So, once again, I'm really late in updating, but I have reasons. Lol. I'm working full-time now and I'm a full-time student, so, yeah, I'm a bit busy. But, anyway, this chapter is a bit longer than the others, to make up for my absence.
I know it's been a while, so if any of you want a summary, just tell me, and I'll try to write one up, ok?
But, besides that, I hope you enjoy the chapter. ^.^
Harry was completely sure that the majority of the trouble he got into was not his fault. On the other hand, somehow he was very sure that he'd created this mess all on his own.
It was certainly past curfew now, and no one was up and about, it seemed, but them. The castle had taken on that deserted, slightly haunted feel that Harry had always basked in. His walks around the castle had allowed him knowledge of the castle that not many others knew, and it had always been beneficial to his mood when he'd felt smothered and surrounded by too many people. Now, it somewhat comforted him, even though Tom, sitting across from him with a tea-cup in hand, obviously meant to make him feel otherwise.
He sat in Tom's personal chambers, in a sort of den, on a couch near the fireplace. The man had dragged him from Severus' own chambers the moment he'd staggered from the floo and shoved him all the way here. Up three deserted staircases and two secret passageways Tom hadn't said a word, and Harry wondered exactly which of the things he'd done since this afternoon had caused the predatory glare Tom was giving him right now.
There were a couple of things, after all.
That was the only word that hissed past Tom's lips, almost like Parseltongue in its reptilian nature. Harry felt goose-bumps rise on his arms, and he fought to hide a shiver and he wondered what was wrong with him. He felt like he had in that graveyard two years before, full of energy fueled by fear. But then, he wasn't scared. Not really.
His palm itched to draw his wand. He wanted to fight. His body felt like it was filled to the brim with energy, his nerves screaming at him to move – to do anything but sit still in a chair and talk. It wasn't like Tom was going to hurt him; Harry was sure the man had more control over his temper than that. But he'd never felt like this before; more alive than ever. Somehow, he reigned in his urges. He controlled his breathing as best he could and told Tom about everything that had happened to him over the last few hours.
It didn't take as much time as he thought it would. Everything that had happened at Gringotts seemed to have taken forever even though the battle itself had seemed to be over in an instant. The time spent travelling in the tunnels had contributed to that, he thought. And the time he'd spoken with Griphook. In all, his story would have taken only a few moments had Tom not glared him into elaborating further.
By the time he was through, Tom looked only a little less stormy than before. But, surprisingly, he didn't speak, nursing a cup of tea while slowly turning the fine china in his hands.
Harry still felt that strange energy bubbling just underneath his skin. It made shivers run up and down his spine. If he hadn't been clenching his hands tightly together, they would have been shaking, if not reaching for the wand he kept up his right sleeve. He found that he couldn't stand the silence.
"So. Are you planning on telling me what I did wrong?" Harry asked suddenly, only a second later realizing that he'd sad it rather rudely, too. Expecting to receive a tongue-lashing, Harry jumped when Tom laughed instead.
"It is strange, Harry." Well, that didn't answer his question at all. But Harry froze as a shiver went down his neck. This man confused him. How could even someone's laugh sound dangerous?
Tom was looking at him now. He set his cup on the table that sat between them, next to Harry's cup, which was cold and untouched. The Dark Lord stood, slowly moving around the table towards Harry as he spoke.
"It is strange how you are not frightened of me, when you of all people have the most reason to be." He raised a hand to stop Harry from replying, as he'd been about to. "It's refreshing.
"You've gained the Goblin King's friendship, which is very impressive. But if anyone else had stopped me from doing what I wished in that hospital wing, I would have cursed them on the spot. Regardless of any implied offense to the goblins."
Tom came close to Harry, placing a hand on the arms of Harry's chair, on either side of him, trapping him in place. Harry forced his hands to stay where they were, tangled together as Tom's face hovered inches away from his own.
"I would not hide my nature from you, Harry. I'm not a nice person, even in absence of madness. If anyone else had ended that conversation with the Goblin King like that, disregarding me as completely as you did, I would have killed them."
Tom pulled his wand from his sleeve, and Harry redoubled his efforts not to move. He was trembling now, shivering visibly with anticipation. He recognized what was affecting him so now. It was Tom's magic. It was almost tangible, and his own magic was that energy flowing beneath his skin, wanting to interact with Tom's.
