Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 09 :: Closer

09 • Closer

Tom gave him a long, speculative look, then said, “Would you consider doing me a favor?”

Harry raised his brows questioningly.

“Do not misunderstand. I do not expect felicitous change to occur. But . . . would you consider trying to back off on your reflexive reactions to Severus?”

Harry narrowed his eyes and said, “Why?”

“I won’t repeat what I said to him, because that was for him. And I certainly won’t say a word to him that I mentioned this at all. You’ve said yourself that it’s his treatment of you that you dislike, not necessarily Severus himself. With that in mind, perhaps it would be prudent to simply give him respect where it is actually due, and leave the rest behind you? You strive toward being a better person, do you not?”

Harry relaxed, then frowned almost immediately. Tom was entirely too devious, and far too good at using Harry’s own words as a method of persuasion. Tom had talked to Snape, which meant it was likely he had asked the man to stop baiting him. If so, whether or not it would have any effect remained to be seen.

On the other hand, Tom had a point. He was being a bit silly, and childish, to let the provocations get to him. He knew Snape did it to upset him or anger him, and he obligingly responded almost every time. Was this a case of killing two birds with one stone—learning to better control his temper, and not giving Snape any reason for satisfaction that he’d won another round?

He looked back at Tom and nodded. “All right.”

“Thank you.”

Harry thought that Tom did look pleased, but not smug, which likely meant he was not actively trying to manipulate him. “Why did you frame Hagrid? Maybe I know, but I’d like to hear your explanation.”

Tom cocked his head and said, “Is this from my diary?”

“Yes. At the time, you were trying to—your memory, that is—make me think you were harmless or something, while trying to answer my question about the Chamber of Secrets. I always thought it was a bit odd, actually, and called you on it that night we met. Still, I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.”

“That’s very easy, Harry. If you saw what I think you did then Myrtle probably just died and the school was in danger of closing.” After Harry nodded he continued, “I didn’t want to be stuck in the orphanage year round, and self interest was the name of the game at the time. It was easy to frame Hagrid for it. I never thought he’d amount to much anyway, and with him in the forefront, and his odd creatures, I was off the hook and the school could remain open.”

“All right, that’s about what I gathered. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked or anything. I guess you were a right bastard back then, huh? Anyway, I’m rather annoyed with you because he ended up back in Azkaban because of that stupid diary, even if it was only for a short while.”

Tom nodded. “At the time I was very much convinced that a half breed like Hagrid was the next thing to worthless, an abomination, and certainly tailor-made for playing the role of patsy.”

“And now?”

“I don’t know. But I assume you are quite fond of him, so there must be something I never bothered to see.”

Harry shrugged. “He came for me the first time, when the Dursleys refused to let me have any of my letters. He forced them to let me go. I admit I was scared of him at first, but really, Hagrid is generally only dangerous in odd ways.”

“Such as?”

“I think you understand one of them already. His penchant for wanting odd creatures as pets. Aragog is a perfect example. He wasn’t going to eat Ron and me, but his children were. Dragons, hippogriffs, and heaven only knows what else. Of course, he’s a bit . . . gullible? Doesn’t think a whole lot about the oddity of strangers appearing at the pub with dragon eggs or other weird stuff. And he can’t always keep his mouth shut. He doesn’t always think before he speaks. On the other hand, he’s extremely loyal and really quite gentle and kind.”

Tom cocked his head again and looked at him curiously. “Are you suggesting I find a way to remedy what I caused him to suffer?”

“I don’t know. He’s happy. You would think that with it proven that he couldn’t have opened the Chamber—he was in Azkaban that last time—that he would be allowed to do magic now without special permission, and get a new wand.”

“I might be able to spread a little influence in the Ministry, even without Lucius available to do my bidding.”

“What about that stupid Umbridge woman? Did she even return to Fudge? She’s responsible for a lot of legislation that restricts werewolves, not to mention being hugely against part breeds. She caused Hagrid a lot of trouble, and Remus.”

“I assume you ask, not because she is my direct responsibility, but because she could continue to interfere.” When Harry nodded he said, “I’d have to check.”

“Fair enough. So what do you do around here all day?”

“Lately? Read, make plans.”

