Title: Swimming in the Minnow's Mouth
Author: Meanderings (subject to change)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Notes: UN-BETAED. First HP fic.
Sum: Draco manages to steal something of value from his father and gives it to Dumbledore to keep safe. Harry stumbles across it by accident, only to end up having conversations he never thought he'd have. Slash. HPTM.
Warnings: Slash. I didn't have a beta reader.
Disclaimer: Don't Own.


Swimming in the Minnow's Mouth


revelation-

The manor was silent, but it only made Draco feel more paranoid as he quietly shifted through piles of books and papers. Every movement was slow and deliberate, and every now and then, Draco paused to listen. Even though his father and mother were out for the day, he still had to be cautious.

He had to be especially cautious since he was in his father's office. He knew the elder Malfoy would think nothing suspicious of his son spending time in his office since he did it quite often, but Draco had never shifted through the contents in his father's desk. His shaking hand was hovering above the handle of a drawer, debating whether to grasp it or not. Finally, he closed his eyes and clamped his hand down, waiting. Nothing happened. He opened his grey eyes and pulled the drawer open, sticking a hand to feel about in the back. Perfect, there it was. He pulled it out and shut the drawer, calling a house elf in to clean the room to rid traces of him being there. Before leaving, his gaze wandered onto something else and without thinking, he grabbed it, too. Tucking the object at the bottom of his suitcase, he felt assured that no one would suspect.

True to predication, his father didn't even think anything out of the oridinary when he returned and Draco was happily boarding the train to Hogwarts with his trunk. Now he just had to wait until they actually reached Hogwarts.

confrontation-

Harry groaned. He couldn't believe he fell for Malfoy's plot to make him late again for his next class. It wasn't his fault he hated the Slytherin so much that every time the git insulted him, he had to retaliate back. At least he managed to hex Malfoy before he realized he was going to be late.

Almost there. He hurried up the stairs, cursing that Divination class had to be so far up. Finally, he made it to the door, panting. He pushed the door open and stuck his head through to find the room completely empty. Shit, where was the class? Then he remembered that Trelawney had decided last class that they would be studying stars. No doubt they went outside, but it was day; there weren't any stars. Harry snorted at the thought as he turned back around and jogged down.

Hogwarts was a rather big school, and Harry still wasn't completely familiar with it. He supposed he took a wrong turn because he ended up in a hallway he had never been before. Then he heard movement nearby and quickly hid behind a statue. The portrait behind him remarked, "Atrocious hair." Harry paid no heed, but kept his eyes fixed on an opening door. He let out a gasp when he saw Malfoy step out and wave his wand at the door, closing it and most likely locking it.

"Please don't come this way," Harry muttered. The Invisibility Cloak would come in handy right now. Luckily, Malfoy went off in the other direction. Harry stepped out from behind the statue once he was sure Malfoy was long off. Now, what was Malfoy doing with that door? As far as Harry knew, it wasn't a class room and Malfoy took pretty much the same classes as he did. He frowned. Maybe Malfoy was planning something. It wasn't uncommon knowledge that Malfoy had received the Dark Mark already, but nobody spoke of it.

The Gryfindor approached the door carefully, wand ready just in case of a trap. He prodded the door with his wand. Not the wisest of all things to do, but Harry wasn't about to use his hand. Apparently whatever spell Malfoy put on the door wasn't one that reacted to touch. Harry then tried opening the door, but it wouldn't budge.

"Alohomora." He tried again, but the door still wouldn't open. Curse Malfoy for knowing complex spells. What was that charm Hermione tried teaching him two weeks ago?

"What are you sneaking around for, Potter?" a familiar voice drawled. Harry turned to face Malfoy, cursing himself for not hearing footsteps. Instead of saying, "Well, what were you doing?" he decided to settle for, "Nothing. I wasn't." He didn't want Malfoy to know that he had been spying, too.

"I'd hope not. Now move along, Scarface."

