Disclaimer: Thankfully I'm not in charge when it comes to the Potterverse, 'cuz at this rate it would have taken me ten years to finish the first one. Of course, it might help if I focused all my energy toward one story at a time...
Chapter Seven: Corruption
The plan had been so simple: go to Hogwarts and try not to draw attention to or embarrass himself. That was it. His wand barely produced sparks when he held it, because the thing hated him. "Your father could levitate a feather by his ninth birthday," Gran had said. "He cast a Shield Charm before his first day at Hogwarts. My Frank was so strong..."
Neville Longbottom always shared the faraway look on her face when she went off on a tangent like that. He felt so proud of his father's strength, but so dejected that he couldn't even come close. At his continued failure to show much in the way of magical ability - even after receiving his wand - only one option remained open to him: keep his head down.
Of course, as in everything else, Neville failed spectacularly at that. He only publicly befriended the most famous person in the world, who also happened to be a member of the House who held a long-standing enmity with his own House. Why Harry Potter would want to be friends with him, of all people, Neville had no idea. But they were friends, and not only that, Gran had written to say she received a note from Professor McGonagall about the announcement last year, and they were both very proud of him. Proud! That one letter, that one, simple declaration, lifted the tremendous burden that was five years of disappointing Gran off his shoulders.
He thought he wouldn't make any friends, but he made four, and it was all thanks to Harry. He'd be damned if he was going to let one of them down, especially if that person was Harry.
"I'm sorry, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall said. "I understand you are concerned, but it's out of my hands. If Miss Davis and Miss Greengrass have already approached Professor Snape, then there is nothing else I can do."
"But it's Harry Potter," Neville said with enough forcefulness to surprise the other two. Hermione had clammed up and looked rather ill. She had claimed that Neville had the experience of dealing with his Gran, so he was more fit to do the talking, though he didn't quite believe it until he saw her legs shaking at the rather mild tone Professor McGonagall had taken. For some reason that bolstered his confidence even further. "Surely the headmaster would want to know about this."
"The headmaster is a busy man, Mister Longbottom, and it would not do to favor one student over others, no matter the student." The Transfiguration Professor pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. "Look, I understand your concerns, I really do. And it's true that the headmaster would be concerned if any student was in danger, but it's not really clear to me that is the case since Mister Potter seemed to be acting normally in classes this week."
"But he won't even talk to us," Hermione said sadly. "That isn't normal for him."
Professor McGonagall's face softened - a surprisingly comforting expression on the stern woman's face. His Gran could do that as well, though both women doled such occasions out just as sparingly. "Oh, my child, if you'd seen the ebb and flow of friendships among schoolchildren as often as I have, you would be less concerned. Why, Mr. Potter's own mother quite disliked his father until well into their school years. My advice is to keep being good friends to him. Sooner or later he'll realize what he's missing."
"You're wrong, Professor," Neville said in a low voice. "If it were just me I'd believe you, but those three say something is wrong, so something is wrong."
The professor's face hardened once again, and she fixed Neville with a stern glare that he'd seen hundreds of times. He didn't back down. "Thank you for communicating your concern, Mr. Longbottom. Do close the door on your way out."
Dejected, Neville and Hermione moped out of the Transfiguration professor's office to rendezvous with their Slytherin friends. Neither pair of students were terribly comfortable in the other pair's presence without Harry, but out of mutual concern they had been discussing what to do.
Daphne scowled after Hermione closed the door behind her. "I see you were no more successful than we were."
Neville let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and looked down, face reddening. "N-no..."
"It's not your fault, Neville," Hermione assured him, narrowing her eyes slightly at the raven-haired snark of a Slytherin. "Or any of ours. It's only been a few days; of course the professors don't see it yet."
"Curse it, Granger, it's plain as day! How could they not...?" Tracey said angrily.
"Trace..." Daphne warned, cutting her excitable friend off. "There are a lot of students to watch."
"But he's Harry Potter!"
"That's what Neville said," Hermione cut in, causing said boy to blush lightly and look away. He had said it in pretty much the exact same tone, in fact. "But she said it wouldn't be fair to others-"
Another annoyed puff from Daphne cut her short. "Of course, and the only Head of House that doesn't care for fairness happens to despise Harry."
"I'm sure he doesn't despise...um...Harry..." Hermione said, trailing off under the flat stares of the other three.
"So what do we do?" Neville finally asked, breaking the silence.
Unfortunately, only faint echoes answered that question.
Oh, Voldemort died when I was a baby. I don't know much about him.
