To Kill You With a Kiss
Summary: After Dumbledore's death, Harry searches for answers in the Pensieve. But something goes wrong. Trapped inside a memory, Harry finds himself back at Hogwarts in 1945 where he meets an 18 year old Tom Riddle teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.
WARNING: Rated M for SLASH (depiction of a homoerotic relationship) in later chapters. Yes, this is a Harry Potter/Tom Riddle romance. If that's not the kind of story you want to read, please back away slowly right now...
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
~Edgar Allan Poe: "A Dream Within a Dream"
Perhaps, thought Harry, it was all a dream. Draco, the failed assassin, so deathly pale in the moonlight. Snape's face, distorted beyond recognition, as he points his wand at the man who trusted him and utters the unforgivable curse. Dumbledore's body, lying broken at the bottom of the tower... Perhaps I dreamt it all.
He glanced around the headmaster's office. The desk was still covered in books and papers, as if Dumbledore could be expected to resume his work any moment. Fawkes' cage still stood in the corner, and Harry half expected to catch a glimpse of something fiery and scarlet. But the cage was empty; the door was broken now and dangled mournfully from one hinge. Harry tried to put the door back properly, but it wouldn't stay up. It was no dream. I will never wake up from this. No magic on earth can undo Snape's deadly spell. Dumbledore is gone, and Fawkes left with him.
I am alone, and I don't know what to do. Dumbledore left me a terrifying task: I have to vanquish the most powerful dark wizard the world has ever known. I have to destroy the horcruxes, the hidden objects that house the fragments of Voldemort's dark soul. But I don't know what they are, or where to begin looking. How could Dumbledore simply die, vanish into nothing, and leave me to complete this huge and hopeless task on my own?
Where would a dark wizard hide his soul? How am I supposed to know? Why didn't Dumbledore tell me more about the horcruxes? He knew that I am the one who is destined to face Voldemort in the end, and how did he prepare me? By having me come to his office and share his memories of the past... Was that all the help you could give me, headmaster? Was this the only weapon you had to give me when I have to face the dread Dark Lord? An old man's memories?
Harry's glance lingered on the timeworn cabinet that housed the headmaster's Pensieve. A delicate silver mist wafted from a small crack between the cabinet doors and lingered in the air for a moment before dissolving into nothing.
Harry walked slowly toward the cabinet. Dumbledore's memories... Why did we spend hours delving into recollections of the past instead of going over battle strategies, defensive spells, plans for finding and destroying the horcruxes? Why was he so obsessed with remembering? The oak doors swung open at Harry's touch. The Pensieve stood there as he remembered it, an ancient vessel carved out of plain grey stone. Harry ran his finger over the strange runes carved around the edge, mysterious and meaningless signs he could not decipher. On a shelf above the Pensieve rows upon rows of small glass vials glittered in the luminous mist that rose from the surface of the vessel. Memories of the past, fragments of lost time, trapped in little stoppered bottles... Whose memories were they? Most of the vials were unmarked, but a few were labeled with initials in an elegant hand Harry recognized as Dumbledore's: AD&GG. AD. AD&AD. AD&ED. AD&GG. TR. TR. TR. TR&HP...
Harry frowned. TR. Tom Riddle. These must be the memories of Tom Riddle that Dumbledore had collected, the ones we visited together in the Pensieve. But what is that last one, the vial marked with Tom Riddle's initials and mine together? Harry reached out for the little glass bottle and stared, mesmerized, at the shimmering strands that swirled within. Is this someone's memory of the night when Voldemort tried to kill me, the night when he murdered my parents? Is there some deeper mystery to the events of that night that I have yet to discover?
He unstoppered the vial with a trembling hand and poured its glittering contents into the waters of the Pensieve. Breathing deeply, Harry plunged himself into the radiant silver mist. In the next instant, the world began to dissolve into swirling lights and shadows, and a silver whirlpool engulfed him, pulled him down into its depths. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think...
Then the frantic whirling stopped, and Harry found himself back precisely where he started, in the headmaster's office at Hogwarts. He shook his head, dazed. What just happened? Perhaps the memory had not worked properly? But the next instant, Harry realized that he was no longer alone in the headmaster's office; an elderly wizard was sitting behind the desk now. For a wild moment, Harry imagined it to be Dumbledore, and his heart leaped in his chest. But then he saw that the wizard was not Dumbledore at all, but a small, wizened man whose friendly glance lacked both the astuteness and the humor he was used to seeing in the headmaster's gaze. Harry looked back, but the cabinet that contained the Pensieve was no longer there. Of course. This is just a memory of the past. This must be a previous headmaster. Who was headmaster before Dumbledore's time? Armando Dippet, was it?
"Sit down, my boy," said Professor Dippet kindly and waved at a chair in front of his desk.