"I'd watch your mouth if I were you, Ferret," Harry retorted, walking briskly past Malfoy, making sure to knock into his shoulder. Malfoy didn't seem fazed by his words even when Harry glared as he passed. In fact, he seemed rather pleased. Sighing, Malfoy muttered, "I wasn't told this would be so bothersome."

second impression-

It was Friday when Harry found time to return to the door. After a few minutes of being lost, he saw the statue. The portrait again had a snotty remark of, "Still haven't heard of grooming your hair, I see."

Standing in front of the door, Harry decided to try using Alohomora again, but it was effectless. From one of his pockets, he pulled out a scrap of parchment.

"Dissero," he read from the paper, waving his wand somewhat uncertainly. He was relieved to hear a click from the turning of a lock. With his wand out, Harry pulled open the door, expecting something to attack him at the least. Nothing happened. He stepped into a room he considered rather odd. It was wide enough for him and about two other students his size to comfortably stand in a line from wall to wall. It looked more like a hallway than anything.

"Lumos." He treaded further in and the further he walked, the brighter it became. Then he saw metal poles blocking his way up ahead. Harry was suspcious, but couldn't help feeling more curious than anything. It was a cage, resembling a jail cell, but it was probably the prettiest one he'd ever see. Harry couldn't see far into the cage because the rest of the hallway was dark, but the ground inside the cage wasn't stone like the rest.

There was a huge patch of green grass littered with flowers and clovers inside the bars. A light, quite similar to sunshine in the Great Hall since there wasn't exactly an opening in the ceiling, filtered down from the stones like a spotlight on the grass. Harry wasn't sure if it was the accurate word, but it seemed quite ethereal. There was nothing else though; the cage was empty.

Harry laughed at a sudden thought. Maybe Malfoy had a hobby that he didn't want anybody to know. Harry snorted. Malfoy, an avid gardener, that was gold. Since there was nothing suspicious, Harry left, locking the door with a simple Locking charm. He doubted Malfoy would notice the difference.

miscommunication-

A week later, Harry returned to the door, provoked by curiosity. This time, Alohomora worked; he supposed that Malfoy hadn't had time to come back. He slipped through the opening and walked until he saw the light up ahead. He ran the last few meters and skidded to a stop, not bothering to hide his surprise when he saw a familiar boy inside the cage.

"You!" Harry instinctively whipped his wand out, yelling out, "Stupefy!"

The other boy watched with unmasked amusement as the red light was repelled to the floor by some invisible wall between him and Harry. Harry panicked when his spell didn't work.

"Reducto!" he tried, but it was also deflected.

Before Harry could use a Diffindo, Tom spoke up.

"As entertaining as this is, I think I should tell you that there are some powerful protective spells cast in my general vicinity, but you can continue if you want." His lips curled up into a smile.

Harry shook with anger, his grip tightening around his wand. "Well, are you going to hex me then?"

"Hex you? Why on earth would I do that?" Tom genuinely looked confused, causing Harry to falter, especially when he spoke again. "Is that pollen? I don't do well with pollen. Wait, are you able to see pollen?"

"Er. Well. Never mind." If this wasn't weird, then Harry honestly didn't want to know what was. Tom Riddle was in Hogwarts. Tom Riddle was alive again! Harry was so sure that he had seen the last of him in his second year. Maybe this was just a dream; he should have taken the Dreamless Draught from Hermione. Yeah, that was it. This was all just a dream because Tom Riddle could not be alive again and the actual Tom Riddle would have blasted him straight into a wall. Harry wasn't sure what to make of his encounter with Riddle, but it was certainly unexpected and odd.

Harry expected something along the lines of:

"Harry Potter, I am back and I am going to kill you!" Cue green light that he'd counter with his own spell and then they'd have some duel that ended with him dying, Voldemort dying, someone dying, or Voldemort running away.

Ugh, Harry didn't like today.

"Password?" the Fat Lady asked shrilly. Harry didn't noticed he had reached the Gryffindor dorms.

"Uh, Magnum Opus," he replied.

"Thanks, Harry!" Harry blinked. He didn't notice Neville was stuck out here.

