Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 24 :: Allaying Memories

24 • Allaying Memories

Their morning, as was now custom, was spent on the art of Occlumency. It was becoming rapidly apparent with Tom teaching him that Harry was mastering the subject quite well. It was also apparent to Harry that despite Tom’s pouting the day prior he was not going to get out of his normal workload, not that the knowledge bothered him. In fact, it was one of the rare times in his life when he genuinely liked and respected the one teaching him, and wanted wholeheartedly to do his best.

They were fast approaching the time when Tom would be teaching him how to defend his mind using a false face in memory. He had already suggested that Harry spend some of his free time sorting out which memories he could afford to show and those that had to be protected at all costs. He had also implied that with the use of their metamorphmagus talent that false memories could be constructed, which Harry thought was quite interesting indeed.

It was already true that Tom could not discern the falsehoods that Harry purposely spoke, and he could detect and deflect the man’s intrusions. Given how much more powerful Tom was than Snape, he did not doubt that he could also deflect the Potions Master, though he wasn’t entirely certain about Dumbledore. Part of their morning was set aside in a discussion of memories it might be wise to manufacture.

However, that was quickly ended when lunch arrived.

“You know, being able to fend off casual use of Legilimency is all very well,” Harry said, “but it doesn’t prevent people from using veritaserum on me. Granted, I don’t necessarily think Dumbledore would go to those lengths if he was curious, but I wouldn’t entirely discount it.”

“I understand, but there is very little that can be done about such a thing. If he, or anyone else, were to get you into that situation, you would be compelled.”

“Yes, but. . . .” Harry aimed a slight smirk at Tom and ruffled his hair. “I can think of one way around it, possibly. Can’t you?”

“And still be speaking the truth? No, I—” Tom stopped and gave Harry an assessing look.

Are you sure?” Harry hissed.

Tom’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “I’ve definitely created a monster. You realize, of course, that use of Parseltongue would simply lead others to believe you definitely had something to hide.”

“Of course,” Harry agreed, “but it is a way of finessing the restrictions. The Imperius Curse does not work on me, nor Legilimency. Unless there is some other method I am unaware of to enforce cooperation. . . .”

Tom looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head slightly. “There are some potions, but as they work on the same basis as the Imperius, the results would be the same. However, as they are potions, the one affected would have to struggle against the effects for a longer period of time. Assuming you had the required amount of will and control, those could not be used to any advantage.”

Harry grinned. “Then perhaps we should ask for some samples?”

*

“You were right, by the way, your theory.”

“Oh, which one?” Harry asked.

“Which one indeed. Regarding my ties to the Dark Mark. No, I haven’t quite yet managed to fully alter one at a distance, but I’m working on it. It’s tiring to attempt it this way.”

“I would imagine so, but at least the connection serves as a conduit for your magic, and guide.” Harry set down his book and said, “I saw something interesting on the map. One of the people Draco has been meeting is Marietta Edgecombe. She’s the one what betrayed the DA last year to Umbridge.”

“Personal grudge?”

“I don’t know. Possibly. She definitely doesn’t like me. I suppose it’s also possible that it wasn’t Crabbe and Goyle playing the starring roles. Edgecombe may know others in Ravenclaw who sympathize with Voldemort. Much as I hate to say it, the recent change in tactics may have convinced some of them—and please forgive me for this—that Voldemort has started to wise up. If Voldemort is using his intellect more and his mindless rage less, well, who is to say he wouldn’t win out?”

Tom rubbed the back of his neck and nodded slowly. “Harry Potter has been an obsession, a point of blindness. The Death Eaters on recruitment have brought in twenty more. Perhaps I should be extending that vague invitation after all.”

“For Christmas? I don’t see why not, though I don’t know where you’d be holding it.”

“I could impose on Narcissa,” Tom said ruminatively.

“Perhaps, but you don’t know that she’s doing anything other than playing a role. Using Malfoy Manor is all well and fine, but if any of the students that show up are not wholehearted, they might report on the gathering and she could come under scrutiny,” Harry countered.

