Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
The moment the glass shattered, Harry knew he was in trouble.
It didn't matter that Uncle Vernon had knocked into him or that Dudley had stuck his foot out at just the right moment. It only mattered that Harry had been the one to drop the glass. But Harry wasn't stupid. He was young, but he wasn't stupid. He knew the score. Even if he hadn't been the one to drop the glass, he would have been punished for it. He was still in the room, after all. Still in the house. Still existed. And that was always more than enough for his Uncle.
"I'm sorry!" he managed, just before he was grabbed by the back of his shirt. "Please, Uncle," he choked out, and then Aunt Petunia and Dudley were both setting their forks down, placing their napkins on their plates, moving away from the table.
"Dudders, we don't want you seeing this," Aunt Petunia murmured, and Harry tried not to scream. It hadn't been his fault, he wouldn't have... it didn't matter.
As Uncle Vernon tore his shirt from his back, which was another thing that Harry would be blamed for as the flimsy, over washed material tore away with little effort, Harry knew that it didn't matter. It never mattered whose fault it was, it never mattered if he'd done anything... it never mattered.
The belt buckle bit into his skin for the first time, then, and Harry fought not to scream. To beg. It didn't matter if he did that, either, except that he thought maybe Uncle Vernon enjoyed it when he did because when Harry did finally give in, like he always did, it always got so much worse.
Harry was only five, but as the belt buckle bit into his back yet another time, and as he felt the blood starting to trickle down his back, he thought that maybe, just maybe, he knew what hatred felt like.
There was blood everywhere.
Harry couldn't stop crying; hadn't stopped from somewhere around strike ten and it had gone on for so much longer than that. He'd lost count around strike twenty. He had begged until his throat was raw with it and still it had gone on.
His back felt like a mess; he didn't need to look to see how awful it was. He could feel it, every time he shifted to try and clean up some of the blood on the white and blue tile of the floor. And the worst part of it was that every time he did manage to scrub up some of the blood, he knew that he was leaving just a bit more behind him. He just hoped that the broken glass Uncle Vernon had shoved him down into earlier hadn't punctured his clothes. He didn't want to leave bloody knee prints behind him to try cleaning up later.
And then there was the cheerful sound of the television in the background. That had been going since a few minutes after he'd started screaming, and wasn't that just a lovely soundtrack to his misery? He hated his family, more than he'd ever hated anything in his admittedly young life. One day... one day... he would rise above them. Somehow, someway, he'd be better than them in the end. And he'd make sure they knew it, yes, he definitely would at that. He would...
"You're not working nearly fast enough, boy," Uncle Vernon sneered. The pain in his back flared as a heavy foot landed upon it, pressing him down to the blood-stained floor, splayed out like a bug on a slide. He cried out, and then fought off tears because his throat felt like he'd swallowed glass. And then it only got worse, because his Uncle deliberately ground his foot into his back, and Harry screamed again, unable to stop himself, no matter how much he wanted to.
Harry wished, more than he'd ever wished anything in his very short life, that his Uncle would just die. Because Aunt Petunia wasn't so terrible to him. She made him cook and clean and weed and everything, yes, and sometimes she accidentally knocked him into the hot parts of the stove, and the baths she made him take were always frigid and sometimes sent water down his throat and soap in his mouth and eyes, and sometimes the food she gave him was off and made him a little sick, but she never deliberately hurt him. She was always snapping at Uncle Vernon not to kill him, or they would come, and Harry thought that maybe if Uncle Vernon wasn't in the picture she might even be decent to him. And Dudley... well, he was a bully, there were no two ways about it. Harry knew that Dudley had tripped him just to get him punished, but maybe he'd get better without his father around leading by example. Yes, Harry wasn't stupid. He knew that his life would be much better if there wasn't a man named Vernon Dursley in it.
But Harry was only five. Wishing was futile. It didn't matter; it never mattered. He was stuck with his life exactly the way that it was, and probably would be until it killed him, literally.
"I apologize for my sloth," he whispered, trying to keep his voice from cracking any further. It wasn't easy, especially not when every word felt like it was being squeezed through sandpaper. And when his Uncle's foot lifted off his back, he tried his hardest to work faster.
Because it wasn't like he had any options, right?
~Filthy Muggles,~ a low voice hissed in Harry's head once he was curled up on his thin mattress under his threadbare blanket, grey from being washed so very many times. It barely did anything to keep him warm, but it was better than nothing. He thought maybe, anyway. It was all he'd ever had, so he didn't exactly have anything to compare it to.
