Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 08 :: Trust

08 • Trust

“After talking with Harry on a number of issues, I’ve tentatively decided on something a little different for her, and a few others.” Tom went on to outline his plans, then sat back to wait for a response. Surprisingly, it came fairly quickly.

“I see no particular flaw other than wondering if you have such a place already available. Of course, you no longer have Pettigrew to use as a summons.”

“Neither are at issue. I happen to know of a lovely place. I had even been considering annexing it for my own use. As for a summons, there are plenty of Death Eaters wandering around the main estate at all hours. It is simply a matter of taking one of them with me, then summoning the rest after I’ve finished my preparations.”

“Are you going to require assistance with those preparations?”

“Only if you wish to help. Aside from cleaning certain rooms up and moving furniture in, there isn’t much to do. Well, just those few extra details.”

“And Potter? Has he expired from boredom yet?”

“Why, Severus, you almost sound like you care. No, he has not. And I expect to be seeing him tomorrow evening, actually, assuming he uses the portkey I’ve arranged for. It would be nice, I allow.”

Severus snorted, but did not degrade Harry, as Tom might have expected. Instead he said, “I should think any sane and reasonably intelligent person would like to escape that wretched muggle area, and those people.”

“Do you know if Dumbledore has done anything that would alert him were I to enter the grounds of Hogwarts, or the castle itself?”

“That would depend. So long as you did no dark magic, it should not be an issue.”

“But you aren’t sure,” Tom persisted.

“No, I am not.”

“That’s fine. I’ll simply have to test it. Though, it makes me wonder. He did such a fine job of protecting Harry that I have to wonder if he’s done as well with the castle. For all I know, I could waltz in at high noon with no one the wiser. Anyway, care to join me on a little trip, or are there more pressing things for you to attend to?”

*

When Dobby arrived to inquire about lunch—Harry was starting to wish the elf would listen when he said that anything was fine—he also brought with him a small package. Harry busied himself with that while Dobby went off to prepare his meal.

Inside was a note and two flat silver discs. Setting those aside, Harry read.

Harry,

As you requested, I’ve enclosed two portkeys for your use. Given what you said, I shan’t be scheduling anything for those days. The portkeys are phrase triggered, so be careful what you say if you’re holding them.

To activate one simply say ‘trust’.

If I remember correctly, you’ll need to be sending a letter out tomorrow, so I assume you’ll do so before you arrive. You specified evening, so I will expect you anytime after 5pm. If, for some reason, you are unable to come, send a note with Dobby.

Tom

Harry gazed up at the ceiling for a moment and snorted. He got the feeling if things did work out, the concept of trust would be a running joke for the remainder of his life. If that was the case, he thought he could live with it. He got up and stowed everything under the floorboard then sat down at his desk. Tom was giving him a gentle out, but his words were an obvious prod. Harry was slightly torn between the desire to prove he wasn’t afraid and the knowledge that all might not be as it seemed.

Still, he could not help but think again of the question of prophecy. It had to come from somewhere. He seriously doubted that a Seer could spout off a few lines in an odd voice, somehow mysteriously willing something to happen. They had to be a conduit for something else, some higher power. Whether that was a god or not, he couldn’t begin to say. Fate, how mysterious.

It was bad enough, the potential of being a pawn in some game of Dumbledore’s. Absolutely nothing came to mind as to why it would have been necessary for his parents to die. Was it possible that, had they not been there that night, they would have been spared? That someone else could have died, such as Remus? But then, they probably all had problems trusting each other by then. He supposed that his parents would have entrusted his safety to no one else under those circumstances.

Dobby popped in with lunch and Harry absently thanked him, then asked for a book on oaths and bindings before the elf left. Thinking about it further as he ate, Harry then supposed that had his parents survived that night, they would likely be horrified at the idea that their son was soul bound to their worst enemy and would have done anything to prevent them coming together.

Harry set down his fork and set his head in his hands, breathing deeply. When he realized he was grinding his teeth he straightened and began eating again. He could ask why Tom had not immediately attempted to kill his mother, but he thought he knew the answer to that already. It was quite likely that his father had initiated an attack on Voldemort and had been killed in consequence as a pest, an incidental inconvenience on his quest to kill Harry himself, the actual threat. As his mother had done nothing more than plead. . . .