“I could make her an offer of sorts,” Tom said, then continued at Harry’s inquisitive look, “I could make certain things plain to her, such as my utter lack of interest in her as a Death Eater. If she were to host a social gathering with an uncertain guest list, she would be wise to remove any and all traces of darkness from the manor beforehand. It can be deuced difficult to find someone among the ranks who has the requisite social skills to put together something of this nature.”

Tom had a point, Harry allowed. Never having met the wives of people like Crabbe and Goyle he supposed that it could very well be true. “Don’t. Or not exactly. Strongly suggest to her that she ought to take a holiday in France or wherever, and tell Draco he’s being given a chance to start proving himself useful, beginning with recruitment within Hogwarts. The more students who show up for a gathering at his house over the holiday, the more pleased Voldemort will be. Once you have the names it’s a question of interrogation when it seems best. Since we may have to wait until I’m seventeen to get around to finishing up, that’s plenty of time.”

“I can have Severus explain that to the boy. I’ll contact Narcissa personally.”

“Well, my dear Lord Voldemort, it would be beneath you to speak directly to a peon such as Malfoy, would it not?” Harry said archly. “Why, he is not even in your service yet, and deserves no such honor or consideration.”

“You, on the other hand, deserve everything you get,” Tom commented and snickered. He sobered after a moment and said, “If Malfoy is speaking outside his house, you need to be careful, Harry, and alert. I realize, it would be uncharacteristic of other houses to attack you, but it could happen.”

“I know. I don’t usually go anywhere alone.” Harry scratched the back of his neck and wrinkled his nose. “Tom, is it wrong to not want to wait to find out about my possible finances? I’m not saying that Sirius would have left me anything or not, but I am having trouble with what I have from my parents.”

“No, but it’s still true that you aren’t of age.” Tom sighed, then abruptly smiled. “Look, Harry, I’m fairly well off. If you want, I can front the money for a bribe to get you emancipated in the muggle world.”

“A bribe?” Harry blinked and gazed at Tom quizzically.

“Yes, for your aunt. If she would take it, she could arrange with the muggle authorities to emancipate you. The goblins would have no reason to quibble over wizarding details. You were muggle raised, after all, despite not being a muggle-born. You give me the authority to deal on your behalf and I could go speak with her and negotiate. Once we had that signed and delivered, we could go to Gringotts one Sunday and see exactly what’s going on with your finances and see about changing your will.”

Harry turned that over in his mind for a few minutes, then smiled deviously. “I suppose it would be a bad idea for you to show up at the house looking like me.”

Tom snorted in amusement. “If you’re interested in the idea, then I would have to test the idea of blood connection. If I cannot approach the house, then we’ll simply have to wait, or I’d have to find someplace else to arrange a meeting.”

“True, but if you brushing the wards sets off some kind of alarm, Dumbledore may bribe them to move. Then again, he may not care, having some misguided belief that I would be heartbroken over their potential deaths.”

Tom shrugged. “I think the blood combined with a lack of ill intent would probably get me through them. If it had been something as silly as a muggle blood transfusion, then no, but it was a ritual, so I think the distinction is important and valid.”

“Score more points for me for theory,” Harry said with a smirk. “If you want, okay. But, you will behave yourself, right? I mean, they get me fairly angry on a regular basis. And are you sure you have enough money? I should think they’d be awfully greedy.”

“I wouldn’t kill any of them,” Tom said patiently. “At worst I would use the Imperius to get what I wanted with a minimum of fuss. And no, I wouldn’t want to speak with your uncle. He would be quite a trial on my patience alone.”

“Then I guess you should check to see if you trip the wards. If not, I guess I could write a letter or something for you?”

“That sounds fine.”

As it turned out, Harry’s theory was proven correct. Tom did not trip the wards, not at all, showing that Harry had been in danger ever since Voldemort had been resurrected. The more Harry learned over time, the more he realized that Dumbledore was far too secure in his abilities, and was not one to spend much time thinking outside conventional boundaries.

