A/N: First off let me apologize for being Missing In Action for so, so long. I have been swamped with living, as it were. But I am back and hopefully will keep up a steady flow of updates! I love you all for being so patient with me.
Disclaimer : I own nothing. Congratulations
When the Clock Defies the Time
Chapter Eight: A Cool, Dark Place
Harry gritted his teeth as his knees met cold stone floor, his hands quick to follow with a smack. The door closed, and wind brushed against his form. Looking up, Harry's' eyes were hard and defiant, an animal cornered.
There were figures circled around him, all with shadows cast across their features, thus making them indistinguishable. It was dark out on the parapet… where was he? Possibly the Astronomy tower, but his location was not of great concern, or countenance. Harry was more focused with what he heard…
"Harry Tomelson… get up."
Glaring Harry was tempted not to rise, but as a figure stepped from the ring of unknowns, Harry did rise. The blonde hair was unmistakable, even in the lighting. Aldrich Malfoy stood, tall and stoic as ever, head held high with superiority. Even if he did not intend it, it was clear he was "in charge" of this gathering.
"What's this all about, Malfoy," Harry asked, now annoyed more than anything.
"Perhaps you'd like to sit, first," Aldrich said, drawing out his wand and flicking it.
Harry felt as though there were strong hands against his chest, and he was thrown back. But instead of hitting the ground, as he had anticipated, he found himself sitting in a chair. Two people pushed him farther into the center of the circle afterward, and Harry just stared at Aldrich with a cool hatred that he could muster only for Draco Malfoy himself.
"Well?" Harry asked, relaxing a bit; "Get on with it then, whatever you've got planned."
Aldrich chuckled a dry, quiet chuckle, putting his wand away, and crossing his arms; "Think you're clever, don't you?" he asked; "Tomelson, you're quite outrageous for a Frenchman… you'll find I am not the only one to think this. In the past two months of your stay, I know no more about you than when you first arrived. And that, I will add, is not a lot at all."
"Some people value privacy," Harry said, watching Aldrich as the blonde began to circle the pinned youth.
"Ah yes, you've done a good job at that, being private," Aldrich mused; "But Tomelson, you're not like us… why are you in Slytherin? You've been known to stop the odd hassling a Slytherin should be inclined to support and even embellish upon…"
"Some people also have morals," Harry muttered; "Forgive me for stepping in when a first year is about to be thrown into a box of blast-ended skrewts!" Harry's voice rose as he spoke, and his eyes hardened at this inquisition. It was obvious Aldrich was on to Harry's ruse, and quite possibly, his predicament.
"Temper, temper," Aldrich chided, patting Harry's shoulder though the teen shied away and glowered; "Tell me, Tomelson, Combien français savez-vous ?"
Harry blinked. Someone had finally decided to test his authenticity of being French. But quickly he picked through the words, and what time elapsed was passed off as him staring Aldrich down. But his head was spinning. What had he said? How well do you speak French/Shit, not very well at all/ Harry thought to himself.
"Assez," Harry finally replied curtly; "Enough."
"It's time you stopped lying to us, Tomelson," Aldrich said, mirth leaving his face, and the circle tightened a bit; "If that is your name."
Preferring to stay stony and silent, Harry glared at Aldrich coolly, and said as thought musing; "Suppose you'd think that much, Aldrich. Never have been the open sort to change, though, have you? Never will, I imagine…"
Oh, but he need not imagine a thing. Harry knew. And his comment caused Aldrich to pause in his stride for a moment. Be it in unease, surprise, or that pause before a victory dance, Aldrich's face turned upward in a grin.
"You see, it is the comments like that that have me rethinking your arrival and existence, Tomelson… Crucio!" He suddenly cried, wand appearing in his hand and a stream of curse flying at Harry.
