SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-20 21:45:12

【TR/HP】Solace in Shadows

Auther:The Fictionist
Dear The Fictionist
Permission:Feb 18Yeah, sure :) I'd be honoured so long as you credit the original work. I'm glad you enjoyed the stories and good luck!
Summary:When Harry is kidnapped by a seemingly sixteen year old Tom Riddle at the end of his second year, he's convinced that he would do absolutely anything to escape - but "anything" can be a dangerous conviction to have, and even heroes can grow tired of fighting without hope. Sometimes, survival means making a home in the dark...
Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Harry P., Voldemort, Tom R. Jr. -
A/N: If you recognise it, it comes from the Chamber of Secrets.

                                                    Chapter One:

Tom Riddle leant against Slytherin's statue in the Chamber of Secrets, arms folded, watching dispassionately as Ginny Weasley sobbed before him.

She was startlingly pale, and had done nothing but cry since she got here, silent tears rolling down her eyes as her life drained from him.

He gave a pleased hum at the sense of power and energy that was beginning to return to him, the faint sensation of smooth stone against his back, of chill.

They had never before felt so delightful.

His nerves felt like they were on fire, over sensitive, for he could touch and feel and see by his own volition for the first time in too long.

"Please…" her murmur broke the silence; her first, strained, words in quite some time. "Tom, please…let me go."

"Let you go?" he frowned. "I already said I can't do that, Gin. Come now, we're friends aren't we? Friends help each other, and didn't you wish that you could somehow help me?"

"I-I didn't-" she dissolved into tears again. "I don't want to die!"

"No one does, love," he replied sagely. "But that doesn't mean you won't."

There was silence again, and he watched her curiously, his little Ginny.

She was an annoying child, whiny and needy, simply desperate for recognition and acceptance. In all honesty, he'd done her a kindness, giving her that. Not that it mattered.

Ultimately, she was nothing to him, just the bait to catch the bigger fish.

Miss Weasley had told him so much about the great Harry Potter that he found his fascination quite piqued. The Boy Who Lived, survivor of the Killing Curse, a legend.

He was so eager to see what type of child it took to accomplish such a thing. After all, he could hardly miss the similarities between them - both halfbloods, orphans raised by muggles unknowing of their rightful status, parselmouths. If Ginerva was to be believed they even looked something alike.

It was…interesting.

He'd wait to meet the boy to note if that held true for itself.

"I'm scared, Tom," Ginny's voice was even weaker now, as if it were taking all her effort to keep talking, begging for consolations.

Her eyes, turned so deliciously fearful, had closed.

He could hear the terror in her tone, and relished it. She really was very young.

He ignored her though, beginning to lose patience. He'd had to listen to her pathetic troubles all year, he didn't see why he should be thus obligated to do so now.

He turned away, looking around the Chamber, wondering when boy wonder would appear. The silence stretched, and all the time his strength grew.

He was almost solid now, just a bit blurry around the edges.

"Harry will stop you," she mumbled. He turned again at that, sharply, to see that she'd finally succumbed to unconsciousness.

Now there was nothing to do but wait.


Harry was standing at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. Towering stone pillars entwined with more carved serpents rose to support a ceiling lost in darkness, casting long, black shadows through the odd, greenish gloom that filled the place.

He stood listening to the chill silence, his heart pounding in his chest like a trapped bludger.

Could the basilisk be lurking in a shadowy corner, behind a pillar? And where was Ginny?

He pulled out his wand and moved carefully forward between the serpentine columns, his footsteps echoing. It was far too quiet, eerie.

He kept his eyes narrowed, ready to clamp them shut at the smallest sign of movement. He could have sworn that Tte hollow eye sockets of the stone snakes seemed to be following him. More than once, with a jolt of the stomach, he thought he saw one stir, fearing it the basilisk.

Then, as he drew level with the last pair of pillars, a statue high as the Chamber itself loomed into view, standing against the back wall.

Harry had to crane his neck to look up into the giant face above: It was ancient and monkeyish, with a long, thin beard that fell almost to the bottom of the wizard's sweeping stone robes, where two enormous grey feet stood on the smooth Chamber floor.

Salazar Slytherin.

Somehow, he'd expected the man to look more snake-like.

Between the feet, lay a girl with hair of flame.

"Ginny!" he muttered, sprinting over to her and dropping to his knees. "Ginny - don't be dead - please don't be dead-"

He flung his wand aside, unable to care for it now, if she was dead…she couldn't possible be dead. He grabbed her shoulders, turning her over. Her face was white as marble, and as cold, yet her eyes were closed, so she wasn't Petrified. But then she must be –

"Ginny, please wake up," he ordered desperately, shaking her.

Ginny's head lolled hopelessly from side to side. His blood curdled.

"She won't wake," said a soft voice.

Harry jumped violently, and spun around on his knees.

A tall, black-haired boy was leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though Harry were looking at him through a misted window.

But there was no mistaking him.

"Tom - Tom Riddle?"

Riddle nodded, not taking his eyes off Harry's face.

"What d'you mean, she won't wake?" Harry demanded desperately. "She's not - she's not -?"

"She's still alive," Riddle replied. "But only just."

Thank god. Ginny was…an uncertain feeling swelled in his chest as he stared at the other boy.

Tom Riddle had been at Hogwarts fifty years ago, yet here he stood, a weird, misty light shining about him, not a day older than sixteen.

How was that even possible?

"Are you a ghost?" he asked uncertainly. Surely Riddle was too…solid, for that?

"A memory," Tom replied quietly. "Preserved in a diary for fifty years."

He pointed toward the floor near the statue's giant toes. Indeed, the diary lay there, innocently. Harry swallowed, his confusion rising at the same rate as a horrible growing realisation.

For a second, he wondered how it had got there – but then dismissed the question for the sake of more pressing matters.

"You've got to help me, Tom," he said, raising Ginny's head again, struggling with the weight, red hair flowing across his fingers like blood. "We've got to get her out of here. There's a basilisk ... I don't know where it is, but it could be along any moment ... Please, help me!"

Riddle didn't move. Harry, sweating, managed to hoist Ginny half off the floor, and bent to pick up his wand again. It was gone.

"Did you see -?"

He looked up. Riddle was still watching him - twirling Harry's wand between his long fingers. The awful realisation was tickling at his mind now, but he didn't want to believe it, so he stretched out a hand to be given it back.

"Thanks," he said.

A smile curled the corners of Riddle's mouth. Harry shivered under the intenseness of the other's scrutiny.

"Listen," he tried again, urgently, his knees sagging with Ginny's dead weight. "We've got to go! If the basilisk comes -"

"It won't come until it is called," said Riddle calmly. He swallowed bile, lowering Ginny gently to the floor, unable to hold her any longer.

"What do you mean?" he asked slowly. "Look, give me my wand, I might need it-"

That smile broadened, dangerous.

"You won't be needing it."

"What d'you mean I won't be needing-"

"I've waited a long time for this, Harry Potter. For a chance to see you, speak to you."

"I don't think you get it," Harry replied, through gritted teeth. "We're in the Chamber of Secrets! We can talk later-" let him buy that, please let him buy that.

A variety of expressions crossed the prefect's features, before settling on a smirk.

"Of course," Tom dipped his head in acknowledgment. "You're right, this isn't the suitable place for such a conversation, forgive me."

Harry started, not expecting it to work.

"No, it's not," he said again, trying to inject firmness into his voice. "So-so you'll help me with Ginny then?" he asked, not daring to hope.

"I'm afraid not, Harry," Riddle replied, stepping towards him, an altogether hungry expression on his face.

It reminded him rather terribly of some predator that had just found its next meal. Harry stiffened, feeling the older boy circle them both.

"You see, as poor Ginny grows weaker, I grow stronger." As if to reiterate this point, fingers brushed through his hair, tugging lightly on the locks, just shy of a more painful tug.

He thought furiously.

"You're the reason she's like this-?" he could feel his horror swelling.

"Clever boy," the other praised, and despite himself, Harry felt the most awful prickle of pride. No one had ever really praised him for anything before that, not really.

The Dursley's never had, and Hermione was the clever one. What was he even thinking?

Something was seriously wrong here!

"You're the Heir of Slytherin," he realised, it all beginning to come together in his head, far too late. He'd framed Hagrid, and…Ginny…what was he doing to Ginny?

"Pleasure to make your acquaintance," Tom replied smoothly.

The faintest touch closed around his fingers, icy, not quite tangible, but there all the same. Stronger. Riddle was getting stronger.

How did he stop him? Without killing Ginny? His eyes flicked around desperately, trying to connect the dots. A memory, preserved in a diary for fifty years…

"The Diary-" he lunged for it, only for his legs to suddenly collapse beneath him, at the spell darting from his own wand.

He nearly hissed in pain, feeling his kneecaps shatter. He lay on his back, next to Ginny, struggling to lever his body up. Riddle was flickering at the magic he'd cast, vanishing for a second, like a bad connection, before seeming to settle once more, circling.

"Ah, ah, don't do that Harry," Riddle chided, laughing, a horrible high, cold laugh. Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Never before had he felt so scared, so vulnerable, so helpless. Tom eyed the wand with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"You haven't succeeded," Harry spat, desperately. "No one's died this time, and all the petrified people-"

"Oh, you silly child," Riddle murmured quietly, gaze darting back up to his face. "Haven't I told you? Killing mudbloods doesn't matter to me anymore. For many months now, my new target has been - you."

Harry nearly froze from shock. This was just typical, wasn't it?

"And what do you want from me?" he whispered, before steeling. "If you're going to kill me, go ahead, but let Ginny go - you, you can have me instead!" he offered.

Riddle surveyed him, a gleam in his eyes.

"Really?" he questioned. Harry swallowed.


"Regular little hero aren't you," Riddle stated, head tilting to one side, smiling. His jaw clenched.

"Do we have a deal? Just…you can do whatever you want with me, if it's me that you want, just - just let Ginny go!"

"That does sound reasonable," Tom said lightly. Harry stared at him, his insides twisted, hardly daring to breathe. "But, alas, no. I already have you, so the point is moot."

The wand was pointed at him now, and Harry refused to flinch, meeting that piercing gaze as evenly as he could. He didn't want to die like this, on the floor, without a wand to fight.

"Kill me then," he dared. Riddle's eyes glittered like diamonds, just as icy and hard.

"I could," the other murmured. "But then we wouldn't be able to talk later, would we? And you did say we could. "

Harry's eyes widened with absolute horror.



And the world turned black.

SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-20 21:47:36


SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-20 21:53:57

Chapter Two:

Harry blinked blearily, his head pounding.

He opened his eyes, expecting to see the crimson hangings of the Gryffindor Dormitories. He was sorely mistaken, and everything abruptly, awfully, came flooding back.

He shot up in bed, almost toppling out of it, feverishly scanning his room for any sign of Riddle. There was none. Instead, there was an elaborate looking wardrobe, a bookcase, and the huge bed upon which he was situated.

He tore immediately to the door, panicked, fumbling for his wand and his glasses off the bedside table, before realising only the latter was there. He nearly wrenched the door handle off in his haste, not expecting it to open, thoroughly surprised when he did.

He staggered through, to find himself in a small landing leading to a small staircase. He didn't bother trying any of the three doors on the corridor, aside from his, racing down the stairs and straight to the front door.

He felt his hopes rising at the lack of resistance, threw his escape route open and - and nothing. He could go no further.

It was like there was some huge invisible wall in the way, which singed his fingers when he tried to shove it.

He could feel hysteria swelling, but forced himself to be calm, spinning this way and that, trying to figure any way out of the house. Was there a window or something he-

"Would you like some tea?"

He froze at that horrible familiar, velvety voice, whipping around again, frantically, only to see no one.

"Dining room, Harry," came the amused sounding call. "The door immediately to your right."

Numb, not sure why he was following the instruction, he went that way, hesitating on the threshold, his muscles taut.

Riddle was sitting at a fair sized dining table, newspapers spread around him, along with a pot of tea and two cups upon delicate looking china saucers.

After a moment, those eyes flicked up, taking in his appearance, before an eyebrow raised pointedly, with a slight gesture towards the teapot as if to repeat the question.

It was utterly absurd, and, somehow, only served to unsettle him more.

"You're offering me tea?" he demanded, incredulously, his voice embarrassingly hoarse.

"Would you have preferred orange juice?"

"I-" Harry stared, gob smacked. "Are you going to kill me?"

"Oh yes, Hansel and Gretel style. That's why I'm offering you sustenance," Riddle replied calmly.

It took a moment for Harry to realise the Slytherin Heir was joking, and he narrowed his eyes. Riddle regarded him impassively in response, his gaze still full of that hunger.

"Why am I here?" he questioned tightly, subconsciously approaching the table.

"Well, that's a loaded question, Harry," the other replied lazily. "I don't personally know what your parents were thinking at the time, but I daresay the customary explanation is that 'when two people love each other very much they-"

"That's not what I meant!" Harry snapped, flushing a burning red. Riddle smirked at him. "Why aren't I dead?"

"Because your heart's still beating."

Harry nearly growled, infuriated with the useless answers. He grabbed the teapot, beginning to smash it down on the other's head.

Faster than a striking viper, Riddle's own hands shot out, twisting his hold so he dropped the pot to the floor with the sharp shatter of breaking china, before spinning him around and slamming him down against the table with a harsh grip on the back of his neck, fingers curled painfully into his hair, effectively immobilising him.

Stars swum before his eyes from hitting the wood so hard, his cheek pressing against the table. Riddle leant over, lips barely an inch from his ear.

"Try that again and I'll break all your fingers," the other hissed. "Consider this your warning."

"Answer my question!" he demanded in return, trying to struggle free.

Riddle's grip tightened, and he felt an involuntary moan of pain slip past his gritted teeth. After a moment, the grip loosened marginally again, allowing him enough space to turn around, though he was weirdly contorted to lean as far away from the Slytherin Heir as his position would allow.

They both glared at each other, furiously, and then Riddle's grip loosened entirely, and the elder took a step back, eyes hard as they moved to the china teapot.

It was fixed in a matter of seconds, back where it belonged. Harry's heart was pounding, and he watched the other warily.

"What happened?" he asked, hating how desperate and lost his voice sounded, despite his best efforts. "Ginny, is she-"

"Miss Weasley's fate is no longer your concern," Riddle replied.

Harry swallowed, unwilling to accept that. Yet, something told him that if he pressed now, the elder boy would blatantly refuse to answer out of sheer spite. Ron? Was Ron still in the chamber? What had become of his friends? He didn't know what to do.

"What do you want with me then?" he questioned. "That's my concern, isn't it?" he added, irritably.

"Cheeky," Riddle chided. Harry waited, studying the other, trying not to visibly shake. This whole situation was messed up! "You're here because I wish you to be, that is all you need to know."

No, it really, really wasn't.

"But you're not going to kill me?" he guessed. Surely Riddle would have done it by now if he planned to? Or, at least, that was what his twisted Hansel and Gretel jokes implied…unless he'd been lying?

"Not if you don't force me to," the other replied carelessly, appraising him. Calm had descended on the Slytherin Heir again, eerily, like the flick of a switch.

It was utterly disconcerting.

"You can't just keep me here!" he growled angrily. Riddle's eyebrows arched once more.

"I can't?" he sounded greatly, mockingly, surprised. "My, I must have mistaken your inability to leave as a lack of effort or desire on your part."

Urgh. Creep. He swallowed again, at the lump at his throat, trying to think.

"When are you going to let me go?"

"An optimistic approach," Riddle murmured. "Funny, you had me convinced you were a pessimist considering how the first thing you asked me was whether or not I was going to kill you."

Harry's eyes widened.

Did-did that mean Riddle wasn't going to let him go, ever?

"You have to let me go sometime," he returned, trying to sound reasonable and logical and far more collected then he truly was. "I mean, I can't be any use to you like this…and you must want me for something, right?"

"You're not as stupid as you look," Riddle remarked.

"…was that a compliment or an insult?"

"Would you like me to compliment and praise you?" the Slytherin practically purred.

"No," Harry spat. "Trust me, the last thing I would ever want is the approval of a kidnapping creep like you!" Kidnapped. He'd been kidnapped. Laughter almost began to bubble out of his throat. "Someone will find you, you know," he stated, fists clenched. "Dumbledore will."

Riddle smiled, a twisted smile.

"If it helps you sleep at night," was all he said.

"He will!"

"Which of us are you trying to convince?"

Harry nearly screamed in frustration, because anger was better than succumbing to the absolute terror chipping at his senses.

"Why me?" his voice had weakened again, the seeds hysteria embarrassingly colouring it. Riddle surveyed him, leaning back in his chair, completely casual, silent for a while, studying him.

"How is it," the Slytherin Heir began, eyes not leaving his face. "That a baby manages to escape with nothing but a scar when the powers of Lord Voldemort are destroyed?"

Harry's heart sank. That was what this was about?

"I don't know."

"Come now, tell me, and we can do this the nice way," Riddle replied coaxingly.

"I don't know!" Harry repeated. "Honestly."

Harry started as the other drew his phoenix and holly wand from his pocket, spinning it in his fingers.

"There's this spell," the Slytherin Heir said in an almost lecturing tone. "That will allow me to rip your mind open and access every single one of your memories and innermost thoughts. It's an art called Legilimency. I've been told I'm quite brutal with it, but-"

"I don't know!" Harry repeated again, desperately, nearly shouting now. The wand pointed in his direction. "I don't know, Tom! I-Dumbledore thinks it was my mother's love!"

The wand flicked down again, but no smile appeared on the other's face.

"And what do you think, Harry?"

"I don't know," he said again, hoping Riddle wasn't going to try and read his mind or whatever again. Could he actually do that? Harry's mouth was dry. "Why do you care? Voldemort was after your time."

"Voldemort," Tom returned, eyes burning into him. "Is my past, present and future."

He flicked the wand again, tracing fiery letters in the air between them.

Tom Marvolo Riddle.

I am Lord Voldemort.

Harry stared, sickness rising in his gut like a tidal wave, his mind seeming to freeze. Voldemort? Tom Riddle was Voldemort? A half blood was the champion of blood purity?

"No," he whispered, shaking his head. "You-you can't be."

"Surely you didn't think that I, the heir of Slytherin, would keep my filthy, muggle father's name. He was nothing," Riddle sneered coldly. "No, I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew Wizards would one day fear to speak when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world."

"You're not," Harry bit out.

"Not what?" Riddle sounded amused.

"The greatest sorcerer in the world. Sorry to disappoint and all that, but Albus Dumbledore is the greatest sorcerer in the world!"

"And yet, I stole his precious saviour from right under his crooked nose, and there's not a thing he can do about it."

"Is that what this is about?" Harry yelped. "I'm just some - jab! - you're making at Dumbledore?"

"If I merely wanted you for that I daresay I could have simply killed you and had the same effect," Riddle said. "Use your brain, I know you must have one somewhere under that bird's nest."

Harry automatically tried to smooth down his hair, glaring.

"I'll stop you," he promised vehemently.

Riddle smirked, almost kindly.

"How are you going to do that? You had your chance in the Chamber and you failed."

Harry swallowed bile, looking away, stiffening as he felt Riddle approach, slipping fingers beneath his jaw to tilt his head up, despite how he tried to jerk his chin away.

"Relax," the other murmured. "You shouldn't have been expected to defeat me in the first place, it was a fool's errand, and one that should never have been tasked to you. You're only a child."

"I'm not a child!" he hissed, furiously.

"Yes, you are," Riddle said quietly. "You a twelve year old boy with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and it's not fair."

Harry felt unnerved again, wishing he could keep up with all of the Slytherin Heir's mood changes.

"Life's not fair," he spat. Riddle smiled, not particularly pleasantly.

"Indeed, it is not."

The other surveyed him for a moment longer, before letting him pull away with a thoughtful hum.

"Go and get changed and clean, you're a sight for poor eyes. I have work to do."

Harry stared, incredulously, as the other made his way back to his seat, sitting down, pulling the newspapers and various sheets of paper towards him again.

"Where are we?" he asked. "Is this your house?"

"Bathroom's the first door on the top of the stairs," was the only response he got. "There'll be new clothes in the cupboard that should fit you. Come find me if you want them shrunk to a better size."

Harry gaped. Surely this wasn't Voldemort? It was too bizarre! Where was the extensive torture, the murder attempts? He felt completely confused, wrong footed.

He had no clue how to deal with the older boy, it was terrifying.

"Why are you being like this?" he asked, his throat choked. "You-"

Riddle was a monster, just look at what he'd done to Ginny! What had happened to her anyway? She couldn't be dead, could she? Nausea rose even more in his stomach again.

Those eyes flicked up again for a moment, shadowed by a more tangible threat and danger now.

"I prefer my orders when they're followed. Do that, and we're not going to have any problems."

Harry turned away after a moment, shoulders slumped helplessly, shutting the door quietly behind him. He really was filthy, his robes covered in Chamber grime.

This was so wrong.

He'd suss out the layout of the house to plan his escape.
Riddle would slip up sometime.

He had to.


Tom stared curiously after the door once it closed, his interest more piqued then ever before.

Most boys would have ran after the declaration they were in a room, trapped, with an incarnation of their greatest enemy, Harry just kept pushing for answers and defying him.

It was thoroughly unusual.

He'd have to do something about the defiance, but he had time.

He would slowly tease the Boy who lived into the perfect warrior for the Dark Side. The irony would be breathtaking.

Besides, Harry had talent, however hidden by Gryffindor grunge and the taint of light side ideals it was, surely it was duty to help the younger develop his potential? He'd never had a student before, but the idea of influencing a person so entirely was fascinating to him.

If it didn't go well, he could always still kill the child, like he'd originally planned to do in the Chamber.

Besides, Harry was as of yet unsolved. A mothers love? It was ridiculous. Numerous mother's would die for their children, that alone would not provide adequate protection against the killing curse.

No, there had to be something about Harry.

He'd muse on it at a later date.

He had the child, and the boy wasn't going to be going anywhere, he had all the time and opportunity to mould and experiment and test the twelve-year old as he pleased.

He gave a pleased hum.

He'd always liked collecting trophies, and this was a spectacular trophy indeed. The boy who somehow defeated him, or a variant of him, anyway.

The possibilities of what he could do were endless.

For now, they needed to lay low until the whole Chamber of Secrets debacle blew over.

He could hardly have Dumbledore force him to return his trophy again, could he?

For a moment, he listened carefully for any other sounds in the house.

"The windows are warded too," he called, loudly after a moment.
There was a sharp clatter, sounding as if something had fallen over.

Chuckling, he turned to his work.
He had a lot of catching up to do.

SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-20 22:06:19

Chapter Three:
Harry paused, late into the night - he dared not sleep, and his stomach was growling because he hadn't eaten since lunchtime (actually, it was almost morning now again, as he'd gone to the Chamber earlier in the evening, and it felt like so much longer!) but he absolutely refused to beg food off Riddle.
It wasn't like he'd never felt the effects of hunger before, but Merlin! He could smell toast, and wondered if the Slytherin Heir was doing it on purpose.
He probably was.
He remained stubbornly in place, utterly miserable, staring up at the ceiling. In the two hours since he'd left Riddle to "work" he'd fortunately managed to avoid the other boy, scouring the house top to bottom for any possible escape route that he could use, however small.
All the windows, and all the doors, were heavily…warded, was that what Riddle had said? Either way, they were all blocked off from him by the invisible wall.
There were loads of rooms he couldn't get into as well. On the second floor he could get into his bedroom and the bathroom, the other two doors remained firmly sealed against him.
He presumed one of the doors led to Riddle's bedroom, which was a terrifying thought. Did the Slytherin Heir even need sleep now? He hoped it wasn't the room next to his. Could he maybe escape if Tom ever did sleep?
Downstairs, he could pretty much go anywhere except outside (though he avoided the dining room where Riddle was) and other than that, there was a living room area with whole walls lined by bookshelves and books, a sofa, an armchair and a stool with a chess board on.
There was no TV. But then, he didn't expect one.
There was also a kitchen, which was fairly well stocked considering he thought they'd only just arrived there. The smell of food taunted him.
He clenched his fists angrily, furious at Riddle, furious at the world, and, most of all, furious with himself for getting stuck in this lousy situation.
He'd seen nothing to indicate an escape route.
His only hope was to somehow gain the elder boy's trust and fake it until Riddle relaxed the ward and his safety precautions enough to let Harry make his escape and flee.
If he couldn't find a better way before that. Or if no one found him. Surely they'd find him? Dumbledore was supposed to be the greatest wizard of their age, surely if anyone could help him, it was the wizened old headmaster.
The door to the room - he refused to call it his room, he wouldn't be here long - opened noiselessly. He decided then and there that he would find something to barricade it with? Could he move the wardrobe?
He froze at the sight of Riddle, or, more specifically, the plate of food balanced in his hands. Toast. Jam. Sandwich. Nothing spectacular, but food it looked so very delicious to his hungry mind.
The other offered him a smile, a cold, deadly one that gave no illusion of comfort.
"Hello Harry."
He turned his gaze away, tense, edging back towards the headboard as close as he could, wondering if Riddle was liable to attack him again.
"No greeting, now that's just rude, child. Didn't your parents teach you any manners?"
Harry whipped around again, snarling.
"Don't you even talk about them to me, you murdering bastard!"
"Hasn't happened yet, baby Potter. I've never had to endure the presence of your parents."
Harry paused, frowning at that. That was right…this was a sixteen year old boy who'd spent the last fifty years in a diary, in limbo, essentially, stuck. His jaw clenched. Riddle smirked arrogantly, before settling to an unreadable expression, the plate still balanced in his hand.
"I have some more questions for you," the other stated.
"Joy," Harry muttered bitterly. "Why don't you just read my mind?"
"We can do it that way if you'd prefer," Riddle responded, arching his brows, before holding the plate out. "Eat. You must be starving."
Harry didn't take it, not knowing the price on it, and unwilling to accept anything from the Slytherin Heir. What if he'd put something in it? Besides, it was suspicious of the other boy to just give him food.
"I do hope I don't need to invest in an IV tube?" the other questioned, dangerously, after a moment. "Eat."
Harry's head snapped up at the parseltongue, his attention caught.
It was the first time he'd ever heard the other use it, and the first time he'd heard another human speak it. It was strange. He understood it like it was English, and, indeed, would have assumed it was if he hadn't noticed the barest hissing undertone only present if he listened very closely.
Somehow, it solidified it for him that Tom Riddle truly was a Slytherin Heir. His gut churned.
"What have you put in it?" he asked, insistently.
He thought he must have imagined the flash of surprise in the other's eyes, there for only a few seconds, before ice and steel slid over the intense gaze once more.
"The lethal combination of margarine and raspberry jam," Riddle replied dryly. "Be afraid, boy wonder. It might contain calories."
Harry eyed it, not sure if he believed that there wasn't something else in there, shooting the other a look, not wanting to laugh at the response and the deadpan delivery.
Riddle was a sick twisted kidnapper! He wasn't allowed to have a sense humour.
"How do I know you haven't spiked it with something else?"
"You don't," Tom replied sweetly. "So unless you desire to starve - which, currently, I'm do not believe I'll allow anyway - I guess you'll just have to trust me."
"Trust you?" Harry repeated incredulously. "You abducted me!"
"Who knows, you could always come to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome."
Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. What was Stockholm Sydrome?
"Eat the toast, child. Or I'll find some means of forcing it down your throat."
Harry scowled, but carefully picked up the offending slices. It looked edible, but Riddle was probably tricky, so he didn't know. He cautiously took a bite. Toast. Rasberry Jam. He swallowed.
"Good boy," Riddle reached over, patting him mockingly on the head. "That wasn't so bad was it?"
"I'm not your pet!"
"Animal kept for interest, amusement or companionship in the home…savage twelve year old brat…same difference."
Harry gaped, lowering the toast again, humiliated and offended.
Riddle smirked, though there was a level of threat in his stance as he gestured for Harry to keep eating, before the smirk faded entirely as the other leaned against the end of his bed, surveying him.
Harry's stomach felt knotted.
He suddenly wasn't sure if he felt hungry after all, but he had the horrible feeling that the psycho wasn't joking when he said he'd force it down his throat if he didn't eat by choice.
That wasn't something he would test tonight, either way. Tomorrow.
If he wasn't found or escaped by then.
Riddle watched him, creepily, despite how he'd said he had questions. His fingertips were drumming lightly against the corner of the bedpost, or skimming across the bed sheets. Harry wasn't sure why, but it unnerved him. So did the staring.
"Can you not watch me eat?" he demanded uncomfortably.
"I can," the other agreed, with a disarming pleasantness. The stared didn't move from him.
"But you're not going to," Harry sighed, heavily.
"I repeat, you're not as stupid as you look. I suppose it's easier for you when you catch on so fast."
"You're such a creep," Harry muttered, swallowing again, thickly.
Riddle didn't respond, only speaking again when he'd moved dusted crumbs back on the plate, keeping his gaze fixed on anything but the other boy.
"How is that you're a parselmouth?
"I don't know," Harry said, after a moment, seeing no harm in replying to the question.
"You don't know a lot, do you?" Riddle returned. Harry glared, rearing instantly.
"I'd know more if I was actually able to finish second year and Hogwarts without being kidnapped!"
"You should know more already," the elder replied bluntly. "If I were you, I would have tried to discover as much as I could about my life…what on earth do you spend your time on? Playing Quidditch? Ginny said you were seeker."
"There's nothing wrong with Quidditch!" Harry growled. Riddle merely shot him a disdainful look. "Besides, what did you do? Sit in a diary for fifty years talking to yourself? What type of idiot traps themselves in a diary anyway?
All congeniality fled from the other boy's expression, as Riddle took two advanced steps towards him, suddenly appearing so very menacing.
Harry held his ground, fists clenching fiercely around his duvet. The Slytherin Heir stopped inches away from him, and he held still, convinced that Riddle would strike the second he moved.
"You've got quite the tongue on you, don't you?" the other hissed.
"Bite me."
"No thanks, I'd probably catch something," Riddle sneered.
"Should probably let me go then, less of a health risk."
The danger snapped back to amusement, though lurked, ever present, in the dancing of the other's magic and the gleam of piercing eyes.
"Just as well, if you take care not to overstep your boundaries," the other said, throwing him off kilter, backing up, picking up the plate. "Sleep, I won't catch you if you collapse from exhaustion, and you'll only be embarrassing yourself."
Once again Harry found himself jarred by the sudden mood swing, the abrupt change of tone.
"Do you sleep?"
He didn't know what made him ask it, or why the question had to slip out, but an odd expression passed across the other's face, almost softening.
"Not in fifty years," Riddle murmured. "Maybe, Harry, maybe I do."
Harry hated the way his insides twisted when the other studied him, more unseeingly this time, before moving out of the door, closing it behind him.
Tom hadn't slept in fifty years? Not at all? His mouth felt dry. The light in the corridor dimmed, leaving Harry to stare into the darkness.
How had his life changed so much in a day?
And why did Tom Riddle have to be so confusing?
Ron Weasley lay awake in his dorm in Gryffindors, eyes red and raw and puffy.
The empty bed next to him screamed with Harry's absence. He'd, after hours, managed to clear a gap through the rock fall, but been unable to get into the Chamber because he didn't speak snake language.
He felt sick.
He'd waited until the time blurred, waiting for Harry to come out. But his friend never came. Neither did Ginny. Eventually, he'd made his way back up the tunnel where he came, screaming for help until someone came, all the time praying the basilisk wouldn't hear and come to eat him.
Myrtle - and he'd never be mean to her ever again! - had heard and gone to find a teacher. They'd rescued him, listened to his tale…fallen into silence.
His parents were there, furious that he'd risked his life, terrified and grieving over Ginny. Even the twins hadn't cracked a joke. He'd never seen them so white.
Bill and Charlie had also been called.
The mandrakes would be waking everyone up soon, but it wasn't the same. Harry was missing, and so was Ginny. They could have both been dead!
He should have looked after them both better, and avoiding it! He should have been a better brother to Ginny, so the Slytherin Heir didn't get her, and he should never have let Harry go into the chamber alone!
He scrubbed furiously at his eyes, glaring tightly across into black space, the sound of snoring around him. He was exhausted, but couldn't sleep, too worried.
What had happened to them both?
Somehow, he'd expected everything to work out well, like with the Philosophers stone. It would be scary as hell, but they'd look back upon it as another brilliant adventure. The good guys would win, the bad guy defeated, Ginny saved and everything would go back to normal - that was what was supposed to happen!
Where had it all gone so horribly wrong?
"Ron?" came a quiet whisper, the door opened a chink. "Are you still awake?"
"Can't sleep," he mumbled. He heard his elder brother come over, hesitantly in the darkness, almost stumbling over Neville's trunk, sitting down cautiously on the bed beside him.
"You know, it will be okay," Percy said after a while. "Dumbledore will sort it all out, you'll see - the Ministry will. That's their job."
"What if they don't? What if Ginny - Harry-"
His brother squeezed his hand, fiercely.
"It will be okay," he repeated.
Ron sat up, feeling Percy tense next to him, before stiffly putting an arm around his shoulders. His pompous old brother's face was pale in the night, none of the pretentiousness there any longer. The prefect was gone, replaced by his somewhat awkward, ambitious, clever and stuffy sibling.
"How are mum and dad?" he asked, thickly.
"Don't you worry about them, Ron," Percy said soothingly. "They're alright. They're looking to find Ginny…and Harry…right now with the Headmaster."
"I should be with them," he said.
"Just rest, you've had a hard day. I'll wake you up the second we find out more."
"D'you promise?"
"I promise."
He lay back down, slowly. This was a bit odd, but not altogether unpleasant.
"Thanks," he whispered.
"I'm sorry you didn't feel you could talk to me..."
Dawn approached, unfeelingly.
Maybe tomorrow would be better.
He hoped.
Dumbledore would know what to do…
Tom towelled his hair, having relished the feeling of piping hot water washing across the skin for the first time in too long.
Heat. Cold.
The diary had just been nothingness, no sensation except the phantom paper pressing in on either side of him like a cage, the liquid dribble of ink like black blood, swirling around him, the only change in a frozen existence.
He felt deliriously happy, not even Potter's insolence could keep his buoyant mood down for long. He'd have time to work on the child, anyway.
For now, he would revel in being alive.
No one could appreciate the joys of life as much as he, he was certain of it. He slid between silk sheets, smiling with pleasure at the softness, the touch, the delicious coldness of his pillow, the satiation of having a full stomach and being able to eat, tastes exploding on his lips.
Even something as simple as toast and jam was a delight.
He'd have to find a house elf, once everything settled down. A lesser man would have kept a light on, fearing the returned darkness of Horcrux, but he delighted in shadows, still.
The shadows were always, and would forever remain, his domain and kingdom.
He was the Dark Lord after all.
He was curious to see if he could sleep, gather some respite for his ever tumbling and active consciousness for the first time in half a century. He could feel all his bodily functions returning to him, so sharp after so long - hunger, pain, thirst, touch, sight, taste, smell.
Nothing was ever so perfect as the senses.
He sneered to think of Potter rejecting food, though admittedly the boy's reasons for doing so were pleasingly sensible and thought out.
Had the child ever gone without a meal in his life? Part of him wanted to say no, but the other part, that studied the other so intently, realised that Harry Potter may not be the Golden Boy he pretended.
That was a conundrum for another day though. Along with Parseltongue, killing curses, and all manner of other topics for him to squeeze out the child until he was satisfied.
For now, he would sleep again.
Tomorrow, a new life began.
Chapter Four:
This time, Harry wasn't deluded enough to imagine he was still in the Gryffindor dorms when he woke up, surprisingly well rested.
If he hadn't been so exhausted, he would surely have tossed and turned all night in paranoia that Riddle was going to murder him in his sleep or something. So, considering the dark turn of his thoughts, he almost fell out of bed to see who was standing in his doorway when he slid his glasses on.
"Gah! Riddle! - w-what the hell are you doing?" he hissed, tugging his bed sheets up to his neck, blushing furiously. Sure, he had all his clothes on but he felt far too vulnerable having someone watch him when he wasn't aware of them, it automatically made him want to hide.
The Slytherin Heir raised a brow.
"Oh please, Harry, you're twelve. I do have standards you know. I have absolutely no interest like that."
"And I would have known that…how?" Harry spat, angrily. "You were draining the life out of Ginny, an innocent eleven year old, absolutely fine, and bloody well kidnapped me! I find it hard to believe you have any standards at all, you sick creep."
"Don't swear, you sound ridiculous and vulgar," was all the other said. Harry narrowed his eyes to slits.
"What the hell are you doing in my- this room - anyway?" he demanded.
"I'm not in the room," Riddle smirked, glancing down at his feet, resting on the threshold, but not technically inside. Harry glared.
"What are you doing at the doorway watching me sleep?" he rephrased.
"Wondering if I should kill you."
Harry blinked, before blanching, his head tilting. Was that serious or like the Hansel and Gretel joke? Lovely thing to wake up to. His heart was just about slowing down.
"…good luck with that." He slid out of bed, warily, because if the other was going to kill him he didn't want to die like that, he wanted to be standing up, fighting to the best of his ability. "Wouldn't it have been easier just to set the Basilisk on me?"
"You know, most people would start pleading for their life at that."
Harry shrugged. And give Riddle the satisfaction? Never!
"Why is it," Riddle questioned. "That you're more scared of me standing in your doorway than you are of me killing you?"
"I'm not scared of either!"
"Then your stupidity is showing," the other said flatly. "Considering your situation, you should be scared."
"Why?" Harry asked. "Is being scared of you going to help me get out of here? I don't think so."
Riddle was quiet for a moment, surveying him with that eerie, consuming intenseness.
"You still believe you're going to escape."
"What, you expect me to give up? Cause I won't, not ever!"
Riddle was silent. Harry took several steps forward, fists clenched.
"I'll see you dead for what you've done before I ever give you what you want - whatever it is! You're a monster-"
"Sensitivi Privatio"
Harry's eyes widened as Riddle's spell hit him square in the chest, fast as lightenin, and then, and then there was nothing.
He couldn't see, there was just blackness, like his eyes were shut even when they were open. He couldn't taste the metallic taste of deep sleep in his mouth, and the silence was deafening.
He couldn't-he couldn't move.
Was he dead? Had Riddle killed him?
He drew in a calming breath, unable to sense the air in his lungs, so maybe he was. He would have thrashed, but he couldn't feel his body.
He couldn't feel…anything.
Horror and terror began to grow furiously in his heart, dread and nausea. He couldn't stand this! He felt like he wasn't even alive!
He could do nothing, only think endlessly.
He tried to draw in another calming breath.
Riddle would revert it, wouldn't he? Whatever he'd done? What had that spell been? He didn't know how long he existed in such a state, it felt like forever.
He kept trying to open his eyes, but the shadows didn't cease.
"Riddle? Are you there? What the hell did you do to me - Riddle?"
His only response was silence. The fear deepened, devouring his insides.
"You're a bastard!"
Albus Dumbledore strode into the second floor girl's bathroom which young Ronald had identified for him. He couldn't believe the Chamber of Secrets lay here, of all places.
He still wasn't sure how to get in. In the immediate aftermath of the last night he'd tried summoning a snake to get through, but as if sensing his intent or some magic on the place, the door hadn't opened.
Maybe the snake had to say the right thing - 'open,' according to Mr Weasley - and hadn't. They couldn't get into the inner chamber, only to its door.
Severus' expression had remained unreadable, but he was sure the young man was delighted to be this close to the secret lair of his founder.
They'd also summoned numerous roosters, in preparation for the Basilisk, should it arrive.
They'd then tried putting the snake into a box, but the damned door still didn't open. He presumed Salazar had warded it so only a human possessing the ability to speak in Parseltongue could get through.
So, now, they were doing this the long way.
He'd been working on the decaying, thousand year old wards non stop for the last several hours, only leaving to appear at breakfast for the sake of reassuring the rest of the students.
He dreaded to think what he would find in the chamber. He'd had the best people he knew on the team, immediately, as unfortunately ward breaking had never been his particular forte.
Severus had worked tirelessly on the door, despite his hatred for Harry.
What had happened to Harry? Was the Boy-Who-Lived in there, unconscious, or not in there at all?
He'd have liked to have thought his wards would have prevented the young boy from being transported away by nefarious powers, but he could hardly fathom the magics in this chamber.
It was perfectly likely that Slytherin had removed the Hogwarts wards from his chambers so he could leave when he wanted, or that it extended past the line of the wards for the same reason - like a battle tactic.
He didn't know.
He hated not knowing.
Fawkes had disappeared some time ago, and he could only hope the phoenix had aided the boy, but he wasn't certain.
When he'd left the school he'd never imagined this would happen, and that everything would go so spectacularly wrong.
He sighed heavily, not as young as he used to be, feeling the weight of his worry and sleepless night pressing down on him from all sides, suffocating.
The Weasley's were, understandably, distraught and he feared Hogwarts would close.
Except, there had been no attacks, and if he could prove the Heir had been stopped…the heir.
His blood chilled.
He needed to get in that Chamber.
Tom stared down at Harry, who lay, thrashing, on the floor.
He'd cut off all of the boy's senses, leaving only the deprivation he himself had felt under the diary.
The younger was coping surprisingly well, but he was cracking, tears starting to roll unnoticed down his cheeks as he grew increasingly frantic.
He had periods of stillness, in which he visibly struggled for composure, and then periods when he thrashed as if trying to sense his own body.
It would probably hurt when Tom let him feel again.
For now, he would wait.
It had been about an hour, and he'd brought a book up, reading quietly, keeping an eye on his progress. He had to admit that he admired the child's resilience, his unyielding will. Harry Potter was impressively strong, there was no doubt about that.
Indeed, the boy was everything he'd hoped for and more from all of Ginerva's stories.
Those were the only things he'd listened to eagerly, and she'd been happy enough to have someone to babble about her hero too, someone to talk to.
And oh, rebounding killing curses and defeating he-who-must-not-be-named had been more than enough to pique his interest, but then, when she'd told him Harry Potter was a Parseltongue?
He'd been absolutely delighted.
It was perfect, and enchantingly mysterious because he knew the boy wasn't related to him…so how could he possibly be a parselmouth?
There were so many similarities between them, it was intriguing. He'd known instantly that something more was at work, something deeper…and then he'd met the child for the first time.
Intense curiosity blossomed instantly to full blown obsession.
He didn't know what it was, but something in him had connected, drawing him in.
He knew he wouldn't rest until he'd figured it out, and the boy was a gem to keep that he could shine and buff up to display in glittering prize. And turning him to the Dark Side was beyond delicious as a plan. But those were old thoughts that circled.
He supposed he should have thanked Miss Weasley for unwittingly offering him such a gift.
The boy was all rough around the edges, but the potential was stunning. He'd feared the child to be too entrenched in the light, but then he'd made those murderous comments, killing curse eyes glowing with vicious, darkdetermination, and his hope renewed.
"Tom?" the boy's voice was softer now, a whisper, barely hiding his fright, his small body trembling and hunched in on itself as if for warmth.
The insults had stopped.
He knew this process intimately, having lived through it himself. He knew sensory deprivation, and how it would make you do anything to be truly alive again, anything at all.
He'd, at least, had the rest of himself to talk with initially, and numerous companions over the year, though Lucius had locked him up after his seven year old son befriended him and started getting...'sick.'
"Tom, please…"
And that please was all he needed, along with the tears shining in the younger's open, unseeing, eyes.
Harry would understand now, he couldn't help but understand, and that understanding would corrode the boy's hatred for him to carve a path for him to get under the other's skin.
His hatred was his buffer, and no one could truly hate something they understood.
Tom lifted his spell, and the boy snapped up immediately with a gasp, scrambling backwards until his back hit the legs of the bed. He lowered his book, studying the other for a few seconds, taking in the shakiness, the glazed gaze, the locked jaw and clenched fists.
He moved forwards.
Harry Potter was an orphan like him. Every orphan, on some level, wanted and craved desperately for a family, unconditional acceptance.
He would use that to his advance.
Harry stiffened as fingers slid beneath his jaw, tilting his head up, so cruelly gentle.
That was Riddle's weapon; he knew Harry was waiting on tortures unimaginable, murder attempts and loathing. He didn't know how to deal with kindness, he had never thought he'd have to steel himself against it.
Oh, Riddle was by no means nice, and his persona was interlaced with ice and threat, but he was fully capable of playing this game.
Harry wouldn't fall for it. He refused, and hugged his knees tightly, glaring.
He had to get out of here, he feared what would happen if Riddle became all he had left, all he could rely on.
"That was sixty minutes," Riddle stated softly, so softly. "How do you think you would handle that for fifty years?"
Harry's mouth ran dry, his head pounding. This wasn't right. The Slytherin Heir - Voldemort - was evil, he couldn't allow for anything else without being dragged into a grey shadow he didn't want to get lost in.
"You'd do the same as me, Harry, any one would. I'm not a monster. I'm just like you. We're the same, you and I."
"No we're not," he croaked. "I'm nothing like you."
"Nothing?" Riddle whispered. "Halfbloods, orphans raised by muggles who didn't care about us-"
"-How did you know about that!" he demanded, trying to shrink back, flinching as his words caught up with him.
Ginny would, of course, know about how her brother's had rescued him and the bars on his window, and she no doubt told it all to her diary.
He'd never felt so bitter. She'd handed Riddle everything about him, it wasn't fair! He knew barely anything about the other boy.
"-we're both Parselmouths, powerful, and we both had to grow up too fast. We even look something alike-"
"-Stop it," Harry muttered, furiously, trying to cover his ears, only for Riddle's free hand to capture both his hands, long fingers looping easily around his skinny wrists, firm.
"Just because you don't want to listen to me, doesn't mean what I'm saying isn't true," the Slytherin Heir murmured. "Indeed, you know it is, that's why you don't want to listen to me."
Harry bit his lip, wishing he could look away from the other's earnest face, crouched in front of him. All of his muscles were tense.
He could still remember the horror of the nothingness, and even found solace in the fierce grip and the warmth radiating from the Slytherin.
It reminded him that he was there, that he wasn't in the darkness. Except he was.
Tom Riddle was darkness epitomised, the stuff of nighmare, a shadow fed until he became reality.
"I could make you a prince among wizards," Tom continued, quietly.
"I don't want that-"
"-You'd never have to be alone, never have to hide or pretend to be something you're not with me."

Harry's heart ached.
"You're pretending now, you're not like this really, you just want something from me in return, like every one else! You're nothing but a liar!"
Tom smirked at him, with that edge of danger.
"How could you possibly know what I'm like, child? You only know what you've been told, which, by all accounts, is not much…think about it, Harry."
"What do you want from me?" he asked, his voice awfully hoarse.
Tom backed off a bit, the intensity in his eyes softening slightly, releasing him from its hold.
"Right now?" the Slytherin Heir's mood had jarringly changed once more, utterly unpredictable. "I want you to have breakfast."
"Hansel, Gretel and all that?" he questioned, tiredly. A strange smile flashed fleetingly across the other's lips.
"I hope you weren't expecting Cinderella…"
Severus Snape crept cautiously into the chamber.
They'd finally managed to get the door to open, after a long and fruitless effort, but they were finally in.
His blood froze at the sight.
During his 'career' as a Death Eater, he'd seen many horrific things, memories that burned on his eyelids and mind so he could never forget them, but, for some reason, this was up there among the worst.
Harry Potter was gone, and there was nothing but a black diary on the floor, flipped open to the middle page. Dumbledore approached it, warily.
Across it, as if bleeding, were frantically scrawled words over and over again.
Is anyone there? Hello? Please, what's happened? Tom? Are you there, Tom? I'm sorry, I'll do whatever you want, Tom please….mum? Is my mum there? Is anyone there? Please? It's so dark…am I dead? Hello? Will someone help me? Tom? Harry?
It continued, pages and pages, filling up and then disappearing back into the paper, over and over again.
Dumbledore's head bowed.
Snape felt bile claw viciously up his throat, and Arthur Weasley was sobbing, howls that no grown man should ever be made to cry.
They'd found Ginny Weasley.
But where was Harry Potter?
What had happened to Lily's son?

SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-21 16:57:10

回复 4# SNAKE979


SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-21 21:31:13

Chapter Five:
Breakfast had been swept aside into the kitchen with a swish of Riddle's (Harry's) wand, and now, the Slytherin Heir was studying him impassively once more. Harry shifted uneasily.
"Take a picture, it lasts longer," he snapped.
His rage was growing now, as his shock faded. How could Riddle do that to him? Cut off his senses? Easily probably, considering he was an evi-a cruel bastard. When the gaze didn't shift, and the other didn't speak, Harry rose, shoving his chair back so it scraped painfully loud across the floor.
"Sit down, we need to go over the rules of this arrangement," the Slytherin instructed.
Harry mentally scoffed, walking towards the door pointedly, only for it to lock as he reached it.
He gritted his teeth, turning around again slowly, only for Riddle to gesture mildly at his seat once more. He folded his arms, listening, but refusing to take the order.
Why should he have to follow Riddle's orders? He didn't want to be here, and he owed the other nothing. He'd rather make life hell for the other boy, damn any 'arrangements.'
"I can tie you to the chair for the period of this conversation if you'd prefer," Riddle stated. Harry's jaw clenched further.
"Go on then," he spat. "It wouldn't really make a difference. You're still caging me no matter how prettily you try and dress it up!"
"No, but it would be more uncomfortable for you," the Slytherin reasoned. Harry narrowed his eyes.
"And why would you care?"
"I don't particularly, but I thought you might."
"So what, I get to live in a gilded cage as opposed to a proper one so long as I follow your rules?"
"That was the general idea."
"I'd rather you just locked me up," Harry said coldly. "I'm your prisoner, and no amount of - of nice clothes, or rooms - or whatever on your side is going to change that. So stop it. You have nothing I would want!"
Riddle tisked, lightly, but his gaze had turned utterly and visibly icy now.
"Careful Harry, you wouldn't say that if I did treat you as a prisoner."
The Slytherin stood from his chair, circling the table and approaching him, just like he had yesterday. Harry backed off, circling himself to put the table between them again. A smirk curled across Riddle's lips, and he stopped again, instead placing his palms flat against the smooth wood, leaning over it slightly.
"Do you know what it would be like for you to truly be the prisoner of Lord Voldemort?" the other questioned, softly. "I don't think you do, and you seem to be working under the misconception that food, clothing and other material and physical deprivations are what make you a prisoner…let me correct you on that."
Harry swallowed at the dangerous gleam in Riddle's eyes.
"Being held captive is not about whether or not your cage is gilded or a roughly hewn from bars, it's about your complete lack of rights in this situation…you eat because I allow you to, breathe because I allow you to, wear nice clothes because I allow you to…you're not in control here, child. I am. While I understand your defiant attempts to pretend you still have some powers and control left to you, it is a delusion, understand that, and only one I allow you yet again. Everything you do is subject to the whims of my mood and approval…bars and chains and deprivation only crudely emphasise this base fact, and make it easier for you to rail against me. You want a 'proper prison' because then you don't have to feel indebted, so you can feel free to curse me hate me for the way I treat you. You don't know how to deal with this."
Harry glared back, furiously.
"You don't own me," he snarled. "And you don't control me, Riddle, that's your delusion, not mine. I control myself, and you can never do that - you can't control my thoughts or my dreams, my mind or my heart! You. Don't. Own. Me."
"I have magic, Harry," Riddle returned. "Do you really think I couldn't do the last? Mind - there's a spell called the Imperius curse that would give me full control over your thoughts and actions. Your heart - compulsion charms, love potions, empathy potions, plain manipulations."
"Control is not the same as ownership," Harry snarled. He'd learnt that with the Dursleys. "You can control me through force, but everything would still belong to me because you do not truly own anything that I haven't given to you willingly."
Riddle's head tilted back marginally.
"But you will give me what I want, willingly," the other replied, quietly now. "Because your judgement is based on the fundamental error that I don't have anything you want."
Harry's expression faltered, confused.
"You don't have-"
"Freedom, Harry," Riddle murmured, gaze searing into him. "I have freedom, which you desperately seek."
Harry's heart plummeted, his body turning cold.
Riddle circled the table again, and, this time, he didn't move back, simply staring at the other, as if his feet were rooted to the spot.
The Slytherin's hands ghosted across his shoulders as he leant down, putting them on eye level.
"I have information - answers," he continued softly. "And I am currently the only other company you have. If I were to simply lock you in a room with no human contact for days and weeks on end there would come a point when you would do anything just to see me and other people, to remind yourself that you are not alone in the world. You fear being alone, Harry, every human does on some level. You may not like me, but, right now, you need me…and that, more than anything else, puts me in control over your heart too."
Harry felt sick, and wrenched away, his hands fisted, his shoulders shaking.
Riddle was a liar. Nothing but a liar, a filthy liar.
"I'm not going to be here long enough for any of that to be true," he said fiercely. "Dumbledore will find you, and you'll die or go back to the diary where you belong," he turned his head towards Riddle again, vicious. "Are you looking forward to going back into the diary again, Tom? It won't be fifty years next time, it will be forever. You'll be alone in the nothingness forever!"
The next second, he was on the floor from the force of Riddle's punch, pressing a hand to his stinging face. Despite this he smiled, laughing wildly.
Tom Riddle definitely had a weak point there, his smooth mask broken instantly.
Riddle stared at him, coldly, eyes unreadable. Harry continued to laugh, helplessly, unable to stop now that he'd started. He'd never been this miserable, but he just couldn't stop now.
Damn, he was so scared and lost and uncertain now, he couldn't help but laugh, desperately, because if he didn't laugh he'd cry and he didn't want to give Riddle the satisfaction of his tears.
Tom stepped up to him, after a moment, crouching down, gripping his jaw to tilt his cheek towards the light, examining the damage.
"Rule one," he stated firmly. "Don't bait me, Harry Potter. You'll be the one to suffer for it."
That just made him laugh more; suffer for it? He was already suffering! Every second he had to spend in this stupid house with this confusing, arrogant boy was a torture of its own.
Riddle was starting to look a bit annoyed now, though his expression largely didn't change, before he sighed.
"You're a messed up child, has anyone ever told you that?" the other questioned, releasing him.
Harry merely shrugged, not sure how to respond, his laughter slowly coming to a stop.
"What do you want from me?" he asked, again, insistently. He was starting to lose count of how many times he'd spoke those words, and began to wonder if Riddle even knew.
"Rule two, don't try and escape, it will do you no good and you wouldn't like the consequences."
Harry clenched his fists at the non answer.
"Do you even know why I'm here? Or did you just steal me on the spur of the moment?"
"Rule three, good behaviour will earn you privileges. Bad behaviour will have you lose them."
"You're infuriating," Harry growled. "Why won't you answer me? You said you had information that I wanted, surely it would be in your interest to use it then!"
"And you said you didn't want anything from me," Riddle reminded, eyebrows arching.
Harry froze, recognising a vague sense of entrapment settling over him.
Damn it.
He'd either have to admit he was wrong and concede to his captor, and have his curiosities satiated to a certain extent, or refuse and just have Riddle deny him the answer to pretty much everything.
He bit his lip, feeling completely out of his depth.
How was he supposed to keep up with the Slytherin heir? He'd never even finished second year, and been in the Wizarding world for only two years.
His mind drifted to the numerous books around the house.
And yet, books might magically help him catch up with Riddle or whatever, but they'd tell him nothing of the world outside. They wouldn't tell him about Tom's intentions, or what happened to Ginny or anything like that.
Rule three echoed in his head.
The horrifying significance of Riddle's definition of 'captive' was starting to sink in beneath his skin. His head was spinning, as he struggled to adjust to everything that had happened in the last twenty four hours. He'd catch up, just about, and then Riddle would throw something else at him.
He wanted to scream. He glared at the other boy. His mouth was dry.
"What do you want from me?" he asked again, quietly, hoping Riddle wouldn't actually make him say the words. "What happened to Ginny? To my friends? Are they-" he swallowed.
Were they looking for him? Did Riddle know?
Tom smiled, altogether too pleasantly. It sent shivers up his spine.
"I'm doing this for your own benefit, you know," he murmured. Harry snorted, but didn't dare voice a comment, lest Tom clam up out of spite. "It'll do you good to learn how to bend that neck of yours when you have to. Knowing when to concede and when to fight is part of survival, life."
As if he didn't know that, didn't mean he had to accept it.
"And why would you care to teach me this?" he demanded. "No offence, but you don't really seem like the mentoring type."
Riddle looked amused, and Harry was starting to understand that there were some comments he could get away with, at certain times and moods, and others he could not.
Riddle reacted to certain things, causing dramatic swoops and switches in his moods that seemed incomprehensible, but…he wasn't unpredictable.
Oh, he was dangerous, and more prone to change than most, so it was like walking through a minefield as you could never entirely know when his mood - and, so, the rules of the game - had changed too.
It was like dealing with someone with split personality. He had to adjust his behaviour for the each of the moods of Tom Riddle if he wanted to survive this and get out.
As much as it galled him, he would have to play like a Slytherin and not a Gryffindor.
He only hoped the sorting hat was right about him, and that he could find the cunning to beat the ultimate Slytherin.
He had to try, at least.
"I've never had a student worth mentoring before," Riddle replied.
Harry noted the compliment, but steeled himself against the warmth of praise.
Compliments from Tom were equally as dangerous as insults and threats - merely honey to stick you where he wanted to, spider webs to pin you into the position he wanted you in. Both stemmed from the same ultimate goal, whatever the goal was.
"I told you I could make you a prince among wizards, and that remains true. You have potential, you could be great - you've done more than most adults have done already." Harry's attention immediately increased with the parseltongue, snapping back to the other. "You're important Harry, you're worth something, so much more than what the light side would have for you."
Harry couldn't look away, wary, but unable to move away from the…what was it even? It was very hard to ignore the lure of acceptance.
He didn't really care for the power and glory of Tom Riddle, but the attention and the assurance of his value, the thought that someone actually wanted him, was harder to dismiss.
This was going to be hard.
But he would win.
For freedom.
Hermione's eyes snapped open, with fear, her whole body feeling stiff.
"Slytherin's monster is a basilisk!" she said immediately.
Pomfrey appeared pale and grimfaced. Her expression faltered.
"What's happened?" she whispered, looking desperately at the beds around her.
Was there some lasting damage to the petrifcation? She hadn't read that there was - Had something gone wrong-she unclenched her fist, only to find the page of library book gone.
"Drink this," Pomfrey instructed quietly, kindly, performing tests on her. She could feel her dread growing.
"Madame-" she began, only to stop.
Ron had just entered the hospital wing. But where was Harry? She looked around the beds again, had she missed him?
She turned her gaze back to her other best friend.
Ron's face crumpled slightly.
The colour drained from her skin.
"What happened?" she asked again, barely above a whisper.
And Ron began to fill her in, shakily
Chapter Six:
Harry had been in this house for a tiny bit over a week now - he'd started making notches on the underside of his headboard to count - and he was starting to get desperate.
He hadn't heard a scrap of news from the outside world, and no one had found him yet as he'd thought they would have done…he hadn't even seen the outside world! Amazingly, one of the things he missed most, barring general freedom and his friends, was fresh air.
There was a monotony to life here, aside from the numerous struggles or fights between himself and Riddle over anything from when to get up in the morning to attempting to pour scalding hot water over the other's head in protest of his imprisonment.
He hadn't succeeded in the latter to the extent he would have liked, and the burns Riddle had received on his arms from preventing Harry's attack healed far too quickly with magic, but it still somewhat satisfying to hear the hiss of pain escaping his captor's lips.
Riddle had promptly denied him any use of water for the next three days, be it for drinking or cleaning. He didn't think he'd ever been so thirsty, but he refused to apologise, waiting the other out and being as much of a pest about the whole situation as possible, making sure to get as messy as he could.
Riddle didn't really like mess, Harry had noticed, he was rather orderly. He didn't think it was because Riddle had anything against chaos itself, but rather that it infuriated the elder boy to have someone else touch and move his possessions around, especially when said possessions were moved without reverence.
To be honest, Harry himself always quite liked chaos himself after the extreme tidiness of the Dursley's, but he'd still been relieved when Riddle ended the punishment, considering he'd been about the die of dehydration.
Despite the glitches, and the constant under thrum of tension, on the surface they had settled into something horrifically like coexistence and routine.
He hated it.
He didn't want to coexist with the other boy! Tom largely left him to his own devices, holing up in one of the rooms on the upper floor that Harry had yet to enter, no doubt plotting something nefarious.
Not that Harry wasn't more than happy to avoid the other…he'd made an effort to read some of the numerous books around the house to entertain himself and attempt to catch up with Riddle like he'd planned instead.
The problem was that he'd never been particularly academically bookish. He'd loved the few fantasy and fiction stories he'd managed to get hold of as a child, but reading textbooks just didn't appeal to him.
Besides, he couldn't even understand half of them! He would have sworn some of them weren't even in English.
The point was that he was, well…bored.
He didn't know how that was possible when held captive, but he was. He missed his friends, and he missed being outside most of all.
He missed the wind on his face, the sun on his skin, raindrops on his tongue, which, out of all the things in the world he couldn't have right now, was a bizarre thing to miss.
But being in the same few rooms with the same old everything was driving him nuts! That was why he steeled his pride, knocking lightly on the closed door which Riddle so often skulked behind.
He then stood there, feeling foolish, kind of expecting the elder to just ignore him. Yet, to both his terror and his relief, a voice called out after a moment.
"The door's unlocked."
Swallowing, Harry entered, his eyes casting around the previously unseen room.
It was a study; crammed with books, dominated by a large mahogany desk at which Riddle was sitting, poring over various documents and pages and writing in an elegant calligraphy into a notebook with all other sorts of oddities around him.
The wood beneath his feet was gleaming, polished, with a soft rug and a grand fireplace opposite the desk. It really was a rather handsome room.
"I have something for you," Tom stated, casually, causing his gaze to shoot up. Dark eyes were already fixed on him. "But what is it that you're looking for?"
Harry immediately felt wrong footed, but steeled himself.
"I want to go outside," he stated.
"I want to go the pyramids, what's your point?" the other returned.
"Do you have a garden or something I could go to?" he persisted.
Harry gritted his teeth. Was the other always going to be this difficult?
"Will you let me go outside?" he rephrased.
Riddle studied him for a moment.
"No, I don't think so."
Harry gaped.
"What! Why not? I-I promise I won't try and escape," he offered, reluctantly.
With Riddle, he'd learnt that most things required stipulations and bargains. He'd also learnt to be extremely careful with his wording - he wouldn't try and escape initially, he would not and could not sign away the possibility of attempting freedom forever.
Tom was quiet, watching him with the same intent study he had whenever his attention landed upon his person. Harry bit his lip.
"You said you had something for me," he said, instead, frustrated, not sure if he should be afraid or not.
"Indeed," the other murmured.
"Well, what is it?" he asked.
Tom turned to a draw in his desk, opening it, pulling something out…a newspaper!
Harry's eyes widened and Riddle set the thing on the desk between them...the desk Harry had so far refrained from approaching.
He swallowed, highly wary of getting too close to the other boy, who could lash out faster than a striking viper.
Seeing as Riddle wasn't moving, and showed no intention of passing the paper over, he approached slowly, carefully, wondering if the other was going to snatch the precious information away when he got close - like Dudley would. It was right by Riddle, and the desk was so huge that he'd probably have to go around to reach it, and mentally cursed his short arms
This was ridiculous, why should he be so scared of the Slytherin Heir? He wouldn't bite! Well, he probably wouldn't bite, Harry wouldn't put it past him.
He felt marginally like prey being baited closer, and hated the sensation.
Still, he straightened his shoulders for an illusion of confidence - because Riddle pounced far too easily and ruthlessly on any perceived weakness, like a shark scenting blood - and stopped by the chair Tom was lounging in, picking up his prize.
He read the title eagerly, before his face fell.
Wanted - Harry Potter.
His jaw dropped. It was a wanted poster! A search warrant, they…he read the attached article with a desperate, despairing hunger.
Parslemouth Harry Potter has been found missing for the last two weeks following the end of his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, leading to a dramatic stop in the notorious attacks around the prestigious school.
"Potter defeated you-know-who…maybe he has some special powers that allowed him to do so?" argues Ernie McMillan, from Hufflepuff. "There has never been a snake-speaker in the Potter family before."
His friends and teachers refuse to comment, though his uncle told this reporter that Potter was always a "disturbed child" with "issues."
Is Harry Potter the Heir of Slytherin? What happened to Ginny Weasley? And where is Potter now?
The Aurors are offering a reward of £500 galleons to anyone who could return the "Boy-Who-Lived" to the ministry…
Harry couldn't read more, though the article continued for another page or so, his fists clenching.
People thought he'd done it? That he'd…attacked everyone? Harmed Ginny? He couldn't believe it! Surely his friends would know the truth - Dumbledore would know, wouldn't he!
There was a bitter, acrid taste in his mouth and the Daily Prophet slipped from between his numb fingers, his head spinning.
This couldn't be happening.
Sure, they'd thought he was causing it, but…but they weren't supposed to keep believing it! He'd fought that maybe they would see he wasn't what they said he was when he rescued Ginny, and everything would be okay again and…but he hadn't rescued Ginny, had he? He'd failed.
His breathing quickened, and he backed away, blindly, only to hit the bookshelf behind him.
Riddle twirled a quill in his slender fingers, studying him.
They actually thought he was the heir of Slytherin? Of course they did, they were just like everyone else, everyone on Privet Drive who thought he was nasty, troublemaker and liar because the respectable and kind Dursley's said so! They didn't know him, and they didn't want to get to know the real him either.
"How does it feel to be the Heir of Slytherin, Harry?" the other asked softly. Harry swallowed, furiously, at the lump in his throat.
"They'll find out it was you - I-I'll tell them, I'll-"
"Do you think they'll believe you?" Riddle sounded genuinely curious, pitying almost. "A boy preserved in a diary for fifty years? A boy who oh-so-conveniently is the teenaged form of the Dark Lord they're all trying so hard to forget? It's like something out of a fairy book."
Harry's jaw clenched.
"Yeah, it's convenient," he spat. "Boy hero tragically gone dark and on a psychotic killing spree due to his traumatic past! It must sell papers like wildfire."
Riddle's head tilted.
"How…cynical of you, child. I was expecting a huge rant on people's good intentions."
"Yes, well, just goes to show you don't know anything about me either, outside of what Ginny told you! And of course she must be right!"
Anger burned in his gut, fierce and resentful. This was such crap!
He'd thought the magic world would be better, a fresh start, without the Dursley's breathing down his neck where he could build himself a name on his own merits and attitude, but it wasn't! He'd been judged the second he stepped into Diagon Alley, he just hadn't wanted to acknowledge it, too hopeful that it would be different, too awed.
"And your continued presumptions about my character are so much better and totally mature?" the other returned, eyebrows raising, with a cold glint in his eyes.
Harry stilled, faltering at that. Riddle had kidnapped him! Attacked Ginny, attacked him - what was he supposed to think! He was the young Dark Lord!
Tom seemed to sense his advantage once again, pressing onwards, posture almost careless. Harry knew he could react in under a second if he wanted to do though, however relaxed he seemed.
"They did the same to me, you know," he hissed. "The filth I lived with had me pegged as 'unnatural,' of 'the devil's party,' 'abnormal,' - before I even had the presence of mind to know what those words meant. No one ever bothered to get to know me, too caught up in their preconceptions and what they already thought they knew."
The other paused, standing after a moment, approaching him, sweeping up the paper as he passed holding it in Harry's face, grasping his chin tightly when he tried to look away.
They locked stares, and only then did Tom speak again, softly.
"People can't stand it when people are different, or special, it galls their own pathetic ordinariness. They fear us, too, because we're not like them. In society, everything that doesn't fit into the norm is cast aside as abnormal, not right, or criminal…they don't care what we're really like, they just see what they want to see…be it that you're an evil wizard because you're powerful and a parselmouth, or that I'm like them because I can fake a smile at their inferiority."
"My friends know me," Harry began, weakly.
"Do they?" Riddle returned, ruthlessly. "You tell them everything? You've never changed anything about yourself to fit in?"
"Everyone does that!"
"So it's acceptable then?" Tom's eyebrows arched. "You can't be what they want you to be, Harry, and you shouldn't have to try. A star can't fit into a square without losing itself."
Any sense of uncertainty vanished, replaced by a dangerous, simmering rage.
He shoved the other back, violently.
"Oh, so I should just give up, like you did?" he snarled. "Become what they want me to be - a Dark Wizard and a criminal - is that it? NO. Don't be such a hypocrite! You talk about how we shouldn't change for people but that's exactly what you want and expect - you want me to change to spite them and please you! But it won't happen! I am myself, I will never be anything else, and nor have I looked to be!"
He came to a halt, breathing heavily, frozen, wondering what his retribution was going to be…was Riddle going to kill him now?
Screw it all.
He didn't wait to find out, storming past, head lowered, pushing out the study, ignoring the call at his back.
No way was he waited for punishment like a naughty child!
Tom Riddle frowned as the boy slammed his door shut behind him, disconcerted.
That…hadn't gone right. It had been, and the look of despair on the child's face upon reading the article had been perfect, but now…the last part…that he hadn't expected.
His manipulations hadn't worked flawlessly. He blinked. He'd just been unwittingly sidestepped by a twelve year old. His aura flared dangerously.
Harry was, well, he was right.
Tom had underestimated him, made assumptions, gone by what Ginny had told him about the other. He'd expected a wild Gryffindor, naïve and innocent, easily mouldable, some hero to tarnish…but Harry wasn't like that at all.
There was something more to this. Harry was even more like him then he'd initially anticipated, but so different from him too.
He couldn't just pull a couple of strings here and there and watch the boy dance to his tune, he couldn't afford to ignore the other boy, he was too…strong. That was a bizarre statement to admit to himself.
This was absurd, he couldn't possibly be challenged by a child, and yet, and yet…
He looked towards the door again.
He'd been led to believe the boy, while perhaps being shrewd enough, not entirely thick and certainly more resourceful than most grown men, wasn't particularly intelligent.
He got average grades to compare with Tom's genius. He'd seemed so easily taken in by the memory, and Tom maintained that the boy did trust far too easily…but he wasn't a fool. Harry believed in the good of humanity, but, for whatever reason, he also saw and knew the bad.
He was innocent…but cynical.
A paradox.
It was stunning.
This was so much better than he thought, so much more fun. Harry was of far more value than he'd given the boy credit.
Sure, he'd seen there was more than met the eye which was one of the reasons why he had taken the young 'hero' in the first place, but he hadn't ever expected it to run this deep.
Harry was like an ocean; he had lots of different surfaces - stormy, calm, always untamed - and then he had hidden depths to the surface. Then, once you got deep beneath his surface, there was also buried treasure…under the seeming bottom, in the sand. Layers upon layers of secrets and mysteries, all wrapped up into an unassuming, defiant almost-thirteen year old.
A smile crossed his lips.
He simply had to have him.
Chaper seven
Tom found him sitting in his room, wedged onto the windowsill, staring out through the uncomfortable pressure of the wards at freedom.
It was so close, so tauntingly close, and yet he still couldn't reach it, blocked from the one place he really wanted to be. Instead, he was stuck in this horrible house in a horrible situation with Tom my-middle-name-is-manipulative-bastard-Riddle.
He didn't look over, thoroughly fed up, and knowing that - in this case at least - he was also thoroughly right. He felt the other's eyes resting on him, heavy with their weight, their scrutiny, but didn't even shift.
Riddle had the type of appraisal that made one want to squirm, as if everything they'd ever done wrong or regretted or hidden had suddenly been dragged up for assessment, but he was beginning to get used to it. Those eyes would always be like lasers, reacting to them was no longer going to make a difference. He also refused to be the first to speak.
"Are you coming?" the other questioned, finally.
Despite his resolutions, that caught his attention, and though he didn't look around, the response immediately slipped past his lips without approval.
"Coming where?"
"The garden," Tom replied. "You said you wanted the see it."
That drew his gaze too, and the Slytherin arched his brows at him.
"You said I wasn't allowed to go outside," he stated. "What's the catch?"
Harry blinked.
"Privileges are earned, Harry, and I don't trust you."
Ergo, Riddle didn't want to give any clue as to their location, or how to get out into the garden and, thus, out more generally.
He bit his lip, indecisive, his stomach tightening at the thought of not being able to see, like the blackness of the Horcrux. His heart pounded wildly.
With a sinking feeling, he realised he may have been developing a fear of sense loss. Heavens forbid he ever went deaf or anything now…yet, he would still be able to have his other senses. He swallowed thickly.
He hated asking this, but he had to, and he wanted to go out so much, and the Slytherin knew it! Tom knew he could scarcely refuse, not against the allure of the outside world. God, he was so weak.
"Will the light get through?"
Tom's gaze seemed to grow sharper, his head tilting, before stilling entirely.
Harry froze in reaction, studying the other, praying he didn't know exactly why Harry had felt the need to ask such a question, but also knowing that he probably did. If anyone understood this fear, bizarrely, it was Tom.
"Of course," the Slytherin said quietly. "Do you…want more lights in here?"
That made him feel rather odd, that the other was actively considering the issue now that he'd raised it. It was…confusing. On one hand, Riddle definitely seemed to go with the whole rule of good behaviour equalled increased rights/privileges, and then, on the other…regarding this specifically, Tom was, well, thoughtful.
It was more than clear to Harry, as strange or creepy or nice as it was, that the Slytherin was very good - when he put his mind to it - at anticipating anything Harry wanted or needed.
He supposed it came as a natural consequence of intent scrutiny and careful manipulation.
"It's fine," Harry said, stiffly. Considerate or not, his sudden fear of sense deprivation was also fundamentally Riddle's fault. The other nodded, once, before conjuring a very light, silky material. It wasn't enough to see through clearly, but it wasn't oppressive either.
Then, without another word on the matter, Riddle gestured for him to come closer.
It was a nice change, to have the opportunity of approaching rather than simply being approached, but he also felt it was an illusionary one. If Riddle really wanted him close and he didn't come at the other's command, then the Slytherin would simply drag him over instead.
It was a polite courtesy, or a test, nothing more.
Tensely, he allowed the material to slip over his eyes, fists immediately clenching. He had to resist the urge to tear it off, and, oddly, it was only Tom's light-fingered touch upon his shoulder that prevented that. It reminded him, once again, that he wasn't alone in the darkness.
Like he'd said, Tom Riddle was darkness…and so no one would ever be alone in the darkness. He wasn't sure how reassuring that was.
The grip firmed, beginning to guide him, out of his room…and crap, when did he start allocating 'his' to objects in this place? When did that even happen? And so soon.
It was a way to deal, he supposed, a security.
It was difficult to live a temporary life, without roots, especially when faced with such a changeable and probably mentally and emotionally unstable jailer. Tom was already so flickering, so inconsistent and - swappy! - that he naturally sought consistency or security in something else. Tom changed; the environment didn't, and he was beginning to curse and thanks those variables in equal measure.
They countered each other, in a way. He may have been far more 'cabin-fevered' if Riddle wasn't so varied, and, well, interesting in a dark, disturbing, shouldn't get too close way. He may have been more scared and unsettled - and this situation was bad enough without an increase in that - if there had been no consistency or predictability. He didn't know.
Everything about this made his head hurt, uneasy.
Once on the landing, Riddle fingers on his shoulder pressed in an indicating for him to spin around.
"…seriously?" Harry asked again. "We're not playing blind's man's bluff, and you're far too old for such games anyway."
"Same concept of you figuring out your bearings and what you have to do to end the game and complete your aim - in this case, freedom," Tom replied, not missing a beat.
This time, the other simply turned him around himself, fingers gripping his arm tightly. Harry felt utterly ridiculous, and indeed would have been embarrassed, if he wasn't fully aware of how simultaneously vulnerable he was with the knowledge that his opponent was far more sinister than some seven year old child in the playground.
And then, the next second, his feet left the floor. He flailed.
"Shit - Riddle - what the hell are you-"
"-If you walk you have more knowledge of what you're dodging and the surfaces around you," the other explained, in a matter of fact tone of voice. Harry noted that he was actually bothering to explain his reasoning, for once, as opposed to just pulling Harry along with him.
His brow furrowed.
It came down to the senses again. When things started relating to the senses, or sense deprivation, Tom's personality shifted. More careful, but, in a way, more indulging. Still.
"Put me down," he ordered, flushing. "You can't carry me!"
"My house, my rules. Do you want to go outside or not? If it's your masculine twelve-year old pride you're worried about, don't bother, there's no one around."
Isolated, then? The house was somewhere isolated? Or was it just a figure or speech or a lie? Harry noted the slip of tongue for later perusal, reaching out subtly, discreetly, with his fingertips, skimming across the surfaces to both comfort his sudden terror and to figure out where they were to the best of his ability.
"Hands down," Tom instructed, but it was more amused than angry at his attempt. "If you want something to do with them, hold on, or I'll drop you into a patch of nettles."
Harry quickly judged the possibility of Riddle doing that, before realising that he probably would, and then assessing it against the benefits of trying to figure out where they were with his hands. Tom would probably just trap his hands either way if he didn't 'drop them' so he shifted a grip to Riddle's shoulder, feeling utterly absurd.
This was so…embarrassing. Riddle was carrying him…and oh, Riddle had probably done that to get him here in the first place too.
He wondered why Tom hadn't just knocked him unconscious until they were outside, before realising that, to the other, this way made no difference whatsoever as the only changed variable was the destination and Harry's own discomfort.
He felt the sun immediately, and his eyes widened, and, barely a moment after, shot his legs out on instinct to catch himself as Riddle did abruptly drop him…though not into a nettle patch. He landed deftly, scrunching his fingers into the grass between his fingers.
"Enjoy," Tom said idly.
Harry slowly sunk into the ground, sitting there, tilting his head back, relishing the feel of sunshine on his skin, the wind brushing his face, rustling his hair. Smells. Outdoorsy smells. Earth. Flowers. The tweeting of birds.
Impulsively, he tilted his head in the direction he could sense Tom, bad mood marginally appeased for now.
He figured that was probably Riddle's intentions in allowing this, but, for now, didn't care. Their aims met for once, and he benefited. He could sulk after, if he wanted. Besides, just because Riddle was a hypocritical douche bag, that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy being outside.
"Describe it for me," he requested...instructed.
"Excuse me?" Riddle sounded shocked.
"The garden. Describe it. Not the surroundings or anything…I'm trying to picture it. I can't imagine you having a garden. Are there any flesh eating plants I should watch out for?"
"You expect me to know the names of plants?" Riddle questioned. Harry smirked, despite himself.
It was the sunshine. It made everything so much more tolerable, though still intolerable if he thought too carefully about it.
"Well, you do have a diary."
"It's a journal."
"Whatever, Potter. I'm not insecure enough to bicker about that with you, I won't lower myself to your standard of sounding like a two year old."
Harry's smirk broadened, and he began to cautiously navigate around the area, quite happy but also somewhat surprised that Riddle wasn't hovering over his shoulder. He supposed the other didn't need to. He was blindfolded, after all, and didn't know the area yet.
He would though.
He would gain Tom's trust and figure out how to get out of here if it was the last thing he did…and that meant he had to be at least civil, didn't he? At least when Riddle wasn't being a total jerk.
"Vegetable patch to your right," the other's floated down after a while, and Harry was momentarily stunned that Tom was obliging him with a description. "On your left, Gladiolus…Queen Anne's Lace…snapdragons…Lilacs…Lilies…"
"You do know your flowers," Harry murmured, amused, but not disdaining. He'd learnt them all from doing Petunia's garden, so he could hardly comment.
"Second hand knowledge," Riddle replied, "and I suppose they have their uses."
"Yeah, I imagine its easier if you don't try and pick up poisonous plants or anything," Harry said, assuming that by second hand knowledge that poisons and a general study of nature had been what Riddle had touched upon, leading to flowers as a default. "Do you have an photographic memory or something?" he asked curiously.
"Or something," Tom said. Harry blinked, stilling, once again reminded that he really didn't know anything about the other boy.
It probably wasn't a good idea for him to try and get to know the Slytherin either, it was too dangerous, and he wouldn't be staying here long, but…well, he was interested.
Tom was different to anyone he'd ever met, and it wasn't like he had anyone else to talk to. He pulled at the strands of grass beneath his fingers, digging his fingers into the cool soil, still somewhat bothered by the blindfold, but light was shining through.
He wasn't in that complete darkness, and it soothed him somewhat.
He continued sensing his way around, cautious not to tread on any of the plants because it wasn't their fault he was a prisoner. He didn't like plants, per say, Herbology would never be his favourite like it was Neville's, but he did like being outside. It wasn't that he had anything against plants either…he didn't know.
Time passed, lazily.
Tom studied the boy sitting on the grass, playing with the green strands. He had settled to a surprisingly content mood, though he did keep his attention partially fixed on Harry at all times.
It would be dangerous for the child to wander too far, and he certainly had no intention of letting him run. Still, it was rewarding to see Harry somewhat pleased, for the first time since he'd got here.
It wasn't that he would go out of his way to make Harry happy, that would be absurd, but seeing as he didn't hate the child he going out of his way to make him miserable.
Besides, he needed to coax the other into warming up to him, to accept him and the situation, and, then, ultimately, to care for him.
If Harry began to care, he would truly be stuck then. People were prisons just as much as places were.
He'd talked the other through the milder plants in his garden, giving no note to the more…dangerous specimens. He was hardly going to reveal all of his defences, was he?
In the corner by the wall was Devil's snare - a specialised strain, that would either hold or strangle on his command - a venomous tentacula lurked behind an apple tree.
Alihosta, leaves to cause hysteria, hid among the vegetables, along with Belladonna and numerous other deadly or magical plants (contained from contaminating anything.)
He'd set this place up as a safe house, just in case, right before he made the Horcrux. He'd never imagined it to be used quite like this, more as a retreat for when he inevitably managed to take control of the country and secure his power and reign.
Oh well. He was nothing if not adaptable.
This house would never be found, he'd put too much effort into it, and only reinforced his protections when he arrived a second time. There was a muggle town nearby from where he could go to get supplies, and the wards encasing the house were tied solely to him.
A lot of the magic around was largely parseltongue-based too, because at the time he'd assumed himself to be the only one with the gift. That was why he had to be so careful with Harry, not allowing him free reign.
If anyone else could be comfortable here, it would be his strange young prisoner.
"Tom?" the boy began, and he silently noted the change in name, indicating Harry's annoyance with him had faded. It tended to be Tom when the other viewed him more favourably, and Riddle when he was angry or seeing him more negatively.
"Harry?" he said, not about to discourage the child from talking or approaching him. It was interesting, certainly.
"What did I do?"
"You changed your mind about going outside," Harry stated.
Ah, that. He almost smiled. Harry was asking what he'd done right - not, Tom was sure, through any desire to please him, but because he was adapting to the situation and starting to realise what he needed to do to get what he wanted.
Harry would have made a strong Slytherin.
Tom had always admired resourcefulness in his enemies, perhaps more than he admired it in his followers even. He considered how to phrase it for a moment.
"Intelligence," he said finally. "You made a good point."
He could feel the unadulterated surprise radiating off the boy, as he fell into silence, appearing pensive, brow furrowed.
For a few seconds, Tom wished he could take the blindfold off to see the thoughts dancing in killing curse green, before he dismissed the idea as ridiculous.
"Does that mean you admit I'm right?" the boy tried.
"No," he stated. "It means that you made a good point, and that I can respect your opinion."
Harry seemed shocked by this, and he was coming to wonder just how much this child had ever had his ideas and wants listened to…it could be something he could use, while simultaneously allowing him to cultivate certain traits and quenched others. It wouldn't harm anything to experiment, anyway.
The boy was probably used to adults dismissing him, his thoughts. All he needed to do was listen, and offer Harry what he wanted.
Acceptance. It was acceptance again, his young nemesis simply craved it. Tom could…understand that.
All of a sudden he couldn't help but wonder his motivations for stealing the Gryffindor; it irritated Dumbledore, allowed him to satiate his curiosity and explore that something which drew him to child, gave him the opportunity to mould the hero into a warrior for the dark…and…well, he'd been alone for so long now.
Harry had too.
It was someone to talk to, toy with, even if it was a twelve year old nowhere near his intellectual capacities. It was still a damn sight better than what he'd had before; nothing.
His jaw clenched. He wasn't lonely, he wasn't a sociable person by nature, he didn't need companionship, but Harry reacting to him did remind him of his own existence outside the pages of that god-forsaken diary.
He shook his head, and silence descended again, the summer breeze and sounds lulling his tumultuous thoughts back into order and a semblance of serenity. Harry had turned to contemplation too.
Once the summer was over he would actively begin to pursue his plans anew and make himself known to his followers, but, until then, he would concentrate on establishing a firm ground with Harry.
It would hardly do any harm, and from all he'd read, the boy seemed important to the light. Honestly, did the old man think he could wave the Boy-Who-Lived in front of him and expect not to snatch him away for his own? Dumbledore was going senile.
He would also find his answers. That was the most important, most significant reason for this arrangements, wasn't it? The search for answers.
Although…said boy was starting to edge dangerously close to the Devil's snare, which could impede said answers.
"Harry," he called out, warningly. "Don't go further."
"Why?" Harry questioned. "Do you actually have flesh eating plants here?"
He didn't stop. Tom narrowed his eyes, knowing it to be pure defiance…and maybe Harry pushing at the boundaries, trying to establish where exactly they stood, how far he could go that Tom would tolerate.
Like a child.
After a moment, he let his posture relax, though he still felt a mild irritation at the blatant challenge. Ultimately, while this would give away one of his defences, Devil's snare was taught in first year anyway so if the boy didn't know about how to counter it he was too stupid to live…besides, it would teach him to heed Tom's words a bit more carefully without killing him, as he could influence the plant not to strangle on the off chance Harry didn't know what he was facing.
Typical though; it did epitomise the boy's apparent desire and tendency to run blindly and headlong into danger though, quite literally in this case.
On his own head be it.
He stood, crossing the lawn silently, ready to intervene if it was necessary, just as one of the tendrils lashed around Harry's waist, yanking him in, engulfing him, wrapping immediately around his throat, arms and legs. Harry made a startled noise, and he laughed softly.
"I did tell you not to go further," he said lightly. The boy immediately started pulling, trying to free himself, and he sent out a bit of magic to prevent the plant from snapping the child's neck at the rather vicious struggle.
"What is it?" Harry yelped. "Bloody hell, you can't even garden properly!"
"Language," he tisked, smirking. Harry snarled at him.
"What is it?" he demanded again, more fearfully this time. "I can't see-"
"-Devil's snare."
And the boy immediately went still. Good. He did know what it was.
"Defence mechanism?" Harry questioned. "It's not very good if all you need to do is light a fire to be free."
"Don't be ridiculous, it's only one of numerous obstacles to incapacitate intruders and stubborn, twelve year old escapees. Besides…" he smiled, darkly, sending another jolt of magic into the plant, loosening its restrictions. Harry stiffened as his head was immediately yanked back, rather painfully, strangling. "I control this one."
"Overcompensating?" the boy choked out. He snorted, sending out a final spark of magic, watching as the tendrils snapped back, reaching over to haul the child out.
"You were the one panicking, …What is it? What is it? Your voice was so high I thought you'd had a sex change."
Harry gaped at him, no doubt following his aura to pinpoint his aura.
"You're horrible!"
Surprisingly, Tom just found himself grinning.
Chapter Eight:
Sirius Black lowered the newspaper with shaking hands, tremors racking his form at the harsh wind that circled the island.
He'd never hated a place so much as he hated Azkaban prison, and he'd never imagined himself to end up in prison. Sure, he and J-James had often been mildly on the wrong side of the law, much to Remus's dismay, but it was never anything they could go to prison for.
Just a joke.
Things used to be so much better, golden days.
Him, James, Remus and…no. He refused to think of the slimy, rotten rat that he'd once called friend.
They'd been friends, how could the rat betray them all like that? They'd been like brothers. His fingers clenched, white knuckled, grimy. S
weet Lily and James…how he'd failed them, oh how he'd failed them. Harry, poor Harry, he'd only seen him as a baby, but now…his eyes cast down to the newspaper again, steeling.
It was difficult to think through the Dementor induced haze, the grey stench of misery and every mistake and regret and bad memory he'd ever had being thrown and rubbed in his face like poison.
It was so easily to sink into black clouds of despair, numb to the world, or into the electric luminescence of insanity - anything was better than here! His only solace had been his innocence, and that, somewhere, Harry was probably having a fine old life.
Anger burned fiercely in his stomach.
It seemed that wasn't the case.
His Godson clearly wasn't the Heir of Slytherin! He couldn't be, Lily and James could never create such a creature, a murderer. It simply wasn't possible. And, and even if he was, Harry was still his Godson.
It was the only thing that could coax him sharply out the shadows of despair, to rise. He needed to find a way out. Harry was in trouble. His boy was trouble.
He couldn't save James, he couldn't save Lily, Remus probably thought he was a traitor and it broke his heart but…but maybe he could save Harry.
He had to save Harry.
It was a shard to push past the quagmire of his apathy - of the screams of everyone he'd care about and the bitter disappointment of his family and his baby brother's death and everything - and he stumbled shakily off his catatonic sprawl of depression across the floor.
He was weak, sickened and exhausted.
The Dementors approached, Bellatrix shrieked and laughed a few cells away, her madness carried on the wind. He was a broken man, an imprisoned man, enchained for something he'd never done.
Sirius Black was nothing anymore, a haunted shell and ghost taunted by the spectres of his life.
So he became Padfoot instead…
And he was coming for Harry.
"Tell me about yourself."
Harry looked up from the book - about wards (but he'd switched the covers so it looked like he was reading the lightest book he could find in Tom's noticeably dark and often macabre library) - to see the Slytherin in question standing in the doorway of his room again. The room.
"Tell me about yourself," Tom repeated, lazily, surveying him, with a slight challenge in his fathomless eyes. "You said I didn't know you, that my assessment of your character was based on assumptions and the words of Miss Weasley, so you tell me what and who you are."
Harry blinked, slightly thrown. No one had ever really cared before, and he doubted Riddle did, but…
"What do I gain from that?" he questioned carefully.
"That depends, how much do you think your thoughts and story is worth?" Tom returned, smirk broadening.
Harry frowned, not entirely sure why that question made him so uncomfortable. He didn't know, what was he supposed to say? He didn't want to demand too little, but he felt arrogant and presumptuous if he named something too high.
Yet, surely Tom would then just turn him down?
"Obviously quite a lot," he hedged, trying to look for clues on the right answer, how far he could go. "Seeing as you kidnapped me, and seem so interested." He hesitated, biting his lip. "I'll tell you my stories if you tell me yours, and you let me go outside again."
Tom's eyebrows raised fractionally.
"Clearly, that would imply you gain more, and you know that, so why would you believe I would agree?"
Harry stared back, stubbornly.
"Stockholm Syndrome," he tried, the words unfamiliar on his tongue. "Doesn't that mean I have to identify with my captor? I can't do that if I know nothing about you, and so it benefits you to tell me."
"I see you've been doing your reading," Tom murmured. "Not quite so illiterate as your Jock-ish attitude suggests, how pleasing, but then, we both know you're not as simple and average as you liked to pretend to general Hogwarts population."
He didn't quite know how to respond to that. Tom's lips curved once more into a quick smirk, before he inclined his head.
"Very well," the Slytherin said. "You first."
Harry's mouth run dry. He wasn't completely sure what to say now either; he'd never had to describe himself before, everyone had always just assumed to know him anyway, he'd never had to.
Suddenly, he felt deeply vulnerable. Tom entered further into the room, sitting down gracefully on the opposite end of his bed, watching him patiently, with a gleam in his eyes.
"Um, well, I'm, er-" his nose wrinkled. "I'm average. A good seeker, I guess. People tell me I'm brave, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. I do what I have to do. Er…I'm not a hero. I'm just Harry. Normal. Yeah."
That was a pathetic description. He felt a flush creep upon his cheeks, burning. Tom was silent for a while, those eyes fixed on his face, before he shifted, arms folding elegantly.
"Do you want to know what I think, Harry?" Tom didn't wait for a reply before continuing. "I think you don't know what you are, and that which you do know you don't see clearly."
"Well, how do you see me then?" Harry asked, awkward, but suddenly so very curious. What did Riddle mean? Surely he could see himself clearly, he knew himself best!
"And what do I get for that?" Tom stated, the gleam in his eyes only brightening. Harry suddenly wondered if the other was mocking his own negotiations, and clenched his jaw, shaking his head.
"Never mind, forget I asked," he dismissed, embarrassed, irritated. "You still have your side of the deal."
Tom, again, studied him for a moment before speaking.
"I'm a psychopath, I am powerful, highly intelligent and, one way or another, I always get what I want."
"Just as well you didn't put modest in there," Harry muttered. "Psychopath?"
"I have an extremely low sense of empathy for people, and rarely feel remorse of guilt for my actions," Tom replied carelessly.
"In other words, you're an evil git," Harry said. The other did not look entertained, a certain coldness entering his gaze.
"Good and Evil are only stereotypes put in place by society to get you to behave in the manner they want you to, to control you. Man created morality to constrain everything that they're scared of," Tom stated. "The world isn't black and white Harry, and it is insulting to the splendour and colours of life and its subtleties to claim it is."
Harry's brow furrowed.
"No, I'm pretty sure it's always wrong to murder someone," he replied, starting to feel an annoyance he didn't know how to place.
"So it would be wrong to kill a friend if they were in great pain and asked you to end it and spare you from it?" Tom returned. Harry stared.
"Well, yes - no - I don't know! Surely it's only murder if the other person doesn't want to die?"
" So it's wrong to kill in self-defence? What about wars?"
"That's different!" Harry snapped.
"How so?" Tom replied. "You're still committing exactly the same act, if it was objectively and truly wrong, surely it would be wrong in all circumstances not just when it doesn't suit you and the eyes of society? Morality is subjective, created, and so is right and wrong, good and evil. They don't exist outside of man-made labels for expressing likes and dislikes. That's all morality is; an emotional response to an act. If you don't like it, it's wrong, if you like it, it's right. Same with good and evil."
Harry's head was spinning. When had this turned into a moral lecture?
"So, what, you just don't believe in morality or something?" he questioned, nonplussed.
"Simply put, yes," Tom said. "Morality exists only as a psychological construction, a limitation, not in the physical world."
"Still exists though," he insisted, knowing there was a point somewhere in his words.
"I hardly find that worthy of celebration," Tom replied. "Morality is crippling, just like caring. They're weaknesses and flaws within the normal human condition - being imperfect. We'd be better off without them."
"Then we wouldn't be human," Harry said, confused.
"And wouldn't that be a loss," Tom drawled, sarcastically. "Humans are pitiful creatures."
"You're a human," he pointed out, irritated.
"That's arguable," the other stated, before seeming to dismiss it, scrutinising him once more with that growing-familiar intensity. "You're remarkable."
"What do you mean you're only arguably human…the diary?" Harry questioned. "You said you were a memory, trapped in a diary for fifty years…how exactly did that come about?" He approached the topic with more caution than he would other subjects, wary of the quick snap of Tom's personality and moods.
"Magic," Tom replied flatly, with a hint of warning in his tone.
"What kind of magic?"
"Dark magic," Riddle said, with a hard edge of taunt in his voice. Yes. His mood had definitely changed, abruptly.
"Like, a curse? But…Voldemort's still around? There are two of you…was it like a spell gone wrong or something?"
"I can show you, if you're so curious," Riddle smiled, tone honeyed.
Harry shrank back slightly as the other's fingers drifted to the wand in his robe pocket. He bit his tongue, not sure if he liked the sound of that, looking away, down at his duvet.
"Considering the mess it got you in, I'd rather you didn't," he replied, recklessly, curtly.
Riddle's fingers fell from his wand again, and Tom seemed to emmerge again. And it probably wasn't healthy that he'd started mentally splitting the Slytherin Heir in two - with Tom, on one half when he was being vaguely pleasant or civil, albeit dark still, and then Riddle, when he was acting very much like the Dark Lord, and was normally pissed off.
In fact, there was a slightly fixed, almost vacant expression on his face, he was just staring at Harry. Harry resisted the urge to check if there was something on his face, and almost startled when the Slytherin suddenly lunged forwards, seizing hold of his hair, manoeuvring his face to tilt up, studying him even closer.
It hurt, and he winced, but Tom paid it no mind, his other hand coming up, almost tracing the scar on his forehead, but not quite.