His thoughts were interrupted by Dobby arriving with a book in his hand. The elf cleared away a few minutes later and Harry set to finding out if his suppositions were correct.

*

Tom grabbed the first Death Eater he saw and hauled him to the audience chamber of his headquarters, using him to summon Bellatrix, then ordering him out the moment she arrived.

“Bella, my dear,” he said silkily, “you are the keystone for my latest plans. There is no one I trust more than you, therefore, it shall be you who will head up the particular mission I have in mind, and be explaining things to the others who are to accompany you.”

“I am grateful for your faith in me, my lord. How may I be of service?”

“To begin, let us be sure we will not be interrupted. Follow me,” he commanded, then led the way out and to his study. Once they were both inside he locked and spelled the door, and the room, then moved to sit behind his desk, waving his permission for her to sit as well. Then he swiftly stunned her and summoned her wand to him, placing it in his pocket. A vial of veritaserum was produced and used to prepare her for questioning, then she was ennervated.

She did know. Harry had been truthful in his admission. And she had informed others of that fact. At that point Tom was feeling quite grateful to Harry for exposing a potential problem, one that was in fact a reality. Perhaps this was what the prophecy had meant about saving each other, at least in part?

Once he had obtained a complete list of names he asked her several other questions, then stunned her again and administered the antidote. The list went into his drawer and her wand was returned from whence it came. By the time she left her memories had been modified extensively, and she was laboring under the impression that he had explained in detail her next mission, and that he had secured a new location for their use, though he had not specified where it was, yet.

The list, once he had a chance to absorb it more thoroughly, exposed a few names he had not thought to be wary of, though many were already on his list for nullification. That the plan was a complete fabrication was beside the point. She would not be able to carry it out until he provided her with a number of items, which, of course, were nonexistent. She and her cohorts would be called to the new meeting room in anticipation of those final details.

Preparations should be complete by Sunday, something he passed along to Harry when he spoke with him that night in dreams. He also told him of what Severus had said about his removal. Harry had taken that news with a nod, though he had commented that he very much doubted that the Order would allow him to visit Diagon Alley personally.

*

Harry had used one of the portkeys, which pleased him. Tom had asked one of the house-elves to wait in the audience chamber to guide him should he arrive, and Harry was ushered into his study shortly after five with his cloak over one arm.

“I have something for you,” Tom said after Harry had taken a seat. He opened one of the desk drawers and drew out a wand holster, then pushed it across the desk.

Harry took it with a slight smile and strapped it to his forearm, then transferred his wand to it.

“All you need to do is hit it for your wand to drop down into your hand.”

Harry pondered that for a moment, then stood up and slapped his hip, smiling when his wand shot into his hand a heartbeat later. After replacing it he resumed his seat and looked up. “So tell me, would you be willing to swear a Wizard’s Oath in regard to veritaserum questioning?”

Tom dropped his chin and tilted his head to the side. “You wonder if veritaserum I provide. . . . Exactly what kind of Oath?”

“I thought perhaps that you could write down what you wanted to ask me. Anything I wasn’t willing to answer would be scratched off. The Oath would be to ensure you stuck to the remaining questions.”

“I believe I understand what you aren’t saying, Harry. And I see no reason not to agree. I cannot fault you for your caution on this. Of course, I could simply stun you and interrogate you the same way I did Bella, then erase your memory.”

Harry closed his eyes, an expression of pain twisting his features. “As much as I like that you’re pointing these things out, you really have a way of poking holes in my ideas, Tom. You. . . .”

“Perhaps it would be more to the point if I were to swear an Oath that I would never willingly harm you, mislead you, or even lie to you,” suggested Tom. He himself was becoming a bit weary of the trust issue and what it was doing to his bonded.

Harry flicked his eyes open and stared at him. “I don’t know about the harm bit. That could be interpreted in a number of ways. People unintentionally hurt others on a regular basis, without ever meaning to. Physical pain isn’t the whole story.”

“Point conceded. Then I would say . . . never gratuitously cause you harm.”

“I—” Harry shook his head and stood up so he could pace the room, then said, “Never mind. This is too much like some stupid game. Look, is there some way to prove the existence of the bond? Something other than that we can speak to each other mind to mind? Or that prophecy? The book I have didn’t go into such things.”

Tom rose and went to one of the shelves and pulled down a book, then sat down and flipped through it. After finding the right page he placed it on the desk and turned it around. “Read that, and decide for yourself.”

