The atmosphere in the castle shifted, becoming anxious, mimicked by its inhabitants who ran around like restless ants. It didn't take long for the first people to figure out what was wrong, different. Whispers went back and forth through the corridors, reaching even the most hidden of spaces. Ideas and thoughts were voiced and whirled around, and even the ones who always caught on last, like the teachers, became aware of the fact that someone was missing.
Unaware of the commotion he was causing in the castle above, Harry spent his days in peace, together with his lover. Years ago, he might have become bored, but now, the silence didn't make him feel uncomfortable at all. He lay on the black marble tiles of the Chamber, staring up to the ceiling, feeling content to just listen to their breaths for hours. He marveled at the perfect structure of the room, with its silent serpent guardians made out of stone, which emitted a calming green glow. Harry heard soft splashes from behind him, bare feet walking through the thin layer of water that covered most of the floor.
He tilted his head slightly backward, and smiled when meeting Tom's beautiful eyes, love evident in the deep blue orbs. He sat up and got to his feet in a fluid motion, letting a soft sigh escape his lips. Tom raised his arm and placed it on Harry's shoulder. Harry grimaced, not liking that his peace had to be disturbed. Automatically, he pressed himself against his lover's chest, a silent plea for comfort. He melted away in Tom's embrace, closing his eyes and allowing himself to let his mind go blank a few minutes, before heading up to the noisy life of the castle he had avoided the last days. He felt Tom's energy enveloping him and thankfully accepted the magic given to him for strength.
"Remember, I'll be with you with every step you take, every word you say. Every single heartbeat of yours in synch with mine." Tom spoke, and touched the pendant on Harry's chest, sending a rush of magic through it while Harry did the same with the dagger around Tom's neck.
Harry reluctantly drew back, knowing he couldn't hide here forever, even though he would like to. With a flick of his hand he dried his clothes that were wet from the tiles, turned around and began to walk to the other end of the Chamber.
Finally, she had figured out where Harry had to be hiding. It was the only place in the castle no-one else had access to. She knew that Harry had left on his own, not like Harry's other friends believed. Even Ron and Hermione thought that somehow, You-Know-Who must have taken him away again. Such rubbish. He had come here because of Voldemort, so why would he leave before doing what he wanted? However, Ginny was persistent to not let him leave after that. Harry was hers. Oh, she knew that Voldemort was a genius in manipulation, but she wasn't planning to let Harry become victim of that thing. Directly after her classes were finished, she rushed to the second floor. Wary, she entered the girls' lavatory. Nothing seemed to have changed, the sinks standing the same as ever. It seemed ridiculous now that those tall, robust constructions could move at all. Ginny heard a giggle, and she jumped when she saw a figure behind her in the mirror.
"He's already left, you know. I wouldn't waste your time here staring." Myrtle told her on a nasty tone. "Not that he would like it if you followed him."
"What do you mean?" Ginny bit back, knowing deep down how true that was.
"Haven't you seen his eyes?" the girl said, a whine beginning to form in the back of her throat, audible at the end of her sentence. "Those hardened eyes, once so soft and understanding…he is not who we once knew…" she started sobbing, and disappeared into a toilet with a loud splash.
"And how would you know? You've only spoken to him, what, three times?" Ginny yelled at her, getting a knot in her stomach when hearing those words, but Myrtle couldn't hear her anymore.
Furious, she stomped out of the room. Where could he be now? She had been too late…Suddenly, pieces of the explanation he had given them floated through her mind. Ending the war for good. There were only three people who he could go to for that. Voldemort for one, but if she had to believe Harry he already wanted that, though she couldn't fathom why. Secondly, Fudge, but really, why come to Hogwarts for that? That left Dumbledore. She sprinted to Dumbledore's office, but hesitated in front of the Gargoyle. How would she get in? She settled down on the stone floor next to it, hoping someone who knew would come. Only, if she had known who she would encounter here, she wouldn't have been able to sit there so calmly.
Dumbledore sat calmly inside of his office. He had just had a talk with Minerva, and was still pondering on what she had said. It made sense, somewhat, although he could not imagine how it would have been possible for Harry to run over to the Dark. Firstly, there was no motive. Secondly, there had been no time. If Harry was Dark now, it was because he was controlled. Albus could recall the overwhelming Aura around the boy very clearly, and wondered about the possibility of a very strong controlling spell. He should have recognised the magic sooner, he knew. There was no doubt that it belonged to Voldemort. The only thing about it that left him in the dark were the foreign feelings attached to said magic. He had clearly felt the darkness, which was understandable, and even the possessiveness he could place if Voldemort thought that Harry was on his side now. But Albus had felt love. Love, of all feelings, had been woven through that magic. Now he just needed to know why.
