Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JKR.
Rating: T, maybe later M
Pairing: Lord Voldemort/Harry Potter
Thanks for the reviews!
Warnings: Mild crack if you look at it right (I couldn't help myself) but Tom Riddle starts to make a bit of an entrance. :p Hermione might be a little ooc.
He led Hermione inside the Come and Go Room, built in the form of one of his former lover's penthouse. While the man hadn't been anymore than a casual shag, he had been rich and had a good sense for fixing up places. Or rather, he would be.
"Where are we?" Was the first thing his bushy-haired friend asked, and Harry gave her an awkward sort of smile.
"That would be too complicated to answer at the moment," He said, plopping into the familiar couch he had once laid for hours on. Hermione took a hesitant seat in the loveseat across from him, and let her eyes wander through the pleasant setup. He barely looked past her, as it brought back too many memories that would probably never happen again. It was one part of the timeline that wouldn't be repeating.
"So what does this all mean?"
His attention turned to her, and he leaned back into the plush fabric, letting out a soft sigh.
"I don't know if I would have ever told you, Hermione. But I think this is better though, anyways."
She jolted up, her eyes flashing. "You-"
He held up a hand, and Hermione slowed, lowering herself back into the seat. Taking a deep breath, he readied himself, taking in a surprising comfort from the warmth of the ring. Although whether it was the stone, or the horcrux, he didn't know. He didn't think he wanted that answer quite yet either. He had too much to deal with already.
"At the end of this year, I would have been whisked away to a graveyard and have my blood forcibly taken from me. Voldemort would rise again in a new body, and take to hiding for a year. During that time, a ministry official would teach here, and from Fudge's stupidity, have us under her thumb. She would torture many students with something called a blood quill, but be driven away for a bit after running into some centaurs and insulting them."
Hermione's eyes widened further as he spoke, and by the end, she had stilled, staring at him as if he had sprouted a tail. If she only knew.
"I would be sent a vision from Voldemort and a few of us, including you, would run to the Department of Mysteries, where we would learn it was all just a trap. Sirius would die, I would be possessed, and- " He gave a half-bitter chuckle, "-I cast my first unforgivable curse."
"Sometimes this year, it's seemed as though sometimes you've forgotten about him. Li-like he's been dead, not just gone."
It was said so quietly, Harry could barely hear her. He only nodded.
"Dumbledore got sick, he dies, and left us alone, to fend against Voldemort. For an entire year we traveled, destroying certain objects in order to defeat Voldemort. When it was all over, many of us were dead, but I thought everything was going to be okay. But it wasn't, Hermione, it was just the start of something worse."
"You didn't, it would be much too risky. Just last year, Harry," She whispered, and Harry could see her mind whirling. His friend was beginning to understand. He pressed on.
"There was something else happening as well, though. During that trip, Dumbledore was also putting me on a different path, but not the one he would have expected the outcome of. There are three objects in this world, Hermione, that exist because of Death. The wand, the stone, and the cloak. The Deathly Hallows."
"I've never heard of them," She said, confused, her voice stilted.
"It's been said that if there is an owner of all three, then they are the Master of Death. No one has ever had all three in their possession at once, though. I didn't even know that full story, until later. But that wasn't what truly started this, it was all because of a snake I found while getting some fresh air. A small, insignificant snake, Hermione. That's all that it took for my world to come crashing down.
I shouldn't have been able to speak parseltongue anymore, that should have gone with Voldemort. So that had either meant he was somehow still alive - or there was something strange going on with me."
"So you had to figure it out, right?"said Hermione. "Just like always."
She laughed, but nothing was funny about it. His lips pressed together.
"Lily, my mother, it seems that she wasn't human at all."
There was a silence in the room, after he spoke. Neither dared breathe.
"Of all the things I had been expecting…." She trailed off.
"Do you know what a lamia is?"
Her eyes widened. "Cursed blood."
Harry's lips curved. "Exactly, cursed blood. Fortunately for her, it was sealed off."
"But not for you."
His expression almost became cruel. "No, not anymore."
Hermione bit her lip after a moment, clasping her hands together. "So you came back - why? To seek revenge?"
Startling her, Harry started to laugh. "That isn't the main reason, but it is a part of it. The truth is, the Wizarding World was about to fall apart, and I had no choice but to go backwards."