"It's fine, Neville. You'll remember the password soon," he said encouragingly with a pitying smile, giving Neville a reassuring pat on the back before stepping through. Harry immediately spotted a familiar bushy head bent over a scroll.

"Hey, Hermione?"

"No, Harry, I won't let you copy my homework," Hermione tossed back without looking back. Ron grinned up at Harry, rolling his eyes.

"Actually-"

"Where were you, mate?" Ron inquired, scooting over so Harry could sit down next to him.

"Down at the Library," Harry lied easily. Hermione shot a smile at him before turning to Ron to lecture him about his lack on studying. Ron nudged Harry in the side with his elbow, mouthing, "Liar." Harry grinned innocently and shrugged.

"Ronald! Are you listening?"

"Yes. . ."

explanation-

Harry went down to the Great Hall the next morning filled with only worry and confusement. Ron noticed his lack of appetite and Hermione immediately inquired if he had had another dream. Harry gave them a smile, which they accepted, telling them he was just tired. After breakfast, Harry sought out Dumbledore.

"Professor Dumbledore!" Dumbledore stopped and turned to let Harry catch up with him.

"Yes?"

"I need to talk to you about something," Harry panted.

"Just as I expected." Dumbledore smiled down at him and his eyes twinkled. Harry followed the old wizard wordlessly, suspecting Dumbledore already knew his reason for the urgency. Once they were seated comfortably in the office, Dumbledore asked the obvious, "Lemon drop?"

Harry shook his head, and Dumbledore dropped the candy back into a basket. He folded his hands on the desk, looking at the boy over the rim of his glasses. "You had something important to say?"

"Um, yes." Harry wondered how to tell Dumbledore, then settled on being blunt. "Tom Riddle is here," he blurted out. Dumbledore didn't seem surprised or unnerved by the news; instead, he smiled.

"As I suspected," he said amusedly, "Anything else?"

"Anything else?" Harry gaped, looking horrified. "It's Tom Riddle!"

"And by no accident or cruel intention, Harry."

"Then. You know he's here?" Harry said, dumb-founded. Dumbledore nodded. "How?"

"Well, my boy, that's a rather difficult question to answer. I do not know how he is here, but I do know why. You see, a rather brave student here gave me the diary to keep under my protection."

"Destroy it then!" Harry exclaimed.

"Tom seems to have cast some powerful protection charms on it, no doubt Dark magic, and unfortunately, we have no more Basilik poison," Dumbledore explained. Harry was at lost for words, his mind whirling in confusement and anger. Dumbledore stood up, walking around the desk to stroke the phoenix's head. Harry's eyes followed him, silently demanding more answers. Finally, Dumbledore said, "Go back to class, Harry. Do not worry about Tom. He's harmless."

Harmless? Harry snorted. Tom was about as harmless as a hurricane.

"Harry." Dumbledore's tone left no room for argument and so Harry rose, bidding farewell to the Headmaster before walking to the staircase. On his way down, he didn't think much of Malfoy walking up the stairs.

resentment-

"Sorry about my odd ramblings last time you visited. Dumbledore put a rather nasty Confundo charm on me that likes to sneak up every now and then," Tom said when Harry greeted him.

"Why are you being. . . nice?"

"Oh, Potter, Potter, Potter," Tom rolled his eyes, "You Gryffindors are still the same I see. Dim-witted and prejudiced-"

"We are not! If anybody is prejudiced it's you." Tom glared half-heartedly.

"I was still talking, Potter."

There was a pause.

"Well? You said you weren't done." Harry raised an eyebrow, waiting for Tom to continue speaking, unable to keep the smugness of his face.

"As I was saying," Tom glared at Harry, "They're infuriating, too."

"We are not!"

"Irregardless of what you think!" Tom said heatedly over Harry's voice. "I am being tolerable because I have nothing else to do. Being a crazy lunatic would just send you running away again and who knows how long it'd be until some idiot would stumble into this room."

"Hey, I'm not an idiot," Harry said, somewhat offended.