Harry was short of breath when the spell hit him, then he convulsed in a wave of pain. Falling from the chair he gasped and closed his eyes, not about to cry out. Aldrich would not be given that satisfaction. But the pain was so much more than intense. He felt as if his skin was being ripped off and then stapled back on, his head being hit with sledge hammers and he just couldn't stand it. Stabbing, someone was surely stabbing him in the back, the side. This couldn't be the effects of a single spell. But it was, and he was gritting his teeth so fervently he thought his molars would crack and crumble…
Harry dropped lower, now on his knees, elbows digging into the ground as his hands held his head. Make it stop, you can do it, Harry told himself, but inside he was screaming. You can overcome it…
But he couldn't. He just couldn't.
Aldrich had a malicious, domineering smirk on his face. All of his hate, all of his anger, all of himself, was put into the spell. Aldrich was notorious for casting painful dark curses, and he would cast them with disregard. What authority did anyone else have?
Aldrich lessened the curse somewhat, and Harry finally took in a deep, hoarse breath, the sound grating through his dry throat; "Now… what is your real name?" he asked.
Harry coughed, tasting blood from his lip. Had he bitten through it? There was a possibility he had, but he wasn't inclined to care. Harry looked up at Aldrich, hot, angry tears gathering in his green orbs.
"Harry," he spat with malice. Ooh, if only he had his wand, or the thought to cast a spell…
Aldrich picked up the curse again. Harry cringed, craning his head back, feeling like a beaten animal in a corner as he went down completely.
"Harry what?" Aldrich asked, but he did not lessen the curse; "I cannot help but notice your resemblance to Otto Potter… And I wonder, why you are so defensive over these simple quandaries?"
Harry gasped for breath, feeling as though he'd been thrown into a pit of fire. He cried out, heard snickering from the crowd, and a pathetic "Aldrich, that's quite enough." Selred had tried but Aldrich told him off, speaking something Harry couldn't register. Everything was starting to spin… who was it that had stood up for him? Selred? Selred Snape? There was irony in that mess somewhere…
"Perhaps you should take to being defensive now, Aldrich."
There was an undisputed hush that claimed the parapet then. Aldrich stood straight, but Harry did not move. He knew the voice, and at this point, it was an angelic musing. It cut through the jumbled reality he fought to stay conscious in. Inwardly he sighed thankfully, and the pain seemed to lessen a little bit more.
It was none other than Tom Marvolo Riddle, who stood in the doorway, walking out and closing it slowly. The grating sound of the door echoed, and chilled the bone. Aldrich, if it were possible, paled, but did not seem deterred.
"Tom, I was just getting to you-" He started.
"You called a meeting without my consent?" Tom asked abruptly, voice calm as he somehow spoke over Aldrich; "Why are we holding this inquisition?"
The circle relaxed pathetically quickly, and Aldrich was on his own. The pain died from Harry but he was still in agony. He looked up as Tom stopped beside him. Crouching down Tom brushed the bangs from Harry's face. Harry caught a brief glimpse of concern in Tom's cold jade eyes, and it was obvious he was angry.
"Just relax, Harry," Tom muttered, then rising, he faced Aldrich, face etched with a calm anger.
Aldrich did not falter with his words. He was afraid of Tom, for sure, but never would he be a bumbling idiot. "This Inquisition was called in regards to the mysterious nature of Harry Tomelson's Arrival and current residence, as well as his peculiar standing with one Mister Riddle…"
"His standing with me is of no countenance to you," Tom said, cool as ever, but his eyes cold as ice. "Orthis gathering." He cast a disappointed look around the circle.
"But when there is a potential threat to said gathering, then it becomes of great countenance, and one needing clear interpretation," Aldrich stated.
"This meeting is adjourned," Tom said, his voice booming though it barely rose in volume.
"It is NOT adjourned!" Aldrich bellowed back; "This Inquisition is not terminated until all have agreed upon it!"
"You'd do well by watching your tone, Aldrich," Tom warned, though he was inwardly unsettled by the murmurs of agreement.
Looking around, Tom eyed each and every one of them, not fooled by the cloaks or shadows; "Do you all agree with Aldrich Malfoy?" he asked, voice booming; "Do you consent to this man hunt?"
Now the parapet was eerily quiet. Harry looked around from where he lay, rising to rest his wait on folded legs, one arm around his torso while a hand was pressed against the cool stone for support. But his eyes always returned to Tom. He had leadership emanating from him like it was contagious. Harry was tempted to disagree, because that was the answer Tom wanted to hear. Sadly, no one moved to agree or disagree. They were afraid.
