Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 31 :: Initiative

31 • Initiative

Harry was laughingly in the midst of showing Ron wand movements for the next spell he planned on teaching the DA when an intense anger that threatened to consume him swept through his body. He staggered, dropping his wand from nerveless fingers, then collapsed to the floor clutching his head, which by then was exploding in pain.

He didn’t understand, and though he tried to speak, what came out was only marginally coherent. Ron could be heard panicking in the background, and Harry ignored him in favor of trying desperately to block off his connection to Tom, which he assumed was the source of his pain. It was forever, subjectively, before he felt someone lifting him from the floor and cradling him against their chest. It was only the scent that told him it was not Tom, or Ron, and by then he was being laid gently on his bed.

“Get his shoes off,” said a resonant voice as Harry felt his glasses being removed. And then something was pressed to his lips. “Drink, Potter.” It was a request, not that Harry felt he had any real choice, so he did, barely tasting what would normally have caused him to grimace. Frankly, the continual reverberations in his head were more than enough to distract him from such minor considerations.

And then, the anger simply stopped. Harry bolted upright, releasing his head, breathing as heavily as though he had just run a five kilometer race, and sweating just as badly. “What. . . ?” He reached for his glasses automatically, twisting, and promptly fell off the bed when the movement made him dizzy with pain.

“Damn it, Potter.” He looked up in a daze to see a flash of light, and a blurry, dark figure slipping something on over his head. And then Harry was lifted back onto the bed with a growl and told, “If you so much as twitch a finger I’ll have you scrubbing cauldrons for a month. Don’t move.”

“Sorry, sir,” he whispered.

“You will stay right there and let that potion do its job, Potter. Weasley, sit down. Potter isn’t about to expire before your—”

The distinctive sound of a house-elf arriving was heard, and with him was a visitor, one that rushed across the room to gather Harry into his arms and whisper in his ear, “I’m so sorry.”

Harry immediately relaxed; whatever had happened, it could not have been intentional. Tom’s arms were bordering on tight around him, but they were solid and reassuring.

Tom whispered further, “I would give anything to take away the pain I’ve caused you.”

Harry shook his head gingerly just before Snape said, rather dryly, “As touching as this little scene is, I think we would be better served here if I were to have Mr Potter take a sleeping draught. Surely it would be kinder for him to sleep it off. And, naturally, I wish to speak with you, Tom. Privately.”

The edge to Snape’s final words were probably not lost on anyone, though one never knew about Ron. Harry had absolutely no desire to go to sleep at that point and shook his head violently, heedless of the additional pain it caused him for the potion had not yet fully kicked in. “No way. I promise to stay in bed, but I am not letting you knock me out. I fully expect someone to explain to me just what in hell happened before I do go to sleep for the evening.”

*

As soon as Harry was settled and Ron had been directed to sit with him for the time being Tom turned to Dobby, who was standing there wringing his hands, and requested a jump to the Chamber, with Snape to follow. And when Severus did find him to talk, he was already in the practice room creating and destroying objects with a passion. He was, therefore, extremely surprised when Severus stepped up in front of him and backhanded him soundly, then knocked the wand out of his hand.

“Tom, if you persist in acting akin to a hysterical woman, I will treat you as such.” He sneered, then said, “Are you even bothering to occlude your mind, or are you causing Potter even more pain through this childish display of wanton destruction?”

Tom stared at him in bemusement, then shook his head slightly and sank to the floor. “I’m not sure you’re going to be able to forgive me this one, Severus,” he muttered, cradling his jaw with one hand.

“And what, pray tell, does that mean?”

Tom glanced up and sighed. “You know what we’ve been doing. The plans, the raids, all of that.”

“Yes, get to the point.”

“One of the newer recruits has taken exception to how many of his fellow Death Eaters have been captured and sent to Azkaban of late. He made some decisions as to who, exactly, is at fault for this, and decided to attempt to impress Voldemort with his forward thinking and initiative.”

“Usually a bad combination,” Severus commented. “What has this to do with me?”

“He decided you’re the problem, Severus, and since he cannot get at you directly, he attacked indirectly. He went after your mother.”

Severus stepped back abruptly, then said, “I need a drink.” He turned and stalked off without another word.

