"I had a chat with Quirrel," Harry said as soon as he entered their shared quarters. Ebon brows rose into Severus' hairline in shock, before a monumental scowl wreathed his face.
"Have I not told you to stay away from that man?" he barked harshly, making Harry flinch slightly. "There's something wrong with him; dangerous. I'll not have you putting your life in jeopardy like that."
"You mean the presence of Lord Voldemort on the back of the man's head?" Harry asked matter-of-factly, which took the wind out of Severus' sails. The older man slumped down into a chair, shock coloring his face.
"The...the Dark Lord?" the Potions Master husked incredulously. "Here?" At his son's nod, he sighed wearily. "How does Albus not know?" he growled lowly.
"I'm sure he does," the preteen replied with a shrug. "This is probably one of those 'games' he likes to play, where I get into some sort of trouble and prove myself to him."
"Game?" Snape queried, anger forgotten.
"Yes. By the way, thank you for teaching me legilimency as well as occlumency. I was able to scan the surface thoughts in his mind, and I found out a few rather unpleasant things about our venerated headmaster. It seems that he intends to throw Voldemort and myself together as much as possible, to see if I, in any way, have the emotional impetus to 'save the wizarding world'. I've already told him that I have no interest in being his Savior. Apparently, he's not going to pay any attention to that."
"So you've spoken with the Dark Lord?" Severus asked tremulously. Harry was slightly surprised at the depth of emotion the older Slytherin was showing, and was gratified to know that the older man truly did love him.
"Yeah," Harry repllied with a grin. "I told him everything that had happened to me to result in this," with a wave at his face, "and he was infuriated on my behalf. I'm glad I was able to speak with him, and I intend to do it some more, if that's all right with you."
"He didn't seem...insane, did he?"
"Not at all," Harry answered, emerald eye twinkling merrily. "In fact, talking to him was like talking to you."
"Hello, my Lord," Harry said as he sat in front of Quirrel. They were in the Defense quarters for yet another chat. Harry had taken to coming to visit the man often in the weeks that followed their first interaction, just to 'touch base', as it were.
"Hello, Harry," the face said as soon as it was unveiled. "You may call me Tom, if you wish."
"Thank you, sir," the raven replied with a smile. "Christmas is almost here. I'll have loads more time to visit with you then, and maybe we can come up with a plan."
"That sounds doable," Riddle replied softly. He had told the child at one of their prior meetings of his origins, which had Harry laughing at the absurdity of Tom's efforts to campaign against those with mixed heritages. Once the giggling fit was over, the pair got down to brass tacks.
"I'll let you know if anything unusual happens, since the headmaster will be here during the holidays as well."
Harry woke on Christmas morning to find that some gifts were piled on the foot of his bed. Most were from his friends in the school, and he tore into them happily, exclaiming over them. One was from Tom, and it contained a book of Dark spells and rituals in which the teen had expressed interest. The final gift was a shimmering cloak that felt like water running through his hands. As he looked at it, it fell across his legs, and his eye widened at the sight, or, rather, lack of sight of his knees.
"An invisibility cloak," he murmured softly to himself as he experimented with it, grinning all the while. "I wonder who sent it?" The only thing enclosed with the cloak was an unsigned note, which read Your father left this in my possession when he died. Use it well.
"Who in Merlin's name would be daft enough to give an eleven year old boy an invisibility cloak? Not that I don't appreciate having something from Dad," Harry continued incredulously after reading the note. "And what does this person mean by saying 'use it well'? It's almost as if...no, the headmaster wouldn't be that stupid, would he?" Rising from his bed and taking the cloak and note with him, he went into the living room, thrusting both into his father's face. "Please tell me this wasn't written by whom I believe it was written?"
After uncrossing his eyes and huffing slightly in annoyance, Severus took the items, eyebrows skating in his hairline in shock at the cloak, before scowling down at the note. Moments later, Harry heard blasted bollocking interfering old bastard mumbled quietly, and snorted in amusement. "Yes," his father said out loud, once he'd gotten his temper in check, "it's from the headmaster. Though I have no idea why he would feel the need to give such a dangerous magical artifact to an eleven year old, no matter the provenance."
"I concur wholeheartedly," Harry told his dad. "I believe it was given to me to 'encourage' me to explore the castle without getting caught. I suppose he's trying to 'allow' me to experience my childhood, despite my appearance. He doesn't know that you've given me the greatest childhood I could ever ask for, so he failed on that point. I will, however, use it to snoop around tonight. Perhaps he has a 'surprise' for me somewhere."
"Be careful," his father said in a no-nonsense manner. "You do not know of what he's capable."
