Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 18 :: Just Another Day

18 • Just Another Day

“Am I being pushy if I ask what all that was about?”

Harry sighed and slumped into a chair, dumping his bag on the floor. “Snape gave me until the next class to do the summer work. I don’t even remember what the assignment was.”

“It’s all right. I still have it written down. I can go get it now if you want,” Blaise offered.

“Only if you really don’t mind.”

“It’s no trouble. I’ll be right back.” Blaise turned and left.

Harry felt, in a way, somewhat like he had when he had been obsessing over whether or not to trust Tom, though to a lesser degree. He definitely couldn’t ask Blaise to submit to veritaserum, though. The very thought of it made him laugh. A sharp rap on the door had him rise and move to open it, then freeze as he realized it was not Blaise, but Malfoy.

“So, Potter. Are you finally willing to admit that I was right back then? I can’t imagine how you pulled this off, but don’t think it will change anything. I haven’t forgotten, and whatever it is you’re up to, it won’t work. All you’ve done is given up the safety of your gilded little tower. I hope you enjoy being played with before the end of your pathetic excuse for a life.” He paused, smirked, then said, “Watch your back, Potter,” before pivoting and striding off down the hall.

Harry blinked and stuck his head out to glance around the doorframe, then jumped when he heard a throat being cleared. After smiling sheepishly at Blaise, he stepped back and let him enter, then closed the door firmly. “Well, I’m glad that’s over with,” he said, then wandered back to sit down. “He’s probably been aching to say that since he found out I was re-sorted.”

Blaise handed over a sheet of parchment and sat down. “He may not be able to get at you directly, Harry, but he will try. His pride won’t allow anything else. He’s been ranting about you since first year.”

“Yeah. But, I don’t always care. I mean, think about how many things have been said about me since I came to Hogwarts, and how much of it is actually true? The people who matter know better, and isn’t that what really counts?”

“What about your own pride?”

Harry laughed softly. “Pride is . . . knowing that the garden I planted grows well under my care, or having made progress on a fault. Damaged pride is losing respect for myself because of a mistake I’ve made or a wrong I’ve committed knowingly.”

Blaise eyed him appraisingly, then shook his head. “You’re a strange person, Harry.”

Harry laughed again, more loudly. “That reminds me of something a friend keeps telling me.” Then he frowned and looked at Blaise intently. “Are you going to be in trouble because of this? Yes, I know, Snape more or less ordered you to keep an eye on me, and that’s a lovely excuse if that’s all it is, but if it isn’t? Are you going to come in for harassment because of me?”

Blaise appeared mildly surprised. “You needn’t worry about me, Harry. I’ve lived down here for five years already.”

“Yes, but—”

“Don’t. I think I finally have a chance to talk to someone here who isn’t a loyalist fanatic, likely to blackmail me, or spill my secrets the moment my back is turned.”

Harry started to respond, paused, then said, “All right.” He glanced briefly at the parchment in his hand. “Could you explain what this says? I can’t read your handwriting.”

*

Ron was once again waiting for him at the doors. He gave another of those assessing looks to Blaise, along with a slight nod, then dragged Harry off toward Hagrid’s hut for class. “All right,” he said in an undertone as they walked, “what’s the deal with Potions, and what’s the deal with Zabini?”

Harry glanced around to make sure no one was nearby, then ran a hand through his hair and growled. “Professor Dumbledore got me into the class.” He shot an exasperated look at Ron. “I was almost happy when I got my OWL results and realized I only had an Exceeds Expectations. No more Potions! I didn’t find out until this morning.”

“But why?”

“I think . . . it was so I wouldn’t have as much free time to . . . I don’t know. Think about Sirius? Well, that and the career advice talk with McGonagall. But, do I even want to be an auror?” Harry scratched his head. “I think Hermione was surprised to see me in there, though.”

“Did she sit with you?”

Harry shook his head. “Not with me or near me, actually. I don’t know if that’s because things are still awkward, or because I was sitting with Blaise.”

“Right, about him. . . .”