Who is he speaking to? There is no one else here. Harry looked around in confusion.
"It's all right, no need to be shy." With a sudden shock, Harry realized that Dippet was speaking to him.
He sank down into the chair and stared at the headmaster. What is happening? How can he see me? I am not a part of this memory; I didn't live in this time. I am merely seeing it from the outside, from the future.
"So you are..." Professor Dippet consulted a piece of parchment on the desk in front of him. "Elias Black. Welcome to Hogwarts, my boy. We are glad to have you with us. Your guardian wrote to me and explained the details of your tragic past - no need to go into all of that right now. I'm sure it's painful for you to talk about."
Elias Black? Who is Elias Black? And why am I experiencing this memory through his eyes? Harry's hand went automatically to his forehead, and his fingers found the familiar scar. I am still me.
"Ah, yes. You scar. I'm sure it will heal in time, my dear boy," said Professor Dippet softly. "Now, I understand that you have never attended school before, although your guardian's letter indicates that you have learned quite a bit of magic during your travels. You may find yourself a little behind in some of your subjects, but I am certain that your professors will be understanding in the beginning. Your fellow students will be curious about you, naturally, but they have been warned not to ask too many questions, as per your guardian's instructions."
He beamed at Harry. "I will have someone show you around the school momentarily. But first, there is the small matter of your house placement. Seeing that you are a Black, I don't think there can be much doubt about the result..." He got up and took a frayed old hat down from the shelf behind him. Harry felt his heart hammering in his chest. The Sorting Hat? I wonder if it will recognize me? Or will it think I am Elias Black as well?
The old headmaster placed the hat gingerly on Harry's head, and Harry felt it stir to life above him. A voice whispered, so softly that it may just have been inside his mind: "How very strange..."
Harry could hear the door to the headmaster's office opening and the soft sound of footsteps entering, but he did not turn around to see who it was.
The headmaster whispered to someone: "Have a seat," and then went on to address the hat: "I do apologize for disturbing you again so shortly after this year's sorting, but as you see, we do have one additional student who needs sorting. This is Elias Black, a new seventh year student."
"Elias Black?" An soundless chuckle ran through Harry's mind, followed by more silent words: "Is that what you are calling yourself, boy? Elias... Alias, more likely. And a Black? I don't think so! Something about you is strangely familiar, as if I have already dreamt of sorting you. I dream so many things, sleeping here on this shelf between sortings. Some of the things I dream have come to pass, and other not. Perhaps you are one of those things that didn't happen yet."
"Well? What's taking so long?" Professor Dippet was beginning to sound impatient now. "Just sort him, will you?"
The hat whispered in Harry's mind: "How shall I sort you, you nameless child? Are you a lion or a serpent?"
Harry thought for a second, and his mind whispered back: I am both. But perhaps you had better put me in Slytherin this time.
"This time? You mean we shall meet again? How very curious! As you wish, my enigmatic Elias, " breathed the hat. Then it proclaimed out loud: "Slytherin!"
"I knew it!" Professor Dippet lifted the hat from Harry's head and gave it a curious glance. "Took it long enough, though! Perhaps this hat is getting too old for this." He stuffed the hat back on the shelf, where it fell silent.
"Or perhaps the hat did not know how to sort him." The soft voice that spoke behind him made Harry's blood turn to ice in his veins. He is here. Here in this time. Here, inside this memory.
He turned slowly and faced the person who had spoken.
"Elias," Professor Dippet's voice seemed to come from far away. "This is one of your teachers, Professor Riddle."
I almost forgot that the Dark Lord once had a face like an angel. I had wondered why Slughorn, that old fool, would ever tell Tom Riddle about horcruxes, about the dark and vile magic that no human being should know. I did not realize how strangely bewitching the face of evil can be... No wonder poor Slughorn could not keep silent.
Voldemort is a few years older now than when I last saw him in the Pensieve. He is a murderer already, I can see it in his eyes. He has committed his first murder and created his first horcrux. But he has not yet lost all trace of his humanity, and his dark soul is still hidden behind an angelic face.
"Mr. Riddle is our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." There was a note of pride in the headmaster's voice.
"You teach Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Harry whispered. He stared at Tom Riddle, his mind swirling. Something is terribly wrong with this memory. Tom Riddle does not teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. He applies for the post the year after he graduates from Hogwarts, but Professor Dippet turns him down. And years later, Dumbledore will too...
Professor Dippet chuckled. "Ah, you are surprised, Elias! It is true that Mr. Riddle is still very young, barely a year older than you, but I can assure you that he is a brilliant professor. I am glad I took Dumbledore's advice in the end and hired him."
"Do you doubt my qualifications for this position, Mr. Black?" There was a momentary chill in Tom Riddle's silver voice, and Harry felt a sudden shiver in his bones.