Still, the fact that Harry had never been given special training beyond Occlumency continued to puzzle him greatly. Was the idea that he should not until he could safely occlude his mind, thereby keeping close such knowledge? Harry didn’t think that made any sense. It could be true that the more people who died along the way, the angrier and more determined Harry would get, but there would still be a delay while he was being trained.

Surely Dumbledore didn’t think things would wait until Harry had decided to go into auror training, did he? How many people would have had to die before it was time? On reflection, Harry decided that it was possible that his parents had left a will asking that he be kept safe until he was an adult, but that also made little sense to his way of thinking.

Now that he had given Tom a letter to his aunt, perhaps he would be able to find out for himself what his parents had had to say. He was curled up in one of the armchairs reading about arithmancy when Tom arrived, and given that it had not been Dobby who brought him in, Harry supposed that his bonded had come through the outside entrance. After lowering the book he said, “Any news?”

“She has agreed,” was the soft reply.

Harry raised his brows questioningly, then said. “I see. Agreed on what terms?”

“Monetary terms. I admit, she was not happy with the possibility that you might need to stay with them for a portion of this coming summer, but money was able to once again win the day and obtain a favorable response. Do not worry, Harry. What she accepted is but a fraction of my worth. She has been given proof that you have a home of your own, and will have money of your own so that there should not be any issues when she petitions the courts for this ruling, though I may have to be present, as you, in order to see that things run smoothly.”

Harry took a deep breath and nodded. “How long?”

“I will return in a few days time. Once we have the appropriate paperwork, you and I shall go to Gringotts, as I said.”

“Well, I suppose that if I do actually have more to my name than a few thousand galleons, I should be thinking of ways to hide it.”

Tom took a seat in the other armchair and turned his gaze on the fake fire. “Given the enmity between goblins and wizards, you may be able to use that to your advantage. They, too, can probably be bribed, or if you prefer, thanked graciously for their assistance in a most delicate matter.”

Harry snorted softly.

“It is not impossible that you could transfer the bulk of your estate to a new vault under your new name. Your secondary will, covering any vaults aside from your current one, could stipulate that those named would only know of bequests to them personally. There is no need for the will itself to be made public. All the goblins need to do is send out owl post to those specified to alert them.”

“They can’t be forced to show the will?”

“Not according to the charter that Gringotts operates under. I suppose if you wanted to you could set up the bequest vaults ahead of time. All Gringotts would need to do is send out notices upon your death for people to pick up their keys.”

“I’ll worry about it when,” Harry said with a nod.

Less than a week later Harry had a set of emancipation papers. It was downright amazing how useful magic could be when you didn’t scruple to stick to the rules. The only technicality was that Tom had forged his signature, but Harry didn’t let that bother him. A quick spell erased it and Harry had soon signed it himself. No one would bother to check the copy left with the muggle authorities, and Tom assured him it would not matter.

“This is an excellent early Christmas present, Tom, but I still won’t say no to that dartboard.”

Tom chuckled and gave him a lingering kiss. “If you say so. Though, I have to wonder what I might be getting.”

Harry gave him an assessing look, then shook his head. “What does one get for their favorite Dark Lord who has everything? I’m afraid I have no earthly idea. For that matter, I still have no idea when your birthday is.”

Tom shrugged and smiled. “It doesn’t really matter.” At Harry’s confused look he said, “After all, Ash won’t have the same birthday as mine, so you may as well pick any day you like, right?”

“That . . . is so unfair,” Harry said petulantly. “But I suppose you’re right. I hereby dub thee a scorpio, and shall decide your date of birth at some later time, preferably in the year of the snake.”

“Oh, as you wish,” said Tom meekly, then grinned.

Harry snorted. “Sunday, then.”

*

When Harry walked into Gringotts at Tom’s side he did so with longish blue-black hair, grey eyes, and a scarless forehead. If one looked closely enough they might notice a vague resemblance to Sirius Black. It being a Sunday the bank was fairly quiet, which suited them just fine.

He and Tom approached the first available teller. “We would like to speak privately with someone well versed in matters of inheritance and account management,” Harry said quietly.

The goblin gave them a superior look from his position of greater height and replied, “I see . . . Mr. . . ?”