Aldrich cleared his throat. This was going no where. He was not going to get his answers tonight. Tom faced Aldrich again.
"This meeting has henceforth been adjourned."
- - -
"Thanks… again. I didn't know they were going to do that."
"Yes, well, it's a very appropriate thing for a Malfoy to do. Why were you on your own, anyway?"
"I… I was talking with someone."
Tom looked at Harry, stopping as he was about to take his shirt off. They were back in their dormitory, an hour after the Inquisition. Harry sat on his bed, staring at the floor, his face flushed from the stress of the curse. He had bruises along his bare chest, faint splotches of blue and purple. It was a sanguine tapestry. Tom crossed the room, and stood a little ways away from Harry.
"… I don't think it's safe for you anymore, Harry. Not here, at least."
Harry's head snapped up, his dark hair tossed to back from his eyes for the briefest moment. The emerald eyes locked with the teal that wearily watched him, and the youth frowned; "What do you mean?" Harry asked; "Aldrich was just getting too comfortable with himself. It's nothing…"
"Harry, he is on to you!" Tom said; "I won't have your blood on my hands."
"Yeah, because you already have enough on your hands, don't you…?" Harry asked, well beneath his breath, before abruptly rising and going outside, into the small sitting room.
Tom followed him out; "What?" he all but snapped, and Harry looked up at him as he sat down in the middle of the sofa.
"I didn't say anything," Harry grumbled, crossing his arms.
Tom suppressed a shudder of unease as he went over to Harry and boldly stood in front of him. He shoved the leaner teen back, one hand resting on the back of the sofa by Harry's shoulder, the other turning Harry's chin so he was forced to look at him.
"It's those comments that got you beaten up, Harry," he said, tone even but threatening ot be harsh; "What the hell is going on with you? You haven't been acting right at all for the past few weeks."
Harry's gaze hardened as he built up his walls. "You wouldn't understand, you couldn't begin to," he said quietly.
Tom sighed, let Harry go, and hung his head. Pushing off from the sofa, he rose and bean to pace in front of the warm fire, watching it eat up the logs for a moment. He looked back at Harry, confused. Too much blood on his hands? Yet another hint his future was grim. But Tom Riddle did have his ideas, and what Harry did say, under his breath or out in the open, was only a reassurance. Harry watched Tom pace, and when their eyes met, harry looked down. He never could look Tom in the eyes for too long. Tom wanted to know why.
"Harry, why can't you hold a gaze with me?" Tom asked, walking over again.
Harry bit his lip; "You couldn't begin to understand…" he repeated.
"Tell me," Tom was standing in front of him again.
The Slytherin Prince sat down beside Harry, his features now simpered; "Tell me.."
"I can't!" Harry said, and growling Tom launched himself at Harry.
He easily pinned the shorter youth to the sofa, and hovered above him. Harry squirmed, and Tom smirked, his eyes for a moment seeming to be tainted with crimson.
"Gerrof me, Tom!" Harry said through gritted teeth, his chest panged and wrists in the other youth's hold. The time traveler had his eyes tightly shut.
"Harry hold a gaze with me or tell me why you can't." Tom said, not relenting; "Is it because I'm hideous, or that I'm hideous later on? Answer me, Harry, Answer me!"
He watched as Harry squirmed, his curiosity almost too much to bear. Now his anger was the securest anchor at getting answers. He was tired of just letting Harry float. He needed to know why Harry would look at him with anger, disdain, disgust, and confusion, on those rare glances Harry thought Tom had missed. No, Tom had seen them. And he needed to know, he NEEDED to!