Tom heaved a sigh and stood, then searched around for his wand before heading out to find Severus, locating him in the library. Severus was already seated in one of the chairs with a glass of port, so Tom joined him, remaining silent.

Severus finally said, “And what did he do?”

“Broke her mind with Cruciatus,” Tom said bluntly.

“Shades of the Lestranges, how charming.” Then he took a gulp from his glass and said stiffly, “I apologize for striking you.”

Nonplussed, all Tom could do was nod. A few moments later he said, “Accepted, of course. Severus, your mother is currently at my house, being watched over by the house-elves. The man, Jensen, is languishing in a healer’s coma in Peter’s old room. You brought me to my senses just before I went to kill him. At that point, I decided to wait on his fate to see if you would like to deal with him personally. It was why I was delayed.”

Severus had another gulp, then shook his head. “I have no interest in killing anyone, Tom. Deal with him as you see fit. And while I was never very close to my mother—my father was not a nice man—I cannot say with any truthfulness that this has left me unaffected.”

“Then I will deal with him. And I will find a way to help your mother.”

Severus let out a bark of humorless laughter. “Help her? Like someone has managed to help the Longbottoms? Please, Tom, spare me the baseless promises.”

“Then I will try! You have no idea how sorry I am, Severus.”

“I believe I do. However, I think if you stop to consider things more rationally, you will realize, as I already do, that this was not something any of us thought of. I hardly think this is your fault alone, and I doubt any of us would have predicted something like this happening. More to the point, you still need to explain to Potter just exactly why you went into a mindless, murderous rage that caused enough feedback to flatten the boy, never mind the fact that you did not occlude your mind. Potter can do it reflexively, so why not you?”

Tom blinked slowly and aimed an incredulous look at Severus. “Do I hear concern for Harry there?”

“You are obviously suffering from dementia if you actually expect me to answer that. Now, I am going to visit my mother. I suggest you take care of your own obligations.” Severus stood up with a sneer and walked out, presumably to call Dobby to his aid.

Tom sat there a while longer, sipping his port; there was no sense in wasting it. When he was done he rose and called for Dobby. “Have you stayed with Harry, or did you resume your Hogwarts duties?”

Dobby shook his head. “Wheezy is assuring Dobby that they is being fine, so Dobby went back.”

“All right, this is what I would like you to do, then. Check on Harry, please, and if he’s already sleeping, bring him to our bedroom here—I’ll wait there—then return Ron to Gryffindor tower. If he’s awake, ask him if he would rather stay where he is or come here. Come and get me if he chooses to stay there.”

“Yes, Master Tom!”

Dobby popped out immediately, so Tom made his way to the bedroom, and a short time later Harry was brought in. As Dobby left, Harry ambled over to the bed, a little unsteady on his feet. Tom grabbed one of his arms to help balance him until he was sitting down.

“I dunno what Snape gave me,” Harry said, “but I’m feeling a bit woozy.”

“You should have just had Dobby pop you into the bed, Harry, but I expect you were feeling manly and thought you should walk?”

Harry gave him a halfhearted glare. “If I could focus properly, I’d show you manly. Now what the hell happened to make you so angry?”

Tom cleared his throat and sat down next to Harry. “Again, I apologize. I admit, I should always occlude my mind whenever I’m doing business as Voldemort. I never meant to hurt you.”

Harry sighed soulfully and replied, “Apology accepted, and if I thought for one moment you were shading the truth, I’d—look, stop being coy, all right?”

“It’s very simple, Harry,” he said, then explained what had happened. “And I became so enraged over what Jensen had done that I lost control of myself. It was only when Severus tried to signal me with his pendant that I came to my senses.”

Harry blinked a few times and shook his head. “What happened to Jensen? I don’t think I felt. . . .”

“No, he’s alive. For now, anyway. I offered him to Severus, but he declined personal retribution.”

Harry shook his head again, then flopped back. “Tom, is the reason you got so angry because someone hurt your friend, or because a Death Eater presumed to act of his own initiative?”

