slipped out of the store.
They walked between the abandoned stores for what felt like a long while. The silence was deafening compared to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and the stillness was foreboding. The trio walked until they happened across Olivander's and Harry felt an overwhelming sense of dread pull at his gut. He stepped closer to the shop. It was torn to pieces, wands and glass were strewn across the floor. It was cold inside as if the very life of the store had been sucked out and replaced with something dangerous.
"Everyone got their wand from Olivander's," Hermione murmured, looking at the fallen shelves on the walls. Harry felt nauseous.
"I need a moment," He told his friends, leaving them and going outside between the shops where he was far enough away and out of earshot. Tom appeared the moment Harry leaned his back against the wall.
"Why?" Harry demanded. "Why take Olivander?"
"He wanted to know why our wands connected that night in the graveyard," Tom answered simply. Harry's heart was pounding and his stomach was churning.
"I could have answered that. You could have answered that!"
The phoenix, whose tail feather resides in your wand, gave another feather. Just one other. It is curious that you should be destined for this wand when its brother gave you that scar.
Tom hummed. "Yes, I could answer that part of the question. But that doesn't answer the question of what phoenix was it."
"And what does that have to do with anything?" Harry demanded.
"It would tell me a great many things." Harry knew Tom wouldn't tell him any more than that, so he glared at the other before doubling himself over, his hands on his knees, hanging his head. That was how Ron and Hermione found him.
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione called.
"I'm fine," Harry answered, standing up with one final glare at Tom.
"Good. Because you need to come here." Harry felt himself tense at Ron's comment but he went toward his friends nonetheless. Where they were standing, they were mostly obscured from view from the rest of Diagon Alley. Through the destroyed windows of Olivander's the three of them could see two figures walking toward them, the easily distinguishable figures of Draco and Narcissa Malfoy. "We could see them from inside Olivander's," Ron whispered. "We thought we should come get you."
Harry turned and looked at his friends before pulling his Invisibility Cloak, which he had hidden in his jacket, out for them to see, a question on his face. There was little hesitation before they were all under it and following Draco and his mother.
It had been much easier to hide under the cloak when they were small first years. Ron was a head taller than Harry and Hermione both and they had to move as one person in order to keep the cloak from falling open to reveal one or more of them. They made it somehow, with only minimal feet stepped on as they reached a place Harry remembered all too well; Borgin and Burkes.
They worked their way into a position where they could hear, as best they could, what was going on inside the store. Harry could vaguely make out a few people in the room, including Fenrir Greyback, Narcissa Malfoy, and Bellatrix Lestrange, in addition to Draco. There was plenty of conversation, much of it muffled through the windows of the room. However, Harry could see Draco threaten the owner, Borgin, with something on his arm before referring to Greyback. The man gave a rather toothy smile that made Harry both shiver and hatred boil in his gut. Harry couldn't tell the object Draco kept referring to, though he could see it was tall and dark. The group of Death Eaters, Draco among them, started to move toward the door and the trio moved away from it, hustling into the shadows. Draco was carrying objects he hadn't been when he initially when in and they were tucked into the pocket of his suit upon his exit. Harry couldn't help but think that Draco was imitating his father with the current wardrobe he was donning. The suit was uncharacteristic of Draco and he completely dressed in black, his blond hair slicked back even more so than normal. However, he looked deathly pale and thinner than he ever had.
The wind shifted slightly, causing Greyback's eyes to slide toward them. Harry thought his heart stopped in his chest as he held his breath for a moment, but Greyback turned away and followed the others.
Harry let out a sigh of relief when they were far enough away. The three of them exchanged glances as a frightened looking Borgin locked the door to the store, his eyes darting everywhere in paranoia.
"We won't be getting anything out of him," Ron muttered bitterly. "What do you suppose happened in there?"
"Draco's become a Death Eater," Harry muttered.
Ron and Hermione looked at him incredulously.
"It makes sense!" Harry exclaimed. "He's never been able to get someone inside Hogwarts so what better way than using the son of a Death Eater." The trio had made their way back to Diagon Alley at this point and Harry slid the cloak off of them.
"There's no way You-Know-Who would use a child to do his dirty work," Hermione protested.
"That's exactly what Voldemort would do," Harry argued.
"There you are!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, cutting off whatever retort Ron or Hermione had for Harry. The look on Harry's face was enough to tell them that they would be continuing the conversation later. "That was reckless to run off like that." Mrs. Weasley continued, checking over each of them to make certain they were all right.
Harry let thoughts whirl around his mind as they made their way back to the Burrow. Tom hummed next to him the whole time as if his presence would give Harry some insight that was just out of his reach at the moment. It was well into the night before Harry, Hermione, and Ron could speak alone again. They gathered in Ron's room which was the furthest away from the rest of the house. Harry leaned against the bed opposite Ron's while Ron stretched his legs, taking up a surprising amount of room. Sometimes it shocked Harry how much his friend had grown. Hermione sat between them, her legs crossed and a book on her lap.
"He showed them something on his arm," Harry argued when Ron and Hermione still argued against Draco's Death Eater status. "Dark Marks are often on Death Eaters arms. You know this."
"Why would You-Know-Who make Draco a Death Eater?" Hermione asked, setting down her book and looking at Harry.
"I don't know," Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Maybe he wants something in Hogwarts." He rolled his head to the side, seeing Tom who sat opposite to Hermione. Tom shook his head ever so slightly. "Or maybe he's punishing Lucius." The thought popped in his head at random and Harry was completely unsure where it came from.
"Punishing him?" Ron asked.
"Think about it," Harry said, running with the thought. "He failed him by not getting what he wanted in the Ministry. He ended up in Azkaban. It's not unlike Voldemort to punish the child for the mistakes of the parent." Harry thought briefly about Remus Lupin and his history with Fenrir Greyback.
Hermione seemed to be thinking about what Harry said, he could see the thoughts behind her eyes. "It's possible," She began, "But that doesn't mean it's true. You have no proof. He is related to Death Eaters, that doesn't mean he's one of them."
Harry sighed, knowing the argument would get no further.
"Harry," Ron began after a long silence. His voice was hesitant and uncharacteristic for him. He ran a hand through his hair shyly and Harry's eyes focused on his friend. Ron's ears started to turn a slight shade of pink and he cleared his throat before lowering his hand. "Look, mate. I know we didn't really talk about it all before the summer." Ron took a deep breath. "About Thomas. About who he really was." Ron's eyes darted away from Harry.
Harry felt like a knife had been ripped through his gut. He swallowed thickly and shifted uncomfortably. Hermione had stilled between them.
"About the fact that he was Voldemort, you mean?"
Ron flinched but nodded. "You know we're here for you, mate. If you want to talk about it. It seemed like you really like him, you know, before." Ron looked to Hermione for help.
"If there's anything you need, we're here for you," Hermione said with a sad smile.
Harry nodded. "Thanks, guys."
The updates following this one will likely get a little slower as uni starts back up again tomorrow. I will keep updating but it will just be a little slower.
Chapter 17: St. Thomas
Harry fidgeted with the end of the wand holster on his forearm. Next to him, Tom sighed and slapped at Harry's hand.
"Calm down. You're going to give me anxiety from watching you." Harry shot him a glare but stopped fidgeting with the holster. Instead, he looked out the window of the train. Countryside flew by in a brilliant blend of green and yellow as the blue sky blazed above them. A bird hovered outside the window for a moment before fluttering away. Across from him, Luna and Neville sat, each occupied by their own tasks. Harry, however, couldn't focus on anything. His head was still whirling with thoughts about Draco and the meeting he'd witnessed in Borgin and Burke's as well as the warning Tom had given him shortly before entering the train.
The door slid open and before Harry knew it, he found his feet carrying him away from the compartment, Neville in tow, toward Slughorn's. Tom had warned him this would likely happen, that Slughorn would call on him for a meal during the ride to the castle. Harry could still hear Dumbledore's words ringing in his ears about Slughorn's desire to collect Harry and the need for Slughorn to return to Hogwarts. Harry and Neville entered the compartment and Tom immediately placed himself between Harry and Slughorn.
"Remember, Harry, you're mine." Tom's dark eyes fixed on Slughorn, though his words were directed at Harry. It took everything Harry had not to reach for the burn on the center of his chest. He could see Tom's smirk at Harry refraining himself from the action.
What is it with you Slytherins and your need to collect things? Harry thought idly as he sat down in the seat Slughorn gestured him to.
"We are a rather possessive lot." Tom hummed. "What's ours is ours. But Slughorn is smart, in his own way. He doesn't want the spotlight. He wants to be adjacent to it. He finds those most likely to be successful and he makes them feel special. He never wants success himself. He figures if he makes you feel special now, you'll do him a favor later."
If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours? Harry asked, half listening to the others around the table.
"Precisely," Tom mutter his approval, draping himself over the unused arm of Harry's chair and laying his arm across the back of it. Once again, he reminded Harry of a cat. Tom's eyes roamed around the table and Harry noticed that they settled for a moment on Ginny. "You think she's moved on from you."
Hasn't she? She's with Dean.
"Harry," Tom purred, "Take it from me who's had several women, and many men for that matter, pining. I know what it looks like. She's pining." Harry could feel the weight of Tom's eyes on him. "You've been one of them, even when you were twelve."
Harry had chosen that moment to take a drink of the butterbeer in front of him, a terrible choice it turned out, as it inhaled his sip at Tom's comment. Harry coughed, his redness thankfully appearing to be from the bluster with his drink and not from the cackling young Dark Lord on the arm of his chair. The rest of lunch was relatively painless, despite the fact that Tom attempted to make Harry inhale every other thing he ate or drank. He tried his best to ignore the other, redness only creeping onto his neck one other time when Tom mentioned how much Harry enjoyed his voice.
As Harry and the others left Slughorn's compartment, however, Harry was distracted by the opportunity to listen to Malfoy and his friends, all crammed in another compartment on the way back to the one he shared with Neville and Luna.
"You coming, Harry?" Neville asked.
"I'll be there in a moment," Harry answered. When Neville and everyone else was out of view, Harry pulled the cloak out of his pocket.
"Doing a little snooping are we?" Tom was incredibly close to him in the narrow hallway of the train car and Harry swallowed thickly, attempting to ignore him. "This should be fun." Harry shushed him and pulled out another object from his pocket. "Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder." Tom murmured. "You should really thank the twins. And tell them you used it on Draco Malfoy. They might send you more."
Harry covered himself and shot one last look at Tom before throwing the powder into the room.
"What the-" The words were cut off but the explosion of the powder and a series of curses and coughs. Harry slid inside and onto one of the luggage racks inside the compartment.
"Sit down, Draco." Pansy Parkinson urged, tugging at Draco's arm. "It was probably just a first year playing a prank. We'll be at Hogwarts soon."
Draco looked around once more and Harry could see the terror on his face.
"He thinks Voldemort was coming for him." Tom was leaning against the window, unnoticed by everyone but Harry. "How cute."
"Hogwarts." Draco sneered, lowering himself onto the seat. "What a pathetic excuse for a school."
Tom hissed in anger, his dark eyes lighting up. Harry turned slightly, attempting to calm Tom but the movement didn't go unnoticed by Draco. He felt the blond's eyes on the spot he sat for a moment. Their eyes met and Harry held his breath. A moment went by then two but Draco's attention turned away and the subject changed to something Harry didn't care about. However, he couldn't move.
The train came to a halt outside Hogwarts and Harry could hear feet shuffling outside the compartment. The others in the compartment left except for Draco who told his friends he'd meet them on the platform. Draco drew the shade over the window and the other shade over the outer window dropped as well.
"Didn't your mum ever tell you it was rude to eavesdrop, Potter?" Draco turned before Harry could get his wand out. "Petrificus totalus!" Harry felt his body roll to the floor but he was unable to do anything, unable to move or do anything other than breathe. "Oh yeah," Draco sneered as the cloak was pulled off him. "She was dead before you could wipe the drool off your chin." Harry saw the heal of Draco's shoe as it came down on his nose but was unable to cry out in pain as he heard his nose crack. "That's from my father."
Draco opened his mouth to say more but above Harry, the air had started to glow a shade of sickly green. For a moment, it felt like there was electricity crackling throughout the compartment and then the air stilled, unnaturally. Above Harry, Tom appeared. He looked everything like Harry was used to seeing, but the fear in Draco's eyes was enough to tell Harry that Draco could see him too.
Tom clicked his tongue in a rebuke. "Now, now little dragon. Didn't your mother ever teach you to keep your hands off other people's things?" Draco flew through the door before he could answer. Tom bent and grabbed Harry and suddenly he was released from the full body bind. His nose cracked back into place with a loud pop. Harry grunted but Tom quieted him.
"Hurry now. Everyone is almost off the platform. You don't want to be caught as one of the last on the train." Tom vanished the blood off Harry's shirt before handing him a cloth. "Plug your nose. Now go."
Harry's mind was swirling with questions and pain still ached through his face.
"Go!" Tom demanded, pushing at Harry. Harry stood, grabbed his cloak, and ran. Draco was somehow off the train already and Harry joined the few stragglers at the end of the line.
"Wotcher, Harry!" Tonks greeted him as she strode on her way toward the train. "What happened?"
"Long story," Harry muttered. She nodded at him grimly before continuing toward the train.
"There you are, Harry!" Neville called. Neville and Luna appeared at his sides. "We were looking for you everywhere. We were trying to wait but the last carriage." Neville trailed off.
"Well, you found me." Harry pulled the cloth away from his nose, noting the blood on it before pressing it back.
The others were silent as the boarded the last carriage toward the castle ahead of them. The thestral was silent as it plodded along the ground, the carriage rocking back and forth as it rolled over the rock, stone, and leaves. Professor Flitwick greeted them at the gate, taking everyone's name as they entered.
"Name?" The professor demanded.
"Professor Flitwick you've known me for years."
"No exceptions, Potter." The professor stammered before sighing and marking him on the parchment he held.
Tom had been unusually silent next to him on the journey to the castle. Harry noted the trouble Draco seemed to be having with his luggage as each piece was being evaluated. The blond sneered at Filch with each new piece that was being inspected. It was Snape who came to Malfoy's rescue. Snape's eyes darted over to Harry for a moment and something passed in front of them that Harry couldn't quite understand before everyone, Harry included, trudged up to the castle. Harry flopped onto the bench at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, heaving a sigh with the cloth still pressed to his nose.
"Why are you always covered in blood?" Hermione asked him, pulling the cloth away from his nose for a moment to inspect the damage to his nose.
"At least I didn't break my glasses this time." Hermione thumped him on his shoulder with the book she held causing Ron to bark out a laugh around the piece of sausage he was currently eating.
"So, who was it this time?" Ron asked.
"Malfoy," Harry muttered bitterly.
Ron nodded, his eyes darting to the Slytherin table across the hall.
"What happened?" He asked.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
It was true, Harry could hardly believe it himself. Next to him, Tom was still completely silent but his dark eyes were focused on Harry as though he thought Harry might be the one to vanish and not the other way around. When Dumbledore called their attention to the front of the Great Hall, Harry took the opportunity to study Tom, who finally looked away from Harry. He was tense, tenser than Harry had ever seen him. Something about Draco attacking him had set Tom off.
"This year, our Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is none other than our very own, Professor Snape."
Harry's head buzzed with the news of Snape's appointment to Defense Against the Dark Arts. His favorite subject was now under the control of his least favorite professor. Though, things between him and Snape had been different since the Occlumency lesson the previous year. However, Umbridge had left a bad taste in Harry's mouth and now Snape was taking up her mantle. Slughorn had returned to take his former position as Potion's master, a fact Harry wished Tom had deigned to share so this wouldn't have been such a disastrous bombshell. Harry left the Great Hall listening to the chatter of various students groan about Snape being their old and new horror.
Harry stood in the Chamber of Secrets. The basilisk skeleton lied before him in the exact spot it had been years before when Harry stabbed it through the head with the Sword of Gryffindor. He heard faint footsteps and then Tom appeared next to him.
"Why here?" Tom asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you're controlling the location of your dream. I only entered it. You could have picked anywhere. So, why here?" Tom looked around at the decaying walls of the Chamber. "Is it because you worry I'm draining the life out of you like my other self drained the life out of Ginny Weasley? Do you think someone will find your body here, amongst the water and bones?"
Harry swallowed thickly.
"I told you before, Harry. I'm not going to kill you. Not yet. I also told you, I'm here to protect you. That is what I have done and what I'm going to continue to do."
"What was that look in your eye earlier?"
"Which one?" Tom looked around, avoiding looking at Harry. Harry grabbed him and turned the other to look at him.
"You know which one I mean."
"I told you that as well. You're mine. And he hurt you. He touched you." Tom's eyes grew darker and for a moment there was a flash of red. "I won't tolerate that."
Harry swallowed, backing away and Tom let him go.
"You're in luck," Tom said after a long, tense silence.
"Slughorn accepts N.E.W.T. students with Exceeds Expectations." Tom looked at him, a smirk crossing his face. "And my offer still stands. I will happily give you private lessons."
Chapter 18: La Memoria
The house was rather grandiose. It could have easily encompassed the Dursley's house two-fold. Harry started around the massive entryway. It was dark outside, Harry could see the night through the window. Harry walked toward the massive windows, noting the vast countryside and the houses toward the bottom of the hill. To the left, there was a graveyard and Harry reached toward his arm subconsciously. As he was looking toward the graveyard, he noticed a figure walking the pathway toward the house. The figure grabbed the massive knocker on the door and three loud clangs rang through the house. Harry heard grumbling from elsewhere in the house and a light flickered. An old man hobbled through the house toward the front door, the candle in his hand flickering with his movement. Harry followed the older man as he grabbed the ancient but beautiful handle and turned it. The door creaked and light flooded into the entryway. Harry moved to where he could see the figure in the entryway.
"Hello," A young Tom Riddle greeted. He gave the man a handsome, charming smile toward the older man before Harry watched the older man's eyes cloud over. The man moved aside, letting Tom inside the house. The door shut behind him and the older man disappeared into a different room. Tom walked toward the light and voices in a back room of the house.
"Frank!" A man's voice called. "Who is at the door?" The man's voice was harsh and held the withering of age. Tom walked toward the voice. "Frank!" The voice demanded again. Tom opened the door, opening to a large dining room. The room was incredibly grand. The walls were covered in red and gold, crimson velvet curtains covered the window, and there was a long, wooden table in the center. It was covered in food of various kinds from a turkey to various vegetables to deserts. Three people were around the table. One was an older man with deep, chocolate colored eyes and white hair, he looked like he had aged well as it was hard to tell his age beyond the white hair atop his head. He was clean-shaven and wearing a three-piece suit. To his left was a woman in a silver gown. She had long, white-silver hair and brilliant blue eyes with sharp cheekbones. She wore large, brilliant earrings that shone in the soft firelight from the fireplace behind them. Across the long table was another man who looked like an aged Tom Riddle. His eyes were the same dark color, he had the same high cheekbones, and the same build as the boy Harry had followed into the room. He wore suit pants and a white shirt covered by a vest. He looked incredibly refined but somehow not as refined as the boy he was facing.
Recognition lit the face of the younger man in the room. For a moment, Harry heard Tom's breath hitch in his throat. He watched as the other swallowed thickly. He turned back to the younger of the two men at the table, who stood.
"I know who you are." The man's voice was harsh. "You're her child. That freak." Harry winced for Tom. "You shouldn't be here." His eyes narrowed at Tom. "I don't what you here." Tom opened his mouth as if to say something, but he was cut off by the harsh words that continued from the man. "You're just like her. A freak." He stood, fuming for a moment. "Leave." He demanded. "Leave!"
Tom turned his head, looking down at what he was holding in his hand. Harry followed his gaze seeing the wand in his grasp. It wasn't Tom's wand though, Harry knew Tom's wand, he'd suffered enough because of that wand; this was not that wand.
A heartbeat passed and then two before Harry heard the floor creak. Harry looked back up to notice the man walking toward Tom. An emerald light flashed out faster than the man could move and suddenly his limp body dropped. A gasp escaped Harry's lips without his control before Tom turned the wand on the other two figures in the room. The next curse was aimed at the other man and his body dropped, his face landing on the table in front of him. Tom turned the wand toward the room's third occupant, the woman. For a moment, Tom hesitated. The wand twirled in his fingers.
Her vibrant eyes narrowed at Tom and her lips pursed. "Murderer!" She began to scream. "Freak! Murderer!" Tom's third Killing Curse cut off her screaming.
Tom turned away from the bodies in the dining room, finally fully facing Harry. Harry's heart was pounding in his head and fear coursed through his veins but Tom's dark eyes turned to the spot Harry stood for a moment. Harry knew Tom couldn't see him, he remembered being inside the diary and trying to talk to the memory there. Tom let out a sharp breath and Harry noticed the tears in his eyes. Tom blinked away the tears, turning his head toward the caretaker who ran out of the room he had currently been in. Tom waved the wand he held toward the man and his eyes clouded over once more. After Tom left, the man's eyes unclouded and he ran into the dining room, undoubtedly finding the three bodies Tom had left behind.
Harry couldn't shake the nagging feeling that there was something familiar about the caretaker.
Harry shot straight upward in his bed. His heart was pounding and he was covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He wiped his hand across his face before grabbing his glasses off the table next to him.
"Tempus." He muttered, waving his wand in front of him. The time appeared in front of him, showing him it was only 6:30 in the morning. Harry lied back in the bed, his mind reeling from his experience during the night. Was it a dream? Was it a memory?
Harry grabbed at the locket around his neck, twirling it between his fingers. The locket seemed to warm under his grasp. He pulled it up so he could see it, examining the locket truly for the first time in a while. The locket had a serpentine 'S' on its face with emeralds inlaid on its face. He traced the 'S' with his thumb, feeling the individual stones under his touch. He could swear the locket's gold face shimmered under the touch and Harry dropped the locket back onto his chest.
It seemed as though Tom was forcing him to wake up earlier than Harry normally wanted to. With a sigh, Harry threw his legs over the edge of the bed and opened the curtain surrounding his bed. Around him, the others snored in their beds all of them blissfully asleep. Harry gathered his clothes for the day and headed for the shower to ready himself for the day.
He entered the empty common room. The fireplace was unusually devoid of its usual crackling fire. Harry let out a sigh, running his hand through his hair, before leaving the common room. He didn't know where he was walking, he was just walking. The castle seemed to blur by him; stairs moved and portraits yelled but Harry ignored all of it until he found himself outside the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Harry paused and evaluated his surroundings, wondering why exactly he was here. He was about to leave when the door to the classroom opened.
Snape looked down his nose at Harry, their eyes meeting for a long moment.
"Potter," Snape greeted harshly.
Harry swallowed and looked away from Snape for a moment.
"What do you want, Potter?" Snape demanded.
"Did you know?" Harry blurted. Snape blinked at Harry for a moment. Harry let out a sigh. "Last year, you warned me about Thomas. Did you know who he really was? If you did, how? Why did you warn me about him?" Snape let out a sigh and began to push past Harry but Harry moved in front of his professor. "Please," His voice was low. "I have to know."
Snape evaluated Harry for a moment, his eyes narrowing on his student. "I didn't know," He answered after a long silence. "But I suspected something. It is forbidden to use Legilimency on a student, however, I did not believe good intentions with Mr. Raadsel. When I couldn't enter his mind, I knew there was something wrong with him. My suspicions were confirmed at the Ministry of Magic."
Harry nodded absentmindedly while his hand reached up and rubbed at the burn the locket had made on his chest.
"Why the sudden interest in the Dark Lord?" Snape's dark eyes looked at him coolly.
"You were the only one who knew." Harry's voice was softer than he meant it to be. "Not even Dumbledore." Harry swallowed before turning on his heal and leaving Snape staring after him.
Other students had started to gather in the Great Hall by the time Harry entered.
"Harry!" Ron exclaimed. "There you are. Where'd you go?"
"I just-" Harry was cut off by the schedule landing on the table in front of him. Harry looked it over before turning to McGonagall who he knew was still somewhere behind him. "Professor."
"Yes, Potter?" She hummed, looking over her glasses at him.
"Is it true that Professor Slughorn takes N.E.W.T. students with 'Exceeds Expectations?'" He asked only to see McGonagall's eyes light up appreciatively. Her lips twitched slightly before she gave him a slight nod.
"That is correct." Her eyes scanned the table. "I suggest you join him, Mr. Weasley." With that, she turned and continued down the Gryffindor table, handing out schedules to other students.
Hermione looked over the table at Harry, her head cocking slightly at him.
"You just surprised me is all."
Harry hummed in response, though next to him, Tom finally appeared.
"I'm not surprised, in case you were wondering." Tom looked at the spread of food across the table. "It's a good idea. Dumbledore wants you to get on Slughorn's good side, what better way than to appear in his classroom. Oh, he'll love it. The man will be putty in your hands." Tom grinned at Harry who rolled his eyes into his juice.