"The muggles were starting to find us, Hermione, and most of them didn't like us much. Most thought it was another Dark Lord, and maybe there was one as well, but they were nothing in comparison. I know your parents are muggles, and I know they are good people and you love them-"
"They can hardly look at me, Harry."
He stopped. It was his turn to be surprised. She laughed again. It was just as bitter.
"I'm still their daughter, but magic scares them. Over the summer's I hardly choose to stay there for a reason. I know what muggles could do to us, with their technology. You don't have to try to convince me."
Hermione had never told him that. Never in the future. Had she been pretending to herself?
"I never told you, did I? In the future?"
He slowly shook his head.
"I doubt I would have, I don't like thinking that way. They'll always be my parents, so I try not to blame them, but sometimes it's just too much, you know?"
He did know. He thought of the Dursley's, spineless and cruel. He thought of when he had been younger, and when he had wrecked havoc on them in return.
Harry wasn't sure Hermione was ready for that, though.
"My entire personality had been changed, when I was younger. I was being dosed regularly with love potions keyed to Ginny. Most of my magic was bound, along with my lamia inheritance. And it was all because of Dumbledore,whose endgame was all to do with the muggles, like his betrayed lover Grindelwald's plan had been."
"The Dark Lord?"
He smirked, "It all makes more sense now, doesn't it?"
Hermione sat back, staring at him with incredulity. "Dumbledore wants to rule over them?"
Chuckling, Harry shook his head. "I have no idea what he wants to do with them, but it's nothing good. Muggles are best to be simply left alone."
"So you came back to try and stop this from all happening?"
He nodded. "Then what were you doing before you came back here, and how?" Hermione asked.
He cringed at that. Her eyes narrowed. "What were you doing?"
Harry licked his lips. "Lamia, are very, uh, sexual creatures when they aren't controlled by ….bloodlust. There was a good few months -years- that I mostly partied."
Harry cringed again. It sounded horrible like that. He slowly nodded. "I was definitely a bit of a slut, I guess you could say. And not in a good way. I was building my tolerance for blood and the urge I had to-"
"To destroy everything," Hermione whispered. "I've read about it. It's called cursed blood for a reason, right?"
He couldn't help himself. Harry's lips curved. "It was absolutely wonderful," He purred, eyes turning alien and dark.
Hermione jolted, and Harry could hear her breath hitch. "What does it feel like?"
Against her morality, it seemed curiosity ruled out.
"You can lose yourself in the emotions, and then it's just flesh and lust and the beating of another's heart that you seek out. It's not about love, or anything heartfelt. It's dark, but the curse is so diluted that if you learn to control it, you can practically do anything."
"And you did?"
"I had Voldemort whispering in my mind for months, I already had practice."
There was silence for a moment.
"Where was I?" She finally said.
Harry smiled, almost wistfully. "Researching, caring for your daughter. You had a child, and I wasn't around much, especially after finding out about the love potions. And then I lost myself, and we didn't drift apart but - we just weren't so close anymore."
She sucked in a breath. "What was her name?"
Hermione smiled, sadly. "And it will never happen now, will it?"
"Timelines are tricky."
She nodded, remembering herself. Harry was sure they would return to that subject though, one day. "So how did you return here, to this time?"
"I was the Master of Death. I couldn't die, but instead if I was wearing all three objects, could seek out Death itself. And it sent me back."
She gaped. "The Master of Death? I thought you were just going on about something else."
Shaking his head, he let out a mirthful laugh. "Nope, I wasn't aging, nor could I die. Injuries of every and any form healed very quickly. I was everything Voldemort wanted to be, actually. Isn't that ironic?"
"You've been making it sound like you aren't anymore."
He leaned back, sighing as memories of the past day made themselves startlingly clear.
"I'm not - not technically. I don't own all three objects, although they all seem to recognise me as such, but I'm not trapped by that curse." He laughed. "My invisibility cloak? That's one of them."
"That's a Hollow?"
"Death's own cloak," He snorted. "Ridiculous thing to give up, but I'm not complaining."
She bit her lip. "What's the other two, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Dumbledore's wand, and, well, this," Harry admitted, waving his hand in front of her.
Hermione's eyes bulged. "The ring?"