Harry shrugged. “He came over initially to see if I was planning on causing trouble for Slytherin. I told him I never plan stuff like that, it just happens.” Ron snickered, and Harry briefed him on the rest of the conversation. “I dunno. He seems nice enough, but I guess time will tell. He said he thinks it’s nice that we’re still friends.”

Whatever Ron had been about to say was cut off when Harry said, “Oh!” then told him about Malfoy. By then they had arrived, with Harry looking around for Hagrid while trying to appear not to be doing so, finally spotting him emerging from around the back.

They were hailed immediately. Hagrid strode over heavily, a broad smile on his face. “Hello, Harry. Ron.”

“Hi, Hagrid,” Harry said with a grin. “How’s Grawp?”

“He’s fine! Learnin’ more words, too! I fixed him up right nice after that scuffle in the forest.”

“I’m very glad to hear that. He saved our lives.”

“I’m not sure if he entirely understands what he did, but—” Hagrid broke off and switched his gaze to over Harry’s and Ron’s heads. “Yer classmates are comin’. Best to get ready.”

Harry and Ron nodded and moved off to sit down on a nice spot of grass. “Seems Hagrid is just fine,” Ron commented.

“Yeah,” Harry said a little wistfully. “I was wrong to think for even a second that he would—”

Ron shrugged. “Well, it’s not so strange. I mean, I haven’t started screaming bloody murder over you chatting up Zabini, so Hagrid being the same as always pales in comparison.”

Harry grinned and punched Ron on the arm. “Thank you,” he said, then, “Ron, do you think Hermione is acting so oddly because she’s still thinking things over, or because she still thinks I’m a complete idiot?”

“I’m not sure,” Ron said, lowering his voice as more students arrived and found places to sit. “She may have said she was wrong, but she didn’t apologize. And, she didn’t say what she was wrong about, either.”

“All right, everyone, settle down!” Hagrid called out, then launched into an only slightly halting speech about the new year and what was to be expected. Harry stopped listening after only a few minutes, mildly surprised that Hagrid had not simply hauled them all over to yet another dangerous group of creatures with a beaming smile.

He was distracted from his abstraction on hearing Tom’s voice in his head, and readily agreed to attempt to block himself off, though he was mightily curious as to what his bonded was up to. His theories, sure, but what exactly? As soon as Tom left his mind he spent a minute doing some visualization exercises, then turned his attention back to Hagrid, who had produced a series of crates from somewhere and was just opening them up.

They spent the next half hour giving kneazles attention. No one seemed to have the heart to mention that they had gone over them the previous year, or perhaps it was simply that everyone was relieved at Hagrid’s choice and didn’t want to spoil things.

There was only one point of contention and it was entirely in Harry’s own mind, and at that it was fleeting. He had frozen in the act of petting his kneazle, something whispering at the edge of his mind, distracting him. He felt . . . inexplicably dispassionate, then satisfied. Then it was over, and the kneazle was saying, “Meh,” in an impatient tone.

“Harry?”

He blinked and began stroking the creature again. “It’s nothing. I just felt really strange for a moment,” he said, then began telling Ron all about Snape’s first night speech.

As they walked back to the castle a bit later Ron said, “I don’t know, Harry. It almost sounds like Snape is protecting you.”

Harry gave him a confused look. “Of course he is. I expect Dumbledore would have his head otherwise.”

Ron shook his head stubbornly. “No, that isn’t what I mean. Merlin, Harry, all he did was glare at you. Aside from that, he didn’t do anything we might expect. Honestly, can’t you just see him giving you the dressing down of your life in front of the other Slytherins? The veiled threats, the insults, the utter disgust at having you in his house? What about his supposed cover?”

“Oh, Ron, come on. He’s saved my life how many times now? Voldemort was there. He has to know that Snape is a traitor. If Snape is still spying, he’s doing it on a level that nobody understands. As for the students, he more or less shouted that he was awaiting orders from Voldemort. Besides, remember what Blaise said? House solidarity. Those rules have been in place for years.” Harry couldn’t very well come out and tell Ron that Snape was embroiled in what could be considered a three-way spying gig.

Ron shook his head again, but didn’t comment. Instead he said, “Now can we have a game of chess?”