It felt like forever to Harry with Tom babbling in his ear until Potions finally arrived. Between Tom's rambling about the infinite number of way's he could manipulate Slughorn, Hermione's sideways looks, and Ron's grumbling about having to attend Potions after he thought he was done with it; Harry thought his head was going to explode. It was a relief to finally enter the dungeons and the dimly lit Potion's classroom which occupied them. The room almost seemed bright without Snape to darken its doorway, though Harry's wasn't quite certain where he and Snape stood anymore. They were almost cordial with each other since Harry's lessons last semester.
The thought caused Tom to stop talking and turn his eyes to focus on Harry completely. "It wasn't the lessons that made Severus soften toward you."
Tom didn't answer him though as Harry's attention was immediately demanded by Slughorn.
"Harry!" The man exclaimed in pure delight. Next to him, Tom smirked.
"Hello, Professor." Harry greeted. "I'm sorry but my friend and I didn't get books for the class as we weren't expecting to attend it."
Slughorn grinned. "Not to worry, not to worry! You can use some extras of mine." The man turned to rummage through his things and turned back to Harry and Ron with two books. One was old and tattered and the other newer looking. Harry could already see the grimace on Ron's face at the sight of the older, tattered book.
"Take the old one." Tom encouraged from his side.
"Take it!" Tom demanded, this time more harshly. Harry smiled at his professor.
"Thank you, Professor." He said, reaching for the older of the two books. Ron shot him a grateful glance as he reached for the newer of the two. Slughorn grinned and told them to think nothing of it and gestured them to stand with the rest of the students. Harry and Ron stood on either side of Hermione who stood with her own book tucked against her chest. On Harry's other side, Tom eyed Harry's book with greed.
"You'll thank me later."
In front of them, Slughorn began to speak, introducing them to Advanced Potions Making. In front of them was a table with three liquids on it, each in various containers. The first container was a small vial holding a light gold liquid held in a clamp. The second small cauldron with another clear liquid that appeared perfectly harmless. The third was held in a large pot and was a bubbling silver liquid. Every now and then it would pop and steam would swirl in the air above it, forming a distinct spiral shape. Slughorn addressed the class before turning to the liquids on the table.
"Can anyone tell me what this one is?" Slughorn asked, gesturing to the silver liquid.
"Amortentia." Tom snarled viciously.
"Amortentia?" Harry repeated, not realizing it was out loud as a reaction to Tom's vicious snarl.
"Very good, Mr. Potter. And what is it?" Slughorn coaxed.
"A love potion, the strongest in the world. It's characterized by its mother-of-pearl sheen and its spiral steam." Tom answered and Harry parroted.
"Excellent!" Slughorn praised. "Ten points to Gryffindor."
Harry glanced briefly at Tom's face, but it had become a stone mask, his eyes fixed on the potion in front of him as if his stare could set it ablaze and for all Harry knew, it might. Harry turned his attention back toward the potion and Slughorn only to notice people starting to drift toward it, both girls and boys alike. He didn't understand why until he inhaled, the smell of the potion filling his nose. The distinct smell of treacle tart, the woody smell of a broomstick handle, and something earthy wafted his way. Harry nearly stepped toward it when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, noticing Tom's hand grasping him firmly.
"Don't." His voice was firm. "It's not real."
Harry's attention turned back to Slughorn. "Amortentia doesn't create love but causes severe infatuation. For that reason, it is among the most dangerous potions in this room." Slughorn placed a heavy lid on the pot and all those who had been drifting toward it suddenly seemed to snap out of whatever stupor the potion had put them in and stepped back among the crowd of students.
"Can anyone tell me what this is?" Slughorn asked, holding up the small vial.
"Felix Felicis. Liquid luck." Tom and Hermione answered at the same time.
"That is correct, Ms. Granger. Liquid luck. Devilishly tricky to make and disastrous should you get it wrong." Slughorn gave a small smile. "Can anyone tell me why you shouldn't use it too often?"
"Eventually the effects can turn against the user if used too much. Luck can only get a person so far." Hermione asked.
"Correct again, Ms. Granger. Another ten points to Gryffindor."
"I was like her," Tom said in Harry's ear. "I needed to be the first to answer always in order to prove that I belonged here too. That changed for me though."
That will never change for her. Harry thought.
"The student who correctly brews the Draught of Living Death," Slughorn gestured to the third potion on the table in front of them, "Will win the prize of their very own liquid luck."
"It seems you're not the only one who thinks that could be very useful." Tom's eyes drifted to Draco, who had been usually sullen and withdrawn until the possibility of liquid luck was placed in front of them.
"Off you go!" Slughorn encouraged as students began to scatter around the classroom.
"I'm surprised how much I actually missed school." Tom said, leaning over Harry's shoulder to evaluate the text at hand.
Chapter 19: The Draught of Living Death
This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince. The writing was scrawled across the first page of the book, above the lettering for the title of Advanced Potion-Making. Harry's hand drifted over it slightly and Tom's eyes watched the movement, greedily taking in the writing on the page.
"I told you so." Tom hummed in Harry's ear. Harry repressed a shiver at Tom's voice so close to his ear. Harry turned to page ten where Slughorn had said the recipe for the Draught of Living Death was only to find the recipe heavily scribbled on by whoever the Half-Blood Prince was. Writing lined the sides of the pages, sections of text were underlined and others crossed out. Harry's fingers traced the writing.
You're not the Half-Blood Prince, are you? Harry asked, his mind trying to come up with reasons as to why Tom would so desperately want him to have this book.
Surely you didn't think that I was going to keep my filthy Muggle father's name?
Tom let out a loud, sudden laugh that nearly surprised Harry. It was only a single 'ha', but the intent was well understood.
"No, Harry. I am not." Tom's eye's focused on him.
And this isn't- Harry cut off his thought before it could go any further, though he knew Tom understood where his question was going.
"Do exactly as the instructions say. Alterations could be disastrous." Slughorn warned, cutting off the conversation between Harry and Tom.
"You heard the man." Tom said, "Do exactly what your text says." Tom's eyes flicked across the room. "Though it's a shame your friend Seamus isn't here. I'm sure he would have found a way to make the Draught of Living Death explosive."
Harry ignored him and gathered the ingredients the potion demanded and went about his work. The instructions were mostly unaltered until a certain point when Harry noticed that there was an alteration to the instruction about the Sopophorous beans.
"Just do it," Tom said to answer Harry's debating, leaning lazily against the desk. Harry rolled his eyes but obliged and crushed the beans as the altered directions requested. The juice flowed out of the bean readily and Harry was able to add it to the potion. "Crushing it with the blade doesn't damage it as much and makes it easier to juice. Plus it's so small that cutting the bean is a terrible process." Tom pointed to Hermione who was chasing one of her beans around her work area. "Adding too little juice won't have the desired effect. It induces a mild sleep rather than a near-death state like intended. The thirteenth bean accomplishes this as well." Harry continued to work as Tom talked. It was an easy process, Harry realized idly. Tom talked coolly and calmly about everything and all Harry had to do was listen and work. Eventually, the last step came which involved stirring.
Add one clockwise stir after every seven anti-clockwise stirs, makes the potion clear colour faster.
Harry shrugged and followed it, noticing the clear color seep into the potion he was brewing. It was oddly calming to have finished a potion without Snape looking over his shoulder like he had failed before he started. Hermione peered over her potion at his, noticing the difference in their two potions. Her's still held a slight lilac color where Harry's had finally gone completely clear. Harry removed the stirrer from the potion and set it down. With a huff, she returned to her own potion, stirring it with more vigor as if she could make it change by force.
"Add in a clockwise stir after the seventh anti-clockwise stir," Harry said, noting the frustrated glares Hermione was shooting his point.
"The directions say to stir clockwise." She quipped.
"No really," Harry tried to show her but was interrupted by Slughorn who moved toward their table to check their potions. He checked Hermione's first, then Ron's, then finally Harry's. Tom stood over Harry's shoulder, his hands folded behind his back and Harry could feel the smugness radiating off of him. Slughorn looked at Harry's potion with a happy hum before dropping in a feather. The feather appeared to flare at the ends before the fire engulfed the feather and it disintegrated completely.
"It is perfect!" Slughorn exclaimed. "I've only ever had one student until today brew the perfect Draught of Living Death. I dare say one drop could kill us all."
"That might be an exaggeration," Tom muttered from behind him. "It's a sleeping potion designed to put someone into a coma, not a potion to kill someone. Despite what the name would lead you to believe that is."
Harry merely smiled at Slughorn.
Living death, as in not dead but not completely alive then?
"Precisely," Tom answered, approval thick in his voice. Harry barely noticed the approval Slughorn was showering him with over the approval Tom had given him. It was surprisingly nice to feel the approval and Harry wanted more. Part of him, the more logical part, however small; told him to snap out of it. It reminded him who Tom really was, who this version of Tom would become. It reminded him of the memory Tom had shown him, maybe accidentally, last night. It reminded him of all these things, but Harry didn't care. For some reason, he wanted Tom's praise, he wanted Tom's attention.
You know why you want his attention. Why you want his praise. A secret part of him whispered and suddenly Harry felt ashamed again.
He turned away from Tom as Slughorn handed him the vial of Felix Felicis. He thanked his professor while his classmates reacted in various ways. Some seemed to not care, others sneered, and some — like Hermione — seemed suspicious. Harry knew she would confront him about the potion and he would be forced to tell her about the Prince's book.
"Tuck that potion away carefully," Tom warned him. "As I said before, you're not the only one who wanted it."
When Harry returned to the common room and the book was finally shown to Ron and Hermione, chaos broke loose. Questions and spells flew all over the place — aimed at Harry and the book respectively — prompted by Hermione and Ginny.
"This book could be like Tom Riddle's Diary." Ginny waved the book in her hand.
"It's not." Harry huffed, giving Tom a sideways glance.
"How do you know?" Ginny demanded.
"I just do." Harry sighed. "You have to trust me on this."
Spells continued to assail the book until the two of them were finally satisfied with the lack of reaction the book produced.
"See, it's just a book." Harry stretched out his hand, an unspoken request for the book back.
"Fine," Hermione handed the book back, "But as soon as you get your copy from Flourish and Blotts you need to return this one to Slughorn."
"That's likely," Tom muttered from his perch on the other side of the room. He had been leaning against the wall next to a window, letting the light illuminate half his face, the other obscured in shadow. It was oddly poetic.
Harry took the book back, saying nothing to anyone in the room. Instead, he walked up the stairs to the boys' dormitory and entered the room he shared with the others in his year. The door closed behind him, shutting him off from everyone else.
That night, Harry lied awake in his bed. Everyone else was fast asleep around him but Harry couldn't force himself to join them. Instead, he sat by the window. The moon lit the grounds below, bathing everything in a soft, pearly light. A breeze caressed the window and Harry could hear the whisper of it through the glass. In the distance, plants swayed softly back and forth. The world outside was calm, oddly peaceful, especially when compared to the disarray in Harry's mind. Snores echoed around the room and across from him came a sigh as Tom materialized in front of him.
"I can hear your thoughts from here. Care to share?"
Harry looked around at the others in the room before turning back to Tom. "Why don't you just look inside my head and find out for yourself?"
Tom smiled at him, a handsome, cat-like smile. "I could but that would not nearly be as much fun as this could be."
Harry snorted, "Fun." He muttered miserably, "What do you know about fun?"
"A great deal," Tom answered nonchalantly, turning his head toward the window. "I used to have quite a lot of it when I was a student."
"Did you?" Harry asked, mostly ignoring Tom.
"Oh yes. The professors all thought I was the perfect student. Well, most of them anyway."
I bet Dumbledore saw right through you.
He certainly kept an annoyingly close watch on me after that.
Tom was watching Harry out of the corner of his eye. "Yes. Dumbledore always thought there was something wrong with me. Every other professor thought I could walk on water and he thought I would burn in it." Harry opened his mouth to question but Tom waved his hand. "Don't worry about what I mean." Harry's mouth closed and Tom continued. "The students, however, they mistreated me at first. They thought I was a Mudblood. A Slytherin Mudblood." Harry winced but Tom continued unabated. "It wasn't until my fourth year that I found my family and things changed. I was a half-blood and the heir of Slytherin. You know what happened during my fifth year." Tom's eyes pinned Harry for a moment.
"The basilisk and Myrtle's death. You framed Hagrid."
I thought I would show you my capture of that brainless oaf, Hagrid, to gain your trust.
"Yes," Tom answered simply, "And during my sixth year the power began to shift. The Slytherins began to come to my side, begging me more and more to be my friend. And the others," Tom's head tilted slightly, "They were terrified, or they weren't."
"What do you mean?" Harry prompted.
"As I said, I had my fair share of fun." Tom's eyes lit up with something mischievous.
Do you dream of me often?
Harry turned away feeling heat creeping up his neck.
The pair sat in silence for a long time before Harry turned to Tom again.
"Why did you react that way to the Amorentia?"
Tom's face stilled. "Amortentia is a powerful love potion. Among the strongest in the world, if not the strongest. It's dangerous and very well could be the most dangerous potion in existence." Tom's eyes met Harry's. "Amortentia creates artificial love through infatuation. It's not real. My mother fell in love with a Muggle man. He didn't love her. She wasn't very talented but what little magic she had she put into potions, particularly Amortentia. She fed it to my father and he fell into a deep infatuation with her, giving her everything. Money, comfort, a child. While she was pregnant, the fool thought he actually loved her so she stopped giving him the potion. He left her, pregnant and alone. She died."
Harry listened intently and as he did, he could feel his heart stop in his chest. "So, you killed him?" He asked, remembering the memory from the previous night.
"Yes," Tom's eyes never left Harry's, "But not before I looked into his mind. Not before I saw his memories and his thoughts."
Harry opened his mouth, wanting to say something, anything, but Tom stopped him. "A child born of Amortentia cannot love, nor understand it."
Harry's mouth clicked shut. He didn't know how to answer so he just stared at Tom who stared right back.
"So, you cannot love," Harry said slowly. Tom nodded. "I don't believe that." Tom opened his mouth to say something but it was Harry's turn to cut him off. "You use love. You use it as a weapon. You make people love you. You charm them, you manipulate them, but you use love to do it. You inspire them to want to love you and to want your love in return. You can say you don't understand love but you do. You have made love your weapon." Harry stood, brushing himself off. "You are desperate for it." With that, Harry turned to go to his bed, leaving Tom to sit by the window alone.
Chapter 20: This is Halloween
Tom had been oddly silent since his and Harry's conversation on the window sill. Often, Harry idly wondered if Tom was giving him the silent treatment as punishment for insinuating that Tom loved. Unlike Dumbledore, Tom and Voldemort abhorred loved. They thought it was a weakness. Dumbledore had always been a champion of love as the many years had proved to Harry over and over. Yet the moment Harry pushed Tom on the issue, the other pulled away even though Tom had been pushing Harry for weeks on end about the very same thing. Harry tried to ignore the pressing silence that Tom had left in his absence but it was odd not to hear Tom telling him this or that as if Tom had been there the whole time and not just over the last couple of months.
Harry had taken to studying the Half-Blood Prince's book instead to attempt to fill the gap Tom left, finding the edits helpful and the spells interesting. Classes had been better than the previous year though Harry narrowly avoided detention by mouthing off to Snape. Every now and then Neville would grin at him widely having heard about Harry's slip in front of Snape.
There's no need to call me sir, Professor.
He was certain there had been a laugh in some dark recess of his mind that day but beyond that Tom had been completely silent. There had been no dreams, no voices in his head, no snide comments, or even a mention of Harry in his Quidditch uniform, which Harry thought might get Tom's attention.
Much to Harry's chagrin though, there had been other changes throughout his life. Hermione and Ron weren't on the best of speaking terms, leaving Harry in the middle of them. Harry tried his best not pick sides between his friends but it was incredibly difficult to be around Ron when he was around his new girlfriend, Lavender. They had been dating since the first Quidditch game and Harry partially regretted feigning putting the Felix Felicis in Ron's cup that morning. Harry liked Lavender well enough, she was a good person and had been a member of the DA in the previous year, but when she and Ron were together they were glued together at the hip and mouth and it made any interaction with Ron near impossible.
Atop his struggles with Hermione, Ron, and Lavender; Dumbledore pulled Harry away for "lessons" which had Harry diving into various memories quite often. Harry had thought maybe seeing his mother, grandfather, uncle, father, and even younger self would be enough to get Tom to come out of whatever hole he'd been hiding in if nothing more than to grumble about Dumbledore, but there was still complete silence from him.
Harry was honestly surprised to say that Halloween was a welcomed reprieve.
In the past, Halloween had always been a disaster. The troll, the Chamber of Secrets opening, having to sleep in the Great Hall because of Sirius wandering around the castle, Harry being picked for the Triwizard Tournament, and the worst of them, Harry's parents' murder at the hands of Voldemort. Of course, there had been some interesting times too. Harry idly remembered attending Nick's deathday party in his second year as well as a young Dudley being utterly terrified by a little girl in a witch costume when he and Harry were younger. At the time, Harry had been too young to leave at home alone so the Dursley's had to take Harry with them but they hadn't let him dress up. Unfortunately, Dudley's encounter with the young witch and Harry's ensuing uncontrolled laughter meant that Harry went to bed without supper that night, but it had been worth it.
This year, however, Harry, Hermione, and a number of others had been invited to Slughorn's Hallowe'en party. It was a masquerade, which Harry was surprisingly grateful for, allowing him the chance to cover up his face. He knew he would be expected to go, though normally he wouldn't have been happy about it. This time, however, it gave him a chance to ignore everything else which Harry was looking forward too. They were encouraged to bring dates which would be a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, Harry had turned to Hermione who had sighed with a relief he didn't know she was capable of. With some help from Hermione, they had tailored Harry's Yule robes and mask to match.
Harry waited for Hermione in the Gryffindor common room as Ron glared at the stares Hermione would soon descend. When she finally did come down, Harry felt a smile creep onto his face. Her hair had been neatly tamed and pinned back using the mask. Her dress was a flowing, blue-green with wings that moved on their own on the back. Her mask matched and appeared to dance with sparkles.
"I look ridiculous don't I?" She asked as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
"You look anything but."
She smiled at him shyly, ignoring Ron who had gone so pink in the far corner of the room, his face matched his hair. Hermione took the mask from Harry's hand and tied it around the back of his head.
"There," She said softly before taking his arm in her own.
Harry let out a breath, nodding to Ron slightly before they walked out the portrait of the common room and toward Slughorn's office.
Harry was surprised at how Slughorn's office could look simultaneously lit up and completely dark at the same time. Decorations hung across the ceiling and small candles floated here and there lighting the room. There were torches on the wall that seemed to have very little light coming from them and a variety of trays with snacks and drinks floating around of their own accord. A dance floor had been made in the center of the room which a few people were currently occupying, swaying slowly to the music.
Harry knew Hermione was immediately grateful for the mask because the moment they entered he could see McLaggen across the room looking for Hermione. She pulled Harry by the arm across the room and out of McLaggen's line of sight.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk to him? I could just go find a drink and you two could find a dark corner." Harry teased. Hermione's hand contacted his shoulder with a thump. "All right, no it is."
He grabbed two butterbeers off the passing tray and offered one to Hermione as she offered him food she had grabbed off a tray passing in another direction. The trade was awkward but they managed just as Slughorn spotted them. Harry turned to try to avoid Slughorn but it was too late, the professor had seen them.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk to him? I could just-" Hermione asked, a smile on her lips but Harry cut her off with a sarcastic laugh.
"He'll want to talk to you too. You are the 'brightest witch of your age.'"
"And don't you forget it, Harry Potter."
His retort was cut off by Slughorn's entrance to their conversation. "Ah, Harry my boy! Ms. Granger! Good to see you. So glad you could make it." Slughorn beamed at them. "You really should meet some of the guests," Slughorn said, mostly directing his comment to Harry.
Harry nodded, not knowing how to answer. Slughorn beamed again, clapping Harry on the shoulder for a moment before turning to Hermione. "And might I say you look stunning tonight Ms. Granger." Slughorn gave a nod. "Well, do enjoy."
As the night went on, Hermione was dragged away by Ginny and Harry was left alone. Slughorn came and went, introducing people left and right to Harry and beaming with pride that he knew the Harry Potter.
Just as Harry thought he would leave, having lost track of Hermione and his other friends at the party, Slughorn brought over another guest to introduce to Harry.
"Harry, my boy!" Slughorn beamed, again, as he had every time he approached Harry.
"Professor," Harry greeted.
"I have someone else for you to meet." A stranger approached with Slughorn. He wore all black with face expertly covered in a mask that looked like the face of a snake. His eyes appeared to glow red for a moment in the right light but Harry thought he was seeing things. A massive snake was wrapped around his body, but it was perfectly still as though it wasn't real. "Harry, this is-"
"Thomas." The other said, extending a hand out to Harry. "My name is Thomas."
Harry's blood froze.
Slughorn seemed to fade from existence as Harry slowly reached out a hand to the other, shaking it slightly. The touch sent a jolt through his skin and immediately Harry knew his suspicions were correct.
"Something wrong?" Slughorn asked.
"Not at all. Thank you, Horace." Thomas said in a dismissive voice, letting Slughorn know his presence wasn't needed, much less wanted by the other anymore. As soon as Slughorn was gone, Harry ripped his hand from Thomas's grasp.
"How did you get in here?" Harry demanded.
"I have my ways." The other said, a smirk pulling across his lips. "Why? Are you surprised to see me, love?" Harry winced. Thomas's smirk widened and his face looked menacing for a moment, then he straightened out as if nothing had happened. His head turned to the dance floor which a few people still occupied. "Dance with me." He demanded, grasping Harry's hand and pulling him along.
"My date-" Harry started.
"Can surely survive without you," Thomas said, swinging Harry around to face him, their chests nearly touching. "Hermione has made it this long hasn't she?" A wicked smile came across Thomas's face at Harry's surprise before he started to pull Harry along in a dance. Harry had never really been good at dancing, as the Yule Ball had previously proven, but it didn't really seem to bother Thomas as the movements weren't complex and mostly a series of sways and turns.
"Did you miss me, love?" Thomas asked after a long silence between them. Harry didn't answer. "Oh, you did." Thomas's hand moved to the small of Harry's back, pulling Harry closer to him. Harry felt himself move, less by choice than he wanted, until his chest was flesh against Thomas's. "That's better." They danced for a little while longer, Harry feeling himself become more and more at ease in Thomas's arm. He tried to fight it but he couldn't help it. Eventually, the two were swaying slowly, Harry's hand clasped tightly in Thomas's, and the whole world around them seeming to dissolve away. Thomas's eyes hadn't left him through their dance and eventually the other pulled him away from the dance floor and off to the side.
"Come with me." Thomas's voice was hushed.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked, panic rising in his chest.
"We won't leave the castle, love."
Before Harry could protest or question further, he was pulled along and away from Slughorn's party. They ascended through the castle until Harry found himself on the seventh floor.
"The Room of Requirement," Harry muttered as Thomas paced in front of it. He stretched a hand toward Harry and opened the door that appeared with the other. His face held a sweet promise as the snake around his neck finally started moving. Before Harry could hesitate or feel any kind of fear at the realization of Nagini so close to him, Harry's body reacted, his hand in Thomas's and the other pulled him through the door, into the Room of Requirement.
The snake slid off Thomas and onto the floor of the rather cozy room. A fire crackled in the corner with a loveseat in front of it. The snake moved closer to the fire, curling into a ball, her eyes watching Harry the whole time. Thomas pulled the mask off his face, revealing the handsome features Harry remembered completely. His onyx eyes stared at Harry, looking him over as though he were seeing Harry for the first time.
"There's no need to be so tense, Harry." Thomas threw the mask with surprising grace onto the mantle above the fireplace. It landed perfectly.
"No need-" Harry cut himself off, a wave of sudden anger filling him. "There's the perfect need to be tense! There are three horcruxes in this room, one of which was made on this very night fifteen years ago when you murdered my parents." Thomas lounged idly against the loveseat. "I have every right to be tense. Or angry. Or feel any emotion I please!" Harry threw his hands up.
"And what emotions are you feeling?" Thomas asked, his head cocking to the side.
Harry blinked, taken aback by the question. "Anger, confusion." Harry started. Thomas started toward him. "No, stay over there," Harry demanded, putting a hand up as though it would act as a barrier to keep Thomas away.
Voldemort. Some part of his mind tried desperately to remind him. He's Voldemort.
Thomas stopped. "Why? Because you can't think when I'm near you?" Harry's hand shook slightly. "Or because there's some part of you that has forbidden feelings for me." A smirk pulled at Thomas's face again. "Love."
Harry's hand dropped and shame filled him, chasing away the anger that was there originally. Harry turned away.
"Wouldn't it be nice to not think?" Thomas was suddenly next to him and turning his face back toward his own. Harry felt Thomas lift his mask off, surprisingly gently.
"What do you want from me?" Harry asked, staring up into Thomas's face.