Tom groaned and massaged his temples with two fingers. "Is that all you managed to hear?"

first impression-

The next time Harry came back, the grass reached out past the bars, but Tom was still behind them, lying on his side in the grass. He didn't seem to notice Harry approaching, but when the Gryffindor grasped the bars, he lifted his head, smiling lazily.

"Don't you have class, Potter?"

Harry shook his head. "It's Sunday. It's about one in the afternoon."

"I never did like Sundays," Tom remarked absently.

"Is that suppose to mean you'd rather not have my presence here?" Harry said slowly.

"No, it's just that Sundays are awfully tiresome. Nobody comes near here."

"You can hear things?"

Tom grinned. "Why, yes. Dumbledore isn't heartless. He told me I could listen to conversations, but I think that fool charmed the walls so I couldn't hear anything important."

Tom laid his head down again and Harry knew what that motion meant, but he didn't want to end the conversation yet.

"Tom?"

"Don't call me that."

"Tom," Harry plowed on, ignoring Tom's request, "Why can't you use a spell to break free?"

Tom laughed almost condescendingly. "You're not as bright as I thought. I don't have a wand, but of course, you do."

He looked pointedly at Harry. Harry tightened his grip around his wand at Tom's words.

"I don't think so, Riddle."

Tom laughed again and crawled over to the bars, wrapping his hands around them just above Harry's.

"Oh, please, Potter. No one will ever know. You can always lock me back up later," he pleaded mockingly.

Harry wrinkled his nose. "No."

Tom sighed and drew back. Harry caught a glimpse of dark burns on Tom's palms. "No matter, Dumbledore's charmed the cage anyway."

"I can remove the charm that burns your hands," Harry offered, not sure why he was being nice.

"So you don't completely hate me after all." Tom smiled amusedly.

"Well, I still hate you."

"Yes, yes, I'm aware of that," Tom waved a hand. "Anyway, you can't. Dumbledore created the spell on the cage so I don't know the counter-curse. I'm only sixteen, Potter, so I'm not that powerful yet. Tried using the Killing curse once though, but it didn't turn out so well."

"That, I didn't need to know," Harry said coldly and walked away. Tom hummed something tuneless, a cattish grin on his face. At least his last statement drove Potter away even if it didn't relate much to his answer.

liberation-

"Can't you bring some clueless Hufflepuff down here for me to torment?"

Malfoy snickered. "Tell them you're the Dark Lord and scare them senseless?"

"That's the gist of it."

Malfoy leaned back on a wall, snorting. "Somehow I feel that I'm not suppose to be talking to you let alone anybody else."

"But Malfoy, making fun of a Hufflepuff!"

"I know, I know," he rolled his eyes, "It's very tempting."

Tom huffed. "For a Slytherin, you're not much more fun than Potter."

"P-potter was here?" Draco sputtered in surprise.

Tom nodded. "Quite a few times already."

"He hasn't tried to kill you?"

"My conversations seem to lead him away from the thought."

"I can't imagine how," Draco said dryly. "Anyway—"

"No, go away," Tom interrupted, his voice sad. "If you're not going to bring me a Hufflepuff to torment, leave me be. I'm bored."

Draco shook his head amusedly, knowing that Tom wasn't being serious. "Merlin, who knew the young Dark Lord was like a spoiled kitten, always wanting something to entertain it."

"That's why he tortures people before killing them!" Tom called after Draco's retreating back.

emotion-

"Oh, I thought you'd never come back, Potter!" Tom said cheerfully.

"Neither did I."

"Don't be so glum. You're not the one stuck in a cage anyway."

"Wait, why are you so happy?" Harry asked, eying the Slytherin with caution.

"It's my way of dealing with boredom," Tom sighed dramatically. "I grew tired of setting flowers on fire."

Harry looked slightly disturbed at the answer.

"Besides, I found out something rather interesting! Come closer, I'll show you."

Harry warily walked closer and then kneeled when he felt he was at a close enough distance.

"You're too far." Tom pouted. "Stop being such a prat."

"I think I'll stay here," Harry stated adamantly.