Tom frowned and started to protest, then stopped short and gave Harry an assessing look. “I’d like to say that’s not a fair question, but I must admit that it is. And however much I would like to say it is only the first, I would probably be lying if I did. Acting as Voldemort, I allow I must think as he would to some degree.” He brushed Harry’s cheek with the back of his hand, then continued, “Even so, that would be only a small part of why I reacted as I did.”

Harry rolled his head to the side and gave him a small smile. “Is Snape very angry with you, or should I not be asking?”

“I’m not sure, actually. He left rather abruptly.” Tom furrowed his brow and gave his bonded another assessing look. “We can talk about this further, Harry, but I think Severus must have dosed you pretty heavily and I question the degree of your present lucidity.”

Harry rubbed his face and squinted. “I am sleepy,” he admitted.

“Then let us go to bed. We can continue this discussion in the morning if you wish.”

*

“What are you going to do?” Harry asked reluctantly over breakfast. “And I’m sorry if I was unkind last night. I don’t think I was quite all there.”

“It never crossed my mind to fault you on the bluntness of your question last night. I need to deal with Jensen. I need to try to find a way to help Severus’s mother. And I need to make sure you aren’t going to launch a sneak attack on me in retribution.”

Harry sniggered softly and waggled his fork. “I promise to behave myself if you promise to give me a massage later today.”

“It’s a deal.”

“Tom, I suppose, depending on how long you want to or can keep that Jensen fellow alive, he could be used as one of the two fakes. He’s going to disappear either way.”

“Well, I can stop him from being located by anyone. So long as I were to make sure my staff knew exactly how to care for him in stasis, it should be workable,” Tom replied. “You’re suggesting this because his death may as well be useful?”

Harry nodded.

“Then I suppose the next one to anger me almost beyond reason can suffer the same fate, though I hope that does not actually happen again.”

Harry grimaced, then applied himself to his food for some time before asking, “And what about Snape’s mum? She can’t go to St. Mungo’s.” He rather thought that Dumbledore would not view her victimization in any light other than that of what it was, and the reality of the situation could be far more damaging than it was already.

“No, she can’t, but she is being cared for more than adequately. Even so, given that no one has ever found a way to restore the minds of the Longbottoms, I am not sure how I can help her.”

“Not even muggle techniques?”

“I wouldn’t even know where to begin, Harry, though I suppose I can check into such things,” he said with a shrug.

“I’m not saying they would have all the answers, but at least doing a little research might help give you some ideas,” Harry explained. “Even though muggles can’t do everything, neither can wizards, so there must be some middle ground which could apply to both. You also haven’t really said much about the results of the fun had by all at Malfoy’s house.”

Tom shook his head. “There isn’t much to say, really. Far too many of those students were there under duress from what I could tell. I don’t much see the point in recruiting from among them aside from Malfoy himself. Perhaps one or two others.” He shrugged.

Harry gave him a steady look. “I think you should wait on that. Unless there’s an issue with the fact that he cannot show a Dark Mark off, I wouldn’t bother marking him until after the term is out.”

“Well, it isn’t as though he’s managed very well to find anyone worth Voldemort’s while at this point, so marking him would be premature.”

“Tom, what’s going to happen once I have to go back?” Harry asked in a sudden change of subject. “You won’t be anywhere close enough to talk to me.”

Tom gave him a somewhat indulgent smile and replied, “The same as earlier. I’ll find a place to live in temporarily. Being in London was close enough the last time, Harry. We will have to check, of course, if Dobby can jump you back and forth at that distance, though I don’t see a problem if I find a place, or a hotel, not too far away.”

“All right, just checking. I just don’t like the idea of you being out of range.”

“I’ll have to keep reinforcing them anyway, Harry. You know they cannot decide to leave until we’re ready to move ahead. However, I suggest this time around that you’re seen out and about every so often.”

Harry favored him with a sarcastic smile. “Of course. Merlin forbid anyone get the idea that I was being locked up or anything.”

Tom smirked and said, “No, it’s more that they might decide you’re being a sulky brat or severely depressed.”

Harry pouted and gave Tom a reproachful look, then sniffed dramatically and averted his gaze. Several minutes later, once Harry had decimated most of his food, he looked back over and said, “Regarding something said earlier, who’s going to be me?”