Thomas's hand came to the back of Harry's head as their kiss deepened. Harry felt his back collide with the wall behind him as Thomas pushed against him more. Their kiss was rough, rougher than any kiss to come beforehand. Harry's hands came to the smooth fabric covering Thomas's chest as he pulled the other against him more, wordlessly begging for more contact. His hands fisted in the fabric as Thomas's chest pressed against his own. Thomas's other hand came to the small of Harry's back, pressing his hips closer. It was like they were two puzzle pieces slowly fitting together, bit by bit. Harry felt Thomas's hands soon start to slide in various direction, one further up into his chaotic hair and the other toward his leg. Before Harry could ask what Thomas was doing or react, the other jerked his leg upward and thrust his hips forward, causing Harry's lower back to collide with the wall and the leg that Thomas wasn't already wrapping around himself to instinctively wrap around him for support.
Thomas hummed as his teeth dragged across Harry's lower lip. For a moment, sheer panic ripped through Harry as he felt something rather hard press against his leg and he felt his own body respond in response, jerking forward as though it desperately wanted more. But Thomas dragged him back into a kiss and the panic vanished under the drug that was Thomas. Harry's hands let go of the smooth fabric and instead he wrapped his arms around Thomas's body, clutching the clothing at his back. Thomas let his hair go, placing his hand on the wall for balance and his other hand gripped Harry's hip as he roughly claimed Harry's mouth; his lips, teeth, and tongue exploring everywhere they could. Thomas's body rocked against his, their bodies grinding against one another as the intensity of their kisses increased.
Once again, Thomas's hand came to the back of Harry's head as Harry suddenly felt Thomas moving. Instinctively, he gripped Thomas's body tighter for support when he felt his body collide with a soft surface and Thomas on top of him. The loveseat. It seemed to shift under them to accommodate both Harry and Thomas but neither cared as Thomas took the opportunity to grind himself further against Harry. Harry felt his legs drop next to Thomas's as the other moved from Harry's mouth to place kisses on Harry's throat. The kisses soon turned to bites and Harry couldn't help the moan that escaped his lips as Thomas's teeth raked over his skin. Harry grabbed at Thomas's hair, his body reacting without his permission. Thomas, however, grabbed Harry's wayward hands and pinned them above Harry's head with a warning deep in his onyx eyes.
Thomas continued, pulling open Harry's robes and exposing his chest. The cool air stung his burning skin which was soon covered once again by Thomas, his hands and mouth seemingly everywhere. Thomas's eyes flicked up to meet Harry's as he kissed the burn the locket had left on Harry's chest before he grabbed the locket itself and yanked Harry into an upright position with Thomas straddling his lap. Harry's hands fell to his sides and he was breathing heavily.
"What do you want, Harry?" Thomas's lips were hovering above Harry's scar as he held Harry close to him, the locket chain digging into Harry's neck.
"I-" Harry didn't have a voice. He wasn't even sure he had a mind. It was like everything had been buried under a dark cloud as dark as Thomas's eyes. The only thing he knew at the moment was Thomas.
Thomas let go of the locket only to grab Harry's face by his chin and force him to look into his eyes. "What do you want?" Thomas repeated.
"You." The word left Harry's mouth before he knew what he was saying.
A near sinister smile came over Thomas's face before his lips crashed into Harry's again and the hand that had been holding his chin was suddenly grasping at his robes, ripping them free of Harry's body. Hot breath brushed over Harry's neck as Thomas's mouth again contacted the skin there. Harry's head tilted automatically, giving Thomas more access which Thomas took advantage off. Harry again reached for the clothes Thomas wore, this time not wanting to draw him closer but to get him to take them off, desperate for skin to skin contact. Thomas beat him to it, detaching himself from Harry's neck and tearing off the upper half of his Halloween attire. Thomas pushed Harry back onto the now bed the Room of Requirement had provided and covered Harry's body with his own, their lips once again meeting.
Harry felt Thomas pull away from him and for a moment felt disappointment bubble in his chest when Thomas started kissing down his throat and down his chest toward the top of his untouched trousers. Again panic started to bubble in Harry but as his eyes met Thomas's the panic melted away. Thomas's onyx eyes held a mischievous light as he again straddled Harry and started removing the rest of Harry's clothes. Harry didn't have time to feel anything in response as Thomas lips and teeth started exploring the skin around his hips.
It didn't take long though for Thomas's tongue to graze over Harry's aching member and he felt his hips twitch. Thomas's eyes gleamed before his tongue slid up Harry's length, watching Harry's face the whole time.
Harry couldn't take it. Any embarrassment he might have had was hidden completely by the pleasure he was feeling at Thomas's touch. Thomas watched him for a moment longer before his mouth wrapped around Harry's member completely and a moan escaped Harry's mouth. His hands fisted in the sheets of the bed as Thomas continued, his eyes never leaving Harry's face. It felt like an eternity later when Harry was nearly on the brink that Thomas stopped.
"I'm not done with you yet." His voice hoarse and yet still like velvet at the same time and Harry wanted more.
He didn't quite know what he was doing as he reached for Thomas, pulling the other back up toward him. Their lips collided again with much more urgency. Thomas kissed him back with the same urgency, pulling Harry's leg around his hips and grinding their lower bodies together. It was at that moment that Harry realized Thomas still wasn't completely undressed but the friction of fabric on bare skin was oddly maddening and Harry was torn.
Thomas, however, seemed to sense Harry's internal dilemma as he began to take off the rest of his clothing with as much space as Harry would allow, still claiming Thomas's lips desperately. Clothes were discarded completely and Thomas pressed himself completely against Harry.
Skin to skin and Harry was on fire.
Harry's hand slid up Thomas's face and into his hair and suddenly Thomas was distracted, tearing his mouth away from Harry's. His eyes were fixated on the scar on Harry's forearm where Peter Pettigrew had drawn the knife across to get the blood that had given rise to Voldemort. Before Harry could react, Thomas's lip brushed over the scar as he pressed a skin against the jagged flesh. Then he turned his attention to Harry's forehead where Harry's famous lightning bolt scar sat and pressed his lips against it before again claiming Harry's lips.
Harry's confusion was overshadowed by the fact that Thomas's hand trailed down Harry's body, briefly brushing over Harry's member before moving between his legs. With another rough kiss, Harry felt one of Thomas's fingers enter him. He gasped against Thomas's mouth before another entered and a series of sensations rocked Harry's body. Harry resisted the urge to shift in discomfort when suddenly he felt pleasure rock his whole body. He let out a loud moan as his hips jerked upward against Thomas's body. Thomas hummed, clearly pleased as he moved his kisses toward Harry's jaw and neck. Thomas scissored his fingers, allowing Harry to adjust before again hitting the same spot that made Harry's whole body rock against him. When Thomas removed his hand, Harry felt strangely hollow before his body was maneuvered by Thomas. His legs were brought to Thomas's hips and he felt Thomas shift.
"Do you trust me?" Thomas whispered in his ear.
Harry opened his mouth to answer but was cut off as he felt Thomas begin to enter him. Thomas moved slowly but even still it was surprisingly painful and Harry felt his eyes squeeze shut. For a moment they were both still.
"Breathe," Thomas instructed and Harry obeyed.
Thomas began to move and Harry suddenly felt the same spot Thomas had found before being hit over and over again. Pleasure started to build in his body, starting deep in his stomach and moving upward like a snake wrapping around him. One of Harry's hands found Thomas's and their fingers interlaced as Thomas began to move faster. Harry's head felt like it was going to implode and explode at the same time as all his body felt like a live wire. Thomas's other hand braced on Harry's hip and Harry's other hand dug into Thomas's shoulder. Their bodies rocked together as the pleasure built through Harry. He gripped Thomas harder. It was as though nothing in the world existed but Thomas.
"Give in to me, Harry." Thomas's voice was no louder than a whisper but it was enough.
Harry felt his whole body release at that moment, his back arched and a moan escaped his lips. A couple of thrusts more and Thomas joined him, his arms completely wrapping around Harry.
"You're mine now, Harry. Completely." Thomas whispered through heavy breaths. Thomas's mouth once again claimed Harry's in a much gentler kiss before he pulled away. "Sleep now, Harry Potter."
Harry couldn't help it as sleep pulled him under, the warmth of Thomas's arms around him.
Sorry this is a shorter chapter. Hope you enjoyed it anyway.
Chapter 22: Aftermath
When Harry woke up he found himself in the Gryffindor tower, tucked into his blankets as though he'd been there all night. Around him, people snored gently and through the window, light began to peak over the hill in the distance. He sat up in his bed, rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands before reaching for his glasses next to his bed. He idly thought that the previous night had all been a dream. An intense dream but a dream nonetheless when his hand brushed across something as he reached for his glasses. He gripped it and continued reaching for his glasses. The object he was holding came into focus, a mask. Thomas's mask. Harry gripped the mask harder as the events from the previous night came crashing to the forefront of his mind.
He had sex with Thomas.
He had sex with Voldemort.
He felt sick and his whole body shook for a moment. He could see the faces of his parents and Sirius swimming before his eyes, disappointment plastered on their faces as he'd fallen in love with and had sex with the man who ultimately led to their deaths.
"So, you fell in love with me after all?" Tom asked. He appeared at the other end of Harry's bed, lounging idly across it with his hands tucked behind his head.
"N-no." Harry stammered. His body still shook and an ache started creeping through him.
Tom hummed, his dark eyes focused on Harry. "Keep telling yourself that."
The mask dropped out of Harry's grasp. "Go away." He demanded.
Tom grinned at him, but there was nothing nice about it. In fact, it was quite menacing. "I'm not going anywhere, Harry."
Harry stood, lurching himself away from Tom. "I said go away!" He exclaimed louder but this time the curtains on the beds around them rattled, flying open with the magic behind the force of Harry's demand. Various eyes blinked at Harry, each in various states of terror and sleep. Harry looked around in horror, turning to look at each person in the room.
"Easy, love," Tom warned. Harry backed away from Tom. Tom's dark eyes were locked on Harry's face as they stood, staring at each other for a long moment. Then Harry turned and, without even bothering to answer the confused calls that followed him, he left Gryffindor tower.
Harry's bare feet hit the ground under him as his heart pounded in his head like thunder. He didn't notice the locket bouncing against his bare chest. He didn't notice that his hair was more wild than normal. He didn't notice the confused and near terrified looks on the other student's faces as he passed. He didn't even notice when he collided shoulder to shoulder with Draco Malfoy in the corridor.
"You're cracking, Harry," Tom warned, appearing next to him. Harry ignored him and Tom seemed to disappear only to reappear in his path again. "I don't know what you think you're doing but you need to stop." The warning in Tom's voice was more apparent now.
But Harry didn't know what he was doing, at least not until he found himself marching down the corridor toward Dumbledore's office.
"Harry." Tom's voice was menacing now and his eyes practically glowed, red starting to seep through the darkness.
Harry opened his mouth to say the password to the statue when the locket burned his chest as it had before. Pain ripped through Harry's mind and body and he felt a scream tear itself from his throat. He fell to his knees, unable to breathe or speak as the pain rocketed through him to every nerve ending in his body. Blackness began to leak into his vision as another scream ripped from his throat, but it sounded guttural, almost inhuman, and the blackness crept forward more. Harry collapsed onto the floor rolling onto his back and as the blackness clouded the last of his vision, he could see Tom's face staring down at him.
Harry felt a hand combing through his hair. It was oddly pleasant to feel and for a moment Harry worried that it would stop if he opened his eyes. The movement continued and for a while, Harry stayed still, letting whoever it was continue. He sighed, wondering for a moment why he had felt so angry not so long ago. He tried to think about it, unable to remember why. Then it came to him.
Harry's eyes flew open and his body flew forward. He was in a strange room which seemed to shimmer around the edges. He was on a red loveseat and a fire cracked and popped off to the side. A red rug covered a hardwood floor. Beyond that, Harry couldn't distinguish much more about the room. If he focused, the room seemed to flicker in and out of focus beyond the shimmer that was already there. Harry turned to see who was sitting behind him to find himself face to face again with Thomas.
Harry's blood ran cold and his mouth felt dry. It was as though all the air had been sucked out of the room the moment Harry laid eyes on Thomas. Thomas, however, evaluated his fingernails for a moment before lifting his onyx eyes to meet Harry's.
"Hello, Harry." A sly smile spread across Thomas's face. "Long time, no see."
Harry blinked, unable to really figure out how to respond to Thomas in front of him. "Wh-what did you do to me?" Harry asked finally, his voice failing him.
"Nothing you didn't ask me to." A mischievous light flashed through Thomas's eyes. "For the most part."
"What does that mean?" Harry asked, his voice getting stronger.
"Well, we had sex," Thomas started his eyes fixed on Harry's. Harry felt his face flame and he swallowed thickly. A satisfied look crossed Thomas's handsome features.
"And?" Harry demanded through gritted teeth.
"And the rest is for you to find out." Thomas went back to examining his nails, sounding oddly bored.
"Tell me," Harry demanded, this time with a stronger voice.
Thomas turned to him, his eyes flashing red for a moment as he grabbed Harry and pinned him to the loveseat they were on. Fear raced through Harry's veins and for a terrifying moment, he realized he was utterly powerless. He had no magic and Thomas seemed to have the physical advantage, despite Harry's Quidditch background. They stayed in that position for a heartbeat or two until Thomas cocked his head, his eyes roaming over Harry's face.
"I won't hurt you, Harry." Thomas lowered his mouth next to Harry's ear. "But don't demand anything from me. You will see, very soon."
As soon as Thomas finished speaking, Harry was very aware of how close their bodies were and how similar it was to the previous night. Harry shifted away from Thomas and the other let him go. Harry practically fell off the loveseat as Thomas gracefully repositioned himself. Harry moved closer to the fire as the shimmering edges of the room seemed to get darker.
"Where are we?"
"In your head," Thomas answered. His eyes focused on Harry and again, his smile turned mischievous.
"Do you dream of me often?"
Horror ripped through Harry's body and Thomas started to laugh. His face began to change and the laughter turned colder and icier. Harry pulled himself off the floor as the near demonic Thomas-Voldemort hybrid behind him cackled and the icy laughter caressed Harry's skin like the kiss of death. He ran and plummeted into the shimmering darkness of the room and for a long moment, there was silence again.
Then he felt his eyes began to blink open. Harry felt himself internally sigh with relief as light flooded his vision. He was in the hospital wing and around him were Ron, Hermione, Snape, and Dumbledore. Harry blinked and reached for his glasses though his attempt was met halfway by Hermione who handed the glasses to him.
"Thanks." He felt his mouth saying, but the movement was completely out of his control.
"Harry," Dumbledore turned his blue eyes toward Harry from the conversation he had been having with Snape. "How are you feeling?"
"'m fine," Harry felt himself mutter. He was dressed in a shirt from the hospital wing and he felt himself sit up, the locket shifting on his chest.
"Do you remember anything?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes fixed on Harry's face.
"It was a dream." Harry's mouth said. "I saw Voldemort. I was going to tell you in the morning but then something happened. I don't remember anything else."
That's not what happened! Harry tried to say. It was Voldemort but not in that way. That's not what happened!
"You don't remember?" Snape asked, his voice oddly calm and stoic.
"No." Harry's mouth answered. "I remember waking up from the dream and thinking I needed to tell you, Professor, and then," Harry paused as though he were thinking. "Nothing."
"He did start acting strangely in the morning," Ron said. There was silence for a long moment as Ron's comment hung in the air between them.
Eventually, Dumbledore nodded, "Very well."
No! Dumbledore! Harry yelled, but Dumbledore couldn't seem to hear him. Dumbledore! Snape! Ron! Hermione! Anyone! But no one as much as looked up.
Madam Pomphrey made her way over, giving Harry a once over and deeming him well enough to leave the hospital wing. Ron and Hermione walked with Harry back to Gryffindor tower, the trio unusually quiet. Harry screamed but neither of his friends seemed to hear him. Hermione and Ron waited as Harry walked up toward the boy's dormitory to change. Harry felt the fabric slip and slide over his skin and suddenly he was face to face with himself in the mirror, his hand tapping idly at his wild hair.
'Will you quiet down in there?" His voice asked, sounding oddly bored. "It's incredibly hard to concentrate with your screaming."
Who are you? Harry demanded. Let me out!
"Oh Harry," Emerald eyes seemed to meet his own in the mirror. "I'm you." His eyes, his mother's eyes, changed in the mirror becoming a deep crimson color. "I'm so glad we could finally meet."
With a blink, his eyes changed back to their normal emerald color and he turned to walk down the stairs to where Ron and Hermione were waiting.
"Ready?" His voice asked, sounding almost as though it was Harry himself who had said it.
Hermione and Ron muttered their responses and the Harry imposter lead their way from Gryffindor tower, Harry's friends in tow.
Chapter 23: Harry Interrupted
The horcrux went through the motions in the day, making it seem as though Harry was still in control of his own body. Inside though, Harry screamed. If he had a voice it would be raw but he didn't. So, he screamed every day and every night. Not that the horcrux slept. When everyone else went to sleep, the horcrux would lie there, pretending, and when the snores started to filter through the room, Harry would feel his body sit up as though it were robotic. The horcrux would move to the window and stare outside, watching the moon rise above the horizon and cross the sky. Eventually, the sun would follow and Harry's body would move back into the bed as though he had been there all night. As people began to stir, he would feel himself sit up normally as though he were also just waking up. Then he would go through the morning, joking with his friends, going to class — his magic had dramatically improved in class — and doing assignments with so little fuss even Hermione was impressed. Harry would beg someone, anyone, to notice that something was wrong. He tried especially during Defense Against the Dark Arts when Snape's dark eyes would meet his, but there was nothing. It was as if no one noticed that he wasn't Harry Potter.
It had been a week with the horcrux parading around as Harry. Tonight, Harry thought they were going to go through the same routine. Pretend to sleep, look out the window, all the while Harry would scream in the background for control. Instead, the horcrux went into Harry's trunk and grabbed the Invisibility Cloak. Harry's screaming stopped as the horcrux navigated his way through the castle until he was suddenly at the Room of Requirement. If he could wince, he would. Every bit of him fought going into that room and for a moment, there was hesitation. But eventually, he stepped foot over the threshold and the door sealed behind him.
Harry and the horcrux stood in a room full of mirrors. Mirrors covered the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. The cloak fell to a heap on the floor and suddenly there were a million Harry's all concentrated to the one in the middle. His face contorted into a smirk.
"Harry, Harry, Harry." His voice said. "You've been absolutely obnoxious."
"Let me out!" His voice screamed a hundred times over, but instead of being restricted to his head as it had been for the last few days his voice echoed from the mirrors as if every reflection was Harry himself.
"Oh, Harry. I can't do that." The horcrux answered before lying down on the mirror floor and crossing on leg over the other.
"Why?" Harry demanded his voice again echoing out the mirrors.
"Harry please try to contain yourself to one mirror. It's difficult enough to concentrate with you screaming at all hours of the day but from multiple mirrors is just maddening." The horcrux rolled Harry's eyes. "And you must get over your possessiveness. We are both clearly sharing this body and we have been for a long time."
"Who are you?" Harry demanded, anger vibrating through every mirror in the room.
The horcrux sighed. "Well, you know who I'm not."
"Voldemort. You're not Voldemort."
The horcrux snarled and the action looked unnatural on Harry's face. "I forget what an unruly thing you are. But in a way I am and in a way, I am not Voldemort."
"Cryptic. Nice." The dozens of Harry's huffed.
Harry's eyes rolled. "There's no need for drama, Harry."
"Me? Every time we've ever met in any form you've been dramatic. The basilisk, Thomas, blowing up the Ministry of Magic, burning a hole in my chest, the dreams."
The horcrux chuckled. "Indeed."
"That's all. Indeed?" The many Harry's threw his hands up.
"You still haven't figured out who I am."
"You haven't told me anything helpful!"
"I've known you most of your life. How's that?"
"That narrows it down to, hmm let me think." The multiple Harrys tapped their chins in unison. "Voldemort and Voldemort and Voldemort and oh yes, Voldemort!" Harry threw his hands up in frustration. "Meanwhile I'm going mad inside my own head!"
"Yes, you are." The horcrux agreed. "But you haven't yet. And it would be such a shame to see you break so quickly. I was hoping to have some fun."
"I don't think your idea of fun agrees with mine," Harry muttered.
"No, I don't find Quidditch very entertaining. But flying," There was a gleam in Harry's eye, "That is something."
"You like flying?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling curious.
The horcrux sat up, balancing on Harry's forearms. "Yes. Does that surprise you?"
"A little," Harry confessed.
"We aren't as different as you would like to believe, Harry. Oh, I'm evil." The horcrux shook his hands, "Good. Evil. They're just words, Harry. It's a point of view."
"You've killed people!" The room shook with the yells coming from the mirrors.
"Peace is achieved through bloodshed. Name one time of peace, wizard or Muggle, achieved without bloodshed preceding it."
"You don't want peace, you want Muggles, people, enslaved. You see others with different abilities and heritage as inferior. You're a hypocrite. Thinking purebloods are superior when you're just like me. A half-blood."
The horcrux waited until Harry stopped ranting before raising an eyebrow. "Are you quite finished?"
Harry threw his hands up in frustration. The horcrux laughed.
"You're not like the others," Harry said, focusing more on the horcrux.
"No, I suppose not. That's probably what happens when you grow up all over again."
"Grow-" Harry cut himself off. "You're the horcrux that was created that night in Godric's Hollow. But I thought you were incomplete. I thought-"
"Oh, I am incomplete. I can't exist without you, Harry. I am tied to you. Quite unfortunate. You die, I die. Most horcruxes don't need the living vessel to be alive still in order to live themselves. Killing the vessel might not kill the horcrux. You would have to kill the horcrux completely. Take the diary. Ripping out its pages wouldn't have killed the horcrux but you did kill it in the Chamber."
"You were there then. Why did you let me do it?"
The horcrux smiled. "I was playing the long con, so to speak." The horcrux sighed, undoubtedly at the look of confusion staring back at him a million times over. "It was you and me or the sixteen-year-old version of myself locked in a diary. Do you really think I'm idiotic enough to let myself die? I knew Dumbledore would have some way to save you and I was right."
Harry's mind flashed back to the Chamber of Secrets and Fawkes landing in front of him. He remembered getting ready to tell the Phoenix to take Ginny and Ron and leave him to die but the bird had just turned and a silvery tear fell onto Harry's arm. It had stung, less the venom, but Harry could feel the phoenix tear chasing the basilisk venom from his system. He remembered as both he and Ginny watched as the wound on his arm closed.
Both Harry and the horcrux looked down to the round scar on his arm, a constant reminder of the fight with the basilisk. It was white now, barely noticeable unless you knew it was there.
"So, you know who I am. And I bet you know why I'm now in control."
"I tried to go to Dumbledore and none of you were happy about that."
The horcrux hummed in response.
"So, what now? You're just going to keep me locked away inside my own head for how long? People will figure it out. My friends, Dumbledore, Snape even. Someone will figure it out."
"You're counting on Severus to figure out that you're locked away like a damsel in distress?" The comment dripped with sarcasm that Harry chose to ignore.
"He is a skilled Legilimens."
"Look how well that worked out for you."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, the comment piquing his interest.
"If you had been better at Occlumency, I might not have been able to take over your head as easily. I had help but it was easier than I thought it would be."
Harry sighed, shame boiling through his veins.
"It really is a shame though." The horcrux picked up the locket. "After your night with Voldemort, Tom wanted his turn with you."
Harry knew his face turned a few shades of red because the horcrux started laughing and it sounded downright evil. The laughter continued as Harry was suddenly sucked back into the darkness of his own mind, locked away as though the night hadn't happened.
The horcrux stood and evaluated himself in the mirror. "Enjoy yourself in there, Harry."
With a wave of Harry's wand, his clothes changed and his hair straightened out a little as though he had a good night's sleep and hadn't spent the entire night talking to a Harry-Voldemort hybrid. The horcrux tucked Harry's cloak into his pocket and trotted out of the Room of Requirement and toward the Great Hall.
Chapter 24: The Split
"I figured out how you did it."
"I'm quite sure I don't know what you mean, Harry."
Harry and the horcrux were sitting across from each other in the Room of Requirement, both cross-legged. The horcrux had his nose buried in the Half-Blood Prince's book while Harry leaned back on his hands, a million Harry's focused on the singular horcrux in the center. The horcrux calmly flipped page after page, turning the book every now and then to see the scrawl on the side. These talks had become more frequent between the two of them. It seemed like the horcrux tired of acting so he talked to the only person he could. However, their conversations often resulted in Harry's blood boiling. The horcrux tried in every possible way to get him flustered be it by angering him or by flustering him. Tonight, however, he hadn't tried. Instead, he just stared at the Advanced Potion Making book, thumbing through its pages in boredom as though Harry wasn't entertaining enough for him. The two hadn't even made eye contact since entering the Room, something the horcrux loved to do for reasons Harry didn't understand.
"Oh spit it out, Harry. I can hear you thinking and it's loud," The horcrux lifted his eyes, evaluating Harry through his lashes. But there was no malice or annoyance in his voice, he was genuinely curious.
"You said you can hear me thinking, can't you just find out for yourself."