“With respect, that will be revealed in private,” Harry said smoothly, glad that Tom had coached him before they had left.

After a second condescending look the goblin turned and gestured at another, who nodded and stepped up to listen to whispered instructions. A minute passed, during which Harry waited patiently, then the second goblin turned and left only to appear seconds later before them. “Follow me,” it commanded, then began to walk away.

Harry and Tom followed it across the lobby and into a corridor at the back that appeared to stretch on endlessly—Harry suspected it was an optical illusion of some kind. Five minutes of walking later they arrived in an office and were waved to seats before a desk scaled to goblin size. Their escort left without another word.

He noticed as he looked around that the office was well appointed, with lavish use of wood and polished stone, both of which were inlaid with veins of gold in strangely flowing abstract designs. Possibly they had some meaning to the goblins, but Harry had not learned much more about them than that they had rebelled occasionally.

The goblin that arrived through a different door was old and venerable looking, but also appeared at first glance to have the same temperament as any goblin Harry had previously met. His expression was haughty and his bearing slightly stiff, as though being in the same room with humans was a trial better visited on lesser creatures.

After seating himself he said, “My name is Greltack. What can I do for you, gentlemen?”

Harry inclined his head slightly in greeting. “May I ask, on your honor, that the contents of this meeting be kept in the strictest of privacy?”

“What wizard believes in the honor of goblins?”

“This one,” Harry replied evenly. “I would like to believe if treated with honor and respect that any goblin would repay such consideration in kind to the individual that extended it.”

“An interesting outlook. Very well, then. On my honor, this meeting shall remain private.”

Harry glanced at Tom, who nodded, then back at Greltack. “Thank you. I assure you I have my reasons for such a request, and those reasons will become known shortly. To that end, let me ask my first question, before I get to the exact purpose of my visit. Do you, the goblins of Gringotts, recognize that wizards raised in the muggle world are subject to their laws, and by extension, so are the goblins?”

“That depends on which laws.”

“I refer to emancipation laws. I have no wish to involve the Ministry in my affairs as they would no doubt move to block my aims, modest and imminently personal though they may be.”

“Indeed,” said Greltack with a slight nod, “we are. If a wizard raised in the muggle world has been emancipated in the muggle world, we of Gringotts recognize that distinction without Ministry endorsement.”

“Splendid. Then I hope that you will be able to assist me with my questions, and perhaps more. I have with me the documentation for you to verify before we go any further.” Harry reached into his robes and pulled out the papers, then took a deep breath and reverted to his natural appearance. The goblin’s eyes widened slightly, then flicked down as Harry laid the papers on the desk and pushed them forward.

“Perhaps now you can understand my wish for secrecy.”

“Yes,” said Greltack absently as he perused the emancipation papers. When he looked up he had a strange expression. “These seem to be in order. What questions have you?”

Harry retrieved the papers and tucked them back into his robes, taking a further moment to shift back to his disguise. “When I visited here this summer I made out a will. However, I was under the impression that I had but a single vault. I would like to know if that is accurate.”

“It is not. You have estates held in trust for you from your parents and from one Sirius Black. Naturally, both of those involve vaults.”

“All right. Does Gringotts hold copies of, should they exist, wills from my parents or Sirius Black?”

“We do.”

“Would I be correct in assuming that Dumbledore has been the one receiving correspondence on estate matters on my behalf?”

“Yes. However, as you are an adult under muggle law, whether or not that continues is your decision. It is also true that as an adult all transactions you conduct with this bank are protected under client confidentiality laws.”

Harry produced a tight smile. “That is reassuring to hear. How long would it take for you to provide me with an accounting of the estates and copies of those wills?”

“Five to ten minutes. Records are always kept up to date, naturally.”

“I would be grateful if you could provide them, then, so that I can go over them at my leisure. I will no doubt need to return to speak with you again once I have made decisions on what I would like done.”

Greltack nodded and took a quill from a holder on his desk to write out a short note. A moment later another goblin appeared to take it, then disappeared.

“Is there a specific goblin in charge of handling my estates?”

Greltack shook his head. “The estates more or less run themselves. Any money coming in due to investments is automatically sent to the appropriate vault by the teller who receives it.”