*

Tom paced the room restlessly, pausing occasionally to mutter under his breath. Harry was making him feel like a teenager, threatening his control with those innocent eyes and unconscious allure. He had absolutely not intended to go that far, and it had taken what little control he had had left after Harry shredded it to cast cleansing charms on the both of them and get his bonded comfortably situated for sleep. He would have much preferred to strip himself and Harry, then get under the covers with him. But Harry trusted him, so he had not.

Desperate for something to take his mind off his desires, Tom slapped his thighs and pivoted, then made the decision to test some of Harry’s ideas. He had chosen a suitable test subject, one of his meeker followers, for the first step in securing their plans. After nodding to himself, Tom morphed into the guise of Voldemort and pulled on appropriate robes, then apparated to his headquarters and grabbed the first Death Eater marked for termination he saw.

“Come!” he barked, then whirled and went to find the subject, eventually leading them both to the study he used. Once inside he stunned both of them and sent them into a type of stasis not unlike what a healer might use for a badly injured patient. The were both ignored until Tom had drawn enough of his own blood to perform the first part of the plan, then he used that to change the identity of the first man.

That left him tired, so he rested for a while, calling a house-elf for refreshments, then took a short nap. Awake again, he carefully modified the second man’s Dark Mark and sat back a while later with a smile of satisfaction. Before he proceeded further, though, he shifted to Hogsmeade long enough to talk to his bonded.

:Harry?:

:I’m here.: Harry’s reply was almost shy, making Tom smile.

:I wanted to test some of your theories, Harry, in just a few minutes. You should probably block yourself for at least a half hour.:

:That’s probably wise considering that I’m in class. Even if I am affected, though, I don’t think it will be all that noticeable based on the last time.:

:Are you sure? I could wait.:

:No, it’s okay. But I want to know what’s happened afterward.:

:Of course, Harry. Contact me when you have a free few minutes.:

:I will.:

Tom lost the sense of Harry’s mind and deemed it safe enough to proceed, so he returned to his study and woke both men from their induced comas, but not until after he had restrained them and collected their wands. “You,” he snarled at the first, “are a liability and no longer of any use to me.” His wand raised, Tom aimed and cast almost negligently, whispering the words, “Avada Kedavra,” and watching impassively as an almost blinding green light shot out and felled the man.

A split second later the other man slumped against his bindings. Tom arched a brow and stepped closer, then pulled back the man’s sleeve. The Dark Mark no longer graced his arm and the man was completely unconscious.

“Harry, you are brilliant,” he murmured, then touched his wand to the man’s bare forearm and intoned, “Morsmordre.” Once the mark was reestablished he proceeded to Obliviate the man’s memories and return his wand. A house-elf was called to drop him into one of the spare rooms to sleep it off, and Tom personally handled the corpse, removing it to his own house’s back garden to be dealt with in much the same way that Peter had been.

When all was said and done, Tom was quite happy to return to his temporary home in Hogsmeade.

*

Harry looked up from the table in surprise when people started filtering in and realized it was just coming up on dinner. He was just thankful that Ron had agreed to play the game at the Hufflepuff table, as though it was neutral territory. A second later Ginny bounced up with a bright smile and said, “Harry!”

“Hi, Ginny.”

She sat down and leaned closer. “Are we going to be continuing the DA?”

Harry blinked and scratched his neck. “Uh. . . .”

“I had a Defense lesson today.” Ginny leaned in even closer and whispered, “The man is a complete idiot.”

Harry made a motion to wait, then helped Ron pack up the chess set. Once that was taken care of, they left the table and headed for the corner of the hall on the Gryffindor side. “Ginny, have you even talked to others who were in the DA? I mean, do you think everyone is simply going to accept that I was re-sorted? Into Slytherin?”

Ginny tossed her hair back and placed her hands on her hips. “Sod them. If they can’t handle it, then fine, but it’s no reason to stop, Harry. I’m telling you, Professor Flaxweld is an idiot!”

“All right, look,” he said after a glance at Ron. “Talk to the other members. Let me at least see for myself what he’s like. We can discuss this again at the weekend?”

Ginny gave him a long stare, then nodded. “Okay, Harry. You do have a point.”

