Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 11 :: Forfeit

11 • Forfeit

Harry stepped through the door and immediately made for a chair, sitting down with a slight smile on his face. When Dobby popped up he said, “Would you please let Tom know I’m here?”

“Yes, master,” Dobby said before popping out. Thirty seconds later he was back. “Master is hungry?”

Harry cast a grateful smile at Dobby and nodded. “Tom might be as well, so bring enough for two just in case?”

Dobby nodded and scampered off, leaving Harry with his thoughts. It felt good to be back here where he didn’t have to worry about who might be lurking around the corner. A place where he didn’t have to try to mask what he was feeling, or present a certain face to those who would find any excuse to berate him, question him, or torment him. True, he knew that on occasion he annoyed Tom, but it was no worse than what Tom did to him in a similar fashion. That was perfectly all right, and in some respects, not much different from how his friends annoyed him, and in reverse.

On that thought he smiled again. Maybe he and Tom were friends, or close enough. He was certainly finding it much easier to just talk, about whatever. He definitely didn’t feel like Tom was suddenly going to start accusing him of being secretive or of hiding things, even if he was or had been. That stupid dream. He laughed softly, absently nodding when Dobby placed two plates on the table and saying, “Thank you.” Was it any wonder that Tom kept telling him he had a strange mind?

He wondered if everyone had conversations with themselves, and if everyone thought they were as stubborn as he found himself to be. Dream might be right, though. Was there a point to kissing Tom if it wasn’t real to begin with? After all, there was every chance that the dream would play out exactly as he might wish, whether that be good or bad, depending on how insecure he was feeling at any given moment.

He snickered on remembering what the dream Tom had said about him being attractive, then stopped suddenly. Why would he say that about himself? Before he could consider that any further, the real Tom stepped into the kitchen, derailing his train of thought.

“Hello, Harry,” he said as he pulled out a chair and sat down.

Harry flicked his gaze up, chin still down, and arched a brow. “I have such strange dreams lately. Hello, Tom. I hope you’re hungry, because I don’t think I can eat all of this by myself.”

“I assure you, I’ve been waiting for you to arrive.” Tom flashed him a smile and picked up his knife and fork. “But if we don’t start eating, it’ll get cold.”

Harry shrugged. “Hot or cold, doesn’t matter much to me. It’s food.” He began to eat, his thoughts wandering back to his earlier conundrum. Did he actually think he was handsome, somewhere in his subconscious, or was that not actually a dream he had experienced? Had his thoughts about Tom called the man into their place unwittingly? If it hadn’t been a dream, was he upset with Tom for pretending to be part of his own mind? Well . . . he had been doing a bit of fibbing himself. It wasn’t as though he had been entirely honest about his reaction to Bella’s demise. He heaved a gentle sigh between bites, then frowned when he remembered he wasn’t alone.

Deciding to just get it over with he said, “So, you think I’m attractive, huh?” The only sign that his words had hit home was the split second pause in the progress of Tom’s fork to his mouth. “You gave me some interesting advice, as well.”

“Advice?”

“Don’t pretend. I have a confession to make, though.”

“You saw more than you let on.”

Harry clenched his jaw, not sure whether to be angry or mortified that that time had not been a dream either. He dropped his fork and pushed away from the table, then thumped the surface with one hand in frustration.

“Harry.”

“Don’t say it,” he hissed, then looked up in surprise at the sound of a chair scraping on the floor. “Don’t go. I’m sorry,” he said hurriedly.

“Harry,” Tom repeated.

He couldn’t decipher the tone of Tom’s voice and pushed back quickly, getting to his feet and moving to stand in front of him. Without stopping to think about it he straddled Tom’s legs and sat down, snaking his arms around the other man’s neck. “Just shut up. I’m changing that stupid rule! It only applies to the past, okay?” After burying his face in Tom’s neck he repeated, “Don’t go.”

He heard a sigh, then Tom saying, “We’ve got to stop doing this, trying to anticipate each other. It’s only causing pain or creating misunderstandings.” Harry felt Tom’s arms come up to hold him, and then heard his voice again. “Why are you sorry?”

“I wasn’t exactly honest with you,” Harry mumbled into his neck. He rather thought that Tom smelled nice, though he couldn’t put a name to the scent.

“I let you mislead yourself, and I am sorry for that. I’d say we’re even. Harry, I don’t expect you to bare your soul to me. Everyone has secrets, most of which are innocent and harmless. It’s your right to keep them, or share them. I’ll listen if you want to talk about it.”

“I didn’t see much, just her being Kissed, through your eyes.” He shivered at the memory and tightened his grip.

“Why was it disgusting?” Tom asked.

“It brought back memories of when the dementors almost got Sirius and me. I took care of them, though, made them go away.”

“Brave and strong.”

Harry shook his head. “I knew I could, because I’d already watched myself do it. That does wonders for your confidence.”