“Then who has been sending out correspondence to Dumbledore?”

“Gringotts has a pool of estate managers, Mr Potter. Those who are not specifically assigned to an estate, or estates, handle all routine correspondence for the others. Statements go out on a quarterly basis.”

Tom leaned over and whispered in Harry’s ear, “For now, request no changes, and of course, that Dumbledore not be informed of anything, though it should be covered by confidentiality laws. Once we’ve been able to go over the paperwork we can return and you can make the changes you want.”

Harry nodded and said, “All right. Until I have had a chance to go over the estates I won’t request any changes other than my current desire for secrecy. Obviously, Dumbledore has no business knowing I was here. I assume that since the statements are quarterly in nature that he received one not too long ago.”

“That is correct.” Greltack turned at the entrance of a goblin holding a small satchel and nodded. The satchel was passed to Harry, and Greltack said, “I will give you also a letter to bring with you next time so that you can be shown in to me directly without delay.”

*

Harry opened the satchel the moment he sat down and pulled out a stack of parchments. The top sheet simply contained a balance for his original vault plus a rundown of credits and debits for the past quarter. Harry noted that his withdrawal in August was duly noted, and there was also a symbol in the upper left corner of the sheet that denoted there was a will attached to the vault.

“I’m going to assume,” Harry said as he handed that sheet over to Tom, “that the will symbol can be left off for statements to Dumbledore.” The second sheet was banded to a group and appeared to cover the Potter estate. Harry lifted the bundle briefly to see that the second bundle dealt with the Black estate.

He set that one aside on the table and looked at the Potter bundle. The first sheet was a will; specifically, that of his parents. Judging by the wording he was scanning they had opted to write a joint will, certain parts of which would be enacted depending on whether one of them lived, or if both died. So far as Harry could tell, the inapplicable sections had taken on a dark cast, making them nearly unreadable.

Those he skipped; he could read them later with enough effort if he was still interested. The remainder appeared to be fairly straightforward: Sirius as his guardian; a trust vault set up for his minor years; and a provision for Dumbledore to take over in Sirius’s stead should anything happen to the man or go wrong.

Harry snorted. At least it wasn’t so bad that Dumbledore had blatantly gone against his parents’ wishes, but it still meant he had ignored all that he had probably known about Petunia and her marked aversion to magic. He was sure that Dumbledore had a very good reason for choosing to use blood wards to protect him, though it was no excuse to have ignored years of abuse, and certainly no excuse for his dogs to have managed to ignore his treatment over the summer.

Perhaps Tom was right. Perhaps Dumbledore was so sure in his views on family that it had never once occurred to him that the Dursleys might mistreat him. Harry shook his head in regret. For a man who could clearly see the servants of the Dark, he was surely blind to who stood on the other side of the fence—those who hated wizards as much as Voldemort hated muggles.

The remainder of the bundle was an accounting of the investments made with the Potter money with notations for each on how much money had been deposited during the prior quarter. The actual balance of the estate was more money than Harry would have ever hoped to have seen in his lifetime. A glance through the Black bundle revealed similar information.

“Tom, I haven’t the faintest idea what to do with these. There’s enough gold in these vaults for me to melt it down and cast my own castle, and have enough left over for furnishings and money to live on for years. How on earth am I supposed to hide this away so that Dumbledore doesn’t get it when ‘Harry’ dies?”

Tom smiled and laid a hand on Harry’s briefly. “First, I would recommend worrying about how much to leave to each of your friends, Harry. Second, I would say that requesting a personal estate manager at Gringotts would be wise. And third, I could be wrong, but a healthy bribe or salary for that manager probably wouldn’t go amiss. A goblin is going to be your best ally here. Unless, that is, you would prefer lugging all your gold out of Gringotts to a new location?”

Harry sneered, then rolled his eyes. “Even if the investments were cancelled I’d still be incredibly wealthy. I don’t really need them.”

“No, but you might consider dividing them up. Create vaults for each person you intend to leave money to, like a trust fund of sorts. Investments could feed off seed money you leave in place and the recipient could use the money gained, or a percentage of it. Once the investments are dealt with, whatever is left over is yours to hide.”

