Disclaimer: I own nothing; it all belongs to J.K.Rowling. I'm just borrowing the characters to play with for a while. This is for pleasure only, no profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
"Shiny?" Tom repeated. "I show you one of the most complicated prisons ever created and your first impression is shiny?"
"Well, it is," Harry argued. "I just hope the bindings holding him in place are as good as the polishing charms."
"He's not going anywhere," Tom said with confidence.
"So was it a conscious choice to pass on concrete, steel bars, and the usual jailhouse classics in favor of the aquarium meets lava lamp art nouveau style?"
Tom looked at his creation with a frown. "It's a prison for the unbound spirit not a physical manifestation."
"I'm not contending the purpose," Harry agreed. "I'm just saying it looks like someone engorged an ugly vase your mother-in-law gave you. The kind of thing you have no choice but to keep on the mantle in case she drops by unexpectedly."
Tom walked around the grandfather clock sized contraption. The top foot was a cylindrical copper seal trimmed in brass. It capped a two foot stretch of transparent material and sat on a copper base so that the aquarium aspects were at eye level. On two opposites sides ran a series of brass latches and locks. "I didn't consider aesthetics much when designing it, but you know if you really wanted we could-"
"No," Harry chided. "We're not putting Voldemort on display anywhere. As amusing as it might be, I try not to tempt fate if I can help it."
Harry cast a charm over his eyes and was examining the spell work he recognized in the prison. A fingernail sized black knob inside a small brown bubble from within the opaque green tube was swirling with a sickly grey magic. "So what happened to the trap you told me about?"
Tom could tell Harry was trying to figure out the prison and answered, "Voldemort was feeling vulnerable after the loss of more than half his Death Eaters in only two days, nice job on that by the way. He needed some leverage and planned to kidnap among others, the Minister's daughter, a young woman who just happens to be a patient of mine."
"A patient of yours?" Harry repeated. "How'd you manage to get the Minister's daughter as a patient?"
Tom smirked in a manner eerily reminiscent of the teenage diary Harry knew. "I am one of the foremost experts on healing the mind. My services are highly sought after."
"Harry, I should remind you that while I am not Voldemort, nor am I a Dark Lord, I am still Tom Riddle. And I've been exploring the boundaries of magic in relative secrecy for the last two decades."
Harry suppressed a shiver.
"It started with Frank but I saw a genuine opportunity to gain allies and favors. Ones I intend to make full use of when the proper time comes. The Minister's daughter is not my patient by coincidence. It's worth noting that I've spent significant time inside the minds of eight different presidents, twelve prime ministers, and four kings."
"I don't want to know," Harry shook his head.
"When I heard the Minister's daughter was a target, I moved her appointment up, passed the details on, and altered the plan to fit. Voldemort brought only four other Death Eaters with him, and three of them I'd already compromised."
"Compromised?" Harry asked warily.
Tom was willing to explain this because he knew the charm of brotherhood would prevent Harry from telling anyone. "You know he's got compulsion charms, loyalty charms, and in some cases outright control charms running through the Dark Mark's connection to their soul?"
"Well, he only ever checked that the charms were still in place and were his magic. More than half the Death Eaters, though mostly the weaker ones, see me as number one, and him number two. They still listen and follow him, unless the moment comes for me to belay an impulse and give them a different compulsion."
Harry blinked and showed Tom he wasn't too happy about this minor revelation. "You have your own Death Eater army."
Tom frowned. "It sounds worse when you put it like that."
"Remember when you said you weren't following Voldemort's path?"
"It's not like they know about me," Tom argued. "And you know it's because I have 'my own Death Eater army' that it'll be so easy to capture them and all the others."
"You're not going to keep them out of prison or allow them to buy their way into your favor?"
"Harry," Tom explained. "These people believe they are loyal to Voldemort. They don't remember me modifying their soul connections."
Harry didn't particularly care, but was still getting a feel for Tom's sincerity. "And you're going to let them hang for the things you and he made them do?"
"No, I'm not," Tom corrected. "They will be tried as both the criminals they are, and the victims of the Dark Lord. Even if by some miracle they managed to dismiss all their actions as unwilling puppets of the Dark Lord, they still have to confess to whatever crime they committed to earn their Dark Mark. I don't know if any will ever get released from Azkaban. Frankly, I'm more concerned with the Death Eater bandits having a shortage of targets and too much free time."
"Rumor is they hung up their ski masks and have gone legit," Harry admitted with a grin. He pointed towards the impressive contraption he'd given up trying to unravel. "So how does this thing work?"
Tom's face lit up proudly as he explained, "There are three separate chambers surrounding the anchor."
Harry got up next to the clear aquarium section of the spiritual prison. There was a small knob surrounded by what looked like to a dark brown murky liquid. That brown bubble was inside a tall green tube that was held in place in the center. The rest of the round aquarium was filled with clear blue water.
"The inner chamber that looks brown?" Tom explained. "That's actually a bright red liquid crystal of my own design. It prevents every possible sensory input, including magic. The next chamber of green liquid surrounding that is more crystal. The green is actually the arithmantic opposite of the red. And they are both poisonous to body and soul. So if anyone managed to get through green would be completely vulnerable to the red, and vice versa."
Harry was looking closer at the anchor in the middle of the magical prison. "And the blue liquid?"
"Salt water," Tom answered happily.
"I'm opposed to conjugal visits but there are times we may wish to…" Tom's voice trailed off as he drew his wand. "Allow me to demonstrate." He cast a spell into the smooth block of obsidian at the base of the front where the aquarium met the copper base.
The clear tube protecting the green liquid crystal split vertically and unfolded open. The green fluid spilled out into the water slowly dissolving into a greenish tinted cloud.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked warily, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
"Relax," Tom quickly calmed and sent magic into the charm of brotherhood he shared with Harry. He tapped his wand on the obsidian and the water and green liquid began to swirl wildly in a tornado of fluid. Slowly the green liquid crystal separated from the water at the outer reaches of the sealed tube. Thick solid beads of green liquid crystal were sucked away leaving the clear blue water and a reddish table tennis sized ball remaining.