Harry gave her a quick hug. “Thanks. I need to get to my table.” To Ron he said, “We’re going to have to work something out about meeting. It isn’t like we can visit in each other’s rooms.”

Ron nodded, then grabbed Ginny and headed off to take seats. Harry gave a slight sigh and pivoted, making his way quickly to his now usual seat. Blaise was already waiting for him and gave him a faint smile. “Both of them?”

Harry nodded. “I’m not so sure about anyone else,” he whispered with a shrug, then shrugged a second time at the look of surprise on Blaise’s face.

“But—”

“I don’t know. Well, that’s not entirely true. I can think of one other person, but then, nothing ever seems to phase her.” Harry smiled softly, then loaded his plate as the food appeared.

After dinner Harry and Blaise retired to Harry’s room to get started on their Potions work. Harry really was quite curious to know how harshly Snape would be marking his papers.

:Harry, you spelled erumpent incorrectly.:

:I di—oh, no. Tom, I’m so sorry. I forgot.:

:Harry, it’s all right. I’ve peeked in several times and saw that you were enjoying yourself. I can wait until Blaise leaves. However, you know Severus will mark you down for mistakes.:

Harry bit his lip and studied his parchment, flicking his quill back and forth. :Has Voldemort sent instructions to Snape yet?:

:I was thinking I might do that this evening, in person.:

:Oh?:

:And since Severus cannot leave Hogwarts without some difficulty, I shall simply have to go there.:

Harry straightened slightly, not at all interested in doing his work now. Of course, he hadn’t been terribly interested in the first place, but now he really couldn’t care less about the assignment.

:Harry. You’ve only got a little bit more to go. Once you’re done you can fake being tired or having a headache. I’ll even check it over for you and help you with the holiday assignment if you behave now.:

Harry fought back a grin and bent his head, dipping his quill into the inkwell and bravely tackling the remainder of the assignment. He was startled into looking up a short time later at the sound of an expansive yawn. “Blaise?”

Blaise blinked a few times and dropped his hand. “Sorry. I just haven’t been sleeping well. I need to go lie down.” He gathered his things and packed them away, sending an apologetic smile at Harry. “Tomorrow?”

“Of course. Same as today.” Harry watched as his . . . friend . . . left his room, then immediately leapt to his feet.

:Yes, Harry.:

Harry concentrated, then asked Dobby to please jump Tom to him when the elf appeared. Thirty seconds later he was back, and Harry held up a hand to prevent the elf from leaving as Tom took a seat. “Please wait a moment, Dobby.”

Harry dropped into his seat again and scratched out a quick note, then folded it, addressed it, and handed it over. “Dobby, would you please deliver this to Professor Snape, and wait for his answer? If he agrees, I would like you to jump him in here.”

“Yes, master. Dobby is being happy to.”

Harry rose again and took the few steps to stand next to Tom, gazing at him silently. Then he blushed. Tom chuckled softly and reached out to caress Harry’s hand, then hold it, not even flinching when Dobby popped back in with Severus.

“Dobby is bringing Professor Snape, master.”

Harry did not step away or turn around. “Thank you, Dobby,” he said softly, hearing another pop a second later.

“Severus, please have a seat.”

It wasn’t until Harry heard his professor claim one of the chairs that he moved. He stepped closer to Tom, then swiveled and sat on the arm of the chair, his own arm now draped across his lap, his hand still in Tom’s. “Thank you for coming, sir,” he said, looking up to meet the man’s eyes.

After a moment Snape inclined his head.

“Your opening night statements stand, Severus. If it becomes necessary to reinforce them among the more stubborn of our dear Slytherins, please do. In Voldemort’s name, that is. And, if it becomes necessary, get word to me and I will intervene directly.”

Snape nodded.

“Malfoy’s already threatened me,” Harry said cheerfully.

“Ah, yes.” Tom chuckled. “It’s almost tempting to polyjuice someone just to see what the boy would do with that opportunity.”

Harry snorted. “I’m not sure I want to know what constitutes Malfoy’s idea of playing, Tom.”

“Potter.”

Harry’s head snapped up. “Yes, sir?”

