Chapter 14:

Into the Monster's Lair


Harry spent most of the morning flying, away from the gossip and stares—just him, the broom and the wind. Merlin, he sometimes wished he could stay in the air forever. Today was one of those days.

But there was an insistent itch that couldn't be scratched by flying, so after a few hours, Harry got off the broom in the Forbidden Forest. Last night, after Tom had left, he couldn't sleep and spent hours reading, devouring the books Kreacher had brought from the Black library for him. Now he wanted to try a few of those spells. Dark magic was many things—addictive, twisted and cruel—but it never failed to make him relax when he was frustrated.

He intended to try just a few spells, but he ended up trying a lot more than that.

Hours later, as his spell ripped off yet another acromantula's legs, Harry realized he was grinning like a madman. He looked around, taking in the destroyed clearing and the pile of dead spiders, and thought,

I'm a dark wizard. I really am.

And for the first time, he felt truly at peace with that.

It was well into the afternoon when he finally returned to his dorm, tired but in a much better mood than he had been.

Harry frowned, noticing that Malfoy's bed hangings were drawn shut. Malfoy usually wasn't one for afternoon naps.

"Just the person I wanted to talk to."

Harry's head snapped towards the voice.

Rosier was sprawled in the only chair in the room, his posture relaxed but face unusually grim and serious.

His eyebrows furrowing, Harry put the broom into his trunk and turned back to him. "Well?"

Rosier didn't speak immediately.

"Listen, Potter," he said at last. He grimaced. "I'm not sure I should be talking to you about this, but... Keep your boy in check, damn it."

Harry stared at him. A strange feeling coiled in his lower abdomen, but he shook it off. "Vergne isn't 'my boy.'"

Rosier chuckled. "Do you take me for an idiot, Potter? I know you two are involved. So it makes Vergne your responsibility."

Harry decided that arguing wasn't worth the effort. "What has he done?"

Rosier glanced at Malfoy's bed before looking back at him. "An hour ago, I found Malfoy in Salazar Slytherin's secret study. He was lying on the floor, barely conscious, unable to move and nearly frozen. He was tortured, Potter. He only admitted that a Cruciatus Curse had been used on him, but I also recognized the signs of forced Legilimency and of another nasty dark curse." He paused, his jaw working. "He was also naked, and even though he denied it, I think something was done to him. I asked him if it was Vergne. He didn't deny it but refused to talk about it. Vergne probably threatened him not to say anything to anyone, or else." Rosier's lips thinned. "I have never seen Malfoy so…weak and terrified."

Harry's fingers curled into a fist. Bloody hell. His first urge was to storm out of the room, find Tom, and have a little talk with him, but he stopped himself. No. First, he had to find out what exactly had happened.

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing through his gritted teeth. "I need to talk to Malfoy." He turned to Draco's bed.


Harry looked back at him. "What?"

Rosier stood up, his expression hostile. "He's asleep and the last thing he now needs is to talk about what happened to him."

"You can't forbid me to talk to him, Sebastian. You are neither family nor his boyfriend." Harry raised his eyebrows. "Or are you?"

A muscle in Rosier's jaw flexed. "No."

Harry walked to Malfoy's bed and opened the bed hangings.

Draco wasn't asleep. He was lying on his back, a blanket drawn to his chin. He glared weakly at Rosier. "I asked you to keep your mouth shut, but I was an idiot to believe you'd keep the promise."

"I promised nothing," Rosier said coldly, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a bed poster.

"How are you feeling?" Harry spoke up before their argument could escalate.

Malfoy snorted. "As if you care, Potter."

Harry frowned. "I do. I thought we were friends. Sort of." He shrugged slightly, well aware that Rosier was watching him like a hawk. "What did Tom do to you?"

Malfoy laughed, bitterly. "Do me a favour, Potter. Never—never—drag me again into your fucked-up relationship with Vergne, you hear me?"

Harry's stomach dropped, his suspicions confirmed. "So it was about me."

Malfoy closed his eyes, his lips twisting. "I'm not talking about it, Potter. I'm tired and I feel shitty as fuck. Go away."

"Not until you tell me everything," Harry said. "I need to know."

Malfoy's eyes snapped open. "Fuck you, Potter. Why should I get myself tortured again just to satisfy your curiosity?" He turned his back to him.