Tom's soul seethed within the confines of the diary's charmspace. The boy had finally given up the name Voldemort, which Tom had been attempting to wheedle out of him ever since he regained consciousness. But this "Harry" didn't seem to know anything!
For several years after the diary's creation, Tom had been periodically updated on current events. He knew he had gone through with the identity change. He knew he had recruited dozens of wizards to his cause. He knew he'd been denied the Defense Against the Dark Arts position twice and had cursed the position. He knew he had taken two steps beyond any wizard in history on the road to immortality. By then, however, updates had become quite rare and rather terse, and he stopped thinking of the man outside the diary as himself. Voldemort came to view Tom as inferior - a primitive version of the immortal wizard he'd become. Voldemort was simply too busy to keep Tom updated, and gave the diary to a Death Eater to do the work.
Three Death Eaters died under mysterious circumstances before Voldemort realized that it was a mistake to even tell them what it was, let alone have them update his former self. Tom heard about the first two from their successors, and then Tom received his very last missive from Voldemort: the diary would be placed in the care of Alaric Goyle, who would only be given instructions to keep it safe. Alaric's blood spilled all over the diary two months later. That was Tom's first taste of blood, and he thought he was going to die. Their souls were so mismatched, it felt like being consumed in fiendfyre. Thankfully Alaric's soul pulled back away as he died, but it left Tom's soul quivering with pain he should have no way of feeling.
And then he missed it, because that was his last contact for an eternity.
It wasn't intentional on Tom's part. When he went too long without contact, his consciousness deteriorated into a sort of hibernation. His shard of soul hungered to be whole, so the formation of only the barest of connections was enough to feed from the writer - except, of course, from Voldemort himself. The fractured souls pulled at each other, giving as much as they got.
At least, that's how it was at first. After creating two more Horcruxes, Voldemort's soul...changed. It was a gradual thing, not even noticeable until Tom reflected on it upon awakening from untold years of hibernation. The tug-of-war had continued to end in a stalemate, but they just didn't match up anymore. It must have been, Tom eventually decided, the influence of the four souls he'd involuntarily tried to consume, especially Alaric's brief and powerful blood connection.
Then, ruining Tom's plans to test out his theory, came Harry Potter...the enigma. If this was the descendant of Charlus Potter, why was he raised by Muggles? Why wouldn't he talk about Voldemort, when he clearly knew more? Why did the connection seem to form so easily the second time he wrote, wrenching Tom toward consciousness?
And more importantly, how the hell was the boy's mind closed off to Tom? It was maddening, feeling no sense of recognition from his host to help him gain his bearings. And that was not to mention the spike of pain he felt that sent his half-consciousness fleeing. At least the boy was in Slytherin, so Tom knew his way around, but beyond that, he had to rely on context from overheard conversations. The Malfoy spawn was the same age as this Harry, but they did not seem to be on speaking terms, and the boy, of course, was not forthcoming with any details.
If he could curse him, Tom would. If he could sigh in annoyance, that would be his next choice. Despite being on his own for so long, patience was not his forte. Still, the situation called for more delicate coercion, and he was not about to fail when he was this close. He had successfully manipulated the boy's emotions once, but it had been too soon. Now he was suspicious: surprisingly he knew the anger he felt wasn't natural, but luckily he hadn't suspected Tom. If he didn't carefully deflect the boy's attention, he might actually break the compulsion. Okay, so let's go over this again, he "wrote." Projecting thoughts to the enchanted ink was more like the act of speaking, though. You were headed to Potions early...
Few second year students were in so precarious a position, socially and academically, as Tracey Davis.
She and her best friend, Daphne Greengrass, had known pretty well beforehand that they would end up in Slytherin. Greengrasses were always in Slytherin, and Tracey's mother's line had always been in Slytherin. Her father, a half-blood himself, had been in Ravenclaw, but her grandfather had actually been a Gryffindor and fought against Grindelwald. Needless to say, that fact would never be widely known within Slytherin if Tracey had any say in it. Regardless, Tracey had big dreams - she was going to be Minister for Magic one day, or so her then nine-year-old self had proclaimed - and her parents told her that ambition was the mark of a true Slytherin.
Of course, it had been Tracey's father who broke the news that her half-blood status would be a hindrance in that House. She had been mad at him at first, but her mother had exploded in anger when she found out. "Your father would have made a better Slytherin than any one of our graduating class. That damned prejudice damages Slytherin far more than it helps."
Suitably chastised, Tracey tearfully looked to Daphne for help, who looked just as surprised and dismayed at that news. "Then what should I do?" She asked.