"The stone, actually," Harry admitted. "It can rip spirits out of the afterlife and bring them here for as long as I have power over it. Although their bodies are a bit like a ghosts, and if they're here for too long, they aren't incredibly happy about it."
She hesitantly reached for it, but just as she was about to touch it, Hermione snatched her hand away from it.
"What?" Harry said, and she stared at him oddly.
"I don't know what it is, but something about it seems really off," She said, looking concerned.
Harry looked down at the ring, and suddenly could almost hear something ….hissing. He understood in an instant.
"It's also one of the things that keeps Voldemort alive at the moment, actually," Harry said, then cringed on instinct.
She reacted just like Harry had expected. "Then why do you have it on you, Harry! It could be dangerous."
Unconsciously, he ran his finger over it, and it's magic eagerly purred in response. Harry hastily removed his hand. There was something seriously wrong with it.
"It's fine. They never have hurt me before - except for the diary actually, now that I think about it. But when we were hunting them down, I usually kept them on me because they wouldn't try to control me in the way they did to you or Ron."
"What are they?" She breathed.
"Horcruxes. Pieces of Tom Riddle's soul, split into pieces."
"Holy mother of Merlin," Hermione said, coughing. "And they like you?"
He froze at that. "Yes?" Harry stared down at the ring again. "That's weird, isn't it?"
"Something's not right, Harry. You vanquished one of their pieces, and killed another, is it? With the diary? It shouldn't like you."
"I know that," He snapped. "But they've always been like-"
He stopped as something overwhelmed him, an emotion he couldn't quite understand but knew unconditionally. Something rose from the ring, dark and tall and handsome, chocolate curls and grey eyes flecked with red, and then warm, perfect lips pressed against his-
And then it was gone, leaving Hermione and him alone.
There was a moment of silence as both their eyes bulged, gaping. Harry choked, before quickly trying to get a hold of his magic again which had seemed to be slipping out without his notice.
"Harry, get it off!" Hermione hissed as he struggled with the ring, but it was impossible; the horcrux was stuck to his skin.
"I can't," Harry said, before flushing as it all caught up to him. "Fuck it, Hermione. Tom Riddle's a goddamn pervert."
"Harry!" She shrieked. "This isn't a time to make jokes."
He became more desperate, as he could now feel the slow purr of magic along his skin. He relaxed against his better judgment, before realizing it was the soulpiece, not him who felt smug.
"That wasn't a joke, Hermione. He's always be obsessed with me, and now this ring is stuck on my finger. I can't get it off."
They stared each other, and Harry was trying to wonder if not feeling disgusted by the whole affair was something to be worried about.
"H-he just kissed you. Kissed, Harry. Voldemort-"
Moaning, Harry rolled onto his stomach, burying his face in a pillow. "I don't want to think about it."
An awkward sort of silence fell over them. Hermione spoke first, when neither could take much longer.
"Don't tell me you liked it?"
He sat up, quicker than lightning. "No- not really. It was too quick-"
It was obviously not what she had expected to hear. Honestly, it wasn't what he had expected either.
"Oh Merlin," Hermione whispered. "What are you going to do? What were you going to do, Harry? If you were going to kill him, you would have destroyed that already, wouldn't you? This plan, was Voldemort going to live?"
"I don't know," He finally said. "I was going to see what happened at the graveyard. Too many horcruxes makes you crazy, and he has too many, Hermione. But even in the original timeline, he didn't truly start to go until Dumbledore destroyed this one, which is one of the larger ones. Before that - there was still Tom. Not just Voldemort."
"You aren't light. And I know from what you've said that killing doesn't bother, does it? Not anymore. What are you going to do?" Hermione said.
He was amazed at well she was taking it, and how calm Hermione had been at those last words. Like they didn't matter to her. What had changed?
"Fuck," He sighed. "I don't know, 'Mione. I honestly didn't expect horcrux Tom to feel - you know." He gestured to himself.
"You said they had always been better with you than me, right?"
"Yes, but not like that," Harry shook his head. "I can't think about this."
They sat there for a moment, trying not to look at each other.
"What's happened here, no one can know," Harry said slowly, after a time. "But Dumbledore and Snape can simply pluck it out of your mind. There's something called occlumency, but it will take some time to learn, so I'm going to put a charm of a sort on you. It's lamia based, but until you learn the other way, it'll keep them out."