He shook his head slowly and forced himself to look into the grey eyes of the future Voldemort. "No." His voice came out as a whisper. "I would never doubt your abilities for a moment."
"Good." Strange, how beautiful he was when he was still human... Who could have thought that Voldemort once blushed?
"Let me show you around the school, Mr. Black." Tom Riddle grasped Harry's arm and steered him towards the door. "I know this old castle well; I was a student here myself for seven years."
They stepped out into the corridor. Harry looked up into the pale, half-familiar face of his guide with wonder. What is happening to me? Why am I here, inside this twisted memory of things that never were? Voldemort is offering to show me around Hogwarts. Perhaps he will show me where he will hide his horcruxes in the future. Perhaps this is all Dumbledore's doing, after all. Perhaps he has devised a way for me to get to know Voldemort so well that I will learn where he will conceal his fragmented soul, years from now.
I wonder what would happen if I pointed my wand at him at this instant and uttered the killing curse. Is it possible to kill a memory? And what would happen in the future if I did?
He is staring at me now. What's this? He's reaching out and touching my scar... Does he remember me after all? He is nothing but a memory; can a memory from the past remember the future? Perhaps the Sorting Hat is not alone in dreaming of things that have not yet come to pass.
Harry held his breath as Tom Riddle's finger's brushed his scar, but the searing pain he had expected did not come.
"What an odd scar," said Tom softly. "How did you get it?"
Harry raised his eyes, bewildered, and met Tom Riddle's penetrating gaze. What shall I say? That you will one day give me this scar?
"It was... a dark wizard," he muttered finally. "I can't talk about it."
"You have some experience with dark magic, then?" Luminous grey eyes scrutinized his face, and Harry felt oddly unsettled. It feels as if he is on the verge of reading my mind. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to Snape's occlumency lessons.
"Dark magic? Yes, a bit," he said quickly. "But I have a lot to learn. I... I want to learn everything you know..."
Tom Riddle smiled then. "I am glad to hear it, Mr. Black." His voice was formal, as if he were trying to sound like a professor.
No walk had ever been stranger than Harry's walk through the ancient torchlit halls of Hogwarts with Voldemort by his side. Everything is the same. Everything except for him. Harry kept his eyes on the flagged stone floors because this seemed a great deal safer than meeting Tom Riddle's quicksilver gaze. At one point, they passed the evanescent figure of the Bloody Baron, the Slytherin house ghost.
"Good afternoon, Baron," said Tom Riddle politely, and Harry echoed: "Good afternoon."
An expression of wonder passed over the Baron's spectral features. "But that's not possible..." he whispered, staring at Harry. "You are..."
"My name is Elias Black," said Harry quickly. The Bloody Baron gazed at him for a moment before muttering: "Yes. Yes, of course. You just... reminded me of someone, Mr. Black."
They walked on. Tom Riddle pointed out the Great Hall and stairs leading to the various classrooms. Somehow, the familiar landscape of Hogwarts began to seem different in his presence now, transformed into an unfamiliar dreamscape. Everything looks the same, but it feels different. After descending a long winding staircase, they paused in front of the entrance to the Slytherin common room. The heavy oak door was emblazoned with a glittering silver serpent with emerald eyes.
"A serpent," said Tom Riddle in a low voice. "The symbol of Slytherin House. Have you read any Hogwarts history, Mr. Black? Can you tell me why the serpent has come to symbolize Slytherin?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, Professor Riddle. Salazar Slytherin was a parselmouth."
Tom Riddle shot him an approving glance. "That's right. It's an extraordinarily rare skill, the ability to speak the ancient serpent tongue. Perhaps that's a good thing; imagine if everyone had the ability to make serpents do their bidding..."
A smile flitted briefly over his pale features. Then he turned to the door and whispered: *Silver serpent, come to life.*
And the ornate serpent that decorated the door obeyed the Parseltongue command; it sprang from the door and began to writhe on the floor before them. Slowly, it raised its head and regarded Harry with viridian eyes; its head was poised to strike...
"Show me what you know of magic, Elias Black," said Tom Riddle softly.
Harry stood immovable for a moment.
"Use your wand, Elias."
The serpent's glance glittered with malevolence. Harry felt his heart thundering in his chest. Is this a challenge, Lord Voldemort?
*Silver serpent, return to your true form.* The serpent melted into the door as soon as Harry spoke to it, and the spark of life left its jeweled eyes.
Harry raised his eyes and looked at the young man by his side. Tom Riddle's face was white, but his grey eyes glittered as he met Harry's glance.
"You are... a parselmouth, Elias?" Tom Riddle's voice was hoarse.
Harry nodded, silently.
"Remarkable..." Tom stood immovable for a moment, lost in thought. Then he smiled. "I think we have a great deal in common, you and I. I look forward to getting to know you, Elias Black."