Actions

Work Header

i give you all of me (all of you)

Chapter Text

It starts with a searing pain and a flash of bright light.

Lord Voldemort had made Horcruxes before. He made six previously, each whittling away at his remaining soul. When he decided to initiate the process, using the death of Myrtle Warren to pour half his soul into an old diary, he could never have imagined the pain.

He had done his research, of course, but while the textbooks had spoke of the excruciating cost of creating a Horcrux, Lord Voldemort had been more focused on other matters.

Immortality.

He would have paid any price. He had paid the ultimate price. Still, he went on, creating more Horcruxes than anyone else would have dared to. He alone would be superior in this endeavor, just like any other feat he set his mind to.

Lord Voldemort did not fail.

Still, he must have forgotten the true pain of it all. The last Horcrux he remembers making was... Nagini. Yes, he remembers having the idea of creating a living vessel to harbor his soul, thought her natural intuition would protect him even further than that of an inanimate object.

A searing pain and a flash of light are all he remembers. And this, he muses, pacing the confines of the dark prison he finds himself in.

Lord Voldemort does not make mistakes.

But he must have, to end up wherever he has. He has no magic, no idea where he is, and no clue how he ended up here. He feels more clear-headed than he has in years and with nothing to do, sets his mind towards figuring out this puzzle.

Eventually, he comes to the realization that he, himself, is a Horcrux. Which is both worrying and pleasing, in a way. Lord Voldemort never would have guessed his Horcruxes were sentient. Could think for themselves. Seeing as he is sentient, and fairly certain he has become a Horcrux, he decides this must be the case.

Secondly, Lord Voldemort realizes he is clear of mind because he is no longer linked to his physical form. Without the cloud of insanity and paranoia over his mind, he is able to think through the actual mechanics of tearing one’s soul apart.

If half his soul went into the diary, his first creation, he would have already become unstable by half afterwards. Instead of pausing to think through the consequences of such dark magic, he had proceeded to use more, high on the effects of the potent magic.

Gradually, his whole soul was whittled down, half by half by half until barely a fragment of his true soul remained.

Lord Voldemort guesses this would be hard for anyone to remain sane through. Now that he’s been carved away from the main portion of his soul, he feels more stable, as counterintuitive as that is.

He would spend more time on that train of thought, but before he can, the area around him begins to come to life, lighting up in a series of brilliant arcs. He is bathed in gold light, and he seems remarkably similar to how he appeared the night he was created.

He snaps his fingers, attempting to cast a wordless Lumos, pleasantly surprised with the gold sparks that glitter across his hand. He must be in a magical vessel for him to retain some of his magic.

Lord Voldemort is then taken by (rare) surprise when the space in front of his eyes opens up, like a window into the real world. He is, or they are, he supposes, laying on the ground, staring up at a dark ceiling.

He tries to exert power over his new form, something he assumes is similar to a type of possession, but he is unable to lift a pinky. He feels like a tiny consciousness in the sea of someone else’s mind.

A noise startles him out of his concentration. It sounds... like crying. A crying baby. It is a sound Lord Voldemort unfortunately remembers from his time at the Muggle orphanage but had thought he had put behind him.

It is a frightening realization that he is trapped in the head of a child. They are in what looks like a broom cupboard of some sort, as Lord Voldemort can see cleaning supplies at the periphery of the child’s vision.

His mood darkens further when there is a banging on either the wall or the door. “Quiet down in there, girl,” a nasal female voice screeches.

This only serves to upset the child more, and she raises her crying to a screech in return. The girl rolls over onto her stomach, and Lord Voldemort can feel the full-body sobs starting to wrack their way through her, their, body.

His suspicions were correct, because with the new position, he can see buckets and a mop in front of them, as well as the crack of light that marks the door. There are thunderous footsteps coming down from above them (they’re under the stairs, he assumes), followed by the sound of a latch being unlocked.

Light floods into the small cupboard, followed by the shadow of a massive figure. Before Lord Voldemort can prepare himself, they are lifted up into the air and turned so they are face to face with a pudgy, red face with a trembling walrus mustache.

The man, looking furious, takes them out of the cupboard and drops them unceremoniously into a high chair. The girl is still screaming at the top of her lungs, pausing only to heave great breaths.

“I thought Petunia told you to be quiet,” he hollers, over her screaming. Lord Voldemort is morbidly fascinated by this, emotion mingling with a slowly burning fury at the way he is indirectly being treated.

The fat man slams a hand down on the table, close to the girl’s head, and he feels a tremor of fear run through the child. She freezes, quiets, a more vulnerable kind of crying beginning, slow and silent.

“Mama,” the girl chokes out, and Lord Voldemort can feel the fat tears run their way down her cheeks. “Papa,” she says again, working herself back up to a sob.

The fat man slams his hand against the wall again, turning beady eyes onto them. Lord Voldemort recognizes the glint in his eyes as one that promises violence and hopes that this is not the kind of man who would strike a child. A baby, no less.

He points a thick, sausage-like finger at them, mustache quivering. “Those freaks got what they deserved,” he snarls. A strange absence of feeling swells over Lord Voldemort and he wonders if the girl can understand what this man is telling her.

She falls silent, not even sniffling. Something that feels like confusion billows in her chest. “Mama? Papa?” She asks again, and Lord Voldemort has to commend her for her bravery in the sight of this fat oaf. Muggles, he’s already reasoned, but there is a niggling thought at the back of his mind which has caused dread to pool within him.

The fat man comes even closer, eyes narrowed. “They’re dead!” He’s shouting now, and Lord Voldemort can see the shape of a thin woman in the doorway behind him, but she makes no move to intervene. “Just what their freakishness got them, and just what it’ll get you unless we can beat it out of you.”

Lord Voldemort frowns. The truth and the blackness of his memories are coming into shape. The fat man finally turns away from them. “Honestly,” he says, to the woman who is fully in the light. “She’s lucky we didn’t drop her off at an orphanage, like we should have.”

The woman makes a noise of agreement, although she looks faint. “Here,” she says, showing her husband something Lord Voldemort can’t see. “The funeral is next week.”

She sounds oddly hushed and apprehensive. “Petunia,” he says. “You want to go? All of those people will be there.”

The woman sighs heavily. “I know, Vernon.” Lord Voldemort preens at the names. Finally, a start to plotting their demise. “But Lily was my sister before she started consorting with those freaks.”

And, in the way waves crash on the shore, realization crashes into Lord Voldemort. A dead witch named Lily with Muggle relatives and an orphaned daughter. He hopes it isn’t true, hopes that even Fate wouldn’t be so cruel as to make his last and final Horcrux Harry Potter.

As if she could hear his thoughts, the girl let out a scream and kicked her legs fiercly, little hands balled into fists. Both of the Muggles turned towards her, the fat one with a look of mingled disgust and fury and the woman with warring pain and hatred. Maybe, Lord Voldemort mused, she hated her niece for the living reminder of her dead sister.

The fat one, Vernon, as the woman had called him, moved towards the girl with his fist raised. Petunia seemed to war with herself, before she moved forward and grabbed Vernon by the arm. “Stop,” she hisses. “She’s just a baby, what will the neighbors say?”

Lord Voldemort’s fury was fanned by the comment, bursting into flames. He wasn’t sure if his emotions were seeping into the girl’s, but she seemed especially reactive to his anger. The pitch of her scream increased, her fists clenched harder, and before anyone in the room could react, all the lightbulbs in the kitchen shattered.

He wasn’t easily impressed, but there was something about the intensity of her accidental magic outburst that had him second guessing himself. The girl might be worth his attention, on her own accord rather than based in her status as one of his Horcruxes.

The Muggles had jumped with the sudden noise, and they both froze for a moment, as if judging the room. Almost faster than he could see, Petunia moved forward. There was a loud smack, and the girl’s head whipped to the side.

A dull pain radiated through Lord Voldemort’s awareness and he knew the child must be feeling a stinging pain where she’d been struck, no stranger to this kind of punishment. For the first time in years, he felt empathy for another person, could see the way her childhood was shaping up to be like his. He tried to calm the child before she was beaten any worse, but couldn’t tell if it had any impact.

She started to cry again, silently this time, and he found himself cursing whatever entity had let him be stuck in the body of a baby.

Roughly grabbing her around the middle, Vernon carted the girl out of the highchair. He deposited her roughly back on the ground of the cupboard, without food or a new diaper, and slammed the door shut. As he walked away, Lord Voldemort could hear him mumble under his breath. “Filthy fucking Potters,” he said, unaware of listeners.

As the darkness settles back in around them, he resigns himself to spending a longer time than he’d like in the mind of his prophesied rival.

At least until he can figure out a way out of her.

 

The one thing Lord Voldemort hadn’t counted on was just how vile Muggles could be. He remembers, in a vague sense, the cruelty of Muggles towards what they didn’t understand. The years apart from them has dulled the sting of their actions and turned it into something that could have happened to another child.

If it weren’t for the fact the Dursleys loathe their niece. Harry seems to do well as a baby, unable to talk or walk or generally infuriate her relatives. It isn’t until she hits toddler age, two and a half, when everything really hits the fan.

Part of the problem, Lord Voldemort muses as they lick their wounds, is Harry’s cousin. Dudley, when not begging for attention from his mother, actively attempts to torture her. He wasn’t sure at first, whether the boy’s actions were intentional or not, but at this point, he thinks they are far, far past that.

Harry is long past crying at her family’s actions. For one so young, she has learned eerily quick that tears have no effect on their actions. Instead, they only seem to make the repercussions more severe. Harry learned this particular lesson when, a few months ago, Petunia had slammed the cupboard door shut on Harry’s foot, causing the child to scream in pain and anger. Instead of ignoring Harry, her aunt opened the door, slapped her across the face, and told her to quiet down, before relocking the door.

At least her aunt and uncle have stopped physically beating her, across the face, unable to hide Harry away in the house away from the neighbors’ prying eyes all the time. Lord Voldemort thinks the girl is too young to appreciate this, but he does, for the both of them.

The cousin on the other hand... Lord Voldemort has had time to think about which of Harry’s miserable relatives he’s going to kill first in the past year and a half he’s been stuck in her mind with no one to talk to. At first, he was going to kill the uncle, seeing as the fat man hated Harry with a vengeance and was particularly awful to them.

Dudley’s actions today may have saved his father from that gruesome fate, he thinks, feeling the way pain is shooting up their arm.

Harry’s sitting on the floor of her, their, cupboard, cradling her arm. It’s broken at the wrist, and he can feel the way she takes in deep, shuddering breaths to control herself. He can also feel her emotions, although they’re muted like he’s underwater. Anger and pain are most prevalent. Every movement of her arm jostles the wrist and sends her into a new bout of agony.

Dudley, in his quest to make his cousin’s life a living hell, had decided it would be enjoyable to push her when she was coming down the stairs. Not only had she landed wrongly on her arm, leading to her broken bones, she had also crashed into an old table that, apparently, Petunia adored, and broke a vase.

Which led to them being locked under the cupboard, injuries ignored in favor of Dudley, who had started wailing, crocodile tears leaking out of the corner of his eyes when the vase broke. He remembers being bullied at the orphanage, but Harry’s life is shaping up to be much worse.

Lord Voldemort would feel bad for her, but he’s mostly concerned with his own safety, at this point. He’s not sure what having a human Horcrux entails, but he’s fairly certain if she dies, he dies. And, just based on the way her Muggle family is treating her, they’re headed towards an early grave.

The girl, still holding onto her wrist, moves to get onto the rickety bed her relatives were so gracious to grant her, and tries to get comfortable. Lord Voldemort can tell the exact moment she drifts off into an uneasy sleep, and does his best to soothe her with the little magic he’s managed to recover. He’s unfortunately discovered that sleep is impossible in this state, and his resentment towards his original soul deepens.

He wonders absently, in the hazy hours between Harry’s sleep and consciousness, if this is how the rest of his Horcruxes feel. If so, he thinks his main soul is lucky they essentially have no power of their own, otherwise he’d have an uprising on his hands. It amuses Lord Voldemort to think of seven separate versions of himself, from young Tom Riddles, to budding Dark Lords and himself, set loose on the world.

He’s daydreaming about a world in which he won his war and got the honor of personally eviscerating Albus Dumbledore and therefore misses Harry waking up. She’s moving now, he realizes, and there’s a surprising lack of pain emanating from her side of the mind. The girl is sitting up, flexing her hand, and a sliver of delight shoots through his awareness.

Her emotions are much more potent when she’s happy, he discovers. It must have taken him this long to discover since she’s so rarely given a reason to be happy, what with her miserable living situation. The source of her joy, he realizes, is her unbroken wrist. While she slept, her magic must have compensated for her pain and healed her.

They’re left locked in the cupboard for half the day, but Harry is so delighted she doesn’t even notice. Lord Voldemort goes back to imagining ways he’ll kill Dumbledore, a warm pleased feeling inside of him at the idea of his host’s resilience.

 

It turns out, forcing a young child into almost total isolation, turns them silent and somber, later on in life. Lord Voldemort remembers himself as a quiet child, but he thinks it was mainly because his company was so lacking. Still, the primary teacher leaning down in front of Harry looks skeptical. He guesses Harry must not look the way she expected.

She stands up straight, turns to look at the aunt, who’s standing behind Harry with a sharply taloned hand on her shoulder. “When you came to enroll Harry Potter, I thought she would be... well, a boy.” He feels a strand of irritation run down Harry’s spine, but she stays silent. Petunia’s hand tightens minutely on their shoulder.

“Her parents named her Harry,” Petunia says, in lieu of an explanation. “Horrid name, if you ask me. At least she looks girl enough.” The teacher is nodding along in understanding, and they both look down at Harry at those words.

“Just Harry?” The teacher asks, and Petunia makes a noise of agreement. “Well, it won’t be a problem. The kids will probably need some time to get used to her, but it won’t be a big deal.” She bends down in front of them again. “Ready for your first day, Harry?”

Harry must smile, and he feels them nod, because the teacher’s face brightens. She stands back up, and replaces Petunia’s claw-like grip with her own. “I’ll see you on Sunday for tea, Petunia,” she calls over her shoulder. “Tell Vernon hello from me,” and she leads Harry into the classroom.

About thirty minutes into the school day, Lord Voldemort realizes he would rather lose to Albus Dumbledore than sit through the first year of primary school again, and promptly tunes out of Harry’s actions.

When he starts paying attention again, Harry’s on the run from Dudley and the small band of goons he’s managed to collect. She’s panting, and he can feel a stitch in her side, but there’s a blossom of something that feels like happiness radiating off her. Curious, he tries to pinpoint where the feeling is coming from, and in return, receives flashes of the wind blowing through her hair, the sun on her skin, the screams of other children.

Harry’s been so deprived, shoved away in the cupboard for so long, even being chased by her monster of a cousin, she’s happy. Lord Voldemort would feel pity for her, if he weren’t so thrilled with finally being able to start communicating with his host.

Of course, the girl goes on to promptly ignore his subtle prodding at her mind, and goes about her day. She has such menial thoughts, but he can’t deny the spark of brilliance he sees in her. He wonders, off-hand, if it’s not a spark of himself in her. She’s got a steel in her spine that he suspects is all hers, however. No matter what life has thrown at her so far, she just grits her jaw and keeps going.

He would be impressed, if it didn’t mean the probability of her giving his main soul hell, later on.

 

It’s his fault, really, that they’ve ended up in this situation. Frankly, he’d just grown tired of the way the fat man treated them. Ever since Harry started school, he was much more physically rough with her, especially in places they assumed wouldn’t be seen in public.

Bruises in the shape of his fingerprints lined her forearms, shoulders, back. Harry couldn’t fall asleep at night because she ached everywhere, and therefore her thoughts kept him focused on her the whole night as well. The wall between them was steadily deteriorating, and he was close to being able to speak with her directly.

He did have the ability to plant thoughts in her mind, and was able to hear her thoughts as well, especially if she was really worried about something. So, he simply suggested she wear loose sleeves to school the day after Vernon got particularly rough with them. He’d shaken Harry so hard, after some minor slight, that the bruises had started to form that night.

From there, it was easy to convince her to push her sleeves up at school, in front of her teacher. The woman, horrid as she was, was at least smart enough to realize something was wrong. “Harry?” She’d asked, in a hushed voice, pulling her aside at recess. “Where did these come from?” She’d gently touched the dark marks on her arms, and Harry had flinched back, instinctual.

Lord Voldemort had urged her to tell the truth, his plan coming to fruition. So she did. “My uncle,” she had said hesitantly. The teacher’s face had immediately shuttered, eyes closing and mouth pulling with what he guessed was regret, or reluctance.

He should have known, when Petunia came to pick them up half-way through the school day, that something was wrong. Really, Lord Voldemort muses, he hadn’t counted on the teacher to contact the Dursleys first. And now, they’re on day two of lockdown, and he’s growing bored.

They had been horrified to find out their abused niece had told someone about the abuse. He thinks they should have expected something like this, especially now that Harry was at school. A dark anger rises up in him, a vengeful feeling, at the idea that his host was being punished for daring to reveal the bruises she hadn’t asked for.

Harry seems extra receptive of his emotions, because he can feel her conflict at the anger within her. She doesn’t remember ever feeling like this before, which he knows, but also doesn’t understand.

Whyever not? He asks her, curious to see if she can hear him.

By the way she jumps and looks around the small space, and the chaotic thoughts racing through her mind, too fast for him to understand, he would guess she did. “Who’s there?” There’s a steel in her voice that reminds him of the iron he’s noticed in her spine.

He reaches out to her mind, bright and open, comforting and curious. You may call me– he pauses, uncertain. Lord Voldemort is his name, but he’s unsure of the route to take with the child. He doesn’t want her to be scared of him. No, he’d much rather befriend his host, make her depend on him. The more she trusts him, the more he’ll be able to influence her. They’ll have five years together before she goes to Hogwarts. Plenty of time to sway her to his side.

Tom he finally decides, answering her. You may call me Tom.

Lord Voldemort smiles, as she introduces herself. Yes, this could prove to be just what he needed.

Chapter Text

Twinkling blue eyes peer over half moon glasses, a kind look gracing the Headmaster’s face. “Is there anything you would like to mention, my dear girl?” Professor Dumbledore inquires benevolently. His voice is soft but she can hear the manipulation and suggestive tones lacing underneath his words.

Her head is empty save for a slight buzzing noise. “No, Headmaster,” Harry murmurs, staring slightly off center of Dumbledore’s piercing blue gaze. She pauses before saying anything else. “Am I free to go, sir?”

She can feel Dumbledore’s gaze skim her face, clearly searching for some hidden answer concealed within the movement of her mouth or eyes. But Harry knows better by now. Been trained for this exact moment years before she would even understand the significance of what was to transpire.

He sighs heavily, waving for her to leave. “Remember, Harry,” he says as she’s opening the door. “I am always here for you to confide in.”

Harry doesn’t turn around, a sneer unbecoming of her age passing over her face in a fleeting expression. “Yes, Headmaster,” she says sweetly and leaves the office.

Her hands are shaking but there’s a warm feeling swelling up in her body, running down her spine and crawling up in her veins. She did well.

 

Tom Riddle starts talking to Harry when she’s six.

 

She’s been locked away in the cupboard for the past two days, only let out once a day to use the bathroom and to scarf down a piece of stale bread and a cup of lukewarm water. She didn’t understand what she had done this time, but the Dursleys seem especially angry with her.

Maybe it was something she did to Dudley, although Harry can’t remember what. The second day is coming to a close and Harry can feel hunger gnawing at her stomach as she stares at the door keeping her from freedom.

There’s a dark emotion twisting up inside of her and Harry doesn’t know what to label this emotion. She’s not used to feeling so... angry. Although angry isn’t the word for what she’s feeling. Harry’s seen the other kids at school angry, like when someone else tries to take their toys or won’t play with them.

But Harry has never been angry like this before.

Whyever not?

Harry starts in surprise, looking around the cupboard although she knows it’s impossible for anyone else to be trapped in here with her. “Who’s there?” She demands, a trembling steel in her voice. Almost in response, Harry feels a tentative brush against her mind, a mixture of comfort and inquiry.

You may call me– the voice pauses, like it’s unsure of how to continue. Tom. You may call me Tom.

Harry is no less confused. She thinks maybe she is a freak after all, like the Dursleys have been telling her. A wave of piercing anger crashes through her skull at the word freak and Harry blinks away tears. The voice, Tom, stays silent in her head. “I’m Harry,” she finally offers when the silence in the cupboard feels like it’s going to overwhelm her. “Harry Potter.”

There’s a warm sense of satisfaction resting in her stomach, not her own, and Harry doesn’t know why Tom seems so smug. It’s wonderful to meet you, Harry he practically purrs, sounding like he’s whispering directly into her ear.

Harry twitches, a small smile starting to grow on her face. “Are you going to help me, Tom?” She asks, twisting her hands nervously. There’s a pause in her head before she’s feeling a pressure different from anything she’s felt before.

If you’ll let me. I’ll take very good care of you, Harry. Harry is confused but she submits to the pressure, only to be shocked when her hand raises against her will. Her fingers make a little twitching motion, something warm sliding through her veins and Harry hears the lock slide open.

Harry gasps, a thrill running through her. “Do it again,” she demands and there’s a low sound inside her head which sounds like laughter.

As you wish.

 

A loud rapping on her cupboard door wakes Harry one day over the summer. She rubs her eyes blearily. “Get up, girl,” her aunt screeches, voice shrill. “You need to cook the bacon and make it snappy. I want everything perfect for Dudders’ big day.” Harry groans and pulls the blanket back up over her eyes. You had better get up Tom says, sounding worn out already. They’ll never leave you alone if you don’t.

From above her head, there’s a loud stomping noise as Dudley clomps down the stairs, taking special care to jump on the stairs directly over Harry’s cupboard, sending dust drifting into her hair. She frowns and climbs out of bed, peeling a spider off her socks as she gets dressed. “I hate his birthday,” she sneers, shoving her way out of the cupboard and heading into the kitchen.

Uncle Vernon is sitting at the table, reading the news. He looks over the top of the paper and grunts when he sees Harry. “Fix your hair, girl,” he says in lieu of a greeting. Harry gives him a dull smile and pats down on her curls until he looks satisfied and goes back to reading. For as long as Harry can remember, her uncle has despised her hair and done everything in his power to make it more tameable. Once, he had Petunia take Harry to get her hair shorn close to her head in a terrible bowl cut look. Tom had laughed himself sick and the next morning, she woke to find her hair re-grown, much to Vernon and Petunia’s horror.

Aunt Petunia shoves a frying pan into Harry’s hands once she reaches the stove. “Don’t burn the bacon,” she says and dismisses Harry to her task. Harry does as she’s told, unwilling to start a fight over something so trivial. It’s Dudley’s eleventh birthday, which means the Dursleys are in more of a tizzy than ever, trying to please their precious boy.

The boy of the hour finally makes his way into the kitchen, looking more like a pink-ish beach ball than a boy, and sits down heavily at the table. He squints his pig eyes at the mountain of presents set up on the table, flushing already. He seems to be struggling through something in his head, and Harry eyes him with caution as she pokes at the bacon sizzling in the pan. She’s far too used to being Dudley’s favorite target to work through his ire.

“Thirty six,” he says finally, barely glancing at Harry as she sets a plate of bacon and eggs down in front of him. “That’s two less than last year.” His face is definitely becoming redder than usual, Harry decides, spreading jam on her toast, unnoticed.

Petunia flaps her hands around in the air. “Darling, you haven’t counted Auntie Marge’s present, see, it’s here under this big one from Mummy and Daddy.” This didn’t seem to placate Dudley, if anything it made him more angry. Harry decides to move quickly on her food, in the event Dudley decided to take his frustrations out on the table, or on Harry.

She can feel Tom’s disgust radiating through her. Muggles these days he hisses, venom dripping from his words. He goes on to grumble about several of the lessons he’d like to show Dudley. Several confusing images flash through her mind, a rabbit hanging from the rafters a rocky cliff a boy lying on the ground with blood spattering his face. Tom doesn’t explain and Harry doesn’t ask. She’s used to seeing snippets of his life by now.

Dudley seems to be working himself into a fine lather. “Alright, thirty seven, then.”

Petunia becomes even more frantic than usual, which is a feat Harry honestly didn’t think was possible. “And we’ll buy you another two presents while we’re out today. How’s that, popkin? Two more presents. Is that alright?”

Dudley’s eyes narrow even further as he tries to work through the problem set in front of him. “So, I’ll have... thirty... thirty...”

“Thirty-nine, sweetums,” Petunia says, sickeningly sweet.

Dudley tilts his head. “Oh,” he says, picking up a piece of bacon with one hand and reaching for a present with the other. “Alright then.”

Vernon finally folds up his paper and places it down on what free room is available on the table. He chuckles and ruffles Dudley’s blonde hair, sending it into disarray. Harry thinks he’d scold her if her hair looked like that, with no small amount of resentment. “Little tyke wants his money's worth, just like his father. Atta boy, Dudley!”

Harry felt her disdain of the Dursleys grow, a hollow pit widening in her stomach. Tom’s disgust from earlier comes flooding into her, but this time, Harry can’t differentiate between her feelings and his. Before she can dwell on it further, Petunia gasps. “Oh, Vernon,” she says, clutching a postcard in her hand. “It says here that Marjorie’s fallen ill, something she caught in Majorca, and won’t be able to watch the girl.” She jerks her head towards Harry, voice lowering on the last two words, like she’s saying a curse.

Uncle Vernon starts to turn an interesting shade of purple, and Dudley pauses, bacon halfway to his mouth and wrapping paper strewn around him. “What?” They say in unison.

“What about Mrs. Figg?” Vernon asks.

Petunia wrinkles her mouth. “Tripped over one of those god-awful cats, broke her leg.” She sounds more putout at the fact Mrs. Figg is out of commission, rather than sympathetic for the woman.

“But... we’re going to the zoo today!” Dudley chimes in, rather unhelpfully, in Harry’s opinion.

Vernon and Petunia exchange glances. “We could leave her here?” Petunia suggests finally.

Shaking his head, Vernon turns another shade darker, closer to plum. “And come back to find the house burned down? Not bloody likely.” All three of the Dursleys turn to Harry, gazes accusatory, like it’s her fault they don’t have anywhere to shuttle her off to.

You know, I always knew they hated you... Tom says. sounding off in a way Harry can’t put her finger on.

 

This is how Harry finds herself sandwiched between Dudley’s generous frame and the car door. Dudley’s elbow is digging into her stomach, and every time she tries to shift to get more comfortable, he does as well. She’s well beyond suspecting he’s doing it on purpose and moved straight into absolute certainty.

He had thrown the biggest tantrum Harry had witnessed from him in years when he put the pieces together and realized if Harry couldn’t be left alone at the house, that meant she was going with them to the zoo.

“Can’t she stay in the car at least?” He had asked, sniffling, face red and blotchy. “I don’t want her to ruin everything. She always ruins everything.” Harry didn’t particularly want to go to the zoo with the Dursleys, but she guessed it would be better than being locked in her room until they got back.

Uncle Vernon frowned. “And come back to the car destroyed?” He heaved a great sigh. “Don’t worry, Dudders, if the girl tries any funny business, she’ll be locked away for the rest of the summer.” He glared at Harry over the top of Dudley’s head, like all of this was her fault.

Dudley promptly burst out into another round of tears, and refused to stop until there was a knock on the door, announcing the arrival of his scrawny friend, Piers. Piers was the one who held kids’ arms behind their backs while Dudley pummeled them. Harry hated him with a vengeance.

They finally pull up to the zoo and Piers and Dudley practically fall over themselves to jump out of the car. Harry slides out behind them, reluctantly. Uncle Vernon grabs her by the arm before she can trail after the two boys who are already clamoring at an ice cream vendor, Petunia following behind them.

“Listen, girl,” he says, shaking a thick sausage-like finger in her face. “No funny business, you hear me?”

Harry nods sullenly. Like she ever intends to use magic accidentally. While Tom helped her focus her magic and use it purposefully, she still had outbursts beyond her control. Tom assured her it would become more manageable in time, especially once she had her wand to channel her magic through.

They walk towards the entrance of the zoo, Harry lagging a few paces behind Uncle Vernon. Dudley and Piers are licking away at large ice cream cones while Petunia taps her foot impatiently, waiting for Harry to catch up. She doesn’t offer to buy Harry anything, and Harry doesn’t ask her to.

She remembers, of course, the way her aunt used to slap her as a child. Harry’s not sure what she did to inspire that level of hatred in Petunia, but while her uncle was overly forceful, her aunt was the only one to hit her. The Dursleys haven’t raised a hand against Harry in years, nor have they starved her the way they used to, but she remembers all the same.

After Tom had started talking to her, he explained that she could make things happen to other people if she wanted. If they hurt her, or didn’t give her food, she could use her magic to make sure they didn’t make that mistake. It took a few tries, but they eventually got the hint. Didn’t mean that Harry asked them for anything, though. She didn’t want them to feel like she was indebted to them anymore than necessary.

 

Harry’s never been to a zoo before, and the sight mildly depresses her. Seeing all the animals in their cages reminds her of how it felt to be locked in her cupboard.

Dudley and Piers seem unbothered by this, and instead seem to be growing bored by the animals. They’ve been giving Harry sly looks for the past fifteen minutes and whispering to each other, so she picks up her pace, not willing to be what they turn to next for entertainment.

She slides into the reptile house, a nice respite from the blazing sun. She glances around at the lizards and smaller snakes, before the boa catches her eye. She moves to stand next to the exhibit, pressing her hands against the glass. The snake seems to be sleeping, and she envies it.

Dudley comes up and shoves Harry out of the way, pressing his fists to the glass, peering in. “Dad,” he calls, tapping on the glass rapidly. “Wake it up. I wanna see it move.” Uncle Vernon moves forward, and raps on the glass loudly. The snake doesn’t move, and Dudley wanders off, groaning about how boring it is.

Harry moves back. “Must be terrible, having people knock on your glass day after day.” There’s a dull sense of shock drifting through her, which she doesn’t comprehend. The snake twitches, it’s head rising up.

Yes it is the snake hisses, twisting around in the enclosure. Harry jolts back in surprise. It seemed like the snake had... talked to her. Which should be impossible.

You’re a parselmouth Tom says. His voice is carefully controlled, but Harry can hear the surprise underneath it, corresponding to the feeling in her body.

A what? She asks, stepping back up to the glass.

It means you can talk to snakes Tom answers. It should be impossible for you to... but... He trails off, sounding deep in thought.

Harry shrugs and watches the snake, catching the plaque out of the corner of her eye. “You’re from Brazil?”

The snake makes a noise that sounds displeased, to Harry. No, I was born here in this prison. Harry understands, with a pang, the feeling of never knowing one’s home. Before she can answer the snake, she’s being shoved to the side once more. This time with more force, throwing her to the ground. She winces as her hands scrape on the concrete floor and she looks up to glare at her cousin.

Dudley has his nose pressed to the glass. Piers is right behind him, turning a sneer onto Harry. “Your freaky cousin was talking to that snake, Dudley,” he says, offhand.

Dudley looks over his shoulder, scowling. “She probably thought it could talk back.” There’s rushing sound in Harry’s ears as fury uncurls in her stomach. Between one blink and the next, the glass separating Dudley and the snake’s enclosure vanishes. Her cousin loses his balance, topples, and starts hollering. The snake rises up from its position and slithers out of its cage, down onto the ground.

Thank you it hisses to her as it moves past her, and Harry can’t stop the smile from twitching at the corners of her mouth. The rest of the zoo patrons are screaming and jumping around as the snake exits the building. She hopes it makes it out of the zoo.

To make her day even better, Piers seems to have started crying at some point in the chaos. She feels a dark vengeful joy rise up in her at that. Before she can clamber to her feet, she’s hauled up by Uncle Vernon. He turns a dark glare on her, before jerking his chin towards where Dudley was spitting water out of his mouth in the snake’s habitat.

Uncle Vernon is shaking with contained rage. His hand clenches on her shoulder, and Tom stirs within her mind, the way he always does when the Dursleys push the line. “Car. Now.” He seems to have lost the ability to make full sentences.

When they get back to Privet Drive, Harry is promptly dumped inside her cupboard, without a promise of release. She’s not too worried, having figured out how to let herself out with magic years ago. “Well,” she says, sitting down on her bed, and turning on her battered lamp. “I think that could be called a success, wouldn’t you?”

Tom stirs again, his emotions too jumbled up for Harry to decipher. You got us locked in the cupboard and terrorized a zoo full of Muggles. He pauses, like he’s impressed with her ability for orchestrating chaos. Unless that was what you had planned for today, calling it a success might be a reach.

She grins, lying back in bed. “We pretty much ruined Dudley’s birthday trip. Did you see the look on his face?” Tom doesn’t answer, but he seems amused at her pleasure.

 

Severus Snape brings Harry her Hogwarts letter on her eleventh birthday. Tom has been insufferable over the past week, practically pacing the confines of her mind. Harry doesn’t think she’s slept at all but Tom doesn’t try to apologize. She’s not sure why he’s so anxious, seeing as he’s not the one the letter is addressed to.

He’s ranting about Hogwarts and Dumbledore and the “filthy Light” when the doorbell rings. The window he snaps, trying to take control of her body like he used to be able to when Harry was waking up to her own magic.

Enough Harry retorts, tired of his attitude, but moves to the second floor window anyway. Tom can’t take over her body anymore, not unless she wants him to, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. It took her weeks to figure out how to speak to him in her mind but her paranoia of the Dursleys overhearing her sped up the process.

She spies a tall, black haired man standing outside the front door. Tom has fallen suspiciously silent inside her head. Tom? She asks, hesitant. Who is that?

Time seems to still as she hears Aunt Petunia open the door and a cool, silky voice too low for her to hear says something that makes Harry’s aunt shriek. Tom? She’s calling again, reaching for him within the depths of her mind.

And suddenly he’s all encompassing, a strange unsettled feeling swelling in her mind. Tom’s reaching for her magic, reaching for control. Harry, Tom starts. I need you to trust me. Can you do that?

Harry doesn’t even think before answering which, really, is her mistake. As soon as Tom feels her instinctive agreement he’s pulling on her magic and his essence is overwhelming. It’s been almost a year since Harry let have Tom have control and she only blames the shock of his desperation for allowing him this.

Harry retreats to the back of her mind, watches with bemusement as Tom reaches up with Harry’s hand and places it over her heart. Their heart. I will protect you Tom swears, like he has so many times before and the last of Harry’s resistance melts away.

Petunia’s screeching for Harry now, so Tom silently walks down the stairs. He moves so silently in Harry’s body, effortless, like he hasn’t been trapped in a girl’s mind for the past ten years.

“This is Severus Snape,” Harry’s aunt sneers when Tom is finally downstairs. Harry looks over the man curiously. He’s wearing long, billowing black robes and his hair falls like a greasy curtain over his dark eyes. He’s currently looking down his nose at Harry like there’s nowhere else in the world he’d like to be less.

What a ponce Harry sneers from her position behind Tom and is interested by the flash of humor she feels from him. Snape’s eyes narrow like he can tell what Harry’s thinking, which maybe he can. Tom once explained to Harry that some wizards were able to read minds just through eye contact. She hadn’t said anything but the thought unnerved her.

The only person she wanted to share her innermost thoughts with was Tom. A possessive smugness wraps around Harry at this discovery and Harry is happy that she’s pleased Tom.

“Ms. Potter,” Snape drawls rather slimily. Harry feels her hackles rising and thinks maybe it was for the best that Tom controls this interaction.

She can feel Tom rearranging her features into a sweet, if not slightly dull smile. “Mr. Snape,” she’s saying now and she watches repulsion cross Snape’s figures. Why does he hate me so much? She asks Tom, quite certain she would remember if she had ever met this man before.

Later, my dear Tom murmurs back to her, clearly intent on focusing on this interaction. Aunt Petunia flounced away almost as soon as she had finished introducing Snape, leaving Harry alone with this strange man.

“Professor Snape,” he corrects haughtily, still looking down his hooked nose at her. He shoves an envelope towards her, puts a hand on her back and quite forcefully shoves her out of the house. Harry can feel Tom’s anger heating up, bubbling just under the surface. Harry does what she can to soothe him, feeling like hexing a Professor before she even gets to the school might be going a little overboard.

Dull humor floats towards her but Tom continues the charade. In Harry’s body he stumbles, almost falling to the ground. “Who are you?” He cries tremulously in Harry’s voice, sounding more pathetic than Harry has ever in her life.

“I am a Professor at Hogwarts, you insipid creature,” Snape snaps harshly, his frame tense. “You are a witch and I have the great displeasure of being the one to introduce you to the wizarding world. Now stop grovelling and start moving. We have many places to be and I do not have the time nor the patience to deal with your whining.”

Harry feels Tom twist her face into something resembling fear and confusion, even though what she really wants to do is set Snape’s robes on fire and see if he still found her insipid then. Harry can tell Tom is amused by her reaction but she can also feel his growing resentment towards the man. We will end him. One day. Yes? Harry asks Tom, hating the disrespect the professor has shown her.

Again, that dark possessive feeling rises up around her, almost encasing her in Tom’s essence. Later Tom stresses in a dark purr. “I’m a what?” Comes out of Harry’s mouth instead and she’s fuming within her mind as Snape grabs her sleeve and drags her down the sidewalk.

Snape doesn’t answer but as soon as they are in the shade of a building he pulls Harry along on her first side-along apparition. When they land, Harry falls to her knees gagging, Tom exaggerating her body’s natural reaction only slightly. “Up,” Snape sneers, pointing at the brick wall which Harry knows guards the entrance to Diagon Alley.

She’s mocking him from her spot within Tom’s embrace but Tom climbs to his feet pretending to still be a little unsteady. Harry knows if Tom loses his control over his emotions there might be unpleasant consequences, so she settles in, watches the proceedings carefully.

After retrieving money from Harry’s vault in Gringotts, Snape barely pays them any mind, just points out the shopping list and tells them to meet him back at the Leaky Cauldron in three hours. Tom slinks away, giving Harry a modicum of control back, though he doesn’t seem too pleased.

“What a disgusting man,” Harry sneers out loud and she can feel Tom’s ferocious agreement within her. “Surely not all wizards are like that,” she asks, forgetting to voice her question silently. She gets a few strange looks for her trouble and she can tell Tom is laughing at her.

Severus Snape Tom finally offers while they are waiting to be fitted for their robes is a complex man. Do not trust him, do not get close to him, do not let him know of us. He reports to Dumbledore like a lap dog and is rumored by many to be a spy for the Dark Lord, although this has never been proven. There’s a dark edge to Tom’s voice when he says this that makes Harry nervous.

You mean yourself she points out, intimately familiar with Tom’s darkest parts. He was your spy. Tom hums in agreement, seemingly not interested in discussing the topic any further which is of no matter to Harry because someone’s hand is suddenly in her face.

She turns to face the offender, a white blonde boy with pointed features staring impassively at her. “Draco Malfoy,” the boy offers haughtily, like he can barely deign to speak with her. Which is fine by Harry. She wasn’t the one to rudely approach someone.

But Tom is practically sitting up in her head. Harry, he croons make friends with the Malfoy boy. His father owes us much. Harry knows it’s never good for whoever incites that edge within Tom’s voice so rolling her eyes, she reluctantly holds her hand to Malfoy.

They shake quickly, Malfoy dropping her hand like it’s diseased. “And you are?” He sniffs, like he’s not used to being slighted.

“Harry Potter,” she says, curious to see how he’ll react. Malfoy does a double take, steel eyes flicking up to her forehead, a burning curiosity evident. Tom tugs on her magic again and Harry gives him the reigns more willingly, knowing they’re on Tom’s turf now.

“Pleased,” Malfoy drawls, clearly paying more attention to her now. They stand in silence while Harry’s fitting continues. When she finally steps down from the platform, Malfoy gives her another appraising look as a taller version of Malfoy steps up behind him.

A sick glee from Tom threatens to drown Harry and she snaps angrily at him. Tom, this is my mind she chides but Tom pays her no mind. He stares up at the older Malfoy and Harry can feel the way her face has been wiped of any emotion.

“What have we here, Draco?” The man inquires and Harry discerns from Tom’s bouncing thoughts that this man is named Lucius and he was, is, a Death Eater. Whatever that is. Harry knows Tom feels her confusion as he flashes her an image of a group of hooded and masked figures in dark robes, a sickly green skull twisting in the sky above them.

Malfoy turns to look up at his father. There is a smug look on his face as he says, “My new friend. Her name is Harry Potter.” Harry can feel the way Lucius Malfoy takes more interest in her, carefully detailing her face.

“How... interesting,” the man sneers, an ugly look crossing his face. Harry feels hurt, considering his boss is living inside of her head. Tom allows enough of his magic to bleed through Harry’s mind that Harry knows her eyes are flashing crimson.

The sight of Lucius Malfoy paling dramatically sends a shiver down Harry’s spine. She likes the fear crossing Malfoy’s face, likes knowing a part of her caused that expression. For Tom is a part of her. As much as he clearly dislkes it, he lives in her mind. And Harry is violently possessive over Tom, no matter what she might tell him.

She can feel an echoing of the same feeling within Tom.

“Harry Potter, you say,” the man finally says, his voice much more guarded than it had been. He’s clearly reevaluating her and she smiles angelically up at the man. Tom has receded back into her mind but she can tell he’s watching the proceedings with hawk-like intent. “All by yourself?”

“Yes, sir,” she says serenely. “I live with my relatives, you see, except they aren’t magic. I was fetched by a professor from Hogwarts. I’d never even heard of magic before today!” She thinks maybe she oversold it a bit but Tom seems to disagree. Perfect he’s murmuring. Lucius will love the chance to mold you.

Like you have? Harry asks curiously. She feels a flash of anger, quickly followed by grudging humor. “Well that simply will not do,” Lucius says silkily, stroking the snake head of his cane. “Draco, surely we must show Miss Potter around. It would be unsightly for the Potter heir to become lost within her own world.”

Harry beams up at the Malfoy patriarch. “Really, sir?” She gushes, Tom’s cold magic still tucked away in the back of her head. This is all Harry and her skill. Draco took her arm in response and tugged her out onto the streets of Diagon Alley.

He seems thrilled to have a chance to impress someone of Harry’s caliber and points out all the stores Harry needed to visit. She conferred with Tom briefly and decided they needed to come back another time. With less... restrictions. “I just still need to get my wand, Mr. Malfoy,” Harry says after Draco had dragged her down the length of the Alley. “You see Professor Snape will be waiting for me and I’m terribly afraid to keep him waiting.” She pauses a beat, hesitates. “I must have done something wrong because he doesn’t seem to like me much.” She makes her voice quaver, looks down at the ground.

Harry can feel when the man takes the bait, feels the tension in the air. “Professor Snape?” He inquiries cooly and Harry smothers her grin.

“Yes, sir.”

Malfoy hums thoughtfully. “Draco, why don’t you show Miss Potter to Ollivanders. I shall deal with Severus. It would be quite... the mistake to let such a charming witch return to a Muggle household.” Harry feels Tom’s flash of glee at these words and she knows the battle is won.

Draco seems all too eager to show Harry how much he knows, because he’s already tugging on Harry’s hand and pulling her down the street and babbling about his wand and his wand properties and how much magic he knows.

Harry can feel the elder Malfoy’s eyes on her back as she’s pulled along. She glances over her shoulder and Tom rises up in her unbidden. She grins sharply, too much teeth, at Lucius and she knows her eyes are flashing red once again. That unbidden fear crosses his face again and Harry turns back to Draco, satisfied.

Ollivander was... strange. Harry felt as part of her hated him though she wasn’t sure why. Tom whispered something in her head she couldn’t quite make out. “Ms. Potter,” Ollivander sighs, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

Draco is waiting outside so Harry feels more comfortable dropping the mask she had donned around the Pureblood heir. “Waiting for me?” Ollivander makes a noise of agreement before floating into the back of the shop. He emerges with a box and allows Harry to take ahold of the wand. It feels cold in her hand and she hears Tom make a noise of discontent.

“All wrong,” Ollivander claims, and puts her through the process countless times before he finally pauses. He’s cradling a box to his chest and Harry reaches impatiently out for it when she realizes Ollivander isn’t going to just hand it over. He eventually relinquishes it and Harry greedily pulls out the wand. She can already feel the warmth emanating from the wood, can feel the core singing as it touches her magic for the first time.

“How curious,” Ollivander muses, breaking Harry’s attention away from her wand. He reads the confusion on Harry’s face for what it is and elaborates. “That this wand would call to you. After all, its brother wand is what gave you that scar.” His hand hovers over Harry’s forehead and she flinches backward. His hands dropped. “No matter, Ms. Potter. The wand chooses the wizard. I can only believe you are destined for greatness.”

Tom stilled in her head when he heard the news about Harry’s wand and he doesn’t stir again until Harry is back within Snape’s reach. She doesn’t object when he takes control of her mind again and it isn’t long until Tom has Lucius Malfoy eating out of the palm of her hand. Snape does not look pleased at the turn of events and looks practically murderous when the older Malfoy suggest Harry spend the rest of the summer at the Malfoy Manor.

Harry watches with delighted glee as Snape’s lips press together in a sign of his displeasure as a few mumbled words and sheepish glances have Draco practically begging for his father to bring Harry home. She feels slightly like a prized pet underneath the Malfoys’ eyes which isn’t a feeling she particularly likes. Tom has been mostly silent but there’s a slightly primal pride twisting in her stomach and Harry knows he’s pleased with today’s sequence of events. He gives her mind the equivalent of what she imagines having him run his hands through her hair would feel like when they’re on their way to the Malfoys and Harry practically trembles with the feeling.

She catches the older Malfoy’s eyes on her as she adjusting herself under Tom’s overbearing presence and is interested in the way his eyes quickly flit away from her. Harry’s amusement mingles with Tom’s to make a heady feeling over her mind.

 

That night as she’s about to fall asleep in the plush bed the Malfoy’s provided her with, Harry could have sworn she felt a body wrap around her, a hand running through her hair. Sleep, my little Horcrux the voice croons into her ear but Harry’s too far gone to chase it. The hand in her hair runs down the curve of her face, down the slope of her neck before pulling her ever closer.

Harry just sighs and curls into the warmth even further.

 

Harry can’t stop staring at him.

He’s grinning unrepentantly, like he hasn’t just broken the rules of physics. What are you doing? She hisses within her mind and watches the way his eyes darken and his smile slips off his face. “Why, my sweet, there’s no need to be so angry.”

Harry’s eyes dart to Draco, sprawled out on the train seat across from her, seemingly unaware of the fact the spirit in Harry’s head is now sitting extremely close to her on the Hogwarts Express. Tom’s eyes follow her gaze and his mood seems to darken even further. “He can’t see me,” Tom explains, rather unnecessarily.

Tom had taken an immense disliking to the Malfoy heir over the month they spent at the Malfoys’ estate. He had almost constantly tried to take control from Harry which she had vehemently protested, resulting in the month long migraine she was forced to suffer through.

And now! Somehow he managed a way to escape the confines of her mind, even if Harry was the only one to see him. How are you doing this? She asks again and Tom smirked. “I simply have too much magic to remain cooped up in your mind all day, my sweet. Surely you appreciate the room?” Harry’s stony gaze only serves to amuse him further.

She turns to Draco instead, watching as he flips through a book, sprawled on his back across the train seat. He looks immensely bored but seems to perk up when he notices her gaze on him. He brightens even further when his lumpy friends come into the compartment. Harry for the life of her couldn’t remember which one was Crabbe and Goyle.

She is watching their interactions with amused befuddlement when the touch of someone on her shoulder shocks her. Tom had inched even closer while Harry was distracted and now is staring at her with hooded eyes. He wraps an arm around her and pulls and Harry’s lucky Draco is distracted because before she knows what is happening, she’s sitting with Tom wrapped around her.

He’s tall, she notes. Dark hair, light eyes that seemed to pierce her from the inside out and he’s probably around 17. Older than her, even though Harry knows his form had been much older than her when Tom ended up inside her mind. He’s running a hand through her hair now, occasionally tangling his fingers in it just to prove he could.

Harry steadfastly ignores him and watches the scenery go by.

 

...better be “SLYTHERIN!”

 

Dumbledore’s eyes follow her all the way to the Slytherin table. Tom sits down beside her, practically drooling over the green now adorning her robes. She’s still ignoring him so she instead focuses on the way the Hall fell silent with the loud pronouncement of Harry’s house.

Draco is quite pleased and seems to be taking immense pleasure in introducing Harry to the rest of the other first years as his “close friend.” Which, really. Harry only spent a small part of the summer with him, mostly due to her desire to not be with the Dursleys.

She feels a spike of satisfaction at that particular thought and wishes she could turn to glare at Tom without anyone noticing. He’s now rubbing small circles into her leg, just above her knee, and Harry wishes she could actually want to pull away from him. She can feel Tom smirking.

Bastard.

They’re walking down to the Common Room when Professor Snape pulls her away from the rest of the first years. “The Headmaster would like to speak with you, Potter,” Snape sneers, just as unpleasant as he had been when Harry first met him.

Tom is pacing in circles around her as she makes her way up to the tower housing Dumbledore. “You remember what I told you to do, yes?” He’s practically interrogating her and a migraine is starting to build behind her eyes. She can’t answer him with Snape hovering over her shoulder but she knows Tom reads the answer in her mind.

“Harry,” he says directly into her ear and she tries not to jump out of her skin. She must twitch strangely, because Snape gives her an odd look. “You must not let the old man find out about me. It is of the utmost importance. Do you understand?”

Yes she answers him, filling the word with all the confidence she can. Harry runs a gentle hand down the magic filling his soul, magic darker than anything she’s ever encountered. I understand.

They reach the door and Tom fades into Harry’s mind, his presence reaching every part of her. It’s more comforting than she’ll admit.

 

Once Harry’s back in her dorm, Tom melts out of the shadows. He twists his hands in a way Harry can’t quite comprehend once she’s pulled the bed curtains closed and shrugs when she stares at him. “Silencing charm,” he explains, sprawling across her bed. Harry is too exhausted to answer and just climbs in bed next to him.

Tom rolls onto his side and Harry feels like his eyes are pinning her to the bed. “You did well tonight,” he compliments her, brushing a stray curl out of her eyes. “Soon, they’ll all be eating out of your hand.” He smooths his hand across her face, his touch cool. Harry’s eyes flutter closed.

“You too?” She murmurs, sleep dragging at her voice. Tom’s hand stills, stuttering to a stop, before he’s stroking her hair.

“Yes, Harry. Every single part of me.” Harry thinks there’s something strange about that answer but before she can press more on the subject, her eyes are closing against her will. She’s practically curled against Tom and somewhere deep in her mind she thinks this is the safest place she’ll ever be.

 

Harry thinks Professor Quirrell might be a pedophile. She’s said as much to Tom and he just started laughing so she dropped the subject. In class, his eyes follow her and he looks at her so intently Harry can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking about. The more she mentions it to Tom, the less interested he becomes until he finally snaps over his shoulder at her. “Figure it out, Harry,” he sneers cruelly when they’re sitting in the library one day.

Harry’s opened a textbook Tom indicated interest in and he’s sitting next to her, peering intently at the words on the page. She blinks back tears, hurt lacing through her. Tom hasn’t been intentionally cruel to her in years. “Fine,” she says shortly, slamming his book shut.

Tom’s head snaps up and his gaze narrows in on her menacingly. “But when my raped and mutilated body ends up in a girl’s bathroom somewhere,” Harry continues viciously, “I hope your soul goes straight to hell.” She gets up angrily and storms away from the table, hoping Tom is watching her go.

They don’t talk about Quirrell after that.

 

Ron Weasley approaches Harry just before Halloween.

He comes up to her during breakfast as she’s headed towards the Slytherin table, tie hanging loose around her neck and shirt untucked. She knows Tom would be berating her to no end if he were here, but somehow his magic has strengthened enough for him to leave her side. Harry logically knows she should be concerned by this fact but she’s still too mad at Tom to be bothered.

“Potter,” he says stiffly, the top of his ears red.

Harry eyes him warily, pulling the strap of her bag further on her shoulder. “Weasley,” she returns and holds out her hand. She may as well do this full scale. Weasley goes scarlet but shakes her hand. His palm is warm and slightly damp but he seems to be making an effort.

He’s clearly choking down a grimace. “Pathetic,” Tom murmurs into her ear, hands coming down on her shoulders possessively. Harry barely twitches, beyond used to his antics by now. “I need to speak with you.”

Later Harry directs his way, not interested in sitting down with him for a heart to heart at the moment. His anger crashes over Harry sending a spike of pain through her forehead, but Harry’s more interested in watching the way Ron’s face is twisting as he clearly struggles with his next words. “D’ya wanna maybe... hang out sometime?” He practically spits and his face is almost the same shade as his hair.

Harry wants to snort, but Tom’s back in her mind smothering her instincts with his own. “Sure, Weasley,” she finally says. “Do you mind?” Ron looks relieved for a moment but flushes even more when he realizes Harry’s trying to get past him.

Her hands come up to fasten the knot of her tie and Harry’s tucking in her shirt before she knows what’s happening. Bastard she hisses at Tom, but gets no response from him. Draco peers over at Harry once she reaches the table, clearly dying for information.

“What did the Weasel want?” He sneers, once Harry’s got a bagel in hand. “Seemed awfully... intimate,” he’s clearly trying to joke but Harry can hear the jealousy coating his words.

“No idea,” Harry replies honestly. Tom laughs in the back of her head.

 

“...the girl is a menace, Headmaster.”

“Now, Severus, she seems perfectly normal to me. Perhaps a bit withdrawn, but surely young Mr. Weasley’s presence within her life can only help that.”

“She’s a fool, Albus. You should have seen her when I retrieved her from the Muggles. No sense at all.”

“And you’re sure nothing strange happened?”

“She did return to me with an entourage of Malfoys. Lucius practically insisted she spend the rest of the summer with them. He was spooked, although by what, I couldn’t say.”

“Yes, yes, yes. Strange... very strange.”

 

Harry blinked slowly, like she was coming out of a deep sleep. “Tom?” she asked, reaching out for him. She can’t see anything and there’s a chill around her bed. He wasn’t there, she realizes and a shiver creeps down her spine. She could have sworn she was just listening to Dumbledore and Snape talking about her.

Tom never leaves her at night.

Harry pulls on the bond in her mind, reaching out along Tom’s soul and magic, trying to bring him back to her. She’s never done anything like this before, never needed to. Tom’s never left her when she needed him.

“Tom?” She asks again, still tugging on their connection. She knows instantly when he returns, warmth rolling into the space around her bed.

Tom’s kneeling next to her and Harry rolls over so she can face him. His face is drawn with worry, and Harry reaches to smooth away the unfamiliar lines. “Missed you,” she murmurs, already feeling safer now that he’s back.

“What happened, Harry?” He asks, running a hand through the curls by her face. She shakes her head slightly, pursing her lips. She’s so tired... “Harry,” Tom says, more insistent.

“Had a dream about Snape ‘n Dumbledore,” she slurs, sleep dragging her away from Tom. He stills next to her, his hand freezing in her hair. “Where’d you go? Missed you,” she repeats plaintively.

Tom settles in next to her, setting up a watch over her. “I’m here, Harry,” he reassures, not answering her question. “Closer than you think.”

Harry thinks she wants to say something else but she’s falling asleep before she can think of the words. But it’s okay, she thinks. Tom will still be there when she wakes up. She thinks she hears an appreciative murmur but she’s already asleep.

 

Everything comes crashing down the night of her parents’ murder. Harry’s just enjoying the feast, not used to such extravagance when Quirrell bursts into the Great Hall. Do not Tom hisses into her ear under any circumstances follow them into the dungeon. Did you not hear where the troll is?

Oh. Harry retorts. I didn’t realize you had started paying attention to Quirrell shaped problems now. Please, forgive me.

Tom’s displeasure rolls over her and Harry has to clamp a hand to her forehead to soothe the pain before it grows out of hand. Still, she lets herself get dragged away from her house by the panicked flood of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. The library Tom urges, now that they’re away from the rest of the students.

He’s more insistant than usual, so Harry follows his advice but she’s barely made it up the stairs when she hears someone screaming. Harry Tom practically growls, reaching out for her, but she’s already bounding down the stairs.

“They could die,” she hisses back at him, forgetting for a moment to speak in her head. Then let them Tom sneers coldly, but Harry can’t see his face. He grabs her by the arm, grip searingly hot. Harry turns to face him, sees the stony hint of fear in his eyes. She wrenches away from him, throws open the door to the girls bathroom where the screams are coming from and freezes.

The troll, having been focused on a bushy haired girl cowering against the wall, turns at the sudden intrusion. Harry had not been quiet when she threw open the door. It takes one lumbering step towards her and Harry’s reaching frantically within her robes for her wand, mind racing as she tries to figure out a spell to take down a troll.

Suddenly, Tom rises up in her, overwhelming her thoughts as he takes seamless control of her body. Harry, not used to having her power torn away from her, screams silently in her head out of frustration but Tom is too focused on the troll to care.

He casts a spell, the only use to levitate things and knocks the troll out with its own club. There’s a moment of silence in the bathroom as Harry stares in shock, before the bushy hair girl bursts out into loud sobs.

Harry can’t focus on her because Tom’s attention is furiously pointed inward. You could have died he hisses, his words frozen. Harry’s shaking her head, she would have been fine they would have been fine. And what would you have done if I weren’t here? He asks, like she’s never had an intelligent thought in her life.

Harry is confused. You’d never leave me alone she reminds him. Tom doesn’t have a face, already reabsorbed into Harry’s magic but she feels the equivalent of a cutting smile in her mind.

Of course he agrees easily. Too easily, Harry thinks. Never.

Harry wants to press him further but before she can, Snape and McGonagall are flooding into the bathroom, fury radiating off of them. Harry can tell Snape is suspicious of her story and of finding the troll in the bathroom already knocked out by the other girl, whose name is Hermione Granger. But he doesn’t press her in front of the Gryffindors, merely drags her down to the Common Room.

Just before they’re entering, Snape pulls her off to a dark part of the dungeons, shoving her against the wall. “Just what were you doing attacking a troll, Ms. Potter?” Snape interrogates, disdain evident in his voice.

Harry blinks at Snape innocently, quashing Tom in her mind. She doesn’t want him controlling her anymore and she’s going to handle her problems on her own. Tom gives up, sinking back into the depths of her mind. “The Slytherin common room is in the dungeons, Professor,” she says.

Snape frowns at her.

“I heard someone screaming,” she continues. “Aren’t I supposed to help people?”

Snape leans over her, eyes narrowing. “Watch your step, Potter,” he hisses. Looking down his nose at her, he spins and turns on his heel to walk away dramatically. Harry watches after him, unaware her eyes are flashing red as Tom rages.

 

The time between Halloween and Christmas passes rather uneventfully. Hermione Granger has taken to following Harry around the school, but Harry’s gotten quite good at avoiding her. She wakes up on Christmas morning to the sound of Pansy Parkinson squealing loudly. Harry makes a noise of discontent, rolling over in bed to try and fall back asleep.

“Look, Daphne, you can use this on your hair if you want,” Pansy’s voice continues to roll over Harry and she eventually sits up in pure frustration.

Does she ever shut up? Harry asks Tom, who’s sitting at the end of her bed, watching her steadily, his eyes glinting pale blue. Like ice fire she thinks absently.

“Debatable,” he answers, resting his chin in one hand. “You could curse her into submission?” he suggests rather unhelpfully.

Why is that your solution to everything? She asks, truly wanting to know. Tom just shrugs, looking unbelievably bored. Harry decides on a pragmatic approach of ignoring him and throws the curtains to her bed open. Pansy is on her bed, surrounded by mountains of torn wrapping paper and blonde Daphne Greengrass is next to her, peering intently at something in Pansy’s lap.

“Oh. Potter. You’re awake,” Pansy says, catching sight of Harry’s dishevelled state. She looks deeply displeased to be confronted with Harry so early in the morning.

Millicent Bulstrode, from her spot in bed on the other side of Harry, chimes in. “Merry Christmas, Potter.”

Harry wrinkles her nose. She’s never celebrated Christmas before and honestly wasn’t expecting to get anything. Peering at the foot of her bed, she sees two packages wrapped on top of her trunk. There’s a flare of warmth in her chest at the sight. “Same to you,” she says, distracted.

The other girls, clearly deciding to just ignore Harry, go back to giggling over their presents.

Harry grabs the two gifts, sinking back onto her bed. Tom has moved, so he’s now leaning against her pillows, legs spread out on the bed. He’s watching her with a hooded intensity that Harry’s unused to and she shifts under his gaze. She decides to continue with her plan of ignoring him and tears the paper on one of her gifts, unveiling a silvery looking cloak.

Tom cranes his neck to see what she’s got in her hands and he seems to blanch. “Put that on,” he says, and Harry frowns at him. It just looks like a normal cloak to her, even though it seems to flow through her hands like water. She does as he instructs, cloaking her hand underneath the fabric. Instead of it just looking like a silvery cloak, her hand seems to disappear completely.

“Oh...” Harry murmurs, entranced. She glances over her shoulder to see if the other girls had seen what happened. They’re distracted over a new set of hair taming products Daphne received from her parents. Satisfied that she’s being ignored, Harry turns back to her gift. She makes eye contact with Tom, who’s regarding her with a hawk-like gaze. “What is it?”

“An invisibility cloak,” Tom says, running a hand down the fabric. “Hard to come by, and the true ones are incredibly rare.”

Harry shakes the cloak out over her bed and in the process a small piece of paper flutter to the floor. She bends down to pick it up, and sees the writing on it.

Harry, she reads out loud, catching Tom’s attention.

Your father lent me this cloak before he died. I thought it was time to return it to its rightful family. Use it wisely.

“There’s no signature,” Harry says, staring at the thin, looping scrawl. Tom peers at the note over her shoulder and makes a noise of distaste. “What?”

Tom looks at the cloak appraisingly and is about to answer when he’s cut off. “Who are you talking to, Potter?” Pansy sneers, coming up from behind Harry unnoticed. “Your imaginary friend? How pathetic.”

Harry just smiles at Pansy blandly. “You caught me,” she says, not batting an eye. Pansy flushes angrily. She’s just jealous of you Tom says cryptically.

 

Harry is still mulling over the whole situation during Christmas lunch. She’s sitting by herself at the end of the Slytherin bench and she pokes at her food moodily. Draco went home for the holidays, although he had sent her an emerald green sweater that matched her eyes near perfect and a book on the Dark Arts, which Harry assumed had been selected by Mr. Malfoy. Tom was rather pleased about that.

He’s sitting across from her, staring at Quirrell with a thoughtful expression on his face. What did you mean when you said Pansy was jealous of me? She asks.

“Hmm?” Tom sounds distracted, his mind still far away. He turns a distracted look to Harry. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Harry mulls over this, as Tom turns back to watching Quirrell. She still can’t put her finger on it. No, it’s not obviousWhat do you mean?

Tom sighs heavily and turns towards her again, directing his full attention at Harry. “What do you have that Pansy doesn’t?” His voice is patronizing and Harry can tell he’s mocking her.

Abusive relatives? Harry guesses, half out of spite. Tom’s too controlled to roll his eyes but Harry can tell he wants to.

“No, Harry,” Tom sighs again. “Draco Malfoy.”

Silence resumes between them as Harry tries to work through his words. Draco? That doesn’t make any sense.

She turns to look down the table at Pansy, who’s surrounded by a gaggle of Slytherin first and second year girls. They’re giggling over something and Harry turns back to Tom to give him a dubious look.

“Pansy has most likely grown up in the same social circles as the rest of the Pureblood children here. Even more likely is that her parents have teased, or at least hinted at, a potential romantic match with Malfoy. I’d imagine it’s a bit of a slap in the face for her to get to Hogwarts and realize Draco is not only better friends with another girl, but with Harry Potter, no less.”

Harry glances back down the table towards Pansy again, newly enlightened. I don’t think Draco likes me like that. Or that I like him like that.

Tom sighs again. “You’re missing the point,” he says, turning back towards Quirrell, signalling the end of the conversation.

 

That night, Harry sneaks out of her bed, throwing the Invisibility Cloak around her shoulders. She’s never had a chance to move around the school undetected and without threat of detection and plans to milk the opportunity for all it’s worth. She slips out of the dorms and through the common room.

Harry wanders aimlessly through the halls, mind blank and no destination planned. She’s on the second floor when she hears low voices drifting down the halls. Harry’s initially unconcerned, but as she gets closer, she recognizes the voices as Snape and Quirrell.

Harry presses herself against the wall, heart racing. If anyone was able to see Harry when she was invisible, Snape would be that person. Whatever Quirrell is saying is indecipherable to Harry, too quiet for her to catch. Snape, on the other hand, makes no effort to lower his voice. He’s threatening Quirrell about something, some sort of protection, but Harry’s quickly distracted by the appearance of Mrs. Norris at her feet.

D’you think she can see us? Harry hisses to Tom, hushed even in the silence of her own mind. The cat’s eerily yellow eyes are pinned on Harry’s face, even though she should be invisible.

Well Tom starts, sounding thoughtful. Technically, she shouldn’t be able to. At this point, Mrs. Norris starts meowing loudly. Snape’s voice from down the hall cuts off abruptly. However, she seems unnaturally observant.

There’s the sound of footsteps down the corridor and, heart beating in her throat, Harry presses back against the wall and sidles down it until she finds the handle to a door. She slowly opens it, wincing at the sound of creaking. Just before Snape whips around the corner, she slides into the room, and shuts the door.

“Who’s there?” He calls out, sounding like he’s right outside the door. He opens the door, peers inside, dark eyes sweeping over the empty desks. Harry stands absolutely still as his eyes pass over her blankly, not even daring to breathe. Seemingly satisfied with his inspection, he shuts it behind him. Harry can hear Filch’s voice now, further down the hall, and Snape moves towards him, his voice becoming muffled the further he moves away from the room.

Thanking her luck, Harry turns around to inspect where she’s ended up. It looks like an abandoned classroom, desks haphazardly arranged around the room and chalkboard still dusty with the half-erased lesson of some professor.

Strangely, there’s a large mirror towards the front of the classroom as well, and Harry moves toward it, intrigued. She lets the Invisibility Cloak drop away from her shoulders, fairly certain the danger has passed for now. When she reaches the mirror, she sees her own reflection, untameable black curls, golden brown skin, pale scar stretching from her hairline to her eyebrow. However, Tom’s standing behind her, looking uncharacteristically soft.

His dark hair is tousled down over his forehead and he’s looking at her with a fond look in his eyes that Harry’s never seen before. He smiles and reaches out for her, his hand on her shoulder now. But she doesn’t feel anything. Confused, she looks over her shoulder.

Nothing’s there.

It’s not real he says softly from her head. Look up. She does as he says, her eyes catching writing on the top of the mirror which she missed before. “Erised.” Harry tests the word out, stumbling over the unfamiliar sounds.

It means desire he says, sounding unusually quiet. It shows you what your heart desires.

So... you-you saw? Tom’s silence is deafening and an answer in it of itself. Harry tries not to feel hurt his indifference. Shaking her head to clear it, she turns away from the mirror, not wanting to see the false hope anymore.

She stops in her tracks when she sees Headmaster Dumbledore. “Professor,” she says, maybe too loud. He’s staring at her with an unreadable look in his eyes.

“Harry,” he says gently. “It’s late.” She flushes, an unfamiliar sense of shame prickling the back of her neck.

She hurries past him, bending down to pick the cloak up off the ground. She’s at the door when he says her name softly. She turns around, fists clenched around the silvery material of the cloak.

His face is pensive, like whatever he finds looking back at him is exactly what he expected. “Do not come looking for the mirror again,” he says, plainly. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Anger curdles in the pit of her stomach at those words. Who, she thinks, does he think he is.

Maybe he thinks he knows what you saw. Something else. Tom whispers in the back of her mind, from where he’s retreated. She can feel his familiar rage and disgust when confronted with Dumbledore.

Harry just nods in response to the Headmaster. “Yes, Headmaster,” she says. She’s opening the door when a thought strikes her. “What does the mirror show you?”

Dumbledore makes a contemplative noise, like she’s surprised him by asking. “Why, Harry,” he says. “I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks.”

Harry blinks in surprise and shock. “What?”

“One can never have too many pairs of socks, and I seem to find myself gifted books by everyone I know every Christmas.” Dumbledore’s face is serenely serious, and Harry stammers out some sort of agreement before she flees the room.

Once the Invisibility Cloak is back around her shoulders, she shakes her head in disbelief. He’s absolutely mad she says.

 

It’s a few months after the mirror fiasco when Harry is rudely shaken out of her sleep by a ruffled looking Draco Malfoy. His face is flushed and his eyes are sparkling with a cruel light. “Harry,” he hisses. “Meet me in the common room in five minutes. Bring your cloak.”

“What?” She mumbles, still half asleep. “What do you want?”

But he’s already gone, and Harry’s tempted to fall back asleep. Eventually, she figures that Draco would just come back to wake her up again until she complies with what he wants. Dragging herself out of bed, Harry tugs on a house sweater over her pyjamas and laces up her shoes.

By the time she makes it down to the common room, Draco is pacing, looking like he’s stressing out of his mind. “Perfect,” he says, once he sees her. “Put that on over us.” Harry does as he says, still confused.

“What’s going on?” She asks as they exit the common room. Draco just presses a finger to his lips and directs them up towards the astronomy tower. He stops in a corridor by the stairs that lead up, looking at Harry with a conspiratorial glint in his eye.

“It’s Weasley,” he says, failing to keep the excitement out of his voice.

Harry shakes her head in confusion. “What about him?”

“Two weeks ago, I followed Weasley out to that oaf Hagrid’s hut. He was acting shifty during class and I wanted to catch him doing something bad. You’ll never guess what I saw.”

Harry wrinkles her nose. “You followed Weasley?” Draco waves his hand in the air like that’s unimportant.

“Dragons.” He sounds positively gleeful. Harry’s reaction must not be what he’s looking for, because he continues unprompted. “Hagrid had a dragon in his hut. A dragon. On Hogwarts grounds.”

“Okay,” Harry says slowly. “So... what? You reported him to Dumbledore? Snape?” There’s a sinking feeling in her stomach as Draco grins.

He shakes his head. “Better to catch them in the act. Last week, I found this.” He shows Harry a wrinkled piece of parchment. She takes it, smoothing it out, and realizes it’s a letter. It’s in a scrawling handwriting, from a Charlie Weasley to Ron, saying he’ll take the dragon from the astronomy tower.

“Draco,” Harry hisses. “This is the stupidest idea you have ever had. What exactly are you hoping to accomplish.”

The grin slides slowly off Draco’s face. “Well,” he says, nowhere near as confident as he had been moments ago. “Maybe get Weasley expelled?”

“You’re more likely to get us expelled,” Harry snaps, grabbing his arm. “C’mon, we’ve got to get back to the common room.”

“But... the dragon!” Draco protests, even though he lets Harry tug him away.

“Forget the dragon,” Harry says, stopping short. Just in the nick of time, as she and Draco watch Professor McGonnagal hauling a red faced Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom through the corridor. She’s spitting mad, to the point of silence, and Harry claps a hand over Draco’s mouth.

She’s barely breathing as she watches McGonagall drag the two Gryffindors away and her heart leaps with triumph once she seems to pass. It’s then that Harry hears a loud meowing from behind her. “Not again,” she groans, under her breath.

Draco glances at her. “Can she see us?” Mrs. Norris meows loudly again, and there’s another set of footsteps on the stone.

Harry nods. “Run,” she advises, and takes off, holding Draco’s arm in a vice-like grip. He’s stumbling along behind her, but runs nonetheless.

“In here,” he pants, tugging on the door to a corridor. It doesn’t budge. “C’mon,” he says, pulling on it again. Harry can hear Filch behind them, can see the flash of his lantern light swinging on the walls.

“Students out of bed,” he croons, voice growing louder and louder.

Harry’s close to panicking, but she whips out her wand on instinct, clenching the warm wood in her fist. Alohamora Tom whispers in her ear, the first time he’s spoken to her that night. He sounds drawn and tired, but there’s a layer of steel under his voice.

