~The Final Hiding Place~
Summary: Left alone with Dudley's computer, Harry googles "Tom Marvolo Riddle" on a whim. Perhaps he shouldn't have done that... HP/TR romance.
Warning: Slash (same-sex romance) between Harry and Tom Riddle. The time line is not entirely canon compatible, since (as an anonymous reviewer pointed out) Google wasn't invented yet in 1996, but please just overlook that...
Author's Note: Thank you so much for all the reviews!
"You." Snape peered out of his front door and sighed deeply at the sight of Harry. Harry could feel Tom stirring ever so slightly under the invisibility cloak, and he held his breath for a moment. Luckily, Snape didn't seem to have any inkling that Harry was not alone.
"Of course," muttered Snape. "I should have known that you would pay me a visit. Heroes are always so tediously predictable. Of course it was only a matter of time before you decided to darken my doorstep, Potter." The former potion master's black gaze was as cold and inscrutable as ever. "You are here to... ahem... avenge the headmaster's death, I assume?" Snape's voice was laced with frost-tinged venom, and he regarded Harry with all the enthusiasm of someone eying a spinach Every Flavored Bean for the first time. Snape reached for his wand. "This is why I detest Gryffindors. I suppose it is pointless to remind you, Potter, that some would not consider it wise for the Boy Who Lived to call on the Dark Lord's servants at their homes; you have already demonstrated again and again that you possess no self-preservation instinct at all, or even common sense. Now, I am rather busy at the moment, but I suppose I will take a moment to hex you if you absolutely insist. After that, you will have precisely one minute to get off my property before I summon the Dark Lord. Rumor has it he is anxious to see you."
"No need, Professor," said Harry quickly. "I am not here for revenge. I was actually more interested in finding out how you helped fake Dumbledore's death."
For a moment, Snape stood completely frozen, staring at Harry in blank incomprehension. Then he grabbed Harry's arm, hard, and dragged him inside the doorway, hissing under his breath: "Not out here, you blabbering idiot! Are you trying to get us both killed?"
He flung Harry inside a small dark sitting room lined with books and pointed his wand at the boy's chest. "But perhaps that is your plan, Mr. Potter? Spreading rumors about my involvement in some far-fetched conspiracy and hoping that the Dark Lord will decide to eliminate me out of caution?" He cast a few rapid locking spells on the door and added a few more charms that Harry had never heard before. Advanced silencing charms, presumably.
Harry looked quickly around. Had Tom managed to enter Snape's house under the cloak? Yes, Harry could feel the soft touch of an invisible hand brushing against his shoulder.
"Sit." Snape nodded curtly at a shabby armchair, his wand still pointed at Harry.
Snape regarded him for a moment in silence. Then he said, with a distinct snarl in his voice: "Tell me how you came up with this extraordinary notion, Potter. Where did you get the idea that I was somehow involved in... in faking the headmaster's death?"
Was it Harry's imagination, or did Snape look a little nervous?
"Dumbledore tumbled off the tower when your spell hit him. An Avada curse could not have done that. It looked more like an Expelliarmus spell than a killing curse."
"Nonsense, Potter." The familiar icy calm was back in Snape's voice now. "I personally killed the headmaster and flung his body from the tower. Your touching desire to clear my name of murder is... puzzling, to say the very least, but I can assure you that I did indeed commit the murder in question, and I would gladly do it all over again. Now, speaking of murder: you will refrain from spreading absurd rumors about my innocence, or I will commit another murder - yours - just to prove my guilt to you." He poked Harry lightly in the chest with his wand.
"But you didn't throw Dumbledore's body from the tower, Professor. I was there, you see."
"You were there? What are you talking about? I didn't see..." Snape stared at Harry for a moment. Then he drew a deep shaking breath. "An invisibility cloak. Of course. I should have known. Your blasted father's, I assume? I always suspected that he had a way of sneaking around the castle undetected at night, much like yourself."