Tom cast another spell and the spherical bubble surrounding the red fluid slid back into itself, allowing the other liquid crystal to disperse in the water. Another whispered spell sent the mixture swirling in a whirlpool until the red liquid crystal separated and was also sucked away. "Have to remove the poisons or they die too quick."
Harry looked curiously as Tom cast another spell into the obsidian. A jellyfish no more than three inches around and eight long appeared lazily contracting in place inside the salt water.
"Watch it," Tom pointed when Harry turned to look at him.
The jellyfish which had been calmly waving on the slightest currents suddenly froze up and darkened from a whitish pink to nearly grey.
"To be on the safe side we don't want to do this with any creatures or weak-willed others around," Tom said as he slid two thin vertical panels of glass straight through the middle of the aquarium. He twisted a few latches and tightened a few flaps before suddenly swinging the prison open. The front half of the bisected cylinder was just water, but the back half housed the anchor and the possessed jellyfish.
"And now through this, we can use legilimency on the jellyfish."
Harry saw Tom look towards the jellyfish and silently aim his wand. Tom winced a little and explained, "It stings a little. Voldemort's not really aware enough for any higher thought processes. He's definitely angry and feels threatened, but his memories are easily viewed."
Tom snapped his legilimency probe free and turned to Harry. "Anything you wanted to know about Voldemort?"
Harry was watching the barely moving jellyfish and recognized a slippery slope to nowhere good. He thought it over though and decided he should familiarize himself with the sensation. "Legilimens," Harry said softly, aiming towards what he hoped was the brain of the jellyfish.
He felt the cold sting in his head and left Voldemort's mind quickly. "Huh."
"What did you see?" Tom asked curiously.
"Briefs," Harry answered.
Tom glanced away from the jellyfish and to Harry. "You have total access to the innermost recesses of one of the darkest minds in centuries and you sought out…"
"Boxers or briefs," Harry nodded. "And I'm not the least bit surprised."
Tom didn't hold back his chuckle. "I should have expected something like that." He swung the two halves of the round aquarium into their closed position and latched the prison back together.
"What is that?" Harry said pointing towards the two panels of glass Tom was leaning against the wall.
"These are just glass, charmed unbreakable. They have to let magic in and out for legilimency to work," Tom explained. He pointed to the aquarium. "All three chambers are dwarven wrought crystal. A diamond blade would chip before scratching it and every form of magic I've found just bounces off it."
Harry was impressed. He saw the jellyfish shake before it twisted around suddenly and floated lifelessly to collide with the aquarium wall. "Dead?"
"Yeah," Tom said. "They only last a few minutes. Now to get Voldemort back into his cell." He cast another spell into the obsidian and the little knoblike anchor flared bright white, glowing with life.
"Ahh," Harry hissed, grabbing at his most famous scar. "What the hell?"
Tom had already sealed the first bubble-shaped chamber and filled it with the red liquid crystal as the button sized anchor darkened to its grey murky state. He turned to Harry warily, "Are you alright?"
"What the fuck is that anchoring him?" Harry snapped, relieved to see his scar hadn't split open. It merely had startled him.
"This is one of those things that sounds a lot worse than it really is."
"Riddlebottom," Harry warned.
Tom admitted sheepishly, "It's the skull of an unborn human fetus at about nine weeks."
"Technically nine seconds after nine minutes after nine hours after nine weeks since conception, but that's just kind of a mouthful and not really relevant."
"What was it doing?"
"It's a cage for unbound souls," Tom explained. "If the two liquid crystals ever combine it creates a fire on the level of Fiendfyre, but it also activates the soul cage to ensnare and hold. When it's activated, I feel it twitter because of what I am, but I didn't think I'd need to warn you. Did you perhaps unsuccessfully dabble in some soul magic?"
Harry sighed, feeling the headache leaving as quickly as it came. "Nope. The scar used to be a link between my Voldemort and me. It's just been a while and feeling anything through it is usually a bad sign."
"I'd imagine so."
"Soul magic scans have always gone a bit nutty on it."
"I assure you I had no idea," Tom diplomatically offered. "I wasn't trying to test you."
Harry waved him off. "Don't worry about it. But I got to say, I'm not big on the idea of you spending a lot of time digging into Voldemort's mind."
"Neither am I," Tom explained. "But I'm not arrogant enough to believe he hasn't left a few traps of his own devising behind. And having access to his memories could prove infinitely valuable."
"You've got a plan," Harry stated firmly while watching Tom.
Tom nodded as he engaged the second chamber and green liquid crystal. He vanished the dead jellyfish's body. "You don't know the spells to manipulate the chambers and I was thinking I wouldn't tell them to you."
"This is what the extra anchor stones are for?"
Tom nodded at how quickly Harry caught on. "Exactly. You put the latches, the doorway, the only way to access the prison under a Fidelius or something similar while leaving the rest of it visible. This way either of us could easily check the status of the prison, but it takes both of us working together to ever open it or attempt to communicate with Voldemort."
"Why?" Harry said, turning to look at Tom curiously.
"Why protect it?"
"No, I think I got that one. I meant why do you keep freely sharing your… control with me?"
Tom waved his wand and conjured a perfect but simple chair. He sat down, expecting this to be a long conversation. "I'm an excellent judge of potential, Harry. Even Voldemort was always cognizant of the power others held. Who was a threat, who had talents, who could be used and how. Admittedly there were a few blind spots…" he paused to allow Harry to chuckle. "But overall, he could watch someone and in a matter of minutes determine their worth with a scary amount of accuracy."
"And you?" Harry said from his own conjured chair.
Tom was not a modest man. "It takes me less than a minute. And do you know what I see when I look at you?"
Several smart-ass remarks came to mind, but Harry was too curious to do anything other than shake his head.
"An equal," Tom admitted looking Harry right in the eye. "Conveniently, one with very little interest in fame or glory."
"An equal?" Harry repeated skeptically.