Harry eyed his stiff back. He sighed. "Look, Draco. I'm really sorry. It's my fault, so you're totally right to blame me, but I honestly never expected something like that to happen."

Malfoy was silent for so long that Harry started thinking he wasn't going to say anything at all.

"I'll tell you one thing, Potter," he said finally, his voice tight. "He's crazy. He's absolutely insane. His thing for you is unhealthy as fuck."

Harry's mouth went dry. "What are you talking about?"

Malfoy turned back to look at him. His face was even paler than usual. "That sort of possessiveness and jealousy is beyond anything I've ever seen. If there really was something between us, he would have killed me, Potter. And I'm not exaggerating here."

Harry stared at him.

Then he turned around and walked out of the room. He'd heard enough.

As soon as he entered the common room, a hush fell over it. Ignoring the looks, Harry grabbed the nearest Slytherin. "Take me to Vergne's room."

The boy looked at him with wide eyes and didn't move.

"Now!" Harry snapped.

The kid nodded and nearly ran to one of the corridors. Harry followed, trying not to lose him in the darkness. Salazar's annoying charm was as annoying as ever.

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, the boy stopped in front of the door. "Here."

"You can go," Harry said flatly.

The kid left hurriedly.

Harry took a deep breath in and then rapped on the door.

He felt Riddle's magic reach out and touch him curiously. Harry let it, wondering grimly when he had become so sensitive to magic; a few weeks ago, he probably wouldn't have noticed a thing.

The magic retreated. The door cracked open.

Harry went inside.

The room was similar to his, but he was surprised to see that it had only one bed.

The fire cracked merrily in the fireplace.

Riddle was seated in an armchair, his posture relaxed and face completely inscrutable. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Harry studied him, wondering what approach to use. He knew he would accomplish nothing by yelling and raging at Tom, though he would have done exactly that a month ago. But then, a month ago, he was a walking wreck of magic and hormones. Inwardly, Harry cringed at the memory. The truth was, if Tom hadn't manipulated and dragged him into the Dark Arts, he still would have been that wreck, if not worse.

The silence stretched.

Tom broke it first. "I do not have all day, pet," he said coldly, looking mildly annoyed and not at all pleased to see him.

And that was something that confused and irritated Harry to no end. Riddle's actions and words constantly contradicted each other. He still didn't know why Tom had spent so much effort on 'turning' him into a dark wizard. It made no sense whatsoever: Tom clearly didn't want competition and yet he had helped Harry with his wild magic, despite knowing how powerful Harry was.

"Well?" Riddle said impatiently.

And suddenly, he knew exactly what to do.

Harry walked over to him and, kneeling in front him, took his hands in his.

Tom's eyes widened and then narrowed. "What is the meaning of this?"

Harry looked down at the pale, soft hands in his Quidditch-calloused ones. He brought them to his lips and kissed the knuckles. "Have you had fun torturing Draco?" he said pleasantly.

He felt Tom tense up. To his credit, he didn't pretend not to know what he was talking about. "Why are you not angry?" he said, clearly thrown off balance.

Harry smiled at him and kissed his fingers. "Oh, I'm angry. I'm very unhappy with you, Tom." He stopped smiling, his eyes hardening. "So I'm going to ask you one question and you're going to give me an honest answer. Depending on your answer, I'll decide how to deal with you."

Tom sneered. "'Deal with me'? I am not—"

"Don't try my patience, Tom. I'm not in the best of moods right now."

Riddle gave him a long look before pursing his lips. "Very well. You may ask."

His condescending tone nearly made Harry smile. He didn't. Watching Tom's expression, he said, "Why did you torture Draco?"

He knew why, of course. He needed to hear that.

"I do not have to explain myself to you," Tom said coldly.

"Yes, you do. I want an explanation. And a good one, or I'm going to McGonagall and telling her you used Cruciatus on another student." He was bluffing, but Tom didn't know that.

Tom stiffened. "You will not do it."

"Try me."

Tom studied his face before scowling. "I tortured him because he annoyed me."

"Not good enough."

Tom glared at him, wrenching his hands free and getting to his feet. He turned away, clearly agitated.