"Well, I don't think so." Tom's arm shot out from between the bars and grabbed Harry's tie tightly, pulling him so quickly and so abruptly that Harry's face collided into the bars.

"Riddle!" he seethed, rubbing his nose. Oh, the pain. "What are you playing at?"

"Look, Potter. See?" Tom tugged on the tie. Harry scowled and tried pulling his tie back, but Tom kept a firm grip.

"Let go."

"No. I like having your tie in here with me."

"God, you're weird."

Tom smiled in a way Harry found charming. "I try to be."

"Could you," Harry tried loosening the knot, "loosen your grip? You're kind of choking me."

"Oh, but what if that was my plan, Potter?" Tom smirked and eyed Harry darkly. The other boy shivered at the sudden change in personality. "I never did like you. Always foiling my plans. Killed me twice, haven't you? You're rather dense, too." He pulled harder, making Harry gasp in pain. "You're a filthy muggle-lover, too. You were treated poorly by Muggles, so why do you pity them? Why not get revenge? Always off to save everybody, aren't you? I hate you."

"Tom! Stop this!"

"Why should I? I could end this now, just watch you squirm, trying to breath. Then you'd died and what's everybody going to do? Kill me? Ha. It's a rather pathetic way to die. You can't even tie a tie correctly."

Harry braced a foot against a bar, hoping Tom wouldn't notice what he was trying to do. Luckily, Tom seemed to be too caught up in his rant. He grabbed what was left of his tie on his side and pulled, using his foot as leverage to push him back. Caught by surprise, Tom was pulled forward and his other hand grabbed a bar by instinct to catch himself. Upon contact, pain shot up through Tom's arm. He cried out in pain and let go of Harry's tie to clutch his arm. Harry, red-face, fumbled with the knot to tug the tie off.

"Y-you're mental!" Harry manage to say, too angry and shocked to find any words to express how he felt. Tom looked at him sourly. Harry fled.

The next week, Harry found himself in the hall where Tom's confinement was located. He passed by the door, determinedly looking forwards, but he felt his steps falter when he heard Tom's voice saying, "Potter! Potter! I know you're there. Come talk to me."

Then he heard, "Please?" in the softest voice imaginable.

Something twinged in Harry's chest and he found himself walking back to the door, but before he could grasp the doorknob, he drew back his hand as if it had been burned. He shook his head. What was he thinking? He left the hallway, blocking out Tom's shouts. Over the next few weeks, Harry avoided him. He silently applauded himself every time he walked past the door and didn't stop. Though it wasn't like him, Tom stopped trying to persuade Harry to come back. It wasn't until then that Harry realized how much time he had spent away from his friends in favor of conversations with Tom.

A couple of days before Christmas, Harry finally felt a sudden urge to pay Tom a visit. He told himself he was merely checking upon Tom's wellbeing. Making sure nobody saw, he unlocked the door with a charm and slipped through. He saw Tom sitting in the cage as usual, but this time there was a large tree bursting out from the ground next to him.

"I'm not going to try to kill you this time," Tom said tiredly when he noticed Harry's hesitation.

"I don't think I'm in any position to trust you," the other boy snapped.

"Look, it wasn't my fault I tried to kill you." Tom stood up. It was the first time Harry had ever seen Tom stand up in the cage. He had always been sitting or lying down. He was slightly taken back, assuming that this meant Tom was rather irritated.

"I'll stay here. We seem to be having this conversation just fine from where we're standing," Harry said resolutely.

"Potter, stop being immature—"

"Immature?" Harry yelled. "You tried to kill me! How many times do we have to go over this?"

"That wasn't me!" Tom cut in hastily. "It was Voldemort!"

"Wha-"

"You know you and him have a link. In a way, I am him, therefore I have a link with him, too. He figured it out a week ago. He was controlling me."

Though Tom's explanation was reasonable, Harry still didn't know if he should trust the Slytherin's words. What if this was just another attempt to kill him?

"I don't know what to say, Riddle," he finally said.