“You should be confident of your power. You’ve always managed to stand up to Voldemort,” Tom pointed out.

Harry snorted and sat back. “That’s silly. I’ve never done much of anything except get lucky.”

“Don’t mistake a strategic retreat for defeat, Harry. Many are too stupid to know when to run and end up dead for their mistake in judgment. Not many people can face Voldemort and live to tell about it. And don’t mistake loyal, able allies to mean that you’re too weak to stand on your own.”

Harry wrinkled his nose and took in Tom’s expression. As usual, it didn’t tell him much, but that could simply be that he never was very good at reading others, especially people as accustomed as Tom to wearing a poker face. “You don’t mind this?” When Tom shook his head Harry said offhandedly, “I didn’t want you to leave.” Then he shrugged lightly and said, “I still think that was luck, or fate, or prophecy. Take your pick. I mean, what are the odds that we have brother wands?”

Tom narrowed his eyes slightly, then asked, “So, what did it say?”

Harry grinned; he had been wondering when Tom would get around to asking that. So he told him, closing his eyes so he could better recall the words, then gazed at him curiously. Tom stared at a point over his shoulder for a while, then smiled.

“About what I expected, I suppose. I never stood a chance. However, it does point something out.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you believe in Voldemort’s power, in mine?” When Harry nodded he said, “That prophecy states that I marked you as my equal, so obviously you are as powerful as I am. So, if you believe in my power, you must, by extension, believe in your own.”

“Logic is one thing,” Harry protested, “but that doesn’t mean it makes a connection in my head, Tom. I understand what you’re saying, but. . . .”

“Simple, Harry, but difficult. We do share one trait, sadly enough. Massive insecurity.”

Harry snorted in disbelief.

“It’s true. You have so much trouble in seeing what you’re capable of, or even why people like you, or would want to. And while I know exactly what I can do in terms of power, I am at a loss as to why anyone would want to know me as a person and not as that power.”

“I think this is where I would normally spout off another proverb or quotation, but. . . .”

“This isn’t funny, right?”

“Yes.” Harry bit his lip, then said, “I hope mum and dad forgive me, but, I’m not sorry you’re alive.” He felt a momentary tightening of the hold Tom had on him.

“I’m not at all sorry you’ve always stayed one step ahead of me,” Tom replied. “Though, I would have taken you for the type to hit me with a stunner to keep me from moving, not crawl onto my lap.”

Harry could feel the rush of heat to his cheeks, which only got worse when Tom added in a confiding tone, “I prefer this. It’s much more enjoyable.”

If he hadn’t already reversed his opinion of that dream—it wasn’t—he would now. Tom was most definitely flirting with him. Feeling incredibly nervous, and a bit stupid, he said, “My judgment isn’t so bad, right?”

“Not at all,” Tom assured him. “In fact, I definitely think you win this week. After all, you captured me fair and square. Extra points right there.”

Harry pondered that, realizing after a minute that he had, in fact, made a first move of sorts. “So, I have to decide what I win.”

“Indubitably. What will my forfeit be?”

“Teach me how to kiss,” he said firmly, eternally grateful that his voice hadn’t cracked on such a bold statement, and praying that he didn’t look like a complete fool.

Tom half closed his eyes, making Harry even more nervous. “As you wish, Harry,” he murmured, then slid one of his hands up Harry’s back, coming to a rest on his neck and exerting a gentle pressure.

Harry let himself be drawn down slowly, finally closing his eyes as Tom’s lips brushed against his own. They were softer than he would have imagined, and warm. Then they moved against his as Tom’s fingers threaded into his hair, and parted, and he could feel Tom’s hot breath against his skin, followed by the sensation of his lower lip being taken between a set of teeth to be nibbled gently and sucked.

Harry’s own lips parted without thought, and his lower lip was abandoned so that Tom could invade with his tongue. He didn’t resist when the hand at the back of his neck tilted his head, or when Tom moved his tongue against his own. It felt . . . good. More than good, and he made his own attempt to mimic what Tom was doing, forgetting to breathe as Tom became bolder in his exploration and a hand dropped down his back to rest on his hip and pull him closer.

It was slow, though. Languid and unhurried. Tom was taking his time and Harry was content to just let him, concentrating on the feeling of that tongue in his mouth, sliding against his teasingly, trying to catch the rhythm. He frowned when Tom eventually pulled away, opening his eyes to look at him questioningly.

“Does my Harry want more?” Tom murmured.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“Then my Harry needs to finish eating, because your Tom is starving, and we have plenty of time,” Tom said teasingly.

Harry frowned more deeply, somewhat put out at the interruption to something he had been enjoying quite a bit. He opened his mouth to speak, though he never got the chance as Tom swiftly pulled him back down for a second, much shorter kiss, then firmly sat him up and raised his brows.