“Preferably someone of the same height, Harry. I’ve been thinking about that, considering that we decided some time ago to use actual people, and looking into things. I know, it is possible that wizards may not pay attention to things a muggle would, but they might.”

“What exactly does that mean?”

“Were you aware that you can, within a certain range, determine things like age and sex from a skeleton? I think it would be wise to err on the side of caution and use someone near your own age and general build.”

“Another student. Still, that raises another question. Wouldn’t that mean Jensen might not be a wise choice, then?”

“Malfoy may not be all that successful in recruiting from among the population of Hogwarts, but that does not mean he hasn’t been useful. And, Jensen may not be quite my age, but neither is he very young. I’m fairly certain that some tinkering will produce appropriate results. If not, I will simply have to use one of the Death Eaters from my own generation.”

Harry didn’t bother to ask why not use Malfoy himself. They might have the same general build, but Draco was noticeably taller. And, deciding that a spot of denial was in order (at least insofar as a future victim went), Harry proceeded to finish his breakfast, then bounce out of his seat and circle the table so he could lean against Tom, who eyed him in amusement.

“Yes, Harry?”

Harry aimed an innocent smile at Tom, then said, “I would really like that massage now.”

“And will that massage lead to any debauchery or dissipation?”

Harry widened his eyes and said, “My, that’s rather forward of you to ask. I suggest you indulge me and find out for yourself.”

*

Harry felt like bliss incarnate once Tom had spent a fair amount of time massaging nearly every inch of his body. And, he had somehow managed to make the rug in front of the fireplace seem as comfortable as their bed. Harry didn’t think it was any surprise when he flipped over that he was very visibly aroused, nor that there was a decided gleam in Tom’s eyes.

It was even less of a surprise when Tom gave up all pretense of making it up to Harry and instead began to stroke him in ways that deliberately inflamed his senses further, and Harry soon found himself writhing on the soft rug while moaning out his need for release. However, his bonded was not so kind as to acquiesce immediately.

In point of fact, Harry found his hands being pinned over his head again, though this time with magic, as Tom slowly began to prepare him. His bonded took his own sweet time of it before finally joining with him, and the part of Harry’s mind that was not wholly caught up in pleasure wondered how it was, with feeling both his own and Harry’s need, that Tom could possibly retain so much self control.

And then that thought was lost as Tom began to move in earnest while capturing Harry’s mouth in a series of tender kisses, an odd melding of sweetness and savagery.

*

“All right,” Harry said as he idly traced patterns on the slick flesh of Tom’s chest, “now that I’ve been properly apologized to—not that I am in any way condoning the idea that sex makes everything better, mind you—is it possible that we can devise a way to help Snape’s mum?”

“You call that pillow talk?”

Harry cuffed Tom playfully. “I don’t like things hanging over my head. And yes, I know, it’s not exactly my problem, but. . . .”

“I understand, and I have been giving it some thought. Unfortunately, I did not have such an easy time as you at getting to sleep last night. Something you said a while back got me to wondering, actually.”

“Which was?”

“Your comments on possession. As you pointed out, I am able to possess Nagini, and while she is not human, it does open the question of whether or not I could possess someone other than you. If that is possible, it may be that I could enter her mind to see if I could effect any changes for the better.”

Harry frowned thoughtfully. “Well, that makes me wonder about how people say a person’s mind has snapped. What if that’s literal, in a certain sense? Or even, how when you protect your mind with Occlumency, it is, in a way, like locking things away, or dissolving the access bonds to memory—for anyone else, at least.”

Tom shifted carefully so that he could lay on his side and face Harry directly. “Snapped in the sense that whatever it is that allows a person to access a memory is broken? Eileen is insane because she has no coherency of memory, no way to relate one memory to the next, perhaps?”

Harry shrugged slightly. “Maybe. A memory has so many unseen associations that if you snapped those bonds, it would be meaningless, right? I mean, when I smell you, memory produces a whole host of things associated with that scent. Without them, it’s just a scent. When I see Hedwig, it’s the same thing. I remember my first trip to Diagon Alley, Hagrid, getting my wand. . . .”

“And those things are linked, in turn, to others.” Tom went silent for several minutes before saying, “If that were the case, it would be a monumental job to fix things.”