Tom seemed afraid that Harry wouldn't believe him and blurted out, "Look. When I reached out, I was trying to show you that the burn charm doesn't affect me as long as I don't touch the bars. That way, we could have more physical contact when we're talking, but he looked into my mind. . ."

Harry sighed. "Well, that's more of a reason why I shouldn't be near you. Voldemort could try to kill me again. We'll talk later, Riddle."

He turned away and heard Tom slam his fists against the bars and a cry of, "Dammit," before the door closed behind him.

Tom was relieved to see that Draco had decided to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas. Draco's excuse was that he could enjoy Hogwarts without Potter's constant stupidity.

"Is Potter always an idiot?" He rolled onto his stomach, idly stroking the grass beneath his fingers.

"Yes," Draco replied immediately. "Always has been. Why?"

"Nothing, he's just being insufferable."

"Yes, he always is," Draco said indifferently.

Tom sat up. "What's wrong with you? You usually never pass up a chance to complain about Potter."

Draco looked at the Slytherin coolly. "I've already done that today. If it makes you feel better, I hit him with a hex before he left."

"That does make me feel better. Thank Heavens for you."

"I've been told that many times," Draco smirked.

intermission-

Tom found it hard to surpress his joy when the holidays were over. Harry himself thought something was severely misplaced when Tom greeted him, voice filled with bouncing excitement. Tom beamed at him, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

"So, Potter, you left without letting me say Merry Christmas!" he started amiably. "How was your holiday then? Wonderful and happy, I suppose. Yes?"

"Urm." Harry was rather unuse to such a friendly Tom. "It was great, just like the other years. You know, Mrs. Weasley made me a scarf. We had a snowball fight." He trailed off. "What about you?"

"Probably not as eventful as yours, but I must say, Malfoy is great company."

Harry stared in disbelief. "Malfoy?"

"Yes, Malfoy."

"Is that sarcasm?"

"What? Of course not! What makes you say that?" Harry waved the matter off as another thought struck him.

"Tom?"

"Yes?"

"Did you get anything for Christmas?" Harry's assumption was confirmed when he saw Tom's smile dropped a bit.

"No, are you suppose to?"

admiration-

"Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world that you made?"

"Hm?" Harry looked up from his textbook. Tom repeated his question, not bothering to open his eyes to gauge Harry's expression.

"I suppose," Harry said after several minutes of musing, "There's a lot of things I'd change." Tom knew he was referring to his parents. "But it would take a lot of work to make everything the way you want. The world is big."

"If you say so," Tom mumbled. Harry waited for the other boy to say something else, but when he didn't, Harry turned back to his homework, working the rest of the night in silence, listening to Tom's soft, even breaths. Maybe there was more to Tom than he thought.

question-

Tom wasn't sure how the topic came about, but he was sure it had no relation to him thanking Harry for the yo-yo. There was no way of avoiding it now, though.

"Voldemort is a cold bastard," Harry stated angrily, waving his hands about. Tom gave him a nervous smile.

"He doesn't kill in cold blood," Tom said. Harry snorted, "Oh sure, he's killed all those innocent muggles and wizards to save the world. He's a psychopath."

"At least, he didn't use to," Tom continued after Harry's interlude. The Gryffindor paused to think about the implication behind Tom's words. After a while, he demanded gently, "Explain."

Tom looked down at his lap, unwinding the string from around the yo-yo. He slowly said, "It's hard to explain because you wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

Tom smiled slightly. "When Voldemort was young, he was always abused. I'm sure you know this?"

Harry shrugged a shoulder, but his face indicated that he only had a vague idea.

"Muggles, they treated him badly." The last word was uttered so softly that Harry was sure if Tom has said it any louder, he'd be able to hear the pain and bitterness in his voice echo. "That was all he knew. The Wizarding world was an escape for him."

Harry murmured his agreement.

"Then he found out he was a half-blood, and he had no place in his House. Voldemort was a genius—"

"Hogwart's most brilliant student in every way," Harry added. Tom grinned, "Why, thank you.