He watched Tom pass his wand over himself. Suddenly, the disguise of Professor Hostes was simply gone. But what remained wasn't the version of Tom he'd seen over the last two years, in the graveyard and in the Ministry of Magic. No, Harry was reminded more of the boy he'd seen in the Chamber of Secrets all those years ago.
This Tom was older, though, perhaps a man in his late thirties. He looked maybe as old as Harry's parents might have been if they were alive. He was as tall as his disguise had been, but a little leaner, and with more muscle. His hair, dark brown, fell past his shoulders. His once clear blue eyes, now the familiar blood red, set into such pale skin, were all Harry could look at.
"If you'll remember, dear boy, I am still the dark lord." The man hissed, so close to speaking Parseltongue that the words almost crawled along Harry's skin.
He took short shaky breaths. Finally, when it seemed Tom had nothing more to add, Harry spoke. His voice was quieter than he intended, but it was steady at least.
"If you wanted a partner who would listen only to your orders, perhaps you should have looked elsewhere."
Tom only smiled. It was a deep attracting thing that was mysterious and ambiguous at best.
"Perhaps." He moved away from Harry. He shuddered as Tom turned his back to him, pouring himself another cup of tea, and took yet another shaky breath. He thought, perhaps, with that smile, the danger had passed. He was starting to relax again, and without his tightly coiled muscles straining at his will, Harry decided to ask the question burning at the back of his mind.
"Tom…" The man glanced over his shoulder at his name. Harry felt heat at his cheeks and wondered why he felt as if he should be as embarrassed by his curiosity as he was. "Why is my magic so…?"
He couldn't find a word to describe it. Tingly? Certainly, but it didn't sound right. Violent? No, because it wasn't straining against Harry for violent purposes. At least, that's what he thought. He remembered how he'd felt as he'd trashed Dumbledore's office at the end of the last school year.
"Alive?" Tom asked. Thinking about it, Harry nodded.
"But it's more than that."
"I know." Tom said simply. He turned and pressed a hand against his chest. "I feel it too. It's because our magics are so strong. So potent."
"So my magic is trying to interact with yours?" Harry felt heat burn at his cheeks. The conversation seemed remotely sexual in context now. But he strained to keep his expression serious, as Tom was.
"Yes." The man replied. "As it would if it sensed another with strong magic.
"But…it's never done this before. And, well, we've been near each other for a while." Harry said, his eyes narrowed in confusion, trying to think of what could have changed.
"It might have something to do with your emancipation. Sometimes bonds are put into place on children's magic if the ministry fears they will be unable to control it to the fullest extent. Normally, they are meant to come away when the child reaches adulthood, whether that be a certain age or only in the legal sense."
There was a strange tone to Tom's voice, and Harry looked down at his entangled hands. Here was another thing they must have in common. Tom's magic must have been bound at one point, too. That would certainly explain his vendetta against the ministry.
"But when would they have done that? And how could a goblin signing off on a piece of paper affect something like that."
"It's a complicated bit of magic, but it's simple enough to break, like the Trace that is put on every child's first wand. It just dissipates the moment your adult status is made known, whether legally or biologically. As for when they put it on you, I wouldn't be too surprised if it was Dumbledore himself who did it. The ministry never got close to you until you entered Hogwarts, I assume."
Harry laughed a little at the thought. "My relatives would have had a fit if they had."
"Indeed. I found out about my own bonds in my third year. Dumbledore managed them without me knowing in one of his visits." Tom smirked. "I broke them the following month."
Harry was too exhausted to be angry at yet another problem he had to deal with. He was growing used to Dumbledore's meddling. He stared at his fingers. They weren't shaking anymore. In fact, they were completely still, lying in his lap listlessly, just like how he felt.
"I can make sure they're all gone." Tom said suddenly, after almost a full minute of silence. "When we go to the Room of Requirement tonight."
Harry blinked in surprised remembrance. He'd completely forgotten that they were supposed to meet later tonight. Of course, that was hardly surprising; he'd done so much in the past few hours that he could hardly remember what had happened before then.
"Thanks. I would appreciate it." Harry said with a slight smile.
Tom waved his thanks away. "Go see Severus. I'll bet he's wondering how many injuries he has to patch up this time."
Harry laughed shortly.