She brandishes her wand, the movements coming instinctually from her. Harry suspects Tom’s directing her hand, and she’s unfathomably grateful for his help. “Alohomora!”

The door swings open.

“In, in, in!” She shoves Draco’s shoulder and pulls the door shut behind them. There’s a moment of silence where all that’s audible is the sound of their panting. Harry can hear Filch outside the door, sees the light of his lantern on the ground, but he passes.

Harry pushes herself off the wall, looking at Draco next to her. “The next time you wake me up in the middle of the night, I’m saying no.”

Draco looks paler than usual, but he laughs slightly at her words. He’s about to respond, when a loud growling noise echoes through the chamber. Harry’s heart flutters staccato in her chest.

“Did you hear that?”

There’s another loud growl. “Lumos!” Draco casts, holding his wand up. Almost in a daze, Harry starts from the bottom. Massive paws, followed by an enormous torso, all topped off with three giant dog heads. She makes eye contact with it, and the lips pull back from the teeth and it growls again, long and slow and deadly.

Harry wants to say she’s brave, but really, if the door weren’t holding her up, she would have fallen. It snaps its teeth, once, and then it’s lunging at them.

“Go, go, go!” Draco yells, pushing Harry out of the way and yanking the door they had come through open. Harry’s right on his heels and she doesn’t relax until they reach the dungeons.

She can’t quite catch her breath once they finally stop running by the Slytherin common rooms. “What was that thing?”

Draco shakes his head, scowling. “What is that thing doing in the castle, more like. Just wait until my father hears about this. Honestly.” His face is dark, and he would look menacing, if his cheeks weren’t so flushed from exertion.

“Yes, I’m sure he would love to hear all about how you’ve been sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night and breaking into restricted corridors.” Draco loses some of his steam at that.

“Did you see what it was standing on?” He asks suddenly. “It looked like a trapdoor.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “I was more focused on the heads, so I missed that.”

“What could it be guarding?”

 

The question niggles in the back of Harry’s mind weeks after the event. Draco had been extremely pleased to hear that Weasley and Longbottom both had to serve detentions in the Forbidden Forest. If anything, seeing them caught in the act seemed to make up for the whole fiasco with the dog. He seemed to forget all about the trapdoor and reporting it to his father.

“What do you think it’s guarding?” Harry asks Tom one day, sitting by the Black Lake. There’s a warm breeze and the sun is shining. Students are scattered outside, the stress of final exams finally lifting and the weather finally pleasant enough to enjoy.

Even with the breeze tousling his hair, Tom looks as refined and poised as ever. He lifts one shoulder in an easy shrug. “Who cares?”

Harry frowns, looking out over the lake. There’s been a persistent ache in her scar for the past few weeks, and Tom swears it’s not him. She hasn’t been able to sleep, sure something bad is about to happen, but she can’t quite place her finger on it.

“Don’t you think it’s curious though?”

Tom sighs, gives up on whatever task he was concentrating on in his mind, and turns his full attention on Harry. “Don’t I think what’s curious?”

She shifts, uncomfortable with the weight of his gaze. He’s so intense sometimes, it’s like he can see into her very soul. Which, she thinks, maybe he can. “That a three-headed dog would be guarding something in the castle. I mean, what could be so important that Dumbledore would set that loose on someone trying to find it?”

His eyes narrow at her, blue fire burning. “No, Harry,” he says, a sharp edge to his voice. “I don’t think that’s curious, actually. I think it’s dangerous and stupid.”

Harry’s been so on edge lately, she doesn’t rethink pushing Tom’s limits. “You think what’s dangerous and stupid?”

His eyes seem to sharpen even more, and Harry thinks she can see the red bleeding through. “Meddling in something that you have no business meddling in. Clearly, whatever is down there is dangerous and not meant for children. Which means, stay out of it. Before you get hurt.”

His voice leaves no room for discussion, and he turns back to the lake, face impenetrable. He’s signalling the conversation is over, and Harry knows better than to try and get Tom to talk when he doesn’t want to.

She rubs her scar sullenly, pain shooting dully through it, and wishes she could take a nap.

Peeking out of the corner of her eye, she watches as the wind plays with Tom’s hair. He looks like a statue in the sun, face carved out of stone. She thinks he’s like a stranger these days.

 

Harry regains consciousness slowly. White light filters through her eyes until her head hurts and she thinks someone might be screaming in her ear. Things gradually become clearer until she realizes someone is screaming in her ear. “Wake up, wake up, wake up,” Tom is chanting in her ear loudly, crouched over her body, but she can hear him banging around in her head too.

“Tom?” She asks, still blinking away the white light in her eyes. She can feel his hands roaming over her face, flitting like birds like he can’t decide where he needs to focus most of his worry. For Harry can feel the worry practically radiating off of Tom. It’s filled her mind with a combination of odd protectiveness and she can feel the tenseness of his body from where his hands touch her.

“It’s alright, Harry. I’m here. Sit up, Harry, yes that’s it.” He’s babbling but his hand tucks under her spine, pulling her into a sitting position. Harry slumps against him, eyes still trying to adjust.

Slowly she realizes she’s in a dark room, a circle of fire surrounding her. She’s leaning against Tom, who seems to be flickering in and out of her mind, but his frame holds her up. There’s the Mirror of Erised in front of her and a turbaned figure in front of the mirror and with his back to Harry.

“Tom, where are we?” She almost whimpers, the pain in her head almost blinding. Tom hushes her, brushing his hand down her forehead, his touch on her scar easing the pain fractionally.

“You’ll be okay, Harry. I have you.” His arms wrap around her, like a protection against whatever she’s about to go through.

The man in front of Harry turns around and she flinches at the sight of Quirrell’s dark eyes on her. “Hello, Harry,” he says, stutter gone. “What a pleasure to finally be speaking to you as an equal.”

Harry’s already shaking her head, looking towards Tom for direction but he’s not looking at her. His eyes are closed and he’s resting his forehead against Harry’s shoulder. A spike of fear shoots through her. “I don’t understand,” she says partially to Quirrell and half to Tom.

The last thing she remembers is eating dinner in the Great Hall. She remembers Dumbledore and Snape watching her, remembers Quirrell’s absence from the table housing the teachers and remembers Tom’s absence from her side. None of this was unusual. The further into the year it got, the less she saw of Tom and Quirrell. Tom would reappear at her side after she fell asleep and disappear again before she woke up. Harry had tried unsuccessfully to pry for answers but Tom was silent on the matter.

“Your dear guardian has informed me of what you’re housing,” Quirrell laughs, almost delightedly. Harry doesn’t understand and she looks at Tom again. Why won’t he look at her?

Quirrell laughs again, high-pitched and cruel and Harry knows that sound. Knows it because it resurfaces in her nightmares along with a flash of green light. Knows it because she’s heard it from Tom when he’s feeling especially vindictive.

“Oh, yes,” Quirrell laughs. “Your precious Tom sold you out. Practically gave me your mind on a silver platter.”

Before the words are even out of his mouth Harry’s shaking her head. “No. It’s not true.” She doesn’t know how Quirrell knows about Tom, but there’s a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Tom still won’t meet her eyes. His arms tightened around her at the sound of Quirrell’s laugh.

“Now,” Quirrell hums, turning back towards the mirror. “You’re going to give me the stone and then I’m going to rip your mind to shreds for the remainder of my soul.” Harry skitters back at that, as far as she can move with Tom wrapped around her.

Quirrell is unwrapping his turban, slowly and the screaming in Harry’s head is at a fever pitch. Her forehead burns so bad she can barely see, but she feels Tom letting go of her. Good, she thinks blurrily. Behind the immediate fear of the situation, Harry can’t help but feel immensely betrayed. She gave a home to Tom, let him use her body, let him see the outside world, let him see her most inner self.

Before she can think any more on the subject, a disfigured face is staring at her and Harry is screaming. She tries to move even further backwards, tears escaping her eyes as the burning on her head seems to intensify even more. “Bind her...” The voice hisses and Harry realizes with a sickening sensation it sounds like Tom. Distorted, but him nonetheless.

Long black ropes twist around her wrists and ankles and Harry watches with dread as Quirrell approaches her, grabs her shoulder and shoves her in front of the mirror. She gazes into the mirror, sees her nest of black curls even wilder. Sees the electrifying green of her eyes clouded with unshed tears and her dark golden brown skin is bloody where she scraped her knees falling onto the ground. “Yes...” the voice hisses again and Harry watches as Tom appears behind her in the mirror.

She watches resigned as he wraps his arms around her. There’s a softness in this Tom’s face that Harry doesn’t think she’s seen before. Her reflection throws herself into Tom’s arms and Harry feels her heart shatter a little at the image. It hurts to see this again, to know, for real this time, that it’s not real and will never be real.

Harry breaks her gaze away from the mirror, blinking away her tears. She’s being stupid. She’s a stupid girl and she should have known that Tom would take any chance to get out of her head. She’s beginning to feel the same way too. She wants him out.

A hand brushes her shoulder and Harry becomes aware of a fury building within her chest, an emotion that doesn’t belong to her. I’m here, Harry Tom murmurs in her head and he pulls gently on her magic like he hasn’t for years. His touch is soft and gentle and Harry is so tired. So she lets him have whatever he wants.

Harry falls into Tom’s warm embrace in her head, so achingly similar to what she saw in the mirror and watches with weary eyes as he pulls her body to her feet. Harry’s sure her eyes are burning red and the look of confusion on Quirrell’s face sends a spike of pleasure through Harry.

Let me...” the voice hisses and Quirrell turns around. The burning in Harry’s head increases when the deformed face on the back of Quirrell’s head is staring at them and she knows with certainty that this is Voldemort. Not her Tom. “My wayward soul... coming home...” the voice says and Harry feels her head cock in response.

“You can’t have her,” Tom says in Harry’s voice and the warmth of his embrace on her tightens in response to his words. “Not now, not ever. I will not let you.”

Quirrell’s body takes a step forward towards Harry. “You are an insolent Horcrux. You are MY soul and you will rejoin me. The girl means nothing. Quirrell, now...

He turns and lunges toward Harry. Still bound, Tom can’t do much and she falls. Harry feels the vague pain as her skull connects with the ground and Quirrell’s on them before Tom can retaliate. Harry can feel his anger, hot as embers, flaring up in response. Before he can dredge up a curse through Harry, Quirrell’s hand grabs her face. “The stone!” Quirrell cries, except there’s a burning feeling in Harry.

She doesn’t have the stone, but Quirrell seems to have forgotten what he was after briefly. He snatches his hand away from Harry’s face, shouting in pain. She sees through Tom’s eyes the blisters on his palm and Tom’s already chanting an incantation to release them from the ropes bonds.

They clamber to their feet and Harry sways. Tom is immediately in control, almost a supporting arm under her. There’s an ugly snarl on Quirrell’s face when he looks up again and he rushes her again.

Even with Tom’s support, Harry is still an eleven year old girl. She can’t get out of the way quick enough and collapses underneath his weight. Quirrell reaches for her face again, but he’s screaming just as quickly. Skin contact Tom says, rather unnecessarily and Harry is the one lunging for Quirrell this time.

She clasps both her hands to the side of his face and holds on for all she’s worth. The screams he’s emitting and the screeching in her head crescendo until Harry slumps against the stone stairs of wherever she’s ended up. Quirrell is gone and Harry thinks she may have killed him. Tom seems pleased by this prospect.

“I’m going to go to sleep now, Tom,” she sighs out loud, the pain in her head still rushing. She thinks maybe Voldemort got away but tucks that problem away for another day. “Don’t let ‘im get me,” she mumbles again and her eyes are closed before she can hear his answer.

 

When she wakes up again, she’s cradled against something that feels like a cloud. Her head is warm and slightly fuzzy and Harry thinks she can feel Tom curled up against her soul. Her head is throbbing slightly and Harry has to blink a few times to clear her eyes.

She rolls her head slightly, realizes she’s in the Hospital Wing.

Dumbledore is sitting at her side, watching her with something that looks like consideration. “Headmaster,” Harry says, her throat burning and the words hoarse.

“Hello, Harry,” Dumbledore says softly, still gazing at her with that indecipherable look in his eyes. They’ve lost their twinkle and Harry thinks he looks awfully serious. Tom mumbles something from inside her head but Harry thinks he’s too worn out to make any sense.

“What...” her voice gives out and she doubles over in a coughing fit, her stomach aching at the movement. “What happened,” she finally grinds out and Dumbledore’s eyes shut tightly for a moment.

“It seems, Harry, that you have defeated Lord Voldemort once more.” Dumbledore doesn’t seem very pleased with this fact.

“They wanted some stone,” Harry remembers belatedly. Dumbledore hums, still giving her that grave look over his glasses.

“The Sorcerer's Stone, if I’m not mistaken.” He doesn’t elaborate any further. “My dear girl, what did you see in the mirror?”

Harry’s mind goes to Tom without her permission, to the sight of him cradelling her within his arms. Tom stirs again in her head, curling even further around her magic until their beings are so intertwined Harry doesn’t think she could cut their bond even if she tried. “My family, sir,” she says, not lying in the slightest.

Dumbledore looks disappointed with her answer. “Yes, of course,” he murmurs, steepling his fingers under his chin. “How peculiar.”

“What’s peculiar, sir?”

Almost as if he didn’t hear her, Dumbledore moves on to something that has clearly been bothering him. “How, exactly, did you make it in front of the Mirror?” He asks her gently and Harry shakes her head.

“I don’t know,” she says honestly, even though she can feel Tom’s guilt in her head. “One minute I was sitting in the Great Hall eating dinner and the next thing I remember is waking up in front of Quirrell.” Harry blinks again as something occurs to her. “Is Quirrell dead, sir?”

Dumbledore gives her another appraising glance. “Yes,” he hums. “It seems he could not handle the stress of Voldemort leaving his body. It is not so easy a task, providing host to a Dark Lord,” and if Harry didn’t know any better, she would think the old man knew about the small bit of soul currently taking residence within her. Maybe he did, but his gaze gives no indication of that knowledge.

“Fear not, my dear girl. There was nothing you could do, and under the circumstances I think it is quite the miracle you’re here to recount the tale. Now, I suggest you focus on regaining your health and working your way through many of the gifts you have received.” Dumbledore stands, brushing his lavender robes of imaginary dust.

“And Harry,” he calls as she started leaning over to investigate the piles of candy on her bedside table. “I have received word the Malfoys intend having you over for the summer. But I must insist you return home. We wouldn’t want your relatives to worry, after all.”

Once he was gone, Harry bit into a Chocolate Frog, seething.

 

Harry misses the feast but she hears secondhand from Malfoy about how the Gryffindors were granted a last-minute victory due to Dumbledore’s favoritism. Draco is practically beside himself but Harry can’t quite bring herself to care.

For all she can feel Tom in her head, he hasn’t said anything to her since the incident with his older self. He’s been almost overly possessive with her, going so far as to feel immensely angry when Draco bestowed a rare hug upon her.

Harry has to wait until the Hospital Wing clears out before she can confront him.

“What did you do?” She asks, her voice breaking. The only light in the room is the candle burning brightly next to her and Harry can feel the exact moment when Tom half extracts himself from Harry’s magic and takes a physical form. She can still feel him tightly wound around her soul, but he’s also now sitting on the side of her bed, close enough to touch.

He seems to hunch in on himself. “I knew who Quirrell was, of course,” he says. “Almost immediately after we met him. How could I not?” Harry just blinks, unsure of how she’s supposed to respond to that. “You were so worried, thinking he wanted to molest you,” Tom sounds amused even though Harry can hear the edge under the word ‘molest’.

“When really,” he sighs, “Quirrell was watching me. Through you, of course. He could tell you were carrying something that connected to what he was. Voldemort knows our magical signature, just as I know his. And the more the year went on, the stronger I became.”

Harry knows this part, knows because she lived through it. Watched as Tom could move farther and farther away from her. She just doesn’t know how it connects to the story.

“Hogwarts’ magic helped me. And you are such a willing host,” Tom sighs almost dreamily, “that you couldn’t help but flood me with your own magic. You were becoming more powerful and in turn, granting me that same power. I was searching for something I hid in the castle long ago and Quirrell stumbled upon me. Oh, he couldn’t see me, not really, but Voldemort knew immediately who I was. He had been watching you, knew what you carried.

“He wanted you. Your power. I wasn’t going to help him,” Tom seems to sense Harry’s growing distress because he reaches out to grab her hand tightly. His eyes look like they’re on fire, crimson flames dancing. “He promised to protect you. He tricked me.” Tom looks disgusted by the very thought. “So I took you to him, took over your mind. You had been flooding me with your power for weeks, it was as easy as flipping a switch.”

Harry yanks her hand away from him. She feels cold inside, all the warmth from Tom’s presence curdling in her stomach. “You sold me out to die,” she hisses, fury draping over her. “Voldemort tried to kill me. You tried to kill me, when I was a baby. Why would you think that would have changed?”

Tom is looking at her, his eyes so impossibly wide. “You’re mine now, Harry. A part of me, whether you like it or not. Before I ended up here, I would have killed to protect my...” he drifts off here, like he’s reconsidering what he was going to say. “My Horcruxes.”

“Your what?” Harry is hopelessly confused. She’s heard Tom call her a Horcrux before, but never in that reverent tone, like she’s the most precious thing he’s ever owned.

“Voldemort didn’t care.” Tom continues, like he didn’t hear Harry. “He just wanted me back and would have killed you for it.” His hand around hers clenches tightly. “Whatever happened to him in the past eleven years has torn away what sanity he possessed. He cannot be reasoned with.”

“You’re the same person!” Harry cries, forgetting to be quiet for a moment.

Tom’s already shaking his head furiously. “Not anymore, Harry.” She pulls her hand away from him, yanking when he won’t let her go.

She blinks furiously, trying to beat back the burning behind her eyes. She won’t cry. Not in front of Tom, who has always told her to be strong above all else. “Harry, Harry, Harry,” Tom croons, moving closer to her.

Harry hates herself a little bit for clenching her fists in his shirt, dragging him even closer. She buries her face in his shoulder, her chest heaving. Tom is everywhere, her mind, her body, her soul. He’s holding onto her so tight, Harry thinks she’s going to have bruises.

She’s crying now, sure she’s ruining his shirt. Tom doesn’t seem to care. He’s whispering things into her hair and into her mind and Harry cries for all the things she’s lost and the nightmare she just lived through.

Tom holds her through it all.

 

“You’re going where?” Draco’s face is flushed and he’s breathing furiously. “Wait until my father hears about this, Harry. He won’t stand for it.”

Harry smirks slightly. Draco is so predictable. Apparently he didn’t know Harry was being forced to return to her filthy Muggle relatives’ home. He was very displeased when Harry mentioned that Dumbledore had been the one to cause this.

“Honestly,” he swears and Harry laughs. Tom’s hand drifts over her shoulder, and she turns slightly to see him eyeing her with consideration. He smiles at her, a dark cruel edge to it and Harry suppresses the urge to shiver.

By the time they reach London, Draco’s worked himself up into a fury. He immediately goes to complain to his father and Lucius gives Harry an appraising one over. She’s rather tired of people doing that to her. “We will see you on the first of August, Miss Potter,” he says and Harry nods, accepting it for the dismissal it is.

“Yes, sir,” she says. “Bye Draco!” She says cheerfully, watching as he stares at her looking crestfallen. He waves mutely and Harry drags her trunk to where her aunt and uncle are waiting for her.

“In,” Vernon sneers ugly, pointing threateningly at the car. Harry can feel Tom’s wrath stirring in her head but she just smiles blandly.

She and Tom have plenty of time before they go to the Malfoys to reeducate her relatives on their proper place.

Chapter Text

“I’m bored,” Harry sighs, half reaching her arm up to brush her hair out of her eyes before aborting the movement. Too much energy, she figures. Tom snorts from where he’s staring into space next to her. Without looking at her, he tucks her curls behind her ears.

Harry’s sprawled across a park bench, her head resting on Tom’s leg. He’s not paying attention to her and Harry blinks against the harsh sun. “Why is it so hot?” She asks rhetorically.

Tom hums. “I think it being August might have something to do with that.” Harry makes a noise of agreement and falls silent. It was so hot and humid her hair was sticking to the back of her neck unpleasantly. Harry has been unwelcome in the Dursleys’ home ever since she accidentally shattered the kitchen window. It was better for everyone involved, except for Harry having to suffer through the heat.

“At least we’re going to the Malfoys today,” she sighs and Tom makes another indistinct noise. “Hey,” she says, trying to catch his attention. “What time?”

Tom sighs deeply and grabs Harry’s wrist to look at her slightly worn watch. “One.”

Harry sits straight up. Forgetting her heat-induced exhaustion, she jumps to her feet. “We’re late! Mr. Malfoy can’t meet the Dursleys,” she hisses, practically in hysterics over the image in her mind.

“Entirely your fault, my dear,” Tom reprimands, but follows dutifully behind her.

Harry just waves a hand at him, too concerned about the state of her things when the Dursleys realized just who was standing on their door stoop. When she finally gets to their house, she realizes maybe she should have been more worried about the way she looks.

Oh my god she whimpers in her head, Lucius Malfoy looking strangely innocuous on the doorstep, turning to look at her. This was not a good idea.

He looks slightly disgusted at the sight of Harry, shock flickering close behind. She certainly doesn’t look her best. Her curls are especially wild from the humidity and Harry knows the oversized dress she’s wearing sports more than one dirt stain. She’s also bruised along one cheek, the sign of her failure to outrun Dudley.

His eyes flick up to Harry’s forehead and narrow as he catches sight of her scar. Lucius Malfoy had always been perfectly polite to Harry, which she figured was more out of a desire to not anger her into cursing him into oblivion. It only ever took a few flashes of her eyes bleeding red for him to fall back into line and remember his place.

“Ah,” he says, clearly deciding to tactfully ignore the way she looks like she’s just lost a fight with someone. “Miss Potter. Pleasure as always.”

Harry smiles blandly up at him, sidling around him so she can open the door. “Mr. Malfoy,” she says in return. “Sorry, I’m not quite ready. Lost track of time, you see.” She steps into the house, the temperature noticeably cooler and relaxes slightly. “Please come in.”

His eyes narrow again when he hears she lost track of time, but he doesn’t say anything to dispute the fact. “Thank you,” he says smoothly, stepping into the Dursleys house. “Shall I wait here?” He’s clearly taking in the well-manicured living room and hallway of the home, but Harry can’t tell if he’s disgusted or intrigued. She realizes she actually doesn’t know much about how accustomed Mr. Malfoy is to Muggle lifestyle. She guesses, if his track record in politics is anything to go by, not very well.

She’s about to answer when Aunt Petunia’s voice rings through the house. “Girl!” She rounds the corner of the hallway and stops short when she sees Mr. Malfoy. “Who are you?”

While not dressed in full robes, Mr. Malfoy is most definitely not wearing anything considered Muggle-appropriate. Without a doubt, not Dursley-appropriate. He’s in black dress robes, with boots that look like snake skin, although Harry guesses it’s dragon. His long, blonde hair reaches past his shoulders, normally, but is tied back with a black velvet ribbon, and he’s carrying a long black cane with an elegant silver snake’s head carved at the top.

He seems to draw himself up when he sees Petunia, eyes narrowing and chin lowering as he gives her a haughty look. “My name is Lucius Malfoy.” Harry half-expects to hear him add an ‘you insipid woman’ or ‘filthy Muggle’ but he apparently has greater restraint than she thought.

“I’m here to pick up Harry and take her with me for the rest of the summer.” He’s not asking, and Harry watches with interest as Petunia flushes in anger.

“You can’t just take her,” her aunt snaps. “You’re... you’re one of those freaks.”

Tom makes an interested noise from the back of Harry’s mind. Maybe Lucius will take care of one of your relatives for us he says, sounding more gleeful than he ought to.

Harry doesn’t have to be able to feel the older Malfoy’s emotions to know rage is bubbling under the surface. The hair on her arms prickles with the strength of his magic, and Harry knows her aunt must be able to feel the tension in the room. He doesn’t let any of his emotions show on his face, which Harry is impressed by. “Freaks?” His voice is cool, lethal. “Whatever do you mean?”

Harry knows it’s a trap, knows he’s baiting her aunt into a misstep. Petunia hesitates, wavering in her answer, but eventually plows on ahead. “You know what I mean,” she says, all hot rage to Mr. Malfoy’s ice.

She lowers her voice. “Magic.” Her aunt straightens her back, raising her chin. “We won’t have it in this household. You tell that headmaster of hers, we just will not allow her filthy behavior to taint our son, or ruin our reputation here.”

Harry frowns at that. Filthy behavior she complains to Tom. He seems amused by her anger, but doesn’t say anything. Harry thinks he’s actually enjoying the scene playing out.

Mr. Malfoy seems to stiffen even further, and Harry decides she had better intervene before things escalated even further. “I’ll go get my things, Mr. Malfoy,” she says hurriedly, cutting in before he did something stupid, like curse her aunt.

Turning to Aunt Petunia, Harry goes for a placating approach. “I won’t be back until next summer,” she assures her. Petunia regards her with stony eyes, and nods stiffly, before stepping aside and letting Harry dash up the stairs.

 

Her relatives had “gifted” Dudley’s second bedroom to her for her twelfth birthday, after Harry had threatened to use magic in front of some of Vernon’s business associates. They had tried to lock her in the cupboard for that particular threat, but that was when Harry had accidentally shattered the window. They compromised instead. Harry would get the bedroom and in return, she would stay out of the house during the day.

She had received one of what Tom informed her was a Howler for her efforts though. The Ministry, telling her that if she used magic outside of school again, she could be expelled. “But it was accidental,” she had told Tom.

He had frowned at the letter, up in their new bedroom. He seemed to enjoy the extra space. “The Trace doesn’t work that way,” he said, only confusing Harry further. “They can only track what magic is performed, not the intent behind it, or who cast it. Seeing as you’re the only witch who lives at this address, they assume you’re doing underage magic.”

Harry had frowned. “So, children from magical families can do magic whenever and no one will know?” She distinctly remembered Draco telling her about the private tutor his father had hired for him in order to prepare him from Hogwarts.

Tom had just shrugged, stretching himself out on her new bed. “Something like that. If they can’t track who’s doing the magic, they can’t enforce the Trace.”

“That seems unfair.”

Tom had shrugged again, seemingly uninterested in the conversation or topic.

 

Life at the Malfoy Manor was just as opulent as Harry remembers it being. They had real life peacocks that roamed the ground, a Quidditch Pitch in the backyard, and more bedrooms than Harry could count on two hands.

“Harry!” Draco cries when he sees her for the first time. He must have been waiting in the parlor where guests are greeted, because he jumps up from the sofa like he’s been waiting for her. He falters when he sees what she’s wearing and the bruise slanted across her cheekbone. He seems to waver between two trains of thought. “What are you wearing?” He finally decides, and Harry grins, bright.

She’s full of an overwhelming sense of relief to be around people who are actually eager to talk to her. She looks down at her dress, oversized and dirt stained. “You don’t like it?” She asks slyly, before looking back up.

Draco flushes, but grins, throwing his arms around her. He hugs her tightly. “I missed you,” he confides to her, later, when they’re sitting in his room, waiting for dinner.

“Why did you have to go back to your relatives?” He asks her, a tad balefully. “You should have just come straight here.” His eyes trace the darkness of the bruise on her face. “They treat you horribly, don’t they?”

Harry shifts, uncomfortable. She’s honestly not quite sure what to say, even with Tom’s suggestions in her head.

“It’s really not personal,” she finally says. “You know Dumbledore expects me to be his little puppet. Part of that is doing things like spending the summer with my Muggle relatives. I can’t afford to draw his suspicion.”

“What?” Draco sputters. Honestly, Harry wonders if he has even half a brain cell to spare. “Why would Dumbledore suspect you? What would he even suspect you of?”

Harry just watches him steadily. Draco shakes his head, apparently deciding she’s not worth it. He glances up again, an expression of something Harry can’t quite place flashing across his face. “I...” he trails off and is clearly trying to strengthen his confidence. “I missed you,” he sighs finally, telling her for the second time.

Harry feels something warm and disgusting clench in her chest as she realizes Draco is hurt. “You know I would have much rather spent the summer planning Slytherin domination over avoiding my relatives.”

Draco looks up again, his eyes brighter. “Yeah?”

Harry laughs, slinging her arm around his shoulders. “Yeah.”

 

Narcissa Malfoy is sweet as ever to Harry, but she can’t help but think the older woman is watching her with keen eyes. What do you think she wants from me? Harry asks Tom one day, surreptitiously watching the woman tend to her garden.

Everywhere she goes, she feels like she’s being watched. Harry thinks the walls have ears, but Tom had told her not to worry. I don’t think she wants anything from you Tom answers, sounding bored. Can we go back to the library now?

She’s always watching me Harry says, stubborn. She’s not going to give in that easy, not when Tom is being so evasive. Plus, Draco is going to get brooms from the shed and teach Harry some of his favorite evasive maneuvers.

You’re not going to let this go are you? He sighs, and continues on without letting her answer. She’s probably watching you to see if you are me, like I’m sure Lucius has told her you are. Don’t forget, Narcisssa was a Death Eater as well.

Oh Harry says, feeling dumb. Do you think we should show her? The woman in question has moved on to watering her flowers, and shows no hint of awareness towards the fact Harry is spying on her.

I think that would be a spectacularly bad idea Tom says. She is not so easily controlled by fear as Lucius, I’m afraid. It’s the Black blood in her.

Black blood? Draco’s calling Harry’s name now, so she reluctantly turns from where she was watching Narcissa.

Her maiden name. She’s from the Black family, notoriously dark, notoriously strong willed. Tom seems reluctant to divulge more about the family, so Harry lets it go. She’s more focused on picking a broom, anyhow, and figures if it was really important, he’d tell her.

 

Tom finally talks Harry into going back to the Malfoys’ library. She slides in quietly, after she’s sure the rest of the house has gone to sleep, invisibility cloak wrapped around her. She’s not entirely sure she’s supposed to be here. The first time she had come, Mr. Malfoy had caught her rifling through the shelves about ten minutes in and had quickly redirected her to the Quidditch Pitch with Draco.

That had been their second day here and it was directly after that, Harry had started to feel like everyone was watching her, holding their breath. Needless to say, she figured the library was an unspoken off-limits place. Tom wouldn’t be deterred, however, so here they were.

What are we even looking for? Harry grabs another book off the shelf for Tom’s appraisal. He glances over it from where he’s hovering by her shoulder.

No. Harry closes it and shoves it back into place. She pulls another one down. He turns it aside, without even looking inside.

A horrible thought strikes her, even as she grabs another book. If you find it, are you gonna make me steal from Mr. Malfoy?

Tom is too poised to roll his eyes, but she gets the distinct impression he would like to. Technically, what we’re looking for was mine in the first place. Lucius is just the temporary owner of it.

So we are going to steal it! There’s a sharp pain in her scar at that comment, and Harry falls silent, just concentrating on showing him the covers of the books she finds. Why would you give it to him?

Sometimes, Harry, it is better to give what’s most important to you to those who would never move to use it against you.

Harry ponders his words for a few seconds. If it was so important to you, and Mr. Malfoy really is as loyal as you think, why would he hide it in his family’s library of all places?

Tom doesn’t deign to answer her.

They spend a few more minutes in the library, but he seems to have realized the wisdom to Harry’s words and allows her to give up the search in favor of her bed. They don’t go back to the library during their time at the Malfoys, but Harry swears they watch her even closer after her midnight visit. Tom doesn’t say anything to dissuade her of this idea, so she guesses he agrees with her.

 

When they go to Diagon Alley, Harry realizes she’s more famous than she thought. “I hate Gilderoy Lockheart,” Draco snarls under his breath as they’re waiting in line at Flourish and Blotts. “What a ponce.”

Watching the way the man in question is flashing his bright smile to the camera and making every woman in ten feet swoon, Harry has to agree. “What did he do exactly?” she asks Draco with a hushed voice. He shrugs next to her.

“Wrote a bunch of books, I guess.” He shows her their book list for the upcoming school year. “All his.” Harry frowns.

“You don’t think...” She’s cut off, by someone exclaiming her name loudly.

“Why, if it isn’t Harry Potter herself!” Gilderoy Lockheart must have caught sight of her face in the line, because he’s pushing through the hordes of people to reach her. He grabs her arm in a lethal tight grasp, pulling her closer to him.

Draco steps away, neatly avoiding the chaos that Lockheart has initiated. He’s scowling, a dark look on his face. “Excuse me,” Harry says, flustered, trying to detangle herself from Lockheart. “Can I help you?”

Lockheart ignores her, waving the cameraman from the Daily Prophet over. He’s giving the other man directions. “No... my best angle is from the left, better go here. Yes, yes, perfect. Smile, Harry.” He steps on her foot in the comotion, and Harry renews her struggle to extract herself from his grip.

The camera bulb flashes and Lockheart finally lets go of her arm. “It’s not every day Flourish and Blotts has such prestigious customers, hmm?”

Harry mutters something under her breath, still rubbing at where Lockheart had been holding her. “Here,” Lockheart deposits all the books of his, from Harry’s classlist, signing his autograph on the front page. “Free of charge.” He taps his nose slyly, leaning in conspiratorially. “Take tips from me, Harry, and I’ll teach you all you need to know about your fame.”

Harry tries her best not to roll her eyes, and since Lockheart doesn’t look offended, she guesses she won that battle. She makes a hasty retreat, skin crawling from all the attention. What a horrid man Tom muses.

She finally finds Draco towards the back of the bookstore, his nose in a book. He’s pointedly ignoring her. “What?” She snaps, finally growing frustrated with his attitude.

He snaps the book closed and looks up, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed. He’s more flushed than usual, and Harry figures he must be angry about something although she can’t deduce what, exactly. “It must be terrible,” he says, “not being able to even go into a bookstore without drawing everyone’s attention. I’m truly sorry for you.”

He storms off, without letting Harry talk, slamming into her shoulder.

Oh dear Tom says, driely. I do believe he’s jealous.

Harry turns around, facing the way he went. Boys are weird.

On her way out, Harry stumbles onto what looks like the Weasley patriarch and Lucius Malfoy in a heated argument. She thinks she sees Mr. Malfoy slip something into the cauldron of the youngest Weasley girl, but she’s quickly distracted. Harry watches with keen eyes as Arthur Weasley takes a swing at Lucius Malfoy. Tom is hovering over her shoulder and she can feel the mixture of his fascination and disgust. “Honestly,” he sneers, as Lucius gets the upper hand on Weasley, blonde hair flying. “Fighting like muggles.”

Harry just shrugs. At least we’re not involved she says and feels Tom’s silent agreement. Did you see that?

Tom seems confused. See what? Harry explains to him what she saw before Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley started brawling. No, I was distracted. He doesn’t sound particularly concerned, so Harry lets it go, still mulling over what it could have been.

 

Much to her displeasure, Draco is still mad at her by the time they get on the Hogwarts Express. She’s not sure what else she can do to convince him that she’s not looking for anyone’s attention, so she decides the best course of action is to just give him the cold shoulder in return. Of course, Harry didn’t factor in having to find a compartment for herself.

She’s used to sitting with Draco, who claims a compartment like he does with everything else in life. Just taking, without every considering who else might want it. That, and the Malfoys don’t get to Platform Nine and Three Quarters until just before the train leaves, which leaves Harry in a lurch for somewhere to sit.

Oh, would you just pick somewhere already? You’re the bloody Girl-Who-Lived, any one of these fools would be delighted and honored to have you sitting with them. Tom is grumpy today, like an angered cat. The image in her head makes Harry want to laugh, but judging by the pain in her scar, he’s nowhere near as amused.

Fine she grumbles, opening the next door she sees. Three heads snap up at the same time, papers going flying.

“I thought you locked that,” one of them hisses, a red-head who Harry realizes, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, is one of the Weasley twins. The other red-head, his brother, shrugs, smirking.

“Oops. Must have forgot.” Their third companion, a darker skinned boy, rolls his eyes, like he’s used to their antics.

“Sorry.” She can feel her face starting to flush. “I must have the wrong compartment.” Harry’s already turning to leave, when one of them grabs her wrist.

“Do you need a place to sit?” It’s one of the Weasley twins. Harry turns to look at him, expecting to see him mocking her, but he looks sincere. And... sitting with them would be better than wandering the halls of the train the whole time.

“Yes,” she says finally. “Thank you.”

He grins, bright and warm. “Lee, move over.” Their friend scoots to the side, patting the vacated seat for her. “I’m Fred. That’s George. And our friend, Lee Jordan.”

Harry waves, sitting down in the open seat. “Should I lock the door?” The three of them exchange glances, before Fred turns back to her with a sly smile.

“You should.” He whips out a piece of parchment that Harry had seen them hastily try to hide when she had walked in on them. “Tell me... what do you know about transfiguration?”

The longer into the train ride it gets, the more Harry’s perception of the twins changes. She knows they act dumb at school, but Harry can see the glimpse of cunning slinking in their eyes. She thinks they would have made wonderful Slytherins, if their family weren’t so bloody Gryffindor.

She can tell Tom agrees with her which is how Harry finds herself spending the rest of the train ride bent over their parchment, helping them work out the kinks. They’re pouring over new formulas for potions and toffees, intended to wreak havoc on the halls of Hogwarts.

Harry gladly chips in her knowledge when the twins turn to her, just as long as she’s never the intended recipient of their effects. The twins exchange a long glance when she proposes this term, but eventually they turn back to her with a steely glint in their eyes and agree. “Always good doing business with you,” Fred says cheerily, shaking her hand maniacally.

Harry can’t help but laugh.

 

Ginny Weasley is sorted into Gryffindor.

 

Despite Harry’s best efforts, Hermione Granger is ridiculously persistent. “What are you working on?” She asks over Harry’s shoulder, peering at her Potions essay. Harry tugs the parchment a little closer to herself and hunches in on herself.

Tom’s sneering in her head, but she answers anyway. “Potions essay,” she says and hears Hermione move to pull the chair out from across her. Harry doesn’t look up again until she finishes her essay. “What?” She snaps when she catches the way Granger is watching her.

“I...” she trails off, seemingly cowed by Harry’s sharp gaze. But she musters courage under Harry’s eyes, pulling from some reserve Harry didn’t know she had. She remembers belatedly that Hermione’s in Gryffindor. “I never got to thank you. For what you did for me last year.” There’s a pink flush high on her cheeks and Harry softens, just a bit.

Tom is disgusted.

“Well,” Harry says, slightly flustered. “I’m sure you would have done the same.”

Granger bursts into tears.

 

Tom does not approve of Harry’s choice in friends.

 

“Harry!” Hermione calls, running up to her in the halls. Draco sneers, his face flushing but Harry just tugs gently on his robes. She thinks she actually likes Hermione. She’s certainly the first to ever look at Harry like a person instead of the Girl-Who-Lived.

“Hi Hermione,” she greets, smiling at the bushy haired girl. Hermione’s slightly out of breath, but she pulls a piece of parchment out of her bag anyway.

“Thanks again,” she says brightly, her teeth white against her dark skin as she smiles. “Your insight is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” She means my insight Tom practically snarls from where he’s taken permanent position behind Harry.

Harry serenely ignores him. “Why weren’t you a Ravenclaw?” Harry asks as they move up the stairs towards Transfiguration.

Hermione’s already shrugging beside her. “Too brash,” she sighs, not at all sounding put out. “The hat said I’d drive the other students bonkers.”

Draco snorts from his position flanking Harry on her other side. “Imagine that,” he sneers and Harry can tell Tom agrees with him. Harry thinks she hates Slytherins sometimes. Hermione stiffens next to Harry, falling silent.

Harry frowns. Hermione is her friend. Her first real friend, even though she’s grown to like Malfoy. “Enough,” she snaps and Draco flinches. Harry directs some of her anger towards Tom but he’s still buzzing under her skin like an itch that won’t go away.

She gets the sense he doesn’t appreciate the comparison.

“Ignore him,” she says, looping her arm through Hermione’s. “If I want to be friends with a Gryffindor, who’s going to stop me?” Hermione just giggles but Harry can tell she’s pleased.

 

Harry is starting to suspect the day of her parents’ murder is cursed. Enemies of the Heir beware... Harry ponders, mulling the words over in her mind.

“What do you think it means?” She asks Tom, who’s been giving her a migraine all day. He’d gone silent the night before when she stumbled upon Mrs. Norris and water flooding the corridor and blood on the walls.

I know what it means he says from the back of her head. I’m thinking. And that’s the end of it.

 

Harry trips down the stairs before breakfast.

She tumbles head over heels until she hits the ground with a sickening crack and a lance of pain up her arm. Harry’s staring at the ceiling of the castle, still trying to process what’s happening. She hears footsteps to the left of her and turns her head slightly, only to flush brilliantly.

Apparently breakfast let out early and a small group of students and professors are headed her way. She’s already scrambling to get to her feet, ignoring the way her arm is dangling broken at her side and the soreness in her tailbone.

Tom hisses at her in anger, practically pushing on her shoulders to keep her on the floor and she glares at him, even as people start to crowd her frame of vision. “Miss Potter,” Professor McGonagall exclaims. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“I think I tripped,” Harry slurs, dully realizing she must have hit her head harder than she thought. “M’ arm is hurt.”

McGonagall’s face pales and she takes a step forward like she’s going to do something sensible like taking Harry to the Hospital Wing. Before she can get any further than that, Professor Lockhart swoops in, wand arm at the ready.

“Worry not, dear Harry,” he says cheerily, pointing his wand at her arm. “I know just the thing.” He says something under his breath and before Harry knows what’s happening, there’s an odd numb feeling in her arm. She glances over, sees the noodle-like quality of her previously functioning arm and proceeds to faint. Rather dramatically, if she’s telling the truth.

Harry wakes up in the Hospital Wing, burning pains rushing up her arm. She gasps, looking around for someone to explain what’s happening. “Skele-Gro,” Tom explains, from where he’s sitting on the edge of her bed. “Nasty stuff.”

Harry grinds her teeth, but sinks into the pillows. “I hate Lockhart,” she mutters sullenly. And Harry really thinks she does. Not only is he a complete fraud, with no teaching experience whatsoever, he’s taken to forcing Harry to act out scenes of his books in front of the class. Draco and Tom are insufferable on those days. Harry still doesn’t think Draco’s ever gotten over the Flourish and Blotts incident.

Before she can say anything else, the doors to the Hospital Wing burst open and Tom disappears without a sound. “Bring him here,” Madam Pomfrey instructs. Harry rolls over in bed before they can see her sitting up, but she makes sure she’s facing the bed everyone has gathered around.

Dumbledore and McGonagall are hovering over the bed, someone lying prone on it. Harry strains her eyes trying to catch a glimpse, but she can only see their feet. Tom? She asks in her head and she feels him grumbling before he’s out of her head. Dumbledore and McGonagall exclaim loudly and Harry can see Madam Pomfrey clasp a hand over her mouth. “But what could have caused that?” Madam Pomfrey asks.

Harry’s burning with curiosity and it isn’t long until Tom’s back in her head and showing her what he saw. A first year Gryffindor, Colin Creevey, Harry remembers distantly, was laying frozen on the bed, a camera clasped tightly in his hands.

“I am afraid the Chamber of Secrets truly has reopened,” Dumbledore is saying gravely and Harry’s scar is burning and Tom is pacing the confines of her mind with something like rage.

 

“But what is the Chamber of Secrets?” Harry asks Tom, her legs swinging as she sits at the edge of the Astronomy tower. She had been released from the Hospital Wing a few days earlier which had practically been bombarded with people trying to catch a glimpse of Creevey.

Harry personally thought it was all a tad bit insensitive. After all, an eleven year old boy is laying practically dead in the Hospital Wing. Tom doesn’t seem to share her sentiments, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested in watching her interact with a mob of her own peers either.

He’s sitting next to her, a far off look in his eyes. The wind is pulling through his hair, blowing it every which way and Harry knows if she reached out a hand, his skin would be warm under hers. She’s not quite sure if he’s visible to others, but she can feel the warmth radiating from him. She scooches a little closer, and Tom turns slightly to look at her.

His eyes are pale blue, but Harry knows there’s a red lurking underneath. He seems to be thinking something over before sighing. “It’s under the castle.” He says finally, something like longing in his voice. Harry rests her head against the rail of the Tower and looks up at the stars, her heart aching for a reason she can’t name.

“Hidden for only those who deserve to know of its existence. Housing a creature so powerful, most tremble before it.” Harry snorts before she can help herself.

Tom’s fury is directed towards her, Harry’s scar burning. “And what, dear Harry,” his voice is dripping lethal ice, “is so funny?”

“It’s just,” she starts, not so sure of herself now that Tom’s watching her with such a steely glint in his eyes. “You sound like you think you’re so much better than everyone else.”

An ugly sneer crosses his face, one Harry knows intimately well. “I am better than everyone else,” Tom practically snarls, his body tense with rage. “The Chamber of Secrets is a legacy left behind by Salazar Slytherin himself. For his Heir to open and his Heir alone.”

“I don’t understand,” Harry says. And she doesn’t. Because the rage has dripped off Tom like it was never there in the first place and he’s staring back at the sky, his brow furrowed. Like he’s worried. Tom never worries.

“Harry.” Tom’s looking at her now, and his hand comes up to clutch her chin. His skin is almost burning hot, branding her, but Harry meets his gaze steadily. “There has only ever been one person to open the Chamber before and it should be impossible for anyone to recreate those actions.”

He seems deadly serious and Harry’s not sure how to respond or how to react. “Who?” She asks the only question coming to mind.

Tom’s grip on her chin tightens minutely, before he lets go. Harry resists the urge to reach up and rub at where he was holding her. He looks back out at the land surrounding Hogwarts and remains silent.

 

“So I’ve been doing some research on the Chamber of Secrets,” Hermione says to Harry, sitting down next to her at breakfast. She’s nudged Pansy Parkinson out of the way and taken a seat at the Slytherin table, seemingly unperturbed by the glares being sent her way.

She’s dropped Hogwarts: A History next to Harry’s plate and started to butter a piece of toast by the time Harry regains her wits.

“Hermione!” She hisses, aghast. On her other side, she can feel Draco working himself up into a rage. “What are you doing here?”

Hermione freezes in her ministrations, looking at Harry. “Eating breakfast,” she explains, like it should be evident. “Is there something wrong?”

Harry’s about to answer when Draco cuts her off. “Yes,” he sneers. “Some of us like to be able to eat in peace, without a filthy Mudblood ruining our appetites.” The table falls silent, those closest to Harry having heard what was said. Hermione’s butter knife clatters out of her hand onto the table loudly.

Harry’s head whips around, fury filling her. Tom had filled her in on everything she would need to know, ‘Mudbloods’ included. Harry despised the term, knowing the birth of her mother. It had always been a point of contention between her and Tom but Harry hadn’t expected to hear it anywhere else.

She can feel Hermione quivering beside her, clearly close to tears. Harry’s fingers are itching to pull out her wand to hex Draco, but she’s acutely aware of both Dumbledore and Snape’s eyes on her.

“Go to hell, Malfoy,” Harry snarls, raising to her feet. “Maybe there you’ll learn some manners.” She tugs at Hermione’s robes. “C’mon, ‘mione. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.” Hermione scrambles to her feet, clutching her book to her chest.

They leave the Great Hall together and Tom’s over her shoulder. He leans down, breath brushing against the back of her neck. “You may have just lost the young Malfoy as an ally,” he murmurs softly, almost menacing.

So what she thinks back, mutinously. He’s a prat and his dad works for you so who cares? Harry can feel Tom’s irritation, but she ignores it in favor of comforting her friend.

“Don’t listen to him, Hermione,” she says urgently, leading the other girl towards the library. “Malfoy’s a prat and he comes from a long line of Pureblood nonsense. He doesn’t know any better.”

Hermione’s eyes, which had been full of unshed tears, sharpen at Harry’s last sentence. “Don’t be daft, Harry.” She snaps, storming to a table loudly and earning a wretched glare from Madam Pince. “He knew exactly what he was saying. Can’t you see?”

Harry is horribly lost and she’s not sure what to do with Hermione’s anger. “See what?”

Hermione rolls her eyes, like she can’t bear Harry’s stupidity. “He’s the Heir!” She lowers her voice on the last word, leaning over the table towards Harry. When Harry just stares at her blankly. “The Heir of Slytherin!”

Tom starts laughing.

“Hermione... I don’t think...”

“No!” The other girl exclaims, her eyes bright with some hidden fire. “You didn’t hear him, Harry. When they found Mrs. Norris. He laughed and said that the Mudbloods would be next.”

Harry slumps down in her chair. Sure, Malfoy’s a little bigoted and his dad did work for what amounts to Wizard Hitler but Harry can’t see him actually trying to kill other students. He’s only a second year. But Hermione was right, Harry hadn’t heard him at the scene of the petrification.

She honestly wouldn’t have stumbled upon Mrs. Norris if it weren’t for the fact she could hear voices in the walls. They led her to the grisly scene, and Harry had been too panicked by the thought of another visit to Dumbledore to hang around. Maybe Draco knew more than he had let on.

But then Harry remembers Tom’s amusement and the air of smugness he’s wearing now and thinks that he knows who has opened the Chamber, just not how. “Whatever you say, Hermione,” she sighs, not wanting to press the issue.

Hermione smiles triumphantly and flips open her book. “Now, Hogwarts: A History doesn’t have much to say about the Chamber of Secrets, like where it is, but Professor Binns did give us a lovely overview of what Slytherin’s purpose was...”

 

Harry thinks of all the bad decisions she’s made in her life, this might be one of the worst. “Why did we have to come here again?”

“It’s important to learn how to protect yourself, especially in these times,” Hermione answers, looking around the room distractedly.

“But Lockhart doesn’t know anything,” Harry stresses. “If he did, wouldn’t he teach that in class?” Hermione doesn’t seem concerned, but Harry thinks this is a valid concern. Tom seems to agree with her for once, although he hasn’t chimed in.

“Oh hush,” Hermione says, waving a hand in Harry’s direction. She seems distinctly flushed however and keeps smoothing her hair back behind her ears. “Oh!” She exclaims, eyes brightening. “There he is.”

The pitch of the girls chattering in the room seems to racket up and Harry resists the urge to flee the room. Tom has no such objections. Call me when it’s finished he grumbles and slinks away from her, presumably to look more into who’s opening the Chamber.

“Settle down, settle down!” Lockhart cries, practically leaping onto the stage set up in the middle of the room. It’s a long platform and he stalks up and down it, swishing his midnight blue cloak with a dramatic flair. Harry shuffles a little behind Hermione, eager to avoid his gaze.

“Today we are going to be discussing the fine art of duelling. Now I know you all might be here just for the pleasure of specialized training with me, but I have recruited a lovely assistant to help us today.” Lockhart waves a hand imperiously towards the door at the end of the hall and Snape storms in, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else.

As much as Harry despises Snape, she can’t help but sympathize with him.

“Now, Professor Snape and I are going to demonstrate a few helpful spells for you all today and then we’ll pair up and practice. Now! Professor.” Lockhart turns towards Snape, a brilliant smile on his face and Harry thinks if Snape were looking at her like that, she wouldn’t still be smiling.

Lockhart starts to say some incoherent spell, and Snape flicks his wand with a simple Expelliarmus and Lockhart’s wand leaps out of his hand.

“Ah, yes, yes,” Lockhart says, looking slightly flustered. “Well done, Professor.”

He glances around the room slightly helplessly and gestures for the students gathered to start pairing up. Harry turns towards Hermione, but before she can, Snape cuts in cooly. “Ah, Miss Potter. Perhaps it might benefit you to work with someone who might... challenge you.”

Harry grits her teeth, but turns towards Snape anyway. “Of course, Professor,” she agrees, a bland smile on her face that she’s sure Snape can see right through.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Snape calls and Harry blanches despite herself. She and Malfoy haven’t talked since that morning in the Great Hall, even though Harry has felt his furious glare watching her for the past two weeks.

Malfoy seems to appear out of thin air, his smile more like a snarl. “Yes, Professor Snape?”

Snape gestures towards Harry with a loose wave of his hand. “Please, try to show Potter what intelligence looks like.” Harry is fuming, but she lets herself be paired up with Malfoy, all the while dreaming of ways to make Snape pay. Surely Tom will let her have some free reign.

Then Lockhart claps his hands and Malfoy’s shooting a jinx at her and Harry dives out of the way. Chaos is rampant throughout the hall, but Harry’s more intent on knocking Malfoy off his feet than she is worrying about how everyone else is doing. She sends a hex his way and watches and he falls to the floor, twitching in laughter from her tickling hex. “Disarm only!” Lockhart is crying with futility.

Before Harry can send another jinx Malfoy’s way, he’s choking out a spell that throws Harry backwards. She hits the ground with a dull thud, her back already aching.

“Enough! Enough!” Lockhart yells, waving his hands wildly. Slowly the chaos grinds to a halt and Harry looks around the hall, brushing curls out of her face. Hermione is clutching at Millecent Bulstrode’s arm from where it’s clamped around her neck in a headlock and Neville Longbottom’s hair seems to be smoking.

“Perhaps it would be best for a demonstration,” Snape drawls and he jerks his chin at Harry and Malfoy. “Mr. Malfoy, Miss Potter, if you will.”

Harry reluctantly clambers on the stage, brushing off her robes. Lockhart eagerly tugs her over to his side. “Now, Harry, just do as I do.” He performs a complex bit of wand movement, before his wand twitches in his hand and clatters to the floor.

“What? Drop my wand?”

Lockhart just shushes her and pushes her forward. She walks slowly until she’s a few steps away from Malfoy. “Scared, Potter?” he sneers and Harry just smiles beautifically.

“You wish, Malfoy.”

They both bow and turn around, taking ten steps back before turning to face each other. Before Snape announces the beginning, Malfoy’s already moving. “Serpensortia!” Harry brings her wand up, but is startled into a halt by the long snake that appears after Malfoy’s spell.

It’s already moving forward, hissing lowly and Harry brandishes her wand, getting ready to banish it. Stupid humans the snake hisses, still advancing on Harry. She can hear distant chaos through the rest of the hall, but she’s frozen.

I’m sorry, she says back. I will let you back outside if you want? Harry’s never talked to a snake before, besides the one she accidentally set free at the zoo, but this is hardly the strangest thing she’s lived through.

The snake raises itself up, and the hall has fallen silent. Its head tilts like it’s appraising her worth. Very well, speaker it says, darting towards Harry. She holds out an arm and crouches down, letting it wind around her.

When Harry finally glances up, Snape is watching her with poorly disguised horror. The snake has settled around Harry’s shoulder and is hissing into her ear about how much it wants to eat a rabbit. As Harry’s eyes take in the rest of the room, she quickly realizes everyone is staring at her with a mixture of fear and disgust.

“What are you playing at, Potter?” Malfoy asks, his face paler than usual.

Harry opens her mouth to respond, but Hermione’s tugging at her robes. “Harry,” she says quietly and urgently. “Let’s go.”

Harry lets Hermione pull her out of the room, still dreadfully confused. “What was that about?” She asks Hermione, once they’re a good distance away from the main room. Hermione gives her a slightly wild eyed look and gestures furiously at the snake, now complaining about how cold the castle is.

Speaker the snake hisses. Take me outside. I wish to taste the air and feel the sun. Harry’s already headed outside by the time Hermione catches up and grabs her arm.

“Harry!” She almost shrieks. “Since when have you been a Parselmouth?” She hisses the last word like it’s something dirty. Harry stops in her tracks. She’s racking her brain because she could have sworn she remembered Tom mentioning something about being able to speak to snakes.

“I’m not sure...” Harry trails off, her voice growing quiet. She wishes Tom had deigned to tell her this ahead of time.

“What are you even going to do with that?” Hermione’s voice breaks Harry out of her thoughts. She glances down at the snake still wrapped around her neck. What’s your name? She asks the snake, not even sure if the snake has one.

If it’s possible, the snake seems offended. I have no name the snake says, like she’s dumb. You may name me if you wish. As long as we go outside. Hermione watches them with wide eyes. “She wants to go outside,” Harry says in explanation, not sure how she knows the snake is female, just that it is.

Hermione throws her hands up in frustration and storms away.

Harry finally makes it outside, the snake twining around her body until she can slither through the grass. Tom appears over her shoulder once they’re alone, his face more concerned than usual. “I leave you for an hour,” he says, sounding put out, “and you bond with a snake and frighten half the school to death.”

She almost thinks he’s rather proud of her.

 

As it turns out, being able to speak to snakes and subsequently claiming a snake as her familiar does not go over well. A vast majority seem to think Harry is the Heir of Slytherin now, a fact Tom takes great amusement in. He still won’t tell her who is actually opening the Chamber, choosing instead to gloat with great satisfaction whenever the topic comes up.

In fact, Harry thinks the only people in the whole school who aren’t scared of her are the Weasley twins, and Hermione, who is still convinced of Draco’s guilt.

Most of Harry’s own house seems to be treating with her a mixture of apprehension and curiosity and Harry’s used to being watched everywhere she goes.

“Maybe we could make Polyjuice Potion,” Hermione’s babbling next to Harry at the Gryffindor table. “Sneak me in and then get Malfoy to tell us what he knows.”

Harry can’t help but roll her eyes. “I told you, Hermione. He isn’t talking to me still. And he isn’t involved. Trust me.”

Hermione falls silent, energy fading slightly. “But...” She exclaims, before losing Harry’s attention at the arrival of the Weasley twins.

“Good morning, Miss Potter,” they say in unison, speaking formally. Harry can see Ron Weasley gaping at them from where he’s sitting further down the table. She grins.

“Mr. Weasley. Mr. Weasley.” Harry nods to each in reply, tone equally serious.

“And where is the lovely beast?” Fred asks, his eyes bright with humor. Harry can’t hide her grin as she tugs her sleeve back to let the head of her new familiar emerge. Hermione gives out a small shriek, drawing the attention of those around them.

Basil, this is Fred and that is George. They are not to be harmed Harry tells her familiar, eyes on the Weasleys. George’s eyes widen slightly, but he doesn’t look afraid. “Her name is Basil,” she informs them.

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” George says, mock bowing. Fred mimics his movement, and Harry repeats their words to the snake wrapped around her wrist.

Humans are strange. I want to go outside and hunt rabbits Basil snaps irritable, and Harry can’t hide her small smile.

The twins turn back to her. “Oh, please, great Heir, leave our humble family be,” Fred says dramatically, clasping a hand over his heart.

Harry looks down her nose at them. “We shall see,” she hums, and goes back to her bacon.

 

Every time Ginny Weasley passes by Harry in the hall, she squeaks and drops her bag.

 

“Ugh, this is disgusting,” Harry groans, her socks growing cold with the ankle level water that decorates the floor of the second-floor girls bathroom. “What are we doing in here, Hermione?” Harry asks.

“Well,” Hermione starts, looking slightly more flustered than usual. “I thought this would be a good place to set up shop for making the Polyjuice Potion.”

Harry rolls her eyes and pulls her bag further up her shoulder. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she says. “I’m leaving and you better know a good heating charm for my socks.”

“Harry!” Hermione cries, reaching at her robes. “Trust me. No one comes in here – this is Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.”

“Who?” Before Hermione can answer Harry’s question, a ghostly blue figure rises up over one of the stall doors, wailing loudly.

“Come to make fun of me, have you?” The girl shrieks, and Harry casts a helpless look at Hermione. “Maybe to throw some more things at my head?”

Hermione rolls her eyes, looking exasperated. “Who’s been throwing things at you, Myrtle?” She asks, sounding like she’d rather be anywhere else. Instead of answering, Myrtle bursts out into a fresh round of tears. “C’mon, Harry,” she says after watching Myrtle cry with a slightly bemused look on her face.

Harry turns to follow Hermione out when something catches her eye. “I’m right behind you,” she calls, splashing over to pick up the small black book. Harry knows it should be soaking wet, and the cover is, but when she looks inside, the pages are completely dry. Intrigued, Harry tucks the book into her bag for further investigation and promptly forgets about it as she rushes to catch up with Hermione.

 

“Detention, Miss Potter and I do believe your presence is no longer required in my class today,” Snape finally sneers after she had almost fallen asleep in his class one time too many.

Harry just shrugs, a brilliant grin on her face as she tugs on her book bag. Snape absolutely refused to take points from his own house and yet he still could not hide his loathing of her, combining to make a delightful conflict whenever she was in Potions.

Harry salutes the other Slytherins with glee and takes her leave, wandering up the halls and considers going outside to kick through the snow. Basil hates the snow and has taken to lounging in front of the fireplace in the Slytherin common room, absolutely terrorizing the first years. Harry is immensely fond of her.

She’s wandering down the corridor with the Transfiguration classes and Charms classes when she trips over something. Her gaze drifts downward and then she’s screaming.

There’s a loud noise and the doors to the classrooms bang open. “Miss Potter!” Professor McGonagall cries. “Control yourself.”

Then her gaze drifts downwards and she goes white as a sheet.

 

Harry is staring at her feet, hoping to burn a hole into the ground. “Are they going to expel me?” She asks Tom, who’s peering around the Headmaster’s office with a curious look on his face.

“With what proof?” He asks, reaching out to grab a book before stopping himself. He continues his lap around the office, staring curiously at the molting bird. “You were in class until you got kicked out and then you stumbled over the Hufflepuff’s body.”

“Yes, but...” Harry clutches at the fabric of her skirt. “If they already thought I was the Heir, won’t this just confirm that?” A thought occurs to her, swift and sudden. “Will they make me go back to the Dursleys?”

Tom’s rolling his eyes and rounding the desk to stand in front of Harry. He places his hands on her cheeks, cupping her face and tilting her head up. “Sweet Harry,” he croons darkly. “If they try to snap your wand, they’ll have to deal with me. Worry not, my darling,” and he leans down pressing a burning hot kiss to her scar.

Harry’s eyes flutter shut, a strange feeling running down her spine. She can tell when he’s gone, the warmth focused in her mind and she hears the door behind her swing shut. “Headmaster,” she says softly, keeping her eyes on the floor.

“My dear girl,” Dumbledore says, walking past her to take a seat in the chair behind the desk.

“Am I going to be expelled, sir?” She asks, bringing her gaze up to meet his. She knows her voice trembles in just the right spots and that her eyes are convincingly bright. His face softens, and he gives her a genial smile.

“Of course not, my dear girl. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.” At this, he sighs heavily. “I am afraid we are going to have to ask you to set the snake free.”

Harry’s mouth drops open, rage swelling within her. “But sir!” She says, panicked. “Basil is my familiar. We’re bonded.”

Dumbledore is already shaking his head, looking regretful. “Snakes are simply not allowed as pets within the walls of Hogwarts, Harry. I am truly sorry.”

Harry bites the inside of her cheek viciously. Tom is swearing mutinously inside her head and Harry makes sure to keep her eyes pinned just below Dumbledore’s. She can feel her own anger, red hot and bubbling in her stomach, only incensed by Tom’s fury.

“Yes, sir.” She bites out, grinding her teeth. She is supposed to be docile, a willing doll to be molded to Dumbledore’s wishes. She is not supposed to be friends with Slytherins or have a pet snake or become violently angry.

Suddenly, Harry feels the immense urge to apologize to Draco.

But instead, she keeps her eyes pinned to the spot on Dumbledore’s face and counts her breaths until they’re even again. “Was there anything else, sir?” She forces herself to ask, sweetly.

Dumbledore sighs again. “Not at all, my dear girl.” Harry raises out of her seat to leave. “Do remember my previous offer from last year. If there’s anything, anything at all you would like to discuss, I am always here for you.”

“Yes, Headmaster,” Harry says again, and flees his office.

 

If Harry had thought people were scared of her before, now they practically reek with fear. She receives a wide berth in the corridors and people refuse to talk to her in class. Her only friend is Hermione, and after she apologizes for humiliating him in front of the other Slytherins, Malfoy.

Tom is still stubbornly tight-lipped about the Chamber, but Harry can tell he’s irritated with the way she’s being treated.

Harry’s walking through the halls to race to class when someone sticks out their leg and she goes flying. Her hands scrape against the stone floor and her bag smashes, ink spilling over all her books. Her belongings are scattered everywhere and Harry can feel her cheeks flushing.

Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry she chants valiantly to herself and Tom is in her mind, devouring her humiliation and funneling it into fury. It settles like a rock in her stomach, hot and fiery and threatening to climb up her throat. She’s thrown back to being in the schoolyard when she was nine, kids laughing at the way Dudley and his gang would terrorize her. Harry shoves steel into her spine and remembers the way to grit her teeth and soldier through.

Her hands shaking, Harry shoves her books and quills back into her bag, acutely aware of the people staring at her as they walk past. They will all pay Tom swears violently, dark malice dripping off his words. Her scar is burning and she shoves her hair away from her eyes.

She shoves her bag onto her shoulder and stands back up, head held high. Turning sharply on her heel, she storms down the hall, not making eye contact with any of them.

Tom is right, she thinks viciously. They will pay.

 

That night as she’s going through her books and desperately trying to salvage what she can, she finds the small black book from the bathroom. Curious, Harry opens it, only to find the pages empty of any ink.

Her brow furrowed, Harry pulls out a quill and dips it in a fresh ink pot. As she holds the quill above the page, unsure of what to write, a drop of ink falls and splashes onto the parchment.

Harry watches, astonished, as the ink seeps into the paper, only to disappear within moments. Hurriedly, she writes My name is Harry Potter only for her words to vanish. Her heart stops in her chest.

Hello, Harry. Her eyes widen as neat handwriting appears on the page of the book. My name is Tom Riddle. It is nice to meet you.

Harry thinks her breath stops too. That’s impossible she writes, handwriting growing sloppy in her haste. You’re lying.

I assure you, I would never lie about something so inconsequential the book writes back, but Harry’s already scribbling another sentence.

I know Tom Riddle and you can’t be him. There seems to be a long pause before more appears on the page.

How could you possibly know Tom Riddle? Harry hesitates before answering. She knows she’s being ridiculous. Surely, a talking book is just as insane as having a ghost inside her head.

He lives inside my head she scrawls, holding her breath as she waits for a response. The book stays silent and Harry slumps with disappointment. She tugs on the bond in her mind, trying to pull Tom to her from wherever he’s been the past six hours.

He appears almost instantly, moving towards her as if to check if she’s hurt. “What’s wrong?” he asks, brushing the curls away from her face. Harry just shakes her head and points to the book still lying open on her bed.

“What the bloody hell is that?” she finally snaps. “What did you do?”

He follows her finger and Harry watches him blanche. “Lucius Malfoy is a dead man,” he snarls, instead of answering her. “Where did you find that?”

“In the girl’s second floor bathroom,” she says, still watching Tom’s face. If it were possible, Harry would say he pales even further.

He snatches her quill, his fingers trembling as he writes onto the page This is Tom Riddle and the words sink into the book. Harry frowns. “I already told him you live in my head.”

“You talked to him?” Tom sounds horrified.

“Yes.” She’s not pleased with being talked down to. “How is it possible?” Tom is still avoiding her questions. She notices writing on the page. “He answered!”

I see we have succeeded, then? Harry is hopelessly confused.

Tom pauses before he answers the book. Not quite... his writing trails off and he snaps the book closed, pointing it in her general direction. “Do not lose this,” he orders her, voice brokering no argument. Harry frowns, but takes the book anyway and tucks it into her bag.

 

Of course, because Harry has made it her mission to not lose the book, it goes missing the next day. “I don’t know where it could have gone!” She exclaims loudly, dumping her book bag out over her bed.

Shoving aside the rest of her textbooks, she looks up at Tom in frustration. She’s had her bag on her all day and she thinks she would have noticed someone rifling through her things. He looks pensive from where he’s sprawled out on her bed.

“Just a setback, my dear,” he says finally, his eyes finally focusing on her. “Nothing to worry about.”

Harry frowns, but drops the subject.

 

“This is your fault,” she snarls, slashing a hand through the air as if to ward Tom off. “You knew who’s involved the whole time and you haven’t done anything.” Harry’s voice breaks and she turns away from him.

But turning away from him means she’s staring at Hermione’s prone form, laying immobile on the hospital bed. She’s like a statue, and the sight of her tests Harry’s fragile hold on her emotions. Still, staring at Hermione is better than staring at Tom, so Harry blinks away tears and clenches her jaw.

She can feel Tom move closer to her, his hands coming up to rest on her shoulders. “You are the only person I am concerned for the wellbeing of. That mudblood,” and his voice slides around the word like a filthy curse, “is none of my concern. She doesn’t deserve a second of my attention.”

Harry shoves out of his hold, her shoulders sore from where his fingers dug into her skin. “Go to hell, Tom,” she sneers, her whole body trembling. His eyes flash a violent crimson and Harry inadvertently takes a step back.

Tom’s eyes narrow at the movement and he takes a slow step forward, advancing on her like a predator. “Enough,” she hisses, and slashes her hand through the air. At the same time, she pulls on something within her, something she didn’t know she could touch and watches with satisfaction as Tom’s form flashes before her eyes.

“If Hermione can’t go about the castle freely than neither can you,” she says out loud to the empty Hospital Wing, feeling slightly dizzy now that she’s smothered the magic she lets Tom use to leave her body.

She slumps onto the chair next to Hermione’s bed, her scar throbbing violently, and drops her head into her hands.

 

“Harry? Are you okay?” Harry shoots up from where she was bent over Hermione’s bed half-asleep with her head on her arms.

She blinks blearily as her eyes focus, her heart beating an irregular tune in her chest. “Ginny?” She finally realizes, still partially asleep. “What are you doing here?”

Ginny tilts her head from where she’s standing a few feet away, the motion striking a chord in Harry. She can’t help but feel like she’s seen that motion, only on someone else. There’s a sense of wrongness that’s itching under her skin, but Harry’s mind is moving a hair too slow for her to process it. “Just checking in on you,” Ginny practically purrs and the steel undertone to her voice shakes Harry out of her stupor.

“Ginny?” She asks again, something sinking in her stomach as the deadly realization that this is not Ginny Weasley hits her. Her brown eyes flash a bright scarlet and Harry’s scrambling for her wand. Tom, who has been a specter for days is suddenly everywhere in her head. Her scar is on fire and she thinks she can hear Tom shouting her name, but before she can cast anything, a bright light fills her vision and everything goes black.

 

The first thing she notices is the unpleasant feeling of wet fabric against her skin. Harry’s foot twitches slightly, her socks damp.

The second thing she notices is the dripping of water on stone.

The third thing she notices is the ache in her head, a prickling in her scar. She shifts again, moving her head slightly, trying to open her eyes. She blinks, staring up at a stone ceiling and thinks something is terribly wrong.

“Harry! Delighted you could join us,” a familiar voice croons and Harry turns her head ever so slightly, her neck aching at the movement.

She pales at the sight of Tom, dressed in Slytherin robes and looking slightly more ghost-like than usual. She tries to push herself up and groans. Harry feels like her body has been hit by a cement truck. Every muscle in her body is sore and Harry can feel Tom’s eyes on her, cataloguing every movement.

“Now,” he murmurs, tapping a wand – her wand, against his bottom lip. “Where is my lovely other self. I would so much like to talk to him.” He takes a step towards Harry and she tries to scramble backwards, stopped both by the pain in her body and her hands hitting something cold. Harry looks over her shoulder, paling again to see Ginny Weasley, white as a sheet sprawled on the ground.

She turns back to Tom, who is not her Tom and now Harry is noticing the steadily growing pain in her scar. Tom grins widely, more like a snarl, and Harry flinches. “I don’t know what you mean,” she says finally, which was the wrong thing to say.

“Don’t lie to me,” he hisses, all his masks dropped. His face contorts into something cruel and unfamiliar, because Harry’s never seen that level of hatred directed at her before. “You stupid, stupid girl,” he sneers, beginning to circle her.

Harry’s head hurts.