"Have we not both defeated a Voldemort and fulfilled the same prophecy? We share brother wands from Dumbledore's phoenix. His familiar's blessing for the next leaders of the magical world, perhaps. There are too many similarities to call it coincidence."
Harry was slowly nodding in agreement as he got up. He moved the six extra anchor stones slightly. He began to feed power into them preparing a Fidelius.
"Perhaps it is still unreached potential," Tom softly joked. "Sirius told me that in addition to Black and Slytherin, you're well on your way to earning the title of the Lord of Ointment."
"Yeah," Harry muttered. "Hearing that you and he were getting chummy just about made my weekend."
Tom knew embarrassment and sarcasm were still the way to Harry's heart. "He told me there's even a rumor that the healing community may name this newly discovered strain the Seriously Hairy Black Bumps."
"I'll give you three guesses on who started that rumor and the first two don't count." Harry grumbled remembering several rather unpleasant floo calls he'd made from the healer's office. With a whispered phrase, he activated and sealed the Fidelius charm.
"Oww," Tom said closing his eyes in pain. "Remind me not to be looking when you do that."
Harry plopped back down into his conjured chair. "No. It doesn't feel like enough."
Tom was rubbing his aching head. "It hurts more than the legilimency did."
"Not that," Harry said. "You seeing me as an equal."
"I would think the other reasons are obvious," Tom said waving towards Voldemort's liquid prison.
Harry felt the brotherhood charm buzzing gently, hinting towards a more complicated answer.
Tom took a deep breath and explained, "I'm not going to live forever. And when I go, it's not guaranteed that I'll be pulling him with me. Someone has to make sure he is gone, and given the prophecy, it's possible you're the only person who could even do anything about it if he's not."
"Not going to live forever?" Harry questioned. "You're certain about that?"
"I plan to change the world and have a legacy that lasts the test of time, but I hold no illusions about the fragility of my existence."
"You're a Slytherin wrapped in Hufflepuff clothing, aren't you?"
"I'll take that as a compliment, Lord Slytherin."
Harry was watching Tom closely as he stated, "That was your sacrifice, wasn't it?"
Tom showed no surprise as he turned to Harry.
"I know you've researched the balance. Mortality was your sacrifice?"
Tom's face betrayed no emotion. "What was yours?"
Harry considered it a moment and shook his head. "Not today. Maybe some other time I'll tell you."
Tom inclined his head in understanding, before his eyes lit up. "Was coming here to this world, leaving your own behind, your cost?"
Harry smiled darkly, shaking his head.
"Or do you not know yet?" Tom questioned. "My understanding is that some costs aren't realized for years."
Harry wore a pained smile. "My victory was hollow."
Tom's eyes widened. "Your sacrifice was deemed sufficient?"
Tom couldn't keep the look of sympathy off his face. He watched Harry for a few seconds. "My sacrifice was indeed mortality and a pledge to fix Voldemort's mistakes."
"I can't take responsibility for his victims, but his original goals, the admirable ones, are still worth striving for. And now that we know one way not to achieve them, it should be a bit easier, don't you think?"
Harry nodded. "I don't suppose you know your cost yet?"
Tom tried to hide his smile. "Not today, Harry. Maybe some other time."
"Fair enough," Harry agreed while taking note of Tom's curious response. "Where are we anyway?"
"Well, if you'd listened to me in the first place, you'd recognize this room."
"We're at the Shrieking Shack?" Harry asked in surprise.
Tom nodded. "This cellar's been hidden since my days as a student. It's not a Fidelius but a Stavros modification. You were keyed in when I apparated us here."
"You plan to leave Voldemort this close to Hogwarts?" Harry said doubtfully.
"To be honest, I'd prefer to put him in the Chamber of Secrets, but I think we should wait until Dumbledore's tenure as Headmaster is over."
Harry just looked at Tom incredulously.
"Listen, the prison is stronger and causes Voldemort more pain based on the volume of magic nearby. Yes a remote cave or the North Pole would be harder to stumble across but the liquid crystals would weaken over time. And there's nowhere in Europe with ambient magic as strong as Hogwarts. I'm open to options, but it needs to be near a high concentration of magic, which means it'll need to be near wizards and witches. Hogsmeade is the only all wizarding village on the island."
"The Ministry," Harry suggested.
Tom shrugged. "Not nearly as strong. And while I believe it's impossible, if somehow Voldemort got out, he'd run for cover first. Not attack students or villagers. The only added danger is if someone found out he was still alive and where he was."
"Could someone scry his location?"
"When we're trying to read his memories, yes," Tom admitted. "Behind Stavros wards it'd still take them days and we'll never leave him out that long. But as long as he's caged and surrounded by the red liquid crystal, nothing and I mean nothing can find him. No sensory input at all. No magic can find him. He certainly can't see, hear, or even sense us."
"And the Chamber of Secrets?"
"Has plenty of experience having safely housed a 'monster' for centuries," Tom said with a smile at the supposed mystery. "I'd say let's sneak in and put him there now, but Dumbledore's had decades of being attuned to Hogwarts. Whenever the next Headmaster takes the job, we can slip him down there during the turnover, seal it off, and no one will be the wiser."
Harry nodded getting used to the idea that Tom had a rational explanation for everything. "Is the basilisk in the woods behind Riddle Manor?"
Tom shook his head. "I helped him to the ocean and he went for a swim. In a few months he'll probably reach my place in Australia. I must admit I'm surprised you haven't pressed me to reveal myself to Dumbledore."
"You think he'd enjoy that?" Harry said unable to stop himself.
Tom realized his poor choice of words too late and didn't dignify Harry's question with a response.
Harry was snickering at the idea of Tom flashing Albus. "I know, I know. But truthfully, right now, I don't care much either way. Eventually Albus is going to figure you out. He's too smart not to. But it might not be a bad idea to let him see you accomplish some good things first before approaching him."
"I know you trust him," Tom felt the need to defend his position. "But ever since the moment he delivered my Hogwarts letter, he's looked at me with suspicion and fear."