Grumbling, and scowling, Harry slid off Tom’s lap and returned to his seat, reluctantly picking up his silverware. He shot a sidelong look at Tom, then began eating again, finally smiling sheepishly when he thought about how foolishly he was acting. That didn’t stop the ache he felt, though, or the urge to squirm in his chair as it set in what he’d just done, nor the desire to go right back to doing it.

In consequence he ate fairly quickly, not really tasting the food, and reminding himself every so often to slow down. The last thing he wanted to do was appear like a silly child after a treat. He had just set down his fork when Dobby appeared at his side to ask, “Does master wish seconds?”

“Er, no, Dobby. Thank you. This was more than enough.”

The elf snatched the plate away from him, and from Tom, and Harry looked over to see that Tom was wearing an amused smile. “You better not be laughing at me,” Harry said in a low voice.

“Not at all. I find your enthusiasm delightful, actually. I must be doing something right.”

Harry scowled again and pushed back his chair so he could stand up. Tom rose as well and extended a hand, which he took, and let himself be led off to one of the sitting rooms. Once he had sat down—Tom had waved him to a spot on the couch—Tom said, “I feel it is my duty as your instructor to tell you that creativity is encouraged.”

Harry arched a brow, and, not trusting himself to speak, pointed at the spot next to him.

“My, my. Commanding, aren’t we. But, I think not.”

Before Harry could protest, Tom had straddled him and was lowering his head.

*

Harry sighed and opened his eyes to stare directly into Tom’s. “I feel . . . delirious.” His head was resting on the arm of the couch and Tom was snuggled on top of him.

“Harry.”

“Yes?”

“If you don’t stop squirming against me like that, I’m going to dump you into a tub of ice water.”

“But it feels good,” he whispered, arching his hips.

“It does, but I’m not willing to do more than kiss you at this point.”

“Is that because—” He broke off and bit his lip. Tom quirked up a brow, so Harry tried again, though he thought better of using his original question. He settled for asking, “Why?”

“Because I’d like more to mean something more. For both of us. I find you attractive, Harry, for a number of reasons, and I’ve come to like you a great deal, but I think we would both be better served to wait until it’s more than that. Call me foolish if you like, or archaic and old fashioned. I won’t mind.”

Harry shook his head. “No. I think it sounds kind of”—he dropped his gaze for a second—“romantic.”

“Do you?”

“Well, not in a Madam Puddifoot’s sense.”

Tom threw his head back and laughed openly. “I should hope not. Still, even to myself it sounds strange.” His gaze connected with Harry’s again. “I very much do not want to rush, or make mistakes with you. With us.”

Harry felt heat rising in his cheeks again. “I feel like a damn school girl,” he muttered.

Tom chuckled and brushed his lips briefly with his own. “I find it endearing, how expressive you are. I think you can teach me quite a bit about that.”

Harry cast around in his mind for a suitable response, then smiled and said, “Example moves the world more than doctrine.”

“I really don’t understand how you failed History of Magic, Harry.”

“I told you! Binns is a complete bore. I don’t know how Hermione manages to stay awake.”

“I have something for you,” Tom said, extricating himself and standing up, much to Harry’s remorse.

“Why?”

Tom smiled and shrugged at him in answer, then turned and headed for one of the shelves. After staring at them for a few moments he shifted a few things and picked something up. When he returned, he was holding a wrapped package. “Here,” he said. “A real birthday present.”

“What? But—” Harry sat up properly and took the package, turning it over in his hands slowly. The package was rather hefty and not exactly small. “Thank you,” he said without looking up.

Tom sat down beside him. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

“It’s books,” he replied. “I can tell that much. Hardcovers. Two, I think.” Having said that he carefully picked open the wrappings, which were sedate in nature, not that he minded. Somehow he couldn’t imagine Tom using gaudy paper or bright ribbons as some did. Inside was, in fact, two hardcover books, by Stephen R. Donaldson, a set. “Muggle fiction?”

“Sure. I told you I read quite a bit. I thought you might enjoy these. If not, we’ll find you something else.”

Harry looked up and repeated, “Thank you. It’s nice to get something that isn’t related to school, or even the wizarding world. Just something that could be . . . fun.” He set the books on the end table and crawled onto Tom’s lap for a hug.

“You’re welcome, Harry.”

“What about you?” For that matter, how did you find out the birth date of someone with so little to go on?

“If you’re asking what I think you are, you’ll think of something,” was the enigmatic reply.

Maybe the sorting hat would know? “I’m still wondering how I’m going to explain my new friend, or if I’ll have to at all.”

“Ash?”

“It’s not like I go out much, even now. How did I meet this Ash person?”

“Do you need to explain?”

Did he? He had been planning on sneaking out to see Tom, or slipping off, or having Dobby jump him around. “I suppose not. No one needs to know if I see you.”