“You see, when poor Ginny Weasley found my diary, she didn’t hesitate to pour out her heart. It was quite boring really. ‘Oh, Tom, Harry won’t even look at me,’” Tom’s voice takes on a mocking tone as he imitates what she wrote. “‘I think I’m going mad, Tom! I can’t remember what I did last night and Mrs. Norris was petrified.’” Tom laughs coldly, high and cruel.

“But you, Harry.” He’s closer to her now, still circling her. Harry’s staring at her shoes in mild horror. Tom’s presence is in her head, wildly writhing. She’s half dazed, trying to feed him all the magic she can, knowing it might be her only chance of surviving this. “I thought you would be different. Turns out, you’re just as stupid as the Weasley girl.”

He’s pointing her wand at Harry before she can speak, a spell already dropping from his lips and then Harry is flung backwards, her scar burning.

“That wasn’t very nice.” She’s talking but the words aren’t hers. The Diary Tom tilts his head, his eyes dark with something hungry and feral. Harry’s not in control, the Tom in her mind consuming every part of her.

DiaryTom laughs, low and dark and sinister and Harry feels a chill run down her spine. “So glad you could come out to play,” he sneers, and Harry’s screaming at Tom to give her back her body, but his control is iron-clad. The DiaryTom strokes his fingers down Harry’s wand, an odd glint in his eyes. “It obeys me so well,” he says. “Almost as well as ours. Now, I wonder why that could be.”

There’s a flash of rage in her, from the Tom in her head. “Would you truly kill us?”

A dark look crosses DiaryTom’s face, twisting her features even further. “You did this to me. Do you know how long I sat, rotting in that stupid book? Just waiting for someone to pick me up and give me something to do?” Then he smiles, a slash across his face. “Well... I suppose you do understand now.” He takes a step closer to Harry. “Either way, yes, I would kill you. She’s just an added bonus.”

Harry can feel her own head tilting in a mockery of what the boy in front of her is doing. “You can’t have her.” He says through her and Harry watches with a sick fascination as a flash of rage twists its way across DiaryTom’s face.

“And what are you going to do about it, stuck in there?” He asks, tapping a finger against Harry’s scar. She wants to twitch back in revulsion, but Tom stays put. He’s become more solid now, not flickering out of existence anymore, and when he touches her, Harry can feel his warmth. Out of the corner of her eye, Harry can see that Ginny’s even paler now.

“I am older than you,” Tom says. “I have seen things none but the last wraith of our soul has seen. And she is mine.” His voice drops to a snarl. “Ours.” He says, Harry’s voice sounding twisted with his words.

DiaryTom looks ready to say something else, vicious if the look in his eyes was anything to go by.

“I could be persuaded to share,” Tom says before he can. No she screams, throwing all her might against Tom’s walls. She breaks through for a moment, stumbling forward in the process. “Stay away from me,” Harry hisses at DiaryTom and to the Tom in her head.

DiaryTom laughs again, this time high and cold. “I’ve already got my own body,” he says, gesturing grandly. He’s almost solid, and Harry thinks she feels a pang of longing from her Tom. He’s jealous, she realizes slowly. Jealous that the DiaryTom is fully formed, and he isn’t.

"Think about Dumbledore," her Tom says through her. "He'd know immediately what you've done. Probably knows already what you're doing. He's waiting for you, to kill you all over again. We're safe here."

DiaryTom gives Harry an appraising once-over. “Yes,” he says slowly. “I could share.”

NO she screams, throwing herself against Tom’s hold to no avail. DiaryTom takes another step forward, in touching distance. His fingers drift across her forehead, tracing her scar. “We’re going to do great things together,” he murmurs, bending down.

He brushes his mouth against her forehead, a mockery of a kiss, and a lightning bolt of pain strikes through Harry. She can hear someone screaming and wonders if it’s her before the pain overtakes her and everything goes black.

 

“Harry! Harry!”

Someone is calling her name and there is a terrible throbbing in her head.

“Harry!” The voice calls out again and there are hands on her shoulders. Harry mumbles something, the aching in her head gathering strength as she returns to consciousness. “Wake up, Harry!”

Her eyes flutter open and Harry thinks the light is going to split her mind in two. “What’s happenin’,” she slurs, slowly dragging a hand up to cover her eyes. Things are coming to her in pieces and she catches a glimpse of fire flashing before her. She blinks, her eyes feeling too dry. The world around her focuses as she realizes Ginny Weasley is crouched over her, a pale terrified look crossing her face.

“Harry!” She exclaims loudly and Harry flinches back from the noise. Her head feels too full, and Ginny’s screaming is doing nothing to abate the pressure. “Harry, we have to go! He could come back at any moment!”

Ginny’s tugging on her arm, pulling her to her feet and something inside her is telling her to cooperate. Harry feels numb, loose limbed, like she doesn’t have total control over her body. “Who?” she murmurs, and Ginny just shakes her again and Harry’s on her feet, stumbling after the other girl.

She feels like her head is going to split in two and time seems to pass slowly and in an instant. Before Harry can figure out what’s happening to her, she blinks and she’s being surrounded by crying redheads. Ginny’s sobbing and they’re no longer in the Chamber. Mrs. Weasley embraces Harry, thanking her profusely for saving her daughter.

She’s not sure why, but Harry feels like something is off about this. She doesn’t remember saving Ginny. All she can remember is a piercing, splitting pain that seemed to carve her mind and soul open and then she remembers waking up on the floor of the Chamber.

She blinks again and she’s sitting in Dumbledore’s office. Something stirs in her when that thought crosses her mind and she drops her head. It dully thuds against his desk and the throbbing pain gives her something to focus on, other than the blankness that’s coated her being. “Harry?” Someone is trying to talk to her, but her head feels so full she can’t process it.

“Hmm?” she murmurs, rolling her head so her eyes are staring at Ginny sitting next to her, rather than at the floor. Ginny looks at her, tears in her eyes.

“Dumbledore’s trying to talk to you,” she hisses, face still pale against her vividly red hair. Harry sits up with no small amount of effort.

“Yes, Headmaster?” She asks. There’s a piercing pain in her head whenever she tries to look him in the eyes and so she focuses on his desk instead, watching with muted interest as his gadgets whir to life.

Dumbledore eyes her with some combination of suspicion and concern. “Are you feeling alright, Miss Potter?” Harry blinks slowly. No, she thinks, she’s not feeling alright. A tide of panic rises up and threatens to drown her, but some force deep within her puts steel into her spine and forces her upright.

“Of course, Headmaster,” she says blandly and smiles, an edge of hysteria touching her mind. Dumbledore eyes her over his half-moon glasses and Harry can tell he doesn’t believe her. “What happened down there?”

Ginny bursts out into tears next to her and in one shaking hand holds up a soaked diary, a hole torn straight through the middle. Harry blanches as she catches sight of the book, her memories rushing back to her in a jumble of bright light. Everything she can remember from the Chamber is laced with a hint of pain. “I was hoping you would be able to tell me,” Dumbledore says, drawing Harry’s attention back to him. “It seems you were the only one aware of what happened before Miss Weasley woke up.”

Harry blinks, reaching deep into her mind for Tom, but whatever presence that’s blocking her thoughts remains silent. “I don’t know,” she says honestly. “I was in the hospital wing with Hermione when Ginny came up to me. The next thing I knew I was in the Chamber and there was a...” her voice trails off and Dumbledore merely waits for her to continue. “There was a boy,” she says, her voice shaking slightly.

“He – he was going to kill me,” Harry says slowly. “I don’t remember what happened after that.” Dumbledore sighs slowly, like she’s disappointed him.

“Very well, my dear girl. I hope in the future, you will find yourself in less predicaments than this.” Harry nods silently, a tremor running through her body. The Headmaster dismisses her and Ginny and the second they’re out of the room, Ginny throws her arms around Harry, crying again.

“Thank you,” she whispers to Harry, and she finds herself wondering how much Ginny actually remembers.

 

Draco is the first to find her, after news about her journey into the Chamber is revealed. His face is pale and drawn and he reveals to Harry that his father has been accused by the Weasleys of giving Ginny the book that drew her into the Chamber.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, in a rare moment of sincerity. Harry doesn’t look away from the fire, curling further into herself in the armchair in the Slytherin common room. The other students have been giving her a wide berth and she finds herself painfully lonely. Basil is wandering the Hogwarts grounds somewhere, Hermione is still in the hospital wing and Tom hasn’t spoken to her since what happened in the Chamber, although she can feel the stirring of power in her mind.

She doesn’t realize she’s crying until Draco wraps his arms tightly around her. How embarrassing, she thinks slowly, but she doesn’t push him away. Not today.

Not today.

 

Harry stares out the window of the Hogwarts Express, an empty cracked feeling in her chest. She’s barricaded herself in an empty compartment for the time being, as much as she’d like to sit with Hermione or Draco, she can’t bring herself to. Not when she still doesn’t feel like herself, hasn’t been able to put together a full sentence since she came out of the Chamber.

There’s a kind of wicked amusement rolling over her skin and Harry shudders, her head aching. “Get out,” she says out loud, thankful no one is around to think she’s crazier than they already do. “I don’t want you in my mind. Get out.”

Are you going to make me, little Horcrux? A dark voice whispers into her ear, like he’s right behind her.

“Don’t call me that,” Harry snaps back, hunching in on herself even further. Green fills her eyes as the train passes field upon field.

Why? Tom says again, indistinguishable from the extra bit of soul that’s residing in Harry’s mind. They’re one and the same, all tangled up together in her head, rude and cruel and devastatingly kind all at once. She hates it. Hates him.

Harry wishes she could claw him out of her mind herself and some part of him must realize that because there’s a sharp pain in her scar. Harry doesn’t reply, wrapping her arms around herself like she can hold all the bits of her together with force alone, and resumes her watch of the scenery. She can’t be certain, but Harry thinks she can hear his laugh, high and cold and cruel, mocking her.

Chapter Text

“Is she always this boring?” Tom’s voice rolls over her, bored and dry. Harry can’t quite tell, but she thinks he’s standing over her to the left. A long sigh comes from her right, closer to the ground, and a wave of frustration pangs through her body.

“Unfortunately, yes,” the other Tom replies. “I’ve yet to convince her to do anything we did as a child. What I would do to hang a rabbit from the rafters again.”

When this elicits no response from Harry, she keeps herself resolutely still in protest, the other Tom flops into the grass next to her. She’s laying face-down in the grass, her arms spread eagle, and resolutely ignoring the two souls surrounding her.

The Tom to her left makes a disgruntled noise and she thinks he sits down next to her, but she can’t be quite sure without lifting her head. “If I had stayed in the diary, I would have at least been able to kill the Weasley brat,” he complains. “Instead, I’m tethered to a twelve-year old girl, waiting for the day we’re strong enough to leave.”

Harry’s shoulders tense, but she stays silent. Her Tom, to the right, stays silent for a moment. “You might yet have another chance to kill the Weasley,” he says thoughtfully. “We’re most likely going to be forced to speak to her once we return to Hogwarts.”

Harry breaks her resolute silence with a groan loud enough she’s sure both Toms hear her. The Tom to her left laughs under his breath, cruel. “And we’re sure her relatives are off-limits?” Harry knows the question is meant to bait her, but she turns her head to the left despite her best interests. Sure enough, Tom is watching her with steely eyes, like he’s assessing how she’ll react.

“For the last time,” she says, brushing dirt off her face with one of her hands, before resuming position, “if anything suspicious happens to the Dursleys, Dumbledore will know.”

Tom grins at her, sharklike, his eyes still glinting with a cruel edge.

Ever since they had returned to Privet Drive, Tom had taken swimmingly to his hatred of the Dursleys and made no effort to hide it. Harry very well remembers his incredulity when he first saw the walrus-esque form of Uncle Vernon waiting for them at the train station. She even woke up one night to him hissing at her Tom about their living conditions.

“It’s not right,” he snarled over her body, to where the other Tom was lounging on the floor. “How can you let them treat our Horcrux like this?” The new Tom was sitting with his back against the wall, his legs thrown over Harry like he owned her. Sleep was still pulling at her but she thought she needed to stay aware.

Her Tom, from the floor, made a noise like he was personally angry. “Dumbledore won’t be able to watch them forever.” He said, which didn’t make sense to Harry. “She’s still so... human.” He continued, spitting out the world like it was dirty.

The Tom in her bed didn’t say anything else, but Harry felt his hand ghost down her side.

He looks at her now like she’s prey, sitting in the grass cross-legged looking like a normal teenage boy. “Not if we kill him too.”

Harry feels the urge to scream and moves to turn her head back to the grass but before she can, the distant shouts of Dudley and his gang echo across the park. Tom flickers briefly beside her and when he looks at her again, it’s with the combined souls. He smiles at her again, and this time, the sharpness is tampered with the softness her Tom reserves for her.

Before Harry can say anything, Dudley and his friends are in the park, quickly circling around her. She pushes herself up to a standing position, Tom echoing her movements. Dudley, to Harry’s growing horror, is staring at Tom with a strange sort of glint in his eyes and she realizes that he can see Tom.

“Who’s your friend, Potter?” Dudley sneers, confirming her suspicions. A warm pleased feeling rolls through her and Harry knows he’s thrilled to be corporeal. “This freak isn’t bothering you, is she?” He addresses his next question to Tom. Harry realizes with a start that he’s the kind of boy her relatives would love.

There’s something similar to a shudder of disgust that rolls across her skin at that thought, from Tom, although his face is blank. “Not at all,” he says cooly. “I was just leaving,” he continues, moving gracefully to his feet.

At seventeen, Tom towers over Harry and her cousin, practically oozing power. Harry thinks she can see Dudley drooling a little. “Need company?” He asks eagerly, his posse moving into formation behind him. “We were headed to the shops.”

Tom doesn’t spare Harry a second glance. “I’d be delighted to.”

 

Harry’s lying on her bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the throbbing in her knee. Aunt Petunia had given her a particularly vicious shove in encouraging her to go to her room and Harry had lost her balance, subsequently wrecking her knee on the stairs. She feels slightly hollow inside, like someone’s scooped out what makes her Harry and she can’t quite place her finger on what’s missing.

There’s a sharp tugging in her stomach, followed up by a loud rapping on the door. Harry twitches slightly, but doesn’t make an effort to get up. She had been warned by Aunt Petunia in no uncertain terms to remain in her room until called. She listens dully to the sounds of her aunt answering the door through the walls, hears the low drone of voices from downstairs.

She tunes out the noise, instead focusing her gaze on the ceiling, trying to count each individual grain. Because Harry stopped paying attention, she must miss the sounds of her aunt climbing the stairs. The next thing she knows, Petunia is rapping loudly on the door, before throwing it open. She glares down at Harry, her gaze full of disgust. “Get up,” she snaps, voice full of loathing. “You have company.”

“Company?” Harry asks, moving to sit up, before she catches sight of who’s behind her aunt. “Bloody hell,” she snarls, throwing herself back down on the bed.

“Girl!” Aunt Petunia snaps. “That is no way to act around a guest.”

Tom slides into the room from where he had been hovering behind Petunia. “It’s no worry at all Mrs. Dursley,” he says smoothly, charm thick. Petunia turns an unflattering shade of pink.

“If you need anything at all, Tom, we’re right downstairs,” she says soppily. “Diddy-kins will be here soon, I’m sure he’d love to see you.”

“Of course,” he agrees easily, giving Petunia the most pleasant smile Harry’s ever seen on him. She thinks she might be sick. Petunia’s hands flutter like she doesn’t know what to do with them. She turns and heads back downstairs, not without giving Harry the most vile glare she’s seen.

“I thought you were spending time with your new best friend,” Harry sneers, falling back onto her pillows as Tom shuts the door gently.

He scoffs, and there’s a rippling sensation in her stomach, and a Tom crawling into her bed beside her, while the other settles against the door like a sentinel. “If I didn’t truly believe they were repulsive before,” the Tom next to her jeers, voice cold, and her Tom at the door makes a noise of agreement.

“Not quite ready to be the best man at Diddy-kins’ wedding?” Harry asks sweetly. “How’d you even let them allow you to come up here and see me?”

“As if they had a choice,” Tom as the door says blandly. “We told them you had something of ours from earlier.” Harry hums in agreement.

Next to her, Tom shifts, his leg bumping against hers. Harry hisses in pain, trying to jerk away from him without letting him notice. Because she knows she’s been cursed since birth, no such luck. Both pairs of eyes in the room narrow in on her. “What is it?” Tom asks from her side.

“Her knee,” the other Tom replies unhelpfully.

“Don’t touch me,” Harry tries to protest but Tom’s hand is already latched around her leg, pulling her closer to him. She grimaces, the action placing more stress on her knee. Her Tom vanishes from his place at the door, instead settling into his place in her mind. The hollow feeling inside of her has disappeared, filled instead by Tom in her mind and at her side.

“What happened?” he demands from next to her, now kneeling and trying to pull her pant leg up to get a better look.

“Nothing,” Harry snaps, swatting his hands away. “I fell climbing up the stairs and hit my knee.”

Lie Tom purrs in her head, sounding more like the Tom from the diary.

He fixes her with a hard look, cold and unyielding. Harry rolls over, closes her eyes. She feels immeasurably tired. “Aunt Petunia wanted me to go faster,” she says slowly. “I fell.”

Tom says nothing, not out loud or in her head, but she can tell the two pieces of his soul are communicating. There’s a low, hot sort of anger building deep inside her, a feeling that’s not Harry’s. The bed creaks as he gets to his feet, walks out of her bedroom. She can hear him saying his goodbyes downstairs, and hears Petunia’s high-pitched laugh through the walls. The front door slams, and Harry can tell he’s back in her mind once it does. Over time, the feeling has become less of an overstuffed feeling, more of a pleasantly full feeling.

Harry just stares at the wall and wills herself not to cry.

 

“...going to Crucio her until she’ll never be able to walk straight again.”

“Enough. Do you really think this is the first injury she’s suffered at their filthy hands?”

“Does Dumbledore know about this?”

Harry shifts in bed. The voices fall silent, and she reaches out blindly without opening her eyes. “Tom?” She mumbles. Someone shifts next to her, and she grabs onto them, uncaring of which Tom it is. She curls into his side, the pain in her knee just a dull throb. Sleep pulls her back under before she can hear the end of their conversation.

 

“Can we sleep now?” Tom grumbles under his breath, watching her with dead eyes as Harry frantically tries to scribble the rest of her essay by the light of a dim flashlight.

“You can. I, however, have to finish this potions essay. It’s bad enough the Dursleys lock all my things under the stairs, now my professors are assigning summer homework,” Harry hisses, her hand aching. She isn’t looking at Tom, but can feel the moment he rolls his eyes.

He’s lounging on her bed, one form, corporeal, as he’s tended to prefer this summer. The only way he can take a true form is by combining the two pieces of his soul, and Harry’s found, to her slight dismay, the two are practically indistinguishable now. Ever since his outing with Dudley, Tom has been fascinated with becoming a real person. “Do you think they’ll let me into Hogwarts?” He asks, like he’s been reading her mind. Which, he most likely has.

Her attention finally broken, Harry turns to glare at him. “Do you want to get caught?”

Tom shrugs. “There’s more space out here for me than in there.” Harry rolls her eyes and turns back to her essay. She can feel his irritation roll over her, and there’s a spark of pain in her scar.

“It’s bad enough I’m tethered to you to the point of excruciating pain,” Tom hisses, his voice closer than it had been. “I’m not staying shoved inside that tiny head of yours.”

Finally losing her concentration completely, Harry throws her quill down on the parchment, spinning in her chair. Tom is hovering just over her shoulder, and she just manages to smother her fright. “What do you think Dumbledore will do to me, to us, if he recognizes you?” She snaps, trying her best to keep her voice low. “Because I have an idea. He’ll kill me.”

Tom’s eyes narrow and his mouth opens, but before he can reply, there’s a tapping at Harry’s window. She twists in her chair, to see several owls waiting to be let in.

Confusion, her own and Tom’s mingled, wash over her as she reaches to open the window. The moment she does, the birds fly in. Harry counts three in total and they perch around her room, waiting to be approached. She moves toward a barn owl first, a thick package next to it and a letter attached to its leg. Harry recognizes the scrawl on the letter as Hermione’s and she flushes with pleasure.

Tom radiates disgust as he sits down in her vacated chair. The next owl, tawny, flies off the moment Harry manages to wrangle the letter off it’s leg. She turns it over, confused, until the familiar Hogwarts crest catches her eyes. The third, a beautiful snowy owl sticks out its leg primly, and watches Harry with dark eyes.

She opens that letter first, intrigued by the bird, which stays put.

Dear Harry,

Happy Birthday. I’m writing to you to let you know we will be unable to host you this summer. Something about a prison break and safety hazards, all boring posh if you ask me. I asked my father and he said it’s by the Minister himself that you remain home. My sincerest apologies.

Even though we aren’t able to celebrate your birthday properly, I hope you enjoy this owl as my gift to you. Treat her well, the bloody bird almost bit my fingers off. Cheers.

See you at school,

Draco

Harry grins as she works through the letter. She gives the owl an appraising glance, before brushing a hand down her feathers. The owl hoots, dignified, and delight curls in Harry’s stomach. Tom snatches the letter out of her hand to read for himself. “Prison break,” he muses, dragging Harry’s attention away from her newest companion.

“D’ythink she’ll try to eat Basil?” Harry asks, not paying attention to Tom’s train of thought.

“What?” He asks, clearly still thinking about something. “Your familiar?” He gives the owl an appraising look and doesn’t answer.

Still mulling the issue over, Harry moves onto Hermione’s gift. She tears the paper off the package and makes a noise of surprise when she sees the gift. “It’s a book on snakes!” She exclaims, showing it to Tom. He gives it a brief once-over.

“I’ve already read it.” He goes back to examining Draco’s letter, clearly uninterested now that Hermione’s involved.

“Well, I haven’t,” Harry sniffs, opening it to examine the pages. “Maybe I could find Basil a friend in the Forbidden Forest when we go back,” she muses. “She’d like that.” Tom makes a noise of assent.

Harry moves to the letter that came attached to Hermione’s gift, resolutely ignoring Tom’s deepening interest in whatever issues he’d come across.

Hello Harry!

Happy Birthday! I hope this reaches you in time, I’ve spent the hols in Paris! It’s simply wonderful here, Harry, you’d love it. Of course, I’ve spent weeks investigating the magical corners to this town, in fact the Catacombs are practically littered with dark spells.

I do miss you terribly however and hope you are well. Don’t let your relatives get you down. I should be back in England a few weeks before school and plan on going to Diagon Alley the week before classes start. If you’re able, I’d love to meet up with you. Write back soon.

Hermione xo

Harry clutches the letter with trembling hands, tracing over the words. An unfamiliar warmth blooms in her chest, and she can’t help the grin that grows on her face. “This is from Hogwarts,” Tom says abruptly, catching Harry’s attention. He’s already opened the third letter, tossing several of the papers away.

“Hogsmeade forms,” he says thoughtfully, pausing over the last page. Harry makes a movement to snatch the papers from him and he hands them over without complaint. Tom moves back to her desk chair, picking Draco’s letter back up. He falls silent, reading it over again with a furrowed brow.

Harry carefully tucks Hermione’s letter under her pillow and the book under her bed. She makes a mental note to try and get the Dursleys to sign her form tomorrow, and to go over the school list for next year as well. She tries to get comfortable in bed again, her essay temporarily forgotten. “I thought you hated Draco anyhow,” she says, yawning immediately after.

Tom gives her an unimpressed look. “If there was a prison break and the Minister of Magic is worried for the Girl-Who-Lived’s safety, the only logical explanation is the prisoner was a Death Eater.”

Harry feels a chill roll down her spine. “Aren’t you their master though? Why would they want to hurt me?”

“No one knows I exist,” he says slowly, like he’s talking to a child. “The part of me from the diary is thought to have been destroyed by you in the Chamber, and no one, aside from my current self, knows you’re a Horcrux.”

“So, they think I killed you. They’re coming to get revenge.” Tom’s non-answer is answer enough for Harry. “Happy birthday to me,” she mutters under her breath, rolling over onto her back.

 

“Absolutely not,” Aunt Petunia says crisply, turning to snap a dish towel at Harry. “Your Aunt Marge is coming and the house needs to be spotless. No more drivel about your freak school.”

Harry clenches her hand around the form tighter. “All I need is your signature,” she tries again. “I’ll never ask for anything again.” Both the Tom leaning against the wall next to Harry and the one in her head emanate disgust at Harry’s begging.

“We could use the Imperius Curse,” Tom suggests, unhelpfully.

Yes, so then the Ministry can come and arrest her for using an Unforgivable on a Muggle. Wonderful idea, Tom answers waspishly.

Petunia pauses, turns slightly, to give Harry a considering look. “If you play your part this week,” she starts slowly, “maybe I’ll consider signing it after Marge leaves.”

Hope flares up in Harry’s chest, painfully bright. “I will,” she agrees immediately.

Her aunt gives a sharp nod of her head. “Most importantly,” she says, shoving a broom into Harry’s hands, “We’ve told Marge that you’re attending a reformatory school for troubled girls. I don’t want to hear a single word about your freak school.”

Harry can feel Tom’s anger building in her head. Harry he cautions, but she doesn’t pay him any notice. “Okay,” she agrees.

Petunia clucks her tongue distastefully. “Spotless,” she says, giving a meaningful look to the broom in Harry’s hands. She grits her teeth, but dutifully begins to sweep. It’s going to be a long week.

 

“What a handsome young man!” Marge exclaimed, several brandys on her way to being overly friendly, especially where ‘handsome young men’ were involved. Harry has to resist the urge to gag, and from the murderous look behind Tom’s eyes, she’d say he agrees with her. Marge has got his face in her hands and is inspecting him, like a piece of meat. “He simply must stay for dinner, Petunia,” she says, releasing Tom’s face, but grabbing his sleeve to haul him farther inside the house.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Harry blurts, the mental image of Tom sitting down to dinner with the Dursleys a picture too disturbing to contemplate.

“I wouldn’t want to be an imposition,” Tom agrees smoothly, delicately extricating himself from Marge’s grasp.

“Nonsense,” Marge chortles, picking her glass of brandy up from where she’d discarded it on the coffee table after catching sight of Tom. “Don’t listen to the girl,” she says, fixing Harry with a beady stare. “Mentally challenged, you know,” she says loudly, with an air of confidentiality.

If Harry thought Tom hated the Dursleys, that was nothing compared to the loathing he held for Marge. Ever since she had arrived, her bulldog slobbering all over the place and her loud voice echoing throughout the house drunkenly every night, his murderous urges grew stronger. Harry didn’t know what would happen if he actually stayed for dinner, but she certainly didn’t want to find out.

“Ah,” Tom replies, an air of tact manifesting. “In that case,” he gives Marge a charming smile, “I’d be honored to stay for dinner.” He ignores Harry’s death glare and moves to sit next to Dudley on the sofa in front of the telly.

Dudley stirs, clearly just noticing Tom. “Good, Tom, you’re here,” he says loudly. “My father wanted to ask you about your schooling next year.” Harry snorted loudly, earning herself a glare from both Marge and Dudley.

“Girl! In the kitchen. Now,” Petunia calls, craning her neck around the corner. With one last warning glare at Tom, Harry does as she’s bid. Petunia quickly hands her a wooden spoon and points at her to stir a pot. From the next room, she can hear Uncle Vernon greet Tom jovially. Dread sinks in her stomach.

 

Harry pokes the remaining food on her plate moodily. She had escaped the majority of the night without drawing her family’s attention, Tom earning that particular honor, but she just wants to escape to her room to end the night in solitude. Marge is leaving tomorrow and Harry is almost at the end of her rope. The only thing keeping her in line is the promise of her Hogsmeade form being signed.

“Aunt Petunia?” She asks, finally drawing the Dursleys’ gaze. “May I be excused and head to my room?” Petunia seems about to agree when Vernon cuts her off.

“Nonsense, girl,” he growls. “It’s rude to leave before company.”

Harry casts a dubious glance at Tom, who gives her a bland smile. “I don’t think Tom minds,” she tries, and his smile grows a touch more vicious.

“I won’t have it.” Vernon points to the kitchen. “Get the dessert. And more brandy for your aunt.” Harry reluctantly stands, moving into the kitchen where Petunia has stored a towering cake in the fridge. From the dining room, she can hear the conversation continuing on. About her.

“Awful girl,” Marge says, voice slurred. “Where is it you’ve sent her again?”

“St. Mary’s Reformatory School for Troubled Girls,” Petunia says. “The only place that would take her, you know how it goes.” Gritting her teeth, Harry takes the cake back into the dining room, her face flushed from anger.

Marge snaps at her glass, without looking at Harry. “Nasty business, all that is.” Harry’s pouring more brandy into her glass when Marge grabs her wrist, grip bruising. “The parents are simply to blame, of course.What was it they did again?” Harry jolts in shock.

“Unemployed drunks,” Vernon says gruffly. Harry can feel her pulse quicken and she jerks out of Marge’s grasp.

“That’s a filthy lie,” Harry snaps, her hands shaking as she moves to cut the cake. There’s a ringing sound building up in her ears.

“That’ll be enough out of you, girl,” Marge replies. “Of course, you’re lucky Vernon and Petunia took you in. If it had been me, you’d have been straight off to an orphanage.” The ringing sound in her head gets louder and there’s the sound of shattering glass behind her.

Harry turns to see Marge’s glass had exploded in her hand. Petunia is sending worried looks between Marge and Harry. “Perhaps the girl had best go to bed.”

“Nonsense,” Marge says, pinning a beady glare on Harry. “She should hear this. With horrible parents like hers–it’s all in the blood of course–it’s no wonder she turned out so freakish.” Tom, previously sitting silently, was out of his chair and at Harry’s side.

“Now, my dear,” he murmurs, both under his breath and in her head at the same time. “End them.”

“Shut up,” Harry cries, and she’s not sure who she’s talking to.

“It’s a shame they couldn’t beat it out of you,” Marge says, still staring Harry down, ignoring Tom, who’s maybe become a spirit again but Harry isn’t thinking clearly enough to tell the difference. “Maybe they’ll be able to at St. Mary’s.”

“Shut up,” Harry screams now, the ringing in her head reaching a fever pitch. Vernon and Petunia are on their feet and it’s like everything's in slow motion. The only thing Harry can see is Marge’s face, reddening.

“In fact,” Marge says, a cruel sneer on her face. “It’s good your parents got into that crash, the burden on society that they were.”

Harry’s rage is so intense she can’t speak. Do it Tom hisses into her ear and he’s the only thing she can hear over the ringing in her head. Harry jabs a finger at Marge, intending to scream something else, but before she can, everything goes up in flames. Literally.

Magic pours out of Harry, wild and unconstrained and Marge is on fire. She screams, batting at her clothes, and the walls of the dining room are up in a blaze as well. Harry stumbles back in shock. “Good,” Tom says from behind her, a vicious smile carved across his face. Vernon catches sight of her through the flames and points a shaking finger at her.

“You!” He howls, but Harry’s already turning on her heel and fleeing the room.

“All my stuff,” she gasps, and Tom waves his hand at the cupboard under the stairs. The door swings open and he pulls out her trunk. There’s a screeching from upstairs and Harry blanches. “Hedwig,” she moans and a look of irritation flashes across Tom’s face.

“Get out of the house,” he snaps, pushing her towards the door, trunk in arms. He charges upstairs and Harry stumbles out of the house onto the immaculate lawn. There’s a sick feeling in her stomach as she looks back at the Dursleys house, up in flames. Already she can hear sirens wailing through the air.

She’s sitting on the curb a few blocks away when Tom drops Hedwig’s cage down next to her. He sits on the other side of the cage, slightly soot-stained and smelling of smoke. “They’re gonna snap my wand,” she says dully. “I’m gonna get expelled.”

Tom says nothing.

“I set my Muggle relatives on fire,” she says, an edge of hysteria creeping in. “Oh, god.” She’s having trouble breathing properly.

Tom laughs, high cold cruel. “They deserve to burn,” he sneers. Harry turns a sharp look on him, sure she looks like a wreck. She’s been running her hands through her hair, the curls even wilder than normal.

“This is your fault,” she accuses him. “You were in my head.” Tom doesn’t deny her accusation. She turns her gaze back to the concrete under her feet. “Are they going to send me to Azkaban?”

Tom scoffs, in a sound scarily similar to human laughter. “What now?” Harry cries, turning to him with wild eyes, frustration bubbling up under her skin.

“You’re truly doing yourself a disservice if you think the Ministry would truly throw the savior of the Wizarding World into Azkaban alongside Death Eaters and dementors.” Harry just blinks at him. Tom’s voice had been uncharacteristically fond.

“But I set my relatives on fire,” she repeats dumbly.

Tom sighs heavily, like he can’t believe her thick-headedness. “Trust me, Harry, I’m sure you’re not the first.” They fall into silence. Harry turns to ask him another question, but Tom’s attention is caught on something just over her shoulder.

“Tom?” She glances over her shoulder, a shock of fright running through her at the sight of a large black dog creeping out of the bushes. “What is that?”

Tom stirs next to her, looking unsettled. “We should go,” he says. “Hold out your wand arm.” Harry does what he says, almost mindlessly, unnerved by Tom’s reaction to the dog, who still has its eyes on Harry.

It looks to be almost human-like in the eyes, and Harry has the urge to get even closer to have a better view. Before she can gather the courage to get up, there’s a loud cracking sound and a flash of light, and a purple three-decker bus is parked in front of her. Harry looks to where the dog was in alarm, but the animal has melted back into the shadows, disappearing.

She gets the oddest feeling it’s still watching her.

 

Harry stumbles off the Knight Bus, her stomach in her throat. “Never suggest that again,” she hisses at Tom, who looks as unruffled as ever.

“Oh dear,” he says mildly, eyes pinned over her head. Harry whips around, paleing when she sees a man in a lime green bowler hat who she recognizes from the Daily Prophet as the Minister of Magic.

“Harry Potter, my dear girl!” The Minister exclaims loudly, clapping a firm hand on her shoulder once she’s close enough to touch. “You gave us a scare.”

“‘arry Potter?” Stan Shunpike asks over her shoulder. His eyes narrow in on her forehead, where her scar is hidden under her curls. “Thought chu said yer name was Hermione.” Harry flushes deeply and avoids eye contact with the bus attendant.

“Nonsense, nonsense,” Fudge says harriedly. “Come along now, Harry, we have much to discuss.” He pauses, looking at Tom over her shoulder. “And you are?”

Tom gives the Minister a charming grin. “Thomas Gaunt,” he says smoothly, holding out his hand.

Fudge titters cheerily, accepting Tom’s hand. “That’s a fine grip, my boy. Gaunt, did you say? That’s a name I haven’t heard in quite some time.”

Tom shrugs humbly. “I don’t remember my parents,” he says seriously. “They died before I was much older than an infant. I grew up in an orphanage.” At Fudge’s blank look, Tom continues. “Muggle thing. Dreadful, really.”

Fudge grin falters slightly. “Muggle, you say? No Hogwarts letter?”

Tom shrugs again. “I wouldn’t even know about magic, if not for Harry here.” At the mention of her name, Fudge’s attention is drawn back to her. His hand tightens around her shoulder and Harry tries not to squirm under his grasp. Tom’s eyes narrow in on their contact and Harry can see them darken, the irritation prickling under her skin.

“Ah, yes,” Fudge says. “Our savior.” He catches sight of the gnarled barkeeper of the Leaky Cauldron. “Tom,” he calls, and Harry’s Tom flinches imperceptibly. “Please take Harry’s things and her friend up to a room. I’d like to have a word with Miss Potter before I send her up.”

Harry watches helplessly as Tom and her things are led away. Fudge waits to speak to her again until she’s in a private room, fire crackling merrily in the fireplace. He offers her tea and Harry accepts, the cup shaking slightly in her hand. Part of Tom’s soul has returned to her head and his presence makes her feel more calm. Still, she waits for the other shoe to drop, for Fudge to tell her that she’s being expelled from Hogwarts and they’re going to put her on trial for terrorization of Muggles.

“Now, Harry,” Fudge starts, looking worried, “what you did tonight was extremely irresponsible. Running away like that! Honestly!” He snorts, like the thought is inconceivable to him.

“You’re not... you’re not going to expel me?” Harry asks, tentatively.

Fudge looks shocked at the suggestion. “Expel you? Why in heaven’s name would we do such a thing? To the Girl-Who-Lived, nonetheless.”

Harry blinks. “I set my aunt on fire.”

Fudge waves a hand in the air, like this is an inconsequential detail. Harry feels a vague sense of smugness radiating off Tom when his words were proven correct. “The proper measures have been taken. Your relatives have been calmed, your aunt Obliviated, and their house restored. They’ve even agreed to let you return in the summer, provided this doesn’t happen again.”

Privately, Harry doubts that fact very much, but she says nothing. “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t see what the issue is then.”

“Ah.” The Minister’s face pinches, like he’s trying to decide the best way to break bad news to her. “You’ve heard of Sirius Black, I’m assuming?”

Harry thinks back to the Muggle news, and the picture in the Daily Prophet Stan was reading on the Knight Bus. “Yes, sir,” she says dutifully. “He was a Death Eater?”

Fudge nods gravely. “Practically the right hand of You Know Who himself. We have reason to believe he’ll be trying to come after you, now that he’s escaped from Azkaban.” Harry stays silent. “Imagine our fright when we showed up at your residence and you had disappeared and your relatives had no idea where you’d gone.”

Harry nods blankly. “I just ask that you stay in Diagon Alley for the rest of the summer. Safer, you know.” Harry made a noise of agreement, mind racing. Fudge smiles jovially. “May as well head back to your room, then? Say goodbye to Mr. Gaunt for me, and let him know to contact my office He should attend Hogwarts as his birthright.”

“Of course, sir. Thank you, sir.” Harry fled up to her room as fast as she could. Tom has already stretched out across her bed and he watches her lazily as she paces the room.

“They’re not expelling you.” His voice is smug, but when Harry glares at him, his face is neutral. “You can get away with anything,” he urges, voice passionate, dark. “Think of the possibilities.” Harry frowns but doesn’t answer. “Where do you think I’ll be sorted?” He asks innocently and Harry starts laughing. Once she starts, she can’t stop. She sinks to her knees. Harry’s not sure how everything got so twisted, but at least she gets to see Tom look at her like she’s crazy.

 

“Harry!” Her head snaps around at the familiar voice, and a bright smile cuts across Harry’s face.

“Hermione!” She cries, throwing her arms around the other girl. Hermione’s skin is even darker than it was at the end of last year, and when she pulls away from Harry’s embrace, her smile is blinding. Harry feels her heart stutter at the sight but she ignores it for catching up with her friend.

“How was your summer? Tell me everything!” Hermione exclaims, her gaze flicking to Tom, sitting with a blank face at the patio table. The two of them had been discussing the merits of Tom going to Hogwarts at Flortescues when Hermione had interrupted them. “Who’s your friend?”

Harry tries to hide her grimace. “Hermione, this is Tom. Tom, Hermione.”

“Pleasure,” Tom says cooly, making no move to accept Hermione’s offered hand. “Harry, may we?”

“Ignore him,” Harry says, pulling Hermione down to sit next to her. “He’s not mad at you.” Hermione nods like she understands what Harry’s talking about. She smiles at Harry, blinding bright and Harry flushes. There’s a foreign warm feeling in her stomach whenever Hermione looks at her, the sun catching in her brown eyes and turning them into molten chocolate.

Tom makes a disgusted noise.

 

In the end, Harry gets her way, which bothers Tom to no end. “This is a bad idea,” he says, sitting across from her, glaring daggers at Draco who is sitting next to her. “Someone will slip up.” Harry studiously ignores him and pretends to be paying attention to Draco’s retelling of the summer.

The door to their compartment slides open and Hermione steps in. “Malfoy,” she sniffs, sitting down where Tom had been previously. Harry’s scar prickles with his irritation.

“Granger,” he replies, just as cooly. Turning back to Harry, he lowers his voice. “Is it true you set fire to Muggles this summer?” Harry flushes and shifts in her seat.

“You did what?” Hermione exclaims, looking at Harry like she’d never seen her before. “Harry, what were you thinking?”

Harry clenches her jaw. “I was thinking that she was talking about my family improperly.”

Malfoy nods seriously beside her. “You can’t say they didn’t deserve it. Harry’s family treats her horribly. Not that you would know, Granger,” he sneers. Hermione seems ready to retort hotly, when a soft knock at the door stops the brewing argument in its tracks.

“Mind if I join you?” Ginny Weasley asks, face pale. Her hair seems especially red, and she looks like she might have been crying recently.

Draco mutters something under his breath about consorting with Weasels and mudbloods, but Harry elbows him in the side before he can say anything else. “Come on in,” Harry says softly, feeling partly responsible for Ginny’s treatment at the hands of Tom Riddle.

Said Tom Riddle makes a noise of distaste from where he’s leaning against her legs at the thoughts going through her head. “It’s not my fault she’s as unintelligent as she is.”

Would you be quiet? “How was your summer, Ginny?” Hermione asks kindly, moving over so Ginny can sit down next to her.

“Loud,” Ginny admits, sitting down next to Hermione. She doesn’t seem quite as pale. “I think Fred and George are planning world domination.”

Harry can’t hide her snort at that and she thinks Ginny perks up even further.

 

“Why does Professor Lupin watch me like he knows me?”

Tom rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Maybe he does.”

 

Harry, defying all logic and common sense, according to Tom, decides to try out for Quidditch. “This is a waste of time,” he sighs, watching her strap on borrowed gear in the girl’s locker room.

“And what would you recommend doing instead?” She turns a sharp glare on him. “According to everyone, not at the very least, Snape, my father was a demon on the Quidditch Pitch. Surely that would have rubbed off on me.”

“Why would you want to be in any way like James Potter?” Harry’s spine stiffens at her father’s name falling so casually from the mouth of his killer. They’ve never really discussed the night in which Tom came to be a part of her, and Harry’s not looking to start now. Despite her attachment to Tom, she thinks she’ll always resent him for what he took from her.

Harry just shrugs instead. “Anything to make Snape mad is good enough for me.”

Tom rolls his eyes. “You look ridiculous. This whole venture is ridiculous. Do you really think a brute like Marcus Flint is going to let a scrawny little girl on his team? They already have a Seeker, you know.”

Harry looked at herself in the mirror. She likes how the gear makes her look... more somehow. “They haven’t seen me fly yet.”

You haven’t seen you fly yet.” Harry grabs her borrowed broom from beside Tom and ignores his remark.

She troops out to the Quidditch Pitch, clouds in the sky, but no rain, and straightens her spine. Tom hovers over her shoulder like some sort of protective ghost. The rest of the students trying out are all boys, none younger than Harry’s year. Marcus Flint, a towering seventh year, glares at the batch of tryouts. His gaze lingers on Harry longer than the others.

“Potter,” he barks. She steps out of the masses, clenching her broom tightly. “What are you trying out for?”

“Seeker,” she answers, feeling the start of butterflies in her stomach. Maybe this really is a bad idea. Harry had never even been on a broom officially, save for first-year flying lessons, which she had mostly skipped. She’d played Quidditch with Draco last summer, but they had mainly ignored the rules in favor of dive bombing each other.

Flint laughs, and a few of the current team members jeer behind him. “We already have a seeker,” he explains to her, like she’s braindead.

“I know that. I’m better,” she says, not cowering under him. Good god, he is tall. Flint had to have at least a foot on her.

“Hear that boys? The Chosen One thinks she’s better than our current seeker!” Flint calls over his shoulder before turning back around to give her a menacing smile. “Let’s see what you’ve got. Hopefully your association with the mudblood hasn’t tainted your ability to ride a broom like a proper witch.” There’s a low roll of laughter through the assembled players, and Harry grinds her teeth at the innuendo, but stays silent.

She clenches her jaw and throws a leg over the broom. She isn’t going to let a bully like Flint stop her from succeeding. This is a bad idea Tom whispers in her mind, watching from the stands. She ignores him, like she’s been getting good at doing.

Pushing off the ground, Harry shoots into the sky. Her broom is old, school-provided, and isn’t nearly as fast as the Nimbus Two Thousand and One’s the rest of the Slytherin team has, but Harry won’t be daunted. The rest of the Slytherin team joins her in the air, circling her like birds of prey. “Oi, Potter!” Flint calls her way. “Word of advice? Don’t get hit.”

And with that, the Beaters, Harry vaguely recalls one as Perrigrine Derrick, start swinging.

Chapter Text

“I hear you’re the new Seeker?” Draco appears at her elbow as Harry’s walking to Defense Against the Dark Arts. “Congratulations,” he says, not quite sounding like he means it.

Harry turns his way slightly. “Don’t sound too excited,” she says, grinning when his eyes widen as he catches sight of her face.

“What happened?” He hisses, sitting next to her once they reach the classroom. He gestures towards her eye, actions void of tact as usual.

Harry shrugs, prodding at her skin gently, and trying not to wince. “Got hit in the face,” she explains. “Still held on, and proceeded to catch the Snitch before their previous joke of a Seeker.” She doesn’t mention the way Flint leveraged the position with a promise to not go to the Hospital Wing. Tom was not pleased, but seemed to have a grudging respect for Flint all the same.

“Harry!” Hermione exclaims, moving to sit on her other side. “What in Merlin’s name happened to your face?” She hisses, hand reaching up to touch the skin under her eye gingerly. “Why don’t you go to Madame Pomfrey?”

“I hate to agree with Granger,” Draco chimed in, “but that does seem like the best plan of action.”

“I’m fine,” Harry says, shrugging them off. She determinedly shoves the flash of warmth in her chest at Hermione’s touch down. Her cheeks still feel warm, but she doesn’t think anyone notices.

Tom, from his position sitting on a desk two rows in front of her, looks disgusted. “You’re helpless,” he sneers.”How could I have ever been defeated by you?”

I know that’s a rhetorical question Harry answers.

“I still think you should go to Madame Pomfrey,” Hermione says, breaking Harry’s concentration. Before she can continue the discussion, or change the subject more likely, Remus Lupin walks in.

Harry thinks he makes a strange figure for a professor. He certainly strikes a different mood from Lockhart the previous year. His robes are clearly worn and patched up in places and he looks pale and sickly. There are dark circles under his eyes and his skin is a waxy yellow color. He drops his beaten brown briefcase on the desk and brushes off his hands before turning to face the class. His eyes do a long sweep of the students, pausing on Harry. There’s an expression akin to pain as he looks at her and Harry sits up straighter under his gaze.

Draco snorts beside her. “You think they’d give him a new wardrobe,” he sneers under his breath. “Honestly.”

“What are you going to do about it, Malfoy?” Hermione snaps from across Harry. “Run and tell your daddy?” Draco flushes a brilliant red, but before he can retort, Lupin addresses the class.

“Welcome, all,” he says, voice gentler than Harry would have expected. “My name is Remus Lupin, Professor Lupin to you, and I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts professor this year. Hopefully I make it further than your past two professors and I’ll do my best to not lose my memory in the middle of the year.” His speech rouses a few laughs from the class. Draco fumes next to Harry.

Lupin claps his hands together. “Today, I thought we’d start with something a little different than what you may have done in the past.” Hermione’s hand is poised above her parchment, ready to scribble notes. “What can anyone tell me about boggarts?” Hermione’s free hand shoots up into the air and Draco scoffs.

“Ah, Miss... Granger, was it?” Hermione nods, smiling brilliantly. “What can you tell us?”

“Well, Professor Lupin, sir, they take on the viewer’s deepest fear,” she starts, like she’s memorized the textbook. Which, Harry considers as she doodles a snitch on her parchment, might very well be the case.

“Excellent,” Lupin gives Hermione a warm smile. “Ten points to Gryffindor, Miss Granger. Can anyone tell me which spell is used to banish the boggart?” Hermione’s hand shoots up into the air again. Lupin’s eyes fall on her and he smiles slightly.

“It’s Riddikulus,” Tom says dully, leaning against a wall next to Harry’s desk. “Boggarts lose their power through laughter.”

Harry tentatively raises her hand, drawing shocked looks from both Hermione and Draco. Lupin gives her a strange look before he nods at her to answer. “The spell to defeat a boggart is Riddikulus, sir,” she says. “It causes the boggart to transform into something funny, because laughter is the only thing to get rid of one.”

“Very good, Miss Potter,” Lupin says, his voice warm but his eyes still assessing her. “Now, for our first class, I thought we might try our hand at defeating a boggart of our very own. Everyone, up!” The class rose to their feet, grumbling.

“This class is ridiculous,” Draco mutters, standing behind Harry in line where they’re waiting to face the rickety cupboard Lupin has pulled out into the middle of the classroom. Harry snorts, earning a sly smile from Draco and a disapproving glare from Hermione. Again, Harry feels a hot flush rise to her cheeks at eye-contact with Hermione. She determinedly squashes the feeling.

Even though Harry is partially in agreement with Draco about the class, she can’t help but enjoy the activity. Somehow, timid Neville Longbottom is at the front of the line, and when Lupin opens the cupboard, a menacing looking Snape steps into the classroom. Harry watches with bemusement as Neville’s wand hand shakes as he points his wand at the Snape-boggart. He mouths the spell, stuttering over the word. “Ri-riddik...” his voice trails off as Snape advances on him.

“You can do it,” Lupin encourages warmly. Harry sees Neville cast him a tremulous gaze.

“Riddikulus!” Neville finally cries, the spell hitting the Snape-boggart square in the chest. Its shape twists forms until he’s wearing the ridiculous clothes of an older woman. Neville, and the rest of the class, burst into laughter, and the boggart is forced back into the cupboard.

The class eventually quiets down. “Well done, Neville,” Lupin says. “Ten points to Gryffindor for being our first volunteer. Who’s next?”

Slowly the line progresses, each transformation of the boggart somehow becoming more ridiculous than the last. Harry can’t help but wonder what her greatest fear will be, looking at the banshees and clowns and spiders of her classmates. Before she can think too long on the topic, it’s her turn in front of the cupboard. Lupin gives her a guarded look but opens it, nonetheless.

The boggart seems to hesitate in front of her, twisting shapes, until Harry’s standing in front of a familiar door. The door to the cupboard under the stairs swings open, the inside dark. Harry reaches for her wand, fighting down the claustrophobia that rises up in her at the sight. Flames start to lick up at the sides of the walls, and there’s a high-pitched screaming noise in her ears. Before she can cast the spell, the boggart flickers in front of her. Harry takes a step back in confusion and the boggart becomes something else entirely.

She’s now staring at an unmarked grave. Harry blinks in confusion. It doesn’t mean anything to her. Harry looks to Lupin for confusion, wondering if boggarts can break. He’s already staring at her with confusion. “Get rid of it,” Tom says unexpectedly from next to her.

His face is pale and he’s staring at the grave with something akin to dread, darkness twisting in his eyes. Harry didn’t even notice him move to stand next to her, but she does as he bids, raising her wand once more. Before she can cast the spell, Lupin steps in front of her, breaking Harry’s confusion. The grave flickers once and turns into a floating image of the full moon. Lupin banishes the boggart, fingers tightly gripping his wand.

“I think that will be all for today,” he says hurriedly, seeming to Harry like he’s avoiding her gaze. “To everyone who didn’t get a chance to face the boggart, we will be continuing our lesson next class. Make sure to do your reading, and I want a foot on boggarts’ powers next week. Dismissed.” He quickly turns away from the class and is almost out the door before any of them.

“What was that all about?” Draco grumbles, shoving his books back into his bag. He seems distinctly put-out that he didn’t get a chance to go through the exercise.

Harry looks at Tom out of the corner of his eye, where he’s standing staring at the cupboard housing the boggart unblinkingly. “No idea,” she says, honestly, walking out of the classroom with Hermione.

 

“You could at least ask him to sign your form,” Hermione urges, tucking her scarf under her cloak. “You don’t know, maybe he’ll say yes.” Harry stares moodily out of the window, watching as students flood down the path towards Hogsmeade.

Draco sniffs from where he’s bouncing on the balls of his feet impatiently. “Why would Harry want to ask Dumbledore for anything? The old coot hates her,” he sneers, glaring at Hermione with distaste.

Hermione sputters with outrage. “Thanks, Draco,” Harry says gloomily. She actually agrees with his assessment however, and the thought only depresses her more. Turning back to her friends, she gives them a forced smile. “It’s okay.”

“Great!” Draco exclaims, already breaking away from them, tossing Harry a wave over his shoulder. “I’ll bring you back a book on Quidditch.” He rounds the corner of the corridor and is out of sight in seconds.

Hermione turns an assessing stare on Harry. “You’re sure you don’t want me to stay?”

Harry waves her off. “It’s the first Hogsmeade weekend,” she says. “Enjoy it.” Hermione beams, hugs her loosely, and rushes off to join the masses. Harry drops her head and lets it thud dully against the window. She knows she’s being stupid, but all Harry wanted was something that would let her be like everyone else even if just for one day.

Tom leans against the wall next to her, an ever present specter. “It could be worse,” he says, clearly sounding like he doesn’t give a damn.

“Would you, please,” Harry says, closing her eyes, “shut up. For just a minute.”

 

Because luck has never been on Harry’s side, she runs into Lupin on her way to the library. Literally. His books drop to the ground with a loud thud and Harry stumbles back, clutching a hand to her scar as Tom’s anger flares.

“Oh. God. Sorry,” she mutters, stooping down to help him pick up his things.

Lupin stares at her, considering, before smiling. “It’s no matter,” he says. His voice sounds nice enough but he’s guarded behind the eyes, and Harry can’t figure out why. “Walk with me for a moment?”

Harry really does not want to, but she also doesn’t know how to say that without coming off as rude. “Who cares?” Tom asks, bored. “May as well get it over with now.”

While Harry doesn’t appreciate his tone, she agrees with the general sentiment. “Sure,” she says, giving Lupin a bland smile.

They walk in silence for several minutes, until they reach his office. Lupin holds the door open for her, moving to the window once she’s in the classroom. Harry does the same, swinging it open. The weather has just started to change, summer collapsing into autumn, and she enjoys the feel of the air on her skin.

“I knew your parents,” Lupin says abruptly. A jolt of shock runs through Harry but she does her best to maintain her composure. “Quite well, actually. Has anyone told you that you look like your father?”

“Frequently,” Harry sighs.

“But you have your mother’s eyes.” Lupin sounds pensive. “I think they would be proud of you.”

Harry frowns. “How would you know?” she snaps, harsher than she intends. “They’re dead, and you don’t know anything about me.” Harry can feel Tom warning her to slow down, to keep her masks on, but she disregards him.

Lupin moves away from the window. “I’m sorry, Harry.” He sounds genuine and Harry thinks she hates him a little bit.

“I don’t need your sympathy,” she says coldly. She turns on her heel to flee the room, missing the bewildered look that crosses Lupin’s face.

“Wonderful,” Tom says dryly, trailing behind her. “He definitely doesn’t think you’re crazy now.”

 

Harry is bent over a book in the library, half asleep, letting Tom read through her eyes when Ron Weasley finally decides to approach her. It takes her a moment to notice him standing in front of her, face almost as red as his hair. Tom is still fully curled up in her mind, like a cat lazing in front of the fire. She feels a pang of resentment from him at the comparison, but he doesn’t say anything.

“Hullo,” Weasley says dully, eyes darting around like he’s not quite sure what he’s doing here.

“‘Lo,” Harry says in response, leaning her chin in her palm. Her braid is tickling the back of her neck, and Tom’s full presence in her head is making her drowsier than she’d like. “What can I do you for, Weasley?”

He blinks, face turning even more red than Harry would’ve thought possible. “I...” he starts, before his voice gives out on him. “I never got a chance to thank you.”

Harry shakes her head slightly. “For what?” Tom has perked up slightly in her mind, but still says nothing.

Ron shuffles his feet. “For Ginny. I mean. What you did in the Chamber. For my sister.”

Harry’s mouth opens slightly as she catches onto his train of thought. She honestly hasn’t thought much of the youngest Weasley. Since the train ride, Ginny had mostly been surrounded by her own year-mates, not that Harry had minded. She already had an odd assortment of friends, and didn’t particularly feel like adding another one into the mix. Tom makes a disgusted, scoffing sort of sound and makes to look back down at the book.

“It really isn’t anything,” Harry says, attempting to wave off his apology before this becomes more awkward than it already is.

Ron stares back at her, a hard edge in his eye. “No,” he says firmly. “I thought you were a rotten snake,” he blurts out, talking fast like he’s going to lose whatever courage he’d mustered up to say this to her. “That because you were in Slytherin, you were going to become the new Dark Lord like everyone said you would.”

“Everyone said what?”

Ron ignores her outburst. “But an evil Dark Lord wouldn’t have rescued my sister. I’m sorry. And thank you.” Before Harry can say anything else, he turns and hurries away, the tips of his ears still red.

“Can you believe that?” Harry asks Tom, speaking to empty air. “Dark Lord, honestly.”

If you’re quite finished, I’d like to get back to where we were Tom says, ignoring her previous comments. Harry slumps back down over the book, yawning.

“Wake me up when you’re finished,” she murmurs.

 

The first Quidditch match of the year is on Harry before she knows what’s happening. She stares down at her toast, a sick feeling in her stomach. “This was a terrible idea,” she says, turning wide eyes onto Hermione. “How could you let me do this? I have terrible decision making skills, just look at what I did this summer.”

Hermione rolls her eyes from where she’s sitting next to Harry at the Slytherin table. “Harry, you also are the most stubborn person I know. Even if I did try to stop you, would you have listened?” Tom makes a noise of agreement from where he’s sitting next to Hermione, reading the Daily Prophet over her shoulder.

While Tom hadn’t exactly grown fond of Hermione, in fact he still referred to her as a mudblood when he thought he could get away with it, he had grown a grudging respect for her. A fact that never ceased to irritate him when Harry brought it up.

“You’re right,” she says, looking back down at her toast, like staring it into submission would help her eat.

Draco sighs heavily, across the table from her. “For Merlin’s sake, would you just eat already?” Flint’s sending you death glares from down the table.” Harry looks up from her toast long enough to confirm, yes, Flint is giving her a menacing stare from where he’s surrounded by the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team.

“I think I’ve lost my appetite,” Harry says, miserably pushing her plate away.

“Harry,” Hermione starts, delicately flipping the page of the Daily Prophet. “You’ve faced down You-Know-Who twice and won, I don’t think a little Quidditch is going to kill you.”

Tom makes another noise of agreement, which Harry thinks is a little unfair of him, and leans closer to the paper without looking at her. “You’ve gone and jinxed me,” Harry moans, dropping her head onto the table with a dull thud.

“Harry’s right,” Draco sniffs. “She’s going to fall off her broom and it’ll be all your fault, Granger.”

Harry stands abruptly. “Both of you need lessons in tact,” she snaps, and makes her exit.

 

Harry didn’t think she realized how difficult it was to fly in the rain. She’s circling high above the Quidditch Pitch, eyes peeled for any sign of the snitch, and although she’s braided her hair tightly, it still whips around her face. She’s scanning the ground, when she catches sight of a large shadow by the Forbidden Forest.

Craning her neck for a better look, and if she didn’t know any better, she’d think it was the dog from Little Whinging, Harry drifts closer to the edge of the pitch. Her fingers are growing numb, and Harry thinks the air is actually getting colder. She can see her breath now, and her hair is starting to freeze where the rain has drenched her.

Before she can concentrate more on the dog, she sees a flash of gold. Darting after the snitch, Harry urges her broom to go faster, neck and neck with the Hufflepuff seeker, Cedric Diggory. Her hand is outstretched, inches away from the snitch, when out of nowhere, a cloaked thing surges from under her.

Harry pulls back abruptly, staring in horror at whatever is in front of her. There’s a loud ringing in her ears, a screaming noise, and everything is turning dark. Not Harry! a voice screams, as if right next to her, and the last thing Harry sees is a flash of green before her numb fingers are sliding off the handle of her broom and she plummets to the ground in a free fall.

 

“...jinxed her.”

“It’s not like I bloody well pushed her off the broom now, is it?”

“‘I don’t think a little Quidditch will kill you.’ Honestly, Granger.”

The first thing Harry sees when she wakes up is Tom staring intently at her. There’s a pounding in her head, and Harry has to blink a few times before he comes into focus. There’s a dark fire burning in his eyes and Harry can feel the anger radiating off him and through her head. When he sees her awake, he frowns, but continues to stare at her. “What’s wrong?” She slurs the question, her whole body throbbing.

Tom’s eyes flick to somewhere over her head before returning to her. Before she can ask him anything else, someone is leaning over her, and her sight of Tom is cut off. “Harry! You’re awake,” Hermione cries, looking exhausted.

Draco leans over from the other side of the bed, paler than usual. Harry comes to the gradual realization that she’s in the Hospital Wing. “What happened?” She asks, struggling to push herself into a sitting position. Tom places a firm hand on her shoulder, keeping her down.

Hermione flushes, angrily, sitting back down next to Harry. “Dementors,” she says shortly.

“I don’t understand.” Harry shakes her head. The pain shooting through her scar only seems to increase, and Harry resists the urge to clap a hand to her head.

Draco is bristling with anger as well. “Apparently, the Ministry has sent dementors to Hogwarts for protection against Sirius Black. They weren’t supposed to be at the Quidditch match, but all those high emotions attracted them.”

“I fell of my broom,” Harry remembers. “How embarrassing.” Tom laughs darkly from behind her and Harry can tell if he wasn’t tethered to her, he would be out wreaking havoc.

“And Diggory caught the snitch before he realized you had fallen,” Draco says miserably.

“Honestly,” Hermione says, “can you two think about anything other than Quidditch for five minutes? Harry could have died.”

Thinking about Flint’s probable reaction to them having lost the match as a direct result of Harry’s actions makes her wonder if that would have been the better outcome. A flash of pain lances through her scar at that thought. Tom’s anger only seems to have increased since she woke up, rather than abating.

“How come I didn't? Die, I mean.” Hermione frowns at her question.

Draco seems similarly disgruntled. “Dumbledore cast some sort of spell,” he says. “A floating charm, caught you just before you hit the ground.”

“Great,” Harry says, wishing she could just sink into her pillows. “Dumbledore saved me.” The words sit dirty in her mouth, and she just wants to go to sleep and forget the whole day. Tom shifts closer to her, tension in every line of his body, but he stays silent.

Draco and Hermione exchange glances over her head. “We’ll let you rest,” Hermione says gently, giving her hand a squeeze. Harry’s hand burns where they make contact and she hopes desperately she’s not blushing.

 

“Oi! Potter!” Harry comes to a slow halt in the corridor. To her terrible luck, the hallways is deserted. A large hand comes down on her shoulder, and Harry wriggles out from under it, turning around in the process. A very large, very angry Marcus Flint stands in front of her, the look in his eyes promising pain.

Harry can’t say she’s particularly scared.

“You’ve been hiding from me,” Flint growls, taking a menacing step towards her. Harry purposefully doesn’t move backwards at all. She’s grown tired of this game.

Tom, if you would be so kind... She smiles up at Flint like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “I just got out of the Hospital Wing, Flint, how could I possibly be avoiding you?”

Flint’s face darkens and he takes another step towards her. “If you really think I’ll buy that, you’re dumber than you look.”

Harry just tilts her head. She knows her eyes are bleeding red and she grins sharply at Flint. He’s got at least a foot on her, but he pales anyway, taking a step backwards. “What are you playing at, Potter?” Flint asks, trying to retain a veneer of bravado.

“Listen up,” Harry says, stepping closer to Flint. She makes no move to raise to his level, just tilts her head back. “I’m not someone you want to mess with. Understand?”

Flint’s eyes widen even further, almost comically. “Your eyes,” he stammers, instead of answering her question.

“If you ever try to threaten me again,” Harry murmurs, her hands coming to grip his hands loosely, “I’ll curse you until you can’t walk again.”

Flint stares up at her, defiance flickering in his eyes, like he hadn’t been trembling before her moments earlier. “Do you think I’m scared of you? You would never have the stomach for it.”

Harry smiles, and she knows it’s a twisted version, cruel. It’s Tom’s smile. “I set my own aunt on fire over the summer,” she confides in him. “What makes you think you’d mean any more to me than she did?” Before she can say anything else, Lupin and Dumbledore round the corner of the corridor, deep in conversation.

Harry takes a quick step back, letting go of Flint’s hands. Once released, Flint scrambles away from her, shooting her a deadly look, although he still looks rather pale. “Oh, dear,” Dumbledore says, when he catches sight of them. “Is everything quite alright here?”

Harry studiously doesn’t make eye contact, still unsure about the state of her eyes. “No problem at all, Headmaster,” she says, sweetly.

 

“Where could she be?”

“Maybe,” Tom sighs, “you should consider the fact she doesn’t want to be found?” He’s fully corporeal next to her, so as to help Harry with his full concentration. They’ve been traipsing through the Forbidden Forest for the past hour, searching for Basil.

Harry finally comes to a halt, leaning against a tree. “It’s getting too cold out here for her. I don’t care what Dumbledore says, I’m not leaving my familiar to freeze to death in the Forbidden Forest. I won’t do it.”

Tom seems awfully close to rolling his eyes. “The last time the two of you talked, she seemed perfectly happy terrorizing the Forbidden Forest. Plus, is she not too large for the Slytherin common room?”

“I just need another way to terrorize Marcus Flint into submission,” Harry says stubbornly.

Before Tom can reply, most likely to reprimand her, a twig snaps in the forest. They exchange glances. Tom hovers over her shoulder as Harry moves forward. “Hello?” she calls out.

“Wonderful idea, Harry, truly. Announce to the whole world your presence,” Tom says scathingly.

“They would have already heard us talking, it’s not like we’ve been quiet,” Harry retorts.

All conversation is cut off when a large, black dog prowls out of the underbrush. Tom stiffens behind her. “Harry...” he says, warning in his voice. The dog’s eyes are pinned on Tom as it circles them.

“That’s the dog from Little Whinging,” Harry says, surprised. “I think it’s following me,” she confides over her shoulder, as she takes a step towards the dog.

“Don’t touch it,” Tom hisses. “That’s a grim.”

Harry’s hand pauses outstretched. “A what?” She gives the dog a dubious look. “It just looks like a regular dog to me. Aren’t you?” She addresses it, and it gives her the equivalent of what Harry would consider a smile. “He likes me.”

“An omen of death,” Tom says, sounding more hysterical than Harry’s heard before. “What did I just say about touching it?”

Harry scratches the dog behind the ears. “Don’t listen to mean ol’ Tom,” she cooes, ignoring the lance of pain that shoots through her scar. “He’s just jealous you like me more than him.”

Speaker there’s a hissing noise, as Basil slides out of the bushes. Harry looks over her shoulder, attention drawn, and before she knows what’s happening, the dog bounds away. You have come to bring me back into the stone?

She turns fully towards Basil, now the length of Harry’s wingspan. Yes she answers, distracted. You will be warm there.

Basil slithers up her offered arm, wrapping around her torso, under her cloak. Harry heads back to the castle, Tom back in his slot in her mind, thoughts still on the dog which seemed to be following her.

 

Harry decides the smell of tea leaves make her sick.

She’s got a throbbing headache and can feel a twitch starting in her eyes. She thinks Divination is the stupidest subject Hogwarts offers. Tom agrees with her. The first time she walked into the classroom, Tom took one look at the beaded walls and bean bag chairs, with a haze of smoke over the room and walked right back out. He hasn’t since been back to the class, choosing instead to do his own thing, haunting the halls of Hogwarts, Harry assumes.

Draco starts snoring next to her, and Harry kicks him in the shin viciously. He jerks awake, and sends her a wicked look. “Drink your tea,” Harry tells him, swirling her own dregs. He’s still glaring at her, but does as told.

“Okay,” he says, staring at his book and then at his cup. “So, this blob here means... you’ll face an early death? Or, wait... if you turn it this way it could mean you’ll lose a great fortune.”

“Goody,” Harry says drily. “Can’t wait.” She peers into her own cup. “You’re going to... have a bad hair day?” Draco snorts into his cup.

Before they can say anything else, Trelawny swoops towards them, her glasses magnifying her eyes to a terrifying extent. “Let me see that,” she snaps, holding out her hand. Harry hands over her cup and Trelawny peers into her.

Through the smoke obscuring the room, Harry sees Trelawny's eyes widen behind her glasses. The professor pales, glancing up at Harry. “My dear,” she says gravely. “You have the mark of the grim in your cup.”

Harry frowns. This is old news. The classroom, previously noisy with her classmates chatter, falls silent. Draco looks paler than usual, and Trelawny hands Harry her teacup back with a tragic expression. “Dark things are headed your way, Miss Potter.”

Harry didn’t think the dog in the forest was all that big of a deal, and she didn’t quite understand wizards and their superstition. Harry was familiar with death omens, she practically had one living in her head, although no one knew that. She didn’t see why this would be any different.

“I had an uncle who saw a grim once, and he died on the spot,” Draco hisses on their way out of class. Harry raises her eyebrows and gives him a strange look. “It’s true. The grim is a sign of death. No good comes out of seeing one.”

Tugging her bag higher, Harry tosses her braid over her shoulder. “Have you, and the rest of the wizarding world, considered that maybe people die from the grim out of fear, rather than any magical power of the grim itself?” Draco gives her a confused look as they make their way down the spiral staircase that leads up to Trelawny’s tower. “After all, if it is said to be an omen of death, wouldn’t people be a little scared to see it? What exactly was the cause of death for your uncle?”

Draco frowns. “I think they said his heart stopped.”

Harry hums. “My point exactly. I’ve gotta go to the Great Hall, promised I’d meet ‘mione. I swear not to pet any large, black dogs.”

 

Harry watches dejectedly as a stream of students makes their way to Hogsmeade. The weather has finally changed for the worse, and the ground is covered in snow. She’s given up on sending Draco and Hermione off, deciding her depressed mood wasn’t what they wanted on their days of Hogsmeade fun.

She thinks maybe she’ll go to the library, or maybe she’ll just go back to the common room. She’s come to the realization that spending her days with a bunch of first and second years when the rest of the school is gone is her idea of hell. Tom, who cares very little about going to Hogsmeade, agrees with her.

I’ll show you where the kitchens are he whispers in her mind and Harry shrugs. Better than standing here and feeling sad for herself. She can do that on a normal day.

Before she can get further than the end of the corridor, there’s the sound of running footsteps behind her. “Oi! Potter!” Before she can turn around, two sets of arms are linking through hers and dragging her down a side corridor.

The Weasley twins grin at her, identical in every way, down to the untied laces on their left shoe.

“Gred. Forge.” Harry inclines her head to Fred and George in turn. She’s always been able to tell them apart, much to their chagrin. They exchange a glance.

“Why the glum face?” George asks.

“Must be the weather,” Fred says. George makes a noise of enlightenment. They’ve cornered Harry against the wall, one on either side of her, blocking her way out.

Tom leans against the wall next to the trio. “They certainly are irritating.”

“As much as I love the pleasure of your company is there something in particular I can help you with?” Harry asks, ignoring Tom per usual.

George throws his head back, clasping a hand against his heart in mock despair. “My heart! You’ve wounded me deeply.” Fred tsks sympathetically. “Isn’t the pleasure of our company enough?” George asks, fixing her with a serious look.

Harry crosses her arms and moves to leave. In unison, Fred and George hold an arm out, barricading her back against the wall. They exchange meaningful looks over her head. “Now, hear us out,” Fred says. “We heard about the little... fiasco with your family this summer.”

“From who?” Harry demands. The only people she told were Hermione and Draco and Harry was positive neither of them would ever willingly talk to one of the Weasleys.

George just taps the side of his nose knowingly, while Fred clears his throat. “We have Ministry connections,” he says vaguely.

“Great,” Harry says, slumping against the wall. “So your whole family knows I set my relatives on fire because your dad can’t keep his mouth shut.” She vaguely remembers Draco mentioning that Arthur Weasley worked in a department in the Ministry that was completely outdated, in his words.

Fred shrugs, looking shameless. George takes over from him. “What my good brother means to say is we’re pretty sure you didn’t get your Hogsmeade form signed. Seeing as you’re here, and not there.”