"Well, you could be in Ravenclaw - I can attest to the unique perks of that House," her father had said, "or you can be cunning enough that blood status doesn't matter."
That lesson had burned itself within Tracey's mind, and before long Daphne had recruited her friend Blaise Zabini to help with Draco Malfoy. Daphne knew boys didn't mix with girls that early, and so was saving him the trouble of snubbing her later. And they all knew about Malfoy, and they all knew that Tracey Davis wouldn't be welcome among his friends...at least, not at first. Blaise was a quiet boy who also claimed he was headed to Slytherin, though he wouldn't say why. A redirection here, a word there, and Tracey shouldn't be bothered too much.
It was perfect...right up until the very first day at Hogwarts. Tracey could still hear the Hat's booming declaration from atop Harry Potter's head in her mind. The palpable shock ricocheted around the Great Hall stronger than an echo, shattering expectations and plans alike. Daphne had disagreed vehemently with Tracey's idea to deviate the plan a bit, but of course her raven-haired friend would do that...and exaggerate the size of the deviation. Sure, the plan to lay low and avoid Malfoy's inevitable prejudice crumbled with the change, but it was Harry Potter. Not only was he the savior of the wizarding world, but he was a half-blood as well!
Tracey's plan had drastically exceeded even her most optimistic expectations, a fact even Daphne admitted after only a couple weeks. Malfoy maintained some small influence with the other Slytherins in their year, but Harry didn't even have to try to counter it outside of that. Not only that, but despite his secretive nature, Harry was the most earnest and loyal friend she could imagine...the very antithesis of what she expected of a Slytherin.
But now he had abandoned her and Daphne... Of course, the second year students were all twelve years old, as her father was so fond of reminding her, so despite her situation the stakes weren't really that high. Her body had finally started changing over the summer, and with that came a growing sense of importance about everything she did. And on top of that, Harry's situation just felt different...far more important than schoolyard drama her parents claimed it was.
Especially after the most recent Defense Against the Dark Arts class.
"Welcome, welcome. So pleasant to see you all here once again." Professor Lockhart announced, flashing his gorgeous smile directly at Tracey for a moment before he slowly looked away.
Daphne scoffed, muttering something about mandatory attendance, but this time Tracey was too worried about Harry to shoot her a glare and too tired to repeat the completely one-sided argument over the merits of having a wizarding hero teach them. For some reason Daphne just didn't get it.
"I hope you all are prepared for yet another dazzling display of daring and debonair...ness. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to re-enact for the first time, my death-defying defeat of the dastardly Dark Dragon of Dungarvan!"
That perked Tracey up a bit. Something he hadn't written yet? She studiously ignored the snort and whispered question behind her, "Is he just making this up as he goes along?"
"Mister Potter, if you would do me the great honor yet again of assisting me in this demostration? Excellent!"
Lockhart twirled around in a tight circle, flaring his cape out heroically. Tacey tore her eyes away to see Harry rise with a rather uncharacteristic smirk before he glided up to the dais at the head of the classroom.
"Now, as you all know, the Dark Dragon of Dungarvan wreaked untold havoc across southern England at night, as the only nocturnal dragon known to wizardkind. Yes, hundreds of brave wizards, fortune-hunters all, lost their lives to this creature. Its scales, blacker than the night itself, reflect no light. It stalks silently through the night, striking with blinding white magical flame immune to even the strongest of flame freezing charms."
A dramatic gasp from the back of the room broke the monologue. Tracey turned to see Lavender Brown at the edge of her seat. "How did you do it?"
"I'm glad you asked, Ms. Brown, very glad indeed! It was quite impressive if I may say so myself. Now, Mr. Potter if you could pretend you're the dragon-"
"Shall I use a simple Fire-Making spell, professor? You know, for effect?" Harry asked in a voice Tracey had never heard from his mouth. It was almost...Hermione-like. She glanced over at said girl, finding an equally confused and concerned look at Harry'd behavior.
"Er..." Professor Lockhart said, glancing around almost as if nervous, even though that couldn't be the case. Then he gave the broad smile Tracey expected. "Of course, go right ahead. And make sure you really sell it!"
"Very well," Harry said, still smirking. Suddenly he threw his arms up in the air - Tracey didn't even see him pull his wand, but there it was - and reared back, sucking in a loud breath. A scream tore through the air as somebody realized what Harry was about to do. For a moment, she thought she saw his brows knit with concern, but it only lasted a moment before he lunged one foot forward and jabbed his wand at the professor.
Tracey's scream faded into obscurity among all the others when flame leapt from Harry's wand and streaked toward the Professor. Lockhart shrieked even louder and hit the floor, then shrieked again when he realized his cape was on fire and scrambled toward the door.
