Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Forsaken :: 01 :: Conversations With a Tyrant

01 • Conversations With a Tyrant

Harry had awoken early, which wasn’t unusual in and of itself, but as that was the day he was being fetched in order to spend the last week of the summer with the Weasleys, it was guaranteed. He spent the early hours going over his room and gathering up what he would need for the coming year, making sure that everything was securely packed away.

He fidgeted away the remainder of the time or paced back and forth in his room, wondering if he dared tell his friends what he’d come to realize about himself over the summer. He knew what many muggles thought of it and it wasn’t good news. Was the wizarding community any different? He would have to be discreet, be careful. If they were the same, they could never find out. He would be tolerated at best, and reviled at worst, should it come to pass that he fulfilled the prophecy, because then he would no longer be necessary.

Shrieks from downstairs pulled Harry from his reverie and he hastily grabbed his trunk and Hedwig’s cage, toeing open the door and dragging his belongings behind him. He cheerfully waved the cage at Tonks and Moody as he entered the front hall and was quickly relieved of his burdens. Moments later he was outside the Burrow, sprawled in the dirt after being released from the influence of a portkey.

Two days later they all went to Diagon Alley to replenish their supplies and purchase books for the new year, and several more after found them at Platform 9¾ saying their good-byes and loading their trunks onto the train, ready to begin school again.

*

The common room was crowded. War had been waged over the choice spots, but the elder students had won out, leaving the less favored areas to the earlier years for their games of Exploding Snap, wizard’s chess, and the occasional bits of homework. Harry was sitting in a comfortable chair working on an essay for Potions on the ethics of veritaserum when his attention was caught by a group of females somewhere behind him.

“—are really against it, or at least many of them are,” said one in a high-pitched tone.

“As well they should!” came a shrill exclamation. “It’s dead wrong! How could anyone possibly think that same sex pairings could be natural. It’s unthinkable!”

“I’m almost surprised Muggle Studies even covered this. It’s a disgusting topic.”

Harry froze in place, his heart like leaden ice in his chest, his quill poised over his parchment. He didn’t notice the ink dripping down and spreading across the words he’d written in spidery lines. He didn’t notice anything, or anyone, he just heard those few sentences echo in his mind.

A nudge from Ron broke him free of his circling thoughts and he blushed to realize what he’d done to his essay. He gave his friends a sheepish smile and then sighed. “At least I hadn’t got very far. I can easily do it over.”

“What got you so glassy eyed anyway?”

“Remembering. . . .” He wouldn’t say any more. He knew they would interpret that little bit the way he wished them to. In point of fact, he often thought of Sirius anyway.

Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick glance, then turned to smile at him, not pressing the point. In this case at least Harry knew they wouldn’t push him. He’d written of it often enough over the summer—as much as he could bear, anyway.

He stayed by the fire long after the others had gone to their beds, working on his essay, or trying to. It was hard to concentrate, knowing now the answer to the question he’d asked himself not so long ago. It wasn’t accepted. It was a secret to be kept, a lie to be lived, for now.

When he was sure his dorm mates must be asleep, he put away his quill and ink, rolled up his parchment, and stole upstairs quietly. His work went into his bag and his cloak to his hand, and he crept back downstairs and out the portrait hole, using the cloak to hide himself as he made for the owlery.

There, he called to Hedwig and sat with her in a casement, shivering as he spoke to her softly of his pain, poured out his heart, and railed in hushed tones against the bigotry of the world. He never realized his every word was listened to, heard clearly despite his care.

He crept into bed an hour later, purged for the moment, but still with a heavy heart, and awoke the next day to a morning bright with sunlight. It only made him feel worse. He was reticent at breakfast, finding it difficult to be cheerful or garrulous, but he tried, for his sake, and for his friends. They were always inquisitive, always wanting to know how he felt. It would not do to appear upset if he could help it.

The day itself was a challenge; even the routine run-ins with the Slytherins weren’t enough to bring fire to his eyes, or anger to a heart weighed down with regret. He was engaged in desultory conversation at dinner when an owl arrived, leaving behind a note for him.

