Harry stared up at the maroon canopy, shadows playing over his face as the moonlight fell through the window. He could feel James' gaze on him, as he had for the last five minutes. The two were in James' bedroom at Hogwarts, Harry in Sirius' bed and James in his own. The older boy had been extremely quiet throughout the day and seemed to ignore the younger boy.
"What is it James?" Harry finally asked, turning his head to gaze at his father.
The boy stared unblinkingly back, "I'm sorry."
Confusion showed on Harry's face.
James rolled over on his side and hugged a pillow tightly to his chest, "For not stopping him. You were right beside me. I could have reached out and stopped him somehow…"
"No Harry," the boy interrupted, upset, "don't say it wasn't my fault. I could have done something, anything! You are my little brother, and I'm supposed to protect you. You aren't supposed to be the one getting hurt!"
Harry sat up in bed, and turned to face James completely, legs thrown over the side of the bed and elbows on knees, "I'll say it whether you believe it or not. It wasn't your fault, no more than any other person on the platform."
"You don't understand-"
The younger boy let a scowl come over his face, "What don't I understand? That you feel guilty? That you feel you should have been able to do something to stop what happened? Tell me James because I understand all too well."
"You can't-" the older boy began only to be cut off again.
"Why can't I? You don't think that I dwell on the past either?" Harry demanded sharply before taking on a tone dripping with sarcasm and a touch of self-loathing, "If only I had been strong enough to save them. If I had been quicker, faster, smarter, stronger…maybe they wouldn't have died. Why them and not me? Why James?"
"There was nothing you could do!" James said loudly, his face shocked.
"If not me, then who?" Harry demanded, leaning forward until he was nearly in the older boy's face.
"You were just a child! There was nothing you could do then."
"If not then, when? When would I be able to save them? When would I be able to act when it mattered?" Harry provoked the older boy, "Tell me because I want to know. Tell me what I could have done that would have saved them! Tell me James, I need to hear it from you-"
"Nothing!" James finally broke in, his face distraught, "There was nothing you could do! Merlin, there was nothing you could do…how can you believe it was your fault?"
"How can you believe it was your fault?" Harry parroted back at him, his gaze firm, "Tell me James."
"I-" the boy trailed off, before shutting his eyes, "that's different."
"I see no difference."
"It is." James said firmly before letting out a long sigh and opening his eyes again, "Why is it always you? Why does everything bad always seem to be drawn to you Harry? It's not fair…"
Harry gave the older boy a sad look, studying him intently. The boy was fourteen, old enough to learn some of the horrors of the world. Maybe his father would mature faster this time around once he was confronted with the knowledge that the world is not a fair place.
"James, the world is not fair or just or logical. When bad things happen to you, you don't sit around and question why me? No, you should ask yourself why not me? Why should it rain on others and not on me? The world is not fair; it rains on the just as well as the unjust, and yet there can be profit in the rain."
"I don't understand," James admitted quietly, "how can the world be so…so cruel?"
"Because it's full of people James, and the first rule to know about people is they are instinctively selfish."
"Isn't that a pessimistic way to look at people?" The older boy asked with a sigh.
"No, it's the truth. Take babies for example-"
"You aren't implying that babies are selfish!" James exclaimed in disbelief.
"Of course they are," Harry said with a light snort, "They cry and scream, demanding to be attended to. Every want and need is screamed until answered, they care for nothing else besides what they want. They have no concept of love, others' needs, sharing, goodness…all the traits that describes the goodness of humanity they lack, and yet they hold a trait both revered and reviled by the rest of us…innocence. We love and care for them because we see in them hope for a better future. They can accomplish what we could not. They are everything and yet nothing at the same time. They only know our basic human emotions and instincts. When you look at a baby you are seeing the very soul of all humans, James. That is why we love them. We see the very deepest part of ourselves in them."
"How does this relate to the world?"
"Because James, babies grow up to be people." Harry said with a sigh, "Children, more than anything, are imitators. They act and behave in the way they are taught. To learn something you must first be shown it, and that is what is wrong with the world. Humanity is something that must be taught, and not everyone teaches it. They aren't taught that all people have feelings and rights, all they hear is that little voice screaming me, me, me, and ignore all else. Why should they care what happens as long as that voice is content?"