“Well, there’s plenty to go around. I suppose I could leave a trust to help pay tuition costs for the poor and orphaned. I assume my parents arranged for mine once they knew my name was down. Now that I think about it, I wonder where the school got the money to buy me my first broom?”

Tom shrugged and said, “The school does have its own account. It is not unheard of for alumni of Hogwarts to add to that account.”

“I hope you plan on helping me, Tom. I have no real idea of the value of money in the wizarding world.”

*

“No, this is usually a bad day and you know it. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be wanting company tonight.”

Ron shook his head and sighed. “It’s not like I’m asking you to attend another of Sir Nicholas’s deathday parties.”

Harry snorted softly. “I’m just going to hole up in my room tonight after the feast and read something frivolous, and probably go to bed early with a sleeping draught just in case.” He glanced around quickly, then leaned in. “But, Saturday, same as usual. Apparently I’m loads better at teaching you-know-what than you-know-who if your progress is anything to go by. If you feel confident then, I’ll spill, right?”

After a sharp nod Ron said, “Right. But I want to know for certain, Harry, that you mean what you say. You aren’t going to hie off on a whim tonight and get into trouble.”

“I give you my solemn vow, Ron. You’ll see me in my usual spot in the morning, hale and hearty, though I doubt I’ll ever be able to eat as much as you manage,” he said, then ducked as Ron aimed a punch at him.

“Can’t you at least ask Dobby to sit with you or something? I’m sure if something did happen and you needed help he’d be able to alert Snape. Dobby practically worships you, so I’m sure he’d be happy to help out.”

Harry blinked slowly. “That’s something to consider.”

“Heads up,” Ron said and straightened. “You finish that stupid essay on basilisks yet?”

Harry shook his head as Hermione came into his line of vision. “No, I thought for once I’d wait. Besides, I don’t think Flaxweld would appreciate being told that all it takes is a phoenix, a hat, and a sword to defeat one. He’d probably give me a zero and a lecture on being big-headed.”

Ron sniggered. “I don’t know why he assigns this stuff anyway. It isn’t like we haven’t gone over most of it already. We haven’t learned anything new in class this year. In some ways I’m not surprised the Ministry takes interest considering the dross we get for Defense professors.”

“Ron, it’s very rude to be so disrespectful.”

“Hello, Hermione.”

“Have you two finished your work? You still have a couple of hours before the feast and the sooner you get it done. . . .”

*

“So, what did you have in mind since you aren’t going to be out terrorizing the general public?”

“Something pleasant, of course. Sweeter memories to stay the tide of those bad from the past.”

Harry looked over at him suspiciously.

“No, Harry. No to whatever it is that’s making you look at me like that,” Tom said with a smirk as he rose to his feet and advanced closer. “I was simply thinking that we should enjoy ourselves, each other.” He splayed a hand across his chest and arched a brow.

“Oh,” Harry said after a moment, then smiled. “Tell me something, then. When you peek, how much do you feel from me, because I’m thinking you’ve been enjoying yourself far more than you ought to be if you sense what I do as well as your own pleasure.”

Tom laughed softly and dropped his hand. “You caught me. But, as you have learned to peek on your own, perhaps you can find out for yourself? I am certainly willing to assist you in any experiments you deign to conduct on this matter.”

Harry stood and closed the distance, raising his hands to begin unbuttoning Tom’s shirt. “How very convenient, then, as I suddenly find myself very interested in experimenting with you.” He pushed the shirt off Tom’s shoulders, blessing the fact that his bonded had not bothered to tuck it in, and let it drop to the floor. “Deviousness can be arousing,” he commented as he reached down to begin divesting Tom of his trousers as well.

“I knew I’d make a proper Slytherin of you one day,” said Tom as he toed off his shoes.

Harry snorted softly as he pushed the fabric down off Tom’s hips. “I was always Slytherin. Just far too Gryffindor to realize it for some time, or perhaps I mean misled. Either way, you should enjoy the monster you claim to have created.”