“Don’t you get lonely? Or is that a stupid question. . . .”

Tom arched a brow. After a moment he said, “I’ve always been alone, Harry. I did have Severus visit the other day to discuss my plans for Bella, but I think I already told you that.”

In other words, Tom had no friends, which wasn’t surprising, and Harry was, at this point, his only sure hope of one. In an effort to steer back into more social topics he asked, “So, where’s a nice place to visit on holiday?”

*

When Harry woke he felt refreshed, and strangely relaxed. Laying in that same bed made him remember his first night in it, when Tom had held him. He had been hurt and confused then, but also safe in that embrace. It hadn’t been so bad. He realized, though, that Tom had backed off after that point, only sitting near him. It stood to reason that he meant what he had said.

He rolled onto his back and opened his eyes, then sat up and stretched. Did he find Tom attractive? He wasn’t bad looking. Did Tom even find him attractive? Harry discounted power, at least for himself. While so many seemed to think he was powerful, he wasn’t sure he saw it. He was just lucky. He sure as hell hadn’t done a whole lot in the graveyard.

Maybe he could have gone both ways as well, like Tom said he did. He had noticed Cho, though it hadn’t worked out. That didn’t mean anything other than to say he wasn’t blind to the wiles of the opposite sex. It wasn’t all about looks, though. Cho was very pretty, but trying to talk to her was next to impossible with only two topics of conversation: Cedric and quidditch.

He could say the same for Tom. The Voldemort situation was huge in scope and had a tendency to want to push everything else aside. But it was nothing to create a real foundation from. When it was over, what would be left? He tried to liken a friendship to the kind he had with Ron or Hermione, but that didn’t quite translate.

He shrugged and slipped out of bed. Maybe he could try sitting next to Tom on the couch today. After slipping into the bathroom and washing up he got dressed and wandered off to the kitchen. Dobby popped up almost before he could sit down and placed a loaded plate in front of him, for once not bothering to ask what Harry would like first.

Tom arrived several minutes later, taking a seat across from Harry at the table. After a nod of greeting Tom said, “So, do you consider that you have a family?”

Harry paused and raised his brows for a second. “Maybe. I could consider the Weasleys as a surrogate family. I did consider Sirius as family. Perhaps even Remus. But I don’t think it’s entirely real.”

“How do you mean?”

“Take Remus and my godfather, Sirius, both of them close friends with my dad. But it isn’t as though I grew up knowing them. Other than the connections from the past, and who I am, there’s very little to go on. Sirius was very focused on the idea of us living together, but that turned out to be impossible. And Remus, well, he’s never made any great effort to get to know me that well. As for the Weasleys, I’ve never entirely felt like I belonged. There doesn’t seem to be any clear consensus as to whether I’m family or not.”

“I only really knew my father,” Tom said, “and that’s not saying much considering I went there to kill him.”

“Okay, so neither of us has had much luck on that score,” Harry remarked dryly. “That doesn’t mean we can’t learn.” After a pause he said quite deliberately, “Together.”

Tom smiled. “I often wonder how my mother felt about me. I assume she wanted me.”

“Well, maybe if your father hadn’t been such a bastard. . . .”

“Sometimes I wonder if there are so many similarities on purpose.”

“What, so we’d be able to relate to each other better?” asked Harry. “If that’s true, then I can’t reasonably blame you all that much for my parents. Well, I could. You did do it, after all. But I have to admit that I wonder about things like that myself. I mean, it’s still fairly open-ended. Maybe certain things had to happen, but past that, it’s your choice or mine how it goes, isn’t it?”

“I guess that depends. Some of the things we do, the choices we make, are based on our personalities. We may end up doing things exactly as fate might wish, if there is such a thing.”

“Bounded free will?”

Tom shrugged. “Maybe. That’s not to say that people can’t and don’t change.”

After breakfast they went outside, to the back garden, as Harry hadn’t been outside in some time. It was a fairly lovely day, and Harry found a nice grassy patch to fling himself down on. Tom sat nearby, close, but not too close, and braced himself with his arms. They talked, intermittently, about whatever came to mind, when it came to mind, carefully steering away from anything serious, until the sky began to darken in an unmistakable warning of an approaching storm.