"Because it's wrong!"
"The world is full of wrongness James, but what are you going to do about it? Are you going to be the one to show that person kindness, offer the hand of friendship, encourage them to do the right thing? Or are you going to show them exactly what that screaming baby inside is insisting? It's all about me, me, me, and you do not matter?"
James looked as if he had been smacked, "You think that I believe everything is about me?" The voice shook slightly as if in disbelief and anger.
Harry stared intently at the older boy, "No. I can see the goodness in you, but the baby will always be present. It's not to me that you need to show kindness but to others. It's not enough to show your goodness to those you care about James, but to those who have never known kindness as well. That's the test of your humanity."
James looked uncomfortable before diverting the subject, "That still doesn't explain why everything happens to you?"
The younger boy sighed before lying back on his bed, "Because it hasn't killed me yet," he rolled over on his side, "go to bed James."
Silence reigned for a moment before a hesitant voice asked, "You do forgive me?"
Harry let out a slight sigh, "I forgive even the sinless James. Don't let it weigh on your mind."
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" James timidly asked.
The younger boy paused for a moment considering. "No, not this time."
The following morning Harry and the Potters ate breakfast in the kitchens once again. Harry was mildly curious as why they weren't eating breakfast in the Great Hall, but figured the Potters wanted to keep their presence here quiet. After breakfast Harold and Mary led James and Harry back to the common room with firm instructions to stay there until one of them came and retrieved them. Once the pair left, the two boys simply stared at one another before taking a seat in front of the fireplace.
"You wouldn't happen to have my trunk would you?" Harry finally asked, breaking the slightly awkward silence.
James shook his head, "Nope. I have no idea where it is. Cards?"
Harry nodded his head, might as have a little male bonding time before he got his trunk back.
"Blasted bird! You could at least tell me why you are burning my socks." Dumbledore grumbled, tottering about in his office, replacing a large, heavy text on a bookshelf. "That last pair was a gift from Nicholas for my last birthday. Where else am I supposed to find socks with Snorklackamers on them?" He continued, shoving the book on the shelf before scanning the titles for the reference book he needed. He paused in his search to throw the bird a look.
Fawkes preened his feathers before glaring back.
The two glared at each other for another moment before Albus let out an impatient huff and started scanning the title again, "Fine, keep your silence ruddy bird. I for one do not care."
The phoenix let out a disbelieving huff before flaming away.
He pulled the book he was looking for from the shelf and carried it back to his desk. Dropping it with a loud thud he sat down in his chair. He was about to open the book when there was a knock at the door.
The door opened and the Potter couple walked in.
"Ah, good morning, Harold and Mary. Lemon drop?" Albus asked as he pushed the book to the side and laid a stack of papers on top of it.
"No thank you." Mary said, while Harold let out a slightly gruff, "Morning."
"Have a seat. Tea?" Dumbledore continued, before summoning a tray with tea and cakes.
Both Mary and Harold had a seat and thankfully accepting the proffered tea.
"On to business Albus." Harold said before taking a sip.
"Of course. I believe the Fidelius Charm would work best." Dumbledore began only to be interrupted, "Really Albus, is there no other way?"
"My dear, I believe this is the only way. The only way to ensure Harry's and your safety is to control who can gain entrance into your residency."
Mary looked worried while her husband looked thoughtful, "I suppose you'll be our secret keeper, Albus?"
"If that is what you wish. I would actually prefer it. Given that Voldemort is hesitant to attack me." Dumbledore replied looking intently at the pair."
"Of course. I suppose we will have to change our usual summer schedule. Meet the boys at Diagon Alley?" Mary said already planning who they would need to see and let in on the secret.
"What about blood wards Albus? Surely they would be just as safe as the Fidelius." Harold said thoughtfully.
Mary nodded her agreement, "We could expand on the heritage wards already in existence. Key it to only allow entrance to those who have Potter blood. All others would need to be individually keyed in."
"I do believe that the Fidelius would be safer." Dumbledore said lightly.