"He's going to have me brewing replacements for his stocks soon, with how many I've been using. I'll see you after dinner." Harry got up and left, leaving Tom to stare amusedly at his back.
The man lifted a hand to study it. As he watched, the shaking slowly stilled, his long fingers no longer showing the effect his own magic had caused when he'd sensed Harry's.
And he smiled.
Dinner in the Great Hall was no special affair that night. Severus had checked over Harry's arm and declared it healed, so Harry left the cloth sling off to avoid more attention than he was already getting from the student population. He'd changed into a spare set of robes and sat near Neville, far away from Hermione and Ron, who glared daggers at him when he sat down.
He finished his meal in what must have been record time, considering how full his plate had been, though he still wasn't quite able to stomach a full, healthy serving of food. He listened to Neville chatter on for a bit about herbology, but after a while, his nerves began to creep back up on him. He stood from the long table and smiled at Neville, bidding him a goodnight.
He strolled out into the stone halls of Hogwarts, letting his feet guide him to the Room of Requirement. He still wondered what exactly had happened in Tom's office and the events of Gringotts just overwhelmed him further.
There was so much he wanted to do, and Tom's presence, his sanity, changed everything. The fact that he'd broken down in Severus' chambers and finally thought about everything, trusting that no one in the room would do him harm and that he'd pledged himself to help Tom made him realize he trusted his enemies far more than his would-be allies. He wondered if that said something about himself; if he was a traitor or just someone who had been betrayed.
He snorted and glared at the wall across from him. He forced himself to avoid thinking about anything, just studying the rough texture of the stone. He lost himself for a little while to the quiet peace of not thinking.
But of course it couldn't last for long. Tom, back in the guise of Professor Hostes, came along soon after and ushered Harry into the Room of Requirement. He recognized the room as the one he had used to teach the DA members, though it was a bit more cleared, missing the many cushions. They were replaced by a very thick and large rug that would protect them from the harsh stone floor should a mock duel get more physical.
But for now, sitting welcomingly in front of a warm fireplace, were two large comfortable-looking chairs. Tom put a hand on Harry's shoulder, steering him towards the right-most chair, then took the other for his own.
"So…Where to begin?" Tom asked musingly. "You wanted to speak of plans. And you asked me to teach you. I think the second can wait for a time, considering the fight you had today at Gringotts. What do you think?"
"Definitely." Harry nodded. He wanted to do so many things that it was almost impossible to keep them all straight in his head. He was glad that Tom could prioritize, at least.
"But first, let's see about those bonds." Tom said. "Do you trust me enough to use Legilimency on you?"
Harry blinked, surprised. He hadn't known it would involve Legilimency. He wasn't sure if he wanted to let anyone into his mind. But then, as he examined Tom's questioning expression carefully, he realized that Tom could break into his mind any time he wished, since there was already a connection there.
There was no point in asking if he wanted to cause trouble.
"Go ahead. I want Dumbledore out of my head."
Tom snorted. "I think everyone would like that, if it were possible. But like I said, he's rather hard to get rid of."
Tom leaned forward. "Relax, and don't fight me. These bonds aren't just tied to your magic; they're kept in your mind, too, if they are anything like what he put on me."
"Alright." Harry said awkwardly, having a hard time staring into Tom's eyes for an extended period of time.
"Get ready…Legilimens." Tom spoke and Harry felt the man's magic hit him. It wasn't the same as it had been in the Ministry of Magic; no searing pain and no crazed voices laughing in the back of his mind. It wasn't like Severus' own uses of Legilimency on his person, either. It was a softer probe, one that he could hardly feel. In fact, a feeling that accompanied the probe, almost like a lullaby, was lulling him to sleep.
So, here I was listening to "Twilight Town" from the video game Kingdom Hearts II. It really fits, I think. You should try listening to it while reading this section, especially if you've actually played the game. ^.^
Harry's mind was a maze. Everyone had a mindscape, though few ever saw it in person. Tom's own was a neverending library, one which he had modeled off of Salazar's chambers, and he actively filled it with information every second of every day. He had been doing that since the moment he'd created it, when he'd first discovered the wonders of Legilimency and Occlumency.
