Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 20 :: Amusements

20 • Amusements

“So, this is the famed Chamber of Secrets.”

Tom nodded. “Yes,” he said, then glanced at the corpse of the basilisk. “And that seems to be in surprisingly good condition. I hope you brought along sufficient tools and containers.”

Severus snorted softly. “And if not, I am sure you can ask that house-elf to gather more.”

“Very true.” Tom scanned the area, noticing as he did that not much had changed since his last visit. Why Salazar had wanted it to be so watery was beyond him, but it did make for some very interesting reflection patterns on the walls. It did, however, present a problem insofar as a library was concerned. Rather than attempting to change anything about the space itself, he walked to the foot of the statue and looked up.

Several contemplative minutes later Tom brought out his wand and set about creating a spiraling staircase which terminated in height at the level of the statue’s mouth, then fashioned a walkway which led to it. Unfortunately, the completed construct had the effect of obscuring portions of the statue, so he spent some time turning it partially translucent.

Once Tom was satisfied he ascended the staircase and entered the mouth, carefully walking up the sloped tunnel until he reached a large open area littered with discarded skins. Those he banished to the Chamber floor. Even if Severus couldn’t use them, they might be useful for clothing or accessories. The room itself was quite large—but then, so had the basilisk been—and it was dry, with smoothly curved stone walls and an uneven floor.

Various tunnels led off in several directions, most of them high enough for a well-grown man to walk without difficulty. Tom wasn’t particularly thrilled by the idea of spending much time exploring, but did, as it would be foolish to set up a library in the present space if there was another better suited to such use.

He was investigating the third of the tunnels when Severus appeared behind him, the only signal of his arrival the slight swish of robes.

“Charming.”

Tom looked over his shoulder to see yet another smirk on Severus’s lips. “I thought so myself. I’m ashamed that it never once occurred to me as a youth to do more than attempt to use the basilisk. Voldemort would have been overcome with mirth at the idea of living in the famed Chamber, using it as his base of operations, all under the very feet of one of his greatest enemies.”

Severus arched a brow. “I suppose this might account for, in part, why this place is called the Chamber of Secrets. I have finished gathering what I could salvage from the beast, and no, I shall not be mentioning my new acquisitions to Albus as he would no doubt become suspicious.”

“Splendid.” He thought the room would be perfect for a library. It wasn’t damp, it was of a decent size, and the floor and walls were level. Tom suspected that Salazar had done quite a bit of work to fashion the extra rooms of the Chamber to suit some specific purpose. Indeed, he had probably used them as a retreat.

It had been pure chance that—Tom shook his head and snorted. Chance indeed. More like fate, one might presume.

“Tom?”

“It’s nothing. Just thinking about how often fate must have been laughing at me.” He ran a hand through his hair and gave his companion a frank look. “Severus, I am truly sorry for everything I put you through over the years. I hope that in time you can forgive me.” Tom carefully didn’t smile when Severus’s face went blank again. Instead he said, “This seems suitable. I’ll have to start copying books when I return home so I can bring them here. I imagine a warming charm would not go amiss, either. Somehow I cannot see trying to put a fireplace in here.”

“Ah, no.” Apparently Severus did not want to touch upon what had just been said, which became clear when he said, “Have you been able to interrogate any of the Death Eaters yet?”

Tom smiled and nodded. “Several, yes. After having crossed off those who have been dealt with from the list, I have begun with those remaining. They will stay on the list. It gives me something to do in between orders for more of those fruitless raids I’ve been sending people out on.” He chuckled softly.

“They are not suspicious?”

He shrugged. “They seem slightly confused that I have yet to mention my next set of plans regarding Harry, but none of them are fools enough to speak of it.”

“Has there been no word from the master portrait?”

“Not as yet. I suggested to Harry that if we did not hear anything by this weekend, then perhaps I should hasten things along by announcing some sort of gathering, such as during the holiday. And if it turns out that few are interested, I shall likely not bother recruiting any students.”

“When do you plan on ending it all?”

Tom laughed softly. Severus had sounded almost melodramatic—accidental, he was certain. “I shall have to discuss that with Harry again. I had originally suggested that we take care of things at the end of this school year so that he would have his seventh year to see how the wizarding world treated him in the aftermath. But. . . .”

“As the Boy Who Lived must die. . . .”

“Yes. He may prefer to wait it out. Then again, he may be heartily tired of Dumbledore manipulating him into corners and not wish to prolong the agony.”