Harry wandered back over and read, eventually nodding. “Is it difficult?”

“I don’t think so, no. If you’d like to attempt it yourself I can say that the wards here prevent the Ministry from knowing what’s going on. Meaning, they would not detect underage use of magic on your part.”

Harry shook his head again. “I’d rather not take the chance. Will you do it? Now?”

Tom smiled and produced his wand, then cast the spell. What developed in the air between them was a crackling blue-green energy that resolved first into what resembled glittering metallic points, then a steadily pulsing, glowing, twisting cord that stretched between the two of them. After several moments it abruptly winked out.

He thought it was intriguing that Harry discarded plans almost as quickly as he thought of them, especially those that dealt with the subjugation of another’s will. At least, as it pertained to himself and Tom. That he was willing to take the book on faith, especially considering that it came from Tom’s own library and could, in fact, have denoted nothing more than a spell designed to produce pretty lights told Tom that Harry had already crossed over the line into trust whether he realized it or not.

Harry gave him a wide-eyed look, then nodded. “All right. Then I guess I’m just not going to worry about that any longer. Like I said before, if I’m a fool, hopefully I won’t live long enough to regret it much. So, dinner?”

Tom inclined his head and put away his wand, then rounded the desk to lead the way to the kitchen. As they walked he said, “Perhaps you’d like a tour, then, after we eat?”

“Was Peter the only one to know about this place?”

“Yes. Voldemort’s headquarters is elsewhere. Though, I’m not so sure I’ll want to keep this place once everything is said and done.”

“I do know the original prophecy,” Harry said abruptly, then, “It is kind of gloomy here.”

“That is very interesting,” he remarked. “This place is a relic of the past, perhaps one that I would be well off without. Though, I can say that your time here has helped to make it less so. You have continued to study Occlumency?”

“Yeah. It’s nice to have a guide that doesn’t assume everyone’s mind works in the same way. I can just see Hermione visualizing the contents of her mind like filing cabinets, but that doesn’t sit very well with me.” Harry flashed him a smile and shrugged. “It’s a little too impersonal. Mechanical almost.”

“And are you seeing anything particular in mind?”

Harry shrugged again. “Sort of. I guess it’s true that I tend to react well under pressure, so it’s more like a dormant kind of thing that awakens. Like a part of my mind is held in reserve as a guardian.”

“What, like a gytrash or a thestral? Unseen until necessary? Or a dragon guarding its hoard of gems and gold, ready to defend?”

“Something like that. I considered a basilisk, but. . . . Well, maybe it was silly of me to wonder if that kind of guardian could actually hurt someone, imaginary as it might be.”

They arrived at the kitchen and took seats, pausing their conversation until several of the elves produced a meal for them, and to let one of them relieve Harry of his cloak. “Speaking of which,” said Harry, “where is Nagini?”

“If you like I will introduce you to her during the tour. She already knows, not that she would try to harm anyone without orders unless they were a direct threat. She will be as loyal to you as she is to me. I am curious, Harry. The prophecy I heard lends credence to the idea that I did not die, not because of my experiments, but because it simply wasn’t meant to happen. Do you feel the original also leans toward that?”

“I’m not sure, but I guess it explains why I didn’t die in a roundabout way. It certainly explains this,” Harry replied, tapping his scar. “I wish I could get rid of it, though. I’m sick of people always looking at that, and not me.”

Tom considered for a moment, then said, “Harry, you once said that Dumbledore believes I transferred part of my power to you that night. That is also his explanation for why you are a parselmouth. For the sake of theory, do you suppose it’s possible that wasn’t all of it?”

“What do you mean?”

“An ability such as being a parselmouth is something you’re born with, like being a metamorphmagus. You might consider attempts in that direction. If that were also the case, you could appear to be anyone you wished, much like I do.”

Harry furrowed his brow, apparently turning something over in his head and checking it out from all angles. “If so, it’s just innate? I want something to change, and it does?”

“There is a degree of will and concentration involved, but yes. However, once you’ve changed something, it’s easy enough to maintain it without really thinking about it.”

“And putting things back to normal? Sure, I’ve been staring at this face for years, but that doesn’t mean I consciously remember my appearance.”