Harry's mind however, was more disorderly than most he'd seen. It was based on the halls of Hogwarts- which explained the nightly wanderings Severus had told him about. But he couldn't find his way around, even though he himself had extensive knowledge of his old home's structures. There were staircases that led to a platform at the bottom of more staircases, which turned out to be the very same staircases he'd just taken. There were steps, like the vanishing step he'd always abhorred, that he just sank completely through, causing him to fall through emptiness to land in a heap in an unknown classroom or broom closet. And the halls were empty of everything.
There were no portraits or suits of armor. There were no people, who, in some people's minds, were linked with wisps of memories. But the thing that most disturbed him, strangely enough, was that there were no windows.
As a Slytherin, he'd become used to the darkness of the dungeons, but darkness in the halls of Hogwarts was not something to which he was accustomed. Floating candles ran in lines above his head everywhere he went, the only things to light his path. The silence was almost suffocating.
And then there were the ruins.
They were hallways and rooms, just like the others, but the ceilings were half crumbled away, revealing only darkness. Stones as large as himself blocked his paths multiple times, but when he reached out to touch them, his hand slid right through, and he was able to continue on through them, unencumbered. Rocks and building stones littered the floors.
Tom wondered what could have caused this much damage to Harry's mind. He strongly doubted that the abuse from the muggles could have hurt him so badly, though it must have left its marks. His first guess was Dumbledore, as it would always be.
He tried to make his way to the places he thought Harry, or at least some evidence of his subconscious, would be. His dorm, perhaps? But no, when he triumphantly climbed through a plain circular doorway, with the wooden door hanging half off its hinges, the tower was empty.
The he went south, to the dungeons. He found them eventually, but they only led on and on into pure, perpetual darkness.
Finally he tried the Room of Requirement, but he only spent long minutes pacing back and forth in front of the wall where he thought it should be. The room was nonexistent.
Salazar's chambers were gone, too. Nothing was here that should have been. Nothing that made Hogwarts the home it was for Harry. It was too empty. There was nothing, not even memories, as far as he could tell. Hours had passed here as he explored Harry's mindscape, but he'd seen no one. He was tempted to leave Harry's mind and ask him whether he had amnesia, but he did not, because he knew better.
Instead, he wandered. He let his footsteps take him where they wished and he found himself outside an empty doorway, looking inside a room at the end of a hallway. He smiled in satisfaction. There stood Harry, his back to him, staring into a mirror.
Harry. He tried to speak, but was surprised when nothing came out. He tried again, but it was no use. It was as if someone had used a Silencing charm on him. Harry, as if he had heard him, though, turned around.
This wasn't the same Harry he knew. He looked only twelve or thirteen years old. The boy gestured, smiling at Tom, at the mirror behind him. Accepting the fact that he couldn't speak with a frown, Tom stepped forward to look at the mirror.
He realized he was looking at the Mirror of Erised, of course. He had been interested in creating his own mirror at one point, and he had come upon this mirror in his research. He remembered being informed by one of his followers that the Mirror had been moved into Hogwarts, not long before he had gone to kill the Potter family
But what he saw in the mirror were certainly not his own desires.
He saw the Potters, along with an adult Harry in Auror uniform, standing in a homey kitchen. The woman, Lily, was orchestrating a parade of dishes to be washed and splashing the two Potter men with water. They were all laughing.
Tom felt a pang of sadness and glanced at the young Harry. The boy was smiling sadly. He shook his head and waved his hand over the mirror as if accepting that it was not meant to be. Tom saw the boy's lips move, but could not make out what he was saying.
The scene on the mirror changed, drawing his attention back.
It was him. Not him in his later years, but when he still seemed a good man just about to leave school, about to make his mark on the world. He was smiling happily, rushing out of the gates with other fellow Slytherins, clapping his hand to Abraxas Malfoy's shoulder. His dress robes fluttered out behind him suddenly, caught by a gust of wind, and he threw his pointed graduation cap into it.
He had an auror's badge on his hip, revealed as his cloak blew away from it.
Well, that's interesting. And it certainly never happened. Hmm…I wonder what exactly is going on in Harry's mind.
Harry mouthed the words again, but Tom, still watching the mirror, only caught them out of the side of his eye. He thought the first word might have been "I". Harry waved his hand again and the scene changed with the motion.
Now he was shown a tomb. A grand thing made of white marble in the middle of a small clearing. The backdrop featured a breathtaking view of Hogwarts. On the plaque was a rather long name, but he only caught a clear glimpse of the last name.