“And, by normal standards, setting a house on fire is a pretty bad way to earn good will,” Fred chimes in. He leans closer to Harry, a conspiratorial look on his face. “We happen to like a little chaos.” He winks, and Harry feels the bottom of her stomach drop out from under her. She flushes, a twisting feeling in her chest, similar to the one she gets when Hermione smiles at her a certain way.

Tom sighs loudly, reminding Harry of his presence. “Completely insufferable,” he says, sounding put out.

George is whipping out a piece of paper, though, which draws both Harry and Tom’s attention. “Because of our shared love of chaos,” he says, less intense than Fred, but sounding like a bad salesman on TV, “we thought it was about time we handed this off to the next generation of Hogwarts troublemakers.”

Harry wants to grimace at the idea of being considered a Hogwarts troublemaker, but figures this is the wrong time and place for that. “What is it?” There’s a burning curiosity rising up in her.

“Ah,” Fred says, knowingly. “Now, you’re interested.” George unfolds the parchment, which on closer inspection, looks to be completely blank. “Watch and learn, Miss Potter.” Fred whips out his wand and taps on the parchment. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Both Harry and Tom watch with bated breath as ink seems to drench the parchment, transforming it into what looks like a map. “Is that a...”

“Map?” George offers. “Why indeed it is.”

“This little beauty’s taught us more than all the teachers in this school,” Fred says, watching Harry’s reaction with a keen glint in his eye.

Tom’s moved closer to peer at the parchment, tracing over the lines with a finger. “Fascinating,” he says, sounding captivated in a way he rarely does. His actions cause Harry to catch something something else. There seem to be hundreds of names on the parchment, moving in various motions across the map.

“So this map shows – everyone?” Harry asks, stunned.

Fred and George exchange another look. “Everyone. Where they are, what they’re doing, every minute, every day.” They speak in unison, and Harry’s almost positive they’ve planned this.

Harry grins wickedly, finally buying into their conspiratorial air, leaning forward. “Brilliant. Where did you get it?”

“You’re almost as bad as them,” Tom says, offhand, finally stepping away from the map. “Have a little decorum.”

Harry ignores him. “Got it from Filch’s office, of course,” Fred says, proudly.

“Our first year,” George adds. “It’s about time we start planting the seeds for our legacy. This will show you all the ins and outs of the castle as well,” he adds. “If you’re near a secret passage, the map will show you the password.”

Harry takes the map from them. “How do I turn it back?” She asks.

“Just tap it and say ‘Mischief Managed,’” Fred instructs. He steps away from her, eyes still boring intensely on the side of her face. “If anyone asks where you got it, we don’t know you.”

Harry mock salutes them as they take off down the hallway together. Tom watches them leave, an inscrutable expression on his face. He turns back to her and catches her staring. “What?” He asks, raising an eyebrow.

“You really don’t like them, do you?” Harry says finally, realization dawning.

Tom arches an eyebrow, face carved out of marble. “Whyever would you think that?” His voice betrays no emotion, and there seems to be a wall between his mind and hers, but Harry can still sense a roiling disquiet underneath his iron facade.

“No reason,” she says finally, turning back to the map. “I guess we will be going to Hogsmeade after all.”

“Oh, good,” Tom says drily. “I can barely contain my excitement.”

Harry narrows her eyes at him. “Who taught you sarcasm?”

 

Harry steps out of Honeydukes into what looks like what she would have imagined a winter wonderland to look like. “Don’t exaggerate,” Tom sighs, reading her thoughts. “I thought Hogsmeade was overrated when I was a student, it certainly hasn’t improved in the time since I was last here.”

If you don’t want to be here, then leave Harry retorts, tossing her head back. I’m going to find Draco. Or Hermione. Tom looks like he desperately wants to roll his eyes, but he stays silent and obediently follows behind her as she walks further through the town.

Finally, she spots Draco’s platinum hair towards the outskirts of town, by a rundown shack. His two minions are with him, not that Harry had ever really bothered to learn their names. He says something to them that Harry can’t catch and they lumber off. He spins around, sharp eyes searching the surrounding area. “Who’s there?” He demands.

Harry steps forward, revealing herself, and Malfoy flushes. “Harry,” he says, a hair too loud. “I thought you weren’t allowed to go to Hogsmeade?”

She shrugs, a secretive grin playing at her lips. “I have my ways. What are you doing out here all by yourself?” He turns back around and looks at the dilapidated shack.

“Just wanted some time to clear my head.” They’re interrupted by a herd of Gryffindor third year boys crashing through the underbrush before he can say anything further.

Harry spins around, eyes narrowing at the sight of Ron Weasley, surrounded by Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan, while Neville Longbottom hangs a half step behind the other three. “Can we help you?” She asks coldly.

Ron seems hesitant, but Seamus Finnegan balls his fists, a smirk cutting across his face. “What’s the matter, Potter? Did we interrupt your alone time with your boyfriend?”

Draco turns sharply, a flush rising high on his cheeks. “You shut your mouth, Finnegan.”

“Are you going to make me?” Finnegan sneers, a muscle flexing in his jaw. He takes a half-step forward, and Malfoy whips his wand out in response. Ron takes a step forward with the other Gryffindor, holding his hands out placatingly.

“We don’t want a fight,” he says slowly.

Draco turns his attention to Ron with a jerk of his chin. “No?” He asks. “My apologies, you must have just come to get a good look at one of the few real estate locations your family could afford,” he jeers, gesturing back towards the shack.

Ron flushes, the tops of his ears turning a tomato red. He glances towards Harry, like he’s expecting her to step in and hold Malfoy back, but she stays silent, hanging back from the confrontation. This isn’t her fight, and she really doesn’t feel like making it her fight. Tom is hovering behind her, dark eyes catching everything with a muted interest.

He sputters on a retort for a few moments, flushing darker the longer it becomes.

“That’s what I thought,” Draco says smugly. “If you’ll excuse us, Weasel. Finnegan.” He ignores Dean Thomas and Longbottom and tugs on Harry’s arm. “We wouldn’t want to be seen associating with the riffraff.”

Harry lets Draco pull her away from the Gryffindor boys, all of whom had been fuming, before she stops him. “What was that?” She asks, once they’re out of earshot.

“What was what?”

Harry jerks her head back towards where they’d come. “Was humiliating him like that really necessary?”

Draco flushes again, this time with anger instead of humiliation. “What’s it to you? I thought you hated the Weasleys, anyway.”

Harry Tom cautions, but she plows on ahead regardless. “Are you jealous?” She asks, incredulous. “Think I might start spending all my time with Weasley now? Is that it?”

Draco reels back, like she’s physically struck him. He blinks once, twice, and then anger twists his face. “No,” he spits. “Everyone can see the way the Weasley girl watches you. How the twins stalk you. How he,” he jabs a finger back towards the shack, “wants to be your friend so bad, it’s pathetic.” His chest is heaving as he struggles for breath, normally pale features alight. “The whole family is obsessed with you. They’re using you. I’m just trying to protect you.”

Harry doesn’t know what to say against this tirade. She opens her mouth, reconsiders, closes it.

Draco scoffs. “Maybe I won’t try anymore. Since it’s clearly not appreciated.” He pushes past her, shoulder knocking against hers. Harry just blinks, still staring at where he had been standing.

Maybe she starts I misread the situation.

She can’t see Tom, but gets the distinct impression he’s rolling his eyes at her. Really, now he asks. I couldn’t tell.

Again Harry says, turning to head back to the castle, her appetite for Hogsmeade extinguished with the fight, I ask, who taught you sarcasm?

 

The day doesn’t get any better, later, to Harry’s great dismay. Draco’s avoiding her, to the point of switching seats with Blaise Zabini at dinner so he doesn’t have to sit next to her. Harry pokes moodily at her food, thinking about what he told her earlier.

Do you really think the Weasleys are trying to use me? She asks Tom, glancing up at the Gryffindor table. Ginny Weasley is sitting with her twin brothers tonight, laughing brightly at something they said. She looks happy, and Harry has a brief moment of doubt as she considers what her life would be like had she been sorted into Gryffindor instead.

Tom doesn’t answer right away, contemplative. They might be he says eventually. Ronald would make sense, but I couldn’t see the twins or the girl using you in that way. The parents could be influencing them, of course.

His answer doesn’t make Harry feel any better, and she pushes her plate away, deciding she’s not hungry anymore. She gets up to leave the Great Hall.

“Potter!” Pansy Parkinson’s voice calls out, and Harry pauses. She turns around, catches a glimpse of Pansy’s hand on Draco’s, before the other girl is out of her seat and moving towards her.

Harry sighs. She really isn’t in the mood to play politics right now. “What do you want, Parkinson?” she asks, once Pansy’s close enough to hear her.

The other girl grins, all teeth, clearly threatening. “I just wanted to say thank you.” She’s fake sweetness, cold behind the eyes.

“Thank me for what?” Harry’s nonplussed. She doesn’t remember doing anything to help her.

Pansy grins wider, taking a small step forward. Harry can’t help but feel like the actions are distinctly predatory. “For sending him right into my arms.”

She turns at that, and waves at Draco, who had been watching them intently. He ducks his head when he sees both of them looking at him. “I don’t know what you mean,” Harry says innocently, although she thinks she knows where Pansy’s going with this.

“Well, Draco was so distraught, earlier,” Pansy says sweetly. “So upset. He wouldn’t tell us why, but when we saw him at dinner, it was obvious.” She takes another baby step towards Harry. “Now that Draco’s no longer protecting you, I think you’ll find Slytherin a lot less forgiving of outsiders.”

With that, the other girl turns on her heel and walks back to the table, purpose in her steps. Harry watches her go, shock spreading through her. She notices the way her yearmates are watching her, with cool eyes and impassive faces.

Flushing, Harry turns around and hurries out of the Great Hall. She doesn’t have time to deal with Pansy’s attempted coup right now. This is just the beginning Tom warns her. He seems resigned, like he knew this was inevitable.

The beginning of what? Harry’s heading up towards the library now, certain she’ll be alone now that everyone’s at dinner.

They’re going to test you he answers cryptically. Before, you were marked by Draco not to be messed with. The Malfoy name carries a lot of weight in Slytherin, especially after the war. They couldn’t go after you without going after him, indirectly.

We fought last year and there was no power struggle Harry points out. They hadn’t spoken for weeks last year and while the other Slytherins hadn’t treated her well, they hadn’t outright declared war either.

Tom seems annoyed, like he thinks she should be understanding quicker than she is. Last year was nothing compared to this. What Malfoy did tonight, switching seats, was a direct snub. He’s saying you’re below him in the hierarchy, you’re not even worth sitting next to. Did he ever shun you last year?

Harry thinks back to their fight last year, over Hermione and blood status. Draco had glared at her, but he still sat next to her, even if his reception was frosty. He mostly just ignored me she answers. We duelled at Lockheart’s club and then I apologized and everything was fine.

Tom’s silence seems to radiate smugness. Harry didn’t even know that was possible, but she knows he’s laughing at her silently. So... what does that mean for me?

There’s a beat of silence before he answers. I’m not sure. Nothing good. Slytherin political battles are complex on their own, without throwing your complicated background into the mix.

My background? Harry knows she sounds skeptical, but she can’t help herself. You mean, how I was a baby and then you tried to kill me, only it didn’t work and you were reduced to half a spirit and a soul particle inside a baby’s head, but everyone thought I killed you? That background?

Tom seems distinctly offended by her summarization of his downfall. Wait a second... There’s a different voice, like Tom’s but colder, and Harry guesses it’s the diary, finally speaking up. She wasn’t aware they had split into two, but maybe her Tom had difficulty managing the diary. That’s how we die? At the hands of a child? An infant, no less?

Harry’s Tom sighs, and Harry feels disgruntled, but she knows it’s his emotion. That’s not how I would put it, but yes. Essentially. And, back to the matter at hand, your Slytherin yearmates will not be so quick to forget the person who made their parents’ lives hell.

Harry’s nearly at the library now, and she scowls at that. It’s not my fault their parents decided to follow a maniac. There’s a sharp stabbing pain in her scar after that comment. Harry winces, but refuses to apologize. The Tom who’s been living in her head for the past ten years might not be the same person he was when he tried to kill her, but she guesses he still takes offence all the same.

Either way she says I don’t have time right now to deal with a Slytherin power play.

Tom’s laughing in her head, high and cold and cruel, and the sound sends chills down her spine. I don’t think you exactly have a choice. If you want, I can show you some pointers on good curses that are undetectable. Best way is to go on the offensive before they can. That’s the Tom from the diary, Harry guesses, just based on his eagerness to inflict violence.

I’d rather not Harry says, politely. She catches sight of Hermione, bent over her books, and sighs in relief. Finally, someone who’ll leave her in peace.

“Hermione!” The call earns her a nasty glare from Madam Pince, but Harry ignores her. “Thank god, today has been the worst day.”

Hermione looks up from her studies at the sound of her name, but seems to pale at the sight of Harry. That worries Harry, but she figures it’s something else. “Harry,” she says, faintly. “Good... I wanted to talk to you. Sit.”

She does as she’s told, anxiety crawling up her stomach. “What’s wrong?”

Hermione shuts her books, a grave expression on her face. She twists her hands together, frowns, shakes her hair out. “It’s about... Sirius Black.”

Harry’s Tom has gone deadly silent in her head, but she can hear the diary asking him something that’s indecipherable to her. “What about him?”

Hermione clears her throat. “Well, I was at Hogsmeade today, and I accidentally overheard Professor McGonnagal talking with Madam Rosmerta. About him. Black, that is.”

There’s a sinking feeling in Harry’s stomach, but she just nods. “Well, you know how you said the Minister personally came to see you at the Leaky Cauldron? And how he was just worried that you were alone?”

Harry nods again, staying silent.

Hermione’s wringing her hands even harder now, pulling the skin taut. “Apparently,” she lowers her voice, “Black was best friends with your father when they were both at Hogwarts. Inseparable, McGonagall said. And...” her voice breaks, “he’s your godfather, Harry.”

“What?” Harry heard Hermione, knows what it means, but she’s having difficulty connecting the pieces. “My godfather?”

“Yes.” Hermione looks miserable. “And there’s more. Apparently, he was Lily and James’s Secret Keeper. He was, y’know, protecting their location.”

“But Voldemort knew where they were.” Harry’s lips are numb. “So, that means...” She trails off, the picture finally forming in front of her eyes. “They all say he’s Voldemort’s most loyal supporter.”

Hermione nods again, reaching out to put her hand on top of Harry’s. “I’m sorry,” she says, hushed. “I just thought you should know.”

In a daze, Harry thanks her. Pushes back from the table. Stands up. Somehow walks back to the Slytherin dorms. Collapses in her bed.

There’s a ringing in her ears as she tries to piece together what she’s feeling. Black... betrayed her parents. Her godfather, the last key to her family, is the reason they’re dead. Part of the reason. She’s never met this man, never even heard of him before this year, but she still feels like she’s mourning him and the role he never got to play in her life.

Did you know about this? She manages to ask Tom, before she falls asleep. She can’t hear his answer, already half-asleep.

 

“Is it true?”

A pause. “I don’t know. Or... I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember? Wouldn’t you remember if he was our, your, servant?” This voice is closer, and there’s a hand on her back, warm and protective.

A rustling noise. “I should. You’re clouding my memories.”

Harry stirs, and the voices fall silent.

 

Pansy Parkinson’s coup starts with a cold war. Harry versus the third year girls of Slytherin. The other houses must be aware of what’s going on, must see how Harry’s being effectively shunned out of Slytherin social life.

Tom leans his head on his fist and watches as she butters her toast. It’s the diary today, her own Tom tucked away in the back of her mind. His eyes are dark and hooded, and he watches her like she’s a mouse and he’s a starving cat.

“You’re terrible at this game,” he informs her. “We don’t have any allies, and our only friend is a Mudblood. Not going to win you any favors in this war.”

Harry bites into her toast and looks around her. She’s sitting at the end of the Slytherin table, two seats separating her from the rest of her house. She smiles conspiratorially at Tom. The first step to winning the cold war Tom, is to not show that it’s affecting you.

He hums thoughtfully. “I’m not sure that’s true. You know, I had to fight my own war when I started at Hogwarts. I could help you.”

Harry narrows her eyes at Pansy, who’s sitting next to Draco and laughing loudly. That’s nice she says, distracted. Basil she hisses under her breath. The snake unwinds from around Harry’s torso and slithers onto the table. Now.

Her familiar moves down the table, almost triple the size she was last year at this time. The first student to notice her, a blonde first year, blanches, stands up, and then screams. Harry smirks into her cup of tea.

The scream draws the attention of the Great Hall, and Pansy still only has eyes for Draco. Tom is watching the chaos intently. “You truly are inventive,” he says, sounding surprised. Basil is now half-way down the table from where she started.

Onto phase two Harry tells Tom. Basil proceeds to slither straight off the table and into Pansy’s lap. The girl starts, looks down, pales, and then screams. She’s pushing back from the table, trying to detangle Basil from her torso, becoming more hysterical by the second. With that, the Professors are now paying attention from their table and Harry decides it’s time to intervene.

“Oops!” She says loudly, cutting through the hysteria surrounding her House table. “Basil, how ever did you get in here?”

The Hall falls silent, and Harry schools her face into something serious. “Here, girl,” she hisses in Parseltongue. Basil is greatly amused, loving the attention, and Harry holds out her arms to the snake.

Pansy is shaking like a leaf, but once Harry’s snake detangles from her, she starts to become angry. “Potter!” She shrieks. “You did that on purpose.”

Harry assumes her best innocent look. “Did what?” Basil is wrapping around her arms and shoulders, and Harry hopes she looks intimidating.

“You do,” Tom assures her.

Harry throws her curls over her shoulder. She fixes Pansy with a hard glare. “Besides,” she says, offhand. “I thought Slytherins were supposed to like snakes.”

Pansy flushes with fury, but before Harry can enjoy her victory, the Professors descend. Harry’s dragged off to the Headmaster’s office, lectured about how improper it is to unleash beasts upon students, if she does that again, expelled she’ll be. But Harry doesn’t care.

As an additional bonus, Harry gets to watch Snape take fifty points from Slytherin. He looks sick to his stomach while doing so, and it makes Harry’s week. She’s also assigned a month of detention, but she doesn’t care.

“That was impressive,” Tom says, when they’re alone in her dorm room. Basil had to be let out into the Forbidden Forest under the watchful gaze of Dumbledore, but Harry’ll sneak her back in later. “Make them pay attention to you, break the cold war.”

Harry shrugs, slightly mollified. “Seeing as I just lost fifty points and set a snake on my classmates, I might need you to teach me some of those curses now.”

Tom just laughs.

 

The next stage of Pansy’s coup seems to be intimidation and suppression. Harry’s not stupid, and she knows when people are targeting her. It starts simple enough, just people running into her in the halls, things going missing from her dorm room, being tripped in the Great Hall, drinks spilled on her.

Harry just grits her teeth and holds her head up. She lived with the Dursleys for eleven years, she can survive a little bit of bullying.

Tom watches it all with a mixture of amusement and pride. The diary is the one tackling this problem with her, and he takes to it with a vengeance. Harry figures after fifty years stuck in a diary, he’s probably thankful for the excitement. Plus, when he ended up in the diary in the first place, he was a fifth year, and no stranger to the power struggles of Slytherin.

“I think part of the problem,” he says one day during their strategizing session, “is your lack of response.”

Harry frowns. They’re sitting up in one of the towers, far from prying eyes and ears. “You think I should let them see it’s affecting me?”

“No, I think you should start striking back.” This Tom looks younger than the one she’s used to. He’s still a little gangly, less lean and angular, and more starved for food in the hollows of his cheeks. He’s the same age as Fred and George, and his face still holds the shadow of youth.

“What did you do, when they tested you?” Tom grins at her, sharp and pleased. He probably would have never guess she’d show interest in his life.

Harry’s found that she actually prefers this version of Tom to the one who’s been living in her head, not that she’d tell him that. He’s easier to talk to, actually likes discussing things with her and giving her advice. Sometimes, Harry thinks her Tom is only using her to get what he wants. At least with the one from the diary, her questions are answered.

“They all thought I was a mudblood, at first,” he says, sounding thoughtful and far-away at the same time. “Riddle, after all, is a Muggle name. No one knew, not even me, that I was descended from the Gaunts or that I have the blood of Slytherin running through me.”

His eyes narrow on her. “Things haven’t changed much in the fifty years since I was at Hogwarts. A Muggleborn in Slytherin has no friends. Rejected from other houses because they’re in Slytherin and looked down on in their own house for not being pure enough.”

“That’s terrible,” Harry says softly. She thinks about what would have happened if someone like Hermione had been sorted into Slytherin, only the picture never fully forms because she can’t imagine her friend with any sort of cunning at all.

Tom shrugs elegantly. Even younger and less handsome, he still manages to have an effortless grace to everything he does. “It’s the way the world runs,” he says plainly. “To change the ways Hogwarts works, you have to change it from the Ministry. It’s the only way.” His voice has taken on a fevered tone, his eyes burning, focused on something only he can see.

“Is that what you wanted to do?” Harry’s curious about what this Tom wanted from the world.

He’s broken out of his own imagination and turns those burning eyes onto her. “That’s what I want to do. Fifty years is a long time, Harry. I’ve had time to think through every possible path through the Ministry, every way to change our magical landscape. Whatever my future self decided to do, I have no input on.”

“Why do you think he did it?”

“Did what?”

Harry shrugs, struggling to put her thoughts into words. “Kept killing. Split his soul more.” The two Toms gave Harry a crash course on what exactly a Horcrux was. It was a very uncomfortable conversation.

Tom hums in consideration. “Power, probably. I don’t remember what it felt like after I was created. I just remember pain, and then the boredom of being stuck in an inanimate object. Sometimes, he would write to me, when he was still at Hogwarts. I’m not sure when it stopped.”

“Maybe I’ll go into politics,” Harry says. “Make people understand that blood doesn’t matter. It’s about your power.”

Tom stares at her, the corner of his mouth twitching like he wants to smile. “I’d like that, Harry. Very much.” He pauses. “I’m not sure about the other one.”

“Who? My Tom?” Harry’s speaking before she realizes it, and winces at her word choice.

To her surprise, Tom just laughs. It sounds normal. Human. “Your Tom? Is that how you think of us? What am I, Diary?”

Harry shrugs, grinning. She’s a little giddy, with something like happiness. She likes talking to Tom, thinks it’s like talking to a long-lost friend. “Maybe,” she says secretive. “It’s changing, though,” she admits.

“How so?” He looks genuinely interested, and even though Harry knows he’s excellent at hiding his true feelings, she’d believe him.

Harry shrugs, unable to explain how she’s begun to differentiate them. “You’re different people,” she says. “I didn’t realize it at first, not when it was all too jumbled up in my head, and you were like a monster to me. You looked the same, talked almost the same. I could tell the difference because he’s been with me for my whole life, but now it’s just... different.

“You look younger and you’re more... open. Not as guarded. He watches me like I’m a treasure of some sort, one he’s going to hoard away. You look at me like I’m a puzzle you’re going to solve, but like you want to know me for me.”

Harry wants to blush at her outburst, but Tom looks like he’s seriously considering her words. “You know he thinks of himself as Voldemort,” he tells her, finally. “Don’t trust him. Don’t trust us.” He smiles at her sharply.

Rolling her eyes, Harry tries to shift away without drawing his attention. His eyes narrow in on the movement, and he grins knowingly, but doesn’t say anything. “Anyway... they thought you were a Muggle-born.”

He nods. “They did. So, I showed them through my prowess in class and my dominance through magic that they could never look down on me and get away with it. I made them fear me, and in return, I earned their respect.”

“That seems like an odd way to go about things,” Harry says honestly. “You really do think you can solve any problem by cursing it into submission.”

Tom just winks at her, the action looking ridiculous instead of alluring.

 

Harry decides to take Tom’s advice more literally than he obviously expected her to. The next time someone from her House tries to curse her, Harry grinds her teeth, steps neatly out of the way of the curse, and stuns him. She’d been practicing her spells with Tom and feels confident in her ability to use force in order to get the rest of Slytherin to fall in line.

She drags his limp body back to the common room, thanking whatever gods exist that she had already been in the dungeons, and therefore escaped notice by the professors. Harry looks down at his slack face, recognizing Blaise Zabini, and tosses him into the common room ahead of her.

“Alright!” Harry claps her hands loudly as she enters the common room. It’s about seven at night, so everyone is milling about working on homework or talking to friends. Harry spots Pansy in the corner, gossiping with Daphne Greengrass, Draco sitting next to her, looking miserable.

At the sound of her voice, the common room gradually grows quiet. Harry levitates Blaise Zabini’s body, to finally prove her point. “See this?” She asks loudly and rhetorically. “This is what happens if you continue to attack me, unprovoked.”

“Potter, what on earth–” Harry flicks her wand, casting a Silencing charm on Pansy who had clambered to her feet.

“Please, for once in your life, be quiet,” Harry snaps. The more she speaks, the more angry she becomes. The people in her house have never treated her with anything approaching friendliness and she’s sick of it. Even if they don’t like her, they can at least be civil and have her back in front of the rest of the school, same as they do for everyone else.

“Next time one of you tries to curse me, I won’t be as kind to just stun you. Understood?” The common room is so quiet, a pin could drop and sound like thunder. “I am Harry James Potter. I defeated the Dark Lord when I was an infant. I’m rumored to be the next Dark Lord. I can speak to snakes. It’s never been disproved that I am the Heir of Slytherin. I’ve faced down the Grim three times and lived.”

Her chest is heaving by the time she pauses. Harry presses on. She points a finger at Marcus Flint, sitting in an armchair by the fire and surrounded by members of the Quidditch team. “What did I do to my Muggle relatives over the summer, Flint?”

He pales, clearly still remembering their last encounter. “She set them on fire.”

“Exactly! Ten points to Slytherin. I set them. On. Fire.” Harry glares at the assembled students. “I am your beloved Seeker. I earn you house points when I try. This war, ends now.”

She glances back at Pansy who’s flushed and fuming. Her eyes slide onto Draco, who’s cowering in his seat. “And you!” She exclaims, brandishing her wand his way. She preens internally as more than one person flinches at the action. “Get over it. It was a misunderstanding, and you’re overreacting.”

Taking one long look around, Harry releases the spell on Zabini and watches with pleasure as his head bangs on the ground. “Goodnight, then.”

 

The next morning, Pansy sends a cutting hex at Harry on her way out of the common room. Harry deflects it, her heart racing, and sends a nasty little jinx at Pansy. When the spell hits her, Pansy’s face bursts into large, painful-looking boils.

“Oh, dear,” Harry says sweetly. “You might want to go to Madam Pomfrey for that.”

Thanks for teaching me that one Harry says on her way to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Tom seems to be glowing with approval at her recent actions. It was my pleasure he purrs.

When she reaches the Great Hall and sits down to eat, the rest of her table falls silent. Harry glances up to the table housing the Professors, and notices that Headmaster Dumbledore is watching her with sharp eyes. She lathers a piece of toast with butter aggressively, startled when someone sits next to her for the first time in weeks.

Draco looks ashamed, his face paler than normal and hair in disarray. “I’m sorry,” he says to her lowly. “I didn’t mean for it to go so far. I was just... upset.”

Harry considers him for a moment. If she’s being honest with herself, she’s missed him. “I understand,” she says finally. “Apology accepted.”

Her words seem to lift a weight off Malfoy’s shoulders, and he smiles at her brightly. “Watching you put Pansy in her place was pretty impressive,” he says gleefully, reaching over her for the eggs. “Wasn’t it, Blaise?”

Harry jolts at the other name, looking over her shoulder. Zabini is hovering there, looking uncertain. “Mind if I sit here?” He points at the seat on Harry’s other side. She’s confused, but nods anyways.

“Sorry about yesterday,” she says. “I needed to make an example of someone and you were the easiest target.”

He shrugs, not looking upset. “I understand. And I’m with Draco. Pansy needed to be shown her place.”

A warm feeling blossoms in Harry’s chest, as she digs into her food. Maybe the rest of the year wouldn’t be so bad, after all. Tom, the one from the diary, is proud of her. Strangely, she can’t get a read on what her Tom feels. He’s like a brick wall, which frightens Harry more than she’d like to admit.

Chapter Text

Harry’s in the library, working on one of Professor Lupin’s essays when he corners her again. “Ah, Miss Potter,” he says, voice soft.

She looks up in surprise. Harry honestly didn’t know that Professors went into the library. “Professor Lupin,” she says, guarded. “How can I help you?”

Ever since her little outburst in his classroom, Lupin has been giving Harry a wide berth. When she asks Tom about it, he tells her that she probably scared him off. He calls on her in class and lets her do demonstrations in front of the class, but he’s stopped any effort to become closer to her. “I was hoping..” he pauses, like he’s uncertain of himself. He’s looking more wan than usual, skin waxen and eyes tired. “I was hoping to offer you private lessons.”

Harry’s brow furrows. “Private lessons?” She’s sure she sounds dubious, but can’t bring herself to care.

“I know you had difficulty with the dementors,” he says. Harry flushes despite herself. The story of her falling off her broom had rapidly spread around Hogwarts.

She raises her chin. “I did.”

He shifts, doesn’t meet her eyes. “I could... teach you. How to fight them off.” Lupin glances up, hair falling over his eyes. He’s so genuine, it almost hurts Harry’s heart. “And. I would like to get to know you better. James and Lily were some of my closest friends.”

“So, you knew Black, then,” Harry assumes, carefully watching his reaction. There’s a flicker of pain that flashes across his face, but otherwise he remains calm at the sound of the name.

“Yes,” Lupin says, thoughtful. “I knew Sirius.” He shakes his head. “It’s still hard for me to reconcile the Sirius I knew with the one he must have become in order to betray Lily and James. He loved James, so much.” His voice breaks, and Harry finally sees his masks slip off his face. There’s a raw agony written into the lines of his face at the mention of his friend and Harry’s parents.

She softens, a little. Finally understanding what this might mean to him, she decides to accept the olive branch he’s clearly offering her. “I’d love to take private lessons with you, Professor,” she says, earnestly. She pauses, unsure if she should continue. “You wouldn’t happen to have any pictures of them, would you? It’s just that I’ve never seen their faces.”

Harry watches with interest as his face lights up at the first part of her words, before collapsing in on itself. “You’ve... you’ve never seen their faces?” Harry shakes her head in answer. Lupin takes a moment to pull himself together. “Of course, I’ll put some together for you. Come to my classroom this evening. Eight?”

Harry nods, smiling hesitantly at him. He returns it, if not a little forced. She thinks she appreciates the effort anyhow.

 

“You’re doing what? With Lupin?” Draco’s outraged when Harry tells him her plans for that night. He’s sitting across from her, fork halfway to his mouth. Zabini is on her other side and she can feel him snickering silently.

Harry grins shamelessly, cutting into her chicken. “I’m taking private lessons. He said he’d show me how to fight off the Dementors.”

Draco lets his fork clatter to his plate. “You actually want to study with him? I thought you hated Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

Harry shrugs, unconcerned. “I hated the professors. Quirrell, for obvious reasons. Lockheart as well.” Tom makes a sound in her mind, like he’s clearing his throat. “May he get well soon.”

Apparently, before Ginny-possessed-by-Tom came by the Hospital Wing to abduct Harry, she had made a pit stop by Lockheart’s classroom. The man had a terrible accident, resulting in his lost memory, and it was unlikely it would ever return. It was officially declared an accident, but Tom had told her what had really happened.

“I think I’ll like Lupin more,” Harry continues. “He was friends with my parents. He’s going to show me pictures of them.”

At that, Draco’s face softens minutely. He knew how much she misses never growing up with parents. “Fine,” he says, moodily. “But you better show me everything he teaches you.”

 

Harry crosses her legs at the ankle. Uncrosses them. Crosses them at the knee. Uncrosses them again. “Would you,” Tom says from her side, rubbing his temples, “please stop that.”

She’s sitting alone in Lupin’s classroom waiting for him to arrive. There’s a strange clawing anxiety in her stomach, and she starts twisting her fingers together instead. “Why? Is it bothering you?”

“You’re giving me a migraine,” he answers, eyes shut. He presses the palms of his hands into his eyes, a distinct air of his irritation rolling over Harry’s skin at his actions. It looks like the diary tonight, and now she can feel the barest flicker of her Tom’s interest. He doesn’t like Lupin much at all, although Harry’s not sure why.

Harry shrugs, crossing her legs again. “I didn’t know I could give you a migraine. I thought that was just something you gave to me.”

Tom drops his hands. “You’ve learned something today, then.” He turns towards her, smiles sardonically.

“You’re in a bad mood today,” Harry accuses.

“What gave it away?” His shoulders are tight with tension. “My other half would prefer not to be here.”

Harry probes in her mind towards her Tom, but he’s blocking any attempts at communication. “Did he tell you that?” Before Tom can answer, the door to the classroom is swinging open.

“Ah, Harry, good,” Lupin says, sounding flustered. “Er, were you talking to someone?”

Harry does her best not to make eye contact with Tom. “I wasn’t, sorry. It must have been someone else.”

He doesn’t press the issue, but Harry can tell he still looks a little confused. “Apologies for running late,” he says. “I wanted to stop by my quarters to bring these to you.”

He holds out a stack of photographs to Harry, which she accepts to eagerly. There’s a tight compressed feeling in her chest as she glances at the first picture. It’s a Muggle photograph, still, and it's what she assumes is her mother and father. Lily is wearing a long white dress, James in neat, black dress robes. They’re staring into each other’s eyes, and Harry knows it’s from their wedding.

With shaking hands, she moves to the next one. It’s magic, and James and Lily are spinning around a dance floor, still in their wedding clothes. She traces the shapes of their movements, watches as Lily throws her head back in laughter. Her mother’s face is flushed and her eyes are bright, and Harry would like to think she can see herself in the lines of Lily’s face, in the way she laughs and in the crinkles at the corners of her eyes.

The next picture is also magic, and it shows a group of five individuals. Harry recognizes a younger Lupin, Lily and James, but not the other two. Lupin must catch her confusion because he leans over. His voice is soft when he answers her unspoken question. “The one next to me on the left is Peter Pettigrew. He was one of our friends at Hogwarts. The man next to your father is Sirius Black.”

Harry’s interest is piqued immediately. She inspects it closer. Sirius Black was a handsome man, she admits. He’s got his arm thrown around James’s shoulders, and the two of them are laughing uproariously. Lily is on the other side of James, her arm around his waist and a soft look on her face as she watches James and Sirius.

“They look...” her voice catches in her throat. She clears it, puts the picture gently down, and clenches her fist. “How could he do it?”

She doesn’t specify who she’s talking about, but Lupin doesn’t need to ask for clarification. He pales, but he looks like he’s considering her question seriously. “I’ve wondered the same thing myself for many years. There would be days where I couldn’t believe what had happened.” He laughs, without humor. “One night, and I’d lost the four best friends I’d ever had.”

“Four?”

Lupin jerks his chin towards the picture on her lap. Black and her father are still laughing. “Peter Pettigrew. He was murdered by Sirius a few days after your parents died.” Harry blanches, looks back down at the picture. Pettigrew doesn’t look like anything special, with pale blonde hair and rosy cheeks, but he’s smiling so brightly it’s hard to imagine him lifeless. “Blew him and half the street to hell. Twelve Muggles killed, and all they found of Peter was his finger.”

“He looks so... normal. So happy. Black, I mean.”

Lupin nods. “He and James... they were closer than any of us were. I always thought Sirius was half in love with James. He hated Lily when she and James first started dating. They never told me what happened between them, but one day he was cursing her for catching James’s attention, and the next, they were thick as thieves.” His voice is fond, and there’s a wistful look in his eyes. “That picture was taken just after we graduated. Before the war started.

“Once the war started, it was different. Harder to spend time together. All the rumors and conspiracy, we didn’t know who to trust. I always thought we’d be friends forever. That the bonds we had formed at Hogwarts would last us a lifetime. Sirius and I... someone was trying to turn us against each other. We all knew there was a mole. I suspected, but... no...”

Harry’s hanging off his every word. “You suspected that Black was the mole?”

Lupin is shaking his head, even before she finishes speaking. “No, no, I don’t know what I thought. No matter what I believed at the time, he was their Secret Keeper. Who else could it have been?”

A little part of her falls at those words. Maybe she had been holding out, hoping that it actually wasn’t him.

Lupin laughs again, drawing her out of her thoughts. “He was the first one there. After it happened.”

“What?”

“He was the first person to go to their house in Godric’s Hollow after it all happened.” Lupin shakes his head. “Wasn’t it enough? Selling out his best friends? His goddaughter? I’ve never been able to understand why. Why did he need to see them, after? Is that how he wanted to remember them? After all this time?”

He sounds so lost that Harry wants to reassure him, hug him, do something to pull him out of this hell. She can tell by the ache in his voice that he’s been trying to find the answer to these questions for years. Maybe since her parents died.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No,” Lupin says forcefully, seemingly shocked out of his torment. “Never apologize for asking questions. If anyone deserves to know, it’s you.”

Harry stands, smoothes her skirt down with her hands. Lupin is watching her, slightly wary, but with warm eyes. She moves towards him, unsure. Slowly, she slides her arms around his middle, hugging him tightly.

He freezes for a moment. Harry wonders briefly if she’s just made a terrible mistake, but before she can pull away, his arms are locking around her and holding her tightly. He smells like the library, parchment and ink and a hint of smoke, and Harry wonders if this is how it feels to have someone who’s been carrying the same burden as her, someone who knows, intimately, what she’s lost. The only other person she’s ever hugged is Tom, and she knows, now, it’s not the same.

From inside her, anger flares, hot and jealous and hurt. Her scar lights up with pain, like someone’s driving a nail into her forehead. Harry gasps, stumbling back, out of Lupin’s arms. She claps a hand to her forehead and blinks back tears. Enough she hisses, clenching her jaw.

“Harry? Are you alright?” Looking up, she sees Lupin hovering near her, face drawn with worry.

She waves him off. After a few more moments of excruciating pain, Tom relents. “I already told you,” the other Tom finally says, from his place where Harry had been sitting. She’d forgotten he was there until now. “He doesn’t want to be here. He doesn’t like the professor.”

“I’m okay,” she answers Professor Lupin, instead of Tom. “I get migraines,” she lies smoothly. “They come on sudden.”

He nods, and watches her with worry a second longer before moving on. “We should start the lesson, before it gets too late.” Harry mumbles her agreement. When Lupin turns around to grab a book from his bag, she exchanges a long glance with Tom, an unspoken promise to discuss tonight later passing between them. “I thought tonight, we would start with the theoretical application of the Patronus charm. It can be tricky to perform, even for the most talented of wizards and witches...”

 

Harry frames the still picture of her parents from their wedding and sets it on the table by her bed. It makes her feel a little like they’re watching over her, even when she’s sleeping. She hides the rest, the ones of Black and her father, at the bottom of her trunk. She’ll decide what to do with them later.

 

Christmas comes up on Harry almost by surprise. She’s been so caught up in Quidditch, classes, and her private lessons with Lupin that when winter break began, she isn’t ready for it. Both Draco and Hermione are going home for the holidays, so Harry’s left with Tom, Basil, and Lupin.

“Hurry up, would you?” Tom calls over his shoulder, already at the bottom of the stairs.

Why couldn’t we do this during the day? Harry grumbles, wrapping her scarf tighter around her neck and chin. One thing she’s discovered about Hogwarts during the winter holidays is the lack of heat. Apparently, when a majority of the students leave, it no longer becomes as important to keep the whole castle warm. Harry has taken to wearing two pairs of socks.

“The location of the kitchens is the worst-kept secret in Hogwarts,” Tom says in reply. “That being said, it’s still a secret.”

Harry wants to roll her eyes, but doesn’t want to set Tom off. The more time she’s spent with Lupin, the more irritable he’s become. The diary part of him doesn’t seem to mind so much, but Harry’s Tom absolutely loathes him.

They finally reach a portrait of a pear. “Great,” she says. “What now?”

Tom doesn’t even waste any of his time hushing her. He’s got his back turned to her and he does something that Harry can’t see. The painting swings open, and Tom steps through, still ignoring her. Rolling her eyes, she hurries after him.

When they’re finally situated, Harry with her hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate and nibbling on a piece of toast and Tom sitting across from her, he stares at her intensely. Both Tom’s are together now, but the house elves don’t seem to mind the extra person sitting in the kitchen. His eyes are paler than usual today, and his gaze seems to burn into her.

“What?” Harry asks, doing her best not to squirm under his scrutiny.

“I got something for you,” he says finally, reaching over to grab the bag he’d made Harry bring with them. “For Christmas.”

Harry blinks. Opens her mouth. Decides she doesn’t know what to say to that. “How?”

Tom pushes a parcel towards her, wrapped in brown paper, with twine tying it shut. It’s simple and understated and exactly what Harry would have pictured a gift from him looking like. “Owl-order,” he says. “Open it.”

She rolls her eyes, but unties the twine on his command. Peeling the paper back, she peers at his gift. “Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?” She looks back up at him. “If so, it’s not very funny.”

In front of her is a simple brown journal, with a silver clasp, the covers made of what feels like leather. “He said you’d say that,” Tom says, shrugging. He doesn’t specify which one of them guessed her reaction. “No, it’s not a joke.”

His face turns serious, pensive in a way Harry’s familiar seeing. “I thought it might help you,” he says. “To write down how you’re feeling. I’ve heard that can be helpful. It’s charmed, too, so only you will be able to read what’s written there.”

“And... you’re not trying to encourage me to create a Horcrux, right?”

Tom’s face remains impassive, but she can see his hands twitch and knows he wants to rub his temples in the way he does when he’s tired and irritated. “You know the answer to that.”

His expression turns contemplative. “I also don’t even know if you could become a Horcrux. You’re already carrying a piece of my soul and I don’t know if that would allow you to split your own, magically speaking. What if a piece of mine got carved along with yours?”

He sounds like he could go on at length on the subject. Harry decides to head him off early. “Alright, alright, I get the point.” She opens the journal, dragging her fingers lightly across the creamy pages. They’re soft and slightly coarse, and Harry feels a sudden rush of emotion at the gift before her. It’s the first outward sign of affection Tom has ever given her, the first acknowledgement of his attachment to her. “Thank you,” she says suddenly, looking up to catch his eyes.

Tom nods his head slightly. “Now I feel bad because I didn’t get you anything,” Harry teases. He doesn’t answer, and Harry admires his restraint. She thinks the pleased look that softens his eyes and the corners of his lips is worth it, though.

 

“No way,” Harry gasps. Did you do this? she asks Tom, brimming with excitement. He gives her a bored look. Glances down at the gift, still laying half-wrapped in her lap.

“I should think not,” he says snidely. “When did I ever give you the impression I wanted you to continue that ridiculous endeavor?”

No need to be so sour about it Harry mutters, but her irritation with Tom is quickly forgotten as she looks back down at the present she’s just received.

A brand new Firebolt. The best broom on the market right now. The fastest broom ever made.

Flint is going to piss himself when he sees this Harry crows, finishing pulling the wrapping paper off her new broom. He’ll never believe it.

“Yes,” Tom says dryly. “How special. I do believe you’ve dropped something.”

In her haste and excitement, Harry had missed a small piece of paper that had fluttered to the floor. She bends down to scoop it up, smoothing it flat across her bed.

‘Dear Harry,

Please don’t fall off this one. It would be embarrassing for all involved.’

She can’t help the smile that flashes across her face at the words. She traces the ink with a finger, trying to imagine who could have written this, to know her so intimately and yet still be such a stranger. Do you think it’s from Lupin? Whoever wrote this clearly understands her, or is at least similar enough to her to understand her humor.

Tom frowns. “I hardly think he could afford something like that. Have you seen the state of his robes?”

Harry rolls her eyes, still staring at her gift. You sound like Draco she informs Tom haughtily, and he stops talking, although Harry can still sense him fuming in her mind.

 

So few people decided to remain at the school over the holidays, the professors decided to seat everyone at one table for Christmas lunch. Both the Weasley twins and Ron had stayed over break, along with a slight girl from Ravenclaw that Harry can’t name, and a seventh year Hufflepuff.

Professors Snape, McGonnagal, and Trewlany sit at the top of the table, and Dumbledore sits at the head, fingers steepled together.

Harry does her best to avoid walking close to him when she enters the hall, giving his chair a wide berth. She can tell Tom thinks she’s being ridiculous, but he doesn’t say anything.

She’s halfway down the table before anyone seems to take notice of her. “Harry!” Fred Weasley exclaims brightly. He turns to his twin, sat next to him on the bench. “George, look! Harry’s come up for Christmas lunch. How kind of her, eh?”

He’s not taken any effort to lower his voice and as a result of there only being about seven other people in the Great Hall, the minimal conversation dies down as everyone turns to look at her.

“Why,” George proclaims, a look of fake shock crossing his face, “do you see what I do, dear brother?”

Fred looks her up and down with aplomb. “I believe I do, George.”

They wink at Harry simultaneously. “Nice sweater,” George says. “Mum knitted us ones as well, like usual.”

“She knitted our initials on them,” Fred adds. “She didn’t for you, though. She must assume you know your own name.”

Harry glances down at her outfit. She’s wearing an emerald green sweater that almost perfectly matches her eyes. It had been part of her Christmas gift from the Weasleys, along with a handwritten note from Mrs. Weasley, thanking Harry again profusely for saving Ginny the previous year.

(Fred and George had sent Harry their own package, full of new toffees and potions they had been working on and wanted her to test out on her yearmates. She might have been more hesitant to do so, if her feud with Pansy weren’t quite so fresh in her mind.)

“Your sweater has the letter ‘G’ on it,” she points out, gesturing at Fred’s sweater. The twins’ sweaters are in a bright maroon color with a deep gold for the initials. Gryffindor colors, she guesses.

Fred looks down at his chest, like he had forgotten what he was wearing. “Quite right,” he says tapping the side of his nose. “Forge over here opened my gifts.”

“Oi!” George exclaims, pausing in his pursuit to fill his plate with as much bacon and eggs as he could. “I know perfectly well you switched them before I woke up.” Fred just shrugs, and Harry can’t help but grin at their antics.

How you find them amusing is beyond me Tom sighs, looking distinctly put-out.

You should really learn to be more festive, you know Harry tells him.

“C’mon, Harry, come sit.” Fred scoots down on the bench, elbowing Ron in the process. She rounds the end of the table and takes a seat between the twins.

“Thanks,” she says, ignoring the way Ron is gaping in indignation, rubbing his arm. “You two will never believe what I got for Christmas. Gryffindor is never going to win another Quidditch match against Slytherin.”

 

Harry’s sitting at the end of the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, a few weeks later, frantically scribbling on her Charms essays. Can’t you help at all?

Tom, all crammed in her head for once, doesn’t say anything helpful. Incoming he whispers instead.

“Miss Potter,” Snape’s greasy voice rolls over her almost immediately after. Harry looks up in surprise, dropping her quill.

“Professor Snape,” she answers. Is he really standing here talking to me? I’m not hallucinating, right? Tom continues ignoring her, which Harry thinks is for the best, really. “How can I help you?”

A sneer starts to cross his face, but he straightens his face with clear effort. Harry can’t help herself from watching with fascination. “It has come to my attention that you have received a broom for Christmas. The sender is unknown. Is that correct?”

“Yes?” Harry ventures, unsure of both how Snape heard about her gift and why he was asking her about it.

“You’ll need to give it to me, for the near future,” Snape orders, sounding like the words are coming easier now that he’s telling her what to do.

Harry blinks, sitting up straighter. “Excuse me?” Tom hasn’t said anything, but she can tell his interest has been piqued, judging by the way he’s focusing intently on Snape.

A muscle twitches in Snape’s jaw. “You’ll need to relinquish the broom to me. I, along with Professors Flitwick and McGonagall, will be running tests to make sure it’s not cursed.”

Harry’s jaw falls open and anger rushes through her. “What kinds of tests? Who could possibly want to curse a broom?”

“Might I remind you, Miss Potter,” Snape seems to have drawn himself up even taller, “that Sirius Black is currently targeting you in order to take revenge and your life. It is extremely irresponsible and inconsiderate of you to conveniently forget such information. Now, you will hand over the broom, or I’ll have you permanently barred from the Quidditch team for the rest of your time at Hogwarts.”

 

“My poor Firebolt,” Harry whimpers, gazing longingly across the hall towards where Flitwick and Snape are talking. Hermione makes a humming noise, but doesn’t look up from her book. “Hermione!” Harry exclaims, fed up with her friend ignoring her.

“Yes?” Hermione answers, looking up briefly.

“Can’t you at least pretend to be a little upset on my behalf?”

Hermione’s hand hesitates for a moment before continuing to turn the page. “Maybe...” she pauses. “Maybe it’s for the best? After all, they’re just trying to keep you safe.”

Harry whips around in indignation. “Keep me safe? Who knows what they’re doing to my beautiful Firebolt! For once, I’m even on the same page as Flint. Flint! He went absolutely mental when I told him what happened, but even he hasn’t been able to convince Snape to give it back to me.” Harry shakes her head, miserable.

Hermione doesn’t say anything else, and seems to be avoiding meeting Harry’s eyes. She turns the page of her book. Suspicion wells up in Harry. “Hermione... what did you do?”

The other girl freezes. She looks up, brown eyes clear with guilt. “Well. I may have heard Ron Weasley talking about your broom in the Gryffindor common room. Apparently his brothers told his mother who told him. She thought Sirius Black might have sent it.” Clearly seeing the anger brewing on Harry’s face, Hermione talks faster. “I thought she might have a point. So, I brought it up with Professor McGonnagal and asked if the school had a responsibility to make sure their students were safe and-”

“I cannot believe you!” Harry’s fuming, ears hot. “You ratted me out?”

Hermione’s leaning forward, eager and serious. “You could have gotten hurt! Think about your fall earlier. What if someone didn’t catch you in time? You didn’t even question who could have sent you the most expensive broom on the market?”

Harry shakes her head. “I can’t believe you did this. Behind my back.”

“Oh, like you would have been in favor of turning your precious broom in? Can you please, for a minute, think about something other than Quidditch? Like your life?” Hermione snaps, growing angrier. “Some people are just trying to protect you. Because they care.” She slams her book shut, shoves it into her bag, and shoots up from the table, storming away.

“I cannot believe her,” Harry repeats dumbly to the seat Hermione just vacated.

“She has a point,” Tom says, materializing by her side. “No signature on the note? You have to admit it’s suspicious.”

I can’t believe you’re taking her side, Harry says in return, unwilling to admit error.

Tom doesn’t say anything, but she can tell he’s just as disturbed by the fact as she is.

 

It takes Snape and Flitwick two weeks to make sure her broom isn’t cursed. During that time, Harry does her best to avoid Hermione, despite her friend’s efforts to corner her in the halls. It isn’t until Draco gleefully takes Harry’s side in the argument, going out of his way to taunt Hermione in the halls, that she has to put her foot down.

“That’s enough,” she says, throwing her arm across Draco’s chest and drawing him back a step. Hermione, eyes wide and teary, smiles wobbly at Harry. “Leave her alone.”

Draco sputters, makes to protest, but Harry shakes her head firmly. “No.”

“Finally,” Tom drawls from next to her, in the position he’s decided is his. That would be hovering over her shoulder, giving unending commentary on the “drama of his Horcrux’s life” in his own words. “It’s about time you put the little Malfoy in his place.”

Harry almost manages to ignore him. I thought you liked Malfoy more than Hermione? Out loud, she addresses Hermione. “I’m sorry he’s been bothering you.”

“Excuse me,” Draco exclaims. “Apologize for me again and I’ll give you something to apologize for.” Harry silences him with a harsh glare.

She pulls him away before he can say anything else, not trusting whatever she’ll say around Hermione. “At least the muggleborn has some sense of decorum. The Malfoy brat seems to have never heard the word no before he arrived at Hogwarts,” Tom answers finally, moving behind her. Tom has a fair point, but Harry isn’t too interested in letting him know that.

They’re halfway to the library before Draco stops complaining about how unfair she’s behaving. Harry suspects he’d continue, but Snape intercepts and interrupts them before he can. “Miss Potter,” he sneers. “Mr. Malfoy,” he says, more pleasantly, nodding his head to Draco. Harry fumes silently.

“Professor Snape,” she answers hesitantly. She has another lesson with Professor Lupin at the end of the week, plus a full weekend of Quidditch practice and she’s really not looking for a reason for Snape to give her detention. Or, private lessons, as he’s taken to calling them, in an effort to avoid giving detentions to students from his own house. Harry thinks next year, she’ll try to break him into both taking points from Slytherin and into giving her a detention. For now, she holds her tongue reluctantly.

“Imagine that,” Tom says drily. “Harry Potter, holding her tongue.” The little part of him that’s curled up in Harry’s mind makes a strange noise of agreement. Bastards, both of you Harry hisses.

“I merely wanted to inform you Professor Flitwick and myself have finished inspecting your broom.” Harry immediately perks up, which Snape must be able to sense because he looks down his nose at her even more condescendingly than before. “It has been returned to your belongings. Please, if you would be so kind, ask Mr. Flint to stop sending me countless owls a day, begging that I hurry up the process, even if it means the loss of your life on the Quidditch Pitch.”

Harry just nods eagerly, a strange restlessness settling in her bones as she pictures flying above Hogwarts on her new broom. Addict her Tom whispers low in her mind. She doesn’t bother correcting him.

“You’ll let me fly too, right?” Draco asks, once Snape’s out of sight, seeming to forget what he had been complaining about earlier. Harry just sends him a look, turning on her heel to rush back to the dorms, library forgotten.

 

Harry makes up with Hermione the next morning. She runs into the other girl in the Great Hall and, with a growing sense of awkwardness, tries to find the words to explain how she feels. Hermione solves her problem by throwing her arms around Harry and squeezing her tightly.

“I’m so sorry,” Hermione whispers into her hair. Harry clutches at her robes and hugs her back.

“No, I’m sorry,” she answers. “I know you were just trying to help, and I overreacted.”

Hermione pulls away first, her eyes shining brightly. “Let’s never fight again.”

Harry grins brightly. “Deal.”

 

“I don’t know why you insist on continuing this foolishness,” Tom sighs, sitting next to her, back against the wall. “You’re just making him angrier. You must know that.”

“It truly amazes me how both of you continue to believe that I structure my life around what you want. Truly.” Harry’s sitting across from Professor Lupin’s classroom, the corridor abandoned. She’s waiting for him to come back from dinner so they can continue their lessons. Leading up to the holidays, they had covered all the theory of the Patronus charm, and he had promised Harry that they could move onto the actual spell after the holidays.

Tom shrugs next to her. He’s looking healthier these days, less wan and ghostlike, which Harry knows should concern her, seeing as he’s probably leeching off her life force. However, the healthier he looks, the better mood he’s in, so she doesn’t bother herself by thinking too much about it. Plus, the less Tom muses about committing mass homicide in the castle, the better Harry feels about her chances.

“It’s more of a him-problem,” he jerks a thumb to gesture at Harry’s other side. She turns and almost starts in surprise when she sees her Tom sitting next to her.

Her Tom frowns. Harry marvels at how she’s started to be able to tell the difference between the two of them. Her Tom looks older, more creases around his eyes and a permanent frown slashing across his face. His eyes look muddled, and Harry knows if she tried, she’d be able to pick out the flecks of red.

“There’s something off about Lupin, I just can’t seem to remember what.” He furrows his brow, then turns to glare up at his younger self. “It’s your fault.” He doesn’t raise his voice, but Harry can feel the daggers underneath. “You’re confusing me.”

“What do you mean, he’s confusing you? Shouldn’t you share the same memories?”

Tom shrugs. “My memories end with the death of Myrtle Warren and the ritual to create my first Horcrux. I think he kept writing in me until he graduated from Hogwarts. After that, I only have memories of last year when the little Weasley girl found me.”

Harry frowns, turning to look back at her Tom. “So, why are you so confused?”

The furrow in his brow deepens. “I don’t know,” he spits out, venomous. “I think I remember things, but they’re hazy, like someone else is remembering them. He’s stronger than I am and everything is getting muddled up.” He frowns. “We never should have brought him in.”

“Hold up a second,” Harry protests, holding her hands up. “If I’m remembering correctly, we did not do anything. I wanted to kill him, and you offered up my mind to him like a tasty snack. What was it you said again? ‘We can share’?”

There’s a sharp stabbing pain in her scar and before either of them says anything else, there are footsteps echoing on the stone. Harry looks up to catch the sight of Lupin rounding the corner, and when she looks back to either side of her, both her Tom and the diary are gone.

“Professor,” she says, jumping up from the ground. Only to falter when the person coming down the hall is Snape. “What are you doing here?” She asks, unable to stop the hint of accusation that colors her voice.

“Tone, Miss Potter,” Snape snaps. He rises up, brushing an invisible piece of lint of the shoulder of his robes. “Professor Lupin has fallen ill, and I will be filling in for him during his absence. Might I inquire why you are here, instead of enjoying dinner with the rest of the students?” His voice indicates there's an argument to be had.

“Professor Lupin has been giving me private lessons,” she says reluctantly. “Do you know when he’ll be better? Do you know what’s wrong with him?”

Snape sneers, something dark and indecipherable crossing his face. “I do not, and would surely not divulge such private information to a student. Now, run along to dinner, before I send you up to the Headmaster to deal with your impertinence.”

Not wanting to risk a meeting with Dumbledore, Harry reluctantly turns to head to the Great Hall. She waits until Snape can’t see her anymore, before bolting up one of the staircases she’d found on the Marauder’s Map in order to head up to one of the towers. She knew there was a full moon soon and found the sight of the moon and stars calmed her.

What do you think could be wrong with him? She asks Tom, not expecting him to answer. I hope it’s not serious, she says, fretting almost without intending to.

He doesn’t answer at first, but she can sense he’s mulling something over in his mind. I couldn’t say... he trails off, and Harry gets the vague impression he’s remembered something important. I wouldn’t worry about it he reassures.

Funnily enough, Harry’s not much comforted.

 

Snape slams the door to the classroom shut and waltzes to the front of the room like an oversized bat. “So...” he drawls. “This is what a traditional Defense Against the Dark Arts class looks like...” he doesn’t add anything else but Harry can hear the ‘pathetic’ hanging onto the end of his sentence.

This is unbelievable Harry hisses to Tom in her head as she watches Snape circle the front of the class. Not only do I have to deal with him during Potions but now during Defense as well? How am I supposed to learn anything ever?

“Put your wands away,” Snape is saying, taking position in front of the chalkboard. “You won’t be needing them today. Instead, I thought we would go in a slightly different direction than what your... normal professor might.”

Defense is a useless subject, anyway, Tom answers from the back of her mind. He’s been stewing in something ever since the night Harry got stood up for her lesson and refuses to tell her what it is. You’re much better learning the Dark Arts, in any case.

Harry manages not to roll her eyes through sheer force of will.

“What can someone tell me about werewolves?” Harry tunes back into the conversation to hear Snape’s question. She starts to doodle a little snitch in the corner of her notes, daydreaming about the wind whipping through her hair.

Tom seems to be interested in the course of the conversation and her scar prickles with his irritation. Grumbling to him, Harry tunes back into the conversation. True to form, Hermione is sitting ramrod straight next to her, hand as high in the air as physically possible.

Snape glances around the class lazily, before his eyes fall on Hermione. “Miss Granger,” he calls, sounding like he’d rather eat dirt than call on her. As Hermione starts to rattle off the textbook definition of werewolves, Harry drifts off into her own thoughts again, regardless of what Tom wants.

 

The weather takes a turn for the warmer, much to Harry’s pleasure. Spring is just around the corner, and all around the grounds, snow is lazily melting and running in rivulets towards the Black Lake.

It’s been almost a week since Harry tried to go to Professor Lupin’s for their lesson, so she decides to go again, in hopes he’d been feeling better. Even I could teach you the basic mechanics of a Patronus Charm Tom grumbles in her mind, so I don’t understand why you insist on keeping up this ridiculous charade.

Can you even cast a Patronus Charm? Harry asks snidely, while she’s actually biding her time in order to find the strength to knock on Lupin’s door. Professor Lupin told me you have to have a happy memory in order to cast the charm properly. Doesn’t seem like you have too many of those floating around.

Tom sends a sharp stab of pain through her scar at that remark. Harry knows she deserves it, knows that was a low blow, but she can’t find it within herself to care. After all that Tom has taken from her, she figures he deserves a little of his own medicine.

Harry shakes her head, like that could clear it of Tom’s influence. Raising her hand, she raps sharply on the door three times, taking a step backwards.

She shifts from side to side on her feet, growing more anxious the longer the door remains unopened. You don’t think he died, do you? She asks Tom, not sure if Hogwarts would announce to the students whether or not a staff member died. She remembers they told the students about Lockheart’s “accident” but that hadn’t been quite as severe as death.

Tom seems to find some part of her comment amusing, but he doesn’t elaborate on what exactly. No, Harry, he says, clearly still amused I don’t think Lupin died.

Before she can interrogate him any further, the door swings open and Lupin peers out. He looks paler than usual, a waxen color with dark circles under his eyes. His hair is tousled and he looks like he hasn’t slept at all the past week. “Professor Lupin?” Harry asks hesitantly. “Are you feeling alright?”

He looks at her in what Harry can only assume is surprise. “Harry. I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”

She flushes, but doesn’t back down. There’s steel in her spine, mostly Tom’s doing, but Harry likes to think of it as her own tenacity, and she’s not going to shy away from this situation. “We were supposed to meet last week, but Professor Snape said you were sick,” Harry answers. “I just wanted to check up on you and see if we might continue our lessons?”

Lupin smiles wanly. “You have your father’s spirit,” he says, and Harry silently preens under his words. “I’m feeling quite alright, Miss Potter, much more myself. Thank you for your concern. However, I’m afraid I’m going to have to postpone our lesson another week, just until I’m completely better.”

Harry nods, smiling tightly. “Of course,” she says. “Sorry to bother you.”

Laughing slightly, Lupin shakes his head and smiles back at her. “You’re never a bother, Harry,” he says. “I look forward to resuming our lessons as well. Good-night.” Harry nods, turning to leave. She hears the door close behind her and frowns, but doesn’t stop.

“Why are you getting so upset because of him?” Her Tom wonders, appearing at her side.

Harry ignores him, making her way back downstairs to her room. Seeing as she won’t get the chance to study with Lupin tonight, she’s going to reread the book she picked up on Dementors and casting Patronus Charms and talk to Basil, before she has to let her familiar back out in the Forbidden Forest for the spring.

“He’s right, you know,” the other Tom says, from her other side.

Great, Harry thinks, to neither in particular. I’ve got two bits of soul flanking me like bodyguards and giving me a never ending headache.

She can tell they exchange a look over her head. Both of them are still taller than her, much to Harry’s displeasure, and took great joy in exploiting that fact whenever they could.

She just stares ahead. I can’t explain it she says finally. He’s one of the last links I have to my parents. You wouldn’t understand. Harry doesn’t mention he wouldn’t understand due to the fact he’s the reason her parents are dead, but she thinks he gets the point nonetheless.

Tom doesn’t answer her.

Chapter Text

Harry kicks a rock. It bounces too far ahead of her to pursue, so she tries to discreetly look around for another. There’s one to the side of her that she kicks aside, accidentally sending it careening into Draco’s foot. He sends her a dark look, leaning back with his arms crossed. “Can you believe this?” He asks her.

They’re standing in front of a pen a few footsteps away from the Forbidden Forest. Harry’s come to detest Care of Magical Creatures throughout the year, discovering she has absolutely no affinity, whatsoever, for animals. Especially not magical animals. Whatever touch she thought she had with the dog that’s been following her around and that she had with snakes and Basil seems to have evaporated into thin air with this class.

That, and the literal finger-biting book that Hagrid had assigned as their textbook.

“Believe what?” Harry asks, eyeing the large half-bird, half-horse hybrids in front of them. Hippogriffs Tom whispers, but he seems to be on the same page as her. She gets the vague impression that he’s similar to her in the way the only animals he wants to be around are snakes. Probably because he can control them. Harry has an unfortunate recollection of the Basilisk.

“That Hogwarts even offers this course in the curriculum. That we decided to take it. You decide.” Draco’s frowning, but his cheeks are pink from the chill that’s still in the air and it cuts the seriousness of his expression by half. Hagrid’s busy giving instructions on how to approach the beasts, and Harry watches with a dull sort of amusement as he picks Ron Weasley to be the first test subject.

Ron still hasn’t gotten over the Hogsmeade incident, and Harry’s caught him giving her long stares in classes occasionally. She’s not sure what he wants from her, but he always flushes red whenever he catches her eye. Draco follows her line of sight and rolls his eyes. He opens his mouth like he’s about to make a snide remark and Harry jabs an elbow into his side, shaking her head. He glares at her, but wisely doesn’t say anything.

Hagrid divides them into groups with a hippogriff. Harry warily approaches hers, bows, and then approaches. Luckily for her, Harry’s hippogriff seems just as wary of being touched as Harry is of touching it. This is ridiculous, Tom tells Harry. Just pet it already so we can go back to the castle. Shuffling forward another step, Harry gingerly pats its feathers. It stands stiffly underneath her hand, but doesn’t make any move to bite her or poke her eyes out which Harry takes as a win.

Judging by the yell of pain next to her, Draco wasn’t so lucky with his hippogriff. “Buckbeak, no!” Hagrid hollers and the hippogriff rears back.

Draco is laying on the ground, clutching onto his arm, and Harry can see the blood welling through his fingers. “Draco?” She drops next to him, hauling him up by his robes. “Are you okay?”

“Do I look okay to you?” He asks, squeezing his eyes shut. “That beast attacked me.”

“Here,” Harry says, sliding an arm under his uninjured arm. “Get up. I’ll take you to the Hospital Wing.” Draco is heavier than he looks, but Harry manages to haul him to his feet.

He’s unsteady and almost collapses against her side at first, but straightens out quickly. “That beast attacked me,” he says again to himself. Hagrid is hovering over them, saying something about ushering them to Madam Pomfrey. “My father is going to hear about this,” he sneers, cutting Hagrid off.

Harry rolls her eyes.

Instead of saying anything, Hagrid looks flustered and he can’t seem to put a proper sentence together. “Oh sod off, Malfoy,” Ron Weasley sneers, pushing to the front of the crowd that’s gathered around them. “The only reason Buckbeak attacked you was because you were provoking him.”

She knows she shouldn’t laugh, but honestly, this is so typical of Draco. He’s fuming, but Harry drags him away before he can dig himself into a bigger hole.

 

“Does it hurt terribly, Draco?” Pansy asks, simpering over his arm later that night at dinner.

“It’s not too bad,” Draco sniffs dramatically. “Madam Pomfrey did an adequate job of stitching the wound.” He’s wearing a white cotton sling and Harry knows he’s playing the injury up just to wind up Ron. She can’t blame him and also doesn’t really care, seeing as Lupin’s missing from the staff table again.

Where do you think he is? Harry asks Tom, pushing her pasta around her plate distractedly.

He seems distracted too. Who? There’s a strange feeling in her mind like he’s poking at her memories. Oh. Lupin. What does it matter?

Harry turns her attention back to where Pansy is fawning over Draco across from her, refusing to make eye-contact with Harry. I guess it doesn’t, really. Just odd, don’t you think?

Why odd?

Well, isn’t it strange that he’d be sick again so soon? It’s only been about a month since he was sick the last time.

There’s a vague feeling of humor rolling off of Tom that confuses Harry, but he doesn’t say anything else. Harry’s not sure what she’s missing, but she’s learned that trying to pry information out of Tom when he doesn’t want to share is the worst waste of her time so she doesn’t even bother.

Instead, she smiles sweetly at Pansy. “Too bad you couldn’t help him in the Hospital Wing,” she says. Pansy looks up, catches her eye, and scowls deeply. She doesn’t say anything though, so Harry takes that as a win.

Pansy’s really never been the same since Harry set Basil loose on her.

 

“Thanks for having me, Mr. Malfoy,” Harry says, dropping her school bag in the foyer of the Malfoy Manor. Draco had extended an invitation to his home for the Easter holidays, and figuring it would be better than hanging around the school, she took him up on his offer.

She thinks it’s just an excuse for Mr. Malfoy to try and sway her to his side, but she’s not going to argue if it means she gets to take advantage of their humongous house.

Plus, Tom likes to check in on Lucius every so often to make sure he’s “still faithful to the cause” whatever that means.

“Of course, Harry,” he says friendly, with a steely glint in his eyes. “Would you like a cup of tea? Narcissa thought it might be nice for the four of us to catch up on what’s been going on at Hogwarts this year.”

So he just wants to talk to us like we’re a spy for him at Hogwarts.

Tom doesn’t seem too worried. He probably thinks we’ll give him more reliable information than his son.

How so? Harry follows Mr. Malfoy down a long hallway to the parlor, Draco dragging along behind them, moaning about his arm.

Draco would do anything to make himself seem better than whatever he might actually be accomplishing. Lucius knows this, but he wants to know what’s actually happening at Hogwarts, how Dumbledore is truly running the place.

Harry frowns at Lucius’s back. She hates it when Tom is reasonable and makes sense. What should I tell him?

Tom seems to consider this. Harry’s pretty sure the two parts of his soul are discussing something but they’re blocking her out of that part of the conversation. The Grim he says finally, after they must reach a decision. And Lupin’s illnesses.

Why does that matter? Harry smiles politely at Narcissa as they finally reach the end of the hall.

Tom sighs. Would you just do as I say, for once?

Not if it’s going to hurt someone I care about. Plus, when have you ever done anything for me? Harry points out.

I’m older and smarter than you are, my dear Tom answers. That means you have to do what I say.

Harry’s about to retort angrily when she realizes all three of the Malfoys are staring at her curiously. “Harry, are you quite all right?” Narcissa asks, a crease between her eyebrows.

“What?” She hurriedly takes a seat, realizing she’s the only one still standing. “Sorry, what was that?”

“You were staring into space and didn’t say anything when we called your name,” Draco answers. “My mother asked if you wanted sugar in your tea.”

“Oh,” Harry says, feeling flustered, “yes, that sounds wonderful, thank you, Mrs. Malfoy.”

“Please,” the other woman says, “call me Narcissa, darling.”

Harry just nods and mutters a thanks when a cup of tea is handed to her. Tom is radiating smugness and Harry would really love to tell him off, but worries about drifting off into her own headspace if she does. This has never happened to her before, and she’s not quite sure how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“So Draco, dearest, how has school been?” Narcissa asks, reaching out to gently lay a hand on his injured arm. “You’re feeling better?”

Draco reaches out to take a biscuit, nodding. “Yes, luckily the beast missed anything vital. I still think we should pursue Ministry action.” His mother nods, her face a sympathetic mask.

Harry restrains the urge to roll her eyes. Narcissa Malfoy is a perfect porcelain doll with her mask never crumpling. She wonders how long Mrs. Malfoy had to practice her smile in the mirror to perfect it.

Mr. Malfoy makes a thoughtful noise. “What do you think, Harry?” All three of the Malfoys turn to her. “Do you think Ministry action is the right way to handle this?”

Just say yes Tom instructs. Path of least resistance.

“Whatever you think is best,” Harry demures. She doesn’t particularly think the Hippogriff should be put down for what it did, but knows anything less than Draco’s side will result in a very awkward week at the Malfoys. Plus, it’s not like she has any particular attachment to the animal.

“Did you witness the attack?” Mr. Malfoy presses, a strange light shining his eyes.

“No, sir,” Harry answers truthfully. “I just heard what happened from Draco.”

Mr. Malfoy nods, like he’s heard what he needs. “Well, I know a few individuals in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, so it shouldn’t be a problem to instigate an investigation into the incident.”

Could the Malfoys be any more pompous? Harry asks Tom, but makes sure to nod and smile at Mr. Malfoy’s statement.

Yes, they could, Tom answers. You’ve never met Abraxas Malfoy, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone as obsessed with his image as him.

Besides yourself? Harry gets a sharp shooting pain in her scar for her trouble. She winces and rubs a hand across her forehead.