"I could," The horcrux conceded, throwing the book off to the side before smiling. "But where's the fun in that?" Harry stared at him. "What?" The horcrux asked before slinking closer to the mirror and suddenly he and Harry were face to face, "Did you think I still wasn't playing with you?" It was almost as if he could feel the horcrux's breath on his face. "Did you really think I was just going to give up my favorite pet?" The horcrux laughed. "Oh, I could hear you thinking about me ignoring you. Not paying attention to you. Not looking at you."
The horcrux's fist slammed against the mirror and Harry felt his own unwillingly mimicking it. His heart was pounding and the horcrux was breathing heavily. They were chest to chest with only the glass of the mirror separating them.
"You want to know how I took over your mind? You handed it to me, on a silver platter." The horcrux grinned, wickedly. "First, I had your soul."
Dumbledore's words flashed through his mind. A horcrux is a piece of magic, a piece of very dark magic. Magic like that, the darkest, leaves traces.
"Then you gave me your heart."
You love someone else. Tom's voice echoed. The smell of the Amortentia.
"Then you gave me your body."
You're mine now, Harry. Completely. Thomas.
Harry stared at the horcrux who had twisted his face into a maniacal grin. His green eyes had changed into the same crimson he had seen the day the horcrux had taken over his body and the horcrux was breathing heavily. The horcrux flattened his hand against the glass and Harry felt his own hand following. They were kneeling in front of one another, each with a hand pressed against the thin mirror glass as though it might break any second and they would touch.
"Funny," Another voice rang out. Harry's eyes were suddenly released from the horcrux's and he was released from whatever the horcrux had done to him only to make eye contact with another horcrux. "The last time you were in this room something erotic was going on and now that you're back, it appears the trend continues." Tom appeared to be idly fiddling with the cuff on his ever-present white shirt.
Harry swallowed, at a loss for words, but he knew his face turning red due to the heat creeping from his neck.
Tom looked at the other horcrux who had stood to evaluate his counterpart. "Having fun?"
The horcrux paced around Tom, examining the other. "Indeed." He hummed.
"Do you know the problem with horcruxes, Harry?" Tom asked, ignoring the still pacing horcrux, circling him like a hawk circling its prey.
Harry was still on his knees, watching the whole interaction and he blinked in surprise when Tom addressed him directly. "N-no." He stuttered.
"They take on a mind of their own."
"I've noticed." Harry muttered bitterly as both horcruxes turned to look at him.
"Have you now?" Harry's horcrux asked, draping an arm over Tom's shoulder. "You barely notice anything."
"You-" Harry cut himself off. "What do you mean I barely notice anything?" Harry couldn't help the offended note that leaked into his voice.
"Thomas, Tom. You being a Parselmouth. Harry, you set a snake on your cousin at the zoo. Brilliant by the way. I might have suggested a pig though." Harry's horcrux waved his hand. Tom chuckled to himself at the mention of the Dudley incident.
For a moment, Harry floundered before regaining what little composure he could. "I do notice things." He said weakly. "But I also noticed that the horcruxes are different from one another. You two don't act alike and neither of you acts completely like Voldemort."
Harry watched as the horcrux twitched the same way he always did when Harry said Voldemort's name, not unlike the way Bellatrix's eyes flared with anger at the same mention of Voldemort's name. Tom, however, stayed perfectly cool. He swatted at the horcrux like he was a gnat, pushing the other's arm off his shoulder before folding own his arms behind his back.
It was then that it dawned on Harry. Tom didn't like the other horcrux. Harry's eyes flitted back and forth between the two of them. Tom stood stiffly as though he were trying to minimize the amount of space he took up. The other horcrux however, stretched, taking up as much room as possible and his eyes, when they weren't on Harry, stayed focused completely on Tom.
I found it you know, the horcrux. It's not very pretty, unlike me.
Tom's eyes met his, his dark eyes burning into Harry's very soul. Then he gave a slight, almost imperceptible nod. The other horcrux didn't seem notice however, he was just eyeing Tom, as though he were a piece of meat and the horcrux was starving.
Harry almost asked but something held him back as Tom's eyes bore into his, a message Harry couldn't yet decipher.
"You can hear my thoughts?"
"Yes. Like I told you before, I am inside your head."
It clicked. Harry could almost picture the lightbulb over his head like one of Dudley's stupid little cartoons. Tom had sectioned off a little corner of Harry's mind for himself.
"Tom," The horcrux purred, suddenly drawing both Harry and Tom's attention back to him. "You know, everything I feel, our precious Harry feels." The horcrux made eye contact with Harry again and suddenly he could feel as the horcrux ran his hand along the back of Tom's neck.
Tom looked the horcrux over. "What did you have in mind?"
In a swift movement, smoother than Harry could have accomplished if he were in control of his own body, the horcrux pulled Tom toward him and he could feel their lips meeting in a rough kiss. In a different mirror other than the one the horcrux had been focusing on for the duration of the night, his eyes and Harry's met and Harry could not look away. At the same time in the opposite mirror, Tom's eyes and Harry's met. Harry felt like his brain was being ripped in two as he somehow saw both at once. Tom's arms wrapped around Harry's body before grabbing his hair and forcing his head back. The horcrux made eye contact with the Harry in the mirror on the ceiling, giving him a wink while Tom, never taking his eyes off the Harry in front of him trailed kisses down his neck.
Harry could feel everything. The pressure of Tom's lips, the heat of his breath, the pull of his arms, the firmness of his body. But mostly he felt the weight of Tom's eyes. Harry couldn't look away, he knew. He had tried once before to turn his back on the room only to find himself focusing out of a different mirror. There was no escape. He was forced to look at the center of the room. Tom pushed the horcrux up against the mirror and Harry could feel the thud of cold glass on his back. One hand hooked the back of his neck and the other reached for the mirror as Tom's teeth bit into Harry's neck. Harry withheld a moan but the horcrux did not.
He desperately wanted to look away but he couldn't and he watched as Tom twirled the locket around his fingers, pinning it to the glass.
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Harry could see it as the horcrux lounged in the chair at the Three Broomsticks. Hermione sat next to him, sipping on her butterbeer and trying to ignore the same thing Ron was.
"I'd like to leave now," Ron muttered, his hands pressed into his thighs.
The horcrux turned his head as if to look at Hermione but Harry knew he was focusing on what Harry's friends were actively ignoring. Ginny and Dean were cuddled up together in a booth, hands intertwined and joined at the lips.
"Ah love." The horcrux snickered into his butterbeer, low enough so that Ron couldn't hear.
"She's perfectly allowed to snog whoever she wants, Ronald." Hermione chided.
"She's my sister!" Ron exclaimed.
"If she came in here and saw you snogging me do you think she'd leave?"
The horcrux smirked. "Ah love." He repeated to the butterbeer again, taking a bigger drink as if he were pretending not to hear the conversation between Hermione and Ron.
"Harry!" Came an enthusiastic cry from across the room. The horcrux turned and Harry knew it took everything for him not to roll his eyes.
"Professor Slughorn." He answered, forcing a polite smile on his face.
"Hermione." The professor greeted before inviting them both to a meeting of the Slug Club. Harry knew the horcrux didn't want to go as much as him but they were going anyway. "Good to see you, Wallaby."
"It's Weasley," Ron mumbled to the professor's retreating back.
Hermione excused herself for a moment as Harry felt his body turning back toward Ron.
"What do you think she meant about me snogging her?" Ron asked, leaning forward on the table.
The horcrux laughed and ducked his head for a moment. "He's blinder than you are." The horcrux muttered to Harry before looking back up at Ron. "I think that's between you and her." The horcrux stared at Ron for a moment and Harry could feel the wicked intentions boiling inside him.
"Don't even-" Harry started.
Ron swallowed thickly before his attention turned away from Harry and the horcrux. "Where's Hermione going?"
The horcrux turned and followed Ron's gaze. Hermione, instead of returning to the table, was walking toward the door, a strange package in hand.
"Follow her," Harry demanded but the horcrux seemed intent on doing just that. He grabbed Harry's jacket and was out the door in seconds, Ron on his heals.
"Hermione!" Ron called but she didn't look at him instead she just kept marching forward.
"It's no use." The horcrux called back to him. He had caught up to Hermione and was evaluating her as she marched. "She's under the Imperious Curse." The horcrux looked down at the box. There was a tear in the wrapping revealing a bit of metal. "Hermione," The horcrux spoke almost tenderly. "I know you can hear me somewhere under there. Whatever you do, don't touch the metal."
The action was brief, but Hermione stalled. Harry watched her determined march slow and stumble, just long enough for Ron to catch up to them. Harry felt the horcrux remove his wand from his holster, not enough so it was visible to Ron, but enough so he could use it. He could hear the horcrux cast a spell, something Harry didn't know. It took Harry a moment to realize that the spell was non-verbal. It was completely inside his head. Hermione's body began to glow a pale blue color for a moment before the initials D.M. appeared, floating in front of her. Ron appeared oblivious as he reached for Hermione.
But it was too late. Ron touched Hermione's arm carrying the package, moving it just enough that it brushed the metal. Time seemed to halt. The package dropped from Hermione's hands and her arms jerked outward violently, sending both Ron and the horcrux onto the snow-covered ground. They watched as her body shot into the air, her face contorted in horror. The horcrux reacted quicker than Harry ever could have as Hermione's body fell from its suspended position and landed in his arms. He laid her gently on the ground as Ron looked between her and the discarded package.
"Don't touch it." Harry's voice was near inhuman.
Hagrid appeared almost out of nowhere as he approached Hermione and lifted her gently, intent on taking her to the hospital wing. Harry, however, couldn't hear anything anyone was saying anymore. The horcrux seemed to block everything out with a singular focus. Red seemed to seep into Harry's vision as the horcrux stood and marched off toward the castle ahead of Hagrid.
"Draco." The horcrux growled.
"What are you doing?" Harry demanded as the horcrux marched toward the castle, Harry's wand out.
The horcrux marched toward the seventh floor and the Room of Requirement where two girls were standing outside. The two moved toward the horcrux but he waved his hand and they both went face first into opposite walls before sliding to the floor. The door to the Room of Requirement appeared but it was different than the one the two had been visiting recently. Harry had seen this one before in the previous year. The horcrux entered and the door slammed behind him.
The room was silent as the horcrux stood in the entrance. His eyes scanned the various stacks. There was no noise. Harry couldn't hear anything including the sound of his own body breathing.
"Draco," The horcrux singsonged. " Come out, come out wherever you are." The horcrux stalked forward. "Come on, Draco. Let's not play games."
A hex shot from between one of the stacks and the horcrux narrowly dodged only to laugh and turn toward the source. "So the little dragon wants to play with fire." The horcrux gave a toothy grin. "Fine. Let's play." The horcrux muttered another spell that Harry didn't know and suddenly animals appeared, silvery in nature, but they weren't normal. Harry could tell one was a dragon but the rest he didn't know. One had the body of a lion, a tail like a snake, and several heads. Another also looked like a lion but with massive leathery wings, a stinger, and a human face.
The animals ran in different directions around the Room of Requirement until suddenly Harry heard screaming. The horcrux walked idly toward the sound to find Draco lying on the ground, his clothes singed and the various animals standing over him.
"I'm wondering if I should send you back to mummy in one piece." The horcrux said as he knelt, placing his knee next to Draco and dragging Harry's wand down Draco's chest.
"Don't you dare!" Harry screamed. He pulled and tugged and for a long moment, there was a pause. Panic flooded Draco's eyes when suddenly Harry's body was flung to one side and into one of the stacks.
Harry had control but he didn't know for how long. He gasped for breath and his eyes met Draco's. "Draco! Run!"
To his credit, the Malfoy heir didn't waste his time getting off the floor and running. Unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough. The horcrux regained control quickly and Draco was frozen in his place.
"Well, well, well." The horcrux purred as he walked around Draco, coming to a halt in front of him. "It seems our dear, sweet, Harry Potter draws the line at murder. Or maybe torture. I'm not quite certain. Either way, the boy isn't broken yet. How exciting. I would have thought." The horcrux tapped his chin as if he were lost in thought. "In any case, it won't do to have you remember this. No, no, no." The horcrux ran his hand through Draco's hair. "Shame. You would have been fun."
Harry watched as Draco's eyes went from fear-filled to blank. The horcrux and Harry followed Draco out of the room and the horcrux waved Harry's wand toward the two unconscious girls who woke up and healed instantly as though the impacts with the walls never happened. The three walked down the corridor and out of site.
Again, the horcrux paced in front of the Room of Requirement and again a door appeared but this one was more familiar. Harry and the horcrux entered the room of mirrors.
"Harry." The horcrux growled. "You just couldn't leave well enough alone."
"I wasn't going to let you torture and murder Malfoy!"
"Like that would be a loss." The horcrux waved his hand idly.
"He's being used!" Harry exclaimed. "He's a pawn. You know this."
"He's probably going to die anyway."
The horcrux groaned in frustration. "Oh what a champion of the pathetic."
"I guess that makes me your champion too."
The horcrux growled.
"You are pathetic." Harry pushed. "Chasing down teenagers and torturing children."
The horcrux snapped. Harry watched his eyes change from emerald to crimson as his fists collided with the nearest mirror. Harry mirrored him and suddenly his grip on Harry's mind was weakened. The two were fighting for control of Harry's body. Harry felt his body as it was flung around the room, crashing into mirror after mirror. A scream tore from his throat and he felt his own nails rip across his skin.
"Stop fighting me, Harry. It's pointless."
The two collided with another mirror.
"It's my body."
Harry and the horcrux fell to the floor, and Harry yelped in pain.
"You're weak, and you'll always be weak without me."
They moved face first toward another mirror and suddenly they were back in the same position as they had been in but on a different day and in a different context. Both were on their knees with one fist pressed to the cold glass of the mirror. The horcrux glared and Harry was breathing heavily.
"Stop denying me, Harry."
"Stop possessing me."
A heartbeat passed and then two, neither prepared to relent. At the same time, both fists left the glass only to land on opposite sides. The mirror cracked right down the middle. Harry knew both could see the image. It was Harry and yet it wasn't at the same time. His face was split between the growling horcrux and panting Harry.
One crimson eye and one emerald eye staring back at the other.
Chapter 25: Harry Triumphant
When they found Harry, he was lying unconscious outside the Room of Requirement. Harry was lying on the ground, limbs strewn in various directions. Half of Harry's body was covered in scratches as if he had gotten into a fight was a cat or a very tiny dragon. Glass littered his wild, black hair. The other half of his body was perfectly untouched, the split right where it occurred in the mirror between Harry and the horcrux. It was a student who found Harry, some unknown Ravenclaw who always stuck to the shadows, a year behind the famous, or infamous, Harry Potter. She rushed to his side only to find that nothing she did would wake him, even the Stinging Jinx. When the professors arrived, their faces were masks but their eyes betrayed them. Curiosity, worry, fear.
Who had done this? How had this happened? Was it Voldemort? Was he in Hogwarts?
When Ron saw the unconscious Harry placed in the bed next to Hermione, he almost lost it. He demanded answers from anyone that made eye contact with him.
"I'm afraid Mr. Potter will have to be transferred to St. Mungo's with young Ms. Granger." Madam Pomfrey said as she extracted the glass from Harry's hair.
"Do something!" Ron demanded.
"I will," The matron reassured. "But there is not much I can do." The cuts on Harry's arm sealed.
"That's not enough!" Ron's hand slammed on the table between Harry and Hermione's beds as the nearest unoccupied bed flipped.
"Mr. Weasley, Madam Pomfrey is doing the best she can. I might suggest you return to Gryffindor tower. It is getting late and you have had a trying day." McGonagall's curt voice cut through any further response making it clear her suggestion wasn't a suggestion at all. But Ron was not deterred.
"Mr. Weasley," McGonagall began.
"I'm not leaving them." Ron sank back into the chair that he had pulled next to Hermione's bed only to turn it slightly so he could face Harry as well.
"One night wouldn't hurt," Madam Pomfrey said, turning to McGonagall. The professor gave a curt nod before turning to leave, the other professors trailing behind her.
"Please refrain from turning over any more furniture." The matron said. The bed righted itself as the matron left Harry to attend to another student. Ron gave a nod but he wasn't really paying attention. Instead, he was looking back and forth between his two friends. "There are beds if you would like one for yourself, Mr. Weasley." The matron said, returning to Ron as she was about to pull a curtain around the area Harry and Hermione were resting. Ron shook his head. "Very well."
Ron reached out and lightly touched Hermione's hand. It was cold as ice. "Don't leave me," Ron's voice was quiet as he pleaded. Silence was his only response. His hand dropped away from Hermione. He turned to Harry, moving the chair closer. "Harry?" He placed a hand on Harry's newly healed arm. "Harry, I don't know what happened or what's been going on. But I know something's been wrong. Just wake up. Please. I can help you. I can-" Ron's voice broke and for a long moment he was silent, tears starting to stream down his face. "Just please." He said finally before lying his head on Harry's arm and crying.
"Ron," Harry whispered.
Ron's voice echoed in the space Harry was in but Harry was powerless to answer him. Harry looked around at his surroundings. They hadn't changed in what felt like hours of walking. The floor, the ceiling, everything was completely black with a single light shining down on him but Harry couldn't find the source. Harry sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration trying to remember everything that happened. One moment he was staring at the image of his face that was half him and half the horcrux and the next he was in the never-ending darkness. Harry dropped his hand and groaned in frustration.
"What a good friend," A voice murmured behind him.
Harry spun. "Tom." The other stood with his hands folded behind his back.
"Harry," Tom looked him over before coming closer. "You're looking good considering."
"Considering I just faced off against my evil twin?" Harry asked, snorting.
"It was quite a fight." Tom moved closer to Harry. "I was so proud of you, Harry. Fighting from a horcrux like that." Tom reached for Harry, grasping the back of Harry's neck and pulling him forward. Their lips collided and Harry lost whatever, likely argument, he was about to say as his arms came around Tom. His back collided with what felt like a wall but it didn't matter as Tom was the only thing he could focus on. They kissed and time seemed pointless. Tom ground his body against Harry's. Tom pulled one of Harry's legs around himself and pushed his body into Harry's more, taking advantage of the opening he had given himself. When Tom released Harry, he was breathless.
"I wonder," Tom began, his mouth moving to Harry's neck, "If you are as well."
"If I'm what?" Harry asked, his voice thick with lust.
"A good friend," Tom clarified, his breath hot on Harry's neck.
"What do you mean?"
Tom's teeth sunk into Harry's neck and again Harry lost his train of thought, only focused on Tom in front of him. A groan escaped his lips and he dug his hands into Tom's shoulders. Tom pulled away slightly and rested a hand on Harry's hip. "Well," He began, "It appears you have a choice ahead of you." Tom placed a hand in Harry's hair. "You could stay here with me and when the horcrux recovers, which it will recover, you won't have to concern yourself with whatever it does. You will just be here with me." Tom began stroking Harry's hair, carding his fingers through as if he were petting him. "Or you can help your friend, Hermione, and save your friend Ron from his suffering. You can take Hermione's curse."
Harry swallowed thickly. He was tempted and Tom knew it. For a moment, he thought about giving in. He thought about staying. Harry tilted his head toward Tom and kissed him. It was a chaste kiss, surprisingly innocent considering their relationship.
"Tell me how to help Hermione," Harry said.
Tom sighed and pulled away from Harry. "Very well."
Suddenly, they were outside of Harry's body. Ron's breathing had steadied and his head was still on Harry's arm, likely having fallen asleep. Harry turned toward Hermione. Her body was wrapped in sickly green tendrils. It weaved around her body like a vampiric vine, twisting and turning, winding and bending in every direction. Harry walked around her bed until he was at the top.
"Hermione," His voice was a whisper. "I'm going to make this right." He bent down to place a kiss on her forehead, stroking her ever bushy hair. "You're going to be okay."
"Touching." Tom's voice was devoid of emotion. Harry went back to where Tom stood. Tom moved closer to the foot of Hermione's bed and beckoned Harry to do the same before folding his hands behind his back, a position Harry noted he stood in often. Harry followed.
"What do I do?" He asked.
"Grab it," Tom instructed.
Harry reached for the swirling mass when it shocked him. He pulled his hand back, yelping in pain. Tom chuckled, ducking his head.
"Something funny?" Harry demanded, cradling his smarting hand.
"Try again. Slower." Harry could feel the weight of Tom's eyes on him.
He obeyed; this time able to grasp it. "How is this possible?"
"You and the curse technically exist on the same plane at the moment. You can't get rid of the curse." Tom answered the question he knew Harry was about to ask. "That requires the advanced magic of a curse-breaker which you are not. But you can transfer it from her to you. Now draw it toward yourself. Slowly. Too fast and you could damage your friend's mind." Harry could hear the strange tone in Tom's voice. He turned only to see the smirk on Tom's face. The other met his gaze. "Minds are so fragile after all."
Harry turned back to Hermione, trying to ignore the gleam in Tom's eye. He began to pull the vines away from Hermione a little at a time until eventually it was balled in his hands. The curse at first stung but eventually, it felt like needles running the length of his spine, and by the time Harry had it completely in his grasp it felt like a light Cruciatus Curse. Harry saw Hermione's eyes begin to flutter but before he could make certain she was awake he was suddenly gone, inside a completely white space.
"Where are we?" Harry's blinked at the sudden increase in light.
"Elsewhere in your mind. This is where you come when you're unconscious. Where you were before I pulled you away."
"I don't remember being here."
"No, you wouldn't."
"What do I do now?"
Tom evaluated him. "I think you know, Harry."
Harry looked down at the mass he held before a pained groan drew his attention. He turned and for the first time noticed that he and Tom weren't alone. Another body was on the floor not too far away completely unconscious. Harry watched as it shifted between a form that looked like a wrinkled baby and Harry but far more sinister. The horcrux.
"Before," Harry started, still looking at the horcrux, "The way you made it seem. It was like you were implying that I couldn't take on this curse and be with you in the section of my mind that you made for yourself."
"A horcrux in a way is like a curse. There's no way of knowing what might happen if more than one occupies a space, especially one of that magnitude. It could damage me but it could possibly destroy you."
"I understand," Harry said.
Before he could change his mind, Harry started running and time seemed to slow. He could hear Tom yelling what he was certain was stop but it didn't matter. He slid on his knees coming to a stop next to the horcrux. He heaved the curse above his head before slamming it down into the horcrux's chest. For a moment, there was complete silence and then the horcrux's crimson eyes flew open and Harry fell backward. The horcrux gasped and wretched and began convulsing and twisting, its back arching in the air as if it was undergoing several Cruciatus Curses at once. Its body twisted in unnatural ways as if it were trying to fight off the curse. Then, with one final gasp for air, it turned on its side and curled into itself, falling silent.
"Harry," Tom's voice was cold as he walked toward Harry and the horcrux, kneeling by the latter, "What have you done?"
"What I had to."
Harry's body jerked and he felt himself fall over the edge of the bed. He opened his eyes just in time to put his hands out to stop himself from falling face first onto the floor. Harry grunted on impact, and around him, he could hear voices and the shuffling of feet on the floor. Harry pushed himself upward, forcing himself to stand and take in his surroundings. He was in the Hospital Wing. Ron and Hermione were on the other side of the bed, both frozen in shock. Hermione was incredibly pale, but she was awake. Ron had dark circles under his eyes like he had barely slept which he probably hadn't. Harry turned and faced the others in the room, seeing Madam Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore behind him. Harry made eye contact with his headmaster before rolling his shoulders and taking in a deep breath.
"Not broken yet." He huffed defiantly.
Chapter 26: He Loves Me
Harry sat in the Hospital Wing staring out the window in the far side of the room. It felt like forever since he himself had seen the outside. He wanted desperately to use his own body but the matron wasn't letting him or Hermione leave. Their spontaneous recovery had vexed the witch, and she spent hours during the day asking them questions and running various tests. Hermione couldn't remember anything and Harry expected as much. She knew she had been in the Three Broomsticks with Harry and Ron — or rather the horcrux and Ron — and then she was waking up in the Hospital Wing. Ron had apparently all but thrown himself on her in relief. Professors had been in and out throughout the morning with Snape being the most frequent visitor as they tried to figure out how exactly such a complex curse had been broken without warping the human mind. A few hours later, Harry had jolted back into reality rather dramatically before nearly being forced into unconsciousness again at the viciousness of Ron's hug.
"I heard you," Harry whispered against Ron's shoulder. "I heard you."
Now, it was Snape entering the Hospital Wing; his black flowing robes moving swiftly through Harry's field of view. When the professor stopped at the foot of Harry's bed, Harry turned his head to evaluate the man. Snape evaluated him in return, the look in his eyes uncertain before he finally seemed satisfied. From his robes, Snape produced a box. The professor opened the box and set it and the lid down on the table at the foot of Harry's bed before pulling out his wand. Harry watched as the contents of the box lifted into the air in front of him; the necklace.
"Do you recognize this?" Snape asked while the opal necklace turned in the air in between them.
"Yes." Harry straightened himself in the bed so he could better look the professor in the eye. It was the first time in days he had answered a question. Snape raised an eyebrow, a clear indication for Harry to continue. "It's from Borgin and Burkes. Killed nineteen muggles by the time they got it." Snape's sharp gaze pierced Harry. "Mishap with the Floo before my second year. You can ask Ron or Hermione or even Hagrid if you don't believe me." Harry folded his arms.
