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this imaginary haze of mine

Chapter Text

Privet Drive was a rather dreary place.

It wasn’t always one, of course. Privet Drive used to be a pleasant, quiet little suburb with upstanding citizens and reputable community. But over the years, the atmosphere had gotten chiller, their gardens wilted a bit faster, and there was a constant state of gloom permeating throughout the suburb. The moment the sun went down, everyone locked themselves into their homes, pulled their curtains over their windows, and the more emotional residents of the area sometimes cried themselves to sleep. The overwhelming feeling of sorrow was strongest at dark and no one ever dared step outside at night after Old Mr. Baker from Number Fifteen was discovered catatonic on the sidewalk by his house. Poor Mrs. Baker, virtually a widow with Mr. Baker mysteriously becoming a vegetable overnight.

And people tried moving out, of course. The ones that felt things going south sooner were the lucky ones. After whatever curse the neighborhood had gotten really settled in, well, no one seemed to be able to leave permanently after that. The Allens of Number Thirty-Six learned that the slow and hard way, after three cars, two bank loan rejections, and five real estate agents.

No one knew the cause, and the residents realized that they were stuck in this pseudo-prison for however long this was going to go on. And they weren’t happy about it, but all they could do was deal with it and pray to god that they all weren’t going to die a slow and horrible death. On the bright side, the amount of attention their little neighborhood got from paranormal enthusiasts provided them with ample entertainment and gave them a bit of notoriety. No one ever saw the rumored “ghost” but they could very much surely feel it.

Everyone had their theories, of course. Ranging from disturbed graves to vengeful fey, none of them came close to the truth, except maybe the private suspicion of one resident of Number Four.

And Petunia Dursley knew for sure it had something to do with what they kept in their cupboard under the stairs.

“You’ve got to stop scaring the tourists,” Little Harry, ten years old, frowned at his companion as he swung on the playground swing. “It’s bad enough we have a seven o’clock curfew!”

They’re just little pests, hoping to find validation of their little delusions ,” his friend hissed. A bony hand tapped delicately at the boys back, propelling him up higher into the air to the child’s delight.

“How is it a delusion if you’re real?” Harry asked back, laughing when he stopped in the air too long to be natural before swinging back.

His friend made a scoffing sound. “ They think that ghosts haunt this place - I am beyond that .”

It watched as the boy jumped off the swing at its highest point, flying gracefully in the air before landing softly on his two feet. The boy really didn’t have a clue of how unusual it was to have such control of his juvenile magic, did he?

“It’s getting dark,” Harry said, looking at the sinking sun. “I should head home or Uncle Vernon will get mad.”

You have nothing to be afraid of in the dark, little Harry, ” it said, gliding behind the boy as he made his way through the streets of the neighborhood. Already the streets were empty, and it wasn’t even completely dark yet. “ And one day I will kill your family.

Harry laughed, not taking the words seriously. His friend had been threatening to do that for years. “Thanks, my knight in shining armor.”

“Always, my little prince.”

Growing up, little Harry didn’t have much. He had his cupboard, his broken toy soldiers, and he had a ratty book of fairy tales a kind teacher had secretly given him, back in preschool. The book was his most important possession.

He loved all the stories, of course. He read one almost every week, over and over again. And Cinderella was his favorite.

Cinderella with her awful stepfamily (quite like the Dursleys) and being treated like nothing more than a servant (like Harry was!). He wished he could get invited to a ball too and get taken away by a Prince Charming, only without all the glass slipper thing because Harry, very sensibly in his opinion, didn’t wear glass slippers. So he prayed. He prayed and prayed to whatever higher being that would listen for someone to save him from his miserable existence with the Dursleys and to take him away to a castle far, far away.

And eventually someone - something - answered.

Sort of.

( “ Call me Tom ,” a raspy, echoing voice whispered to him one night as he slept, “ I’ll protect you from these disgusting muggles from now on, little Harry Potter.