His back was throbbing. It would hurt at least until morning, but the pain would ease. It always did. He just hoped that he wasn't catching a cold on top of the injuries, but he couldn't think of another reason why he'd be running a fever. And he had to be running a fever because why else would he be hearing voices? That was kinda strange, and little Harry didn't think he cared for that very much. Maybe he really was as much of a freak as Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia always said...
~You can hear me?~ the voice in question asked, sounding surprised.
"Yes," Harry whispered with great care, because his voice still felt like it was going to give out at any time, and saying anything at all was a bit like running bare skin against a shark's body: painful and grating and awful. And he could still taste the blood in his mouth from where he'd bitten his cheek to try and stop screaming while Uncle Vernon was thrashing him. And that was only making everything that much worse, because Harry hated the taste of his own blood.
~Oh,~ the voice murmured, and then it began to laugh. It was a dark, scary chuckle that made Harry flinch away from the sound. But the sound was coming from inside his head, and he couldn't really get away from it. Harry didn't think that he liked that very much. ~Oh, child, if you can hear me... there's no limit to what you and I could accomplish together,~ the voice crooned, in a sickeningly sweet tone that Harry could remember hearing his Aunt use when talking to Dudley.
"I'm sorry, but I don't really know where you're coming from and I really don't know what you're talking about," Harry whispered, because whispering hurt his throat less. And even if he was more confused than anything else, it was always a good idea to be polite. Sometimes when you were polite to somebody they were kind to you, and gave you things like a free ice cream on a hot day if you looked pathetic enough. Harry had only gotten that once, though, and Aunt Petunia had caught him before he could finish it. She'd been mad, because he wasn't supposed to take charity, and Uncle had thrashed him good when he'd gotten home from work that Friday.
~It's a crime,~ the voice murmured. ~An absolute sin, that one such as yourself, hosting a being like myself, should be cowering away from those vile Muggles.~ A dark, alien set of emotions rose within Harry then; anger and hatred and an all consuming urge to destroy his Uncle that made Harry cringe back from it. He'd felt like that earlier, a bit, and it scared him. He shouldn't hate like that, he wasn't meant to hate like that.
"Please," he whispered, begged even, not really even sure what he was asking for. It wouldn't do any good, asking never did, but he couldn't stop the plea. He curled in on himself, tucked his head under his pillow, tried to stop the barrage of alien feelings that made him think that maybe that was how his Uncle felt all the time.
There was a beat while the emotions in question swelled to an ever greater presence, and then everything stopped. ~Oh, child,~ the voice murmured regretfully. ~You are... you are more connected to me than I'd realized. I hadn't intended to unnerve you like that, and I do apologize for doing so.~
Harry gasped as a warmth, just as strange and alien as the earlier hatred, welled within him. It was still strange, still so very unfamiliar, but it was so warm and wonderful and perfect, Harry thought that maybe he could wrap it around himself like a blanket and sleep with it at night. It was amazing, and he never wanted it to go away. He thought that maybe as long as that inner warmth was there he'd never be cold at night again. It was a heady thought, and he pulled his head from under his pillow and smiled up at the ceiling, because he had nowhere else to look. "Thank you," he whispered. And to make it all better, his hands and knees weren't sore any longer.
~Is that better for you, then?~ the voice asked, and Harry felt a warm breeze caressing his cheek, almost like what he thought maybe a breath against him would feel like.
Harry sagged fully into the bed and whispered, "So much better." He looked around the room again, looking for something like a shimmer or a glint or anything really to show him where the voice was coming from. But there was nothing, and so hesitantly he asked, "Where are you, anyway?" and realized as he did that both his throat and back were feeling much better.
~I am in your head, trapped here by my own doing I am afraid,~ the voice murmured, sounding regretful.
"Trapped?" Harry asked, and was delighted when speaking normally didn't make his throat hurt any longer. But then he heard the ceiling above him creak just a bit, and he remembered the other reason for not speaking loudly. Whether he could or not, he didn't want to lose that ability a second time before the night was out.