Snape gave him a curt nod after a long moment and the necklace fell back into its container. "Do you know who would purchase the necklace?"
Harry studied his professor. He looked tired as if he were attempting to handle several difficult things at once.
"Yes." Harry answered curtly.
"I assume you're not going to tell me." Snape supplied.
"No," Harry confirmed.
Snape looked at the matron who was currently attending to Hermione. Madam Pomfrey gave a quick shake of her head. There were bits of information Harry was consistently leaving out when questioned leaving everyone to come to the exact same conclusion: Harry knew more than he was letting on. Hermione tried to pry it out of him one night only to find that Harry was unrelenting. He would not reveal the information he knew, even about her. Harry had just bent down and kissed her forehead — a touch that felt like déjà vu to Hermione — before returning to his own bed to sleep.
"You've been rather unresponsive to questioning." It wasn't a question but Harry nodded. "The things you know could be helpful."
"You knew." Harry leaned forward on his bed. "You knew something that could have been helpful."
Harry had suspected as much for a little while, especially as Snape had become a frequent visitor in and out of the Hospital Wing. There was no need for the professor to return as often as he had unless he knew that, for however brief a time, Harry wasn't himself. Yet it had been the look in the professor's eye, the way the professor examined him as if he were looking for the horcrux or Harry himself, that confirmed Harry's suspicions.
"You knew, and yet you said nothing." Harry could see the response forming in Snape's mind but he cut it off before the professor before he could even start. "Don't. I don't care why or what reasoning you tell yourself. I will remind you that I'm not above attacking teachers."
Harry threw his legs over the side of the bed.
"Where are you going, Mr. Potter?" Madam Pomfrey asked as she moved toward Harry.
"I can't stay here. You've done your tests and found nothing. I'll keep coming back if you would like but I can't-" Harry's voice broke, and suddenly he was inside his own mind again, screaming at walls and people that never heard or answered. He took a breath and swallowed thickly before turning back to the room's other three occupants. "I can't stay here. I need out." He turned and left before anyone could answer.
Harry was glad for the weekend as he left the Hospital Wing. While part of him longed for human interaction he wasn't certain he could stand a classroom. He went to Gryffindor Tower and let himself inside, ignoring the stares that followed him through the Common Room. He quickly changed his clothes, nodding to Neville as they passed each other. The stares didn't stop in the Gryffindor Common Room, though. It seemed like everywhere Harry went people were there, looking, their eyes following his movements like he was an unknown specimen that they were studying. Harry trudged along through the snow until he came to the edge of the Black Lake. The student populace seemed to thin the closer to the lake Harry got. The moment Harry was close enough to the lake he turned and took off in a sprint, running the length of the lake and away from the castle.
The lake was massive, Harry remembered. It seemed like yesterday and yet also a hundred years ago that Harry had waded into that lake to find the thing that meant the most to him. It turned out to be Ron but how desperately he wanted to save Hermione too. The things that meant most to him. The family he made. Harry ran the length of that same lake now. His heart was pounding in his head and his legs burned with the amount of effort it took to run in the snow but it was exhilarating all the same. He had control; his body was his own again. When he was far enough away from the castle, he stopped. His breathing was ragged and his eyes stung in the cold. He wasn't out of the magical border surrounding Hogwarts but he was far enough away that no one could hear him.
For the first time in months, he took off the locket. With a grunt, he threw it into the lake. The locket skipped a few times on the lake's surface before appearing to sink underneath only to reappear around his neck again. Harry took the locket off again and again threw it, this time forward into the snow. Again it landed around his neck as if it were a sadistic boomerang. Harry fell to his knees in the snow and an anguished scream tore from his throat. Tears rose to Harry's eyes and he ripped the locket from his neck again but instead of throwing it, he placed it on the ground in front of him. He stood and drew his wand.
"Incendio." A blaze ignited around the locket and when it dulled the locket was unharmed. "Confringo." The fiery explosion at Harry's feet did nothing to the locket. "Expulso!" Spell after spell, Harry tried and spell after spell the locket remained unharmed. It would flip or twist with the force of a few of them but it would emerge undamaged. When Harry stopped and lowered his wand, the locket left the now melted snow, and Harry felt its weight once again appear around his neck.
"That won't work." Tom was standing somewhere off to Harry's side but Harry wasn't looking. He was still focused on the spot the locket had once occupied.
"What do you want?" Harry asked dully.
"To stop you from making all that noise. It was getting loud."
"That's not what I mean," Harry turned to Tom. The other was looking out over the Black Lake. "What do you want, Tom?" Harry emphasized every word. Tom finally looked at him.
"What makes you think I want anything?"
Harry scoffed. "You do. You found a way to tell me about the part of my mind you carved out for yourself. You knew I would give the curse to the horcrux. It's why you didn't really try to stop me. You could have, but you didn't." Harry stepped closer to the other. "So, what do you want?"
"You," Tom answered with a shrug.
For many months, now my new target has been you.
The words echoed through Harry's head as he looked at the older version of the last horcrux who had uttered something similar.
"What do you want from me?"
"You misunderstand me, Harry." Tom stepped closer. "I don't want anything from you. I want you."
"I don't believe you."
"And you have no reason to." Tom reached out and touched the locket on Harry's chest. "Except for an unfortunate turn of events, we've left you alone. He doesn't see you as the threat you once were. You've not been harmed by other Death Eaters. Mostly."
"Except for Draco." Harry looked down at Tom's hand. "Why did the horcrux do anything about Draco?"
"Young Mr. Malfoy has a task before him. That task doesn't involve you. Every time he threatens you, he increases his chances of dying before completing it."
"But he didn't threaten me, it was Hermione he cursed."
"That did not matter. That necklace could have just as easily fallen into your hands."
"So, the horcrux attacked Draco because of the small chance Draco's attack on Hermione could have hurt me?"
"That makes sense," Harry said sarcastically. He was certain Tom was hiding something from him. He remembered the way the horcrux appeared to shift between Harry and the way Voldemort had looked the night Wormtail had brought him back. It was if the horcrux was a combination of both Harry and Voldemort with all of Voldemort's sadistic impulses and Harry's emotions. Harry himself was rather impulsive and put those together it was a volatile mixture that could cause even the horcrux to have reacted the way it did. Harry didn't say this, though. Instead, he evaluated Tom.
"Why do you want me?"
"You're smart enough to know the answer to that, Harry." Tom purred.
"Love," Harry answered. "You love me." He turned and looked at the lake. "That's why Voldemort set you to protect me. That's why he won't let the Death Eaters bother me. That's why you nearly killed Draco on the train." Harry looked back at Tom. "But you also trapped me inside my own mind. You tortured me. Imprisoned me. That's not love."
"That's not entirely accurate." Tom looked down at his feet. Harry opened his mouth to protest but Tom continued. "I didn't help trap you. I was there, yes. But I was only there to stop you. I don't-" Tom looked everywhere but at Harry. "I did know what you would do with the curse. I was hoping your need for revenge would override your need to be a martyr." Tom's eyes finally met his.
"I want to believe you," Harry whispered.
"Then believe me." Tom moved closer to him.
Chapter 27: Riddle Reborn
Harry sat in Dumbledore's office, tapping his fingers on the chair he was in. He stared at Fawkes on his perch who was cleaning his feathers. Dumbledore sat across the desk between them, his fingers steepled and pressed to his chin. Harry knew the headmaster was studying him, much the way a scientist studies an experiment, but Harry was unmoving. Next to him, Tom stood, unflinchingly staring at the headmaster who could not see him. Somewhere deep in Harry's mind, the horcrux stirred, every now and then making its anger and pain known to Harry and Tom, but neither paid it much attention. In fact, with the help of both Tom and Hermione, unbeknownst to the latter, a Rune throbbed on Harry's upper arm which held the horcrux at bay. It also prevented Tom from entering his head though he could and often did appear at Harry's side, still only allowing himself to be seen by Harry.
Harry finally turned toward the older man. His sparkling blue eyes studied Harry. "Harry, I must ask you. Is there something you wish to tell me?"
Both Harry and Tom snorted. The same statement had been said to them both in what felt like a previous lifetime when another Tom and another horcrux terrorized the halls with a basilisk. Now, Harry and a new horcrux sat and faced Dumbledore and Harry had a book's worth to tell.
"Yes." Today, Harry had sought Dumbledore out. Normally, Dumbledore called for Harry but Harry wasn't in the mood to wait. The moment he and Tom had perfected the rune on his arm he was pacing outside the professor's office, trying every candy he could think of. In less than two days he would be at the Weasley's celebrating the holidays and he would lose weeks' worth of time to talk to the headmaster. "It was the horcrux and Voldemort." Harry looked away from Dumbledore, part of him ashamed about what he was going to say. "Voldemort found his way back into the castle at Slughorn's Halloween Party. He was posing as Thomas again. He found me. He got into my head. The next day, I was coming to tell you and the horcrux took me over." Harry tapped his head. "This horcrux." Harry watched the information process behind Dumbledore's sparkling eyes. "There's more. I took Hermione's curse." Harry glanced at Tom who nodded encouragingly. "The horcrux knew who gave Hermione the necklace and the Imperious Curse. It chased them down. They don't remember of course. I finally fought off the horcrux and was able to transfer Hermione's curse to it."
This sounds absurd. Harry thought to himself, idly noting that for once his thoughts were his own.
"And who was it?" The headmaster asked, leaning forward on his desk.
"You and I both know who it was," Tom muttered bitterly, leaning himself against the desk and facing Harry.
"Draco," Harry said, his voice devoid of the bitterness Tom was still radiating. "But you knew that."
"I have long suspected there was a traitor in the midst. Only recently have I begun to suspect who," Tom was drawing the fifth rune of the day on a piece of parchment. His hand was steady and his movements smooth. Harry found himself entranced by Tom's drawing and he would inch closer as the other worked. "You were right about me, Harry." Tom studied the rune. "I can love and I do." His brilliant dark eyes met Harry's. "I love you." Tom took a deep breath. "And that's taught me quite a lot."
Tom looked at Harry and reached for him. Harry didn't move to stop the other but Tom paused and dropped his hand. He withdrew across the room. "There's something you don't know."
"What don't I know?" Harry was sitting on the table where Tom had been working. He leaned forward.
Tom cocked his head to the side and for a moment just stared at Harry. "You have your mother's eyes." Tom scrubbed his face. "Part of initiating a new recruit for the Death Eaters is letting me see their memories, every one of them. The deepest and the darkest, the most shameful, the happiest, the saddest. So, I knew when a scrappy young recruit, extremely gifted in potions and the mind arts was in love with a redheaded Mud-" Tom caught himself and shook his head. "Muggleborn with a gift for potions herself." Tom's eyes met Harry's. "Severus Snape was in love with your mother." Harry found himself gripping the desk.
"He knew. And it was Severus who delivered the half prophecy which condemned your parents." Tom ran a hand through his hair, fidgeting more and more as he talked. "He, I, was convinced that the prophecy could only speak of the half-blood because I am a half-blood. It seemed fitting. Poetic. The one with the power I know not, who else but another half-blood could have that. Severus begged him to spare your mother."
Stand aside, girl. The words echoed in Harry's mind but only now did Harry understand why. Voldemort had given his mother a chance to live because Snape had begged for it. But she didn't run. She loved her son and that love killed her, but saved Harry.
"Now, I believe that it's Severus."
"Snape? You think Snape is the traitor?"
"Yes. He's in the Order of the Phoenix. He's been at my right hand for years. And I thought my most loyal. Only Bellatrix ever doubted him."
"Oh yes. She and Severus had a rivalry for years."
"You think Snape is giving the Order information."
"No." Tom shook his head. "He's too smart to give information directly to the Order. He answers only to one person. Dumbledore. The person he loved was taken from him. So, he will do everything in his power to make the person who took her from him pay."
Harry stood from the table he was sitting on and paced the room. "Harry?"
"Just give me a minute." Harry raised his hand to try to placate Tom as he processed the information. Harry finally turned to face Tom.
"Harry," Tom wasn't looking at him anymore and for once his voice didn't hold its usual confidence. "I never told you how sorry I am."
"You didn't do those things."
"But I am not a good person, Harry. Me, in this form." Tom gestured down to himself. "I am not good. I have killed. I killed my father. I killed my grandparents. I killed Myrtle Warren. I killed Hepzibah Smith. I did that. Me. Before this part of me was locked away in that locket around your neck."
"I know," Harry said calmly. "I know who you are and what you have done."
"No, Harry. You don't. I wish I could tell you that murder was the worst of it. But making a horcrux. Ripping apart a soul. Murder is only one part of that. There is so much more."
"I cannot forgive you for what you have done, Tom. I can only forgive what you have done to me." Tom's eyes finally met Harry. "But can you forgive yourself?" Tom opened his mouth to speak but closed it again. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you vulnerable before."
Tom pushed himself off the wall with a shake of his head. "It's the runes. They're magically draining. Makes one emotional."
Harry shook his head as Tom went back to work on the newest iteration of the rune, smiling to himself.
Dumbledore's eyes scanned Harry before he finally let out a long breath. "Yes, I know."
"Why did Draco have that?" Harry asked.
"I suppose it has to do with the task he has been sent here to do this year. But Mr. Malfoy is not his father nor his grandfather." The last part Dumbledore mostly spoke to himself but both Tom and Harry heard it.
"I loathe agreeing with him, but he is correct," Tom crossed his arms. "Abraxas would have found a much more direct route to finishing this task. Even Lucius wouldn't have resorted to a cursed necklaced delivered by another."
"Draco doesn't have the stomach to kill, you mean." Addressing both Tom and Dumbledore. Their eyes both shot to Harry. "It wasn't hard to figure out once I finally saw all the pieces. Voldemort loves to punish parents by punishing the child. Lucius lost the prophecy when I smashed it in the Department of Mysteries. He got caught and ended up in Azkaban. Voldemort won't leave him in there forever but he will leave him long enough to force Draco into attempting an impossible task. Hogwarts is supposed to be the safest place. Safer than Gringotts even. Even though Voldemort could get into Hogwarts, he could never get to the one other wizard he considered a genuine threat. You. The Death Eaters can't get into Hogwarts but the students can. So, a student Death Eater, Draco, is sent to achieve the impossible to punish his failure of a father; kill Dumbledore."
"If he's going to do it he should hurry. The curse that did that to his hand is spreading." Tom jutted his chin toward Dumbledore.
"Is this why you didn't reveal to Professor Snape the purchaser of the necklace?" Dumbledore asked, taking Harry's attention away from Tom. "Did you feel you could not trust him with the information?"
"I-" Harry cut himself off and instead took his turn at studying the professor across from him. He had been agonizing for days whether or not to tell the professor he was aware of Snape's loyalty to the Order. But every time the thought crossed his mind, something held him back. "I was just uncertain." He said finally.
He knew Dumbledore could tell there was more, but he also knew the rune on his arm would allow nothing to be revealed the headmaster on the other side of the desk.
"What more do you know?" The headmaster finally asked, rising from his chair and moving toward the phoenix on his perch. His robes dragging on the floor was the only sound as Harry turned his eyes to Tom. It was the other's last chance to stop this. Tom swallowed thickly, fear and another emotion Harry couldn't quite pinpoint in his eyes.
"There are six horcruxes, not including me. The diary, a ring, a diadem, a locket, a cup, and Nagini. The diary is destroyed. The ring, diadem, cup, and locket are all moved from their original resting places. And Nagini," Harry paused, thinking of the massive snake that he had once been offered to as a meal. "She stays with Voldemort at all times."
"How do you know this?"
"The horcrux." It wasn't a lie but it wasn't the truth either. Harry just neglected to say which horcrux supplied the information.
"Very well." Dumbledore seemed to be lost in thought and returned to his desk. "Off you go."
"Goodnight, Professor," Harry said, rising from his own chair and leaving the room.
He waited until he was at the bottom of the tower before finally addressing Tom. "I still don't understand why you're doing this."
"You asked me to prove to you-" Tom began.
"Yes, but I wasn't expecting you to willingly give up your every tie to immortality. Above all, you fear death and now you're throwing it all away."
"I will admit, I have ulterior motives."
Harry stopped and spun toward Tom. "Tell me." He demanded.
"I cannot." Tom had a sly smirk on his face. "However, if you do your part, love, everything will make sense soon."
"So, I'm just supposed to trust you?"
"Oh my dear Harry," Tom stepped forward and placed his hand on Harry's cheek, "You were always supposed to trust me."
Chapter 28: Holiday Cheer
Harry turned the invitation over in his hand; once, twice, three times. Everything in him told him to avoid Slughorn's Yule party. If nothing else, there would be drama and Harry had enough drama to fill a lifetime. But there was the chance of another spontaneous Voldemort surprise. Harry knew it his heart of hearts that Voldemort would try to contact him again. With the wizard firmly locked out of Harry's mind, it would take a letter or a physical visit to get Harry's attention and Voldemort did not seem like the letter writing type. He had been awfully silent since Harry reclaimed his own mind and it made Harry itch. He was waiting for something to happen. There would be no way for Voldemort to reach him once he was at the Burrow, but he managed time and time again to slip into Hogwarts. Harry knew Slughorn's next party would be no different.
Next to him, Ron grumbled about various things. Ginny snogging Dean, Hermione likely taking McLaggen to Slughorn's party, Lavender not giving him enough room to breathe.
"My lips are chapped!" Ron practically yelled before slamming his fist onto the table between them. The noise finally got Harry's attention as he lazily rolled his head toward his friend. It took everything in his power to maintain a straight face.
"So," Harry began, his head resting on his other hand, "You're telling me your biggest problem is you can't stop getting snogged." Ron pushed Harry, forcing him off the hand he was resting on and nearly off the chair he was sitting on. Harry laughed and looked down at the invitation in his hand, his laughter dying in his chest. "You and Hermione should go together," Harry muttered, mostly to himself.
"What?" Ron's voice cracked and when Harry's turned to look at him, his ear's had gone pink.
Harry shrugged and turned to look over the empty Gryffindor common room. Most people were milling around outside but Hermione had retreated to the library and Ron had dragged Harry into the common room when he noticed Lavender leave the castle toward Hogsmeade.
"What do you mean?" Ron demanded pulling Harry's attention away again.
"Do you think he's as stubborn as you are?" Tom asked from his place on the couch in front of the fire.
No one is as stubborn as me. Harry wanted to say. But he knew Tom couldn't hear him anymore and any response would have earned him looks from Ron. Instead, he huffed and turned to face Ron more.
"Look," He started, squaring his shoulders unsure of how to proceed or even if he should. "You-" He cut himself off seeing Ron stare back at him in earnest. Everything in him fought back as he didn't want to interfere with his friend's relationship but he also desperately wanted his friends to be happy. He knew Hermione had been miserable since Ron and Lavender had started dating and when Hermione was cursed, Ron was at her side, completely ignoring Lavender. Part of him wished they could see what he saw, but they were both determined to look the other way.
"Nothing." Harry stood, flipping the invitation in his hand over again in his hands.
He found himself in the library when he finally stopped walking. Hermione was placing books back on shelves when he found her. She nodded her head in acknowledgment and Harry leaned against a shelf as she placed a few books into adjacent stacks.
"Decide who you're taking to Slughorn's party?" Hermione asked, her eyes dropping to the invitation Harry was still nervously flipping. Harry shrugged. "You should be careful." She warned, moving closer to him. "Do you see that girl behind me?" They were positioned just perfectly in the stacks that Harry could see Hermione and anyone in the stacks nearby. Harry nodded.
"Romilda Vane," He knew her or rather knew of her. They had never really interacted.
"Rumor has it she's going to try and slip you a love potion."
Harry heard a snarl next to him but he forced his face to remain impassive. He nodded and fixed his eyes on Hermione. "Who are you taking?"
"Me?" Hermione started at the question.
"You," Harry confirmed.
"I don't know," Hermione ducked her head and attempted to push some of her bushy hair behind one of her ears.
"You could go with Ron," Harry suggested as he pretended to look at the nearest book on the shelf next to him.
It was a long time before Hermione finally answered him. "I thought about it."
"But you're not going to," Harry said, turning back to Hermione. Hermione opened her mouth to answer but Harry just shrugged cutting her off. "Of course, it's your choice who you choose to go with. We could always go together again." He felt his lips pulling into a smirk. "I'm a horrible date. I'll leave you for the first person I find entertaining. I might even leave you for McLaggen."
Hermione pushed his shoulder in annoyance but she was smiling and her eyes were filled with a different light than the pain they had held before. "You're a terrible date," Hermione said with a smile. "And also the best."
"So, I have the honor of escorting Hermione Granger?" Harry asked. Hermione rolled her eyes but Harry knew her answer.
Slughorn's party was the following day and Harry once again met Hermione at the bottom of the stairs of the girl's dormitory. Harry had transfigured his robes again this time to match the Yule theme. His robes were mostly black with flecks of silver like snowflakes. Tom had looked him over approvingly after helping him adjust the robes accordingly. Hermione's dress matched. The long, flowing silver dress fit her perfectly and she had managed to tame her hair much more than Harry could ever hope to tame his own wild mess. Hermione smiled at him when she reached him again for a moment Harry was reminded of a different night and a different party. Fear gripped his gut but he forced himself to smile back before offering his arm to Hermione.
It will be fine. He reminded himself.
Ron was absent from the common room as Harry and Hermione left. They made their way through the castle until they were at Slughorn's party. Cormac was nowhere to be seen when they arrived. Harry could feel Hermione relax at his absence. Arm-in-arm they walked through the party. Harry found himself subconsciously clinging to Hermione, not wanting her to leave for fear of who might take her place. Slughorn came and left them several times and after a while, Harry began to relax. That was until Filch dragged in a very disgruntled Draco Malfoy.
Draco was also in dress robes as though he was expecting to attend the party but his friends that were in the Slug Club were already present. The party came to a standstill as Slughorn approached Filch and Draco.
"Caught this one trying to sneak in," Filch muttered. Harry found himself moving further into the crowd, trying to see what was going on but trying not to be seen doing so.
"All right, all right I was gatecrashing. Happy?" Draco demanded bitterly, crossing his arms and scowling at Filch.
"It's quite all right," Slughorn practically chortled. "He can stay."
"I'll take care of him," Another voice drawled. Harry didn't notice Snape enter the room and from the surprised faces littering the room, he wasn't alone.
"Yes, Professor." Draco's demeanor had subdued dramatically. His arms uncrossed and his postured straightened.
Slughorn ordered the party to resume and Harry found his way back to Hermione, ready to tell her that he was going to follow Snape and Draco when suddenly the professor appeared at his side.
"Mr. Potter," Snape looked down his nose at Harry, his black eyes evaluating him. Harry looked back at his professor, both unflinching. "Professor Dumbledore wishes you a good holiday. He is currently," Snape paused, "Indisposed."
Harry swallowed, knowing exactly where his headmaster had gone. He nodded in understanding and Snape narrowed his eyes at Harry's lack of snappy response. Eventually, the professor left with a swish of his billowing black robe. Harry whipped his head toward Hermione and a silent exchange passed between them. Together, they slipped out of Slughorn's party, narrowly dodging the newly arrived Cormac McLaggen who was searching for Hermione.
In an empty corridor, Harry and Hermione found Snape and Draco. The two pressed themselves against a wall and listened as the others argued. Snape offered Draco his assistance and Draco vehemently refused, accusing Snape of wanting to steal his glory.
"I swore to your mother I would protect you," Snape's voice was urgent. "I made the Unbreakable Vow-"
Harry's mind flew and he knew Hermione's was too, but for a different reason. He desperately wished he could talk to Tom who was standing on the other side of the corridor, lazily leaning against the opposite wall. Their eyes met and Tom nodded. Harry turned and lightly grazed his fingers over Hermione's wrist. Together, they went back to the party.
Hermione asked one question after another when she was certain they weren't being listened to, but Harry couldn't answer most of her questions. He knew what would happen if he revealed all the information he had to her and he wasn't ready to drag her and Ron into the same horror he had been dealing with.
"He was probably trying to get information out of him," Hermione reasoned, but Harry thought she was mostly trying to convince herself. "He's working on Dumbledore's orders." Hermione tried again.
Harry desperately wanted to comfort her and to tell her she was right. Of course, she was right, she was always right. But there were too many lives at stake to risk trying to comfort his friend.
Everything only works if everyone believes it. Tom had said to him and more and more, Harry was being to realize he was right. He hated it.
The night wound down and everyone retired to their appropriate houses and dormitories. Harry breathed a sigh of relief the moment he stepped foot back inside Gryffindor tower. He bid Hermione goodnight and wound his way up the stair to his own dormitory. Ron was sitting on his bed, the last still awake as Harry entered the room.
"You didn't have to wait up," Harry said as he started pulling off the various layers of the robes.
"Wanted to make sure you both got back all right," Ron muttered, not looking up at Harry.