The next second, he was bodily yanked off his bed, nearly stumbling but for the grip that had transferred from his hair to his upper arm, steady him and dragging him out the room.
"Tom?" he questioned, hesitantly. "What is it? What did I do? Tom?"
He was pulled, relentlessly, towards the study, and pushed into a chair as Riddle turned to his extensive bookshelves, picking out a book, reading though it with feverish eyes. Harry had never felt so disconcerted.
"Tom?" he asked again, voice almost a whisper.
"Hold the thought, Potter…hold the thought," Riddle replied, absently, flicking through the text at warp speed. Harry was amazed Tom didn't get paper cuts, his gaze flying across the page. He craned his head to read the title.
Secrets of the Darkest Art.
He frowned, further.
"Tom, what's going on?"
Tom turned to him again, slamming the book down on the table, before approaching him once more, seemingly manic.
Harry automatically backed away, only for Riddle to glare at him.
"I'm not going to hurt you," the other stated.
"Not so reassuring right now," Harry snapped, before he could help himself, stressed out. What was it, what had Riddle found? Or thought of? "What's going on?" he demanded, again.
Tom's eyes cut up to his, locking, and, bizarrely, he seemed to calm.
"Your scar…tell me about it."
This time, it wasn't a request.
Harry stared back uncertainly, and then folded his arms.
"What do I get out of it if I do?" he questioned, stubbornly. Tom's eyes flashed, dangerous, menacing. He didn't care. He had something Riddle wanted, it seemed, important information.
"You get to keep your senses," Tom growled, viciously.
And then Harry fell back to earth. That probably would have worked better if he wasn't a prisoner. Still, seeing as he was a prisoner, kidnapped and all that, he didn't see why he should make this easier for his jailer either. Misery loved company.
"…well I can't tell you what I know if I don't have senses, can I?" he returned.
Tom's fists clenched, and he continued to stalk forward, slowly. It took everything Harry had not to back away further, his heart pounding. Tom crouched down in front of him, too close, an uncharacteristically gentle expression on his face that was belied by his iron eyes.
"Tell me, hero, or I will go and murder people, and you can have their blood on your hands."
Harry stared, shocked, horrified. He looked down, biting his lip furiously, his own hands clenched. Riddle was such a
bastard. How could he ever have thought that he could be tolerable? Or that he could be civil long enough to try and gain his trust?
He hated the other boy, so very, very much.
"…I got it from the rebounded killing curse," he said, quietly, refusing to look at Tom. "I don't know much about it."
"Anything else? Does it do anything?" Tom demanded, gripping his shoulder tightly. Harry didn't bother trying to shake it off.
"It hurts when I'm around him. Why?"
Tom's fingers turned softer, but didn't release him.
"…I think we may be more alike than I originally anticipated, Harry."
Chapter 9:
"What do you mean?" the boy asked, his forehead creasing into a slight frown.
Tom's mind was racing...was Harry a Horcux? He'd have to run some tests to see if he could find out for certain, this was absurd, impossible...and yet. It explained so much; the Parseltongue, the deep connection he felt with the strange child.
He made an effort to gentle all aspects of his expression, though not enough to make Harry suspicious with a complete heel face turn personality change, clasping Harry's shoulders. He quickly searched for a good way to put it, for Harry's essentially light and innocent ears. He could use this. It wasn't what he'd expected or dreamed of in a million years, wasn't unworkable.
He obviously couldn't kill the boy now.
"I think..." he let his own uncertainty and wonder shine through, knowing genuine emotion would always be stronger, and that Harry would sense honesty from him for once. "I think you're my soulmate."
Harry stared at him for a moment, eyes guarded and wary, filtering through confusion and shock and so many emotions.
"But we're both male!"
Tom paused, head tilting, before his expression cleared with realisation.
"It's not necessarily a romantic thing, that's just muggles," he clarified, smirking despite himself. Harry looked visibly relieved, and he wasn't entirely sure whether or not to feel insulted on principle. "It basically means that our souls...match, are the same."
It wasn't even a lie, just a rather naive, simplistic view of the situation. Harry bit his lip, suddenly appearing younger than ever, his eyes like vivid emeralds on his growing-pale skin. He was suddenly struck again with the physical similarities in their appearance.
"So, uh, what does that mean" he questioned, cautiously.
"It means," Tom said, holding Harry's gaze firmly. "That you're mine, and I'm going to look after you."
If Harry was a Horcrux, no harm could come on him. He was sure Voldemort would agree with him. At least not until he found a way to remove and absorb the shard, to strengthen his own position further. He was strong now, alive on the diet of emotions that fed the very base of Ginny Weasley's soul, but he still wanted more. He wanted to be free from any remnant or link to the diary entirely.
For a moment, Harry's gaze softened, clouded, before being filled by something sharper - annoyance.
"I'm not yours!" he snapped. "I'm my own person!"
Tom stared back, surprised. That...wasn't the response he'd expected, and he could feel his fingers and magic wanting to stir, to deftly and purposefully bat away all resistance. It was hard to control the impulse, especially nowadays, when he was so free and indulgent with himself and what he wanted, after so long of nothing. Of course Harry was his, who did he think was to say otherwise? It was his horcrux, his soul - the boy belonged to him. He kept his features smooth carefully.
"Of course," he replied, after a moment. "I didn't mean it like that."
Harry eyed him suspiciously.
"Yes you did."
For a second time, he was surprised, before letting that one go, smirking.
"Yes, you're right, I did. But I was going to allow you the delusion."
"Nice of you," Harry said sarcastically. His smirk broadened, before vanishing as the boy turned hesitant again. "What do you mean you're going to 'look after me'?" he demanded, with an edge of vulnerability. "I don't need you to look after me. Are you going to let me go?"
Tom studied the other for a moment, flatly.
Screw the traditional method, clearly full deception was not going to work here; he simply couldn't pull off being so nice and sweet about everything. Besides, Harry already knew he wasn't like that. He only needed to be nice enough to hook the boy, he just needed to pretend to care. Which, in light of revelations, didn't seem so difficult - at least in terms of protecting the young Gryffindor.
He honestly didn't give a damn about the boy outside of making sure he was alive, but him being happy would probably marginally improve Harry's chances of survival. Tom couldn't have him committing suicide or anything equally inconvenient. He tightened his grip on the twelve year old's shoulders.
"I'm never going to let you go," he said, very slowly, very clearly. Harry's eyes widened.
"You can't just keep me here!" the boy replied, angrily, faintly, hands curling into fists against his shirt.
He raised his brows, not deigning that with a response.
"Screw you!" Harry hissed, turning away from you. "I hate you, did you hear that? I HATE YOU!"
Twelve-year olds.
So melodramatic.
Albus Dumbledore sat at his desk, trying to soothe his growing headache away, feeling exhausted.
Harry was still missing, and now Sirius had escaped too. Tom was probably gathering his forces to him again.
He was certain Lord Voldemort had somehow returned, and he feared what the monster wanted with the Boy Who Lived. Was Harry dead? He couldn't be! Without the Boy-Who-Lived, the chosen one, the world was doomed to darkness and shadow.
He feared what Riddle would do with the child, how he would twist him like a puppet to suit his own needs. Harry was strong, and supposedly the Dark Lord's equal, which is why he so feared Tom having the opportunity to get his claws into the boy now, while he was young and impressionable. Who knew what damage he could cause?
Harry knew little of the ways of the world, and had been mistreated enough by muggles for Tom to have an opening there, if he was skilled enough to use it. And he was. The young man had always been brilliant, just like Gellert, like himself.
Maybe that was why he hated him so much.
If Tom managed to draw his only equal to his side, he worried there was little he could do, and he knew the Dark Lord could be charming when he wanted to be. He sucked on a lemon drop, spiked with calming solution. Fawkes gave a mournful hoot.
All of his plans...ruined. Absolutely ruined. All the work, all the years of torment Harry had suffered, all for nothing as the game wouldn't play out like it supposed to. His magic flared, concerned, irritated.
What he'd done wasn't necessarily right, but it had been for the Greater Good. He couldn't afford to care about one child in the face of all the misery and pain that would occur if Voldemort won. It was regrettable, but true.
Tom must have a hide-out somewhere, off the maps.
And he'd traced the Riddle House back to a town called Little Hangleton.
Harry sat huddled on his bed, feeling utterly lost.
Soulmates...what did that even mean? Riddle hadn't been very specific, and he wasn't even sure if the older boy had been entirely honest either. He wetted his lips, nervously.
Riddle was pacing somewhere in the house, but he couldn't get the Slytherin Heir's threat out of his head. Would Tom really kill people just to get him to behave? He shuddered, plunged once more into an intense feeling of helplessness and fear.
In the garden, it had been...frighteningly easy to forget the true, full reality of who he'd been with, despite the blindfold. Maybe it was because he'd somehow, inexplicably, kind of adapted to living with the young Dark Lord, and the games he played.
Sure, Harry wasn't very good yet, but he'd thought he had a handle on the 'rules.' It seemed not. Riddle's words reminded him that there was nothing he could do against the older boy's whims, if the other really wanted something.
He was just a prisoner.
He shivered. Even worse, even more chilling, was the declaration that Tom wouldn't let him go, let him leave. Somewhere in his mind, he'd always clung to the hope that Tom would someday let him go, get bored. Something. That this was temporary. For the first time, in the two, or was it three(?) weeks he'd been there, he could feel a hot, humiliating flood of tears burning the corners of his eyes.
Weren't soulmates or whatever supposed to be a good thing? Why did his have to be so cruel? Weren't soulmates supposed to love you, be perfectly matched to you? How screwed up and bad was he if the universe decided that he deserved Tom Riddle?
He pressed fingers to his eyes, fiercely, determined not to be so pathetic, but the tears still wanted to leak past and roll down his cheeks. He clamped a hand over his mouth, trying to stifle the sobs shaking his form.
He didn't want Tom to hear; the Slytherin had pretty much said he didn't give a damn, with his statement about lack of empathy. He would only sneer and mock. It hadn't taken him more than two days to realise Tom despised anything that could be considered a weakness, and crying was weak. The Dursleys had taught him that.
Oh no. With a gasp, he turned his back to the door, as Tom appeared there.
"Go away," he hissed. He could feel those dark eyes searing into the back of his head.
"You're crying."
"Tom...p-please...leave me alone."
He hated adding the please, and he could feel his shoulders shaking, as he scrubbed furiously at his eyes. He was a boy! He was almost thirteen! He wasn't allowed to cry, especially not in front of the young Dark Lord, it was the equivalent of baring his stomach to be gutted. He just wanted the other to go away, to leave some speck of his pride intact, even though under Tom's definition of his status of prisoner, even his dignity wasn't his own.
"Why are you upset?"
He nearly groaned aloud, fury surging through his veins.
"Maybe because I've been kidnapped," he snapped.
He heard Tom approach him, footsteps soft against the floor. Barefoot. It still shocked him that the impeccably dressed Slytherin walked around barefoot, but he did, although somehow his feet were also always impossibly clean. There was probably a spell involved. Tom sat down next to him, and he ducked his head down, tensing.
"You could have it far worse, you know. There's no need to cry about it. Crying doesn't solve anything."
Harry couldn't help but shoot the other a ferocious glare.
"I know it doesn't," he growled, fists clenched. Tom was studying him impassively, that glitter in his eyes as normal. "And please, you ruined my life, it doesn't get much worse," he muttered, thickly, dropping his gaze again.
Tom's fingers curled around his chin, bringing his face back up, though not particularly roughly like he could be prone.
"It could get a lot worse," the Slytherin stated, softly. "I could torture you." The fingers dug into his skin slightly. as if in warning.
"Your presence is torture," Harry mumbled, pulling away, feeling bothered because he knew quite well that the other could see the tear tracks on his cheek, the drops that still spilled over, remorselessly.
Tom's lips curled slightly, as the elder shook his head, an odd expression on his face.
"Well, for your sake, I hope that remains the worst torture you come across," he replied, drawing the pad of his thumb across Harry's cheeks, catching the tears, wiping them away.
Harry couldn't help but stare, as Tom's other hand came up, doing the same for the other one, locking their gazes together.
"Stop crying now," the Slytherin instructed, voice still mild, not particularly scathing. Harry blinked at him.
"Why are you being so nice to me all of a sudden?"
"I told you," Tom murmured, releasing him, regarding him seriously. "I'm going to look after you."
When the Slytherin Heir walked out, with a casual remark about dinner being ready, Harry wanted to childishly burst into tears again. Suddenly, it seemed there was a solid lump in his throat.
No one had ever wanted to look after him before.
Chapter 10:
Tom studied the boy calmly, noting the dry sheen of tears that still glistened barely visible on the boy's cheeks as he stared determinedly at the table.
It had been a long time since Tom, himself, had last cried, he'd been perhaps eight years old - he found no use for tears, except for perhaps in some obscure potions. Nonetheless, he did recognise that even if he himself was exceptional, most children would have started crying far earlier if they were in Harry's position. He was reluctantly...not quite impressed, but of a similar sentiment.
The boy was also rearranging the food on his plate more than he was eating. Unacceptable.
"Eat," he ordered, once again, fully familiar with this process by now, his gaze narrowed on the other. Harry's head shot up, his fists clenching warily around the cutlery as his head snapped up, to look him across the table.
"I'm not hungry," Harry whispered.
"You're a twelve year old boy who's not hungry? What's wrong with you? - I'm not your Uncle, I'm not going to starve you for crying."
Those fists tightened further, and the boy's teeth visibly gritted.
"Shut up, you know nothing about me!" he snarled. "And, actually, it's more that seeing your face kind of ruins my appetite!"
He may have been imagining it, but Harry's tone seemed slightly less venomous than normal, more subdued. He'd clearly touched a nerve.
"Nothing about you?" Tom returned, delicately, ignoring the latter comment with only some amusement for it. "I know rather a lot about you, actually, Harry, though of course I'd relish the opportunity to learn more..."
Harry ignored that comment in response, studying him with that...strange lack of fear in his eyes, which still amazed him. Harry was undeniably wary of him, and sometimes he frightened the child - he knew, he thrived on it - but Harry had never shown him true fear.
He wasn't entirely certain what to think about that, it left him feeling decidedly...odd.
"What about you?" Harry challenged. "Why don't you tell me something about yourself? I'd...relish the chance the opportunity to learn more." Harry paused fractionally on the word relish, clearly mimicking his own words, but not knowing exactly what it meant, but probably guessing the approximate meaning from context. Or at least uncertain of it in some manner. "After all," Harry added. "You obviously know so much about me that you don't need to know anymore."
"What would you like to know?" he questioned, with an indulgent smile.
Harry seemed surprised for a moment, before his head tilted. Looking for a catch, no doubt. He made a small gesture for the boy to keep eating, and, still thinking, Harry did so automatically.
"What was your childhood like? You said we were the same...?"
"My childhood," Tom murmured, not liking the feeling of honesty, he didn't particularly enjoy being associated with his childhood, but, in this case, it could only work in his favour. "Was not the pleasantest of them all, as you can no doubt imagine. I was born on New Year's Eve, 1926, Wool's Orphanage, London, where I stayed until I received my Hogwarts letters, and returned to ever summer until I was sixteen, after which I made my own way."
He flicked his eyes to Harry, who was staring at him, riveted. He didn't have to force a mild frown onto his face, or the darkness to his eyes, he only allowed it to manifest where it would normally stay hidden.
"I hated it there," he said, coldly. "I was always...different to the other children, and disliked because of it...Mrs Cole was a rather devout woman, you see...needless to say, I had full control of my magic and any accidental magic bursts by the time I was six years old."
"They punished you?" Harry asked, softly, sympathy in his eyes.
"They tried. They quickly learnt not to," he smiled. Harry wetted his lips, nervously, his throat bobbing.
"You hurt them." This time, it wasn't a question.
"Of course," he replied simply. "It was self-defence."
"But you enjoy hurting people," Harry pressed. He met the boy's gaze full on, unwavering.
"Yes," he stated. "I am sadistic - that's another word for someone who likes hurting people," he added. There was an extreme cautiousness in the other's eyes now, and he leant forwards slightly. "Regardless, they deserved it for the way they treated me. Just as your muggles deserve to suffer for the pain they have wrought on you - you talk and care about morality? Then their actions were immoral."
There was a moment of silence, broken only by the light clatter of their knives and forks.
"Does this story normally win you the pity vote?" Harry questioned, quietly. Tom's eyes narrowed, dangerously.
"This is my life, Potter," he hissed, sharply, in reprimand and reminder.
Harry's eyes shot to him again.
"Sorry," the boy muttered, after a moment, sounding like he meant it, despite his near inaudible intonation. He inclined his head in acknowledgement, before shooting Harry a dazzling smile.
"It does normally work rather well though," he said. Harry stared at him for a moment, before shaking his head, something like incredulous mirth on his features.
"You're unbelievable."
Tom's smirk only widened, before he turned serious once more.
"Can you understand my worldview a bit better from this?" he asked. Harry looked at him again, posture tensing marginally.
"You mean hating muggles?"
"I..." the boy frowned, eyes growing shadowed with thought. "I can understand it," he murmured finally. "But I still don't agree with it."
"What, you think children deserve to be treated as we were? You would condemn others to our fate?"
"No!" Harry snapped, fiercely, before wetting his lips again. "But you can't just hate a whole race of people for the actions of a few-"
"-Muggles are all alike, they hate anything different, they view it as a threat,"Tom stated, flatly.
Harry looked at him for a moment, expression uncommonly hard, before he continued.
" say you're doing this for people like us, but...I've spent my whole life being judged on something I can't control-
"-Exactly, and it's not fair," he said, passionately, soothingly. Harry ignored him but for the smallest hitch in his relatively composure.
"-but you're treating them the same way."
Tom went utterly still, staring at the boy, his thoughts racing, suddenly strangely jarred. Harry bit his lip, talking again, resolutely meeting his gaze.
"You treat muggles in the same way...they can't help not having magic...all the purebloods do with the do this with the muggles. You hate them because they're not like you-"
That was enough.
"-No," he interrupted, icily, his aura growing oppressive. "I hate them because they are inferior filth, and before you start defending them - consider. We can do everything they can do, but they can't do magic, that makes them the inferior race. The natural conclusion, from a scientific perspective, is to moderate the inferior species to strengthen our own."
"You ever heard of X-men?" Harry questioned, before pausing. "No, no you wouldn't have...but it's the same concept. There are mutants, X-men, who have special powers and then two sides among them, the heroes with Professor X and the villains with Magneto. You remind me of Magneto. He said pretty much the same thing."
"You could have just gone straight out and called me Hitler," Tom replied, his eyebrows raised. Harry glared.
"Purism. Same thing. It's not right. We're all humans, muggles might have potential you're ruining-"
"-cockroaches arguably have potential we don't know about, doesn't mean you wouldn't call in pest control," Tom fired back, wondering when this discussion had got so...out of hand.
"-Muggleborns," Harry stated, decisively. He looked at the younger, who promptly elaborated. "Well...muggles have the potential to become muggleborns, magic. Surely you're just leading the wizarding world to extinction...there are more muggleborns than purebloods-"
"-That," Tom cut in, smoothly. "Is because overall there are more muggles. Two magic parents are still much more likely to create a magic child then two muggles. There are just more muggles, which is why the statistics seem screwed."
Harry was staring at him again, fists clenched.
"And how are you going to get more magic people if the main source is still muggles, even if it is due to there being more of them. Hermione was asking Ron about it once, genetics and stuff - she's really clever-" Tom seriously doubted that, especially in comparison to his own intellect. "-and apparently if you don't get fresh blood, you're just going to grow weaker as a species. Like, incesty. Webbed feet and lots of gross stuff."
"I have no intention of committing muggle genocide, Harry," he said, after a moment. "Clearly, you should learn my worldviews better before you start making assumed criticisms of them."
"Voldemort hates and kills muggles. Everyone knows that," the boy replied, stubbornly.
"Like everyone automatically knows the real Harry Potter?" Tom returned, softly. "Pest control is not necessarily genocide."
"Pest control!" Harry spluttered. "They're people! Humans! Not pests."
"Pest," Tom drawled. "A damaging organism, or an annoying person or thing. By my reckoning, that clearly puts muggles in the status of pests."
Harry stared at him further, seeming troubled. He studied the boy in turn.
"How about I make you a deal?" Tom questioned; this could be exactly the opening he needed.
"You always make deals, Riddle. Do I actually have a choice in the matter?" Harry asked, that iciness back in his tone.
"Well, for it to be a deal, yes, obviously," he replied, patiently. "They do tend to require two people."
"What's the deal?" Harry bit out. He nearly smiled, taking a sip of his wine.
"Let me teach you about my worldview, listen, learn, and then - if you still find your criticisms valid - I swear to listen to them and we will have this conversation again, sound fair?"
"What do I get out of that?" Harry returned suspiciously. Tom's eyes gleamed.
"Information, power...know thy certainly don't lose anything."
Harry eyed him for a moment, clearly trying to think this out, what loopholes were available to them both. Once Harry understood, really understood, he wouldn't be able to go back to where he was before.
Even if he ultimately declined,the seeds of doubt would be cast.
Moreover, Tom knew he was right, so it was more plausible that - in the end - Harry wouldn't decline. Besides, he said he'd listen to Harry's criticisms, but they probably wouldn't be valid, and he had no commitment to act upon them. It would only bring to child closer to him, as he took the role of mentor.
To even his own surprise, he was actually looking forward to this, shaping the boy, his horcrux. That was probably why Harry didn't seem so bad as the others...he was merely recognising the shard within the other. There was nothing else to it.
Certainly, he could never afford to discard the boy due to said soul, and so he was...attached, no, invested, but it wasn't anything so disgusting as sentiment.
"I'll listen," the boy agreed, finally.
Tom smiled in response, content in his trap.
"Then we have an accord."
Meanwhile, Albus Dumbledore arrived at the village of Little Hangleton with high hopes
Chapter Eleven:
Severus's gaze snapped up, alarmed, as the Headmaster arrived at his door. It was dark, the dead of night, but he was still up - worrying, though he didn't like to admit it. Whilst he still felt the most abundant hatred for James Potter, Harry had been Lily's soon too - though Potter seemed to be a fair more predominant bloodline in the brat.
He felt little sympathy for James Potter's son, but he felt like he'd failed Lily's.
It had been weeks already, and there was no sign of the Boy Who Lived, and he knew, despite arguments to the contrary, that the Dark Lord was still at large too. They needed him to be safe, the Light Side needed him, and whereas his motivations in this area were lacking as his support did naturally lean towards the dark, but Lily's son...
Lily. It all came down to her, always, even after all these years.
He'd heard many of the students say he was bias and heartless, and maybe that was true...his heart was six feet under and bleeding along with Lily Evans.
He opened the door, hardly daring to let his hopes rise.
"Have you found Potter?" he demanded curtly, not appreciating the desperation in his own tone. Then he paused, taking in the rather...weakened form of Albus Dumbledore. "What happened?"
He stepped aside, letting the man stumble in.
"Later, Severus," Albus breathed, eyes squeezed shut for a moment. "My hand - can you do anything about my hand...?"
It was black, almost appearing to decay and rot. His jaw tightened as he recognised the - fatal - curse immediately. The Letum Curse.
Nonetheless, he got to work without question as the pale man practically keeled over at his desk, waving his wand efficiently.
About half an hour later, he moved away, returning with a rejuvenation potion which he handed over.
"I've contained the curse to your hand, but it will continue to slowly spread," he informed the Headmaster, no inflection in his voice. To his credit, Dumbledore only nodded, seeming unshaken.
"How long do I have?" Albus questioned.
Whilst Albus appeared absolutely fine, Snape felt less assured with the man's looming fate.
"About a year, maybe a little bit more or less," he replied evenly. Dumbledore inclined his head again, his eyes growing distant for a few moments.
"Thank you, Severus. It seems we have much work to do then."
"What happened?" Snape asked again. "Did you find him?"
"You almost sound concerned about the boy, they do say absence makes the heart grow fond-" Albus began, a gentle smile on his lips, and an altogether amused gleam in his eyes for a few seconds.
Severus snarled, interrupting.
"Did you find him?"he demanded. "What happened?"
Dumbledore's gaze turned warning.
"No," the man admitted at last. "I didn't find Harry, regrettably. I was so sure…it matters not. We shall have to search for a new lead to go upon."
"How exactly did you come into contact with the Letum Curse then, if not by this Riddle's hands? A cursed ring?"
He couldn't help but notice the old, almost garish gold ring and black stone upon his employer's finger. Albus shook his arm, so his sleeves covered the ruined hand and his new jewellery consequently.
"Yes," he replied, simply, but offered no further explanation. Severus' lips pressed firmly together with a suppressed annoyance. He tried to fish for more information, leads – anything.
But, within another half an hour, Albus had once again disappeared into the night.
And he was left with nothing but his growing concerns and a much needed bottle of Firewhiskey.
Until the second interruption of the evening, that was.
Tom had, after that conversation, spent the rest of the evening giving him a 'basic' summary of Dark Arts, and the difference between Light and Dark Magic because apparently Harry's previous "misconceptions were all wrong."
He could admit, however, to that mistake and his former ignorance on the matter, and accept that under Riddle's explanation of Dark Magic (fuelled by negative emotion, but not evil, as highlighted in Riddle's suggestion of different intentions behind magic, and the importance of the act itself too. Emotions were just the fuel, it was everything else that decided the 'morality', not the magic itself.)
Tom probably best explained it by saying magic was like a sword and shield, and Dark and Light magic were just different styles of the same thing – it all depended on the person using it.
However, that still left a problem in his mind.
"So," he agreed, arms folded belligerently, defensively, "say I believe you on Dark Magic being like this…that's not really what I'm arguing about."
Tom sighed, looking utterly exasperated with him now, though he remained largely calm.
"What is your objection then?" he questioned, with a mock courteousness. Harry scowled.
"You. Voldemort. What you do. Killing people. Fine, Dark Magic isn't evil – but the way you use it is. Voldemort goes around hurting and murdering people, that's not something I can agree with and have any acceptance for, or involvement in," he replied stubbornly.
Tom appraised him for a moment, gaze shadowed.
"And you think you have moral reasons for standing against the Death Eaters?"
"Death Eaters?" Harry's brow furrowed with confusion. "What are-?"
"My followers. Voldemort's followers. It's what they're called," Riddle explained quickly. "Death Eaters."
"Oh," Harry said, silent for a moment. "That's a terrible name, anyway-" Riddle's eyes flashed dangerous at his comment, and he shifted warily, offering a sort of reassuring grimace or something, before continuing his previous strand of thought. "And yeah, I do. They kill people, muggles, for no good reason."
"I've told you my reasoning," Riddle interrupted, coldly. "Do my beliefs not count because they're different to yours?"
Harry opened his mouth to protest the implicit accusation, before frowning mildly. He liked to think he was a tolerant person, and tolerated people's beliefs…but when that belief was wrong? He didn't know what to do. Surely tolerating racism, for example, was indirectly supporting racism by not judging it wrong…he didn't know. This whole topic was making his head spin.
Luckily, or perhaps highly unlikely, Riddle was continuing now, not apparently requiring him to actually answer the uncomfortable query.
"Do you want to know what I think?"
"Not really," he muttered, under his breath. "But a deal's a deal."
Tom smirked briefly at that, seeming amused, before his momentary humour was carelessly discarded for the place of his ruthlessness on the topic at hand.
"I think your opposition to Voldemort is an emotional one; not a logical, reasoned one, or a moral one, however much you would like to delude yourself on the matter," the Slytherin Heir said.
"That's not-" Harry began angrily.
"-You hate Voldemort because he killed your parents, and tried to kill you, and so oppose him because of that on default. You hate me because I kidnapped you and set the Basilisk on your friends etc. Before this conversation you were largely uninformed of my values, obviously you weren't making a rational decision. Most twelve year olds wouldn't, it's understandable, but don't for one second I don't see straight through it, Harry."
"I don't just oppose you because of that," Harry replied, cheeks flushed, flustered, frustrated, lost. He didn't! Did he?
"Whatever you say," Tom purred, making it quite clear he didn't believe the truth of Harry's protest at all. Harry wasn't sure, infuriatingly, that he blamed him – all of a sudden, he was doubting himself too. Tom had that effect, and he despised it. "Although, Harry," Tom continued, leaning towards him slightly, placing a warm hand on his knee, tauntingly friendly and reassuring. "Your parents were soldiers, fighters, in a war. They chose to stand against Voldemort. You would attack me and Voldemort's followers, wouldn't you? All of the Light Side do, you're not that different to us. We just have different causes. The Light side is no better."
"The Light side don't torture people!" Harry snapped.
Tom's brows arched.
"Azkaban," he stated, as if that was supposed to mean something. Wait, hadn't Hagrid and Malfoy both said something about Azkaban…wasn't it the Wizard Prison?
"The prison?" he asked, uncertainly, not understanding the point Tom was trying to make.
The other's lips curled again, marginally.
"Sometimes I forget how little you know," the other murmured softly. "You really are quite innocent, and naïve, aren't you? Foolish too, perhaps." Harry would have been annoyed, but the next second Tom had moved on to elaborate and explain. "Yes, Azkaban is the Wizarding Prison – guarded by creatures called Dementors." Tom paused for a moment, as if to check whether the word meant anything to him, before continuing smoothly. "Dementors are creatures that feed on happiness, they literally suck all the happiness out of you until all a person is left with is their darkest moments and worst memories."
Harry felt a chill run down his spine, and was sure he'd turned white as sheet at the horrible description. His mouth felt dry with horror. He tried to shake it with a joke, anything, suddenly frightened.
"So a Dementor is like you?"
Tom laughed at that, ruffling his hair.
"I like that," he declared, though a compliment had never been Harry's intention. "But, alas, no. Whilst a romantic might say I sucked their soul out with a kiss, it wouldn't be quite so literally."
"Sucked out a soul?" Harry definitely did not squeak, or anything so pathetic. "Dementors suck out people's souls?"
He felt sick, shaky. That was – that was awful!
"I didn't mention that bit?" Tom returned innocently, smiling. "Yes, they do…you look rather peaky, my dear, are you feeling okay?"
"Fine," Harry said stiffly. Bloody hell, if he ever saw a Dementor he was going to have nightmares!
"Anyway," Tom once more continued after a moment of study, "Dementors patrol and guard the Wizarding Prison, Azkaban. And that's what the Light side does with the prisoners they catch – they give them to the Dementors. Isn't death, what I would do, kinder?"
Harry nodded shakily, staring at his hands. Tom's hand moved from his knee, and the next second the other was crouched in front of him, fingers enveloping his hands.
"It's alright," Tom said, with a small smile. "You're twelve; they probably wouldn't give you to the Dementors Harry, if they found you…even if they do think you're the Heir of Slytherin and tried to kill several of your classmates…"
Harry nearly flinched.
"Probably?" he repeated. Tom gave his hands a squeeze.
"Don't worry, I won't let them have you….looking after you, remember?" the young Dark Lord said again.
"Yeah, well," Harry pulled his hands away at after a minute, determinedly not looking at Tom. "They wouldn't do that anyway, like you said. I'm twelve, well, almost thirteen, and innocent.They only send guilty people to Azkaban, right? So I'll just point them in your direction…"
"I'll be with my own kind…" Tom breathed, with what sounded like triumphant wonder.
This time, Harry recognised the joke, and laughed quietly, despite himself. Tom stood again, checking the clock.
"And, I think it's your bed time…" the Dark Lord said, with a hint of mockery. Harry scowled.
"You don't get to give me a bedtime!" he protested. "I'm nearly thirteen!"
And he didn't want to sleep with Dementors on his mind, but that was beside the point.
"If you're old enough to not have my give you a bedtime, you're old enough to go to Azkaban," Tom returned. Harry's scowl deepened.
"It does not work like that Tom!"
"You can read in bed," Tom rolled his eyes. "I'll even leave the landing light on for you, happy?"
Harry flushed.
"That's not necessary," he growled.
"Oh, in that case I'll turn it off then," Tom shrugged, carelessly.
"…I hate you."
"Goodnight, Harry."
Sirius followed the familiar figure, still on Padfoot form, his paws aching and his belly gnawing with a ravenous hunger.
He'd yet to pluck up the courage to reveal himself to the man – Dumbledore had done nothing to aid his trial, or even confirm that he was truly guilty, and he couldn't help but resent his old leader for it, just a little bit, despite his best efforts. It was this anger and doubt that kept him temporarily at bay from revealing himself.
The newspapers were filled with the story of his escape, but at least that got Harry and those disgusting lies about him off the shelves for at least a little while. There was no way his Prongslet was the Heir of Slytherin – the Potters were as Gryffindor a family as one could get, and good, honest, kind people. Harry couldn't have attempted to kill people, it was obviously a mistake, just like his own incarceration had been.
Now, the old man disappeared into Snape's house, of all places, stumbling slightly, looking exhausted. Sirius couldn't help but feel a flash of concern. He settled down to wait, and an hour later the man emerged again, promptly disapparating, and denying Sirius of his chance. It could take a long time to catch up with the Headmaster again, and he was an idiot to have given up his chance due to old hurts anyway, but…
He slumped against the wet cobblestone, resisting the urge to whine with worry, cold and starvation.
Then a thought struck him.
Snape had always been close to Lily, in the beginning – James had hated him for it.
And maybe, just maybe, whatever freakish bond or affection there had been with the man transferred to Harry? He was desperate, clearly, but…
Maybe it was time to play Snivellus a visit himself.
Chapter Twelve:
Snape's wand was out in a split second, and in the same moment Sirius had lunged, seizing the man's wrists, a spell just missing his shoulder.
"Please," he gasped out. "I mean no harm - Harry - James' son - Lily's son-"
Snape's eyes flashed furiously, lips white with a livid rage.
"Let go of me!"
"Sniv-Snape, please! For merlin's sake, I'm begging, I'm bloody well must want to find him too-"
"-I have no interest in helping you commit murder-"
"-It was Peter! Wormtail! I swear - I swear on my life!"
Sirius crumpled completely, letting go of the Potion's master, sliding to the floor in an ungainly heap as he sobbed humiliating tears, unable to stop.
He was exhausted; this had been his last shot, barring Dumbledore...and he just had no idea what to do anymore. Azkaban flooded back to his human form like an unshakeable chill on his bones, muted when he was as dog.
Snivellus eyed him with utter disgust, but, miraculously, didn't curse. Maybe it was the faint, broken, tingle of magic that filled the room, sealing his solemnity and the truth of his statement.
The next second, Snape's hands had fisted around his collar, dragging him up and slamming him back, hard.
"Tell me what happened. Now."
The Potion's Master shook him roughly when he didn't immediately speak, and after a moment or so he began - stammering and halting at first, his voice cracked and hoarse from lack of use, but growing clearer and smoother as time went on.
Black eyes seemed to dissect him the whole time, and a few minutes in Veritaserum was shoved down his throat - he accepted it blindly, desperate.
Finally, he was pushed down into a chair, Snape studying him with an ill-concealed hatred.
"What do you want?" the man questioned icily, wand still aimed in his direction.
"Harry. I need him to be safe. Help me find him."
"Why not approach the Headmaster?" Snape asked. Sirius' lips twisted mirthlessly.
"I'd rather not get tossed straight back into Azkaban," he mumbled. "Trust me, you were not my first choice...I just...I don't have anyone else..." he finished, rather pitifully even to his own ears. He didn't blame Snape at all, for once, for looking like him as if he were an unwelcome slug that had crawled in, or a flea-bitten mutt.
"The Werewolf?" Snape offered, seeming desperate to get rid of him.
"You know where Remus is?" Sirius returned. There was a moment of quiet.
"Do you know where Potter is?" The word 'Potter' dripped off his tongue like slime, and Sirius couldn't help but bristle, eyes narrowing.
"No, I don't know where Harry is," he replied tightly. "If I did, I'd be with him. That's what I was hoping you'd help me with."
"You think I know where he is?" Snape questioned, a bit too silkily, gaze turning menacing. "And pray, why is that? You don't believe that I would have reported my findings to the Headmaster?"
Sirius stared at him for a moment, eyes dark, jaw working.
"Because you're a slimy Death Eater," he bit out, finally, "and Harry wasn't kidnapped by anyone light. You're my best shot on that...avenue of investigation."
Snape watched him, no expression on his face.
"Regardless, why should I help you?"
"For Lily's son," Sirius replied, after a moment. Snape's eyes immediately darkened, and Sirius resisted the urge to take a step back as the man stalked towards him again, wand jabbing fiercely into the hollow of his throat.
"You dare-" he began, his voice barely above a hiss. Sirius stared back, challengingly.
"It was obvious to everyone, you loved her. We all knew! Probably why you hated James so much you -" Sirius made a grudging effort to reel himself in...he did need the help, after all, and was rather at Snape's mercy right now. "I'll do anything for Harry, and I know you'd do anything for-for her. You won't let her son suffer needlessly."
He may have been a Gryffindor, but he had been raised a Slytherin in the House of Black, however much he chafed against that heritage and influence.
Snape sneered at him.
"I'll help you," he said finally, coldly. "But if you ever talk about L-about her to me again, I will chop you up and use you for Potions ingredients, Black."
Sirius swallowed; there was no threat in Snape's voice, just a hard edge of menacing fact.
"...duly noted," he said, too tired to give a response more acerbic than that. How far he had fallen!
Snape glared at him.
"Take a shower and change, you're making my house smell like wet dog."
Sirius looked down at his tattered Azkaban garb awkwardly, before at Snape once more.
"As always, your intelligence knows no bounds," he muttered with a loathing sarcasm. "I'm a fugitive, would you like me to just nip and grab an outfit from my portable wardrobe?"
Snape's face twisted with distaste at the realisation. There was an uncomfortable silence.
"I'll transfigure your clothes while you shower, throw them out the bathroom," Snape instructed stiffly - there was no planet on which he was lending the man his own clothes, or anything so sickening.
"Lend me your wand, I'll do it myself," Sirius returned, not trusting Snape not to make his outfit utterly ludicrous and degrading.
"Give you my wand?" Snape said delicately. "I don't think so. You'll wear what I give you, or not wear anything at all."
"Never realised you were so eager to get me out of my clothes, Sniv-" he came to a halt at the murderous expression of Snape's face, the sharp stinging hex that seared his already battered and aching body. He nearly growled.
"...fine," he muttered. "Should I transfigure myself some shampoo or do you actually own some?"
The next spell threw him out the living room with barely leashed killing intent and violence.
Sirius didn't comment further.
Harry's eyes snapped open as he bolted up in bed, his dreams filled with vague, nightmarish shadows that wanted to suck out his soul.
And then, when they managed it, it was like being under the sensory deprivation spell - but this time, there was no one to fix it, and no counter curse. He was trapped in the darkness forevermore, and even Riddle wasn't there.
He was covered in a cold sweat, gasping for air, shaking all over, unable to stop. The landing light was on, his door was open a crack to let the light creep in, along with a chink in the curtain that splayed moonshine over his bed.
It still felt too dark though.
There was no sign of Tom, and Harry found himself torn between relief and disappointment at this realisation. Then his stomach twisted with horror at the realisation of this disappointment...surely he couldn't want Tom's company or comfort...that was just absurd!
He was well used to having to deal with his own night terrors at the Dursleys anyway, and had mainly been afraid of waking them up.
The Dursleys...did they have any concern for the fact he'd never come back? Did they even care? Probably not! Well, maybe that was little harsh...they'd care that they went to pick him up for no reason, or that there was no one to tend the garden in his absence.
He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts, his breathing slowly evening out.
It was good that Tom wasn't here - he'd made himself appear pathetic enough to the other already...
Not that he cared what Tom thought of him, or wanted to impress him...well, okay. Maybe just a tiny bit. Tom seemed so powerful and knowledgeable and different to everyone else he'd ever met.
That, and pleasing him, or impressing him, tended to benefit Harry himself with a reward system. That was all it was - self preservation, Slytherin cunning, something like that. Not any desire to impress Tom because it was Tom.
He was changing his thought track...
He slipped out of bed, resisting the urge to shiver as his feet touched the cold floor and the warmth of the duvet left him, creeping out the door. From what he knew about nightmares, he could rarely get back to sleep after them.
They were too vivid; far more vivid than his dreams ever were.
He found himself leaving the room, shooting a wary look at Riddle's closed bedroom door - that remained one room he hadn't entered, and hopefully never would. He shuddered at the thought. The study was bad enough.
He realised too late that the kitchen light was also on, where he'd automatically headed to make himself tea or something. He froze on the spot, heart pounding, muscles rigid as he wondered if he could sneak away again unnoticed.
He was torn between the fervent wish to keep as much distance between himself and the young Dark Lord as possible, and curiosity as to what the older boy was doing up.
The choice of sneaking away was taken out of his hands when Tom glanced up, obviously sensing his presence.
The Slytherin Heir's senses seemed particularly acute, hyper alert at all times - maybe it was a byproduct of having gone without them for so long. Harry swallowed, but, steeling his Gryffindor courage, entered. Leaving now would just make him look like a coward!
"What are you doing up?" he asked, padding across the room, eyeing the kettle and ultimately curling on 'his' seat, opposite Riddle's.
"Working," Tom replied - scratching and rewriting something on a piece of paper. There was a fresh parchment next to him, lying untouched, obviously for the final version of whatever it was Tom was working on. Harry craned his neck to try and get a better view, only to note Riddle's gaze had moved upwards from said parchment and onto him.
He flushed, embarrassed to be caught prying, but stared back defiantly nonetheless.
"I'd ask what you were doing up yourself," Tom continued, after a moment, tauntingly making no effort to hide the document - probably nothing to directly do with Harry himself. "But the evidence is more than conclusive, so it would be a waste of my lung capacities. Do you get nightmares often, Harry? Or is this a new occurrence?"
"How-?" Harry began, nonplussed.
Tom smiled thinly.
"You're shaking, whilst that could be the cold, the tremors are fainter than that - remnant nightmares, which would correlate with you being up at this time. The stimuli for nightmares is obvious, not to mention the fact I could hear you tossing and turning etcetera. Nightmares, obvious, only confirmed by your reaction."
"You're so damn smug," Harry muttered, wanting to bury his head and hide, even more embarrassed now. Ugh.
"Smugness suggests an excessive amount of pride, my pride is not excessive, it is entirely accurate in comparison to my abilities."
Harry shot him a flat look, unimpressed.
"That's a matter of opinion."
"You don't think I'm impressive?" Tom practically purred, eyes gleaming suddenly.
"No," Harry replied stubbornly. "I think you're a creepy kidnapper."
"I think you need to expand your vocabulary to include new and better insults, but you don't hear me whining about it every time the opportunity allows," Tom returned, not missing a beat. Harry scowled. "You're evading the question," the Slytherin added, after a moment.
"What question?"
"Do you get nightmares often?" Tom asked again.
"None of your business," Harry muttered, defensively.
"I'll take that as a yes," Tom said, studying him. Harry's scowl deepened. Riddle smirked. There was an awkward silence; at least on his behalf - Riddle seemed oblivious and immune to the tortures of anything so socially crippling or human as feeling awkward.
"Do you want to talk about it?" The young Dark Lord ventured eventually, with no change in expression.
Tom said nothing in response, merely going back to his work, writing again. Harry sat watching him for a while, quietly, feeling uncomfortable.
What was with that question anyway? It wasn't like Tom really cared...he just didn't know anymore. He'd put that in the 'not thinking about it now, yet, or maybe ever' box too.
After some ten minutes had passed, the quiet only broken by the surprisingly calming gentle scratch of Tom's quill, he got up to make himself tea, vaguely wondering what time it was.
He drank his tea, making one for Riddle too when Tom gave him a gesture to do so. He set it down without comment, and received no thanks either, before settling in a marginally hunched, curled up position on his own chair again, sipping his tea.
Riddle didn't look up, sparing him the scrutiny and assessment ever present in his dark gaze, and with the quiet scratching Harry soon, almost involuntarily, found himself calming down again.
He'd never admit it though.
When his head hit the table again, in sleep, he wasn't even aware of it.
Tom looked up upon hearing a dull thunk, eyebrows raising to see Harry had fallen asleep where he sat, in what looked to be a rather uncomfortable position. His lips pursed, torn between disapproval and amusement.
The boy was slumped across the kitchen table, narrowly missing his empty cup of tea, cheek pressed against the wood.
It took all of his self-control not to just boil more water and pour it across the child's head to wake him up, and then send him to bed with the scolding not to be so bloody stubborn about not going to sleep, and a warning to never dare fall asleep in his presence again. It was insulting.
Even if he wasn't attacking Harry, the boy should always be aware and respectful of the possi-but wasn't this a good thing? Didn't it suggest that Harry was starting to trust him on some level?
Of course, it could also mean Harry trusted him so little that he slept terribly when forced to share a house with him, and thus consequently collapsed from exhaustion over the table...but either way.
He finished off writing his letter, before moving over, vowing to post it at soonest convenience. Then, even to his own slight surprise, he found himself moving over and scooping Harry up - more used to the weight than he probably should have been.
Honestly, he should have just let the boy sleep at the table, get a horrible crick in his neck and hence teach him not to do it again, but the opportunity of seeming caring was too big to be missed. Besides, Harry would only be grouchy if he did sleep across the kitchen table, which would therefore make him insufferable company.
He made his way quietly up to Harry's room, somewhat amazed that the boy's eyes only fluttered slightly at his initial touch, instead of waking entirely. There, he deposited Harry onto his bed, annoyed to find that Harry's hand had clenched around the front of his shirt during the process.
He frowned darkly.
"If you don't remove your fingers, I will remove them from your limbs," he told the sleeping boy, icily. There was absolutely no reaction. He gritted his teeth, furious. Was Harry awake and doing this on purpose!?
Resisting to urge to simply curse the fingers off, he set the work to prising away Harry's grip, setting his hand back down at his side, pulling the covers over him - because the last thing he needed was a sick twelve year old boy hero on his hands! - and backed away, more unnerved by the whole experience then he cared to admit.
If Harry had been awake during that, he was going to skin the child!
Inexplicably, he lingered for a moment at the doorway, before shaking his head, dismissing it, and walking out.
It felt odd to be...needed.
Lucius Malfoy paused as an nondescript owl appeared through the wards, and half considered tossing the damn thing away.
Indeed, he was in the process of doing so when the insignia - the Dark Mark - on the envelope gave him pause, flooding his insides with ice.
It took him several tries to open the letter, his hands were shaking so much.
I believe we have much to talk about, Lucius, especially in the light of the death of Ginerva Weasley. Come to the Hangman's Pub in Knockturn Alley, alone, at 11pm.
He swallowed, face turning white as sheet.
...What exactly had he done?
Chapter Thirteen:
Lucius arrived at the pub at the accorded time, looking around for any sign of the master he'd once sworn to serve. He was actually a little early, not daring to be late
His insides were twisting with a vicious sort of dread that he refused to show on his features, keeping icily composed. Did his Lord disapprove of his actions? It had worked out for the best, hadn't it?
He couldn't see the Dark Lord anywhere.
Finally, uncomfortably, he took a seat to wait.
A few minutes later, exactly on the schedule of when he was supposed to be meeting his lord, the door opened again and his head snapped around.
It was just some teenager; he didn't even look old enough to be in the establishment, actually. Lucius looked away immediately, dismissively, only for the self-same boy to take the seat opposite him, gratefully.
He stared at the other, expression cold and stoic.
"That seat will shortly be taken," he said curtly. "I kindly suggest you vacate it."
"Do you now, Lucius?" the boy returned, an almost purr in his voice. Lucius almost froze, his gaze flicking up again sharply as he studied the figure before him.
Darkly handsome, in a classic way, with high cheekbones and pale skin.
But it was the eyes that held him on the spot. Shadowed eyes, dangerous eyes, deadly and so cold that they could have extinguished a supernova. They were like black holes, nothing escaped them.
He suddenly had a sinking feeling in his chest.
"My lord..." he murmured, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Very good," the Dark Lord replied, the hint of a smirk playing on his lips, teasingly, tauntingly.
Lucius had to resist the urge to swallow.
Whatever he'd been expecting...this wasn't it.
The Dark Lord settled back in his chair, lazily, appraising him with a silent study.
Despite the apparent and disconcerting youth, the expression he was being favoured with still put him on edge. He felt like a bug pinned down and splayed for inspection...appearance notwithstanding, the other's demeanour pointed to a more mature, sinister quality. It was a posture he recognised in Lord Voldemort.
"How-" he struggled for coherence, before falling back to his normal smooth eloquence. "My lord, I beg of you to inform me how this...miracle has happened, it's incredible."
"I believe I have you to thank for my return," the Dark Lord replied. "The use of the diary, shall we say...restored me."
He almost wanted to melt from relief - surely this meant he'd done nothing wrong? And that no punishment should or would be given to him?
"I'm glad to have been of assistance," he said, with a polite smile.
Those eyes were still so icy.
"Indeed," Voldemort murmured, perfectly poised and still in the opposite chair, gaze fixed, unyielding, upon Lucius' person. "It really was...fortunate that events played in such a successful manner. Tell me," the Dark Lord was practically purring now, "did you plan it?"
Lucius' heart sank.
"I had my suspicions as to what would-"
"Such lies," the Dark Lord crooned. He felt sick as he studied the other. A teenager, for all appearances, shouldn't have frightened him so much, but the magic that enveloped the boy was as black as they came, a velvet darkness that wrapped around you in a false comfort before devouring you entirely. Vividly powerful, almost tangible.
"My lord-"
"Silence." All sweetness, pretend or otherwise, had vanished from the other's tone now, and Lucius' mouth snapped shut abruptly, a little dry. "You carelessly threw away an object entrusted to you to protect and keep safe with your life, and had no understanding of its true value or significance when you tossed it aside for your own petty aims and desires."
If looks could kill, Lucius would have been a corpse a long time ago, and happy for it too, because it seemed ultimately more preferable than facing the boy - the man - in front of him.
"I'm sor-"
"-Did I tell you that you could talk?" the question was posed lightly, far too lightly. Lucius pressed his lips together again, trying to remain stoic and unmoved in face of the torture he suspected he would endure. "The only reason you are still alive, Mr Malfoy, is because of the consequent success of my plans, which you inadvertently started, and my waning mercy. You are alive by the scraps of your usefulness...pray it remains that way."
Lucius nodded, not saying anything, not daring to. He feared he'd already pushed the Dark Lord, as unfamiliar as he looked, too far.
"You'll be gathering the old crowd together again - discreetly, mind. Do you believe you can manage to do that, Lucius?"
"Yes, my lord," he replied quietly, figuring he could answer direct questions, if not comment otherwise. "I shall not fail you."
"Make sure you don't. On another matter, you have connections with the Ministry: I need you to tell me everything there is to know about the investigation regarding Harry Potter, and, if your knowledge is insufficient or lacking, to covertly discover more. Put your...ah, slipperiness to a better use, hmm?"
"Yes my lord," he said again, softly. His mind was light of the death of Ginerva Weasley...Potter...did the Dark Lord have Potter? And, if so...why wasn't he dead? "Was there anything else?"
"No. Not currently, and not for you."
He wasn't in favour, he certainly wasn't in favour right now - however much he'd accidentally aided the Dark Lord's return.
"Understood, my lord."
"Do you have anything to report on the Potter matter?"
"The Ministry have issued a reward for him, but this only encourages those who have a negative impression to yield any information due to the hostile nature of the warrant and Ministerial suspicions as to Potter's involvement with the Chamber of Secrets debacle." Lucius paused, trying to gather his thoughts, almost alarmed by how easy it was to fall into this pattern of subservience again.
"But there are people who still believe in the boy?" His lord questioned.
"Yes," Lucius confirmed. "All of the boy's close friends, for example, and their families - the Weasleys are the most vocal, despite the death of their daughter."
"-It's been confirmed as a death?"
Lucius paused.
"...there's been no official statement on the matter, but it is largely assumed. The family are in mourning and refuse to comment on the subject," he replied carefully. A smirk caressed the Dark Lord's lips for a moment, as his fingers drummed idly against the table.
"Indeed," the boy-man murmured. "I would imagine so. I'll have to send them flowers..."
There was a sudden altogether frightening gleam in the other's eyes, that couldn't help but put his teeth on edge. It was that of the Lord Voldemort before someone was cruciod, but the context was different...though the mockery was the same. "Continue."
"Those that still support Potter, and there is still a significant faction who believe in him, refuse to co-operate with any investigation, not wishing the child harm. However, it would be easy to concur that Dumbledore is in the midst of some investigations of his own. The Order of the Phoenix may have been recalled, though this is mere suspicion-"
"The Order of the Phoenix?"
"Yes, it is not implausible that Dumbledore would have gathered them to him immediately upon the disappearance of their hero. I apologise for my lack of proof on the matter, Severus would be better placed to confirm it for you, my lord."
The Dark Lord was silent for some time, appearing to be lost in thought. Lucius didn't interrupt, held at bay by terror, staying rigidly still. Finally, the other's gaze returned to him with a more piercing awareness, and Malfoy really couldn't see that this was preferable either.
"I see. Unless you had more to add on the matter, I believe that will be all. I'll be keeping in touch."
"My lord," Lucius dipped his head in a subtle bow, unable to believe he'd got through this without a single curse fired...he didn't quite believe he was safe yet though. They were in a public place, and when it came to the suffering of others, the Dark Lord could be cruelly and tormentingly patient. He rose from his seat, leaving the pub, nearly grateful for the cool chill outside.
It seemed he had work to do.
When Harry awoke, it took him a few seconds to be shocked that he was in his own bed - or, well, not his own bed, but the bed he had here (and who was he even kidding? But he clung to the separation desperately) and the moment after that to come to the half-uncomfortable and half-something else entirely realisation that Riddle must have been the one who returned him here.
Funny, he'd expected the Slytherin Heir to just leave him to get a crick in his neck.
He didn't know how to deal with the fact that he hadn't.
He came downstairs with an increasing wariness as the memories of the last night and his generally embarrassing behaviour of first having nightmares and then falling asleep at the table flooded back.
Tom was nowhere to seen.
For a moment, Harry was only utterly disconcerted. In all the days he'd been here, Riddle had always been awake and downstairs when Harry had awoken, normally at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a newspaper. Occasionally, on bad days, he'd be raging around, trashing every single thing those pale hands got hold of.
Those days, when Harry awoke to the bangs and the crashes and the obscene, insane rage, he stayed up stairs, his heart racing with sheer terror as he tried to push something against the door - anything - to try and put a barrier between himself and his captor.
Thankfully, those days were few and far between, and in his volatile nature Riddle calmed as quickly as his temper flared.
Was he in the study? His own room? Or had he gone somewhere, leaving Harry completely and temptingly unsupervised?
If so, he couldn't resist the opportunity to try and escape...though he didn't know how to go about doing such a thing. But he would start to door to the garden.
He'd deduced that it must be in the Dining Room, for that was the only room he hadn't thoroughly searched and ransacked on his first night here, due to Riddle's presence in the room.
He started searching methodically, breathing shallow and movements panicky with the realisation Riddle could be back, awake or down at any given second.
He finally found it right at the back corner of the room, hidden, concealed, behind a bookcase. His eyes widened - he almost hadn't planned for this, though he'd gone over the possibility in his head a million times.
He could see the garden...freedom...sunlight. He swallowed hard, reaching a trembling hand out to undo the latch. His fingers closed around it, solidly, and he glanced around to see that he was still alone and-
Riddle was sitting calmly at the Dining Room table, with his bloody cup of tea, looking like he'd been there since forever. Harry's heart quickened, and he whipped around, absolutely panicked.
They stared at each other for a moment, and there was no expression on Riddle's face. Then, Harry lunged for the door again, twisting the handle and...and it didn't open. Locked. His insides twisted, eyes full of a vicious, furious desperation and despair.
He could hear Tom laughing behind him, and, a second later, a clink as the teacup was set down and the older boy approached him.
Harry didn't move, standing stiffly still, staring into the open skies and the stretch of garden, the last walls of his prison.
Hands crept onto his shoulders, resting there like spiders.
"I told you, horcrux mine, you won't be leaving me any time soon, ever," Tom whispered, into his ear, breath tickling. Harry snarled, spinning around, aiming to punch, to harm, to hurt - to return just a fraction of the torment the other was causing him.
Riddle caught his wrists tightly, so hard his bones ground together, slamming him back so hard that his head cracked against the door. Harry felt humiliatingly outmatched, like he always did against the Slytherin Heir.
"I'll kill you, destroy you, I swear I will," Harry hissed, eyes wild. "I will never accept you or give you what you want willingly - you'll get nothing from me. I hate you! I won't rest until I'm away from you, do you understand me?"
"You didn't seem to feel that way when you clung to me like a lost puppy and wouldn't let practically whimpered to have me leave you alone," Riddle replied, staring at him, hard.
"I-I did not!" Harry protested, "that's a lie!"
"No, it's not," Tom smirked. "And, one day, you will be begging to stay with me while you're awake too, child. As if anyone else would have you now...heir of Slytherin, wasn't it?"
Harry gritted his teeth, livid, but Riddle was continuing again before he could speak.
"And if you did manage...where would you go that I wouldn't find you and hunt you down?" Tom raised a brow. "Are you willing to risk the lives of those you love because of your disobedience? How many more people have to die for the famous Harry Potter?"
Harry would have reared back, but there was nowhere to go, and nowhere that he could run that those words wouldn't haunt his thoughts forever.
His heart ached and twisted, but also filled with a great determination.
"I won't let you hurt another person I care about, just because you're so desperate to have someone to care about you!"
For a moment, Riddle was as frozen as he was.
"Excuse me?" The Slytherin Heir's voice was cold, incredulous, venomous.
"You're so scared people will leave you that you would never give them the choice," Harry spat, continuing, beyond mad. "So scared of rejection that you won't accept anyone - so terrified that you will be unloved forever that you would rather be hated. You're nothing but a coward," he whispered, "now let go of me!"
Harry gave a colossal shove, and Tom staggered back a few steps, still staring at him, eyes dark.
This time, Harry didn't give him any opportunity for a comeback as he ran out the room, tossing that damn tea as he went.
Riddle didn't follow.
Chapter 14:
Tom stared at the shattered tea cup and, if he was capable of such things, would have sympathised with it.
His control seemed in similar shards, and he felt similarly...shaken. It wasn't a sensation he was familiar with, and he couldn't claim to care for it either.
Harry was, of course, getting it all completely wrong. There was absolutely no truth to his - his ludicrous remarks, the boy was a child, he saw too much and understood nothing.
Tom didn't keep unattached out of fear; he was simply sickened and disgusted by the specimens available...humanity in all of its pathetic weakness. Caring was a liability, it kept wizards pinned down when they could still rise so very high, if they just stripped themselves of their ridiculous limitations.
Love was useless, repulsive; so long as he got what he wanted he didn't care how he got it. He didn't need love, respect was the most important thing. Maybe once upon a time, when he was young and naive, he'd had foolish dreams of love and acceptance, but that's all they were.
He didn't fear rejection, it was his mother tongue - he just didn't see the point of trying for an indifferent world that never tried for him.
His jaw tightened.
Acceptance was resignation, a concession that he didn't give and wouldn't ever offer. Acceptance meant that he was settling for something that wasn't perfect, that had undesirable traits he had to come to terms with - but why should he have to? He was far superior to all of them, they should be trying to maintain and live to his high standards instead of dragging him down to the filth.
Harry was just projecting his own wishes, trying to pathetically humanise him or something.
He'd stopped being human when he split his soul, and he had no desire to return to such a fragile state.
He forcibly clamped down the urge to immediately follow, to deftly crush the boy and all possibility of resistance, react violently - because he didn't need the child's acceptance, just his obedience...
And yet, ultimately, acceptance would be a much tighter web, and unyielding one. Obedience could be shucked off by the boy's perchance towards defiance...acceptance once given, was not retracted so easily.
No, whilst Harry would undoubtedly be punished for his actions, he wouldn't do it like this.
This required a more subtle game plan.
And he knew exactly what it would be.
Severus Snape looked up as the doorbell rang, getting really rather fed up with the amount of traffic he was getting. It wasn't customary for him to receive visitors at all over the summer, blessedly, and now he appeared to have three within the space of two days.
He gestured curtly for Black to make himself scarce, and the man thankfully did so - though Severus suspected that was more due to fear of getting caught and sent back to Azkaban than any compliance for his instructions.
He opened the door, a scowl twisting his face, only to pause as he was greeted by the cold, imposing features of Lucius Malfoy. He kept his features expressionless, silently cursing...this was not a good time for the Malfoy Lord to be turning up unannounced, or even to be turning up at all.
"Lucius," he greeted tersely. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Severus," the blond replied, inclining his head slightly. "I have a matter of grave importance to discuss with you; may I come in?"
"Now's not a good time." He wished the man would just go away, leave it be...but he suspected he wouldn't. Lucius never did; what Malfoy wanted, Malfoy tended to get, regardless of anyone else's feelings on the matter. The worst part was, if his suspicions for what blond was here for were true, he couldn't afford to be as cold and unwelcoming as he would have wanted to be.
"You misunderstand me, old friend," Lucius returned, his voice growing an edge of steel, biting against the faux-endearment, "this really is of great urgency. It cannot wait." It was a tone that brooked no resistance, but which Severus want to curse. He'd always hated that tone.
Severus was silent for a moment, before relenting - admittedly curious as much as he was wary as to what this development could be. He had his suspicious, of course, but...
"Of course," he acquiesced, "come in. Would you like a drink of anything?"
"Something strong, if you will, would be most appreciated."
Severus refrained from raising his eyebrows; the Malfoy Lord must have been shaken to admit to that, even in the company of as old a friend as Severus himself.
He led the man to his sitting room, ignoring the normal look of distaste, further suspecting that something serious must have occurred as the man wasn't making comments about why he still lived here, or how he would be more than happy to help Severus re-decorate his abode.
"I believe I may have something suitable," he replied. "Take a seat, I will return shortly."
He swept out of the room again, heading to the wine cupboard, lips pursing as Black was almost instantly on him, grabbing his arm.
"What is it?" the loathable ex-convict demanded, voice low and fierce. "Was that Malfoy? What does the slimy peacock want?"
Snape glared, furiously.
"I dare say I would find out if you would unhand me and let me deal with him," he hissed, icily. Black glared back, glowering, but let his hand slide off, fists clenched and shoulders stiff. Severus sneered. "Now, go to your room and stay there. If it is anything of our mutual importance, I shall inform you of the proceedings that take place after...unless of course you wish to reveal yourself? In which case, I will not protect you from the Dementors."
The man paled, teeth gritted, livid, but slunk away and up the stairs - at least not being foolhardy enough to make any loud noises, or audibly grumble, though the expression on his face screamed that Black was mentally assaulting him.
Severus grabbed a bottle of Russian Icevodka - a sister product to Firewhiskey, and returned to the living room, pouring a generous amount of into two shots glasses.
They tipped in a semi-chink and unspoken toast, before downing as one.
Severus had a feeling he'd need it, he was tired already, and the 'interrogation' hadn't even started yet.
He sat down on the opposite couch, and waited for Lucius to explain himself, silent.
"He's back," Malfoy said, finally, settling back against the sofa. Severus went very still. He as in...
"The Dark Lord?" he clarified, blood turning to ice. "How?" His mark wasn't black, there was no sign of this. "Are you sure?"
"I met him," Lucius replied, evenly. "It's definitely him...but he's different."
"Different?" Severus wanted to hold his breath. "Different as in...younger?"
"Yes," Lucius said, eyeing him more warily now, stonily almost. "You've come across him too? Or is this from your association with Albus Dumbledore?"
"Albus Dumbledore, fool that he is in trusting me, has kept me out of Azkaban, and over the years I have learnt many things and found my way into his greater confidence. My actions can only prove more useful for my true master, and I'm sure he will understand them."
He knew Lucius would take his true master to mean the Dark Lord, but it could have applied to Dumbledore too as well. He'd have to see how this was going to play out before he chose a side more definitely, however much he wanted Voldemort for dead for his actions against Lily.
"You plan on continuing to spy for the Dark Side?" Malfoy asked, attitude unyielding, hard. "I suppose that could be of some merit to him, if you tread carefully. I dare say that is the Dark Lord's intention for you anyway. You never answered my question - have you met him? Or is the old man aware of his return?"
Severus weighed his response carefully.
"Dumbledore strongly suspects, but, on such an issue as this, I resolved myself to wait for further evidence on the matter."
"Always the cautious one, Severus," Lucius noted, filling up his shot glass again, idly, mechanical in a way that suggested he'd done this many times before. His eyes were cold, unforgiving, lacking warmth or friendliness. His relationship with the Malfoy's had always been one of politics and convenience, of Slytherin, and mutual experiences later in life under the service of the Dark Lord. "Nonetheless," the man continued, "I trust you will be giving your full support to the Dark regime again? I'd so hate for Britain to lose its youngest Potion's Master."
Snape remained calm, not allowing himself to baulk at the threat. He'd faced far worse.
"Naturally...unless you doubt my loyalty?" he returned delicately. "Not that it is for your judgement, but our Lord's."
"Of course not," Lucius smiled thinly, expression veiled. "You're not stupid enough as to tie yourself to the wrong side, the losing side."
Malfoy drained another glass expertly, before standing up smoothly, brushing nonexistent dust and creases from his lavishly expensive silk robes. He didn't appear to have the mannerisms of a man who'd just had two vodka shots in a marginally quick succession, but Lucius world was one of masks and gilded cages, and always had been.
Severus stood too, accepting the glass back without any change in his features, only a simple nod of acknowledgement.
"Does he have any tasks for me now?" he asked.
"He will be contacting you shortly, I would presume," Lucius replied. Severus insides twisted, his heart fluttering horribly in his chest with a sick terror.
"Understood...and may I safely assume he has entrusted you with the job of gathering up our old company?"
Why wasn't the Dark Lord using the mark? It was most peculiar. He was sure Albus would have his own theories on the topic, but whether he chose to share these was a different matter entirely.
"You may," Lucius returned curtly.
That confirmed why the Malfoy Lord was here then; he'd been tested for his continuing loyalty towards the Dark, and passed preliminary tests for his re-recruitment into the Dark Lord's service.
Snape nodded, once, wondering if he should just say goodbye, or...
"What is he like, in person? Is it just the looks or is he otherwise changed? And...what of Potter?"
Lucius shot him a sharp, discerning look, but Severus simply maintained his composure, only allowing the normal curiosity to shine through, largely stoic.
After a few seconds, it seemed he'd once more passed the other's scrutiny, because Lucius' suspicious demeanour relaxed again.
"I have yet to gather enough data for a full assessment, but he appears similar to how he used to be from what I have seen so far, aside from being considerably younger in appearance."
"How old?"
"Seventeen or eighteen, physically. Handsome, of course."
"Bellatrix will love him," Snape returned dryly.
Malfoy's lips didn't move into a smile, but his eyes gleamed with a genuine amusement for a scant few seconds.
"And Potter?"
"The Dark Lord is interested in him, and the investigation surrounding him, but has said nothing else on the matter. Good day, Severus."
Lucius nodded again, once, before striding purposefully away and disappearing without further comment.
Snape shut the door behind him.
Sirius leapt on Snape as soon as the door closed, emerging from the shadows, eyes wild.
"He's back? Voldemort's back? Since when!?" he demanded, voice more a feral growl than anything human. Snape's wand was out immediately, jaw tight as he backed up.
"Stay away from me, Black," he warned, and refusing to comment on the matter before the other had put a respectful distance between them, one Severus was more comfortable - he held no esteem for Black's mental state at present. For all he really knew, the influence of the Dementors could have deranged his childhood enemy beyond stability or even a respectful measure of sanity.
Like with a rabid mutt, it was best to try and keep a cautious distance.
"Answer me!" Sirius snarled, stepping back, though his hands became marginally placating, raised in the air in a sign of surrender.
"Did anyone ever tell you eavesdropping was rude, Black? Your mother must be so proud of you right now. And yes, if you listened as you so clearly and foolishly did, you do not need me to confirm the Dark Lord's return to you. And Dumbledore estimates for it to have occurred at the end of the previous school ye-"
"When Harry disappeared," Sirius finished, eyes growing wide, face white as sheet. "He thinks Harry's with - with him - oh Merlin - we've got to get him out of there."
"I did assume that to be the general plan," Snape deadpanned. Black speared him with a withering look.
"This isn't funny! Harry could be dead!"
"If he was dead, we would know,"Severus snapped, "it would be too big a blow for the Light Side to be kept secret. Potter is still alive, a prisoner most likely, but alive. I understand using a modicum of intelligence is difficult for you, but do us both a favour and try instead of panicking."
Black noticeably began calming himself, rubbing at a seeming headache in his temples, breathing deeply. The Potion's Master could reluctantly acknowledge that, and continued.
"I will see what I can discover on the matter, Black. For now, there is nothing I can do, or that you can do considering you have thus far been largely useless anyway. You cannot pretend to be the Death Eater the public claims you to be, as your actions would reveal you immediately, and us of the inner circle know you are not."
"Typical that you would be inner circle," Sirius muttered, darkly. Snape's eyes narrowed, but he ignored him, and Black was continuing anyhow. "Try and hurry, he could be being tortured this very minute - Morgana knows what the bastard could be doing to you think it would be best to get Dumbledore after all?"
"You do not fear he will have you thrown to the Dementors?" Severus returned delicately.
Black met his gaze flatly.
"It's for Harry."
Snape looked away.