It was obvious neither wished to speak what the 'happened here' was, at the moment. Harry got up, nicking his wrist with the edge of a fingernail, and with a few well-spoken words, he trailed the liquid in a bloody pattern over Hermione's eyelids. She flinched at each drop, but did nothing to stop him.
"There," He said, when he was finished. "That should keep them away from this."
"But what if they know the blocks here? Won't they try to dig deeper if they realize something's different?"
At that, Harry smirked for the first time in several minutes. "Oh, I don't think they'll want to look any further, unless they have a demented sort of curiosity. It isn't a block, really, but more of a distraction. I partied a lot, Hermione. I slept with a lot of people, and unless either of them want to watch me in the first moments of each of those, they'll keep away."
"Oh Merlin," Hermione sighed. "I won't have sudden flashes of that, will I?"
He grinned. "No, but you might if they take a look."
To his surprise, she blushed.
"What?" He asked.
"You're very beautiful, Harry."
His eyebrows raised. "Thank you?"
"And as strange as it sounds - and I know it's wrong in some ways to think it, but Volde- Tom Riddle is as well. Both of you seem almost - almost like you f-"
"Don't," Harry breathed. "Don't say it." He didn't think he would be able to stand it.
"Then I won't," She said more softly. "And I'm repulsed by what the man has done, but Dumbledore isn't good, so why does Voldemort have to be all bad, right?"
"What are you saying?"
"I don't know," Hermione said quickly. "It just came over me all of-"
They both stared suspiciously at the ring and Harry sighed as he recognised it trying to siphon magic again, but this time from Hermione. He tightened his hold on it, and opened the door out to the corridor.
"Time to go," He said. "We're already past curfew."
"The bloody thing was controlling me just now, wasn't it?" She hissed under her breath as she stalked past him.
He winced. "Probably. And since I stupidly brought it into a school with so much magic, it'll only become stronger."
"I know," He said, as he kicked the door shut. "I'll try to keep him under control."
"Him?" Hermione said.
Harry swore. It had all afternoon to slowly nestle into his magic without him knowing.
"Just be careful," She warned. "But it doesn't seem like it'll try to hurt you, if you know what I mean."
He stared at her incredulously, but Hermione kept firmly in front of him.
"Oh hell, if the horcrux gets strong enough and jumps me in my sleep, it's your fault," He said, almost jokingly to try and lighten the mood. For both of them. He wasn't expecting what Hermione said next.
"If he does, make sure you have silencing charms up, Harry. I've read lamia can get quite loud."
He stood slack-jawed as she turned the corner, and only moved when he could think again.
Hermione had made a joke.
She really was trying to be different.
Winter was quickly approaching and that meant one thing; the Yule Ball. After Mcgonagall's announcement in one Transfiguration class, the entire school in disarray. Because of his obviously changed looks and personality, it caused more than a few girls to ask to be his date. It had started to become more than a little obnoxious, to the point of him tending to hide between classes and hanging out in the Room of Requirement after dinner. It also cut off Riddle's horcrux from excess magic, which was quickly becoming more powerful than Harry really had patience for anyways.
Like before, Viktor Krum had started to hang around the library and he knew it was only a matter of time before he asked Hermione to the ball. But that didn't change the fact that he needed a date.
"So who are you going with to the ball, Harrikins?" A redheaded twin said slyly, as he crept up behind him.
Harry jumped, and was only pulled back up by the other twin.
"I heard for you it's mandatory."
Harry glowered at them, knowing both of them already had dates. "Do you know what it's like getting asked by a second year? A second year! And then there's that group of seven years, who honestly just creep me out." He sniffed a bit in disgust, and broke off when the twins both started to laugh.
"Just pick someone who doesn't creep you out then," Fred said. "It can't be that hard."
He just stared at them in disbelief. "There aren't many of them. Hufflepuff's are out since they still hate me for Cedric, Cho's a bitch, and the only other choices I have are either Lavender Brown or pug-face from Slytherin."
George fake-gasped. "Now that's just rude. Parkinson is only looking better and better these days. I think she's really trying for a certain blond."
Harry smirked. "Then her luck's out because he's definitely not interested. Methinks he bats for the other team."
The twin's eyebrows raised, both expressions becoming a little malicious.
"Oh? Do tell," George practically purred.
"It's not like we have anything against such things-"
"Au contraire, both of us have definitely - what's that word?"