Harry straightened, arms folded behind his back, with a barely contained look of contempt on his face as Lockhart fled the room. "Is this part of the demonstration, Professor?" He called unnecessarily.
The entire Room sat in shocked silence as Harry glided out of the room.
Hermione Granger had always considered herself a mature, rational girl. It was okay that other girls didn't like her, because they simply didn't share the same interests. Some of them played sports, some played with their hair, but nobody else played with their textbooks. The boys...well, at least they were mean in ways that didn't hurt as much. She hadn't cried over the way other kids treated her for years...until Harry Potter launched himself at an ugly, smelly, scarily powerful mountain of a creature with a club that could have crushed her to death even if the troll had just placed it on top of her.
But Harry Potter - a short, scrawny boy that couldn't weigh more than she - attacked the monster without a moment's hesitation. He lured it away from her at tremendous risk to himself, and then...when Neville told her what Harry almost did to the troll after he'd lured it away...it took her breath away to think about it, even now, almost a year later. That he'd done it for her...
No, Hermione hadn't cried over the way other kids treated her for years, but after Harry Potter did what he did, she'd cried more times than she cared to count. She didn't cry tears of sadness or frustration, either - they were tears of...something she didn't know how to describe. Relief, happiness, trust...emotions she'd only previously associated with her family were now, unthinkably, also associated with a boy her age.
And now, said boy desperately needed her help, and nobody but four second years believed it. None of the adults they approached did anything, even after what he did in Defense Against the Dark Arts. He didn't even get in trouble! Hermione sent a letter to her parents, but they weren't much help.
"They offered to contact the Dursleys, for all the good that would do," Hermione said at their library meeting after dinner, dropping her head and rubbing her temples in frustration. As Muggles they couldn't do much from hundreds of miles away except try to reassure her that everything would work out in the end. It worked about as well as it did when they were right next to each other.
"The older Slytherin boys that might have helped, like Pucey or one of the Prefects, thought what he did to Lockhart was hilarious," Daphne said.
"And the female Prefects just said to go to Snape," Tracey added. "They know the two dislike each other, so they're obviously still mad about what he did, even though I told them the whole reason he did it was because he was not himself."
"The older students," Hermione berated herself, "why didn't I think of that?" She stood, slamming her book closed a little more forcefully than intended, earning a glare from Madam Pince. Hermione mouthed an apology and began gingerly packing her books away. "We have to go find Martin."
"Martin? Are you sure?" Neville asked as he followed suit.
She nodded. Even though the older Ravenclaw had thought it a fantastic idea to expose a first year to a boggart, he hadn't done it out of malice. It helped that she got to learn a new spell, and that Harry had apologized so profusely it embarrassed her. "Harry might listen to him. If he won't listen to us and the professors won't help, it has to be Martin. Come on, let's go to his classroom!"
Hermione led the other three up to the sixth floor, around the corridor overlooking the quad nearer to Ravenclaw Tower, over to the second door past yet another portrait of former Headmaster Basil Fronsac. At least, that's what the plaque beneath it claimed. The high-backed wooden throne stood empty, as always; no doubt he found it much more productive to attend his portraits in less forgotten corridors and offices. Or perhaps he merely preferred more comfortable seating.
"Granger, Longbottom, Greengrass, Davis, come, come," Martin said in greeting, then ushered them in. "Here about Potter, yes? How can I help?"
"How did you know?"
"Did not, not until you came here," Martin said with a shrug. "Erratic behavior in class, isolating himself out of it, not with you, worried looks on your faces, easy to piece together. What seems to be the problem?"
"Well, sometime this summer Harry got his hands on a diary-" Tracey began.
Hermione cut her off with a gasp. "The Malfoys," she said as she felt the blood drain from her face.
Neville groaned then looked around the room with a red-faced grimace, as if he expected to be scolded. "I completely forgot about that."
Tracey looked back and forth between the two Gryffindors. "Come on then, what is it?"
"You mentioned the fight between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley," Daphne said, clearly trying to get them to continue.
"That was right in the middle of the whole thing," Hermione said, glancing up to find Martin scribbling furiously in his little notebook. "It all started when Malfoy picked up Ginny's Transfiguration textbook..."
Harry's forehead beat a steady rhythm against a refreshingly cool window, which looked out over the Hogwarts ground from the seventh floor corridor.
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong despite Tom's dismissive attitude and obvious attempts at redirection whenever Harry voiced his concerns. He clenched his teeth at the memory that grated so heavily on his nerves and made him tuck the diary deep in his trunk for the first time in weeks.