Harry hummed but decided not to make any further comment. He was certain Ron's concern wasn't really about him. When he finally finished readying himself for the sleep, he bid his friend goodnight, getting the same muttered response before he heard Ron's characteristic snoring. Harry sat up and placed a silencing charm around his bed. Tom appeared next to him, stretched completely across his bed.
"Snape didn't say anything because he's still pretending to be on Voldemort's side," Harry began, thinking about what he had witnessed in the hallway. "He needed to look like he was still working for Voldemort so that he could stay close to Draco to fulfill the Unbreakable Vow."
"Yes," Tom answered, his voice sounding breathless. "Unbreakable Vows are much like their name implies, unbreakable. To break them means death."
"I need to talk to Draco," Determination was laced through Harry's voice in a way that surprised even him.
"I agree," Tom hummed, "But after the holiday." Tom placed a placating hand on Harry's arm. "There's still time." Harry turned toward Tom, nodding. "For now, sleep." Tom pulled Harry closer and he felt himself going willingly into Tom's arms. He was tired, he realized. "This will still be here in the morning."
The train ride from Hogwarts was awkward enough with Lavender appearing at random to fawn over Ron only to have Hermione seemingly appear moments later. Harry was glad only he could see Tom because he was certain Tom would have caused a scene the last time Lavender passed by Harry and Ron. Harry resisted the urge to grind his hands into his eyes and Ron's face turned as red as his hair. The platform was even more awkward as Harry and Hermione bid each other their holiday wishes before Harry and Ron departed for the Burrow and Hermione with her family.
The days passed in relative boredom compared the excitement Harry had been through recently. He was glad for it. He informed Ron, Arthur, and Remus about the scene he and Hermione had witnessed between Snape and Draco and when Lupin had said that Snape was likely acting on Dumbledore's orders Harry bit back the urge to argue that he wasn't just acting on his orders. But Harry contained his argument and eventually, he found himself alone in the twins' room. Fred and George were staying above their shop in Diagon Alley. Fleur and Ginny were sharing a room and Harry idly wondered how Ginny wasn't tearing the part-Veela to pieces. Remus was elsewhere in the Burrow, mostly keeping to himself.
Tom appeared next to him as he tended to do but this time he had a mischievous look on his face. Harry opened his mouth to ask but Tom's eyes glanced upward. Harry followed his look, noticing the newly placed mistletoe above their heads.
"It's a tradition," Tom pouted, acting surprisingly childish.
"It's a ridiculous tradition," Harry answered.
Tom feigned pain, grasping at his chest. "Don't you want to kiss me, Harry Potter?"
"Do you want to kiss me, Tom Riddle?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Tom's voice was breathless.
"Then kiss me," Harry whispered.
Chapter 29: Bella and the Dragon
Harry stood in the kitchen at the Burrow, looking out the window. Molly Weasley shuffled around behind him and Arthur Weasley sat at the table, shifting back and forth out of his wife's way. The sun had set a few minutes ago and Harry was watching the last of the light disappear below the horizon. He moved closer to the counter as the Weasley matriarch moved behind him, muttering some half-hearted insult about the part Veela elsewhere in the house. Harry worried at his lip for a second before he dropped his head.
"You know I never thanked you." Harry's voice was soft but he knew the two adults in the kitchen could hear him. He could hear Mr. Weasley slowly set down the copy of the Daily Prophet he had been skimming and he heard Mrs. Weasley stop her shuffling. "You have been my family."
"Oh, Harry dear." Molly pulled him closer. "No need to thank us for that." She hugged him tightly before grasping his face firmly between her hands. "You're like a son to us." She gave him a smile before reaching down and grasping his hands and letting them go, giving them a squeeze. "Wish you were marrying Bill." She muttered quietly as she turned away. Harry couldn't help but smile, knowing the comment wasn't meant for him.
Harry left the kitchen and started to make his way up the stairs. On the way, he met Ginny and the two awkwardly attempted to dance around each other as they tried to reach their destinations. Harry couldn't help the laugh that escaped his lips as he gave up, leaning idly against the railing next to him. For a moment, Ginny was silent and then suddenly she let out a laugh too and then they were both laughing on the stairs of the Burrow. It was light and easy and Harry realized how much he had missed Ginny as a friend. The two of them had been avoiding each other for a while since Harry and Thomas had started a more public relationship.
"I-" They both started at once before they both chuckled again.
"I'm sorry," Harry rubbed the back of his head.
"No, I'm sorry." Ginny ducked her head to catch Harry's eyes. Harry followed her gaze as she stood up straight again.
Harry shook his head. "No. I've been avoiding you. And I'm sorry."
"And I've been avoiding you."
Harry stepped closer and pulled the youngest Weasley into his arms. "We're horrible friends."
"Terrible." Ginny agreed, winding her arms around him. Harry adjusted himself in Ginny's arms and together they stood, clinging to the other, just glad to have the contact.
It didn't last.
Outside there was an explosion. Harry and Ginny tore themselves apart and practically launched themselves at the nearest window. In the distance, the fields surrounding the Burrow were on fire and a ring of fire was already around the house itself. Spells ran into the shields, causing the entire house to shake and Harry could vaguely see Lupin as he ran outside to battle the growing flames. He turned to the red-headed witch next to him and a silent conversation passed between them. Neither of them had really changed into night clothes, so they were both still dressed, which meant they both still had their wands on them. Harry turned and ran down the stairs with Ginny on his heals. He barely registered the yells from the adults around him as he jumped through the hole they had made in the roaring flames.
Somehow, it was quieter on the other side. He could still hear the crackle of flames behind him and in the brush near him but it was as if he was placed in a thick silencing charm. Harry pulled his wand from the holster on his arm. His heart thundered in his chest as he stepped carefully through the field around him. He realized he had never been this far from the Burrow on his own. The last time he was with Ron, his brothers, and his father as they headed to the Quidditch World Cup. He twirled the wand in his fingers when he heard movement not far off from him. His breath hitched and he stopped in his tracks. The movement continued and it sounded as if it was coming closer. Harry raised his wand, readying himself as he looked toward the brush where he thought the sound was coming from. As it neared, the sound stopped and for a terrible moment, there was silence. Then, Harry heard a voice.
"I killed Sirius." Harry's heart stopped but he started running. Bellatrix started running too, away from him. "I killed Sirius, ha!" She taunted. "I killed Sirius. I killed Sirius. Are you coming to get me?" She laughed manically, her voice seeming to echo in the dense grass. "Ickle baby Potter!" Her shrill voice cried into the night. "I killed Sirius!"
Harry found himself in a clearing with Bellatrix's voice echoing around him, taunting him. Constant reminders of Sirius's death bombarded him from all sides until Harry cried out in pain and anger. He lashed out, the spell flying in the last direction he heard Bellatrix's voice echo from. She cackled in return and a spell was volleyed back at him from elsewhere in the brush. Harry dodged, the hex narrowly missing him but a sadistic sense of victory filled his mind.
Found you. He thought.
Spells, hexes, and curses were tossed between the two and he could feel Bellatrix's anger rise at his ability to keep up with her. He had been practicing and she was frustrated. All he had to do was wait for her to make a mistake and not make any of his own. He knew Ginny was likely somewhere else in the grass if not following the trail he had undoubtedly left, but Ginny wasn't the only shark in the grass sea. Harry's senses where on high alert as he and Bellatrix dueled. It was as if he was aware of everything like his brain was working faster than it ever had and he knew exactly what he needed to do. He forced himself to move backward in the clearing and closer to the grass. He knew it was a risk. Some part of him knew that moving toward tall stalks meant that he risked an attack from behind. But it also meant luring Bellatrix into the open as she tried to follow him.
Know your opponent. Tom had told him. Everyone has a weak spot. Everyone. Find it, exploit it.
Bellatrix was impatient. She knew what she wanted and went after it quickly and ruthlessly. That ruthlessness was her own downfall. If she smelled blood she would attack, taking it for a weakness. So, Harry gave her a weakness. He left himself open to an attack by the witch as he moved closer to the grass behind him. He could sense, more than anything, the presence behind him. Bellatrix stalked into the open, a predatory grin plastered on her beautiful, manic face. The world seemed to move in slow motion as he watched her raise her wand and the curse that sprang from it. Harry felt his body move to the side as the person behind him lunged forward. A second later and the curse would have incapacitated Harry. Instead, the other dropped to the ground like a rag doll and Harry tucked and rolled, landing on his knees just to the left of where he had been. He didn't know what possessed him to use the sequence of spells he did next until he saw Bellatrix's body lock itself, her hands trapped at her sides. Then her body launched into the air, her wand slipping from her grasp and there she hovered, rage frozen on her face.
Petrificus Totalis and Levicorpus.
The two had left Bellatrix frozen and suspended in the air in front of Harry and only then did Harry let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding. He finally looked over at the person Bellatrix's curse had stunned to see Fenrir Greyback mid-lunge and on his side on the ground next to Harry.
The thick blanket of silence that seemed to cloak the field finally started to lift as Harry stood, suddenly feeling exhausted.
"Harry!" Voices called laced with worry as he heard several feet crashing through the grass.
Before he could respond, several people entered the clearing with him. Their faces were entertaining to watch, Harry thought in some private part of his mind. They went from worry to relief to wonder to concern. Bellatrix still hung in the air near him and Fenrir started to blink next to him on the ground.
"Well?" Harry asked jutting his chin to the two Death Eaters in their midst. It was then that the others began to move. In and amongst the chaos, Kingsley had arrived and he and Harry gave each other nods in greeting as Harry fought to stay standing. The duel took more out of him than he realized as suddenly Tom appeared next to him, offering him a balance.
"Don't reach for me." Tom reminded him. "They can't know I'm here." Harry resisted the urge to nod but instead leaned slightly on the man next to him. "You did well," Tom said after a long moment. His voice was filled with pride that made Harry's exhausted mind suddenly hum with happiness.
It took Harry a moment to turn his attention back to the scene in front of him.
"We should take them to Azkaban," Kingsley said to Mr. Weasley who pursed his lips. Even frozen, Bellatrix's rage-filled eyes seemed to flare with glee.
"You can't." Harry's voice was stronger than he felt and he straightened himself as he began to address the wizards in front of him. Harry evaluated them. Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley, Kingsley Shaklebolt, Ginny Weasley, and Ron Weasley. "You can't take them to Azkaban," Harry said again.
"Why?" Arthur asked, his voice more curious than questioning.
"I need you to trust me." Harry's eyes drifted to Bellatrix who had suddenly returned to pure rage again. "You can't take them there."
There was silence before anyone said anything again.
"Where to do you suggest we take them?" Kingsley asked.
"Anywhere but Azkaban."
Harry was surprised that it was all the convincing it took for them to agree not to take the Death Eaters to the prison. Ginny and Ron practically had to drag Harry back to the Burrow and Ron, as gently as he could, deposited Harry into a chair near the fire inside the Burrow. He probably could have slept there the whole night if Ron hadn't come back for him.
"You're not staying here,"
"Not moving," Harry grumbled.
"I could carry him," Tom offered to an audience that couldn't hear him. "It's not like it would be the first time."
"What?" Harry asked aloud.
"I didn't say anything," Ron said as he pulled Harry off the chair. "Come on. Bed."
Ron huffed but didn't say anything as he led Harry up the stairs and into the twins' room. Harry sat down on one of the beds and looked up at Ron who was standing with his lips pursed and his face guarded.
"Something wrong?" Harry asked.
"Stop doing that!" Ron suddenly exclaimed. Harry blinked at him. "Stop running into danger alone!" Ron threw his hands up. "If you died-"
Harry stood and wrapped his arms around his friend. Ron squeezed him.
"Not going anywhere," Harry muttered. "'Cept bed."
Ron laughed and wiped the wetness around his eyes as he let Harry go. Harry lowered himself into the bed again, partially tossing his legs into the bed. He was certain he was asleep before Ron left the room.
A week later and Harry was back in Hogwarts and standing in front of the same room that seemed to become the focus of his attention for the last two years. There had been two girls standing guard outside the Room of Requirement before Harry had put them into a restful sleep. Now, he was wondering if he should really bother going into the room. He knew it was something he had to do. Every bit of him knew it was something he needed to do. But standing in front of the room again made his stomach churn. Tom stood next to him as he wrestled with himself.
"I'll be there with you the whole time," Tom said as he placed a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Tell me something,"
"Anything," Tom answered sounding rather breathless.
"You said you carried me before," Harry turned his head to face Tom.
"How did you think you got back into Gryffindor tower after-" Tom cut himself off before jutting his chin toward the Room of Requirement in front of him.
Harry had never thought about how he had gotten back from the Room of Requirement the day after Halloween. But he thought about Tom carrying him across the castle and he couldn't help the smile that crossed his face.
He approached the wall in front of him and began to pace, focusing on how he needed to see Draco on the other side of the door. As he passed in front of it a third time, the door appeared and Harry felt himself sigh in relief. He glanced at Tom who nodded encouragingly and he stepped through the door. The door slowly shut behind him and sealed, locking him and Draco inside the room. He had been in here before. Once when he was looking for Thomas the prior year and when the horcrux tracked Draco down after he had given Hermione the necklace. He could hear the chirping of a bird somewhere in the room but otherwise, it was silent.
Harry steeled himself and called into the silence. "Draco?"
"Draco?" Harry tried again. "I'm not here to fight." He let out a sigh. "We need to talk. It's important." Silence still. Harry started forward, moving deeper into the stacks of the room. "I know what Voldemort sent you here to do this year." It almost felt like the temperature in the room dropped. "I know what you were sent here to do."
Draco emerged from the stacks. He looked pale and his eyes were blown wide with fear. "How-"
"Long story," Harry muttered. Draco had his wand trained on Harry's chest. "Look, I'm not here to fight. I need your help." Harry looked down at Draco's wand. "And you need mine."
Draco evaluated him for a minute before he finally lowered the wand. "Why do you need my help?"
"I need you to trust me first." Draco looked at him like he was crazy. "There's a table and chairs over there. We can talk. Please."
Draco studied Harry for a moment longer before finally lowering his wand. "I'm not putting this away. You try anything-" Harry raised his hands placatingly as they moved toward the chairs that Harry and Thomas had sat in.
The two stared at each other in the silence of the room before the silence finally dawned on Harry. "There was a horcrux in here." His eyes shot to Tom. Tom nodded but Draco interrupted any further exchange between the two.
Draco shook his head. "If you want me to trust you, start talking."
Harry resisted the urge to huff. "Look, I know that Voldemort sent you here to kill Dumbledore." Draco winced at Voldemort's name. "I know why. I also know that it's because you can get inside Hogwarts where no one else can."
"How did you know?" Draco started fidgeting with a piece of his sleeve on his white shirt.
"There were a lot of pieces scattered in different places. It took me being forced to take a step back to see them all." Harry looked around the room. "What are you doing in here?"
"I'm-" Draco hesitated and worried at his sleeve again. Harry waited patiently. "What are you going to do when I tell you?"
"I don't know until you tell me, do I?" Harry tapped his fingers on the table between them.
"I'm repairing the Vanishing Cabinet." Draco blurted suddenly like he was trying to force a weight off his chest.
"The Vanishing Cabinet?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Draco nodded to a large cabinet behind Harry. "You know the one the Weasley twins shoved Graham Montague into?" Harry found himself nodding as realization dawned on him. He could vaguely remember during the chaos of the previous year that Fred and George had forced another student into the Vanishing Cabinet. Draco had been the one to find him and had called Snape for help. It seemed that the Vanishing Cabinet was more useful than transporting one to a toilet.
"It has its own twin," Draco looked away from the cabinet.
"At Borgin and Burkes?" Harry asked. Draco started. "I followed you," Harry admitted. "And I was in there once before. On accident. Mishap with the Floo."
Draco just nodded and continued. "They form a passage," The blond sighed, "If I could get this one to work."
"A passage?" Harry and Tom both said. Draco nodded. "A passage," Harry repeated, turning toward the cabinet. "Between Hogwarts and Borgin and Burkes. That's how the Death Eaters will get into Hogwarts." Harry turned back to Draco to see the other suddenly paler than before. "Death Eaters here." Harry was practically breathless.
"How did-" Draco began but Harry's mind was whirring.
"It's brilliant." Harry stood. "Death Eaters here. Hogwarts is occupied. Death Eaters at Azkaban. The Ministry is occupied."
Harry turned to see recognition on Draco's face. He knew exactly what Harry was saying. It was a brilliant plan. It was perfect. The perfect take over. Voldemort wins because in one night everything is attacked and if all goes well, everyone is defeated.
"Are you going to stop me?" Draco's voice was small.
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"No," Harry repeated. "I need you to finish what you started."
"Because I'm going to kill Voldemort." Harry walked closer to the table and pressed his hands on the surface of it. "And I need your help to do it."
Chapter 30: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
Harry walked from the Room of Requirement. He and Draco had been working on mending the Vanishing Cabinet though Draco did most of the work. Harry spent most of his time just talking with the Malfoy heir between his attempts to mend the cabinet. Draco seemed less pale as he shared the burden of Voldemort's task with Harry. Harry, for his part, attempted to keep the other's mind elsewhere when he wasn't singularly focused on the task at hand. Inwardly, Harry wondered if this was what a friendship between them would have been like. Harry lazily jabbering about whatever came to mind while Draco busied himself only for the two to dissolve into bickering about who was better at Quidditch.
There were layers to the Draco, Harry realized, likely caused by growing up in a family like the Malfoys. His family pushed him to be the best at everything because he was a Malfoy and that name should command respect. So, as he repeatedly continued to be surpassed by Hermione, a Muggleborn, his family became more and more bitter and they took it out on Draco himself. Mentally, Harry contrasted Draco and his aunt, Bellatrix. He was consistently finding more differences than similarities except for their singular frame of mind. When Draco started to focus on a task, he stayed focused on it with single-minded fierceness. Harry couldn't help but admire Draco and wonder more about what could have been.
"Are you a poof, Potter?" Draco had asked suddenly during one of the days they had spent holed up working on the cabinet.
Harry actually laughed when Draco asked him. He had been staring at the cabinet, lost in thought before Draco dramatically pulled him out of it. "I'm bisexual." For a moment, it struck him how much circumstances had changed. The year before he had been vehemently denying that he felt anything toward the same sex and now he was openly admitting that he liked both. The other watched him as he tapped his fingers on the doors of the cabinet. "Don't worry Draco. I wouldn't date a-"
"Slytherin?" Draco supplied attempting amusement though there was anger underneath it.
"A blond," Harry said, feeling his lips pull into a smirk.
"Oh you-" Draco hexed him out of the chair he was currently lounging in and Harry toppled backward, cackling the whole way to the ground. "I wouldn't date you either, Scarhead!" Draco huffed indignantly as Harry continued laughing from his new spot on the ground.
Now, he was walking back to Gryffindor tower after a long day. In his hand, he was holding a gift for Ron. It was his birthday and Harry had been waiting for the whole day to give the gift to his friend. He trotted up the stairs, ignoring the portraits who said various things as he did. Inside the tower, he walked up the stairs to the boys' dormitory until he found himself in the room he shared with Ron and the others. Ron was sitting on the floor next to his bed with various chocolate wrappers surrounding him. He was clutching a pillow to his chest as he stared at the moon that was shining outside. The door shut behind Harry and suddenly Ron turned to him. He smiled widely, his cheeks red, but his eyes were filled with an emotion that Harry couldn't quite identify.
"There you are," Ron said. "They were on your bed; I hope you don't mind." Ron gestured to the empty chocolates around him.
"Oh, hi Ron." Harry found himself stuttering as he was studying his friend. Something was not right. "Happy birthday."
Ron ignored him as he moved from the floor, practically sliding onto his bed. He was already dressed in his nightclothes and still clutching the pillow.
"Harry," Ron smiled widely, "I think I'm in love."
"I'm sorry?" Harry wondered if he was finally hearing Ron confess his love for Hermione and why of all people was he telling Harry.
"I'm in love," Ron said more assuredly, but his voice held an airy tone to it. Harry walked closer to his bed next to Ron's. "Do you think you could introduce me?"
"Introduce you?" Harry found himself stopping mid-movement. "What do you mean?"
"To Romilda." Ron hummed happily. "Romilda Vane."
"Romilda? What about Lavender? What about-" Harry stopped himself.
"Lavender?" Ron asked, confused. "No, I'm in love with Romilda."
"Does she even know you exist?" Harry found himself asking before he could stop himself. Internally he was hitting himself and externally, Ron did the same thing as the container for the chocolates collided with his back. Harry grabbed the container after it hit the floor.
Chocolate frogs. There was writing on it addressed to Harry from Romilda.
Ron turned from Harry and grabbed the pillow again before sitting back down on his original position on the floor.
"It's a love potion." Tom's voice appeared next to him and Harry turned to the other. Tom's face was completely closed off and he was focused solely on Ron. Harry attempted to grab Tom's hand but he pulled away. "Later," Tom said, his voice tight. "Take care of your friend."
Harry let out a sigh and nodded before walking over to Ron and kneeling down next to him. "Come on, Ron. I'm going to introduce you to Romilda Vane."
It took some coaxing for Harry to finally get Ron to Slughorn's office and settled on the couch. Slughorn was more than happy to see Harry, though he still didn't remember Ron's name, as he fixed the antidote to the love potion. Harry knelt before Ron, balancing with a hand on his friend's knee, as he drank the antidote. Ron's eyes went from cloudy to clear as the potion wore off and relief flooded through Harry's body.
"What happened? Where am I?" Ron's eyes shot back and forth between Harry and Slughorn before finally settling on Harry.
"Love potion," Harry said, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Mighty strong one at that," Slughorn said with the usual chortle to his voice. He walked over to the cabinet where had fixed the antidote to the love potion and pulled out another drink.
"I don't feel well," Ron muttered as he leaned closer to Harry. Harry squeezed his friend's knee as he stood. Slughorn came closer to them both, holding glasses.
"You could use a pick me up, my boy." He handed the glasses to Ron and Harry, winking at Harry as he did.
Harry nodded his thanks to the professor while next to him, Ron quickly downed the glass. Harry never got his chance to try his own. He could see out of the corner of his eye as the glass fell from Ron's hand. It seemed to happen in slow motion as Ron himself slipped to the floor. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and his mouth started foaming.
"Ron!" Harry dropped next to his friend, ignoring the liquid he spilled as he did. Fear gripped his veins. "RON!" He gripped his friend's face trying to think of something, anything that would help his writhing friend. "Do something!" Harry demanded, turning to Slughorn who had sunk into a chair near him.
Noticing that the professor wasn't moving, just staring in horror at Ron on the floor of his office, Harry pushed himself upward. He moved to where Slughorn had been previously, scouring the ingredients for anything he could find that would help his friend.
The word stuck out to him and instantly he knew how to save his friend. He was barely thinking anymore as the grabbed a bezoar and shoved it down Ron's throat. Harry began to worry as Ron's thrashing stopped before he started breathing again. Harry's head dropped on Ron's chest as he too began to breathe again.
"These girls," Ron muttered, "They're gonna kill me."
Harry laughed mirthlessly as he pulled his friend into his arms. Ron hugged him back, barely before passing out against Harry's chest.
Harry carried Ron to the Hospital Wing with Slughorn trailing behind him. He wasn't certain what Madam Pomfrey thought as he set Ron down in the bed but he could tell that a small part of her was grateful it wasn't Harry. Over the next several hours, the Potion's professor and the matron discussed Ron's care as Harry sat next to Ron's bed, much like Ron had done all those times before. He was still sitting next to Ron's bed when other professors started to arrive including Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore. Hermione and Ginny came as well. Hermione sat on the other side of the bed across from Harry and Ginny sat at Ron's feet.
Dumbledore evaluated the bottle that Slughorn brought, noting the hint of poison he could smell under the cherry.
"It was intended as a gift," Slughorn said, his eyes downcast and his voice uncharacteristically calm.
"For who?" Dumbledore asked.
"For you, Headmaster."
Harry tensed. Draco.
As if his thoughts summoned him, Draco himself appeared in the doorway of the Hospital Wing. Snape's eyes narrowed at his godson but Draco's didn't even look at him. He was looking at Harry.
"I just heard," Draco sounded small and uncertain. "Is he all right?" Draco attempted to look around the various professors and he reminded Harry of a child trying to look around the legs of an adult. Harry stood, making eye contact with Hermione but shaking his head.
"He'll be fine." He answered before moving between the professors and toward the Slytherin. Before he could leave the room, Lavender burst in, taking everyone's attention off the rather calm exchange between the known rivals of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.
"Where is he?" She demanded frantically. "Where's my Won Won?"
Harry inched toward the door as Lavender pushed between the professors. He made it to Draco when he heard Hermione and Lavender practically spitting at each other.
"I happen to be his girlfriend!" Harry could hear Lavender exclaim.
"I happen to be his friend." Hermione's voice was more level but he could hear her anger bubbling under the surface.
"Please." Lavender huffed. "You two haven't spoken in weeks."
Harry and Draco were nearly at the doors before another voice joined the argument. It was a faint whisper but Harry could tell it was Ron.