"Like I said, he's smart." Harry retorted with a grin.
"He saw the magic I commanded even before I knew what magic was and he saw me as a threat to his power," Tom argued. "I could see he'd decided I was dark and evil before I'd even learned which end of the wand to hold."
"Not to piss on your parade but he wasn't exactly wrong."
Tom frowned in silent disagreement. "I was one of the younger kids in the orphanage and I had discovered a hidden power; I could bully the bullies. I could stop them from picking on me. Up until the moment Dumbledore met me, I cannot see how any eleven year old could have been any different."
"And from that he made up his mind on me?" Tom shook his head. "It was easier for him to see me as another Grindelwald than anything else."
"Hey, you don't have to sell me," Harry assured. "My Albus fucked me over almost as much as my Voldemort did."
Harry nodded. "I think he may have cared too much in my case though. So while he made a shitload of mistakes, it was always what he believed to be in my best interests or for the so-called greater good."
Tom furrowed his brow. "What did he-"
Harry answered before Tom could finish the question. "He placed my freshly orphaned baby body on the door step of a family that hates magic and hated me for existing. He even admitted he knew I'd have a hard life."
Tom just looked at Harry curiously.
Harry shrugged. "When I feel like blaming someone, it's usually him. But the Dumbledore of this world has always treated me as an adult, as an equal, and there's no denying the man is brilliant. Personally, I think he'll understand and support you, but I also think it's worth waiting until you've got some more evidence that you're on the side of the angels beyond usurping a Death Eater army."
Tom inconclusively nodded. "You're going to tell him about the Slytherin name and some of our plans?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "We're going to need his support on a few."
"I think you underestimate us both, Harry. But it would be easier with Albus on our side. We can focus our initial agenda on areas of common ground."
Harry was looking at Tom curiously. "You know inevitably someone else will notice your charmed necklace. The ministry will record and scan you. What happens if your true name and face come out?"
Tom smiled proudly. "It was actually Alan who came up with this one. But if I'm ever unable to stick that one back in the jar, then I shall readily admit to being Tom Riddle."
"Uh-huh," Harry said.
Tom put on a mask of a deadly serious scholar. "It was in my research on magical applications of mind healing techniques that I attempted to separate negative emotions like rage and jealousy."
"No," Harry shook his head, seeing where this was going.
"I actually separated those pieces of wrong and evil, but in an attempt to remove them, they attached themselves to a piece of my soul, wrenched it free and formed a separate entity from myself."
Tom nodded, without any trace of a smile. "This evil twin spiraled way beyond my control. He was as powerful as me and infinitely more ruthless. I tried to hunt him down. I tried to contain him, but people saw his face and his deeds and attributed them to me. I had to hide while I worked to defeat this horrible, unfortunate, but accidental creation."
"Enter That Fucker," Harry narrated.
"I knew I couldn't ever show my face, so I created a new identity. A different face and a new name I could use until the opportunity to finally end the madness presented itself. I was able to destroy Voldemort, but by that time Tom Riddle's legacy had been set in stone. It was not an easy decision but I felt I could help more people by remaining hidden under the only face and name I thought of myself as for the last two decades."
Tom's look of pained sincerity twisted into a smug victorious smile. "Now does that story seem more plausible or does it make more sense that I'm just a split piece of the former Dark Lord's soul who leeched Neville Longbottom's life before suddenly deciding the Dark Lord was a bad guy?"
Harry was suitably impressed. "And of course if or when it breaks you'll also have years of accolades, community service, and countless influential people willing to speak of your high moral character."
"I hope it never does break," Tom agreed. "But I do like to be prepared. Now if you'll excuse me, Alan's going to be getting officially released from custody, be declared a hero by the DMLE, answer a few questions for reporters, and then make the front page for being a close personal friend of mine."
"Yeah, Albus is expecting me by now as well." Harry got up and vanished his own conjured chair. "If I come up with somewhere better for this, are you open to moving it?"
"Harry, if you come up with somewhere better, I'll want to move it just as much as you," Tom assured him.
"You know we're going to have to make plans in case either of us dies," Harry commented.
Tom nodded slowly. "I've actually got a few ideas for that."
"But it's a situation a lot like Albus'," Tom explained. "We should put it off for a while. At least until we genuinely trust each other."
Harry thought that one over and suspected it to involve soul magic. "Okay."
"Good luck, Harry," Tom said as he apparated away.
Harry took a breath to ready himself. "I'm only going to be indirectly threatening and blackmailing one of the most powerful and respected wizards of all time. What could I possibly need luck for?" He looked around the room and realized he was talking to himself again. He apparated to the edge of Hogwarts wards.
Right away, the magic of Hogwarts was singing to him in a way it never had before. He used to feel like Hogwarts was his home away from home, but now it felt as natural as an extra layer of skin. He only thought about the reaction when his ring finger began to tingle happily. He twisted it around canceling its invisibility and saw the jewel in the Slytherin family ring was glittering wildly.
Harry knew people said Hogwarts loved and took care of all her children. He grinned under the realization that she had a new favorite.
He cast an oculamagi spell over his eyes and looked at the wards as he walked. They looked no different, but Harry was certain they felt different. He began to theorize that the wards recognized his status too. He had barely considered the possibility before his ring finger was tingling in response.
Harry looked both ways before throwing caution into the wind. He apparated up to the front steps of the castle with a soft pop.
Harry couldn't stop the smile splitting his face in half as he canceled the oculamagi spell. "We're going to keep this little tidbit to ourselves."
When his finger tingled again, he couldn't help but wonder if the Hogwarts' wards had understood and agreed. He pressed his hand against the outer stone wall, closed his eyes in concentration, and thought about what he wanted to see. He opened his eyes and couldn't believe his luck. "Sweet."
He hopped up the stairs and began to walk through the castle with an extra skip in his step. He reached the gargoyle guarding the headmaster's office and began a staring match with it. A few seconds later the gargoyle silently slid out of the way and let Harry up.
Harry knocked on the door from the outer chamber.