Please come to my office after dinner. The password is ‘Ice Mice.’ — A.D.

Harry wondered what it was about. He hadn’t had any problems with his scar so far that year, so that could not be it. He was too young for the Order, so that was out. What did the headmaster want with him? He shrugged and finished his dinner, let Ron and Hermione know he would be up as soon as he could, then headed to Dumbledore’s office, taking a seat once inside.

“Ah, Harry. Sherbet lemon?”

“Er, no, thank you, sir. I’m quite full from dinner.”

“Harry, is there anything you’d like to tell me?” asked Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling gently.

Confusion set in immediately as he looked at the headmaster. “Sir? No, there’s nothing. You know I’d come to you if my scar started in again, or I’d had more of those visions.”

Dumbledore nodded genially and asked again, “Are you sure there’s nothing you’d like to tell me?”

Harry shook his head, not understanding in the least.

“You see, I do have something to tell you. After the events of last year, I decided I should keep a closer eye on you, so to speak. It was this that allowed me to learn something of a very grave nature.”

“Huh? I don’t understand.”

“I know about your . . . shall we say . . . leanings.” At this the headmaster’s expression grew clouded and grim.

“Sir?” he asked in bewilderment.

“I can’t allow it, Harry. I simply cannot allow it. You are the hope of the wizarding world, and I can let nothing tarnish that.”

“Professor, what are you talking about!?” Harry cried in exasperation.

“The deviant side of your nature, of course. I’m sorry, but I’m forced to take steps to make sure you cannot act on this.”

Harry started to stand, wanting nothing more than to back away from what sounded distinctly like a threat from a man he respected and trusted.

“It’s for your own good, Harry.” Dumbledore raised his wand, until now hidden in a mess of papers on his desk, and cried, “Stupefy!”

He came to some time later, groaning and disoriented. He raised one hand to his head and massaged his aching temple, slitting his eyes open to see the familiar pristine white of the infirmary. On his wrist was a silver bracelet, one with no catch, no clasp. He brought down his hand as his eyes opened completely, staring at the metal that encircled his wrist.

It fit against his flesh like a second skin. Tugging at it resulted in nothing; it would not come off, it could not be removed. What the hell had Dumbledore done to him, and who could he tell about what had happened? No one would ever believe Dumbledore had attacked him.

*

Potions was both a complete bore and a living nightmare. In other words, par for the course. Harry breathed a sigh of relief as he slipped out the door and walked with his friends to lunch. He ate with his mind elsewhere, his eyes slowly scanning the Great Hall as he puzzled over the bracelet he was wearing. Strangely enough, no one had asked him about it, and that was even more puzzling.

His eyes passed over the Ravenclaw table and alighted on a seventh year he knew only distantly. John, that was his name. Harry’s eyes took on an unfocused look as he gazed at the dark-haired boy, watching the play of laughter over his face. He was brought up short by a burning sensation, of spiders wriggling under the skin of his wrist, and he looked in shock at the bracelet. As if it had never happened, the pain ceased.

He looked up at the head table wildly, but Dumbledore was not present. Frowning Harry shoveled more food onto his fork and ate mechanically, his gaze wandering inevitably back over to John. He started to contemplate the boy again, admiring the grace of the tanned hand that tucked a stray lock of hair back behind one ear only to have his attention jolted again as the pain started, like acid on bare flesh.

The clatter of his fork onto the plate before him caused Ron’s head to whip around.

“You all right, Harry?”

Once again the pain ceased, and Harry looked up into his friend’s concerned eyes.

“I’m fine. Just . . . thoughts, you know?” Harry looked away and grabbed his glass, sipping deeply before placing it carefully on the table and picking up his fork. What in the name of Merlin’s beard was going on!?

Over the next week it continued to happen, and Harry finally made sense of it. Every time he started looking at another boy in ‘that way’ the pain would come at him, driving his thoughts away to that alone, then cease. It was a warning, and punishment, and it became all too apparent what Dumbledore had meant that evening. He was more of a pawn than he’d ever imagined, with as much free will in this case as a marionette, doomed to dance at the puppeteer’s direction.

