The following day I was back at Hogwarts. The place that had once felt like home, now felt as hostile as the Dursley house. Whenever I passed anyone they either ignored me, said something insulting, or turned to whisper to their friends. It was worse than the time in my second year when half the school believed me to be petrifying mudbloods, because then I had the support of my friends. Now, those who once supported me through everything, even willing to take on Voldemort beside me, would have nothing to do with me.
I needed to talk to Malfoy. I had to know why the Slytherin's were so keen to help me out, and why they had renounced Voldemort, when they had seemed such staunch followers before. I didn't know the password to the Slytherin common room, and I was afraid to approach them in the corridors or great hall. I knew the rest of the school didn't trust them, and I was afraid to tarnish my image further. I know this was cowardly, but I felt completely alone, I missed my friends, and the comfort I once received from living at Hogwarts. I did have Tom of course, he would believe me since I'd been with him at the time. I hadn't been to see him yet either, a little frightened to go anywhere at night when I wouldn't have an alibi, in case the Death Eaters tried to frame me for something else.
Three days after I had returned to school, Malfoy stopped me in the corridor, and very conscious of the people around us, I lent forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. I had to keep up the pretence we were in love, if I had any chance of people believing I was innocent.
"Harry, we should talk," said Malfoy bluntly. I nodded in agreement, as Malfoy gestured for me to follow him. We walked in semi-awkward silence down into the dungeons and to the Slytherin common room. "Potter," Malfoy told the stone wall, and to my amazement the secret door slid open to reveal the Slytherin common room. It looked no different from when I last saw it when I was twelve. I couldn't believe they were using my name as a password! What ever next?
Malfoy grabbed by hand and led me across the room to a flight of stairs. After climbing several flights we reached the sixth year dormitories. Inside Malfoy's dormitory, Blaise, Pansy, Millicent, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle were waiting.
"Hi Harry," they chorused as I entered.
Unsure how to answer, I gave a weak, "Hello."
"Right Harry," said Draco, "We thought you may have a few questions."
"Yeah, I guess I do," I answered. I needed to know why they had helped me. "Why did you help me?"
To my surprise it was Blaise who answered, "You are our hope for a free future, we couldn't let you go to Azkaban."
"Your hope?" I queried, confused.
"Yeah," piped in Millicent, "We're fed up of living in this world of terror, hearing stories from our parents about the the Muggles they have murdered, and hearing the glee in their voices as they describe the murders. Contrary to popular belief, many of us do not share our parents views. I think living with Death Eaters shows you what a dreadful life it is. We do not want to be at the beck and call of You Know Who, constantly living in fear that we've done something to anger him, and may not return from the meeting alive. It's no way to live."
"Millie has summed it up pretty well," agreed Blaise. "We don't want to be murderers, we want to do something with our lives. Okay, so most of us aren't keen on muggles and muggle-borns, but we don't want to kill them for it. It's not their fault they aren't pureblood, or even magical. Muggles have no clue we exist, so why should we kill them? They do us no harm."
I was shocked to hear this from a bunch of people who I had thought to be staunch muggle haters, and future Death Eaters. It heartened me to hear that perhaps there was a hope for the rest of the wizarding world, if the second generation of Death Eaters were unwilling. Still, they hadn't answered my question. "Why am I your hope?"
Malfoy was the one to respond this time, "You are the only one to have faced Him so many times and survived. You are his arch-rival, you are the one he hates the most, and you seem to have an uncanny ability to escape unharmed from the most powerful wizard alive. You offer hope to us that we can also face him and survive. We also believe you have the greatest chance of defeating him."
So that was why they had saved me? They were about to be greatly disappointed. I had escaped out of dumb luck, and help from friends, not through my own skills or power. I had no more chance of defeating Him, than Neville or Ernie Macmillan. I explained this to them, detailing each of my experiences with Voldemort, yet they still seemed to have faith in me.
"I don't care what you say Harry," said Millicent, "You have something special in you, something that will ultimately defeat Him."
"We want to help you Harry," explained Malfoy. "Don't say you aren't going to help us, not after all we've done to help you."
