!*!*! ATTENTION ... 주의 ... OFFICIUM !*!*!
Disclaimer: While I am using these characters to my own twisted ends, they don't actually belong to me. Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, and I'm only borrowing her characters to do unspeakable things to. Please enjoy the following chapter.
Harry stared at the spot where his ex-nemesis, Lord Voldemort, had disappeared, after making a parting comment that could be taken several ways, none of which were reassuring. Then, he turned to Hermione and answered her question. "It's complicated."
And it was.
"I need a drink," he announced suddenly. Staggering away from the couch, he made his way to the kitchen, yanked open one of the cupboards, and brought out a bottle of amber liquid and two glasses.
Hermione made a little disapproving noise.
"No offense, Hermione, but I think I need something stronger than wine with dinner." After pouring a generous amount of the fire-whiskey and plating up the food, a curry, that she had brought, they drew up stools and settled down at the counter off of the kitchen.
There was absolute silence except for the sound of clanking utensils, and then Hermione burst out, "What in the name of Merlin just happened, Harry? Was that Thomas? Or was it Voldemort? And why are you half-naked? Was there a duel in the front room? Why did Voldemort look like he wanted to eat you? Are you two friends now? How long has this been going on? Does this mean that you're coming back to the wizarding world?"
He silenced her with a weary glare and took a rather large gulp of the fire-whiskey. It seared his throat, spreading warmth and pleasant tingles throughout his body. "One question at a time, Hermione, and I doubt I'll be able to answer them all. I'm confused about what just happened."
She sipped the fire-whiskey, making a face, and then asked, "Fine. Was that Thomas Deldir or Voldemort?"
"What! Harry James Potter, you better tell me what's going on here!"
He eyed the fork in her hand warily, and said, "Fine, fine. I'll try. Apparently, Thomas was Voldemort. He disguised himself."
She merely blinked at him. "Why?"
A very good question. He wished he knew. "I suppose to get closer to me?"
She toyed with the food on her plate absentmindedly, expression thoughtful. "Yes, but why? He seems to be actually sane. He's improved the wizarding world; he doesn't want to kill you, and he's being… friendly. I think that may have been the last word that I'd ever associate with him. And the whole not-being-insane and not hating muggle-borns isn't a scam, I don't think. Or, if it is, he's kept it up for two years, and for what? No. I think we need to assume that he's actually not a monster… anymore. So, he found out where you were, somehow, and disguised himself to get closer to you. That's not too odd, but… I thought you said that 'Thomas' was flirting with you?"
Harry took another gulp of fire-whiskey to fortify himself. The idea that Voldemort was flirting with him was disconcerting to say the least. He needed to expunge the idea from his brain. "Well, I must have been mistaken. Or he was just doing it to get closer. I'm hoping that I was just plain wrong."
"I don't know," she mused, "when I saw you two together, it seemed like he was… hitting on you. Really, it looked like he wanted to devour you and-"
"Okay, fine. I'm just reporting what I saw."
He glared at her while she pretended not to notice and picked at the food on her plate. After a moment, he added in a small voice, "And… He may know that I'm one of his horcruxes."
She gave a start. "That's not good. How did he find out?"
"I… might have told him."
"Harry!" She sounded scandalized.
"It was an accident," he protested.
"How exactly could you telling him be an accident?" she demanded, hand on her hips.
"Well, I thought that he was here because he wanted to try and somehow take the piece of soul out or something, and he acted like he knew, but then… he didn't." He winced at how lame it sounded.
"How did he react?"
He ran his hands through his hair again and cast a longing look at the bottle of fire-whiskey but didn't refill his glass. Now was not the time to get shit-faced. Now was the time to figure out exactly what was going on, because, frankly, he didn't have a clue. But Hermione was smart, far smarter than anyone else he knew, so she might be able figure it all out. Because he was moments away from casting an obliviate on himself to erase the memories of Tom Riddle virtually undressing him with his eyes, not that he was wearing all that much to start with. It wasn't even that Voldemort… Tom, was particularly ugly. It was that he was a cold-blooded murderer who was crazier than Luna and not in a good way. Except that he wasn't anymore.
His eyes drifted back to the fire-whiskey. Maybe another glass wouldn't hurt. He sighed. But it certainly wouldn't help, besides giving him a hangover. Hermione was still waiting for him to answer her question.
Instead, he said, "Why don't I just tell you everything that happened today?"
And he did.
When he was done, she gaped at him, not saying a word.
He waved a hand in front of her face. "Hermione?"
She blinked, and then gasped out. "Draco Malfoy was Daphne?"
He rested his head on the counter none too gently. "I tell you all of that, and that's the first thing you say?" he mumbled. Without glancing up, he knew she was blushing.
"Well, it's just surprising! And rather disturbing…"
He nodded his agreement. He didn't even want to think about it. That meant that he'd hugged Malfoy. And what about the time where he'd kissed her, him, on the forehead. That meant that he had kissed Malfoy. He felt the sudden urge to use sand paper on his lips. While he wished he had been friends with the pale-haired boy, there were limits. He groaned. What had happened to his life? Just when he'd gotten it normal.