Snape leaned closer, his black gaze boring into Harry. "Well, listen to me very carefully: Whatever you think you may have seen that night the headmaster died, you were wrong. And to suggest otherwise would lead us both into a great deal of danger. The Dark Lord does not deal kindly with servants suspected of treason, and there arealready wizards in high places who are seriously worried about your mental health, Potter. Unless you wish to end up in a padded cell at St. Mungo's, I suggest you refrain from mentioning your crazed conspiracy theories to anyone in the future. For your sake as well as mine. Do we understand each other?"
Harry looked Snape straight in the eye. "I need to speak to the headmaster. It is rather urgent."
Snape shrugged. "In that case, I suggest you take up the study of necromancy, Mr. Potter. The headmaster is dead."
"He is not dead, and you know it. Why are you helping him? Whose side are you really on, Professor?"
Snape met Harry's glance without flinching. "The Dark Lord's, obviously. Surely, even someone of your admittedly meager intelligence should have been able to guess as much after witnessing me murder Dumbledore."
"But if you are on Voldemort's side, why don't you kill me right now? As you mentioned yourself, Voldemort wants me dead, and you've got a wand pointed at me... You threatened to kill me - why don't you do it?"
Snape turned his gaze away. "Tempting as it is to do so, the Dark Lord has made it clear that he prefers to murder you himself. He is quite particular about these things." He rolled back the sleeve of his black robe and revealed the Dark Mark on his pale skin. "Now leave, Potter, or I will summon him! Don't think I won't!"
"He is bluffing, Harry," breathed a quiet voice in Harry's ear. "He would never dream of turning you over to Voldemort. Oh, and he was lying about killing the headmaster and about being on Voldemort's side. This is getting quite interesting."
Harry smiled to himself. Tom's legilimency skills were apparently excellent. Harry settled himself more comfortably in his chair, and he noted the small grimace of exasperation that crossed Snape's face.
"What are you waiting for?" hissed Snape. "Do you expect me to summon a house elf and offer you tea? My only "help" here at home is Peter Pettigrew, who is currently out on an errand. I am sure he will be delighted to hand you over to the Dark Lord if I haven't done so myself by the time he gets back. Get out, you foolish boy!"
He smiled up at Snape. "I know you are not on Voldemort's side, Professor. But I wonder if Dumbledore is."
Snape stared at him. "You wonder if Dumbledore is on The Dark Lord's side? Perhaps the rumors of your mental instability are not as unfounded as I had assumed, Mr. Potter. Dumbledore in league with the Dark Lord? Even Xenophilius Lovegood would refuse to print that story."
"Snape has never even considered that possibility of Dumbledore and Voldemort working together before," came an almost inaudible whisper in Harry's ear, "but he is considering it now."
Harry leaned forward. "Dumbledore told me quite a few things that were not true, Professor."
"Indeed? Such as...?" Snape raised an eyebrow. "Oh, let me guess. Bravery will always be rewarded? Good will always conquer evil in the end? The Dark Lord doesn't stand a chance against a scrawny sixteen year old with poor eyesight and a feeble grasp on magic? Chocolate frogs are not made from real frogs? Dumbledore always reads the files of the applicants for Hogwarts posts before hiring anyone? Mr. Charlie Weasley doesn't like dragons in that way? The Sorting Hat doesn't take bribes? Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff were just friends? The Quidditch matches and the House Cups are never rigged in favor of Gryffindor House? Oh, terribly sorry, didn't mean to let the last one slip... Of course Gryffindor always wins everything fair and square, Potter. Don't worry about it for a moment."
"Dumbledore told me that Voldemort has found a way to use dark magic to make himself immortal. He said that Voldemort split his soul with each murder he committed and left the soul fragments, which are called horcuxes, magically embedded in objects of sentimental value to him, such as his old diary, his grandfather's ring, his serpent, Salazar Slytherin's locket, and something that belonged to Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. As long as the horcruxes exist, there is no way to kill Voldemort."