“I’m confident that we can talk to each other at that distance. Aren’t you the one who expressed the idea that our bond is getting stronger, after all?”

“Er, yeah. That’s true. At least, I think it’s true. The only way to tell is to try. But we can’t do that yet.”

Tom reached up to ruffle Harry’s hair, then rested his hand on the back of his neck. “No, not yet. But soon. Severus suggested I find myself a temporary place near Kings Cross.”

Harry was surprised. He didn’t think Snape would have suggested anything that would, in time, benefit him. In theory, at least. “Tom, if I—” He broke off and worried his lower lip between his teeth. “If I had to become someone else, what would happen to my money in Gringotts?”

“That depends. For one thing, you haven’t reached your majority yet, so neither of us knows just how much of a fortune you have, Harry. I would be willing to bet that Dumbledore holds that information. It may be that he holds the key.”

“He did have the vault key Hagrid gave me,” Harry said thoughtfully.

“How much is in it?” Tom asked.

Harry made a helpless gesture. “I never tried to count it. I mean, there’s heaps of coins in there, but I just always grabbed a handful or so when I went in. Well, when they even let me go.”

“Did the amount ever seem to change, or could you not tell?”

“I couldn’t tell. But, I never really thought about it until now. I’ve just sort of known it would pay for my school things with some for treats. Do you think there’s another vault?”

“It’s entirely possible. Some parents set aside a vault for each child so they aren’t constantly doling out money. You may be a wealthy man, Harry.”

“Either way, it doesn’t answer the question. If Dumbledore—what if he gets reports? Muggles get bank statements.”

“Let me ask you this, then. Do you care what happens to the money? I do have enough to see both of us comfortable for years to come, but you might not like the idea of depending on someone else.”

“Yeah, but, what if it ended up all in Dumbledore’s hands? I don’t think I could stand that. How old do I have to be to write a will and make it stick? Do I even have the right to write to Gringotts for an accounting at this age?”

“You can always manipulate the man,” Tom suggested with a faint smile.

Harry tilted his head back and stared at Tom with half-lidded eyes.

“Ask him. Tell him that you’re afraid you may not live through all this and that you wanted to make a will. With his help, of course. After all, you trust him implicitly, right?”

Harry chuckled and straightened. “Yes, of course. An innocent, clueless pawn would. Still, you’re right. I’m not thrilled with the idea of depending on someone else’s money. But unless he has absolutely no control over what happens to it, I don’t see how I can get it moved.”

“If you cannot, you can leave it to your friends, Harry. If Dumbledore is your wizarding guardian, as I suspect, you will have to go through him unless Harry Potter lives to see seventeen.”

Harry sighed and looked down. “I hate this. Not you, but everything that’s—I feel trapped between truth and expectations. I’ve never had a chance to make my own decisions, so I never know what to do. Sure, I made some, but I’m beginning to think I was carefully herded in those directions.”

“I hope I don’t treat you that way.”

Harry looked up and shook his head. “I don’t think so. You listen to me. You’ve even changed your plans based on what I think or how it would affect me. I know, some of that is just not wanting to rock the boat, but . . . most people just. . . .” He smiled sadly and said, “The truth isn’t always a pleasant thing to know, right?”

“Yes,” Tom agreed, with an equally sad smile.

“This is nice, though.” Tom tilted his head in confusion, so he said, “You don’t try to make it all better by covering things up.” After a pause he asked, “Do you think I could pull it off?” He wasn’t at all sure about his acting abilities.

“I do,” said Tom with confidence. “Harry, you may be horrible at concealing things, such as I can or even Severus, but you are very good at transmuting things.”

“Huh?” was his intelligent response.

“I expect that you would be nervous, even scared. Do you know how that translates when it comes to your face, your expression? To Dumbledore, that would probably come across as you desperately asking him without words to guide you. After all, he believes that you are secure in the knowledge that he is to be trusted.”

Harry snorted softly. “Even after I tried to destroy his office?”

“Have I even heard this story yet?”

“I guess not. I don’t remember telling you. . . .” Several minutes later he was finished, and once again gazing at Tom curiously.

“I think you can do it,” Tom said firmly in response. “You were understandably upset at the time. Especially if you went to him with a heartfelt apology, or some semblance thereof, as an opener.”

“Hn. I could. And I might have had things not happened like this. I wasn’t a very nice person last year.” Then he paused and poked Tom in the chest. “Hey, how come I always arrive standing when you send me dreams?”

“I thought you would be more comfortable that way. Then it would be your choice to remain standing, or take a seat, rather than me making the choice for you.”

“Oh. Tom, can we continue the lesson?”

“Continue? Are you trying to tell me I haven’t managed to teach you properly yet?”

“Well . . . I just want to be sure I didn’t miss anything important.”

“Is that so?”

Harry grinned when he was flipped onto his back a moment later.