Harry and Draco exchanged a glance before they both pushed their way out of the Hospital Wing, hoping to avoid the inevitable fallout behind them.
"It's about time," Draco said when they were far enough away.
"You've noticed it too?" Harry asked.
"I think everyone noticed." Harry could practically hear the eye roll Draco probably granted him but he still couldn't help but smile.
"Everyone but them."
The pair finally made their way to the Room of Requirement and inside when Harry pressed himself against the inside door.
"Poison? Really, Draco?" Harry asked after a moment of silence.
"I forgot," Draco muttered bitterly. "It was there for a while. I didn't think about it after you started helping me." Harry searched Draco's eyes but there was such honesty behind them that Harry knew he was telling the truth.
"We have more problems now," Harry said, feeling his legs drop from under him. "They saw us."
Draco sighed and sat across from him. McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore, Ginny, Hermione, Lavender, and — when he woke up — Ron all knew that Harry and Draco were on friendlier terms now. The two exchanged glances back and forth as each tried to think of ways to figure out how to handle their current predicament.
"We still need to buy time," Draco said, looking over his shoulder at the Vanishing Cabinet that seemed to loom in the distance of the room. "It won't be ready for another few weeks."
"Weeks?" Harry asked.
"It has to transport a small army from Nocturn Alley to here, through wards and past several well-trained wizards without notice." Draco's eyes pinned Harry. "It's not easy to do."
"I know," Harry said with a sigh. "It's just-"
"He's taken everything from you." Draco's voice was filled with a hard determination. "He's taken everything from me too. Which is why we can't fail."
Harry nodded, grateful to have someone who understood. Silence filled the room between the two of them and Harry realize how happy he was it was the weekend. He hadn't slept the night before, spending the whole night at Ron's bedside.
"You know," Draco's voice had taken on a sly tone and Harry's head rolled back toward the blond, "We could always tell them we're shagging."
Harry grabbed the nearest thing he could find and threw it at Draco's head. The other dodged it and laughed. Harry started. He didn't think he had ever heard Draco laugh at something that wasn't him. Harry tried his best to ignore the possessive growl next to him as Tom appeared. He thought for certain Draco would see the near predatory Tom Riddle hovering at Harry's shoulder but he didn't. Instead, he just laughed and Harry found himself smiling.
"I don't think I've ever actually heard you laugh before, Draco."
Draco shrugged. "We weren't friends," His eyes focused on him. "Harry."
"Are we friends now?"
Draco let out a prolonged sigh. "I don't know." The blond moved to stand. "But we're not trying to kill each other anymore. So, that's a start." He brushed himself off before he nodded to the door Harry was leaning against. "I should go. Snape will be looking."
Harry moved so Draco could get at the door and when it closed behind him, silence followed. For a long time, Harry and Tom leaned against the door.
"You know," Harry said into the silence of the room, "I don't want anyone else." He turned to Tom next to him. "Just you."
He looked Tom over for the first time in what felt like forever. Tom was still incredibly handsome to him. Tall with chestnut hair and a lone curl across his forehead. His dark eyes were focused ahead of him and his sunken cheeks exposed his sharp cheekbones which seemed to emphasize his eyes more. He still wore the same white shirt and black pants that he always wore and would continue to wear.
"I know, Harry," He said finally. "And I've never wanted anyone the way I want you." Tom finally looked at him and Harry was trapped in his dark gaze. "But I'm not the only person who wants you. Someone was willing to trap you in a love potion to get you." Anger brewed in Tom's eyes along with a possessiveness that made Harry shudder.
"It won't always be like this," Harry assured him.
"I know," Tom's voice was a whisper. "But-"
"I know," Harry leaned forward and kissed Tom. Tom kissed him back and suddenly the rest of the world fell away.
Harry felt his body subconsciously moving closer to Tom until Tom wrapped him in his arms. He felt himself moving and suddenly he was straddling the other, situated on his lap perfectly. He held Tom's face between his hands as Tom pulled at the Gryffindor robe he was still wearing. The robe fell away and the chill of the room hit Harry until Tom's arms wrapped around him completely.
"Don't let me go," Harry whispered against Tom's lips.
"Never," Tom whispered back.
Chapter 31: His Undoing
Harry tapped two coins on the table in front of him. Gryffindor tower was quiet as the fire crackled in the corner. Most had gone to sleep with only a few left awake. Harry held a note from Dumbledore which he had nearly crushed in his fisted hand that wasn't repeatedly tapping metal on wood. The only people left awake were himself, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny. Every now and then, he would shift and the coins would rub together, making their heads turn toward him, but he was too focused on the fire in front of him. His stomach churned and he was certain that if his mind wasn't sealed off, he would have been projecting emotions left and right to everyone connected to his mind, especially Tom who was sitting next to him. Tom, too, seemed as nervous as Harry felt. He would tap his foot or his hand or stand and pace the room as an attempt to busy himself.
Harry hadn't told anyone why he had asked them to stay with him in the common room but they had agreed anyway. Part of him was incredibly glad but a larger part worried. He tried not to focus on the worried part though but instead studied various parts of the room as he took his eyes off the fire that had been seared into his brain. Eventually, he found himself staring at his friend's faces, memorizing every detail.
Just in case. A small part of his brain whispered.
Finally, one of the coins warmed in Harry's hand. His eyes shot down to the coin. A dragon appeared on the face before it shifted into a word.
Harry swallowed thickly. He thought he was ready but nothing really could prepare him for this. There was no preparation for what could very well be goodbye. Harry stood and his friend's eyes shot to him. He pocketed the coin with the dragon on it and looked at the other. It felt like forever, but it was only a couple of seconds before he looked back up from the coin, meeting Hermione's eyes. He stepped closer to her and she stood, worry clouding her eyes.
"Something," Harry's voice wasn't strong and he cleared his throat, trying again. "Something's happening tonight. I need you to gather the DA." He pressed the coin into her hand and curled her fingers around it, holding her hand in his. "I need you to get ready."
"Harry?" Hermione tried to catch his eyes but they were glued to their joined hands. "What's going on?"
"I can't explain." His voice was barely above a whisper. "But I need you to come find me in the morning."
He finally looked up at Hermione and he could see terror clouding her eyes. He wrapped a hand around the back of her neck, pulling her closer and pressing a kiss to her forehead. She went willingly and after the kiss, they hugged. When he pulled away, he turned to Ron who had stood.
"I have something for you." Harry pulled a small vial out of the pocket of his shirt. Gold liquid pressed between Harry's fingers as he offered it to his best friend. "Use it. Share it. You'll need it."
Ron's hand shook as he reached for the vial and clasped it tightly. Tears had started to roll down Hermione's face as she made way for Harry and Ron to hug. He squeezed his best friend tightly, burying his face in the taller boy's shoulder.
"You told me you weren't going anywhere," Ron whispered bitterly.
Harry laughed as he pulled away. "I guess I can't help it." He kept a hand on Ron's shoulder for a second, giving it a squeeze. An unspoken exchange passed between them before Harry turned to Ginny.
Before he could say anything. His vision was suddenly filled with red hair as the youngest Weasley hugged him, wrapping her arms mostly around his neck. Harry hugged her back and felt himself letting out a sigh. In another life, they might have been more than friends, and at one point Ginny had wanted more than that. But now, they had come to an understanding.
"If you die," She started, pulling away. "I'll hunt you down in the afterlife, drag you back, and kill you myself."
Harry smiled. "If anyone could, it's you, Ginny Weasley." He pulled a seemingly innocuous piece of parchment out of his back pocket and handed it to her. "Do you solemnly swear that you're up to no good?" He asked with a smirk.
She smirked in return but said nothing as she took the Marauder's Map from Harry.
"You're going to see some new names on that," Harry said, gesturing to the map. "They have to make it to Dumbledore. Snape too. Otherwise, this is all for nothing." Confusion littered his friend's faces but they nodded, nonetheless. "I'll explain in the morning."
Harry ran through a mental list as he thought of what else he could and needed to tell his friends then he looked at them one more time. His heart ached and he realized this must have been what his parents felt, thinking that any time they left the house might be the last time they saw each other. As if they were all sensing the same thing, the four of them pulled each other together for a tight group hug. Harry squeezed his eyes shut to keep the hot tears that were threatening to spill over at bay.
"In the morning," He said as he pulled away, fighting to keep himself together.
"In the morning." They echoed.
Harry forced himself to turn away and walk out the portrait of the tower.
Draco was standing on the other side and they gave each other a nod. Together they walked down several flights of stairs in complete silence before they left the castle completely. The castle seemed to hum with an energy that Harry couldn't quite pinpoint as it loomed over them. In step, they ventured toward the owlery.
"How long will this take?" Harry asked.
"Not long." Draco's answered, his voice somber. "The owl just needs to exit the wards."
Harry shuddered, not because of cold, but the nerves that were threatening to consume him.
"Are you certain this will work?" Draco asked him after a long silence while they ascended the steps of the owlery.
"No," Harry answered honestly. "But we have to try."
Draco sighed. "The moment I send this, I'll go to the Room of Requirement and you do, whatever you do." Harry wasn't sure why Draco was reviewing this with him but he nodded anyway. Maybe it made him feel better.
Harry watched as Draco attached a note to one of the owls and with a long pause, let it go. The owl took off with a flap of its massive wings and the pair watched its flight until it was out of sight from the window. He dropped his eyes to the Malfoy heir and their eyes met. Draco swallowed thickly, nerves clearly eating away at him as well. Harry stretched his hand toward the other and Draco grasped it.
"Good luck, Draco."
"Good luck, Harry."
Then Draco was gone. Into the twilight. Harry sucked in a breath and forced himself to focus, pushing down his frazzled nerves before reaching out.
Surprise found him as Harry repressed the urge to smile.
I need to see you.
And why would you need to see me? You have kept yourself apart from me for months.
I can't stay here anymore. Harry focused on the connection between himself and Voldemort, feeling the locket on his chest begin to warm.
Dumbledore is still hunting horcruxes. Harry paused to let the implications sink in.
I am aware.
I think he'll use me if he can't find the rest. Harry paused. There was no answer. Or worse.
How will you come to me?
We both know I have my ways of leaving the castle. Harry brought for the memory of himself and the other DA members, Thomas included, leaving the grounds of Hogwarts under the tyrannical rule of Umbridge on thestral and forced the memory through the connection, hoping Voldemort saw it.
Then come to me. Images flashed into Harry's mind and he gasped involuntarily.
He closed the connection between the two of them before opening his eyes, wondering at what point he closed them. Tom stood before him, his face closed off and his arms crossed as he leaned against the doorway of the owlery.
Harry practically ran to where the Quidditch equipment was kept, throwing the door open and breathing a sigh of relief when he wrapped his fingers around the Firebolt. He had played Quidditch over the year but it hadn't felt the same as it had before. But he still felt the same rush every time he rode a broom and he could already feel the electric feeling in his veins as he mounted it before kicking off the ground. The wind rushed as he shot forward and upward. Hogwarts shrunk into the distance as he went and he thought about the last time he did something similar, racing to the Ministry of Magic for another image that Voldemort had planted in his head.
Was this another trick? Part of him thought. Voldemort had several reasons to suspect Harry, namely that Harry was suddenly reaching out after months of silence. However, if he thought that Dumbledore was going to use Harry to sever Voldemort's ties to life, then his fear of death might override his need to deceive. Or so Harry hoped.
Forests blurred into a sea of green as Harry shot over the countryside. He still held Dumbledore's note in his hand, crushing it against the broom handle. His heart pounded in his head and the wind whistled in his ears but as much as he was afraid about what was to come, he was exhilarated at the flight he was taking. It felt like a minute and forever simultaneously before Harry came upon the place Voldemort had shown him. He slowed as he neared it, the fear rushing back through his veins again. He flew closer, feeling wards shutter around him as he entered, setting himself down on the pathway in front of the manor.
The first thing he noticed were the peacocks. An albino peacock sat on one of the hedges as Harry walked closer to the house. The bird looked at him and suddenly let out a noise that sounded like a combination of help and a cat's "meow". Echoes followed it which Harry assumed were more peacocks. That coupled with the grandiosity of the manor before him and Harry knew where he was.
Draco spoke about it often enough that Harry had formed a picture in his mind. The picture was fairly accurate it seemed, as Harry stared up at the vast expanse of a house in front of him.
"A bit much. Aren't they?" A voice purred in front of him.
Harry's heart skipped a beat as he followed the sound of the voice to its owner. Thomas stood before him and Harry wondered for a moment why Voldemort never appeared in his real form in front of him anymore. It was always Thomas. He realized that the other was staring at him and Harry mentally shook his head.
Harry couldn't help but nod. Thomas smirked and turned, entering the manor. Harry followed him. He absently grasped at his wand hidden under the sleeve of his shirt. His heart pounded in his chest and he was certain he was breathing heavily, though he could likely blame it on the flight he so recently undertook. Portraits lined the path Harry and Thomas took as the weaved through the manor until they entered a small study. It was smaller than the rest of the house and Harry was actually surprised until he realized he had seen the room before, in dreams. Wood floor, red curtains, wood table, fire.
Do you dream of me often?
Harry could feel panic rising in his chest and he fought to keep it down.
Thomas lazily deposited himself in an armchair near the fire and Harry watched the massive snake the was Nagini weave her way up his leg and onto his body. She rested her head on his shoulder and blinked at him with red eyes.
"What made you think Dumbledore was going to kill his little pet?" Thomas asked, drawing Harry's attention away from the snake, his voice thick with amusement.
Harry unwrinkled the note that was in his hand and handed it to the other. Thomas read it through Harry already knew what it said.
Come to the Astronomy Tower at midnight. Alone.
It was Dumbledore's handwriting and Thomas knew it. He balled up the note and threw it into the fire.
"Why didn't you go?"
Harry stared at him.
"Why didn't you go?" Thomas repeated. "You and Dumbledore are close. So, why not go?"
Harry cleared his throat. "He wanted to look for horcruxes. There were two within his grasp." Harry reached for the locket. "If he didn't find what he was looking for-" Harry let his voice trail off, hoping to let Thomas think the worst. In the silence between them, Harry could hear the begins of whispers in the room. They started to grow louder and Harry knew there were multiple horcruxes present.
After a while, Thomas hummed. "Very well." He stood and began to turn away. "You can stay here."
"With the other horcruxes?" Harry quipped. Thomas paused mid-turn and faced Harry again. "Going to lock me up again?" Harry asked. "Maybe this time it won't even be in my own head. Just somewhere else." Thomas gave him a toothy smile.
"Perhaps." Harry mocked, his anger starting to outweigh his rage.
"Did that anger you, Harry?" Thomas purred.
"Anger me? You used me then locked me inside my own mind mostly because you could." Harry threw his hands up in frustration. "Anger me."
Thomas stalked forward, looking incredibly predatory, especially with the massive python wrapped around his body. Harry squared himself and took a deep breath.
"You took everything from me." His eyes met Thomas's as realization seemed to dawn in them and they began to shift from onyx to red. "Never again."
Harry dropped his wand from its holster and as he reached for the locket, slashed at his hand. Blood dripped from the wound as he tore the locket from his neck, hissing in pain at the sting of metal tearing across his skin. Thomas moved closer but time seemed to slow around Harry as he moved. He raised his wand and his lips moved but he couldn't hear the sound that left them over the pounding of his heart in his chest.
Fiendfyre exploded around them, consuming everything; Thomas and Harry included.
"Why do you want me?"
"You're smart enough to know the answer to that, Harry." Tom purred.
"Love," Harry answered. "You love me." He turned and looked at the lake. "That's why Voldemort set you to protect me. That's why he won't let the Death Eaters bother me. That's why you nearly killed Draco on the train." Harry looked back at Tom. "But you also trapped me inside my own mind. You tortured me. Imprisoned me. That's not love."
"That's not entirely accurate." Tom looked down at his feet. Harry opened his mouth to protest but Tom continued. "I didn't help trap you. I was there, yes. But I was only there to stop you. I don't-" Tom looked everywhere but at Harry. "I did know what you would do with the curse. I was hoping your need for revenge would override your need to be a martyr." Tom's eyes finally met his.
"I want to believe you," Harry whispered.
"Then believe me." Tom moved closer to him.
Tom swallowed thickly and gave a nod. "I understand that you have no reason to trust me, Harry." Harry in turn just stared at him. Tom let out a breath and looked everywhere but Harry himself. "I know his plan. I know his whole plan."
Intrigue boiled through Harry's veins but he tried not to show it. He wanted Tom to talk on his own not with prompting. Slowly Tom turned and gestured for Harry to follow which he did. The two ventured back toward the castle through the snowfall.
"He's going to attack the castle." Tom jutted his chin toward Hogwarts in front of them. "He's sending some Death Eaters to attack here. At the same time, he's going to send others to attack Azkaban. While they're busy, he's moving the horcruxes to what he assumes will be their permanent homes. For one night, all the horcruxes will be in the same place. All but two." Tom's eyes dropped to the locket around Harry's chest.
"When he's alone," Harry spoke more to himself than Tom but the other nodded all the same. "It's the one chance I'll ever get to get all of them at once."
"It is." Tom hummed; his voice clipped.
"Why would you tell me this?" Harry asked.
"You asked me to prove to you that I love you, yes?" Harry didn't answer. "I realized, all that time ago when you said that I used love to manipulate people, you were correct. I have come to learn throughout my time spent in your obnoxiously loud mind that love is as much selfless as it is selfish." Tom's eyes flashed toward him. "And that I cannot always be the selfish one."
"You would risk your ties to immortality, your own life, for my freedom?" Harry asked, looking at Tom through his periphery while they continued through the snow.
Tom hesitated for a moment and Harry thought that he was doubting his decision to turn on...himself. The thought made him mentally stutter. Tom turned on himself for Harry.
"If that is what you wish," Tom said finally, his voice holding a sad but final note to it, indicating his mind wouldn't be changed.
"And what if I don't?" Harry's voice was barely above a whisper but he knew Tom heard it as he turned to look at him. They had reached the shadow of the castle again and the behemoth structure loomed over them.
"That can be arranged as well, Harry."
"A passage?" Harry and Tom both said. Draco nodded. "A passage," Harry repeated, turning toward the cabinet. "Between Hogwarts and Borgin and Burkes. That's how the Death Eaters will get into Hogwarts." Harry turned back to Draco to see the other suddenly paler than before. "Death Eaters here." Harry was practically breathless.
"How did-" Draco began but Harry's mind was whirring.
"It's brilliant." Harry stood. "Death Eaters here. Hogwarts is occupied. Death Eaters at Azkaban. The Ministry is occupied."
Harry turned to see recognition on Draco's face. He knew exactly what Harry was saying. It was a brilliant plan. It was perfect. The perfect take over. Voldemort wins because in one night everything is attacked and if all goes well, everyone is defeated.
"Are you going to stop me?" Draco's voice was small.
Draco raised an eyebrow.
"No," Harry repeated. "I need you to finish what you started."
"Because I'm going to kill Voldemort." Harry walked closer to the table and pressed his hands on the surface of it. "And I need your help to do it."
"Kill-" Draco's eyes flashed with a variety of emotions but kept returning to the same one, fear. "Kill Voldemort?" The Malfoy heir leapt out of his chair. "Are you insane? You'll be dead before you even get close and me along with you." Draco ran a hand through his blond hair and huffed. "I thought you were mad, Potter, but this? This is insanity! This is a death wish!" Draco threw his hands up, looking incredibly frazzled. "I'm going to die for even discussing this with you."
Next to them, Tom laughed and Harry repressed the urge to join in on the joke. He knew why Draco was so worried. If Voldemort knew that Draco, a follower, was plotting his death, Draco would be dead in likely the worst way possible. However, Voldemort, or rather a version of him, was standing in the room with him and hardly cared that his own death was currently being plotted. In fact, he helped.
"Draco," Harry tried his best to keep his voice calming. "Listen to me. I know what this sounds like but as long as you do your part, nothing will happen to you." Draco scoffed but Harry continued. "I just need you to get the Death Eaters into Hogwarts and to Dumbledore." Harry stood from his bent position. "They need to be occupied and as far away from Voldemort as possible. With half of them here and half of them at Azkaban, he'll be alone."
"Even alone he could destroy you."
This time Harry laughed. "I fought him before and lived. I survived him as an infant." His eyes flashed toward Tom for a second. "Even if that weren't true, he wants me to come to him."
Draco's eyes shot to Harry and his body stilled. "What do you mean?"
"The less you know, the better." Harry sighed slightly. "But if he's alone, I stand a chance. I won't if there are Death Eaters surrounding him. He wants me, Draco. And if I get to him while he's alone-" Harry let his voice trail off and he could see the other's mind working.
"You have an advantage." Draco started pacing, talking as he did. "If he wants you to come to him he must think that you're not a threat or much of one. You get close enough you can kill him."
"Yes." Harry could feel relief flooding through him as Draco appeared to be coming around.
"What about-" Draco cut himself off for a second and he looked incredibly pale. "What about what I was sent here to do?"
Harry's eyes flashed to Tom before returning to Draco. Briefly, he wondered if the blond noticed the glimpses toward a person he couldn't see but Harry could hardly bring himself to care. He and Tom both had a thought about the task Draco was given and it twisted Harry's stomach into knots.
"I don't think you were ever going to complete that task," Harry tried his best to keep his voice calming. The other tensed at his words. "Draco, you're not a murderer. But-" Harry paused as he tried to come up with the right words. "There is someone who could finish your task as a mercy."
"Mercy." Draco snorted. "Who then? Who is this merciful person?"
"Snape?" Draco scoffed. "He's not-"
But whatever rant he had was cut off by Harry's nodding. "He made the Unbreakable Vow and I'm guessing part of it was to finish the task if you could not."
"And Dumbledore is dying and likely asked Snape to kill him so you wouldn't have to," Tom added, though only Harry could hear him.
"Who would make an Unbreakable Vow with Snape?" Draco huffed.
"Your mother?" Harry suggested. The idea had originally been Tom's but the more Harry thought, the more sense it made.
If it was possible for Draco to pale further, he did.
"My-" He swallowed and sat down, or rather fell down, on the nearest chair. Eventually, he nodded. "So, I let the Death Eaters into the castle and distract them long enough for Snape to show up. He kills Dumbledore so I don't have to and then what?"
"And then you stay by Snape." Harry had to believe that there was some part of Snape that would care for his godson. "Your mother will likely be with the party that takes the prisoners out of Azkaban and that's where your father is." Draco winced but Harry continued. "Your aunt is already taken prisoner elsewhere. Snape is your best chance of staying safe." And alive, Harry added to himself.
"I don't like it," Draco said with a sigh. Harry opened his mouth to try to convince Draco further but instead the other met his gaze. "But what else have I got to lose?"
"Focus!" Tom hissed as Harry winced.
"You try having someone poke around in your head with an iron and tell me if you can focus."
"Oh don't be so dramatic." Tom huffed.
"I'm dramatic?" Harry asked, rolling his eyes. "Need I remind you that another version of you killed every mirror in the Ministry of Magic just to send glass shards flying at Dumbledore because you could." Tom opened his mouth to protest but Harry persisted. "You made a snake out of fire!"
"I do enjoy fire," Tom hummed appreciatively. "Which is why this is so important."
Tom resettled himself across from Harry. They were sitting in the Room of Requirement long after Draco had left and the rest of the castle had fallen asleep. Harry had snuck back up to the seventh floor under his cloak and re-entered the room to practice. They had been in there for five hours.
"Fiendfyre requires incredible mental focus and strong shields." Tom lectured him again about the magic he was readying himself to use. Harry, in turn, resisted the urge to rub his aching temples. "You need to have excellent Occlumency or the fire will consume you as much as it consumes everything else."
"It's probably a good thing you were never a professor. You can be incredibly irritating." Harry hissed in pain as a Stinging Jinx hit his arm. "I'm still confused about one thing," Harry said, absentmindedly rubbing his arm. "If the Fiendfyre doesn't consume me, how will the horcrux I have die?" He gestured to his head.
"The horcrux is not you." Tom's answer was simplistic enough as he looked at Harry through his lashes. "Perhaps we're going about this the wrong way." He announced after a moment.
Harry resisted the urge to huff out an agreement.
"Sometimes, focus doesn't work for Occlumency. It works for some but not all. There is another way though."
"What is it?" Harry asked, happy to try anything other than the painful stabbing they were currently repeating over and over.
"Where was the first place you felt safe?" Tom asked.
"Hogwarts," Harry answered automatically.
The other raised an eyebrow. "I highly doubt that. You have nearly died here since your arrival."
Harry let out a prolonged sigh and thought for a moment. "The Gryffindor common room."
Tom nodded. "Picture the common room. Think of everything you can about it. Close your eyes." Harry did as instructed. "Once you do, think of all your memories and yourself inside it. No one else can enter unless you let them."
Tom's voice was soothing as Harry attempted to concentrate on the task at hand. He opened his eyes and nodded.
"Ready?" Tom asked.
He nodded again, not trusting his voice. When he felt the pull at the memories this time, it was easier to pull it back. It still took effort, but it not nearly as painful as the tug-of-war with Tom had been moments before. Eventually, Tom let out a breath.