"So he began to read about the Dark Arts to rise to the top of the Slytherin House. And then the most wonderful thing happened to him. Voldemort found out he was the Heir to Slytherin." Tom looked directly at Harry. "And how else could he repay the only person that has ever accepted him than by completing his dream?"

"That still doesn't give him a reason to kill. Shouldn't he know better? Some genius he is." Harry shifted his gaze. He felt awkward talking about Voldemort because wasn't Tom the same person? It unnerved him slightly to hear Tom talk about his future self in third person.

Tom sighed. "Voldemort felt betrayed by both worlds. No one cared about him. He was just a bomb waiting to be detonated."

Harry stared at Tom's hands, wondering if Voldemort was truly as complex as the design Tom had been weaving with yo-yo tricks.

commotion-

"You said something last time that made me think. So my answer to you is that no one is innocent, not even you."

Harry didn't have to ponder which phrase Tom was referring to.

". . .killing innocent Muggles and Wizards. . ."

"What do you mean?"

"Everybody has done something wrong, so they're punished for it," Tom said slowly as if talking to a small child.

"Voldemort killed them! That's not punishment."

"This has nothing to do with Voldemort. This has to do with what you said to me. You can call it a misconception if you want."

"All right, fine, then what do you mean by me, too?"

"You're not innocent, Harry Potter, you never really have been."

Harry flushed.

"Oh, I don't mean it that way." Tom's eyes glittered. "I mean that when you were only a baby, you killed a man."

"That's not true!"

"Then what did you do? Murder is murder, no matter how it's done."

Harry had no words, his throat dry.

"And you're going to have to kill him, again," Tom purred. It had never hit Harry until then. He had to do it. He saw satisfaction curl about Tom's lips as his face paled. Would that make him any better than Voldemort? He'd be a murderer, too.

"It's justified," Harry said, hoping his voice didn't waver. Tom simply smiled knowingly before retreating into the dark. Harry returned to the Common Room that night, immediately seeking out Hermione.

"Hermione, I need to talk to you," Harry said hurriedly. Seeing the urgent look on her friend's face, Hermione nodded and closed her book.

"Well? Sit down, Harry. The Common Room's empty," she said. Harry sighed and took one last look around the area before taking a seat next to Hermione.

"What's wrong?" Hermione asked after a long moment of silence. Harry didn't even meet her eyes.

"Hermione," he said slowly, unsurely, "is it right for me to kill Voldemort?"

"Of course it is!" she replied immediately. Why was Harry asking her such an obvious answer?

"No, I mean," Harry ran a hand through his hair, "morally. Is that right?"

Hermione's mouth parted for a reply, but she found none. She finally settled on saying, "You-Know-Who has killed so many innocent people."

There was that word again.

"Everything has a consequence that is equal to the action. Death. . . is You-Know-Who's consequence. It's the only way, Harry." Hermione looked at Harry, wondering what spurred him to ask her this. It wasn't like Harry to be so contemplative about the Dark Lord. Harry gave her a brief smile, leaning over to give her a hug before standing up.

"Thanks, Hermione. Just wanted to know. Goodnight."

"Goodnight." Hermione watched Harry walk up the stairs, her eyes worried. Morally, no, it wasn't right, but in times of war, just how often did morals come into play?

confession-

Tom thought it was odd that every time Harry came to talk, he felt strangely elated. When they talked, Tom was filled with warmth. When Harry left, Tom always sighed and his chest felt heavy. He supposed it was because being locked away did things to a person, but it wasn't the same when Malfoy came around. It couldn't be, could be? But Tom wasn't stupid; he just thought he'd never happen.

Tom could be rather blunt or cryptic when it came to important matters. Today, he just had to know. Without much pretense, Tom blurted out, "Do you like me?"

Harry was taken back, cut off in the middle of his sentence.

"Well, I don't hate you," he said, dodging about the question. He saw Tom rolls his eyes, letting out a huff of breath that ruffled his bangs.