Mr. Malfoy’s sharp eyes track the movement of her hand, lingering a second too long on her scar. “Does that often bother you?” He asks, the picture of innocence.

Harry narrows her eyes. “Not at all,” she lies smoothly. “I’ve just got a headache.” Mr. Malfoy narrows his eyes in return and tilts his head slightly. The movement reminds Harry of a predator.

“Those can be terrible. Can I get you anything to help?”

Harry smiles tightly. “No, thank you.” The conversation is moved back into safer territory by Draco, maybe sensing the tension in the air, but Harry doesn’t relax until she’s upstairs in the room that’s been assigned to her.

Tom, Harry says delicately, checking her room for any enchantments, I think we may need to reconsider our alliance with the Malfoys. Mr. Malfoy doesn’t seem too keen on having me here.

He makes a thoughtful noise and there’s a slight splitting feel in her head and she’s looking at two versions of him. Her Tom goes to check the door, locking it with a wave of his hand while the Diary throws himself down on the bed. “You may be right,” her Tom says, sliding down so he’s sitting with his back against the door. “I didn’t foresee this.”

“Foresee what?” Harry hisses, not wanting to be overheard. “Mr. Malfoy deciding he doesn’t like me and beginning to plot my murder so he can please his overlord? Which happens to be... I forget who that is again. Oh, wait. You!”

The Tom on her bed laughs lowly, his eyes like a laser on Harry. “Plotting your demise is quite entertaining, can you really blame the man?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be on my side?” Harry can’t hide the outrage in her voice. Tom just shrugs, a lazy smile playing on his lips and a cruel look in his eyes. “The way I see it,” Harry says, taking a deep breath to calm herself, “is that both of you should be grateful.”

“Grateful?” Her Tom answers, sounding dubious. “For what?”

“You,” she points at the Tom on the bed, “would still be stuck in a book if it weren’t for me, and you,” she turns her wrath on the other one, “would be dead. Now, seeing as the corporeal Voldemort wants to kill me and the idea of killing me incites joy in his followers, let’s think of a plan to keep me alive, yes?”

 

“...a little spitfire.” His voice is fonder than Harry’s heard, and the thought makes her roll over in surprise.

“Don’t.” The other voice is softer, more resigned. “Don’t get attached.”

There’s a hand running down her side and Harry moves into the warmth. “I know.”

 

“How were your holidays, Harry?”

Harry’s sitting on a desk, swinging her legs back and forth as she considers the question. “They were... illuminating.”

The rest of the week at the Malfoys had passed reasonably uneventful. Mr. Malfoy had been busy at the Ministry and Narcissa had stayed in her wing of the house, which Harry had made a point to steer clear of. She mostly played Quidditch with Draco and spent time in the vast Malfoy library. Harry had been clear with Tom however, that the Malfoys wouldn’t support her if Voldemort should manage to return, so she was relatively certain that would be her last time at their home.

“How were yours?” She asks, watching as Professor Lupin sets up an old looking cabinet across from her. He’s got some more color and looks healthier than he did the last time she saw him, but Harry still worries.

He pauses in his actions to look up at her. Smiles. “They were peaceful. Just what I needed.” Harry beams back, warmth curling in her stomach. “Are you ready for this?”

She nods, gripping her wand with determination. “Yes. I can do it. I’ve been studying the movements and the thought behind it.”

“Good,” Lupin praises. “Do you have a memory in mind?”

Harry’s been racking her mind for a happy enough memory, and she thinks she knows what she’ll use. A childhood at the Dursleys didn’t really leave much to be desired, so Harry thinks she’ll have to use her limited memories from Hogwarts to fuel the spell.

“Are you ready?” He asks, getting ready to open the cabinet.

“What’s in there?” Harry asks, instead of answering, gripping her wand tighter. Her palms are damp. Lupin just smiles slyly at her and waits for an answer. She nods, hesitant. Harry can feel Tom watching from the back of her mind.

Unlocking the cabinet, the door swings open and Lupin steps back. At first, the unmarked grave from before hovers in front of her, but it quickly transforms into what Harry saw on the Quidditch Pitch. A Dementor.

A chill slides through Harry’s veins, frost coating the windows. She can see her breath. Harry sucks in a shuddering gasp, starting to hyperventilate. There’s a high pitched ringing in her ears that’s starting to turn into a woman screaming. “Not Harry!” Her palms are damp.

“The spell, Harry!”

She takes in a deep breath and then another. “Expecto... Patronum!” She thinks as hard as she can about the wind flying through her hair, Hogwarts laid out below her as she flies for the first time on her Firebolt. A weak silvery mist shoots out the end of her wand, but nothing else. “Expecto Patronum!” she tries again, with more conviction. This time, a more solid shape appears, but the Demontor still moves through it like it’s nothing.

Harry’s fingers are starting to feel numb and there’s a black fuzziness around her vision as the screaming in her head intensifies. Suddenly, Lupin is in front of her. The Dementor flickers and suddenly a full moon is hanging in front of Lupin. “Riddikulus!” he says strongly, and the Boggart is banished back into the cabinet.

Harry stumbles backward, her hip hitting the desk she had been sitting on. She slides to the ground, her head still feeling too heavy. She can feel Tom’s hand on her shoulder, clutching tightly.

“Harry? Harry?” She comes back into awareness. “Are you alright?” Her eyes focus on Lupin in front of her, his face pale and worried.

“M’okay,” she says slowly, enunciating so she doesn’t slur her words. She doesn’t think she succeeds.

Lupin moves away, but Harry’s too tired to track his actions with her eyes so she just closes them, embracing the dark. “Here,” he says gently, and she manages not to start when he shakes her shoulder. “Eat this, it’ll make you feel better.”

She blinks slowly, opening her eyes. She feels drained of every drop of energy, and there’s a chill under her skin she can’t quite shake. Lupin is crouched in front of her, holding a piece of chocolate out to her. She takes it, muttering thanks under her breath, and eats it. Somehow, the chocolate does manage to return some of her energy to her and Harry’s able to push herself into a straighter position, although she doesn’t think she’s quite ready to stand up yet.

Now that she’s more aware, Harry can feel the humiliation flooding in. “I failed,” she says miserably. All that practice, all the reading she did, and she was just as useless as before. If she ever needs to confront an actual Dementor, she’ll die.

Lupin’s shaking his head. “Harry, what you did was incredible. Most wizards, fully trained, can’t even produce anything on their first attempt. Trust me, it took many many tries for me to be able to produce a corporeal Patronus.”

Harry feels a little better, but she’s still riding the low of the Dementor. “Why didn’t it work?”

“What were you thinking of?” Lupin asks, sitting down on one of the desks nearby.

She feels ashamed all of a sudden, like what she thought of was ridiculous. “The first time I flew on my Firebolt,” she says eventually. “The feel of the wind on my skin, the weightlessness, all of Hogwarts below me. Why didn’t it work?”

Lupin looks thoughtful. “That’s more of a fleeting happiness, I’d say. You were happy in the moment, and remembering how you felt makes you happy, but it isn’t a source of happiness if that makes sense.”

Harry mulls his words over, frowning. “So how can I find a memory that will work?”

“It’s not something that will come to you right away or instinctually,” Lupin answers. He glances down at her. “You should be proud, Harry, I mean it. What you did was incredibly impressive. Let’s take a break and we’ll regroup next week, okay?”

Harry reluctantly agrees, and she knows Lupin can tell that she would rather continue.

 

“Hermione. Hermione, take a breath. What’s wrong?” Harry’s got her hands framing Hermione’s face, not sure how to comfort her friend who’s currently crying.

The other girl shakes her head, curls bouncing uncontrollably. “It’s... it’s Ronald!” She bursts out into a fresh round of tears.

They’re sitting out by the Black Lake so it isn’t likely they’ll be interrupted anytime soon, but Harry still does her best to hush her friend. “What did Weasley do know?” She knows that Hermione and him have had a fraught relationship, but last she’d heard, they’d been getting on just fine.

“He said Crookshanks ate his stupid rat!”

Harry freezes, her hands hovering over Hermione’s shoulders. She looks up past Hermione to where Tom is lounging on the grass. It’s the Tom from the diary today, and he looks back at her with a blank face. “What are you looking at me for? I don’t understand that sentence any more than you do.”

She manages not to roll her eyes. “He said who ate what?”

Hermione blinks away tears and reaches up to grab Harry’s hands tightly. Her hands are cold and Harry gets a shiver down her spine at the touch, despite the warmth blooming in her cheeks. “Crookshanks, my cat.”

Harry racks her mind until she remembers. “The orange puff-ball looking one?” Hermione nods. “Ate... Weasley’s rat? And so now he’s mad at you for what?”

“I don’t know! It’s not my fault if Crookshanks did eat his stupid rat, anyway! He’s a cat! That’s what they do. Ron should know better than to let his stupid rat run around the common room anyway.” The more Hermione talks, the less upset she gets and the more angry she becomes.

Harry nods, doing her best to keep a straight face. A terrible thought strikes her. “You didn’t... say that to Weasley, did you?”

Hermione stiffens but doesn’t say anything for a moment. “Well... maybe. But it was only because he was being an arse. He yelled at me in front of the whole House.”

“And you still want to be friends with him, why?”

Hermione pulls away. “You’re friends with his brothers,” she points out. “They’re Weasleys.”

“Yes,” Harry agrees, nodding her head. “But they also have never discriminated against me or judged me for being in Slytherin like Ron has.”

“I can’t explain it, Harry.” Hermione wraps her arms around her knees. “Besides, it doesn’t matter anymore. He thinks my cat ate his stupid rat, so he’ll never want to be friends with me anyway.”

Harry moves closer to her friend, wrapping an arm around Hermione’s shoulder and rubbing her arm comfortingly. “Maybe if you stopped calling his rat, which he clearly cares about, stupid everytime you bring it up, that might help. Just a little bit.”

There’s a beat of silence, before Hermione laughs. “You might have a point.”

Hermione’s not looking at her, so Harry allows herself a smile, giddy with some sort of light feeling inside as she looks out across the Black Lake.

 

“I don’t particularly enjoy being the voice of reason,” Tom says, “but I feel like if I don’t say this to you, no one will.”

Harry ignores him and continues to lace up her shoes.

“Don’t you think going out at night while the school is on high-alert might be a... oh, I don’t know, a bad idea?”

Either you’re coming with me and helping me catch him, or you’re staying here like a coward. Harry stands up, grabs her wand and Invisibility Cloak, and the Marauder’s Map. Whatever you choose, make it snappy. I’m going with or without you.

Tom raises his hands in surrender. “I just thought I would put it out there. Lead the way.”

Harry throws her Cloak over her shoulders, pulls the hood up and looks back down to what had caught her attention in the first place. Over the past few weeks, she had taken to watching the school wind down for the night on the Marauders Map. Harry liked to watch everyone eventually go to their rooms until the only people left in the corridors were Filch on patrol and maybe one or two professors.

Which is why she had been so surprised to see the name Peter Pettigrew crawl across the map, right before she was about to put it away. Harry remembers Lupin telling her Peter Pettigrew had died, murdered horribly by Sirius Black. So, she’s not quite sure how he could be both dead and on the map, but she is going to find out. Whether Tom likes it or not.

“How could he be alive?” She’s out of the common room now, Tom trailing behind her like some sort of strange ghost.

“Maybe it’s a mistake.” He sounds bored, and when Harry glances back at him over her shoulder, he meets her gaze dead on. His eyes are empty, but she can see a hint of menace in them. Harry feels a shiver run down her spine and turns back around, trying not to let him know how she’s been affected.

She bites her lip, looking back down at the map. Pettigrew is a few corridors ahead of where she is currently, and she moves faster, in case he vanishes. “Maybe... the map’s never been wrong before, though.”

Harry stops in front of a portrait. “It says he should be right here,” Harry hisses. “There’s no one here.” Tom steps forward, into her personal space, peering over her shoulder at the map clutched in her hands.

“Strange...” his voice trails off. He pulls back slightly, but Harry can still feel him, the heat of his body lingering on hers. “I don’t see anyone.”

Harry pushes back the hood on her cloak to get a better view of the map. “Harry,” Tom warns her. “Look.” She follows where he’s pointing to on the map, which turns out to be a rapidly approaching Snape.

“Shit,” she hisses, and scrambles to pull her hood back on. She extinguishes the light on her wand, stumbling back around the corner so she’s in a different corridor than the one Snape is approaching. The last thing she needs is to get caught out of bed by Snape, who has had it out for her ever since he met her.

Of course, because Harry has never been blessed with good luck, she runs straight into someone else. She’s managed to bump into them backwards, so she can’t get a good look at their face, but whoever it is pulls Harry farther from the light of Snape’s wand and into an empty classroom.

Harry is struggling and attempting to escape by this point, but her captor seems to have an eerily strong grip. “Stop fighting,” a familiar voice says softly.

She’s released, and Harry takes a few hasty steps backwards, further into the classroom, like that’s going to help her escape punishment. “Professor Lupin,” she says with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was you.” She pulls off the Invisibility Cloak after a moment of silence passes.

He’s staring at her with an inscrutable look, but doesn’t say anything. Harry can practically see him considering what exactly to tell her. “I think we should just Obliviate him and move on,” Tom chimes in, not very helpfully. He’s standing behind her, so Harry can’t glare at him without bringing Lupin’s suspicion, so she has to settle for fuming silently.

“What were you doing, Harry?” Lupin asks finally, voice soft and empty of any heat.

She shifts uncomfortably. To explain what she was doing out of bed would be to explain her fascination with Sirius Black and the Marauder’s Map. Harry’s not so sure Lupin would approve of her extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, she can’t really see a way out of this mess without coming clean about what she was doing.

Harry holds the map out to him.

He takes it from her, something like recognition flashing across his face before it’s wiped clean. Harry doesn’t even think she would have seen it, if she hadn’t been watching him so closely. “What’s this?” Lupin must have decided to play dumb.

Why do you think he’s acting like he doesn’t recognize it? Harry asks Tom, carefully keeping her eyes on Lupin’s face.

“Not sure,” he answers out loud, taking a step closer to her. Harry can feel the heat of his body against her back. “Maybe he’s trying to cover something up.”

“It’s a map,” Harry answers after a while, making sure to pause for an appropriate length of a student scared of getting in trouble. “It shows you where everyone in the school is. I thought I saw Peter Pettigrew’s name.”

Lupin freezes. Harry sees his hands clench around the parchment, while his face remains blank. “That’s impossible,” he says. “Peter is dead.”

“I know,” Harry says. “That’s why I was looking for whoever it was. The map’s never been wrong before.”

Lupin doesn’t say anything else. “Now would be a good time to Obliviate him,” Tom whispers in her ear. “He’s not paying attention. I could help you, if you just let me...” His hand ghosts over hers, a burning promise.

She stills, refusing to move and risk the chance of alerting Lupin to anything suspicious. Tom laughs lowly in her ear, and there’s nothing kind about the sound. Harry can’t help the shiver that runs down her spine, his cruelness chilling, and she must twitch oddly because Lupin gives her a strange look.

“Now, be a good girl and listen for once. Obliviate him, turn around, go back to bed.” He lets go of her hand, but doesn’t make any move to step away. Harry clenches her jaw. Fuck. Off.

“I’m sorry, Professor,” Harry tells Lupin, instead of doing anything Tom wanted her to. She schools her features into a contrite expression. “It won’t happen again, I swear. Please don’t tell the Headmaster.”

Lupin looks conflicted for a moment longer, before he wavers, and folds up the map crisply. “This can be our little secret,” he says, and Harry lets out a long breath. She thinks if he had waited any longer, Tom would have taken matters into his own hands.

“Thank you, Professor Lupin,” Harry says, not insincerely.

He nods. “I’m going to have to keep this,” he answers, tucking the Marauder’s Map into his pocket. “It would be irresponsible of me to leave a potentially Dark object in the hands of a student. I hope you understand.”

Harry wants to protest, but doesn’t want to push her luck, so she just nods. She’ll have to sneak back into his office later to retrieve it. “Now put that back on and return to your bed, before you run into someone less inclined to turn the other way.” He gestures to the invisibility cloak, still balled in Harry’s fist. With one longing look back at where Lupin had tucked the map away, Harry throws the cloak back over her shoulders and hurries out of the classroom.

Call me a good girl again and I’ll kill you myself Harry hisses at Tom, once she’s back in bed. When he laughs this time, it’s the high, cold laugh that she hears in her nightmares.

 

“Please, Harry, you don’t understand what we’re asking.”

She frowns, shoving her books back into her bag as she prepares to leave the library. “I think I understand exactly what you’re asking. You want me to purposely throw the match.”

Fred and George Weasley exchange a look. Then, in tandem, they move to push Harry back down in her chair and block her way out. “Hear us out,” Fred says.

“I think I did that already,” Harry answers, crossing her arms over her chest. “About two minutes ago. You said ‘Hey, Harry, could you lose the Quidditch final on purpose so our captain can graduate from Hogwarts happy?’ and I said ‘Hello, Fred, George, no.’” She frowns, irritated by their actions for once. “Is that not enough?”

We could always curse them Tom suggests. I’m sure they’d leave you alone then.

As always, you are incredibly unhelpful Harry retorts. It’s no wonder you lost the war, if your first instinct in any situation was to resort to violence. For her trouble, Tom sends a sharp pain through her scar.

For your information, cursing people into submission is more efficient than you seem to think. Fear is a powerful motivator.

Harry resists the urge to roll her eyes. So is love and respect. She pauses, knowing her next words are likely to set Tom off. Just look at Dumbledore. Just like she expects, there’s a firey pain in her scar and Tom shuts up, finally.

“Harry, you don’t understand,” George repeats. “Wood is going to be devastated if we lose tomorrow. Do you hear me? Devastated.

“I still fail to see how that’s my problem,” Harry points out. “In fact, I actually have to get to our final practice before Flint sets my robes on fire.”

(She’s not lying. One time, Harry had been fifteen minutes late to practice because Flitwick wanted to talk to her about a Charms essay and when she got to the locker rooms, the team was surrounded around a fire which Harry quickly learned were her robes. She made a point of being half an hour early after that.)

George exchanges a helpless glance with Fred. The latter twin turns to her, face set in determination. “What’ll it cost? Gryffindor has to win.”

“If you have to win,” Harry says, rising to her feet, “maybe next year, you should draft a better team. Trash your seeker, for starters.” She pushes past the twins when they move to pull her down again. “I really have to go. I just solidified my position at the top of Slytherin’s hierarchy and I’m not going to risk becoming ostracized again, just so your captain can feel better about his professional chances. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll see the two of you on the Pitch tomorrow.”

It’s about time you stood up to them Tom says, when she’s sprinting through the corridors, desperately trying to get to the Quidditch Pitch on time. They’ll only drag you down.

 

“Why did you let me do this?” Harry asks the air rhetorically, as she floats high above the ground on her broom. They’re fifteen minutes or so into the match and Harry has yet to see a glint of the Snitch.

I rarely let you do anything as you’re so fond of reminding me. Stop moving like that. You’re making me nauseous.

“If I don’t win this game,” Harry says, slowly, with a sense of wild abandon filling her, “Flint will kick me off the team.”

Nothing to lose then.

 

Harry stumbles off her broom, hair windswept, mind still in the clouds. She’s smiling fiercly, grin carved viciously, ear to ear. She’s clenching the Snitch so tightly her fingers are white and she lets it go, straight into the hands of Marcus Flint.

He gives her a considering look, still touched with wariness from his previous interactions with her, but Harry can see a new respect for her. She looks straight back, heedless, breathless, ruthless. They are equals now, on the same footing. She has proven herself invaluable, and if he threatens her now, he’ll be the one to take the blowback.

“Potter,” he says, dipping his chin slightly towards her. Before he can say anything else, a wave of Slytherin students divide them, the Quidditch Cup carried on top of their shoulders.

Harry doesn’t mind. She’s gotten what she came for. Some of the other Slytherins try to pull Harry into their celebrating. Draco pulls at her robes rather insistently, but she breaks away, would rather fade into the crowd rather than have every eye on her.

She makes it back to the locker room without anyone else bothering her, the Gryffindors preferring to mourn their loss in the comfort and privacy of their Common Room. “You did well,” Tom says offhand, appearing suddenly next to her. He’s leaning against the lockers, arms crossed against his chest.

Harry jumps, despite herself. “Give me a warning next time,” she spits. The Tom next to her is the one from the diary, and Harry can’t help the heat that floods her cheeks. She’s half-naked, with just her sports bra and pants on. She knows, logically, that Tom’s seen her in various states of undress before, but with him here in the relatively intimate setting of the Quidditch locker rooms, it seems more significant somehow.

Tom rolls his eyes. There’s a dark look in them, a hungry sort of expression on his face, like if Harry made one wrong move, he’d pounce. He reaches out a hand, pausing before he makes contact. Harry is barely breathing. Her heart is pounding in her chest, almost harder than it did when she was in the sky.

Tom laughs suddenly, a low sound that sends a shudder down Harry’s spine. The tension breaks with the noise. He completes the move, tugging on one of her curls, tangling his hand in her hair. “Don’t be so obvious, Harry,” he says, a patronizing note in his voice. “It’s unbecoming.”

Whatever spell he had managed to put on Harry breaks suddenly. “Fuck you,” she says, pushing him away, reaching up to detangle his hand from her hair. He lets her, an amused look on his face. When she finally pulls his fingers free, he wraps his hand around hers, holding her tightly. Harry tries to pull away, but Tom’s grip is unrelenting. “Let go of me,” she says heatedly, tugging on his hand with her free one.

He grins, an unfriendly expression on his face. Tom has the ability to make any expression look like threat, and this one is no different. “You won an important victory,” he says fiercely.
The hungry expression deepens. Harry wants to shrink back from him, but focuses on the burning anger inside her in order to stare him down. “You’re one of them now.”

This time when Harry pulls away from him, he lets her go. “Do you try to be as moody as humanly possible?”

Tom doesn’t take his eyes away off of her, even as Harry pulls a shirt on. “Technically, I don’t think I quite count as a human.” He neatly side-steps Harry’s fist as it swings towards his face.

 

Harry lazily doodles a Snitch at the top of her Divinivation notes. The weather has officially turned for the worse, and the heat is making her drowsier than usual. She’s supposed to sit with Trewlany for her examination over reading crystal balls.

Seeing as she’s never been able to see anything in a crystal ball, not once, she isn’t expecting to do well. Harry thinks she might make up some story about Quidditch, but she’s really considering whether it’s worth the effort or not. It’s not. Tom has been in a bad mood all day, and his irritation has been rubbing off on Harry.

Fine then, she retorts you come up with something that will make the old bird happy.

A sharp lance of pain shoots through Harry’s scar, and she’s left blinking away tears. Fine she answers. Don’t talk to me if you’re just going to be mean about it.

Before she can say anything else to Tom, Draco comes tumbling down the stairs, face flushed and hair darker than usual with sweat. “Oh, good,” he says, a bit breathless, “you’re still here.” His voice drops to a whisper. “She’s gone absolutely mad.” He hooks a thumb over his shoulder, pointing towards where he had just come from.

“Oh, good,” Harry mutters sarcastically as she packs away her things. She’s the last to see Trewlany and with each student exiting the classroom, her mood plummeted further. “Can’t wait.”

Draco shoots her another apologetic glance before he’s hurrying away, clearly in a rush to escape the tower. Harry gloomily drags her feet as she climbs the ladder into the furnace that is the Divination classroom. “Miss Potter, it’s wonderful to see you, as always,” Professor Trewlany exclaims when she sees Harry. Her glasses seem especially large today, and her eyes are magnified even more than usual.

Harry manages to muster up a forced smile. She doesn’t think Trewlany notices. “Come now, sit, sit,” her professor says, gesturing towards the small table with two rickety chairs on either side. There’s a large crystal ball sitting in the middle of the table, yellow and foggy. Harry warily pulls out a chair and sits down, setting her bag down next to her.

“So... do I just look into it and tell you what I see?” Harry looks up to gauge Trewlany’s reaction.

“Hmm, dear?” Her professor asks, looking at distractedly. “Oh, yes, precisely.”

A bead of sweat runs down Harry’s spine. She’s feeling uncomfortable in her skin, a strange itch in her veins. Harry shifts in her seat and stares into the ball. The fogginess doesn’t lift, and Harry can feel a twitch starting to develop in her right eye. She blinks, trying to get rid of the grittiness. “I see...” She sees nothing, but Harry doesn’t think that’s the right thing to say here. “I’m Quidditch captain...”

She peeks at Trelawny out of the corner of her eye to see if the other woman is buying her story, but the professor is staring into thin air, a dazed look on her face. “Someone is handing the Quidditch Cup to me... we’ve won the championships and I led us to vic-”

IT WILL HAPPEN TONIGHT!” Trewlany says suddenly, her hands reaching out and grabbing Harry’s arms, holding her in place.

Harry jolts back in shock, but Trewlany’s fingers are digging so hard into her arms, Harry can feel the bruises already forming. “What?”

The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years.” Trewlany’s voice is a toneless, steel scraping over stone. Her eyes are clouded over as she holds Harry in place.

“Is she talking about Black?” Harry asks Tom frantically. He quiets her, sliding a warm hand over her mouth. Trewlany doesn’t seem to recognize that there’s another person in the room with them.

Tonight, before midnight... the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was.

Harry feels a chill run down her spine.

Tonight... before midnight... the servant... will set out... to rejoin... his master...

With a flail of her arms on the last word, Trelawny releases Harry and manages to knock the ball off its stand. Harry gingerly rubs her arm, and the pressure on her mouth disappears with Tom. “Professor?” She asks cautiously. “Are you alright?”

There’s a deep sense of foreboding swelling in Harry’s stomach, and her head hurts more than usual. What Trewlany said seems to have unsettled Tom as well, which doesn’t exactly make Harry feel better. Tonight before midnight she thinks. Black will return to Voldemort’s side.

“Harry?” Trewlany asks, like she’s coming out of a deep sleep. She blinks owlishly. “What happened?”

“You... you don’t remember?”

“I must have dozed off for a moment,” the professor says, pushing her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose. “Did you finish giving your vision, dear?”

 

“What else could it possibly mean?” Harry asks Tom, rushing down the grounds towards the Black Lake. The wind whips through her hair, messing it up even more than usual, but Harry’s still too shaken from her encounter with Trewlany to care. Her head hasn’t stopped pounding since they went up into that tower.

“I don’t know,” Tom says, several paces from behind her. “I don’t think we should jump the gun at the word of one slightly off-her-rocker professor. Has she ever even had a real vision?”

Yes, she has Harry’s Tom finally chimes in. He’s been unusually quiet, even though Harry suspects he’s the reason behind her headache. Many years ago. Before Harry was born.

Harry wants to dwell on this more, but she gets the sense that Tom is going to be rather tightlipped about it. “See?” she exclaims triumphantly. “As much as I hate to admit it, we have to talk to Dumbledore.”

The pain in her scar increases. “I don’t like it either, but he’s the only person who has the power to make sure Black is stopped before he can return to Voldemort.”

Finally by the Black Lake, Harry turns to face Tom, only to discover he’s disappeared. Harry rolls her eyes.

“Harry!” Hermione’s voice rings out across the grounds. She’s coming towards Harry, Ron Weasley trailing behind her with a sullen expression on his face. Hermione looks more frantic than usual, and her normally neat hair is messy, a tell-tale sign she’s been running her hands through it.

“Hi, Hermione,” Harry says politely. “Weasley.” She nods tightly towards Weasley, who’s looking like he’d rather be anywhere else. “Look, ‘mione, I really don’t have time right now, I need to see the Headmaster.”

Hermione nods, like that’s what she had been expecting to hear. “So do we, I wanted you to come with us. He’s at Hagrid’s.”

Harry furrows her brow. “Hagrid’s? Why would Dumbledore be at Hagrid’s?”

“It’s for Buckbeak’s trial,” Weasley says finally, drawing Harry’s attention. “Execution, actually.” He sounds drawn, like he’s gone through this hundreds of times and still hasn’t come to terms with it yet.

“Buckbeak? The hippogriff?” Harry’s lost them.

Hermione just nods again and grabs Harry’s arm. “C’mon, we’ll explain on the way there. We don’t have much time.”

Harry Tom warns we don’t have time for this.

It seems like everyone’s run out of time to explain anything to me Harry answers sullenly, but lets herself be pulled along by Hermione. If Dumbledore’s at Hagrid’s, that makes Harry’s job a lot easier.

“Ronald has been working non-stop on Buckbeak’s trial,” Hermione fills Harry in. “Helping Hagrid through everything. We want to see if we can stop the execution before it happens. Save a life, and all that.”

Harry personally doubts the efficiency of their cause, but is polite enough not to mention that. She doesn’t care if the hippogriff lives or dies, she just wants to talk to Dumbledore. Which is a strange contradiction, the more she thinks about it, but Harry’s doing her best not to think too hard.

“What is he doing here?” Ron hisses, stopping short. Hermione stops with him, and Harry bumps into both of them. She’s behind them both and is unable to see over their shoulders. She wonders briefly which of her parents gave her the gene for shortness.

“What is who doing here?” Harry asks when neither Weasley or Hermione elaborate on his question.

Ron turns his head slightly to her, the tops of his ears red. “Your boyfriend,” he spits.

“My what?” Harry peers around Hermione. “Oh, great,” she sighs as she sees Draco sauntering towards them, goons in tow.

“Well, if it isn’t Granger and Weasel, my two least favorite lions,” Draco says grandly, opening his arms wide. “Off to go see that beast get what it deserves?”

Harry decides to stay silent. She knows this isn’t her battle and anything she could possibly have to say won’t be appreciated by any party. Weasley makes a low sound in his throat.

“What’s that, Weasel? Going to cry yourself to sleep tonight, thinking about it?” Draco sneers. “My father told me all the work you put into the trial, even making an appearance at the trial.” He gives Ron a long once-over, before turning his face towards the goon on his left. “Pathetic.”

Weasley tenses in front of Harry, but it’s Hermione who moves. She’s pulling out her wand and shoving it under Malfoy’s chin. “You - unbearable - git.” She says, breathing hard.

“What are you going to do, Granger,” Malfoy snickers. “Curse me?”

Hermione lowers her wand, pulling away briefly. Harry tries to grab her, to pull her back so they can get moving. She doesn’t have time for this. Already, dusk is starting to fall. Instead, Hermione turns back around as Draco’s laughing with his friends, fist balled, and punches him in the face. “Oh my god, Hermione,” Harry exclaims, pulling her with more force. “Draco, are you okay?”

“She- she punched me!” He touches his mouth gingerly, fingers coming away red.

“C’mon, Harry,” Hermione drags Harry away from her friend, before she can inspect him closer. Harry watches Draco work himself into a fury, but reluctantly turns to follow Ron and Hermione.

“You punched Draco!” Harry says indignantly, half-stumbling behind Hermione.

“So?” Ron asks, giving her a dismissive look. “He’s a prat. He deserved it.”

Harry just shakes her head in disbelief.

“It did feel good,” Hermione says, breaking the silence once they’re standing in front of Hagrid’s door. She glances at Harry, almost guiltily. “Sorry, Harry.”

Before she can say anything, the door swings open in front of them. “Ah... Ron, Hermione,” Hagrid says, rather tearily. Harry stares up at him in apprehension. She had forgotten just how tall the man was when she wasn’t standing right next to him. “And yeh’ve brought ‘Arry too, how nice,” he says, sniffling. He takes a large, orange handkerchief out of his pocket and blows his nose loudly.

Harry smiles blandly at him, doing her best to sidle around him as he ushers them into his house. Or, hut, really. He waves them over to the table, pouring three rather large mugs of tea and starts going on about Buckbeak. He seems continually on the verge of tears, which makes Harry slightly uncomfortable. Please, let’s never come back here again Tom says, disgust filtering from him through to Harry.

Agreed. Harry clears her throat, cutting Hagrid off. “Er, yes, where is Headmaster Dumbledore? I was told he’d be here. I need to speak with him. It’s urgent.”

Hagrid blinks, blowing his nose again. Before he answers Harry, there’s a loud knocking at the door. “Tha’ll be ‘im,” Hagrid says thickly. “Best you all be off, it’s pas’ curfew.”

Before Harry has time to protest, Hagrid’s ushering them out the door, but not before first depositing a squirming rat in Ron’s hands. “Keep better track of your pets,” he says, looking like he’s going to burst out into a fresh round of tears.

“Scabbers!” Ron exclaims, holding the animal close to his chest. “I thought I’d lost him.”

Hermione sniffs, but doesn’t say anything. The three of them run up the hill, closer to the Whomping Willow. “I’m sorry about Buckbeak,” she says to Ron, rubbing his back. “At least you got Scabbers back.”

Ron opens his mouth to say something but yelps with pain instead. His hands relax reflexively, and Scabbers scurries off the second he hits the ground. “He bit me!” He looks up, in the direction that the rat ran. “Scabbers!” He calls, beginning to run after the rat.

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes,” Harry sighs, taking off after Ron. She sees him standing in front of the Whomping Willow, Scabbers back in hand. He turns to face Harry and Hermione, and his face pales.

“Harry! Hermione! Behind you!” He calls, holding a shaking hand out. Harry barely starts to turn when a large, black mass flies past her. She stumbles back in surprise. Is that the...

“Dog from the forest?” Tom asks, suddenly standing next to her. He has a dark look on his face. “It appears so.”

The dog lunges towards Ron, teeth latching around his leg. It proceeds to drag a screaming Ron under the Whomping Willow. “Ronald!” Hermione cries, face pale.

Great Harry tells him. This is just what we need. I’m blaming you for not stopping me from taking Divination. Without that, I bet I wouldn’t be in this whole mess.

Tom snorts in amusement, eyes flickering over to her. “You keep telling yourself that.”

 

“I think I’m gonna bruise,” Harry complains, brushing cobwebs off her arms. “Couldn’t we have just left Weasley to the dog?”

Hermione sighs heavily, from where she’s crawling through the tunnel underneath the Whomping Willow in front of Harry. They had just managed to make it through the tree’s swinging branches, but Harry still felt like she had been hit by a car. “Even if you don’t like him, he doesn’t deserve to die like that.”

Harry snorts, but the deadly glare Hermione sends her over her shoulder gets Harry to shut up. For the time being. She’s still inwardly doubting Weasley’s plight, seeing as the dog had been perfectly friendly all the other times she had encountered it. Maybe red hair sent it into a rage. The thought makes her snicker under her breath.

Hermione stops so abruptly, Harry runs right into her. She thinks it’s in retaliation for her laughing, but realizes quickly that they’ve hit the end of the passageway. Hermione wriggles to her feet, climbing up through a hole in the ground. She sticks out her hand for Harry to grab onto and helps pull her up.

They seem to be in an abandoned shack, Harry realizes as she glances around. “Harry,” Hermione hisses. “I think this must be the Shrieking Shack.”

Tracing claw marks in the wood of the wall, Harry feels a shiver run down her spine. Whatever takes up residence in the Shrieking Shack is something she’s not in a hurry to meet. Before they can explore any further, a loud moan echoes through the house. ‘Up there,’ Hermione mouths, pointing up, towards the second floor.

Harry cautiously heads up the stairs, inwardly wincing at the sound of the creaky floorboards. Her hand is clenched around her wand and Tom is alert in her mind. He doesn’t like this situation any more than Harry does, especially with Trewlany’s prophecy fresh in their mind.

They find Ron in a bedroom upstairs, sitting on the bed, hands at his leg. Harry can see the bright red of his blood where it’s seeping through the spaces where his fingers don’t meet. The sight doesn’t sicken her as much as it probably should. She feels a cool nonchalance where horror or shock should reside.

The Dursleys had beaten an aversion to blood out of Harry at a young age.

Hermione shares none of the same feelings as Harry, rushing forward to place a hand gently on top of Ron’s. Harry feels a ball of jealousy harden in her stomach at the sight. “Where did the dog go?” Harry finds herself asking loudly.

Ron just holds out a shaking finger in response, pointing behind Harry. “Not a dog,” he says weakly.

The door slams shut behind her. Harry spins around, catching sight of a hauntingly familiar face. “Hello, Harry.” Sirius Black smiles at her.

Before he can say anything else, Harry whips out her wand. “Expelliarmus!” she says, the wand in Black’s hand flying towards her.

He watches her with something that looks like amusement. Harry doesn’t like it. She’s armed, he’s not. He should be scared, or at the very least, concerned. “Look at him,” Tom says from behind her. “Do you think he’s in the right frame of mind?”

Harry listens to him, for once. She scans Black, notices the way his hair is tangled and matted, the way his hands are trembling slightly, the way his face is gaunt and pale. She remembers the handsome, laughing man she’d seen in the pictures Lupin gave her. Whoever that man was, he’s no longer here in the person standing in front of her.

Harry wants to feel for him, this man who seems to have lost everything, but she hardens her heart. He may have lost everything, but it’s by no fault of anyone else’s. He took everything from Harry. Her parents trusted him and he repaid them in blood and death and pain. So when she holds out her wand towards him, her hand doesn’t shake.

“I’m going to kill you,” she informs him, proud to hear her voice steady. He tilts his head, the motion dog-like, bares his teeth in a feral grin.

“You’re pointing that wand at the wrong person, Harry,” he says, voice guttural.

“Oh, yeah?” She taunts, fingers tightening around her wand. “Who would you prefer I point it at?” Tom is close behind her. He wraps his hand around hers on top of the wand, skin burning. It’s so easy, Harry he whispers inside her mind. She’s not sure if it’s her Tom or the diary, but their presence has intertwined to the point where she can’t pinpoint the difference. I’ll show you.

Harry shies forward half a step. Tom follows her like a shadow. So easy... all you have to do is say the words. I’ll do everything else. Harry thinks her eyes might be bleeding red but she’s not sure. Black is still watching her with that sharp grin. There’s broken glass in his eyes. “Pettigrew,” he says. “You should be pointing that wand at Pettigrew.”

She laughs. It’s cold and brittle. “You killed him.”

The smile falls off Black’s face. “I should have,” he agrees. He looks haunted now, the ghost of the past flitting across his face. “I will.” He takes a step forward.

Harry takes a step backwards in turn, despite herself. Avada Kedavra Tom murmurs. His hand is still on hers. Harry glances back over her shoulder at him, forgetting where she is for a moment. His eyes are glittering rubies, his skin is a furnace. He smiles at her darkly.

“Harry,” Hermione calls softly, breaking her concentration. Her eyes refocus on Hermione, still leaning down by Ron. She looks concerned. Before Harry can start to puzzle out why, Black lunges at her, throwing her to the floor.

In her shock, Harry drops both wands. Black makes a growling noise, skittering after the wand, seemingly forgetting Harry. She’s not going to let him hurt her or her friends anymore, so she throws herself after him. Harry snatches up her wand, shooting to her feet still in the process. She points it at Black again, her hand trembling slightly. “Stop moving, or I will kill you,” she says. “I know how.”

Black freezes. “I’m sure you do,” he says, slowly putting his hands up. Before Harry can make good on her promise, Tom urging her on, the door slams open.

Expelliarmus!” Lupin’s voice rings out through the room, and Harry watches, almost dumbfounded, as her wand flies into his hand.

NO Tom snarls, pacing the confines of her mind. An intense pain lances through her scar, and Harry winces involuntarily, clapping a hand to her head. Both Black and Lupin watch her: Lupin with a considering gaze, and Black with sharp eyes. When she stands straight again, Lupin already has his wand trained on Black.

He pauses, tilts his head ever so slightly, and lowers his wand. “What are you doing?” Harry asks loudly, betrayal coloring her voice. Lupin ignores her, steps forward quickly and holds a hand out to Black. The other man takes it, and Lupin pulls him to his feet, embracing him like a brother. “Professor Lupin?” Harry demands.

The two men pay her no mind.

“Is it true?” Lupin asks Black. The other man gives a sharp, jerky nod, almost birdlike. “Then why...” He trails off, a dawning look of realization crossing his face. “Unless...”

“We switched.” Black seems to answer Lupin’s unasked question.

Lupin nods sharply. Hands a wand to Black. “Together?” He asks. Black smiles, a broken expression.

“Together,” he agrees. They turn back towards Harry, who stumbles back a few steps to where Ron and Hermione are still sitting.

“I trusted you,” Hermione says, her voice trembling. “And this whole time, you’ve been working with Black.” When Harry looks at her, she can see unshed tears in her eyes. “I kept your secret.”

Lupin pauses. Inclines his head slightly. “They don’t call you the smartest witch your age for nothing,” he says with a small laugh. “When did you figure it out?”

“When Professor Snape assigned us that essay. Everything finally came together.”

Harry is horribly lost. She remembers what essay Hermione is talking about, of course, she remembers slaving away for hours researching the minute details between an animagus and a werewolf but surely...

She hesitates. “You’re a werewolf?”

Harry knows even before Lupin answers that she’s said the truth. A pained expression crosses Lupin’s face and he pauses. “Yes,” he says. “That’s irrelevant, now. I haven’t been working with Sirius all this time. In fact, I didn’t know for sure until tonight.”

“Know what for sure?” Hermione asks. Harry’s impressed with the steadiness in her voice.

“Peter Pettigrew is alive,” Lupin repeats. “In fact, he’s in this room with us.”

Harry looks over her shoulder at Hermione. Her own confusion is reflected on the other girl’s face. “Have you lost your mind?”

Black laughs, a sound that sends chills down Harry’s spine. He sounds mad. He points past Harry. “The rat,” he says, amusement still evident in his voice. “Let us see the rat.”

“Scabbers?” Ron asks, his first time speaking since Lupin barged in. “He’s just a rat.” He pulls the animal closer to his chest, despite Scabbers’ scratching and wriggling in his fist.

Black laughs again, and Harry shies another step backwards. “Missing a toe on his right foot, eh?”

Ron’s shaking his head, even as Scabbers bites him. “He’s been in my family for–”

“Twelve years?” Black asks, shuffling forward. Lupin follows closely behind him. “Curiously long time for a rat.”

Harry considers the two men carefully. She had seen the pain on Lupin’s face when he thought Black had killed her parents. She remembers the raw despair in his voice when he told her the story on the night of their first lesson. She knows, somehow, that Lupin wouldn’t suddenly team up with Black, not unless he thought the other man was telling the truth about something. “How would you prove it?”

Both Black and Lupin look towards her in surprise, clearly not expecting her to say anything. “There’s a spell,” Lupin says first. “It forces an Animagus to their original state. It’s completely harmless, if Scabbers is just a rat.”

She nods, steeling herself for whatever might happen. “Give him the rat, Weasley,” she commands. Tom has been suspiciously silent since Lupin came in and stopped them from killing Black, and she’s almost positive whatever is about to happen is something he wishes she didn’t know about.

“Harry!” Weasley exclaims, sounding betrayed. She looks over her shoulder at him, unimpressed.

“The rat.” She repeats. “Now.”

Reluctantly, Ron hands Scabbers to Black. The rat squeals at a higher pitch when he’s in Black’s hands and her suspicions grow. “Remus, would you like to do the honors?”

He turns towards Lupin, holding his hands out in offering. The rat is scratching and biting at his hands. Harry can see the blood welling, little drops of red streaking his skin, but she can see no pain register on his face. She thinks he probably suffered much worse in a place like Azkaban, and she softens towards him. Just a little.

Lupin brandishes his wand, the spell nonverbal, and a bright jet of light strikes the rat. Black drops it like it’s burning him, and Harry watches with a twisted fascination as the animal flails in mid-air, it’s features distorting until what hits the floor is a slightly pudgy man, not a rat.

A slow anger stirs in her.

“How nice to see you alive and well, Peter,” Black says pleasantly. He’s got his wand trained on the man crumpled on the floor, and there’s a manic light in his eyes.

“S-Si-Sirius!” The man squeaks, scrambling to his feet, holding shaking hands out in front of him. He turns towards Lupin. “R-Re-Remus!”

“Hello, Peter,” Lupin says softly, but Harry can hear the steel in his voice. His wand is trained on Pettigrew as well, his face blank of any emotion. “I would shed a tear for you, but I’m afraid I used them all at the funeral.”

“I can explain!” Beseeching, Pettigrew whirls around back towards Black. “You must let me explain!”

“Explain what, exactly, Peter?” Black asks, still pleasant. “How you betrayed Lily and James? How you gave their daughter up on a silver platter? How you faked your own death, and blamed it on me? How you slaughtered 12 innocent Muggles and mutilated yourself, just so no one would know what you had done?” He shakes his head, tsk-ing disappointedly. “There doesn’t seem to be much left to explain, does there?”

Pettigrew starts shaking even harder. “No! No! You don’t understand. Sirius...” Clearly giving Black up as a lost cause, Pettigrew spins to face Lupin. “Remus... The Dark Lord... his influence. I couldn’t refuse him. He was going to kill me!”

Lupin makes a thoughtful noise. “That’s a terrible story, Peter,” he says softly. “It was all for nothing though, in the end. Wasn’t it, Sirius?”

A bark of laughter erupts from Black. “That’s right, Remus.”

Pettigrew can’t seem to decide who to focus on. He backs up a step, towards the wall, and Black and Lupin follow him, angling towards him. “What... what do you mean?”

“It was all for nothing, Peter, because now Sirius and I are going to kill you.”

Pettigrew blanches so fast, Harry would almost find it funny. “Y-yo-you can’t do that...” He looks between Black and Lupin, paling even further. “You are my friends.”

“So were Lily and James,” Black snarls, any pleasantries he’d had long gone. “Their blood is on your hands, Peter. I’m going to do what I should have done 12 years ago and make all of this right.”

Pettigrew’s eyes land on Harry finally, and a spark of recognition lights them up. “Harry... Harry... Harry...” He lunges forward, through the space between Black and Lupin. “You wouldn’t let them kill me, would you? James and Lily’s daughter... you look so much like them...”

His hands latch onto her arms. Harry pulls away, disgusted. Her skin crawls where he touched her. All of the anger and hatred burning in her stomach fueled by facing Black has a new target in Pettigrew. She takes in this man, thin blonde hair and watery blue eyes and tries to reconcile him with the one she’d seen in Lupin’s photographs. That man had been full of life, vibrant and young, happy to be surrounded by his friends.

“You betrayed my parents,” she says. “Death is a mercy, for someone like you.”

He falters, but leans forward again. “I didn’t know what he was going to do, I swear to you.” When she remains unconvinced, a frantic gleam shines in his eyes. “You can’t let them kill me, Harry. James would never... he would never let...”

Tom rushes back into her mind all at once, in a way that Harry hadn’t even realized she’d been missing him until he returned. Don’t listen to him her Tom whispers to her, embracing her in a way he hasn’t since before the new Tom joined them. He knew exactly what I was going to do...

“Well, my father isn’t here to dispute whether he would or wouldn’t kill scum of the earth like you,” Harry spits. “And that’s your fault. Maybe you should have considered the repercussions of your actions before selling your soul to the most intimidating bidder.”

She pulls away from him again, straight into the arms of Tom. His embrace is like a balm on the wound that’s been opened by seeing Pettigrew in the flesh. “Kill him.”

Harry!” Hermione says, aghast, speaking for the first time since Pettigrew was revealed. “You’re not a killer. Don’t let them make you one.”

She wavers. No Tom says. He deserves what he’ll get, just as you believe I did. Don’t you? She knows she agrees with Tom, really, knows that there is an eagerness inside of her, ready to spill blood. Harry doesn’t like being slighted, doesn’t like being toyed with. She knows Pettigrew thinks he can win her over, play with her emotions to make her want to follow her father’s path.

Still... something about letting Hermione see the true viciousness in her soul rubs Harry the wrong way. She wants Hermione to think that she’s a good person, as much as she’s coming to believe she’s not.

Harry Tom warns. Don’t do something you’ll regret.

“Think about it Harry,” Hermione urges. “You’ll be able to prove Sirius is innocent. Pettigrew will get the Dementor’s Kiss. That’s a fate worse than death, everyone knows it...”

She hesitates again, and the flash of pain through her scar tells her that Tom knows her answer before she does.

“Stop,” she says, Black with his wand in the air. “Hermione’s right. We’ll take him to the castle.”

Lupin gives Harry a small smile, while Black pauses. There’s a torturously long moment where Harry thinks he’s going to kill Pettigrew regardless of what she’s said.

With a long exhale, Black lowers his wand, only to raise it again to cast a spell binding Pettigrew’s limbs. “I suppose not having to become a fugitive once more would be nice.” He casts another spell, levitating Pettigrew in the air. “Shall we?”

 

“So... I should start referring to you as Sirius now, not just Black?” Harry asks Sirius as they make their way back through the tunnel underneath the Shrieking Shack.

He turns to look at her, a considering look on his face. The hollows of his cheeks give her more reason to worry than they had previously. “That would be nice, I think,” he says. “I am technically your godfather,” he tells her.

Harry can’t help the flash of pleasure that swells up in her at his words. “I know,” she answers. “What does that mean for us? Once your name is cleared?”

Sirius grins sharply at her. “Well, as long as you’re willing, I should technically have magical guardianship over you,” he says. “As soon as the case is resolved, you can move in with me. If that’s what you want.”

Harry thinks about a future where she doesn’t have to live with the Dursleys anymore, doesn’t have to worry about hiding her magic anymore. “That sounds great.”

Tom doesn’t seem as enthused, but he doesn’t say anything. Harry decides to take his lack of a response as assent. “Can we live by the sea?” Harry’s never seen the sea, but she thinks it must be something magical. She pictures flying over the waves, the wind in her hair. The image gives her indescribable hope.

Reaching out to ruffle her hair, Sirius nods. There’s a smile playing around the corners of his mouth and in the expression, Harry can see the lively man who laughed with her father over a decade ago. “Of course we can,” he agrees. “We can live wherever you want, Harry.”

 

The full moon shines down on them as they emerge from the Whomping Willow. Harry thinks they must make an odd sight. Harry and Sirius are in front, followed by Ron and Hermione, and then Professor Lupin, Pettigrew levitating behind him.

Harry turns back to ask Professor Lupin the best way to turn Pettigrew in, but she stops short when she sees the paleness of his face. The light of the moon has illuminated him enough so Harry can see the fear in his eyes. Then, she realizes what’s happening.

“It’s a full moon,” she says. “You’re going to turn into a werewolf.”

He grimaces, opens his mouth to say something, and then his face contorts in pain.

“Get back!” Sirius yells, throwing out an arm, shoving Harry behind him. Ron and Hermione hobble back towards her. “Take a deep breath, Remus, it’s going to be okay. Just like old times, eh?”

Lupin chooses that moment to let out a loud howl, throwing his head towards the moon. His limbs are rapidly elongating, and even from here, Harry can hear the sounds of his bones cracking into different places. Hemione lets out a scream of surprise when Lupin swings his head towards them. His eyes are glowing yellow and when he bares his teeth at them, they’re long and pointed canines.

Sirius takes that moment to turn into a dog, the large black animal Harry knows now is his Animagus form. He barks loudly, catching the werewolf’s attention, leaps at it. The werewolf that used to be their professor howls in pain when Sirius’s jaws clamp down around it’s shoulder, and the two tumbled down the hill and out of sight.

“Harry, watch out!” Ron cries, dragging her attention to the forgotten Pettigrew. He’s got Lupin’s wand in his hand, pointed at Harry.

“No!” She yells, lunging forward, knowing it’s hopeless. Pettigrew’s form is shrinking before her eyes, and by the time she reaches the pile of clothes, the rat is gone. “I’m gonna kill him,” she snarls, rage bubbling up in her.

Before she can think about the rat any longer, a loud howl of pain pierces the air. “That’s Sirius,” Harry says, certain. “You two stay here, try to head back up to the castle and get help.”

“Harry, where are you going?” Hermione calls after her, but Harry’s already running down the hill in the direction of where Sirius and Lupin had tumbled.

 

She comes across Sirius’s body on the shore of the lake. He’s lying prone, head turned towards the sky, and Harry’s heart almost stops for the brief moment she thinks he might be dead. When she approaches him, however, she realizes he must have just passed out, because she can see the rise and fall of her chest.

“Sirius...” she murmurs, placing her hand over his heart. His eyes flutter briefly, but otherwise remain closed.

“You certainly have gotten yourself into quite the predicament,” Tom says, finally offering his input. When she looks up, the diary Tom is staring down at her disapprovingly, a cruel twist to his frown.

“You weren’t much help,” Harry retorts. Her Tom flickers into existence next to the diary, and Harry rolls her eyes, looking back down at Sirius. She needs to find a way to get him back up to the castle for help, without anyone seeing him. Until she can insist on a fair trial for him, she doesn’t want to let him out of her sight. “And shouldn’t you have told me that Pettigrew was your spy?”

Her Tom shrugs, looking down at Sirius like Harry imagines one would at a particularly nasty insect. “It didn’t seem important at the time.”

“It never is, is it?” Harry retorts, a bite to her voice that she can’t quite stamp out. She can’t help the flare of betrayal in her chest at yet another one of Tom’s actions that has led to someone she cares about getting hurt.

A cold feeling starts to roll over Harry’s skin. “I think we have bigger problems at the moment,” the diary Tom says delicately.

Harry looks up, and her heart stops in her chest at the sight in front of her. Tens of Dementors are starting to surround them. Harry scrambles for her wand, wrapping her fingers around it with shaking determination. It’s just like another practice in Professor Lupin’s class, she tells herself. Nothing to worry about.

Except you’ve never successfully cast the spell... Tom whispers in her ear.

If you’re not going to help, shut up Harry tells him succinctly, trying to get her wits together. She points her wand at the sky.

Expecto Patronum!” She shouts, thinking of the image she has of the cabin by the sea that she and Sirius are going to live in. Together. A faint white sheen shoots out of her wand, but the Dementors bat it away like it’s nothing.

There’s a ringing in her ears, but Harry grits her teeth. She is not going to fail. Failure means Sirius’s death, and probably hers as well. She pushes to her feet as the Dementors approach across the lake. “Expecto Patronum!” She shouts again, pushing all of her will into the spell.

It’s more corporeal now, but there’s still no defined shape. “I am not going to fail,” she tells herself. The ringing in her ears has risen to a full-pitch screaming now, and Harry thinks it might be the sound of her mother. Still, she locks her knees, throws her wand at the sky. Once more, she thinks. Once more, and she’ll have it.

Expecto Patronum!” She knows she’s shouting herself hoarse now, a ragged edge of desperation in her voice. Her knees give out from under her, the blackness that’s been dancing at the edge of her vision finally kicking in, and consuming her. Before she loses sight of everything completely, she sees a bright white light fill the sky, warmth rolling over her.

 

Harry sits straight up, disoriented. She’s in what looks like the Hogwarts Hospital Wing, surrounded by blankets and pillows. The room is dark, but there’s light from underneath the door and she can hear voices approaching down the corridor.

“Harry?” Hermione’s voice hisses at her. She looks around, catching sight of the other girl two beds down from her. “Are you okay?”

Harry nods, still a little dazed, and reaches up to clutch her head. She’s got a nasty headache, and her eyes feel gritty and dry, but other than that, she feels fine. “What happened?”

“After Ronald and I got back to Hogwarts, Dumbledore had the professors search the grounds. Apparently they found you and Sirius Black in the forest. You were both unconscious, and there were Dementors everywhere. They brought you back here about an hour ago, but I haven’t seen Black.”

“You don’t think they gave him the Kiss already, do you?” A horrible anxiety fills Harry’s stomach at the thought of losing Sirius before she even got to know him. She wouldn’t put it past Dumbledore to kill Sirius before interrogating him.

Hermione just shrugs, a sympathetic look on her face. Before Harry can press her any further, the door to the Hospital Wing swings open, and Dumbledore, Snape and Fudge storm into the room.

“You must let them rest, Headmaster!” Madame Pomfrey scurries behind the three men, face beet red. “They’ve had quite a fright.”

“Ah, Miss Potter, you’re awake,” Dumbledore says, clapping his hands together. “I’m sure she will let us know if we’ve overexcited her, Poppy,” he tells Madame Pomfrey. “Won’t you, Harry?”

She nods silently, trying to assess the situation. “Good. Let us be done with this nasty business,” Fudge says, shifting uncomfortably. Tonight, he has opted for a lime green bowler hat that sets Harry’s teeth on edge.

“Miss Potter, can you tell us what happened tonight?” Dumbledore asks her softly. When she dares to meet his eyes, she sees a steel that unnerves her.

She clears her throat. She knows she has to play this the right way, has to be political. Tom slides into place in her mind, straightening her spine and providing her with the words she’ll need. “Everyone told me that Sirius Black was the reason my parents were dead,” she says softly, making sure her voice wavers. This will work better if they think she’s about to cry.

“I believed them. But tonight, when I saw Black for the first time, he told me that Peter Pettigrew was the one who betrayed them, really.”

Fudge splutters, interrupting Harry. She makes sure to keep her expression the same, despite the spike of irritation she feels. “That’s preposterous,” he says, waving a hand in the air. “The delusions of a terrified girl.”

“It’s true, Minister,” Harry says. “I saw Pettigrew with my own two eyes. So did Ron and Hermione.”

The Minister starts to blanche, turning towards Dumbledore. “Surely he must have Confunded them.” Snape starts to nod, clearly agreeing with the Minister.

Harry shakes her head again. “He didn’t, Minister. I can prove it. Surely, I can take some sort of potion that lets me tell the truth? Or Black himself, he can testify under a spell or potion too!” She makes sure to add eagerness to her voice. She needs to sound hopeful to properly convince them.

“Well...” Fudge wavers. “Black never was given a trial after the war. If Harry Potter herself comes out in favor of a trial...”

“I don’t know if that is the best idea, Cornelius,” Dumbledore says softly. “Miss Potter has been through a great shock.”

Harry interrupts. “I demand a trial,” she says. “Sirius Black is my legal godfather and guardian. What would the world think if the Girl-Who-Lived was found to be living with Muggles, even when she had a viable magical alternative?”

“Miss Potter, that is quite enough,” Snape snaps. “You have no viable magical alternative, seeing as Black is a convicted criminal.”

Harry’s face heats, but she does her best to remain in control. “Convicted on what evidence? There was no trial for him. No option to prove his innocence. And now, you have three students that say they saw Peter Pettigrew alive and well, twelve years after he was presumed dead. I demand a trial.”

Fudge hesitates again, but she can see from his face that she’s convinced him. Harry knows he knows he can’t afford to have a scandal on his hands, especially not from the corner of the Girl-Who-Lived. “The trial will take time, of course,” he says. “Black will need to be kept on house arrest until a decision has been made.”

Harry breaks out into a smile. “Thank you, sir,” she says sweetly. “The public will be relieved to know justice has been done. Especially myself.”

 

When Dumbledore leaves the Hospital Wing after Fudge, he gives Harry an appraising look. She doesn’t like the feel of his eyes on her, at all, but makes sure to beam back sunnily at him.

 

“Where are they going to take you?” Harry’s standing in front of Sirius on the top of the Astronomy Tower where he had been held until now. He’s getting ready to leave with the two Ministry officials who have been declared his official guard until his trial is resolved.

He shrugs, looking out over the Hogwarts grounds. “They haven’t told me yet. Most likely the familial home.” There’s a pang of bitterness in his voice, and Harry can tell wherever that home is, it was never a home to Sirius. The way the Dursleys will never be a home for her. “I’m sorry we can’t find our home together, yet.”

“It’s okay,” Harry says. “Better you earn your freedom first. I’m just sorry I didn’t catch Pettigrew in time.”

Sirius laughs, a barking sound that Harry suspects she’ll never grow tired of. “We’re very alike, you and I, Harry. You’re more like your father than you know.”

Harry looks down, almost uncomfortable at his words. She wants Sirius to like her of her own right, not because he thinks she’s like her father. “Thanks,” she mutters. “You know, you’re a little crazy.”

Sirius laughs again. “Am I now?” He glances at her, the rising sun beginning to filter over his face. “Some might say that about you too, if you’re not careful.”

“What do you mean?” Harry tries to evade, with an inkling of what he might be referencing.

He gives her a knowing look, taps his forehead, right where Harry’s scar would be. “Got a little voice up here, don’t you? I saw you look at someone in the Shack. Saw you touch the scar.”

Harry shuffles her feet. Tom is standing next to her, leaning against the wall. “Don’t,” he tells her. “We can’t trust him.”

She doesn’t want to lie to Sirius, though. Thinks if someone else at least knows just a little bit about what she’s going through, they could help her. So she nods slowly. “You won’t tell Dumbledore, will you?”

A sharp pain lances through her scar and she can’t help but look to where Tom is, a dark expression on his face. He shakes his head at her, eyes blue fire, and disappears. When Harry turns back to Sirius, he’s watching her with considering eyes. “No, I won’t tell Dumbledore. He hasn’t done too much for me these past few years.”

Harry gives him a slight smile, trying to convey her gratitude. “Thank you,” she says softly.

“You’ve got a lion in you, right here.” Sirius touches just over her heart, a fleeting glance.

“But I’m a Slytherin,” she says, confused.

He laughs again. “So you are. Doesn’t make you any less brave. Like I said. You’re more like your father than you know. He would be proud of you.”

Harry nods, accepting the compliment for what it is.

They watch the sun rise over the Hogwarts grounds together, standing in companionable silence. “I’m going to write you,” she tells Sirius when the Ministry officials come up to take him away. “As much as I can.”

He looks back over his shoulder at her, and in the golden light of the rising sun, he looks like the man he once was. “I’ll count on it, little lion heart.”

 

“Do you have to leave?” Harry’s swinging her legs as she sits on Lupin’s desk, watching him stuff books into his trunk. There’s an ache growing between her ribs as she contemplates losing the first teacher she’s ever trusted and respected.

“Unfortunately,” he answers. “Someone let slip my condition and no parent wants a werewolf teaching their children.” He must see the unhappy look on her face, because he smiles ruefully. “It’s for the best, Harry. This way I can focus on helping Sirius with his case.”

She nods, accepting his answer, although she’s still unhappy with the situation. “It was Snape, wasn’t it? He’s always wanted your job.”

Lupin doesn’t confirm or deny her assumption. “What’s done is done, Harry.”

The room falls into silence, save for the sound of him putting his things away. “And, seeing as I’m no longer your professor, it is no longer my duty to make sure students stay in their beds after hours.” Harry’s confused, until she sees what Lupin’s handing her way.

“The Marauder’s Map!” She exclaims happily, snatching the parchment away from him when he offers it to her. “Thank you,” she says, running her fingers over the smooth paper.

He inclines his head. “Just one question, before I go.”

Harry hums her assent.

 

“What did you think of, to cast your Patronus?” The question catches Harry off-guard. She honestly hasn’t thought that much about that night beyond Sirius’s trial. Thinking about how she let Pettigrew slip through her fingers still drives her mad.

She has to remember what was going through her mind the final time she cast the spell. “I thought about Sirius,” she says. “Or more... family, I guess.”

Harry doesn’t elaborate, but Lupin doesn’t ask her to. He looks contemplative, but then nods like he understands and smiles. The expression takes a decade off his face, and he looks like he did in the old pictures he gave Harry.

It makes her a little sad to think how the past decade have ruined the happiness of her father’s friends, and is happy she can help them, even in the smallest ways possible.

“Good-bye, Harry,” he says softly. “I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon.”

 

Hermione finds Harry out by the Black Lake. “Heard anything from Sirius about this summer?”

Harry shrugs, watching the waves ripple. “He said he was going to try to slip his guard and meet me somewhere in Muggle London for lunch if he could. We don’t want to jeopardize his trial, though, so I might not see him.”

Hermione just nods, sitting down next to Harry. Her shoulder bumps Harry’s occasionally, and Harry finds them sitting closer and closer together.

“Harry...” Hermione starts, turning her face slightly. “There’s something I want to ask you. Tell you, I guess.”

Harry makes a small noise, turning her face closer towards Hermione’s as well. From this distance, she can count the small freckles on Hermione’s skin and see the flecks of gold in her eyes.

Hermione hesitates again, opens her mouth, but doesn’t say anything. Instead, she leans in the slightest amount, and brushes her lips gently against Harry’s before pulling away.

Harry’s hands clench in the grass, and she can’t help the smile that slides across her face. “Hermione?” She asks, frozen in this time and this place, the sun on her skin, Hermione’s hair tickling her face, the breeze through her clothes.

She waits for Hermione to respond, before moving forward and repeating the action, pressing the slightest kiss against Hermione’s lips.

 

The rest of the year passes in a happy blur, although Draco is less than pleased to find out about Hermione and Harry’s new step in their friendship.

(Harry tells Draco she kissed Hermione while they’re waiting for the trolley on the train. He sputters, turns bright red, and his mouth drops open. “You’re telling me I’m going to have to see her even more now? Even after she punched me?”)

 

“Harry, we need to talk,” Tom says, once they’re back at the Dursleys’ tucked away in her room. “About this summer.”

“What about it?” Harry asks, slightly distracted. She’s just received a very confusing letter from Draco, something about the Quidditch Cup and the Bulgarian Prime Minister.

Tom doesn’t say anything, forcing her to look up at meet his gaze. He looks uncharacteristically serious. “This summer is the summer we start finding the rest of my soul.”

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you talked me into this.” Harry is doing her absolute best not to look down, but she can’t help herself, really.

“All I did was ask,” Tom answers, sounding frustratingly calm for the situation they’re in. Harry supposes he has a point, although the thought doesn’t really make her feel any better. In fact, it almost makes her feel worse, seeing as it shows the hold Tom still has over her.

She shuffles along, wishing she was anywhere else. “Still,” she retorts, “I hope you know this isn’t going to work a second time.”

“Noted,” Tom answers driely. “Next time I need you to scale a cliff, I’ll have to use force.”

Harry exhales furiously through her teeth. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“Oh, no, I understand perfectly. This is a good thing to know for our future together, Harry.” If she didn’t know him any better, Harry would say Tom is mocking her. Actually, the more she thinks about it, the more she thinks he is actually mocking her.

“You’re not helping your case,” Harry answers. She swears as her foot slides off the edge of the ledge.

Currently, she and Tom are about 50 feet in the air above the sea, rocks jetting out of the water beneath them. Apparently, when Tom was a child, he thought it would be fun to take some of his peers to a cave hidden in the cliff just for some childish fun.

By childish fun, Harry very much understands Tom did his absolute best to terrorize those children by making them follow him. He’s doing a pretty damn good job of terrorizing her at this moment in time, as well. Then, to top things off, Tom had so much fun terrifying his peers, he decided to immortalize the moment by hiding a piece of his soul in said cave.

Harry laughed when he had first told her, back at the Dursleys. When he’d told her they would be hunting down the other pieces of his soul, Harry hadn’t realized he’d been completely serious. While Tom wasn’t one to joke about much, she figured he still had some sense of humor.

She quickly learned the error of her ways.

In fact, she thinks he’s making her do this in retaliation for her laughter when he first brought the idea up to her. “You can kill him later, you can kill him later, you can kill him later,” she chants, her teeth chattering.

Although it’s summer, wherever they are in England has yet to get the memo, and the wind whips mercilessly through Harry’s jumper.

“That’s the spirit,” Tom says, clearly hearing her mantra.

Finally, Harry is able to pull herself into safety. Her arms ache and her hands are still shaking slightly, but at least she isn’t moments away from plummeting to her death. She slides further into the cave when Tom appears. His hair is windswept and his cheeks are slightly pink and he looks more attractive than he usually does, which Harry finds distinctly unfair.

“We could have brought my broom,” Harry says sullenly. Tom doesn’t even dignify her with an answer, instead choosing to glance around the cave they’ve ended up in.

He runs his hand along the stone, clearly looking for something.

“What are you looking for?” Harry trails behind him, vaguely curious, but not overly invested. If she’s being completely honest with herself, she doesn’t really want to find another Horcrux at all. She’s a little concerned about what Tom’s going to do with it, and she doesn’t really fancy adding another bit of soul to her mind.

Tom stops abruptly and Harry runs into his back. “If you would be quiet, it might help.”

Harry frowns at his back. “You don’t need to be so rude about it.”

“Give me your hand,” Tom orders, holding out a hand. Harry sees the sharp gleam of a knife in his free hand.

She instinctively clutches her hand to her chest. “Why? What are you going to do? Where did you even get that?”

Tom rolls his eyes and grabs her hand, forcing it towards him. “I need your blood,” he says. “This isn’t going to hurt you, so calm down.”

With that, he drags the blade down her palm. “Ah!” Harry cringes away from him, but his grip is iron on her wrist.

“Stop struggling,” Tom orders, voice leaving no room for discussion. He drags her closer to him, presses her palm against a rock on the wall. The blood seems to do something, because the wall seems to swing open, leaving a dark path in front of them. “See, that wasn’t bad now, was it?”

“Don’t patronize me,” Harry hisses, tugging her hand out of his grip. Tom lets her go, following her with inscrutable eyes. He silently hands a bandage out to her, and Harry wraps it tightly around her hand.

Finally, Tom inclines his head. “After you,” he says, swinging out his arm. Harry glares at him heatedly, but enters the cave.

“If something jumps out to kill me, I’m going to kill you,” Harry says quietly, not wanting to disturb whatever might be lurking in the dark.

Tom laughs behind her, and Harry is thankful when it’s his normal voice, not the high laughter of her nightmares. “Trust me, Harry, I wouldn’t let anything happen to you. You die, I die, remember.”

Harry frowns, but continues silently. The reminder doesn’t really make her feel any better, but she’s already come this far, so turning back now would be pointless. Maybe whichever part of his soul they’re looking for will be kinder than the two in her head, although she doubts it.

The tunnel they’re in eventually empties out into what looks like a large, underground lake. In the middle of the lake there’s an island of sorts, with what looks like a bird bath in the middle. The water of the lake is lit by some sort of eerie green light. Harry wonders where it came from, but figures it’s better to not ask.

She’s distracted by the sound of Tom splashing around in the water. She turns to look at him, watches as he pulls a rope out of the water, a boat appearing out of the water. The sound of the water splashing sets off alarm bells in Harry’s head, even though she can’t explain why.

“In you get,” Tom says, ushering Harry onto the boat. “And do your best not to fall out. That would be bad.”

Harry eyes the water warily again, but does as Tom says. The further into the lake they get, the more Harry wishes she’d never stepped onto the boat. There doesn’t seem to be anything strange in the water, even if the green light is still putting her on edge, but she doesn’t let her guard down regardless.

Finally, they reach the island in the middle, and Harry scrambles off the boat. She feels much more comfortable with land under her feet. When she turns to face Tom, she can see the amusement plain on his face. He takes his time mooring the boat, before strolling to the podium in the middle.

A pleased grin cuts across his face, and the expression is so out of place on him that Harry gets a chill. “Come here, Harry,” Tom demands, holding his hand out. There’s an imperious ring to his voice and Harry reluctantly obeys, although she’s starting to believe more and more that this might be one of her worst ideas.

He’s holding a shell-like cup in his hand, which Harry sees is slightly damp. In the basin rests an ornate locket, underneath a pool of clear liquid. “Is that water?” She questions, leaning up to see better.

“Sort of. Here, drink.” He hands her the shell, watches her with dark eyes.

Harry takes it reluctantly. “What is it?” She remembers Tom saying that if she dies, he dies, which makes her feel a little better, but she’s sure that excludes things like torture or maiming.

“Just drink it.” There’s a pressure building in her head and she can tell Tom’s losing his patience with her.

Her hand slightly trembles as she lifts the shell towards her mouth, but she drinks the liquid it contains. Immediately, her mouth dries. She almost feels like she’s choking, and there’s a low pain spreading down her throat. “Tom,” she says, exhaling his name softly. “Water, please, Tom.”

He stays silent, takes the shell back, refills it. “You have to drink it all. One more, you can do it.” Harry must take the cup and drink the liquid, because her mouth dries even further and her throat bursts out into fire.

Harry loses her balance, slides to the ground. She’s leaning up against the basin now, and the only thing she can focus on is the burning in her throat.

A cool hand on her face drags her attention towards Tom. He’s bending down, studying her with a clinical detachment. “Interesting,” he says softly, so quiet Harry thinks she’s not supposed to hear. “Water for you,” he says, brushing the back of his fingers down her cheek. The touch grounds her, so she obediently opens her mouth. “Good girl,” he murmurs.