I couldn't say no, so somehow I ended up agreeing to help them defeat Voldemort. We had no plan, but we had desire. We all wanted to see Voldemort vanquished. We all had our own reasons, but we had equal hatred for the world Voldemort had created, and greater hatred for the man himself.
I left the Slytherin dungeon with a lot on my mind. I was liked by the Slytherin's who had tormented me for years. They had not fully cleared this up, but I decided to let it go, they clearly were willing to be my friends when no one else wanted to be. I was in no position to give up friends, and they had already done a lot to prove how serious they were about helping me. As I headed back to the Gryffindor tower I got the urge to see Tom. He was the only one I could think of that may have some idea about what it would take to defeat Voldemort. I wanted to see him to explain why I hadn't come back to visit again sooner, and also, I just wanted to see him for his company. This surprised me, since I'd only met him once, but he held a strange power over me.
Deviating from the usual route to the Tower, I headed for the Chamber of Secrets. This time I paid very little attention to the decorations in the Chambers and walked quickly to Tom's room.
"Hey Tom," I called as I entered the room.
"Harry?" cried Tom, "Where have you been? I was afraid you were never coming back,"
I took a deep breath as I settled down on the comfortable green sofa, and explained what had been going on since my first visit. Tom was horrified by what had happened to me, and blamed himself, since he'd kept me from the Gryffindor tower on the one night that it was imperative that I was there. I did my best to reassure him that he was not to blame, since he didn't ask me to come, I came on a odd, unexplanable whim.
"How have you been Tom?" I asked, seeing him clutch his arm and his face contort with pain.
"Oh just the same," he said, as if the pain was not there. I had to help him, this was a miserable existance for anyone.
"Do you know how to defeat Voldemort?" I asked him hopefully. To my surprise he nodded.
"Yes, I have an idea. Based on the magic used that allowed him to become Voldemort, I have some knowlegde of his weakness. Voldemort is frightened of you, and death. Nothing else frightens him. You only scare him, since you may cause him death. This fear is his weakness. Fear can be exploited."
"But Dumbledore has always said his weakness was his inability to understand love."
"Dumbledore is wrong. It does weaken him, but not to the extent his fear does. This fear constantly breeds in his head, whereas love is something he never even thinks about. It does not bother him. To defeat Voldemort, this fear must be enlarged to such an extent, that his mind goes crazy."
"Is he not psycho already?"
"No Harry, he is misguided, but his head works perfectly. You need him to become unable to think, if he cannot think, he cannot fight. He can't do anything."
"That's all very well Tom, but how am I supposed to do that. I can't just stop someone's mind working."
Tom chuckled, "Actually you can. With a lot, and I mean a lot, of power, and an ancient spell, it is possible to play with the mind so that one thing that frightens them the most s all they can think about, and this in essence stops their mind from functioning."
"What spell? and how much power is alot?" I asked eagerly.
"That is the problem. The spell is in Merlin's spellbook. A spell book that has been lost for centuries. I do not know what the spell itself involves, but I do know that the power required must be immense to prevent a man's mind from working properly, especially a mind as powerful as Voldemort's. "
It looked hopeless. I didn't have the book, and even if I found it, it seemed unlikely I'd ever have the power required. I waved my hand idly and a plate of cookies appeared. I needed something to snack on, food comforted me and helped focus my head. Tom's eyes almost popped out of his head, for two reasons, one, I had just performed wandless magic, and two, because he hadn't had a cookie for fifty years. He strangely did not quiz me on my unlikely talent, and simply delved into the cookies. I smiled as I watched him savour every mouthful. He was beautiful. He was so elegant in his ways, and his handsome face was lit up with joy at the simple pleasure of a cookie. He took my breath away. I'd never seen someone that captivated me the way he did. He looked up from the cookie, and looked me straight in the eye. I couldn't move, I sat transfixed by the beauty and emotions I saw in those eyes. Emotions I did not understand, but nevertheless, they provoked something in me. Something I had never felt before but I could not comprehend what exactly I was feeling. I just knew it scared me, and I liked it.