“I call that reverting, Harry. It’s an undirected focus of will for another change. If you are purposely not thinking about what you want and initiate a change, you’ll go back to your original appearance. Your mind and body remember these things, even if you don’t consciously.”

“Well, we could stop by a mirror later, I suppose.”

Tom shook his head. “As I said, it’s innate. If you can do it, you can, without needing to see yourself. Granted, a mirror is useful to make sure you didn’t have any stray thoughts mucking up the process.”

Harry nodded and bent his head over his plate, applying himself to his food industriously for several minutes before speaking again. “This may sound silly, but . . . I’m not sure what to think about this bond, aspects of it. I mean, did you even know you were. . . ?”

Tom chuckled softly. “I’ve always gone both ways, Harry, though I admit that sexual activities were reserved for more as a kind of power play. When you’re trying to take over the world, you tend to keep such things distinct from the emotions that can go with it. I take it the idea never once crossed your mind?”

“Well, no. I’ve only ever kissed a girl, or noticed a girl, so far. The Dursleys are . . . perfectly normal people . . . you could say. No hints there of anything beyond their idea of normal.”

“I suppose that’s not unreasonable, from their point of view. However, the world is much more than such limited focuses. Something to think about, at any rate. I won’t push you, Harry. Things will happen as they do and not before.”

“All right.”

It wasn’t until ten minutes into the tour that Tom realized Harry had actually accomplished proof of his suspicion. Where once Harry’s scar had been displayed prominently on his forehead, there was now only an unmarked expanse of skin. He grinned, pleased that Harry had managed it so quickly, and that he was able to at all. Now, no matter what, Harry could disguise himself without needing to rely on potions or spells. And while it was true that one could force an animagus to revert to human form, there was no known way to cause a metamorphmagus to assume their original appearance. Unless you counted the Imperius Curse, that is.

“Impressive, Harry, and a welcome sight.”

Harry gave him a sidelong look and smiled. “Then I’ll assume it worked.”

“Indeed. You will always have the option to walk away now, should you choose that route. But, here is Nagini,” he said as they walked into his sitting room, then hissed, “Good evening, luv. How are you faring?”

“I am well, master. This is your nest mate?” She raised her head and appeared to study Harry, her forked tongue flicking restlessly as she tasted the air.

Harry gave him an odd look, presumably over her choice of words, as Tom took a seat on the couch. Nagini moved to coil up beside him on the floor, resting her head on the arm. “Yes, luv. I believe you will get along fine.” Tom indicated both the couch and a chair, then reached out to caress Nagini’s head.

Harry chose the chair, possibly because he could face them both directly. “Hello, Nagini. I’m pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise, young master.”

“She’s not generally very talkative, Harry, though she does tend to have a soothing effect when nearby. Of course, I’m quite partial to snakes, and her hissing tends to lull me nearly to sleep at times.” He paused and pointed back over his shoulder. “If you wish, you can check out the other rooms in this suite. It’s just my bedroom and the attached facilities. Aside from that, the only other place of interest is the suite you used previously. I assume you’ll wish to stay there again tonight?”

“Er, yes. I—” Harry stopped, opened his mouth, shut it, then said a second later, “It’s not like you’re ugly.”

“I will take that as a positive thing,” Tom said with a faint smirk. “You are not ugly either, Harry, if I may borrow your phrasing, that is. In some respects, we are quite similar. Of course, perhaps you prefer something else?” He waved his hand for show as his hair changed colour to blond, then morphed to red, then brown, and back to black.

“You . . . look fine the way you are.”

“This isn’t me in public, though. Certainly not as seen with Harry Potter.”

Harry shrugged. “Does it matter? Isn’t the person inside more important? I mean, I did learn something from my one brush with liking someone, and that was that looks were fine, but. . . . Things did not go well. Still, I have to assume that you are you no matter how you look, just like Voldemort is Voldemort, with his own set of mannerisms, way of speaking, and so on. The fact that your hair might be neon blue one day and your eyes fluorescent pink the next doesn’t change any of that.”

“Sometimes you surprise me, Harry, though in this case I’m not sure why that is. I should think I would know better. However, since I have such freedom, I may as well model my appearance to suit your tastes.”

Harry narrowed his eyes for a moment. “It might seem like that, yes. I can’t help but think that it would make it conveniently easier for me to—” After a sigh he said, “I don’t know. I’d have to think about it. Definitely not blond, though.” He shuddered.