Dumbledore. Well, you have rather low aspirations if that's one of your greatest desires. Tom wanted to laugh, but still no sound issued from his mouth.
Harry seemed to know what he was trying to communicate, though, and smiled sadly again. He pointed to the side of the tomb. There was a smaller one there that Tom had overlooked, but it was just as grand, made of the same white marble that Dumbledore's tomb was. When he read it, he nearly forgot to breathe in shock.
"Harry James Potter. Defeater of the Dark Lord. Saviour to us all."
You want to be dead?! Why would you-?
Harry shook his head, not as slowly, as if denying Tom's mental accusation. Then he shrugged, waving his hand at the mirror once again.
The melancholy scene changed with the motion to one where Tom wasn't exactly sure what he was seeing for a moment. When he realized that he was actually seeing the same place as he had not moments ago, he took a step back in disgust.
The ground was littered with bodies. There were no tombs here, no peaceful sleep. Only death.
Two figures stood on the hillock that overlooked Hogwarts. They just stood, staring at each other, he thought. They were backlit by purpling clouds and near-constant lightning, so it was difficult to tell. Suddenly, in one of the flashes, he caught a glimpse of a third person just beyond the tree-line. Tom recognized the man, of course. It was Albus Dumbledore standing in the midst of the bodies, his wand at his side and weaving ever so slightly side to side.
The mirror brought the first two figures closer, as if to show Tom their identities. It was himself and Harry, wands out and at the ready. Suddenly, the two of them moved, casting curses back and forth at each other in a violent rendition of the duel he and Harry had had in Defense against the Dark Arts only a few hours before.
And there it was, that terrible curse, issuing from Tom's wand. It looked as if Harry wouldn't be able to move in time and-
The younger Harry who stood in the room with him rushed forward with a rock in hand, a silent cry on his lips, and smashed it into the mirror. But the scene didn't go away. It only changed to yet another scenario, another taunting idea of what could have been and what could be, even as Harry brought the stone soundlessly against the mirror again and again.
And Tom finally understood. Dumbledore hadn't used the same old bonds as before. It seemed like he hadn't even bothered to bind Harry's magic directly. Instead, he'd silenced Harry's inner voice, creating a lonely silence in his subconscious. It was no wonder the boy could barely sleep through the night, with only his horrible memories to occupy his mind and no impossible dreams to relax him in his sleep. And with this mirror, Dumbledore forced these regrets and fears onto Harry again and again, making him second-guess himself too many times to be certain of any course of action.
No, Dumbledore hadn't bound any of Harry's magic. This Harry in front of him, this child, was the embodiment of a great portion of Harry's magic that was trying to force back Dumbledore's influence. That Harry's magic had begun to react to his meant that more magic was becoming available to him. But it wasn't because the goblins had signed a piece of paper, as Harry had said. It was because he'd begun to pull away from Dumbledore and his influence.
And Tom was in just the position to help Harry the rest of the way.
Tom drew his wand, thinking of the best way to remedy the problem. In the end he settled on the simplest one; the counterspell to Silencio. It was a wordless incantation, of course, but Harry's head whipped up from his frustrated gaze at the mirror as Tom felt his magic leave him to counteract the Silencing spell.
"Are you better now?" Tom asked. He nearly jumped at the sound of his own voice after so much silence. The mirror was still working, still showing its horrors and impossible fantasies, but at least the oppressive silence was gone. He would deal with the mirror later, when his head wasn't about to split open from the stress Legilimency put on his mind.
Just seeing the child's face though, was enough to satisfy him. Harry's expression was ecstatic and he was nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet. He stood still in front of Tom, though, instead of rushing forward to hug him as Tom had thought he might.
My wish came true.
The voice sounded from all around him, though the boy's lips moved at the same time. Then, as Tom blinked and opened his eyes once again, the child had disappeared. There was the faint tingle of magic in the air and Tom sighed. His work done for the moment, he retreated from Harry's mind to tell him the good news.
Just before he left the room, he thought he saw a beam of sunlight peeking into the room from behind him.
Tell me if you think it was any good at this last section. I worked really hard on it, what with the visions in the Mirror of Erised and all that. And what do you think that wish might be? Anybody?