Snape blinked. "Oh, dear. Have you been reading The Quibbler lately, Mr. Potter? I would recommend switching your subscription to The Daily Prophet. They also publish nonsense at times - personally, I am not convinced that Fenrir Greyback and Cornelius Fudge are one and the same person, in spite of the fact that they have never been observed in public together - but at least The Prophet's articles do not contain sheer lunacy. There is a ring somewhere with a Dark Lord-fragment inside? Have you begun to copy your homework from Miss Lovegood instead of Miss Granger recently? I really must advise against that. The Dark Lord split his soul? Why, even a small child knows that magic can't touch a person's soul. Dumbledore told you this nonsense?"
Harry nodded. "That's what he told me, yes. He said that I have to find the remaining horcruxes and destroy them in order to kill Voldemort. Dumbledore also told me that Tom Marvolo Riddle, a Slytherin student, turned into Voldemort."
"Well, that is hardly a secret, Mr. Potter. We don't normally advertise this to students, of course, but many adult wizards are fully aware of the Dark Lord's connection with Hogwarts and with Slytherin house."
"Tom Marvolo Riddle is a successful antiques dealer currently living in London. He left the magical world behind at sixteen."
"What? Are... are you certain about this?" There was something new in Snape's eyes now, some sort of hesitation. "Where did you get that information, Mr. Potter? From Miss Lovegood?"
"From Tom Riddle."
"You spoke to him?" Snape looked startled. "And he was... not The Dark Lord? Perhaps he was just deceiving you? Did you consider that his false identity may be a trap, designed to lure you to him and get you to meet the Dark Lord alone?"
Harry smiled. "I already met him alone. Tom Riddle let me sleep in his guest bedroom, made me breakfast and let me borrow his clothes."
Snape sank down on the frayed sofa. "I don't understand... This is impossible, and yet... Give me a moment to think, Harry."
Harry? Since when did Snape think of him as "Harry?"
"Oh, he has always secretly thought of you as Harry," whispered Tom. "He is actually very fond of you, but he is trying to hide it."
Harry frowned. Snape fond of him? All right, maybe Tom's legilimency skills were a little rusty after all these years.
"He's also in love with your mother."
Harry almost laughed out loud. Tom's legilimency was definitely a little off. Good thing, too, because the slight tickle of Tom's whisper in his ear had sparked some rather inappropriate thoughts in Harry's mind...
"Tom Riddle is not the Dark Lord?" Snape's voice was a whisper. "No, this can't be right..."
"Do you feel any burning in your Dark Mark, indicating that I am close by?" said Tom softly.
Snape leaped up from the sofa. "Who said that?" His knuckles whitened as he clasped his wand. "Reveal yourself!"
"Gladly." Tom shook the invisibility cloak off. "I am Tom Riddle. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Snape. Oh, please do put your wand away - we don't want anyone to get hurt." Tom flicked his own wand lightly in Snape's direction, and Snape's wand tore itself out of the professor's hand and landed gently in Harry's lap.
"You are... Tom Riddle?" Snape's voice was a whisper.
Tom bowed. "At your service, Professor."
Snape looked at Tom for a long moment. Then he breathed: "You do resemble the Dark Lord a great deal, except that you are... more human. You are not him. Oh, Merlin! Dumbledore was lying to me... To all of us."
"Precisely." Tom inclined his head. "And my friend Harry and I would like to know why. Please tell us everything you know about Dumbledore's disappearance and about his plans for Harry and Voldemort, Professor."
"How do you know I will tell you the truth? How do you know I am not working for him?" Snape's voice was hoarse.
Tom smiled at him. "Oh, no need to worry about that. I am a much better legilimens than the one you know as the Dark Lord. I know you are on our side. On Harry's side."
"You can read my mind?" Snape's glance flickered to Harry
"Oh, we don't need to talk about her," said Tom quickly. "Where is Dumbledore now, Professor?"
Snape buried his head in his hands. "I wish to Merlin I knew, Mr. Riddle!"