Are you skilled enough to detect silent magic cast when your back is turned? Tom had written.
No, but this time there were only students behind me.
So you can detect someone hiding under Disillusionment or an invisibility cloak, and you know for certain nobody else was there?
See? There you have it. More likely than not somebody hit you with an Imperius and then used a Memory Charm. And like I said, it sounds like you're still not getting your anger up in time to stop the Imperius.
Harry had suppressed his mounting irritation that Tom still insisted he was right. The first time he blacked out, the foreign anger immediately preceded it. Instead he wrote, what about the flashes of memory?
Several moments had passed before Tom replied. What memories?
He hadn't mentioned those before, because his mind had still been muddled from the experience. But when he'd finally heard the description of what he'd done, he knew they were real. Lockhart's face as I attacked. I thought it a dream at first, but as the scene was described to me, I realized I already knew what had happened. I remember...taunting him...but I wouldn't do that.
Another long pause. What is the first thing you remember?
A scream, he had written hesitantly before epiphany struck. It was Hermione's scream. Somehow I know it was hers. When Tom didn't answer, Harry continued. I remember Lockhart's terror and his flight, taunting him and then leaving. It gets hazy after that. Like I said before, I don't remember talking to any of the professors, so I don't know how I didn't get in trouble.
No, Tom had written finally. No, it must have been-
A playful, musical humming from Harry's left jerked him from his reverie, and he quickly spun to verify that he seemed to be alone in the corridor at the moment. But it wouldn't be long before that changed. Before he could decide whether or not to hide, a small girl with long, messy blonde hair and Ravenclaw robes skipped around the corner in her bare feet. She spotted him and skipped right over to him, quieting her humming but not stopping.
Ravenclaw must not have that rule for first years.
"Hello, Harry Potter," she said without preamble, stopping too closely for his comfort.
"Er...do I know you?" Harry stepped back and felt a twinge of annoyance at himself for not paying attention during the Sorting. A girl like this should have stood out.
"That's an odd question to ask when you're about to meet me. It's like sitting down to dinner and asking, 'have I eaten this food?' Unless you already know me, which would be interesting since I don't recall meeting you." She pursed her lips in thought. "Hmm, I suppose you might also run away before I have a chance to introduce myself. My name is Luna Lovegood." Then she smiled brightly. "I guess I caught you first."
Harry was heavily reminded of Eilonwy in the book he'd borrowed from Hermione, and he chuckled. "I guess you did. So what are you doing up here, Luna?"
Her eyes closed again and her head tilted, then she breathed deeply and sighed contentedly. "Hogwarts...it sings so beautifully."
He listened with her for a moment. "I don't hear anything," he said neutrally.
"Oh no, you wouldn't be able to hear it," she said, the she opened her eyes to frown in thought. "At least, not with your ears."
"But you can?"
She snorted. "Of course not!"
"Er...you're going to have to explain that one..."
She shook her head, scraggly blonde waves bouncing comically. "I don't know the words. Have you ever felt blue? Have you ever seen anger? You can feel a sight and see a feeling, and you can taste a smell and smell a taste. But what do you do with a sound you can't hear? Or, more importantly, what can you hear that isn't a sound?"
Harry wondered if this was a Ravenclaw riddle, and scratched his head in thought. "Magic?"
Luna's big, gray eyes brightened considerably. "Really?"
"I was asking you."
"Oh, well that doesn't make much sense, asking me about something I just asked you about," Luna said, furrowing her brows. "That's like swapping unused forks at a dinner table."
"Right," Harry said slowly, then glanced back the way he came. "Well, I should get back to-"
"It doesn't sing like Hogwarts," Luna said, cutting him off and making him turn sharply back to her. She wasn't looking at him, though. Her eyes were closed again, her head tilted back and a little to the side. "It sticks to you, Harry, that's why I can...not-hear it."
Harry paled at that. "What? Luna...do you...what do I do?"
She cocked her head back, her large gray eyes opening to regard him strangely. "You are a student at Hogwarts, are you not?"
"Yes," Harry said slowly.
She stared expectantly at him for several moments. "Well I'm afraid I don't know what else you do. Do you have a job or something? I'm not sure why you're asking me that, anyway; it's like me asking you what my favorite color is. It's blue, by the way."
It took a few moments, but eventually Harry's brain caught up and reeled in the slack in his jaw. "No, I mean, what do I do about the...er...sticky stuff?"