"You can't key someone out of the Fidelius once you tell them the secret Albus. We can key someone out of the blood wards if we later decide that we need to do so." Harold argued.
"I believe that it would still be unwise to rely only on blood wards." The headmaster answered his eyes grave, and his voice slightly tense.
Mary looked back and forth between her husband and Dumbledore as the air thickened.
"Harold, please listen to me." Albus said softly, "I understand that you believe that blood wards will effectively protect you but I have reason to believe otherwise."
"And Albus what are those reasons?" Harold asked a tad testily.
"I think I'll go check up on the boys." Mary said with a touch of annoyance as she got to her feet, "And leave this to you two."
Harry looked up and smiled as his aunt entered the common room, "Aunt Mary. Do you happen to have my trunk?"
She smiled slightly, "Hold on and I'll get it. I suppose you want one of your books?"
The younger boy nodded quickly as the James let out a soft groan.
Harry smiled slightly at the older boy, "You know James, you could be using your two way mirror to talk to Sirius or Peter."
James perked up slightly, "You're right!" He quickly jumped from his seat and bounded up the stairs to his room, causing the younger boy to roll his eyes in amusement.
He sat patiently waiting for his aunt to return, silently rehearsing what he would tell the Dark Lord.
The older woman reentered the room and made her way over to the chairs. She smiled slightly as she ran a hand through his messy locks, "I suppose you will be happy to get your hands back on your mousse?"
"Very much so. I had almost forgotten how untidy it was throughout the day." Harry said with a grin before bringing his hand up and grabbing her hand, pulling it away from his locks, "I'm fine, you know."
Mary's smile faltered slightly and she gave his hand a squeeze, "You are very strong. But I hope you realize that you don't have to always be."
"I know that everyone can't always be strong, but you don't have to worry. I am fine." Harry gave her another small smile as her eyes watered slightly.
She pulled the smaller boy into a tight hug before releasing him and wiping her eyes, "You are such a good boy Harry. I just want you to know how much I love you."
"Thank you, Aunt Mary." He replied slightly choked up.
She gave him another hug before pulling out a small trunk out of her pocket and handing it to him.
"I'll leave you to your reading," the woman said tearing up again, "I think I'll go and lie down for a bit."
Harry watched her as she turned and quickly made her way back out of the room. With a slight sigh he turned back to the trunk and enlarged it. He pricked his finger before hissing out the password and pressing his finger on the trunk. The compartment on the bottom of the trunk popped open and he quickly retrieved his book from inside.
The small journal was very reminiscent of the one T.M. Riddle had carried all those years ago. He ran his fingers over the black leather cover, his hands lingering on the engraved golden initials H.J.L.P. Leandros…the name often reminded him of just who he really was…the Lion of men, and if he failed then there would be no other heroes. With a slight sigh he cracked opened the journal and skimmed through the first few pages from his worried friends. He'd have to wait until later to answer them. At the last page he came upon the writing that was so familiar to him from his second year.
The perfectly shaped letters sent a slight chill down his spine.
Grabbing a pen he took a deep breath before penning back.
He sat in a green lined velvet chair. His fingers tapping on the armchair, as he regarded the twitching lump of flesh in front of him.
"Judgeson, tell me why I should spare you the same fate as your fellow?" The question was practically hissed as he slowly dragged his eyes away from the fallen Death Eater and onto the named man.
The robed man shook slightly, "My Lord, I assure you that I am using every available source to discover how the boy was taken."
"If you have made use of every source then why have you not discovered it yet? Or do you need incentive to try harder?" Voldemort stood from his chair and walked over to the downed man. With a nudge of his foot he kicked the man over, showing his face. Blood poured from the man's nose and a gash ran across his face, disfiguring it terribly.
"Such a pity." Riddle said coldly before looking down his nose at Judgeson, "Tell me why it is such a pity."
"I-my lord?" The man stuttered unsurely.
Riddle snarled slightly, "Tell me why this man's loss is a pity to me."
Silence ensured while the man shook, "There was no loss, my lord. He failed you."