She cringes away when the liquid isn’t water. She looks at him in betrayal. “I know, I know,” he soothes. “I know it hurts. But this is the only way, Harry.”

She cries out in pain as he forces another swallow of the potion down her throat. “Is this really the only way?” When Harry looks up at Tom again, she thinks her vision’s gone double, because two of him are standing before her.

It takes Harry a moment before she remembers there really are two of them and they must have split. “Yes.” The Tom on the left says tightly. “Are you going to be a problem?” The Tom to the right, holding a shell in his hands, shakes his head.

Harry blinks and they’ve merged into one again. “No, no, no,” she whimpers when he approaches her again. “I don’t want to. Don’t make me, Tom, please, please, don’t make me, I don’t want to.” Her voice rises in pitch as she begs, and any other time Harry would be mortified by the pleading but she can’t bring herself to think of anything past the burning pain in her throat.

“Shh,” Tom hushes her. “It’s going to be okay, Harry. I’m going to take care of you. Didn’t I tell you I would take care of you?”

Harry’s confused for a moment as she tries to remember what he’s talking about, and he takes advantage of her disorientation to force another serving of the potion down her throat. Harry closes her eyes, a film of tears blurring her vision. Tom strokes her hair with one hand, and holds the cup in the other, nudging her lips. Wearily, she opens her mouth and lets him feed her the potion.

When she reopens her eyes, she’s back at the Dursleys, locked in the cupboard under the stairs. “No,” she moans, turning her head to the side. She’s trying to open the door, but she’s been locked in. “Let me out,” she half-sobs, turning her head the other way. There’s a pain in her wrist, and when she looks down, her hand is hanging at an awkward angle from her body.

There’s a slamming on the door, and Harry jumps back in fright. “Girl!” Uncle Vernon shouts, and Harry cowers back. She doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to be seeing this. She hears the sound of Vernon’s belt, feels the burn on her back.

“Harry,” Tom’s voice breaks her out of the vision as he turns her head to face him. He touches her face lightly. “You’re doing so well. One more. Can you do that for me?”

She shakes her head no, but he gently pushes the cup against her mouth until she opens it. Her face is wet with tears, she thinks.

When she closes her eyes to blink them away, she opens them to a graveyard. Raindrops hit her skin, and she looks up to see clouds coating the sky. When she looks back down, she’s moved in front of a grave. Harry kneels down, reaching out to touch the gravestone. She sees the name engraved into the stone and her heart stops. It’s Sirius’s, and Harry topples over backwards, trying to get away from the grave as fast as she can.

“No, no, no,” she says. “You’re not real. You’re not going to die.”

But as she’s turning, more graves slide slowly out of the ground, barring her in. They form a circle around her, until Harry’s on her knees, frantically trying to escape. She sees more names. Hermione and Fred and her mother and her father and Lupin and Draco.

Harry closes her eyes, tries to block out the sight. “You’re not real!” She screams.

“It is real, Harry,” Tom says. She opens her eyes, sees him standing outside the ring of graves.

“Tom?” She reaches out to him, hand shaking. “Help me, please.”

He watches her with cold eyes. “Why would I want to help you? Why would anyone want to help you?”

Harry shakes her head, not understanding. Tom is supposed to care for her, supposed to take care of her.

He smirks like he can read her mind. “Is that what you think, Harry? That at the end of the day, even if everyone leaves you, I’ll still be here?”

Harry is frozen, unable to move or make a sound.

Nodding, Tom takes one small step forward. A cruel smile slides across his face and his eyes burn red. His features turn waxy and blurry until he no longer resembles the Tom she knows. When he speaks again, it’s like he’s whispering into her ear. “Everyone will leave you,” he says. “Once they find out the truth. And when they do, you’ll be of no use to me. I’ll kill you like I tried to do years ago.”

A cold, high laugh echoes through her mind.

 

“Harry?” Someone is shaking her lightly. She stirs, twitching her fingers slightly. She’s cold, and there’s a parched feeling in her mouth.

She blinks, trying to clear out the grittiness of her eyes. “Tom?” His face gradually comes into focus in front of her, and he looks tense. “Is everything okay?” She grimaces. “I need water.”

He nods, resigned. “You were screaming,” he tells her, matter of fact. “My name.”

Harry flushes. Although she’s embarrassed, the thirst overpowers anything else she might have felt. “Water,” she repeats. “I need water.” Tom leans back, putting his weight onto his ankles as he looks at her with consideration, like he’s trying to figure out what she’s going to do next.

“I can’t conjure water for you in the cave. We’re going to have to leave. Can you walk?”

Harry shakes her head. “The lake,” she says, forgetting her earlier reservations about the water. She starts to drag herself towards the water, an uncontrollable urge to drink it dictating her movements.

“No, Harry.” Tom catches her around the waist. Harry struggles, hitting at him weakly, but she’s too drained to cause any damage. “You can’t drink that.” He pauses. “Bad things live in this lake. We need to leave, get you somewhere safe.”

She thrashes against him for as long as she can, before she slumps, almost lifeless in his arms. Tom picks her up, seemingly unbothered by her weight and deposits her in the boat. He settles in and drags her closer to him, so her head is resting over his heart. She laughs a little.

“What?” His voice is muffled.

“You have a heart,” Harry mumbles, slurring her words. “I didn’t know it still beat.”

Tom exhales a laugh. “Sleep,” he commands. “I will wake you.”

 

When Harry wakes up, it’s night. She rolls over, only to realize she’s not in her bed at the Dursleys. Sitting straight up, she gets a nasty rush to the head. She slams her eyes closed, holding a hand up to her forehead to try and settle herself.

“I wouldn’t move so fast if I were you,” Tom says, somewhere to her left. “That potion isn’t kind to anyone.”

Harry opens her eyes again, slowly this time. “What do you mean?” Her voice is hoarse, like she hasn’t used it in a while. “How long have I been asleep?” She finally sees Tom, sitting in an armchair in the corner of whatever room they’re in. She thinks it might be the Leaky Cauldron, but she’s still too disoriented to know for sure.

“Two days,” he says. “You were touch and go for a while. You had me worried.” He leans forward, and the moonlight shutters across his face. He looks absolutely horrible, Harry thinks, with a small amount of vindication. There are dark circles under his eyes and his hair looks like he’s been running his hands through it relentlessly.

“Two days?” Harry repeats, shock coloring her voice.

Tom stands, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. He stares down at his hands. “I’ve never... tested the effects of the potion on someone I wanted to live. Afterwards.”

Harry frowns. “So, you just let me be your guinea pig?”

He gives a vicious shake of his head. “No,” he snaps. “You weren’t supposed to be affected the way you were.” Harry watches as his hands clench into fists, and wonders at the idea that he might have feared her death.

“I thought you weren’t afraid of anything,” Harry says. Tom turns to look sharply at her, frowning. She smiles at him, brightly even though she still feels weak and sluggish, not quite herself. The visions she saw while under the influence of the potion are still fresh in her mind, but Harry does her best to push them to the side.

His face softens minutely, and he holds an arm out for her. She struggles out from the tangle of blankets, crawling across the bed until Tom’s arm can wrap around her shoulders. His body is warmer than usual, and she curls into his side, closing her eyes in an attempt to block out the graves hovering at the sides of her vision.

Tom’s thumb digs into the side of her shoulder, before rubbing a small circle. His grip is vice-like, but Harry’s surprised to find she doesn’t mind all that much. “I won’t put you in that position again,” he says. “Not that it was worth anything in the end, anyways.”

At his last words, a sharp spike of pain stabs through her scar, and Harry realizes how tight of a lid Tom must be keeping on his fury. Now that she’s paying attention she can sense his anger, bubbling against the surface. “What do you mean?” Her voice is slightly muffled by his body, but by the way he tenses, Harry knows he’s heard her.

He shifts slightly, his arm tightening around her. A gold chain is dangled into her line of vision. It’s a thick locket, a slight overlay in green stones on the front. “It’s a fake,” he says, voice devoid of emotion. His hand clenches on her shoulder, tightening almost to the point of pain. She bears it, knowing how furious he must have been when he discovered his soul had been stolen.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, reaching one of her hands up to grab the necklace. “Who?”

Tom shifts again, a sound rising in his chest that almost sounds like growl. “Regulus Black.”

“Black?” Harry asks. “As in Sirius?” She knows she should move away, should keep her weight off him, but his grip is so secure she feels like she’ll never fall apart with him by her side.

Tom is silent for a moment. “His brother.” He pauses again. “He’s dead now. In fact, I’m sure he must have died trying to steal this locket.”

“So, where is the real one?”

Tom pauses before answering, pulling her closer than Harry thought possible.

“I don’t know, Harry.” His voice is ice, a thin, trembling rage stretched so thin, it could snap at any second. “But I plan on finding it.”

 

The Dursleys only seem to notice Harry has been missing for close to a week when she returns, albeit reluctantly, to their house. She wishes she could go to where Sirius is being kept on house arrest by the Ministry, but apparently her appearance there would be bad for his trial.

He’s been having preliminary interviews, and Harry even had to submit her account of events from the night she discovered the truth. She had hoped Sirius would be there when she went before the Ministry council, but she discovered he hasn’t been allowed to leave the house he’s been placed in. Tom frowned upon the idea of her trying to find him, so Harry’s put the idea on the backburner for the time being, despite how much she misses him and having someone who treats her like family.

The Dursleys certainly treat her subpar, as usual. The second she walks through the back door, exhausted from her week travelling up and down the country, Petunia pounces on her, acting like Harry’s murdered her beloved pet, or something equally ridiculous. “Where have you been?” She demands, whipping a dish towel to the side of Harry’s head.

She doesn’t flinch, just straightens up slightly, clenches her jaw. “I decided to go camping,” she says dryly, stepping backwards, out of Petunia’s reach.

Her aunt flushes, and Harry watches the muscle in her jaw twitch. “Upstairs,” she orders, pointing towards the ceiling. “You leave for that long again without permission, you won’t be allowed to come back.”

Harry turns, rolling her eyes once her back is to her aunt. “What a shame that would be,” she mutters under her breath, heading up the stairs.

Now that she’s back where she lives, Harry feels a bone-deep exhaustion. She collapses into her bed for the first time that week, throwing an arm across her face. She can feel the exact moment Tom extracts himself from her mind. Curiously, he decides to hover over her, his weight bracketing her down into the bed. “Where did you put it?”

She rolls her eyes. “Right pocket,” she says, yawning widely. The bed shifts with Tom as he moves, and moments later, Harry feels his fingers pressing against her leg as he tugs the locket from her pocket. The bed shifts again as he moves, and she starts slightly when he presses his fingers against her neck.

“Lift your head,” he orders. Harry does as he says, eyes still closed. A few seconds pass before the feeling of cool metal drapes around her neck. When Harry feels him pull away, she lays back down. Letting her arm rest back by her side, she looks down at the locket now hanging around her neck. Tom moves, sitting with his back against the wall, throwing his legs over hers.

Harry touches the locket gingerly, feeling the ridges of the metal and the smooth green stones. “Why am I wearing this?”

Tom stares down at her with an inscrutable look. “It’s a placeholder,” he says cryptically. “You’ll understand.”

 

The house is dark.

A light flickers in a third-story window, drawing her attention. The house has been abandoned for years. She can taste the surprise in the air.

The man stiffens

He sighs. It’s late. He wants to go to sleep.

He lights the lamp, takes the keys off the wall, moves toward the house. It’s cold. The air nips at her. She dreams of the fire and the warmth she was ordered to leave.

He is grumbling under his breath. “Those bastard kids...”

She grows hungry. Hopes he will let her taste this one.

She trails after him.

He is half-deaf, isn’t quiet as he breaks branches and stomps on the gravel. She is so close to him, if he stepped back, he would hit her.

He does not notice.

He fumbles with his keys.

The jangling noise they make screech across her and she wants to hiss in displeasure.

If she did, he would not hear her.

Finally he enters the house. It is dark. She can sense the scuttling of smaller creatures, fleeing the light and the cold air.

She wants to chase them down, taste their blood.

She stays in position.

“Hello?” He is calling out now. He is moving towards the staircase. The low swell of voices slithers down the stairs.

He moves forward. He bumps into a table, swears loudly.

She follows behind him, silent, stealthy, stalking.

He climbs the stairs. Feet disturb the dust. She tastes his fear.

It is sweet.

He does not call out again.

The voices swell again.

He is climbing the stairs. He reaches the hall. He moves down the hall.

His hand is shaking.

Firelight flickers. A door is slightly open. He leans closer. His breath is rattling in his chest.

In and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out.

“Master,” someone says, trembling.

There is a hissing noise that sends shivers down her spine.

A different voice. Too low to hear. It rises. “...won’t let you down.”

The man leans forward too far. Stumbles into the room. She follows behind, following, following, following.

Always following.

He makes a noise of surprise. There are two men in the room. “Turn me...” One of them moves, turning around so the small bundle in his arms is facing forward. “My wand...”

“Avada Kedavra!”

The man falls forward, slowly, suspended in time.

“Pet...” the bundle hisses at her, in her language. “Feed....”

She moves forward, opening her jaws, biting biting biting.

 

Harry shoots forward in bed, hands reaching up to clutch her throat. She can’t breathe for a terrifying moment, before her breath rushes back into her like a punch to the stomach. Her chest heaves for breath, and she starts coughing, still clutching at her throat.

“Harry?” Tom’s appeared by her side, sounding unusually panicked. “What’s wrong?”

She tries to wave him off. Finally she calms down, but her scar is prickling uncomfortably. “I...” she trails off. “I had a strange dream, I think.”

His eyes narrow. “What kind of dream?” It’s the Tom from the diary tonight, and he looks more ruffled than usual.

She shakes her head. “I can’t remember. It was in... a house, I think. What time is it anyway?”

“2:32 am,” he answers, placing two fingers under her chin and turning her face towards him. “You look paler than usual. Are you sure you’re okay?”

She nods again. “I’m fine, I swear. Whatever I saw must have startled me, that’s all.” Harry meets his gaze head-on, doing her best not to break eye contact. He watches her suspiciously for a moment longer, before dipping his chin. His fingers rest against her skin for a moment longer, hand sliding up to cup her cheek. He taps a thumb against the apple of her cheek, looking at her consideringly.

“Okay,” he concedes. “Go back to sleep, then. I’m here if you need me.”

Harry pulls the blankets back up over her body, settling back down. She’s strangely touched by his display of concern. It’s nice, she thinks, to have someone who worries about her.

As she drifts off to sleep again, she absently thinks her mouth tastes like blood.

 

Harry crosses her arms over her chest. “No matter what, I refuse to drink anything you might try to give me.” She gives Tom an unimpressed look. “Just so you know.”

He looks back at her, deadpan. “I don’t think that will be necessary. Move.”

Harry glances back at the house in front of her. It’s decrepit, rundown, and Harry thinks she sees what looks like a dead snake nailed above the door. “You really hid part of your soul here?” She shuffles reluctantly towards the door.

Tom places an instant hand against her back, pushing gently. “Yes,” he sighs, like he’s about to explain his reasoning to her for the fifth time that day. Which, to be fair to Tom, he is. “This place has sentimental value to me.”

The place where they are connected, hand to back, burns. “You understand the idea of sentiment?” Harry smirks. “I didn’t know you could.”

Tom’s push turns into more of a shove. “Very funny,” he says, tonelessly. Harry snickers to herself, pleased at having gotten under his skin.

Still, the closer they get to the house, the more a sense of foreboding writhes in her stomach. “Are you sure it’s abandoned?” She hisses over her shoulder at him, trying to wriggle away from his touch so she doesn’t have to go into the house.

“I’m sure,” he answers grimly. Harry doesn’t like the tone of his voice.

“Do you at least remember what sort of protections you put on this one?” Tom doesn’t answer that question, and his non-responsiveness hadn’t given her much confidence.

“You’ll be fine,” he says, reading her mind. “Don’t worry.” With that, he pushes her forward into the house.

Harry’s first impression of it is that it’s rather dusty. She sneezes, and then again, and then once more, before she can look around further, her eyes watering slightly. She also thinks it looks rather rundown. There are scorch marks on the wall, and half the furniture is tipped on its side. Harry kicks absently at a piece of glass. “You’d think you would want somewhere a little nicer for the resting place of your soul.”

Tom ignores her, running his hands along the wall, clearly looking for something. “I won’t go into another cave, just so you know,” Harry informs him.

His form flickers briefly, and then two Toms are infront of her. One of them looks over his shoulder at Harry, frowning, before continuing his search. The other moves towards her, a cruel smile dancing on his face. Harry takes that as her cue that the one searching is her Tom, and the one throwing his arm around her shoulders is the diary.

“If there is another cave, I’ll go first, eh?” Harry frowns up at him. He grins, an uncomforting expression on his face.

“He didn’t tell you what we’re looking for?” Her Tom ignores them both, now pulling up floorboards.

The diary shrugs, looking unconcerned. “A ring of some sort. Not nearly as exciting as Slytherin’s locket.”

“Here it is,” her Tom says, catching both of their attention. The Tom at her shoulder disappears, as they merge back into one. He’s holding an ornate box, which he unlatches with gusto.

Harry peers over her shoulder. There’s no other word for it, the ring is ugly. “I’m not putting that on,” she informs Tom.

He frowns at her, a dark expression crossing his face. “Give me your hand.”

“No,” she pulls away from him, tucking both her hands behind her back. “You are not putting that on me. It looks cursed.”

Tom rolls his eyes, a gesture Harry thinks he picked up from her. “Don’t be ridiculous. Come here.”

She takes another step backwards in response. “No. You are not putting that on me. I’m telling you, it’s cursed. Don’t you remember cursing it?” She does to take another step backwards, but instead bumps into someone.

Twisting around to see who it is, she realizes with dawning horror, that she’s run into the Tom from the diary. Her Tom, still holding the ring box, takes a step forward. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he says lowly.

Tom’s hands on her shoulders are burning. Harry feels like she’s being branded. “It’s cursed,” she repeats. “Look at it!” There’s a note of growing hysteria in her voice that she’s not proud of, but the closer the ring gets to her, the more she thinks putting it on might kill her.

“Stop,” Tom says from behind her. At first, Harry thinks he’s talking to her, but when her Tom freezes, she realizes he was talking to the other part of his soul. “You didn’t even check. Don’t you remember what happened with the locket?”

“He’s in here,” her Tom responds, icily. “I can feel it. Can’t you?”

Harry pushes backwards into Tom’s hold, trying to put even more space between her and the ring. He wraps an arm around her chest in response, holding her against him. Harry finds the touch more comforting than confining, seeing as how her Tom still isn’t moving closer to them.

“I can feel him,” Tom says lowly, behind her. “But I can also feel the dark magic that Harry is. Can’t you?”

Her Tom wavers, glancing down at the ring. Harry can see the longing in his eyes. He wants to rejoin with this part of his soul, Harry can tell. Still, she doesn’t want that ring anywhere near her. “We could take it with us.”

The Tom behind her must disapprove, because her Tom only hesitates a moment longer, before closing the box. He tucks it back under the floorboards, lingering for a second longer than he should, before he slides into his spot in Harry’s mind.

She lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. Her body slumps against Tom’s, and his arm tightens across her chest for a moment, in a strange backwards half-hug. “Thank you, for stopping him,” she says quietly.

He tenses so minutely Harry wouldn’t notice if she weren’t pressed up against his body, before relaxing. “He would have killed you,” Tom answers. “He didn’t mean to, but he would have.” He releases her, using his hand on her shoulder to turn her around so she’s facing him. “I won’t let him do that to you.”

Absently, he pushes a piece of her hair behind her ear. “Come on,” he says. “Let’s get you out of here.”

 

When Harry sneaks back into the Dursleys house at around nine the next night, no one is awake, waiting for her. She had only been gone for a day, at most, so it’s likely they didn’t realize she was missing. Or they just didn’t care if she had died or gone missing, which Harry thinks is the most likely scenario.

She climbs up the stairs gingerly, pausing every other step to check for the Dursleys. When no sound is forthcoming, she continues up, shutting her bedroom door gently behind her. Harry turns around, only to have her heart jump halfway up her throat at the sight of three owls in front of her. They’re perched around her room, and a cool breeze floats into her room from the open window.

Harry remembers belatedly that she left her window open when she left so Hedwig could come and go as she pleased while Harry was gone. “Hello,” she says, rather unnecessarily.

Hedwig, perched on her cage, hoots softly, flying towards Harry and landing on her outstretched arm. Hedwig holds out her leg, where a package has been attached. Harry gently unties the package, tosses it onto her bed, and strokes a hand down her feathers gently. “Thank you,” she says softly, and Hedwigs gives her a small nip on her fingers before hooting again and flying out the window.

“It’s your birthday,” Tom says off-hand, lounging on her bed. Harry didn’t see him appear, but she’s not startled, used to his behavior. “Happy birthday, Harry.”

She glances at him, sees he’s being serious, and smiles in response. “Thank you.”

The other owl she recognizes as Draco’s owl, and it just has a letter for her, which she takes gingerly. She realized through an unfortunate incident that his owl is very particular about what’s said to him. Harry quickly learned never to make that mistake again.

Harry doesn’t recognize the third owl. It’s tawny and looks a little more than bedraggled. She offers it some water from Hedwig’s cage while she unties the package from its leg, feeling a little sorry for it. “Here you go,” she says, and the owl hoots softly, shuffling further into the cage.

“A true humanitarian,” Tom says, mocking, from his position lounged out on her bed.

Harry ignores him. She decides to open Hedwig’s package first, remembering that the last person she sent her owl to had been Hermione. Inside, there are two envelopes. Curious, Harry dumps them out on her bed, sitting cross-legged next to Tom. She elbows him out of the way, and gets a flicker of pain in her scar for her trouble.

The first envelope she picks up is a letter from Sirius, and Harry can’t help the smile that crosses her face at the sight of his familiar scrawl.

Little lion,

Life is boring here. I’m still not allowed to tell you where I am, and I’m mostly certain that the Ministry guards have been reading my letters. Well, not this one, seeing as Hedwig came by my window unannounced at around 3am and wouldn’t stop pecking at the glass until I let her in. Bloody brilliant bird you have there. I’m still not sure how she found me, but she did.

Beyond that, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. This is the first birthday I’ll be able to celebrate with you since you were a baby. Doesn’t feel right to celebrate it apart, after all this time, so I’ve written a letter to see if we could meet to celebrate in person. If not, don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll see each other sooner than you think.

Write back soon, and I’ll send your gift back with Hedwig. A little something so we can stay in touch without having to wait on the wonderful, but slow, process of owls. I’m thinking of you. I’m missing you.

All my love,
Sirius

P.S. how’s the friend in your head doing? Tell him I say hello...

Harry re-reads the letter again, immediately after finishing. She and Sirius have done their best to exchange letters regularly, but it’s still been difficult, especially since her owl has to go to the Ministry before she can go to wherever Sirius is. This is the first letter they’ve exchanged that hasn’t gone through the invasive process, and she can tell from Sirius’s words that he’s as thrilled about it as she is.

Her eyes linger on the last sentence, before she glances up at Tom. “He says hello,” she says after a moment. Tom eyes her blankly, his poker face firmly in place.

“Does he now?” Tom holds his hand out to read the letter, and Harry gingerly gives it to him. She and Tom have discussed the repercussions of Sirius knowing about her live-in mind guest, but he’s still displeased by the whole matter. They avoid the subject, so neither side becomes too upset.

He’s silent for a moment as he reads over the letter. “This isn’t going to end well,” he tells her, handing the letter back to her when he’s finished. “I do believe I told you that already.”

Harry shakes her head. “Sirius would never betray me.”

“Not willingly,” Tom points out, falling silent when Harry glares venomously at him. He holds his hands up in surrender, handing her the other letter from Hedwig’s package as a peace offering.

Harry smiles despite herself when she sees Hermione’s familiar, tidy handwriting.

Dear Harry,

Happy birthday! I hope everything is going swell and the Dursleys aren’t treating you too horribly. We get back from France tomorrow, so if you need, you’re always welcome to come stay with us for the rest of the summer. Unless you’re going to the Malfoys soon, but I think you’d have much more fun here, anyway. My parents are very eager to meet you, they haven’t stopped talking about you, I swear.

It’s almost like they love you more than me, and they haven’t even met you yet! Not that I can blame them, you are quite loveable. Anyway, have you heard from Ronald at all this summer? Apparently his father got tickets to the Quidditch World Cup and he’s invited me to join them. I was thinking about saying yes, but I wouldn’t want to go without you there. Of course, I’m not one for Quidditch, but how often does one get to say they went to the World Cup for free? He mentioned something about you possibly coming, but I wanted to double check.

I miss you dearly, and I cannot wait for the school year to start again. Maybe we could meet in Diagon Alley, to get supplies, if nothing else works out. Let me know what you think.

Happy birthday again! I’ve included a small gift, something from a book of magical tales I found in France. I hope you like it.

All my love,
Hermione xo

Harry peers into the envelope curiously, pulling out a gold chain. Dangling from it is a strange pendent, unlike anything Harry has ever seen before. It’s a triangle, with a circle in the middle of it, and a stick cutting both the triangle and circle in half. “What does it mean?” She looks up at Tom.

He shrugs, narrowing his eyes at the charm. “I believe it’s the sign of the Deathly Hallows. A children’s fairytale.”

Harry traces the shape of the triangle with her fingernail. The chain is long enough she can pull the necklace over her head without unlatching it. The charm tucks underneath her shirt, resting over her sternum. It joins the fake locket, and Harry almost laughs. Two of the most important people in her life, with their signs hanging around her neck.

“It’s beautiful,” she murmurs, looking back down at Hermione’s letter.

Tom hums, eyes focused intently on her neck, where the golden chain of Hermione’s necklace overlaps with the gold chain of Tom’s locket. It’s seen as a sign of dark magic in some circles her Tom offers his input, stirring from where he was resting at the back of her mind. Don’t go waving it around.

Harry wants to roll her eyes, but she knows Tom is right. Enough people already think Harry is a budding dark lord for her to encourage those kind of rumors.

Tucking Hermione’s letter under her pillow for further reading later that night when Tom isn’t watching her every move, Harry moves onto the letter from Draco’s owl. It’s short, just a few lines scrawled hastily.

Harry,

Happy birthday. We’ve got box seats with the Minister for the Quidditch World Cup. We’ll pick you up from the Muggles tomorrow.

Cheers,
Draco

“Great,” Harry moans. “I have to spend more time with the Malfoys.”

Tom peers at the letter in her hand. “Maybe Lucius is less suspicious of us.”

“I doubt it,” Harry says moodily. “He’s probably planning on killing me while we’re there.”

“I hardly think Lucius is going to kill you at one of the most popular wizarding events of the year.” Tom pauses for a moment. “He’s much too smart for that.”

Harry points a finger at him. “Aha! So, you agree that he is plotting my death.”

Tom grabs her finger, pulling her gently towards him, his hand moving to grab her wrist. He keeps pulling until she’s leaning against him. “In the event that Lucius Malfoy attempts to kill you, our plans will adapt accordingly. Keep in mind, Harry, that Draco most likely regards you as his closest friend. His father will not forget that so quickly.”

Harry sighs, but lets it go. If Tom wants to comfort her in that way, she’s not going to say no. “Fine. But when he does try to kill me, you’re going to owe me one.”

Tom looks amused. “If you say so.”

Rolling her eyes, Harry moves onto the final package, from the owl she doesn’t recognize. She opens the letter first, saving the rest of the package which looks strangely lumpy for later.

Harry-kins,

Ronald let it slip that it’s your birthday today. We thought we’d wish you a happy birthday, seeing as we are trying to win your favor so in the uprising, you’ll remember us favorably. We also want your opinions on the potions included below, they’re not working as they should. Included are the ingredients we used. If you’re truly desperate, you can feed them to your cousin. That would be very entertaining, for everyone involved.

As we’re sure you’ve heard, we’re going to the Quidditch World Cup, and we’re sure you’ll be there as well. Come say hi to us, so our mother can finally believe we’re not making you up. Happy birthday!

Fred & George Weasley

Harry pulls back the brown paper of the package, catching the glint of potions bottles. She laughs, setting the package gently under her bed for further examination. She’s touched they remembered her, and excited to see them at the Quidditch Cup.

“They’re ridiculous,” Tom says, reading the letter they had sent. “You’re sure you don’t want to curse them? I wouldn’t mind.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “You’re ridiculous. Why do you hate them so much?”

She lays down on her bed, pulling the blankets around her. There’s barely any space, since Tom is still lounging across the whole bed, almost too long to fit. They’re pressed together, her shoulder meeting the middle of his chest. The blankets separate them, but Harry can feel the heat radiating off him.

Her eyes flutter closed as she waits for Tom’s answer. “They’re going to break your heart,” he murmurs lowly, brushing a hand across her forehead. “You won’t be able to stay friends with them forever.”

Harry turns her head slightly, so she can look at his face. “What do you mean?”

Instead of answering, Tom shifts slightly. He presses a gentle kiss to her scar, achingly soft. Her breath catches in her throat. “You’re different, Harry,” he says, so soft she almost can’t hear him. “You’ll come to realize that in time.”

Her eyes close again, against her will as Tom eases her into sleep. His fingers have tangled in her hair, and the feeling of them running through her curls calm her. “Happy birthday,” he whispers, and she wouldn’t have caught it if they weren’t so close.

 

The Malfoys arrive promptly at noon. Harry’s sitting on the stoop of the Durselys’ house, her trunk beside her and Hedwig’s empty cage behind her. She had told her aunt she would be picked up and wouldn’t be returning until next summer. Petunia hadn’t seemed too torn up about it.

Mr. Malfoy hadn’t shown, but Draco and Mrs. Malfoy were walking up the street. Draco waves when he catches sight of her. Harry gets to her feet, brushing off her skirt. “Into the lion’s den,” she mutters under her breath to Tom, standing a half-step behind her.

“Into the snake pit, rather,” he says. Harry snorts in spite of herself.

“Harry, dear, how are you?” Mrs. Malfoy asks once she’s closer to Harry.

Harry gives her a small smile, making sure to seem polite. “I’m well, thank you. And yourself?”

Mrs. Malfoy gives Harry a small smile in return. “Quite well, thank you. My, your manners, I almost how forgot how polite and lovely you were. Draco talks about you quite often, you know.”

Harry glances to Draco, whose cheeks have turned a light shade of pink. “Mother, please,” he says, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He’s grown taller over the summer, a little lankier. “Happy birthday, Harry,” he says, and Harry smiles brightly at him.

 

“Over this way,” Draco says, tugging on Harry’s sleeve. After they had arrived at the Malfoy Manor, Harry’s things had been deposited in the room she was accustomed to staying in. Draco had been acting oddly the entire time they were with his mother, and he’d barely said anything to her the whole trip.

Now, he’s pulling her across the grounds, towards the Quidditch Pitch where he and Harry had spent countless hours the past summer. “What’s wrong?”

Draco looks over his shoulder, like he’s trying to see if anyone’s following them. “Not here,” he says, his hand a vice around Harry’s wrist.

What do you think’s bothering him? She asks Tom, slightly concerned.

I think we’re about to find out Tom answers.

When they reach the Quidditch Pitch, Draco pulls Harry into the broom shed, latching the door behind them. He glances around the shed, even checking under a shelf. “What’s going on?” She asks. “Why are you acting so weird?”

Draco finally turns to her, a wild light in his eyes. “I think my father wants me to spy on you,” he says in a rapid exhale. Harry blinks. “I think he’s been reading my letters to you. I don’t know for how long. I don’t know why. He’s scaring me.”

Harry blinks again. The news that Lucius Malfoy might have been spying on her through Draco doesn’t really surprise her. She’s been expecting this kind of move for a while, but she is surprised that Draco would come to her about it. “Why do you think he wants you to spy on me?”

“He told me to invite you to the Quidditch World Cup,” Draco says, twisting his hands. He looks paler than usual. “I already planned on it, of course I wanted you there, but he insisted. Watched me write the letter I sent you. He told me that in no uncertain terms would you go to the Quidditch Cup with anyone else.”

Harry frowns. “Like who?”

“He may have mentioned the Weasleys.” Draco shrugs. “I think he might have something planned for the Quidditch Cup, but he hasn’t said a thing.”

I told you he was planning on killing me at the Quidditch Cup. You said he wouldn’t.

Tom sighs. Harry, trust me. Murdering a fourteen year old girl at one of the most popular wizarding events of the year is an extremely poor political move. It’s not his style. Especially when he’s connected to you through Draco.

Harry’s not exactly comforted. “What are you going to do?”

Looking miserable, Draco shakes his head. “I don’t know. What can I do? He’s going to expect me to report back to him. I’m already supposed to meet with him tonight to tell him how our first day together went.”

Her heart aches for him. For the first time, Harry finds herself thankful to have Draco as a friend. She never realized he was so loyal. “It’s okay,” she says, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t want to come between you and your father.”

Draco shakes his head. “I’m worried about you, Harry. What if it hurts you?”

“Tell him what you have to,” she says. “I’ll let you know if there’s something I want you to keep between us. It’s okay, really.”

He nods, moving forward to wrap his arms around her. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. Harry nods, returning the hug. He’s gained a few inches on her, solidly cementing Harry’s position as the shortest. “Happy birthday, by the way.”

 

“Well, it’s certainly an interesting turn of events,” Tom says later that night, lounging across her bed as Harry sets up privacy wards around her room. Now that Draco’s all but confirmed her suspicions about Lucius Malfoy, she’s not going to take any chances.

She sends him a sharp glare. “This is your fault,” she accuses. “You were the one that wanted me to befriend Draco so we could control his father. Look how that backfired.”

“Technically, my dear, that was the other piece of my soul. I’ve never had anything but loathing for Lucius, seeing as he tucked me into the cauldron of the first child he saw.” Tom grins at her sharply.

Harry just frowns at him. “He’s going to continue being a problem until something stops him.”

“And what do you recommend?” Tom’s eyes flash red at her. “Kill him? Imperius him? Crucio him until he complies? Those are my three favorite spells, just so you know.”

Harry wrinkles her nose. “Extremely unhelpful, as always, thank you Tom.”

He nods, graciously. “Anything for you, my dear Horcrux.”

“Don’t call me that,” she snaps. The reminder of what she is always rubs Harry the wrong way, like someone’s dragging steel down her spine. He just smiles faintly at her, clearly aware he’s pushing her buttons.

“There’s nothing we can do now,” he soothes. “So, there’s no use fretting over it. Plus, didn’t the Malfoy’s put on a rather nice celebration for you if they were just planning on killing you in a few days?”

Harry frowns. The celebration was rather nice. There had been a cake and everything. Plus, they had gifted her a lovely dragonhide wand holster, which Harry was very excited to put to use.

“Fine,” she says, throwing herself down onto the bed. “I’ll let it go. But don’t think you’re going to get away with this that easily.”

“I would never expect you to give up without a fight, Harry,” Tom agrees, sounding like he’s placating her. “Get some rest.”

 

“This is a tent?” Harry exclaims in shock. “This is like... A palace. Not a tent. There’s stairs?”

Draco laughs, pulling her further into what he claimed was a ‘tent’. “That’s magic, Harry,” he tells her. “You don’t have to be so obvious about it.”

Harry rolls her eyes, but shuts up, if only because Lucius Malfoy enters right behind her. “Everything look alright, you two?” Harry mumbles her agreement, careful not to make eye contact with the man. He’s been watching her with no degree of subtlety and she thinks her best bet to survive this trip is just keep her head down and not get in the way.

“I have Ministry business to attend to, so why don’t you go explore for a little bit. Be back at six for the match, and remember to stick together.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry says, grabbing Draco’s wrist and wasting no time in hightailing it out of there.

Draco rubs his wrist where she had grabbed him, after they’re a ways from the tent. “You didn’t have to grab so hard,” he says, sounding offended. “He doesn’t suspect anything.”

“Great,” Harry says. “For once, I wish I could just enjoy something without feeling like I have to look over my shoulder the whole time.”

Draco doesn’t appear to be listening to her, his eyes focused somewhere over his shoulder. His brow furrows. “You have to be kidding me,” he mutters under his breath.

“What?” Harry’s turning to actually look over her shoulder, when she’s grabbed by two separate people. She starts, before seeing the flash of red out of the corner of her eye. There can only be two people who would dare touch her like this, so she’s already relaxing into their hold even before they announce themselves.

“‘Lo, Harry!” Fred says cheerfully, his right arm wrapped around her waist, George’s left arm wrapped around her shoulders. He turns to Draco. “Mr. Malfoy Junior.” He inclines his head slightly.

George’s hand digs into her shoulder. “Is this man bothering you?” His voice is light, joking, but Harry can hear the edge underneath. He’s being serious.

Harry shakes her head, making eye contact with Draco. He looks irritated, but when he glances at her, it melts away. He nods at her slightly, face soft, before he straightens, mask slipping back into place. Draco looks down his nose at the twins, the picture of Slytherin haughtiness. “I wouldn’t want to breathe the same air as you blood traitors, anyway. If you’ll excuse me...” He shoves past Fred, bumping into him so hard Fred shifts to the side, moving Harry.

“What a prick,” George mutters under his breath, uncharacteristically serious.

Harry frowns, not wanting to let them talk about Draco that way, but understanding if they want to keep up their cover, she can’t argue too much. “How are you two?” She tries to change the subject, not quite sure she did it as smoothly as she would have liked.

You didn’t. Tom informs her. He seems bored, and Harry knows he’s not looking forward to the Quidditch match tonight. She elects to ignore him, in favor of her sanity.

George releases her shoulders, stepping away from her slightly. “We’ve been well,” he answers, glancing briefly at Fred, who has moved ever so slightly closer to Harry, so their hips are bumping. “And you?”

Harry’s starting to feel slightly weirded out by the twins’ strange behavior, but she decides ignoring it might be the best course of action in this case. “The same. A few close encounters, but can’t really complain there. Just makes life more fun.”

“Exactly right, Harry,” Fred says, drawing her attention. His arm is still around her waist, and with every breath she takes, she’s reminded of that. “We thought you might say that.” He glances around, like someone might overhear them. “Want in on the latest endeavor?”

Harry looks between the twins with concern, but figures it’s best to play along. “What might that be?”

“Why, I’m glad you asked!” George exclaims, whipping out a sheet of parchment. He glances at Fred again before answering. “We’ve decided to, in our pursuits of businesshood, start racketeering.” He proudly displays the parchment. “Everything we’ve saved.”

“Everything you’ve what?” Harry takes a closer look at the parchment. “You’ve been gambling?”

Fred laughs, pulling her closer. “Gambling, she says.”

“We like to think of it more as an investment,” George says, tapping the side of his nose.

 

The Quidditch World Cup is as thrilling as Harry was expecting it to be. They’re in the top box, with both Ministers of Magic. Fudge very pointedly avoids making eye contact with Harry. She attributes that to him ignoring her letters in which she tries to get him to let her see Sirius.

The Weasleys are also in the same box as them, which infuriates Draco to no end. Harry, sitting next to him, thinks she might lose her mind if he complains about it one more time. She elbows him in the side, leaning over to whisper in his ear. “You’re going to drive me crazy.”

He glances at her, a hint of apology on his face, before he turns back to face the pitch. Harry’s about to do the same when her eyes catch Lucius Malfoy’s. He’s watching her intently, a curious light in his eyes. His expression doesn’t change when he realizes Harry’s caught him staring. She smiles politely at him, turning back to face the pitch, mind racing.

This can’t be a coincidence she tells Tom, half-paying attention to what’s happening on the pitch.

He seems to be thinking something over. He won’t do anything tonight. We’ll leave tomorrow. Stay with the Weasleys maybe, as much as the idea repulses me.

Harry nods slightly, agreeing with his plan. They can’t do anything tonight, but Harry can still feel the pressure of Mr. Malfoy’s eyes on her. Wouldn’t we be safer with him, as counterintuitive as that sounds?

You might be right. If anything happens to us while we’re at the Malfoy Manor, everyone will know who was involved. Tom agrees with her for once. Harry’s just glad they have a course of action so she can actually enjoy the game.

She sees Hermione standing next to Ron Weasley, looking slightly put out. Harry wants to go up to her, wants to hug her and feel like they’re back at Hogwarts, without the weight of the world’s expectations on their shoulders. But Lucius Malfoy is still watching her, and the Minister has been sneaking covert looks at Harry the whole night, and she knows that this isn’t the time or the place.

Hermione looks over at them, catches sight of Harry. She smiles slightly, waves, and Harry smiles back at her, unable to resist.

The rest of the game flies by, thrilling and Harry can barely take her eyes away from what’s happening. The Bulgarian seeker, Krum, catches the snitch, but Ireland still wins anyway, and the box is in an uproar. Fred and George are screaming something, indecipherable through the cacophony that’s filled the box.

When the teams file into the box, Harry finds that the seeker, Krum, is actually closer in age to them than she would have expected. His face is a mess, bloody and bruised, but Harry catches him glancing at Hermione. He’s more awkward on the ground than in the air, but he still has a sort of grace to him that Harry knows from experience comes from Quidditch.

She frowns.

 

The screaming is what wakes her. Harry must have fallen asleep recently, because when she wakes up, it’s almost instantly. The tent is dark, but she can see light flickering underneath the entry, moving in the shape of fire flickering. Draco is on the other bed across from her, and Harry can see the rise and fall of his chest.

She pauses, not sure if she actually heard correctly. There’s another swell of screams, and Harry scrambles out of bed, pulling on jeans and a sweater, tucking her wand into her pocket. Those screams were definitely of panic, not of celebration. “Draco,” she hisses, shaking him. “Draco, you need to wake up, now.”

The light is growing brighter outside, and the sound of screaming and crying is growing louder as well. Harry knows whoever it is must be moving towards them and she does not want to be in their path. Draco rolls over, rubbing at his eyes. “What? What’s going on?”

At that moment, there’s another loud round of screams, and he sits straight up. He glances at Harry. “We need to go.”

They exit the tent together, stepping out into chaos. Tents are on fire, although the fire doesn’t seem to be coming towards their area of the field. People are screaming, running away, although from what, Harry’s not certain. “This way,” Draco says, pulling on her wrist, moving further into the campgrounds.

Whatever direction he picked must have been the wrong one, because the smoke grows thicker and the screaming grows louder. “What are you doing?” Harry shouts, over the sound of mass panic, but she doesn’t think Draco hears her.

He stops in his tracks, and Harry runs right into him. She’s about to yell at him some more, but before she does, Harry sees what must have made him stop. It’s a long line of people, dressed in black robes, with silver masks. They’re chanting something, moving more like a mob than a line, and above them...

Harry takes a deep breath. There’s a family above them, still in their nightclothes, being levitated by the mass of wizards. She’s desperately confused, before the ache in her scar draws her attention.

Tom is thinking of something, and his memories flash through her mind. Wizards in black robes, silver masks, snake writhing on their forearm, houses on fire, muggles screaming, torture, and pain, and death.

She realizes, suddenly, this is the worst place for her to be. “Into the woods,” she shouts, pulling Draco away from the scene and towards the treeline. He’s stumbling slightly, but seems to regain his wits once they’ve escaped the haze of smoke and terror. “You know, don’t you,” Harry accuses, once she’s regained her breath.

Looking distinctly uncomfortable, Draco rubs the back of his neck. “I recognize the robes,” he answers. “I didn’t know this was going to happen tonight.”

Harry shakes her head. “Your father is one of those...” Death Eaters Tom whispers, quieter than usual. “Death Eaters,” she says.

He looks at her, face open and unguarded. “There’s nothing I can do.”

Before they can continue their conversation, a group of people burst through the brush. Harry counts two-redheads and a curly mane of hair. “Hermione!” She throws herself forward, arms wrapping around Hermione’s waist.

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione returns the embrace, burying her forehead into Harry’s shoulder. “We were so worried. Mr. Weasley told us to leave, and we didn’t know where anyone went or what was going on.” She looks up at Harry, eyes shimmering. “Muggles, Harry. They’re torturing muggles.”

“Terrible night for you to be out here, then, Granger,” Draco drawls, his Slytherin mask solidly in place. He looks bored, although the way his eyes are red-rimmed from the smoke breaks the illusion a little bit. “Should have worn pants.”

“Sod off, Malfoy,” Ron Weasley snarls, his arm wrapped around Ginny Weasley, standing off to the side. “Go run back to Daddy, why don’t you?” He pauses, before sneering. “Don’t forget your robes, or the whole world will know what filth you are.”

Draco pauses, glances at Harry briefly, before smiling cruelly. “I’d watch your back tonight, Weasley. Bloodtraitors can be mistaken for muggles as well, on a night like tonight.” He slips back into the forest, with one last parting glance at Harry.

She hesitates, not wanting to say something she shouldn’t. “Are you all okay? Where is everyone else?”

Hermione wraps her arm around Harry’s waist, resting her head on Harry’s shoulder. “We got separated,” she said quietly. “Fred and George went with Charlie, I think. Mr. Weasley went to go help the Ministry.”

Shaking his head, Ron moves closer to them. He looks paler than usual. “We should keep moving. Malfoy, the prick, is right. We shouldn’t stay in the woods alone.”

They head in the direction of the camp, but Harry pauses in a clearing. She thinks... “Did any of you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Hermione looks over her shoulder at Harry, a few steps in front of her.

“I thought I heard someone in the woods.” She pauses a moment longer.

Morsmordre!” There’s a shout from a few feet away, but all Harry can focus on is the burning in her scar. She crumples, clapping her hands to her forehead.

“Harry? Harry! Harry!” People are calling her name and there’s a hand on her back, but she’s still trying to catch her breath, blinking away tears.

“Harry,” Tom’s voice calls, cutting through the haze on her mind. She straightens up, still clutching a hand to her scar, sees him standing across the clearing. It’s the Tom from the diary, and he looks worn and tired, not at all like how he usually looks. “You need to get out of here. Now.”

His voice gives her the extra push she needs to get back to her feet, and she waves off Hermione and Ron. “I’m fine,” she says. “Migraine. It’s okay. We need to get out of here.”

Before they can go anywhere, there’s a rippling in the air around them, and a group of Ministry officials step out of the woods, wands pointed at them.

“Who cast that?” One man orders, stepping forward. He points to the sky, directing Harry’s attention upwards.

There’s a green skull hovering in the sky, a snake twisting around and through it. Harry’s mind goes back to the visions she had seen from Tom, and the very same mark writhing on bared forearms.

Tom is right. She does need to get out of here.

Chapter Text

Harry is fuming by the time they’re finally released from the Ministry officials. Once the initial fear from seeing Voldemort’s mark in the sky wore off, Harry had time to stew in her anger. She had time to think through the events of the night and how she reached the point she had. She had time to decide who, exactly, was responsible for putting her in this position.

She’s so full of furious energy, her hands are shaking by the end of their time held by the Ministry officials. The man who initially spoke to them, accusing them of casting the Dark Mark, was Barty Crouch, who Harry realized was the man personally responsible for throwing Sirius into Azkaban without a trial.

(And really, she almost blew a fuse when he accused her, Harry Potter, of casting the Dark Mark. Didn’t he know who she was? The bloody Girl-Who-Lived. No one would let her live it down, and here he was, accusing her of shooting a sign of support for the man who tried to kill her as a baby into the sky.)

She almost lept for the throat then and there, if it weren’t for Tom holding her back. It wasn’t until Arthur Weasley showed up, red-faced and breathless, and even smoking slightly, to vouch for them, that Crouch finally let them go with a parting glare. Harry glared right back. She’d lived with a Dark Lord in her head for the past 8 years, one Ministry official didn’t scare her.

“Harry, dear, are you sure you can make your way back on your own? I really do think you should come with us, just for tonight. I can have word sent to the Malfoys.” Mr. Weasley is anxiously twisting his hands, and he grimaces when he says the Malfoys’ name, but Harry appreciates the sentiment nonetheless.

She smiles graciously at him, careful to keep up her mask of The-Girl-Who-Lived, despite how badly she wants to throttle something at this particular moment. “Thank you, Mr. Weasley, but I think I’ll be fine. It’s not that far back to their tent, and after everything tonight, I really need some time to clear my head.”

He still looks reluctant to let her go, but he doesn’t say anything else. Harry turns to leave, but he catches her by the sleeve. “Harry,” he says in a low voice, pulling her away from the others. “I just wanted to say thank you, again.”

“For what?” Harry asks, nonplussed.

Mr. Weasley looks over his shoulder towards where Ron and Ginny are standing, huddled together. Harry watches as a fond expression softens his face. “For what you did for Ginny. For what you did for Ron last year, going after him like you did. You didn’t owe our family anything, and you’ve done so much for us.” He turns back to her. “If you ever need something, anything, we’re here for you. I just wanted you to know.”

Harry nods silently, unsure of what to say. In reality, she doesn’t feel like she’s really done anything for the Weasleys. Tom-possessing-Ginny is the one who dragged her down to the Chamber, and she didn’t really have a say in what occurred down there. Hermione was the one who wanted to go after Ron, and Harry was more concerned with getting vengeance than she was making sure he was alright.

None of this could be repeated to Mr. Weasley without exposing the truth of who she was, so Harry stays silent. He gives her a small smile, before releasing her and turning back to his family and Hermione. Harry follows them leave with her eyes, a pang of jealousy echoing through her as she watches him throw his arms around Ron and Ginny.

Shaking her head to clear it, Harry turns to the forest, her anger rebuilding after it was momentarily forgotten. It flares up in her stomach, spreading through her like wildfire, until she’s just as upset as she was earlier.

“You need to calm down, or you’re going to do something rash,” Tom tells her, appearing by her side. His hair is messy, like he’s been running his hands through it, and when he looks at her, his eyes are burning red.

“Says you, the king of rash decisions,” Harry hisses back at him, once she’s confident they’re far enough out of anyone else’s way to be overheard. This is a conversation that would be best uninterrupted.

Tom eyes her with those terrible eyes, a sign that his anger is stretched as far as hers. Harry thinks it’s frightening sometimes, how connected their emotions are. At this point, she’s not sure if Tom is angry of his own accord, or if he’s feeding off her emotions. She doesn’t know which option would be worse. “Harry, now is the worst possible time for you to lose it. This is a test.”

She wordlessly snarls, slashing a hand through the air. “It’s not a test, it’s a threat.”

He crosses his arms. “Explain.”

“You know what I mean.” She starts pacing, needing to expel the furious energy propelling her.

Tom shakes his head. “Not good enough. Your thoughts are all jumbled, finding the explanation is like finding a shard of glass in carpet.” His eyes catch hers, and the action freezes her in place. “Explain,” he orders.

Harry frowns, tries to collect herself, to order her thoughts. “Lucius Malfoy brought us here to show us, me, whatever, that he’s the one in control. That I may be Harry Potter, vanquisher of the Dark Lord, but he holds all the cards. I’m under his roof. I’m staying in his home. Friends with his son. My secrets are his secrets. He thinks he can just...” Harry starts to get worked up again, turns to pace.

Tom disappears, only to reappear directly in front of her. “Enough,” he murmurs, reaching out to grab her wrists. His hold is iron, and his skin is burning. His eyes are still bleeding red, but as she watches, the color drips away, melting into an icy blue. “You’re right,” he says, once he’s certain she’s not going to pull away. “He is threatening you. What are you going to do about it?”

“What can I do? He’s right. He does hold all the cards. I’m safe by virtue of association. But he’s still saying that his allegiances lie with the man who tried to kill me as a baby. How can I possibly fight back?”

Tom’s been watching her consideringly, and he tilts his head slightly at her last question. He takes a step closer to her, bringing them so close when Harry exhales, her chest brushes his. “That’s right,” he croons. “You can’t fight back.”

Harry scoffs, trying to pull away from him. “What are you saying? I just roll over?”

“Not roll over,” he says, not letting her go. “He’s trying to goad a reaction out of you. He wants you to show your hand. Do you ever show your hand?”

Harry shakes her head mutely.

“No,” he says. “You don’t. You bluff, or you keep a poker face, or you let it go. Lucius Malfoy is not the man you want to roll around in the mud with. The second you stoop down to his level and fight dirty is the second you lose.”

“I hate it when you make sense,” Harry grumbles, relaxing into his hold. “Also, when did you learn card metaphors?”

Tom laughs, human and deep. “I grew up in a Muggle orphanage,” he answers. “How do you think I became so successful at manipulating people?” Harry rolls her eyes. Tom holds onto her for a moment longer before dropping her wrists.

“Successful is a bit of a stretch, no?” Harry raises an eyebrow at him. He smirks cruelly at her, but doesn’t say anything else.

She sighs, her brief good humor dissipating. “So... game plan. I go back to the Malfoys tent. I was separated from Draco and stopped by Ministry officials. I never saw the mark in the sky, and I hope those poor Muggles are okay. Whoever did this should be apprehended. A horrible, horrible event.”

Tom nods. “Don’t show you’re affected. Don’t be angry or upset or any different than how you usually act. Thank him for bringing you, thank him for letting you stay with them, smile and nod and make him squirm. He’ll want a reaction from you. Do not, under any circumstances, give it to him. Understood?”

The idea of letting Lucius Malfoy get away with it rubs Harry entirely the wrong way, but she understands why she has to. Harry nods. “I understand.”

 

“Harry!” Draco hisses, standing just beyond the treeline. His face is more flushed than usual, and his hair is mussed out of it’s usual state. “Where have you been? My father’s been asking about you.”

She hurries over to him, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one’s following her. “I got held up. What did you tell him?” Her plans are going to be shot to hell if he told his father they separated willingly.

“Just that we must have gotten separated at some point. I looked over my shoulder and you were gone.” Draco’s on high-alert, shifting every few seconds.

Harry nods. “That’s good. Did he believe you?”

Draco shrugs. “He didn’t argue. Seemed to have... other things on his mind.”

“Good. Let’s go back, I don’t want to push our luck.”

As they walk through the campgrounds, Harry watches the chaos. Families are huddled together, tents are still on fire, the choking taste of smoke hovers inescapably. But the further they walk and the nicer the tents become, the thinner the smoke becomes and the less destruction is present. Harry knows the Death Eaters must have avoided this area on purpose, rewarding the wealthier, those more likely to support their cause.

Is this what you stand for? Harry asks Tom, who’s been stonewalling his emotions from her. There’s a dull pang of pain in her scar at the question, but she gets the sense that he’s seriously considering it.

I wouldn’t have approved this he answers finally. Whoever organized this, it was not part of my actions. Most of them don’t even know he’s still alive, much less are willing to support him publicly. There’s a long pause, as Harry mulls over his answer. But no, Harry, this is not what I stand for. I’m sorry you’ve come to think that way.

She gets the sense he’s feeling melancholic. Suddenly, a part of her longs for the way they had been when Harry still lived with the Dursleys. Sure, she had been miserable, but things had been simpler. Less complicated. There’s a trickle of warmth that runs down her spine after her thoughts, and she thinks he appreciates the sentiment.

“Oh, Harry, I’m glad to see you’re alright,” Mr. Malfoy says, upon seeing Draco and Harry making their way back to the tent. His face is slightly flushed, but his eyes narrow on her in a way that makes Harry distinctly uncomfortable. “Where did you get off to?”

She smiles back at him, the picture of innocence. “I just got separated from Draco, sir.” She blinks a few times, before widening her eyes ever so slightly. “What happened?”

There’s a beat of silence. Mr. Malfoy’s eyes narrow on her. Harry knows that he knows she knows what happened. She waits for him to decide if he’s going to try to expose her, or let her go. Then he smiles slightly, inclines his head, and the ice breaks. “There was a savage attack,” he says gravely.

Harry clears her throat. “How horrible.”

Mr. Malfoy nods again, a knowing look in his eyes. “Indeed. How horrible.”

 

Harry is lounging on the grass in the gardens at Malfoy Manor when the letter comes. She’s flat on her back, the sun shining down on her face, eyes closed. Her Tom is talking to the diary about something that Harry doesn’t quite understand. She thinks it has something to do with Albania and the Ministry of Magic and maybe vampires, but when she’d tried to ask questions, they had stonewalled her. So Harry ignores them, choosing instead to daydream about going back to Hogwarts.

Everything has been relatively quiet since they returned from the World Cup. There’s only about a week until they return to Hogwarts and Harry’s been counting down the days. She’s barely had a second to herself, especially since they returned. Mr. Malfoy and Mrs. Malfoy have been watching her like hawks, and even Draco has admitted they asked him to hang around Harry.

In fact, she thinks this might be the longest she’s been alone this whole summer.

Because her luck is cruel, Hedwig chooses this moment to land on her outstretched arm. Harry winces at the feeling of her talons digging into her skin, before she turns her head to see what her owl is doing. Hedwig’s got a letter tied to her leg, and the sight of that makes Harry sit up straight. Hedwig launches off her arm, giving a hoot that sounds reproachful, before she settles back on Harry’s shoulder.

“That’s got to be from Sirius,” Harry tells Tom, offhand, quickly untying it. Even though they hadn’t had very long to connect before he was taken away, Harry misses Sirius with something that aches in her chest. He makes a disinterested noise.

Harry opens the letter with shaking hands.

Dear lion heart,

Good news. Can’t say much here. Leaky Cauldron at noon, day before Hogwarts. You’ll know what to do.
All my love,
Sirius

“I’ll know what to do?” Harry asks out loud.

Tom doesn’t address her, or turn any attention towards her, so Harry just frowns. She reads the letter once more, nods, and folds the letter neatly, tucking it into her pocket. She gets to her feet, brushes off her pants, and starts towards the Manor.

She’s halfway back before Tom seems to realize what she’s doing and starts paying attention to her again. “Where are you going?” He asks, appearing by her side. She ignores him, determined on her task.

Harry enters the house, and moves towards the dining room. Tom trails behind her like a strange ghost, a silent observer. She bursts into the room, sees her target. “Mrs. Malfoy!” Harry exclaims with a bright smile. The older woman, reading the Daily Prophet with her tea, looks up. She’s sitting at the head of the long table, her hair artfully brushed away from her face.

“Oh, hello, Harry. How are you today?” She sets down the paper, folding it neatly. “I do hope everything is alright. Come, sit.”

Harry moves towards Narcissa Malfoy, careful to keep her face blank. She can feel her eyes watching Harry’s ever movement, knows Mrs. Malfoy is just as shrewd as her husband, if not more so. She knows to step delicately, knows Mrs. Malfoy will pick up on the smallest misstep. She pulls out the chair to the right of her, making sure to sit with good posture. “I’m doing well, thank you. How are you?”

Mrs. Malfoy smiles cordially, inclining her head slightly. “Quite well, thank you Harry.”

A moment of silence passes while Harry tries to collect her thoughts. Mrs. Malfoy just continues to smile slightly, her head tilted. “I was wondering if it was possible for us to wait until the day before Hogwarts to go to Diagon Alley in order to get our things for Hogwarts,” Harry says finally, her voice breaking the silence like glass. Mrs. Malfoy’s expression immediately brightens, turning a touch more smug. Harry knows the other woman was waiting for her to break the silence, and most likely took this as a victory, but she’s more concerned with what her response will be.

Mrs. Malfoy’s voice takes a note of fake concern. “Whatever for, dear?” If Harry hadn’t been living with the Malfoys for such extended periods of time, she probably wouldn’t have noticed anything off about it.

Harry tries to think of an excuse that doesn’t betray the letter burning a hole in her pocket. She’s not sure what the Malfoys’ opinion of Sirius is, but guessing by the fact Mr. Malfoy is a Death Eater, she’s more inclined to err on the side of caution. “Crowds?” She suggests, her voice falling flat as Mrs. Malfoy’s smirk turns predatory instead of genial.

“I don’t think so, dear. We’ll go later in the day, like we had planned before. We wouldn’t want everything to be gone by the time we get there, would we?”

Harry doesn’t want to arouse the woman’s suspicion more than she already has, so she’s forced to smile and nod, like she agrees with what Mrs. Malfoy is saying. “Of course, I understand.” She quickly excuses herself, rushing as soon as she out of the woman’s eyeshot, back out onto the grounds.

“Did you really think that was going to work?” Tom asks, crossing his arms as he sits beside her on the grass. She’s pulled the letter back out, rereading it, and she looks up at his words. It’s her Tom, for once, and he looks better than he has in a while.

Harry frowns at him, glancing around to see if anyone could overhear her. “You could have been a little more helpful,” she hisses, making sure to keep her voice lowered.

He smiles at her slowly, a familiar expression that puts a touch of heat into Harry’s face. It’s not a friendly expression, not really, but it pulls Harry back in time, to before she started Hogwarts. “You never asked,” he answers. “Besides, you’re very uncunning for someone who’s supposed to be in Slytherin.”

Harry frowns at him again, but there’s no real anger behind the gesture. “You’re insufferable,” she says, sighing and relaxing back onto the grass.

Tom laughs softly, looking entirely human in the summer light, and leans back onto one arm. There’s still a hint of darkness playing around his eyes and the corners of his mouth, but at this moment he looks like he could be a normal person.

 

Harry tells Draco the night before that she’s going to leave the Manor a day early for Hogwarts. She doesn’t tell him why, and he doesn’t ask, only telling her to be careful. She’s sure that people are watching her leave, but no one tries to stop her. Honestly, Harry’s thankful she doesn’t have to stay in the house any longer. As she leaves, she realizes this is probably the last time she’ll come here and be welcomed.

The thought makes her more melancholic than she initially expected. Although she’s grown to be wary of the house, it was still the first place that gave her some semblance of belonging. Her first summer with the Malfoys had been strained and cautious, seeing as she had just met them and wasn’t close with Draco yet. They had still treated her with more kindness and respect than the Dursleys ever had, and despite whatever malice Mr. Malfoy has for her, Harry won’t forget that small kindness, despite her eagerness to escape the house.

When she exits the property, Harry throws her arm out, calling the Knight Bus. Stan Shunpike greets her with a cheery smile when she finally climbs aboard, ushering her back to the spot on the back of the bus she’s gotten used to taking. He’s used to seeing her, as Harry’s gotten accustomed to taking the Knight Bus whenever she needs to get anywhere.

“Where ya’ going tanite?” Stan asks, following her back into the bus.

She looks over her shoulder. “The Leaky Cauldron,” she answers. He gives her another cheery smile before he makes his way back up to the front of the bus.

Harry slumps down in her seat once he’s gone, crossing her arms over her chest. She wonders when the Malfoys will realize she left and what they’ll do when they notice she’s gone. She thinks it might be for the best, but is moderately concerned of any potential repercussions. Calm down Tom tells her, forcing a wave of calmness over her mind. What could they possibly do?

Harry can think of quite a few things they could do, but thinks it might be best if she doesn’t say them out loud. The rest of the ride passes in silence, the jerky movements of the bus rocking her towards sleep, rather than making her nauseous like they had the first few times she rode the bus.

When she finally arrives at the Leaky Cauldron, she thanks Stan, who’s still smiling at her, and makes her way inside the inn. She rents a room from Tom and is quickly led upstairs. Harry falls onto the bed once her things are settled, rubbing a hand down her face. She can’t stop thinking about if the Malfoys knew she was going to leave, and why they let her, and if the next time she sees Mr. Malfoy he’ll be trying to kill her. The thought makes her stomach churn.

“Would you stop?” Tom asks, appearing in front of the door. He looks distinctly put-out, and there’s the beginning of a headache growing at Harry’s temples.

“Stop what?” She asks, dropping her hands from her face and pushing herself up into a sitting position. Tom moves forward, sitting at the end of the bed and contorting himself into a cross-legged position.

He sends her an unimpressed look. “Worrying so much. It’s giving me a headache.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “Giving you a headache? You’re giving me a headache.”

As she’s talking, Tom lays back, tucking his arms under his head. The act pulls his shirt up a hair and Harry determinedly avoids her eyes. “This was a bad idea from its conception and remains to be a bad idea.”

“I disagree,” Harry sniffs, tucking her legs under the blanket. “You’re just mad because we left the Malfoys a day early.”

Tom rolls his head so he’s looking at her. “That’s exactly why I’m upset. Abandoning them before it’s time to go visit your deranged godfather isn’t the smartest move, Harry. Whether you like it or not.”

Harry throws a pillow at him, which he catches with ease. She’s never able to get the upper hand on him, seeing as he can anticipate her every move by reading her thoughts. “He’s not deranged. And I’d rather spend my last day before Hogwarts with him than at the Malfoy Manor.”

He just blinks slowly at her, face blank of any emotion. Harry refuses to become uncomfortable, so she stares him down. “You call the shots, Harry,” he says finally, eyes never leaving her face. “Right?”

Harry can’t help but feel like it’s a trap, but she nods slowly. “Right.”

 

She’s been sitting downstairs for the past half an hour, waiting for something she’s not quite sure of yet. There’s a book open in front of her but Harry’s read maybe a sentence. Her leg is bouncing up and down, and she’s not certain why she feels so anxious.

“Please,” Tom says from beside her, where he’s been reading the same pages of Harry’s book over and over again, “calm down.”

Harry wants to ignore him, but she knows he’s right. Just before she decides she should walk around to burn off some of her nervous energy, what looks like two Ministry officials exit a side room and make their way towards Harry.

“Miss Potter?” One of them asks gruffly, and she looks at him with suspicion. She hadn’t seen them enter, and wonders if there was a back entrance, or if they had been there for hours, or if they had someone hidden themselves in order to escape notice.

Tom pinches her leg sharply, and she jerks to attention, her thoughts clearing. “Yes?”

“Come with us,” the other one says, motioning for Harry to stand. She does, and they lead her up the stairs. One in front of her, one behind her, and Harry feels strangely claustrophobic. Calm down Tom says to her again, no inflection to his voice, but it calms her nonetheless.

They keep going until there aren’t any more stairs to climb and then they usher Harry down the hallway to a door at the very end. There are two more Ministry men in front of it, looking more intimidating than the two that brought Harry up the stairs.

The man in front of Harry opens the door, and Harry’s herded inside. She starts to look around, before she’s distracted by Sirius in front of her. He’s sitting at a table in the middle of the room, a cup of tea in front of him. His hair is longer than it was when she last saw him, the night at Hogwarts when everything changed, but his skin has lost the waxy color it had then.

“Harry!” He exclaims, standing up. The two Ministry officials in the room with them reach for their wands with his movement. Sirius holds his hands up, freezing otherwise. “Just going to see my goddaughter. That’s alright with you, isn’t it?” He directs his words towards the man who was in front of Harry when they were walking up the stairs.

The man makes a gruff noise and doesn’t seem to relax at all, even though he drops his hand from where he was reaching towards his wand. Sirius moves towards her, movements slowed exaggeratedly. Finally, he’s in front of her, and he wraps his arms around her, pulling her towards him. Harry wraps her arms around his waist in response, hugging him just as tightly. She’s grown practically nothing since the last time they saw each other and she tucks her head against his chest.

For a brief moment, Harry’s able to forget about everything else in her life, how everything is all messed up and confusing and she’s able to lose herself in the moment, Sirius’s arms around her, grounding her in a way Harry thought was impossible.

He pulls away too soon, letting Harry go. He puts his hands on her shoulders, scanning her with a thoughtful look. “You look good,” he tells her finally, a soft look playing in his eyes. “You feel good?”

Harry just nods, not trusting her voice and not wanting to say anything in front of the Ministry officials. Sirius watches her with an appraising gaze, and Harry feels like he’s taking her apart with just his eyes. He releases her, spins, throws an arm around her shoulder and turns to the Ministry officials.

“We’d appreciate some privacy,” he says, an air of haughtiness that almost reminds Harry of Draco. Almost of Tom too, now that she thinks about it. It’s the tone of their voice, where they might be asking something, but they’re assuming the answer will go in their favor. Tom doesn’t say anything but she gets the distinct impression he distates being compared to Sirius.

The Ministry official doesn’t seem to hear the same command in Sirius’s words as Harry, because he’s already shaking his head. “You know that’s not possible. This only works with an escort at all times.”

“Where are we going to go?” Sirius asks. “You’ve got guards on the door and guards on the street. I don’t have a wand and the windows are charmed. You outnumber us six to two.”

The note of command and presumption still rings through his voice and Harry watches as the Ministry official wavers. “Fine,” he says, after a minute of silence. “You have half an hour alone and then someone is coming in here. Don’t do anything stupid.”

With that, the two Ministry officials exit the room, shutting the door behind them. There’s a beat of silence while Harry tries to regain her bearings, before Sirius pulls her back into another hug. “Yours is the best face I’ve seen all summer, lion.”

Harry tucks herself into his hold again, feeling distraught for some reason she can’t explain. There’s a warm familiarity to Sirius that no one else has. He doesn’t treat her like she’s special, or like she’s the Girl Who Lived, or like she’s going to break, the way Tom sometimes does. He looks at her the way Harry imagines her father would, if he were still alive. Like family.

But she knows they don’t have long to themselves, so she reluctantly pulls herself away. “How’d you even manage this?” She asks, impressed.

He grins at her, and there’s a hint of wildness in his eyes that Harry remembers from when she first met him. “I asked. Frequently and loudly. They had to give in eventually.” Harry can’t stop herself from smiling, caught up in his energy. “Come, have some tea.”

Harry sits at the table, dropping sugar into her tea and stirring without looking up. “Harry,” Sirius says. “Are you okay?”

She takes a sip of her tea, avoiding his eyes for a moment. She catches sight of Tom leaning against the wall. His expression is inscrutable. She pauses, wondering what to tell him. “Lucius Malfoy is trying to murder me,” she says finally.

When she peeks to catch Sirius’s expression, she’s surprised to realize it hasn’t changed. He blinks at her, mouth turning up into an odd half-smile. “Should I be shocked? Everyone knew Malfoy licked Voldemort’s boots. Worshipped the ground he walked on. It’s a miracle he’s not in Azkaban today.”

Harry frowns. Tom had told her that Lucius Malfoy had been a fervent supporter of Voldemort, but hearing it from Sirius only goes to make it more real. “I’ve been staying at his house,” she says. “Apparently he’s having his son spy on me.”

At that, Sirius’s mask breaks and he raises an eyebrow. “You know this how?”

“Draco told me.”

“Has Malfoy made any movements that worry you?” Sirius asks, his brow furrowing.

Harry debates what to tell him, considering some of it was information she and Tom had discussed. Still, she figures Sirius can’t really help her if she doesn’t tell him the truth. So she goes into the story of what happened at the Quidditch World Cup, including seeing the Dark Mark. She leaves out the bit about the Ministry blaming her at first, figuring that might cause more trouble than it’s worth.

When she’s finished, Sirius lets out a long exhale. “They don’t know you came here?” Harry shakes her head mutely. “You’re playing the long game, little lion. Do you feel like you know what you’re doing?” Harry shakes her head again.

Sirius grins at her, sharp and cutting, the expression settling familiar on his face. “Life is always more fun when you play it fast and loose.”

Harry raises an eyebrow. “I don’t like fast and loose,” she says, offended. “I like planned and prepared. Better to take down your enemies if you know what you’re going to do.”

He laughs, bark-like, and shrugs. “Personal preference, I suppose. Still, it seems like you have things at least somewhat under control.”

There’s a beat of silence where Harry tries to process his support and is almost unable to, before Sirius jolts in his chair. “I almost forgot. Your gift.”

“Like this wasn’t gift enough?” Harry asks, joking, but also rather serious. She thinks getting to see Sirius at all this summer, when she wasn’t expecting to, was the best part of her summer.

“I’m glad you think so,” he says, mock-serious, pushing what appears to be a hastily wrapped package towards Harry. “You’re going to want to tuck that somewhere inconspicuous when you leave, because I’m fairly certain I’m not supposed to be giving that to you.”

Intrigued, Harry unties the twine holding the paper together, pushing it aside. “A... mirror? What’s so bad about a mirror?” She looks up at Sirius in confusion.

He taps the side of his nose, a wicked grin crossing his face. “Two way,” he says cryptically. “Used to get me and your father into quite a bit of trouble.”

“This was his?” She asks, looking over the mirror with renewed interest. It’s old and clunky, with silver adornments around the mirror itself. The glass of the mirror is slightly fogged and when Harry looks into it, her reflection is distorted.