“I was astounded to note that you did passable work on your summer assignment. Perhaps if you continue in that vein you may actually manage to pass your NEWT.”

Harry gaped, then snapped his mouth shut and frowned in confusion. After shooting a suspicious look at his professor Harry said, “Er, thank you, sir.”

:I think that is his way of telling you it was a ruse in case anyone was listening, Harry.:

Harry glanced at Tom, then back to Snape. “I will try my best to do well, sir.” Frankly, Harry thought the situation was screwy. He didn’t like having to address Snape formally while Tom was sitting there. It deeply underscored that he was still underage, and certainly that he had to play a certain role. He wasn’t sure if it was simply his tendency toward a problem with authority, or that their mutual situation made it stand out that much more.

“Severus, Harry and I will be conducting Occlumency lessons in the Chamber of Secrets. And, as Harry has pointed out, there may still be remains of the basilisk down there that he killed. Would you be interested in checking that out with me?”

Snape had the appearance of someone who had come to attention, even though he had not moved. “Yes, I would.”

“Could you refrain from scheduling any detentions you need to supervise personally this coming Friday evening? I thought we could check it out then.” When Snape nodded Tom said, “By the way, did Dumbledore actually deliver those supplies he promised, Harry?”

Harry frowned and said, “Not that I’m aware of.”

“Get them from me tomorrow evening, Potter,” Snape said. “I believe this is another attempt on Dumbledore’s part to force us to interact in a civilized manner.”

Harry noticed that Snape wasn’t as sarcastic as he could have been, but made no comment, just nodded.

“Harry, did you bring your Potions texts from the previous years or leave them behind?”

Harry gave Tom another look. :You’re doing this now to play buffer, aren’t you?:

:Why yes, so I am.:

Harry shook his head. “I left them behind. I can ask Dobby to get them for me. Why?”

“I was thinking you might like to use your time with Severus in the evenings to brush up on prior years. After all, your cover was Remedial Potions previously, correct?”

To Snape’s not so obvious surprise, Harry smiled. “That’s right. That’s a wonderful idea. But. . . .” Harry ruffled his hair. “Do you think the headmaster would be showing up unexpectedly to check up on us, professor?”

“No. I am quite sure he would believe that detrimental.” Then he changed the subject. “The raids?”

Tom let his head drop back for a moment. “I have sent a number of teams on a wild goose chase. Expect to hear news of countless book shops in the muggle world being hit.”

“To what end?”

“To make Dumbledore believe the status quo remains, and that Voldemort is after something specific. Perhaps . . . an obscure fairy tale.”

“Such as a Simurgh?”

Harry could feel Tom’s smile. “Why not? Voldemort is mad after all, and why not going after a legendary creature thought to possess such knowledge? If it keeps Dumbledore happy in his ignorance, I shall not complain.”

“Oh!” Harry turned a very curious gaze on Tom. “I forgot again. Your test?”

Snape shifted in his chair as Tom grinned and nodded. “Of course. It went quite well, Harry. Your ideas worked beautifully. I will continue to experiment, though at some point I will need blood from you to be without doubt.”

“Just ask,” Harry said, pleased and smiling widely. “You did it manually, though?”

“Yes. That is something I have still to work out and test. Do you mind if Severus and I retire to his office for a short while so that I can explain things to him?”

“Of course not. I’ll read your gift while I wait.”

“Very good.”

Harry concentrated, then pulled his hand from Tom’s and slipped off the chair. After kneeling down in front of Dobby he whispered, “Will you do me a favor? Will you listen for Tom’s call from now on in case he needs transportation?”

Dobby nodded firmly.

“Thank you,” he whispered, then said normally, “Will you transport Professor Snape to his office, then come back and bring Tom to him?”

“Yes, master.”

*

Severus had already engaged the additional wards by the time Tom arrived and was sitting behind his desk. Tom took the first available chair as Severus said, “What is this test mentioned?”

Tom smirked. “I’m beginning to think that Harry is a mastermind in disguise, Severus. He keeps hitting me with such odd ideas. It’s amazing. That, and he’s been manipulating Dumbledore flawlessly.”