“Oh, I intend to.” Tom dropped to a sitting position on the bed to remove his socks, then looked up.

“Stand back up,” Harry commanded gently. “Don’t think you get to be lazy or anything.”

Tom smirked and rose, then began to remove Harry’s clothing. “I see you’re back to being the little general.”

“I’m going to pretend I never heard that slight,” he said loftily, unobtrusively assisting in his bonded’s efforts to get him naked. “After all, you know what happens to those who are disrespectful.”

“Oh? Should I be worried?” Tom asked as he gently tumbled Harry onto the bed.

“I don’t think so. I know the guy who owns this place. I’m sure he’ll overlook it just this once.”

“How very fortunate for me,” Tom replied, then got serious and concentrated on kissing his bonded breathless.

If Harry had thought their encounters before had been enjoyable, it was twice as good feeling his bonded’s pleasure mixed with his own. It was almost as though there were two sets of hands skimming his skin, Tom’s and his own. He kept his ruminations quiet, though, so that Tom would not hear what was running through his head.

He knew that Tom wanted to, not erase, but to overlay the bad memories with something to help him remember that things had changed, that they weren’t all bad, even though one of the worst things to ever happen to him had been on this date. And, in a way, perhaps it was meant for Tom as well considering his own fate that night.

It was rather touching in a way, and Harry could feel a sensation in his chest that was unrelated to the pleasurable activities his body was engaged in. He thought, perhaps, it might be love. He believed that if he asked Tom to let him go, the request would be granted, not because Tom would be happy about it, but simply because it was wrong to keep someone against their will. Of course, Harry couldn’t envision asking something like that. While Tom was not the source of his happiness, he did add to it, and Harry had finally found someone he trusted enough to let go with, to express himself with, emotionally.

When Tom pulled back slightly and went to bite at his neck, Harry said, rather breathlessly, “Tom, if you love me, show me?”

Tom’s head shot up. “What?”

Heat flooded his cheeks as he said, “I want you to show me. If . . . you do.”

After a pause Tom gave him a heartstoppingly sweet smile and said, “As you wish,” then gently removed Harry’s glasses and laid them on the bedside table.

Harry closed his eyes and willingly gave himself over to greater experience, though he did not, by any stretch, lay passive under Tom’s ministrations. Tom took his time in exploring Harry’s body, driving him to a fever pitch and keeping it sustained, with no release, only unfulfilled yearning. The bedside table was plundered for one of the vials of oil Tom had brought in several weeks earlier; he could tell by the sounds, even above the beating of his heart.

Tom shifted position, nipping his way downward slowly, until he was facing the foot of the bed. Harry sucked in his breath as one slick finger entered him, and reached out blindly, then pulled, guiding with his hands. The moment he was on his side, as his bonded then was, he began to tease with his mouth and fingers, feeling almost as though he was teasing himself.

A second finger entered him, then a third. In some respects it was no different than the other times they had engaged in bed sport, but the knowledge that this was to go much further had the effect of heightening Harry’s awareness and the strength of his reactions. He was beginning to feel quite desperate, and very much on the edge, when Tom pulled away entirely and reversed himself, whispering, “If my Harry keeps that up, I’ll not last long enough for what you want.”

He let himself be rolled over onto his back, and his legs be lifted to rest over Tom’s shoulders, and felt the slow, steady burn of his bonded’s entrance once Tom had prepared himself. Once he was fully seated Tom shrugged Harry’s legs to either side and leaned forward to capture his lips, and snaked one hand between them.

What followed made Harry want to die. Fingers were excellent tools, to be sure, but they could not replace what he was currently feeling, not with such boldness and assertiveness. That Tom was attacking him on three fronts was mind blowing in its intensity, and Harry could no more hold back his response than he could stop breathing. Of course, he had no desire to do so; the sound barriers on his room made for a delightfully permissive atmosphere, one which Tom was also taking full advantage of.

And when time shattered, Harry helplessly rode out the sensations and his body’s automatic response to Tom’s final movements within him, still twitching spasmodically even when his bonded released him and buried his face in Harry’s neck.