Severus gave him an assessing look, then said, “I admit that I was slightly taken aback when Albus told me in no uncertain terms that Potter would be in NEWT Potions. I further admit that the brat was able to brew a potion quite perfectly in the practical class this week. How much of that was him, and how much of it was you?”

Tom chuckled and looked away for a moment. “Severus, Voldemort wanted you as one of his own for a very good reason. Ever bothered to look up my marks for OWLs and NEWTs? I assure you, I scraped by in Potions, more out of sheer determination rather than talent. I do not and never have loved them, though I did love what they could do for me, if you take my distinction. I expect that given his protection as a Slytherin, Harry was finally able to concentrate for once and not fear having his attempt sabotaged. He did, after all, get quite good marks on his OWL.”

Severus snorted softly and glanced around the room. “Have you run any further tests?”

“Indeed, though nothing of any major scope. This time it was with one to be released and one to die. It also worked perfectly. I am feeling quite confident that all will go to plan at the correct time. Of course, I cannot experiment too often, lest I have no one to kill when the time comes.”

“Have they questioned the disappearance of Bella and her lot?”

“No, but that’s all right. I’ve sent some of them off on a search. I daresay I was quite intimidating at the time. Unfortunately, those dementors are still floating around so I cannot retrieve the bodies. As well, there are those ordered to be on the look out for likely new initiates.”

“And those who are being pressured into it?”

“I shall obliviate them of the meeting and send them on their way.” He paused, then added, “Not to mention do a little creative tinkering in the memories of the one who brought them in. It would hardly do to have those recruiters bringing in the same people over and over again, now would it?”

Severus gave him another of those assessing looks and said, “I do wonder how many pure-bloods will even be alive by the time you and the brat have finished causing complete chaos in the wizarding world.”

Tom shrugged carelessly. “Does it matter? Perhaps with those who die gone there shall not be more set upon the idea of blood superiority. Voldemort is, as Harry has said, nothing more than a hypocrite.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully and then smiled. “Maybe the papers would like that bit of information once he is gone, hm? Wouldn’t it be delicious if everyone realized that their tormentor was in fact a half-blood?”

“Perhaps. And it might simply make some believe it is why he was defeated.”

Tom threw him a piercing look. “That may be so. But it would still point out, quite clearly, I believe, that purity of blood does not denote power. I would not put it past Dumbledore to release such information.”

Severus abruptly conjured up a chair and sat. “I perceive a problem, Tom.”

“Oh?”

“How are you to explain that the Death Eaters currently languishing in Azkaban do not die when the others do?”

Tom froze, then conjured his own chair and sat down. After a minute of silence he said, “That would call for one of two actions. Either I send in a contingent to break them out so I may modify their marks, or I use one that I have as the medium to kill each of them indirectly through the Dark Mark. Of course, it might be assumed that the wards of Azkaban would prevent such trifling actions. I suppose I could test the idea on Lucius. Which reminds me—have you any idea now Narcissa feels about her husband and son?”

Severus shrugged. “I think the woman would be grateful to simply live through all this. She is still young enough to bear more children should she wish. We are not close and never have been, so I cannot say with any surety what her reaction might be.”

:Tom? Can’t you just possess Lucius and cause him to suicide? He is connected to you through the mark.:

Tom blinked and shook his head. :Harry, are you . . . peeking?:

:Sure am!: was the cheerful reply.

“I’ll be damned,” he said.

“Tom?”

Tom looked at Severus and smiled. “Seems Harry has learned a new trick. I could try, yes, though I’m not sure it would work the same way. It is one thing to possess you, Harry, or Nagini.”

:Yes, but they do bear the mark. They are connected to you until and unless you choose to release them. I should think it would be worth a try. Or, at the very least, an attempt to alter the mark through the connection. It isn’t like they can escape you.:

Tom furrowed his brow in contemplation, rubbing his chin as he stared at the floor. The sound of a throat being cleared brought his head up again. “Sorry. Would you mind if Harry joined us, Severus?”

“No,” Severus sighed.

Tom nodded. “Then if you aren’t busy, Harry. . . .”

Thirty seconds later Harry popped into the room with Dobby, who just as quickly popped back out. “Nice place. A library?”

“Yes, I think so. Now, would you care to repeat your suggestion?”

Harry sank down to the floor and smiled. “Maybe it never occurred to you before because there was only one person who, er, left Voldemort’s service, and you always knew where he was. However, given that it would be a great deal of trouble to physically go after the people in Azkaban, I don’t see why you shouldn’t attempt to either possess Lucius as a test case, or at the least use that binding connection. Consider that you used your connection to me in order to manipulate me. And, I really don’t think a soul bond can explain your power to possess people, namely me. Well, unless you also want to tell me that you’ve managed to soul bond to Nagini.” Harry smirked and continued, “So, isn’t it reasonable to at least attempt to do the same with the mark? Try to alter it from a distance, as though you were following a thread of magic you yourself put in place?”