“The test?” Severus repeated.

“It is very simple, yet complex, and it has everything, in the end, to do with what the sorting hat had to say. There was another prophecy, spoken by Harry’s mother. It made it plain that should Harry defeat Voldemort, he would also die. And yes, Severus, I now know the original prophecy. Dumbledore is quite firm in his beliefs. He cannot conceive that were it the other way around I would also die. So, that brings us to the first point.”

“Which is?”

“Harry and Voldemort both need to die,” he said simply, then waited.

Severus arched a brow. “And this test concerned your plans to get around that minor detail.”

“Naturally. Others will die in our places. And, when that time comes, those who are loyal will also die, and those who remain will be stripped of their Dark Marks. I ran a fairly simple test today and it worked flawlessly. I’m looking forward to it, actually. I think it will be a great deal of fun.”

“And I?”

Tom pursed his lips, then smiled. “A simple enough spell I would imagine. Just something to make you fall unconscious at the right time, so that Dumbledore does not suspect should you be in his company, or if he should come to you soon after the deed.”

“And this is all the brat’s idea?”

“His ideas, my execution. It’s brilliant. Today I altered the identity of a Death Eater on my list to my own, then modified the Dark Mark of a test subject. When I killed the first, the second blacked out and his mark disappeared. Naturally, I replaced it and obliviated him. I will need to try it with more people next time, and figure out if Harry’s other idea will work such that I need not waylay every Death Eater in the ranks in order to modify their marks manually. Some to die, some to live, depending, when the substitutes die. Then again, I do need to question all of them, so I suppose I could simply do it at those times. I am simply amazed at the way Harry’s mind works.”

Severus sneered. “You sound like a swain prattling on about his beloved.”

That stopped Tom cold for a moment. Was he? He brought a finger to his lips and considered. Was he just enthusiastic over such a bright mind, or was he actually burbling like a lovesick beau over the object of his affections? He thought he’d simply been explaining what had been going on.

“You’re actually falling for the little brat, aren’t you?” Severus accused.

“I—you may be right.” Tom shook his head and continued, “But that isn’t the point. Harry is the one who has come up with the master plan, Severus. A plan that has every chance of working. I’ll be free, he’ll be free, and so will you.”

He paused, then said, “Severus, if there’s ever something you need to tell me urgently, find Harry.”

“So it can wait until he is asleep?”

Tom shook his head. “What he knows, I know, if he chooses to allow it. Which reminds me. This Blaise Zabini fellow. . . .”

“Quiet, studious, never in trouble. Holds himself apart from the rest of the house, or at least from those with clear connections to Voldemort. I perceive no obvious danger.”

“This is why you told him to keep an eye on Harry, then.”

“Yes.” Severus gave him a speculative look. “Why?” he asked. “And don’t mention the bond.”

“Why?” Tom asked in surprise. “I suppose it’s a number of things. He’s brave, gutsy, and quite smart. He doesn’t back down from me and never has, even when he’s been so scared he’s shaking. He’s also kind, caring, and thoughtful. He’s not afraid to sit there and tell me his fears, or afraid to work at diminishing them, along with his faults. He’s not so weak as to disdain help, or to ask others for advice. And he’s not so blind as to continue letting others lead without questioning their motives and what’s in it for him. Those qualities have the effect of making me question myself. In short, he’s worth it.”

“And the bond?”

“I’d like to think of that as an unequalled opportunity for my eyes to be opened to the possibilities.”

“What he knows, you know?”

Tom shrugged. “Partly bond telepathy, partly possession. If necessary, you could speak to me through him. And while he has managed to almost entirely block me out, we will work to be sure of it. He’s had precious little in the way of making his own choices, Severus. This should be one of them. Unfortunately, he only seems to be able to see through my eyes at certain times. It doesn’t seem to bother him, though.”

Severus sighed heavily. “You’re determined to make me like the brat, aren’t you.”

“You did ask, Severus. It’s up to you what comes of the information you hear. All I have asked for is that you not humiliate him, especially now that he’s in Slytherin.”

“To humiliate him now would be to tell his housemates that he is fair game,” Severus pointed out.