He knew that the boy had not left the school grounds. The instruments in his office that checked the wards would have given him a signal, even if he himself was someplace else. No, Harry would come to him, he was sure. In fact, he thought, raising his head and staring at the door with focus, he might already be here.
"Come in," he said, forcing his voice to stay neutral.
The door opened, and Albus tried not to gasp as violent magic rushed through the room. No, there was no mistake indeed. He froze when his eyes met Harry's. This was not the boy he had known. He had noticed a change during the welcoming feast, but it had only been a fraction of what he saw now. There was no forced mask now, no strained smile. There were only those eyes, brighter than ever, and a posture that left no doubt as to what Harry was. A man who had faced life itself, and in that moment, Albus felt awed, and very, very small. He motioned Harry to sit down in the chair on the other side of the desk, and frowned in thought when the movement went fluid, without the hesitation and awkwardness he was used to from students. When Harry took place, it almost looked regal, as if he sat on a throne, his legs crossed and an arm draped loosely over one of the armrests of the polished wooden chair. The picture of self-confidence.
"Harry, my boy…" he begun, and immediately knew he had made a mistake by the small, slightly irritated sigh that escaped the man's lips. Feeling insecure, and not knowing what else to do, he decided to wait for Harry to speak up.
"Albus." Harry said, and somehow, the use of his first name didn't feel strange at all. They were no longer master and student, although Albus didn't yet understand how that shift had happened.
"I apologise, Mr Potter." He said simply, and a soft chuckle broke through Harry's cold face.
"Please, call me Dylja."
Disguise. The thought that somehow, that name fitted the raven-haired man now better than anything, fluttered through his mind.
"Dylja then. I have heard much about you since I returned to the castle this morning. I won't lie about it: I would be disappointed if even half of it were true."
"I think indeed about half of it will be true. A few days ago the stories were much fancier than when I first told them."
"So you did not have contact with Voldemort during summer?" Albus said in a hopeful voice, although he knew very well that his hopes would be bored into the ground soon. That was confirmed by Harry's, no, Dylja's sad, sympathetic smile, and a slight shake of his head.
"That would be asking for too much, as you very well know."
"A man can hope." Albus sighed.
"Yes, well, and that would be the moment I reveal the good news. I won't go twisting around it for long. I came here to announce you that the war is over. At least, it will be if you agree. No, let me speak out." Dylja told him, when he wanted to interrupt. "Let me first explain, well, this." He spoke, gesturing vaguely to himself. "I will begin at the beginning. Other than my 'fellow students', I think you will be able to understand it best if I begin there. At the Ministry just before the summer holiday to be precise."
Frowning, Albus made himself a cup of tea, somehow knowing that he was in for a long sit.
Ginny was becoming impatient. Usually, when you were somewhere in a lonely corridor, and thus out of class, there would always be a teacher who sprung out of some god-forsaken corridor to tell you to go to your dorm. However, when you needed one… She sprung to her feet and began to pace up and down, muttering every kind of sweets she could think of, both Muggle and Magical, but the stupid Gargoyle wouldn't let her pass. Finally, she gave up, but just as she was about to leave to search for a teacher in one of their offices, she caught sight of a man, walking slowly towards her. She felt her blood run cold and her limbs went numb the instant she noticed him, her head shaking slightly in denial.
He saw her and frowned, before his face lit up in recognition. But that couldn't be. She had met Tom, yes, but never Voldemort! How? He didn't even look the same, but Harry had described the Dark Lord to her and the rest of the DA. The only thing that wasn't right were his eyes, but the rest of him was still enough to make her want to disappear into the wall behind her. And still, she felt strangely relieved that he looked nothing like he had in the Chamber, that it was not the handsome, charming boy that fooled everyone with his smile before destroying them.
But then again, it was no good thing that this was Voldemort, and not Tom. If she had to believe Harry, -from before he lost his mind and went over to Voldemort's side- then Voldemort was a hundred times more powerful and manipulative than he had been when younger. She wanted to run, but found she had no control over her body. Her legs were locked with fear and her arms hung uselessly down her body. All she could do was stare.