A small, warm, comforting hand patted his back. "It'll be all right, Harry. At least it isn't worse."
"How could it be worse?"
"Well, you could be dead."
True. He supposed that would be worse. Not necessarily less confusing, but worse. He looked up, propping his head on his arms. "Well? Any ideas?"
She bit her lip. "Yes…" The words, "But you're not going to like them," remained unspoken, hanging in the air.
"And they are?"
She didn't answer immediately.
Harry felt his stomach plummet. She had the same look on her face that she got every time that she knew something that she knew would upset the other person, but thought that they should hear it but didn't really want to tell them. "Hermione?"
"Harry… I know you don't want to hear this, but after listening to everything that you said and actually seeing him interact with you, I think he might actually like you."
"No," Harry said flatly. "I'm sorry Hermione, but you're wrong." Denial, a little part of his mind said. Denial. He could live with denial as long as he didn't have to think about what Hermione just said.
"Maybe he just wants to court you for political reasons. I mean, if you two were together, then no one would oppose you, I don't think…" Her voice trailed off when she saw him staring at her, horrified.
"Are you even listening to yourself? Courting me? And I'm not sure which is more disturbing, him actually liking me or him wanting to c-court me for political reasons." Maybe a second glass of fire-whiskey was a good idea…
"You did like him when he was Thomas Deldir. Oh, dear. Deldir is Riddle, isn't it? I should have seen that. I mean, you really liked him. And it's not as though he's bad looking. In fact, he's rather handsome."
The words, "I know," were on the tip of his tongue, but instead he protested, "Are we talking about the same person? He killed my parents! He's the reason that Sirius is dead. How many people have died because of him?"
Hermione turned her face away. "I know… I haven't forgotten that, either, Harry. I'm just… trying to look towards the future. He was evil. Maybe he still is, but I think he's changed, too. I don't know what did it, but something happened." She locked eyes with him. "This isn't in the Daily Prophet yet, but I have a friend in the ministry. Voldemort's actually starting to encourage people to marry muggles, so that wizards don't fade away. He's not preaching about blood-purity anymore."
Harry just stared at her and felt his mind being blown. Blindly, he reached for the fire-whiskey. A second glass was now necessary.
Hermione continued. "And he's actually making it a requirement for magical creature's to be treated well. He's working on something to allow near-human creatures to be granted wands and to attend school."
Harry glanced at his glass and then at the bottle. Maybe he should just take the bottle, or maybe he was drunk already, because what Hermione was saying sounded impossible. Or wonderful? Or perhaps just mind-boggling. Or maybe he could just hope that this whole experience was all some hallucination. Except that these sorts of things just sort of happened to him.
"Hermione, are you actually saying that I should consider this, whatever it is, if he's really flirting with me, which he's not?"
She nodded, and said simply, "Yes."
"Why aren't you more bothered by this?"
"Harry," she said in a soft voice. "I've been hanging around you so long that most things don't really shock me anymore. And Voldemort liking you doesn't shock me. I always thought he was a little too obsessed with you."
That settled it. Everyone around him was crazy and he was the only sane one. That was the only reasonable explanation. "Hermione," he said finally, "I'm going to pretend that you never said that, okay?"
She opened her mouth to reply, but then saw the expression on his face, which was somewhere between "I am seriously considering obliviating myself" and "Please stop if you don't want me to wind up in St. Mungo's".
Wisely, she held her tongue.
"Fine. I won't say anything else on that subject. But… This is Voldemort we're talking about, you're not just going to be able to ignore him, and if I'm right…"
"Okay, okay! I am curious how he got so close to you for so long without your scar hurting, though. I'll have to check some books about that."
Classic Hermione. When in doubt, go to the library. Although, he was curious about that little fact, too.
Suddenly, the brown-haired witch popped up out of her chair and gave him a fierce hug, wrapping her arms around him. "It'll be okay, Harry."
He leaned gratefully into her warmth. "Hermione, when has anything that's happened to me been 'okay'?" he asked wearily.
She didn't answer, but hugged him even more firmly. When Hermione Granger didn't answer a question, he knew something was wrong. And he still couldn't believe that she wasn't shrieking at the idea of Voldemort coming after him with romantic intentions. He'd probably won her over with his treatment of magical creatures. Bloody SPEW… Not that Voldemort actually did like him. He was quite happy to deny that as long as he could. He just needed to avoid Voldemort. He groaned. He didn't need to be a much better seer than Trelawney to know that that wasn't going to happen.
He sighed. Bugger.
Umm... Hi. College is evil and taking over my soul and life. I think physics was created by sadists and I'm not masochistic enough to enjoy it. This sums up my life. I also realize that you all probably want to kill me by now. I totally sympathize with that. I actually think Avada Kedavra is quite humane. Sort of. So, no Crucio's, please? Okay... moving on. I love this chapter of the story and hope you do, too. It's actually one of the only ones (maybe the only one?) from Harry's point of view. So, yeah. Happy holidays, everyone.