Tom kept his face composed as he noticed in his peripheral vision that Severus was giving Harry a look that was akin to carefully concealed respect. “What do you think, Severus?”

“It is . . . an interesting way of looking at things,” Severus said smoothly. “There may be merit in the idea.”

Tom nodded and looked at Harry. “And just when did you learn how to peek?”

Harry flashed him an innocent smile and shrugged. “It’s along the same lines, Tom. There’s a connection. We use it to initiate dreams, right? We use it to speak to each other. So I thought I’d try to just imagine that I could see through your eyes and it worked. I have no idea how you do it, but. . . .”

“Ten points, Harry. You were bored, weren’t you.”

“Well, yes,” admitted Harry with a sheepish grin. “I finished all my work Thursday, and that other book. I, er—well, I think it’s worth a try, anyway. Maybe it’s silly, but if you think of the connection as a tangible thing, you should be able to follow it, right? I mean, really, who would have thought magic was possible? But you see it happen, and you know it’s real, so you believe. Just like when I said I was able to cast that Patronus, because I’d already seen myself do it.” He laughed softly. “To this day, I’m not even sure what memory I used, but it worked. So why not this?”

Tom tilted his head to the side and considered. The construction of the room, drawing Harry into it, was largely a matter of concentration and will in his opinion. Much like the original dreams had been, really. But was Harry’s view so odd? He could imagine an invisible thread connecting him to every person who bore the Dark Mark, so it stood to reason that knowing the connection existed meant he might be able to manipulate those in Azkaban.

“What Patronus, Potter?”

Tom snapped back to attention to see Harry giving Severus a guarded look. After a pause Harry said, “The one that saved two lives, mine and Sirius’s, from a mass dementor attack, sir.”

Severus’s expression blanked out, though Tom got the impression it was not exactly shock which prompted it. “I see. However, you speak as though you were in two places at once. Perhaps . . . with the aid of your friend’s time turner?”

Harry bit his lip and glanced at Tom. :He never did like Sirius.:

:I can always obliviate him, Harry.:

Harry gave Severus an opaque look. “Yes, that would be correct, sir.”

Severus shook his head slowly and muttered something under his breath that Tom couldn’t catch.

“Tom? The warding here?” Harry asked.

“Within from what I can tell.”

“Is that a problem?”

“I don’t think so. Granted, if Dumbledore tried to place a tracking charm on you he might become confused at his inability to figure out where you were.”

Harry rubbed his neck and sighed. “Is that something I can learn to check for myself and remove?”

“Of course, Harry. Would you like me to cast one on you now so that you can detect and remove it?”

“Okay, sure.”

Tom revealed his wand and quickly cast a tracking charm on Harry that would give him periodic updates as to his location, then watched as Harry’s eyes went wide and his frame shuddered.

“That’s disgusting,” Harry whispered.

“Harry?” he asked in confusion.

“This . . . feeling. It’s disgusting. It’s like someone is staring at me unblinkingly. If this doesn’t come off soon—I think it would drive me insane after a while.”

Tom blinked, as did Severus. “That may make teaching you how to detect them useless, but. . . .” Several minutes later Harry had successfully managed both spells, much to his very obvious relief. “Harry, would you mind if Severus also cast one? I would like to know if your reaction has anything to do with our bond or not.”

Harry grimaced and hunched over slightly, but nodded. “All right.”

A minute later—the reaction was the same—Harry said, “I’m almost sorry I dragged us off topic. I think you need to keep an eye on me, Tom, because if he pulls that on me you may have to stop me from hexing his beard to a very inconvenient location.”

Tom let out a snort of laughter and nodded. “As you wish. Now, back to more practical subjects. I will have Dobby set this room up for us with books for you to read over the next few days. And as for the other matter, I will try to see things your way and attempt to modify Lucius’s Dark Mark as well. The worst case scenario is that I will fail and have to arrange for another break-in to Azkaban to retrieve everyone.”

“I agree that it would look highly suspicious if those in Azkaban were not affected,” Harry said, inclining his head at Severus.

“Harry, if I do have to try killing him, I will warn you. Of course, once we get lessons started, a warning should suffice.” He didn’t outright state that Harry had experienced anything. Severus could infer what he wished from his ambiguity.

