Furious fell surprisingly short of describing Harry's mood after Riddle's
departure. It didn't make sense, but he knew what he had sensed. Riddle
left to go see Dumbledore of all people, and he purposely tried to hide it
from him. The man likely had his reasons, but Harry was under the
impression that they were beyond that. They were suppoed to discuss what
was going on and figure out their next move, not go sneaking off to meet

He hurled a goblet across the empty dining room, strangely satisfied by the
crash it made.

What if Dumbledore was planning to destroy him? Why on Earth would Tom go
alone to meet him? It was reckless, and stupid, and driving Harry to new
levels of stress. He left the dining room at a pace born of his agitation.
He would get to the bottom of the matter even if he had to hex a few
portraits to do so.

In the attic, he ripped the dustcloth from the portrait of Slytherin and
demanded in Parseltongue, "Show yourself."

There was nothing for about a minute during which the boy ignited a heated
ball of flames into his palm. "This is it, Slytherin. You'll explain
everything now."

"Or what? Try as you might, you're still a boy Harry. The both of you have
much to learn."

"This is your fault. All of it. The reason Tom snapped all of those years
ago, killing muggles, my parents...you might not be directly responsible,
but you lead him to it. And now I see how."

The face in the portrait was laughing openly by the time Harry paused. "And
how is this?"

"Riddles. You never have a goddamed straight answer. But this time you did
something to us, out in the hall. I know it changed us, and you're going to
tell me-"

"You're sealed."

"Sealed. Your powers have been sealed with his from
the moment of your...coupling. I'm sure the both of you have noticed
some...changes in eachother."
Anger temporarily abated, his eyes widened at the haughty visage.

"I...you mean him being more human now?"

"You might say that...among other changes. Your sources of magic are now
the same and you draw strength from eachother."

Harry blinked in confused silence before answering slowly, "Okay..."

Salazar rolled his eyes. "And here I thought Godrick's thickness might have
been bred out of the line by now."

"What's the point of us being...'sealed'?" he asked, ignoring the last bit.

"You're now able to pursue your true role in the Wizarding community.
Together, you'll lead them to true glory." He continued at Harry's now cautious
expression. "Years ago I tried to communicate this very same message to
Tom. He interpreted it as a cause to desecrate the muggle existence in
this world, as did I. After all, wizards are and will always be superior to
muggles. We weren't meant to hide our existence from them, allowing them
majority rule over this world. Our race was meant to dominate, and together
you'll bring wizards and witches into the foreground where we belong."

"How?" he breathed softly

"Your methods are for the two of you to decide."


A number of things told Harry that he was back. The sound of the door
creaking and the draft of cool air across his skin...Tom's footsteps leaving
the foyer and his power pulling at Harry with its invisible tethers. Harry didn't
look at him, though, when the older wizard followed Harry's aura into the
empty ballroom. Tom eyed him, there at one of the windows much the way he
himself would stand when expecting someone. He truly had become the picture
of a man. Though, the set of his jaw told Riddle that, at the moment, Harry
was an angry one.

Harry did turn, regarding him with bold eyes. A moment of wordless
communication passed between them and suddenly Riddle knew why he was angry.
"So what did he say to you?" Harry asked quietly.

"Not so much, except, he thinks I should fake my own death."

Harry eyed the book he was holding.

"He gave you a book about it?"

"Yes, you might say that."

"Are you going to do it then?"

He studied the cover absently before making a quick irritated breath. "How utterly cowardly."

Harry silently considered his response before turning back to the window. The view really was something else.

"I wasn't aware bravery was a Slytherin interest," the younger wizard spoke towards the glass.

"Neither is consorting with Gryffindor figureheads," came the dry response.

Harry could feel Riddle's eyes on his back and knew he was thinking of a way to dissect his anger. He could tell that despite the Slytherin's attempt to appear nonchalant, Tom was actually trying to read his emotions. The careful probing was like a gentle nudge on the edge of his thoughts to which Harry couldn't help but answer.

/"It was pretty reckless. Rushing out to meet him. I don't think I need to say what it might have been."/

/"You mean like rushing out to meet you? In a Forbidden Forest with a company of Aurors at your heels? Do you mean to lecture me...Potter?"/

Harry turned at this, surprised to find Riddle right behind him. He hadn't heard him move.

"Well don't, Potter. It isn't becoming."

Harry wasn't sure how to respond. Riddle had a point, though he didn't agree the circumstances were the same. He studied Riddle's eyes, realizing the man was more tense than angry and decided to drop it - the older wizard had probably been just as nervous. Instead, Harry changed the subject.