That sodding bastard! he thought viciously. How dare he do this to me. We’ll just see about this, you doddering old man. How dare you constrain me for fear you’ll suffer embarrassment that your Golden Boy would be found out. You will regret the day you ever made that choice.

He scowled into the common room fire and thumped the chair’s arm with his fist.

He took my trust and respect, used it to lure me to his office, and then this? Well, I can only hope that he can only overhear what I speak, not what I think. The bracelet isn’t reacting, so it must be tied into only certain thoughts or actions, right? His eyes narrowed to slits. So, I am just a pawn. A useful pawn, but still just a pawn. Sirius might have believed me, but. . . .

Another week passed, with more pain to remind him of what he could not do, spawning hatred and despair. He had begun to withdraw from his friends into the privacy of his thoughts, those that at least did not bring him punishment, when he was brought up short by a terse note from the headmaster which incinerated itself when he was finished reading it.

So, I see. Not only am I to be forced into denying a part of myself, but I am to wear a pleasant mask while I do it, lest I face further efforts on his part to correct my demeanor. I would never have dreamed he could do such things. He’s as bad as Voldemort, damn it! That insufferable bastard!

Harry sighed bitterly. Every time he’d seen the headmaster during the past week he’d been treated to genial smiles and twinkling eyes. It was such a hypocritical display it made Harry want to vomit into his meals.

Wait a minute. If he’s shown himself to be as bad as Voldemort, then what do I have to lose? I think it stands to reason that given the chance he’d do just about anything to have things come out his own way. What’s the point of all this? In for a penny. . . .

*

Harry went through his classes with smiles and laughter, neither of which rang true. The smiles never quite reached his eyes, and his merriment was hollow. But it served to satisfy Dumbledore, and that was what counted. But he schemed. As an experiment he wrote out a few of his reactions to his punishment, not in such a way as to let on to the clueless, but in a fashion that, were Dumbledore to also be monitoring this, would bring down another note.

Nothing happened.

Two days later he tried again, and still nothing happened. He spent an hour or so that night writing a long missive which he sealed in an envelope, then tucked inside his robes. He spent the night sleeping peacefully for once, the letter secreted on his person the entire time.

Saturday morning dawned sunny, though chilly, and he went down to breakfast with a smile on his face, a genuine one, and made idle conversation with Ron and Hermione, joking around as though nothing was wrong. Afterward they returned to the tower for warm clothing, then they began the walk to Hogsmeade. They visited all the shops, purchased chocolate and other sweets, and generally had a good time.

It was when they walked by the owl post office that he took action. “Oh!” he exclaimed with false distress.

“Harry, what is it?”

“I totally forgot to visit the owlery this morning before we came out. Hang on, I need to step in here for a moment. I’ll be right back.”

He ducked inside and gazed at the owls, looking for one that seemed strong and healthy. He didn’t know how far it would need to go, after all. He had to be quick, though, so he made his choice. Paying the clerk, he entrusted the letter he had brought to the owl and gave it a slight wave as it flew away, then went back outside to join his friends.

Several days later he prepared for bed, still hoping, and that time he was not disappointed after he slipped into the depths of sleep.

*

The walls were time-darkened stone, softened only in places by ragged tapestries so covered in grime that it was impossible to make out what they’d been woven to depict. He turned slowly as he took in his surroundings and took stock of the situation. He took a deep breath, then exhaled. He could be hurt here, but not directly.

Then he realized he was not alone. It was different this time, though, so with hesitance he spoke in the recesses of his mind—their mind for now.

“Voldemort?”

“Potter.” His name was spoken with heat.

“You must have received my letter.”

“Obviously,” snapped Voldemort.

“Good, then you know I wish to parley. Are you willing? Either way, you’ll win.”

“You said as much in your missive. What do you want, boy?”

“I need you to capture me, by arrangement. This is not an easy way to talk for either of us.”

“What?!”