"Harry?" Albus called out. "Come in, come in."
"Is this a bad time?"
Albus stacked up the paperwork on his desk and shuffled it into one of his drawers. "Not at all. I've been expecting you in fact, as I'm sure you remember."
"Right," Harry said as he walked over to Fawkes perch and gave the partially sleeping bird a gentle rub on the back of its neck.
"Harry, I know you can't tell me much, but I was hoping-"
"Actually Albus," Harry said, plopping down into the chair across from the Headmaster. "I'm not here to talk about David Monroe."
"Oh?" Albus said in faint shock. "Still waiting on your Order member merit badge?"
Harry chuckled. "No, the truth is I came here to talk about you."
Albus got up from his seat behind the desk and moved to the chair next to Harry's. He turned it to face the younger man on equal ground. "Me?"
"Yeah, you," Harry said. He hesitated only a second before jumping right into it. "Because the thing is, you've been spreading yourself too thin."
Albus popped a lemon sherbet into his mouth and was surprisingly intrigued. He nodded at Harry, indicating he should continue.
"Between running the Order, fighting a war for the past three decades, your duties as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation, and undoubtedly countless more I'm unaware of, you have been only an adequate headmaster of Hogwarts."
Harry nodded. "The students look at you in awe and most of them are probably too intimidated to even approach you. I don't doubt you put their health and welfare first, but that is first on a long list of responsibilities."
Albus was frowning. "I admit the times I've had to leave the school and defend innocents from attack, I've had similar worries. But with the defeat of Voldemort, I expect my schedule to lighten."
"Lightening is good," Harry agreed. "Lightening is very good. In fact I was thinking of helping you out with that."
"This is a good thing," Harry meekly argued.
Albus warily asked, "What do you want?"
"There are a number of answers to that question," Harry said with a mischievous smile.
"Harry," Albus tiredly urged.
"I want you to become the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had," Harry quickly answered. "I want your complete focus to be on the education of students now that fears of imminent attack will soon be a relic of the past."
Albus still wasn't sure what Harry was up to. "It's not that simple, Harry."
"It can be," Harry said. "Anything you convince me is worth doing, I can help make happen. You want to introduce some new electives, hire more teachers, offer more specialized tuition, host weekend demonstrations, bring in more experts-"
"Harry," Albus interrupted. "I don't think you appreciate how complicated and limited my budget is."
"So let's increase it."
"The Board of Governors would never-"
"Here's a thought," Harry interjected. "You want to get rid of the board? It would certainly make major changes easier."
Albus frowned in confusion. "What's going on?"
Harry helped himself to a glass of firewhiskey and left the bottle out in case Albus wanted some. "When the Wizengamot formally reconvenes in the fall, I will be wearing a declaration patch and Lord Black is going to nominate me for Chief Warlock."
Albus sat up straighter at the implied threat. "Really?"
Harry nodded happily. "Yup. And I'd appreciate it if you seconded the nomination. But if you want to settle it in the ring, I will."
Albus smiled at the idea. "And do you think you could take me?"
"In a fair fight?" Harry shrugged. "I have a few doubts. But I don't fight fair, Albus. I cheat and I cheat a lot."
"Hmm," Albus commented, silently finding himself agreeable to Harry's nomination but not willing to admit that aloud just yet.
"I should mention that Lord Black won't be nominating me as Lord Black," Harry said with a grin and a salute of his glass. "He's going to nominate me under my new title: Lord Slytherin."
Albus wandlessly summoned the bottle of firewhiskey and poured himself a glass.
Harry gave Albus time to compose himself, inwardly relishing moments like these.
"Lord," Albus had to force the name out, "Slytherin."
Harry twisted the ring allowing it to be visible. The ring glittered and twinkled in the light. "Hogwarts loves me."
"The Slytherin family ring accepted you," Albus stated, "and made you Lord Slytherin."
"Don't have kittens on me," Harry chided while twisting it back into invisibility. "The horcrux is gone. And really, did you think I just gave up those other horcruxes for nothing?"
Albus goggled at Harry unable to accept the idea of bartering pieces of the Dark Lord's soul for one of the most infamous and hated wizarding lines.
Harry slowly sipped his glass, waiting for the shock and surprise to leave Albus' face.
Albus couldn't decide what question to ask first. "But you were a Gryffindor!"
"Ironic, isn't it?"
"Harry, this is… this is…"
"I know, I know." Harry pointed towards the snoozing artifact on the shelf behind him. "But the Sorting Hat told me Slytherin would help me on the road to greatness. And you taught me all about second chances. Anyways, I'm telling you this now as a courtesy, and also so that you'll take me a bit more seriously when I say we can dismantle the Board of Governors. I can help get you anything you need to reestablish Hogwarts as the finest institute of magical learning in the world."
Albus was silently watching Harry. "This is what you want? No offense Harry, but it sounds a little more… altruistic than usual."
"The Order's disbanding, the war's over," Harry reminded. "You've had a great run Albus, and you've shouldered the hopes and dreams of several generations of wizards for an immensely long time. But a new world is forming and these metaphorical torches can be passed down smoothly… or I can cheat."
Albus was finding it oddly comforting to hear Harry's willingness to accept responsibility. "And where does David Monroe fit into all of this?"
"He's at the center of it," Harry said. "When I said he was the next Albus Dumbledore, I meant it. I'll tell you now that by next spring, he'll have turned his popularity into the Minster of Magic position."
"Monroe as Minister and you as Chief Warlock?"
Albus sighed. "I find most prospects involving you to be scary, Harry. And the thought that there's another wizard with an even more mysterious past, as much power, and more ambition than you is even more worrisome."
"For what it's worth," Harry said flaring magic into the charm of brotherhood he shared with Albus, "this is the weaker of the two charms of brotherhood I'm sustaining."
Albus responded with an equal push of magic. "I take it you trust him more now."
Harry got a mixed look on his face. "You know, every day he doesn't try to kill me, I trust him a little bit more."
"Yeah, he's a character."