Harry grappled for freedom, but finally, he couldn't. His chest was hurting too much, and he was just too dog tired – emotionally, physically, just sick and tired. He sank into the sofa, panting, and Tom kept him pinned there. Finally he looked up at Tom. Their eyes met and Harry tried to keep the contact. But he saw Cedric dying. In those pools of Teal, he saw his mother's face. He watched buildings burn and heard people scream. He saw flashes of fliers and newspapers and the Dursleys and everyone and –
He closed his eyes tightly and turned his head, biting his lip and Tom blinked, frowning. Still no answer, still no solace and his curiosity was aching. Leaning down, he breathed hotly against Harry's neck and ear, causing the teen below him to shiver.
"So you won't tell me?" Tom asked against Harry's ear, smirking at another, slight shudder; "I just asked a simple question…"
"It's n-not easy to answer," Harry replied shakily; "G-Get off, Tom, I'm t-tired…"
Tom shook his head and chuckled quietly, deeply, his hand running from Harry's wrist, to along his arm, and up to cup his jaw. He placed a soft kiss on Harry's supple lips, and whispered against them; "I'm sorry I couldn't control my anger… I just got too frustrated… forgive me?"
Harry hesitated, then returned the kiss softly and quickly, nodding afterward. Sighing again Tom leaned back, releasing Harry as he sat up and rubbed his temples. Watching him warily Harry sat up as well, leaning against the armrest of the sofa. That had been so strange, and now Harry felt an almost child like fear for Tom creeping up into his soul. Because in that moment, Tom had died. In that moment, Harry had seen a glimpse of Voldemort…
Perhaps some things, they just couldn't be helped. Harry was starting to think he had been around for far too long...
"Tom…" Harry said quietly.
"Yes?" The youth replied, looking at him.
Harry looked down, and then looked back at his roommate, his timely savior; "I… I'd like to tell you," he gulped; "But I've already done so much by even being here. If you knew, god knows what would get changed later…"
Tom watched Harry, and then, he nodded; "I understand," he said, looking away. Then, he spoke quietly again; "Back in that thicket… when I asked you if I became a murderer…" Harry gulped, Tom kept talking anyway; "… I murder someone close to you, don't I?"
Harry swallowed a hard knot in his throat, or tried. "Very close," he managed, fighting tears.
Tom closed his eyes, rubbed them gingerly. Silence hung thick and tense in the stillness of the room. Harry doubted it could be cut, even with a chainsaw. He found it hard to breathe as he closed his eyes. / I won't remember, I won't cry/ he told himself.
It was then he felt something on his knee, a warm, heavy weight he couldn't decide to welcome or not. It was Tom's hand. Harry had just endured a very rocky roller coaster, and he was tired. Tom voiced an accurate observation; "You should rest." And Harry simply nodded. "I do." Tom helped him up, taking his hand. The sudden gentleness and care was odd, putting him in a state of unrest.
But their shared bedroom was comforting and dark. The sheets, were cool, and Harry gratefully fell into them and tried to get lost in the voluminous linen… until the sun shone in his face. Tom was in his own bed. The gap beside the raven-haired youth was oddly alien, but Harry didn't want to admit that. He rose, showered, and after dressing, opted for going to breakfast. Tom didn't want him to, but he did.
Harry entered the great hall, and it was hushed. /Some things never change/ he thought bitterly, as he strode over to the Slytherin table. Romulus patted the empty space beside him, and Selred even scooted over. Harry sat down between them, and saw how tense they were. Wordlessly he reached over, and grabbed a biscuit. Romulus tried to get Harry to talk, but it didn't much work. Selred and he exchanged glances, and they allowed the youth his moment of silence.
The rumble of speech sprang anew, and the Black in question started running his mouth about Quidditch teams. Harry only half listened. He played with his food, and before he realized it, he was arriving for lunch. The day had gone by so fast and all he could think of was about how much he had done to the future. He wondered if time had elapsed at the same rate in both times. God, what if people thought him for dead? What if… no, Harry couldn't think it. He kept telling himself things were fine, but they weren't.
He needed to see Gillani.
So he skipped lunch. There was probably very little he could get in his stomach, anyway. But as Harry took the familiar trail towards the lake, voice wafted up on the cold autumn wind. Ducking behind a tree, Harry peeked around, and saw a small gathering by the lake side. One was distinctly Otto Potter, without robes though his gold and red tie was loose and being blown by the wind. The other, was the red headed Gryffindor from the pub, who Harry was beginning to think was a Weaseley, perhaps Arthur's father. Then the sandy-haired Gryffindor, a Slytherin Harry didn't know… Then… There was Aldrich, and Roderick.