"Oh, sorry, I didn't realize you need that much help. Most people I know simply stop playing with fire the first time they get burned." Then she furrowed her brows and scratched her head. "At least, I think they do. I know I do. Papa always says that Lovegoods have more sense than other witches and wizards, though."
"I see," Harry said when it appeared she was waiting for him to speak. "So, any suggestions for the senseless?"
"Well, if you get something sticky on you, you have someone get it off for you."
"If you can't get it off yourself, have someone get it off for you," she repeated slowly.
"But...I...I don't know how! And what if I get it off but it comes back?"
Luna sighed. "Well, to your first question, I'm sure I don't know either. But to your second question, if you spill glue and put your elbow in it once, do you just keep putting your elbow down hoping you won't hit it, or do you get rid of the glue?"
Harry stared at her blankly for a moment. "But how do I figure out what the g-" he began before it hit him like a ton of bricks. A barrage of memories assaulted him in reverse order: Tom's obstinance about Harry releasing his emotions, yelling at Tracey, Blaise telling him how worried Daphne was, his fear of succumbing to the diary's influence, Lucius Malfoy's fear that Harry would call him out on trying to pass it to the Weasley girl...
The diary. It all came back to the diary.
Disjointed flashes of revulsion and desire to confide in Tom warred within his mind. He staggered against the wall, gasping for breath until Luna suddenly placed a hand on his shoulder. Startled by the contact, he gripped her wrist roughly. "Harry," she cried, "Harry! You're hurting me!"
Luna's pain broke through the nauseous haze and he released her, feeling mortified and that he'd hurt her. "I'm so sorry, Luna...I need to go," he said backpedaling and using the wall to steady him. He turned and fled calling out behind him, "thank you! I'll make it up to you!"
Harry dashed down the staircase, through the abandoned corridor, down the spiral staircase, and almost collided with Adrian Pucey and a few of his fellow fourth years on the way out of the portrait hole. "Whoa, Potter, what-?"
In a split second, Harry discarded the idea of taking it to Pucey. Back before he'd been corrupted by the diary, he was about to take it to Daphne. She'd know what to do. "Sorry, can't talk now," he called over his shoulder as he hurdled the steps to his dorm two at a time.
Quickly unlocking his trunk, he dug through his Muggle clothing and school books to reach the bottom corner where he kept the diary for almost a month. His heart skipped a beat when he didn't find it, then sped up as he frantically shuffled the contents. As he pictured one of his roommates rifling through his meager possessions, his anger grew. "Where is it, where is it, where is it!" As he shouted the last, he slammed the lid shut, only then noticing the scrap of parchment stuck to it.
Heard of trouble with diary. Borrowed it for a time, but don't worry, won't read it. Come see me in my classroom when you get a chance (sixth floor near Ravenclaw Tower, second door away the portrait of Headmaster Fronsac in case you've forgotten).
Harry clenched his teeth in anger. This is exactly what he thought would happen if Martin found out! Then his anger suddenly tripled. He tried to tamp it down, but to his horror, it overwhelmed him almost as soon as he realized what was wrong. His head swam, and his vision blurred and darkened. "No!" He didn't hear the word, but he needed to fight! How dare Tom do this to him!
With that thought, steeped in anger, numbness overtook Harry's mind...but blackness did not.
Instead, he seemed to float as if encased in a numbing gel. His vision remained blurry and frayed around the edges, and his attempts at moving produced no results. Even his thoughts seemed to require serious effort on his part.
A flash of red light snapped him out of his daze, and he turned his attention outward. There, as if in stop motion to his eyes, stood Martin, his arm a blur frozen in time as he apparently returned fire. The older students' wand tip glowed slightly green, triggering some latent but fleeting memory.
Harry's spike of concern caused his perception to speed up, and his body to falter. His wand, already moving to block the now soft green light when his senses returned to him, missed. The unknown spell struck his shoulder, sending him spinning to his knees.
The pain stoked Harry's anger at Tom, but once again the resulting numbness made his head swim.
As his vision faded to black he finally made the connection...the anger! He had to stop it from consuming him!
The image of Martin fighting for his life galvanized him. Hermione's scream in Defense class and his argument with Tracey assaulted him with guilt for a moment, but he turned it into determination. He would not allow the anger to overcome him. He would not allow it to consume him. He would never be powerless again!