"Experimented, eh Georgie?"
Fred flashed a pearly smile. "Of course, dear bro-"
"Merlin," Harry said, stopping them midway. "I got it. And he may be a git but he doesn't deserve to be outed in such a way. Spell his hair red, remove his clothing mid-ball, hang him from a chandelier somewhere, I don't care."
"Hang him from a chandelier - I rather like that idea-"
"But having him go nude halfway through, brother of mine, wouldn't that be so much…."
Harry took that as a chance to escape, and breathed in a sigh of relief as he made it around the corner. The twins were brilliant, he would give them that. They were also two people he would never want to be on a blacklist for.
As he headed towards the library a harried voice stopped him, along with a high pitched one that he immediately recognised and hated instantly. Ironic as it was though, as he had just been speaking of her.
"...But Cedric," Cho was whining, and Harry gritted his teeth against the noise. Merlin, was it awful.
"Cedric," He greeted in a false cheerful voice, upstarting the black haired girl and leaving his friend rather befuddled. The light haired boy also looked beyond pissed, all at once, which was impressive, and Harry took it as a warning.
"I'll just - um see you later," Cho said, before skittering away, and Harry grinned, not being able to help himself.
"Thanks for that, she's been really annoying lately," Cedric said tiredly and he turned his attention to the other boy.
"Don't worry about it, I've heard she's been after you since you started dating - what's her name?"
Cedric just stared at him wearily and Harry laughed in response.
"Sorry, I've been really caught up in stuff, and names really aren't my thing."
"Names aren't your thing?" Cedric repeated, "Do you know what that sounds like?"
Harry raised an eyebrow, smiling like a shark. "I know exactly what that sounds like."
Flouncing away, Harry continued down the corridor, silently smirking. He hadn't been lying. But that suddenly reminded him, this body - it was still a virgin.
His face screwed up in horror, and he turned around so fast he crashed into the brown haired boy who seemed to have been following him.
"That hurt," Harry muttered as he fell back into the window, and Cedric groaned.
"Why did you do that?" The light haired boy demanded irritably and Harry only made it worse when he started laughing again.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, through mid-chuckle, "I just suddenly remembered something."
"Well, it's not funny," He snapped, before immediately pulling at his hair. Harry raised an eyebrow.
"You aren't looking so good," Harry said, and the other boy sighed.
"It's been a rough week," Cedric said, moving to stand closer to him, so he wouldn't be in the middle of the hall. Not minding the fact that there was no one there.
"Ah," Harry started delicately, before cringing at his stubborn thoughts. He was still a virgin. A not-fucking virgin. It was all so awful. Harry almost wanted to drown.
"I really liked her for awhile, Cho. And then she got so clingy even though we weren't really together so I 'broke it off', even though we weren't ever a thing," Cedric continued. "And at first I felt sort of bad about it, but now she just makes me so angry-"
"Look at that, Gred, them getting so close to each other," And Harry whirled around, meeting George's grinning face. Cedric suddenly looked nervous.
"I thought I got rid of you two with talk of the chandelier," Harry sighed dramatically and the twins looked smug.
"Of course not, Harrikins-"
"While hanging Malfoy from candlelights would be rather charming-"
"We hadn't finished our conversation yet," Fred finished.
Cedric was looking distinctly pale at the moment, and his voice cracked as he spoke.
The twin's attention quickly turned on the older boy, and he looked as though he wished he had stayed silent.
"My brother and I, along with Harry were having an absolutely astonishing conversation about a certain blond boy in Slytherin-"
"And Harry seemed to know something secretive about him-"
"But he is a kind soul-" Harry snorted. "So he made us not use it against him. Instead he gave some lovely pranks."
They gave Cedric an appraising look. "Want to help us out?"
The brown haired boy shuddered. "I don't think so."
George turned to him. "Harry-"
"Absolutely not," He said quickly. "Now why don't you two just run along - what about you ask Ron? I'm sure he'd die for a chance." His lips curved at the thought, and all three of them looked strangely at the younger boy, although the twins less so.
"Walking around nude, or hanging him around somewhere?" Fred said smirking after a moment, and Harry joined him.
"Why can't you do both?" Harry slyly said, and George gave his twin a look.
"Excuse us," Fred bowed mockingly, "But we need to go find-"
"A dear brother of ours-"
"Family first, you know," George sang, and the two disappeared.