“That would be nice, thank you. Though, I almost wonder how come Malfoy hasn’t managed to buy his way out of Azkaban. I thought Fudge adored him.” Harry snorted, then said, “Sorry, adored his money. I wonder how he feels now, sitting in Azkaban, partially because of me. I wonder how he feels having heard that Voldemort is a half-blood. Does he want to kill you himself? Take over? Suicide because he was duped?”

Tom cocked his head and said, “What if you were in his place? What do you think you would feel?”

Harry bit his lip and stared at the wall for a while. “Well, I don’t know much about pure-bloods, all told, but I can imagine based on what I’ve seen. I think I would be indescribably angry, ashamed, and wanting some kind of revenge. I think pride would stand in the way of suicide. Voldemort made a total fool out of him for years and he only now knows it. Well, if he actually believed what I said. Bella did, so I suppose he might.”

No one said anything for a minute. Then Harry spoke. “Of course, were you to be unable to change the mark, but were able to possess him, I would expect you to whisper in his ear, so to speak, about how disappointed Voldemort would be that a loyal and trusted servant of his would even consider such a vile statement. It would be . . . beneath him, unworthy of Voldemort’s favor. Depending on how strong Malfoy is, it might be fairly easy to undermine him to the point that he took his own life without much prompting.”

Harry didn’t appear to notice the look Severus was giving him, and finished off by saying, “And now I’m starting to feel dirty again.”

“Then we’ll change the subject. For example, since you’ve finished those two books, I’ll simply have to pick out some more for you.” Tom was pleased to see that Harry’s expression went from mildly nauseous to smiling.

“Thank you,” he said simply, then, “Do you mind if I go? I don’t want to interrupt further. I just didn’t want to not say what came to mind, you know?”

“Of course, Harry. I may stop in later if that’s all right.”

Harry smiled and nodded, then said, “Good evening, professor,” as Dobby popped into the room. Harry rose, took Dobby’s hand, and disappeared.

“Well, that is certainly food for thought,” Tom said.

“Indeed. What did he mean by dirty?”

Tom gave Severus an appraising look. “His morals, or conscience, whichever. While Harry is very much able to look at things dispassionately, that doesn’t mean he necessarily likes expediency. I can’t say that I much care for it myself of late, but this mess must be cleared up. He knows that, so he gives voice to his ideas.”

Severus looked thoughtful for several moments, nodded, then said, “What do you suppose the odds would be that someone in the Ministry, specifically the Department of Mysteries, would pass on to Albus the prophecy given to you?”

“I’m not sure. I was never able to mark an Unspeakable. However, should he find out about it, I tend to think that Dumbledore would do exactly what the sorting hat outlined. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if Harry’s guard was allowed to become lax, simply in the hopes that he would end up in Voldemort’s clutches and killed.” He paused, then continued, “But only after he was very, very sure that Harry was utterly against Voldemort. It is true that the revelation would show that it was I to whom the prophecy was spoken, so he might not wish to go that route, believing that I might be able to sway Harry to my cause if given the chance.”

Severus remained thoughtful looking, finally saying, “Albus has been a bit . . . lax, you might say, as to revealing the extent to which Potter is connected to you. However, were he to get his hands on this third prophecy, he would no doubt wonder if Potter had also witnessed it. Being unable to determine if it would have been accompanied by torture, though, if he truly wished to know, he would possibly employ veritaserum to find out, then obliviate the boy when he was done. Furthermore, if he thought there was the least chance that Potter would side with you because of said prophecy, he might go so far as to ensure that others which Potter is close to were inadvertently in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Tom frowned. “How often, to your knowledge, has Dumbledore called Harry to his office over the years?”

Severus rubbed his chin and replied, “Not often. His second year, because of the basilisk attacks. Twice his fifth year, but those were related to the attack on Weasley and the death of the mutt. Aside from that I am unsure. I would suggest the removal of that memory into a pensieve, but that would not in any way help Potter concerning all his other memories since his birthday this year. Of course, were Albus to take such drastic measures as to use veritaserum, he would have to obliviate more than its use.”

Tom gave Severus a meaningful look. “It may not matter. The fact that you were more or less forced to out yourself as a spy means that Harry is the only inside source that I know of. Naturally, Voldemort has been very careful to occlude that connection while being creative, so Harry hasn’t seen anything. Right?”

Severus chuckled softly. “As you say. Why, I believe I may receive a rather vague message about that shortly so that I can pass it along to Albus. Would that suit?”

“Admirably, and thank you.”

*

Tom was becoming very fond of Harry, and it was certainly no chore to spend time looking at the young man. Of course, devouring his flesh was even better, and while it could not be said that a relationship could not be predicated on sexual activities, it was probably not a wise choice here. Thus, the need for conversation and other such oddities.