Harry, thinking it was a dream, only murmured, “only if you call me your little princess.”

An awful parody of a chuckle echoed. “ I think ‘my little prince’ would do .” )

“I’m a wizard!” Harry excitedly told Tom the day after his birthday. “Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon knew, of course, and they weren’t very happy when Hagrid came to deliver the letter - Hagrid’s huge, by the way! - but they let me move in Dudley’s second bedroom with an actual bed and all!”

Not for the first time, Tom felt the urge to murder the Dursleys. Damn those blood wards.

“And my parents weren’t drunks after all,” Harry continued to ramble, ignoring how much colder the air had gotten. Frost was actually starting to form around the empty playground, and it was July . “Turns out they were killed by an evil wizard. It’s just like in my stories!”

Yes, indeed.” Tom rasped flatly. “ And what did I tell you about your aunt and uncle’s opinions?

“That they’re all horse shit!” Harry smiled brightly. What a precocious child.

“Hagrid was rather nervous about being here, though,” Harry said. “Said the neighborhood felt unnatural.”

Hm ,” Tom hummed, running a chilly hand through the boy’s mess of hair. “ Magical folk tend to be rather more sensitive towards my kind’s presence.

Harry peered up, squinting as if he could finally manage to determine what laid under the hood of Tom’s cloak. All he could see was black, of course, and it was so frustrating because he didn’t even know his friend’s actual face! “Will I finally be able to find out what you are?”

Harry thought Tom was possibly smirking at that. “ The discovery will have you running for the hills, little Harry.

His dream of a castle far, far away (which turned out to be Scotland) came before his Prince Charming.

Which was fine! Harry was only still eleven, after all, he wasn’t ready for adult stuff like marriage and stuff!

Besides, Hogwarts was beautiful . The Gryffindors slept in one of the honest to god towers. There were moving staircases and paintings! An actual ghost taught them History of Magic, but the Bloody Baron and Nearly Headless Nick were far beyond more fascinating that Professor Binns. It was a shame all the students were too afraid of the Baron. He was actually an interesting guy under all that ghostly gore and gruff exterior. Kind of like Tom, in a way.

(If there was one downside to Hogwarts, it was the lack of his friend. He missed him dearly and wished he could go visit him over Christmas, but that meant staying with the Dursleys and ew, no thanks. But Tom must be feeling awfully lonely, considering Harry at least had Ron and Hermione with him at Hogwarts - and does he have so many stories to tell Tom when he came back! - but all he could do was send Hedwig to Privet Drive with letters as much as possible. He liked to think  that Hedwig coming back empty-handed every time was a good sign.)

The professors weren’t bad either. Professor McGonagall was like one of those strict old grandmothers his primary schoolmates used to talk about (not that he’d ever say that within her earshot) but he reckoned she had a soft spot for him from how much she tolerated his clumsiness in class. Professor Flitwick was a funny man himself, and very cheerful. He reminded Harry of the dwarves in Snow White (another thing he’d never say out loud). Harry didn’t care much about Herbology, not after spending years being forced to weed Aunt Petunia’s garden, but Professor Sprout made the class better than it could have been.

Throughout the school year though, Harry’s least favorite professors continued to be Professors Snape and Quirrell.

I don’t understand what I ever did to Professor Snape! ” He wrote to Tom furiously one night, after a particularly bad Potions class. “ Did I drool on him as a baby or something? He acts as if my entire existence is a personal affront! I bet he and Cinderella’s stepmother are cut from the same cloth.

Professor Quirrell’s classroom smelled like twice the amount of garlic than usual. ” Another of one his letters to Tom said. “ It keeps giving me a headache. Do you think the nurse would let me skip if I complained about getting sick? (Haha, just joking!)

And then there was that troll during Halloween, in which he and Ron solidified their friendship with Hermione, and then a real cerberus! Harry even got an invisibility cloak and found a cool mirror that showed Harry standing with his family, Tom by his shoulder. It was a shame Professor Dumbledore had to take it away, but enchanted mirrors never came without a price.