"I spoke to him again."

This came as an obvious surprise to Riddle.

"And what did he have to say?"
There was a hesitant silence.

"That we're supposed to...lead them." Harry sounded about as discomfited by his own words as he looked at the moment.

Riddle joined him at the window, his eyes focused on the rolling landscape in silent consideration. It seemed this was what it all came back to. He didn't need Harry to specify 'who' was to be led. He'd always known he was meant to rule wizards, but so far his methods hadn't been so successful, as much as he hated to admit it to himself. It seemed like every time he'd gotten close, his powers were stripped or there was some major setback. He supposed there was always something missing in the whole scheme of things...or perhaps someone.

He glanced sideways at the young wizard, who was waiting expectantly for a reply. Could they really do it? Riddle wondered if the two of them would succeed where he alone had failed. He envisioned a powerful force of wizards no longer hiding their power and superiority from puny muggles.

"You know, muggles really aren't all that bad..."

He'd felt Harry's gentle perusal of his thoughts once the silence had become prolonged, but he didn't mind as much as he once might have.

"But they've enjoyed their blissful ignorance for long enough," he replied at length.

Some timid part of Harry was hesitant to admit to the desire to pull wizards into the universal foreground once and for all. The likelihood that there would be disastrous consequences was not lost on him. The Wizarding world had survived as long as it did for a reason, however sketchy their idea of order might have been. But change was not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, if done properly, they just might be able to work the two worlds together.

Riddle placed a comforting hand on the nape of Harry's neck, slowly moving his thumb in gentle circles as the sound of Harry's thoughts buzzed beneath his own skull. The sudden contact reminded Harry of exactly who he'd be 'leading' these people with and that if they were to accomplish anything, they needed to organize the Wizarding world first. This was no small feat they would be attempting. It was going to take planning and probably a ton of research. His resolve was very suddenly made up.

Riddle returned the kiss gently, immediately aware that it wasn't meant to incite passion . The slow longing caresses said good bye.

Before he could read the boy's thoughts Harry clarified his intentions. "We both have work to do if we're going to go through with any of this. I...I'll need to finish school." He broke away and moved towards the door. "How should I tell the headmaster you died?" he fired over his shoulder.

He thought only for a moment, finally realizing where this plan was going.
"With difficulty."

Harry smiled at that, turning hesitantly. "When things calm down we could probably meet again. I'd would suggest you keep a low profile until I'm out of school but...I guess you're already an expert."

"I'll think of something to occupy myself with," he replied with sarcasm that he didn't quite feel. As Harry disappeared through the door neither wizard could stop the feeling that he was being separated from an extension of himself.


Some weeks later...

Ron was doodling flying hippogriffs in the margin of his potions notes, attempting to charm them into motion without their professor hearing. For some reason, Professor Snarky was in a particularly foul mood that afternoon. Their NEWTs began at the end of the week and quite frankly, the redhead didn't care if adding the incorrect amount of ground dragonnail could turn a burn cream into toxic sludge. He had his ingredients listed neatly, copied perfectly from Hermione's own parchment, despite her best efforts to shield it from him. He was set to try the hippogriffs if Snape would just move on from where he loomed next to him over Harry's work. The boy had been scribbling onto his parchment like his life depended on it since Snape barked the assignment out twenty-five minutes ago. He was the last one still writing - even Hermione was shooting him glances.

Ron kicked him lightly, enough to get the boy's attention. When Harry glanced at him, Ron nodded in Snape's direction.

"Sorry, Professor. I'm just finished."

"I should think so," he replied irratably, snatching the parchment and storming off towards the lecturn.

Harry was aware of the looks. He was always aware of the looks, but this time he didn't care. He had a purpose and he was determined to see it through.

Ron and Hermione caught up with him after class, both a little wary but determined to achieve a sense of normalcy.

"You know Harry," the witch began with a genuine smile, "you're really doing alot to get caught up. I'm...well, we're really proud of you."

He looked at his two friends and wondered if they questioned his story. Did they ever suspect the truth about the 'Fall of Lord Voldemort"? Harry realized he was staring and smiled back. "Thanks. I know I missed a lot of work while I was...gone. I just want to pass those NEWTs and move on."

"Well, I bet potions will be a synch. Old Snarky doesn't know how to act with you getting everything right for a change. Your results will give him a heart attack, they will."