He only realized he heard himself shout that last in defiance when a splitting, searing pain erupted right behind his eyes. He fell to his knees - barely recognizing the fact that he could feel his body once again - and held his head on both sides in an instinctual but inane attempt to hold it together. A wave of nausea crashed into him, and his whole body spasmed, forcing his head to jerk upward. When his mouth opened, however, only an oily black mist sprayed out, and painfully slowly at that. He only peripherally noticed the diary on the floor spewing the exact same mist. After too long a time, Harry collapsed to the ground, exhausted but thankfully without the excruciating pain. He actually felt relieved at the presence of a merely dull throb.
"You are most vexing, Harry Potter," a voice said, sounding just as tired as Harry. He looked up to see a tall, dark-haired teen with high cheekbones, a narrow, angular chin, and dark, angry eyes. He knelt on one knee with one hand on the floor, then stood slowly, never directing his glare elsewhere. "Most vexing indeed."
"Tom," Harry growled. They were in some strange, obviously unused room...though to call it a room seemed rather silly. The cold, slightly damp stone underneath him led off to his left, though he did not dare take his eyes off Tom to follow it. In the other direction, the path split into a semicircle around a statue of some sort, though once again Harry did not look in detail. Unlike every other room in the castle, large, primitive torches lined the perimeter, with not a window in sight. The sheer number of them, as well as their distance from Harry, meant the lighting in the room was fairly steady, though it did nothing to lessen the ominous ambiance. "Where have you taken me?"
As soon as he asked the question, he knew he had made a mistake by showing Tom that the strange room spooked him. Sure enough, the older boy smirked. "Oh, don't worry, you are still in Hogwarts...the safest place in Britain, is it not? Of course, this castle has many secrets."
Harry assumed the blatant emphasis on 'secrets' should have meant something to him, but it didn't. He settled for merely glaring at the older boy, tightening his grip on his wand. Only then did he notice the strangest part of the strange room: he could see straight through Tom. He wasn't a ghost...at least, not a normal one, since ghosts were all translucent white. Tom, on the other hand, clearly wore fine school robes with green and silver trim of Slytherin house. His face was pale, but not overly so; if he was opaque he would have certainly had more color than, say, Draco.
"What ever is the matter, Harry Potter?" Tom asked mockingly. "You don't want to speak with your old friend Tom anymore, is that it?"
Tom was trying to hide his annoyance with his mocking tone, Harry could see that easily enough. Would Tom continue to sap magic or energy or whatever he was doing if Harry spoke? He wasn't about to find out. The glare faded, but he didn't smirk at figuring out this minute detail. It wasn't clear what the not-ghost could actually do in that state, but it would not do to antagonize Tom further.
"Ah," Tom said, standing up straighter and smirking, "so you are afraid of what I've done to you. You are afraid I'm going to continue doing it if you speak to me, are you not?"
Harry kept his face neutral, but he felt his heart skip a beat and his face heat up at the perfect guess. Suddenly conversations from first year came to mind and Harry quickly looked away, focusing on the large statue. Was it a guess, or was Tom using Legilimency? He couldn't be! Harry was protected from that!
"Oh, what's this? Afraid to meet my eyes?" Tom laughed when Harry couldn't help becoming a little redder as Tom continued to guess his thoughts. "You are interesting, Harry Potter. How might a mere second year know enough about mind magic to look away from a Legilimens?"
"Snape," Harry said simply, and just speaking aloud seemed to ground him. For some reason he had never told Tom what happened with the Head of Slytherin House on Harry's first day at Hogwarts. He would figure out if he was still protected from Legilimency later. He needed to think of a way out of there, but the best idea he had was to turn and run as soon as Tom was distracted. Fighting seemed out of the question, and the only other option - talking his way out of trouble - seemed like a bad idea. Tom stood there...or floated there, rather...so smugly that he had to be planning something. So, delay and run it was.
"You know," Tom said, taking a step toward the statue, "you remind me a lot of myself at your age."
That brought Harry's plans to a screeching halt.
"Yes, I was like you, ever avoiding discussing my past. It was...painful, was it not?"
He wanted to deny it. Tom's attempt to...do whatever it was he was doing...that was not something Harry would ever do. They were nothing alike.
"People like us, the others don't get it," he continued. "They can't get it. They don't understand, and they hold us back. Don't you see it? You are a second year, and already know more about mind magic than most adults! Already you know more about magic itself than students several years ahead of you, though you may not know the spells yet. Do you think any of your Professors will help you improve such skills? Do you think they will encourage you to improve yourself in those areas outside the normal curriculum?"
Harry's eyes remained full of suspicion, but behind them his mind churned. The part about mind magic was true enough...Dumbledore was obviously reluctant to divulge that bit of information, only doing so because Daphne had brought it up. And discussing magic with Tom had been...well, often above his head. But he had a way of simplifying his insights into manageable pieces such that Harry could grasp the basics of much more advanced topics.