Harry made a disgusted noise and sat up. “Nice,” he said. “I was actually enjoying myself. I felt . . . normal.”

Tom smiled and shook his head. “I as well. Let’s go inside before we get soaked. I don’t particularly want to catch a cold, Harry.”

As they walked inside Harry said, “Tom, would you do me a favor?”

“What is it, Harry?”

“Would you consider appearing like you were at sixteen when I’m around, or thereabouts?”

“If you like, sure.”

Harry aimed a small smile at him and allowed himself to be led off to a sitting room with huge windows so that they could watch the storm. “I just hope that this ends before I need to leave. I don’t really want to squelch my way back into the house.”

Tom smirked. “Uncomfortable, at best.”

Harry sighed. “I still don’t want to go back. But, it’s not for much longer. Everything is kind of confusing.” He deliberately sat down on the couch next to Tom, leaving a bit of space between them. “School will probably be odd as well. I wonder how long it will take before we have any idea of which students are leaning toward Voldemort?”

“I honestly don’t know. But that does remind me that I need to see if it will set off any alarms if I enter the grounds.”

Harry slanted a look at him and said teasingly, “Planning on coming to rescue me if necessary?”

“I would.”

“Yeah, I think you would. Thought of a new name yet?”

Tom blinked and shook his head. “Not really.”

“Normal or exotic?”

“Sorry?”

“I’ve noticed that some families like to take on names from ancient Rome, while others just go with the rest of the world. What would you prefer?”

“I . . . don’t know.”

“Hmm. Martin, Kyle, Ryan,” he said, then frowned. “Of course, there’s always something like Ash.”

“Ash?”

“Well, sure. Like a phoenix rebirth from the ashes,” Harry explained. “Zane, Riley, Caiden, Tristan, Spence, Xavier. . . .”

“And all these come from where?”

Harry shrugged. “Just off the top of my head. Names I sort of like, that’s all. Do you like any of them?”

“Maybe I should bow to your sense of humor and go with Ash. And what about you? I know, it might not be necessary, but did it ever cross your mind?”

Harry gave him another sidelong glance. “Well, I never did really like the name Harry,” he admitted. “Don’t you think most people spend time hating their name and thinking up something they’d like better?”

“Mmm. And?”

“You’ll think it’s silly.”

“Perhaps, but I won’t laugh,” Tom assured him.

“I considered Rigby at one point, though I do like Riley, or maybe Coran.”

“How about Coran, with Riley as a surname?” Tom suggested.

Harry considered that, plucking at the leg of his baggy jeans, then looked over with a smile. “That might be nice. Hypothetically speaking, of course.”

“Of course. I suppose I could use Riley as a surname as well, or something else if you had one in mind.”

“No, that’s fine.” Harry got up so he could stand at the window and watch the storm’s progress, flinching as a bolt of lightning lit the sky without warning. “Do you think we could have lunch now? I’m hungry again.”

*

Tom thought it over as he lay in bed, having delivered Harry back to Privet Drive and heard confirmation in his head that Harry was safely back in his room. Harry hadn’t reacted badly to the idea of a shared surname, or even to the possibility of a new name at all. Despite his words that spoke of a claim to retain his identity, it was obvious that the young man had not blinded himself to potential outcomes, and that pleased him.

He had been equally pleased that Harry had gotten physically closer to him, saying without words either that he was no longer afraid, or that he was consciously trying to step past the normality presented by his family. Which, he wasn’t sure, but Harry had rested in his arms comfortably that first night, looking to him for safety and comfort.

The bond, he supposed with a slight sigh, but more recently? He tended to think not. It could be wishful, but he had, after all, enjoyed their time in the garden. Their conversation had been surprisingly normal, wandering from topic to topic, sometimes so rapidly that, looking back, he realized he couldn’t say at times why it had happened. It was like those silly word games where one was challenged to go from one word to another in so many steps.

If pressed, he might be persuaded to admit that part of Harry’s charm was his obvious power, and his total obliviousness to it. And he was pleasing to the eyes, not that Harry would ever realize that fact, either. There was a stubborn degree of innocence that lurked in Harry’s eyes, despite everything, that reached out to ensnare those who could see it, calling like a siren, and promising that everything would be all right.