Harry got to his feet, as well, and stepped closer to him. "Come on, Tom," he said against his ear from behind. He touched his arm tentatively. "Tell me." He pressed his nose against Tom's hair and took a careful breath in. God, he smelled good. "Tell me the truth for once. It's not that hard. No matter what you say, I promise not to use it against you."

Tom's body was rigid against him, his breathing uneven. "I don't know what you expect me to say," he said, his tone clipped.

Harry sighed and, wrapping his free arm around Tom's waist, pulled him closer to himself. It pleased him more than it probably should have that Tom didn't even try to pull away, and he couldn't help but think how perfectly their bodies fit together. "All right, I'll make it easier for you." Harry pressed his lips to the back of Tom's neck—not, exactly, kissing—just nuzzling it greedily. He knew if he started kissing it, he wouldn't be able to stop. He already had trouble thinking, acutely aware of their bodies, Tom's silky skin against his lips, his scent, the intoxicating magic humming under Tom's skin, strong, dark and delicious. "Were you jealous?"

"He told you," Tom breathed out darkly. "He told."

"No, he didn't. And if you hurt Draco again, I will hurt you, and I'm not saying this lightly."

"How touching," Tom said flatly and Harry swore under his breath, practically feeling the boy's defences going up again.

"All right, enough," he ground out and forced Tom to turn around. "I'm sick of this. Stop being a bloody coward and man up, Tom."

Riddle's eyes narrowed. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Harry gripped his arm harder. "Just what I said. You're an insecure little boy who can't even own up to his actions. You're brave enough to torture and bully someone weaker than you, but you can't even admit aloud why you did it."

Tom's lips curling into an ugly sneer. "A coward? I'm not a coward. Very well, I will tell you why I did it, darling." His tone was deceivingly soft but his eyes were flashing madly. "I did it because no one takes away my possessions. No one! That whore had it coming. I saw his thoughts, Harry. He only pretends to be your 'friend,' but he wants something else entirely. He deserved it."

Harry stared at him. He tortured Malfoy for thinking?

"I'm not your bloody possession," he grated out. "I seem to recall something about me being nothing to you. Those are your own words, so you have no right to feel that way. Unless we're something to each other, it's none of your business who I fuck, who I date or who I love. You can't have it both ways, Tom." Looking him in the eyes, he said, "I told you yesterday that you're either with me, or against me. Have you made the decision?"

"There is no decision to make," Tom said coldly. "I do not share power and I am not willing to let someone dictate how I should or shouldn't acquire it."

Harry smiled humourlessly. "So you're choosing to be against me. You want us to be enemies, just like me and Voldemort. The only difference is, I'm much more powerful now than I was when I defeated him. And thanks to you, I'm in perfect control of my magic now." Harry cocked his head. "Why, Tom? It doesn't make any sense. Wasn't it counterproductive to your plans? I've asked you this before, but I didn't get a logical answer." He studied Tom's face, which became even blanker than before. Harry's lips curled slightly. "Or maybe there isn't one? Maybe there's no logical answer because you weren't thinking logically." He leaned in and brushed his lips along Tom's jawline. Fuck. He wanted to suck, kiss, bite—wanted to mark him. "Maybe you just told yourself that there's a logical, Slytherin reason for talking to me, but there wasn't. Maybe you did it on a whim. Maybe you just wanted."

Tom took a shaky breath in. "You are ridiculous," he said coldly.

Harry pulled away, his jaw clenching. "Maybe I am. But it doesn't matter. If you're so set on being another Voldemort, this is pointless. I'm not interested."

Something flashed through Tom's eyes. "Are you threatening me? Do you really think that I would rethink all my plans for something as pathetic as primitive lust? If so, you are an idiot."

Harry smiled ruefully. "No, I don't. I'm sure that you are above 'primitive lust.' I'm just telling you as it is. I'm not saying I'm a saint—I'm not—but I have principles I'd like to hold onto. I told you: if you choose to be against me, then you are against me. You chose. This is it. I'd say we are done, but we've never actually been anything." Harry looked at Tom's inscrutable face. "You keep saying that I'm nothing to you. Well, now I can return the sentiment: you're nothing to me."

Tom didn't say anything; he seemed to be frozen in place.

"And one more thing, Tom: I don't belong to you. Don't you dare to hurt Draco again. If you do, what you did to him will be a child's play in comparison to what I'll do to you."