Sirius nods, looking contemplative as he stares into space for a moment, before he seems to come back to himself. “Charmed them ourselves. You talk into one end and I’ll be able to hear and see you. Works vice versa too. I was thinking we set a time to talk every week. Would help keep me sane, at the very least. This is the most human contact I’ve had in weeks.”

Harry runs her fingers over the silver overlay on the mirror, before touching it to her chest. She’s oddly touched, and the idea of being able to speak face to face with Sirius every week is incredibly enticing. “How about Sunday nights?” She suggests, tucking the mirror into her bag.

Sirius nods, a soft smile playing around his mouth. It softens him a good ten years, and Harry can see the man from the pictures Lupin showed her. She returns the smile, thinking this was the best end of the summer she’s had.

 

Harry arrives to the Hogwarts Express late, within the last five minutes of departure. She manages to find room for her trunk, and then is unable to find a free compartment. She had hoped to find a compartment to herself so she could talk to Tom uninterrupted, but all of them are full.

She walks past one of the Slytherin compartments and sees the flash of Draco’s platinum blonde hair. She pauses. Harry doesn’t really feel like riding the train with Draco this year, figuring if she can’t talk to Tom, she might try to hunt Hermione down and sit with her, even though she has the deep suspicion Hermione is sitting with Ron Weasley.

Harry slides the door to Draco’s compartment open, sticking her head in as the train begins to exit the station. She notes with a small bloom of warmth that Draco’s saved a seat for her next to him, even though he’s deep in conversation with one of his two minions at the moment. “Excuse me,” she says, mock serious. “You wouldn’t happen to know where the trolley is, would you?”

Draco pauses mid-sentence, whipping around to look at her. He grins at her, his face flushing slightly. “Come in, we saved a seat.” He pats the space next to him, and the other one of his minions shuffles down slightly to make more room. “I’m telling Goyle about the event at Hogwarts this school year.”

Harry shakes her head, and watches as Draco’s face falls slightly. “Can’t. Promised I’d sit with Hermione this year,” she lies smoothly. His words register slightly. “What event at Hogwarts?”

“You’d have to stay and find out,” Draco retorts, turning his head slightly.

Harry shrugged, not too bothered by being out of the loop. She’s sure she’ll find out soon enough, if it’s that important. “Guess I’ll have to learn about it with the rest of the school. I’ll see you at the Feast, save me a seat.” She leaves before he can answer, but is fairly confident he’ll actually save her a seat.

She makes her way down the train, peering into compartments as she tries to find Hermione. Before she can, she’s waylaid by the Weasley twins. “In you go, Harry,” Fred says, grabbing her arm and dragging her back a few steps to pull her into a compartment she had already passed. “Lucky we found you, eh?”

George is just behind him and he’s nodding his head seriously. Fred pulls Harry down on the seat next to him, releasing her arm as George shuts the door behind them and sits across the aisle, along with Lee Jordan.

“Oh,” Harry says, a little belated. “I was going to sit with Hermione.” Fred must have moved, because she’s now bracketed between the wall and his side, on the far side from the door. Her chances of escape are slim to none.

Fred snickers, and Harry catches him exchange a glance with George. “I don’t think you want to find her right now.”

“What do you mean?” Her question sends Fred and George into another round of laughter. Lee must take pity on her because he leans forward.

“She’s sitting with Ron and Neville Longbottom. Apparently they were arguing even before they got on the train.”

Fred nods, managing to school his features into something more serious. “We’re really just trying to rescue you from having to listen to them bicker until they get to Hogwarts. Besides, you never did tell us what you thought of our potions.”

Glancing between the twins helplessly, with a look towards Lee who just shrugs and leans back into his seat, Harry finally concedes. She gives the door one last longing stare, before giving in and turning more towards the twins. “Fine,” she says, “but don’t expect me to sit with you at the Feast.”

There’s a chorus of cheers from the three boys, and Harry can’t stop herself from smiling in return. It isn’t until the commotion subsides and they’re deep into conversation about the ratio of certain potion ingredients to others in order to achieve maximum impact that Harry realizes Fred’s side is pressed up against hers.

She doesn’t want to say anything, thinks maybe he just didn’t realize it, but when she looks back up, Tom has appeared in the middle of the compartment. No one else says anything, and he’s frowning at her. The conversation continues and none of the other boys seem to realize Harry’s distracted. What? She snaps, feeling oddly defensive.

“Nothing,” he replies, still frowning. His face wipes clean and he tilts his head slightly to the side. “Do you know what you’re doing?”

Now Harry’s the one to frown. What do you mean?

Tom’s eyes drift over her, leaving a burning trail of fire in their path before they shift towards Fred, sitting next to her. “Just checking,” he says finally, before disappearing.

Harry shakes her head, trying to clear the confusing conversation out of her mind. There’s a dull ache spreading through her scar to the rest of her head. Harry does her best to ignore it and rejoin the conversation.

 

Harry can’t pull her eyes away from the empty seat at the Head Table where Professor Lupin sat last year. The food was just cleared away from the feast and Draco is engaged in a deep conversation with Blaise Zabini about the events of the Quidditch World Cup. The sporting side of the event, not the action that occurred after the match.

Who do you think they’re gonna get to replace him? Harry asks Tom, off-hand, still staring at the space where Lupin should be sitting.

Tom’s sitting across from her, looking bored. He shrugs one shoulder elegantly, following her line of sight. “Probably someone just as incompetant as all the rest.”

A small smirk plays around his mouth when he says that, and Harry’s Tom is radiating an air of smugness from within her mind. What did you do?

“So quick to judge, Harry!” Tom clasps a hand to his heart, his expressions dripping in mockery and malice. “It was brought to my attention that someone cursed the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Terrible business, all that.”

Harry pulls her gaze away from the empty space, looking towards Tom with doubt. You cursed the professor position of Defense? Why would you even do that?

“I never specified who cursed the position,” Tom retorts, biting. His eyes are blue fire. The Tom in her head seems moments away from laughing. “But, rhetorically, if I knew who did actually commit such a heinous act, they probably did it because they had been denied the position that was theirs on merit alone, for petty reasons.”

Dumbledore’s standing now, and Harry feels a flash of annoyance and hatred at the act. Slowly the pieces come together in her head. She looks away from Tom, up towards the Head Table where Dumbledore appears to be preparing to give his annual speech.

You cursed the professor position because you were upset Dumbledore didn’t give you the job? Seriously?

Tom doesn’t answer her, but a cruel smirk cuts across his face. Before he can respond, Dumbledore’s voice is ringing through the hall. “Attention students!” His voice booms across the Great Hall, and the room falls quiet as conversations trail off and students turn towards the front.

“First, I must say I hope you all had a wonderful summer. This is the time when you are able to build and cultivate relationships and bonds with your fellow students and family, and I hope all of you were able to accomplish these and any goals you may have had.” Harry’s leaning her cheek into her hand as she listens to Dumbledore’s speech, but she’s mostly daydreaming about her bed in the Slytherin common room.

“Second, I must give our annual reminder that any student excursion to the Forbidden Forest is strictly prohibited, without permission from a Professor. Mr. Filch would also like me to inform all students that magic in the halls is prohibited as well, and any student found violating this rule shall serve their detentions with him.” Harry shifts uncomfortably in her seat, aware that she’s always treated the Forbidden Forest rule as more of a guideline than anything else.

“Now,” Dumbledore claps his hands together, and Harry struggles not to roll her eyes. “Onto more important and exciting matters.” He pauses, and Harry can feel the anticipation in the ear.

“Oh, good,” Draco mutters from behind her. “More theatrics.” Harry glances over her shoulder at him and he just shakes his head.

“Unfortunately, I must inform you all that there will be no inter-school Quidditch competition this year,” Dumbledore says, and his voice is almost immediately drowned out by a chorus of boos from across the Hall.

From where Harry is sitting, she can see Fred and George at the Gryffindor table, both up in arms. She can’t help but agree with the general sentiment of the room, however, since Quidditch is one of the things at Hogwarts that’s brought her the most joy. “Did you know about this?” She asks Draco over her shoulder. She remembers him talking about how there was going to be an event at Hogwarts this year, and finds herself wishing she had paid more attention. He shakes his head, but there’s a smug look on his face.

“Enough!” Dumbledore’s voice is amplified, cutting through the chaos that had been unleashed at his previous words. The Hall gradually falls back into silence, albeit slower than it had the first time. “As I was saying, we will not be holding our annual Quidditch Cup this year. Instead, we at Hogwarts have been granted the incredible privilege of hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year.” He pauses, seemingly expecting another outburst, but there’s just a wave of quiet, confused murmurs.

“For those of you who may not know, the Triwizard Tournament is an age-old competition designed to foster competition and relationships across schools. It has traditionally been held between Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, and Hogwarts in which three students compete to represent their school in three challenges. Not only will the winner bring great honor to their school, but they will also win 1,000 gallons in prize money. Anyone from the school may ent–”

Dumbledore’s cut off as a wave of conversations sweep across the hall. Harry can still see Fred and George, who have their heads bent together, clearly discussing something related to the tournament. Harry would bet her life they both try to enter. “However,” Dumbledore’s amplified voice rings through the hall again. “Only those who have reached the age of 17 may be allowed to enter.”

Another cry of outrage fills the hall and Harry watches in amusement as both the Weasley twins leap to their feet. They’re only sixteen, she knows, and therefore are unable to compete. In all of the chaos, Harry almost misses the door to the Great Hall swinging open. It isn’t until he’s halfway up the hall that Harry realizes someone’s entered the room.

Gradually, people start to fall silent, and the weight of everyone’s eyes fall upon the man making his way up the center of the room. He looks bedraggled, Harry thinks, with his hair matted and damp, and Harry assumes it must be raining outside. He’s wearing a long black overcoat, and there’s a heavy limp with every step he takes. There’s a clunking noise with every step as well, and Harry realizes he’s missing one foot.

When the man looks up, there’s an audible gasp that ripples around the hall. It isn’t until he looks at the Slytherin table that she realizes what all the fuss is about. He’s missing one eye, and there’s an eyepatch with a fake eye, electric blue, covering the left side of his face. In addition to that, his face is deeply scarred, like someone raked a claw down his face.

Harry freezes when she realizes the man’s electric blue eye is on her. His gaze feels burning hot, like he’s taking her in and assessing her threat level. Still, the man continues on his path towards the Head Table.

“Ah,” Dumbledore says, sounding more awkward than Harry’s ever heard before. “Alastor. Welcome to Hogwarts.” The man continues walking, around the table until he’s standing in the empty space Harry couldn’t tear her eyes away from. Her heart sinks. “Students, I’d like to welcome Professor Alastor Moody, who will be assuming the role of the professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

There’s a small smattering of applause, but most of the students still seem to be hung up on the Triwizard Tournament. Dumbledore seems to realize this because he clears his throat and continues on. “As I was saying, there will be representatives from both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang coming to Hogwarts. If you are of age and wish to participate in the Tournament, you will put your name into the Goblet of Fire,” here, he demonstrates, and Filch pulls a cloth off a large, ornate goblet, “and an impartial judge will choose the representatives from each school.

“Finally, I wish to impress upon any of you wishing to compete that this tournament is not to be entered into lightly. Once a champion has been selected by the Goblet of Fire, he or she is obliged to see the tournament through to the end. The placing of your name in the goblet constitutes a binding, magical contract. There can be no change of heart once you have become a champion. Please be very sure, therefore, that you are wholeheartedly prepared to play before you drop your name into the goblet. Now, I think it is time for bed. Good night to you all.” There’s a long pause in the Great Hall, before the scraping of benches against the stone floors fills the air.

Draco is practically vibrating next to Harry as they exit the Hall. “Are you going to enter?”

Harry looks at him, not quite able to believe it. “Are you kidding? Not being able to enter that stupid Tournament is probably the best thing to ever happen to me.”

Chapter Text

The first Defense Against the Dark Arts class goes... strangely. To say the least. Harry’s sitting towards the back of the classroom, her legs tangled around Hermione’s underneath the desk. Hermione is going on about her trip in France, hands waving wildly in the air and Harry watches her with a fond smile, unable to contain herself.

The door slams open, and a wave of silence sweeps across the room. Professor Moody storms into class, his wooden leg making a loud noise with every step. Harry slouches into her chair, watching his procession with mild interest. Ever since she learned that Tom cursed the position, she hasn’t been too worried for this class. How much harm could Moody do, really, seeing as he’d only be here for this one year.

After what seems like an eternity, Moody reaches the front of the classroom. He turns sharply, staring at the class. There’s a beat of silence, where it seems like everyone is waiting with bated breath for him to speak. His magical eye is spinning all over the room, and the sight of it makes Harry a little dizzy. It seems to rest on her for longer than she’s comfortable with, and despite every bone in her body telling her to shift, Harry stays still.

Finally, Moody clears his throat. “Constant vigilance!” He barks, whipping his wand out of his sleeve. Hermione leans forward slightly, her leg detangling from Harry’s as she poises her quill over her parchment, ready to take notes.

Moody paces across the front of the classroom, and Harry finds herself unspeakably thankful she isn’t sitting in the front row. “That’s what you must all remember.” He pauses. “Who can tell me what an Unforgivable Curse is?”

Hermione’s hand shoots into the air, and both of Moody’s eyes narrow on her. “Miss...”

“Granger,” Hermione offers.

Moody inclines his head very slightly, his magic eye drifting back to Harry, giving him a slight cross-eyed look. “Go ahead, Miss Granger.”

“An Unforgivable Curse is one that’s been outlawed by the Ministry. It’s illegal to use them, and the punishment is Azkaban.”

Moody nods, seeming satisfied with her answer. “And who can tell me what these curses are?” He stops in front of Ron Weasley. “Mr. Weasley? Your father works at the Ministry, if I’m not mistaken. Surely you know.”

Ron clears his throat. From where Harry’s sitting, she can see the tops of his ears turn red. “Well,” he stammers, “there’s the Imperious curse?” Moody nods, his real eye trained on Ron, while his magic one spins around the room. Harry has to look away before it makes her nauseous. Ron seems to grow more confident in himself after the confirmation. “My father told me. It takes away people’s control over themselves.”

“Very good, Mr. Weasley,” Moody says, his voice almost like a growl. “That particular curse was a favorite of the Dark Lord’s.”

Oh, he means you Harry says to Tom, who seems to be deciding whether to be angry or smug.

It may have been known Tom says slyly. Much easier to get things done when people aren’t arguing with you.

You mean when they can’t argue with you.

Tom doesn’t answer, but he seems to decide to be smug, rather than angry, which Harry takes for a yes. Moody’s still talking, so Harry resumes paying attention to the discussion. “Anyone else?” He moves further into the classroom, his magical eye still spinning wildly. He stops in front of Neville Longbottom’s desk. “Mr. Longbottom?”

Neville’s head snaps up. He’s sitting in front of Harry, so she can’t get a good look at his face. She can see the way he shifts in his seat, and the way his shoulders hunch as he folds in on himself, and the way a few people look at him with something like sympathy.

Do you know what that’s about?

Tom seems to be considering something. No. Whatever it was, it must have happened after I ended up in your head.

Neville clears his throat. Harry’s never been close to him, apart from sharing classes together, but she knows he’s not the type to volunteer in class. She’s surprised to hear him speak at all, if she’s being honest. “The Cruciatus Curse,” he says, voice so quiet, Harry almost misses it all together.

Moody almost smiles, one half of his mouth pulling up and carving his face into a grimace. “And what is the Cruciatus Curse, Mr. Longbottom?”

Harry can feel Hermione’s leg bouncing next to hers, and she looks over in concern. Hermione looks furious, but she just shakes her head when she catches Harry’s gaze. ‘Later,’ she mouths, and Harry turns back to Neville.

She watches as Neville shifts again. This time, when he speaks, his voice comes out stronger. “It’s used to torture people.”

Moody’s expression is indecipherable. “Correct, Mr. Longbottom. Thank you.” He moves away from Neville, and Harry can see the other boy’s whole body relax once Moody isn’t in front of him anymore. “Now, who here can tell me what the last Unforgivable Curse is?”

There’s a deadly silence in the room, filled only by the sound of Moody’s wooden leg against the floor. He moves slowly through the classroom, and Harry gets the image of a shark swimming through water, searching for its next victim.

He stops in front of Harry. “Nobody?” When Harry looks up, both his eyes are trained on her.

Avada Kedavra Tom says in her head, off-hand.

“The Killing Curse,” Harry says, because she figures no one else will. They’re all staring at her, or her scar, more like, and she refuses to become uncomfortable.

Moody’s eye narrows on her. “That’s right,” he says. “And I’m standing in front of the only person to ever survive such a curse. It’s called the Killing Curse for a reason.”

Harry lifts her chin slightly, jutting it forward. Moody makes her uncomfortable for a reason she can’t name. He stares at her for a moment longer, before turning back to the front and making his way back to the chalkboard.

"Now... those three curses - Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus - are known as the Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up against. That's what I've got to teach you to fight. You need preparing. You need arming. But most of all, you need to practise constant, never-ceasing vigilance. Get out your quills... copy this down...”

 

Harry’s sprawled out on the grass by the Black Lake later that afternoon when Hermione finds her. She’s got her textbooks open in front of her and is theoretically supposed to be doing homework, but she’s finding it hard to focus with the sound of the lake and the feeling of the sun against her skin have her nodding off.

There’s a sharp kick to her ankle and Harry’s eyes snap open, narrowing in on Tom, sitting by her feet. “Wake up,” he says, nodding his chin towards something behind her. She rolls her eyes, but pushes herself up onto her elbows, twisting to see what he was pointing at.

Harry’s not surprised to see Hermione making her way down the hill, her curls flying behind her in the wind. Her face is set in concentration, but when she sees that Harry is looking at her, it breaks out into a bright smile.

“Harry,” she says, once she’s close enough for Harry to hear her. “Good, I’m glad you’re here.”

Harry raises her eyebrows at Hermione, turning her head back towards the lake. Hermione drops her things next to Harry, sitting down next to her and crossing her legs. “Were you looking for me somewhere else?”

Shrugging, Hermione pulls a book out of her bag. “You can be incredibly difficult to find, sometimes,” she says. Harry doesn’t answer, figuring Hermione has a point. Harry’s done her absolute best to find some of the more isolated locations in Hogwarts, aided by Tom. She likes the comfort of knowing she can disappear in the castle whenever she wants.

They sit in silence for a few moments, Hermione reading her book while Harry starts to drift off again. Suddenly, she’s reminded of their Defense class earlier in the day. “Hey, ‘mione?” She sits up again, wide awake.

Hermione makes a noise of acknowledgement, not looking up from her book. “Why were you upset in Defense today?”

She lingers over the book for a moment before looking up, her curls falling over her face, before she tosses her head and they join the rest of her hair. “What do you know about Neville, Harry?”

Harry just shrugs. She’s never really cared to get to know the other boy, and he’s always seemed much too timid for her to want to befriend him.

Hermione leans in, lowering her voice, even though there’s no one around that could overhear them. “His parents were really active in the war against You-Know-Who. Apparently, after you defeated him, some of You-Know-Who’s biggest supporters found them and tortured them, with that curse Moody talked about. It was really cruel of him to ask Neville about that, knowing what his parents went through.”

“How do you know that?” Harry feels a pang of sympathy for Neville, understanding what it’s like to grow up without parents.

Hermione wrinkles her brow. “It’s pretty common knowledge in Gryffindor. He never talks about them though. He lives with his grandmother.”

The conversation falls flat after that, and Harry thinks over Hermione’s words. It sounds like she’s taken Neville’s situation in stride. Harry makes a mental note to be at least a touch nicer to Neville the next time she sees him.

“That’s very kind of you,” Tom says, reading her thoughts. There’s a sharp, unkind edge to his voice, and Harry knows he’s mocking her.

 

“One of these days, I think you’re just going to fall,” Tom says, leaning against the outer wall of the school. They’re in one of the Astronomy towers, and Harry’s sitting at the edge, her legs dangling. “Or get caught.”

Harry turns to look back at him, sees the sharp curve to his mouth and the glint in his eyes. She knows he’s being cruel for the fun of it, knows his sharp edges are a core tenet of his personality, despite how he’s begun to soften around her. Harry does her best to ignore it, finding the ability comes easier to her now than it has in the past.

“What are they going to do?” She asks, rhetorically. “Expel me?”

Tom laughs, the sound natural and human, like she startled it out of him. “You never know. Dumbledore might try.”

Harry rolls her eyes, turning back to face the grounds, but she can’t help the smile that twitches at the corners of her mouth. “I’m sure he’d rather me be here than out there. Keep your enemies close and all that.”

Tom makes a considering noise. “I’m not sure he considers you his enemy. He’s watchful, sure, but does it go that far?”

“I honestly don’t care,” Harry answers. “You’re his enemy. By association, that makes me his enemy as well, whether he knows that to be true or not.”

The mirror in Harry’s pocket begins to heat up, and she pulls it out hastily. The whole point of her and Tom coming up to the Astronomy tower was so she could have some privacy to talk with Sirius.

“Wait,” Tom says, appearing by her side. He sits next to her, peering at the mirror with a curious expression on his face. His brow is furrowed and his mouth pulls down at the corners. Today, his eyes are a clear grey, the flinty blue less noticeable than usual. “I want to see how it works.”

Shrugging, Harry holds the mirror up in front of her face. For a moment, she can only see her own reflection, slightly distorted in the glass. In between one heartbeat and the next, her face disappears, replaced by Sirius’s.

When he sees her, he smiles crookedly. “Little lion,” he says, his voice sounding like he could be standing right in front of Harry. Her heart pangs, and Harry wishes she was actually with him.

“‘Lo, Sirius,” she says, the simple contact already releasing some of the pent up tension she’s accumulated over the past week. “How is the trial going?”

His smile drips away, as his brow furrows and his mouth pinches in a frown. Harry is momentarily sorry that she brought the subject up at all. “Fine, I suppose. The Ministry is being difficult about timing. They’ve rescheduled my preliminary interview about five times now, and won’t give me a straight answer about when it will take place.”

Harry picks at a loose thread on her robes. “The preliminary is the one where you just give your side of the story, right?”

Sirius makes a noise of agreement. “It’s not very serious, or important, but it is the first step towards the full trial. Someone is out to get me on the Ministry’s side, and that’s why they keep rescheduling on me, but I don’t know who it is. They keep saying they have other events going on that take precedence.”

“Apparently, Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament,” Harry tells Sirius. “That might be it?” Sirius had been staring into the distance, at a spot slightly above the mirror, but when Harry speaks, he looks at her in surprise.

“Really? That was cancelled even before I was at Hogwarts. Dangerous.”

Harry grins, feeling like they’re finally moving into safer territory. “Sounds like your cup of tea.”

 

The time between the first day of class and the arrival of the other schools passes both slowly and quickly. Harry finds herself caught up in the rush of classes, trying to juggle her friendships with Draco and the Weasley twins and stealing moments with Hermione away from prying eyes.

One thing Harry hadn’t counted on was how intense the scrutiny of the school would feel, especially once she started dating someone. To be fair, she hadn’t really considering dating anyone until she started crushing on Hermione, but it still takes her by surprise.

All of this is made slightly easier through Sirius, who Harry informed of her relationship or her attraction to both boys and girls (although she doesn’t really think he’d mind much), when he sends her a signed Hogsmeade form.

Harry’s expertise with the secret corridors in Hogwarts comes in handy in this aspect as well. Tom has begrudgingly given her his knowledge in these areas as well, including showing her the Room of Requirement on the seventh floor. Harry has spent more afternoons than she can count with her legs thrown over Hermione’s, while the other girl reads out loud, or simply in silence while they work on homework. The simple contact between them brings Harry more comfort than she’s willing to admit.

Currently, Harry’s sitting in the window ledge of one of the courtyards that overlooks the Black Lake. She’s got a book on Dark Magic out, one that she had managed to filch out of the Malfoy’s library this past summer when she stayed there. She’s half interested in the words on the page, more holding it up for Tom’s sake, who’s reading through her eyes.

She turns the page on autopilot, but a loud yell down the corridor startles her. Harry peers over her shoulder, catches sight of a herd of Gryffindors running down towards the lake. What do you think that’s about?

Tom sighs, and a shiver runs down her spine as he extricates himself from her thoughts, appearing opposite her on the ledge. There’s not quite room for both of them, so his legs hang off the edge as he twists into a position where they can both fit. Somehow, he manages to look comfortable, even though Harry knows the stone column must be digging into his spine. “What day is it, Harry?”

She has to think for a moment, having lost track of time. Oh. She feels a little odd, realizing that tomorrow is October 31st, wonders if she should be more concerned she forgot about the day her parents died 13 years ago. She shakes her head. So...

Tom sighs again, like he’s irritated about how slow she’s catching on. “The other schools arrive today.”

Before he can say anything else, he’s interrupted by the Weasley twins. Fred comes up to Harry first, standing next to where she’s sitting. He looks windswept, his hair ruffled and cheeks pink, and when he sees her, he smiles broadly. George comes up from behind him, peering over his brother’s shoulder at Harry.

“You ready?” Fred asks, moving slightly closer and placing a hand on her shoulder. Harry hurriedly snaps the book in her hand shut, tucking it back into her bag.

“For what?” She shifts so her body is facing in towards the castle, lifting her chin to catch sight of Fred’s face. He watches her move, a small smile on his face. George moves around to the other side, where Tom was previously, and sits. Tom makes an offended noise, disappearing back into her mind.

George gestures broadly towards the lake. “Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrive today,” he says.

“Through the lake? How is that possible?”

More people push past, heading to the end of the courtyard, presumably looking for a better view of the lake. Fred’s hand flexes on her shoulder. “Not sure,” he answers. “Guess we’ll find out shortly.”

George’s elbow hits Harry’s knee. “You planning on entering your name into the Goblet?”

She laughs, shaking her head. “No way. Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, didn’t Dumbledore say he was going to put up some sort of protections so underaged students couldn’t enter?”

Fred laughs this time, taking his hand off his shoulder and propping his arm up on the wall above Harry’s head as he leans in. Harry’s shoulder brushes his chest when she exhales. “George and I thought we’d try our hand.” A glint of silver catches the corner of her eye, and she barely has to turn her head to see the small vial Fred’s holding out to her. “Aging potion.”

Looking between the twins with something between disbelief and amusement, Harry shakes her head. “It’s not going to work,” she says. “You know that, right?”

“Not going to work, she says!” Fred crows, dropping his arm so it falls around her shoulders, pulling her towards him slightly as he shakes her gently. “You underestimate our abilities, dear Harry.”

Harry scoffs. “More like you underestimate Dumbledore’s.”

Fred laughs, shaking his head slightly, but they’re interrupted by a murmur from the crowd that’s assembled in the courtyard. Harry glances at the lake to see what the fuss is about. There’s a large ripple from the center, emanating outwards.

Slowly, a sail rises out of the water, revealing a large ship. Water streams off the sails, back into the lake, as the boat approaches the shores. Fred taps her shoulder, pointing up at the sky. “Look.” Harry follows his finger, where she catches sight of what looks like flying horses, pulling something that she can’t quite make out. As it comes closer, she realizes it must be a carriage.

“Which one do you think is which?” Harry asks, unable to determine if she should be focusing on the ship or on the carriage. Ultimately, the choice is taken away from her as they both land on the lawn of Hogwarts around the same time.

George hums. “I’d say the ship is Durmstrang. Looks more rugged, don’t you reckon?”

Harry cranes her neck to get a better view, because people are unboarding from both the ship and the carriage. The first person to step out of the carriage is dressed completely in shades of powder blue. He’s tall, with blonde hair, and holds open the door for what appears to be a woman the size of Hagrid, in elaborate robes.

“Definitely Beauxbatons,” Fred says, clearly following her gaze. “Clearly French. Plus, look. Their robes are heavy. Durmstrang is rumored to be located somewhere remote and northern.”

Harry shifts to look at the people unboarding from the ship. Fred was right. They’re wearing heavy furs and dark robes, and Harry doesn’t see any girls at all. Durmstrang places a heavy influence on teaching the Dark Arts Tom chimes in, finally. The headmaster, Karkaroff, was a Death Eater. Seems he got off rather lightly.

There’s a layer of menace to his words, and Harry can sense the underlying anger. We are not, under any circumstances, going to exact revenge on Karkaroff. Understand?

Tom doesn’t argue with her, although she can tell he wants to. “How do you think the feast is going to go tonight?” Harry turns towards the twins, away from the bank, where Dumbledore has appeared, now greeting the new arrivals.

George shrugs, pushing himself off the ledge to stand by his brother. “Dunno. Guess we’ll find out soon. Are you going to sit with us?”

Harry shakes her head. “I promised Draco I’d sit with him tonight. Slytherin’s betting on who’s going to be the Hogwarts champion and I intend on winning.”

“See you there, then,” Fred says, taking his hand off her shoulder. Harry had almost forgotten it was there. The twins step away, walking together with their heads bowed as they clearly discuss something. Harry wonders briefly what they’re talking about, but she turns back to look at the schools on the lawn. They’re moving into the castle, so Harry picks up her stuff to go find Draco.

 

Draco almost loses his composure for the first time that Harry’s known him when he sees that Viktor Krum goes to Durmstrang and has arrived at Hogwarts to compete. Harry remembers him fawning over Krum during the World Cup, so she’s not surprised by his reaction, although she is slightly surprised by the fervor of his adoration.

When they’re sitting down at the feast to welcome the new students, Draco waves the students from Durmstrang over, moving over to have a seat next to him in particular. Harry wants to roll her eyes, but she knows Draco will only be offended so she restrains herself. Krum sits next to Draco, and Harry is promptly forgotten as Draco turns to pester the Quidditch star. Harry has a few questions she’d like to ask Krum herself, but figures now is not the time.

The girls and boys from Beauxbatons sit at the Ravenclaw table, the blue of their uniforms a few shades lighter than the blue of the Ravenclaws’ uniforms. Harry wonders if they sat with them because of the color coordination.

“Will you need to stay in the school? You’re more than welcome to stay in our dorms as well,” Draco is offering, speaking loudly with his chest puffed. Harry is more than used to his antics, and they’ve been friends long enough that he no longer tries to impress her, so she finds it amusing to watch him preen. She suspects most of it is performative, but Harry wouldn’t be surprised if there was a kernel of truth to his actions.

Harry leans forward to take another roll from the basket and the two necklaces around her neck fall loose, partially because she’s taken off her tie and unbuttoned the top few buttons of her shirt. For some reason, they’ve decided to keep the castle unbearably warm and Harry’s been feeling uncomfortably hot.

She goes to tuck the locket back under her shirt, feeling like it’s something private, for her and Tom only. Harry’s in the process of buttering her roll when she feels eyes on her. She looks up, catches Krum staring at her, a dark scowl on his face.

“What?” Harry snaps defensively, putting her knife down. His eyes drop down to her chest, and when she looks down, she sees the necklace Hermione gave her. Her hand reaches up to touch it, tracing the familiar shape of the triangle.

“You should not be wearing that,” he says in a thick Bulgarian accent. “You support Grindelwald?”

Tom laughs in her head. Tell him you do. I want to see what he does. Harry doesn’t think something that brings Tom joy like that is something she should be supporting.

She remembers Tom telling her the charm was a sign of dark magic for some circles. She’s guessing at Durmstrang, or Bulgaria, or wherever Krum is from, is one of those circles. “No,” she says. “It was a gift.”

Krum’s scowl deepens. “You should not wear that,” he repeats. Harry raises her chin in something that feels like defiance. She doesn’t tuck the necklace back into her shirt, maintaining eye contact. Draco, in between them, looks back and forth rapidly, like he wants to interrupt but he doesn’t know how.

Still scowling, Krum looks away, turning back to his food. There’s a burly-looking boy from Durmstrang sitting across from him who’s got a similarly dark expression on his face. The two start talking in Bulgarian, Harry assumes, both of them sending severe glares towards Harry every so often.

Good Tom says, sounding more sarcastic than he usually does I’m glad you’ve managed to anger two members of the Durmstrang delegation already. A fantastic start, truly.

I don’t know why you’re so upset Harry retorts. It’s not like we’re ever going to see them again after this.

I wouldn’t be so sure he answers. I thought I told you to keep the necklace hidden?

Sorry if I can’t keep a piece of jewelry secret at all times. Besides, you could have told me it was the sign of a Dark Lord.

Tom sighs in her mind. I did as much as telling you. It doesn’t get more clear than saying it was a sign of dark magic.

Dark magic is subjective Harry points out. What you would consider dark and what I would consider dark and what Dumbledore would consider dark are all very different things.

Tom falls silent. Harry gets the impression he agrees with her but doesn’t want to admit it. “What was that about?” Draco hisses at her side.

Harry turns slightly to face him, even though doing so puts her more in the eyeline of Krum. “Hermione gave me this necklace for my birthday.” She touches the symbol at her chest. “Apparently, Krum doesn’t like it.”

Draco frowns, peering at the symbol. He doesn’t look like he recognizes it, which makes Harry think it’s more of a big deal for the rest of Europe. “What is it?”

“I guess it’s the symbol of the Deathly Hallows,” Harry answers, even though she’s still not really sure herself. “I guess it’s an old wizarding tale?”

At her words, a look of recognition crosses Draco’s face. “Oh, I remember now. My mother used to read those to me when I was younger. Weird that he’d get so upset about it. Do you think he won’t give me an autograph now?”

Harry rolls her eyes and decides to go back to her dinner. If Draco really wants an autograph from Krum, that’s his business and Harry has no interest in getting involved.

The rest of the feast passes relatively smoothly, although conversation is more stilted between Draco and Krum than it previously had been. Harry strikes up a conversation with Blaise Zabini about halfway through the meal. She finds herself fascinated by his mother, and her many husbands, and Zabini seems perfectly unphased about the many rumors surrounding his mother.

That could be me Harry says to Tom, tickled by the thought of becoming a black widow of sorts. He’s nowhere near as amused by the idea. Towards the end of the meal, Harry starts wishing she had sat with the Weasley twins, seeing as she can hear their laughter from across the hall. While normally, she’s not impressed by their antics, having adopted the Slytherin conservatism for herself, but in moments like this, where Draco is still star-struck and therefore ignoring her, she thinks their company would be nice.

Finally, the dinner ends and all of the dishes clear. Dumbledore stands at the podium at the front of the hall, wearing a particularly awful set of fuschia robes. The hall gradually falls silent, and he claps his hands together. “First,” he says, “I would like to welcome our guests. Madame Maxime, headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and Igor Karkaroff, headmaster of Durmstrang Institute. We are honored to have you, and to be hosting the Triwizard Tournament.”

Madame Maxine and Karkaroff, sitting on either side of Dumbledore’s chair nod. Harry thinks Karkaroff looks rather slimy, although she’s willing to accept Tom’s feelings on the man may have clouded her judgement. “Next,” Dumbledore waves his wand, and the Goblet of Fire appears on a stand in front of where he’s standing. “Every student over the age of 17 may enter their name into the Goblet of Fire. I, along with Ministry officials, will be setting up measures to make sure no one tries to enter their name when they are not supposed to.

“In 24 hours, we will reconvene, and the Goblet will choose the individuals most worthy from each school to be the champion. We will see you all then. Good night.”

With that, Dumbledore dismisses the student body, turning back to the Head Table. Harry watches him go, noticing how he stops to talk to Karkaroff. She’s distracted by Draco however, who’s tapping on her leg insistently. “I heard Cedric Diggory’s going to put his name in.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “A Hufflepuff? Isn’t Flint putting his name in?”

They rise from the table, making their way to the dungeons. Draco shrugs. “Last I heard he was.” He lowers his voice, glancing over his shoulder to see who’s behind them. “Flint’s dumb as a bag of rocks, so I can’t see him actually being chosen.”

Harry pauses. “Alright, I’ll take those odds. Five gallons on Diggory over Flint?” Draco shakes her hand.

“Deal. But I’ll put another five gallons on Krum being the Durmstrang champion.” Harry shrugs and agrees.

“It would be nice to have a Slytherin champion,” she muses, once they’re in the common room. “Might make the other houses take us seriously for once.”

 

Harry’s eating breakfast in the Great Hall the next morning when the Weasley twins come up to her. She’s at the Slytherin table, but it’s later in the morning, so most of the other students are in class. She’s been trying to read more of the book on Dark Arts (she’s found a fascinating curse that seems to disintegrate an individual’s organs that she finds particularly promising) and she has a half eaten piece of toast in front of her.

People have been filtering in and out of the Great Hall for the past hour she’s been here, entering their names into the Goblet. Every time they do, blue flame licks up the side of the cup, before dying down again. So far, they’ve been mostly Hogwarts students, although a delegation of the Beauxbatons students came in a pack to enter their names, led by a pretty blonde girl.

Fred and George sit down across from her, wearing identical grins. “You tell her, George,” Fred says, gesturing towards his brother with one hand and picking up the rest of Harry’s toast with the other. He bites into it with dramatic flourish, while George clears his throat.

“Got a quill handy? We need to write down our names.” Harry reluctantly hands him her quill, watching with trepidation as he scribbles their names down on two separate bits of parchment.

“It’s not going to work,” she warns them again, but the twins seem unbothered by her words. “Why are you two so insistent on entering anyhow? It seems like it would be more entertaining watching from the sidelines, no?”

Fred laughs, while George shakes his head. “Ah, dear Harry. It’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination,” George explains, rather unhelpfully.

Clearly sensing her confusion, Fred takes pity on her. “Prize money,” he says. “We’re looking to kickstart our creations, and the money awarded to the winner is going to help us get there.”

Harry thinks absently she could just give them the money they need, seeing as she has no real use for the fortune sitting in her vault at Gringotts, but she stays silent. She’s spent enough time around the Weasleys to understand that accepting handouts isn’t really in their nature, and they hate feeling pitied almost more than anything else. “Good luck,” she says in return.

Fred winks at her, pulls a vial out of his pocket, and clinks it against George’s identical vial. “Bottom’s up,” he says, standing up from the table and throwing the potion back. He and George move in front of the Goblet of Fire, surrounded by a glowing circle, put in place by Dumbledore to keep people like the twins out.

Hermione sits down next to Harry, having come into the Great Hall unnoticed. She follows Harry’s gaze. “What are they doing?” She asks, a hint of laughter in her voice.

“I have no idea,” Harry answers, shaking her head with resignation. At this point, trying to understand the twins’ motive is beyond her. She’s found it’s much easier to go with their flow.

The two step into the circle, pausing once they’re within. A beat of silence, where nothing happens. George whoops loudly, and there’s a loud cheer from the surrounding students. The twins accumulated an audience for their performance, something that doesn’t surprise Harry one bit.

They start moving forward, before there’s a loud bang and a bright flash of light. Both of them are flung backwards, landing on the stone floors. Harry winces when she sees the impact. Fred sits up first, and Harry can’t stop her laughter when she sees him. His normally red hair has turned a brilliant white, and a beard long enough to rival Dumbledore’s has taken over his face.

“They really are idiots,” Tom says, from her other side. She hadn’t noticed him appear either. He’s staring at the twins with a bleak look on his face, shaking his head ever so slightly. “And you’re laughing.” He turns his disapproving look on Harry.

A loud swell of laughter and commotion has taken over the Hall, as students gather around the twins to both congratulate and mock them in turn. Professor McGonnagal, still at the Head Table, has her head in her hands, and seems to be trying to contain laughter.

“They really are idiots,” Hermione says, echoing Tom’s sentiment word for word. “Honestly, how stupid do you have to be to think you could trick a spell of Dumbledore’s?”

Tom seems rather disgusted to have shared the same opinion as Hermione, and the look on his face only sends Harry into another fit of laughter.

 

This time, at dinner, Krum decides to sit several seats away from Draco and Harry. She’s perfectly fine with that, having enough of his judgemental looks. Even now, she can tell he’s still glaring at her, and wishes he’d find something else to occupy his attention. Still, she can’t be too bothered, because there’s a palpable tension in the air, as everyone waits for the food to clear and for the Goblet to choose the names of the champion.

Finally, the remaining food vanishes, and Dumbledore stands. The torches on the walls dim and the Goblet of Fire’s flames flicker green in the dark. “Let the Goblet now decide who shall represent each school.”

“First, the champion from Beauxbatons.” The Goblet’s flames flicker higher and higher, the color of the flames shifting from a brilliant green to a bright blue. Dumbledore reaches into the flames, pulling his hand out unscathed, clutching a piece of paper. “Miss Fleur Delacour.” His voice booms across the hall.

There’s a loud round of applause from the Beauxbatons delegation at the Ravenclaw table, as the pretty blonde Harry saw earlier rises up and gracefully makes her way to the front of the hall. She shakes Dumbledore’s hand, and is directed by her Headmistress to a door at the back of the hall.

“Now, from Durmstrang...” The flames flicker green again, and Dumbledore pulls out another piece of paper. “Mr. Viktor Krum!” There’s a loud round of shouting from down the Slytherin table as Krum’s schoolmates clap him on the back and cheer for him. He’s grinning, and when he stands, his eyes catch Harry’s.

“Pay up,” Draco whispers, nudging Harry with his elbow.

“Not so fast,” she hisses back, drumming her fingers on the table. Krum makes his way up to the front of the hall, shaking Dumbledore’s hand. Karkaroff is quick to usher him to the same door Fleur went through.

After the hall has quieted again, Dumbledore returns to the Goblet. “And last, but certainly not least, the champion for Hogwarts.” The flames turn green, licking up the sides of the Goblet. Dumbledore reaches in, grabbing a piece of parchment. “Mr. Cedric Diggory!”

The uproar is immediate, almost every person sitting at the Hufflepuff table leaping up and swarming the end of the table. After a few moments of commotion, Cedric Diggory extricates himself and makes his way up to the Head Table.

Harry knows Cedric vaguely, mostly through Quidditch, where he’s the Hufflepuff seeker. He’s a tall seventh year, with wavy brown hair and almost unnaturally perfect teeth. He’s grinning ear to ear now, a flush high on his cheeks, and Harry can’t say she’s upset he was picked. She claps politely, watching as he’s led back to the same door by Professor Sprout, his Head of House.

When Diggory is finally gone, Dumbledore turns back to the Hall. “Now that all the names have been drawn...” His back is to the Goblet, but when people start murmuring, he pauses and turns around.

The flames of the Goblet are flickering green again, like there’s another name to be drawn. Harry peers at it with confusion, glancing at Draco to her side, who looks just as lost as she feels. He catches her eyes and shrugs. Dumbledore reaches into the fire, pulling out another slip of parchment.

“The Goblet has... chosen a... fourth champion, it appears,” Dumbledore says, halting. He unfolds the paper and reads the name silently to himself. He doesn’t look up for a beat longer than Harry expects him to. Dumbledore clears his throat. “That fourth champion is... Harry Potter.”

Immediately, a wave of whispers spreads through the hall like a tidal wave. There’s a slight ringing noise in her ears as she slumps in her seat. This can’t be right, she thinks. She didn’t put her name in the Goblet, she wanted to avoid everything to do with the Tournament.

Draco is shaking beside her, and at first, Harry thinks it’s because he’s upset. When she looks at him, she can see he’s actually trying to contain laughter. “Harry Potter!” Dumbledore calls again, and Draco takes the opportunity to let out a loud cough, which sounds a lot like a laugh.

“Well, get up then,” Tom says, his voice behind her. His hands come down on her shoulders, moving to under her elbows as he practically hauls her out of her seat. “He’s not going to stop saying your name, and unless you’ve learned how to become invisible without me knowing, it’s best to get this over with now.”

It’s not right Harry says, stumbling a bit when she reaches her feet. Tom has already moved away, so there’s nothing to keep her steady.

“I know it’s not, sweetheart,” Tom says, a bite to his words. “But you have to go up there before they come looking for you.”

Harry supposes he has a point, so she makes her way to the front. The walk seems unnaturally long, and she can feel the weight of the school’s eyes on her. Harry’s used to their stares, so she holds her chin high. She didn’t put her name in the Goblet, no matter what they think, and she’s not going to bow under their judgement.

When she reaches the front, she shakes Dumbledore’s hand mechanically. She doesn’t meet his gaze, not particularly interested in seeing what he’s thinking of her at the moment. “This way, Miss Potter,” Snape sneers, appearing by her side.

He leads her to the door that the other three champions vanished through, which leads to a small antechamber. He doesn’t enter with her, sending her ahead on her own.

The other champions are gathered around the fire, standing by their headmasters. “Did they send you?” Cedric Diggory is the first to notice her. His face is open and friendly, even though his words are brusque.

Harry shakes her head mutely. Tom brushes against her, standing directly behind her, and she can feel the exact moment he starts to laugh. Not you too she thinks towards him, a ball of anger starting to burn in her stomach.

“Sorry,” he says, sounding anything but. “I can’t help it.”

“What are you here for, then?” Krum snaps, a dark look on his face. His accent grows thicker with his emotions, and Harry can barely understand him.

Before she can answer, the door to the Great Hall swings open again, Dumbledore storming inside, followed by Snape. “Did you put your name in the Goblet?” Dumbledore asks Harry calmly, once he’s facing her.

“No,” Harry says calmly, suddenly finding her voice. “I don’t want to compete. There’s been a horrible mistake.”

Another person enters the room, a face Harry remembers vividly. It’s Bartemous Crouch, the same man who accused Harry of casting the Dark Mark in the sky, and who sent Sirius to Azkaban without a trial. She feels the anger in her stomach swell a little larger, burning a little hotter.

“A fourth champion?” Karkaroff interjects. His hand is clamped on Krum’s shoulder, and his glare bores into the side of Harry’s face. “Impossible.”

Harry wants to throw her hands in the air and shout that she agrees with him. Because she’s been living with Tom Riddle in her head, she restrains herself, but fumes.

“The Goblet has chosen her,” Crouch says, his voice hoarse. He’s standing in the shadows, his features barely recognizable. “She must compete or forfeit her life.”

What?” Harry exclaims, a shock of adrenaline rushing through to her heart. “Isn’t there anyway around that?”

“Yes,” Madame Maxime speaks for the first time. “I would like to know this too.” Her French accent distorts her words, turning ‘this’ into ‘thees’. “It seems to me like ‘Ogwarts is trying to win by submitting another champion.”

Karkaroff is already nodding in agreement.

“I can protest until my face turns blue,” Harry says, unable to keep the anger completely out of her voice. “I did not put my name in the Goblet. I’m not even of age. I don’t want to compete, and I’m certainly not trying to help rig the competition for Hogwarts. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine, but I should not be punished for something that was completely out of my control.”

Dumbledore’s watching her with a considering gaze. Finally, he nods slowly. “If there is truly nothing to be done, then Miss Potter must compete. Congratulations, Harry.”

Harry frowns. She doesn’t want congratulations. She wants to go back in time thirty minutes before her life was sent off the deep end. Again. Both Madame Maxime and Karkaroff raise their voices in complaint, but Harry’s started to tune them out. The ringing in her ears has returned, and she desperately wants to crawl into her bed and try to escape this night.

Tom slips an arm around her chest, in a backwards half-hug. “We’ll discuss this later,” he promises her. The thought comforts her, that at least she’ll have Tom to help her navigate this. If she didn’t, Harry doesn’t know what she would have done.

“I think it best the champions be off to bed,” Dumbledore says softly, cutting of Madame Maxime and Karkaroff’s tirades. “They’ll have a long year ahead of them. Goodnight, Cedric. Harry.”

Woodenly, Harry walks side by side with Cedric to the dungeons. Both the Hufflepuff dorms and Slytherin dorms are there, although Harry’s sure the vibes are incredibly different in both.

“Well...” Cedric trails off awkwardly as they stand at the fork, one path leading to Hufflepuff, the other to Harry’s dorm. “I suppose this is goodbye?”

Harry just stares at him mutely. He rubs the back of his neck, looking bashful. He’s got almost a head and a half on her, and Harry feels like he’s conscious of the height difference as well, because he’s slouched slightly.

“You really didn’t put your name in the Goblet?” He asks her, like he doesn’t really want to be asking the question at all, but has to check one more time.

Harry laughs bitterly. “No, Diggory, I didn’t put my name in the Goblet. Contrary to popular belief, my life is complicated enough without seeking out other problems.”

Cedric nods, like her answer is fair. “Okay then,” he says. His hand drops from his neck. “Good luck, I suppose,” he says without looking at her, and turns to head deeper into the dungeons.

This is all your fault Harry tells Tom on her way to the Slytherin common room. I’m not quite sure how yet, but I know it is.

He seems amused by that, and doesn’t seem to care enough to argue with her. Whatever you say.

Chapter Text

Harry is surprised to find out that the rest of the Slytherins don’t hate her for becoming a second champion. After her experiences her first three years, Harry was expecting them to make a big deal out of her entering the Triwizard Tournament, even though she had nothing to do with her name being entered. She expected rude remarks, more discussions about how she’s just seeking fame, expected to be ostracized from the rest of her housemates. She had been expecting it, preparing for it even.

Instead, the exact opposite happens. The Slytherins seem to take her becoming a champion for Hogwarts personally. They close ranks around her, not questioning if she put her name in the Goblet, and simply accepting it as fact.

“Why do you think they reacted that way?” Harry asks Tom, once she finally escapes to her room. When she had entered the Common Room, the Slytherins fell silent. No one congratulated her, and there were no accusations either way.

Marcus Flint had come up to her, towering over Harry. She’d prepared herself for vitriol, for defending herself against curses, especially since he had entered his name into the Goblet. She lifted her chin, ready for whatever he was planning on throwing at her. Harry wouldn’t let him, or anyone else here, see her flinch.

He surprised her, then, by holding his hand out for her to shake. “Don’t let us down,” he said gruffly, and Harry tentatively took his hand, shaking it civilly for the first time ever.

“What?” She had asked, confused by the lack of reaction.

There was no explanation forthcoming, but as she made her way to her room, the rest of her House seems to move for her, creating a path.

“You really don’t know?” Tom is sitting across from her, cross-legged, with his arms propping him up as he leans back. It’s a surprisingly casual position, one that seems at odds with his personality.

She shakes her head slightly, curled up on the bed, head on her pillow. She’s exhausted and sleep’s already pulling at her even though she still needs to get up and change. Tom frowns slightly, the barest hint of his mouth pulling down at the edges, but nothing beyond that.

“They respect you,” he says, voice taking a faraway tone, one that happens sometimes when he remembers his past. “Slytherin loyalty is unshakable once you have it. They’ll close around you. An insult against one Slytherin is an insult against all Slytherins.”

“You miss it?” Harry asks, yawning. She shuts her eyes, to rest them, while she waits for Tom’s answer.

He doesn’t ask for clarification. There’s a long pause before he answers, where Harry almost falls asleep. The sheets rustle as he shifts. “I used to, I think,” he says eventually, so low he’s almost whispering. Harry stirs at the answer, cracking one eye open. He’s closer than he was before, face blank of any emotion. She thinks he looks like the calm before the storm. All smooth seas, masking the inner hurricane.

“Used too?” Harry mumbles, shutting her eyes again. “Not anymore?”

More rustling of the sheets as he moves again. His hand presses against her forehead, a finger tracing her scar before his hand tangles in her hair, a familiar motion. Harry knows she should be moving away from his touch, but she finds herself relaxing under it. She feels like she’s sinking into the bed and sleep, the gentle tug on her hair rocking her deeper. There’s another long silence, one where Harry almost falls asleep, but she thinks Tom might have forgotten to answer.

“Now I have you, don’t I?” He’s whispering this time, but he sounds fonder than Harry can ever remember. “Get to see it all again.”

 

The rest of the school does not take to Harry’s championship as kindly as her House.

The whispers start the next morning as she enters the Great Hall for breakfast, and don’t stop until after she sits down at the Slytherin table. Draco’s taken up position next to her, a stony expression on his face. Although he had laughed the previous night when her name was called, he’s since taken her new status to heart, including making incredibly snide remarks to anyone who bad mouths her.

Harry butters her toast with aplomb, deciding she’ll go through the Tournament with her chin held high. The rest of the school may think she’s an attention-seeking, Dark-Lord-in-the-making, but Harry’s not going to let that stop her from making Slytherin proud. Plus, there’s nothing she likes less than being underestimated. No matter what they’re whispering, she’s not going to let them see it bother her.

“You should eat,” she tells Draco airily, biting into her toast. He’s sitting next to her, fork gripped tightly in his hand, a frown on his face.

He turns to her, watching her eat with something like disgust on his face. “How can you be so calm?” He’s starting to sound a little petulant, so Harry steps on his foot under the table.

She waves a hand in the air. “It’s all about the introspection, Draco. Sure, they may hate me, but nothing’s really changed. They’re just being more vocal about it now. They’ll be back to being sycophants in a few months.”

Tom, sitting across from her, grins sharply. It’s an unkind expression, but Harry’s not bothered by it. “You’ve grown perceptive,” he says, to which Harry ignores him, although she does feel a little bloom of warmth in her chest at his words.

Draco frowns. “You shouldn’t look at it that way,” he says. “Doesn’t it bother you that they turn on you so quickly?”

“It would have two years ago, and it did when the Chamber of Secrets thing was happening, but I’ve risen above it now.” What Harry’s saying is true, she has managed to risen above it. But she still feels an ache in her chest at the idea she’s had to wall herself off from the rest of Hogwarts, so their changing opinions don’t permanently scar her. She gets the vague sense that Tom approves of her walling herself off, flickers of his own life flashing in her mind.

Draco hesitates. Harry can tell he’s still dissatisfied with her answer. “You’re telling me even Granger’s reaction is beneath you?”

Harry pauses for the first time. “What do you mean? What about Hermione’s reaction?”

A hint of a smirk pulls at Draco’s mouth for the first time that morning, almost turning him back into his usual self. He juts his chin out across the hall, towards the Gryffindor table. Harry follows his gaze to see Hermione sitting next to Ron Weasley, chin in her palm. She doesn’t look any different than usual, maybe sitting a little stiffer, but her eyes don’t drift over to the Slytherin table like they usually do.

Harry shakes her head, not willing to let Draco get to her. She knows he would take any opportunity to drive a wedge between her and Hermione. “She’ll have my back, like she always does,” Harry informs Draco, pushing her plate away. Suddenly, she’s not hungry.

He eyes her plate knowingly, pulling it in front of him and picking up his fork. “You should really eat, you know,” he echoes her previous words.

Harry frowns at him, her eyes flickering back to Hermione without her permission. They’ve got Defense next, and Harry usually walks with Hermione. She hesitates to get up, wondering if she’ll risk being rejected in front of the whole school. While most of the school might not know they’re dating, they know Harry and Hermione are friends, despite the House rivalry. Being turned down by Hermione would be the cherry on top for the rest of the school.

“Don’t go then,” Tom drawls, sounding bored, and drawing Harry’s attention. “Why risk it?”

Draco’s probably just exaggerating Harry says, frowning. Hermione wouldn’t do that.

Tom sighs heavily. “If you really thought that was true, why are you still sitting here?”

He’s right, Harry knows. Making up her mind, Harry shoots to her feet. It won’t be so bad, she thinks, seeing as the Weasley twins are at the Gryffindor table and Harry’s fairly certain they don’t hate her. If Hermione says no, Harry’ll laugh it off, maybe, pretend like it’s not twisting a dagger in her heart.

Before she can approach the Gryffindor table, Hermione is standing with Ron Weasley. The two of them exit the Great Hall, heads bent together. Hermione doesn’t look back. Harry stiffens, flexes her fist, before she relaxes, the only outward sign of her hurt. She feels like the floor’s dropped out from under her. She and Hermione always walk together. It shouldn’t be as big of a deal as it feels, but Harry still can’t shake it.

She turns her head slightly to look at Draco. He has the decency to look contrite, instead of smug, like she knows he’s feeling. “Ready to go?” Harry’s pleased to hear her voice comes out normal.

It’s okay, you know her Tom tells her as she and Draco are walking to Defense. No one will ever understand what you’re going through. They’ll cast you aside without a second thought, and if you let them, they’ll keep walking over you. Better you realize that now than later.

Is that what happened to you? Harry asks.

Tom pauses. In a way. I was cast aside from the very beginning, with my last name. I knew from the start not to let anyone in. Less pain that way.

She frowns. Harry and Draco have reached the classroom, and she can see Hermione sitting in front, next to Weasley. Silently, she sits next to Draco, slumping in her seat. That’s a very sad way of looking at the world Harry answers after mulling over his words.

Not sad Tom answers immediately. It’s better to be prepared, Harry. You’ll learn in time.

 

Harry manages to corner Hermione after class ends. Moody stayed true to his promise to educate them on the Unforgivables, starting with the Killing Curse, and they’ve moved onto the Cruciatus curse. Everytime Moody says the words, Harry watches Longbottom flinch. Still, Moody had paired them up, so Harry hadn’t the chance to talk to Hermione alone.

She’s walking by herself, having lost her red-haired shadow for once. “Hermione!” Harry calls, walking quicker to catch up to the other girl. “Wait up.”

Hermione doesn’t slow, but Harry can see her turn her head slightly, before she changes her mind. Finally, Harry catches up to her, grabs her arm to pull her to a stop. “What is it, Harry?” Hermione asks, avoiding eye contact. People are giving them odd looks in the halls, and Harry really doesn’t want to have this conversation publicly, so she pulls Hermione into an empty classroom.

“Why are you avoiding me?”

Clutching her books closer to her chest, Hermione shakes her head, her curls bouncing wildly. “What do you mean? I’m not avoiding you.”

Harry frowns. “I’m not stupid, Hermione. You won’t even make eye contact with me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Harry.” Hermione looks up, meeting Harry’s eyes for the first time that day. There’s something daunting in her gaze, like she’s testing Harry, although testing her for what, Harry couldn’t say.

Harry takes a step backwards, crossing her arms over her chest. She knows the position makes her look defensive, but she honestly can’t bring herself to care. “You’re accusing me of being ridiculous? You’re the one who’s been avoiding me!”

“Well...” Hermione’s voice trails off. She shifts, tugging the books closer to her chest. She looks uncomfortable, back to avoiding Harry’s gaze.

Harry laughs. It tastes bitter in her mouth and falls flat. “What.” It’s not a question, not really. “You think I put my name in the Goblet.”

Hermione’s head snaps up and she catches Harry’s eyes. She looks close to tears, but Harry feels cold inside. Tom’s words echo inside her head. Less pain that way. She shuffles forward a step, reaching towards Harry. “What am I supposed to think?”

Harry scoffs. She turns away from Hermione, a sick twisting feeling in her stomach. “You didn’t even wait to hear my side of the story?” She laughs again, hollow. “I’m sure Weasley couldn’t wait to fill your head with all sorts of nonsense about how I’m a burgeoning Dark Lord and how I do everything for attention, and I don’t have a heart. Isn’t that right?”

“It’s not like that, Harry. It’s just... the Tournament is so dangerous. It’s okay, if you wanted to enter, I just wish you wouldn’t lie about it.” Hermione must see Harry’s face twist, because she starts to get angry as well. “You don’t have to be so cruel all the time. Just because you don’t like Ron doesn’t mean you have to say such horrible things about him.”

“Horrible?” Harry starts to become angry in return, the spark of anger quickly fanning into embers of fury. “How can it be horrible when it’s the truth? You’re trying to tell me that Weasley hasn’t mentioned his suspicions about me to you?”

Hermione looks crestfallen. “It’s not like you make it easy, you know. From the way you’ve treated everyone here, you might as well be plotting something.”

Harry freezes. She shakes her head. “I’m sorry you think that way,” she says, her voice cold. She sounds like Tom, she thinks. No emotion, just frosty polite. “I would hate for your precious Gryffindor reputation to be tainted by me. They might think I’m blackmailing you.” Hermione’s face pales. Harry laughs, shaking her head. “They already do. Fine, Hermione. I won’t talk to you anymore. Happy now?”

“Harry...” Hermione reaches for her again, but Harry twists away. There’s a sick feeling in her stomach, and her previous anger has cooled into something heavy and leaden. Harry faces the chalkboard, not wanting to look at Hermione and risk her mask cracking and her emotions spilling out.

She hears the classroom door open and close and when she looks over her shoulder, Hermione is gone. Harry wraps her arms around herself, trying to contain the swell of emotions that are clawing their way up her chest.

“It’s not your fault,” Tom says from behind her. He’s standing at the chalkboard, hands tucked into his pockets. A curl of hair falls across his forehead, and his tie is hanging loosely around his neck. He looks more dishevelled than usual, and Harry wonders if her emotions have something to do with that.

“What?” Harry’s not following his train of thought, still busy replaying her argument with Hermione, trying to analyze where they went so wrong.

“It’s not your fault,” he repeats. “Eventually, she wouldn’t be able to keep up anymore.” He moves closer to Harry, hands still in his pockets. It’s the diary, and he just looks like another bored Slytherin sixth year.

“You’re not making sense. She wouldn’t be able to keep up?” Harry thinks if this is Tom’s attempt at making her feel better, it’s going horribly.

Tom sighs, runs one hand through his hair. It falls back into place more dishevelled than before. “Who’s to say you won’t become a Dark Lord?” Harry frowns at him. “You’re walking a path no one else will. The mudblood would have just kept tripping. Cut your losses and move on.”

Harry’s frown deepens at his use of the slur. “I’m not going to become a Dark Lord,” she says. “And if this is you trying to cheer me up, please never try again.”

She guesses Tom has a point, even if he’s rather crude about getting it across. In a place like Gryffindor, Hermione was bound to become biased against Harry and against Slytherin. It isn’t like Harry’s tried to make many friends at Hogwarts. Still, she wishes it didn’t have to happen this way.

“If you say ‘I told you so’ I’m never speaking to you again,” Harry informs him. The door to the classroom swings open and students start filtering in, but Tom just smirks before disappearing.

 

Harry’s laying flat on her back, spread diagonally on the bed. Her head is at the foot, and her feet dangle off the edge at the top. She’s in the sixth year’s boys’ dormitory in the Gryffindor tower, just staring at the ceiling as she tries to process the past week.

As expected, the rest of the school has turned quite viciously on her. Seamus Finnigan took great pleasure showing Harry buttons he made, enchanted to read ‘Potter Stinks’ in flashing letters, along with a show of support for Cedric.

Gryffindor has declared outright for Diggory, in solidarity with Hufflepuff. All the Hufflepuffs Harry’s had the great displeasure of interacting with seem to think Harry entered her name into the Goblet to steal the spotlight from Diggory. The Ravenclaws have remained neutral, for the most part, although Harry thinks they’re against her on the basis of principle.

Harry’s own House has supported her throughout, and several skirmishes have erupted in the halls the past few days between Slytherins and other Houses. Somehow, Harry thinks, everyone thinks it’s okay to bully Slytherins because they’re hated by the rest of the school. The thought gives her pause, especially considering her housemates couldn’t control where they were Sorted.

Loud footsteps break Harry out of her train of thought. “Harry?” Fred asks, spotting her. She’s on his bed, she thinks, and she raises a hand to wave shortly. “How’d you get in here?”

“I have my sources,” she says, shooting for an air of mystery, but she’s not really got the energy to sell it. She should really just say source, which was Neville Longbottom’s bookbag, which she rifled through when he was in the bathroom and left his belongings unattended in the library. Hermione had mentioned in the past that Longbottom could never remember the password and took to writing it down.

Fred laughs anyway, coming to sit on the bed across from her. “You’re on my bed,” he points out. Harry shrugs best she can. The real reason she came here was to escape the rest of the school. Slytherins were supportive, sure, but Harry gets the feeling that’s because they can’t let a member of their House be bad mouthed. She thinks most of them still hate her, especially considering the Cold War that occured between Harry and the rest of the girls in her year the previous year.

In fact, Harry thinks this dormitory is the only place in the whole school where she won’t be judged.

“Everyone hates me,” Harry says miserably. Her previous attitude about the school from breakfast with Draco at the beginning of the week has disappeared along with Hermione. Harry hasn’t talked to the other girl since their argument, and she feels the loss of Hermione’s support acutely.

Fred doesn’t say anything for a moment. Harry wills herself to keep staring at the ceiling, a hot pressure in her eyes the only warning she gets before tears. Harry will not let herself cry, not over something as stupid as the school’s fair-weather attitudes. “Not everyone,” he says finally.

“Feels like it,” Harry answers. “What, aren’t you going to ask me if I put my name in?”

Fred laughs. “Does it matter?” Harry turns her head to look at him silently. It matters. It matters and he knows it does. There’s a beat of silence and Harry watches the smile drop of his face. She thinks this might be the first time she’s seen him serious. Laughter suits him better, she thinks. Lights him up. “No, Harry, I’m not going to ask. It doesn’t matter to me whether you did or not. And anyone who thinks you did, clearly, has not spent enough time around you.”

The thought is comforting, in a way Harry can’t describe. “What do you mean?”

Fred fixes her with a hard stare. Harry shifts under it, not used to that kind of scrutiny from him. “You told both me and George in no uncertain terms that entering the Tournament was the dumbest thing we could have done. You’re nothing if not pragmatic, Harry. I fully expect you’d take your own advice.”

Harry smiles for the first time in what feels like weeks. Fred’s support is more than she could have asked for. “Thank you,” she says.

“For what?” Fred gets up from the bed, crosses the room, to sit at the end of his bed, by Harry’s legs. He rests a hand on her knees.

“Believing me. Not caring. Understanding. All of the above.” Harry pauses. “It’s more than Hermione. She thinks I did. Or... doesn’t understand. I’m not sure, still.”

“Hermione?” Fred sounds surprised, or like he’s puzzling something out. “You two... dated.” It’s phrased like a question, even though he doesn’t add any inflection to it.

Harry feels uncomfortable for reasons she can’t name. “Are dating. I think. But, yes.” Harry pushes herself into a sitting position, crossing her legs. Fred’s hand falls to the bed. He studies the blanket.

“What happened?”

“She doesn’t care. Thinks I’m... cruel.” Harry laughs bitterly. “She’s probably right. Just wish she wasn’t so. Upfront about it.”

“For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re cruel,” Fred says, matter-of-fact. Harry shakes her head, a grin tugging at her mouth, but his words do make her feel better. Just a little.

There’s a long silence, but it’s more comfortable than awkward. Harry realizes this is the first time she’s ever been with Fred, just the two of them without a buffer like George or Hermione. The quiet gives Harry the chance to realize that Tom’s been particularly absent during their conversation. Usually, he’s front and center when Harry talks to the Weasley twins, mocking them. Today, he’s gone dormant, and Harry’s skin pricks suspiciously.

“Thank you,” Harry says belatedly. Another pause. “You know, I think this is the first serious conversation we’ve had.”

Fred’s face breaks out into a large grin, and it’s like the sun has bathed him. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says, leaning in with a conspiratorial air. “It’ll ruin my street cred. I think Ron thinks I was born with a smile.”

Harry’s face shutters at Ron’s name. Fred gives her a knowing look, catching her expression. “He means well,” he says.

Harry raises her eyebrows. “I’m sure he does,” she says, not wanting to discuss the subject any further, with Ron’s brother of all people.

To her great relief, Fred doesn’t push the subject any further. He leans back, sprawling across the bed. Harry becomes very aware of how alone they are. She clears her throat, her cheeks heating.

Very subtle Tom says in her head, speaking for the first time. It’s her Tom talking to her, and Harry finds his teasing much more comfortable than Diary Tom’s.

Fred doesn’t seem to notice anything, but there’s a sharp glint in his eyes that seems out of place. “Tell me, Harry. What do you know about dragons?”

“Dragons? They... can fly?” Tom’s exasperation rolls through her. “I mean, they’re just like snakes but with wings and fire and about fifty times the size, right?”

Fred taps the side of his nose, a wicked smile crossing his face.

 

“They can’t be serious, can they?” Harry asks Tom, later that night. She’s sitting up on the Astronomy Tower, which she normally wouldn’t do at night, but she knows Professor Sinistra has a nasty illness that’s kept her bedridden and classes cancelled.

He’s sitting beside her, his shoulder pressed to hers. She can feel him every time she breathes. He shrugs, the movement rubbing his arm against hers. “It wouldn’t surprise me.” He pauses. “I don’t know why you’re so upset. It’s possible the Weasley boy was lying to you. He is a Gryffindor after all.”

Harry frowns. “Fred wouldn’t lie to me.”

Tom turns his head to fix a burning stare on her. “That’s what you said about the mudblood and look where you are.” There’s a brief moment of silence. A cruel glint flickers in Tom’s eyes. “Crying over her.”

For that, Harry elbows him sharply in the side. “There were no tears shed,” she says, infuriated. “For someone who claims to care about me, you seem awfully nonchalant about the whole thing.”

Tom turns his body to face her, managing to knee her in the ribs as he does so. They’re sitting so close that Harry’s practically sitting on top of him, especially now that he’s moved. “Clearly, someone is out to discredit or kill you,” he says, matter of fact. “That is the concerning part, to me. Who at Hogwarts is willing to risk the potential repercussions of such an act? What benefits outweigh the risk? This is what we need to figure out.

“Am I concerned about the challenges themselves?” He phrases it like a question, but doesn’t give Harry time to answer. “No. You’re a strong witch, and as soon as we know what we’re going to be facing, we can help you figure out a way to overcome it. But the real issue is figuring out the endgame of whoever put your name in the Goblet. Do they want you to succeed? Do they want you to fail? Why put your name in the Goblet in the first place, if they just wanted to kill you. Why go to the trouble, when they could just kill you discreetly in the castle and hide your body? It’s not like you’re surrounded by people all the time.”

A shiver runs down Harry’s spine as she processes Tom’s words. He’s made many good points, and the whole conversation has only left her feeling more uneasy about the whole situation. “You say that like you’ve thought about how easy it would be to kill me before.”

Tom hesitates a hair too long before answering. “Why, Harry, I would never think about killing you.” Harry narrows her eyes. “Much.”

Harry wants to do something rash, like curse him, but she refrains for a number of reasons. One, she’s actually not sure what would happen if he was cursed. Would it just bounce back onto her, or would it actually affect him? She’s not eager to find out. Second, she thinks Tom would be able to stop her with ease. Third, she understands that the diary Tom has many unresolved issues, including an inability to handle his anger in a productive fashion, and it would be unfair of her to retaliate for faults he’s unable to control.

“It could be one of the people from the other schools,” Harry says, picking at a loose thread on her robes, deciding to move past his admission. “But I don’t know why they’d act so outraged if they really wanted me in the Tournament. To keep up appearances, maybe.” She falls silent, mulling over potential suspects. “Karkaroff, maybe? Didn’t you say he was a Death Eater?”

Harry’s Tom, in her head, laughs. It’s Voldemort’s laugh, high and cold, and it sends a feeling down Harry’s spine like that of a cold knife over steel. Karkaroff doesn’t have the spine to do something so cunning. Besides, he betrayed us years ago, claiming he was forced into servitude. Tom’s voice leaves no room for doubt about how he feels about Karkaroff’s flight back to the Light. My true servants went to Azkaban rather than betray my trust.

Harry’s not really sure how to handle Tom identifying himself with Voldemort, and his comments about “true servants” so she just stays silent.

“He’s right,” the diary Tom says. He has a faraway look in his eyes. “Karkaroff is too stupid to have put your name in. Maxime, maybe, but I have a hard time believing the French truly want you dead. They like to consider themselves above international magical politics.”

“Great,” Harry says, glad they’re back on safer territory. “So, we’re back to square one.”

“Don’t look so glum, sweetheart,” Tom says, reaching out to grab her chin. Ever since the moment in the Great Hall, when the endearment slipped out mockingly, Tom’s taken to it with a flourish. He never fails to say it without a lick of sarcasm, but Harry thinks he’s starting to say it more sincerely. She’s not sure how she feels about it, but she’s starting to think she likes it more than she dislikes it. Hearing it directed at her leaves a warm feeling in her chest. “I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.”

He shakes her head, directing her with his hand on her chin. Harry pulls away, frowning. “What about the dragons?”

“We’ll go look at the dragons whenever they get here,” Tom responds. “See if the Weasley annoyance was telling the truth. We’ll figure out where to go from there.”