When his rage had calmed down, muting more to normal levels of anger as opposed to the red haze of fury that had previously stolen him, fear began to wring him out like a wet cloth as he waited for retaliation.
Riddle surely would not take kindly to being insulted, and he kept his gaze fixed on the door, expecting pain or that awful sensory deprivation at any second.
Maybe the Dark Lord would just hand him back to the Ministry to be sent to Azkaban, or maybe he would just give him straight to the Dementors. The thought made his heart pound, and his form to shake slightly with something he insisted was just the chill of the room.
He swallowed, thickly.
There was nothing come. Not immediately after, and not in the hours that followed. Lunch came and went, and by dinner he was starving. Riddle still didn't come - didn't force him to eat - nothing. The same continued through the night, and into the next morning and throughout the day.
He didn't see the Slytherin Heir once, and the other gave him no acknowledgement.
Driven by hunger and thirst, Harry finally went down after dinner that night, of which he'd once again not attended. A plate was neatly scraped and washed; Riddle's meal. There was nothing else, no sign that there would have been anyone else living in the house at all.
He poured himself a glass of water, half expecting the Dark Lord to loom behind him to say he couldn't have it, or to tell him that he wouldn't be having anything to eat either.
Yet, even when he made himself a meal - thankfully able to cook from his time with the Dursleys - still nothing happened. He almost wondered if Riddle had entirely vanished to a new location and left him here.
No...he was in the lounge, Harry just saw him. He was sitting on the sofa, reading, not working for once. He didn't look up, or say anything. It was like Harry wasn't there, that he didn't even exist.
For a few seconds, Harry was panicked that he didn't, before he remembered how utterly ridiculous that was. Still, it was disconcerting.
"The silent treatment? Really?" He sneered. There; he could hear his own voice, he was here, he was alive.
Still nothing, no comeback, no threat, not even a glance. It was unnerving. He took a step closer, starting to feel the anger begin to bubble up again.
"You're seriously just going to ignore me, Riddle? That's childish of you. You won't mind if I trash your study then, or just leave."
Nothing. No reaction. Harry left the room again, silently, not entirely sure why this was leaving him shaken. It wasn't that he wanted or needed Riddle's attention or anything - he DIDN'T, he wasn't that pathetic, nor a desperate attention was that he wanted some consolidation and reminder that he wasn't just a ghost. He would have been absolutely fine if their was someone else here, some acknowledgement of his existence...but there wasn't.
The house rang with silence.
He'd been ignored before, shunned, at the Dursley's most specifically, but then he'd only have to walk outside to be reminded of his place in the world.
This place was too still, unchanging, like he'd said before. He could move things around, but the feel of the house was still the same, and nothing he did here made any sort of difference that Riddle couldn't correct with a flick of magic.
Without Riddle's reactions to him, and Riddle's conversation...nothing he did here mattered, or changed. It would be the same if he was here or not; insignificant.
Of course, he was used to being insignificant, but never before had he ever felt this was like an echo of the sensory deprivation he so feared.
He was determined not to yield and apologise though - he'd been kidnapped! He had no obligation to be nice, and everything he'd said had been true anyway.
He'd been on his own before, now he knew what exactly he was dealing with again...he couldn't almost relax again, couldn't he? Riddle would break and talk before he did, he was sure of it...except Riddle could leave whenever he wanted. He could go and talk to anyone in the world, Harry didn't have any other options.
He refused to yield.
This was just another game, wasn't it?
He hoped someone - anyone! - would find him soon.
< PrevNext >
Chapter 15:
Harry had given up on raging and trying to provoke an action; Riddle's study and bedroom were still warded against him so he couldn't trash them, and though he'd damaged numerous possessions around the house and even thrown a teapot at the Dark Lord, there was absolutely no reaction or communication.
His attacks stopped before they could cause any serious damage, and on the miraculous off chance he didn't manage to break anything, it was fixed the next time he saw it as if he left no lasting impression on the world or his surroundings.
Everything just ticked on without him, he felt like a ghost. It wasn't a feeling he was entirely unaccustomed to due to living with the Dursleys, but it wasn't pleasant either. By the fourth day, he'd taken to humming very softly under his breath, or tapping against things and moving them just to prove to himself that he was still there and hadn't just faded away in his sleep.
It had been easier to tolerate at the Dursleys, for people outside saw him, and he'd yet to go face to face with the dreadful nothingness of full sensory deprivation. Now, being ignored seemed a much greater wound than it had ever been before, when it was partially a blessing at times.
He did, however, come to some form of realisation at this time.
He'd long since noticed how...tactile Riddle was, and the way his hands were always moving, like how he'd twisted Harry's bed sheets in his fingers whenever they'd talked in that room. The way he had his tea so hot it must burn his tongue, and held onto the cup despite the heat...the bare all intensified the senses.
Bare feet allowed him to feel the floor beneath him more, from the smoothness of the wood to the softness of rugs.
Riddle was constantly doing the same thing that Harry found himself doing now.
He was proving to himself that he was alive, that he existed.
He wouldn't have been remotely surprised if the man slept with silk sheets, even.
Nonetheless, despite how this made something twist viciously in his gut, it didn't help his current predicament of non-existence in the slightest.
He'd ended up adopting a passive agressive stance, in a manner of speaking. He'd given up on getting Riddle to react to him, simply stopped talking and stopped leaving his room for anything other than going to loo.
He didn't eat, and he didn't drink, and it was getting to the point where he could scarcely bear his latter thirst. A person could go longer without food than they could without water, and it was nearing three days now - dehydration.
He would have preferred to die than to live like this, a prisoner, ignored, neglected, like a dusty trophy and relic left on the shelf in show and nothing else. He couldn't bear the thought of a slow spiral into madness, of being so alone and ghost-like if Riddle didn't lift this 'punishment.'
Yet, as suicidal as that sounded...a part of him suspected it wouldn't come down to that. If Riddle wanted him dead, the young Dark Lord could have killed him so easily at any time, he was practically defenseless against the other's superior skill, and he didn't have his wand.
It seemed more likely that Riddle would intervene at the very last moment, and so the silent treatment would be broken by necessity.
A stupid, risky gamble perhaps, as though the Slytherin Heir hadn't killed it did not mean he would help him either, but...
He didn't know what else to do.
He lay across his - the - bed, head spinning, pounding horribly and his mouth as dry as sandpaper. He could barely find the energy to move.
This didn't mean Riddle wouldn't simply return to ignoring him after either, but...
He didn't know. His dehydration was starting to get dangerous now, and he found himself needing to go to the toilet less and less.
It felt odd that he was also partially gambling his survival on Riddle's observation skills, but if he trusted anything about his generally untrustworthy and unpredictable jailor, it was the Slytherin's skills of observation. They were as sharp as razor; it was more likely he saw too much, than not enough.
He felt listless, it was hard to think, and then the door opened.
He couldn't bring himself to tilt his head that way, but his gaze moved over sluggishly.
Riddle's features swam before his eyes, and he felt a dip on the bed next to him, before he felt his head being lifted carefully as he was repositioned.
Glass was pressed to his dry lips, tipped, without comment, orange juice spilling over his lips.
He couldn't help but feel a sort of sick satisfaction.
"You are far too stubborn, Potter," Riddle murmured, voice soft but eyes tight with the most ferocious rage that made Harry want to second guess his victory and cringe. "Drink. Now."
Harry half considered not doing so, but figured it wouldn't make any different if the edge on Tom's features was anything to go by. The fury...the...fear? But clearly he was just imagining the traces of terror.
He obediently sipped up the juice, Riddle tugging the glass away every now and again to make sure he didn't go too fast and make himself sick.
It took ten minutes to drink the glass, and Tom abruptly shoved him away, studying him critically, eyes frighteningly emotionless now, and yet not, burning like a supernova. Harry's insides knotted, but Riddle simply left the room again and Harry figured that it would be like this - only for the Slytherin to return, with a snowy white owl.
"Hedwig!" Harry's eyes widened, and he immediately reached for the bird. Riddle tugged the bird cage out of his reach, eyebrow raising, eyes still dark with that deadly rage.
"Anyone ever tell you not to get attached to pets? Miss Weasley's family have been looking after her for you, it was only too easy for me to acquire her."
Harry's mouth ran dry for an entirely different reason, the colour draining from his face.
"Tom-" he began, desperately.
"Avada Kedavra."
There was a flash of green that burned his eyes, sickly, poisonous, and then...nothing. Hedwig was just lying at the bottom of the cage, lifeless, looking so much smaller.
Bile crawled up his throat, and he suddenly realised his vision had blurred with livid, terrified tears and his whole body was shaking, his fists clenched violently.
He wouldn't have said something, anything, but his throat felt choked. Tom set the cage down, before settling in front of him, expression jarringly soft, eyes hard.
"If you ever pull such a life-threatening, foolish stunt again I will start on your human friends, am I making myself very clear this time, Harry?" Riddle asked quietly.
Harry just found the presence of mind to nod, eyes fixed on the end of the bed. Tom nudged his jaw to guide his head away from the corpse and back onto him, but he didn't want to look.
"I did warn you," Riddle added. "I told you that disobedience would not have nice consequences for those you cared about. Harry swallowed, thickly, refusing to cry and be anything so pathetic - he felt cold all over, in shock.
It had been so quick, so sudden. He said nothing.
"And you won't be trying something like that again, will you?" Riddle asked, continuing in that same velvety voice that lined the steel of his personality. Once again he said nothing, just looking at the Slytheirn, blankly, and Tom gave his shoulder a light squeeze.
It was enough to prompt Harry into a reply.
" I won't," he whispered.
"Good boy," Tom praised, softening again, offering him a smile, patting his cheek almost affectionately. "It was an excellent attempt though, you're getting better at manipulation. I'm impressed."
It didn't make him feel better in the slightest, and his fists only clenched. Tom looked at him silently for a moment, before he spoke once again.
"I meant what I said, Harry. I can give you the world, anything you could possibly want and more than you could ever dream of or think to ask for...but only if you work with me a bit, hmmm? None of this. I don't mind you fighting me, it's admirable and I respect your determination and courage...but I have boundaries. Lines in the sand. I will not tolerate you putting yourself in this level of danger, you're my soulmate. It's not acceptable."
"You didn't have to kill her. It was my mistake." Harry's voice was absolutely icy; tired, but so very, very cold. "I don't want anything from you, you're horrible. It's no wonder you don't have any friends."
"This seemed more effective," Tom replied simply. "And I have no need for friends, nor do I want any."
Harry's jaw clenched, his head still pounding.
"I'd like you to leave now," he said curtly. Tom looked at him, flatly.
"Really?" he questioned.
Harry's hands balled into furious fists. No, not really. It made everything so pointless, as much as he could hardly stand the Slytherin's company. He swallowed again, thickly, eyes moving towards Hedwig's form.
Tom caught his jaw again.
"Just make sure it doesn't happen again, and refrain from causing yourself injury, and we're fine Harry. You are always free to fight me, but bear in mind that your actions will always have an equal and opposing reaction from me."
Harry paused, looking at Tom. There was an odd concession to the words, a mark that whilst the young Dark Lord was lashing out against his methods, he was simultaneously rewarding Harry's victory against the initial punishment, as well as retracting it.
He was once more reminded, with a shiver down his spine and a wary realisation, that Tom had some things he would accept and others that he would.
"I...understand," he said, quietly, stiffly. Tom nodded once, sharply.
"I know," he replied. "Now, let's move on from this nonsense. You must be starving. And you still need to drink more."
That had...backfired spectacularly.
Tom's mouth was pressed in a hard line as he considered the events of the day. Sure, punishment had been wrought and he and the child had finally reached an understanding about at least one matter, but...
He'd initially gone and got the bird as a lure, Ginny had always talked about how Potter was so adorable with it, uncommonly attached and close to it...and a bird was more reliable and safe than introducing another human into the already volatile co-existence they were sharing.
The Dark Side had been gathered again, and he knew he'd be busy with it, so he thought the owl - Hedwig, was it? - would have been able to offer some form of company for Harry seeing as he was more likely to be away for longer periods of time.
Then that had been completely been blown out of the water.
He'd acted like it was very deliberate, and it certainly acted as a successful punishment and most likely the most successful deterrent he could have possibly issued.
But the truth of the matter was that he had quite simply lost his temper.
It had been a very, very long time since he'd been afraid, and in the history of his life it had never been for another person...he supposed it was the Horcrux connection, a self-preservation instinct.
He hadn't been in control, he'd lost it. He'd been furious with the attempt, reluctantly impressed, and scared which was more likely to make him more angry than anything else in the world possibly could.
It hadn't been a good combination.
He was lucky it hadn't completely exploded on him, but he certainly had ground to make up even if he'd gained points in other areas.
It didn't even know anymore, but he didn't like his plans being led astray in the best of times, and this situation couldn't yet be called such an optimistic name.
His fists curled. He wouldn't dwell on it. He'd made his point, and that was all that mattered.
Tomorrow was a new day.
The battle may have ended - and it disconcerted him that he didn't have a total victory, the boy was twelve for crying out loud! - but the war raged on.
He would win.
It was about time a villain did.
Chapter 16:
"I want to bury her," Harry announced.
Tom looked up from his papers distractedly, raising his brows.
"Should I assume you're talking about the owl?"
"Hedwig," Harry bit out, glaring. "Her name is Hedwig, not 'the Owl.'"
"You knew what I was talking about, I was just clarifying," Tom replied, making a slightly dismissive, albeit placating gesture with his hands. "It's your owl, of course you may bury her if you wish."
"So stop working and take me out into the garden," Harry instructed flatly. Tom stopped, giving him his full attention now at the tone. Harry folded his arms, fuelled by a wrathful grief and terror which only made him more angry.
"Giving me orders now, are we, child?" Tom's voice had grown very soft now, dangerously so. It was a tone which had become oddly familiar to Harry, and he met it unflinchingly.
He resisted the urge to simply reply 'yes', however. He didn't want Tom refusing out of sheer spite - he'd put nothing past the Slytherin Heir anymore.
He felt hollow inside, numb and disconnected, as if someone had scraped his insides and heart out with a shovel.
"Child?" he returned, instead, coldly "I'm not a child anymore. You've ensured that."
Tom's head tilted with curiosity, hands still resting on his papers, quill resting in one hand. His mind was obviously fixed on the conversation though, despite the relaxed posture those dark eyes were fully intent.
"It's just a bird, why do you care so much?"
Harry's eyes flashed, and, within a second, the room was rattling and Tom had a wand out - it would seem threatening, except Riddle's posture was erring towards the defensive side of the spectrum.
"Genuine question," the other added, smoothly but also quickly. "I'm not actually trying to mock you this time..."
Harry's glare remained ferocious, though his magic settled marginally - it also sent another thought into his mind, to be examined further at a later date...after all, he was doing magic without his wand, wasn't he?
"I understand that you're a heartless bastard," he said tightly, "don't worry, you've cured me of believing otherwise, but you were like me...she was my only link to the magical world when I was at the Dursleys, my only friend there, and the only friend I could have had now because I would rather be alone forever than be friends with you...and killed her! You took her away from me when she did absolutely nothing to you because you can't control a twelve year old and hate losing!" His voice, calm at first, grew increasingly loud and furious as he continued. He didn't even notice the brief slip into parseltongue.
Tom's face remained emotionless, unreadable, but his gaze gained an edge to it, unvoiced and unacknowledged. He stood without further comment, heading towards the dining room and the door into the garden.
Harry followed, but couldn't find it in himself to bask in any potential victory in the action. Tom moved to sit on the patio, watching him as he moved around, and brought Hedwig out.
"Can I have something to dig with?" Harry questioned, tonelessly. "You obviously garden, so you must have a shovel somewhere."
"I can just magic you a grave-" Tom began.
"No." Harry's shoulders were starting to tense again. "Get me a shovel."
Tom shot him a definitely warning look now, expression growing harder and colder. Harry's teeth gritted.
"Please," he added. "Will you get me a shovel, please? I want to do this myself."
Tom continued to study him for a moment, before he drew his wand at flickered it at one of the garden stones with a muttered incantation, transfiguring it and then passing it over.
Harry reached out to take it, but Tom didn't immediately let go of it, meeting his eyes.
"I have never had a pet, or anything like that...I didn't recognise the possible significance of the owl - of Hedwig - outside of the immediate consequences."
Harry said nothing, remaining stone-faced, but Tom didn't continue, merely letting go and letting Harry get on with digging, with only a comment on where he should do so.
It wasn't a particularly warm or sunny day, but it was still hard work, and he could feel Riddle's eyes appraising him silently every so often.
It took about half an hour for him to create a grave that he deemed big and deep enough, and the pale, almost watery sun was sliding down into the horizon like a dripping, falling ball of mango icecream.
Finally, the grave was done, and he was filthy with mud, but lowered Hedwig down gently, tears pricking the corners of his eyes hotly. He swiped them impatiently away, fully aware that Riddle was still present.
Speaking of...
"You can go away," he muttered, darkly. "You're not invited to the funeral."
"I have absolutely no desire to make a speech over your bird, Potter," Tom replied, dryly. "I just don't trust you not to continue your streak of stupidity if I leave you unsupervised, apparent improvements aside."
"I'd like a moment alone."
"Well, that makes a change from your behaviour this last week, you seemed so desperate for my company then..."
Harry whipped around again, eyes blazing with ice, jaw clenched again. He didn't care remotely that he probably looked like an utter mess. He would have snapped a comment about how circumstances had changed, but also knew that despite his rage, he really didn't want to be left alone to become a living ghost again.
"Some space then," he returned. "It's not right you being here when..." his throat closed up a little bit.
Tom rolled his eyes, looking more long-suffering than he had a right to all things considered. Harry's eyes narrowed in response.
"Potter, with all due respect to your precious sensibilities, I am neither leaving you alone or giving you space. For all I know, this could be a ruse for another escape attempt. I wouldn't put it past you. Go on with your 'funeral', by all means, if it reassures you, I'm not going to be listening to your sentimental drivel. I frankly couldn't care less."
Oddly enough, that did reassure him marginally. Still.
"And there was me thinking you were looking after me," he murmured, snidely. Tom laughed at that, and Harry glanced around to see he'd returned to his planner...whatever it was...again.
Riddle didn't, however, comment, and so Harry turned back to the grave, still feeling uncomfortable with the other being there. In the end, he only thought his thanks silently, one hand resting quietly on the mound of soil for a long time. He added a flower, not caring that he was ruining the garden.
Tom's gaze didn't stray from his work, but Harry still didn't feel entirely free in his grief. He kept his head bowed, feeling an awful ridiculousness setting in. It felt silly to care so much for his owl, but he did.
And Tom had killed her...
He felt bile rise in his throat.
Darkness fell, wrapping around him, but the only change was that Riddle lit a light so he could continue writing and doing whatever he was doing.
To his incredibly limited credit, the Slytherin Heir at least made no motions towards rushing him or trying to intrude...though that was probably partially indifference as much as anything else.
Harry could feel a chill seeping in through his jeans, and he must have sat there for a long time, just staring at the grave. He started slightly when he felt a light touch on his arm, and looked around.
Riddle had moved silently behind him, and now indicated towards the house.
" can visit her tomorrow. There's a wall you can stare at for hours inside too, now come on, I have things to take care of."
His voice wasn't particularly harsh, just even and calm, but he pulled Harry up firmly when he stubbornly and numbly didn't move, leading him back towards the house.
The prison.
All of a sudden Harry really didn't want to go back in there at all.
"A while longer," he insisted. "I haven't been out here at night. The stars might come out."
"You can see the stars from your window," Tom returned.
"It's not the same and you know it," Harry growled. "I just-for god's sake!"
"Your skills of debate never cease to amaze me. Where do you come up with all these witty responses?"
The next second, Harry's temper snapped completely as Riddle hit some sort of last straw he hadn't realised he'd grown so close to, and he punched the other, hard, across the face, as well as he could reach.
He had a feeling he managed to land the blow more with the element of surprise than any real skill. Tom's eyes widened with shock, and a curse of pain as his hand rose automatically to his jaw.
For a second, Harry froze with terror, the next - he was sprinting across the garden towards the exit and Tom, with longer legs, caught up with him as he was scrambling up and over the wall, yanking him back with iron arms around his torso.
Harry thrashed, flailing, biting , anything! - beyond coherency, figuring he was pretty much dead anyway after daring to hit the Slytherin, spurred on by a helpless mourning and so many emotions he had yet to come to terms with, old resentments and the fiery lashing of his heart against his chest.
They hit the ground hard, tousling, but Riddle ultimately won due to his superior strength and weight/height advantage, not that Harry's attack wasn't vicious or that he made it easy. He found his wrists pinned to the grass, firmly, nails biting at his skin.
"I'm going to assume that was a reaction to grief, I'm told people's IQs significantly drop in times of mourning," Riddle spat, eyes like wildfire, to match Harry's own, before shaking his head with disgust. "Jesus, I thought you'd made some you're back to being stupid."
The most surprising thing was the disappointment in both the young Dark Lord's tone and the hard lines of his mouth.
As much as he loathed the thought, that disappointment made him want to shrink into himself just a little bit.
"Us Gryffindors do that," Harry snarled. "You're the stupid one if you thought I would ever stop fighting to get away from you!"
"Is living with me so terrible?"
The question made him freeze on the spot even more, staring at the other, mind grinding to a temporary halt at the unexpectedness of the question.
"You killed Hedwig."
"You tried to kill yourself - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth...a life for a life."
"I threatened it! I didn't actually do it!" Harry growled, furiously. "She did nothing to you!"
"She is irrelevant to me." Riddle's voice was dreadfully icy. "Most people in the world are utterly irrelevant to me unless I can use them. I don't care. I don't have a conscious or a heart outside of the physical one which pumps blood around my body, and, all things considered, even the reality of that could be questioned if one wants to go into the physics of magic..."
"Then why aren't I? I know it's cause I'm your...your soulmate," Harry's nose wrinkled and his voice dropped self-consciously despite there being no one else around to hear their conversation. "But that's now, you didn't know that in the Chamber. You killed Ginny and - and Hedwig so easily - why not me? I should be no different...I...what do you want from me? Acceptance? Cause if you want me to accept you then you can't imprison me and be so - so horrible."
He was rambling, and he probably sounded absolutely ridiculous.
Tom's expression had changed again, more considering, though his grip didn't become any less violent. Harry would probably have bruises on his wrists tomorrow.
The Slytherin's mouth opened a few times as if to say something, but in the end he didn't speak, simply yanking Harry up again, keeping his arm twisted behind his back so he didn't make any efforts to run again.
Then he shoved him back into the house, and locked the door.
"Due to the fact you're incapable of being trusted alone, there's been a change of plan. You will be coming with me to Malfoy Manor tomorrow," Tom stated, finally, instead.
Harry blinked.
"They hate me."
The young Dark Lord sighed heavily.
"...why am I not remotely surprised."
Chapter 17:
Malfoy Manor had peacocks - peacocks! Harry couldn't help but stare around himself in an incredulous sort of wonder at the sheer ostentatious grandeur of the place. It was utterly ridiculous!
Aunt Petunia would have adored it.
Harry found he far preferred the homely warmth of the burrow. Malfoy Manor was like the Malfoys, cold, snooty and unwelcoming.
" could just drop me off back at the house and leave me there," Harry muttered, to Tom. "You have the doors all locked and warded anyway...there's no need for me to be here. You're punishing me!"
Tom shot him an amused look, appearing even more polished than normal. Still, Harry hoped his followers laughed in his face because the Dark Lord was a teenager...on second thoughts, Riddle would probably slaughter them, so maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all...or was it?
"Oh, but they should have a son about your age," the Slytherin Heir said in a mockingly gushing voice. "You could be such good pals, you were the one that so desperately wanted to leave the house in the first place."
Harry's jaw clenched with annoyance, but he nonetheless kept close to Tom as they reached the front door. It swung open immediately, revealing Lucius Malfoy himself.
The blond studied them both with a neutral expression, dipping his head to Tom with a respectfully murmured greeting, before pausing at Harry's rather ferocious glare for a moment, before glancing at Tom, a hint of an unvoiced question in his eyes.
"He kidnapped me," Harry offered flatly, by way of explanation.
"You make an adorable trophy," Tom stated, in the same tone, features unreadable but for the barest edge of warning.
Harry nearly snarled, but Riddle simply pushed him into the house dismissively, more concerned with talking to Malfoy. It was mainly an exchange of greetings, and a confirmation on where the 'meeting' was being held. Harry watched on with a sort of guarded curiosity, wondering if he'd have a better chance escaping from here than he did from Riddle's house.
Then the conversation switched to regard him.
"Your son is around, I presume?" Tom began. Harry scowled.
"No," he stated, in a final tone of voice. "I'd rather shoot myself." He was not chumming up with Draco bloody Malfoy! Tom ignored him, though Mr Malfoy looked between him and Tom for a moment, saying nothing.
"Now, now, child, where are your manners?" Tom questioned, rather too lightly, with a pleasant smile that made shivers run down his spine. "You mustn't be rude about our hosts. I'd be most displeased if you were."
Harry's scowl only deepened.
"Children will be children," Lucius murmured, "it's...understandable Shall I escort him to see Draco." His eyes however, were cold, and Harry watched him with an extreme wariness.
There was nothing about this situation that he liked; he hated how vulnerable he felt, and how out of place. There was no one he would have trusted, though, oddly, perhaps, he would have leant towards Tom's company over anyone else's because he was sure Tom would at least protect him to a certain extent...even if he wouldn't be very nice about doing so.
"It's fine, I'll take him," Tom dismissed. "I'll join you all in the Blue Room momentarily, I need a word with your son anyway."
Lucius looked frozen for a moment.
" do, my lord?" he asked, quietly. "May I ask what about?"
"You may, but I will not guarantee an answer. Rest assured, he is not in trouble."
Lucius nodded after a moment, sharply, expression smoothed over, lips a little tight.
"Of course, my lord. Very good."
"You do not wish me near your son?" The young Dark Lord questioned, a smirk suddenly caressing his lips just slightly. "You seem reluctant, Lucius."
"I think anyone would be reluctant to let you near their children," Harry snorted. "You're not exactly child-friendly. Honestly, I think anyone would be reluctant to let you out the house. You should be in a mental hospital."
The next second, he hissed with pain as Tom sent a stinging hex in his direction - the threat clear. He narrowed his eyes, but couldn't help but think it could have been a worse spell too, at least, if Mr Malfoy's cautious fear and respect was anything to go by.
This visit was not going to be fun.
Draco couldn't help but feel horribly nervous.
He'd never met the Dark Lord, only heard the whispered rumours of equal admiration and terror preached beside darkening firesides during his childhood.
He didn't think he'd meet the man straight-away, but if he really was back, then he probably would be sometime.
The house had shot into a greater tension than he could ever remember; though he wasn't entirely sure why. He'd always been told that the Dark Lord was great, and that it would be an honour to serve him and a miracle to see him return.
Yet, his mother warned him to be careful, whilst his father obsessively went over how he should behave around the man.
He wasn't quite expecting you-know-who to walk into his bedroom unannounced though, and certainly not with Harry Potter in tow.
His jaw nearly hit the floor. At first he didn't even know who he was talking to when the bedroom door opened.
The boy was tall and handsome, dark-eyed, with one of the most imposing auras he'd ever felt. Maybe that was what, thankfully, stopped him from opening his mouth and ordering the teenager out of his bedroom...that heavy, alluring, suffocating shroud of dark magic. That, and his father had described it in detail before the visit, so he didn't make such a foolish mistake.
Potter stood by his side, looking sullen, if not pale and surprisingly unharmed.
Draco swallowed, before dropping to one knee like he'd been taught, bowing his head.
"My lord." His voice didn't shake...really, the Dark Lord didn't seem that scary. He glanced up furtively, to see Potter eyeing him with disdain, before looking around his room, arms folded.
"You may rise, Draco," the Dark Lord said, after a moment. His voice was soft, velvety, but held a barely concealed undertone of icy danger and menace.
Draco stood again, keeping his hands tucked behind his back, like a soldier lined up for inspection.
"You'll be keeping an eye on Harry here for me, Mr Malfoy," the Dark Lord continued, spearing Potter with a filled glance. Harry's eyes narrowed in response, but he said nothing. "Refrain from letting him out of your sight and no if anything...untoward or inconvenient happens to him I will hold you directly responsible and rip out your spine to sell as a walking stick. Am I making myself perfectly clear?"
The colour drained out of his face as the threat, and the smile that accompanied it. His mouth felt dry, and his hands shook a little behind his back, his stomach dropping out.
"Y-yes, my lord," he whispered. "I'll look after him."
"Make sure that you do," the Dark Lord said curtly, before turning to Potter, who didn't look remotely pleased with the threat - much to Draco's confusion. Surely the Boy-Who-Lived should gain some entertainment value from this? Then again...he was wholly too sanctimonious. "Harry, do make a concentrated effort to stay out of trouble, won't you? I'd so hate for anymore...accidents to happen."
Potter's fists clenched, though he merely offered a smile in return - it wasn't genuine, and reminded Draco all too much of the dagger-smile that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had just given him.
"Of course not," Harry bit out. "Do make a concentrated to go and die, won't you? I'd so hate for your presence to be inflicted further on the world."
The Dark Lord's eyes gleamed, and the next few words were spoken in Parseltongue, before the Dark Wizard left, leaving him alone with Potter, who was still staring at the door.
Draco had planned to say something witty, eloquent or intelligent, but the only thing that came out was a bewildered -
"What just happened? Why are you here? You were missing!"
Harry's attention finally shifted back to him.
"Tom kidnapped me," he said, shortly. "I'm here because he doesn't trust me when left to my own devices."
Draco blinked.
"Voldemort," Potter clarified. "He-who-just-flounced-out-of-your-bedroom."
Draco's mind was still spinning.
"You've been with him the whole time?" he demanded incredulously. "You live with him? What's he like?" Despite the consuming fear only now leaving him with the Dark Lord's absence, he couldn't help but feel intensely curious.
"Yeah, unfortunately," Harry muttered, studying Draco closely, before swallowing. "You could help me, you know. You could let me out of this house..."
"No!" Draco snapped, appalled, sneering. "Did you not hear what he just said to me!? He'd rip my spine out!"
Potter's jaw ground, hard, fingers flexing in and out of a fist, slowly.
"So you're just going to leave me to be his prisoner?"
Draco bit his lip hard, his gut churning, but he looked away, guiltily. There was nothing he could have done, either way. It was pointless; how could he find time to look after Potter when he needed to concentrate on looking after himself and his own first and foremost?
He was too scared to do anything, and he hated it. Why should he have to be so scared in his own home? Yet, the Dark Lord's return was a good thing...that's what he'd always been told. You-Know-Who would restore the Wizarding World to a former glory, where they could be openly proud of their magic and heritage, never having to skulk and hide from Muggles.
They were better, superior beings, why should they have to cower and deny themselves?
There was an oppressive silence between them.
"What's he like?" Draco couldn't help but ask again, his voice a hungry, reverent murmur. Harry didn't look at him, hand trailing absently over his desk, posture rigid.
"Why should I tell you that when I gain nothing in return?"
For a second time, Draco's jaw nearly hit the floor.
"How Slytherin of you, Potter..."
"I live with the Slytherin Heir, Gryffindor wasn't going to cut it," Harry returned. Draco eyed the other warily. He did seem different, not drastically, but enough that it was noticeable.
He was more guarded, certainly, and had a sharper tongue. His eyes too, were colder, more jaded.
He'd lost some of his innocence, that was for sure - though not enough for it to be blaringly obvious.
His perchance for trouble, apparently, wasn't quite so lacking.
"Well, what do you want?" Draco asked, raising a brow. "I mean, aside from freedom, which I can't give you. I reckon you'd need to go to the Dark Lord for that."
For a few seconds, Potter's features turned rigid and startlingly ashen, before he shook himself and it was almost as if nothing had ever happened.
"For something like this? Flying. I want to go Flying."
Draco blinked at the seemingly harmless request, trying to figure out what Potter's angle was. It didn't seem like anything too dangerous...was it? And considering all the things Potter could have asked in the face of his curiosity on the wasn't so bad. Potter was an idiot!
He sniffed, haughtily.
"Then we have a deal, Potter. You first."
"Tom...the Dark brilliant, I have to give him that. He's very clever. He's also completely horrible, a complete control freak who likes having things done his way and no one else's way, and is manipulative and inhuman enough to do anything he wants to get it regardless of how much pain he has to cause. Hes...I'd say he's arrogant, and he's definitely infuriating, but if he says he's going to do something he will always follow through., And...well...I think he's very, very lonely."
Draco stared, absolutely fascinated, but Harry was heading for the door.
"Come on. I'm using your broom, I miss my Nimbus..."
Lucius stared as the Dark Lord took his place at the forefront of the room.
He could see the Death Eaters whispering, exchanging glances as they took in the apparent youth.
It made him feel almost sick with dread to see the way they immediately disregarded him, underestimated him, because he wasn't the instantly imposing and intimidating figure they'd grown used to in times of old.
But he was the same; his face may change, but his character was integral. The Dark Lord had always been a manner of many masks, a master of masquerade, and they were idiots to believe he was less for his physical beauty.
No, that only made him more dangerous.
"My's been a long time since we last saw each other," the Dark Lord murmured, strolling before them, looking perfectly at ease. Dark eyes surveyed them all, judging and assessing their worth in a matter of seconds. "However, I am back, and, this time, I can vow that nothing will keep us from our rightful place in the world..."
"Too long has there been a taint upon this world, a muggle leech that devours our traditions and customs. Why should we have to cower before them when we, with our magic, should be worshipped like gods upon these lesser beings?"
There was a cheer from the assembled members - only the most loyal, the most devoted still at large, and the Dark Lord offered them an indulgent smile before calling for silence. It fell easily enough; he'd yet to slip up, but despite the outward attention and support, Lucius could feel them all metaphorically circling like vultures or sharks, for a drop of blood or weakness.
If seen, the consequences would be unforgivable, and a flawed King would be overthrown. Indeed, there was a resentment that they should even listen to a teenager now, who had yet to prove himself, unspoken doubts and questions as to if this was really their former Lord at all.
But they could sense his aura, and so, for now, kept at bay.
First came the assessment, the scrutiny as they formed their alliances, plans, back up plans and schemes of attack or defence to best serve their individual goal or benefit.
They wouldn't attack today, but a possible confrontation loomed amongst bolder fools, and everyone present could tell it.
The Dark Lord continued.
"Sacrifices must be made, rewards given to those who truly deserve them...punishment given to the traitors and those disobedient to our cause..."
The tension heightened somewhat, but today was a day of evaluation and not pouncing. Next time, once the Dark Lord had been studied for any flaws, the resentfuls, those of the greatest ambition would deliver their challenges...but not now.
"Our immediate priority is to rebuild our forces to its former glory. We will start with the Dementors, and my old faithfuls in Azkaban. Then..."
Then everything went wrong.
Chapter 18:
Harry kicked off from the ground, and, for ten minutes or so - he just revelled in the faux feeling of freedom and the air whistling through his lungs and playing with his hair.
In the air, he always felt like nothing could touch him, that he was somehow invincible. He wasn't really, but he enjoyed the sensation.
Draco tailed him, looking pale and anxious. Harry tried to ignore that as best as he could.
After the ten minutes were up, he got serious.
He sort of knew he wouldn't be able to get past the wards - they were called wards, weren't they? - and Tom had already told him back at the house that there was no point with that and he should be on his best behaviour.
Automatically, that made him want to try it on suspicion of the Slytherin Heir lying, which would have been more than likely...but he also knew Tom well enough that the other wouldn't have taken him here if he seriously thought Harry could simply fly out or run out as he pleased.
Hence, the wards were actually there and he wouldn't be able to get through them.
No, he had another plan of action in mind.
He waited for Draco to relax - he wouldn't do it much, considering Tom's threats - but a little. Then, he abruptly sped up his room and started to outfly Malfoy, trying to shake him off, and twisting straight into the ostentatiously grand corridors of the manor in search of the kitchen or whether it was that house-elves dwelled.
He wasn't exactly sure, yet, what he would do when he found Dobby...probably, if the elf couldn't get him through the wards (though he'd still try) then maybe Dobby could get a message to Dumbledore and his friends.
He, regrettably, had to ditch the broomstick and move on the ground, not having his wand to open doors with. It only made him feel more vulnerable; if any of Riddle's people or whatever creeps lurked around this place found him, he'd have absolutely no way of defending himself.
The thought alone was terrifying!
Who knew what they'd do to him...
But it wouldn't stop him trying; it couldn't stop him trying.
It would be disastrous if he got caught before making it back to Draco - than, if that happened, he could blackmail the other into silence, and no one would be harmed, but he'd be a step closer to freedom.
It didn't work out quite like that.
Lucius' head snapped up at the large crack that filled the room, and the body that appeared out of mid-air and hit the middle of the room with a crunch.
Wands were instantly drawn, curses fired on instinct and paranoia at being caught at such illicit activities. There was a startled cry of pain, and the next second the Dark Lord was in the midst of the spells - his wand drawn too.
"Stop!" he ordered, voice barely staying in English. "Put your wands away."
Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived was hunched in on himself, eyes dark with fear though the child struggled to keep it off his face. His shoulders were tensed rigidly, gaze flicking over Voldemort and then the rest of them in turn.
"That's Harry Potter," Macnair said, uncertainly, not lowering his wand. The Dark Lord's eyes flashed.
"Yes, and he's with me. So lower your wand, I will not repeat myself again."
But suspicion was crawling now, doubt and a possible chink in armour that his fellow Death Eaters were ravenously circling, eyeing. And he knew the Dark Lord could sense it too, for his grip on his wand tightened just fractionally, even as his features remained perfectly composed and smooth.
Some lowered their wands obediently, but others...
"With all due respect, my lord. How can Potter be with you? He's Dumbledore's little Golden Boy, he shouldn't even be here...he should be dead."
Potter stiffened further, jaw hard.
"Trust me, this isn't exactly my ideal location to be either," he said coldly, eyes alarmingly hard for someone of his age. His fists were clenched, and, for a moment, the resemblance between the hero and the Dark Lord standing next to him was unnerving, remarkable - striking.
"Oh, so he's not even on our side - why isn't he dead, my lord?" Avery demanded.
"Because I saw fit to keep him alive," the Dark Lord replied sharply. "And it is not in your jurisdiction to question that."
"How do we even know you are who you say you are?" Macnair persisted, taking a menacing step forward. "Our lord would never allow Potter to live - after what the stupid boy has done, and he certainly wouldn't protect him. If I may ask...why didn't you just summon us? How exactly is it that you returned?"
Potter was starting to look even more wary, brow furrowing, as he studied them all carefully. He glanced at Voldemort, watching his expression closely for a second, before his lips curled slightly into a barely suppressed smirk.
"Do your Death Eaters not like working for a teenager, Tom?" he asked, all too innocently. "There's a surprise. Your plans aren't going so well, are they?"
The Dark Lord hissed something vicious, grip tightening on the back of Potter's neck. Harry winced, seemingly involuntarily, trying to twist away. Voldemort kept his grip firm - and some of the less brazen Death Eaters backed off at the Parseltongue...a trait only known to the Dark Lord.
But they didn't come to defend either, simply melding into the crowd with pale faces and roving, hungry eyes that searched for weakness and the victor in this situation.
Lucius stayed very still, trying not to draw attention to himself, waiting patiently to see how this would play out. He had his suspicions as to who would win, of course, but...
"Temper, temper," Potter drawled, in response to the hiss, but his eyes had grown more wary. He glanced at the Death Eaters again, and seemed to have gained an increased realisation that the Dark Lord he was - well, bickering - with was the only thing currently between him and them, the only protection he had. "He actually is Voldemort, unfortunately, if that's what you're all wondering. Trust me, no one could fake being that much of a bastard."
"And you expect us to take the opinion of a twelve-year old on that matter?" someone sneered. Potter's eyes flashed, as did the Dark lord's.
"It's not like I know more about it than you lot, or anything," the boy hero drawled, sarcastically. "By all means, go on. I'm personally finding all this hilarious, even if I do think you're all idiots and you should go and die."
Lucius nearly closed his eyes with exasperation - and would have, if he were not a Malfoy and thus more composed than that. Did that infernal child have absolutely no self-control or self-preservation? It seemed not. If the tightening of the Dark Lord's jaw was anything to go by, his lord agreed with him.
"He's with me," his lord explained, icily, but with a masterful hint of boredom that just dismissed and reduced all argument against him as ridiculous. "Because I don't trust him to be left alone to his own his rather spectacular entrance only proved. He's still alive because he can prove useful to me, and it is not in your jurisdiction to question me on that. It seems you've rather lost your manners in the last thirteen years. Tut that simply won't do...perhaps a little reminder is in order?"
Despite the boredom, the Dark Lord's eyes were utterly menacing at the last, and his fingers twirled idly around his wand with a faux carelessness. Potter glanced at it, a little paler, though a stubborn set remained in his jaw.
"How did he get in here anyway?" Macnair demanded insistently, taking a step forward. "The Dark Lord is an exemplary warder." He shot him an accusing look. "And I was led to believe the Malfoy wards were better."
"Our wards are flawless," Lucius replied stiffly, eyes like a churning, frozen pool of mercury.
"The wards did exactly as they were supposed to," The Dark Lord stated. "Boy wonder here," there was a heavy mockery in his voice, "hit them and was abruptly brought back to me." He offered a tight, sarcastic smile that had more of the Death Eaters relaxing towards him again somewhat, with appreciation. "I like to keep him on a short leash."
"I'm not on your bloody leash!" Potter snarled, expression wild with fury suddenly. The Death Eaters chuckled, and the Dark Lord's grip tightened again, barely noticeably.
"Now, now pet, no need to use such foul language. Didn't your dear parents teach you better? Oh wait..."
Potter's features, previously twisted with rage and hatred, suddenly went completely and chillingly blank.
"That still doesn't explain why you're protecting him," Macnair persisted - though he was the only one, at least verbally. Though the man was the most vocal, he wasn't the greatest threat...the quiet ones still plotting and assessing in the shadows were the dangerous ones. This was just simple insubordination, irritating and casting doubt, but dealt with easily enough.
A catalyst more than a danger in itself.
"He's mine," the Dark Lord replied curtly. "I don't like people damaging my possessions."
"I'm not your-" Potter started, viciously. Voldemort hissed something again, and, surprisingly, Harry went quiet, albeit not particularly happily so.
The air was thick with an awful sort of tension, an exciting, dangerous one that thirsted for blood and pain.
"With all due respect, my lord," Macnair muttered, "he's the cause of all our suffering in the last thirteen years. He needs to be taught a lesson of the power of the dark."
"You don't believe I'm capable of giving that to him?" the Dark lord questioned, all too sweetly, with a velvet-blade of a smile. "You, perhaps, believe you are more suited to the task?"
", my lord."
"As for the cause of all your don't know the meaning of the word," their Lord's eyes were suddenly terribly, murderously dark. "What is it you've been doing in my long absence? An executioner at the Ministry? Oh, how that must have been a terrible hardship for you."
"My lord-"
"-I did not give you permission to speak."
Macnair fell silent, as the magic that had previously only cloaked their seemingly young Lord grew oppressive, swelling to fill the whole room them, just shy of suffocating in its pressure. Lucius noted Potter took the barest, subconscious step closer to the Dark Lord at that, instead of away like so many seemed to want to.
How curious...
The Dark Lord looked over to him, before pushing Potter over.
"Take him out. I'm not his baby-sitter...your son is, I believe..."
Lucius almost flinched with horror at the implications of that.
He merely nodded smoothly, taking a fierce grip on Potter's arm - though, on instinct, he was very careful not to mark or mar the boy in any way - and led him out.
He heard screaming as the door closed.
When Harry next saw Draco, his insides were a churning mixture of fear, reckless joy and guilt for the fate which could possibly be coming the young Malfoy's way.
He'd protect him from it. He swore he would.
If he was fearful, Draco looked absolutely terrified - and, beneath and stern and icy mask of composure, Lucius Malfoy did not seem any more relaxed.
He was trembling uncontrollably, lips pressed into a hard, white line. There was no retort on his lips, no witty remark or insult.
Harry almost missed it, given the consequences.
Yet...despite the failure of his escape attempt...he couldn't be too sad.
Because he had found Dobby, and though the wards had whipped back on him when the elf tried to take him through them, and his scar had blazed and burned in a white-hot agony. The next second, he'd been landing in the middle of that meeting. He ached all over from the curses that had hit him.
He didn't know what curse it was, but it was worse in pain than anything he'd ever seen - but better than the sensory deprivation spell, still. At least he'd known he was alive. At least there was something other than that terrible emptiness.
But Dobby had got through, and he had a message.
Harry had won. He may not have won the war, but whatever Riddle did to him for this...he'd won this battle.
Tom...he wasn't even sure what to think. The Slytherin Heir had undoubtedly saved his life, even though it had brought him trouble with his followers...looked after him like he'd promised. But his words had been so horrible...and yet...Harry wasn't entirely stupid.
Riddle did everything for a reason, and the deadly hostility in that room had almost been tangible, a very real threat to them both.
He was just so confused.
Riddle burst in a moment later.
Show time.
Chapter 19:
Tom strode over to him immediately, eyes blazing like infernos - yet cold, so very cold. Like a frozen sun.
Harry steeled himself as the Slytherin drew his wand out...but the heir walked straight towards Draco, who looked like he was about to start visibly sweating in terror.
Harry's eyes widened with horrified shock and realisation, and he darted forward to stand between the young Dark Lord and the blond, grabbing Draco's wrist to yank him behind him.
"It's not his fault, I tricked him, if anyone deserves punishment it's me," he said quickly, staring at Tom. The Slytherin Heir stopped just in front of him, wand digging into the hollow of Harry's throat. His mouth felt dry, but he stood his ground.
"He's a fool for being deceived in the first place," Riddle replied coldly. "I made the consequences perfectly clear to him when all this started, as I made it to you. Or perhaps you learnt nothing from the owl?"
Harry's features twisted with pain for a moment, his fists clenching furiously.
"And you're an idiot if you're thinking this is making the dark side appear appealing," he spat, back, teeth gritted. "You're also an idiot if you ever thought I was just honestly going to sit here and do nothing."
Riddle studied him, eyes dark, unrecognisable almost by the cast of shadows that smothered any possible humanity that gaze may have once held.
"You are not exempt from the rules, from punishment, Potter. Stand aside, and don't test my mercy-"
"-oh, you mean you actually have any mercy?" Harry returned, eyebrows raising. "Coulda fooled me. Don't kid yourself, only show mercy when it benefits you most to do so, which isn't mercy at all. It's manipulation."
The Slytherin's jaw hardened.
"I've shown you more mercy than you deserve, you stupid child. You do realise you would be dead now if it wasn't for my mercy? I could have let them torture you in there, and I could have you writhing on the floor trying not to scream right now. That is my mercy, Harry, and believe me you do not want it to run out."
Harry felt almost sick with fear, his heart pounding wildly in his chest, like a trapped snitch, or a bludger.
"Go on then," he dared. "And stop blaming Malfoy when I'm the one who fluffed up your meeting...and they really don't seem to chuffed with you, do they? Your followers, I mean. What's the matter, Tom, do they not like taking orders from someone who looks like a teenager?"
Riddle's expression was murderous, but oddly blank too. It was somehow more frightening than outright anger or emotion, there was just a pervasive ice and danger emanating from the young Dark Lord right now. And absolutely no mercy, no pity, kindness, or compassion.
"You willingly offer yourself up for punishment in his stead then?" that voice was too soft, too quiet. Harry resisted the urge to swallow, unable to look away, even if he had wanted to.
"Y-yes." The stammer in his voice was almost unnoticeable, but he cursed it nonetheless.
"In full memory of what I said I'd do to him?"
"Yes." Harry forced his voice to be more even this time, and glared, viciously. He could hear Draco's terrified, gasping breath behind him and feel the weight of Mr Malfoy's scrutiny appraising it, though he didn't look to try and read it.
"As you wish. Sensitivio Privatio."
Harry's eyes widened with horror as the world went black.
The boy pitched over immediately, unable to feel his own body, and Tom caught him in the same breath, scooping him up and lifting him easily over his shoulder, grip firm against the initial thrashing and twitching as Harry automatically thought to feel his body.
His gaze moved over the young Malfoy, who was staring at him - and promptly looked down with a bowed head when he found Tom's eyes, dropping to his knees. He looked about to wet himself with fear, shaking slightly.
Whilst his other followers may...doubt him, currently, though a little less in light of the lesson he'd given Macnair, he knew the Malfoy's never would.
"If you ever fail my orders again, Draco, nothing will be able to save you from my wrath, I promise you that."
He turned away sharply, and the elder Malfoy also fell to his knees, bowing his head.
"I apologise for my son's behaviour. It will not happen again, my lord. Thank you for sparing him."
"I'm not the one you should be thanking," was all he said, curtly. Because, despite his nature, he would not take credit for Harry's bravery. He couldn't help but admire that unflinching defiance and courage, as much as it mystified him.
Both Malfoy's appeared the whitish grey colour of porridge in their fright, and Tom studied them for only a moment longer, be sweeping out of the room, Harry still securely in his grip.
"I'll be in contact shortly."
Sirius' head snapped up as Severus re-entered the house, and he straightened at the Potion Master's grim expression.
Co-existence had been difficult, and they'd settled into mostly ignoring each other - eating dinner in stiff, suffocating silence that spewed hatred and unresolved resentments, and otherwise not seeing each other at all barring an exchange of news, and medical checks every now and then.
Yet, Sirius couldn't help but keep in the same room. He'd learnt not to talk, or disturb the other's work, but being alone made him feel miserable and reminded him of Azkaban.
"You have news?" he demanded, rising automatically to his feet. Snape pulled his outer cloak off and tossed it aside.
"Potter has contacted us."
Sirius' eyes widened, and he immediately waited for more, growing frustrated when Snape didn't immediately speak.
"Well?" he questioned impatiently, taking a step forward, only to step back again placatingly at the way Severus' wand hand twitched at that. He curtly dismissed it for more important matters. "What did he say? Is Harry okay? Where is he?"
"The message was delivered by the Malfoy house elf, but from what I've gathered Potter was only there visiting, and that is not his permanent location. Obviously, the elf is greatly limited in what it can tell us, considering its master, and can make no comment on Lucius' involvement in the matter...but with the return of the Dark Lord, the evidence seems conclusive. Potter is staying wherever it is that the He-who-must-not-be-named is staying."
"But what exactly did the message say?" Sirius persisted. "The house elf delivered it? Was it a letter or-?"
"A verbal message. It seems the elf and Potter have some form of history, according to Mr Weasley. It was for the Headmaster, and basically said he's still alive, living with Tom, Voldemort - apparently they're the same person, according to Professor Dumbledore, who showed us how Tom Marvolo Riddle becomes an anagram of 'I am Lord Voldemort.' Potter could give little details as to his location, outside of that it seemed to be in an isolated place, and a cottage of some sort. He didn't mention having any injuries."
"So we're essentially no closer." Sirius deflated, disappointed. "He could be anywhere! At least he's still alive and seems okay..."
"Providing the Dark Lord doesn't find out he's sending messages to the enemy then, yes, he appears okay," Snape returned tersely. Sirius grimaced, expression contorted with worry.
"Merlin, I hope the kid keeps his head down," he muttered.
Severus raised a pointed, sceptical eyebrow.
"There's always hope, I suppose," he said dryly.
Sirius sighed and crossed his fingers.
Harry nearly gasped when he felt his senses flooding back to him - an indistinguishable amount of time later.
Under that spell, a second could be eternity and he wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
He couldn't stop shaking, and immediately sat bolt upright, hands curling into fists around the soft material of - the sofa. He was on the sofa, back at the house.
He would have scrambled back away from Riddle, wide-eyed, but with there was nowhere to go unless he jumped off the back of the sofa, and, even then, it wasn't like he could leave the house.
Nor would he flee like a coward.
He forced the tension to leave his muscles, though his shoulders remained involuntarily tensed as he kept a cold gaze on the Slytherin Heir.
"How long?" he asked, jaw tight.
"Fifteen minutes," Riddle replied, and Harry's couldn't help but feel surprised. He'd expected longer. He swallowed.
"What happened to taking my spine out or whatever?"
He couldn't help but be confused by the mixed interpretations and intentions in Riddle's punishment - on one hand, sensory deprivation was starting to seriously scare him, on the other, it was far more temporary (or at least it was providing Tom didn't just hold him under the spell for the rest of his life) than having his spine snapped out.
It wasn't painful, the frightening part was that it was nothing. Maddening nothingness.
Why couldn't Tom's action ever be simple good or bad? Black or white?
It was always shadowed, with shades of grey that prevented any decisive coherency or clear-cut judgement of character.
He tightened his jaw, nails digging into his palms, nearly drawing blood.
Tom raised his brows.
"Do I look like the type of person altruistic enough to care for a cripple?" the young Dark Lord replied. "You'd be dreadfully dull company to me, and of no use to my plans, if all you could do was lie there."
If Harry was brave enough, insane enough, that would have sparked an idea for freedom - and indeed it did, but not one he was quite self-destructive enough to ever carry out.
"Altruistic?" he questioned, hating how stupid he felt, among other things. Tom paused for a second.
"Altruism is when you show selfless care and concern for others," the Slytherin explained. "If you see it in the dictionary or thesaurus, it will have Tom Riddle as an antonym - an opposite example and definition."
Harry snorted, despite himself, at that. He was still shaking, and he wished he could stop. All the colours around him seemed more vivid, all noises louder than before. He could definitely feel blood on his palms now, from where his nails were digging into the skin.
Tom shifted from where he'd been crouched on the sofa in front of him, and Harry couldn't help but jerk at the movement, as if to flinch away, instinctively. If the Slytherin noticed, which knowing him he probably did, the bastard saw far too much, he ignored it and didn't react, settling on the sofa next to him and making a slight gesture of invitation that Harry could come closer if he wanted to, and thus combat the lingering isolation of the curse.
He didn't, staying somewhat frozen, hunching further into his end of the sofa and the pillows instead, curling in on himself.
Riddle settled down without pushing. His expression promptly turned icy and hard again.
"Do the consequences of your actions today comprehend to you even a little bit?" The Dark Lord's voice was soft, deadly.
Harry's gaze shot to him with a greater focus.
"Consequences?" He didn't like the lingering faintness to his voice, the croakiness, to his voice -it made him wonder what the hell he'd said under the sensory deprivation spell.
"There's a reason I kept you out of their way, Potter."
Potter, again - a sign of murderous annoyance, coldness, even if the other's tone was calm and restrained. He seemed too calm.
"Yeah, I did notice they wanted me dead. Kinda why I stuck up for you...more or less," Harry returned flatly. "I'm not entirely stupid."
"And to think it could have been avoided if you'd behaved," Riddle said sharply. Harry scowled, eyes flashing.
"I did tell you I wasn't going to stop fighting you, you git, or what, did you think that was only under your terms so you could-"
"There is a very distinct difference between fighting me here and fighting me out there you moron!"Riddle snarled, lunging forwards. Harry just about managed to not shrink back, jaw and fists clenched, ready to attack if he had to, guarded and wary.
Hands clamped on his shoulders like iron vices, and the part of him that wasn't angry and defensive couldn't help but take comfort from the solid sensation of touch. He tried to ignore that, and the fact that part of his mind was starting to link Tom with that comfort, because Tom was always around after the deprivation and the fierceness of his touch felt the same both times.
"It wasn't just you, it was both of us," Riddle continued, voice a hiss. "Imagine sharks circling the water, waiting for just one drop of blood to strike and you have the world that I live in, hero. Weakness is not tolerated, vulnerability is preyed upon and you - stupid child - provided them with an opportunity to both. You had no way of defending yourself-"
"-Because you took my wand," Harry growled, eyes narrowed. Riddle slapped his face, sharply, causing Harry's eyes to widen with shock as he stared, frozen once more.
Riddle stared him down for a moment, ruthless and unpitying, before continuing once more.
"You now come across as my weakness, regardless of any truth in the matter, because you forced me to step in and protect you because you screwed up. It suggests I care about you, to them. Maybe sabotage was your intention, though I daresay escape was the more likely objective, but I don't think you realise what happens when the balance is tipped in the circles I walk in - which you now walk in, whether willingly or not. It is bloodshed, and power struggles and anarchy. If the current leader is not up to scratch, a new one is found. Tell me, Harry, which do you prefer, honestly, being left with me, the devil you know, or with one of them?"
Harry's throat suddenly felt thick. He hadn't actually considered all the consequences, the ramifications, he'd thought destabilising Tom's influence and power was a good thing, a smart sabotage that freed him...but if not Tom, who did genuinely seem to be protecting and looking after him to some extent, then who?
He'd sort of learnt how to deal with Tom, if he the majority of the time he hated...someone else meant a whole new monster, and whole new set of rules and board game.
"I didn't do it on purpose," he muttered. Riddle's grip loosened just a fraction.
"You can start walking with me, or you can walk alone; because I'm not letting you go anytime soon. Maybe you should think about that," Tom said, in that chillingly soft voice, standing up.
Harry was quiet, only speaking again when Tom reached the door, heart just about slowing down from the spell.
"But I'm not your weakness, so it doesn't matter, right? It's their mistake."
Tom turned around, looked at him for a moment, before simply shutting the door behind him.
Chapter 20:
Four days had passed since the Malfoy Manor incident, and Harry was starting to feel on edge again because he hadn't heard anything about a rescue attempt. Dumbledore had got his message, hadn't he? Harry had nothing to prove it, but blind hope that he'd succeeded.
He was slowly starting to lose all hope, not just the blind kind.
Life here after - what had it even been now? He realised with some horror that at some point he'd completely and dangerously lost count of the days of his imprisonment - after however long it had been, had settled once more into a routine.
Tom worked, on whatever it was that he worked on; world domination probably, whilst Harry made his way through the books the other gave him for several hours every morning, and even - to his shock - wrote essays for the Slytherin Heir. At first, he'd refused, because he may have been kidnapped it was still the summer holidays.
Then he'd remembered quickly how boring it was here, and how, really, he needed to learn and absorb as much as he could if he wanted to even the footing between himself and the young Dark Lord.
To his credit, Riddle always had the papers back to him by the next morning to go over, correcting anything he'd done wrong with surprisingly helpful and interesting remarks about whatever topic - quite often darker - was on the cards that day.
He'd never really been one for Academic learning, but Tom seemed in a better mood when he did well and really, he didn't like getting that withering you-are-stupid-look of disappointment either.
Not that he needed Tom to define his self-worth or anything, but, well...he was doing the work, so it was nice to get actual useful feedback. At Hogwarts, there had always been things to distract him - here, not so much.
That wasn't to say it was all work, Tom could sometimes be coaxed into playing board games with him in the evenings if he'd had a good day, chess more often than other games - though he knew he was no challenge whatsoever for the elder boy.
Harry was debating bringing up the topic of cooking; simply for some more control over the daily schedule, and because he'd grown to rather like cooking during his time with the Dursleys. He didn't, because it seemed like a concession to their routine, a promise of some weird sort of commitment to this situation and surrender, which left a bad taste in his mouth.
He still wanted someone to rescue him though, and he would still never waste the opportunity to try and escape but...Tom wasn't as bad to live with as he'd initially been. Of course, they still argued and pissed each other off more than was probably healthy...and what the hell? He'd been kidnapped, none of this was healthy.
His brain felt muddled. He was starting to seriously wonder if he was in danger of developing Stockholm Syndrome, what with the fact he had no one else to talk to, Riddle being happy made things easier for him and Riddle in turn looked after him reasonably well.
Certainly, he felt sick to think it, was actually better than the Dursley's. Riddle punished him, but there was always a reason behind it and Riddle always explained that reason too. There were clear emerging boundaries and rules...
And he was not thinking about this anymore.
Absolutely not.
Dumbledore had better bloody well come soon.
Harry turned around, surprised to find Tom seeking him out at this time - it was normally heavy working hours. He tensed a little, despite himself.
"Do you know what the Order of the Phoenix is?"
And now he couldn't help but feel stupid, and stared blankly.
"Should I...?" he questioned. Tom studied him for a moment.
"Tell me," Harry insisted. "And why did you think I'd kn-" Harry paused, suddenly breathless. "They're to do with the light side, aren't they?" he asked. He tried to keep the excitement at bay, but couldn't help but bounce after the other when the young Dark Lord left the room again. "Has something happened?"
He tried to remain innocent.
Tom spun sharply, abruptly, causing Harry to nearly walk smack into him, and then promptly shrink back at the distinct danger in Riddle's gaze.
"Do you know something, Potter?"
Harry shook his head very quickly.
"No, I swear..."
"But would you continue to do so under Veritaserum - truth potion?" Tom near purred. Harry's throat suddenly felt thick, and Riddle smiled coldly. "Watch yourself, child. You just told me all I need to know - who are the Order of the Phoenix?"
And Harry suddenly felt like he could breathe again.
" don't know?"
"You do?" Tom raised his brows, looking sceptical - probably because of how blank he looked earlier, probably because Harry didn't have a clue what or who the Order of the Phoenix were. He just thought of Fawkes, Dumbledore's bird. The other's expression still looked menacing. "By all means, speak up Harry."
"...what do I get in return?"
"I don't curse you," Tom said flatly. But this time, though Harry's gaze grew shadowed, he stood his ground.
"Yeah you would, if you were in a bad mood. Or you'd just curse me some other time and lie that it was for something else," he returned, jaw hardening. Tom stared at him for a moment, looking truly speechless. Harry considered it an accomplishment.
"...what do you want to know?"
"I want you to keep me informed on what's going on with my friends and the lightside."
Tom was silent for a moment, attention growing sharper as he considered, before he raised his own brows, a smirk curling his lips.
"And will you tell me everything that goes on with your friends and the lightside?"
Harry realised he was being mocked, but Tom's eyes, jarringly, held a hint of gravity too. His jaw clenched.
"That's two things, you'd have to give me another concession for that. Like letting me go so I actually had a clue what the lightside was doing to be able to spy for you, Voldemort."
He regretted the words as soon as they slipped past his mouth, especially at the sudden gleam in Tom's eyes. It was...ominous, to say the least. And yet...would he do it, if it meant freedom and having his life back? He could get Dumbledore to help him a double agent.
...and then Tom started to laugh.
"Maybe when you're older, hero. I don't think Dumbledore trusts twelve year olds."
"I'm almost thirteen," Harry protested automatically.. And merlin, what the hell was he doing!? This was betrayal if Tom took the offer seriously! For a second, he teetered rather alarmingly about making it a serious offer, in exchange for some level of freedom, before that too died on his tongue and nestled rancidly in his stomach with horror. "That's a joke, by the way, I'm not ever going to be on your side against the light."
Tom still looked frighteningly pleased though, before he seemed to revert to topic.
"Who are the Order of the Phoenix?"
"Will you give me information on the light side and my friends in return?" Harry questioned, raising his brows, pushing. Tom looked at him for a moment, before smirking.
Harry's brow furrowed.
"Then I won't tell you," he said after a moment, stubbornly, turning away.
"Yes you will," Tom replied simply. "You don't have a choice. Prisoner, remember? You have no rights to speak of. "
And Harry suddenly felt very cold again. It was as if someone had cracked a raw egg against the back of his neck, for now a slimy chill was working it's uncomfortable way down his spine.
"Screw you," he said quietly. "Take it out of my mind then - whatever - but you're not getting it from me." He finished in a growl, shaking his head, laughing without humour. "I don't even know who this stupid Order are anyway, and I hope you never find out either, you insufferable git."
"Language." The other's tone was infuriatingly calm, almost amused. It made Harry's teeth grit furiously. There were so many things that he hated about this situation, however much it could seem dangerously tolerable at times, or at least endurable, but most of all he hated how messed up and confused the whole thing made him.
It was supposed to be clear cut, black and white, light and dark with no shadows in between.
But it wasn't.
It was grey. It was far too grey, and he loathed it - and Tom most of all. There seemed no rhyme or reason to the other's actions, to the nuances of his mood, except when the Slytherin Heir was explaining himself. Then he could make everything seem so clear again, so black and white and simple even when it was anything but and the whole thing was still completely grey.
His fists clenched, nails digging into his palms, drawing blood.
"Don't you dare correct my language," he snarled. "Don't you even dare-!"
Why wasn't Tom negotiating? He'd seemed open to it before - and now it just felt like all the rules of his new world had just been thrown upside and changed and he didn't know why.
Had he done something wrong?
He nearly froze in horror at having had that thought, yet it slipped through his mind anyway. Damn it. Of course he hadn't done something wrong...had he? Riddle was just a kidnapping lunatic!
"I'll do whatever I like, and you can't stop me," Riddle replied evenly. Harry's eyes narrowed furiously.
"Why are you being like this?!" he demanded - before nearly freezing in horror yet again. He couldn't believe that had slipped out. Tom shrugged, lightly, with a small smirk.
"Why not? My game, my rules-"
And then Harry twigged, or at least thought he did.
"And you're not in control of the game anymore. Something's happened that you don't know about. The Order, or whatever, has done something," he said gleefully. Tom's eyes darkened, and the next second, he had his wand in hand.
Harry took an involuntary, instinctual step at that, before holding his ground determinedly because there was nowhere for him to go anyway.
"There was a raid at Malfoy Manor last night," Riddle said, his tone very slow and deliberate. "It makes me curious as to what would prompt such a sudden influx of attention. Aren't you curious too, Harry?"
That voice was too light and soft to mean anything good.
"Very curious," Harry replied, making sure to keep his tone as even as possible. He could just see the pieces clicking to place far too quickly. "You'll have to fill me in sometime, but you seem awfully busy right now trying to sort it out so maybe I should leave you too it and go back to that essay you set me on, er, the basics of Dark Magic."
Harry found a wand placed against the hollow of his throat, and froze on the spot. Had Tom finally had enough of resistance? Was he going to kill him? He met the other's eyes and just couldn't look away, his heart pounding.
"I'm also curious, Harry," Tom continued in that same soft tone. "On how you arrived in my meeting room without a broomstick, if you were supposedly intending to just fly out of the wards or whatever it was that was going through that defiant little mind of yours." Tom's hand came up, as if tracing his thoughts, running through his hair. Harry resisted the urge to swallow. "You could have run, of course, but the Malfoy grounds are expansive and you weren't missing for the correct time span to allow that."
"-Which makes me wonder if you didn't have someone else with you, or some other intention, and who such an ally in Malfoy Manor would be for you, and what you would do with such an ally. Of course, having lived with you for sometime, it was an easy presumption that it would involve escape, or your old friends in some matter. Your old life."
Tom's voice was starting to take a cold, hard edge that Harry really didn't like. The wand slipped from his throat to above his heart, and the hand from his head to his throat, squeezing a little bit as Harry's hands automatically shot up to grab Tom's wrists and regain passage to his airways.
"But the thing is, Harry," Tom murmured. "YOUR OLD LIFE IS IN FUCKING PIECES."
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden shout, the swearing because he'd lived with Tom for a while now and he had never, ever, heard the other swear even when he seemed to have otherwise lost all temper and composure. "And you're not going back to it. Do you seriously think you can even if you do manage to escape?"
...and he'd never actually thought of that. Would things be the same? More or less, wouldn't they? He tugged at Tom's hand, suddenly genuinely terrified by the possessiveness the other was radiating.
He forced his voice to stay very calm, as if he were dealing with a spooked animal or something.
"Tom, I can't breathe. Let go of my throat please."
He didn't expect it to work, and it didn't entirely, but after a few moments the older boy's grip miraculously loosened.
"...thank you," he said, keeping the same measured tone of voice, and not removing his gaze away from Tom's. He felt like a bloody snake charmer or something!
"I'm starting to think I should enforce stricter rules and boundaries with you," Tom said, in an alarmingly thoughtful tone of voice. Harry blanched at the idea.
"...and you do realise that the more you do that the more I lash out back at you?" he returned. It was true though. He wetted his dry mouth. "If you let me see my friends, go out, all that stuff, have some semblance of my life back...we could work something out. And..." he drew in a deep breath. He'd thought he was joking, but he couldn't believe he was doing this. "I'll stop running away, stop trying to."
And then it felt like the word froze.