"Ginny? Ginny Weasley?" he asked softly, frowning. She clenched her fists together in shock when recognising his voice.
"Voldemort," she said in a raspy, terrified voice, her throat dry.
Then he laughed. Actually laughed. "It's been a long time since someone has called me that… quite some time. Harry isn't fond of it, and truly, neither am I anymore. Too many bad memories go with that name…"
"And not with your other?" she frowned, before freezing again in horror. She had spoken against the darkest wizard in history, criticising him. OGodoGodoGod.
"I suppose… But still. I can identify myself more with Tom Riddle now than with Voldemort."
"Why?" she asked, trying to push her luck. He didn't look like he was going to attack soon.
"Didn't Harry explain what happened during the fight at the Ministry? Or after?"
"You thought I bewitched him?" he asked, amusement in his voice. "Yes, well, I can't really blame you for thinking that. Especially not you…"
"What do you want Harry for?" she suddenly blurted out, not liking where this conversation was going. She did not want to, and would not be reminded of what had happened during her first year in the Chamber of Secrets. And truly, she wanted to know this more than anything. What was the real reason he was after her Harry? Harry had suggested they were… involved, but really, she couldn't see it. There was no way that Tom Riddle was romantically with someone and truly meant it. He had to have some ulterior motive.
He made an unexpected move, and all of a sudden, he was in front of her, his eyes burning a way into her very soul. And not in a good way. Vaguely, she felt something similar to what the Diary-Tom had once done to her. She knew he was reaching into her mind at this very moment, reading her mind like an open book. He smiled, but somehow she got the feeling that it was different from the false smiles she had seen from him from now. Or had he just become better at acting? He softly touched her temple with a cold finger. The contact woke her up slightly, and she managed to scramble backwards.
"Stay out of my head!" she gasped, terror running through her again. Her eyes flashed from her right to her left, but she couldn't see an escape route. He had her trapped against the back of a wall.
"I am sorry, but I doubted that you would tell me what went on in your head, so I took the… privilege to see it for myself. I know I can't convince you with words, but… how about I offer you a trip in my head?"
Now she was truly gobsmacked. Voldemort did not just say that. Impossible. No way that he would let anyone intrude his thoughts. Right?
"How?" was all she managed to say.
Instead of bothering to answer her, he hissed something in Parseltongue, and made a waving movement with his hand. The air began to stir and firstly became liquid, after which it turned into a solid material. She wasn't sure what. Some sort of stone, maybe? He lowered the thing, which appeared to be a basin, filled with a strange silver substance. She suddenly recalled Harry describing something similar. A place for thoughts… a Pensieve.
The situation was utterly unreal, she thought, staring up at Voldemort's face when he handed her the thing. In the whirly dephts, she saw faces of many persons, and places she didn't recognise. Before she could ask what to do with it, or even before she could refuse, Voldemort took her head and pushed it through the surface. Her last thought before she hit the stuff, was that she believed Voldemort was going to kill her at last. By drowning nonetheless. However, the expected struggle against the liquid didn't come. Instead, she fell right through it. Not just her face, but her whole body had been sucked into the bowl.
She was met with a strange view. It was clear she was outside, on a large field filled with nothing but grass. However, there was no blue sky above her head. When she gazed up, she was met with the sight of thousands of giant leaves, so green it almost pained her eyes to look at it. Strangely enough, it looked like they were all connected to the same branches, and when she followed them with her eyes, she could finally see where they came from. In the far distance was a huge tree. That moment, Ginny decided she had seen everything. Laughter sounded from behind her, and she turned around. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Harry, wildly spinning around in circles.
"Catch me Tom!" he yelled, and let himself fall down in the long grass. Suddenly, she became aware of two other persons. Both of them Voldemort. One of them rushed right past her as if he couldn't see her and caught Harry just before he hit the ground, grinning. The other stared at the scene with a sad gaze. "Got you…" whispered the memory-Voldemort, hugging the younger boy. They both lay down in the waving, yellow grass, just staring at each other. Ginny saw that Voldemort walked up to her, and didn't struggle when he took her arm and gently pulled her away from the others, who were oblivious to their presence. Reluctantly, she let herself be led away from the peaceful meadow.