He could feel the surprise and suspicion roll off the simple word. “I said I wish you to capture me. We need to talk and it’s the best way. I only ask for my safety at your hands, and at the hands of your minions, until our discussion is over. By then, it may not matter anyway.”

“Fine,” came the terse response. “You have my word, if you can trust that.”

“Since I know the complete prophecy, I think I can live with that trust for now. We’re allowed Hogsmeade any weekend. Arrange something for a Saturday. I will go each time.”

“You’d better not be lying, boy. I will rip you to shreds before I kill you.”

“Don’t worry, Voldemort. My life is worthless right now anyway. I have nothing to lose, and we have everything to gain.”

“We?” The surprise was back, coloured by confusion.

“Yes, we. I must go now. I can feel myself slipping away into waking. Arrange it!”

Harry awoke with a start, then smiled widely and settled back into normal sleep.

*

He spent every weekend in Hogsmeade, making whatever excuses seemed likely at the time. To help persuade Hermione he would bring some of his homework with him and make an exceptional show of studiousness, only to prove out when the essays written there came back with his highest grades. For Ron he would spend time at Zonko’s and help dream up ideas for Fred and George to employ in their own shop.

It was a typical Saturday when they were attacked without warning near the Shrieking Shack, a place they had taken to visiting during constitutional walks around the village. They never heard their attackers draw near and so Harry went down into unconsciousness without a sound, never seeing the Dark Mark hovering in the air overhead.

He awoke a timeless span later, aching and stiff from the damp surroundings. Sounds made him look up to see a masked and robed Death Eater approaching, so he stood carefully and waited. His cell was opened and he followed the anonymous figure after a curt gesture. Harry was harmless, after all. He didn’t have his wand anymore.

Twisting watery tunnels wound dizzyingly around until at last he was pushed through an oaken door that slammed shut behind him. Before him rested a simple chair, and also one so pretentious it was almost a throne, seated upon which was Voldemort.

“He can’t hear you any longer. Speak as you will.”

“Voldemort,” he acknowledged.

“Potter.”

“I do have a first name, you know,” he said with some asperity.

“You are quite the brave little Gryffindor, aren’t you.”

“Yes, but I’m a lot more than you know.” He sat down in the remaining chair and looked at his nemesis. “Quite frankly, I liked you better as Tom Riddle. Easier on the eyes at least.”

A hissing intake of breath let him know he’d scored, so he quickly went on. “I’m here to parley. As I said before, my life is currently worthless.”

“And why is that.”

“Some I mentioned, some I didn’t. I’ve come to the painful realization that Dumbledore is not much different from you, regardless of the side he claims. You’ve only tried to kill me. He’s taken away my free will and made me suffer for things I have no control over. With a smile, I might add.”

“Explain.”

“I’ll get to that. I’m here to either switch sides or be killed by you. Either way, we both win. Either way, I’m free.”

Voldemort shifted upon his throne-like chair and shot Harry a piercing gaze, but did not speak.

“I will tell you why I’ve reached this decision, and you will tell me your thoughts. If we come to a mutually satisfactory agreement, I’ll explain the prophecy willingly—my interpretation of it anyway. If we cannot agree, or you are as bad as that bastard, then you’ll kill me and I won’t be in any position to give a damn any longer anyway.”

“There isn’t much to cause me to stay my hand, boy, but curiosity wins out this time.”

“The least you could do is use my name. It isn’t that much to grant a dead man.”

“You aren’t dead—yet—Harry.”

“Thank you,” he responded and lifted his wrist. “This . . . thing . . . is the reason I’m here. Take a look. I expect you’ll understand why.”

He watched as Voldemort puzzled over the bracelet, never touching either it or himself. The pain of being near his nemesis was somewhat muted, which surprised him, but he wasn’t about to question it. He could tolerate it, though it was wearing on his strength.

“I see,” hissed Voldemort, who then produced his wand and began a long incantation in a language Harry didn’t understand. He did, however, understand the burning pain in his wrist and fought to keep from crying out. He would not give in in front of this . . . man . . . if he could help it.