“Why so pensive?” he asked, taking a seat at the foot of Harry’s bed.

“Just wondering about my friends. I chose Slytherin because I was tired of the lies. I wanted to know how true they were. You know that. And Ron stayed, though I don’t know about Hermione.”

“And you want to take things a step further.”

Harry sighed and fiddled with his hair. Tom thought it was a rather endearing unconscious habit. “Yes, but when? And what happens if Ron, or anyone else for that matter, freaks out?”

“Well, both those things depend. As to the first, I must point out that we can end this at any time after I have managed to change all the Dark Marks. We are not limited by that, but rather given some freedom once it is complete. The decision remains with you as to whether you would prefer to remain at Hogwarts until you complete your formal education or not.”

Harry glanced up and flashed him a quick smile. “We’re limited by how creative we can be in thinking up wild goose chases for the Death Eaters.”

Tom chuckled and nodded. “Yes, true. The point is, if you wish to stay here through your NEWTs, I won’t begrudge you that. So, you can see, timing is fairly fluid. However, I can also understand why you might be feeling rather impatient at having to skulk around in the shadows.”

“And the second?”

“The first thing that comes to mind is to tell Ron first, possibly about the fact that Harry Potter will very likely die, with me in attendance. After all, you can interpret the original prophecy to mean one of two things—one is that we’ll both die, and one is that the only people who can kill either of us is us. At any rate, if telling Ron worked out well, then perhaps you could choose another. If not, then I would be on hand to obliviate your friend.”

Harry flopped back and folded an arm beneath his head. “Well, it would have to be you. It isn’t as though I have any clue how to obliviate someone.”

“Harry, there is one other thing I would mention. I would suggest that you hold off on any plans for revelations until you have spent some time with me on Occlumency and Legilimency.”

“That’s reasonable.” Harry lifted his head for a moment to look at him, asking, “Er, Tom, just how does the wizarding world regard homosexuality?”

“Not much differently than muggles, I suppose. Though, with a much smaller population, one must be able to produce heirs and keep our kind going.” Tom arched a brow and smirked. “However, that’s never stopped people from disregarding the custom of arranged marriages, nor has it stopped anyone from having lovers on the side. Then again, most people aren’t soul bonded. In that respect it isn’t much of an issue. Unlike those brought up in the bosom of wizarding culture, muggles, and even muggle-borns, are more likely to be strongly influenced by religion.”

A thoughtful look crossed Harry’s face, and Tom had a very good idea that he was considering whether or not his female friend would have that as a reason to object to him. Still, there would always be people within the wizarding world itself that objected, just as there would be those that did not.

Harry gave another sigh. “Then I guess that’ll just be another in a series of revelations, right?”

“Look on the brighter side of things, Harry,” Tom stressed. “You knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and you knew that there was a chance you would have to walk away from everyone. It is still possible that you will walk away with at least one of them, and perhaps more. I know that you’re cynical, Harry, but it’s almost funny that you seem to be more cynical than I am.”

Harry made a face, still staring at the canopy, then blinked. “Is there anything to report?” he hissed.

Tom leaned forward and tilted his head to look up, seeing nothing but the underside of the canopy. He could, however, hear the hissed response. “Nothing as of yet, master. Nothing of substance. But we think the Malfoy spawn may be planning something.”

“You are unable to tell what, though.”

“That is correct, master. He speaks to himself quite a bit, like the headmaster does, though his voice is much softer. It is very difficult to hear what he says.”

“Have any of you overheard students talking about me specifically?” Harry hissed.

“Of course, master. However, most of them either bemoan the fact that you are in Slytherin, that they dare not approach you, or that you are off limits to your housemates.”

“Do you think I’m in any danger?”

“No, master. At least, not from your housemates. They seem to be sure that Snape takes direction from the Dark Lord, despite evidence to the contrary.”

Harry raised his head again to ask, “Are they all this willfully blind, or is Snape just that good?”

Tom snorted softly. “I think many of them are simply confused. It’s often easier to believe the surface, don’t you think? Still, that doesn’t mean those same people are completely delusional. Denial is an odd thing.”

“At any rate, I guess I should be keeping a close eye out.”

“I concur,” he said, then, “Is that room suitable for you?”

“Very. I can’t wait to see what you put in there for me to read.”

“There are several other rooms as well. One of those can be used for lessons. We simply need to decide on when.”

Harry sat up and nodded. “I’m tired. Will you stay with me?”

“Of course.”