"Professor Snape," she corrected with a half-hearted glare at the redhead, "is probably just as pleased as any professor would be. He didn't even take points from us today he was so busy watching Harry finish the assignment."

"Probably thought he was cheating," Ron mumbled.

Harry wasn't sure what Snape thought. Ever since he'd returned with the news of Voldemort's demise, he hadn't quite looked at him the same. He looked suspicious. Of course, one might say Snape always looked suspicious, but he got the feeling Snape suspected there was at least more to the story than Harry had told the headmaster and the Ministry. He just hoped the man lost interest instead of asking any dangerous questions.

It was warm outside with spring well underway and most students were out strolling the grounds before dinner. It seemed Voldemort was a distant memory for these students, carefree and blissfully ignorant. There had been a lot of celebrating after Harry's announcement of the end of the war, and the only haunted looks belonged to Slytherins whose parents were either in hiding or in Azkaban. The papers had filled in Harry's brief account with the expected dramatization and by the end of the day the Wizarding world was a very happy place.

Amazing how simple it was.

Dumbledore hadn't asked him what he planned to do, simply reiterated his confidence in the true descendant of Gryffindor. For once, the man was staying out of it.

Ron left them to walk with Verna, the pretty Ravenclaw he'd been seeing steadily for some time now. This left Harry and Hermione to sit at the edge of the docks on the lake. The blurred shapes of fish and magical marine life drifted by periodically.

"You know Harry, there's something I needed to ask you. You and Ron both chose your classes based on the requirements for Auror training, but you chose not to submit the application with him."

Harry shifted a little uncomfortably. He knew where this was headed and was surprised Hermione had held back the question for so long.

"So what are you going to do?"

"Well, when I agreed to be an Auror, it seemed, I dunno, like the right thing to do. Voldemort was still alive and with the Death Eaters actively terrorizing things it made sense."
He was amazed how steady his voice was.

"And now?"

"Now...there are other problems. Other things I might be able to help with."

"I see. Well you have a lot of options. What are you leaning towards?"

He hesitated a moment, deciding quickly that it wouldn't hurt to be honest about this much. "Maybe the Ministry."

Her expression was priceless.

"Of magic?" Realizing how foolish that sounded she blushed. "Harry that's great! We need more sensible people over at the Ministry. I bet Ron's dad could probably score you an internship, if not an actual position."

"Maybe," he replied. He thought quickly of ways to turn the conversation off of himself for the time being. He wasn't sure how much was safe to get into just yet. She was likely under the impression he was aiming for department head at the most. There was no telling how she'd react to his possible interest in becoming the minister himself. Ron had been upset enough that his best friend decided not to apply for the Auror training program. He was probably waiting on The-Boy-Who-Lived to come to his senses and turn in a last minute application, not bust into the ministry to seize Fudge's job.

"I suppose you're all set then, Hermione?"

"Oh one can never be too sure. I've got all of my recommendations lined up, but I won't know until we do our NEWTs." Hermione was aiming for a career in Wizard medicine, hoping to join a research team where she could test some theories. Harry had little doubt that she'd be snatched up after one look at her credentials. But it was no surprise she was worried.

"I'm sure any team would be excited to have you," he replied honestly. She said something else then, but Harry's thoughts had wandered. He longingly wondered what Tom was doing, visions of brandy and classical novels flitting through his mind. He didn't realized he was smiling until Hermione tapped him on the arm.

"I don't know why you think that's funny."


"Mrs. Weasley. I was saying since you decided to get your own place after graduation, she'll be showing up at all hours with food. You know you're practically her adopted son," she repeated, watching him carefully. For moment it had seemed like he was miles away.

She watched him for another moment before mumbling something about Arithmancy notes and heading back towards the castle. He watched her go, hoping that when the time came to let the both of his friends know his intentions that they would support him.


(Clicks 'update' and runs for cover)

Now that you all have been broken into my deplorable updating habits, there's a sequel up in the air. Got some tentative ideas that I didn't get to explore in this fic, so sorry if that ending was anticlimactic. It was beginning to drag a little and I hope to pick it up some in a second round.

Sorry if I lost you in the wait. No excuses except life. I'll try not to start posting the next fic until I have enough juice to keep things constant. I find that my writing is less scattered if I let things sit before posting. I apologize if this fic was a little murky in that aspect. (One of the many things I have to work on!)

Thank you to anyone who was still reading this. I hope you all managed some enjoyment out this hobby of mine.

(btw...i threw in slashes to help indicate mind speech. ffnet wasn't accepting my italics.)