Tom shook his head and snorted. He was beginning to sound sappy even in his own thoughts. Still, there was just something about Harry that was unmistakable, and undeniable.

When he awoke the next morning it was with the knowledge that he would have to take care of Bella and her cronies, something that brought about feelings of anticipation and annoyance mingled into an unwholesome mess. To his surprise, it was not a house-elf that arrived shortly after with his breakfast, but Severus.

“Good morning,” the man said, placing the tray across his lap with an enviable economy of movement, then taking a seat in a nearby chair.

“Severus?”

“I thought you would like help today,” Severus said expressionlessly.

“Yes, all right,” Tom replied absently. He sat there for a moment, then shook his head and quirked his mouth. “Thank you. I have mixed feelings about today.”

“You’re welcome, Tom.”

He blinked, then smiled. “You already ate?” he asked, knowing that there was every likelihood that Severus had been awake for hours. When the man nodded he snatched a piece of toast from the plate and crunched into it.

“When?”

Tom swallowed and said, “Noon. It’s set for them to arrive for lunch, to be followed by a meeting. Except, of course, I won’t actually attend.”

“Mixed feelings?”

Tom shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll be happy to see Bella dealt with, but I must admit that I wonder what would be the result of her supposedly killing Voldemort and exposing him for the lie he is.”

“You are referring to being a half-blood,” Severus stated.

Tom nodded. “However, I get the feeling that Dumbledore would consider it to be some kind of a trick. Considering that everyone seems hell bent on the idea that Harry is the one to kill him. . . .”

Severus snorted. “I still think that boy couldn’t find his own shadow without a map. How anyone could expect him to be the one is beyond my ken.”

Tom arched a brow and grinned. “And yet, he manages to beat your house team at Quidditch on a regular basis.” Severus scowled at him and refused to comment, so Tom went back to his breakfast, eating quickly. Eventually he remarked, “I still wish I knew what the original prophecy said.”

“You’re alive, he’s alive, is it really that important?”

“I don’t know,” Tom admitted. “I just think it will fill in some of the holes. I also want to know if Dumbledore has any inkling of the second prophecy.”

“Then might I suggest, to start at least, that you find yourself a place in London for when the boy is taken from Privet Drive? Preferably near Kings Cross.”

Tom stared for a moment, then nodded. “If you think it’s a wise idea.” He knew it had to do with Dumbledore’s headquarters, and that Severus would never be able to tell him the actual location.

“As to the second prophecy—though, in truth, it is the third in a sense—you might see merit in attempting to place a serpent in his office.”

Tom mulled that over, his eyes on the blanket covering him, then lifted his eyes and said, “Perhaps. Would you like one in your own quarters? While they cannot speak English, they can understand it.”

Severus parted his lips, paused, then replied, “That might be a wise idea.”

He wondered if Severus had assumed one had been placed there already, to spy on his activities. “I will make the arrangements through Harry, then. The second prophecy?”

“Trelawney rendered the second to Potter personally. It was in regard to Pettigrew rejoining Voldemort.”

“Ah.” There seemed to be no adequate response to that revelation. “It would greatly ease my mind if I knew,” he said. “If he does, what does that say? That he really is willing to stand aside as others abuse Harry and then send him to his death? I presume, of course, that the first prophecy marks Harry as Voldemort’s killer. If so, and with the one we heard, if he knows, then that is it. He prepares Harry for his own death.”

The look on Severus’s face told Tom all he could ever want to know about what the man would like to have replied and didn’t. He kept the smirk that was threatening to break free repressed, though. It might well be that someday Severus would open up. After all, if he could go from a sadistic, power hungry mass murderer. . . .

“That is possible,” is what Severus finally said.

Tom rubbed his face and said briskly, “Well, conjecture gets me nowhere at present, so I may as well get up and face today.” As he lifted the tray in anticipation of swinging his legs to the floor he added, “I’m glad you came, Severus.”

*

Severus was wearing yet another disguise, not that it mattered much considering he was cloaked and masked, and that he was invisible on top of that. Tom could sense his presence, though, hovering nearby in a looming kind of way. He let his gaze narrow as the first of the Death Eaters arrived and abased themselves at his feet, followed in rapid succession by the others as they appeared. Only Bella had a casual flair to her actions. That alone would have made her stand out in an organization which consisted almost entirely of men were it not for the decided tilt and sway of her hips as she walked.