SNAKE979 发表于 2015-2-21 21:41:49

Chapter 21:
Tom stared at him for a few very long moments, expression completely blank and Harry resisted the urge to swallow, thickly. Then Riddle's head tilted, a half triumphant and half-something else entirely gleam to his countenance.
"Now this is an interesting turn of events," Tom purred - and though the elder boy wasn't moving, Harry still got the overwhelming feeling of being circled like prey. He resisted the urge to swallow, or do anything so obvious to show his discomfort.
"Are you up for negotiating on the matter or not?" he questioned coldly. "Because you should know that if you don't allow me a decent level of freedom and seeing my friends I am not going to stop trying to get away from you. Ever!"
He could practically see the cogs ticking in the other's alarmingly brilliant mind. He wasn't sure if he should take it as a good thing or a bad thing that Tom wasn't freaking out or blowing up about his surely meant he was more likely to agree to it? But then again, it also meant Tom no doubt had his own machinations and schemes whirling to ensure he benefited from this just as much if not more than Harry.
He folded his arms, a little defensively, trying to look defiant and utterly confident in his victory, ignoring the fact that he was mimicking Tom's everyday arrogant posture to accomplish that.
"What are your terms then, Harry?" Riddle sounded like he was just humouring him, but Harry could see the tells for seriousness beneath whatever nonchalant mask the other was putting up. He supposed that was one of the 'perks' of living with the psychopath; he did gain some ability to read the other and got to know some of his quirks simply because Riddle didn't bother putting on a facade for him all the time. At least not wholly. No one did that in their own home, especially not when they were convinced of their own power and position of superiority.
Still, he gave the question honest consideration, knowing he only really had one shot to do this right.
"I come back here in the evenings, the nights - unless I have your permission otherwise, and otherwise I can can come and go as I please, and do what I like...though of course, I will never bring anyone back here know, with you plotting world dominion and all that whilst my friends try and stop you. And I will stop making escape attempts to run away from you."
It was a very long shot, and he doubted Tom would agree, but he figured it was better to aim high than start too low and just have Tom agree off the bat because it was pathetically low.
The other tutted a little, shaking his head.
"You know I won't accept that, Potter," the Slytherin Heir murmured. "I amend; you can meet up with your friends several days a week, that will remain flexible mostly. You have studies that I will not let you neglect in accordance to earlier bargains."
Sometimes, Harry couldn't help but think to that stipulation, that Tom really did come across as nothing so much as a studious swot. Riddle continued.
"You will return for the evenings by 7 O Clock, unless otherwise bargained beforehand, and you can leave after 8am after you've had some breakfast because I don't want Dumbledore accusing me of starving you."
Harry blinked at that - and the fact that, so far, this deal really didn't sound too horrible, especially compared to the house arrest he'd pretty much been under before.
"You care about what Dumbledore thinks?" he questioned, raising his brows, and Tom gave him a flat expression for being interrupted during his deal-making.
"I want to rule the Wizarding world, I'm not going to give them unnecessary ammo against me," the Slytherin Heir returned. "Speaking of, you will not aid the light side, if we make this deal."
"I'm not joining the dark side!" Harry protested.
"Didn't say you had to, just said you couldn't help the light."
"How about I don't help either side and observe, give them both fair judgment until an agreed date where I choose?" Harry proposed, carefully, hoping Tom would go for that...because he didn't want to be denied the chance to help his friends, or to fight against Voldemort if he attacked them. "I won't work against them, but...I know you're not going to let me leave here to pass information on, so I promise I won't do that either. I'll be grey for now."
Tom seemed to consider him, thoughtfully.
"Okay. You can meet up with your friends three days a week, unless specifically bargained beforehand for some sort of special occasion for which you will may seek my permission to attend. You will return back here every evening without exception, by 7pm, and never bring anyone with you. You will not leave on these days before 8am, or if you're not awake then, until you've had breakfast. You will not aid either side of this war, and certainly not betray information or my trust with your light side friends. You will no longer make escape attempts, and resign yourself to living with me. Do we have an accord?"
Harry's mouth felt dry, as he thought warily over the terms and conditions. It seemed...reasonable.
"I want to reserve the right to renegotiate at a later date. I refuse to have an 7pm curfew for the rest of my life."
Tom suddenly smiled very brightly at that, and Harry cursed as he realised the implication that he was resigning life over to these sorts of agreements and - and he wasn't going to think about that now. He'd start panicking when he needed to concentrate on this bargain.
"Agreed," the other said softly. Harry swallowed, before nodding.
"Agreed," he murmured. Tom held out a hand, grasping his without hesitation, and Harry felt a jolt of magic run through him. His eyes widened.
"...what was that?"
"I made our oath magically binding. More than just words of honour."
"...well that's good, seeing as you have no honour," Harry said, before he could stop himself. Tom stared at him for a moment, before starting to laugh, patting his head in a somewhat condescending way as if he was a pet puppy which had just performed a good trick. He scowled.
"Go and do your essay, Harry. We will speak more later."
Tom sounded pleased. Very pleased. If Harry could see the wicked smirk on Tom's lips as the other turned away, he would have been seriously worried about just how pleased Riddle was.
Instead, he felt euphoric with a regained sense of semi-freedom for the first time in too long.
This was a good day.
And Tom really wasn't that unreasonable.
...except...well...he shouldn't have had to bargain for the basic human right of freedom in the first place?
Tom tapped his quill absently against his lip, eyes still gleaming from the events of the day.
Harry was starting to resign himself to this life, and that could only be good - and his 'lenience' could only favour him to Harry more. Especially because he knew Dumbledore would try and tighten his hold on the boy in panic, in contrast.
Harry loved freedom, he wasn't willing going to give it up for anyone; the little soldier act was shattered forever, because he'd sparked something, negotiation, trying to get the best out a situation for yourself and actually thinking and not taking things for granted or just assuming they had to be a certain way.
Oh, he'd have to be careful that it didn't backfire on him, Harry could be wild and untamed to everyone else but rely on Tom him, and that would just be perfect. The best thing would be that Harry just willingly started spending time with him, instead of with his friends.
He had to be the more interesting option, the better option and...well, he highly doubted the light side would be willing to answer all of the boy's questions, like he would, and it wasn't difficult to tell that despite being academically lazy Harry was extremely curious of the world around, and bright enough. Brighter than he played across, at any rate, though not to Tom's standard of intelligent - but barely anyone was.
He had it all planned out in his head, hooks layered up carefully so that he himself wouldn't be implicated, as well as a way of endearing himself to Harry more. It was going to go flawlessly. With all luck, Harry would start to rely on him a lot more than too, and grow more suspicious of the light side...of who he could also manipulate in this case.
He was so very good at faking emotions. Dumbledore would be suspicious, but he was sure at least some of them would warm to him, though he doubted they'd like him. Yet...they were waiting on the Voldemort that the old man depicted, but he would cast himself in a different role.
It would be an interesting psychological study at any rate, and he'd always loved playing games with people.
But the main objective was still Harry, though there were other perks.
He arranged himself a little meeting with McNair and some other's he'd identified as troublesome.
Now, he believed, he needed to talk to Severus Snape.
He grabbed his cloak. It was Spinner's end, wasn't it?
Chapter 22:
Severus Snape was starting to get truly sick of his doorbell ringing this summer.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate good company, it was just that good company tended to be largely lacking and he enjoyed his solitude and peace too.
Living with the mutt, and with everything going on, this summer had thus far been anything but the holiday he desperately needed. At this rate, he was going to be back to dunderheads and snivelling First Years and students without any recuperation period at all.
But it seemed likely that Potter wouldn't be there.
Summer was beginning to draw to close, and the boy still hadn't been found.
It wasn't looking good...not that he cared about the child...but...well...who knew what Lily's boy was being subjected to at the hands of the Dark Lord? If he was even alive at all?
He assumed he was, with the letter, and the Dark Lord was tracking the Potter investigation, but...
He should get the door. Maybe there was news. Improvement. An excuse to boot the mutt out.
A teenager.
Perhaps if he hadn't learnt to be so cautious, he would have sneered and asked the youth what he was doing and tell him that he had the wrong door.
Something stopped him.
It was just as well.
"Ah, Severus...may I come in?"
There was an edge to the tone that suggested it really wasn't a question. He studied the teenager closely.
" I know you?"
"Lucius didn't mention me?"
The smile that followed was like a shard of glass. It wasn't the smile that bothered him - it was the eyes. Ruthless beyond measure, darker than even his own, icy. Dangerous. He kept his features composed with well practised ease.
" lord?"
"Very good, Severus. Be a dear and put the kettle on."
And the Dark Lord promptly swept into his house.
He shut the door quietly, wondering when Lord Voldemort started calling anyone 'dear' in any given context. He hoped Black had the good sense to stay put upstairs, hidden, perhaps in his mutt form for good measure.
His insides churned with unease. He put the kettle on as the Dark Lord studied his house all too casually. His hands remained perfectly still and smooth. He wasn't certain if he should ask what the wanted or not, and in the end he figured it was better to let his 'master' take the lead. Except...
"How do you take your tea, my lord?"
This was utterly absurd. Maybe he'd died and gone to hell.
"Sugar, no milk."
He tried to guess how much sugar, but put in one as the Dark Lord didn't specify. It was easier to add more than to remove too much. He set it down with a clink, sitting on the table opposite.
He really did look like a teenager, a nineteen year old perhaps, maybe even younger.
Snape took a sip of his own tea, keeping his movements deliberately slow and smooth. The silence stretched uncomfortably, as the Dark Lord appraised him, expression revealing nothing. Was he supposed to say something?
"You are close to Dumbledore, correct?" the other started, after a while. Severus didn't allow his grip to tighten on his cup, though he carefully set it down into its saucer.
"Reasonably, my lord. After you vanished-"
"-Spare me the excuses. You are a Potion's Master, I assume you possess Veritaserum."
Bile wanted to claw up his throat.
"Yes, my lord."
"Fetch it for me."
He got up obediently, not sure what else he could do - he probably should have lied and said he didn't have any in stock at the moment, stall. Except he couldn't afford to be seen as anything other than loyal.
Black gave him a look as they crossed paths upstairs, wide-eyed.
'Who is it?' the man mouthed. Snape held up his left arm in answer, pointedly, and all of the colour drained from the mutt's features. 'Voldemort?' the other mouthed, in horrified confirmation. He nodded sharply, jaw tight and lips a white line of stress and tension. He didn't wait to see what else Black had to say, hoping he wouldn't do anything stupid.
He returned with the Veritaserum and put it on the table between them, reaching for his tea again.
"Wait." His hand froze in place, and the Dark Lord uncorked the bottle and poured three drops into his tea, eyes not leaving his own. "Drink."
He felt sick.
He drank.
"Who are you more loyal to, Dumbledore or myself?"
"I am loyal to Lily." It slipped past without his permission, and he hated it, feeling like he could freeze up inside. His hand closed around his wand, and the next second the Dark Lord had his wand pressed up against his his wand. Potter's wand?!
"Lily?" those eyes were dark, intent. "Lily who?"
"Lily Evans..."
"Who is Lily Evans?"
But that question made no sense? Surely the Dark Lord must know?"
"A girl."
"I gathered that," the man bit out. "Would I know her?"
"You killed her."
"I've killed a lot of people. Which one was she and why did I kill her?"
He could feel disgust boiling in his blood, with confusion even more so.
"Lily Potter," he said, as if that explained everything. The Dark Lord went still, expression clearing, head tilting.
"I have her son."
He said nothing, heart pounding wildly in his chest, fingers still clenched around his wand. Was it worth drawing? "Her son is...unharmed. I take it you wish for it to remain so?"
His blood curdled.
"...yes, my lord."
"Then you will do as I tell you. He will suffer the consequences of your betrayals or disobedience."
Snape could feel everything crumbling and he despised it. All that he worked for...he should never have taken the Veritaserum...this shouldn't be happening. Potter was a child! He shouldn't ever have to be subjected to this, regardless of his father.
"Yes, my lord." His voice was barely audible.
"Tell me everything you know about the Order of the Phoenix and their plans."
Tom could honestly say he hadn't expected this turn of events...but, well...Severus Snape had been too calm around him, and if he was going to entrust him with Harry then all the necessary precautions and more had to be taken.
He leant back in his chair, confident he could fend off the man's attacks.
"Calm yourself, Severus," he practically purred as the other finished. "I won't be murdering you just yet. I think you will still be useful, if not more useful now, for the purpose I came to you for."
"Anything you need, my lord..." the man murmured. He had to admit Snape was impressively composed, not begging or crawling at his fit in such an undignified manner. It actually reminded him of Harry, a little bit. Same will power - though he was sure Potter would hate the comparison.
It was easy to connect the dots now he knew of Lily Evans, as much as he didn't understand the depth of sentiment involved, he'd seen such things before.
"I will be semi-returning Potter to the Light side, occasionally, the why's of such an arrangement are none of your concern and you will not discuss them. He will have several days a week in which he can see his old friends, and will return to me at 7 in the evening. I need you to ensure this happens and to keep an eye on him. You are no doubt already familiar with his attitude and habit of getting himself in trouble."
"Yes, my lord."
He could just tell that this really wasn't what Snape expected; but he'd never cared for anyone's expectations but his own anyway.
"You will also keep me informed on the Light side, and you will confer with me before their meetings on what you're allowed to report back, is that understood?"
"Yes my lord."
"And you will take a Wizard's Oath on the stipulations of tonight."
"...yes my lord."
"Very good. I'm so glad we got that settled." He smiled again, enjoying the tension positively radiating off the esteemed Potion's Master. "Outside of this special task, you will resume your previous duties in my cause."
"My skills are at your disposal, as always."
"I know," he purred. He really wanted to push Snape off the edge of his discomfort, watch that stony composure unravel as he squirmed. "Is there anything else you wish to get off your chest?"
The man's eyes didn't move from him, and maybe that calm stillness was a tell in itself, because it so had nothing to hide. It was flawless. He never trusted perfect things, preferring flaws and damage as much as he strived for greatness and pushed his followers to exceeding their abilities and despised their failures.
"No, my lord."
"Very good. Any questions?"
He dared Snape to have the audacity to ask, eyes gleaming, just waiting for provocation.
"...what exactly are your plans for Potter?"
He actually asked. He supposed his Potion's Master thought he had nothing to lose now the ambivalence of his loyalty was revealed. He supposed under his older self's regime, such a thing was all that mattered. He had no doubt his counterpart far exceeding him in experience and thus magical ability at the moment, but he was also certain he was more capable of charismatic manipulation and reasoned choices. It was a balancing act. Their personality was fragmented.
Voldemort was power. He was intelligence and charm. He wasn't certain about the bits in between.
"That is none of your concern."
He played with the wand in his hand, pointedly. He knew Snape had more to say, locked behind his tunnelish eyes, but the man was a Slytherin enough to keep it to himself.
He'd missed that. Potter didn't seem to have that inhibition really, though it was endearing at times, it was also irritating. Sometimes he thought Harry needed a lesson in respect rather severely.
But that was coming up.
"...yes, my lord. I apologise."
He could tell the Potion's Master was curious about his resurrection, about so many things, he just wasn't one to indulge his inferiors so idly.
"I don't need to warn you again of the consequences of displeasing me, Severus. Pray you remain useful to me and have yet to perform any finite action of treachery, for it is the only guarantee of my mercy."
"I will not disappoint you," the other said, calmly. Always so calm. Tom lunged suddenly, closer, hands slamming across the table. Snape's shoulders went rigid, eyes flickering just a little bit. He grinned, twistedly, with a tinge of deliberately expressed madness just to watch the man's nostrils flare and pinch with unease.
"Lovely," he murmured, mockingly, standing. "Thank you for the tea. It's been a pleasure. Who is your house guest?"
As if he wouldn't be able to sense the presence of another person in the house, he could practically smell them, hear the smallest shifts in rooms upstairs.
"...that's my dog, my lord. I locked him upstairs so he doesn't jump you upon arrival, having heard the door."
Tom raised his brows.
"I never took you as someone would have a pet, and certainly not a dog. They're too much like children."
"It was a stray I couldn't get rid of my lord."
"Show me." His voice was cold again, and he delighted in the way the mood swing unsettled his follower, even if his irritation was truly present.
"Yes, my lord. I'll bring him down."
"No, I do believe I'll come with you, Severus. You're not exactly the most trustworthy of people, are you?"
He stood up gracefully, and strode towards the noise, keeping Snape in front of him.
Harry was right. He really was rather greasy; though he assumed that was the Potion's fumes.
There was a dog on the bed, large, black, and shaggy.
Harry would like it, seeing as he didn't have an owl anymore. It was his birthday very soon, now. And he might stop moping about the bloody owl.
...something was off though, he just couldn't put his finger on what. His eyes narrowed. The dog's hackles bristled as it growled at him. No collar. There was something wrong with the mutt.
"What's it called?"
"The dog, my lord?"
Snape was stalling.
"No, your hair," he sneered. "Yes, of course the dog."
He needed to spend less time around 12/13 year old Gryffindors, however mature they were for their age.
Snape looked startled for a second, looking at him carefully. He stared the man down, letting his magic flare a little in reminder that he was still a powerful Dark Lord. It would be so much easier if he got his hands on an aging potion and changed his appearance. Something more intimidating...except he didn't particularly want to be ugly either. Handsomeness certainly had its advantages too.
"I just call him the mutt. Didn't bother naming it."
Definitely not a 'pet' person, therefore, this dog made no sense. He strode closer to it.
"My lord-" Snape began, as if warning. He lunged the same time the dog did, grabbing it tightly by the scruff of the neck and slamming the large thing back as it lunged at him, snarling, crushing his foot into its ribs. Snarls slowly began to turn to whimpers. He conjured a muzzle around its jaws, and a collar and lead around its neck.
Snape was staring.
"I'll be taking him with me. Unless you have any objections."
There was a pause. The dog whined in the silence.
"No my lord. No objection."
"I'll be taking my leave then. Expect to hear from me soon...try not to do anything...Gryffindorish, hm?"
Spinner's End returned to silence.
Chapter 23:
Harry looked up as Tom entered the house again.
He didn't like to think that he'd waited up when he noticed the other had disappeared, and he wouldn't exactly call it waiting for Riddle either like some puppy or stay-at-home housewife (and to be honest, both of those thoughts disturbed him beyond measure).
No, if anything, he was only waiting because if the Slytherin died he'd be stuck here to rot and never get out. And probably go mad.
He nonetheless did a double take when he actually saw the elder. And the dog. A big, black, shaggy run down looking dog. He frowned a little at the muzzle.
"You have a dog," he said, sitting up from the sofa.
"You should be in bed," Tom returned, raising his brows.
"You have a dog."
"You already said that, Potter. I definitely think you're sleep deprived if any modicum of intelligence you possessed has dwindled into repeated statements."
Harry scowled, but nonetheless came closer, surveying the dog. He noticed Tom's grip growing tighter on the collar.
"Careful, he-" the other began.
Harry knelt down, patting the dog and stroking it as it whined, panted, happily, sniffing him and pushing against him. He felt a wide grin split his lips.
"He's so cute! Where did you get him? Is he for me? Can I can keep him? I can keep him right?"
Tom was staring at the dog, eyes narrowed.
"It tried to bite me."
"Good doggie!" Harry smirked, only lavishing the dog with more affection. It seemed sweet to him, licking him playfully. "Clearly it has good taste in companions. Seems to like me well enough."
"Indeed," Riddle murmured curtly. "Try and train it not to growl and snap me then...assuming you don't want me to put it down?"
Harry looked up sharply at that, his shoulders stiffening, his hands tightening in the dog's fur.
"It's probably just protecting itself, you can't hate it for that," he said quietly, a little pointedly. Tom seemed to resist rolling his eyes, for such things weren't becoming for a future dictator.
"And I'm just protecting myself when I lash back and muzzle the damn thing."
The dog growled a little, causing Riddle to give it a discerning glance again. Harry went back to petting it, trying to soothe it.
"What's he called? Or is it a she?"
"He. And he doesn't have a name - mutt."
"Can I name him?" he asked, hopefully.
"If you have to. It's your dog, I have no interest in looking after the damn thing."
Harry's throat suddenly felt thick. He'd always wanted a pet dog, something friendly - man's best friend and all that. And Tom had got him a dog. The link between the loss of Hedwig and the gaining of the dog wasn't hard to miss, and though Hedwig's death was all Riddle's bloody fault, a soft smile curled his lips anyway. It was probably the nearest thing to an apology that the young Dark Lord gave.
"Thank you," he murmured.
"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," Riddle replied, a little too flatly.
"Can I take the muzzle off?" he asked, after a moment. Tom approached silently, kneeling next to him, and the dog got between them, pressing its flanks against Harry's side. Riddle's head tilted to the side a little, as he reached out and ran fingers through the dog's further. It's hackles bristled a little, but it ultimately stayed still.
"In a day or two," the other said, after some consideration. "Once the mutt's settled."
"You can't just call it the mutt. Where did you even get it from?"
"What are you going to name it then?" Tom returned, not answering the question.
"It's male, right?"
"I'm not an expert on dog's. I assume so."
Harry studied the dog, feeling more content with life than he had in a while - and too honest, that thought terrified him just a little bit. He wasn't supposed to adapt and find some measure of happiness in being kidnapped, it wasn't right.
Riddle was supposed to be a black and white bastard, torture him, and then he'd defeat him and escape. Everything was too scrambled now, with the night and the fire burning low and his belly full of food as he sat next to the Slytherin with a large dog sprawling across his knees.
He swallowed, thinking.
Well, he'd named Hedwig after a witch in his History of Magic book, it seemed fitting to choose the dog's name as carefully. He wetted his lips.
Not Lassie, that was corny, and this dog was black. Snowy, Tintin's dog was out for the same reason - and he wanted more of a unique name anyway. He was almost tempted to call it Fluffy, in honour of Hagrid. Timmy, from the Famous Five?
"Timmy," he muttered. Riddle scoffed.
"Oh no no, you are not calling any dog in my house Timmy."
"Why not? It's a good dog's name."
"From a muggle children's book!"
"You do realise that implies that you've read it?" Harry returned, raising his brows. "And your dislike of the name is doing nothing to make me less likely to call him Timmy."
"Timmy is a horrible name. Pick something more classy and original. It's almost as bad as Toto."
"Well, what would you call it then if you're so good at naming dogs?" Harry bit out, rolling his eyes. "It's my dog anyway. If you had your way, you'd call it Pavlov."
Riddle gave him a blank look.
"Why would I call it Pavlov?"
Harry blinked.
" know, Pavlov's dog? Conditioning experiments? I suppose you were stuck in a diary for a very long time. You should get with the times, Tom. Might come in handy."
Riddle shot him a dark look.
The dog's head shot up, and Harry paused, looking at it.
"Sirius?" he repeated, thinking. "Isn't that the dog star?"
"Yes," Tom confirmed, a strange look in his eyes. Harry studied the dog for a moment.
"Do you like Sirius, boy?"
It just butted him in the arm again, paws scraping at its muzzle, before it promptly caught sight of its own tail and started chasing it. Not as clever as Hedwig then - but he doubted any other animal companion would be.
Sirius was alright though.
"Okay, Sirius, then. I still like Timmy though."
"You're not calling it Timmy."
Tom's eyes were carefully on the dog. Sirius was still chasing his tail. Harry's grin faded a little.
"What is it?" he asked, quietly. Something was up. Riddle shook his head.
"It's nothing."
"It's something."
"Take your dog and go to sleep. Let's hope he doesn't live up to his namesake."
"...his namesake?" Harry asked, suddenly almost nervous. Tom straightened and looked down at him, an almost dark gleam in his eyes, smirk on his lips.
"Sirius Black. Mass murderer who killed twelve muggles and betrayed your parents to Voldemort. Recently escaped from Azkaban. Didn't I tell you? It's all over the papers"
Harry suddenly felt like he was going to be sick. Bile clawed up his throat and the colour fled from his features
"Screw you, I'm calling him Timmy," he growled, fists clenching. "Sirius is a horrible name! Come on Tim." He patted his leg, trying to get the dog to follow him, ignoring Riddle, jaw tight.
"Goodnight Harry!" the Dark Lord called.
Harry scowled and didn't reply.
The dog followed.
Had he said almost content?
Sirius didn't know what to do.
He'd found Harry, but...he still felt so lost. He couldn't leave the boy alone with...he couldn't believe that was Voldemort, and yet it so obviously was too.
He expected to find Harry in some ratty cage, and he could immediately rescue and everything would go smoothly, he'd be redeemed for his lack of presence and they could maybe start a family.
He couldn't afford to do anything.
He'd see the way 'Tom' looked at him, suspiciously, consideringly, and he was pretty sure the Dark Lord could tell something was different or off with him.
He had to concentrate on acting the part of a dog, so he could be close enough to protect Harry...and yet, there was only so much he could do as the boy's pet.
But being his pet dog was better than not being in his life at all.
He'd have to find some way to reveal himself, and then he could find a way to get out of there...except, he'd seen the way Riddle introduced him, and the horror on Harry's face.
He highly doubted he'd get a chance to explain, and, excruciatingly, his godson didn't know him and was more likely to scream out to Riddle if he suddenly transformed into a man.
He was on Harry's bed now, curled up protectively around the child.
He looked so much like James, he just wanted to whine, but for those emerald eyes. Lily's eyes. He could almost pretend too, but Harry couldn't afford delusions right now. He needed someone to look after him, because despite the unexpected and odd dynamic between James and Lily's child and Voldemort, he doubted 'Tom' would be doing any protecting.
Why had Voldemort even got him for Harry? Trying to convert him? Probably.
The boy was perfect in every possible way, and he didn't seem too messed up.
He just wished the muzzle would be off, so he could lick the child and snuffle against his more, comfort him in his uneasy dreams.
His ears pricked as the door open, and he lifted his head, eyes fixed on the door.
The Dark Lord beckoned, and that made him more nervous than anything else. He gave a huff, and let his head doggishly drop back onto Harry's chest, tail twitching a little.
"Sirius Black. You don't want to do this in front of the boy, do you?"
He considered ignoring it, because if he agreed there was absolutely no going back. He slunk off the bed and followed. Voldemort shut the door to Harry's room quietly behind him.
"Change," the man ordered. Could he pretend to be a Death Eater?
He didn't transform, looking up at the dark wizard. "I said change," Voldemort ordered icily. "I don't like repeating myself, so don't test me, mutt."
He changed, and the muzzle slid off, and the next second a wand was at his throat.
"Start explaining. You rather gave yourself away with your reactions. Don't bother telling me you're a Death Eater, I know you're not marked, and Snape would never allow the man who betrayed...Lily in his house knowingly."
He started talking.
Tom didn't waver his gaze, searching through the man's head viciously, not caring if it hurt, as the other talked. He had decent Occlumency shields, but he tore through them as if they were butter in violent intent.
Well, this was an interesting development. He would have to make sure the man didn't attempt to muscle in and wasn't a bad influence on Harry, and wouldn't sway him to the Light Side, but...
"Hold out your left arm."
"You're not marking me," the man growled, like his canine counterpart. Tom raised his brows. "I'm not a traitor! I despise you, you pathetic bastard, you'll be destroyed! Dumbledore will-"
"Oh...I must have mistaken your desire to look after Harry then. It's just that you seemed quite attached to your godson in your earlier narrative."
The ex-convict went completely still, his skin turning a greenish hue as his teeth gritted. His throat bobbed. Tom knew what he'd do though - it was just another example of how sentiment and caring was the worst mistake that a man could make, a terrible weakness.
Harry was a gem though; he'd gained two new recruits and a more accurate security system for his young charge in the space of an hour. He knew it was a good idea to keep the boy.
Black held out his arm.
Of course he did, for his best friend's son.
The man cried out in pain, falling to his knees, clutching his smoking left arm, at the same time he cast a silencing charm. Black offered him a look of unspoken loathing when he finally stopped whimpering.
To be honest, he didn't care though. He didn't give a damn if Black liked him or not, so long as he obeyed and fulfilled his purpose for being alive - served.
"You will do everything as I say, and you can stay in his life. You will not reveal yourself to him. You will be his dog and protect him. Don't try and help him escape, he is under oath. If you displease me, I'll have you neutered and punish him for your transgressions. Am I making myself clear?"
He left no room for argument, and Black nodded reluctantly, face an odd shade of puce, shoulders shaking with rage.
"Excellent. Switch and go to bed now. Don't think about trying anything remember, at the moment, Harry's more attached to me than he is to you." Especially as he didn't know the truth of Black's story, and assumed him a traitor, the reason his parents were dead.
The mutt entered the room again.
All in all, this was a bloody perfect day, and things were progressing very nicely.
He'd be able to let the boy see his old friends soon, once he had all bases covered.
But did Black really think he wouldn't notice? He'd rather given him away with his human reaction to his name. He hadn't been sure then, and it had more been a throwaway comment, offhand...what could he say? His instincts were impeccable.
Severus would have to be punished for attempting to keep secrets from him, of course.
And maybe that tied into his current master plan for Harry very well too.
Only a week to go now.
Chapter 24:
Harry couldn't believe it was actually happening.
Tom had organised everything; he was finally seeing his friends again! He also had a band on his wrist that would 'apparate' him back. Apparating was like teleporting apparently, and just sounded really cool.
If he was still trying to escape, he would definitely have learnt and tried it...though Tom seemed to have followed his thought pattern because he then went on to oh-so-casually talk about how if you apparated wrong you would get 'splinched', which was basically being ripped into pieces and leaving body parts behind. Harry rather liked having all of his limbs intact, thank you very much.
He hadn't been able to sleep the night before, jittering with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Tom's eyes had followed him as he fidgeted agitatedly at the dinner table, was up every five minutes to get water or go to the loo or whatever after he went to bed, with the dog at his heels.
In the end, Riddle had got fed up, pretty much shoved tea down his throat...he personally suspected it had some kind of Sleeping or Calming Draft spiked in, and then ordered him to go back to bed and to sleep or he'd be strapped down like a mental patient.
He'd managed to get maybe six hours of sleep, and then he was up as soon as he could around six O clock in the morning. He didn't even think Tom was awake or in his study. He crept around and found himself breakfast, put the tea on for Riddle somewhat automatically and made a cup of coffee for himself to wake him up.
By the time it was five to eight, he was utterly restless again and Tom still hadn't come down. Where was he? He did have to be down, Harry couldn't get out without him.
Five past eight, and he started to think this was all a horrible trick. He stopped hesitantly outside the study, knocking lightly, and then a bit more firmly - and finally trying the door for himself. It was locked.
He didn't think Riddle was in there.
He glanced at the Dark Lord's bedroom, insides twisting all the more. Could he? Tom's room seemed completely and unequivocally off limits to him, even if the other had never actually said anything on the matter.
But it was time to go.
Well, there was no point dithering about, he was just wasting time.
He clenched and jutted his jaw, throwing his shoulders back, steeling himself. Then he marched for the door and knocked sharply...because, well, even now he wasn't just going to walk in like Riddle had no problem doing with his room.
The Slytherin could be getting changed or something!
"The door's not locked," came the floating call. Harry stiffened. His mouth felt a little dry...but he wanted to go and see his friends.
He pushed the door open.
Riddle's room was surprisingly similar to his own, except a bit more lavish.
The sheets on the bed were obviously from a very expensive With white and then a deep green duvet. The floor was a dark, polished wood and there was an elegant carved wardrobe and another desk. Bookshelves too, shelves filled with all sorts of things.
Riddle was sitting at the desk, mercifully full of dress. He'd never seen the other dressed in his pajamas or boxers or whatever, regardless of the fact that they lived long had it been now? It frightened him a little that he'd lost track.
"It's past eight," he said, a little tetchily. "You can't have forgotten, I kept you up half the night going on about it."
Tom smirked a little, standing up and pushing his book aside to go smoothly out the door.
"Come along then. I was merely curious to see how long it would take you to ask for yourself when you really wanted something. Normally it takes you a while to work up to it. Ten minutes isn't so bad for you."
Harry gaped, eyes narrowing a little.
"Don't ruin my good mood, Tom. Or I'll trash your room."
Riddle shot him a suddenly serious look, magic starting to flicker, reminding him again that this was the Dark Lord he was dealing with...a man who had kidnapped him.
"You don't ever enter my bedroom without my explicit permission, do you understand me?"
"...yes," Harry ground out. He didn't want to be in Tom's room anyway, it just felt weird. "So long as you stay out of my room then."
"Accepted it as your own now have we?" Tom said lightly, smirking again.
"You're still being annoying," Harry growled, pointedly, ignoring the question. Riddle just chuckled, grabbing his coat and slipping his shoes. Then he held out a hand, waggling his fingers in an indication that Harry should take them.
The dog whined and Harry regarded Tom dubiously.
"...why do I need to hold your hand?" he asked distastefully. "I'm almost thirteen! I'm not holding the Dark Lord's hand like a child."
Tom blinked, seeming far too amused by that response.
"Another form of apparation. Or would you prefer to leave your hand behind? That could make for an awkward reunion, they'd wonder what I did to you and then you'd have to explain what an idiot you are."
Harry scowled and took Tom's hand. They stepped out the house and Riddle yanked him close.
They disappeared with a crack.
Potter and the Dark Lord arrived directly into his house, as agreed, and he couldn't say he was happy about any of it.
And that wasn't even taking into consideration what the brat would spread about his friends with his friends. He managed to stop himself from sneering, and wasn't sure if the patheticness of Potter immediately staggering after his first side-along apparation trying not to retch made him lose the battle or more sympathetic.
His face felt frozen in place, he dared not slip in front of the 'teenager' at Potter's side. Voldemort grabbed the boy's arm to steady him, studying him for a moment, eyes glittering with amusement.
"Thanks for the pre-warning," he heard Potter mutter darkly. "Really. You're so kind. Is it always like that?"
"It gets better. At least you still have all your limbs."
"Just as well you chose being a psychotic mass murderer as your life path, you'd make a horrible councillor or whatever."
"Always look on the bright side of life, Harry."
Snape couldn't take it anymore, and stepped outside, clearing his throat.
"My lord," he murmured. Potter abruptly froze, expression starting to twist unpleasantly.
"What the hell is Snape doing here?" he demanded.
"Professor Snape," Severus corrected, before he could quite stop himself. Potter mixed with the Dark Lord's presence was definitely a very bad combination. In his absence, he'd forgotten how annoying and unlike Lily the insufferable brat was.
Riddle placed a hand lightly - warningly - on Potter's shoulder for a moment.
"Severus will be keeping an eye on you. Nothing intrusive, I'm sure, and he'll take you to meet your friends."
"Aren't you coming?" Potter asked; thoughtlessly, as always! How was the child still even alive?
"I don't tend to get on too well with the Light side," The Dark Lord replied dryly. Potter at least was smart enough to flush when he caught up with his mistake and words.
"Yeah, well, you love gloating so it was an easy presumption that you'd want to rub Dumbledore's nose in," the boy muttered.
Snape couldn't help but notice the words did have some logic to them, some reasoning. But he was loathe to think the Dark Lord could have a good influence on the child, or, even more unnervingly, an influence at all.
Potter shouldn't be around such people this young, he was too impressionable. Lord Voldemort simply tightened his grip on the boy's shoulder and steered the child over to him.
He was even more unnerved that Harry didn't bolt at the touch, or in anyway flinch from it or act like it was unusual...though he supposed he couldn't have been tortured if he wasn't flinching away. That was a good thing. The boy eyed him with a mistrustful expression, and there was a rather horrible irony to that considering the wizard at his shoulder.
"I don't need to tell you to look after him, Severus," the Dark Lord warned, features darkening with menace and voice turning far colder. Potter glanced back at the man.
"I can look after myself, you know," he muttered. "I gave you my word and that oathy-thing, I'm not going to break it."
"Yes, that's exactly how you managed to avoid getting kidnapped in the first place," Lord Voldemort said, too lightly, a bit dryly even. Potter scowled and huffed, stepping away and onto his side of some sort of invisible order.
"Can we go now then...professor?" he demanded impatiently, eyes starting to glow a bit. "I want to see the Weasley's...are...are they okay?"
"We'll see you at seven O clock, my lord," Snape merely murmured, gesturing for Potter to take his arm, thinking it best not to grab under the Dark Lord's intent scrutiny.
They soon vanished.
Harry landed on the ground again, staggering once more, feeling bile claw up his throat.
It still wasn't getting better, this horrid apparation thing. He felt like he'd been squeezed through a straw.
"HARRY!" his head shot up at the shout of his name, but the next second he was surrounded by red and he was being crushed. It took him a few moment's to realise it was Ron, and a grin started to creep across his face. Then the redhead stepped back, flushing to the tips of his ears, clapping his arm in a gruff manner, eyes suspiciously wet. "Good to have you back, mate...thought we'd lost you."
Harry swallowed at the thick lump in his throat.
"I'm sorry about Ginny," he whispered
Ron's eyes widened a little, but the next second he was surrounded by Weasleys, and then other people he didn't recognise so well. Snape lurked in the background like an overgrown bat.
Mrs Weasley pulled him close and hugged him too, and he was a bit overwhelmed by the fact she was sobbing too. His insides churned, and the twins made overly cheerful jokes and clapped him simultaneously around his shoulders.
He wanted to ask why they didn't hate him because of Ginny. It was his fault. He couldn't save her.
His mouth felt dry, and he was bustled into the house.
"You're probably starving, you poor thing. We can't let you go back to him," she said, voice turning icy as she talked about Tom. They all started glaring a bit, actually, at 'him'.
It would have been easier if he didn't feel so utterly uncomfortable with it. He wanted to say something, but he didn't know what.
"It's not so bad," he muttered. "He let me come here and all. Where's Hermione?" he froze. "She is okay, isn't she? They got the mandrakes-?"
"She's fine," Ron grinned more genuinely. "She's with her parents. Worried about you though."
"We all were," Mrs Weasley sniffed. "What would you like to eat? Does he-"
"He feeds me fine, Mrs Weasley," Harry felt he should say, earnestly. "Better than the Dursleys."
He should stop. They were all suddenly staring at him as if he'd grown a second head.
"He kidnapped you," Mr Weasley said firmly. "That's inexcusable." There was a slight pallor to his suddenly so much older face.
"And he killed Ginny!" Ron said fiercely. It was suddenly far too silent, the air heavy. Harry wetted his lips.
Tom just wanted to escape the nothingness; it wasn't right, but he could understand why the Slytherin had done it all too quickly. He balled his fists in his lap.
"Yeah, he's a git," he murmured, obligingly, hearing agreement ring around him. The support should have made him feel happy...was wasn't he happy? He shouldn't be feeling guilty! Tom was a total bastard, and he insulted the other in his head or even to his face all the time.
But this felt different.
He heard a light cough.
"I'm sorry to break up this reunion...but I would like to talk to Harry for a few moments?"
"Ah-ah yes of course," Mrs Weasley sounded flustered. Harry turned in his chair to see Dumbledore standing neatly in the doorway, kindly smile on his face, hands tucked neatly behind his back. "You can use the living room headmaster."
Harry got up without being told and followed the old man into the room.
"Sit down, Harry - lemon drop?" Dumbledore gestured for the sofa. He sat down on the edge of it and shook his head.
"No thank you, sir," he muttered.
"Severus has filled me in on the conditions of," Dumbledore continued. "Seven O Clock?"
"Yes sir," Harry said quietly.
"Do you want to go back?"
"It doesn't matter if I do or don't. I gave him my word and my oath that I would," he replied.
"Of course," Dumbledore murmured, appeasingly. "But it would hardly be your fault if somebody prevented you from fulfilling that oath. You're only just beginning your third year, you could hardly be expected to math fully grown wizards and witches."
Harry stared for a few seconds, his eyes narrowing. He could feel something coiling in his gut, almost feral.
"What are you trying to, professor?" he asked, too calmly.
"I'm saying, my dear boy, that you do not have to go back to Lord Voldemort's captivity any more."
Harry swallowed, his head spinning a little.
"...sir, kidnapping me wouldn't make you better than him. I'm going back. I said I would."
"There's no dishonour in escaping imprisonment-" Dumbledore began.
"He's not that bad, really."
Now Dumbledore was staring at him too, expression almost blank, yet not quite, something else entirely.
"Harry, I understand that Tom can be a very charming young man, but-"
"I think he's lonely," Harry bit out, maybe something challenging in his voice. Dumbledore sighed wearily, sounding as if the weight of the world was in his shoulders.
"Do you know what a psychopath is?"
"Yes. Tom told me, he's one, isn't he? Very low levels of remorse or empathy, tendencies towards violence."
The Headmaster seemed surprised for a moment, hands still in his lap.
"Psychopaths don't get lonely, they just manipulate the people around them. Like Miss Weasley, I don't want the same thing to happen to you. He doesn't care about you...Harry, is it possible that-"
"-I don't have Stockholm Syndrome."
Dumbledore looked surprised for a second time.
"Is this another thing Voldemort told you?"
"He joked about it. I looked it up," Harry offered. Dumbledore was watching him quietly, studying him, appearing to draw conclusions and rework his approach.
"Well, you know the option is there, don't you?" the Headmaster said softly. "I will do everything in my power to get you free of him."
"Funny, so far I've had to help myself." He didn't know what made him say it, so coolly, so much like Tom, so bitterly. He instantly felt bad...but it was true. He was here through his own bargaining skills and talents and not because the Headmaster had found and rescued him. He'd had to save and help himself, rely on himself. He bit his lip. "I'd like to go back to see my friends now, professor."
Dumbledore nodded after a moment, smiling.
"Of course, I'm sorry to waste your time. I understand that there are probably stipulations against you telling us anything too detailed about your location or situation, my boy?"
"Please be careful, Harry," the Headmaster stated, as he'd turned for the door, pulling it open. "Lord Voldemort can be very charming and...persuasive, when he wants to be. Don't let him monopolize your opinions. He is not someone you can rely on, he will always care about himself more than anyone else. He is not a nice person."
Harry was silent for, wetting his lips again. His stomach was still aching. He'd thought all this would be different, less awkward, a seamless slip back into the way things used to be for a couple of hours.
It wasn't. Not at all.
The thought made him feel sick.
He glanced behind him. Dumbledore was still sitting on the armchair, face more lined than he thought he'd seen it before. He was obviously trying not to look worried, but there were some hints there.
"No, he's not," he agreed. "But maybe...maybe he's not as completely horrible as you think he is either? I don't know."
"I'll talk with you again, soon, Harry. Go and see your friends."
Harry shut the living room door.
Chapter 25:
Albus Dumbledore couldn't help but be very concerned.
He knew, of course, that there would be some effect on Harry - one couldn't go through an ordeal such as the boy had and not change and adapt to it.
He was just worried about what Harry was adapting into.
He knew some didn't understand why he hadn't pushed back more, now that he had the opportunity...Severus certainly didn't, of those old enough to know and understand such things.
But Tom Riddle was subtle, charismatic, and he knew the Dark Lord would have painted a manipulative picture of him the second he could, and would continue to do so. He rather prized himself on his own intelligence, and wasn't stupid enough to think Riddle wasn't the primary influence on Harry's thoughts and world view and character judgements at the moment. He lived with the boy, had control over him.
He had to be very careful not to shove whatever balance the two had managed to find, because he knew Harry would be the one to suffer for it. Whilst sacrifices were regrettably necessary in war, he preferred to not make unnecessary ones if he could avoid it.
He couldn't push too hard right now, because he knew Riddle would be driving his plans forward at full tilt even if he didn't know them all, sliding his pieces across the board and around Harry to tie the boy in knots and whatever position was desired.
Riddle clearly misjudged how much Harry would lash out at that, how much the boy was good and true and kind. Maybe Tom could find grips there, indeed, he was certain he had and would by the way Harry was reacting, defending the Dark wizard. But Harry was good. He sided with the good, and though he believed in the goodness and morality of the light cause himself, he wasn't so naive as to think they weren't all human in the end, if only one looked close enough.
Goodness was never one thing or another, it was more subjective than that. Harry would do what he thought was right, if he could, and defend the innocent.
Manipulating the boy was going to end very, very badly for Tom Riddle, when such things came to light. Harry would feel betrayed...and then he would come back to the light side for advice. He needed Tom to slip up, and then he could offer his own counsel, when Harry was angry, or scared.
He needed to be gentle. He need to be careful. He needed to be clever.
And this was not over yet.
He suspected Severus had been compromised somehow, due to his behaviour, but because of said compromising position he could find no way to prove it. That thought was only proven in how Snape was acting as the link between Voldemort and them - Tom wouldn't entrust Harry with him if he didn't have some form of security.
No, he would have to be careful around Severus for now too, and explore alternate means. He was quite certain he had a few bargaining points, and had a letter that he would get Harry to deliver to his new housemate.
After all, if you had a piece in enemy territory that held allegiance to you, it was only stupid not to use it to greater effect before withdrawing it.
Maybe this would even prove to be a good thing, in the end.
Harry sat down next to Ron again, wishing Hermione was here too. She would have been able to make sense of all of this, she was smart.
"Can we get Hermione?" he asked around. There was a hesitation around the room, and his brow furrowed. "...she is okay, isn't she? You all said she was okay?!" He could feel his fists starting to clench as he felt agitated.
"We thought it best to take this more slowly, Potter," Severus stated, from the door, a strange glint to his eyes. Ron was looking around, a little confused.
"Why can't Hermione come? You always said she could come here before."
"This isn't before," Mrs Weasley mumbled, regretfully. Harry wetted his lips.
"...and why's that?" he growled. He could feel a black mood growing in the pit of his stomach. This was supposed to be a good, happy day - a perfect reunion where he could just be with his friends. "We can go somewhere else if you don't want her-"
"-She's a muggleborn, you stupid child!" Snape snapped. Harry glared back, standing up from his chair.
"I'm not stupid!" he snapped. "What the hell does her being a muggleborn matter? What, you think because I live with Tom I suddenly believe in Blood Purism or something?"
"Who's Tom?" Fred and George asked in unison. Harry blinked, momentarily startled out of his anger.
"...Tom. Tom Riddle." Their expression's darkened. "You know, diary Voldemort."
Their expressions were definitely dark now. He shouldn't have brought up the diary, though he had no clue what had happened to it. ", does someone want to fill me in on what I've missed?"
"I'm sorry Harry." That was Dumbledore's voice again, and he whipped around, flushed with anger. "But I don't think that's a good idea. You live with Tom, and whilst I fully believe you wouldn't ever willingly betray your friends, Voldemort is very talented in this...magic which allows him to read your mind."
"You mean Legilimency?"
" know about Legilimency?" Snape questioned slowly. Dumbledore's expression was neutral. Harry was starting to wonder, uncomfortably, if he should just keep his mouth shut so he could see Hermione or play Wizard's Chess with Ron in peace.
"...Tom told me about it," he said.
"Tom's been telling you a lot of things it seems." That was Percy. Harry could feel his shoulders hunching in defensively, eyes narrowing.
"You try bloody well being kidnapped and have no one else to talk to and see if you just ignore him. Never mind that he's liable to throw a temper tantrum if I pretend he doesn't know I exist - believe me, I tried. Not so fun when I don't have a wand and he's a powerful dark lord and a magical genius." His chest was heaving as he finished his rant.
And he was getting really sick of them staring at him like this. All of the colour had drained out of their faces too. He felt terrible, gut churning. He resisted the urge to apologise.
"What, you mean you get on with him?" Fred and George asked. "You do know what's he done?"
Ginny's name hung heavily, suffocatingly, on the air and Mrs Weasley's eyes began to look a little red. Harry swallowed thickly.
"Ginny got on with him too," he said, barely audibly. He instantly regretted that too, and sighed, even as they all shifted strangely. It was so - difficult - to explain. "I know he's not a nice person, and I'm definitely not on his side, he's a bastard. He killed Ginny, and Hedwig, and I know he would kill many other people if he thought it was necessary...but he's not horrible all of the time either. He's...just human, and yeah, sometiimes I get on with him. Often I don't. It's like living with people in dorms though, when you live with someone all the time you kind of have to stop fighting so much every second of the day because it's too tiring."
"And are you tired of fighting him, Harry?" Dumbledore asked softly, a glint in his eyes. Harry bit his lip, hands twisting.
"Like I said, I'm not on his side. I hate Voldemort and what he does, and to be honest the Death Eaters didn't particularly make a good first impression either, not in the least because most of them wanted me dead and tried to throw a -" what was the spell again? "-y'know, the torture one, at me. Cruciatus!"
The adults blanched, whilst the younger Weasley's looked confused. Yeah, he should definitely stop talking now. Trying to explain just made things worse, and he didn't want to worry them.
"Anyway," he continued. "I'm fine. Why does all this mean Hermione can't come here? You think Tom will get information out of me, cause of Legilimency? And what...attack her because she's muggleborn?"
"We think it's best not to keep you too informed, just for now, giving your situation - for your sake as well as ours," Dumbledore said quietly. Harry's insides clenched with a hot rage, frustrated, but he did understand. He still wanted to see if Hermione was okay though.
Obviously he wasn't going to be told much of what had been happening.
"Can't you just teach me the mind shieldy thing?" he asked. "Occ-I can't think of the word. The opposite of legilimency?"
"Wow, you sound like Hermione coming out with all this stuff," Ron mumbled. "Have you just been studying and stuff?"
"Occlumency?" Snape questioned simultaneously, eyes widening barely perceptively. "The Dark Lord told you about Occlumency?"
"Not exactly. But he has a lot of books around his house," Harry replied to the Potion's Master. "Some of them are really creepy." He shuddered a bit. "And yeah...I've been studying," he rubbed the back of his head, sheepishly, feeling uncomfortable. By now, he knew better than to even dream of mentioning Dark Arts and Tom's perspective on them. It was like trying to argue for muggle rights with Riddle, he just hit a brick wall.
He really didn't want to talk about Tom anymore.
"...can we go back to chess and exploding snap now?" he asked quietly, shoulders only hunching further.
"Or we could play Quidditch in the garden," Ron offered, watching him, giving him a smile, even if it wasn't quite as bright as normal. "Must have been a while since you last flew."
"We have your Nimbus for you," Fred - or was it George? - added. "Just keeping it safe."
Harry bounded to his feet, immediately feeling happier and lighter...even if he carefully neglected to mention Malfoy Manor. That hadn't been proper flying anyway, he'd been too preoccupied, and ten minutes wasn't enough. He felt a grin spread across his face and he, Ron and the twins headed towards the door.
"-one more thing, Harry," Dumbledore requested, softly. "Then you can go and play with your friends, I'm sorry to impose on your free time like this."
Harry ground to a reluctant halt, a bad feeling in his gut.
"Professor?" he questioned.
The man handed him a letter.
"Give that to Tom, please and...has he been teaching you the Dark Arts at all?"
Harry's shoulders stiffened a little.
"How could he when I don't have a wand?" he asked, even though that really didn't answer anything at all. Most of their expressions cleared, assuming that meant a resounding no. Snape's expression didn't change, gaze piercing into his skin, and Dumbledore remained neutral.
He went to go play Quidditch.
Harry arrived back at Snape's house with maybe a minute to spare.
After the first part, things had smoothened out - but maybe that was because unlike personalities and words, Quidditch never changed.
It still had been a bit of a downer that Hermione wasn't there though, he'd thought she may be able to unravel the knots he'd managed to twist himself into. She was good with feelings and all that stuff, wasn't she? And he couldn't feel she was okay until he'd seen for himself.
It seemed an age since he'd seen her.
Seeing Ron had been great though; his best friend was more subdued than before, but the relief with which they saw each other again was...touching. And the other had asked him if he was 'really okay', and he could tell Ron, and the twins, meant it when they asked him.
In the end he'd said he was 'managing', because he felt bad lying when they looked at him so earnestly.
It was...okay. He supposed he shouldn't have expected it to be better than that.
Riddle arrived at 7 O clock on the dot, and he was handed over again.
There had been a kid near Privet Drive, called Ben, who'd parents got divorced and they ended up having joint custody over him. He suddenly felt like Ben - or, at least, how he imagined Ben felt, when he was passed around.
He'd never figured out if they loved Ben so much that they both really wanted him, or if they didn't care enough and so kept swapping.
He felt Riddle's gaze sweep over him, and said nothing, merely walking over calmly.
"Same time tomorrow I assume," Tom said to Snape.
He had the next three days, for his three days this week, with the Light Side.
He wondered if Riddle was trying to be nice with that, in his own way, or if he was just shoving Harry there because he was planning something evil, or because he was trying to overwhelm him somehow to make sure he didn't want to go back by emphasising the differences.
He wouldn't let it work, either way.
Soon, he was back on shockingly-familiar ground, back in the house.
He missed flying and the wind in his hair already, and the company of his friends...but in a way, he couldn't help but uncomfortably note that he wasn't uneasy here either.
It was different, and he didn't like feeling trapped...but nothing in particular seemed to be expecting from him. Riddle had already seen him screaming at him, trashing the room, swearing, generally on bad behaviour already.
There was pressure...but it was different. He'd yet to figure out what the difference was, but his gut was churning again and thoughts on acceptance drifted intangibly at the edge of his thoughts.
"Good day?" Tom questioned, lightly.
"Yes," Harry said, determinedly, because he wouldn't give the Dark Lord the satisfaction of it being anything but. "It was great. We played Quidditch."
"I can just feel your IQ dropping," Riddle said dryly. Harry's jaw clenched mutinously.
"Just because you're probably crap at flying, doesn't make it stupid," he replied. "It just means you suck at it."
"I'm going to presume suck in this case is a slang for being bad at something," Tom stated. "Except that can't be right, because I'm flawless, and thus, I suck at nothing."
Harry figured he was joking, but wasn't entirely sure - the Slytherin was probably narcissistic enough to say that honestly.
"Oh I don't know, you spend a ridiculous time in the bathroom and on your appearance. I'm pretty sure you would suck at something."
Tom blinked, staring at several long moments.
"...are you implying that you think I'm homosexual?"
Harry just smirked, hoping to rile the other up, though in all honesty he didn't know.
"Funny how you would leap to that conclusion. Defensive?"
"Says the twelve year old," Riddle returned, raising his brows. "Yes, I'm sure you know so much about it when your own sexuality is non existent."
Harry's nose wrinkled, and Riddle seemed to be trying not to roll his eyes.
"I'm not gay, Potter," the other stated. "You're thinking of Dumbledore."
Harry spluttered. He didn't actually want to talk about this, and the name gave him the perfect distraction.
"Oh. Yeah, he told me to give you this." He handed the letter open, and vowed, just as it was best he kept Tom out the conversation with his friends and Dumbledore, to not bring up the Light Side with Tom, or any conversations he had there. "It's enquiring about my attending Hogwarts when the summer ends."
Riddle raised his brow.
"It's rude to read other people's mail."
"I'm not an owl. Besides, it's about me. You can't tell me that you expected me not to read it, even if Dumbledore did."
"Hmm, Dumbledore still seems to be under the impression you're capable of obedience for obedience's sake. And what if the letter had a tracking charm and you bought it here?"
"Not everyone is as dishonourable as you," Harry bit out. He could feel his Quidditch-fuelled good mood sagging again, and he hated it, because nothing should have been able to ruin the day too much. And there had been no mention of Ginny, and he hadn't known how to approach the topic and it was all just bundled...
Here, he was cut off from the world and it was often lonely...but he also wasn't required to deal with the tricky bits, shielded from it in a way. He didn't know.
"I'd have thought you would be happier after seeing your friends again," Tom murmured, and maybe something about the words riled him up.
"I thought I'd be happier too," he stated. "Did you know it would be...weird, when you agreed to the deal? I think you did."
"People change. I speculated," Riddle said honestly. "It was still your request though, I certainly didn't turn you loose on them. So what did they do?" The other grinned all too sharply. "Did you defend me?"
Harry's fists clenched furiously.
"As if I would, you're an insufferable git."
Tom's head tilted to the other side, and he looked far too curious for Harry's liking. Thankfully, he didn't say anything further on the matter.
"How's Ginny?"
Harry blinked, shoulders stiffening, bile clawing up his throat.
"What do you mean how's Ginny? You killed her!"
"Did I really?" Tom returned lightly. Harry's brow furrowed.
"...yeah. She was /dying/, I saw her!"
"Did you see her die? She's still around...indisposed, but...conscious."
Harry noted the odd wording, an uneasy feeling in his gut. Why would Tom say conscious and not alive?
"Tom-" he began.
"I'm hungry, are you cooking dinner or am I?"
"You can cook, I'm curious to see if you're actually any good. You eye up my kitchen utensils enough. Don't bother stealing the knives, I have them counted. Call me when it's done, I still have stuff to take care of. And feed Sirius."
And Riddle promptly walked upstairs.
Harry honestly couldn't decide if Dumbledore was more infuriating with his secrets and plans, or if Tom was. He glowered at the ceiling.
"...he's called Timmy," he muttered darkly, even though he knew Riddle couldn't hear. The dog whined, staring at him, with sad eyes. Harry sighed, tugging a hand through his hair, squatting down and ruffling Sir-Timmy's fur. "I wish you could talk. Reckon you'd have any advice?"
The dog whined again, placing two paws on his knees and semi-headbutting/nudging him in the shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah I think I should spike Tom's shampoo so he has to rule the Death Eaters with pink hair too," Harry said solemnly, making up the conversation. "Great idea. Hermione wouldn't approve though. But I'm hungry, so food first..has Tom brought you dog food yet?"
Then he remembered Timmy couldn't reply, and sighed again, getting up and heading to the kitchen.
It was just as well he actually liked cooking. It calmed him down.
Tomorrow he'd look into the Ginny thing. And trying to see Hermione.
...this would work out. He knew it would.
It had to.
Chapter 26:
"Tom...can I go and see Hermione instead?"
Harry didn't know what made it come out of his mouth at breakfast next morning, and he couldn't decide if he wished he could snatch it back or not.
Riddle glanced up at him, raising his brows briefly.
"Your mudblood friend? Do you know where she lives?"
"Er..." Harry paused. "I could write her a letter? And then just make my own way there? I do actually know my way around the muggle world, and I don't need a chaperone." He waved his hand. "I have your bracelet thingy."
Tom studied him for a moment.
"She lives near London. Her parents are dental practitioners in the more suburban area," the young Dark Lord stated. Harry blinked.
"'s really creepy that you know that I don't, just saying. Really creepy," he said.
"Murder takes time and effort," Tom replied lightly. Harry was up out of his chair in a second, lunging, red-faced, eyes wild.
"Don't you dare touch her, you bastard!"
Riddle just laughed, grunting as Harry's fist connected as he caught hold of him, but the other only spun him into a psuedo embrace, mocking, ruffling his hair.
"It's like watching a kitten think it's a tiger," the Slytherin Heir purred. "So adorably vicious in such a sickeningly heroic way...I haven't done anything to the mudblood, relax. I'm just winding you up."
Harry gaped, struggling out of the hold, pointing an accusing finger at Tom, eyes narrowed.
"You don't wind people up by telling them that you're going to murder their best friends. That's sick!" he growled.
Tom still appeared far too amused, lip curled slightly.
"You should be nicer to me, seeing as I know where she lives and, thus, could drop you off."
Harry froze, staring at the other.
"I don't want you near her, them, muggles," he stated flatly.
"Tough, I need to fill them in on the rules," Tom shrugged. "Grab your coat, let's go surprise them. You don't have to stay there, but I'm busy today so I need to find you a babysitter and this works as well as anything else. Besides, it might stop you looking like someone killed your pet, oh, oops...ignore that joke." The other smirked.
Harry eyed him suspiciously.
"You're in a very good mood this morning. Cracking twisted jokes and all. Has there been a world disaster or something?"
It was so depressing that he didn't even mean the last part as a joke.
"Am I not allowed to be in a pleasant mood now?" Tom returned, a little too lightly, eyes suddenly darkening. "Perhaps you would prefer me to be miserable?"
Harry swallowed.
" Happy is good, I guess, I just don't want you to have murdered a bunch of people," he said, jutting his jaw out defiantly. "Or tortured them."
"Just as well for you that I don't make a habit of bringing my work home," Riddle smirked. Harry scowled.
"Really? And there was me thinking you kidnapping me was you taking your work home," he retorted, a little acidly.
"No," Riddle's smirk broadened, not exactly nice anymore. "That was me adopting a pet. I don't know where Nagini - she's my snake - got to, you see."
Harry flushed, furiously, fists clenching all over again.
"You're an arse. I'm not a pet!"
"We've had this discussion before," Tom dismissed.
Harry couldn't help but absolutely loathe the ache of hurt in his chest, the feeling of complete and utter insignificance.
"Just because you're not fucking human doesn't mean I'm not!" he snarled. Riddle froze then, turning to look at him then, with that most frightening intentness, searing straight through his skin and carving through muscles like butter to jab at whatever was innermost, compressed in the bad taste in his mouth and the churn of his stomach.