"Correct. He failed me and I do not suffer failures." Voldemort's cold eyes bore down on the quaking follower, "Remember this and do not fail me. Find out how and who. Do you understand me?"
"Yes my lord." The man bowed again.
"Fail me and I will make Roger's untimely departure look like a peaceful passing." Riddle hissed before turning back to the twitching body, "Dispose of this filth on your way out."
Judgeson quickly levitated the bloody figure before shooting cleaning charms at the blood-spattered ground.
Riddle's cold eyes watched the man leave before he walked over to a table, his fingers trailing across the book that had been found in his grandson's room. It would seem that he had meant the book for one of his school friends. He snorted slightly in disgusted amusement. Even without the letter detailing how to use the book he would have known that it was for some girl. The pink was an obvious give away. Luckily, he knew a simple color spell that worked on leather. The journal was now pitch-black with a silver serpent on the front. The serpent was wrapped around a dagger, with bared fangs and poised to strike.
Voldemort gave a slight smile. The journal was an excellent piece of charms work, work he would not have been able to match until at least his third year. His smiled wavered slightly as he thought of his own diary that he had made. It was just one more assurance that the boy was his grandson. The pure brilliance was reminiscent of his own thought processes, and the details were perfectly done.
Riddle snarled in disgust. Could this feeling be parental pride? Surely not! The emotion he felt was not in any way parental.
He couldn't explain the boy away. He felt something, something that he hadn't felt before and could not put his finger on. When he had ordered his follower to bring the boy to him he had fully intended on discovering the mystery and then killing the brat. Cassandra had betrayed him and fled! He had never suspected the she had been with child. But when he saw the boy with his very own eyes something seemed to stir in him, and stayed his homicidal urge. This puzzling tug stayed his hand and he had sent the boy away until he could think about what it all could mean. Every time he had been in the boy's presence something in his very being wanted to reach out and do….what he was not sure. Hold? Comfort? It was beyond ridiculous.
When he had found out that his grandson had been snatched, he had been enraged and sent his followers after the kidnappers. There was something missing, almost as if the boy was a part of him...it was a frightening and sickening possibility.
Rogers had returned with the sketch and the news that Hams was dead. In his fit of rage he slowly tortured the bearer until the man was barely recognizable. Taking out all the frustrations, fear and loathing he felt out on the screaming man. With every cry of pain and plead of mercy his blood had pumped through his veins easing his fear and giving him a surge of pleasure. The blood that had splattered the floor was both enthralling and repulsive, drawing him in and then repulsing him at how unclean it was. He had only halted when Judgeson had entered with the journal. Ah, the journal.
Once again Riddle ran his fingers over the book in fascination. It was so beautiful and yet so simple in its brilliance.
He had ordered the man to find out who had kidnapped the boy, before taking the book and examining it closely. The note had explained all the details he needed to make the book work and he had quickly penned the boy's names, slightly disappointed when the response was not instant. He however, knew that it may be days before the boy could answer back. Instead he studied the sketch in intense loathing. The boy was surely taken by an Order member, a brash one at that, to leave behind such an obviously threatening sketch. When he got his hands on that person they would beg and plead with him to stop the pain.
A slow, dark smile spread over his face at the thought. He looked down in surprise and slight happiness when the journal shuddered under his hand and grew warm. He quickly opened the book eager to know what had happened.
Harry stared in apprehension at the book, waiting for the reply. A large part of his plan rested on the fact that Voldemort believed his escape was not voluntary.
Harry. I take it you are well and alone?
Grinning slightly he wrote back.
Perfectly fine, and perfectly alone. They think I am revising for next year.
Good. How is it that you were taken?
I was sleeping in my room when the door opened. Of course it woke me, but I believed it was just another Death Eater you sent for me. Whoever it really was wore your followers' robes and a mask. The man told me to get dressed and while I had my back turned he attempted to stun me. Luckily I was able to evade and throw some hexes back at him, but I tripped over one of the chairs and was hit with a stunner. The next thing I knew was waking up in the Hogwarts infirmary.
A long pause followed the statement before Riddle handwriting reappeared.
Your attacker wore the robes of my followers? You are absolutely sure?
Without waiting to think Harry quickly penned back.