 

Harry is slumped over her Potions notes when Colin Creevey, a third year Gryffindor, bursts into Snape’s classroom. Creevey cuts him off mid-sentence, letting the door bang shut behind him.

The class falls even quieter than before, and it seems to Harry like everyone’s sitting straighter in their seats. “Can I help you?” Snape asks, deadly quiet. He’s drawn himself up, and Harry thinks he looks like he’s about to pounce.

Creevey cowers under Snape’s glare, face turning red. His eyes dart around the classroom, landing on Harry, before he looks back up at Snape. He holds out a piece of parchment to Snape, hand clearly trembling, even from where Harry is sitting by Draco in the back of the classroom.

Snape snatches the parchment from Creevey, a deepening sneer growing on his face as he reads over whatever is on the paper. He looks up, his eyes finding Harry. “Potter!” He barks. “Your presence is required elsewhere. Get out of my classroom.”

Confused, but not willing to let the opportunity to skip Potions go to waste, Harry packs her bag hurriedly, very aware of the attention of the rest of the class. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, Harry mutters a quick goodbye to Draco before making her way to the front of the classroom. Creevey is bouncing on the balls of his feet, clearly eager to leave the classroom. That makes two of them, Harry thinks, as she exits with him.

Once they’re in the corridor, Creevey bursts into chatter. “I was just sitting in class and Professor McGonnagal asked if anyone could go get you, and well, of course I volunteered, I’ve been wanting to meet you ages, could I get your autograph, by the way, I know you’re supposed to be a dark witch, and everything, but my dad would love your autograph, so would I, and he’s really excited because I told him all about you of course, he was disappointed we’re not in the same house but wait until he hears-”

“Hey Colin,” Harry stops him, placing a hand on his shoulder. She’s feeling no small amount of discomfort, coupled with a strong annoyance, but she smiles at him through it all. “I’m not exactly comfortable giving out my...” she pauses, not believing she’s about to say the next word, “autograph.” Calling her signature her ‘autograph’ leaves a bad taste in Harry’s mouth, but she figures it’s okay since Colin used the word first.

He hadn’t stopped to take a breath the whole time he’d been talking. They’re almost to McGonnagal’s office, for which Harry is immensely grateful. Creevey stops walking for a moment, his face falling when he processes her words. “What do you mean, you’re not comfortable?”

Harry resists the urge to roll her eyes, knowing it’ll just make the situation worse. “You wouldn’t have these sorts of problems if you were more intimidating,” Tom observes, a few paces ahead of them. He’s inspecting his nails, and when he looks up, a chunk of his hair falls into his eyes. He pushes it back into place with a practiced motion. He catches Harry staring and flashes her a wicked smirk.

Feeling her face warm, Harry glances back at Creevey who’s staring at the ground with a clenched jaw. She remembers he was one of the people who was Petrified when Tom terrorized the school two years ago. Keeping this in mind, Harry tries to keep her voice kind. “It’s just if I gave you one, I’d have to give everyone one, if they asked. You can see how that would put me in an uncomfortable position, right?”

Still frowning, Creevey glances up with a sullen look in his eyes. “Guess so,” he mumbles. An awkward silence falls, and a long moment passes before he starts walking again. Harry trails behind him, feeling only slightly guilty to have killed his mood so efficiently. However, mostly, she’s just grateful for the silence.

Before long, she’s arrived at the door to McGonnagal’s office. “Well...” Harry pauses, not sure what she’s supposed to say. “See you around, I guess.”

“Yeah,” Creevey answers, starting to perk up. “See you around, Harry. Good luck!”

He bounces away, leaving Harry in front of the door. Do you think I need luck?

Tom appears by her side, leaning against the wall with a natural ease. Harry wonders how long he’s practiced that move. She’d imagine that fifty years in a diary would give him time to do that. “I think you always need luck, Harry.”

That sounds about right, Harry figures. She nods, knocks once on the door, and enters.

Inside, Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum and Cedric Diggory are all standing together talking, while Madam Maxime, Igor Karkaroff and Dumbledore stand off to the side watching them. Dumbledore looks grave, while Karkaroff looks moderately pissed off. In addition to those individuals, Harry recognizes Ollivander, from when she bought her wand. There’s also a blonde woman with square glasses and curly blonde hair, skirting around the outskirts of the room with a notepad and quill clutched tightly in her well-manicured hands.

The door slams shut behind her. Every head in the room towards Harry and she smiles blandly at them. Krum frowns upon seeing her, where Delacour looks dismissive and Diggory looks slightly confused, with a furrowed brow, like he’s not sure what to think of her.

“Am I late?” Harry asks, breaking the silence that’s coated the room since her presence was announced.

“Not at all, Miss Potter,” Dumbledore says, waving her over. “You’re just in time.”

Harry approaches, doing her best to not look like she’s dragging her feet. She’s not sure she’s succeeding. You’re not her Tom tells her. She ignores him, moving to stand next to Diggory. “In time for what?”

Ollivander shifts, clearing his throat. “Before the tournament begins, I am here to inspect your wands and make sure they are in working order.” He pauses, like he’s anticipating questions, and when there are none, he nods decisively. “Miss Delacour,” he says with a flourish of his hand. “Your wand if you will.”

The tall blonde girl hands her wand over to Ollivander, a disdainful look on her face. The expression transforms her from someone Harry would want to kiss into someone Harry would be wary to face in a duel. The wandmaker doesn’t seem perturbed by her attitude however, peering closely at the wand. He mutters something under his brother, tilting the wand from side to side, before waving it through the air with a snap, conjuring a bouquet of flowers that he gives with relish to Delacour, along with her wand. “In wonderful condition.”

Looking slightly mollified, Delacour accepts the flowers, a brilliant smile crossing her face. She returns to her previous angelic self, and Harry looks away, slightly irritated at how her heart picks up a pace.

Ollivander moves onto Krum, carefully inspecting his wand. “This is Gregorovitch’s work, no?”

Krum grunts, a dark scowl on his face. Harry wonders if that’s his permanent expression. “All respectable Bulgarian wizards go to Gregorovitch for wands,” he snaps. Ollivander frowns, but doesn’t say anything further. After a long moment where he looks at the tip of his wand, Ollivander flicks the wand and a brilliant stream of sparks streams out of the end.

“Everything looks to be in working order,” he says, handing the wand back to Krum. Diggory is next, and Ollivander looks at his wand without any sort of comment, producing a goblet of wine out of his wand before he gives it back to Diggory.

Harry is last, and by the time Ollivander reaches her, she’s jittery with nerves. The eyes of the room are on her, and Harry wonders with a hint of panic if Ollivander will say anything about her wand, like he did when she bought it. “Miss Potter,” he says. “We meet again.”

She hands him her wand reluctantly, hyper aware of Dumbledore’s gaze, as well as that of the blonde woman who hasn’t stopped scribbling on her notepad since Harry entered the room. Ollivander hums when he looks at her wand again. He rolls it between his fingers, inspecting its length. He brandishes it, conjuring a brilliant gold ribbon that he hands to Harry along with her wand. “One of mine,” he says with a curious smile. “In just as good condition as it was the day it left my shop. Very good, Miss Potter.”

There’s a rather empty look to his eyes that makes Harry’s skin crawl, so she can’t bring herself to smile back at him. There’s a long silence in the room, before Karkaroff clears his throat, and Ollivander turns away to talk to Dumbledore.

“Are we finished here?” Karkaroff demands, placing a hand on Krum’s shoulder and turning him towards the door.

“Not so fast.” The woman with the notepad speaks for the first time. She moves forward, tucking said notepad into what looks like a snake-skin purse. She snaps her fingers, and a man with a camera moves to stand behind her, hovering over her shoulder. Harry’s not sure how she didn’t notice him before. “Rita Skeeter, Daily Prophet,” she introduces herself, holding out a hand to Harry. She takes it gingerly, not sure how to get out of interacting with this woman without appearing rude.

“I doubt you can,” Tom says, looking at Rita Skeeter with what looks like a deep loathing. Harry would hate to be on the receiving end of that look.

Great she grumbles to Tom in the privacy of her mind. More attention, which means more disdain from the rest of the school, which means less privacy.

He doesn’t seem very sympathetic to her plight, and it’s not long before Rita Skeeter is elbowing Harry into position next to the other Champions. Her stiletto heels dig into Harry’s foot at once point, and it’s all Harry can do to school her expression into something reflecting her “Girl Who Lived” persona instead of her desires to curse Rita Skeeter out of existence.

Then Harry’s being dragged to the side for an individual portrait. “Yes, yes,” Rita Skeeter says, tapping one finger against her bright red lips. “That’s good,” she says, creating a frame with her hands. “Right there.” Harry doesn’t smile. The flash on the camera goes off, blinding Harry. She doesn’t blink, letting the bright spots wash away the rest of the room for one glorious moment, before it all comes rushing back in.

Rita Skeeter snaps her manicured fingers together. “Now, it’s time for individual interviews,” she says. “Harry, how about you first, dear?” She doesn’t give Harry time to argue, nabbing a handful of Harry’s shirt and practically dragging her out of the office. “Let’s find somewhere more private, dear. Ah, this looks nice, doesn’t it?”

Harry stares at Rita Skeeter blankly. “It’s a broom closet, ma’am,” she answers, remembering to be polite, despite her growing irritation.

“Like I said,” Rita Skeeter says, “nice.”

“Uh huh,” Harry says, entering the broom closet, despite herself.

“Do you mind if I use a Quick-Quotes Quill?” Rita Skeeter asks, taking her notebook out of her purse, along with an electric green quill. She’s already biting at the tip and setting it down on the notebook, where it remains upright, even when she takes her hand away.

Harry stares at the quill, standing on its own, blinking when it starts to write on its own. “What is it writing?”

“Don’t worry about that, dear.” Rita Skeeter waves a hand. “Let’s focus on these questions. How did you feel when your name was called?”

Harry blinks again at Rita Skeeter’s abruptness, frowning at the question. “Shocked,” she answers, slowly. “Since I didn’t enter my name, and all.”

“Mmm,” Rita Skeeter hums, glancing at her notepad. “And, Harry, do you think your parents would be proud of you, if they were here?”

Harry’s frown deepens. What kind of ridiculous questions? She asks Tom, batting back her rising irritation.

Just answer the question so we can leave he answers, seeming equally as irritated.

“Yes,” she says with a bite, unable to quite hide all of her irritation. “I think they would be very proud of me.”

Rita Skeeter nods, still looking at her notepad. “Oh, that’s good, get that down,” she says, but Harry thinks she’s talking to the quill, not her. Harry cranes her neck a bit to get a better glance of what the quill is furiously scribbling. She sees something about ‘ghost of tears in her eyes, as she thinks about her parents’ love’ and frowns again.

“I’m not crying,” she says sharply. “This interview is over.” She stands, knocking over a bucket in her haste.

“Don’t go, dear,” Rita Skeeter calls from behind her. Harry doesn’t turn around, and soon the horrible sound of her voice is inaudible.

What a horrible woman she muses to Tom, who is in distinct agreement with her, for once.

 

A branch snaps loudly under Harry’s foot. She winces, freezing in her place. “Wonderful,” Tom sneers from next to her. “Can’t you do anything properly?”

Harry frowns, glancing over at him, even though she’s not sure if he can see her from under the Invisibility Cloak. “Just because you’re in a bad mood doesn’t mean you earn the right to be cruel,” she whispers at him, trying to inject as much venom into her voice as possible, which is difficult considering the volume.

He seems unbothered by her anger, which makes Harry think she’s not conveying the truth depth of her feelings. “You really shouldn’t be talking to me,” he tells her, changing the subject. “Someone might hear you and then where would you be?”

Harry rolls her eyes. Tom’s been upset with her the whole evening for deciding to leave the safety of the castle to see if Fred had been correct when he said the first challenge would involve dragons. In his words, it was “stupid” and “reckless” to leave the castle on the word of an “imbecilic” Gryffindor.

Following common sense, Harry had decided to ignore his complaints and leave anyway, which has successfully prompted Tom’s cruel and unending commentary. She imagines he was a nightmare to have classes with. “You’re wrong,” Tom sniffs, reading her thoughts. “I was extremely well-loved during my time at Hogwarts.”

Harry guesses that Myrtle Warren didn’t love Tom, but she decides to keep that thought to herself.

Since she had decided to follow Fred’s lead and check out if there really were dragons involved, Harry is currently standing in the brush as she tries to sneak through the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, to where Fred had told her the dragons were being kept. Apparently, one of his brothers works with dragons in Romania, and had been commissioned to supply them to Hogwarts specifically for the Tournament, and since no Weasley could keep anything from their mother, the news had leaked to Fred.

Before long, Harry’s approaching the spot where Fred had instructed her to go. She can hear voices, and there’s a bright flash of red through the trees. A wave of heat drifts through the air. A loud roar echoes through the dark, rumbling the ground under Harry’s feet.

Harry wants to tell Tom ‘I told you so’ but she thinks that would go over quite poorly. From the attitude she’s getting off him, Harry thinks her assessment is correct. Creeping even closer, Harry is able to see the dragons up close. There are four, from what she can count, and small groups of wizards are huddled around the large clearing. In the middle, one dragon rears back, neck outstretching, before the dragon roars again, a large swath of fire exiting its mouth. The wizards around the clearing run towards the enclosure, and Harry can see bright green jets of light come from their wands, hitting the dragon, until it eventually falls silent.

“They can’t be serious,” she hisses at Tom. “They’re going to make us fight dragons?”

Even in the dark, Harry can tell he looks distinctly put out. “Wonderful,” he sighs. “This makes keeping you alive that much harder.”

Harry turns to head back to the castle when she sees Madame Maxime walking with Hagrid, down to where the dragons are located. “That doesn’t seem very fair,” Harry says under her breath. “Now Fleur is going to know too.”

“I’m sure Karkaroff has already told Krum as well,” Tom says, off-hand. “Headmasters are supposed to remain impartial but everyone knows they’re gunning for their champion.”

Harry frowns. “I doubt Dumbledore would have told me anything. D’you think Diggory knows?”

Tom shrugs. “Probably not. Better for us anyway.”

Harry frowns again, but doesn’t say anything else.

 

The next day, she approaches Diggory in the courtyard, despite his posse of Hufflepuffs. His back is to her, so Harry waits patiently for him to turn around and notice her. One of his friends notices her first, and laughs loudly, tapping at the badge on his chest, flashing Seamus Finnigan’s ‘Potter Stinks’ logo. It takes another moment for Diggory to turn around, and when he does, his face is flushed and his eyes are sparkling from laughter.

“Oh,” he says, a smile still on his face. “Potter.”

She smiles at him, trying to look sincere. “Diggory. Could we talk privately?”

He pauses, clearly unsure, but when she doesn’t budge, he relents. “Sure,” he answers, moving to walk with her. From behind them, his friends burst out into another round of loud laughter. Harry is sure the joke was at her expense, but she doesn’t let it affect her. “Sorry about them,” he apologizes, not really sounding sorry at all.

Harry just smiles at him again, not showing her irritation. They stand off to the corner of the courtyard, separated from the rest of the students milling around in between classes. “The first challenge is dragons,” Harry says without preamble.

The smile slides off Diggory’s face, leaving him looking slightly puzzled. “What?”

“The first challenge is dragons,” Harry repeats herself. “Everyone knows but you.”

Diggory frowns. “How do you know?”

Harry waves a hand in the air. “That’s not important. I just wanted to let you know. Good luck, okay?” She doesn’t wait for him to respond before she turns and leaves, intending on heading to the library to research different spells to make her clothing flame-retardant.

Before she can make it out of the courtyard, however, Seamus Finnigan steps in front of her. “Get out of my way,” Harry says, already knowing this isn’t going to end well. She’s almost positive that Finnegan has had it out for her ever since the incident in Hogsmeade last winter, and his antagonism has only amped up since Harry’s name was called out of the Goblet of Fire.

“We’ve been taking bets on how long you’ll last in the Tournament,” Finnigan says, standing firmly in her way. Harry can see his friend Dean Thomas hovering behind him, and Ron Weasley a step behind him. She rolls her eyes, and turns around, deciding to head the other way out of the courtyard. Harry isn’t in the mood to fight with a bunch of Gryffindors.

She’s a few steps away when the back of her neck prickles. “Harry.” Tom warns, appearing in front of her with no warning, his eyes fixed on something behind her. She turns, a jet of purple light flying past her face as she does.

Finnigan has his wand pointed at Harry when she finally turns completely. She laughs in disbelief. “Did you just try to curse me when my back was turned?”

Finnigan’s face starts to turn red. His hand starts to shake, as he readjusts his grip on the wand. “So much for Gryffindor bravery,” she sneers, anger coursing through her. She has half a mind to pull out her own wand, but knows doing so would only make it look like she initiated the fight. Tom is practically beside himself with anger, and his rage only fuels Harry’s. He’s muttering something about ‘filthy Gryffindors’ and taking revenge when McGonnagal’s voice snaps across the courtyard.

“Mr. Finnigan!” Her voice cracks like a whip, as she storms towards them. Professor Moody is following a step behind her, his wooden leg echoing through the now-silent courtyard.

Harry’s never seen McGonagall this angry. Her face is pink, and wisps of hair have escaped her tight bun. “Attacking another student is completely unacceptable. 50 points from Gryffindor. Detention for a month!” Her voice rises in pitch as she speaks, and before long, she’s got ahold of Finnigan’s robes. He looks pale and like he’s going to be sick, his eyes darting around the courtyard. Everyone is staring at them.

Harry has difficulty feeling sorry for him, seeing as he had tried to curse her when she couldn’t fight back. “Completely-shaming-our-house!” McGonagall is saying, dragging Finnigan off by his sleeve and leaving Harry alone in the courtyard. Even though Finnigan brought this on himself, Harry still gets the impression the rest of the onlookers blame her for his fate.

She hoists her book bag higher on her shoulder. Whether they think she’s responsible or not doesn’t matter, Harry decides. She doesn’t need their love. She turns to finally go to the library but Moody stops her before she can. “Come with me, Miss Potter,” he says gruffly.

Harry really doesn’t want to go with him, but she can’t think of anyway to turn him down politely. Reluctantly, she follows behind him, exiting the courtyard. Moody leads her up to his classroom and into his office. It’s the same room that Lupin used as his office, but Harry barely recognizes it as the same office.

The first thing her eyes are drawn to is a large trunk in the center of the room. The back of her neck prickles uncomfortably when she looks at it and Harry does her best to give the trunk a wide berth. She’s not sure what’s in it and she’s not sure she wants to know. There are a variety of other knicknacks around the room, including a large, foggy mirror. When Harry glances into it, she can barely see her own reflection, distorted, staring back at her.

“Shows your enemies,” Moody says from across the room, noticing her interest in the mirror. “Never get too comfortable.” Harry glances over her shoulder at him, where he’s sitting at his desk, his wooden leg up on a footstool.

“Have you seen yours?”

He laughs, a gnarled, unpleasant sound. “Couldn’t tell you that, girlie, even if I wanted to.”

Harry’s nose wrinkles at him calling her ‘girlie’, but she doesn’t say anything, choosing to look back into the mirror. The more she looks, the more she notices shadowy figures behind her, but no matter how hard she concentrates, she can’t make out their figures.

“Come sit over here,” he instructs her. She wants to leave, but does as he says. He fixes her with a hard stare that Harry holds. He makes her uncomfortable, although she can’t put her finger on why. She thinks it has something to do with the way he looks at her, a strange glint in his eyes, like he’s just waiting for her to make the wrong move before he pounces.

Do you feel it? Harry asks Tom, despite herself.

Her Tom makes a considering noise, and Harry can feel him take Moody in. I’d be wary around him he says, without directly answering her question. His response is answer enough, Harry thinks. If he wants her to be wary around Moody, she’s more than happy to comply.

“So,” Moody says, drawing Harry’s attention. “What are you goin’ to do about those dragons?”

Harry just barely manages not to flinch. “What do you mean?” She’s happy to hear her voice sounds natural.

He scoffs, shaking his head. His eyes never leave hers. “You can’t pretend not to know, Miss Potter. You don’t think I’m a fool, do you?”

Harry frowns, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. “I don’t know what you mean.” She shifts. “Besides, you’re a professor. Why would you offer to help me?”

For the first time, Moody looks away from her, but before she can be thankful, his eyes are back on her. “Just don’t want to see you fail, is all.”

Offended, Harry stands. “Thank you for the offer, but I think I will be fine without your help.” Before she leaves the room, she looks over her shoulder at Moody. “Diggory is really the one you should be helping,” she says, and leaves the room as fast as she can manage, without it looking like she’s running away.

 

Harry shifts from foot to foot in the champion’s tent. The roars of the crowd swell outside, and the butterflies in Harry’s stomach pick up a bit. Her fingers tighten around the wand in her pocket, and she tosses her braid over her shoulder. The other three champions are standing in a small semi-circle. They’re not talking, even though Harry can hear Fleur muttering something under her breath. Harry’s standing apart from the other students, and the distance isn’t making her feel any more confident.

“Calm down,” Tom says, unhelpfully, standing in front of her with his arms crossed. “We’ve been over this. Let me hear you say it.”

Harry’s hand flexes around her wand again. I will summon my broom, she recites. I will make the dragon fly. I will lead it away from whatever it’s guarding and I will double back.

“Good girl.” He eyes her with consideration. “Take a deep breath.”

What? She’s not sure where he’s going with this. He’s looking at her like he’s worried about her, which is out of character for Tom. She does as he says, taking a deep breath.

“You need to be calm. I don’t want you hyperventilating out there.” His eyes are hooded, and he’s staring at her intently.

Harry starts to pace, unnoticed by the other individuals in the tent. She needs some way to dispel her anxious energy. You’re worried, she accuses Tom. If he’s worried, that makes her more worried.

“I’m not worried,” he says, sounding worried. “You’re about to face a dragon,” he says. “I just want to make sure you keep your cool. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.”

Harry thinks he’s assuring himself of that more than for her sake, but she appreciates it nonetheless. Before she can dwell on the fact much longer, the sound of someone calling out her name draws her attention.

“Harry. Harry! Over here!” Harry glances towards the edge of the tent in confusion, which isn’t lessened a bit by the sight of Hermione waving her over, peeking through the tent fabric.

Harry makes her way to the edge of the tent. She hasn’t spoken to Hermione since their fight after Harry’s name was drawn from the Goblet of Fire, so she’s not sure why Hermione would want to talk to her.

“What do you want, Hermione?” Harry asks, not particularly in the mood to fight with her at this particular moment.

Hermione looks like she’s about to cry, but she gives Harry a wobbly smile. “I’m sorry,” she says, stumbling over the words. “I can’t believe I said all those horrible things. You’re not cruel. And I should have believed you when you said you didn’t put your name in the Goblet.”

Harry blinks. Those were not the words Harry was expecting to come out of this conversation. “What changed your mind?”

Hermione blinks. “You are about to face a dragon, Harry. You’re smart. You wouldn’t have put yourself in this position, ever. I should have known that. And... and...” Her bottom lip quivers and Harry can see the tears well up in her eyes. “And I had the nerve to call you cruel. To act like you were just... just some attention seeker!”

Harry immediately softens. She can’t bear to see Hermione cry. “Oh, Hermione, please. I forgive you. Don’t cry.”

Hermione’s whole face lights up. She leans in, kisses Harry hard and fast, before pulling away. There’s a hard set to her jaw. “Good luck,” she whispers and slips away.

Harry blinks, reaching a hand up to touch her mouth. She stares blankly for a moment, replaying the past minute in her mind, before the sound of Dumbledore and the Ministry officials in the tent drags her away from her spot.

“Alright, gather round,” the Ministry official says. He’s holding a golden drawstring bag. “In today’s challenge, you will be facing a magical creature. You will have to retrieve an object this creature is guarding, in order to complete the task. To determine who will go first, you will reach into this bag.”

Harry glances around the circle. Everyone looks focused, and Harry can see dark circles under Diggory’s eyes, but no one looks scared or anxious. She shakes her head, trying to clear her thoughts.

“Miss Delacour, ladies first,” the Ministry official says. Fleur reaches into the bag, drawing out a small miniature dragon, charmed alive. Around its neck is a small piece of paper with the number one on it. There’s no surprise on her face when she sees the dragon, and Harry knows that Madame Maxime must have told her about the dragons after all. Harry’s glad she told Cedric, even though she lost that advantage for herself. She took away his glory of being the Hogwarts champion, after all, so she thinks it was the least she could do, really.

Harry draws from the bag next, pulling out a dragon with the number four around its neck. “The Hungarian Horntail,” the official says with a sympathetic gaze.

Harry feels like there’s a ball of lead in her stomach. Still, she keeps her expression stony. Krum draws the second place, and Diggory third.

The Ministry official leaves the tent, and moments later, the boom of the announcer’s voice echoes through the tent. The screams from the student body grow louder, and wash out Harry’s thoughts. She lets the noise numb her, takes a deep breath, and tries to focus on meditating. She sits down on the ground, ignoring the strange looks she gets from Krum and Diggory.

She closes her eyes. Takes a deep breath in. Exhales. She lets the noise from the audience play as white noise while she runs through her plan. Every so often, the screams get louder, but she doesn’t pay it any mind. It isn’t long before Harry hears her name called.

Climbing to her feet, she brushes off her robes. She makes her way to the pitch set up, her hand clenching around her wand in her pocket. When she enters the stadium, she glances around. All the Slytherins have showed up, and the sight of the green scarves send a small burst of warmth through her. She has to do well, at least to prove to them that backing her is worth it.

However, her attention is quickly drawn to the center of the arena where the Hungarian Horntail awaits. It’s standing in front of a rock pit, and Harry sees the glint of gold from behind it. “An egg?” She asks out loud, fairly certain no one will be able to hear her over the sound of the crowd.

“Don’t lose your focus,” Tom instructs her. He looks pale and dishevelled, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and his tie completely gone. Harry is almost positive that her stress levels affect his appearance, but she doesn’t have time to think about that now. The dragon redirects her attention, roaring loudly. Harry inches toward it, despite every instinct in her body begging her to run in the opposite direction.

The dragon swings its head around towards Harry, golden eyes finding her position on the ground. The only warning Harry gets before the fire starts is the flaring of the dragon’s nostrils. She dives out of the way, golden flames incinerating the air where she had just been standing. Harry drops into a crouch behind an outcropping of rocks.

The crowd scream even louder at the display of action, and Harry drops her head into her hands, hidden from the audience. “This is crazy,” she pants, mostly to herself.

“Harry,” Tom says, dropping to his knees in front of her and putting his hands on her shoulders. She looks up at him. “Take a deep breath.”

His instructions bring her back to herself. “Okay,” she says. “Okay. I can do this.”

Harry pushes herself to her feet, and she finally takes her wand out of her pocket. “Accio Firebolt!” She cries, pointing her wand in the general direction of the castle. Now, all she has to do is distract the dragon until her broom reaches her. Should be easy.

Stepping out from behind the rock, Harry is immediately forced to dive away again as the dragon sends another bright flare of fire towards her. “This is fine. This is fine. This is fine.” She chants under her breath, steadily making her way around the dragon as it continues in its quest to turn Harry to ashes.

After what seems like forever, Harry sees the distant shape of her broom hurtling through the air towards her. It comes to a screeching halt in front of her. Harry throws one leg over it, and pushes off the ground with the other, just before another jet of flames lights the patch of ground where she had been standing on fire.

Harry circles around the dragon’s head, her focus so narrow, she thinks she’s completely blocked out the sounds of the crowd. She makes sure not to come within the radius of the dragon’s snapping jaws, gradually rising higher and higher.

“C’mon,” she urges the dragon, coaxing it up further and further. She needs it to leave the egg, so Harry can get close enough to grab it. She circles around it again, higher and higher until the dragon’s neck is fully extended. Harry drifts upwards, slowly, until finally, with a loud roar that seems to shake the very air, the dragon unfurls its wings and launches into the air.

Harry sees her life flash before her eyes briefly, as time suspends. It’s just her and the dragon in the air, and for a moment, Harry feels miniscule. With a beat of its wings, the dragon launches towards her and Harry regains her senses. She angles straight towards the ground, pulling out of her dive at the last moment, swooping across where the dragon had been guarding the egg, and snatching it off the ground.

The dragon screeches somewhere above her, and Harry makes the mistake of looking over her shoulder.

In that split second, the only thing Harry registers is a flash of blinding pain. Her vision whites out, which she realizes later may have been due to her proximity to the fire that the dragon sent her way. If Harry hadn’t turned to look behind her, the flames would have narrowly missed her. Instead, they lick the side of Harry’s face.

In part due to her injury, and also due to her inability to see, Harry loses control of her broom, but she’s low enough to the ground that she just crashes into the dirt, instead of the crowd, or turning up into the air.

Harry rolls off her broom somehow managing to hold onto the egg. She thinks she’s breathing deeply, but she can’t quite tell, all her senses pinpointed on the burning agony on the left side of her face. She reaches a hand up to touch, some morbid curiosity taking over her body, and when she pulls it away, its wet.

“Oh god,” she says, a note of hysteria creeping into her voice.

“You can’t even do one thing right,” Tom says from somewhere above her. She can’t see him, her vision still coated in white.

“I got the egg,” she slurs, having difficulty talking. She thinks the fire missed her mouth, for which she’s grateful. She thinks Hermione wouldn’t want to kiss her anymore if half her mouth was missing.

“You aren’t thinking straight,” Tom answers. He sounds matter of fact, but Harry thinks his hands are on her shoulders, holding onto her a hair too tight. She hopes he was scared, watching her face down that dragon. Thinks it was what he deserves.

Harry goes to tell him so, but passes out instead.

Chapter Text

The next thing she knows, she’s staring up at the white fabric of another tent. There’s a dull throbbing pain on the left side of her face. Her eyes feel too dry, and her mind feels disconnected from the rest of her body. She must twitch in some way, because Draco’s face appears in her line of sight.

His face is so pale it almost matches his hair. “Harry?”

She makes some noise, although her throat aches, and half of her face is dull with pain. His face crumples briefly, before he grabs one of her hands with both of his. His skin is cold, slightly clammy, but Harry’s too disoriented to pull away. “Thank Merlin you’re okay,” he says, voice thick. He’s exhibiting more emotion than she’s used to.

Harry clears her throat. “What do you mean?” The words drag up her throat and her mouth feels like sandpaper, but she’s mostly understandable, she thinks.

Draco’s hand clenches around hers. “Everyone thought you’d died,” he says. “When you fell off your broom. All we’d seen was the fire, and then you falling. You were lucky you were so close to the ground.”

“Hey, I got the egg at least,” Harry points out, trying to cheer Draco up. She’s unused to seeing him so serious.

He frowns. “Don’t joke.” He shifts from where he’s sitting next to her on the cot someone has stretched her out on. “You never should have been put in danger in the first place. Especially not while you’re at school.”

“Draco,” Harry says, drawing his attention. She holds his gaze. “I’m okay. Really.” When he doesn’t look convinced, she tries to smile at him, but the action pulls at the side of her face, falling lopsided.

Harry reaches her free hand to touch the left side of her face, where the dull pain is concentrated. She starts at her left temple, just to the side of her eye, feels down her cheek, just past her mouth to her jaw. The skin feels largely unblemished, but if that was the case, Harry doesn’t know why she’d still be in pain. “Does it look awful?”

“You’re really going to choose vanity in a time like this?” Tom’s voice drifts over her for the first time since she’s woken up. He’s sitting at the foot of her bed, arms crossed over his chest and a dark scowl on his face. His eyes are hooded, and he’s not looking at her, but Harry guesses if he was, his eyes would be flickering red. He is clearly not in a good mood.

As if you wouldn’t be the same way Harry retorts, not willing to be shamed by Tom, of all people, for worrying about her looks.

“No,” Draco says, breaking her attention away from Tom. He’s staring at her face, a strange look on his. “It doesn’t look awful.”

Harry frowns. “But there is a scar.”

Draco’s face twists. He looks away from her for the first time, his hands tightening on hers. “Yes.” There’s a heavy pause in the air before he talks again. “Madame Pomfrey says it should fade with time.”

As if she heard her name, Madame Pomfrey bustles into the tent, her face flushed pink. “Miss Potter!” She hurries over to Harry’s side, a container of salve appearing in her hands out of nowhere. “How are you feeling?”

Harry shrugs. “My face hurts,” she says honestly. Talking is a little difficult, as certain words pull at the side of her face more than she’d like. What Harry really wants to do is look in a mirror to see the extent of the damage, but she suspects it’s going to be a while before she gets that opportunity.

Madame Pomfrey frowns, like she’s expecting that answer. “Absolutely outrageous,” she says, scowling. She dabs salve on Harry’s face, and a cool numbing feeling spreads over the left side of her face, and the pain dulls away to a low ache, barely noticeable. “Dragons at Hogwarts. It’s a miracle that no one was seriously maimed or killed.”

Harry doesn’t feel like she escaped unscathed, but thinks now is the wrong time to incur Madame Pomfrey’s wrath. “Have they announced the scores yet?”

The healer makes a dismissive noise. “That’s all you kids care about, isn’t it? No, Miss Potter, they were waiting to see if you’d live.”

A rustling noise from across the tent draws Harry’s attention, and she rolls her head to see Diggory stand. His arm is in a sling and his robes are smoking, looking slightly charred. He grins broadly at Harry. “You too, then?”

Harry has to resist the urge to roll her eyes. “Draco, help me up.” He holds his arm out for Harry, which she latches onto. He stands, pulling Harry up with him. She leans against him, letting him carry the majority of her weight. The rest of her body still feels disoriented, even though the only part of her actually injured is her face.

Draco leads her out of the tent, supporting most of her weight. When she rounds the corner to enter back into the arena, there’s a loud cheer as the students see her. Draco sighs deeply, which is the only warning she gets before someone slams into her. Harry’s thrown off balance, held up by Draco’s arm at her side and the vice-like grip around her by whoever has run into her.

She quickly recognizes the red hair of the Weasleys, and is able to pinpoint the individual as Fred, his arms wrapped tightly around her. She pats his back gingerly, unsure how to handle this display of affection, especially as seeing as they’ve never hugged before. Almost as soon as she’s started evaluating what this means in the context of their relationship, Fred is releasing her, backing a step away. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he says, not meeting her eyes, his gaze focused somewhere on the left side of her face.

He blinks, like he’s coming back to himself, and his eyes find her. Fred smiles at her briefly, a sunny expression, before he’s turning and heading back the way he came. When Harry turns back to Draco, feeling flustered, she can’t help but laugh at the dark expression on his face.

“You and your attraction to Gryffindors is very off-putting,” Draco says lowly as they finish their approach to where the rest of the champions are standing. Harry wants to argue with him, but seeing as he’s helping her when he really doesn’t have to, she decides to save that conversation for later.

“Miss Potter,” Dumbledore greets her, once they’re close enough to hear. “I’m glad to see you back on your feet.”

Harry smiles at him, the expression surely marred by the scarring on the side of her face, although she’s unsure to what it extent. Bastard she’s thinking privately, seeing as he looks very unconcerned about her health, as he was the one making her compete. Tom seems to be very much in agreement with her. “Thank you, sir,” she says, doing her best to sound sweet and docile. “I’m thankful as well.”

Dumbledore dips his chin at her, a knowing glint in his eye. Harry looks away, doing her best to make it seem natural, rather than uncomfortable. The judges go back to conferring in a small circle, while Krum shuffles up to Harry and Draco.

He holds out his hand to Harry. Surprised, she takes it with her free hand. “I am sorry for accusing you,” he says thickly. His grip is tight, but not painful. “You fought well today.”

Harry lifts her chin. “Thank you,” she says, meaning it. She’s willing to overlook Krum’s actions if he’s willing to overcome his bias. Krum shakes her hand for a moment longer, before releasing her hand and backing up a pace.

“They have already given our scores,” he tells Harry. “They waited for you to wake up.”

“How long was I out?” Harry can’t be sure how long she had been unconscious just going off the sky, which looks just as sunny as it did when she fought the dragon.

Draco shifts next to her, his face starting to regain some color. “A little under an hour,” he says. “Think I won about fifty Gallons off you waking up before the hour mark.”

Harry scoffs. “People were betting on me?”

“The Weasley twins started a pool before the First Task started. They wanted to shut it down when you fell, but since you were still breathing, it kept running.” Draco is finally starting to look more like himself, a touch of cruel humor playing around his mouth. “One of Diggory’s little friends bet that you wouldn’t wake up at all. I gladly took him up on that.”

Harry laughs freely, feeling in a much better mood than she has the whole day. Finally, the first Task is over and she can relax, at least for the time being. She may have permanently disfigured herself, but at least she won Draco money from the Hufflepuffs who bet against her.

“You’re giving me half, right?” Draco eyes her with consideration, resting a hair too long on the left side of her face, before he reaches into his pocket with his free hand and drops a small bag into Harry’s hand.

“Take it all,” he says, uncharacteristically serious again. “You deserve it.”

Harry stares at him for a moment, her face heating with his intensity. “Okay,” she says. “Thank you.” Draco nods, his chin dipping sharply.

At that moment, the judges seem to finish their deliberations and turn towards Harry and Draco. Madame Maxime lifts her wand, sending a swirling ribbon into the air. It twists into the shape of an 8. A round of cheering rises from the stands. Karkaroff does the same, but his ribbon twists into a 4. Loud boos echo from the stands.

The Ministry official is next, and Harry recognizes Bartemous Crouch from the Quidditch World Cup. She thinks he’s going to give her a low score, simply on principle, so Harry’s pleasantly surprised to see a 9 emerge from his wand. The noise in the arena raises, confusing Harry because she has no frame of reference for how the other champions did. Dumbledore is next, and he gives Harry an appraising look before raising his wand. Another 9 twists out of his wand and Harry loses herself in the tide of noise that sweeps over the arena.

Draco is yelling next to her. Using his grip on her arm, he spins her, pulling her into his arms and hugging her tightly. “You’re in second place!” He shouts over the cacophony of noise. “Behind Krum!”

Harry catches sight of the dark scowl on Karkaroff’s face, feels a victorious feeling rise up inside her as she hugs Draco back, arms around him tightly. The past weeks feel like a distant terrible dream as Draco pulls her back towards the castle, towards their housemates, as Harry can finally breathe again.

She catches a glimpse of Tom, trailing behind her, a dark, fiery look in his eyes. She knows the moment she has time to concentrate on him, he’s going to give her an earful, but until then, Harry lets herself be swept away in the celebration.

 

It’s hours before Harry can pull herself away from the celebration in the Common Room. She’s never been invited to a Slytherin party before, mostly due to her House’s previous disdain for her, and she’s quickly come to realize they know no limits.

Harry stumbles into the quiet of her dormitory, the rest of the girls in her year still downstairs somewhere. Harry distinctly remembers seeing Pansy corner Draco in a secluded part of the room. She snickers to herself thinking about it and makes a note to herself to bring it up with him the next morning.

She makes her way into the bathroom, thinking about taking a shower and washing the whole day away when she stops short. Her reflection hovers in the mirror directly in front of her. Caught up in the thrill of coming in second during the First Task and the subsequent celebration, Harry had almost forgotten about her face.

She moves forward, raising her hand to trace the shape of the injury on her face. It stretches from her left temple, diagonally down, brushing the edge of her eye socket, down the center of her cheek, just barely touching the corner of her mouth, and ending in the middle of her chin.

Harry can already tell it’s going to scar, just like the scar on her forehead. She shifts her chin, and the lights in the room make the scar look silvery against her brown skin. It’s noticeable, and Harry wonders if people will be drawn to this scar over the one on her forehead when they meet her, but she finds herself more appreciative than upset. Whatever salve and magic Madame Pomfrey used turned it from a blistering scar that Harry was expecting, after years of sneaking peaks of the Dursley’s TV, into a shimmering scar down the side of her face.

Tom appears behind her, his reflection distorted in the mirror. He rests one hand on her right shoulder, leaning in so his chest is pressed against her back. His other hand reaches up to trace the shape of the scar on her face, applying just the lightest of pressure. His face is curiously blank of any emotion, but from the way he’s gripping her shoulder, Harry can tell his emotions are rolling underneath the surface.

“What you did today was incredibly stupid.” His voice is so low Harry has to strain to hear him. It’s a controlled icy pitch, but Harry can hear the way it trembles ever so slightly. She knows he’s holding onto his anger, or fright, or whatever emotion he’s feeling, with an iron-clad grip.

Harry moves to get out from under his grasp, but his hand tightens even further than she thought possible on her shoulder. She’s stuck in front of him, forced to watch his face in the mirror. The door to the bathroom is shut, and Harry knows she’s going to have to listen to whatever tirade he wants to give her. “You could have died.”

His hand that was tracing the scar on her face drops to her other shoulder. “What do you want me to say?” Her voice comes out louder than she means, and she winces imperceptibly. “Do you really think I meant to get burned by dragon fire? Do you really think that was a part of my plan?”

Tom’s grip tightens. “Don’t talk back to me,” he hisses, his voice becoming even colder. If she hadn’t been watching his reflection so closely, Harry would have missed the flicker of fury that flashes across his face. She realizes, in that moment, that he’s closer to losing his temper than Harry’s ever seen him. “Do you think this is a joke? Some game?”

Harry doesn’t answer, frozen in her place. She doesn’t know how to talk Tom down off the ledge when his anger is directed towards her. She remembers, her heart rate quickening, the sickening feeling of meeting Tom in the Chamber of Secrets, the fury in his eyes when he hated her.

His grip tightens on her shoulders, and he shakes her slightly. “Answer me.” His voice is ice, so cold it cuts her skin. Harry can see now, the way his followers must have seen him. She’s been stupid, she thinks. Believing he could care about her, truly, when all she can see is a cool, controlled fury.

“You’re hurting me,” she says, instead of answering his questions. Her voice comes out hushed, breaking in the middle of the sentence, trailing off at the end. It’s true, he’s holding her shoulders so tight, Harry thinks she might have bruises in the morning. She can tell from the hollow place in her mind that both Toms have joined together, and she’s facing their combined wrath.

His grip loosens ever so slightly on her shoulders, and he uses his grip on her to turn her so that she’s facing him. She resolutely keeps her gaze on his chest, staring straight ahead. It’s been a long day, and her eyes are burning with exhaustion. Harry doesn’t want to be afraid of Tom, not really, but there’s a small voice in the back of her head telling her to tread carefully around him, especially when he’s so volatile.

“Harry,” Tom says softly, the previous edge to his voice melted away somewhat. “Look at me.”

She shakes her head silently. “Not if you’re going to yell at me again. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

He laughs softly, a slow exhale. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says, in response. Harry flinches under him again, almost embarrassed that he heard her innermost thoughts. One of his hands lifts off her shoulder, slotting under her chin and lifting it gently. His touch is feather-light, almost reverent in a way his hold hadn’t been moments earlier.

Harry meets his eyes, against her will. They’re not red, like she was fearing, instead an icy-grey. “Harry,” he breathes out, his mouth wrapping around the word with a delicateness Harry didn’t know he possessed. He’s looking at her with such openness, her heart aches for him. His hand still on her shoulder has loosened its grip, until he’s holding her with something closer to reverence than fury.

She holds his gaze, her previous fear floating away. She couldn’t be scared of him, not with the way he’s looking at her, like she’s the most precious thing he’s ever laid eyes on. Harry’s not sure if this is the Diary or her Tom coming through, but she’s not sure if it matters. “Yes,” she answers, matching his volume.

“Do you forgive me?” He moves his fingers away from her chin, instead tracing the scar on her forehead, down to her left temple, tracing the scar on her face. He’s pulling her closer, Harry realizes, until his chin brushes the top of her head.

Harry exhales. Takes in a shuddering breath. “Okay,” she mumbles, pressing her forehead to his chest. He’s like a furnace, and as he wraps his arms around her, she accepts the way his entirety surrounds her.

“Okay,” he agrees, pulling her into an embrace. “Okay.” His voice is low and warm, at an infinite contrast from his anger minutes prior.

 

Harry wakes up the next morning unable to breathe.

Her face is pressed against Tom’s chest, his arms holding her tightly pressed against him in a vice-like grip. He’s half on top of her, his legs tangled around hers, in effect, pinning her to the bed. Harry wiggles in his hold, doing her best to extricate herself. After their fight last night, Tom had been especially clingy (honestly, if Harry didn’t have to deal with it, she never would have guessed Tom, a Dark Lord in the making, would be so touch starved), and Harry remembers drifting off to sleep facing away from him, so she’s not sure how they ended up in this position.

Finally, she’s able to rearrange herself to the point where her face isn’t directly pushed into his chest. Harry draws in a large breath of air, wincing as the action sends a ripple of pain through the left side of her face.

Tom stirs next to her, blinking owlishly. He squints, the light clearly hurting his eyes. He looks more human than he usually does, his hair ruffled and a crease from the pillow on the side of his cheek. “What?” He grumbles, lifting himself halfway up, before collapsing back down into her bed, burying his face in Harry’s pillow. His arms are still wrapped around her, and he doesn’t look like he’s going to move anytime soon.

“I thought you didn’t sleep?” Harry pushes away from him, struggling to sit up. His grip loosens slightly, and Harry manages to situate herself into a sitting position. Tom keeps his arms around her waist, loose, as he lays on his stomach, still stretched out across her bed.

He makes an indecipherable noise, before shifting his head. “Me too.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “You’re useless.” She swings her legs over the side of her bed, leaving Tom sprawled out across the mattress.

She doesn’t see him again until halfway through breakfast, as she’s engrossed in a deep conversation with Draco about the merits of going to Hogsmeade with Pansy Parkinson.

“I don’t know,” Harry says, pausing with her fork full of eggs halfway to her mouth. “She might be good at something. You won’t know until you try.”

Draco makes a face at her, his cheeks turning pink. “I thought you hated Pansy.”

She shrugs, becoming distracted as Tom appears on the bench next to her. He looks much more put together than before, his shirtsleeves rolled and cuffed at his elbows, his hair a mass of dark waves. He points at the Daily Prophet. “If you would?”

Harry does as he asks, spreading the Prophet open in front of her so Tom can read it from over her shoulder. “Just because I set Basil on her doesn’t mean I hate her,” Harry says, pleasantly. “Besides, it was her fault in the first place.”

Draco frowns. His gaze focuses on something over Harry’s shoulder, as a wave of whispers crashes over the Hall. Harry twists to see what he’s looking at, surprised to see Hermione walking her way, face pale and something clutched in her hand.

From beside her, Tom makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like laughter. He clears his throat, looking up at her with a serious expression. Harry looks back at Hermione, not in the mood to deal with Tom’s antics. “What is it?”

Hermione falters when she catches sight of the silvery scar stretching across Harry’s face. They had talked yesterday, but for a brief amount of time, because Draco had been dragging Harry off to celebrate with the rest of Slytherin. Frowning, she gives Harry what she had been holding onto. Harry takes it, unfolding a copy of the Daily Prophet. A sinking feeling starts in her stomach as she starts to put the pieces together.

“Everyone knows,” Hermione says lowly.

Harry opens the paper, turning to where she knows Tom was reading.

HARRY POTTER HOMOSEXUAL FOR HOUSE OPPONENT, HERMIONE GRANGER?

Tom breaks out into a fresh round of laughter beside her, and Harry pointedly steps on his foot. Her face is hot, and her scar from the dragon is starting to ache again. She can feel the attention of the room on them, but her eyes don’t leave Hermione. “Well?”

Hermione frowns at her. “I can’t believe you’re putting this on me!” She snaps, keeping her voice low, as conversation gradually starts to pick up across the hall again.

Harry frowns, the action tugging on the dragon’s scar. She really wishes she had some of the salve Madame Pomfrey had been using on her the other day. “Clearly you’re the one bothered by this,” she answers, keeping her voice level. “So if you’re so bothered, you decide what to do. I’m tired of always being the villain everyone can blame when things don’t go their way. So, make up your mind, Hermione.”

Hermione throws her hands in the air. “You are the single most insufferable person I have ever met. I can’t do this anymore. It’s too complicated. You can never make things easy.”

Tossing her hair over her shoulder, Harry gets to her feet. “Fine. If you don’t care enough to make it work, I’ll do it for you. Good luck finding someone less complicated.”

Harry throws her bag over her shoulder and walks out of the Great Hall, leaving Hermione standing at the Slytherin table. Her face feels flushed, but all Harry really feels is a sense of relief. Maybe she and Hermione were better off as friends, because all Harry’s really ever felt from Hermione is a sense of shame about her relationship with Harry.

“I told you-”

Don’t even dare finishing that sentence Harry snaps, ignoring Tom, who’s appeared over her shoulder. She has Transfiguration next, just her luck with the Gryffindors, and Harry wants to make sure she can sit as far away from Hermione as possible.

“Fine,” Tom says pleasantly. He’s been in a disgustingly good mood all morning, and the urge to hit him has never been stronger. “I won’t finish it. But I’ll be thinking it. And you can hear my thoughts.”

You are the most insufferable person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Harry says, wishing she could scream without everyone thinking she’d lost her marbles.

“Charming.”

 

“The Yule Ball!” McGonnagal announces, sweeping through the classroom and pushing the desks to the side. The students in her class are standing against the wall, girls on one side and boys on the other. Harry’s made sure to stand as far away from Hermione as she can manage. “A long standing tradition to not only celebrate inter-school competition, but the holiday season. As is customary, Champions will perform the first dance, so Miss Potter, that means you’ll need a date to the dance.”

Harry keeps her face impassive, arms crossed over her chest, as the Gryffindor girls to the left of her giggle among themselves. Draco is standing across from her and he looks seconds away from laughter. Harry appreciates everyone finding great amusement in her predicament.

Stop being so overdramatic her Tom tells her, sounding bored. The plight of a 14 year old girl at Hogwarts is really not how I enjoy spending my day.

Guess you shouldn’t have tried to murder me, then, Harry retorts, not in the mood for his attitude. A shock of pain runs through her scar at her words, triggering pain in the left side of her face. Harry grimaces, the expression tugging at the skin even further. Harry claps a hand over the side of her face, hoping pressure will soothe the pain.

“Are you alright, Miss Potter?” McGonagall asks, stopping in front of Harry with a watchful eye. “If you need to see Madame Pomfrey, feel free to do so.”

Harry waits a moment before the pain subsides before nodding and giving Mcgonagall a thumbs up. “If you’re alright, let’s continue. Everyone... find a partner... and we’ll walk through a traditional waltz.”

 

Harry’s standing in the library searching for a book to complete Snape’s latest Potions assignment when she hears Hermione’s voice.

“Viktor!” She exclaims, and Harry’s heart pangs at hearing how excited she sounds. It’s been a couple of weeks since their falling out and they haven’t talked since. Harry’s been doing her best to distract herself with school and trying to decipher the Second Task, but the school has been ablaze with talk of the Yule Ball and Harry hasn’t escaped the fact she’s probably going to go by herself.

She’d considered asking Draco if he’d go with her, but Harry thinks that might be hitting an all-time low. Plus, Harry thinks Pansy might slit her throat in the middle of the night if she did. Draco did eventually end up going to Hogsmeade with Pansy one weekend, and ever since, Pansy had been extremely territorial. They’re on better terms than they were last year, but Harry doesn’t think Pansy will ever truly forgive her for the Basil incident.

“‘Lo, Hermione.” Krum says Hermione’s name slowly, like he’s trying to make sure he says each and every syllable correctly. Harry freezes. She knows she shouldn’t be listening in to their conversation, knows Hermione would want her space, but she can’t bring herself to move. She clutches onto the book in her hand, barely daring to breathe.

“Need some more help?” Hermione asks brightly, and Harry can just picture her smiling sunnily at Krum. A vicious streak of jealousy shoots across her stomach and she frowns. Harry shuffles closer, trying to hear better.

“No, thank you,” he says. He clears his throat gruffly. “Hermione, would you want to go to the Yule Ball as my date?”

Harry’s fingers flex around the spine of the book. She feels vaguely ill, waiting for Hermione’s answer.

Hermione trills, and immediately Harry’s stomach sinks. “I would love to,” she says, voice sounding unusually breathy.

Harry drops the book she was holding and swears. She thinks maybe some part of her was hoping she and Hermione could reconcile before the Yule Ball and go together. Harry thinks that would have been nice, being able to present a united front for the school. Still, if Hermione wants to go with some mildly bigoted Bulgarian Quidditch jock, who is Harry to stop her.

She stoops to pick up her book and wanders through the library, avoiding the front to make sure she doesn’t run into Hermione. As she does, she passes a flash of red. Harry stops, tilts her head, considers, and turns around.

Sure enough, Fred and George are sitting at a table tucked away in the back of the library, several long sheets of parchment spread between them. Harry walks to their table, slumps into the chair next to Fred.

“Isn’t being seen in the library damaging for your reputation?” She props her chin up on one hand, doing her best not to seem too glum. She gets the impression that Tom doesn’t think she’s accomplishing that goal.

Fred laughs, dropping his quill and throwing one arm around the back of Harry’s chair. “That’s why we’re in the back, love.”

Harry hums, trying to peek at what they’re working on. It looks like a variety of different chemical equations and Harry assumes they’re working on new potions and tricks to torment the halls of Hogwarts.

“Why so glum?” George asks, eyeing her with consideration.

Harry sighs heavily, letting her hand drop and leaning back in her chair. “Hermione is... going to the Yule Ball with Krum.” She wasn’t sure at first if she wanted to bring the twins in on her distress, but guesses they’re probably two of the only people in the school that wouldn’t judge her, Draco and Tom included.

George exchanges a glance with his brother that Harry can’t decipher. “You two were dating,” he says, like he’s hedging a bet.

“Yes,” she sighs, not in the mood to rehash the whole relationship, as non-existent as it was. “I’m too complicated.” Her voice comes out bitter, as much as she wishes it wouldn’t.

“And now you’re not dating anyone,” George says, prompting Harry to frown at him.

“No,” she says. “But Hermione is going to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum and Draco is going to be going with Pansy and I’m supposed to take a date to do the stupid first dance with but no one wants to go with me because I’m a future Dark Lord and I’m cruel and I’m too complicated.”

“Wow,” George says, when she’s finished with her rant. “There’s a lot to unpack there.”

Harry shakes her head at him. “Are you seriously making fun of me right now? If I wanted that I’d just go to the Great Hall.”

She moves to pick up her bag and get up from the chair, but Fred’s arm moves from the back of her chair to her shoulders. “Don’t go,” he says, serious. “He’s not making fun. He’s just pointing out the fact you didn’t pause to take a breath during that whole rant.”

Harry frowns. “Fine. Still doesn’t change the fact that Hermione is going to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum and not me.” She settles back into her chair, the weight of Fred’s arm across her shoulders comforting.

“Maybe that’s not a bad thing,” Fred says, sounding like he’s choosing his words carefully. He’s not looking at her, his free hand fiddling with a quill laying abandoned on the table.

“What do you mean?” Harry crosses her arms across her chest.

“I think what my dear brother is trying to say is that maybe you don’t want to be with someone who...” George pauses, and Harry can tell he’s not used to choosing his words with care. “Someone who doesn’t treat you right.”

“Hermione treated me fine.” Harry is starting to get worked up again. She really, really doesn’t want to go through every aspect of her brief relationship with the Weasley twins, of all people.

“You really are the most thick-headed person, aren’t you?” Tom says in exasperation, appearing across from her, in the chair next to George. Harry narrows her eyes at him.

“Too complicated? Cruel?” George pauses, eyes flickering over to Fred, who still has an indecipherable look on his face. “Those aren’t necessarily the things you say to someone when you like them.”

“What do you say?” Harry throws her hands up in the air. “You two are never cryptic, so I don’t understand all the hesitation about getting to the point.”

“Go to the Yule Ball with me, yeah?” Fred turns to her, his face earnest.

Tom snickers from across her. Harry glances between Fred and George in confusion, before rolling her eyes and bending to grab her bag. “Is this all a joke to you? I get it might not seem like the most important thing in the world, but I’m still trying my best, okay? I don’t need to be mocked here. Maybe I’ll just get Neville Longbottom to go with me, he wouldn’t joke like this...” Harry trails off from her tirade as Fred grabs one of her hands.

His face is so earnest and open, Harry can’t help but falter. She looks back and forth between Fred and George again, starting to put the pieces together.

“Finally,” Tom sighs. He sounds resigned. “I thought you would never catch on.”

“You’re serious.” It’s not a question, but Harry needs time to get her thoughts in order.

Fred laughs, his face lighting up, easing the seriousness of the conversation. “This isn’t how I pictured it going, but yes, I’m serious.”

Harry glances at George. He winks at her, a wicked grin playing around his mouth. “You knew?” He nods, still smirking. She looks back at Fred. “You’re not making fun of me?” Although she knows, deep down that he’s not, she still needs to ask one more time, needs to know for herself.

He shakes his head. His eyes are sparkling. “No, Harry,” he says softly. “I’m not making fun of you.”

Harry smiles slowly. The spark inside her that’s been dimmed since her name got selected out of the Goblet seems to flare up again. “Okay,” she says, nodding. “Yes. I’ll go to the Yule Ball with you.”

“Excellent,” Fred says, leaning back in his chair, looking almost smug. “I’m glad we’ve got that settled.” Harry nods, settling back in her chair. Fred drapes his arm across her shoulders again, and Harry tucks her smile into her palm.

“Now, Harry,” George says, after watching her and Fred. “Please help us decipher these potions, we’re very lost and I mostly blame Fred.”

Harry pulls the parchment closer so she can read it properly, immediately noticing an issue. “You don’t want to use this, it’ll make the whole cauldron blow up if you put it in with that.”

She’s so immersed in the potions that she almost doesn’t catch the dark look Tom is sending towards her. His eyes flash red, before he disappears.

 

“Don’t freak out,” Harry says, sitting cross-legged at the top of the Astronomy tower.

“Why would I freak out?” Sirius’s voice is faraway, his back to her as he rattles around the kitchen, cooking something Harry’s not quite sure of. “You didn’t cut all your hair off or anything crazy like that?”

“Not quite,” Harry answers, fidgeting slightly. She’s written letters with Sirius, but he’s yet to see her new scar. She’s not quite sure how he’s going to take it, and thinks maybe she should have prepared him. Everyone else seems to not be too distracted by the silver scar, but it still draws attention no matter what she does.

He turns towards her, looking healthier than he has in the past. He pauses, then shuffles forward a few steps, peering into the mirror. “Your... face...” he trails off, tilting his face. “Little lion, what did you do?”

Harry clears her throat. “You know how my name got put into the Goblet of Fire and selected?”

Sirius nods, looking uncharacteristically serious. “You said you didn’t know how it happened.”

“I still don’t,” Harry answers. She clears her throat. “In the first challenge, we had to face down dragons.” Sirius’s face stays blank. “I... got burned.” Her hand reaches up reflexively to feel the raised skin, self-conscious for a reason she can’t explain.

“The school knows about this?” Sirius sounds angry, even though his voice is still low.

“Yes,” Harry says. “They all saw. Madame Pomfrey’s been giving me salve to manage the pain.”

“You’re still in pain?” His voice starts to raise, and he slams the pots in his hands down on the table behind him.

Harry winces. “Sometimes. If I move my face too much, it can set off cramping and pain that doesn’t subside for a few minutes.” She knows the information is only going to make him angrier, but she doesn’t know how to avoid telling him.

“This is unbelievable,” Sirius snarls, pacing in front of the mirror. “The way they’re putting your life at risk. I want to be there for you, lion, I’m sorry I can’t.” He pauses in the center of the mirror. “You deserve a better guardian.”

“No,” Harry denies vehemently. “You’re the only one that I want.” Silence falls between them. “Hermione and I aren’t together anymore,” she says, after a long pause. “Fred asked me to the Yule Ball.”

Sirius eyes her with consideration. “How do you feel about that?”

Harry picks at a loose thread on her skirt. “Fine,” she says. “Good. I like Fred. A lot. He makes me happy.”

“And Hermione?”

Harry frowns, her chest feeling tight. “I don’t think she likes me, much.” Harry pauses, a lump in her throat that she’s still having trouble getting past. The words hurt coming out, like they’re cutting her tongue. “She thinks I’m cruel. Too complicated.”

Sirius sighs. “Oh, Harry,” he says gently. “It’s okay, baby girl.” He moves closer to the mirror, so his face takes up the frame. “You’re going to meet a lot of people who won’t want to understand you. That’s okay. You need to understand that just because they might think something about you, doesn’t make that true. Okay?”

Harry nods, pressing her lips together tightly. Her chest is tight and there’s a hot pressure behind her eyes. She wants so badly to be able to hug Sirius, to smell the woodsy scent of his cologne and feel the leather jacket he’s fond of wearing. “Miss you,” she whispers, feeling smaller than usual.

His face crumples briefly, before his cheery smile is back up. The expression doesn’t quite meet his eyes. “Miss you too, lion heart,” he says. “Same time, next week?”

Harry nods, not trusting her voice. He smiles at her, wistful, and her reflection takes up the mirror as he ends the call. She takes a deep breath, feeling more alone in the world than she usually does. “It’s okay,” Tom tells her, from somewhere behind her.

She looks over her shoulder at him. He’s got his arms crossed across his chest, a pensive expression on his face. “What?”

“It’s okay to feel lonely,” he elaborates. “You’re not lesser because of it.”

Harry shakes her head. “I know that.”

He eyes her with consideration. “Okay,” he agrees. “As long as you do.”

 

In Defense, they’ve moved from the Cruciatus Curse to the Imperius Curse. On this particular day, Moody has decided that it would be a good idea to have students demonstrate their ability to throw off the curse. Harry, watching the other students do inane things like jump around the classroom and off desks, thinks it’s the stupidest thing she’s ever seen.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it,” Tom says, leaning against the wall of the classroom with an amused look on his face. “It’s always a good idea to know how to defeat a curse like this. You’ll never know when you might need it.”

Harry frowns. I still don’t think Moody is the best person to teach us. There’s something off about him.

“You might be right about that,” Tom answers, watching Moody with a thoughtful look. “Still, he seems to know what he’s talking about. Therefore, you’re going to pay attention and learn how to overcome this curse in the event you are ever put under the Imperius Curse.”

With great reluctance, Harry does as he says, volunteering to go next. Moody’s magic eye watches her as she makes her way to the front, unnerving her. Ever since the day where Moody offered Harry help with the first task and she turned him down, he’s been watching her especially close. She’s done her best to avoid him, but she’s found that difficult especially considering she has class with him.

“Up on the desk, girlie,” he says gruffly, and Harry does as she’s told, feeling ridiculous already.

Imperio!” He points his wand at her, and despite every instinct in her body, she stays still and lets the spell hit her.

Immediately, a sense of calm washes over her, like a golden haze falling over her mind. ‘Jump!’ a voice growls in her mind. Harry moves towards the edge of the desk in a haze, the only thing in her mind orienting her is the order telling her to jump.

No,’ Harry tells herself. ‘No, no, no I won’t.

She freezes before the end of the desk, her muscles straining. ‘Jump!’ The voice orders her again, with more force. Harry can feel her knees bending, but the golden haze is fracturing and she fights her body to straighten up.

As a result of her inner turmoil, Harry ends up toppling off the desk, her knees locked together still, legs bent. She hits the ground with a dull thud, and her knees ache from where they hit the stone of the floor.

“Excellent job, Miss Potter!” Moody is praising her, his electric blue eye not leaving her. “On your first try as well. Everyone gather around. I want you to see what Miss Potter does, and try to do that yourself.”

He orders Harry back to her feet, before putting her back under the spell again. This time, Harry almost manages to wrestle back control under the curse, before falling. Moody makes her run it again and again until she can completely throw off his influence while under the curse. She wins twenty points for Slytherin, but at the cost of her knees turning blue and green from hitting the ground over and over again before she got the hang of it.

She’s limping out of the classroom when Fred catches up to her. He throws an arm around her shoulders, walking with her to her next class. “You’re awfully chipper,” she says, feeling unsettled and off her game.

Fred smiles winningly at her. “George is about to ask Angelina to the Ball, thought you might want to watch.”

“Angelina Johnson?” Fred nods, still smiling. Harry shrugs, tucking herself further into his side.
She appreciates Fred’s distraction, and the weight of his arm across her shoulders. Before long, her attention is on something else, and she can put the class behind her without much thought.

 

The Yule Ball hits Harry without much warning. First she was concentrating on classes and avoiding Hermione in the halls, and the day of the dance was on her before she knows it. “This is pointless,” she moans, trying to pull the comb out of her hair where it’s become tangled beyond belief. “Why did he ask me? I can’t dance? I’m going to embarrass myself, and everyone is going to laugh, and I’m going to be the worst...”

Tom casts a wandless Silencing charm on her with a wave of his hand. The girls dormitory is empty, the other girls in Harry’s year already up in the Great Hall as Harry’s tried to figure out what to do with her hair for the past thirty minutes.

“Enough,” he says. “You’re driving me crazy.” He sets the comb down on Harry’s dresser. “Hand me those.”

Harry passes him the hair clips he was pointing at. She twists her hands together. “I just want it to go well,” she says.

“I know,” he says, sounding distracted. “There. How is that?”

Harry looks at her reflection in the mirror. She’s wearing emerald green dress robes that match the shade of her eyes and fall to mid-calf. Her hair falls in curls around her face, but Tom’s managed to pin sections by her face back with silvery hair clips that match the scar on her face. She twists around to face Tom who likes slightly nauseated. “Thank you,” she says, throwing her arms around him.

He stiffens, but returns the embrace gingerly. “You’re welcome,” he says dryly. “You better get upstairs, or you’re going to miss the dance all together.”

“I don’t think that would be so bad,” she says, seriously. Still, she rushes out of the dorm, heading up the stairs towards the Great Hall. She’s got both Tom and Hermione’s necklaces around her neck. The locket’s chain is long enough to tuck under the neckline of her robes, but Hermione’s necklace dangles openly on her chest.

She’s busy brushing lint and hair off her robes as she walks up the stairs, she doesn’t realize Fred is waiting for her. He’s wearing black robes, his hair neatly combed for once, with a green tie that matches her robes. He’s grinning at her, head tilted slightly.

He holds out his arm for her. “You’re late,” he tells her.

Harry scoffs. “I’d like to see you manage this hair.”

Fred laughs, dipping his head to whisper into her ear. “I think you look stunning,” he says, barely audible over the music that’s playing in the Great Hall as they enter.

Her face flushing, Harry glances up at him, but he’s already looking straight ahead. She can still see the smirk playing around his mouth. She’s so busy watching Fred that she doesn’t have the chance to look for Hermione, on the arm of Krum. Before she can, they’re stopping in the middle of the Great Hall and Fred is placing a hand on her hip, a hand on her shoulder.

Harry mimics the pose, and Fred pulls her a half-step closer as the music starts and they begin dancing. Harry hopes desperately that she isn’t blushing, but she can’t stop the grin that crosses her face at Fred’s expression. All she can concentrate on is the feeling of his hands against her hip and shoulder, the way he pulls her through the dance with ease, and before long, the music is ending and they’re being ushered up to the Head Table for dinner.

“You’re a good dancer,” Harry says, breathless. She hadn’t been able to worry about missing a step, too focused on Fred. He winks at her, pulling out her chair, sitting down next to her.

“Don’t tell anyone,” he says. “It’ll ruin my reputation.”

Harry laughs. “I thin it’s too late for that,” she tells him. “They all just watched you.”

Fred widens his eyes dramatically. “Damn!” He exclaims. “You’re right. I’ve really blown my cover now.”

Harry laughs again, happiness bubbling up in her stomach. Fred is watching her with a warm expression, like she’s beautiful and he actually wants to spend time with her, and Harry feels warm and bubbly and like if she wanders too far away, she might float off.

The rest of dinner passes in a blur, between trying the strange food and laughing at the other champion’s dates (Roger Davies from Ravenclaw had managed to get Fleur Delacour to go with him, but he spilled the gravy five minutes into dinner and almost burst out crying), Harry barely has time to look down the table at Hermione.

Before she knows what’s happening, Fred’s grabbing her hand and pulling her down back onto the dancefloor. She’s spinning in a happy daze, her heart pounding a staccato rhythm in her chest. At one point, she finds Draco sitting off to the side, arms across his chest. “Why are you alone?” She tries to pull him up out of his seat.

He shakes his head, looking bored. “No, thanks. Think I’ve got about thirty minutes before Pansy gives up on me and I can leave.”

Harry looks over her shoulder where Pansy is gossiping with other girls from Slytherin. Several of them seem to have found escorts from Durmstrang, Pansy included. Harry leans in, trying to whisper dramatically. “I can cause a scene so you can escape,” she tells him.

He looks up at her, a fond smile on his face. “Thanks, Harry, but I’m okay.” His expression shutters closed slightly as Fred comes up from behind her, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“Got you a drink,” he says, handing her a cup of Butterbeer. “See you’re socializing.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “Fred, Draco, Draco, Fred.” She waves her free hand between them. “Play nice?”

“I’m playing very nice,” Fred says, some of his good humor dripping away. Harry wants this night to remain untainted by the bias and feud between the Weasleys and Malfoys, so she bids Draco a hasty goodbye and pulls Fred away.

“I need some fresh air,” she says, trying to fan herself.

Fred glances around. “C’mon,” he says, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of the Great Hall.

Harry stumbles after him. “I don’t have a coat!” They exit out into the courtyard, snow gleaming under the moon.

“That’s okay,” Fred says, pulling off his outer robe. “You can have mine.”

Harry pulls it on, drowning in the fabric, but she warms up almost instantly. “Where are we going?” She keeps her voice hushed, feeling like they’re not supposed to be out here. The further they move away from the Great Hall, the quieter it gets.

“Harry?” Fred stops walking, almost all of the way through the courtyard. She stops behind him. Her feet are starting to get cold, but she doesn’t want to complain, doesn’t want to ruin the magic of this night.

“Yes?” She matches his volume. He turns to face her, taking both of her hands in his. She’s noticed that ever since she agreed to go to the Ball with him, his casual touches have become much more frequent. Harry had noticed him initiating contact before, but it happens almost all the time now.

He steps closer to her. “I’m very glad you agreed to come to the Yule Ball with me.” His voice is hushed.

She smiles, despite herself. “I’m very glad you asked me to come.”

He lets go of one of her hands, reaching up to touch Hermione’s necklace at her chest. “Are you still hung up on her?”

Harry blinks, taken aback. She pauses, trying to answer as honestly as possible. “I don’t think so,” she says. “It still hurts, but I think time will help.”

Fred nods, like her answer is what he was looking for. “I’m glad,” he says, shuffling forward. “You deserve better. Someone who likes you for who you are.”

“Fred,” she whispers, trying to catch a look at his face.

He leans down, one hand coming up to rest at her chin. His fingertips gently touch the side of her face, so light her heart aches. “Is this okay?”

She nods, not trusting her voice. Her face is slightly damp, and Harry realizes it’s snowing. Fred leans in further, kissing her.

Harry learns that kissing a boy isn’t all that different from kissing a girl. Hermione was different, simply on the basis of both of their inexperience, but Fred knows what he’s doing, Harry realizes. He’s still got one hand intertwined with hers, the other resting on her chin, directing her face where he wants it.

He’s gentle, achingly so, and slow, so slow, and when he pulls away, Harry finds herself reaching up on her tiptoes to follow after him. She doesn’t want this moment to end. Fred smiles down at her, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” he admits, voice still hushed.

Harry breathes out a laugh. “Yeah?”

He nods, looking too proud of himself. “Yes.” He leans in to kiss her again, a little harder this time, but still slow. Slower than Harry wants. “Of being able to do this.” He kisses her again, harder, and Harry reaches to pull him closer, to keep out the cold. “This.” Kisses her again, and the building intensity makes her toes curl.

“I’m glad you did,” Harry tells him when he pulls away, still smiling down at her.

“Yeah?” Harry nods, wanting to capture this moment in time. The sound of the music playing distantly, the snow falling around them, the hushed intimacy of standing so close together. This, she thinks, and waking up in the morning with Tom at her side, and the first time she realized Sirius could be the family she had always wanted.

“Yeah.”