"Good," He praised. "Better. Focus on that and eventually, I won't be able to pull at any memories." Harry nodded again, letting his head drop into his hands.
"I suppose being distracted now is allowed," Tom said, his voice holding a sly tone to it.
"Why?" Harry asked, looking back up at the other.
"It's Valentine's Day, love."
Harry didn't have time to react before Tom was on him and he could focus on nothing but lips, hands, teeth, and skin.
A firework exploded directly in front of Draco as the Malfoy heir flew through the air during the Slytherin Quidditch practice. The blond screamed, a rather girl-ish scream in Harry's opinion, as he toppled off his broom. He wasn't far off the ground and the fall didn't hurt him, but he was dazed and as he stood, his teammates were laughing and snickering to various degrees. Harry was in the stands watching the whole thing hoping he was giving an air of innocence. It didn't work well though as Draco's face suddenly turned from an embarrassed red to an angry red.
Fortunately, Harry left before anyone could catch him. Unfortunately, Draco knew exactly where he was going. He was in the Room of Requirement seconds before the Malfoy heir stormed in with conflicting emotions flashing across his face.
"I know we agreed that something had to be done so that people didn't think you and I were too close of friends but my god, Harry!" Draco threw his hands up. "You could have killed me."
"And you could have killed Ron."
Draco froze. "I thought-"
"I didn't forgive you." Harry reminded him.
Draco nodded and looked down at his feet.
"But I do now." The blond's head shot back up. "You didn't kill Ron and in the end, you're doing the right thing. Helping me. Besides," Harry made eye contact with Draco. "I think you're taking it out on yourself more than I could ever do." Harry walked closer to Draco and when they were right next to each other, he moved closer to the blond until he was right next to his ear. "And that wouldn't have killed you. It was the same one used on Umbridge."
He heard Draco suck in a breath but didn't stick around to evaluate the meaning behind it.
"Where are we going?" Ron asked Hermione.
"I don't know." She answered honestly. "Point Me, Harry Potter." Her wand began to twitch in her hand and eventually landed in a direction that was distinctly not north.
"How did-" Ron began but he cut himself off.
Around them, others began to gather most of whom were DA members.
"We have to find Harry," Hermione announced.
"And we have no idea what we're walking into," Ron muttered bitterly but Hermione nodded along, a part of her acknowledging the precarious situation Harry had left them in. Though part of her wondered if Harry even knew where he was going until he got there. The night before, they had watched as the name Harry Potter disappeared completely off the Marauder's Map and didn't reappear.
I need you to come find me in the morning.
That's what Harry had said to her and it was morning now.
"In the morning," Ron had whispered as he watched Harry disappear out the door and the three left behind shared a look as though they worried they could never see the raven-haired wizard again.
The night had been long as Hermione, Ron, and Ginny watched Dumbledore's body drop from the Astronomy tower, completely lifeless. Someone had screamed, maybe it was Hermione herself, she couldn't remember. She did remember the battle though. Spells flew here and there as Snape and Malfoy fled the castle, leaving shambles behind them. At one point, Hermione thought she saw a coin in Draco's hand, similar to the ones the DA had used and that Harry had left in her care previously, but then the flash vanished and she thought she imagined it. Mourners crowded Dumbledore's body but Hermione couldn't bring herself to look, nor could she bring herself to look at the Dark Mark that hung ominously above the tower before it was eventually driven away.
Now, the mourners were gone and it was only the DA readying themselves to find their missing Chosen One. Hermione was certain that when Professor McGonagall swept her way from the castle, she had come to stop them. Instead, she told them to follow her and they found themselves on the long bridge that extended across a valley between Hogwarts and the surrounding world. On the other side were various members of the Order of the Phoenix.
"If you're going to find Mr. Potter, you will need help." Never before had Hermione been so tempted to hug a professor. But she nodded and gave her thanks and then they were gone.
When they came to the place where Hermione's wand stopped twitching, they found rubble and very annoyed peacocks.
Snape and Draco, along with the remaining Death Eaters from Hogwarts, had beaten them there but the Death Eaters were all on the ground, unconscious. Draco was on his knees, staring at the ruin before him.
"There were wards here," Bill Weasley whispered. "I can feel them. But they're gone now."
"Yes, whatever did that." Tonks nodded toward the rubble ahead of them, "That was dark magic. Enough to destroy wards."
There was silence as they approached the pair standing near the wreckage. Then, as if the approaching footsteps had awoken the Malfoy heir from his shock, he leaped to his feet.
"Potter!" He yelled, cupping his mouth. "Potter! HARRY!"
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Chapter 33: The Ruin of Malfoy Manor
Draco knew where they were going as they headed there. The moment he and Snape left the grounds of Hogwarts he knew they were going to Malfoy Manor. He dreaded the journey mostly because he wasn't certain of what he would find on the other end. He knew there were only two realistic possibilities: Voldemort would be dead and the Death Eaters with them would kill Harry or Harry would be captured and tortured. Since Harry had told him his plan, he was certain the only place the other would be headed was the manor. Voldemort had commandeered the place not long after his resurrection but especially after Lucius had been captured. Draco knew that if his father returned, Voldemort would become even worse in his torment over the Malfoys. His aunt hadn't minded — loved it even — but she was captured over the break by the Order. Then it was just his mother and himself with Voldemort until he returned to Hogwarts. Until...
The strangest thing happened. Harry Potter showed up and suddenly knew everything, and he wasn't so alone anymore. He could barely even share with Crabbe and Goyle and their parents were Death Eaters too. But Potter somehow knew everything. Draco didn't bother to ask how Harry knew after the first day. He just suddenly had someone there who made sure he knew he wasn't alone. He hated Saint Potter, he tried to tell himself but really he couldn't, not anymore. Harry had just been there, keeping his mind off the impending doom he faced if he failed. They would squabble about stupid things but ultimately Draco had never felt like he had a friend more in his life than he did after Harry had walked into the Room of Requirement that first day. He wasn't the friend that his parent expected him to have, like Crabbe and Goyle, he was a friend that Draco had wanted since the first day; since they met Madam Malkin's.
He didn't understand how his life had gotten into the twisted mess that it was now. He collapsed at the sight of his childhood home in ruin, smoke still billowing from the rubble in front of him. He barely heard as Snape attacked the other Death Eaters, barely heard as his godfather asked him question after question about what had happened, barely heard the peacocks screaming, and barely heard the voices behind him. Of all the things that snapped him out of the shock of the disaster in front of him, it was footsteps. He didn't know how many were behind him, but he could hear them walking toward him across the rocks in what was left of the courtyard.
It was more of an automatic reaction that caused him to leap to his feet, but he was completely aware of the next one that caused him to cup his hands around his mouth and begin screaming.
"Potter. Potter! HARRY!"
Other voices joined his as he yelled, screaming into the unresponsive ash and rubble before him. Or so he thought.
The rubble began to shift slightly and Draco felt his voice catch in his throat. The rubble shifted again and then the ground shook. The rubble shifted slightly and then it shook again and exploded upward. Dust filled the area and he found himself coughing and staring at a newly formed hole in the ground. A figure moved and started to climb out of the newly formed hole and Draco felt his feet moving before he could react. He grabbed the hand the gripped the edge and hauled the person upward to find emerald eyes blinking in the light of the morning.
"Potter," Draco sighed relief flooding through him. He couldn't help himself when he wrapped his arms around Harry as he sat up only to find the other laughing as he hugged him back.
"If only you could see everyone's faces." Harry's voice was quiet and gruff as if he hadn't used it in a long time.
Draco pulled himself away only to slap Harry's arm. "You mad fool! What were you thinking?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Snape's voice cut through whatever — likely sarcastic — comment Harry was about to reply with.
Draco was struck by the intensity of Harry's green eyes when he turned them on the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
"Voldemort is dead."
Harry gasped under the rubble of Malfoy Manor. He felt like he was breathing acid as he inhaled, coughing as he did. He was in total darkness with only his own breathing for company. For a moment, he thought he was buried alive. Then it all came back to him. Voldemort. The Fiendfyre. Tom.
He had to get out. He had to find Tom. If- Harry mentally shook himself. He couldn't think on if's. He just needed to escape the rubble prison he was in. He mentally cursed himself for bringing down the entirety of Malfoy Manor on his own head. If he thought Voldemort was dramatic then Harry was definitely his equal in brilliant but ultimately self-destructive plots. He also cursed the Malfoys for owning such a grandiose house. Honestly, who needed so much space. There were three of them, four if Bellatrix was there. Harry found his wand in the darkness and thought of how to escape the ruin that settled above him, deciding on Bombarda Maxima. The first time, the ground shook. The second time it was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. The rubble above him exploded and he could see the daylight.
He let his eyes adjust slightly before beginning to climb upward only to be hauled the last bit and very suddenly pulled into the arms of a frazzled looking Draco Malfoy. There was such a relief to his voice that Harry could hardly believe they had spent nearly five years fighting each other. They were just friends greeting each other after an incredibly difficult night. He knew Draco need the hug as much as Harry did when he pulled the Malfoy heir into his arms only to see a wide variety of shocked faces over the blond's shoulder. He couldn't help the laugh that escaped his lips, especially at the look on Snape's face. He desperately wished for a camera or a way to freeze time because there was nothing more enjoyable to him than the look of shock, horror, and disgust that sat firmly on the face of Severus Snape.
"You mad fool!" Draco exclaimed at him when he pulled away, slapping his arm. "What were you thinking?"
Harry was going to reply with a comment about not thinking but Snape drew his attention, echoing Draco's sentiment.
"Voldemort is dead." It was more than just Voldemort too. Harry couldn't hear the horcrux inside his own head anymore, stirring and whimpering in pain from the curse Harry had taken from Hermione.
"Dead?" Tonks asked as the various members of the Order and the DA came closer to the three near the destroyed Malfoy Manor. "Are you certain?"
Harry turned toward the rubble and felt his heart sink as he did. He had climbed out but there was no way Voldemort could have. Harry had seen the Fiendfyre consume him, it wasn't a pretty sight. He knew of all the things that would haunt his nightmares in the future, that would be one of them. But Harry was the only one to climb out of the rubble. Voldemort hadn't followed and neither had any of the other horcruxes, not that Harry had been particularly worried about most of them except for Nagini. Harry reached for where the locket would have been around his neck only to find the space empty and a hollow feeling settled inside him.
His hand dropped away from his chest. "Dead."
"Harry," Hermione knelt in front of him and he turned to meet her eyes. "How did-" She turned toward the rubble next to them.
"How did I do it? Or how did I survive?"
She turned back to him. "Both."
"Fiendfyre." He answered, hearing various people suck in breaths around him, though he ignored them. He knew why. He knew Fiendfyre was dark magic, but it was one of the few things that could kill horcruxes and it was implausible that he could stab every horcrux and Voldemort with a basilisk tooth and live. "As far as how I survived," He turned back toward the rubble. "I was never going to be the one to die. Voldemort made certain of that."
He knew the others were uncertain how to answer as he stood, dusting himself off of ash and dirt from the house he dropped on his own head. He ran a hand through his hair, feeling the ends singed and he sighed to himself.
"We should leave," He said finally into the silence. "The Death Eaters from Azkaban will be here any minute. There's still more to do. Even with Bellatrix and Fenrir out of the way and Voldemort dead, some won't go without a fight."
He flashed an apologetic look at Draco who gave a grim nod. "He's right. My father might not be a problem and my mother never wanted this life but there are others who will still fight until they think the cause is lost." Draco paused. "Or dead."
Harry ignored Snape's stares as the man attempted to decipher him. He wasn't in the mood to play the professor's games.
"Can I just ask," Bill Weasley cut through Harry's chaotic thoughts. "I thought you two hated each other-" Bill let the rest of the question hang in the air as the rest of Harry's friends looked pointedly at him.
"Oh I hate him," Harry muttered sarcastically. "He's a self-righteous git."
"And he's arrogant," Draco waved his hand flippantly at Harry. "The Chosen One." Draco mocked, feigning disgust.
Harry could only keep his face serious for a moment before a smile started to pull at his lips and Draco wasn't far behind.
"However," Harry said, fighting away the smile and turning to Draco. "You do owe some apologies."
He turned away as Draco nodded, his face dropping dramatically as he turned to face Hermione. Harry didn't stay to listen to the Malfoy heir stumble through an apology but instead moved closer to the rubble, needing to be alone for a moment. He could hear the voices behind him, but they blurred into noise as he stared at the smoking ruin before him. He felt more than heard someone approach him and the two of them stood in silence, looking over the damage Harry had done.
"You really are your father's son," Snape muttered, though he was lacking his usual contempt.
"Why? Because my mother wouldn't have killed?" He turned his head slightly to look at the professor next to him. "Or does it only count when it's not mercy?" Snape's eyes flared with something but Harry stopped him before he could say anything else. "Yes, I know what you did." He turned to face the professor completely. "I know everything you did. My father's son." Harry paused. "But I have my mother's eyes."
Harry left the professor, knowing he was crueler than he needed to be but he felt more alone than he ever had and part of him blamed Snape for it.
It felt like forever staring at the rubble before someone came to get him. Ron and Hermione approached him and the three of them stood shoulder to shoulder, looking at the ruin of Malfoy Manor.
"Harry," Hermione said gently, "It's time."
Harry nodded, the last bit of hope he had fading away.
He coughed. He actually coughed and he could have cried with joy at the feeling. The dirt and ash around him suffocating him but he was actually able to cough it out. He was able to feel the rubble against him as he shifted. He was able to feel the air that he breathed and he laughed. He laughed at the bitter irony of the fact that he might die of suffocation but also that he could die. He started to push his way forward but nothing shifted before he sighed with frustration. Pushing his way out was useless, he knew this. So, how would he escape his dark, ashy prison?
He pulled his magic inward toward his core and felt it curling and twisting much like a snake readying to lunge. He let it build and tense and then with an exhale he shot it outward, throwing the rubble off him with all his might. Daylight pierced his eyes as the rubble evaporated in the air. He pulled his magic back toward himself and used it to pull himself upward toward the ledge he could see, setting himself down on solid ground. Around him, various witches and wizards stood, all faces he knew though not many knew him. None, in fact, but one.
Harry had been walking away before the dramatic explosion rocked the ground, knocking them all over before it evaporated the rubble of the Malfoy Manor. He thought there might have been recognition in Severus's eyes but he could hardly bring himself to care as he watched the brilliant emerald eyes of Harry Potter go from deadened to ecstatic in a second.
Wands were drawn, aiming for him, but Harry was faster, first shielding him with magic and then his own body.
"No!" Harry exclaimed and he could feel Harry's presence near him. "Not him. He's not a threat."
He wanted to laugh. Not a threat. But he put his hands up placatingly and stayed behind Harry.
"Harry," Ron's voice was guarded. "Who is that?"
Though he wasn't supposed to know this was Ronald Weasley. Or the girl next to him was Hermione Granger. Harry's best friends. Or that Draco Malfoy was also eyeing him as if he were a threat to Harry.
"It's a long story," Harry muttered before turning away from the various witches and wizards and placing a hand on his arm.
He could feel him. He could feel the warmth. Before he could feel nothing in any sense of the word and now he could feel. He wanted desperately to pull Harry closer and kiss him, to see what feelings would come of that. He wanted to feel more but the look in Harry's eyes pinned him in place.
"Tom." Harry breathed, relief flooding from him.
"Harry," Tom whispered back.
Harry blinked at the bright white light around him. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust before he realized he was lacking the normal pressure of his glasses. Harry blinked again into the white surroundings, noticing he could see everything perfectly.
An agonized moan caught his attention, forcing him to finally move from the spot he had been rooted to. He approached a bench and knelt, seeing for the first time a bloodied, curled up figure in the shadow of the bench. Another agonized moan escaped their lips and Harry finally realized what he was looking at.
He found himself backing away, leaving the horcrux in agony under the bench. Footsteps echoed around him. He turned, attempting to identify the source of the new noise only to lock eyes with Dumbledore.
He looked completely healthy, his hand healed and his eyes sparkling as they always had when he talked to Harry.
“Dumbledore.” Harry let out a breath and approached his headmaster.
Together they walked side by side in silence until they approached another bench, far away from the agonized horcrux.
“Where would you say we are, Harry?” Dumbledore asked, folding his hands in front of him and looking around them.
Harry studied his environment, noting the pillars and train tracks. “King’s Cross.” Harry paused. “Only cleaner.”
Dumbledore chuckled slightly and hummed. “I see.”
“Do you know?” Harry asked after a moment.
“Know?” Dumbledore asked and Harry could suddenly feel his sparkling blue eyes settled on his face.
“About Tom.” He turned to face the older man.
“Yes,” Dumbledore answered softly. “And I think, where I failed, you succeeded.” Harry opened his mouth to respond but the other continued. “It seems you and Tom where two sides of the same coin. He needed love and you wanted it. And it was something that I failed to see.” Dumbledore stroked his beard. “I cannot fault you for seeing the best in others, even those who consider themselves your enemy.”
Harry could see a haunted look in Dumbledore’s eye but it was gone as quickly as it came.
“A pair of thick, woolen socks,” He murmured, much to Harry’s confusion.
It took Harry a long moment before he finally remembered what Dumbledore had once said about the Mirror of Erised.
“You don’t see thick, woolen socks, do you?” Harry asked.
“No. I don’t.” Dumbledore confirmed before giving Harry a slight pat on his arm.
“What do I do now?” Harry asked, noticing Dumbledore’s sadness and quickly changing the conversation.
“Well,” Dumbledore hummed, returning to his normal self. “I suppose that is up to you. King’s Cross, you say?” Dumbledore looked around them. “If you so wish, you could board a train.”
“Where would it take me?” Harry asked, looking at the track in front of him.
Harry thought for a second and somewhere behind him, the horcrux moaned.
“Tom.” He whispered. “I can’t. Even if-“ He cut himself off. “I can’t leave my friends. I can’t leave everyone I care about. I can’t leave everyone at the mercy of the rest of the Death Eaters.”
“No one would fault you for moving on. You have given enough.” Dumbledore’s eyes rested on him.
For a moment, the faces of those he had lost flashed before his eyes and eventually, he met Dumbledore’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Harry’s voice was near breaking. “I never meant-“
“You have nothing to apologize for.” Dumbledore rested a hand on his shoulder. “Remember, help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
Tom sat across from Harry, studying the younger man. Harry’s wild hair flew in every possible direction and his emerald eyes were focused on the writing in front of him.
“Are you sure this will work?” Harry asked, lifting his emerald eyes to meet Tom’s.
Tom hummed and moved closer to the other. “Yes, I’m certain.”
He was close enough to Harry that he should have been able to feel the heat coming off the other’s body but he felt nothing. Internally, he frowned. Should everything work out the way he planned, this would be a non-issue. He would feel everything. The warmth, the cold, the feel of Harry Potter next to him.
“Explain it to me again,” Harry demanded, pinning him with his vibrant eyes. Tom let out an exasperated sigh that he didn’t mean but it was worth it to see the crease that formed on Harry’s forehead.
“He returned using a very specific spell. One we invented. Therefore the only one who can find a loophole in it is me. A piece of me already exists in a living form.” Harry nodded; his eyes intently focused on Tom in front of him. Tom suspected that if he could feel, he would be struck by the intensity of the wizard in front of him. “So, what you’re going to do is commandeer it. One of altering ingredients is your blood.”
Tom grabbed Harry’s hand, pulling it closer to himself and turning the other’s palm upward.
“He used your blood to avoid your mother’s protection but only ensured it’s longevity. And my own. Your blood will be the main ingredient in stealing his rebirth and giving it to me.” Tom pulled Harry’s hand to his mouth, kissing his palm gently. “All you need to do is give me a little of your blood. I will do the rest.”
“Can I trust you?” Harry asked, his eyes betraying every emotion flying through his mind.
“Yes,” Tom answered, folding Harry’s hand back onto itself as if he were clenching Tom’s kiss in his fist.
“I want to.”
“Then trust me, my love.”
Harry studied him and it was almost as if he could see the exact moment in which Harry had finally made up his mind about Tom. A hardness fell in place behind his eyes and he focused completely on Tom.
He pulled Harry closer and kissed him, wishing not for the first time that he could feel Harry against him.
As Harry fell asleep on him that night, Tom ran a hand through his wild, black hair. Harry slept on Tom’s chest while he held him, guarding him against anything that would threaten to harm him in the night.
Severus walked around the room as his students focused on each other. Their faces would almost be comical if any of them could actually complete the task at hand. They had been set to finally use their various defensive spells non-verbally and it was proving a horrible failure. For most.
As he expected, Hermione Granger mastered the task first. His heart ached at seeing a Muggleborn surpass her pure-blood peers. Her eyes lit up with joy as she sent Ron Weasley flying across the room without a sound. His only compliment was to tell the youngest Weasley boy to stop his grumbling and to block the oncoming attack.
He pretended to ignore the muttering behind him.
No, the surprise did not come with who first mastered non-verbal magic. The first surprise came when neither Harry Potter nor Draco Malfoy attempted to kill each other the moment they were paired together. The second came when Harry Potter was the second the master the non-verbal spells.
He expected his godson to start bickering the moment he hit the ground, but instead, he groaned on the impact, picked himself up, and focused his wand back on Potter.
Eventually, Draco’s frustration got the better of him and he spoke his spell aloud and was easily blocked by the other boy.
Severus expected blood. None came.
Draco just shrugged and grinned before the two of them readied themselves again.
He was certain he was dreaming.
Harry and Tom walked side by side in King’s Cross Station. Ron and Hermione were elsewhere, likely glued together but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care. After the events at Malfoy Manor and the inquisition that had followed, Harry had finally, subtly, pushed Hermione and Ron together.
Harry knew that quite a few people were still skeptical about the story he and Tom had spun about Tom’s existence. The lie was simplistic enough. They claimed that Tom was the son of Bellatrix and Voldemort. It was enough to explain why Tom looked so much like a young Voldemort. Tom explained that it was he who had fed Harry information after he had learned of what his father had done during Harry’s fifth year. They explained that they had grown close over the summer between Harry’s fifth and sixth year and when the time had come, Tom had helped in the ultimate takedown of his megalomaniac father.
The story satisfied a few but left most skeptical. Remus and Moody never took their eyes off Tom, and Hermione and Ron seemed determined to pry the truth from him when they were alone. Harry hated the lie. It was just one more thing he wasn’t telling his friends. He never told him about the horcruxes or that he was one, and now he wasn’t telling them the truth about Tom.
Yet every time he convinced himself he should, a part of him talked himself down. As far as everyone knew, Voldemort was dead. The rest of the Death Eaters had either surrendered or were imprisoned, and support for Voldemort died quickly. If there was even a whisper that Voldemort, in any form, was still alive, the consequences would be far-reaching.
Now, however, he didn’t focus on that. For once, life seemed better. Hermione and Ron were happy. Ginny and Dean worked out their differences and eventually parted amicably. Ginny didn’t seem too upset and eventually started growing closer to more classmates, including Luna.
As he and Tom walked through King’s Cross, their hands brushed together. Tom reached out and grabbed him, their hands clasping together. In the distance, he could see the Dursleys in their car, not even bothering to get out to greet him.
Harry stopped the sigh that threatened to escape his lips. As he looked at them, Tom stopped, jerking Harry to a stop next to him by their linked hands.
Tom was also looking at the Dursleys ahead of them, disgust plain on his face. He eventually shifted his dark eyes from them and to Harry’s face.
“Come with me.” Tom’s voice was soft but determined. “Harry, come with me. You don’t have to go back there. You’re no longer in danger. You don’t need your mother’s protection anymore.” Tom pulled him closer until their chests were nearly touching. People pushed past them and voices echoed around them but Harry could hardly bring himself to care.
Harry turned to look at the Dursleys car again, seeing his uncle look at him with disgust and his cousin’s face turn downright sinister at the view before them.
“Give me a moment.”
Harry left his trunk and Hedwig next to Tom as he turned toward the car which held his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He let out a breath and walked over slowly before rounding the car and knocking on the window where his aunt sat. She glared at him as he gestured for her to stand from the car. Eventually, she obliged though she seemed ready to start screaming the moment she did.
Harry shut the door, cutting them off from Vernon and Dudley Dursley.
“I just wanted to say goodbye, Aunt Petunia.”
His aunt spluttered for a moment.
“It’s all right.” He said quietly, looking her over. “Just go home. And so will I.”
He turned to leave, feeling for the first time that a terrible weight was lifted off his shoulders when a voice drifted to his ears.
“Goodbye, Harry Potter.” His aunt’s voice was quiet and held a soft note that she had never offered him before.
They parted ways, Petunia going back to her life with Vernon and Dudley and Harry walking through the station toward Tom.
“Harry?” Hermione asked, stopping him as she walked to her parents. “Where are you going?”
Harry looked over Hermione’s shoulder to where Tom was waiting.
Thank all of you for your dedication to this story. I enjoyed writing it and reading all your comments on it. I hope you enjoyed the last chapter and that I didn't disappoint.