Tom rounded on him then, eyes boring into his before Harry thought to look away. "Join me, Harry," he said passionately. "Join me, and together, we can do anything."
Harry felt himself wavering until he noticed Tom's face stretch into a smile. It didn't look particularly evil, but there was nothing positive about it. It may have been his imagination, but for a moment, Tom seemed to grow more solid.
"No!" Harry yelled, finally breaking eye contact by falling backward. "I am nothing like you! You're a monster!"
"A monster, you say? Sometimes I forget that a child's point-of-view is hopelessly simple. But I suppose most would agree with you. After all, they dare not speak my name, even so many years after my supposed defeat."
Harry barely had time to clench his teeth at being called a child before the last sentence hit him like a ton of bricks. Won't speak his name? Defeat? Tom...hadn't he asked about...? But it couldn't be...
"I see you've finally put it together," the older boy said, smiling triumphantly. "Curious, is it not? Why, if I was defeated, would they still refuse to speak my name? Why indeed...unless they knew I was not gone for good!"
Harry had unconsciously backed away as Tom spoke. "No," he said, though it came out as little more than a whisper.
"Yes," Tom said strongly. "I am Lord Voldemort!"
Without wasting any more time, Harry spun and ran in the opposite direction. He approached a circular opening in the wall that appeared to be lined with some sort of metal. Just as the thought occurred to him that the opening reminded him of Gringotts, a massive, bank vault-like door slammed shut in front of him.
Skidding to a stop in front of it, Harry pushed in vain. His wand whipped up. "A-Alohamora," he stuttered without success. He tried again and again to no avail.
A cold, high laughter echoed around the chamber. "Don't go, my friend, I have something to show you!"
A stab of pain directly behind Harry's scar sent him staggering back away from the door. "What-?" Tom wasn't in his head anymore! He looked back to see Tom still standing smugly in front of the statue.
"Come, Harry Potter," Tom said, apparently oblivious to whatever had just happened to cause that pain, "as the second person in a thousand years to set foot in Salazar Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets, it's only fair that I, as your host, introduce you to the most important secret of all!" He turned to the statue and held his hand out, showmanship in full effect. "Speak to me, Slytherin, Greatest of the Hogwarts Four!"
Another spike of pain, this one more debilitating than the last, brought Harry to his knees. He barely noticed his hands clamping down on his temples as he screamed through gritted teeth. Each beat of his heart felt like a sledgehammer striking his forehead, but he would not succumb to anger. What did that incantation set off in his head? It didn't sound like a spell. Keeping his head clamped, Harry's head started to lift when he felt a trickle of blood drip down his face.
Just then, epiphany struck like a lightning bolt.
He stood, keeping his eyes locked on Tom, and began walking forward. His legs half protested the move and blood tickled his nose, but he focused on stepping forward and ignoring the large serpent slithering out of the statue's mouth. He hardly noticed the hammering in his head was gone. "You dare claim Slytherin's legacy?" Even from this distance, he could see Tom's eyes bulge...a satisfying sight that helped hide Harry's own slightly confused reaction at hearing the same sibilant undertone in his words as he'd heard in Tom's.
"A parselmouth?" Tom asked incredulously.
Harry didn't know what that was, but he merely filed that away to look up later. Instead, he continued to step forward, one foot in front of the other, picking up speed. "How did you not notice? I felt your presence the moment I touched the diary." True, Harry didn't know what it was back then, but it wasn't a lie.
"You are not Harry Potter," Tom said uncertainly.
"Yes," Harry said as he reached his target. He bent down and opened the diary, then swiped a hand across his forehead. "I am."
His hand slapped across a random sheet of parchment in the middle of the diary, smearing it with blood from his scar.
Tom and Harry screamed.
In my story Slytherin and Gryffindor have DADA together, but in the three minutes I spent looking I couldn't find out if that's true in canon.
In case you couldn't tell, Tom was doing more than his fair share of bluffing.
Since I started writing this story, a couple of other ones from other authors came out using the same concept. Obviously I wouldn't have claimed that I was the first to do it, but hopefully it doesn't detract from the story. I have a clear picture in my head of what's going on between Tom and Harry, and I'm trying to walk the fine line between being obvious about it and letting the reader figure it out. Based on the comments I've received before it was posted here, I think I've done a reasonable job of it. But if it's still not obvious, I'll probably spell it out next chapter...whenever I get around to writing it. No promises on when that will be, of course, though thankfully I'm just about settled in after moving across the U.S. for a new job. Almost.