Many memories followed, most of them of Harry and Voldemort, whether they were just reading, Harry leaning against Voldemort's legs, or talking animatedly with each other about all sort of topics. It was those talks that were most enlightening. There were many conversations about the war, and the more she heard, the more Ginny became convinced of something she would have never believed. Voldemort had now seen the error in his ways. It was amazing, and yet she couldn't help but feel empty because of it, since it meant that Harry did all this out of his free will, thus also being sincere about loving Voldemort. She was sure the other man had noticed, for again, he guided her away from the memory.
"I think you've seen enough?" he asked her softly, and she could hear his concern. She blinked and nodded slowly. This time, she felt a shock and a pull, as if using a Portkey, and moments later she landed in the castle again.
When she arrived, she let herself fall to the floor, overwhelmed by the great deal of information she had to convert. It felt as if her world had been turned upside down. Nothing was as she had believed it to be anymore. Voldemort wasn't the bad guy anymore, not someone to fight against, and Harry belonged to someone else. She had even seen the Death Eaters, said to be heartless, in a whole different perspective. But now what to do with it?
"I believe you." She finally said, looking Tom in the eyes so he could see she meant it. "And… and if Dumbledore doesn't, I'll give him a piece of his mind." She grumbled, giving herself a new task, namely: doing everything in her power to make Harry happy. There was this old saying that if you claimed to love someone more than anything, you should fight for them, live for them, die for them, but also be able to leave them. So that was what she would do, no matter the cost of her own happiness. Maybe she would find someone else, once, she hoped… maybe.
Tom merely nodded and gazed at her with sadness. She could feel that he was sorry. The compassion was a strange emotion to be seen on that face, the face of a man who had killed hundreds. He might believe that it was that world, Àlfarheim, that had cured him, but she knew it was Harry. It had to be Harry. The lucky bastard Tom was… She looked up when she heard him mumble something and the Gargoyle sprang aside. Startled, she saw he was waiting for her with an expectant look.
"Weren't you going to give Dumbledore a piece of his mind?" he chuckled, and she smiled weakly, scrambling up and walking past the stone guardian before it hopped back in place.
"Dylja…" Dumbledore started, and somehow, Harry didn't think that what he was going to say was positive. It had been too much to hope for, obviously. "I believe you… but I cannot just stop the war." Harry remained silent, tapping his fingers on the wood of the armrest, a quirked eyebrow the only indication that he had heard the headmaster. "You must understand me, not many are willing to just give up fighting everything they believe in."
"That doesn't apply anymore. There is no Dark Lord now. What they want to fight for now, would solely be based on revenge. You can stop this war, Albus. If you couldn't, I wouldn't have come here. In fact, you are the only one who can give his consent. The only one the people will listen to."
"I want to know something first… your magic is clouded, and Toms magic is hanging around you. That cannot simply be because of the time spent with each other. How? And there is something else which you haven't answered. Being in another world should not affect time. Yet, you are sitting in front of me, and, though I cannot deny that you look healthier than ever, you have not aged."
Harry had known these questions might be brought up, and gritted his teeth. He could not simply lie, but the credibility of his story would, in Dumbledore's eyes, by reduced to nothing. He silently called out for Tom, knowing he would notice. Harry had already felt his presence near. "Horcruxes." He said curtly. "I carry his on my person, just like he does with mine."
"Yours?" Dumbledore choked. "What do you mean, yours? Harry… that is… that is awful magic, darker than anything…"
Harry shut him up with a cold glare. "I will do what is necessary to remain with Tom, for as long as possible. I got the possibility and I took it."
"Did he force you?"
"He is as afraid of my death as of his own. He did not force me per se, but strongly persuaded… yes. Please understand, I am in a dangerous position, now more than ever. By abruptly ending the war, confusion will arise. The Light Side will think I have gone Dark, the Dark Side will think I have changed their Lord. Both are partially true, but still. They will seek the cause of this mess, and they will see me. I am not willing to die because people who can't accept mine and Tom's decisions, are out for my blood. Neither is Tom willing to sacrifice me for it."
"So you did not just do it to strive for immortality?" Dumbledore asked, and his eyes got a hopeful twinkle again, like a child that needed to be reassured.
"In a way, you could say I did, for I want to be with my lover as long as possible. If that can be eternity, I'll gladly pay the price. Besides, I did not kill an innocent man. In fact, I think it was quite merciful. If the Light had gotten hands on Wormtail, he would've been shipped off to Azkaban to be Kissed. Killing him… saved him in a way."
"Nothing justifies killing."