"Excuse me?" the Slytherin questioned delicately.
Harry gritted his teeth.
"I'm human. I'm not a pet, or some sort of mindless animal you can tote around."
"Oh, no, you misunderstand me," Riddle grinned, though it was more a baring of teeth. "I don't find being human a good thing. I fully understand that you're human, there was never a question of that. You're so human that it's painful because you could be so much more than that. And don't swear, next time, I'll wash your mouth out."
"That's stupid. You can't be more than a human when you're a human," Harry muttered, staring at his shoes. "Unless you become, like, spiderman, and even then you're still human, human. Still human."
It was too early in the morning for this.
"You can become an idea," Tom countered. "The greatest idea, a figurehead, a symbol, and thus become more than human, immortalised."
"I never knew you were so idealistic," Harry said, looking up again, honestly a bit surprised by the words.
"I'm a visionary, Harry, whether you agree with the vision I dream or not. Everyone who wants to change the world is a visionary, and the best of those become something greater than human because they push the limits to be more than what is allotted to them. Immortal. I think you are too, you just haven't realised it yet and so hold yourself back, out of fear of what people think of you and because you're desperate to be accepted."
"...can I go to Hermione's now?"
Tom rolled his eyes.
Sophia Granger liked to think she and her husband were used to unusual happenings.
Hermione had always been a bright, bookish child - much like her father - but that didn't mean her favourite book floating down off the top of the cupboard wasn't strange, when she'd been told to go to sleep and it had been placed there to prevent her from reading beneath the cupboards.
It didn't stop all the lights in the house going on after a nightmare, or any number of small, strange things. It didn't stop things smashing when she was particularly angry, or hurt or scared.
It had mystified them both, and, in the end, the Hogwarts letter had been a relief. It hadn't been the easiest thing to accept, to have her daughter never doing the things she had done, not going to University in the same way, shipped off to a boarding school where they'd barely seen her.
Magic denied rationality, but it was evidently there, and it was...amazing, the things Hermione could do. She'd flourished there, found friends, and that was all she and William could ask for her.
She was less happy when she found out what happened at that magic school, with all the dangers, the risks - it made her want to keep Hermione away and never send her back, in case she didn't come back at all next time.
They could nothing to protect or shield her when she was there, in that world that they could only know stories about.
But Hermione was happy there.
She heard the doorbell ring; and pulled it open just as she was heading out to the clinic, blinking at the young boys she was greeted with. Brothers? Wait...wasn't that-?
"'re Harry Potter." She was amazed her voice remained calm.
"Don't even think about calling the cops, or contacting anyone about it," the elder stated, an unmistakable edge of warning and danger in his tone. "Where's your daughter?"
What was going on here? She stiffened a little bit, clutching her bag tighter.
"I just want to see her, see if she's okay!" Harry said, earnestly. "No harm or anything."
"You were missing." Her eyes moved over the elder teen again. Those eyes were far older than his young sdult appearance, icy too. Her insides twisted. She could scream, but they had magic..."did he-?"
"Yes, I'm the reason he's missing. No, you do not want to get in my way, muggle. Harry wanted to see his friends, it's a complicated arrangement between us, one I wouldn't expect you to understand. I'll pick him up again at seven. He can stay with your-
There was a rush of bushy brown hair, so much like her own at that age, and then Harry's eyes had widened as he was nearly knocked off his feet, staggering back several steps, and then grinning so hard it was almost painful to see, hugging his daughter back.
"Hermione," he mumbled. "Good to see you. You're alright?"
"I'm fine-what about you? What happened to you? I was so worried, Ron's been keeping me updated-he said he saw you yesterday, is it true that you're living with-" she stopped, suddenly staring at Tom. The colour drained from her face, and she wetted her lips, but stared him down bravely.
"You're him."
It wasn't a question.
"Correct, Miss Granger. I'll pick Harry up at seven. Stay out trouble. Harry - stay of trouble, I mean it this time."
To her utmost amazement, the young boy rolled his eyes, shifting impatiently from foot to foot.
"Yup, be good, got it. Back at you, try not to start a war, that would make dinner awkward."
"Nice to know where your priorities lie, golden boy."
Then the older boy...dark wizard? Kidnapper? disappeared.
She was very used to strange things happening, but this had to be one of the strangest.
She ushered Harry in numbly before going to phone her husband.
Harry sat on Hermione's desk chair, a near empty cup of tea cradled in his hands as they studied each other.
He was suddenly aware that he'd never been in Hermione's home or bedroom before. The walls were a light blue, there were two big over-stuffed bookcases. It was neat, with all her magic belongings integrating without fuss with muggle fiction novels and encyclopedias. There was a CD player, with lots of CDs. The desk stared out of a large window into a small garden.
It was a nice house, with more character than the Dursleys, but less chaos than the Weasleys.
"What's it with him?" Hermione asked, softly, in the lull in their conversation. "You two didn't...seem too unhappy with each other."
Harry was quiet for a moment so, considering how to answer, suddenly hyper-aware that he would never really be able to have this conversation with Ron, not after everything that had happened with Ginny.
"He's...okay. We're alright. It's not perfect, definitely not, and sometimes...he's very moody, and strict, in his way. Cruel sometimes...he killed Hedwig, you know."
Hermione blanched completely, and Harry swallowed, continuing.
"But he's not all bad. He's...psychotic but he's not unreasonable. He likes to watch me negotiate for stuff, but at the same time he's never really withheld anything I need. Not since the beginning anyway, and we were just constantly on each other's toes then. He looks out for me, I guess, in his weird, twisted, probably selfish way. He got me a dog!" Harry laughed, wanting to lighten the mood a bit. "I actually study loads now. I write essays and he marks them."
"Really?" she grinned a bit. "Should I be offended he got you to do your homework when I didn't? What type of stuff does he teach you? I bet it's really interesting."
She was obviously trying to look on the brightside of all of this too.
Harry hesitated.
"Dark Arts, a lot of it is dark arts - don't judge me - It's not what you think. It's not like sacrifices and stuff, at least the way Tom's teaching me, light magic is magic fueled by good emotions and dark magic is refused by bad-dark emotions. It's like how dark chocolate isn't evil just because it's dark. He explained it like magic is just something that's part of us, and we can choose how we wield it without any morality to it that we don't personally choose and apply. It's all about how you use the magic, not what the magic is..."
He willed her to understand, and knew he'd picked the right person when she looked wary, but not hateful, angry...even a bit curious.
"He teaches me history and other random things too. He's like a walking textbook...he's a good teacher, actually. I don't agree with everything he says, and a lot of it is independent...but he's always answered my questions and he doesn't make feel stupid or anyth-"
"-Do you think he'd teach me?" Hermione asked.
Harry's eyes widened, before a smile crossed his face.
"I can ask him! You're really smart, it's probably better than him just having to pick through my essays and stuff, I mean, he's busy, but I can ask."
"...even though I'm a muggleborn?" Hermione added, hesitantly. Harry's face dropped a bit, before he shrugged.
"I think we could still ask. He values intelligence a lot, he told me. Besides, he's a half blood himself. I think, I mean I'm not sure but, from the impression I've got of him, he'll accept a person despite their blood if they prove that they're worth it or valuable in some sense, you know? I mean, it's unfair that people who aren't purebloods would have to be extra good to be considered worth it, but that's the way it is...I'll ask him, anyway. It won't do any harm, I'm sure of it. "
They continued talking, and eventually, conversation moved onto lighter things.
Then Harry abruptly remembered that he was technically supposed to have gone to the Weasleys when a frantic owl arrived from Ron - not very discreet, and that sounded far too much like Tom in his head, that thought - panicking about him never having turned up and being missing.
Harry froze, colour draining from his face as Hermione turned to slowly look at him. He grimaced, holding his hands up.
"I forgot to mention I was coming here! Well, Tom did, I don't exactly organise this whole thing - and he calls me childish! I bet he did this on purpose, with the full knowledge that they'd panic," he grumbled. "Can't believe I forgot."
"...I'm going to write back that you're here and still alive, okay?"
Hermione looked a little bemused.
It really wasn't funny, Dumbledore and everyone were probably frantic, but...well...maybe it had been too long...he started to laugh.
He couldn't stop.
It was just so - ridiculous! What his life had began.
And then the bedroom door burst open, shattered.
Harry's mouth ran horribly dry, and Hermione snatched up her wand.
Death Eaters.
Chapter 27:
For a moment, Harry just felt sick, his mind buzzing at a million miles a minute.
Hermione immediately started casting spells - immobulus, petrificus totalus, even stuff he didn't recognise like 'stupefy'.
None of it was working; they were batting her spells aside as if they were nothing.
He supposed, to the Death Eaters, whatever they came up with was utterly unimpressive. They were second years, and whilst he suspected Hermione's repertoire was advanced, it wasn't this advanced.
Harry didn't even have his wand on him!
He tried to lash out anyway, without his wand, like he had when he was a kid and in desperation he managed some spells, but it wasn't enough.
Tom taught him essays, he hadn't prepared him for this...
Was this Tom's doing? He'd known they were there, and who else would have known? How else could the Death Eaters know?
Had Tom decided he was too much hassle to keep alive?
They managed to keep up their fighting for maybe about five minutes, desperately, frantically, before everything just crumbled and everything went black.
Harry didn't think he'd ever felt more humiliated in his life.
He'd got caught, worse, he'd dragged Hermione into getting caught too - a muggleborn, around Death Eaters, it didn't bode well.
He wasn't sure where he was, but it was dark - it was horribly dark and he couldn't see a thing and that immediately had his breath quickening however calm he would have liked to be.
He was used to the dark, it wouldn't be a problem, but his ears and nose were blocked up too. His mouth was gagged. He could still sense that he was tied up, so he concentrated on that, on the touch, to focus on and try and plot his way out of this without just feeling so terribly powerless.
But he hadn't been able to stop them from just...taking him, had he?
He was pathetic.
Whatever knowledge he had didn't matter if he couldn't use it, and he needed to convince Tom to give him his wand back.
...oh god. What if he died here?
He wasn't afraid of death, but...well, it was a bit of a pitiful way to go, wasn't it? He didn't want to go out in a blaze of glory or anything like that, he didn't care, but he'd like to die for something that was worth it, and not just because of the petty power squabbles of Death Eaters.
Where was Hermione?
Once he thought it, the question was overwhelming, leaving a rancid taste of fear in his mouth.
Then, suddenly, he felt his ears be unblocked, breath puffing across his face. He shrank back involuntarily, snarling and spitting.
He received a sharp backhand across the face in response, before his chin was grabbed.
"I just thought you'd like to hear the mudblood die before you," one of the Death Eaters - Macnair - purred. "Maybe it would discourage you from seeking out such filth in the future."
Then he heard the screaming, the horrible, writhing screaming and a body thrashing against the floor.
"HERMIONE!" it came out muffled, incoherent.
She obviously couldn't hear him, in the same position as he and he was going to be sick, and he couldn't see where she was, and he couldn't see, and it was too much like the nothingness with everything bad infringing in on that and-
He just snapped.
There were thumps of bodies, yelling, flailing, shouting terror - Hermione's screams stopped. Harry panted for breath, eyes hot, shaking all over.
"Hermione?" the gag wouldn't allow him to speak properly.
There was no response, and he tugged furiously at his restraints, trying to lodge away the blindfold...anything, please. He shouldn't even be like this, so stupidly helpless, he should have been better at fighting and now Hermione was hurt and he had no idea what was wrong with her or if anyone would be coming for them.
The light would come, wouldn't they? He hadn't turned up.
But they had no leads...
Tom would come.
But Tom controlled the Death Eaters, for all he knew this was the Slytherin's plan in the first place.
He didn't know how long he'd sat there, shivering with the cold, doing anything to free himself as he heard the Death Eaters whimpering around him. Then, suddenly, one of them just went completely still with an Avada Kedavra.
Harry froze, hearing a clatter of footsteps, of curses of - parseltongue.
The next second the blindfold was yanked from his eyes and Tom was peering at him, face ashen, eyes wild. Harry stared back; wide-eyed, making a choked sound. Tom then immediately tugged the material out of his mouth, his wand slicing through the ropes with ease.
Harry didn't even think about it, he just lunged forward and grabbed, tightly. Tom paused for a second, before his arms came round him in turn.
"Shh, come on, you're okay Harry, I've got you. It's over...please don't cry."
"I'm not crying," Harry spat, defensively, clinging all the harder, before letting go, flushing and scooting back.
She was on the floor, and he rushed over to her immediately, his hands surprisingly steady as he untied her. He blamed it on the shock, because the second his purpose was done he started shaking and he couldn't stop and it was absolutely pitiful.
He hardened his jaw, gaze glancing across the two Death Eaters. They were like limp, bloodied ragdolls on the floor.
"What did you do to them?" he asked, softly. Tom blinked, looking over at them.
"Nothing. They were like that when I got here."
Harry swallowed, thickly, as Hermione slowly gained a bleary consciousness, her gaze turning to them. Harry kept his eyes on Tom.
"...did I kill them?" he whispered, nausea twisting his guts.
"You did what I taught you to do," Tom replied. Harry's eyes widened. He'd killed them! "You took away their senses," the other continued. "Non-verbal, wandless sensory deprivation spell. They panicked and tore themselves to pieces because they couldn't feel the difference or what they were doing."
Harry stared down at his hands in horror, and then the next second, he was retching, emptily. He'd practically killed them, oh god. Hermione gasped.
Harry didn't dare look at her, staring at the floor, his hands. He felt, more than saw, Tom's attention flick between them for a moment, before a hand caught his chin, gently, raising his head up again,
"Listen to me very carefully," he hissed. "You should never, ever be ashamed of defending of yourself. Am I making myself clear?"
Harry nodded, shakily. Perhaps, normally, he would have returned with an 'even from you?' but his mouth felt overcrowded, and he just wanted to curl into a ball. This was a nightmare!
"Take me home. I want to go home."
Tom's eyes widened a little, before he nodded, pulling him to his feet, steadying him and walking over to Hermione.
"Do you want us to drop you off at home or would you prefer some company before your parents get-" the Slytherin cut off, going rigid as the door burst open and in a second Harry was dragged behind him, whilst the young Dark Lord adopted a defensive duelling posture.
...Dumbledore. The Order. Harry let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding as the two groups stared at each other for a moment.
"What happened here?" the Headmaster demanded, looking more like the powerful wizard than Harry had ever seen him. Blue eyes darted over the bloodied Death Eaters.
Harry suddenly felt horribly panicked, suffocated. Tom might understand the extent of his defence, but that was Tom, he was so terrified that Dumbledore, Hermione, the Weasleys, would all think differently of him now.
"It's dealt with," Tom stared curtly.
Harry also couldn't help the wash of realisation that this would be the first time Dumbledore and the Order met with Tom. His mouth felt dry, and he took a step forward, in front of the young Dark Lord. Neither side had many attempt to lower their wands, and he grabbed Tom's wrist, tugging his wand down a little, even as he placed himself between them so the light couldn't take the opportunity to attack either.
"I was visiting Hermione, seeing as I didn't see her yesterday. Assumed Tom wouldn't act like a child and would give you a head's up on why I didn't turn up. In the future, I won't underestimate his love of power-playing people, seeing as I was clearly wrong and he didn't tell you anything. Anyway, I was with Hermione...and the two Death Eaters, I don't know their names, I think one is called Macnair or something...came in and attacked us. We fought back, but...well..." Harry was amazed he managed to keep his voice steady, even. "They tortured Hermione. I'm not hurt."
"How did they get like that though? They're torn apart! gouged!" Mr Weasley demanded. "Did you-you're Tom Riddle, aren't you?" The Weasley Patriarch's voice was absolutely icy, so different from anything Harry had heard before.
He tightened his grip on Tom's wrists, not entirely sure who he was trying to protect. He wetted his lips.
"They were torturing Hermione, to get at presumably get at Tom," Harry repeated. Suddenly they were all staring at him.
"You did this, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, quietly, stepping forward, crouching in front of him as Tom immediately stepped back. "Oh, my dear boy..."
"It was accidental magic, self-defence," Tom said, sharply. "Don't you dare lecture him for it. I dare say he's had a rough enough time already."
"Yes," Dumbledore said, glancing up, pointedly. "I dare say kidnapping him would give him a rough time of it, Tom."
The Slytherin Heir's fingers flexed a little around the wand, eyes flashing.
"Calm down," Harry hissed, warningly. "They outnumber you."
It wasn't that...he didn't know. It wasn't that he didn't think Tom should be stopped, the man was still a Dark Lord, he just...everything was becoming so jumbled. Besides, he didn't want any more blood spilt, that was it, and he was sure Tom would kill everyone in this room without hesitation if he had to. "I'm okay we were just leaving. Um, I'll see you guys tomorrow? It's just I want to go throw up some more right now."
Riddle snorted at that.
Dumbledore studied him carefully for several long moments.
"Harry, you don't have to go with him. For all we know, he planned this whole thing to gain your trust. Did anyone else know you were at Hermione's?"
Harry stiffened a little.
"The thought crossed my mind," he said, very simply. "I'm not stupid, and I have actually been living with him. I know perfectly well what a git he can be, professor."
Harry glanced up at Tom incredulously.
"Sorry. Rephrase, I have been living with you. I know perfectly well what a manipulative psychopath he can be with his atrocious behaviour, professor."
"Much better," Tom smirked. Harry grinned, a little shakily, as awkward and horrible and all-wrong as everything today had been.
As for if Tom actually had been behind this...he'd find that out when they weren't in a room full of other people, as the Slytherin was just going to be sarcastic at him, or make comments. He wasn't going to say anything that mattered.
"Either way," Harry looked at Dumbledore again. "I gave him my word I would stay. So, for now at least, I stay. If he really wanted me dead and tortured, he wouldn't have to get the Death Eaters to do it, would he?"
"Harry, you're not going back with him," the Headmaster straightened. Harry opened his mouth, but the next second there was a sickening jerk at his navel and they were back at the house.
He sprawled on the floor, disorientated.
"Did we just apparate?"
"...okay. I'm going to finish throwing up and then you're going to explain."
The world had stopped feeling real.
Chapter 28:
Harry felt cold all over, his stomach scraped raw and empty by the half an hour he'd spent bent clutching the toilet, vomiting.
Siri-Timmy the dog had been locked by Tom into one of the bedrooms when he'd snuffled around, worriedly, and growled and snapped at Tom's fingers.
Tom himself was now quietly sat next to him in the bathroom, perched on the edge of the bathtub, even if Harry had told him to go away, for the sake of privacy. It was humiliating enough that he was puking his guts out in horror of having caused the Death Eaters to kill themselves, in having performed the same sensory-deprivation torture that he himself so despised, without having Tom witness every second of his consequent breakdown.
Still, maybe it was a little nice when Tom leaned over once he was done, pushing the hair out of his face, wiping the clamminess from his face with a wet cloth, and handing him a glass of water and some mints to take the taste away, before firmly pulling him up with a hand under his elbow.
"Alright now?" The Dark Lord questioned.
Harry tried not to shudder, and was torn between shoving Tom away from where the other's hand had come to settle warm against his back, or to lean into the...kind touch.
He suspected it was partially the fact he'd been blindfolded, with his senses deliberately cut off by his captors. It wasn't quite the level of deprivation that he'd come to most fear, but it edged far too close to it for him to be comfortable.
Not that anything felt comfortable and easy anymore; all of his previous misconceptions, assumptions, the groundings of life, were slowly getting stripped away or questioned and he didn't like it. At all.
He still didn't even know how today happened!
They ended up on the sofa, and he shrugged Tom's arm away then, clenching his jaw, rubbing his tired eyes and fighting for composure because this was important.
"You were the only one who knew I would be at Hermione's today," he said, quietly. He moved his eyes to study Tom carefully, as much as he wanted to bury his head into the sand, to feel safe, to stare at the wall instead so he didn't have to confront the possibility that Tom had set him up.
"I didn't intend for this to happen."
"How did they find us? They're your Death Eaters, you control them!" Harry could feel his voice becoming louder, more angry and distressed and he absolutely hated it. He should be calm, to try and discuss this like a mature adult and not some lost child. He wetted his lips, glancing away from Tom to compose himself.
"I think we both know it's not so simple as that," the Slytherin returned, voice a painful contrast of quiet against his own, making him feel even more irrational even though he knew his points and suspicions were perfectly valid. "You were at Malfoy Manor."
"So you're saying these two Death Eaters just magically knew where I was?" he snarled, fists clenching, before he forced his tone to shift to be cooler, more like Tom's, mimicking his confident and eloquent manner of speech as best as he could from what he'd picked up. Tom always sounded so very grown up and logical, even when he was wrong. "I find that highly implausible."
"No, I'm not saying that," Tom said. "That would indeed be implausible beyond belief. I did tell the Death Eaters where to find you-" Harry felt a sharp shard of betrayal wedge into his gut, like ice, freezing him from the inside out. "I sent them to discreetly check on how you were doing, mistakenly, I now see. I didn't realise they would take matters into their own hands, and I sincerely apologise for not anticipating that. It will not happen-"
"-I may not be a Dark lord," Harry bit out, coldly, eyes hardening, teeth gritting, even as he wanted to shrink himself. "I may not be powerful, I may not be as clever as you or as old as you and I know you think I'm just some stupid kid trophy or something, even if I hold a higher...value to you than other people, but do you really think I'm that thick?"
"Excuse me?" Tom questioned delicately, eyes narrowing.
"Macnair acted like a total jerk in your Death Eater meeting. You would have suspected something. If you just wanted someone to check on me, you would have asked the Malfoy's, or bloody Snape, anyone but Macnair. It was more than obvious to everyone that he wanted both of us dead!"
Harry didn't bother modulating his tone this time, and he swallowed, folding his arms.
"At least have the decency to admit that this was a test and not lie to me, whether you were testing them or me."
Riddle stared at him for several long moments, and Harry wanted to snap at him to stop trying to think up more lies and a good way to explain his suspicions away.
"I was never going to let any true harm come to you," the Slytherin said, finally. Harry shook his head, violently. He'd been bloody terrified, this wasn't okay! He stood up from the sofa, moving around Tom, only for the elder to catch hold of him before he could put too much distance between them, holding onto his wrists tightly.
From an outsider perspective, it might seem like a reassuring gesture, but the hold was a fraction too secure to not be fully intended to be restrictive. Harry's eyes flashed.
"I said I'd stay with you, I never said I would be on good terms with you!"
"Do you really want to go back to the way things were in the beginning?" Tom raised his brows. "I much prefer our new arrangement and civility."
Harry snarled, even as Riddle's grip tightened again on his hands, yanking him closer. Harry hated being so short for his age, because it put them more or less on the same level right now. At least Tom wasn't standing to tower over him. Those eyebrows arched further, demanding answer.
Harry glared stonily.
"If it has to be unpleasant for me, I will make sure to make it hell for you."
"But it's not unpleasant for you," Tom drawled. "Is it? That's what's scaring you so much. You said you wanted to go home."
Harry froze, his mouth draining dry, and he shook his head again, wordlessly.
"Didn't mean anything. I just wanted to get out of there before you murdered Dumbledore."
"Yet you said it before the Order arrived," Tom countered. "You also hugged me."
"Well don't hold it against me," Harry snapped. "You're horribly clingy with all of your diary issues."
Tom blinked.
"...I'm not clingy."
"Yes you are," Harry said, no room for argument in his tone. "You're just not very affectionate in your clinginess. Or did you miss the fact that you're technically holding my hand right now?" he added, perhaps a little spitefully, or in some way vindictively...he didn't know. Tom squeezed his hands again.
"That's not clinginess, that's practicality. You have a tendency to run off and sulk in the middle of civil conversations."
"You also have a wand," Harry said, copying Tom's mocking, pointed eyebrow-raising expression.
Tom rolled his eyes.
"You're a brat."
"And you're clingy. Seriously, aren't you technically supposed to be a full grown man or something?"
"I wasn't hugged enough as a child," the Dark Lord drawled, smirking. Harry snorted, tugging a hand free, running a hand through his hair again, tiredly.
"Seriously though, if you ever pull something like this again, no matter what I'm not staying. I'm not a child, if it involves me, tell me. I've looked after myself for my whole life, it's sweet - or creepy, depending on how I want to look at it - that you want to do so now, but I'm not looking for a parent. I already have the best ones in the world,, okay? I make my own life decisions. You don't get to make them for me, or pull stuff like this."
As much as he wanted to scream and rage, he didn't think that would get him very far with Tom. The other had always responded far better to him using his reason and rationality, to intelligence rather than emotions.
Tom's head tilted as he studied him with that same unnervingly intent gaze.
"Whilst I can agree to that and compromise that to some extent, I am still in charge here, and you will respect my authority, is that clear? Nonetheless, I will endeavour not to plot around you in such a manner again."
Harry watched him carefully, trying to judge his sincerity.
"Will you swear on that?"
"Then obviously you're just-" he began, frustrated.
"-I do not like limitations, Harry, and I cannot predict the future. It is in my nature to plot, you know that. I will attempt to compromise with you on this, if only so I don't have to deal with you trying to smother me in my sleep or poisoning my tea."
Harry scowled.
"Then don't you dare expect good behaviour and obedience from me."
Tom looked like he wanted to roll his eyes again.
"How about we play it by ear, you bring it up with me if there's an issue, etc etc. As you said, I'm not your parent, and frankly considering what happened to yours and the fact that they're dead I don't really want to be either-" Harry spluttered at that. "-But I am a Dark Lord. I have enough to deal with without you constantly being a brat, and, as previously established, I don't think you want me to have to spend so much time and effort disciplining you so that I can't focus on my followers and am thus over-run for the devil you don't know."
Sometimes Harry thought his life was absolutely ridiculous.
"Fine," he bit out. "You do your thing. I do mine."
"More or less. You are still a minor."
Harry's jaw clenched, and he figured he was just going to ignore Tom for now and concentrate on doing what he wanted anyway.
"First things first," he said, instead, loudly. "I want my wand back. I clearly need to learn to defend myself better, and you want me to be able to do that as well, so give me my wand back and get your own, whether yours went."
For the first time, Tom's jaw stiffened, and his eyes showed hints of genuine annoyance.
"I would have gone for my own wand a long time ago if I could, considering it is ideal for me, as opposed to yours which just works - due to our connection, I would imagine."
"You lost your wand," Harry stated, flatly.
"Voldemort misplaced it sometime in the last thirteen years."
"You lost your wand." Harry wanted to smirk now. "Yeah, you're a really terrifying Dark Lord, Tom."
He pulled his hands away, suddenly aware of the fact they were still trapped in Tom's grip, and stepped back. "I'm going to go let the dog out now. Get a new wand tomorrow or I'll get the Order to take me to Diagon Alley instead, and that doesn't give you bonding to the Dark Side points."
He heard Tom chucking behind him, but ignored it.
Light tone aside, his head felt jumbled, his stomach nauseous and barely settled and his mind ill at ease with this whole development and Tom's plan.
He was really not looking forward to seeing his friends tomorrow
Chapter 29:
Harry poked at his cereal and watched as it slowly turned to mush in his bowl.
He'd probably been sitting at the breakfast table for fifteen minutes now, and, in that time, he'd taken maybe one actual mouthful of food.
It tasted like wet socks on his tongue, clogging in his throat and making him want to gag.
Tom was sitting on his side of the table, no longer even bothering with the facade of newspaper reading, having seemingly decided that he was a much more riveting study over morning tea.
"Two days ago you were more like an excitable puppy at breakfast, ungodly hour regardless," the Slytherin Heir stated, finally. "I'm going to assume there's a problem. Nerves, perhaps."
"I killed two people yesterday," Harry mumbled, glancing up, eyes tight. "I can't even look at myself in the mirror, so why the hell would my friends want to be around me?"
"Well, technically, you merely encouraged them to kill themselves," Tom said. "And it was self defence. I dare say the mudblood would be grateful that you saved her life, seeing as she doesn't seem stupid enough to come to any less reasonable conclusion and response than that."
"Can you stop acting like it's not a big deal?!"
"What do you want me to do, criticise you for murder and mayhem? The hypocrisy involved would hardly make me a good role model."
Harry snorted, involuntarily.
"You're not a good role model anyway."
"How so?"
Harry's head snapped up at that, incredulously.
"In what world or sense are you a good role model?" he returned. "You kidnap twelve year old, you murder people, and you plot world domination in your office on a daily basis."
"How would you know what I do? I could be doing knitting patterns."
"Are you?"
"Obviously not. I much prefer painting doll houses. I can't believe you've lived with me for almost an entire summer and you still haven't figured that out," Tom said, sounding outraged, before raising his brows as Harry's lips twitched with amusement despite himself, "and, ha, you're smiling now. Hence, clearly, I am at least a good guardian if I can cheer you up when you seem determined to angst in depressing heroism."
"You being ridiculous doesn't make the fact you murder and kidnap people right," Harry replied, nonetheless.
"So you don't think changing the world if you desire to do so instead of just letting things rest in a state of dissatisfaction is a good ideal to ingrain in young minds? You'd rather be taught that you shouldn't be allowed to defend yourself in life-threatening situations?"
Harry blinked at that phrasing. It sounded completely valid and legit, but surely it couldn't be - murdering people was still immoral, wasn't it? Tom didn't actually count as a good role model?
"Eat your breakfast, Harry. You know the deal. You don't leave until you eat...or is that why you're not eating?"
"I'm not eating because I feel sick! Stop making it sound like I'm not allowed to lose appetite after causing two people to kill themselves!" he bit out, eyes flashing. "And then being set up by my apparent role model to be tortured along with one of my best friends."
Tom calmly took another sip of tea.
"Would you feel better about it if I said I was proud of you?"
"No." Maybe. Yes. He didn't know! "Leave me alone." Tom seemed to suppress an annoying smile. "You're probably lying and being a manipulative creep anyway." The smile faded off the other's lips.
"No. I'd never say I was proud of you if I wasn't. It would train the wrong habits and expectations in you. For example, I could say I was proud of you for say getting an Acceptable in an examination, but then that would let you believe that I would not only tolerate but encourage such a low pass when I know perfectly well from reading your essays that when you actually try you're capable of getting an exceeds expectations at least. It would be counterproductive, because then you'd think all you needed was an acceptable, when regardless of it being a pass is a mediocre grade and actually anything but acceptable."
"I really don't want to be around you in exam time," Harry said, after a moment of processing, not quite sure what else to say to such a speech. "Isn't there supposed to be some rule about accepting your charge no matter his capabilities?"
"Probably, but that's ridiculous," Tom shrugged, carelessly. "If you're mine you're damn well going to be the best you can be, I don't associate myself with substandard things. Now, eat your breakfast already. I have a busy day and if you're not ready to go within the next half an hour I'm out all day and I won't have time to drop you off."
Harry went back to trying to eat his breakfast with a more concentrated effort, mulling over the words, not sure if things felt clearer in his head, or just more jumbled than ever.
Fifteen minutes later, he was ready to go.
Tom wasn't entirely certain what to think of these new developments, as he handed Harry over to Severus all over again. He suddenly couldn't help but feel reluctant, especially with the moves Dumbledore had attempted to make the day before.
He knew the Headmaster would probably have no intention of giving him his boy back if he could help it.
Everything had worked out exactly like he wanted it to; despite a minor glitch in the road. Harry had automatically started associating him with helpful, he'd called it home, which was indeed very good. He knew he'd taken a risk in his dealings with Harry, in treating him more like he'd adopted the child, as opposed to simply acquiring him like a trophy to shape him into a soldier and weapon.
It could lead to liberties, it already had. But Harry was his horcrux, and that automatically made him different from his Death Eaters, even if he'd considered acting like nothing had changed in their circumstances.
He could see now that he'd made the right choice.
He'd chosen the path of loyalty over that of obedience.
His Death Eaters were obedient, dutiful, but he wouldn't make any firm bets on their loyalty. Loyalty was always something that couldn't be taken or forced, it had to be given willingly or it was transferred to something else instead. Allegiance, perhaps, was the word.
His followers, or at least the large majority, feared and respected him as opposed to loving him, and whilst he undoubtedly needed Harry to respect him, he would get so much further if the child loved him instead of feared him as had in the beginning, and to some extent probably did now.
Oh, it had grown more dormant as they acclimated to living together, but it was still there - a wariness, a caution, and he didn't want to get rid of that either. It was a fine instinct.
He just wanted to turn it on the rest of the world instead of him, and so the boy would trust him implicitly.
He still had time to work on that though, to be careful.
This was a marathon project, not a sprint.
His plan had succeeded almost perfectly in this instance though; Harry had drawn closer to him, was more alienated from his friends and the light, he'd even saved him from having to deal with his disobedient men himself, which far exceeded expectation for the plan. But it was brilliant. He'd honestly meant his pride, even if it felt odd to be prideful of another person.
But, well, Harry was his Horcrux, and the boy was blossoming under his tutelage. He was allowed to feel proud of his own admittedly excellent work.
His Death Eaters would also receive this as a warning not to attack the boy, which was only good.
He caught the boy's shoulder as he stepped towards Snape, and Harry turned to face him slightly.
"Be careful," he warned. "Use the wristband if you run into any trouble."
"Dumbledore?" Harry questioned, with a pleasing shrewdness to his thoughts. He nodded.
"I don't trust him," he supplied, as if Harry didn't already know that.
"I do," Harry replied, quietly. "He means well. He won't hurt me."
"No, but do you really think he'll be eager to let you come back to me?"
"Don't worry so much. I'm a hardened Death Eater killer, I'll be fine."
"Don't underestimate him."
"Don't underestimate me."
He gave a sigh at that, letting go of Harry's shoulder after a final warning squeeze of reminder.
"Just do as I ask, okay, boy wonder?" he held Harry's gaze. The boy rolled his eyes, but after a moment, nonetheless nodded.
"Don't call me boy wonder. It sounds like a really bad comic book character - and you too."
You too? What did that mean? He still nodded, not about to ask for clarification, and a minute later the child had vanished.
It was only then that he realised what the boy had meant.
You too. Be careful too.
Was Harry worried about him? Or was that an automatic response? He felt mildly disturbed, and quickly banished the thoughts from his mind before he could fixate on them and analyse.
Now wasn't the time. too.
Ridiculous brat.
Harry arrived at the Burrow in a state of trepidation, and Snape immediately let go of his shoulder.
There was less of a rush to run and meet him this time, and it only served to twist his guts. He walked up the house with Snape looming over his shoulder, hesitated against knocking on the door.
He could feel Snape's eyes burning into the back of his head, and wanted to shrink, especially when his fist froze before knocking.
He regretted eating breakfast now, especially without Tom being stupid to calm him. And that was just weird in itself.
"No one holds you accountable for yesterday's events, Potter."
He was thoroughly surprised to hear Snape address him, even more so with the fact that the man's tone was clipped, but not as hateful or derisive as it normally was. He glanced back at the Potion's Professor.
He resisted the urge to ask a childish question like 'how do you know?' or 'did I do the right thing then?' and simply nodded, once.
"Thank you...sir."
It felt odd, and Snape looked deeply uncomfortable, about as awkward as Harry felt suddenly, and he quickly reached over and knocked to announce his presence, before entering.
There was immediately a scrape of chairs, and Harry caught sight of something thin and black and familiar being stuffed away from his sight. His mouth drained dry.
"Harry!" Mrs Weasley said, rushing over to him. "We didn't expect you today. You're later than you normally are." She cupped his cheeks, examining him, before pulling him into a warm, if not a little bit crushing, hug. "We were so worried about you, dear. I'm so glad that you're okay."
"Yeah, I'm fine," he smiled, hastily. "Is Hermione okay?"
"She's fine, just a bit shaken up that's all."
There was a silence, not quite as awkward as Snape's one, but awkward enough. He ran a hand through his hair as he was released, and noticed Ron was avoiding his eyes a little.
"Hermione told us what happened." To his surprise - and people seemed to keep surprising him today, didn't they? - it was Fred that spoke.
"Yeah, we're glad you're okay, mate," George added. "You're gonna have to teach us how to fight without a wand. It sounds really cool."
But Harry couldn't help but be preoccupied now.
"Was that the diary?" he asked.
"What diary?" Mrs Weasley returned, perhaps a little too quickly. "I was just popping the kettle on, would you like some tea? It will be a couple of hours until lunch so maybe you'd like to play some Quidditch in the garden with the boys?"
"Tom's diary," Harry answered, insistently. His throat suddenly felt thick, and his hands bunched at his sides. "Why do you have it? Did you get it from the chamber? How did you get in?" The questions bounced agitatedly on his tongue.
"It's Ginny," Ron spoke, finally. Harry's brow pinched.
"What do you mean it's Ginny?" His insides had suddenly gone very cold. "You mean...she's in the book?" His eyes widened with horror.
"Ron-" Mrs Weasley began.
"Yeah. Wanted to tell you last time, but we didn't know if it would be too much or not."
So why was he telling him now, when his mother so clearly didn't want him too?
"Can I talk to her? I mean - is she Tom was?"
He sincerely hoped not, because he knew her fate.
"Yeah. It's some weird kind of spell that Riddle did. I was wondering if you could fix it? I mean, you know a bit about Dark Arts now, right? Hermione said you did." Ron looked torn between disgust, skepticism, and then the breathless hope that Harry was a master of Dark things and could help his sister. "Or you could see if you could get Riddle t-"
"RONALD WEASLEY! That's enough!"
Harry's head snapped to Mrs Weasley again, and his insides squirmed to see her face had reddened, eyes blotchy and spilling with tears. He felt frozen.
Everyone was staring, the twins too, with that same cautious hunger-hope that Ron had, and which the adults in the room so lacked in comparison. Harry couldn't help but feel a little trapped. Whatever he'd been expecting, this hadn't been the response. He swallowed.
"I-I don't really know any Dark Magic. Sorry. I mean, Tom's taught me some theory and stuff, but I've never cast it. I mean, outside of yesterday, and I don't even know how I did that."
At least they maybe didn't hate him? He didn't know.
"But could you get him to help? If you have some type of arrangement worked out?" George asked, quietly. Harry wanted to ask 'can't Dumbledore do it?', but he didn't want to seem like he didn't want to help.
"I...I can try, I guess."
He would definitely try. Nobody deserved the nothingness, and he could use that with Tom. He had to try, at least.
Fred reached to get the diary, and Harry's heart pounded at the sight of it, but just as the Weasley twin was passing it over, Molly snatched it.
"Dumbledore will fix it. I'm sorry, Harry dear, it's nothing against you, but you are twelve years old. I'm not going to risk my daughter's possibility of a future, and I cannot...condone you practising this solution, this magic. It's evil."
Harry could sense it was hard for her to say that, and stared at the table.
There was another silence, and he didn't know how to fill it, but stayed still instead of shifting from foot to foot. His shoulders hunched in.
"Do you think what I did yesterday was evil then?"
It suddenly seemed like the whole room had drawn a great gasping breath, and the air felt deathly still with the lack of oxygen, the anticipation.
"Yesterday wasn't your fault, Harry."
No one holds you accountable for yesterday's events, Potter.
They didn't blame him.
No one holds you accountable for yesterday's events...
They blamed Tom.
He had a bad feeling.
Chapter 30:
Harry wetted his lips, before steeling his jaw and composing himself, lifting his chin and copying Tom's manner of confidence.
"I think I should maybe be going," he said. "This obviously wasn't a good time. I apologise for the imposition, Mrs Weasley-"
"-Oh no," she protested, eyes widening. "That wasn't what I meant. We're all happy to see you and have you, whenever you want-"
"-I'll make sure to ask Tom about the diary-"
"-Harry-" Mrs Weasley gently caught hold of his shoulders. "You can stay here as long as you would like or need to. Okay? You don't even have to go back to him if you don't want to."
Harry stared at her, brow furrowing as he took a quiet step back.
"But what if I do want to," he murmured. He could feel all of their eyes on him.
"I'm sorry?"
"What if I want to go back to Tom?" he jutted his chin out more, fists clenching at his sides with determination. He was convinced they could hear his heart beat it was so silent.
"He kidnapped you." Mrs Weasley sounded utterly confused, even disgusted. Harry couldn't really blame her for that, he often felt like that himself about this whole situation. "Why would you want to go back? He's done horrible, terrible do know who he is, don't you?"
"Better than you." His heart hammered wildly in his chest, and he felt a little sick. "I think you know who he was meant to be, Mrs Weasley. Which is very different to who he's now. He's..."
"He's what?" he could feel her voice tightening, bewildered, hurt, furious.
Harry swallowed.
"He's like me," he whispered.
There were a few seconds of that suffocating silence, before the room seemed to explode.
"He's nothing like you, you can't be bloody serious!" Ron growled.
"Yeah," Fred and George said. "You would never do the stuff he did!"
Of course they wouldn't get it. That Tom was alone like him, broken like him, without any true family to turn to. He loved the Weasleys dearly, of course he did, and he knew they cared about him too but he wasn't one of them, how could he be? He'd stayed with them one summer and that hardly constituted family when they had a wealth of shared memories between them.
Mrs Weasley had never tucked him up in bed and kissed him goodnight like she'd probably done with the others when they were young, there had never been that unconditional acceptance and love.
And that was okay. That was fine, because they were family and he wasn't and that was the way it was supposed to be. He was a close friend, and maybe they loved him, but...that didn't mean they could ever fully understand him, or that he could understand them.
They all seemed so whole.
And he'd already done the stuff Tom did - he'd got those two Death Eaters to kill themselves, hadn't he?
Their voices and protests crescendoed around him, swimming in and out of his ears, like they were issued from underwater, sinking into his brain.
He's cruel. He's mad. You're good, you're kind. He hurt Ginny. He'll hurt you. You're a Gryffindor. He's a psychopath A Slytherin. He doesn't care for anyone. You're better than him. He's a Dark Lord. He's a killer. He kidnapped you. He's not right. He's manipulating you. He's not your friend. He can't be your family. You're the boy who lived. He's Voldemort.
Harry didn't realise he'd screamed it until the room were rattling and he was panting for breath, and there was a pot broken in shards.
They all stared at him. He stared back, cheeks flushed. He swallowed, thickly.
How could Tom only be these things if he was his soulmate? If he looked after him? He'd got him a dog, and given him food and a place to stay, and tried to teach him and he'd killed Hedwig and he'd put him under the sensory deprivation spell to hurt him and he'd harmed Ginny but to escape the nothingness and he'd protected him and he'd set him up and he'd said he was proud of him.
But the Weasleys were his friends, they'd taken him over the summer, they'd treated him like one of their own even he wasn't, and they'd never done anything to try and hurt him and they were just trying to protect him and sometimes it was smothering and they didn't understand they couldn't understand and - and -
His head hurt so much.
"I'm sorry..."
He ran.
Tom was rather content with how his day had gone.
He'd tracked down his wand, finally, visiting Godric's Hollow and finding it on the floor in the bedroom. Maybe he should have felt something about being there, but there was nothing, even if he was supposed to care that a version of him and had tried to kill Harry here, had murdered Harry's parents.
The only thing that interested him even remotely was that he'd been destroyed here. And that his wand had rolled under the smoking cot.
It warmed so pleasingly in his hand, singing in welcome, and he hadn't fully realised just how much he'd missed the familiar yew and phoenix feather after so very long.
He did some more work with his men after that - the plans to break open Azkaban were going well, and he was slowly lining up several other raids on key places within Wizarding Britain.
He'd certainly had a long, long time to do pretty much nothing outside of thinking his strategy and all possible outcomes and consequences.
He arrived at the meeting point to pick Harry up at seven, hoping the boy was in a good mood so as not to ruin his own day.
Harry wasn't there.
The good mood promptly shattered, and he strode over to Snape in one quick strike of movement, seizing greasy hair and digging his wand against the man's throat.
"Where is he?" It was a hiss just shy of switching to Parseltongue.
"He ran off. There was an...argument, from what I could gather, my lord."
"I'll deal with you later."
He apparated to the house, hoping beyond hope that Harry had simply used the wristband to get home and not done something...Gryffindorish.
No such luck. He checked every room. He checked the garden. He yelled out a warning too if the stupid boy was hiding.
Black transformed in front of him, wild eyed.
"What have you done to my godson?" the man snarled. "Where is he?"
"If I knew, I dare say I wouldn't be wasting my valuable time looking for him," he snapped back.
He was going to kill the brat for this. He was going to bloody well keep him locked up somewhere out of trouble. Throttle him. Drain his senses. Murder.
The mutt opened his mouth to either question or threaten further, but he was already striding out of the house again, trying to think where the child could possibly have gone.
But first he needed to know why he'd ran.
He apparated to the so called 'Burrow'.
George exchanged a glance with Fred, a little guiltily, as chaos reigned in the kitchen.
Neither of them were honestly sure what to make of the events of the last month or so.
Fear of the attacks, joking to hide that.
The crippling grief of Ginny being dead.
Fear and guilt with Harry, who was like another little brother, going missing.
The breathless relief that Ginny maybe wasn't dead after all, and the nausea at her true fate combining with the crushing hope that maybe everything would go back to normal.
Then the relief of Harry being found, then the fear of him being missing again, relief, fear, confusion.
It was like whiplash.
He knew it must be hitting Ron worse though. Maybe they'd both been closer to Ginny, but Harry had been Ron's best friend.
He didn't know. But he couldn't blame Harry for running, because the whole thing was jumbling to them and they didn't even live with Riddle.
They'd both talked to Ginny, and he thought he could understand that Riddle could be an evil git and also be a very charming one, fully capable of manipulation. Ginny had loved him, after all, and though their baby sister could be reckless or foolish, she wasn't a complete moron.
She'd just been easy prey, and maybe that was partially their fault.
The panic in the room, the people in and out searching for Harry cut without warning.
They exchanged glances again, squashed together in the corner in the room, to see the door had slammed open and a figure had stalked into the room.
Wands were immediately raised, spells deflected, and the most choking aura of black magic he'd ever felt crept like ice across his skin, seemingly sneaking tendrils in his very soul. He grabbed his wand, and grabbed Fred too when his twin started rising.
"What did you do to Harry?"
The question gave them both pause, and, for the first time, they saw Tom Riddle.
He was younger than expected, dark and handsome, with eyes currently as merciless as liquid shadows. He stiffened.
This was the bastard who'd harmed Ginny?
The magic filtered around the room, and his father who'd come home earlier when he heard what happened, quickly moved to usher them all out of the room, regardless of their protests of their matter.
It was when their father snapped, a sharp bite to his tone, that they actually obeyed, for the sheer unusualness of such an occurrence.
That didn't stop them listening at the door though.
Tom could feel his patience wearing dangerously thin as he picked up on the gist of what had happened.
He knew his brat was ridiculous, but this was reaching new levels? But why had he run? Surely it pleased Harry to have support and not feel hated?
Not that he appreciated their comments, if only for the inconvenience as opposed to any untruth within them.
In the end, he ripped into their minds as discreetly as he could, however much he wanted to leave them brain-damaged.
They had nothing of use to them, so he didn't bother hanging around to hear their excuses, justifications or even a possible but unlikely let's-work-together-to-find-Harry-because-he's-the-most-important-thing attempt.
He hadn't so much turned when he was ducking, a curse ruffling the hairs on his head.
His eyes widened for just a second, though he would never admit to it aloud.
The man looked so different now; far older, white-haired, with that same look on his face now as he had fifty years ago.
"Hello Tom," the old man smiled, all too pleasantly.
Was this a trap? Had Harry been more hurt than he thought and set him up? Surely his - surely Harry wouldn't do that? Not that he trusted the brat or anything, but...
His heart hammered in his chest. Ironic that he would have one to do that, and he straightened stiffly.
"Dumbledore. That's no way to treat an old student of yours now, is it?" he brought a purr to his voice, a smirk to his lips, before he dropped it just as abruptly as he'd bought it up. "What did you do to Harry?"
"Then I'll save the reunion for later and go and find him then."
He took a step forward, sensing the area for anti-apparation wards.
There were none.
That was a relief. Not that he couldn't summon his men, but he didn't have strong enough forces for battle right now.
"What exactly are you trying to achieve here, Tom?" the old man continued, eyes shrewd. "Why are you so interested? He's not a weapon for you, you have nothing to gain."
"I never thought I'd hear you say the child wasn't a weapon, considering the fact you had him all set up to fight me in the Chamber."
"I didn't set that up," Dumbledore said, coldly, eyes hardening now.
"No?" he raised his brows. "Funny. I'd have thought you would evacuate the school sooner then, perhaps share your suspicions. You did so suspect me the first time too, didn't you? And I doubt you missed my-" counterparts "-presence in first year either. Ginny did tell me I was there. Ever such a scandal, that," he drawled, mockingly. "Excuse me. You know how children get, ever such trouble when they're left on their own accord too long."
He took a step forward, wand clutched tightly in his hands.
"You'll leave him alone, Tom. He's not your toy. Return him to our care."
"I don't think I will," he smirked. "I've grown fond of him. He makes such a sweet addition around the house, and the irony is just priceless, don't you think?"
"You don't have the capacity to grow fond of anyone."
"Guess he's just my pet then," he bit out, forcing a smirk to his lips again. "Now are you going to pick a fight and send my Death Eater's running? Do you really want to shatter the Wizarding World's peace when you don't have to?"
There was a moment of hesitation in those blue eyes, and that was all he needed.
He was out of there.
The sky outside was dark, he was being shaken, and Harry wasn't entirely certain when that happened.
He'd considered going to Hogwarts, because it was somewhere familiar, but he had no idea how to get there or where he even was when he finally stopped running.
He'd run into a very nice, if not very strange blonde girl who had been fishing in a little river. She looked about his age; she was called Luna.
He didn't know how exactly he'd got from there to sitting in the stifling opulence of Malfoy Manor.
It probably happened when Luna and her father - Xeno something? - decided they wanted ice cream and took him to Fortescue's Parlour in Diagon Alley to get some.
He felt rather strange tagging along with them, and they hadn't let him pay either.
But it was nice. He'd looked around the shops with Luna and she told him all sorts of random facts about things called Nargles and Wrackspurts.
He wondered if Tom knew about them.
Then the Malfoys found them, and lots of different people saw him when he was apparently still missing, and there was a riot and the Malfoys were doing shopping in Diagon Alley and caught up with him, discretely.
That was probably about it.
They seemed to be under the impression he was on the run from Tom, and hadn't let him out of their sight, and it grew dark as he waited for the young Dark Lord to turn up.
He considered activating the wrist band and just going home instead of lurking here with Draco staying here, but at that point it had already gone seven and he wasn't all that eager to confront Tom's temper, thank you very much.
Tom would show decorum in front of witnesses, even if they were his followers.
It was all very strange. Narcissa Malfoy fussed over him rather alarmingly, even if it was rather more aloof than the Molly Weasley style.
He still felt uncomfortable being there though.
And that led him back to the sky outside being dark, and him being roughly shaken as Tom stormed into the room and made his teeth rattle in his mouth with barely leashed violence.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at?"
He knew he was right to have a bad feeling.
< PrevNext >
Chapter 31:
"I just needed some air," Harry protested, hands moving to prise Tom's fingers off his shoulders. "It's no big deal..."
"No big deal?" Tom repeated, his voice low and venomous. "Yesterday you almost died and got yourself kidnapped-"
"-because of you-" Harry bit in. Tom ignored him, continuing over his words as if there'd been no interruption.
"-and you think it's no big deal if you just disappear again?"
They glared at each other, stonily, but Harry refused to yield on this.
"I'm not a child. I can look after myself."
"You broke the rules of a magical engagement, it could have killed you!" Tom growled, eyes flashing. Harry gave pause at that, eyes widening.
His...curfew? Was that why his head had been starting to pound for the last half hour or so? Why he'd started to feel sick as if all the strength and the magic was fading from his limbs? It had gone away upon Tom's arrival, he was only just noticing that now. He swallowed, mouth dry.
"I forgot about that."
"If you're so eager not to be treated like a child," Tom spat, not relenting. "Perhaps you shouldn't act like one and should take reasonable responsibility over yourself and your agreements and contact me if something comes u-"
"-How?" Harry seized on that, wrenching himself away, folding his arms. "How do you want me to contact you, Tom? I don't exactly have an owl now do I?" he hissed, pointedly, expression dark. "Does the Dark Lord carry a phone?"
"You can rent an owl from Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley if you're desperate," Tom said, after a moment. "You could have found a way."
"Maybe I had things on my mind, and, like I said, needed air and - as shocking as this may be to you - YOU ARE NOT MY FIRST PRIORITY EVERY BLOODY SECOND OF THE DAY!"
There was a ringing silence as he finished yelling, not even sure when he started or why, and a tentative clearing of a throat at the door.
"I apologise for disturbing you, my lord-" she began.
"Then don't," Tom said, his tone clipped. "If I require your assistance on any matter, I will summon you. Thank you for your courtesy, Lady Malfoy. It is much appreciated."
It clearly wasn't by the way she had to dip her head and backtrack from the living room, and the silencing ward shot at the door after her.
Harry took the opportunity to calm down again, panting for breath, trying to form his frustrations into a more coherent mess in his head, even if he had no intention of sitting down for a nice long chat about his apparent relationship crisis.
"You don't get to treat me like some stupid kid incapable of looking after myself one second," he said, tightly. "And then expect me to understand and think of everything the next and suddenly treat me like an adult, or, worse, one of your followers. It doesn't work that way. You can't just have both for whatever's the most convenient to you at the time. I made a mistake with the curfew thing, I was upset, it happens, so stop yelling at me - alright!?"
Tom stared at him for several long moments, remote, eyes narrowed slightly.
"So what's bothering you?"
"What?" Harry blinked.
"What's upsetting you and caused you to run off? Are you still whining about how you killed in self-defence?" Tom raised his brows, and a hot flash of irritation surged through Harry's chest.
"It's not whining. It's called having a conscience and being a decent human being - so I guess I can't expect you to understand."
"No, you can't," Tom said flatly, and Harry clenched his jaw and fists, clamming up, turning his head away. Why did he even bother? "But I can listen."
Harry glanced over at that, tersely, shoulders uncomfortably stiff, before down at the floor.
There was a prickly silence.
"I don't want to talk about it," he muttered, finally. Tom exhaled in frustration.
"Fine. Be a bloody brat about it. Go and wait by the door, you're grounded, I need a word with the Malfoy's and then I'll be with you. Don't presume to run away because if I have to chase you down again tonight I'll break and remove all the bones in your feet."
Harry scowled, sullenly.
"Piss off," he growled. "You don't get to ground me. It's not in the deal."
"Watch your mouth and buckle down or I'll double your punishment," Tom returned, sharply, and Harry itched to take a swing at him, throttle him. Why had he felt any desire to come back to Tom again? He marched out the door, shunting Tom with his shoulder, hard, and not caring even a little bit that it was childish. He slammed the door shut behind him in Tom's face too, fuming down the polished, grand hallways of Malfoy manor in a black silence.
It was just so unfair! Tom was acting like this was all his fault, and that he'd done this deliberately but he hadn't. Everyone could forget a small detail, couldn't they? He didn't see why Tom had to be such a jerk about it.
Tom resisted the urge to rub his eyes tiredly and sigh, trying to remember why he'd been almost fond of the boy earlier that day.
Stupid bloody child. He was more trouble than he was worth - well, no, that was a lie - he had a part of his soul and so was worth everything, but still. He wanted to throttle the maddening little brat.
It wasn't that he'd been worried, that was absolutely ridiculous...merely wary of further attempted sabotage to him and his cause. He straightened his shoulders, smoothed his expression expertly, and dealt with his matters concerning the Malfoys.
It was only quick, a few minutes, and then he was ready to go and Potter had better damn well be waiting at the door and not in trouble or anywhere else that he shouldn't be.
"Thank you for contacting me upon finding the boy," he said, with a curt nod and a polite, if not cool, smile. "It is appreciated."
"Always happy to be of assistance, my Lord," Narcissa murmured. He turned to leave, only to pause as she seemed to hesitate before continuing. "My lord, may I be so bold as to speak...openly?"
He turned his head fractionally, not sure he liked the sound of that.
"I presume you're about to. Speak if you think it's worth the risk, I will not promise your safety if the topic or your unwarranted opinion offends me."
He almost admired her for largely keeping her expression smooth, meeting his eyes unflinchingly, hands clasped gracefully.
"I remember when we first had Draco, a mother has her instincts but Lucius was bewildered by the whole thing. I believe he still is to some extent. He has a strict though not cruel hand with Draco, but he's never been the best at expressing his affection towards the boy or dealing with him."
He definitely didn't like this topic.
"Harry is not my son, nor do I have any desire to be his father, not that it would be any of your concern either way, Lady Malfoy," he said coldly.
"Children need somebody they can talk to, and it is imperative that you are accepting and patient with their quirks," she said, though more quietly now. "Considering who you are, I imagine Harry must be feeling very lost, very lonely, and very confused at the moment. He needs boundaries, care, and, if you do not wish things to become jarring between the two of you, that he can depend on you to be there for him. At the same time, he's hitting his teenage years now, as I'm sure you're aware of, and will be wanting to feel independent. Draco does, and I know he's never had to look after himself in the way Potter has. If you stifle him, he will just lash out more and shy away from you."
So basically there was no good way to deal with the brat, and this wasn't even remotely helpful. He noted the words and apparent desire to give advice though, even if he outwardly continued to survey her with the same icy demeanour.
He could do boundaries though, even if care and affection were neither his preference nor his forte.
"I'll bear it in mind," he stated, turning away once more. It was food for thought, he supposed. He realised now that he'd counted on jumbling the boy up inside, making him question everything he knew and assumed, but never considered the emotional ramifications of doing so, only the potential benefit to himself.
Great. Just fantastic.
He caught up with Harry, who was mercifully at the door, waiting with that annoyingly stubborn set to his jaw, and offered his arm for the apparation, trying to think desperately of something to say.
"I would appreciate if you would think more before running off," he said, finally, as they stepped back into the house. "There are, as you said yourself, many people who wish to harm us and I am merely attempting to look after you to the best of my ability."
Harry snorted, and didn't look even remotely convinced or appeased, even if Tom had done his utmost best to make his tone right, and concerned and mature. Brat. He clenched his teeth for a moment, shutting the door behind them and locking it, good mood completely gone by now. Why couldn't the child just accept that and go back to a more tolerable state? Admittedly, he would have just snarled at anyone that he didn't need protect-oh. But Harry was different to him, he still couldn't simply apply his own feelings to the boy.
Then he hit on it.
"Harry," he caught the child's arm as he moved to no doubt storm up the stairs and sulk in his room. "I've never done this before, okay? This looking after people lark, much like you've never been looked after. We've both learnt we can't rely on anyone but ourselves, and maybe we can't, I...don't know. But this is a learning curve and I am...trying, understand? And I know you're...trying too."
Mercifully it seemed to work, because the boy's expression softened from the rigid wall he'd put up, and his shoulders sagged.
"I...know," Harry sighed, looking like he was putting a lot of concentration into weighing up his words. "And so long as we're both trying not to be stupid we're okay, yeah? I don't know. Feels like-" the boy cut himself off, shaking his head, and Tom couldn't help but think of why the boy had run off in the first place, and that maybe whatever lurked in the things unsaid was the problem.
"It feels like?" he prompted, as gently as he could, resisting the urge to just tear into the child's twisted little head. It would be easier, certainly. Might cause brain damage though, and he wasn't sure the brat could afford to lose any more of his brain cells than he was apparently already lacking.
"It's not right. You and me. In any way. You kidnapped me. You grew up to murder my parents. It's all wrong. It's sick," Harry burst out, just as he was about to roll his eyes and wander off to make himself a cup of tea and dinner.
Oh. Yeah, the kid was definitely jumbled up.
He considered for a moment, before crouching down in front of the small twelve year old so as not to loom so much - though no way was he kneeling, and never would.
"You feel uncomfortable with the thought you might feel sentiment in regards to me?" he verified, raising his brows in question. He could actually understand that, though he imagined his reasoning was infinitely more selfish than Harry's which was no doubt based on some societal expectations.
"Yeah, I guess," Harry muttered, eyeing him warily. "I mean- you're Voldemort."
He hummed in thought. Whilst he could understand not wanting to care very well, this angle was remote to him.
"Are you happy here, by my side?"