~I cut down your parents. Murdered them, really, to stop a prophecy from being fulfilled, and in the way of most prophecies, managed to bring about its fulfilment instead. You defeated me as a baby, and I've apparently been sleeping in your head ever since.~
There was a moment as Harry tried to figure out what had just been said, and then, "You... you killed my parents? You were trying to kill me?" Were it not for the fact that he didn't think he could take another strapping, Harry was pretty sure he would have been yelling at that point. He had a murderer in his head? That couldn't be a healthy thing, right? Not to mention, this... this voice claimed to have killed his parents. But... but didn't they die in a car accident? Maybe he was the other driver? But that didn't make sense; the Dursleys had told him that his parents had been drunk and at fault so...
~Your parents did not die in a car accident!~ the voice shrieked, painful in Harry's head. He flinched, covered his ears, but since the voice was inside his head it did no good.
"Sorry, please, sorry," he whispered, curling in on himself once again. And once again even in the back of his panicking mind, marvelled at the fact that already he couldn't feel the wounds on his back. They never healed that quickly. But oh god, please don't let the voice hurt him again. Harry couldn't... he just couldn't do that again.
~I apologize for losing my temper with you,~ the voice said stiffly, with only a hint of sorrow coloring his tone. Harry relaxed a bit, and the voice continued with, ~It's a crime, that you should know so little of the truth about your parents. They were my enemies, yes, but they were honorable adversaries. To be relegated to the drunken fools of a children's tale is an insult to their memory.~
"I don't..." Harry blushed, because he thought maybe he was supposed to be able to understand what the voice had said. But Harry wasn't stupid, he wasn't! He just didn't know... Actually, a lot of the things the voice said didn't make much sense to him. But he was used to not understanding what adults were saying, and he knew that the voice belonged to an adult. How could it not? It seemed to know lots more than him...
There was a sigh in his head, and then the voice murmured, sounding weary, ~Your parents were good enemies. We didn't agree, but I respected them. It's insulting to both them and myself that your Uncle lied to you about the way that they died. I killed them because of a... a prophecy. Somebody told me the future, and I had to kill them to stop it from coming true. Your mother died to protect you, child.~
"She loved me?" Harry asked in a small voice.
~More than she loved life,~ the voice confirmed.
Harry fell asleep with a smile on his face that night.
When Harry woke up in the morning, somehow he could tell that the voice was still active. It took his sleepy brain a few minutes to figure it out, but eventually he realized that the voice in question was muttering softly to itself, cursing viciously about something. He, the voice that was, didn't appear to realize that Harry was awake.
"Is something wrong?" he asked hesitantly, and he got a distinct feeling of surprise from the voice that made him giggle.
~You... are awake. Excellent. I was trying to put myself back to sleep. Being stuck as a passenger in a child's body isn't exactly stimulating for a being of my intellect, if you must know, nor do I particularly care to spend your formative years being tortured by that boorish uncle of yours.~
"Huh?" Harry asked, having only understood about one in a few words of that. He thought maybe he could get the basic gist of it, though, and he sort of felt bad for the voice. He hated his life too, after all, and didn't want anybody else to have to live like him either.
~You've got it. That's exactly what I was saying,~ the voice murmured, this time in an approving tone.
The feeling washed over Harry and he soaked it up. He'd never had anybody approve of anything he'd done before. Not even when he cleaned the bathrooms perfectly with only twenty minutes, or when he'd made that pot roast the other night. The Dursleys never approved of anything he did. It was something Harry thought that maybe he might like to get used to, but if the voice was going to go back to sleep then he shouldn't try getting used to it.
It wasn't going to last. Nothing good in his life ever did. It all went away after he got used to it. He should know better than to think that it wouldn't.
~But... it doesn't seem that I can go back to sleep, at least not right now,~ the voice murmured. ~So that leaves me with one other option. Making your circumstances better is certainly something that we can work on, don't you think?~
Making... "But what about the Dursleys? There's not much we can do with them, because they're adults and I'm just a kid. I'm not much more than a baby, even," Harry whispered. He ducked his head, a flush of shame heating his cheeks. He hated being so helpless around his Aunt and Uncle and cousin. He hated them, too, even if he knew he shouldn't.
~You absolutely should hate them, child. And as for what we can do with them, well, there is quite a lot that I can teach you,~ the voice murmured gently to him.
Harry hesitated for only a moment before asking softly, "But what should I call you? And..." What was there to prevent the voice from betraying him? To stop the voice from murdering him like he'd murdered Harry's parents? Nothing, and there wasn't really anything he could do about that anyway. The voice was just that, a voice in his head. He couldn't do a thing about it, so he might as well be allied with it. So, he shook his head rapidly. "Never mind. What should I call you?"
~My name, child, is Tom.~