And then Snape began to talk.
An hour later, Snape whispered: "And now you know everything, Harry. I helped fake the headmaster's death because I was convinced that this deception was a part of an elaborate scheme to outwit Voldemort and his followers. I did it to protect you. The man who lies buried in the tomb is not Albus Dumbledore, but - one must appreciate the irony here - the magically preserved body of the good and noble Godric Gryffindor, transformed by a glamour. I helped Dumbledore get it out of a secret crypt deep under Hogwarts. Dumbledore told me that he planned to vanish for a while, take care of a few things, and re-emerge when Harry needed him the most. I do not know where he is. He could be anywhere, hidden, invisible..."
"Does he have an invisibility cloak?" asked Tom quickly.
"I have no idea." Snape shook his head.
"Perhaps," said Harry suddenly, "he doesn't need one... The headmaster told me once that he does not need an invisibility cloak to become invisible."
Snape frowned. "I don't understand. How else would one become invisible? Simply by hiding? Where would he hide? At Hogwarts?"
"Let's find out!" Harry felt his pocket. Yes, he still had the Marauders' map with him.
"What is that, Mr. Potter?" asked Snape sharply as Harry pulled the map out.
"A map of Hogwarts." Harry spread the map out on the table. Tom and Snape peered over his shoulder.
Tom whistled. "Impressive piece of magic!"
"Your father's work, I assume," muttered Snape through clenched teeth. "And Sirius Black's as well, perhaps?"
"Ah, the charming rule-breakers you so desperately admired..." Tom leaned over the map. Snape gave a small strangled sound, and a hectic flush brushed over his pallid cheeks. "Told you I could read minds. Now, let's see... Oh, Merlin, is Peeves still there? What is he doing to poor Argus Finch... Fitch... Oh, it's too difficult to read when his dot is jumping around like that."
Harry scanned the map eagerly. Could Dumbledore really be hiding at Hogwarts? Surely not...
Wait, there he was!
"I see him!" Harry exclaimed. "Right there, in his office! I mean, in the head's office. I suppose it's McGonagall's office now. What? What? Look, she is there too! Right next to him!"
"McGonagall and Dumbledore? So she knows that he is alive?" Snape studied the map. "Is she working with him as well, then? Merlin, she must be a better actress than I imagined. Her display of grief at Dumbledore's funeral seemed quite convincing."
"Perhaps she doesn't know that he is there." Harry poked the little dot bearing the Dumbledore's name. "Perhaps he really and truly is invisible."
Tom reached for his wand. "You know what, Harry? I think it's time we paid a visit to Hogwarts."
How strange it felt, thought Harry, to walk into Hogwarts with Tom Riddle! The light from the flickering torches ran along the familiar passages like a path of gold. No one was about on this warm and quiet summer evening, not even the school ghosts.
"Magic..." Tom ran his fingers over the ancient walls. To Harry's surprise, Tom's silver eyes glittered with sudden tears. "Perhaps I have missed it after all." His voice was soft.
Harry smiled at him. Somehow, it felt good to know that this unfamiliar and much too handsome Tom Riddle knew Hogwarts as well as Harry did. Tom had been at home at Hogwarts, just like Harry, long before he had ever met Sebastian...
"I haven't been here since poor little Myrtle died," whispered Tom.
"Oh." Harry froze. "Tom, there is something I should tell you about Myrtle... No, there will be time for that later. Let's go and find Dumbledore before he has a chance to slip away."
"Tempting as it is to give the invisible Dumbledore a heart attack," came Snape's voice behind them, "I would not advise that you waltz into his office together, gentlemen. Will that cloak cover you both? If so, I suggest that you use it. I will engage Minerva in conversation - and if she really does believe that I murdered her predecessor, it's likely to be a rather heated conversation - while you look around and see if you can find Dumbledore." Snape glanced at the Marauders' Map. "Yes, apparently they are both there. Brace yourselves, then - Minerva knows a lot of rather colorful Scottish phrases."