“I’m sure I can come up with something suitable,” he said casually, then changed the subject. After all, they wouldn’t always be speaking of such things as their nearly nonexistent relationship or how to handle Death Eaters. There must be some common ground, or things they could converse on, and preferably not in such a way that Harry always came across as the student or more ignorant person.

“When did you first realize you could talk to snakes?” he asked.

“Consciously? During my second year. Malfoy conjured a snake during a duel and it went for one of the other students. I don’t know why I thought talking to it would solve anything, but I did. Of course, that made everyone think I was the Heir of Slytherin. Before that, I spoke to a snake at the zoo, but I never realized I was speaking Parseltongue. I just thought it was one of those odd things, you know?”

“Would it be safe to say you’ve never bothered with them because of the negative associations?”

Harry nodded. “I think, even now, if I had one, or was seen talking to one, people would go right back to assuming I was becoming like Voldemort. I really wonder if we have Salazar to blame for the reputation, and if there are a lot more parselmouths out there that have never dared to admit it for fear of being ostracized.”

“If that weren’t the case, would you keep one?”

“Probably. But it would have to want it. Hedwig was a gift. I couldn’t very well refuse her. I may have even chosen her myself, but I’d like to think she would have been agreeable.”

“I find it interesting,” Tom said. “There are certainly parallels, with one major difference. You really don’t like the idea of force, do you? The concept of—your idea of victory is, perhaps, a personal accomplishment, the betterment of yourself, not in gaining over another. You would rather conquer your own issues than hold sway over someone else. You don’t seek validation in doing better than someone else, but in doing better than you have.”

“Well, yes.” Harry sounded vaguely confused. “Isn’t that the whole point?”

“I guess that depends. And, I think there’s a lot I could learn from you. Do you see the reactions of others to you as a type of force?”

“I could look at it that way. People expect me to act a certain way. People expect me to listen to them. Well, certain people expect that I’ll agree that what they think is the correct thing to think. They don’t like it when I won’t play along.”

“Such as?”

“Hermione nagging all the time about study, even when it’s a stupid class, like Divination. I mean, I seriously doubt I have that gift, and Trelawney was happy with whatever tripe Ron and I came up with so long as it featured something awful happening to me. And besides, I can’t say that I didn’t have doubts as to whether I’d live long enough for my OWLs or NEWTs to matter. I feel differently now, but still. People who expect me to change overnight. Sure, maybe it was completely mad to go after the philosopher’s stone. Maybe if I hadn’t gone, Quirrell would never have figured out the trick, or Voldemort, and it would have been just as well. But that’s me.”

After a pause he continued. “And the Chamber. Off I go again, headlong into potential danger. But if I hadn’t gone, Ginny would be dead. By the time last year rolled around, I was still doing it, despite the warnings and pleas for me to stop and think. No, I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for Sirius’s death, but I contributed to it. When does it weigh out in my favor to be like this? Is it a cruel joke on fate’s part?”

He glanced over at Nagini, then said, “You’re right, she is soothing. So, what happens if I just sit back and play the ordinary student without a worry in the world beyond exams? Do people suddenly get angry because I’m not reckless? That I’m not playing champion? Does that opinion reverse itself the moment Voldemort is gone? Do I suddenly become a new threat? I’m sorry to say that I have a hard time believing in people in general, or at least as a mass voice.”

“Mob mentality can be a very ugly thing, Harry. All it takes is one persuasive voice and the world as we know it can change in the blink of an eye.”

“Isn’t that the crux of things? I just wanted to be normal, but I have no idea what that actually means. People’s expectations can be as forceful as a fist to the jaw.”

“And yet, normal people live with the expectations of others every day. No, I’m not saying your feelings aren’t justified, Harry. You sit directly in the middle of a massive tangle with everyone looking to you to pull the right thread in order to unravel it. The difference between you and Voldemort is that he, I, asked for it, that pressure, those expectations. I welcomed them, gathered them into my arms willingly. You were tossed in without even knowing how to swim, never mind that you were in water over your head.”

Harry gave a half shrug. “You may be right, Tom. I may never know what it’s like unless I disappear.”

“It is your choice. In this, I will bow to your whims.”

“And in others?”

Tom grinned. “I think we’ll have to see who has the most points whenever it comes up, eh?”

Harry laughed.