“I think it’s worth considering, and you did say you would check into muggle texts on this sort of thing. You might as well check wizarding ones, too. Even if you can’t help in the end, no one could say you didn’t try your very best, and I would like to think that Snape could appreciate that.”

“Mm.” Tom placed a soft kiss on Harry’s lips, then said, “Let’s go get cleaned up, and then we’ll go see about your eyes.”

*

Tom spent an abundant amount of time considering Harry’s thoughts on the matter of Eileen Snape, née Prince, though naturally he waited until he was alone to do so. They had gone to see an optometrist, as promised, and Tom was only mildly surprised to find that Harry’s current set of glasses was not adequate for his present needs. Having not gotten around to determining if metamorphmagy could, in fact, assist in making glasses unnecessary, Harry had walked away from the shop with not only a new set of lenses in his glasses, but a supply of contact lenses. A quick stop into a muggle chemists had provided the necessary other items.

Harry had blinked rather a lot at first, then settled into a wide grin of happiness. “I must say, it’s terribly nice to actually see things properly. But you know”—he paused and looked at Tom—“I actually wonder if I might have been compensating a bit without realizing it. I’m only just now realizing that while I could see almost as well as I do now, the difference wasn’t enough to explain how badly my glasses were off. I also seem to be lacking . . . a sense of strain, or effort. I’m not quite sure how to explain it.”

“I am very happy to hear that, Harry. It may be that my theory holds more validity than I had expected. In any case, you’re set for now. And with any luck, after you’ve had a chance to become accustomed to those contacts, we might be able to figure out how to magic them so you need not remove them as a muggle would have to, nor use all that stuff. And if we do make all of it irrelevant, even better.”

Harry nodded and changed the subject. “We really need to figure out something else for the Death Eaters to do. And the fact that they aren’t actually killing anyone has got to have the Order scratching their heads.”

Tom pursed his lips, then gave Harry a speculative look. “There is one thing I could have them do, but you might not like it.” He paused, then said, “I could have them desecrating graveyards.”

“What on earth for?”

“To create an army of Inferi. Animated corpses, that is.” Tom was not surprised when Harry shuddered. “A muggle would call them zombies,” he added.

Harry opened his mouth to speak, then looked away and began fidgeting with his pendants. Eventually he looked back and said, “All right. However, would you as Voldemort actually create these . . . abominations? Or would you simply, er, put them back in the ground the second the Death Eaters were out of the room, so to speak?”

Tom considered, then nodded. “I don’t see why not, Harry. The important part of the idea is to make Dumbledore and the Order believe Voldemort is gearing up for something big. That they never actually run across any Inferi is more or less irrelevant. Actually, that might make it more interesting.”

“What, that they’d be badly wanting to know where the hell you’re keeping them?”

“Yes. In any case, such a plan would keep the Death Eaters and the Order occupied for quite some time. In point of fact, if pressed to show something for the effort, I must admit I do have some Inferi stuffed in a dark hole somewhere already from years back. However, those corpses snatched for this I would bury again. The worst they would suffer from is being moved.”

“Tom?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“If I should die before you, I would very much prefer you make sure I am cremated.”

*

Harry, despite his feelings about Hermione, had been thinking of late that perhaps it was time to try to talk to her about how she had been acting since his re-sort. And though he did not necessarily expect anything to change, he felt it would be wrong of him to continue to brush the matter off entirely without having at least made the attempt.

He happened upon her in the library, which was not an unusual place to find her, and was gratified, at least a little bit, that she had chosen to sit in a fairly unused section. He took a seat quietly and waited for her to acknowledge him, then said, “What’s changed between us?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Harry.”

“Maybe I’m mistaken, but something has changed. We’ve been friends for five years, but lately all I seem to get from you are cool looks and logic, and that hurts me. Everything seemed fine on the train ride home from school last year, but sometime after that, things became different, and the only thing I can think of is that I was re-sorted. I don’t understand, because of all people, especially among my friends, you would have been the person I thought would understand and support me.”

She glanced up from her book long enough to say, “I never said I didn’t support you, Harry.”