A sudden cessation of pain made him exhale deeply, and found him struggling to sit up straight against the supporting comfort of the chair’s back. The bracelet lay on the floor in a charred mass of black. Harry bit his lip and lifted his head to meet the eyes of Voldemort.

“He did this to you.”

“Yes. He said he was sorry, but he couldn’t allow my ‘deviant nature’ to be acted on.” He paused to catch his breath before continuing, “He told me once that our choices make us who we are, far more than our abilities. He made a choice, one that utterly abrogated mine, and made it quite clear what he’s willing to do in the name of Light. He made it quite clear he’s willing to use me as a pawn and a tool and consequences be damned.”

“I see.”

“Do you? I’d rather be dead by your hand or my own than live like that. I’d rather go back to the muggle world where at least some accept what I am.”

“No, that won’t be necessary, if you’re willing, as you said, to join your power to my own.”

“Are you as bad?”

“In this matter? No.” Voldemort’s voice was strangely calm. “Many of my minions are here for the promise of power or to allow them to act out their natures in a setting of acceptance. You, however, are different.”

“How so, if I may be so bold as to ask.”

“You already have power, beyond their imagining. And your ‘deviant nature’ as you call it, is hardly of the same order as men and women who answer my call so that they may torture and maim for the sheer pleasure of it. True loyalty is desired, but rarely given. Too many of them are barely above incompetence. Those ones are kept in line by pain.”

“You don’t sound the same as you did in the Chamber.”

That earned him an intense, searching look.

“You don’t. Tom Riddle said we had much in common. I can’t say as I entirely disagreed. But your ruthlessness doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, that’s all.”

“I don’t care about this, let that be known. My years in the muggle world taught me more than hatred and retribution. I’ll even help you, if you choose to join me.”

“I need you to stop the pain. It hurts me to be near you. Or tell me how to do it myself. I need you to teach me all that they refused to. But. . . .”

“But what?”

“I don’t agree with all your aims. I don’t like causing people pain, hurting them. I do not want to become a soulless creature who experiences pleasure in the subjugation of innocents.”

A slight cough. “I will take that as you meant and not as it sounds.”

Harry felt heat rise in his cheeks and cast a sheepish look at the man before him. “Sorry.”

Voldemort waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I think we can come to an understanding, Harry. Yet . . . Harry must die.”

“Yes, he must. Though I don’t think you understand why like I do.”

Voldemort shot him a dark look for his insolence. “Your two friends are also here, waiting in the dungeons.”

“I’m not sure they’d continue to be my friends if they knew my secret, but I don’t want them harmed.”

“They won’t be. Well, only a little. If Harry is to die, this must be played out accordingly.”

Harry nodded. “What would you prefer I call you? I don’t think I can stomach master or lord,” he said honestly.

Appraising red eyes met his for a time. “The pawn is in play? Yes, you are quite right. You’re as powerful as I, or more so. Tom. You shall be the only one to use such without retaliation. Come, I will show you to your new chambers.”

They rose, and Tom led the way through a different door and up a set of stairs, into the ground floor of a building that was furnished graciously and with care toward aesthetics. Harry followed the black-cloaked figure to the third floor and down a hallway to stop before a mahogany door.

“Here, your wand. Rest and refresh yourself, and I will return later. Do not leave this suite. I cannot afford to have you seen as of yet.”

Harry nodded and accepted his wand, entered the room and closed the door behind him, then flung himself onto the four-poster bed in the connecting room and slept.

*

Voldemort swept down the hallway and into his study, furiously thinking of how to pull things off. The boy had courage in spades, by Merlin! To literally gift himself unto the Dark Lord and be willing to die rather than be forced into a false semblance of life? That old fool Dumbledore had finally made a serious mistake, one that would cost him everything.

He sat and propped his legs up on his desk. The boy also had a large measure of stubbornness, combined with morals and values he was unwilling to relinquish. But, those were a part of his strength and power, and must not be tampered with. To try to turn the boy completely would likely result in having to kill him, or watch him suicide before his eyes.