Tom's lips pressed into a thin line. "Don't tell me you care so much about that useless idiot."

"Yes. From now on, he's under my explicit protection."

"Is he?"

Harry locked his eyes with Tom's and smiled. "Yes. I like him a lot. He'd make a good boyfriend."

Tom stared at him for a few moments before sneering. "I know for a fact that Malfoy is involved with Rosier. I saw it in his memories."

Harry raised his eyebrows. "So? He'll dump Rosier for me. If you saw his memories, you know this. You know it's not just my arrogance speaking."

Tom gave him a derisive look. "Am I supposed to feel jealous?"

"No," Harry said, stroking Tom's cheek with his thumb, mock-affectionately. "I'm not saying this to make you jealous or anything. I'm saying this because that's what is going to happen. It might be hard to believe, but not everything is about you, Tom. The truth is, I like Draco, and he likes me. The truth is, wanting him and being with him will be so easy. He will make a good boyfriend. I'm going to fuck him, and he's going to let me—gladly." He was taking a perverse pleasure in seeing Tom's expression turn stonier with every passing second. Harry smiled at him. "But you don't care, of course. I'm nothing to you, and you can sate your primitive lusts elsewhere. I'll do the same."

Harry leaned in and brushed their lips together, ever so slightly. He felt Tom's lips tremble against his. "Good bye, Tom."

Tom made a hissing noise, and grabbing Harry's head, attacked his mouth with his lips. God. Harry kissed back, tugging him closer, angry with him and even angrier with himself for being so fucking weak.

It was a dirty, furious kiss, tongues twining, teeth clashing, and breaths swirling together in soft pants and moans, fingers grasping, and hands searching. Tom buried his hand in his hair, yanking him closer and sucking on his tongue greedily.

Harry tore his lips away, breathing hard. "No. Bloody hell, no."

"Yes," Tom hissed, pressing kisses all over his neck. "You are mine and I'm not giving you to anyone."

Harry closed his eyes briefly, trying to fight down his arousal. "I don't want Voldemort, Tom."

Riddle bit him on his neck, hard. "I am him, you imbecile," he said with strange anger in his voice. "Yes, I am saner and smarter than he was, but essentially, I am him, and nothing will change that."

"No, you're not—not yet." He took Tom's face in his hands and forced him to look at him. "Yes, you're a cruel, nasty, selfish little shit and you already do have some psychopathic tendencies, but you're not him yet. You can still stop."

Tom sneered. "Don't tell me you actually believe that you can turn me into a 'good' person if you 'love' me enough. That is just pathetic."

Harry smiled ruefully. "Did I say something about loving you? I don't. I don't even like you. Actually, you disgust me." He leaned his forehead against Tom's. "But even though I hate you, I give a fuck about you. Always. I care."

Tom's breathing hitched.

Harry's heartbeat picked up. He didn't really mean to tell him that; it was something he'd come to terms with just a few days ago and he sure as hell didn't want to give Tom another weapon against him. "I hate it," he whispered harshly against Tom's mouth, cradling his face in his hands. "I hate that I give a fuck. You're a bloody poison—but I want you. You, not Voldemort. For the last time—choose, Tom."

Wrenching free from Harry's grasp, Tom dropped himself back into the armchair and stared at the fireplace. His face was absolutely emotionless, but his right hand gripped the armrest so tightly that his knuckles turned white. "Leave."

Harry's stomach dropped.

He told himself he was relieved.

It was for the best. Harry Potter and Tom Riddle weren't supposed to be anything but enemies. His fixation on Tom—this ugly, needy want—was irrational and unhealthy. He didn't even like Tom, for fuck's sake. There was nothing attractive about his personality. Tom was a little monster a sane person would stay away from.

It really was for the best.

Setting his jaw, Harry headed to the exit.

He was about to push the door open when Tom's voice stopped him.

"I need to think. I will tell you my decision tomorrow morning."

Harry turned his head to him, but Tom wasn't looking at him: he had his eyes closed.

Harry stared. Maybe it was the way the shadows and light of the fire fell on his face, but at that moment, Tom looked so beautiful it hurt to look and not touch.

Tearing his eyes away, Harry got out of the room and, shutting the door behind him, leaned against it heavily.

A monster, he reminded himself, staring blankly into the darkness.

Yes, he was.

But a beautiful one.