Absolutely. When I asked Dumbledore who the man was he simply patted me on the head gave a mysterious smile and said, 'It is good to have friends in all sort of places, my boy. Do not turn your back on a helping hand simply because that hand has made past mistakes'. I'm sure he was implying that the man really was one of your Death Eaters.
And how has Dumbledore taken your return?
The stupid old man believed every lie I fed him. He welcomed me back with open arms…Harry trailed off, pausing for a moment before continuing, When he asked about the ordeal I told him I was kept in a room until you were ready to use me for some unknown reason.
And why would you do such a thing?
Harry smirked widely as he continued, I'm sorry grandfather. I know that you want to train me, but my revenge must come first. Telling Dumbledore that you wanted me for some purpose ensured that he would keep me even closer to him than before. Exactly where I must be.
You are not ready! Came the angered reply, the hand writing slightly less perfectly than before.
I am ready. Like I said, I do not need to be skilled to take the man down; I simply need to be close to him. Surely, you could send me a book or get an older Slytherin student to teach me if you believe it is necessary?
Another short pause followed his statement.
I will consider it.
Harry looked up as the portrait opened once again admitting his uncle.
I must go. I will speak to you soon. He quickly scrawled before snapping the book shut with a snap.
His uncle walked over and took a seat near him. A slightly strained silence ensued before the older man spoke, "Doing all right there?"
Harry gave the older man a strange look, "Yes, I'm doing fine. Shouldn't I be?"
The man sent him a searching look, "Is there anything, anything at all that you wish to speak about?"
The boy went slightly stiff as his eyes narrowed and steeled to ice, "What do you mean by that? Should I be telling you something?"
Harold frowned slightly, "I just finished speaking with Albus-"
"What did he tell you?" Harry demanded sharply interrupting his grandfather causing the older man's frown to deepen.
"Next to nothing. That's the problem."
"There's nothing to tell." The boy said coldly.
Harold got up from the chair and knelt in front of Harry, his eyes pleading.
"Please at least talk to someone. It doesn't have to be me or your aunt, but you need to speak to someone about what happened, Harry." Harold whispered intently his face close to the younger boy's.
"Uncle…I assure you that I'm fine. I do not need to speak with anyone. Nothing happened!" Harry protested bitingly.
"This is the second time that Voldemort has kidnapped you. The first time he tortured you for a month and this time you refuse to even talk about it." The older man said scathingly, "Tell me. What could be worst than your first stay that you would not even tell us about it."
It finally dawned on Harry that his grandfather was scared…scared that Harry had experienced something so terrible that he even refused to acknowledge it…scared that he had somehow failed Harry.
Instead of bursting out in anger and speaking as the older man expected, Harry let out a tired sigh before giving his uncle a piercing look.
"Nothing happened that I can't handle, but if you insist that I speak with someone then I will do so."
Harold nodded his head in consent, relief evident as his shoulders sagged slightly, "Who would you prefer?"
Harry fidgeted slightly, "Well, do not take this the wrong way, but I do not wish to speak of it with you or Aunt Mary. I do trust you, but it's just not something I'm comfortable speaking about with family."
The older man nodded his head indicating for the boy to continue.
"And I do not wish to speak with someone who is not already in the know. So other than you and Aunt Mary, that leaves James, Professor Dumbledore, Madam Pomfrey, Mr. Moody, and the mysterious woman." Harry continued seemingly nervous, "I do not wish to be in Pomprey's clutches, James is family, Moody doesn't seem all that balanced, and I doubt the mysterious woman is up for a counseling session. So that leaves Professor Dumbledore. I mean…if he'd be willing." Harry quickly dropped his gaze to the floor intently studying the carpet.
"I think he'd be very willing Harry." Harold said placated. Albus had been the one to suggest that Harry saw someone about his ordeal in the first place.
Harry nodded before looking back down at the book in his hands.
"I'll set it up, shall I?"
Harry nodded his head again, his thoughts already far away.
Right I'm heading off back to college so updates will be coming more infrequently as RL picks up. Hopefully I'll update at least weekly but no promises there. Hope you enjoy the update.