“Then I guess I really don’t understand what’s changed. Yes, I knew that things wouldn’t be as easy with us in different houses, but I didn’t expect this. Since then it’s seemed like you’ve been horribly distant.”

“It was very friendly of you to refuse all communication for the first half of the summer,” she murmured without looking up.

Harry blinked. Now how could he explain that without explaining that he had been locked away without access to Hedwig, or an open window for that matter? “I’m sorry, Hermione, but I needed time to grieve. The only time I went near an owl at first was to send Hedwig out to . . . the old crowd.”

“And when you did write, you said nothing about that. We would have been happy to help, but you didn’t want that. Even now you’ve said next to nothing. You’ve been our friend for five years, but you can’t seem to talk to us about him. Well, I admit, I have no idea what things you say to Ron, but still.”

Was that really her problem? “Have you ever lost someone close to you?” he asked quietly.

“No, but to all accounts, neither have you. You never knew your parents, Cedric wasn’t more than a passing acquaintance, and you barely had any real time at all with Sirius. I fail to see the relevance of your question.”

“You know he was my godfather. It’s true I had very little time with him in person, but I always looked to him for advice from the moment I met him. You knew how happy I was at the idea of going to live with him, and you were happy for me.”

“You spent a few weeks with him during the summer, and a few more at the holiday. That’s not the same as five years of friendship, Harry.”

He sat back in his chair, bewildered. She appeared to have absolutely no concept of just how much Sirius had meant to him, or had acknowledged his words, but had assigned no real depth to them. “So, I need time to grieve, and Sirius is a bit of a sensitive subject, and suddenly I’m . . . I don’t know.”

“Well, Harry, you weren’t exactly a forthcoming person last year, either. It’s simply worse now. I certainly can’t keep an eye on you as before, so it’s very difficult for me to know what’s going on.”

“Nothing is going on, that’s the point. And, Hermione, forgive me, but you aren’t my mother.”

“Of course not. If I were, I could guarantee that you wouldn’t be so stubborn and secretive.” She flipped the page in her book and seemed to resume reading.

Harry clenched his jaw and considered, then said, “So, who do you fancy?”

Hermione looked up in surprise. “I don’t see where that’s your business.”

“I thought we were friends. Don’t friends tell each other everything? You aren’t setting a very good example for me here.”

She frowned and said, “Sarcasm again, Harry? My private life is just that, private.”

“Then why isn’t mine?”

“I’m not the Boy Who Lived,” she countered.

Harry stared at her. “Since when am I that to you? You’ve always been one of the very few people to see beyond that, to see just Harry. Since when is it my duty to lay every aspect of my life bare?”

“It’s not as though you’ve been able to properly protect your mind, Harry. You ought to be telling Professor Dumbledore everything. You don’t really think you can fully and correctly interpret your visions on your own, do you?”

“Visions? What visions? I haven’t had any, and Dumbledore knows that.”

“Professor Dumbledore,” she corrected automatically, then gave him an assessing look. “All right. So where are you on Sundays when you hide from everyone?”

Harry bit back his initial response and took a moment to calm himself. “I do not hide. I spend the day in my room, revising or looking to teach myself new things such as for the DA meetings. I’d be a poor teacher if I couldn’t even do the things I wanted to teach others. Even Blaise could have told you that had you asked.”

“Alone, Harry? You couldn’t possibly do that with us?”

“The point of being alone is so that there aren’t any distractions. And if you took the time to ask me about my marks this year, you’d know that I’m doing fine.”

“Don’t need us anymore?”

“I—why do you keep misinterpreting everything I say?”

“I’m not sure I am,” she said coolly. “As it is, you spend more time on frivolous games with Ron than you do with the rest of us. Apparently, we don’t matter any longer. I guess if we aren’t somehow useful to you. . . .”

Harry narrowed his gaze and ran a hand through his hair roughly. “That’s low, Hermione, really low. It’s hard to be close to you when you barely speak a word to me anymore, and spend your time sniffing and turning up your nose whenever I’m around,” he said as he slowly rose to his feet. “I think I’m not the only one to blame around here.”

He turned and started to walk away, but did not get out of earshot before hearing her parting shot. “That’s the problem, Harry. You simply don’t think.”