It was Aldrich's voice, that had drifted up to Harry's ears. "… We cannot have him here, Potter, and you don't want him here, either."
"He's a bit of a freak, sure," Otto was saying; "But I don't see how this concerns me."
"It is ever bit concerned with you," Roderick said; "By helping us get rid of him, you'll get back at one of your greatest threats."
"Riddle?" Now the Potter's eyebrow quirked up, then he smirked; "So it is true, he's just a little figure head?"
"In all the name implies," Aldrich replied; "Now, to business…"
"Someone's listening in!" The redheaded Gryffindor suddenly said, and Harry found himself suddenly revealed.
Turning he started at a run, but someone shouted a stunning spell. Hitting the ground seconds later Harry groaned. His legs, numb, he was soon dragged over by Roderick and the redhead. Thrown into he circle he flipped over onto his back, and glared at Aldrich.
"What do we have here…" Aldrich mused, frowning down at Harry; "Little bastard, quite the nosy pest, aren't you?"
Otto watched on, before walking closer. He wasn't looking at Harry, but at his Slytherin Cohorts; "Look, he's fallen right into our hands. Let's just be done with him now."
Roderick gasped; "Now?"
"Well, we have to," Aldrich said, with a roll of his grey eyes; "he knows too much. He'll go running to Tom after this."
Harry glared at Aldrich, defiant until the end; "Someone get this jynx off me," he growled, and Roderick chuckled.
"Oh shut up!" He said, before kicking Harry in the side.
Winded Harry doubled over, watching as the circle around him receded. "Who's going to do it?" Otto asked.
"Why, you are, Mister Potter," Aldrich drawled.
"I am most certainly not going to be doing it!"
"Yes, yes you are."
"Over my dead body."
"That will be arranged," Roderick interjected; "Should you fail to comply. Now, Mister Potter."
"I won't kill him," Otto repeated forcefully.
"No one has to kill me!" Harry shouted, eyes a bit wide. Were they actually serious?
"God, I will," Aldrich said, and he grabbed Otto's wand from his hand; "I don't have my own," he added with a grin, and before Otto could protest, Aldrich had the wand out towards Harry.
Harry always wondered, what it would be like to stare death in the face. He thought he had already, on a number of occasions. But this was perhaps the closest he'd ever gotten, and death had the face of an arrogant, sardonic, handsome Slytherin. A Malfoy. Harry was bound and determined not to appear frightened. He glared at Aldrich, almost daring him, damning him. Harry did not want to die this way, but he was unable to walk, unable to get away. And it was that grip of fear that kept him unable to register his ability to perform wandless magic. At that moment, he'd forgotten, and he was just another scared teenager in the corner of an alley.
"Aldrich…" Roderick suddenly chimed, warningly, "Aldrich, perhaps we should rethink this…"
"No! We've had this planned, for months!" Aldrich shouted, a wild look to his eyes, wand trained on Harry though he looked at Roderick; "We cannot – we will not! – go back now!" He looked again at Harry, but the raven-haired youth saw Aldrich's hand quiver ever so slightly.
"Avada…" the wand tip glowed a sickly green…
"NO!" Otto shouted; "Aldrich, this is madness!"
"THERE IS TOO MUCH AT STAKE, POTTER," Aldrich bellowed; "I and my counterparts have too much weighing on whether or not this boy lives, and it's in our best interest… that he dies…" Again, he opened his mouth…
… Hollow. That was how it sounded. But packed with passion at the same time. It was confusing, really. Such an oxymoron. Everything in life was a contradiction, it seemed. Maybe… maybe Life itself was a contradiction. As Harry's eyes gave away his inner feelings and widened, all he saw was a sick green, and heard a shout. "HARRY!"
So familiar… Tom? But no, he suddenly didn't care. Suspended, asleep almost, he receded into a cool, dark place…
"Harry, wake up…"