"You know what I mean, twit." Despite the insult, Harry could tell that the other boy was nervous from the way he kept blinking and rolling about in the grass restlessly. Harry wetted his lips, knowing there was no way to avoid the question. The only thing now was whether he should tell the truth or not. Yes, the truth. Harry was hopeless when it came to being romantic, but he knew what attraction felt like.

Tom wasn't pretty like Ginny or any other girl was, but he had this depth to him that they lacked. Tom wasn't deluded with false hopes. Maybe that's why Harry could only think about talking to Tom.

"I think I could like you," Harry said softly. "Maybe, when I know for sure, I could get rid of these bars." He shook the bars for emphasis.

The action made Tom's lips curled up slightly. Harry tentatively reached past the bars to ghost over Tom's cheeks and lips with his fingertips, then dropped his hand to lace his fingers with the other boy.

"Are you using me?" Tom said, ruining the moment. Shock flitted across Harry's face.

"I don't know if I am," he replied truthfully. "Are you?"

"Never, but you know how things are like," he said bitterly.

"Then you know why I can't say no."

contemplation-

After the rather fateful conversation, Harry found himself sneaking to Tom after classes had ended. There were days where he would merely finish homework in silence, and there would be days where Harry would return to the Common Room with a large load of work because he had spent all his time talking to Tom. Either way, he supposed he felt at peace, if he knew what that felt like. Harry guessed it was a feeling of calmness where time didn't limit what he could do.

On another day like any other, Harry was jostled out of his concentration when Tom's voice suddenly filled the silence. By now, when he walked in, Harry could tell whether Tom was in the mood to talk or not. Apparently, he couldn't anymore.

"What's Hogwarts like?" he asked wistfully.

"What do you mean by that? It's Hogwarts. You've been here before," Harry replied, confused.

"No, I don't mean it like that. Things change over time, Harry."

Realization dawned on Harry. "Oh, well then." He struggled to come up with something. "I can't explain. It's Hogwarts, you can't describe it."

Tom sighed heavily, shoulders heaving. "I haven't been out for so long," he said mournfully. "This is all I see." He gestured with a sweep of his arm. "I want to see Hogwarts again."

Harry couldn't deny the need and desperation in Tom's voice, but he choked out,

"I can't."

It was in the middle of the night when Tom woke up from hearing the door open. He crawled behind the tree, waiting to see who had entered. He heard footsteps and when they stopped, there wasn't a body to accompany them. Tom's heart thundered against his chest. It couldn't be? Then Harry suddenly appeared and in his hand clutched was a cloak. Tom let out to the breath he had sucked in from surprise and came out of hiding.

"It's rather late, Potter," he greeted.

"I know," Harry replied, pulling the Cloak over himself again as he sat down.

"Have we gotten into the habit of breaking rules?"

Tom could hear the grin in Harry's voice. "Yes, we have."

"But that's not the point is it?"

"No, it isn't." Harry couldn't surpress the thought of wondering when they became rather easy to read each other. There were times he could swear he was having conversations with himself. "The point is, I'm probably not going to come back for a while. Voldemort is near so I have to be careful."

"Well, good luck?" Tom offered. Harry shrugged and said, "I'll need it."

Tom laid down on his side, eyes shutting. "Go to sleep." He heard Harry snort softly and say, "It's almost morning."

Tom didn't know what else to say and let himself fall to the natural calling. He wasn't sure whether he should be happy or not to hear that his future self was coming to claim his memories back. Harry watched as Tom's hand curled into the grass beneath him as if they would keep him anchored to the ground. Faintly, unsure if it was in his dream or not, Tom heard an explosion and a flurry of footsteps.

incompletion-

"Voldemort was afraid that we'd find some way to use the diary to our advantage, especially since it's a Horucrux with his memories."

Harry gaped. "Well, we've got to get him back."

"We can't, Harry," Dumbledore said slowly, eyes weary as if he had seen too much for him to handle.

"What do you mean 'we can't'? I'll do it. I don't care."

Draco groaned over what he assumed was Harry's incompetence. He gave Harry an even look. "No, Potter, what the Headmaster means is that you can't."

"Oh."