Albus had already decided to accept Harry's suggestions and was looking forward to the weight of the world on others' shoulders. "I'm guessing that seeking a more active role in politics was not your idea."
Harry grumbled. "Tell me about it. At first, David wanted me to run for Minister. I quickly disabused him of that notion."
"So most of this is his doing?" Albus questioned.
Harry could tell Albus was fishing but he had planned on explaining most of this anyway. "I shit you not. He's got a fifty year plan."
"Oh my," Albus grinned at Harry's reticence.
"Step one is to cultivate the environment, alter public perception on things."
Albus forewent the firewhiskey and poured himself a cup of tea. "Like what?"
"Treatment of dark creatures, misconceptions of muggles and muggle things, power and prestige established by birthright rather than virtue, the usual," Harry explained indifferently.
"And if I were to press you for some more details?"
"Alright, here's one he's talked me into," Harry agreed sitting up straighter. "You know there are dark magics and then there are dark magics."
Albus decided a dash of firewhiskey in his tea wouldn't be such a bad idea.
"I'm referring to the more powerful aspects of magic that get classified as dark out of ignorance or potential for abuse. The idea that if it's something the average wizard cannot safely do, then it's something no one should do."
"Harry, you cannot base your understanding of wizards on men of our caliber."
"I'm not, but here's an example I didn't know," Harry suggested. "Blood magic and necromancy are not things you want just anyone to be able to study, but you can open a line of communication with the dead for just a couple minutes with a cost of two drops of blood and no other adverse affects. That's it. Two drops. Magical portraits require a remarkably similar procedure with the living but for them it's legal and acceptable. Why not allow a murder victim to identify his attacker in a carefully controlled courtroom environment? Why not allow families a safe way to say goodbye?"
"That is never all those magics are used for," Albus pointed out for the sake of argument.
"I know," Harry admitted. "But that's the idea. No magic is forbidden if it doesn't impinge on others' freedoms or rights. I'm not advocating anarchy or a free for all, but merely governmental oversight and regulation. Setting up a system where a wizard like you or I can prove and establish that we have the capability to safely explore an arcane field of magic, and are then authorized to use it."
"That would take a lot of work," Albus commented.
Harry shrugged. "Right now the government's regulating just a few specific things like animagi registration or apparition licensing. We're saying instead of covering a few small exceptions, cover the broader areas."
"As proud as wizards are, you know they won't take kindly to being officially ranked by power and ability," Albus added.
"True," Harry said. "But that's because a bunch of pompous weak arses think the world is entitled to cater to them due to their birthright. All of this will undoubtedly be an ongoing debate."
"I find myself relaxing," Albus admitted. "And looking forward to focusing on Hogwarts."
"So you're in?"
"I am willing to second your nomination," Albus agreed. "In exchange for Lord Slytherin's assistance and hands off approach at Hogwarts."
"An occasional pinkie here and there, but hands off," Harry agreed.
Albus nodded in acquiescence. "And I wouldn't mind getting a crack at that duel behind closed doors. It would give me an opportunity to teach you how to not waste so much energy so quickly."
"Yeah, yeah," Harry grumbled feeling slightly embarrassed over his reliance on pepper-up potions.
Albus was smiling and fighting his instinctual need to know everything. "A fifty year plan?"
"Oh lordy," Harry shook his head. "You wouldn't believe some of the things he wants to do."
"Do tell," Albus urged.
Harry considered it and decided. "Okay, this one is probably… twenty years down the line and will require international assistance."
Albus interjected, "The war with Voldemort has not earned us very good relations with the rest of the world."
"Probably why it's twenty years away," Harry said. "But basically, he thinks that a few European Ministries working together can pitch in and… well, buy the ruins of Atlantis from the merfolk."
Albus' eyes widened having only heard the rumor that the merfolk knew the location of Atlantis.
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "He doesn't think the resources exist to recreate it, but that we could fix the island enough to get it back up into the sky. It comes from a time when they weren't any satellites or airplanes, so it'll be a warder's dream and a diplomatic nightmare. Especially if access is restricted to only the most powerful and intelligent."
"Good lord," Albus blinked.
Harry shrugged indifferent. "I'm still not completely convinced that he's not trying to build an army of super-wizards to conquer the world from the sky with that one. But hey, time will tell, right?"
"Harry," Albus pleaded as he cleaned his glasses out of habit. "Perhaps you should exercise more restraint in revealing the frightening details for the future you and your cohort have planned."
"Perhaps I should," Harry agreed, suspecting he'd already revealed more than Tom would have liked. "But I know it's not escaped your notice that our biggest obstacle is going to be overcoming the ignorance of people and the irrational cultural taboos. That fight begins here, in educating the students and turning Hogwarts into an institution where people don't just learn magic, but they learn to love magic and be challenged by it."
"You don't think we do that now?" Albus asked curiously.
"I think," Harry considered his words carefully. "I think you've taught them how to survive in the face of war, stressing defense and its applications in all the other disciplines."
Albus inclined his head in agreement.
"And I think you have the rest of this year and most of summer to figure out exactly what changes you want to make. If it's significant, you may have to sell me on the idea, but we'll make it happen."
"Headmaster! Headmaster!" the frantic voice of the Deputy Headmistress called out as she rushed up the stairs.
Albus glanced at Harry worriedly. "Minerva, what is it? What's the matter?"
Minerva glanced at Harry sitting there calmly and explained. "It's the castle. All of it."
"What?" Albus asked, sensing nothing through the wards.
"It's," she leaned forward and whispered in horror. "It's green."
Albus hurried to his window and peered around the edge to see the towers and walls had all changed to an unmistakable bright kelly green. "Harry!"
"I should go," Harry shouted as he ran down the steps. His first impulse had been to apparate away but he wasn't ready to reveal that one just yet. "I'll talk to you later, Albus!"
"Harry! Get back here!" Albus yelled. "Change it back, Harry. This isn't hands off!"