Cedric seemed to have stopped breathing somewhere in the conversation, as he was panting for air.
"You're really afraid of them?" Harry said, trying not to laugh.
"They haven't pranked you before?" Cedric said.
He shook his head. "Not really."
The light haired boy shivered. "It's scary, ever since their first year. I suppose Gryffindors don't get it so bad, but everyone else? We're fair game."
"Really?" His attempt to hold his amusement in was almost at it's breaking point.
"What did they want, anyways?" Cedric said. "They were saying something about not finishing your conversation."
Harry looked almost smug. "They didn't get it either. But it was about dates for the Yule Ball and how most people I could take are creeps."
Cedric looked uncertain. "They can't be all bad?"
The dark haired boy started to count off his fingers. "Hufflepuffs are out, as you know. There's barely any Ravenclaws I actually have ever talked to, Gryffindor has only Lavender Brown and her ever giggling friend, and Slytherin I have the wonderful choices of Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode - or Daphne Greengrass. Who isn't actually a bad choice, now that I think about it, but she's probably already taken. The rest, Cedric, are pedophilec seventh years and over mature second years. Yes, my quest for a date is going wonderfully."
At the last part, the older boy choked.
"They aren't pedophiles, Harry. You don't look fourteen anyways, can you blame them?"
"Why thank you," Harry purred flippantly. "But I refuse."
Flushing slightly, Cedric attempted to speak again. "Why don't you pick someone you don't really know then? LIke a Ravenclaw."
"I could…." Harry paused, as one person stuck out again, like she had before. It took him only seconds to consider.
"I got it," He said grinning, "And I know exactly what to do. Thanks, Cedric."
"Wha- I didn't do anything? Wait, where are you going?" The other boy called after him, but Harry was already halfway down the corridor.
And it seemed she knew already. Halfway to their common room, Luna was perched on a windowsill, waiting for him.
"Can I wear that dress I wore to the party when you were twenty-four? The ministry one?" She said in a much less misty sort of voice, but high spirited.
"The muggle one?" Harry said with amusement, and a bit of wonder at what it was like to have everyone's destiny in your head.
"Yes," She said, slipping off to join him. "The red one. I was very happy you bought that for me."
"I thought it would fit you," Harry hummed. "I'll have to get it custom made though."
"That's fine," She said. "Can you do my hair again? It looked nice. Everyone was very surprised when they saw me."
"I think they were even more surprised when you weren't spouting off about nargles, Luna."
She smiled slyly, pressing a finger to her lips. "I'm going to wait a bit before that, though."
"Of course," Harry said.
"Is Marvolo giving you trouble?" She asked suddenly, eyes dropping to his ring.
He glanced down as well. "Marvolo?"
"That's what he calls himself, although he would rather not be talking to me." Luna giggled, a glint in her eyes that told him she knew something.
"Right," He drawled. "Well if you can tell him to get the hell out of my dreams, that would be great."
She wiggled her eyebrows. "In those exact words? It might only get worse if I tell him that. He's quite stubborn."
"Fuck," He muttered. "How much do you know?"
She flicked him right where his chest would be. "I can't tell you that, Harry."
He scratched his scar, before quickly putting his hand down. Old habits.
Looking down in disgust at the ring, he covered it with his sleeve. "I really wish I could take it off."
"You should probably give up that idea." Luna shrugged. "He's not going to let you go."
"Which one?" He said, not really wanting to know.
She laughed. "None of them, Harry. Why do you think he tried so desperately to kill you?"
With that, she flitted away, leaving him in shock.
"Luna!" He hissed, but she was already gone. Sighing, Harry hoisted himself onto the window seat.
When he had taken the ring, he had been more afraid of Death's words, and barely focused on the horcrux, assuming it would react the same as they had always.
Merlin, why had he been so stupid? Why couldn't he think things through before doing them? He couldn't even blame Dumbledore on this mess.
"You're going to behave," Harry finally said, looking at the ring. The purr of dark magic curled around his finger, clamoring into his skin, but this time he barely cared at all.
"Just don't take too much," Harry warned sulkily, before leaning back and staring out at the lake. The next test would be in a few months, and it seemed he had the advantage again, even if he wouldn't be using it.
It was honestly sort of depressing.