Tom would not have been surprised to find out that she was sleeping with any number of them, nor been surprised if her husband was willing to stand back and remain quiet on the matter. However, baseless speculation was only good for his personal amusement. He let loose with a chilly smile, ostensibly pleased to see his minions so happy to fling themselves at his feet.

“My friends,” he said sibilantly, “you will find refreshments inside. Avail yourselves, and I will join you shortly so that our next glorious move may be revealed. I know you will all enjoy what is to come.” The sparkle in Bella’s eyes was not lost to him, nor the postures of her fellows. Had she not been wearing a mask, he knew he would see the self-satisfied smirk that twisted her mouth.

One by one they filed in silently and took places around the table. “Soon, my children,” he said as he shut the door gently. He waited for several minutes before nodding, at which point Severus flickered into view. “Let us take care of this door, shall we?” he said softly.

Severus nodded and moved to his side, producing his wand. In concert they cast the spells, watching as huge stone slabs both rose from the floor and dropped from the ceiling, each several times wider than the door the Death Eaters had stepped through. When the movement finally stopped they were staring at what would appear to be a very strange wall that blocked off further access down the corridor, and not incidentally, the door itself.

“That should keep them well occupied once we open the gates,” Tom remarked, then reached into his pocket for a small sphere. A flick of his wrist activated it, the interior suddenly swirling with smoke which abruptly resolved into a picture. The Death Eaters were eating heartily, completely unconcerned that their master had not yet joined them.

“Fine,” Tom murmured. “Then let us release their punishment.” After a quick look at Severus he whirled and stalked off, taking the first right sharply and trotting up a set of winding steps. The next floor was just as dirty and damp, smelling of fungi and other things that liked to grow in such conditions. Some of that same fungi helped to light their way, glowing as it did in scabrous patches on the walls.

“Such a charming place, Tom. I love what you’ve done with it,” Severus muttered.

Tom smirked and turned left, walking a short way down the hall before stopping abruptly. Just a little ahead of them the floor showed the results of their efforts below, with entire sections missing. To his immediate left was another door, which he opened with a wave of his hand. He stood in the doorway and smiled.

“My dear friends,” he rasped, “lunch is about to begin. I trust you will be grateful for this thoughtful gift.” A ripple of assent rolled past him. “I have made sure there won’t be any accidents, so enjoy yourselves to the fullest.” He stepped back, closing the door again, but not before he had aimed his wand at four points in the room and seen that portions of the floor were sliding back.

Turning back to Severus he said, “Then let us fix this as well.” A minute later that door, too, was blocked off as had been the one below. The sphere revealed what he expected to see. Dementors were pursuing his oh-so-faithful Death Eaters around the lower room after having dropped through the gates he had so kindly opened for them. The fact that anti-apparation wards were in place and the doorway was blocked well enough so as to require prolonged and dedicated spell casting to remove the barrier naturally meant that his Death Eaters were not faring well at all.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that a Patronus required a genuinely strong, happy memory to manage, and at that only drove them away temporarily. He allowed his mind to drift a little as he considered the idea of a transformed Peter stuck in a maze with a twist of snakes after him and smiled faintly. This was rather like that. He shook his head when he noticed Severus staring at him and returned his attention to the sphere.

It was said that watching a person be Kissed was nearly unbearable and without doubt some of his less than faithful minions remembered that judging by their attempts to suicide rather than be caught and given the undivided attention of a dementor.

“No, Severus,” he finally said after the last of them had either died or been kissed. “I am not enjoying this, but I do feel a certain satisfaction. It is just as well that the sphere cannot transmit sound. Though, I will admit that seeing Bella drooling in the corner is . . . delightful.” She had tried to the very last to defend herself against the foul creatures, unwilling or unable to conceive of the possibility of defeat.

“Is that why you smiled?”

Tom shook his head. “No, I was thinking of Peter, actually.” He briefly explained his little daydream and shrugged. “We should go. I’ll come back once everything has gone quiet.”