He snapped his fingers and looked up at the house-elf he had summoned.

“Maer, there is a boy in the Green Suite. Watch over him and allow no one to enter, nor allow him to leave. Tell no one about him, and stand ready to provide anything he needs. When he’s refreshed, report to me, then go back to watch him. Dismissed.”

The elf disappeared immediately.

He would need three people, all to die, but for different reasons. He swung his legs off the desk and grabbed a handful of powder, tossed it into the nearby fire and barked, “Malfoy Manor, Study. Lucius Malfoy!”

Moments later, Lucius stepped through the fire and knelt before him.

“Rise. I need you to find out two things for me, Lucius.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Who is the current Defense teacher at Hogwarts, and who would be a likely candidate for next year in that position, someone whom Dumbledore would not suspect, and would definitely hire should this year’s be killed or incapacitated.”

“Yes, my lord. I will do so immediately.” Lucius knelt again, briefly, then stepped into the fire and was gone.

He threw another handful of powder into the fire and snapped, “Fairview Manor, Study. Nicholas Bartley!”

Moments later, Nicholas stepped through the fire and knelt before him. This was one of his most loyal Death Eaters.

“Rise,” he commanded, watching the man carefully.

“Yes, master.”

“Would you be willing to die for me, Bartley? Die without ever understanding why?”

“If it is your will, master, so be it.”

“Settle your affairs. Quietly. Your family will be provided for most handsomely.”

*

Harry woke and pulled himself to a sitting position, then gazed around the room blearily. His hand fumbled to the right for his glasses, and finding them slipped them on, bringing the room into focus. The walls were painted a deep green, reminiscent of the cool depths of a forest. The bed upon which he sat was fashioned from polished black wood and sported hangings of pale green, like budding leaves in Spring.

A sound off to the side caught his attention and he turned to see a house-elf sitting near the door, looking at him expectantly.

“Does the young man require anything? A bath? Food?” it asked.

“Er . . . both, please.”

The sleep had done him good and the bath was relaxing as well. The soothing warmth helped ease away the aches and stiffness from the dungeons and allowed his mind to lie fallow for a while. With a sigh he stood and dried himself, then pulled on a thick bathrobe and went out into the sitting room to find a meal waiting.

He tucked in, hungry, and quickly demolished the food on his plate and drank the large glass of pumpkin juice. When he was finished he stretched out on the couch and settled back to stare up at the carvings in the ceiling. A loud knock made him sit up and stare as the door opened and Voldemort walked in.

“Tom?”

“Good, you are feeling better. Come with me. There are things we need to determine, you and I.”

Harry followed until they reached a room a short distance away obviously used as a study, then waited nervously as Voldemort entered.

“Stand before the mirror. Consider this a test for an ability I suspect you may have.”

He complied, still nervous, and faced his reflection, gazing at Voldemort standing behind him.

“Concentrate, Harry. Imagine that your hair is a different colour and focus as hard as you can on that.”

A puzzled frown flitted across his face. Hair colour? Tonks. Harry stared into his own eyes and focused, imagining that his hair was a violent pink, determined to make it so. He struggled with that one thought. Ever since that conversation with Tonks he’d dreamed of being a metamorphmagus, but no one had ever tested him.

He shook himself mentally. He must concentrate. He must—his hair was pink. A rather frightening shade of pink, to be exact. Harry blinked, then grinned and caught the eye of Voldemort in the mirror.

“I did it!” he crowed and began bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.

“Indeed, and thus my suspicion is proven correct. Come and sit with me a moment.”

Voldemort moved away in the reflection and sat before the fireplace, so Harry turned and joined him, sitting on the chair directly opposite, still grinning foolishly.

“You need to become a new person, both in looks and name. I would like you to think about both over the next few days, and present me with the results. Choose carefully. With this ability, you will be able to hide that . . . scar . . . as well. You have free rein of this floor for the time being. No one will come up here aside from myself and the house-elf I have assigned to you. You may return to your room.”

Harry nodded and leapt to his feet saying, “Yes, Tom!” then dashed away.