Harry blinked, looking like he hadn't even considered that, flushing a little and looking away.
"When you're not being a creep or a jerk," the boy bit out. He ignored the insult and refrained from rolling his eyes at the response.
"Then there shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure your most important priority should be your own happiness, not whatever other people to tell you to be. It's your life, you can't live it for other people."
"Not even for you? Surprisingly al-altruistic? Of you," Harry returned.
"Well, by all means, if you wish to devote your life to my service, I'm obviously not going to stop you from doing so," he smirked, with some amusement. "The point is that this is your life and your choices, and the decisions you make are going to mark how you're remembered and more importantly, what you're going to do and your state of mind."
Harry was beginning to look frustrated and irritable again, and he tapped the boy's chin up to get his attention again.
"You also don't need to decide your life path this very second, you know. Most people don't know what they want to do with their life, and their grown wizards and witches who still question where they should ally themselves in a war. You have a promise of greyness, and so, far now, there's no need to make any hasty judgements. You still have time to think about it."
He let go, and straightened again, not sure if he was supposed to ruffle the child's hair or something. He patted his shoulder instead.
"Go and make dinner," he rolled his eyes. "I'm sure the issue of if you should hate me or not will wait, and so will society. It always does."
"How come you know all of this stuff? I mean, I know you're like ancient," Harry said, causing him to resist twitching with annoyance, and Harry to smirk as he continued, "but you've only actually lived about sixteen years, right? Technically, you're only three years older than me and oh my god you hypocrite you're a minor too!" the child sounded outraged, and Tom smirked back.
"Still older than you, and very nearly at my majority if you want to look at it technically. As for knowing stuff, I'm very clever," he drawled.
"Very modest too."
"I prefer to think of it as self-confidence in my abilities and my world view. Society has very little influence on me if I want something, and so I can be more objective about it's flaws. The whole thing is common sense."
"That, or you just blag a bunch of bull and manage to make it sound good and reasonable," Harry muttered.
"No, I'm pretty sure I'm just right all the time actually," he said, honestly, tone light. He had a feeling Harry assumed he was joking by the laugh he got in response. At least the boy didn't look like he was about to start sulking, even if he did still look troubled.
"I'm sorry about the curfew thing," Harry said, after a moment.
"You should be."
Harry's eyes narrowed at his response.
"You're a prat," the boy scowled. "You're supposed to just go, yeah Harry, it's fine, I'm sorry I acted like such a psycho about the whole thing, your actions were perfectly understandable I apologise for yelling."
"Unlike you, I don't make apologies or excuses for my natural nature," Tom stated. "I wasn't the one who stupidly ignored a magical agreement."
"You're insufferable."
"I apologise for yelling at you. Your actions were...understandable if misguided, I do not apologise for acting like a psycho when it was your fault. But all is forgiven. Go and make dinner, I'm starving. You said you wanted to try cooking, now's your chance to impress me and redeem yourself."
Harry stared at him for several long moments, before huffing, and going to greet Sirius and head to the kitchen, muttering darkly with no attempt of making it under his breath whatsoever.
The mutt glanced at him, consideringly, before bounding after the boy, after giving him a further look which was probably supposed to mean something.
Half an hour later as Harry yelled up at him that the food was ready, he was trying to remember when exactly his life became so alarmingly almost domesticated at times.
It was Harry's fault though.
The pasta was surprisingly good though.
Chapter 32:
"We need to talk."
Tom's jaw tightened with irritation - because, frankly, he'd gone past his quota for patient discussion today and he was sick of it. He twirled his wand in his hand, flicked up silencing wards and seriously considered flicking a crucio at the mutt.
Sirius Black was standing just inside the door to his bedroom, clothes in tatters, but generally cleaner and more well fed from when he'd last seen him.
"Get out of my room. You're not welcome in here."
Black made absolutely no attempt to step back and crawl away with a tail between his legs.
"It's about Harry," the man said, instead. Tom could feel a headache coming on, but kept his posture flawless, not rubbing at his temples.
"Of course it is," he bit out. "We have nothing else in common. Is this conversation going to be made up of similarly inane comments?"
"It's his birthday next week. What are you planning to do?" Black growled, eyes flashing with annoyance.
"Nothing," Tom said, simply.
"What? You can't just do nothing! It's his birthday!"
"So?" he returned. "It's not like he can tell the difference. I have more important things to focus my attention upon."
"No, you don't!" the mutt snapped. "If you're looking after a kid, then the kid is the most important thing. Always!"
"He's not my kid."
"Damn straight he's not," Sirius spat. "He's James', Lily's, and he should be with me and not with you, seeing how you treat him. The only time you pay attention to him is when you need him to further your plans somehow."
Tom's eyes narrowed, and this time he did have the mutt screaming under the Cruciatus Curse for several long moments, feeling that glorious rush and release of the spell, though he didn't smile.
Black glared up at him from the floor, panting.
"Don't you think Harry will find it a bit suspicious if his dog suddenly goes missing? You can't kill me. He wouldn't forgive you, didn't you already murder his owl?"
"No, but I can have neutered," he returned, coolly, feeling a cruel smile cross his lips when Black blanched at the threat. "Buckle down, dog, and remember who your master is. Now, out of my room-"
"-You can get brownie points with Harry if you remember his birthday," Black said, giving him pause. "He's probably never had someone celebrate properly. Do you really think his Aunt and Uncle ever threw him a party?"
Tom's head tilted.
"And why would you offer this titbit when it is so clearly in my favour?" he asked, softly, taking a step forward. Black scrambled to his feet, fists clenched.
"Because unlike some people who I could mention, I actually care about Harry and Harry's happiness more than my own selfish ends. He'd be gutted if you forgot."
He'd never found birthday's to be particularly important; he'd certainly never had anyone celebrate his. It was...just another day. It always was, and he didn't understand what was so special about it.
"What does one do for a Birthday party then, because I am not having all of the Light crawling over my home," he sneered.
"Well, you could either contact the light and let them do something, seeing as you're busy and all, and give Harry to them for the day-"
-But he wouldn't get any 'brownie points' from that now, would he?
"Yes, yes," he waved a hand. "But what does a Birthday party consist of? It's just cake and presents isn't it?"
Black was staring at him now, and he absolutely hated it - the almost pity.
"'ve never celebrated your birthday," the man stated, quietly.
"It's irrelevant. I don't care about Birthdays." He gave the man a look, and very deliberately smirked. "I'd much rather celebrate Halloween."
It had the desired effect; pity fled for rage, a gritting of teeth and a squaring of shoulders.
"Yes, there is normally cake and presents involved," Black said, coldly, before the expression smoothed again. "You know, I could take care of all the details for if you'd just-"
"You're not meeting Harry," Tom said, flatly, without the man needing to finish the sentence.
"Why?" Black challenged. "Frightened for a little competition? Scared he'd like me, his true family, more and leave you rotting in hell like you should?"
He itched to curse the mutt again, expression blank.
"It's adorable that you seem to think there's any competition involved here. He thinks you betrayed his parents to Voldemort. He wants nothing to do with you, and I hardly think you want to confuse him more in his fragile state."
Black stared back at him, icily.
"You won't get away with this."
"The way out is that way, unless you wish for me to acquire you a Kennel in the garden?"
The door slammed shut behind him.
Good. He had an Azkaban Breakout to finalise.
Harry grabbed his bag with some reluctance - he couldn't say he was eager to confront the light side again, but he felt that he owed them an explanation, and Tom probably hadn't told them he was okay either.
Tom, however, just glanced up from his breakfast and raised a brow.
"You can put your bag down. Grounded, remember?"
"You can't ground me!" Harry protested. He'd thought Tom was joking, or - or something! This was ridiculous!
"Oh, so you can leave the house without my help then?" the Slytherin Heir returned, lightly. Harry scowled, folding his arms.
"I said I was sorry."
"And I said you were grounded. I'd hardly be a good role model and boundary setter if I went back on my word now, would I? I don't do empty threats. Your work for the day is on the kitchen counter over there."
"Screw my work!" Harry yelled, eyes flashing, fists clenching. "I've done nothing but your stupid essays since I got here. You're a bloody slave driver!"
"Language," he tsked, warningly. Harry glared at him.
"You're so eager to teach me Dark Arts, fine, Teach me something practical so maybe you won't freak out next time I go missing. I know you have your own wand back now."
Tom studied him now, carefully.
"I have work to do."
"Then take me with you. Hands on learning and all that."
Harry wasn't sure if he regretted the words once they'd come out of his mouth or not, and he almost held his breath as Tom - shook his head. He shouldn't have felt disappointed, it wasn't like he actually wanted lessons on Dark Lord-iness. But...well...he honestly was sick of essays, and maybe if he understood all this better he could firm himself up against the Dark side because things would be less confusing.
If he knew what Tom did, more specifically, it could harden him against him, and remind him more of the murderer the other boy truly was.
"You'd get slaughtered, and I can't afford to keep an eye on you. You'd need far more training before I allowed you to wander among my followers."
Tom continued to study him, however, and that made Harry think the young Dark Lord was considering something at least.
"Tell you what," the other murmured, tossing him his own wand back. "If you can master the three spells I'm about to show you by the end of today when I get back, I'll clear my weekend and spend the time teaching you how to duel. Properly. Not that farce of a duelling club you attended. Okay? Some proper spells. And then, you will continue to practise whatever I teach you and next summer, if you're good enough, you can come out with me instead of being left in the house."
Harry wetted his lips, eagerly, leaning forwards.
"Okay," he agreed. "What spells?" He couldn't say he wasn't curious, and that he didn't need to learn how to defend himself better.
"The first - morsmordre."
A green skull burst out of Tom's wand. It was an ugly thing, with the tongues of snakes coming out of the mouth. Sirius growled, and Harry frowned.
"What good will that do? Is it a ward or something?" he asked.
"It will summon help to you, should you need it - it'll summon me. You said you wanted a way to contact me, without an owl, did you not?" Tom returned. "Also...bind him."
Harry's eyes widened at the Parseltongue, and the way the vipers immediately lashed out at the command, wrapping around him, burning - and weren't they supposed to be made of smoke?
He was dropped down onto the kitchen floor again, landing in a sprawling heap, with red lines still lined across his wrists and torso from where the smoky snakes had held him.
Tom continued once he'd scrambled to his feet.
"If you give it orders in Parseltongue, the snakes will protect you. Only if you talk in Parseltongue, and keep a strong will. I wouldn't mess around with them too much, however. They're Black Mamba, which is the fifth most venomous snake in the world. Do not let them bite you, though you can order them to bite."
Harry's heart was hammering in his chest now, as he kept his eyes on the immobile, once again smoky snakes above him, and swallowed, thickly.
"Did you invent this spell?"
"Yes," Tom replied, evenly. "If you do get bitten, contact me immediately."
"How do I get rid of them?"
Tom flicked his wand, and the floating mark vanished.
"Now, the second spell I want you to learn today is Protego." A light field of energy, like a shield, appeared in front of Tom. "Cast a spell at me."
Harry hesitated for only a moment, before pointing his wand at Tom in determination.
He just ducked the spell rebounding back at him in time, as it rustled over the top of his hair.
"Shield Charm," Tom explained. "Will keep away any basic jinxes or hexes thrown at you."
Harry reckoned he liked this spell first, though he could see why the Morsmordre one was useful.
"And the last?"
"Relashio. It will undo any bonds and ropes put upon you. Note, spells cast in Parseltongue can only be countered and undone in Parseltongue," Tom smirked at him. "Just a useful little trick of the trade for you."
Wow. Tom really knew his stuff. And he'd invented his own spell...even if it was ugly and a bit creepy.
"Would I be able to come up with my own spells?" he asked.
"With time. I suggest you take Arithmancy for that."
"I already picked my options," Harry's brow furrowed, before his head tilted, a gleam entering his eye and a smile on his lips. "'re letting me go back to Hogwarts?"
"Well, you're not much use to me untrained, are you?"
But there was something else in the other's eyes, though Tom would probably deny it forever - nostalgia.
"Do you ever miss it?" he asked, quietly. "Hogwarts, I mean?"
Tom was silent for a long time, draining his cup of tea, before standing up.
"Hogwarts was my first and only home. I believe you can relate to that."
"What about this place?"
"Practise your spells, Harry. Stay out of trouble and remember the theory I told you - don't push the spells too hard. If you don't have the power to cast it, the magic will start draining your life instead. You know the symptoms."
Then he was gone.
It was hard work. Harder than he'd expected when Tom made it all look so ridiculously easy, and he couldn't help but be disappointed with himself.
He was determined to succeed though, to not be the weak one.
He didn't know what level these spells were, but with several hours of work he felt tired and drained.
He didn't think it was the dying type of drained though...he didn't feel like that. It was more the type of tired ache that one got from exercise.
He didn't know when Tom would be back, but he didn't want to have failed the spells - Tom would never try and teach him anything again!
By five, however, he had Protego and Relashio down.
Morsmordre was proving the most difficult. Maybe because, at least from what he'd identified, it was the only one that was properly more of a Dark Spell.
He wasn't sure how he felt about that...but, at the same time, wasn't it more about how he used the magic? At least, that was what the theory suggested, and it wasn't any worse than Malfoy setting a snake on him, or the sensory-deprivation spell.
Nothing was worse than that, then what he'd already done.
Sirius hadn't stopped growling, and he didn't know why, but it was distracting, so he'd eventually pushed the dog out of the room with an apology, so he could practise.
Now, it seemed, it had paid off.
He was starving.
"At the end of the week, my lord?"
"At the end of the week. It's time."
Chapter 33:
Sirius was beyond concerned with the way that events were developing, most particularly in regards to his godson.
He'd got everything he wanted out of his conversation with Riddle, and manipulated him into allowing and celebrating the party. But it felt a small, hollow victory in comparison to the way things were going.
He didn't think Harry understood the significance of the Dark Mark, and maybe that just terrified him all the more. His godson was almost blindly swallowing whatever Riddle gave him, in affection or knowledge.
It wasn't, he didn't think, that Harry was utterly unaware of what he was doing - there was probably even some amater attempts at manipulation involved in pleasing Riddle and thus gaining greater allowances and privileges for himself...but it was the habit that alarmed him, and the implications.
Harry seemed to somehow think that because Riddle wasn't constantly torturing him, and that he had nice food and clothes and some relative freedom, that the whole thing was an act of kindness. But it wasn't; not being abused should be the expected state, not something to be grateful for, not something to bond over.
He'd heard of Stockholm Syndrome when he was about sixteen, though the first case of it in the muggle world had occured two years earlier. The only reason he even knew about it at all, in a world of magic where such things went largely unacknowledged under the view that magic fixed everything and there could thus be no such problems among wand-carriers, was because he had actively been searching out everything muggle to infuriate his parents.
He read their news, and maybe that was how he'd heard about this. Truthfully, the details were fuzzy on the how and what and where. But he remembered the vague idea of this.
Empathy with the captor due to perceived lack of abuse, and a sense of debt, coupled with a fierce desire to survive and ability to adapt to situations to do so.
He'd heard about the Dursleys by now, of course he had. He doubted Harry would ever talk about it aloud to a human, but he was fully capable of looking utterly confused with just a dog in the room, and of trying to figure stuff out aloud. Though he suspected Harry still wrestled with things more in his head.
In some way, he supposed, that made all of this so much worse - because it could almost be viewed as if his godson's situation had improved. But, had it really? Riddle didn't neglect Harry, and maybe he treated him 'nicely' but that didn't mean there wasn't abuse involved. He'd said it flat out to the Dark Lord's face that he only pretended to care for the sake of his manipulations, and received no denial.
Sure, there were inconsistencies in Riddle's behaviour, and he'd heard Harry mutter something ominous about soulmates, but that didn't excuse the rest of it.
The worst was that Harry may even have been aware of it on some level, he was a smart kid after all, but was going along with it anyway. He hated to think why that would be...why the child felt so alone despite the love and support of his friends, that he felt that he had to turn to his kidnapper for understanding, acceptance, or even love.
It made him sick. And he didn't know what to do about it. He knew he should step in, and, indeed not a second passed wherein he wasn't envisioning new plots and plans to get Harry away from Riddle's poisonous influence, but...he didn't know what to do.
He couldn't leave, he wouldn't leave Harry even more alone here and, mark be damned, if Riddle raised even a finger at Harry he would rip the bastard's bloody throat out, but...
How had this become the fate of Lily and James' son? It was never supposed to be like this.
He'd seen Harry showing off to Riddle how he'd managed to learn the spells, and on some level he could understand that it truly was impressive - he was a Black, he knew how Dark Arts worked, he wasn't stupid, but...the eagerness to please was almost endearing at the moment, it could be skimmed over as harmless smoothing of the road...but what if it grew?
What if, with time, Harry went to greater lengths to prove his worth?
Like Regulus had. Regulus had been the 'better son', the 'good son', desperate to show his parents how good he was, how it didn't matter that he, the elder son, had deserted their line...that he was worth love when he himself had carelessly never even stopped to say goodbye.
It had been the heat of the moment, of grabbing his belongings, of curses on the stairs and screaming and threats - there just hadn't been time. But that still didn't forgive him of that either, for leaving his little brother as much of an annoying brat as he could be, without so much of a word of farewell.
Maybe if he'd been there more, instead of focused on his own rebellion, Regulus wouldn't have been so quick to leap to Voldemort's side either - to the acceptance and feeling of worth that the Dark Lord offered to lure people in.
Just like he was doing with Harry.
Bile clawed up his throat, and he whined, causing Harry to frown and come over to pet him.
A Birthday party was maybe a stupid thing to cling to as a consolation prize, or something he could do to make all of this better, but it was all he had right now.
He'd make sure it was the best party Harry ever had.
And maybe, when the time was right, he'd reveal himself.
Several days had passed, five maybe, and, each day now, Tom gave him a new spell to learn, or even a few.
It was something to pass the time with, but he was slowly starting to feel the loneliness creeping in again. He was still grounded, so he couldn't go and see Hermione and the Weasleys.
It wasn't that he minded being on his own, it was that he didn't like the feeling of being alone.
At least he had Sirius. The dog seemed to have an uncanny knack of telling when he was upset, and would then proceed to do stupid stuff until he couldn't help but start smiling again. It was company.
He didn't know exactly what Tom was working on, he probably didn't want to know, but he was willing to bet that it was something big.
He didn't expect this day to be different than any other.
He'd stopped bothering to get up so early now, though he was still up before eight to find Tom in the kitchen, to check if his being grounded was over and to pick up his spellwork for the day, before he went back to bed sometimes.
He now knew Morsmordre, Protego, Relashio, and then on the second day Accio, which summoned things, Stupefy, which stunned people unconscious and Deletrius, which removed evidence of spells being cast on his wand, so they couldn't be revealed because apparently there was a spell for that which the Ministry used.
On the third day, Tom showed him Episkey, which healed minor injuries, Homenum Revelio, which showed if someone was hidden near him (he'd practised on Sirius), and Confringo, which blasted things.
On the fourth; Ferula, to create a bandage and splint, and Incarcerous, to tie people up.
On the fifth; he was to practise all those spells again, along with Silencio.
The spells were difficult, and he'd struggle with them for pretty much all of the day - and sometime s not get them until Tom had spent some time teaching him again when he got back from his business. He'd always sleep well, and rest well, if only out of pure exhaustion.
By the end of the week he was absolutely knackered, but very pleased with himself. He wasn't perfect with the spells, and they didn't work for him 100% every time, but he'd managed all of them at least once which Tom said was very good because they weren't meant for the average third year student.
The interesting, and disturbing part, was when Tom explained the usage of the spell, and suggested ways he could use them. Tom had said he wouldn't be able to cast any too powerful spells at the moment, as most of these were basic Hogwarts curriculum spells albeit for the older years, as opposed to heavy duty Dark Magic. Most of them only required will power.
Tom had pointed out, however, that their basicness didn't mean they couldn't be used effectively, when he'd expressed a little mild disappointment that Tom wasn't teaching him anything special or cool.
For example, he could just as easily accio someone's heart out of their chest as he could a book he couldn't reach on the shelf, or blast through someone's head if he had good aim.
He'd stopped complaining very quickly after that.
It was undeniably creepy, but it did quite clearly make the point to him that Tom was trying to say - that good duelling was imagination and experience, and not just knowledge and power.
He hoped though, seeing at it was the weekend, that he may be able to have the day off to see his friends now. It was a Saturday - and sure, he was fascinated by the things he was learning, but he'd worked hard all week, hadn't he?
He wandered down to the stairs, only to pause, freezing.
There was something on the table. Giftwrapped in simple green paper. His mouth ran a little dry, and he swallowed.
"Er...what's this?" he really hoped his voice didn't actually sound that squeaky.
Tom was gracious enough to ignore the tone, if he noticed.
"It's a birthday present. July 31st. Happy Birthday."
His throat felt thick, and half of him wanted to just run back into his room and slam the door. He crept forwards, eyeing the box.
"How did you know it was my-" he paused. "Ginny. Who no doubt knew from Ron. Right." He was rambling. "You got me a present?"
"What is it?"
"Open it and find out." Tom was watching him now, something in his expression, and Sirius' tail was wagging. Harry hesitated, watching Tom for a moment, really not sure what to think about all of this. He only realised now that he hadn't had letters from Ron, Hermione and people - and he wasn't sure if it was because their owls couldn't find him under Tom's wards, or if they hadn't sent anything.
He was going to go with the former. His friends may not understand everything in his life, but he didn't believe they'd forget or abandon him. Not after the whole Dobby fiasco.
He reached out for the box, and carefully peeled the paper off, uncomfortable as to how someone was supposed to do this. He knew Ron, at Christmas, always just ripped into the gifts.
He tried to imagine Tom wrapping up a present for him, and wanted to laugh. Perhaps a little hysterically.
His eyes widened.
"Oh my god it's a broom! Is this the new type? A...firebolt? I thought you hated Quidditch?"
"I do. But I was...led to believe it would be something you would like. In all honesty, I don't much know what to get thirteen year old boys."
"Is this even out yet?"
"It's a prototype, limited edition," Tom shrugged, as if that was nothing. "I have connections. It will be fully released for mass sale later this year."
Harry stared, eyes still wide.
"Thank you!"
"You're making me uncomfortable, stop thanking me, get the tea and finish going through the box."
"What, there's more!? I can't take more - this is already way too much, you shouldn't even be getting me-"
"Harry. Tea. Now. Breathe."
Harry grabbed the kettle, serving them both, feeling jittery.
Tom seemed to suppress a sigh when he left the tea half way to dive back to the box, though it didn't seem too annoyed.
Under the broom, there was...his Hogwarts letter?
It took a few minutes for the implications to set in, and he had a feeling that this was Tom's real present, whilst the other was from...whoever led him to get Harry a broom. Tom wouldn't have done it on his own, he knew that, he didn't like Quidditch or pointless luxuries enough to think of it.
That did leave him questioning who the hell had orchestrated his firebolt then.
He hoped it wasn't the Malfoys. And who paid for it?
His mind was whizzing with questions.
He wetted his lips, slitting the letter open, reading it hungrily, before glancing at Tom.
"'re letting me go?"
He suddenly really wasn't sure what he felt, why he felt almost...uneasy, he didn't know. His insides were twisting up. Why was Tom just letting him-
"As I said, you're no use to me uneducated. You'll be coming back in the holidays. We have an arrangement, do we not?"
Harry nodded, perhaps a little too quickly, and he hated himself for that, just a bit.
"Are we going to Diagon Alley then?" he asked.
"You are," Tom took a calm sip of his drink. "With your friends."
Harry tried to suppress his wide grin, but failed miserably.
"I'm not grounded anymore, then?"
"Astute of you to notice." It was rather a mocking statement, but he couldn't bring himself to care or feel any bite from it.
He rushed to grab his stuff, still clutching his broom and god he wanted to try it out so badly!
He still couldn't believe Tom had actually remembered.
Actually, that was a lie..Tom had a creepy good memory, he could fully believe he remembered, what amazed him was that the other had bothered to do anything with the knowledge.
He was...touched.
He'd sprinted down in about five minutes flat, and was down at the table again, not quite bouncing on his feet.
He was acting like some kid, it was embarrassing, and he made a small effort to calm himself and be dignified.
He couldn't believe he'd forgotten his own birthday.
"Okay, I'm ready," he said.
Tom pointed at the table, eyebrows raised.
"What?" he asked.
"You haven't eaten anything."
"You've got to be kidding me!"
Tom just continued to point at his seat, before he huffed and flopped down, grabbing Tom's cereal and taking several large spoonfuls. "W'can-go-now," he mumbled, around a mouthful.
"Did you get a year older of a year younger? Try chewing. Your manners are appalling. And you just stole my breakfast."
Harry groaned, but swallowed around the cereal.
"Oh come on, it's my birthday...don't I get an, I don't know, get out of jail free card or something?"
"Wow, you got one of my references."
"And you just referred to living with me as jail," Tom countered, though he was smirking. Harry grimaced.
"My charm knows no ends. Take it as a compliment for me spending so much time around you and picking it up."
"Now you really are fishing, child," Tom said. "Flattery, really?"
"Is it working?" Harry asked hopefully, with a grin.
Tom drained his tea and stood up.
"I don't know when I thought this was a good idea," the Dark Lord muttered. "I hate dealing with children."
But Harry considered it a victory that Tom grabbed his coat and dropped him off at the Burrow anyway.
Tom couldn't help but feel a little bit like he'd been hit by a truck when he left. Harry...had the boy actually been hyper? He didn't think he'd ever actually seen Harry acting as anything other than trying-to-be-more-mature than I am.
He wasn't sure if it annoyed him or what.
The feeling unsettled him anyway.
Black had advised him on the broom, and in the end he'd got it, if only because he didn't know what to get the child and was rather too busy to go hunting for anything more unique.
Harry had seemed happy enough with it, anyway, which could only work in his favour.
For now, however, he dismissed the boy from his mind to focus on his own activities for the day.
He knew people expected a raid to be done at night, simply on the basis that they were dark - and, frankly, it was more convenient so that people weren't missing from their jobs and appointments. However, he'd planned this all very carefully, for the maximum effect.
It was time to break open Azkaban.
Chapter 34:
"Harry!" He was pulled into Mrs Weasleys teary embrace. "We were so worried! And I'm glad you're back now - Happy Birthday!" It was all so fast that he couldn't help but blink at their exuberance, especially the contrast it presented to Tom's more sedate manner of birthday celebration.
He was hustled into the Burrow, twisted his head to see Tom, but the Dark Lord had already disapparated. The inside of the house was decorated with paper-chain streamers, and there was a cake on the table with some presents.
The Weasleys were all there, and Hermione, and even Hagrid.
He couldn't help but feel a little overwhelmed. Maybe there had been a light side meeting, because they couldn't possibly all be there for him.
Hermione had got him this awesome broomstick servicing kit, which included a( jar of Fleetwood's High-Finish Handle Polish, a pair of gleaming silver Tall-Twig Clippers, a tiny brass compass to clip on your broom for long journeys, and a Handbook of Do-It-Yourself Broomcare.) He knew it was with his beloved Nimbus 2000 in mind, but he also had the Firebolt now!
He just wasn't sure if he should say anything about it. He shouldn't boast, and they may not like it if it came from Tom, and...well, Tom could be a complete git, but that didn't mean he couldn't like his presents, did it? Or did it mean he owed the Slytherin Heir something for getting him a gift?
He didn't know. But he made a mental note to find out when Tom's birthday was anyway, just in case.
Ron had got him a Sneakscope, which was apparently a 'Dark Arts detector' which lit up around untrustworthy people. Harry thought that was a bit of a pointed gift to receive, but he liked it either way. Maybe it would make things a little less confusing; he didn't know.
Hagrid had got him this awful book on monsters called the Monster Book of Monsters, which he found a very fitting name when it promptly bit at one of his fingers. He was glad that the Groundskeeper was present, because it was quickly established that all he had to do was stroke the spine for it to calm down, as opposed to tying the snarling thing with a belt.
It was probably bad that he wanted to make the joke that he was calling it 'Tom' - terrifying and savage unless one knew how to deal with him.
The cake Mrs Weasley had made him a Gryffindor cake which looked amazing.
She said she'd wrap up what was left for him to take with him. Harry tried to imagine offering Tom a slice of red-and-gold Gryffindor cake, and smirked to himself. It was a bit awkward when he had to explain his thought process though, and they all stared at him too much.
"It's, um, funny," he added, a bit feebly. "Because, you know, he's the Heir of Slytherin. And it's a Gryffindor cake."
There was a ringing silence. He was thankful when the twins rescued him, laughing.
"Oh my god-"
"-We totally have to do that-"
"-for whenever his birthday is-"
"-Yeah, we could make it Dumbledore's face that time!"
Some of the tension splintered, but there was an uneasy feeling in the air now that Harry was desperate to swipe away. Next time he would keep his mouth shut.
"The cake looks great," he grinned. "Thank you all for the presents. They're amazing. Best birthday ever!"
It seemed to work, and the whole room seemed to slowly relax again, and Mrs Weasley looked less like she was going to start crying.
"I've also got my Hogwarts letter," Harry added, in a carefully innocent voice. "Have you guys already gone?"
That seemed to brighten the mood further, as he'd suspected it might, with a celebration that he was going to be 'free' and 'going home' and whatever else.
Hermione watched him quietly, and, when they all set out to go to Diagon Alley - and he wondered if he should be unnerved that Tom knew the Weasleys hadn't gone yet- she pulled him aside in Flourish and Blotts.
On their spell list this year he had:
- The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 3) by Miranda Goshawk.
- Unfogging the Future by Cassandra Vablatsky (if attending Divination)
- Intermediate Transfiguration by Emeric Switch.
- The Monster Book of Monsters (if attending Care of Magical Creatures)
He was relieved to see no Lockhart books on the list, as much as he wondered what had happened to the man, and he also bought himself Numerology and Grammatica, after spying Hermione getting it for Arithmancy (even if he wasn't allowed to change, maybe he could teach himself? Or get Hermione to help him?) He also got a book called Olde and Forgotten Bewitchments and Charms by and Practical Defensive Magic and its use against the Dark Arts.
It was about this point that Hermione stepped to his side, whilst everyone rushed around the bookshop getting their supplies.
"Tom really is getting you to study more," she murmured. "You seem to be learning a lot."
"Yeah," Harry said. "He's taught me twelve new spells in the last week alone. I could," he hesitated. "I could show you some of them, if you want? When we get back to Hogwarts?"
Hermione's smile made him glad that he'd asked.
"I'd love that!"
It wasn't that he was suddenly studious to her level, or even Tom's, or that he liked reading theory books just for the sake of knowledge and pleasure, but...but after the Death Eaters it was clear he needed to learn more spells to be able to defend himself, so he wasn't as vulnerable. Moreover, well, he'd never tell Ron, but there was a...rush to learning to all these new spells, to the sense of power and most of all to the happy feeling he got from having successfully managed the spell after working hard at it. It was nice having things he could rely on, if things got tough and he was on his own.
It was also fulfilling, and Tom would get this very small smile and do this nodding thing, when he knew he'd done good getting the spell. The Dark Lord wasn't very elaborate or forthcoming with his praise, and if Harry didn't get the spell he taught him how to do instead of saying something like 'good try, well done,' or criticised what he was doing wrong and corrected it.
It wasn't, in that sense, an indulgent sense of learning, but he found he rather liked Tom's method. He got to the point, and let Harry just start working on them himself instead of doing the theory for weeks before - at least with these spells. He had warned Harry not to start picking out any old spell from books around the house. According to Tom, knowing the subtleties and implications of a piece of magic was very important.
At times like that, Harry thought he sounded remarkably like Hermione.
"Cool," he grinned back.
They carried on birthday shopping, and had ice cream for lunch at Fortescue's. He did wonder why no one was panicking about his reappearance now, but figured either Tom or Dumbledore had something about it.
He'd have to ask.
He couldn't help but mention the Firebolt though.
Tom strode easily onto the island of Azkaban, even as he could see his followers shrinking with a frozen despair around him. He, himself, remained unaffected - perhaps because he didn't have enough of a soul for the Dementors to be interested in him, when they could have the whole thing.
Besides, Dementors were dark creatures, and thus his natural allies.
It certainly made this endeavour absurdly easier, with no one else at guard at the prison.
They swarmed towards them, sensing fresh meat perhaps, and he held up a hand to his followers in an indication to stay back and not raise their wands, stepping forwards to greet them.
"Dementors of Azkaban, I, Lord Voldemort, have a proposition for you, if you would be interested," he began, smoothly. He knew perfectly well that they could understand him, and awaited a response. A rustle went through them, though if it was words it wasn't distinguishable to human ears, before one stepped forward.
"You seek to free our prey."
"I will supply you with more." He saw no need for an extravagant attack, explosions, and the cost of lives he didn't care about losing, but would rather keep for a greater occasion. If something could be done without his needing to replace his followers and cannon fodder, he would take it, unless the benefit proved greater than the inconvenience of replacement. "Your prey here dies quickly, in madness, and you prey on those who are of the same heart as yourself. Would you not rather have a more unlimited supply? I can guarantee you that, among my enemies, and to not be so tied to one crag on sea."
They seemed to confer with each other, without movement or sound but the rattle of their breath, like death. He didn't flinch, even when the closest one glided closer, getting in his face, that rotting mouth not even inches away.
"Broken lord." There was a weird sound in the area, and, he realised after a second that they were laughing. Broken - his soul. Fragmented. Of course they could tell. "You make a...fasscinating offer. We don't die, maybe you'll prove amusing."
Tom smirked back, rather liking their sense of humour and thinking, even if it was against him. They were so gloriously uncaring of the world and of anything but their own desires.
He waved for his followers to go and get the prisoners, dismissively, eyes gleaming, and they fled past him, giving the Dementors wide berth whilst they all moved in a circle around him, getting as close as possible. Sensing and tasting at his emotions, he knew, he could feel it, and he let the air swim with his magic and darkness in return.
Bless them; he felt rather like he was giving out treats to pets, they were so eager. Though he supposed the intangible shift of emotions was how they could sense his presence; they were blind, after all.
"A creature after my own heart," he purred. "Its a, ah...pleasure doing business with you."
There was that laughing sound again, and he joined them - indifferent to the terror of his followers who saw the event. He turned serious after a moment. "All darkness should be freed from the constraints society and the Ministry seeks to place on us, and you are free to scatter and feed as you please. I only ask that you heed me if I wish for someone to be spared, and follow my instructions. I'd hardly trust my own forces to police this world when I could rely on those as magnificent as you to do it instead."
After a moment, they dipped their heads to indicate agreement, and his smirk widened.
"Excellent," he murmured. "Though, for the sake of lasting food supply, can I suggest you perhaps migrate? Whilst I understand the allure of draining people dry, too big of a population shift could mean extinction of the food choice. The muggles won't defend themselves against you."
"Yes." They definitely still sounded amused. He didn't particularly mind, like he would, if these were his human followers. Dementors were old, as old as magic itself perhaps. They were deserving of his respect, even if they didn't have his leniency if they sought to rebel against him.
He didn't think they would though. He was dark, they were dark - they more or less wanted the same things and the agenda of the Dementors was simple. That was why they worked for the Ministry, and why they would happily serve him too. They were more tolerable than most humans he'd come across, he knew that much.
They scattered without further unnecessary words, and he strode to examine his new recruits. If they didn't want to join up, then they could die. And they could die if they were useless too.
Harry couldn't help notice that the adults were starting to look uneasy as the day grew on, that people were vanishing elsewhere, the alley emptying, and there were whispers in corners.
That was the Wizarding Prison, wasn't it? Had something happened? He'd picked up all of his supplies now, it hadn't taken long - though it was pleasant being out and about. He was also reminded to talk to Tom about Ginny.
Now, however, they had some more cake back at the Burrow, but it was getting close to seven and he didn't want Tom to go back on the Hogwarts thing, so it was probably time to go.
The Firebolt incident had gone down with amazement, and then an annoying amount of concern over whether or not it was cursed or not, and how exactly did 'Tom' acquire this state of the art racing broom and what else was Tom up to nowadays?
They didn't seem to realise that he could tell very well that they wanted to know about the Dark Side's plans, and, maybe he would have helped them but he honestly didn't know anything. Some of them had seemed a little sceptical at that, and Percy had asked him in a cold, snooty tone of voice on whether he was accepting bribes now?
He'd wanted to punch the git. The Firebolt wasn't a bribe, it wasn't! It had been his birthday present! It wasn't a bribe...was it? What if it was? A very subtle one? He didn't know.
He'd tried not to let it sour his mood, and now he had all of his presents in his pockets and in bags along with his supplies.
Still, it had been a good day overall, and neither Ron nor Hermione had said anything horrible - well, Ron may have been tactless and incredulous a couple of times, but it meant a lot that his best friend was making the effort and didn't seem to be putting his mouth in it out of spite.
Tom picked him up at seven, much to Harry's surprise. He'd expected Snape to pick him up or something, and take him to the normal meeting point. Harry blinked.
"You look suspiciously happy," he murmured. Tom merely flashed him a smirk.
"Am I not allowed to be happy on the thirteenth birthday of my favourite Gryffindor boy hero?" came the response.
"Exactly how many Gryffindor boy heroes do you know?"
"Lots. I keep them locked up in different cupboards around the country. I have a different one for every day of the week. Like socks."
Harry snorted.
"You have a sick sense of humour."
Tom grabbed his arm without further comment, only to pause as Mrs Weasley hurried up to this.
"You forgot your cake, love," she said to him, kindly, even as he glared daggers in Tom's direction. The Dark Lord seemed unfazed. Harry was impressioned she could heel face turn her expression so quickly, but smiled back at her, accepting the wrapped up cake slices.
"Thank you! It's been great, I've never had a birthday party before."
Her expression froze, and he cursed himself. Tom, conveniently, side along apparated at them at that point.
He entered the house, tired, but happier than he thought he would ever be again at the beginning of the summer, when this whole weird scenario started.
"I got a broom service kit from Hermione, and a sneakoscope from Ron, and Fred and George gave me some really cool Zonko's products, and Hagrid gave me this book off my book list, it's crazy. And Mrs Weasley made a really nice cake for me, it's Gryffindor coloured, look!" He showed a piece to Tom. "I saved some for you...what?"
Tom was staring at him, looking a little bemused, before just shaking his head.
"I'll just assume you had a good day, no offence, but you really don't need to give me all the details."
Harry didn't let himself be hurt by that. This was Tom, after all, and he would probably have been more unnerved if the other suddenly took an interest, or pretended to. Tom didn't care about what he did with his friends, so long as it didn't affect his world domination plots.
He was amazed the Slytherin had let him ramble up to the cake. Still. He pushed the cake into Tom's hands, insistently, before the other just took it.
"You get the lion. Cause I know how much you like Gryffindor."
"Go and get ready for dinner, brat, and put your presents away, I still have one for you."
"Oh?" Harry asked, head tilted. "What is it? A new spell?" That seemed like a very Tom-ish thing to still give.
"You'll find out. Scoot, and let me breathe. If I wanted you scampering at my feet I would have got another dog."
Harry huffed, but nonetheless went to do as he was told, thinking over the events of the day.
He might also have done some extra shopping to help with his current situation, if things went bad.
He nonetheless dumped the stuff in his room, grinned at his Firebolt, patted Sirius for a moment or so, before fishing the Sneakoscope out of his pocket to put next to his bed.
He turned to go down to dinner, and see what this thing of Tom's was about, before pausing at the whistling sound, looking back.
It was spinning.
The Sneakoscope was spinning.
He wanted to tell it to shut up, to not ruin things, even as something uneasy plummeted in his stomach. Tom had looked unusually happy.
He shoved the sneakoscope in some socks and went downstairs, with the whistle still echoing in his ears.
Chapter 35:
Bellatrix Lestrange had come to the conclusion that she'd never met a more wonderful man that the Dark Lord.
And my, for someone who was supposedly over twenty years older than her, he certainly didn't look it. The man was absolutely gorgeous, and looked to be in his late teens or early twenties.
He had thick, dark hair with the smallest wave, perfectly parted, and skin as clear and flawless as frosted glass, dark lashes and dark eyes which held raw power and knowledge.
It quite took her breath away. Before, when she met him, he'd been magnificent with the same tall, slender form, different eyes that burned a beautiful scarlet. He was like a god, an unearthly demon of death and she'd never seen anything so captivating in her life. He hadn't been handsome then, not in the traditional sense, not in the sense that her mother would have approved of - but he'd been glorious.
This was a different type of allure; a devilish smile hidden in the face of an angel. Classic, dark beauty that matched her own. Oh, they could have been on the cover of any society magazine. She would have murdered to attend Hogwarts with him, she really would have.
With this appearance, the danger and the menace was more subtle, it swirled in his stance and the magic that caressed her skin like shadows. She was sure he would be amazing in bed - he looked flawless, but she was sure he would have the same ruthless ferocity prevalent in his more inhuman form.
She wondered why he'd changed, but found she loved him anywhere, face aside.
Besides, he was rather delicious like this, wasn't he? And he'd come for her! She knew he would, of course, and that he couldn't possibly be gone forever like they said.
Of course, he hadn't had time for any more personal conversations amongst his most devoted followers, but she trusted his judgment, though she was disappointed. His manner of speech was as eloquent as ever, and she didn't understand how anyone could be skeptical that it was really him - young, handsome features aside.
She supposed they didn't know him like she did. The fools.
She was rather more disturbed to hear about Harry Potter from her sister though.
"What?" she repeated, in a low voice. "He's consorting with the boy?"
"Our lord is practically Potter's guardian," Narcissa replied, evenly, watching her. "Harry's a very sweet boy, and more promising than you'd like to believe."
Sweet? That wasn't a good description, and did very little to endear the brat to her.
"He lives with the Dark Lord?"
But there was a possibility with him, a pathway.
After all, if the Dark Lord was like the boy's male guardian...then surely she would need a female presence in his life too. She'd never considered herself the motherly sort, or at least not in the most common sense of the word. She would rather fight, and was indignant to the belief that a woman needed to give birth and have a child to make her life worthwhile in society's eyes.
However...if it allowed her to be closer to the Dark Lord, she would happily mother the little bastard. If he happened to tragically die sometime during the line, well, she was sure her Lord would need some support their too, if only because his plans were thwarted.
She couldn't believe that he actually cared for Potter.
"I believe so, not that any of us have ever been at his dwelling," her younger sister replied. She would be the first then. "Bella," Narcissa began, "don't do anything...ill advised. You have a husband."
"Not all arranged marriages turn out as well as yours, Cissy," she returned, primly. "Rodolphus doesn't mind. Besides, it was mother who wanted that match. I always thought of myself as more ambitious."
Her lips thinned a little.
"And if the Dark Lord does not welcome your advances and your...affections for him remain unrequited? He hasn't exactly done anything to inspire them since he recruited you, has he?"
"I don't expect his love," she said. "But he will know that I am there. I will be integral to his life, unreplaceable. I'll help him raise the boy."
Her sister was staring at her now, her expression perfectly blank, and maybe that annoyed her more. Her hands twitched.
"I am not mad!" she hissed, more shrilly.
"I didn't say you were, Bellatrix."
"You were thinking it. Yet you never sought to bail your own blood for Azkaban and the madness there, did you? No. Blood in, blood out, but you were more concerned with-"
"With my son," her sister bit out, coldly. "I was fully concerned with my family, and assumed you as a grown woman could be responsible for your own decisions. If you had been more discreet, than perhaps you wouldn't-"
"-Discreet? Why should I be discreet about my loyalties? I know where they lie."
"I don't think he's looking for a Death Eater as a mother figure, considering his past."
She ignored the comment, snatching some lipstick off the dressing table and applying it to her carefully.
"Do they come over here often? I think you should invite them around, sometime. It's only polite. The poor child would probably like to see Draco, someone his own age who can provide a good role model to him."
Narcissa sighed.
Harry stared at Tom, cautiously, the Sneakoscope's warning still whistling in his head.
He wasn't sure if he should take it to mean that Tom was just generally an untrustworthy character, which frankly didn't surprise him at all, or if Tom was currently doing something particularly untrustworthy as in more than useful.
It was odd that, despite full acknowledgement of Tom's deceitful nature, he still trusted him a little bit, in a certain manner of speaking.
He trusted Tom to act in his own self-interest, which maybe at this moment in time involved keeping an eye and looking after him too. He didn't know about the latter, but the first was unequivocally true.
"I assume you ate with mother Weasley? Or just generally ate lots of cake?" Tom asked, whilst getting out some leftovers. "I can make something if you require it."
Harry shook his head, curling up on his chair at the kitchen table.
"I'm fine. Mrs Weasley made food. She's a really good cook."
Tom gave a hum to that, before taking his wand and heating it up the food. Harry had mentioned a while back that they could just get a microwave, only to receive a blank look in return. It had prompted to explain what a microwave actually was, and for Tom to seem entirely too skeptical of something that used radiation on food.
Harry personally thought he just didn't want to ruin his reputation as a blood-purity obsessed Dark Lord by having and approving of muggle technology.
Tom tucked into his own meal, and Harry tried not to feel impatient. Tom smirked at him, eyes gleaming with amusement, before his wand was out in his hand and Harry was on his feet in a split second, eyes wide, his own clutched tightly.
Sneakoscope...was this...
It was the most wonderful, amazing feeling he'd ever had. There was a vague, untraceable happiness in his head, as if everything bad or worrying had just been wiped clean. He was on a cloud of utter bliss, freed from all responsibility. He'd heard some of the older kids on Privet Drive saying this is what being high felt like, except he felt more distant, enveloped in the sensation of warm safety.
"Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the table."
It seemed to echo as if far away, the words, from underwater, and he immediately moved to stoop down onto his knees. Get down on your knees and crawl around the table.
But why? Tom was a dick, he didn't want to get down on his knees before him. And he didn't want to crawl. It was a stupid thing to do, and much too Death Eater-y and degrading for his taste.
But it felt so wonderful, that doing anything to keep this happy feeling couldn't possibly be bad, could it? His brow furrowed.
No, he didn't want to.
Get down on your knees. Now!
Then there was pain, as he seemed to similarly try and lunge forwards, to half kneel and then shoot up again in defiance, before he promptly smashed his head against the table.
The pain doubled, and oh god, his head, and he scrambled to his head, eyes tight and wild with rage, snatching his wand up, shaking all over and unable to stop.
Tom held up his hands in a placating gesture, one eyebrow raised.
"Such foul language-" the other tsked.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!" Harry practically screamed, fists clenched, heart pounding in his chest. His wand didn't waver in his hand as he pointed at Tom. He didn't know what spell he was going to do, but-
"It's called the Imperius Curse, easy...just put the wand down, and listen to the explanation."
Harry laughed, incredulously, good mood vanished.
"The explanation? There can't be an explanation for that, you absolute bastard-"
Harry gritted his teeth, glaring at Tom furiously, something panicked and horrible swelling in his chest. He took several steps back, only for Tom to make a show of putting his own wand down on the table now.
"The Imperius Curse is a curse which allows that caster complete control over another person, and it is notoriously difficult to defend against, taking an exceptional amount of willpower and - most often then not - practice to throw off. Cool off and think for a moment, that, if I truly wanted to control you and have you do you think I would waste it on ordering you onto yours knees and crawingl around the table?"
Harry hated how calm Tom sounded, and even more that he was listening. Tom took a step closer to him, taking a seat in Harry's chair so that they were more on the same level, even as the Slytherin continued.
"I deliberately picked something you didn't want to do, that I knew you would hate doing, to make it easier for you to defend against. Now, tell me, would you rather have learnt how to conquer this spell here with me, like that, or perhaps in a life or death situation in which you could have already inevitably murdered one of your friends?"
Harry swallowed, eyes widening further at that thought, and Tom waved a hand to break the Silencing charm.
"You could have warned me," he bit out. "It was a jerkarse move."
"I was testing your natural response to the spell, which, I have to say, is very impressive. Outstanding, even."
Harry wasn't sure what to think of the sudden praise, if he really had done something incredible, or if Tom was trying to backtrack and worm his way into a semblance of forgiveness.
"Yes," Tom said. "As far as I know, no one's been able to overcome my will in that spell."
"So you didn't know I would," he half accused.
"I strongly suspected. You're a stubborn brat, and the exercise was far more effective for my not telling you. Now, the birthday present aspect of have the basis for defending yourself against that spell, forever. No one will ever be able to make you do something you don't want to do, because if they try, this memory is going to come flooding back, and it's going to make you furious like you are now, and they won't be able to touch you."
Harry's heart was gradually starting to feel his heart slow down. He was never using such a horrible spell...though was it worse than sensory deprivation? Possibly? In a different way. It felt good, but maybe that was what made it dangerous.
"That's such an awful birthday present to give." He almost wanted to laugh now, in a somewhat hysterical way. "Really. And merlin, it's just so typical of you."
It really was. Only Tom would do something like that, and the worst part was that he knew it was wrong and terrible...and yet, in a twisted way, it made perfect sense. Hell, as far as long term presents went, it was absolutely amazing even if he now had a pounding headache.
Tom smiled at him, before getting up.
"I also had this for you, in case you succeeded."
Harry stared numbly at the cake handed to him out of the cupboard - it wasn't elaborately decorated like Mrs Weasleys, it was small and chocolate and elegant.
Tom had got him a cake. Tom had got him a birthday cake.
"You're a jerk," he muttered, but there was less bite to it this time. Bloody hell. "If you ever do that again - I'll kill you."
"Oh, you're giving me your first death threat," Tom cooed, in response, eyes gleaming with a mockery, albeit a relatively good-natured one. "I'm so proud! Welcome to adolescence, or whatever it I'm supposed to say here."
"You're a horrible person," Harry muttered, with a snort, shaking his head.
But he was starting to grin, and he wasn't sure if it was a good grin, or a when did this madness become my life type of grin, or both. He felt was rush, having beat a spell like that. When the trance was broken, he could feel the sheer power that must have been directed at him before, and to overcome it...felt fantastic. Phenomenal. He felt like he could grow up and do anything because he knew Tom hadn't gone easy on him magic wise, even if he had in terms of situation set up.
Tom stuck a candle on top the cake, lighting it easily.
"Make a wish."
Harry drew a breath, before blowing the light, and doing so.
", but seriously, what possessed you to even think this up?"
"You're welcome."
"Thanks?" He thought he might be in shock. He could see why the Sneakoscope was spinning. "Is this why you were so happy?" he asked, suddenly. "I mean, sure it's useful for me to learn how to be immune to mind control-" he paused. Tom...did this imply trust on Tom's part? That he would show him how to fight him? His mouth ran dry.
His head was jumbled, and he didn't know what to think, but he could guess that there were deeper implications to this. He wetted his lips.
Tom studied him quietly.
"Let's just say it's been a day of progress for both of us."
There was another silence, and Tom went back to eating.
Harry really did feel more and more wired; he certainly couldn't sleep now.
"I still feel like I should punch you."
Tom smirked.
The Azkaban breakout had gone exactly as he'd hoped and planned, and the ripples of his victory were now starting to drift back to him as he eyed up the Evening Prophet once Harry was in the other room, doing something or other.
He wasn't, of course, going to extreme lengths to hide his activities or shield Harry from the truth of his work,, he felt he'd done enough. The Imperious Curse had been a success, and for once he had honestly performed the spell with Harry's best interests in mind.
Of course, he'd also had his own interest in mind, but that didn't negate the defensive value Harry got out of learning to counter and recognise such a dangerous spell. If the boy was to stay with him, he couldn't afford to have his mind so weak that anyone could control it - be it someone of darker magic on the Light side, or one of his own followers in an attempt to further their own ends.
He would not have Harry used against him.
It was a slight gamble, of course, as he'd also taught Harry how to fight against him, but, maybe in doing so, he'd earned something. Besides, if the boy had the capability to defend against the Imperius Curse as he'd seen and suspected, he would have inevitably learned it somewhere along the line. It was only in his advantage that it came from him, and not someone else.
The new followers he'd gathered looked promising too; those not completely addled by long term exposure to the Dementors anyway, but maybe it was the alliance of the Dementors which he had sought with even more interest. It was a good day on both accounts anyway.
He'd studied his rise to power, and his previous plans, strategy and history in order to be well versed, and also in order to figure out what went wrong on Halloween and, more generally, what to avoid.
He would be more subtle this time, more insidious, and Harry, as the no doubt base of all further resistance as the only one who'd successfully ended his growing reign last time, was a vital acquisition.
If he had Harry, the rest would crumble into place too, with a little effort.
And then he would have everything he'd ever dreamed of, and wanted, and the world and magic would bow at his feet.
It would be a better world, more efficient and powerful, and with no need for them to hide who they were from muggles who weren't even worthy to come within a mile of their greatness.
He saw no reason why wizards, as gods, should be the ones to cower and cringe against such disgusting adversary. Magical pride - someone needed to restore it, and he would be the one to do so.
He'd been bitterly disappointed when he first joined the Wizarding World to see how stunted it could be, when there was an opportunity for it to be limitless under his power and leadership. He'd always craved power, but when it was so clear that society was crying out for his help, destruction and reconstruction, even if they didn't know it, he couldn't resist.
People as a whole were weak, and didn't even realise how much they needed to be led. Freedom was a heavy responsibility, and not all could handle its burden and enlightenment.
He'd give them what they really needed, and what they really deserved.
Lord Voldemort.
It was going to be perfect.
He stabbed a fork straight through the Lion on the cake, before twisting and taking a bite of the sponge and icing, sweet and sharp in his mouth.
He knew his triumph would taste even better.
Chapter 36:
It was finally time to go back to Hogwarts, tomorrow, and Harry knew that at the beginning of this summer he would have been utterly relieved at that fact.
He'd learnt a lot of spells in the remaining summer time, including, but not limited to: Confundo, Glisseo (which caused a flat surface or stairs to turn into a slippery ramp) and Impervious Charm to use on his glasses to keep water away. Harry was thinking that would be useful for Quidditch, though Tom cited a battlefield as an example.
He also learnt the Imperturbable Charm for private conversations, the Disillusionment Charm to hide. He had the Invisibility Cloak too, but he saw no reason to mention that.
Tom also showed him the Obliviate, a memory charm, a Tongue-Tying Curse and Ennervate.
That was just a few though - Tom had mainly focused on offensive spells that would attack his opponent before they could attack him, but there had been defensive stuff thrown in their too.
Nothing, Harry had discovered, had been shown just for fun though.
He'd also picked up some spells from the books he'd bought for himself - and Tom had still given him essay, though the number significantly dropped in comparison to practical work.
He felt guilty thinking it was the best summer he had in a very long time. The beginning had been absolutely horrible, and it had still been patchy at times, wasn't the Durlseys.
He felt guilty for preferring the company of a Dark Lord, of Voldemort, to his own blood relatives too. It wasn't supposed to be like that.
It wasn't that he wasn't happy to go back to Hogwarts; he really was, he loved Hogwarts! But he was also just a little nervous. And he'd miss Sirius.
He didn't know how people would react to him, or what had changed. Tom had said he would look into the Ginny matter, but he hadn't done anything solid yet and had finally warned him to stop pestering or he would just leave her in there for good.
Since then, he'd been quiet on that topic, though it still lingered on his mind.
The next morning, at ten, they would be going to Malfoy Manor, apparently. Harry didn't see why he couldn't just stay the night at the Weasleys and head off with them, but Tom had been insistent for some reason or other.
Now, it was the last dinner, and he still remembered the first so vividly.
God, so much had changed in that time. He felt guilty about that too now, uneasy.
"I know you're going to miss me terribly and sob to have to leave my side, Harry, but you could at least try and look you're pleased to be going back."
Harry looked up at that, startled, before sneering.
"You're a nar-" what word was it that Tom used about the Malfoys once? - "a narcissistic prat," he declared. "I'm not going to miss you, don't be stupid."
"No, I'm sure you won't," Tom smirked, a gleam in his eyes. "So why do you look like someone's kicked a kitten then?"
"I don't look like someone's kicked a kitten," Harry replied hotly. "And maybe you're the one that's going to mooch about missing me. You kidnapped me in the first place cause you were lonely."
"I didn't kidnap you because I was lonely," Tom returned, flatly. "I honestly don't know where you got that idea from."
"I don't believe you. Why did you kidnap me then?"
Harry realised, now, that it had never actually been explicitly said. The question had been acknowledged a few times, but, mostly, it had only lurked in the background of conversations and cups of tea and whatever else had made up this weird and still somewhat troubled coexistence.
The worst had been when he found out about the Azkaban break out. The Lightside had told him all about it, and he'd promptly shunned Tom's company and refused to acknowledge him for three days before the elder lost patience, blasted his bedroom door open, slammed him into the wall by the throat and...proceeded to very calmly ask some questions.
Was anyone hurt during the raid?
He'd been forced to answer no, as far as he was aware, but he was sure he would have been told if someone was.
Do you think anyone deserves to be stuck with the Dementors and their worst moments, just for fighting what they believe him?
He'd tried to think of a way around the question, stopping and starting, because something had still felt so wrong...but in the end he'd had to again concede to a 'no.' Not for fighting what they believed in, though he'd heard that some of the Death Eaters had done a lot worse than just fighting. He hated that Tom had a question for that too.
Does that make the Ministry and the Light better for condemning to an equally terrible if not worse fate in Azkaban?
He still didn't know what to think about it, and had ended up yelling at Tom to just 'shut up' and 'stop it'.
He was certain that his life used to be less confusing.
He remembered he'd once been terrified of Tom dragging him to the grey area of shadows, darker and lighter, where the other resided - and he knew now that he was correct to be so frightened.
He'd been right. Tom did get him lost in the shadows, and he left no one but himself as a guide for navigation.
That wasn't right either, and yet, the very nature of the situation gave him no one else to cling to as tightly. People he used to know and trusted moved in the shadows too, but he didn't want to look at them and reach for them with Tom's hand metaphorically on his shoulder. He didn't know what he would, and what Tom's eyes on them would reveal to him.
Sometimes ignorance was bliss.
Meanwhile, the silence hung between them now, for a sticky few moments, filled with the things unsaid, and the possibility of those that could be spoken.
"Because you're my soul-mate," Tom said, finally.
Harry's eyes narrowed.
"But you didn't know that. Then. In the chamber."
"What are you looking for?" the other returned, more coolly now. "Something to show that you're a special, unique snowflake to me? I was bored, there was something about you, so I took you. I didn't premeditate special purpose for you."
"Is this all just a game to you then? Something to pass the time?"
Harry didn't even realise when he could feel his fingers tightening around the cutlery, tone growing more heated.
"Don't be absurd," Tom said, too lightly. "It's not just a game." His eyes, in contrast, were far too intent. Harry felt like they could reach out and choke him, swallow him whole if he let them. He glared back, refusing to yield, however much he desperately wanted to look away. Tom stared right back, unflinchingly. "Does it bother you? The possibility that this is all pretense and I don't actually care for you?" Harry's mouth felt scraped raw, the bad taste plunging into his gut. "Are you getting sentimental, Harry? Attached?"
"No," it was near a whisper, furious. It felt as if he could have screamed the words instead. "As if."