Harry's mix of running away and walking nonchalantly had him determinedly power-walking to the entrance hall. He looked to his left as a familiar man came barreling up from the dungeons in a remarkably similar power-walk.
"Hey Harry," Sirius said moving way too briskly to call it simply walking.
"What are you doing?"
Sirius smiled brightly. "It's possible I may have been watching an engorging ward in action that was secretly cast over Snivelly's office doorframe. What are you doing?"
Harry grinned in step with his godfather. "It's possible I may have turned Hogwarts green."
"That was you!" Sirius cheered before thinking it over. They both slowed to a walk when they reached open air. "Of course that was you. Hey, I was thinking of messing with Narcissa."
"Bellatrix says Narcissa won't answer her letters. I guess she's all snippy about her husband's many disgraces and the arrest of her son."
"The nerve of some people."
"Yeah, well," Sirius grinned. "She's collecting a fat insurance settlement for the loss of their family safe. Tonks was thinking 'Narcissa' could be spotted illegally selling items she claimed lost in the fire."
Sirius shrugged. "Tonks has a bit of a mean streak."
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "They install those at the auror academy."
Harry sent an invisible finger to poke Sirius in the eye but it crashed into an invisible ward that flickered in and out of view.
"Ha-ha!" Sirius cheered. "Never again shall you-aahh!"
Harry rolled his eyes at the futility of Sirius' attempts at protection and quickly pinched the back of Sirius' knees. He crumpled immediately, flopping backwards with an awkward yelp.
"Oh come on," Sirius shouted indignantly as he struggled to his feet. "How fair is that?"
"I suppose I could've pounded my way through that little ward band, but if I'm not careful about when it collapses I might push your eyeball into your brain."
"That would be bad," Sirius commented dusting his robe off. "Here's a thought to twist your pickle: if you hadn't saved Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets, you could've had teenage Tom Riddle easily clean up a bodiless Voldemort."
"A Riddleasley?" Harry posited. "Can you even imagine how obsessed with me he would have been?"
"Hey!" an angry ghost appeared to defend herself. "Ooh! Are we going to the Hog's Head?"
"Ginny," Harry whined as he made sure no one was looking.
"Here dementor, dementor, dementor," Ginny called out. She covered her translucent mouth with her hands and proceeded to make a rasping noise that sounded vaguely like a strangled penguin.
"Ginny, get outta here," Harry snapped.
"Make me," she pouted before turning towards the forest and making the same strange noise again.
Harry growled slightly and Ginny's ghostly body disappeared from view with a pop.
"Hey Harry," Sirius wondered while glancing over his shoulder. "Was that really a dementor call?"
"I doubt it."
"I have a hypothetical question." Sirius was doing a poor job of concealing his concern. "How much justifiable jealousy is permitted before I turn into a woman?"
Harry arched an eyebrow at his godfather. "If you have to ask, you're a woman. So spit it out already."
"We can't do our thing together anymore," Sirius said thinking the glory of their thieving days had passed. "You're magically bound to a pair of manipulative bastards-"
"I thought you liked them," Harry interrupted.
"I do," Sirius asserted. "They're still manipulative bastards. Moony is a vindictive asshole and I like him well enough."
"Okay," Harry conceded.
"But it feels like we're not going to have nearly as much to do with each other," Sirius said, trying not to pout.
"Padfoot, I'm not kicking you out of the new Slytherin ancestral home or anything."
"Oi!" Sirius shouted. "That's my house!"
"And we've still got our gift."
"The ointment will clear that up."
"Not that gift," Harry chided. "Alright, here's an idea. There's a dueling tournament in Rome in about a month. Top two spots get automatic invitations to the world championships."
"You'd kill me."
"I was thinking the pairs division actually."
Sirius was intrigued. "That could be fun. But it's a little… civilized."
"There's always the rumors about the Vatican while we're there."
"Now we're talking," Sirius agreed. "I was also considering some alternate outlets for our talents."
Sirius nodded. "I know the vaults would be either impossible or more trouble than they're worth, but what would you think about breaking into the lowest levels of Gringotts-"
"Sirius," Harry said tiredly in a manner reminiscent of Albus.
"-and stealing a dragon," Sirius finished. "Or two."
Harry sighed. "You know we're supposed to stay out of trouble."
"You're the one tantalizing me with rumors of the Catholic Church's secret stash," Sirius argued.
"That's out of the country," Harry argued. "It doesn't count."
"I thought you might say that," Sirius happily agreed. "And when I did a little dragon-snatching recon, I just happened to have made a copy of all of Gringotts planned future excavation projects in Greece and Egypt."
"You want to go tomb raiding?" Harry asked. "You know curse-breaking isn't the same thing as bypassing modern wards."
"It's similar-ish," Sirius defended.
"You know what could be a lot of fun?" Harry rhetorically asked. "I was thinking we could grab a great big bag of gillyweed-"
"What kind of weed?"
"Gilly, Sirius," Harry said shaking his head. "Just take a whole bunch of it, a couple of kits, and then we could scour some hard to reach ocean floors for sunken ships and buried treasure."
"Booty?" Sirius asked excitedly.
"It can be part of a worldwide tour of nudist beaches," Harry said with a smile. "And there are some pretty scary creatures if we go deep enough."
"In the ocean too," Sirius added.
"Yes, Padfoot," Harry agreed before noticing his godfather was still hesitating. "What's got sand in your vagina now?"
Sirius grinned before making a puppy dog face. "See it's nice that we still can do stuff together, but I was thinking there's this thing called a charm of brotherhood."
"I'm not doing another of those," Harry insisted. "It's weird enough feeling both when I'm talking to one of them about the other. If they were ever in the same room with me, it'd feel like bad sex."
Harry saw Sirius was still pouting. "But you know what we could do is to make an official blood tie between the Houses of Slytherin and Black."
"What's that do?" Sirius asked curiously.
"For one, as the two family Lords, we would legally be blood brothers," Harry explained. "That's way more than any charm."
They'd arrived at the Hog's Head and Sirius held the door open for Harry. "I think I'd like that."