"Not even when you spare them a lot of suffering, after which they would, inevitable, die anyways?" he smiled sadly when seeing Albus' face. "I do want you to know that I did not enjoy it."
Albus' answer went unspoken, for the door opened, revealing Tom and, to Harry's great surprise, the last person he would have ever thought to remain calm when standing next to him, Ginny. He studied her expression, which was determined, yet he saw that just beneath the surface, she was suffering and full of sorrow. His gaze travelled to Tom's face and, not even aware of what he was doing, he rose from the chair, slowly walking to Tom. He inhaled that intoxicating scent and felt Tom's arms wrapping around him. Harry immediately melted in his embrace. Tom always had that strange effect on him, like gravity itself shifted when he came close. Only after a minute, Harry could release him with a shaky breath, and turned to the Headmaster again, slowly feeling the magic that had rushed through the room on their contact, fade to a slow vibration in the air.
"Dumbledore." Tom finally spoke.
"Tom." The man said, tense, and Harry saw he was clearly surprised that Tom didn't comment on the use of that name.
"I believed it, at first… but now…" he said, trailing off. "Horcruxes." He finished upon Tom's penetrating, expectant look.
"So I should just take a chance and let him die?"
"Professor!" Ginny suddenly exclaimed. "I… I know it is hard to believe, but I have seen it. He has changed… Please, just stop the war before more people suffer in it."
"I borrowed her my Pensieve and let her come to her own conclusions." Tom said shortly.
After a long silence, Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, and gave him a hesitant smile "Then maybe that will convince me too," he said.
Tom nodded and made it appear again, stepping back as Dumbledore leaned over it, touching the surface with his crooked nose. No-one in the room said something as Dumbledore went through the memories. Harry knew that Tom was really putting his trust in Dumbledore by letting him go on his own, for there were more memories stored in there, even from before those eight years. Harry though, was sure Dumbledore would not invade Tom's privacy like that. Thinking about privacy, he suddenly couldn't help a soft chuckle to escape his lips. When Tom looked at him questioningly, he just shrugged and said:
"I suddenly imagined Dumbledore's face when accidentally stumbling upon one of those memories." He snorted, and Tom suddenly looked worried.
"I hadn't thought about those…"
"Which?" Ginny asked curiously. "Oh." She said and reddened when she got two annoyed looks.
Finally, Dumbledore raised his head, frowning and leaning back in his chair again, pondering on what he had just seen. After a while, he looked at them with a serious gaze.
"I have seen enough to believe you, but don't break my trust. I will stop the war, on the condition that you will find a way to send all the Death Eaters who still want to fight, to Azkaban."
Three breaths of relief were heard, and Harry smiled at the headmaster. "We won't forget it. Thank you Albus."
"What are you going to do now?" the headmaster asked, curious. "I take it that you won't stay at Hogwarts anymore?"
"Building up a life here." Harry said. "Though, you haven't seen the last of me yet… I will come back for the NEWTS."
"Of course. You can fill me in then, hmm?"
Harry nodded and turned around, but just as they left the office, he heard Dumbledore call out.
"Oh, and Harry?" he said, and Harry noticed the change in name again.
He smirked before turning around and the three of them walked down the winding staircase. Once in the corridor, it finally hit him. They were free, finally, they were free. He knew that he could leave it to Dumbledore to take care of the rest, like informing the Ministry. They could begin their new, endless life. He carefully hugged Ginny, knowing that they couldn't have convinced Albus without her, and she hugged him back, clearly surprised, making him promise to write her from time to time, to inform her how it was going. They walked through the castle, which was almost deserted, since most students were in the common rooms by now. To his delight, he saw through the windows that it was raining heavily, and he nearly dragged Tom with him, outside.
When he opened the doors and walked outside, he cast one, long glance over his shoulder, taking in the Hall fully. Hogwarts, the first place he had been able to call home, the first place where he had learnt what magic was, where he had gotten friends with whom he had shared so many adventures. He knew that that part of his life was over now, but he still had his memories. And maybe once, they would be able to forgive him.
"Dylja…" Tom said, and cupped his face, bestowing a sweet kiss on his lips, before descending the last stairs.
Taking his lover's hand, he walked to the gates, letting the veil of rain wash his worries away again, letting the old Harry Potter behind him in the muddy streams of water.
I really enjoyed writing this story, and I want to thank everyone who read this, and especially everyone who reviewed this, for their support.
Read and Review!