"I think you are. And I think it terrifies you, child."
"I'm not a child," Harry growled, feeling frustrated all over again, as if the summer days had reversed and never happened. Except they had, and now the words, the possibility, cut even worse.
"You should be more careful with who or what you give your heart to, Harry Potter," Tom murmured, eyes glued on him, before that familiar, charming smirk which he'd grown so used to was back. "Just as well I always take good care of that which belongs to me, hmmm? Finish your dinner. Are you all packed for school?"
Harry could have gaped at the switch - and he couldn't believe that somewhere along the line he'd forgotten how...turbulent, Tom could be.
"My heart doesn't belong to you," he sneered, uncomfortably. "You sound like one of my Aunt Petunia's bad romance novels."
Tom just laughed at him, and Harry could almost think he'd imagined the cruelty so prevalent before, but he knew he hadn't. It messed with his head.
The meal finished in a stiff silence, the type they hadn't seen in a while, and he didn't like it. It was silly, but he' was the last night before going back to Hogwarts. He'd expected...he didn't even know what he'd expected, or come to expect from Tom.
"I don't know."
Harry looked up at the quiet words.
"I don't know why I took you."
Harry swallowed, looking down, refusing to be pathetic, and affecting a shrug.
"It's okay. I don't know why I put up with you either and haven't stabbed you yet. You're a complete git."
Tom smirked.
"I think it's going to be an interesting year."
Narcissa Malfoy couldn't help but feel a little concerned to have the Dark Lord and Harry Potter around, more due to the presence of her elder sister than anything else.
She didn't particularly want Bellatrix around, as cruel as it was to say that about her own flesh and blood, but she was hardly a good influence on Draco.
And now the Dark Lord was coming. With Potter.
She never thought she would feel so much pity for either of them.
It wasn't that it didn't twist her insides to see the emaciated state her once beautiful sibling, and close friend, had come too. It tore at her heart to see Bella so withered, compared to her former glory, even if the woman still had her allure in personality and a wild sort of confidence so very different from her own, determined composition.
Bellatrix had a new dress on, clean hair, heeled boots laced up high with one of her old black dresses on clinging tightly to her form, face pale and lips scarlet.
"My lord," she murmured, almost immediately, once the Dark Lord and Harry had been led to the sitting room. The child was pulling his trunk behind him, apparently trying not to seem as uncomfortable as he actually was.
His eyes moved over Bella the second he saw her, and widened as her sister promptly leapt on him. She knew all about her sister's plans, of course, and had already expressed her skepticism on the matter, and her displeasure.
Really, Bella should be more loyal to her husband - he was from and old and honoured family, recent events regardless, and she should still be more faithful to him as was the Pureblood way. If she was unhappy, she certainly shouldn't be showing her favours so explicitly.
"Mrs Lestrange, I think you're suffocating my charge..."
Bellatrix never had been the mothering type.
Harry was convinced that this had to be a murder attempt, as arms crushed him from every side and yanked him forwards against a tightly corseted chest and bony ribs.
He flailed, wand out in a second, digging into the Harpy's throat, just as Tom spoke out.
The woman – it was, in fact a woman - took a step back, though her hand remained clutching his shoulders.
"Who the hell are you?" Harry demanded, eyes wide.
"I'm Bellatrix," she said. "But you can call me Bella, Harry."
What had Tom called her?
"That's okay, Mrs Lestrange..." Lestrange. He knew that name, she - he took an abrupt step back, almost walking straight into Tom's chest, stepping on his foot certainly. "You're one of the Azkaban escapees."
"Clever boy," she cooed, taking a step towards him again. "You're such an adorable little boy, aren't you?"
He stared at her sullenly, in something like disbelief.
"I'm thirteen."
"Yes, yes," she waved a hand. "Quite. I'm sure you'll be as handsome as your master when you grow up."
"Tom's not my master,"he said, coldly. "No need to project your feelings and status onto me. It's a bit unhealthy."
He was liking her less and less, and her eyes flashed at his comment, before growing distracted.
"Tom?" she said, suddenly, snatching on it, before glancing at the Slytherin Heir as if to slot the names together. "Tom," she repeated to herself, much more softly, in almost a croon.
"You will not refer to me as such," Tom warned, eyeing her. "I am still your Lord."
Right. Yeah. He didn't want to accidentally undermine Tom's reputation and forces - he'd save that for if - when - if he actually wanted to purposely sabotage.
"Of course," Bellatrix said, dipping her head. "I didn't mean any offense."
Tom continued to study her for a moment or so, before he glanced at Narcissa.
"The train leaves at Eleven. You'll want to make good time."
"I'm sure she knows that, she's took the train plenty of time's before, and I'm perfectly alright catching it myself without an escort, you know," Harry said. "I did in my first year, and I didn't even know how to get on the platform then."
They were all staring at him, and he found himself automatically straightening his posture, chin jutted up in something just shy of blatant defiance.
He found he much preferred Tom when it was just them, in private, he was less uptight.
Less of the Dark Lord.
With Voldemort, as Tom was now he supposed, it just felt like he should keep his mouth shut seeing as he apparently couldn't do or say anything right, and he wanted to shrink into himself. He raised his brows, instead.
"What? It's true," he protested. "You're fussing over nothing."
"Perhaps remember that the Ministry has been hunting you as a murderer for the larger part of the summer, and who exactly it is that you have been associated with, and rethink the 'nothing' aspect of that statement," Tom said, dryly. Bellatrix giggled. Harry really didn't find it that funny.
"Are you telling me something's going to happen?" He was rather alarmed when he didn't get a response to that. "No, seriously, is something going to happen?" he demanded. "You better not attack the train. That would suck." He paused, blinking. "And think of the First Year's! You'd ruin their first ever trip to Hogwarts and that's just unnecessarily cruel and-" that wouldn't persuade Tom, he needed something else. "And then they would never join yo. Because everyone thinks Voldemort is a total twat, which is probably right cause he - you - he killed lots of people and children. So really you want an image makeover."
They were staring at him even more now, and there was a shocked sound at the door.
"Mother...I'm ready to go now." Draco. God, the blond had practically squeaked the words out.
And great, Draco was now staring at all of them too. Wasn't the Malfoy heir supposed to be used to this type of stuff happening?
Tom and 'Bella' were still staring at him, whilst Narcissa looked over to her son, before back.
"We should be going, then," she said, evenly. "Would you like a moment, my lord, or-?"
"No. I have a matter which requires my attention now. Have a good year, Harry."
He knew Tom wasn't coming along. He also knew he had no reason whatsoever to be disappointed.
Really, what was he expecting, some affectionate speech and a hug? It just wasn't Tom, and he hardly needed such affection himself anyway. It was for children.
He nodded once, sharply, and turned away just as quickly.
"Don't kill anyone I like. Bye."
He liked to think his shoulders weren't hunched or anything.
"Bye Harry," Bellatrix called after him. He really didn't think the Dementors had been good for her. He didn't know what exactly she was trying to do, but, if it was making him uncomfortable - then it was working.
He followed Narcissa and tried to ignore Draco.
"I really can find my own way. People will talk if I turn up with, well, you. No offence."
"Nonsense, it's no trouble," Narcissa said, pleasantly, with a thin smile to him.
But that really hadn't been the issue.
He'd sneak off when he could, Tom's instructions to stay with the Malfoys be damned.
Bastard knew they made his skin crawl.
Albus Dumbledore straightened in his chair as he felt the the wards around his office signify that someone was approaching, and someone in particular.
He couldn't say he wasn't expecting this.
He steepled his fingers beneath his chin, popped a lemon drop, and fixed his eyes on the door.
"Hello Tom. I was wondering when you would come and pay me a visit." Riddle stepped into the office, seemingly without a care, shutting the door shut behind him. "I am, however, rather surprised that you're not seeing Harry off. It seemed such an ample opportunity to rake your teeth into him further."
"I'm here to apply for the History of Magic teacher, Headmaster," the Dark Lord said instead, smoothly.
"That position is already taken."
"Is it?" Tom asked innocently. His eyes narrowed barely perceptively; it didn't take an idiot to work out what the man in front of him had done to Professor Binns. "I find the position...lacking, and I'm sure the Board of Governors would agree."
He smiled back.
"I'll make sure to give you application due consideration, Mr Riddle. However, I'm sure there will be other candidates, despite the suddenness of Professor Binns' departure from the teaching staff."
"You do?" the Slytherin Heir murmured. "Interesting theory, Professor Dumbledore, considering 80% of students or more have received failing grades or dropped History of Magic in over the century he has been teaching, due to inadequate teaching, since Binns began teaching. Only about 2-5% of these students were inspired to go into historical fields after they graduated. Miss Bagshot, though a noted Historian, is far too old to teach here and is senile and those few others who are capable are already settled in careers and research around the world - and whilst you may not care about the historical education of your students, I'm sure the Ministry would disagree, and frown upon your inability to fire Binns to find a more suitable replacement when the problem began to be evident."
"Professor Binns was a historic part of this school-"
"I'll say." Riddle's dry tone did nothing to amuse him, nor did the implicit reference to the ghost's age and now untimely first and second passing. "Again, I think you'll find the Governors in full acceptance of my taking up the position, and it would merely be inconvenient for both of us if you continue to refuse me."
If Riddle was here, he was closer to Harry. He still had the opportunity to influence the Boy Who Lived. But, if Riddle was here, he could also keep an eye on and limit his activities, with the aid of the rest of the staff.
He certainly couldn't do as much damage to the Wizarding World - but he suspected Tom knew that too when he started this.
It was a game and a gamble, and one he saw no choice but to play.
"You have a schedule planned out for all seven years?" he inquired, instead, and Riddle's eyes gleamed.
"I have just the thing, sir. Everything is sorted. You'll find my report on your desk at the end of the week."
Then he walked smartly out again.
Dumbledore frowned after him, rubbing his temples, several fingers stained black.
Sometimes, he thought he was getting too old for all of this.
Harry slipped away the second he was on the platform, however much he shouldn't have done.
The Malfoys didn't want him around, anyway, and he'd already attracted far too many awkward and suspicious looks for keeping company with them.
Since when did him being kidnapped and reaching an arrangement with the Dark Lord mean he was suddenly best buds and free game for every Death Eater and snake out there, anyway?
Bellatrix Lestrange seemed to think so anyway, or maybe she was just crazy.
He didn't know.
He'd never been formally introduced to the Death Eaters and, frankly, considered his limited experience with them, he didn't really want to be either.
He didn't know.
He supposed they couldn't all be all bad, but...
It seemed like a betrayal.
He didn't know was starting to crop of far too habitually in his mind as a statement - and not a good one to have at that.
He dragged his luggage along, thankful for the feather-light charm Tom had taught him. The Slytherin seemed to prefer the idea of giving him the means to do something himself, like cast the spell, rather than take the simple and easy method of doing it for him.
Harry didn't mind. He rather liked it like that actually; it was refreshing to be treated like he was more capable, as opposed to some stupid child who needed to be protected and couldn't handle anything, and all new spells to try were dangerous without the right assistance, or 'too far out of their level.'
Sometimes he wondered - and he blamed Tom for making him think such things - that Hogwarts was almost too structured. He loved Hogwarts, and understood the reason for it of course, but maybe if there was more a focus on what students could do, rather than restricting their abilities automatically by age, then perhaps classes would run more smoothly.
Then he couldn't help but think that was horribly elitist, and that the old way was probably best for forming friendships...
But it wasn't like he was proposing; well, he wasn't proposing anything, but it wasn't like he thought they should be split up by talent, merely that the professors should perhaps push boundaries a little further, challenge their limits, and sort out who could handle higher level stuff.
Hermione obviously could, and he couldn't help think now that she must be dreadfully bored in classes that were constantly at a level too low for her.
That was probably why her homework was always so amazingly long and well-researched, she had time, and would find it fun to see what she could do, even if the teachers wouldn't acknowledge it.
He didn't think it was done out of spite or anything. Unlike Tom, he thought people as a whole were probably well-meaning, but..
The thought lingered.
He scanned the station for signs of red Weasley hair, or bushy brown, with the clamours of other people's heartfelt goodbyes throbbing in his ears.
The next second the explosion had him thrown to the ground, coughing.
If this was Tom - he was going to bloody well kill him!
And then there was screaming.
Chapter 37:
Harry's eyes widened in a shocked horror as some of the smoke cleared, allowing him a better view of the platform.
There were dark figures everywhere, hooded and cloaked, with stark white faces like bone.
His mouth ran dry, an uneasy feeling in his stomach.
He clutched his wand more tightly in his hand, heart hammering - was this why Tom had told him to stay with the Malfoys? He couldn't even see them anymore, among the panic of people running for cover, in shielding their children and spells flying everywhere.
He swallowed, thickly.
He'd never seen anything like this before; the terror, everything!
He froze for a second as one of the hooded figures noticed him, wetting his lips, straightening from where he was sprawled against the dusty platform.
He threw up a protego instinctively, and was glad that he did so with the stunner that soared towards him, and was deflected.
The second after that, he wondered if he'd really done the right thing, as now the spells switched to something far less harmless and he didn't know who they were or what they wanted or why they thought attacking a third year student was worth time.
Why were they on the platform?
He was immediately out of his death, even as he dodged quickly, nausea holding his guts to ransom. He knew some spells, yes, but he wasn't under the impression he was the most epic, formidable duellist. He wasn't. How could he be, in the limited time he'd had to practise when such mastery over magic took years, experience, even with power?
He did his damn hardest anyway, not about to go down without a fight, if he had to go down at all.
There were adults on the station; they wouldn't just leave someone fighting on their own like he was, even among all the panic and the chaos.
He was slowly losing ground though, and seriously considering firing Morsmorde and attacking with snakes. But...well, that would alert Tom, and if Tom was the cause of this, he didn't want to give the bastard the satisfaction.
He also had no desire to be some type of damsel in distress, or the kid who needed saving by bigger, more experienced wizards or witches than himself.
But he could still use snakes, if he dared to use Parseltongue. The events of his second year had certainly made him leery of such a thing, and the ramifications it could cause, even with the best of intentions.
Innovation - imagination - wasn't those the things that Tom valued most? He should be able to fight with basic spells, as much as greater knowledge helped, if he could think of how to use what he did have to his best advantage.
It made up his mind.
"Serpensortia!" He didn't know what kind of snake he'd summoned, but he pictured Tom's mark when he was doing so, and they turned out similar so he could take a guess. "Make him stop attacking me, but don't hurt anyone else!" he hissed, in order, blurting out the words in a frantic immediacy.
The snake slithered forward, rearing back to bite and lunge and - he blanched.
"Don't kill him!" he cried, thinking he should have said that first, specified his order. The snake glanced at him, before rearing up some more, hissing at the man, lashing out forwards and - and his attacker was scrambling back in his haste, wide-eyed, nearly straight into the railway tracks around.
Harry swallowed, heart pounding and fists clenched as the snake circled him.
Then...then the man seemed to regain his initial terror, wand pointing at the snakes, and Harry shot shield charm at it the same time, resulting in sparks.
He wetted his lips, staring back stonily, because if he'd learnt anything from Tom it was that showing weakness was like bleeding in front of a shark. It only invited trouble. It was far better to intimidate, and make people think he was far more skilled and deadly than he actually was.
They didn't know the snake wouldn't kill.
So he bared his teeth instead, like he was a snake too, hissing at the man - if only to freak him out and gain himself some time.
The man faltered back a step more, before lunging with vengeance, sending rubble straight through his shield charm and crushing the creature.
Harry felt his insides lurch, and an awful guilt spawn in his chest.
The snake had died protecting him. Because he summoned it. It could have been safe, it could-
He narrowly ducked a spell, barely able to breathe, and the next second he was knocked straight off his feet, his wand clattering a few metres away.
The white masked face advanced, and he crawled towards his wand- and he wouldn't reach it-
"Accio!" he gasped, desperately. The wand hit his palm at the same time he had to roll to dodge another spell, but then more light was zooming to him in quick succession and his shield charm had puttered out in shock.
He'd never actually tested his spells out before, in anything like this! He felt so stupidly defenseless and unprepared and-
The attacker went down.
Harry stared, not entirely sure what had happened, scrambling to his feet just as a stranger barreled in front of him, posture protective, pulling him behind him.
He looked young, but his brown hair was flecked with grey and his clothes were shabby and of poor quality, darned in numerous places.
But bloody hell he was a good dueller!
He clutched his own wand out, sending spells occasionally, trying to help and-
And then there were more screams, and green smoke in the sky - a skull, with serpents out the mouth - a horribly familiar mark - and - and the battle was over.
They disapparated as quickly as they came.
He didn't understand!
"Are you alright?" the stranger turned to him, grasping his shoulders firmly and peering at him. He had a kind, haggard face. Harry swallowed, nodding.
"I-I'm fine. Thank you, sir. I-you saved my life. I owe you debt."
"You owe me nothing," the man assured, squeezing his shoulder. "Let's get you safely back to your friends. Who should I-?"
"The Weasleys. Red hair-"
"Yes," the man smiled, expression softening. "I know their family. Come on, stay close to me. Are you sure you're not hurt?"
"No, sir, I'm okay," he said again, eyeing the man. "Sir, what was that-they -they were Death Eaters, weren't they? Voldemort's followers? Why would they be attacking the platform?"
He realised he didn't even know the man's name; but, before he could ask, he was being swept into a familiar, squash of a hug, with cries of his name and 'thank goodness you're safe'.
The Weasleys.
When he looked around again...the man who'd helped him was gone, and he was left with nothing but his troubled thoughts and a tight anger which coiled in his chest.
Azkaban could be explained, but what the hell was Tom even playing at with this?
He was going to throttle the git. Once his heartbeat slowed down...
Tom Riddle wasn't foolish enough to think that Dumbledore was happy about this arrangement, though he was smug to say the man hadn't really had a choice - or to deny that he hadn't fully opened himself up for a very different kind of war on enemy territory.
It was worth it though.
Harry was an asset, and one he would protect fiercely from...undesirable influences. If he wanted to keep the boy, he needed to continue to work on him and solidify their connection. One summer wasn't enough, it was a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things.
He couldn't afford to let Harry run around freely after all the work he'd done, unless he wanted his schemes to backfire under the Headmaster's machinations.
But he also wasn't here solely for Harry.
He needed more recruits, and students were the future. If he could convert a large faction of the Hogwarts population to his side, then he was one step closer to victory.
He hardly saw why Dumbledore alone should have access to the best poaching ground in the country, after all.
Of course, he couldn't recruit as actively as he would have liked, and his methods would need to be subtle because as much as history teachers were lacking, the Ministry would not tolerate Pro-Dark Propaganda.
But he could give a more historical, objective view of the situation certainly, and, he could assess the students for signs of agreement with his cause, or sympathy, through debate and reaction to certain historical events.
It was a fine knife to walk, but he'd always been sure of his balance.
He'd have to tread carefully, and if Dumbledore had his way he'd no doubt have numerous obstacles, but he was confident of his ability to succeed in this endeavour.
If nothing else, the scrutiny would allow him to inspect the students for whom to keep an eye on, and who to court outside of school hours if necessary.
The fact that he liked the idea of teaching, even if he had little patience for idiots or children, was a pro too, albeit one of little ultimate consequence.
History really was appallingly lacking in this country.
He had it all figured out:
First Year: Basics of Wizarding History, including the founding of Hogwarts, witch hunts and a brief overview of recent British magical history which those new to the world would need to know. It was more of a comprehensive year, aimed to encapsulate the key themes of magical history.
Harry could do with taking that one, though he had no viable reason to teach the basics to third years. He'd probably start all of them with a module of basics to catch them up, at least, if only because he himself had been unfortunate enough to suffer through Binns teaching himself.
Second Year: Wizarding History with Magical Creatures, notably those of sentience, house elves, Goblin Rebellions etc. The fact that these didn't always reflect so well on the so called Light Side and certainly the Ministry and the current state of affairs was a happy coincidence.
Third Year: He would focus more on external affairs. Key magical events in the world, outside of Britain, most notably including Grindelwald in a large section as it was probably the most vital for the students to know about, and he may throw in certain other Dark Wizards in there too, briefly, as an entirely logical contrast and comparison.
He would also throw in some magical creatures too, for cohesiveness and to combat the damage of inadequate teaching. From the notes he'd looked over, it would also go smoothly with the Defence Curriculum, so maybe at least educationally he might have one less enemy there.
Fourth Year: Would be focused on the relationship between muggles and magic throughout history, further building on the previous years and their historical overviews. He'd considered this one for third year, but..from a schematic view point this made more sense. As far as he was concerned, Harry would be taught by him next year too, and so the information would still come up. He couldn't risk too much pointed suspicion or evidence against him, and it would have been all too obvious a ploy to Harry.
Besides, Harry wasn't his only priority. Fourth year would allow him to start targeting potential recruits early, before they were too set into their OWLs, and thus, careers already.
Fifth Year (and, unless he suddenly had an influx of NEWT students, which he doubted, at least in the first year of his teaching, his last year as nobody took NEWT History really): he would focus on History of Magic in the most theoretical, abstract sense of the history of magic. Dark, Light - and henceforth, further opening up recruiting for his cause.
It was bloody perfect for his needs, and yet looked very good from an educational point of view.
He couldn't wait to see Harry's face.
As for the attack on the station...that had been carefully orchestrated too.
His horcrux would see that soon enough.
Harry was absolutely astonished.
He really didn't know what to think, he'd been fully prepared to be livid at Tom, but...all throughout the train people were apologising for thinking badly of him.
Apparently there had been small, focused attacks all throughout the country, largely to strike terror in people's hearts without seeming purpose.
But...he could see the point of it all to clearly. Lord Voldemort hadn't explicitly announced himself as a presence in the world yet again, but the attacks of his followers aroused enough suspicion...and, apparently, that meant he was the saviour and the good guy again. Because he'd been fighting Death Eaters on the station.
Because they'd apparently been there for him. To attack him.
And Tom had obviously set it all up...clearing Harry's name from the past year, throwing suspicion away from him whilst performing a simultaneous debut.
He was still suspicious though.
His head was spinning. He couldn't work out all the ins and outs in his head, and he was seriously writing the git once he got to Hogwarts, but...that at least seemed to have been partially the point. He didn't quite know how everything worked out, he'd only heard whispers, but...he could see the conclusion and the consequences for himself.
People were being nice to him again.
And now he really didn't know what to think.
The train sped towards Hogwarts, and his Third Year, and he didn't know who the stranger on the platform had been either.
How was it possible he had this many questions already?
At least school was a place for learning?
They slammed the compartment door shut behind them.
Chaper 38
"Where did you disappear to?!"
Harry glanced up at the furious, accusing voice as the door to their compartment slammed open, revealing a rather irate looking Malfoy. His eyes narrowed slightly.
"Onto the train, apparently, seeing as I'm here," he replied, dryly. "Why, what did you and your parents imagine would happen? That I'd get attacked by Death Eaters and almost killed?" he offered pointedly.
Malfoy's jaw clenched.
"He told you to stay put with us. We would have protected you."
"Guess I protected myself just fine," Harry returned. "I'm not his follower. I don't have to listen to him."
"Yeah," Ron said. "Harry doesn't want to hang out with you lot, and, whatever else has happened, it doesn't stop you being a git."
"I'm trying to keep my family safe and your stupidity could get them killed! Or have you forgotten the last mess you caused that almost made him snap my spine!" Draco hissed.
Harry paused at that, eyes widening a little with realisation. Of course. Draco had his own family too, to look after. They had to deal with Tom and Tom's psycho-ness too, and, unlike him, they weren't in any place to get out any time soon either.
Draco was born into this; he'd never had a choice.
He glanced at Hermione. Ron was still glaring. Harry wetted his lips.
"I-" he composed himself. "I apologise. I didn't mean to cause unnecessary trouble for your family." Ron stared at him, aghast.
"Why the hell wouldn't you want to-" the redhead began. Harry shot him a look, before glancing back at Draco once more. This could go horribly wrong, and he really didn't want to lose Ron as a friend, but it was very clear that his situation had changed and with Bellatrix and whoever else against him or whatever Bella was, he could probably do with as many allies as he could get.
"I mean, not that time at least. Tom can be a complete twat, and so, maybe..." he hesitated, before holding out a hand. "Truce?"
Draco scrutinized him closely, lips thinning, eyes equally uncertain. Harry was starting to feel like an idiot with his hands out. Was this how Draco had felt on their first meeting? The possibility of rejection was utterly intimidating.
"I suppose we can do a truce." Draco accepted his hand, albeit suspiciously, and maybe that made him the better man. He didn't know.
"Thanks," Harry said, shaking firmly, before letting go. "Not that I'm suddenly a muggleborn and muggle hating bigo-person. But, I mean, I think we both have bigger things to worry about now than bickering with each other?"
"How Slytherin of you," Draco stated, the corners of his lips curling a little.
"Well, the hat did consider putting me in Slytherin," he smirked. "And I've been stuck with the Slytherin Heir all summer."
"You were almost put in Slytherin?" Ron demanded. Harry rubbed his eyes.
"Yeah. But I wasn't. I was Gryffindor. I chose Gryffindor."
"Slytherin doesn't mean evil, you know," Draco said, in a sniffy tone. "It just means we value ambition, cunning and determination."
"In other words," Ron started, face starting to turn puce.
"Ron, please!" Hermione bit out. "We have enough fighting, don't we? Harry's not trying to say we're all going to be best friends, but to fight Riddle, or whoever else, and keep our feet, we have to stick together at least a little bit. Harry's right, we have bigger things to worry about."
Ron's jaw clenched mulishly, and he continued to glower at Draco, before just nodding, tightly, and looking away with a sullen expression.
Harry took that as a good sign. It wasn't total acceptance, but..well, he supposed Ron was at least trying, or at least compromising fractionally.
Draco nodded too, once, eyeing Ron with distaste and glancing at Hermione, before very quickly away, lips pinched.
"Right. Well - don't do something so stupid again, right Potter?"
Malfoy left again, and Harry wasn't sure if the air felt awkward or not. A little. Ron was still staring out the window, with a somewhat grumpy expression.
"So, um, exploding snap anyone?" Harry offered, quietly. "Ron?"
There was a silence, heavy and oppressing.
"Ron, c'mon..." Hermione murmured. There was a sigh, before Ron turned around again and smiled, a little tightly.
"I'll deal. And you can fill us in on what happened on the platform and who that bloke with you was."
Harry grinned.
Sirius couldn't believe his misfortune.
He thought the return to Hogwarts would finally be his opportunity to escape Riddle's clutches. He would have found Harry, revealed himself, and started undoing the poison Voldemort had inflicted on his godson.
He'd underestimated the Dark Lord's possessiveness, and desire to be the single influence on Harry's life.
He eyed the insane bitch in front of him, and would honestly have been happy if he'd never seen her again.
"Well, well, if it isn't my ickle cousin," Bellatrix cooed, brandishing her wand. "Finally seen the light?" she smirked. "Or should I say the dark?"
His hackles bristled, and in one quick movement he'd transformed, striding forwards to attack, before the shackle-leash around his throat yanked him back. Lestrange giggled, clapping her hands together with delight.
He'd been dropped off at Malfoy Manor only minutes after Narcissa and Lucius had left, leaving him alone with this bitch.
He didn't think the Malfoys had been looking for a new pet, but, apparently, he couldn't be trusted alone. Ironically, Sirius would have been happy to even have Snape here, to help him.
"Never," he growled. "And this situation won't last. Voldemort will be destroyed."
No, this wasn't the right approach. Not with Bella. She'd only laugh at him more. He gritted his teeth.
"Do you really want his attention focused on Harry instead of where it should be? On the cause?" he paused. "On you?"
"I have a plan," she crooned.
He really didn't like that sound of that.
"Don't hurt him," he bit out. She pouted at him, mockingly, eyes cruel and wild.
"I don't think you're in any position to tell me what to do, blood traitor. How is it you got out of Azkaban?"
"I'll tell you, for the next time you get locked up for good, if you let me go," he returned, sharply.
She just threw her head back and laughed, before wandering away.
"Let you go? But us Blacks have to stick together, yes?" she said.
The irony was bitter in his mouth. Together in that he wasn't going to be allowed to leave...and yet, if he had followed such tradition and not abandoned his family, he would have had far more help here.
This was going to take some planning.
But he would escape. And then he would find Harry.
Harry stared, wide-eyed, at the staff table.
There was a small talk about the attack on the platform, and a reiteration of safety rules and...and he couldn't stop staring at the staff table.
The man from the platform was there, the man who'd saved him, which could have been enough of a surprise for one night. It was the second new face which gave him a bloody heart attack.
Professor Binns' chair had always been empty at meals, as he was a ghost and couldn't eat...and now...
What. Was. Tom. Doing. At. The. STAFF TABLE!?
Harry's eyes flicked to Dumbledore, before back to Tom, and...he didn't know how he felt.
On one sense, he felt trapped in and stalked, suffocated, on another, he was almost glad that Tom was there and it was too much to compute and who was the other man and what was Tom teaching?
Dumbledore spread his arms for silence.
"I am...pleased to inform you that we have three new teachers joining our staff this year," the Headmaster began, inspiring even more whispers. Harry didn't want to listen to them, though he heard snippets like "he's rather shabby looking, isn't he? What's he teaching?" and "Merlin, the young one at the end is gorgeous..." "who's the third?"
He particularly cringed at the latter. He knew Tom was handsome, he supposed, but that didn't mean he wanted to hear it and - he didn't know. It felt weird, to hear people talking like that about the Dark Lord - the Dark Lord who had kidnapped him and been his guardian all summer.
His mouth was dry. He wanted to run up to the table and scream in Tom's face and demand explanation, but Hermione kept a hand tightly on his knee to keep him stewing in his seat, and another one clutching Ron's hand tightly.
Tom's eyes moved over him, and though his lips didn't move, Harry could picture the smirk there, and the gleam in the other's eyes, even if he wasn't close enough to see it.
But he knew Tom well enough to know that he was radiating smugness. His jaw clenched.
"Firstly, due to the retirement of Professor Grubby-Plank, so he can spend the rest of his life with his remaining limbs, the Care of Magical Creatures post will now be taken by our very own Rubeus Hagrid," Dumbledore announced. Harry's eyes lit up, as he clapped so hard his hands went numb, with the rest of the Gryffindors, whilst the Slytherins looked sullen. He saw Tom shoot a glance down the table, remembered that even if he hadn't killed Harry's parents, he'd got Hagrid expelled.
Harry's insides twisted at the thought, feeling a surge of guilt at the reminder of Tom's cruelty. Dumbledore was continuing.
"The second - Professor Lupin," he indicated to the shabby man, the man who'd saved Harry's life. "Who will be our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"That's how he knew how to fight so well and protect you on the platform!" Hermione whispered.
Harry clapped loudly once more, among more polite applause, studying Lupin carefully. He looked gentle and kind, the exact opposite of Tom at the table who looked bold and powerful.
It was funny, but, at least on the surface, it looked like Tom should be the the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Lupin looked like he should be...something else.
What was Tom then? If he was in Binns' way.
"And this," did they notice how Dumbledore's eyes and posture hardened? "is Professor Riddle, who has taken over from Professor Binns teaching History of Magic."
The clapping was far more enthusiastic this time, and Harry huffed.
He was starting to figure out what he was feeling - irritation!
Did he have to listen to a Tom-is-wonderful fan club all term long now? That, and this was suspicious. What happened to plans of Dark-Lordiness and World Domination? Tom was obviously plotting something; he just didn''t know what. He would find out though.
He was definitely seeing Tom once the feast was over, and he stabbed a piece of pork moodily as the feast appeared.
Ron was fuming next to him too, all of the Weasleys were, and how had Tom even got the job?
Smug bastard.
Tom wasn't even remotely surprised when a small hand grabbed the back of his new shirt and waistcoat, but allowed his brow to furrow. He did think he looked rather dapper in his new clothes, and didn't want Harry wrinkling the material.
"Tut tut. First night, and you're already breaking the rules, child," he sighed. "I might have to give you a detention for that, Mr Potter."
"Oh, you're just loving this, aren't you?" Harry growled. "How the hell did you manage to get a job at Hogwarts?"
"You don't believe that I would make a good teacher?" he returned innocently. Harry scowled.
"That's not the point."
"Then what is?"
"You're stalking me!"
"I'm looking after you," Tom countered, with a small smirk."I'd hardly be a good guardian if I didn't."
"Other people's parents seem to manage leaving the kids alone for the school year. Not that you're my parent, despite your creepy tendency towards confused family sentiments," Harry said.
Bless him. He didn't much like the familial references though, as he certainly had no intention to parent. Mentor, perhaps, as much as it served his own aims to do so. For now, Harry could do with learning some subtlety.
The other students around them were watching them curiously, craning their necks to try and see the connection between the Boy who Lived and the History Professor. He quietly grabbed Harry's wrist, dragging him to an area of a little more privacy.
"Go to your dorms," he instructed, to the students, aiming the words pointedly at a gaping prefect, who quickly started hustling the students along.
"As always, Harry," he replied finally, "nothing is done for one motivation alone. You're just...the icing on top of the cake? That is the saying, is it not?"
Harry's unimpressed, unamused expression merely made his eyebrows arch, and so the boy turned to studying him carefully instead - clearly trying to figure out these motivations.
"Is something hidden in the school? Or are you...I don't know...recruiting," Harry's head tilted, before his expression soured. "Speaking of plots. People trying to kill me at the station, you bastard!"
"You were perfectly safe," he said, calmly, somewhat amused.
"Didn't feel like it when one of your-"
"Harry. I taught you spells for a reason," he said, pointedly. The boy stared at him, with an annoying blankness, before seeming to realise what he meant.
"Oh!" Harry cast a spell to avoid people from eavesdropping on them,and he allowed himself to nod with approval.
"Now, by all means continue on explaining how you weren't perfectly safe, and how this didn't work out in your benefit. Unless you wanted a repeat of the treatment I heard you received in your second year? Perhaps you got attached to being the Heir of Slytherin?"
"No! Of course I didn't," Harry growled. "That's not the point! Why didn't you tell me what you're planning?"
"Because you're a thirteen year old boy commonly known as the saviour of the light, because I didn't feel like it, because the whole thing wouldn't have been even remotely realistic if you knew it was coming, because it was not supposed to be necessary for your protection to tell you, as you were not supposed to run off from the Malfoys out of whatever petty quarrel you have with junior-blond?" he offered. "By all means, pick one. I'm told students like multiple choice questions nowadays. Easier to digest. Less thinking involved."
"Stop insinuating I'm stupid!" the boy snapped.
"Stop asking questions before even giving yourself the opportunity to think about it properly yourself with a modicum of common sense then," he returned, dryly. "Valuable life lesson. You can't rely on other people to do your thinking for you. Speaking of, don't think for one second you can slack off in my class."
"I still don't understand how Dumbledore could possibly allow you to teach," Harry muttered, though there was less bite this time.
"Because Binns is a terrible teacher, even in my time, and mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth only a few hours before the start of term feast. He didn't have much choice in the matter."
Harry looked like he wasn't sure if he should be horrified or reluctantly impressed.
"Yeah, well, you're a terrible guardian if you're so obsessed with that, because if it wasn't for Professor Lupin then I would be dead!"
His amusement immediately vanished.
He would need to research this man, if he had a connection with Harry already. Moreover...
"How convenient that a teacher would be at the station," he murmured. "They so often travel on the train, after all."
Harry's eyes narrowed.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing...I'm merely amazed at such a remarkable coincidence seeing as I cannot recall a single instance when a teacher has traveled on the train with the students," he said, lightly.
"Maybe Dumbledore was smart and rightly suspicious that you'd try something," Harry challenged, folding his arms. "He is the Defence teacher after all."
"Yes," he drawled. "I'm certain there can't be anything else involved in this, especially considering previous track records on the reliability of Defence Teachers at this school."
"He saved my life."
"He wouldn't have had to if you did as you were told."
"I wouldn't have done so if you could stop being such a prat!" Harry glared at him for a second, and he studied him impassively in turn, before Harry was shaking his head. "Dumbledore, the Light Side, always keep stuff from me and I hate it. I thought you were different. That you understood. Guess I was wrong!"
Harry marched away from him without further comment, heading towards the Gryffindor Tower no doubt, and a small smirk blossoming on his lips.
Harry's manipulation skills were improving already. He was shaping up very nicely - Tom was sure that trick of guilt, and playing into his desires to have the boy at his side, would have worked on anyone who wasn't as well versed in deceit as himself.
Excellent. Quite excellent, and just a little bit adorable.
"I'll see you at my class bright and early, child," he called after the boy, hearing him huff. His smirk broadened, before vanishing just as quickly as he headed towards his new quarters to unpack the meagre belongings he'd brought with him.
Time to do some redecorating, and to sort out his office.
Had he mentioned he'd always rather liked the thought of being a teacher, in a way?
Of course, he couldn't tell a thirteen year old boy, with debatable loyalties, information about the Dark Side, but it was an interesting issue to consider.
He could use this.
Chapter 39:
Harry spent the majority of his evening being questioned by the Gryffindors about his summer, the events of the last year, and about Tom.
Considering everything he could have been questioned about, there were far too many about Tom. Who he was, how Harry knew him, what type of thing he was interested in...
Not everyone was swayed by Tom's plan and attack on the train, and claimed it was some kind of trick - which, whilst true in a way, didn't mean it was his fault or his trick and that he was devil spawn - and he could feel them glaring at him from across the common room.
Others completely 'forgave' him, though none apologised, others jumped on the bandwagon of big news, and some remained more ambiguous in their position.
Either way, he didn't manage to escape to his dormitory for ages, and then he was stuck talking there for ages. He was tired in the morning when he had to get up for classes, and in the end he was down early too, in a perhaps futile effort to avoid the crowds.
Hermione and Ron came with him, of course, even if Ron grumbled a bit about the early start.
It was great having them around again, regularly, and for a while he could almost convince himself that everything was back to normal.
It felt odd, in another way, not to just be sitting at the table having breakfast with Tom, at the house. It would be interesting seeing his class though, though it sucked that he could just use History of Magic to catch up on sleep, or do his homework now.
He was also looking forward to Professor Lupin's class. He had Defence today, so he was quite excited.
First he had bloody Potions though.
He caught Tom's eye at the staff table, and the other tipped his glass just fractionally in greeting, before calmly going back to his paper.
Just typical that he was reading the paper and not being sociable and talking to people, though he imagined there would be some tension between Tom and the rest of the staff.
He supposed the Slytherin Heir wanted to see how his attacks had gone down to the Wizarding Public.
He spent time talking with Ron and Hermione instead; and once again vowed to work on the Ginny case. It must be awful for her in the diary, and even though he'd already pushed the topic, he feared simply pestering him would cause Tom to leave her in forever.
Dumbledore would be working on it too, he was sure.
Still. It was strange not seeing the red-headed girl at the table, it left a bad taste in his stomach, and there were whispers about that too. Rumours of what had happened.
Harry swallowed, staring down at his eggs.
Time for Potions.
Tom sat at the staff table, reading through the morning paper.
On the whole, he was very satisfied with how everything had turned out.
People were terrified with the increase in Death Eater activity, wary of a rise in the times of the first war, and Harry was to some extent absolved of blame. Not entirely, there were still suspicions, but this combined with the work of Dumbledore over the summer insisting Harry was innocent and captured, along with Lucius' discreet words with the Minister and his own plots, the boy wasn't being arrested at any rate.
Not that it would be too much hassle if he was, considering his alliance with the Dementors, but he needed Harry to feel like the Dark Side was the safer option for him and that he could protect him - more so, that his reach extended further than it actually did at the moment.
The attack on Diagon Alley concerned him.
He had most certainly not authorised that. It was only small, but...troublesome. Maybe some of his Death Eaters had got a little too excited, or wanted free clothes and loot from the shops, but, nonetheless.
It wasn't obvious to anyone but him, it was subtle, it would seem like part of the plan.
It itched in his side like a splinter.
He hadn't authorised it.
So who had, if it wasn't just rowdiness?
His jaw tightened fractionally, before he folded the paper up, just as someone dropped into the seat next to him.
He didn't allow his expression to change.
"Tom, isn't it?" came the voice. "Tom Riddle?"
"Yes," he replied, offering a polite smile, falling into his role. "And you're Mr Lupin? Congratulations of your successful application for the Defence Post. It's a great opportunity."
"Yes," the man murmured, smiling back. His eyes were flinty, wild almost, saying something else entirely than the mild manner. "I'm very honoured to have received the position. It must be exciting to have your post too. Why, Binns taught even when I was at school. Are you planning to keep his curriculum or-?"
"He taught you whilst you were at the school," Tom replied, deliberately keeping his tone light, playful and teasing, "not to speak ill of a colleague, but would you keep his curriculum?"
"Quite," Lupin nodded. "I'd be interested to hear what you intend to do with the job, Mr Riddle."
"And I you."
"Maybe we should take lunch in my office sometime," the man said.
Yes, Dumbledore would be able to track his movements quite well then.
"Or mine," he returned. "I'd enjoy that. Thank you for the offer. I feared Dumbledore had poisoned the whole of the staff against me. He seemed quite fond of Binn's character."
He took utter delight in the flash of guilt that crossed the other's expression as he looked at him with an innocent smile, and the air of someone new to a teaching post, happy to have made a 'friend'. Of course, Lupin didn't believe his facade, but that didn't stop him from doubt.
"Well, I suppose new teachers such as ourselves should stick together. This world is divided enough without unnecessary quarrel."
But if a quarrel proved necessary, he didn't doubt for a second that Lupin would fight ferociously for his own.
"Indeed not," he murmured. "Horrible to hear about the attacks yesterday. I heard you were on the platform? Lucky that, teachers don't normally ride the train, do you?"
"With the recent events at the school, it seemed prudent to do so," Lupin said, voice obviously carefully. "I missed riding the train too. It brought back fond memories, I didn't mind the task. From who did you hear I was there?"
"Harry Potter."
Now there was a fascinating reaction, and he didn't quite allow his head to tilt.
"Yes, he stayed with you over the summer, I believe?" came the response, as the man made a poor attempt at concealing his expression quickly. The damage had already been done though.
There was something more to Professor Lupin in regards to Harry.
"Your loyalties are showing, Lupin," he smiled back, all too pleasantly. "That's confidential information. But, yes, seeing as I'm sure it will come out eventually, and I see no point hiding it. Yes, Harry lived with me this summer."
Lupin knew who he really was, at least to some extent, there was no doubt about that.
They stared at each other for a moment, but Lupin wasn't an alpha male, he could tell that already. He wasn't weak, and he had a quiet strength and a...curious wildness and ferocity to him, but he wasn't an Alpha male.
Black was, and, if he could handle a Black, he could most certainly handle this Professor - whatever his connection to Harry was. He'd find it, exploit it.
He would discover this out too, own it, control it, like he would possess the world and everything in it.
"I'll look forward to our tea and lunch," the man said, finally, instead. "I have to go and prepare for my first class. Good luck on your day, Mr Riddle."
But first he needed to know the man, his weaknesses and strengths, before doing anything too hasty.
And he had a class to teach now.
Severus Snape thinned his lips as he surveyed his third year Potion's Class.
It was disconcerting to watch, especially because the world around Potter had collapsed like a pair of kicked in ribs, concaving to a new form and closing in on the boy.
Not all of his Slytherins were treating the Boy Who Lived differently, with a certain new respect and certainly a wariness, but enough of them were that it was noticeable even to Gryffindor morons.
He could tell Potter was uncomfortable with it too, his shoulders were hunched, even if his expression was carefully blank. That was one thing he'd noticed had changed, too.
Whilst Potter still wasn't entirely proficient at masking his expression, and putting up a false front, he was far better at it than he had been before. More diplomatic too, more careful with his words and...he wasn't alienating the Slytherins around him.
It was the same sort of guarded wariness returned, trying to suss them out and what the hell was going on.
He really didn't know what to think.
The boy's potion skills were still appalling.
But...the Slytherins and Gryffindors weren't exploding each other's cauldrons. They weren't fighting. It had always mainly been Draco and Potter, and everyone else fell into those factions - barring Longbottom as a calamity and even Longbottom was less of a walking disaster than normal!
It was like Cold War. No attacks, a sort of suspension and waiting for something to happen, wired and not even remotely relaxed...but it wasn't the battlefield it used to be.
He didn't know what happened, because it couldn't be just rumours amongst the Death Eater children causing this.
Best to see how things developed.
It was an uneasily, unprecedentedly calm Potion's lesson.
He wondered if Potter would manage to soothe a war zone over now too, if he'd been acclimatized to the Dark Lord's mood swings and temper.
That would be useful.
"Potter, stay behind after class."
"I didn't do anything." It was the first sentence that somewhat involuntarily blurted out of his mouth when he was left alone with the Potion's Master. He had to get to his next class, and he didn't know where he stood with Snape after the events of the summer.
But he knew perfectly well that they weren't on the friendly stage.
Snape's eyes pinched.
"-Sir," Harry added, quickly, making a guess that was what the man was annoyed about.
"I am not accusing you of doing anything," the Potion's Professor stated. "If I believed you had, you would already be in detention scrubbing the first year's first cauldrons."
Harry grimaced at that thought, shifting on his feet, before steeling himself and lifting his chin, shoulders back, going still.
"What did you wish to discuss with me?"
"I wish to offer you Occlumency lessons."
Harry's jaw dropped, before he quickly composed himself, swallowing.
"I-that would be much appreciated, sir. Did Tom-"
"Oh. Dumbledore-"
"Professor Dumbledore did not instruct me to teach you either."
"Oh." Snape was doing this on his own accord? Helping him? What was the catch? "Is learning Occlumency horribly painful? Tom described it as ripping into people's minds..."
Snape blinked at him.
"My office. Seven O Clock, Wednesday. Be discreet. Go away now.."
Well, he supposed some things like Snape's dour countenance was just unchangeable.
"...right. Bye. Thanks!"
And some things did. This day was freaking him out, what was going on?!
Tom very quickly realised he did not want Gryffindor fifth years on his first day of teaching - or, most particularly, a certain pair of red-headed twins.
There was nervous laughter from the class as he walked in, only for disgusting gloop to land on him, drenching him from head to toe. It was disgusting. He immediately felt sick, and boils welled up on his skin.
The Weasley twins stared at him, hard, expression's icy. It may have looked like a joke, but he suspected they were fully preparing war on him on behalf of their little sister.
He waved his wand to vanish it, only to sprout fur and a nosebleed. The laughter cut at that.
This wasn't good - first impressions were everything. He would not be outdone by a childish prank, and, next time, they would fail to get him.
Instead, he concentrated, identified what was on him, what could be causing it, different spell effects and cast another spell, silently.
The laughter drained on people's faces as the gunk really didn't vanish this time, and he pulled off his jacket to be just in his shirt and strode for the front of the class, eyes fixed on the Weasley twins.
"Interesting combination, boys," he told the twins. "Some type of nauseating effect, a nosebleed effect and perhaps the key essences of a boil potion. It's a shame you waste your time on such things like this, when you're clearly highly intelligent and innovative Wizards. You could do a lot more with your life. It's also fascinating how you managed to make it react to the vanishing spell, and react to the magic traditionally intended to remove it. You must both be good with casuality and anticipating how future events can unfold. That will help you in this class. This time, I will let you off simply because of the ingenuity of your spell work. Next time, you can volunteer to test some of my experiments."
He turned to face the class as a whole now, who were staring at him.
He knew it wasn't over with the twins, but they looked shocked by his reaction and that would suit him for now.
He meant his words too. Put to a better use, they were clearly talented wizards. It seemed he had his first recruits, which meant he would have to free little miss Weasley, but that could only further his cause too if done right.
Not in the least, he hadn't had access to the diary to do anything before now, had he? And he'd been extremely busy.
Sometimes the 'to do list' kept piling up, but after fifty years of nothingness, he absolutely relished it.
"I can also thank you for offering me an excellent start to this cause. I will spend the first few weeks refining your previously lacking knowledge on this subject, including a brief history of domestic and global wizarding affairs, the influence of muggles and magical creatures. If you wish, I will mark any essays you write on the subject to further consolidate this learning, and if you wish to do further reading I will not discourage it. However, this year I will be focusing on the history of magic itself.
Herein comes Mr and Mr Weasleys example, as magic developed through a combination of different spells coming together. Initially, the broadest definition used was the distinction between light and dark magic..."
He started his lecture smoothly, and was gratified to find them paying rapt attention. He didn't interrupt his speaking initially, but made a hand gesture to indicate that they should be taking notes.
There was an immediate scramble for quills and paper, and he paused.
To think of what he could have done with the Defence Post...
He had the Third Years for the first time tomorrow.
Chapter 40:
Harry sat down for Tom's class - he'd been aiming for the back of the classroom, but Hermione had dragged him to the front instead.
Ron's face was reddening with how excited she seemed for the lesson, which he supposed was fair considering what had happened to Ginny. Ron had every right to hate Tom, but...
He didn't know where the easiness had gone in their friendship. Oh, they still had a good enough camaraderie, they'd gone through too much together for that to splinter so easily, but it wasn't quite the same. Sometimes things were strained, especially when it came to Tom or the Slytherins.
It was odd, seeing Ron's unchanged attitude to magic and the different walks of life and society made him realise just how much even a summer with Tom had influenced his view of the world.
If the Dark Lord could have more to him that hatred and a heart - however twisted, bitter and dark - behind the facade, then, well, no one else had an excuse to be so two-dimensional. Even the Slytherins. They must have their own lives, thoughts, insecurities and loyalties and obligations too, which made it very difficult to treat them with the blinkered spite and prejudice he'd affected in his first two years in the Wizarding World.
Even Draco Malfoy wasn't so bad anymore.
But Ron still didn't like Slytherins, and he didn't understand any possible acceptance or tolerance of the Dark Arts either. It wasn't his fault. It was how he'd been raised, just like, he was coming to see, Malfoy had been raised, and never ever so simplistic as he may have once believed or liked it to be.
He was more fun than Hermione still though, that hadn't changed.
But Hermione was a godsend.
He was actually starting to enjoy some of the debates they had, the discussions on magic, even if it got tiring if there was nothing else to talk about for too long a period. He supposed, was different when he actually understood what he was talking about and didn't feel like an idiot.
He didn't always get theory on the first go, there were too many long academic words which frustrated him and made him want to do something where he didn't feel like a moron instead.
But it was getting better.
Tom's classroom was already different from how Binns had been - the walls had numerous posters on them, different propoganda posters from different times, including an Anti-Voldemort one he was thoroughly surprised to see included.
They weren't so numerous as to distract, but they were there enough to make the place look more inspiring and less dusty and dull.
The class were all there on time, maybe even early, eager for a judge of this new professor. They didn't have their notes and quills ready, which was probably the first mistake.
Tom strode in smoothly, and the first thing he did was skim through the register and take it.
Harry wondered if he was nervous to be teaching, but, if he was, it wasn't visible on his face.
He'd barely seen Tom in the few days of his first week, but the start of term was always hectic so he wasn't surprised.
"My name is Professor Riddle, I am your new History of Magic Teacher. You will refer to me either as Professor Riddle, Professor or sir," he stated, calmly. "Now, I understand that you're education in this this classroom has been lacking, and I will take that into consideration in your essays and exams until I am confident you should all be up to speed...
There will be extra reading available on the topics I would have covered with you in your first two years, including a brief overview of all the key events in British magical history, the foundation of Hogwarts, and the history of wizarding relations with magical creatures such as the goblins, house elves or centaurs. A few articles will be compulsory for your viewing, but otherwise though extra work would be encouraged but is not required. Any essays you wish to hand in on the topic will be marked and assessed."
Hermione's eyes lit up at that, and Harry suppressed a smirk. Tom had no idea what he'd opened himself up to with that comment. Poor sod.
"This year we will be focused on external magical affairs - those not revolving around Britain - with most particularly the first Wizarding War involving Grindelwald," Tom finished. "Any questions?"
Hermione's hand shot up.
"Yes Miss Granger?"
"Would it help our exam results if we did the extra work?"
"Wrong question," Tom replied, immediately, causing Hermione's brow to furrow. "You should be asking me how the extra knowledge of your heritage, culture, traditions and history will be helping you in the real world outside of books and paper. Grades are not the mark of intelligence, and life is not a memory test."
Hermione looked crushed, but also a little fascinated, and Tom continued, eyes on her with an impassive expression.
"However, yes, any intertexuality - extra reading, cross reference, background knowledge - will help your grade too as it would create a more mature and insightful analysis of historical events. Any other-yes Miss Granger?"
Hermione's hand had shot into the air again, and Harry was definitely amused now.
"What are you teaching the older years? Just out of curiosity?"
"Fourth Year would focus on the relationship between muggles and magic throughout history, and fifth year would delve into the History of Magic in its most basic definition - the emergence of Light and Dark sides, and the evolution of spells and their categories, etc," Tom replied, succinctly. "Did you have any other questions?"
"How old are you?" This time it was Lavender who asked.
"I'm failing to see how this is relevant to the History of Magic, Miss..." he glanced down at his register. "Brown. However, because I know what students are like, and am intimately familiar with the rumour mill, I may as well answer. I am twenty four year's old-" bullshit! Harry snorted, Riddle was in his sixties, even if he didn't look it, and wow...that was a really weird thought and he was going to stop thinking it now "-No, I am not part or full magical creature in any way, no I do not have a Veela for a girlfriend or a boyfriend or any other type of model partner, and no I do not have a Dragon tattoo on my back."
Harry, along with many of the guys in class, smirked at the way Tom was addressing the wild rumours flying about the school about him.
Lavender blushed, looking down at her desk.
"Anything else?" Tom asked pleasantly. There was a silence. "Alright then, I'll start with a brief comprehensive review on the history that would have been covered in your first years. We will begin your module on Grindelwald at the end of the week."
Well, he was a better teacher than Binns, that was for sure.
He couldn't say he didn't prefer to get a break to just sleep and chat on the last lesson of the day though. Now he had to actually work.
And he had the horrible feeling Tom expected 'O's.
"Harry," Tom called, softly, as the class ended, with an indication for the boy to come to his desk.
Harry muttered something to his friends about seeing them later, and that there was no need to wait outside, before coming over, leaning on his desk.
"If you're giving me extra homework, I'm not doing it," the boy said, before he could say anything. He blinked at that, before smirking at the assumption of preferential treatment...not that he hadn't considered discreetly forcing Harry to do some extra work. It would be for his own good, really.
"Are you intended to hurl suspicious accusations every time I attempt to engage you in conversation after class?" he raised his brows. Harry grimaced.
"Depends on the topic of conversation. How are you settling into teaching? Apparently Snape is still the scariest teacher in school, so I'll assume no one pissed you off too badly."
"The Weasley Twins are in detention on Friday for attempting to turn my classroom into a swamp during one of the lunch periods. They'll be collected bubotuber pus. Other than that, it's been uneventful. How's the return to Hogwarts?"
"Well, nobody's tried to kill me yet," Harry said, not sure if he was joking or not.
"Always a good start then," Tom stated.
There was a silence, though it wasn't entirely uncomfortable.
"So, do you have a cool office and what are the chances of me getting favouritism and not having to do the really long essay you just set us?" Harry asked. He was almost relieved that the boy broke the silence.
"You'll have to come visit sometime. I still have duelling and spells to teach you, do I not?"
He felt smug at the flicker of relief that ran through Harry's eyes too.
"So you're still teaching me and stuff? Even with...don't Hogwarts have wards against-"
Dark Magic, but Harry stopped before outright saying it.
"Oh yes, Harry, I became what I am today without a way of overcoming those wards," he replied.
Harry huffed at that, even if his eyes remained light enough, if guarded too.
"I'll take that as a yes," the boy said, instead. "Though, you know, I do think you should give me allowances on that long essay still, seeing as I have to learn all your extra curricular stuff too."
"You don't have to," Tom shrugged, keeping his movements casual. "You'll just most likely die if you don't. Or get repeatedly used by everyone around you and get people in danger because you're incapable of protecting yourself."
Harry frowned.
"Weekends then?" he suggested.
He needed to work on his cause and with the Death Eaters on Weekends, and do his marking and lesson plans in the evenings on the week. But then, Harry was used to the fact he didn't always have enough time on his hands, and this could be a good way to intergrate him further with the Dark Side...
"Weekends," he agreed. "Come to my rooms in the mornings. I'll be leaving at eight, if you're not there, I'll leave without you, but I'll leave the spells out for you to study so the day is not wasted for you."
Harry nodded.
"Sounds fair."
"Alright then," he agreed. Harry was watching him carefully for a moment or two.
"Where are we planning to go on the weekend?" the Gryffindor asked warily. "Not the Malfoys."
"Don't whine," he reprimanded, lightly. "It's not becoming, and doesn't help anything. Yes, sometimes the Malfoys, or other places."
"I thought you didn't want me around your foll...the DE yet?" Harry asked. "Cause, you know, I don't much like them either. I don't want them to teach me."
"Harry," he warned, softly, at the tone.
"What?" Harry folded his arms, unapologetically.
"Don't be a brat. You'll get taught by whoever I want, if it's effective, be it more or one of them. Don't be so quick to toss aside useful resources, you don't know what they could teach you yet, or what you could gain at that."
Harry's head tilted as he considered that angle, before he shrugged, a little sullenly and he knew teenagers were supposed to be moody and temperamental but he really hoped Harry wouldn't get worse and even more angsty. He didn't think he had the patience to deal with a stroppy teenager.
Seriously, Harry was going to have to learn to get over it, or get disciplined, because he certainly wasn't going to put up with it.
"Fine," the boy muttered. "But I don't have to like them."
"Never said you did."
Harry was quiet for a bit, some of his expression easing again.
"You're a really good teacher, you know. Shame you had to go for the mass murdering career instead. Don't suppose there's a chance that you'll just stay being a teacher?"
He gave Harry a smile, but didn't respond to that.
"I'm sure you have homework to be doing. Off you go. And tell me if anyone gives you trouble."
"Sweet, but I don't need someone to look after me," Harry said, nonetheless wandering away.
"Eight O Clock, Saturday, remember," he called after the boy.
The door shut behind him.
The thing about teaching was that he loved the possibility of shaping and making a generation of Wizards and Witches in the image he wanted...
...but he really hated children.
He was so glad he hadn't had any snotty first years yet.
Harry was excited for his first Defense Lesson tomorrow too, but, for now, he had the anticipation of marching down to Snape's gloomy corner of the dungeons for his Occlumency lessons.
He still wasn't entirely convinced this wasn't some nefarious plot, but the skill was useful even if the teacher could be a twat. That, and he could just picture the look on Tom's face when he came up to him and proved he was an Occlumency expert.
So he steeled himself, tried to avoid the Slytherins because he hadn't quite figured out how to deal with them yet, and knocked on the door.
This was going to be fun.

AMGS 发表于 2015-3-11 21:46:09


埃德加 发表于 2015-3-22 14:42:47


瀟瀟 发表于 2015-3-31 20:11:16

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