He found himself outside an empty classroom on the fourth floor, the door halfway open. Inside was some sort of mirror, leaning against a far wall, and Harry was overtaken with curiosity; a feeling he'd never really had before. Taking a few steps into the room, he tensed sharply at the feeling of magic in the corner behind the door. Dumbledore's here, he thought angrily, ready to turn around and leave. Something made him stay, however, and he slowly made his way to the looking glass.
It was a tall mirror, the frame made of filigreed wood, and it was a beautiful, if cumbersome thing. He stepped before it and lowered the hood of his cloak, staring into the glass with rapt attention. Nothing reflected back at him, and for the longest time he stood there, puzzling the purpose of the mirror. He'd read the message above the glass, carved into the wood, and understood that the mirror was magical somehow. Of course, you'd have to be dead not to feel the weighty magic attached to the item, but the inscription said that the mirror would show one his heart's desire.
Looking back at the empty glass, Harry finally understood that he had no heart's desire. That everything he could have possibly wanted or needed was already given to him by his father and the Malfoys. He snorted in amusement, a maliciously mischievous gleam in his eye. "So," he murmured just loud enough for the invisible wizard behind the door to hear, "my heart's desire is to be surrounded by bouncing puppies and kittens. I must admit, I wouldn't mind that at all. I'll ask Father if he'll get them for me." He pulled the hood back over his head and left the room, whistling quietly.
He had felt the spike of magic from the headmaster, and attributed it to either surprise or anger. Harry didn't really care which it was; he only cared that the old man hadn't gotten what he'd wished. Back in the classroom, Albus dropped the disillusionment charm and snarled quietly, staring at the mirror across the room balefully. I know I wouldn't have been able to see whatever the child saw, but I sincerely doubt it was gamboling puppies and kittens. He's up to something, but damned if I know what it is. I just hope that he'll do what he's supposed to do when the time is right.
Two days later, Harry was, once again, standing in front of the Mirror of Erised. He and Tom had talked at length about the child's prior experience with it, and had come to the conclusion that the headmaster had used it to somehow entice the boy. Quirrel was one of the professors to provide a challenge to the gauntlet to retrieve the stone, and Harry and both men discussed the matter at length before coming up with a plan.
So, here Harry was, staring at the glass with only one thought in mind; how to retrieve the stone. Since the reflective surface was meant to show one's heart's desire, the raven logically concluded that he must desire obtaining the stone, for the mirror to show him how to do just that. Ebon eyebrows flew into his hairline in surprise when he saw his reflection self pocket the stone, his own pocket suddenly gaining weight.
"So that's how he did it," the raven murmured with admiration. "That sly old fox. Well, now that I have the stone, I can give it to Tom so that he may resurrect himself. I'm thankful that I got to him early enough to prevent him drinking unicorn's blood. Wouldn't want Quirrel to suffer the curse of a half-life in order to keep Tom in the realm of the living."
After that first visit, Harry had cajoled his father into creating a potion that would help Quirrel survive the possession until such time as the Dark Lord was able to obtain the stone and resurrect himself. Now that Harry had the stone, it was only a matter of time before Lord Voldemort returned to the realm of the living. "I can't wait to see what he's going to do this time around."
"Here's the stone, Tom," Harry said as he placed it on the coffee table between them. It was the day before the students were to return to Hogwarts, and the only time that the raven could come see his friend. Dumbledore had set the house elves to spy on him, and they were able to see through his invisibility cloak effortlessly. So, in order to be able to give the stone to his friend, he had to wait until the elves would be busy preparing the castle for re-population. Therefore, they decided to meet the day before the students' return, so that they could be assured that there would be no interruptions.
Quirrel picked up the stone and smiled, sliding it into a robe pocket. "Will you continue to teach?" Harry asked the other man softly.
"I would like to," the professor replied. "I think I can slowly reduce the stuttering, in the guise that I feel 'much safer' behind the school's wards."
"Where will you resurrect yourself, Tom?" the preteen queried. Quirrel turned and allowed Voldemort to look at the boy.
"I am thinking that I can use the Chamber of Secrets," he told the child with a smirk. "Since it is not, technically, part of the school, anything done down there would not register with the wards. I'd explored it whilst I was a student, and I found Salazar Slytherin's private quarters down there. That would be the perfect place to create my homunculus and embody it."
"Do you need any help?" Harry asked eagerly.
"I might have use for you," Tom told the child with a grin. "I will probably need you to obtain supplies for me, and perhaps Severus would like to help me with this, as well."
"Father's still kind of iffy on the prospect of you coming back," Harry told his friend softly. "He remembers what you were like before you 'died', and doesn't want to return to that."
"I understand his fears, Harry," Tom answered with a grimace. "I will make a wizard's oath, if that will ease his mind. I would like Lucius and he to help me with this, as well as assisting me in accomplishing my goals more sanely."
"I'll talk to them, and let you know soon."