"Will that soothe your overdeveloped feminine side?"
Sirius just smiled and nodded. He pulled Harry over to the side and turned him away from the bar. "Listen Harry."
Harry saw Sirius was still showing emotion and began to wonder if Moony had doused him with a potion or maybe estrogen.
"Things all around us are always going to be changing." Sirius put a comforting hand on Harry's shoulder and gently explained, "And I just want you to know…"
Harry had his back to the bar and no warning before the charm activated and a magical boot swung up into his twig and giggleberries with enough force to lift him off the ground. Harry caught a glimpse of James Potter's smiling face as his body went limp and he fell to the floor.
Sirius shouted the victorious end of his sentence. "You got skunked by bizarro Prongs this time, bitch!"
"Oh," Harry lowly moaned as he cupped his junk. A pair of invisible magical arms grabbed onto Sirius and slammed him headfirst into the bar.
Sirius' forehead hit the brass edge with a loud boink that sent him reeling backward. He crashed into a table and was squeezing his eyes shut while twitching on his back on the floor. "What the fuck!"
James winced at the violent retaliation and began to question his role in this. He heard both Lord Blacks groaning on the floor and noticed no one else in the bar was even paying them much attention.
A regular at the bar saw James' look of confusion. "They're always like that. No, what you gotta watch out for is when that one next to you gets some firewhiskey in him."
"What?" James gasped turning to his son in surprise.
"Moe," Jimmy snipped. "Shut it!"
Moe just laughed and pointed at Jimmy. "I saw this one beat himself up. Punched his own face purple. Damnedest thing."
"Fucking hell, Harry. I think you knocked my brain loose," Sirius said as he made his way back to his feet. "Are we cool?"
Harry was taking slow deliberate steps in an effort to walk it off. "Yeah, we're good."
"Lovely," James said rubbing his hands together. "Because my dinner arrived while we were waiting under the invisibility cloak."
"Oh no, no, no," Harry said, shaking his head. "I'm not done with you yet, Potter."
James saw the look in Harry's eyes and felt the eager glares of most everyone else in the room. "Right. You know I just remembered some paperwork I forgot to finish."
"Dad?" Jimmy said as he saw his father briskly heading for the door. "What about your food?"
James just waved over his shoulder without turning around. "You can keep my sandwich!"
Harry furrowed his brow and tilted his head in thought.
"Is that turkey?" Sirius asked, grabbing half of James' sandwich.
"I'm getting the weirdest feeling of déjà vu," Harry said, grabbing the other half of sandwich. He plopped down into a chair, sitting across from Sirius and Jimmy.
"Any idea from what?" Sirius asked in between bites.
Harry had the answer on the tip of his tongue, but he just couldn't quite get it. "No," he said with a resigned sigh. He chewed up another bite of his sandwich. "It's like I can hear those words, over and over: you can keep my sandwich."
"With all the déjà vu, do you guys ever think that maybe we really did play the Obliviate game?" Jimmy wondered.
Harry glanced at the little brother he never had. "We play it all the time. And yes Jimmy, you're horrible at it."
"It's usually after a few rounds of the Gullibility game."
"Okay now you're just making fun of me," Jimmy insisted, before worriedly clarifying, "Right?"
"Why would you remember 'You can keep my sandwich?'" Sirius repeated.
"I don't know," Harry pleaded. "If I did, it'd just be a memory, or with my luck a traumatic flashback."
"It's a fucking retarded line."
"Thank you, Sirius."
"I'm just saying it'd never make it onto a T-shirt."
"You're still talking."
"But there's nothing memorable about that line."
"You're only harping on it because I can't remember it and you know that frustrates the hell out of me."
Sirius grinned. "And your point is?"
"Hang on," Jimmy interrupted. "I don't even know how to cast a memory charm."
"That's probably why you're so awful at the game," Harry retorted.
"Hmmph," Jimmy grumbled. "And here I was going to tell you the significance of your line."
"Oh come on," Harry whined. "Tell me."
Jimmy thrust a victorious fist into the air. He made the low rumbling sound of an approving crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, there's a new leader in the Gullibility game."
"All because he can't remember the line 'You can keep my sandwich.'" Sirius happily reminded.
"One of these days," Harry warned them both. "One of these days I'm just gonna snap, go dark, and kill you all. You realize that, right?"
"Not today, Harry," Sirius said.
"No, not today," Harry agreed. "But tomorrow's a distinct possibility."
Author's Note: I struggled a little, rewriting the last scene a number of times before finally realizing that after well over two hundred thousand words, I didn't have to end it with the perfect zinger as much as I had to end it. This fic has been a lot of work and in my mind will always be remembered as the story that was interrupted by my Mom kicking cancer's ass. It was intended to be different from the usual Harry Potter fanfiction because Voldemort was a minor sub-plot in a story about the relationship between Harry and Sirius. A relationship where instead of Sirius becoming the new James to Harry (father son), it was about Harry becoming the new James to Sirius (best friends).
I think I accomplished my goal, but I'd love to hear any final comments, thoughts, or opinions you are willing to share. Whether you've been waiting on updates eagerly, or were one of the lucky ones to read the whole thing straight through without suffering the anguish of my cliffhangers, a little more feedback will make me feel loved, appreciated, grateful, stroke my ego, make me a better writer, or most likely, inspire me to write more. And feel free to thank the excellent alphas and betas helping me straighten out the mess of ideas that went into this fic: Jim, IP, Chuck, Chris, Rob, Sean, JJ, and the others I will edit in here as soon as I remember them.
Since I've been hearing the calls already, I shall say there are no plans for a sequel here and I'd mark it as 'unlikely' to ever have one. As for what's next for me, I will admit to being taken in by an idea for an original story in a universe of my own making. I'm going to give that a try for a while, but it is inevitable more fanfic bunnies will bug me until I write them. Could be a little while before I get to them as I want to give a fair shot to writing about my own characters, but I'll be back with a new story sometime. Thanks for all the reviews and actually reading this long ass author's note. Now about that one last review I asked for...