Things came to a head when Harry and his friends got wrapped up in the matter of Nicholas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. It was thrilling at first - a school mystery! - but as they went through the trials of the third-floor corridor, the danger became abruptly more real. Harry was honestly terrified. He didn’t show it, but by the time he and Hermione had reached the riddle with the potions, he had wanted to turn back and take Hermione and Ron back to safety.

( He can bluff like the best of them - the Sorting Hat considered Slytherin for him very strongly, after all - but the part of him that was still ‘the boy that lived under the stairs’ acknowledged that there was a reason why he wanted to be the princess of his story, and never prince charming. )

Finding out that it was a possessed Professor Quirrell - harmless Professor Quirrell with the stutter and the garlic smell and the fainting - attempting to steal the stone only topped the disaster the whole debacle ended up being. Tom had taught him well though, and despite how incredibly overwhelmed he felt, he wasn’t going to be deterred. In the end, Harry managed to stall the Dark Lord long enough for the Headmaster to come swooping in.

Compared to all of that, well, his exams were practically cake.

Privet Drive was as gloomy as he remembered.

Then Harry squinted a little and tilted his head.

Correction: it somehow became even gloomier than before. He didn’t think that was even possible anymore.

“Now listen here, boy,” Uncle Vernon growled, eyes darting around quickly as he all but threw Harry’s trunk out of the boot of his car and had the boy dragging it quickly inside. “None of your funny business, okay! You may be learning that- that- unnatural stuff! but I won’t tolerate even a single scrap of paper from that accursed place you’ve been at. All of your stuff is going in the cupboard!”

Good thing Harry foresaw that, and had Hedwig fly off ahead of him to Tom and had spello-taped his wand to his calf earlier. “Yes, Uncle.”

On his way to the usual playground he found out Mr. Johnson from Number Ten had committed suicide, Mrs. Wilhelm from Number Twenty Two had been unfortunate enough to get caught after dark and was now brain dead in the hospital, and that no one has seen Mr. Williams exit his house in over two months.

Tom had been sulking, it seemed.

“I missed you!” Harry greeted the tall figure, wrapping his arms tightly around Tom’s thin body in a hug. The comforting scent of his friend helped get rid of the smell of burnt flesh still tickling Harry’s nose, even weeks later. “Oh, I have so much to tell you about Hogwarts!”

Yes, I’m sure, ” Tom snapped, not one for hugs, but the way the air lightened a fraction was very telling. “ You’ve said so a million times in your letters.

Harry beamed. “You got them!”

Of course. ‘Tom, the demonic(?) entity in Privet Drive’ as the recipient certainly made it easier for your owl. ” If Tom had eyes, Harry was sure he’d be rolling them right now. “ Come on now, we don’t have all day.

And so Harry sat on his favorite swing and talked his heart out, while Tom’s palms lightly brushed against his back to keep him swinging - as was their tradition.

Dobby popped in Number Four’s backyard and met the visage of death.

Out ,” it hissed at him. “ You will not go near little Harry. I won’t allow it .”

Dobby squeaked, and shakily mustered some courage to say, “Dobby is here to protects the Great Harry Potter!”

You’ll only bring trouble to him, ” Tom growled inhumanly, “ Leave now, or never .

Shaking heavily, Dobby’s survival instincts overcame his desire to ‘help’ Harry Potter and he popped far away from Privet Drive.

House elves ,” Tom spat in disgust, looking up at Harry’s barred windows with a darkened expression. “ There’s enough scum giving him trouble without adding a crazy elf in the mix.

“Tom?” Harry asked tentatively one day. “Do you think it’s childish for a boy my age to like fairy tales?”

I have no care of what you like ,” Tom said flatly with his rough, unnatural voice.

Harry wilted. “Hermione and Ron thought it was weird for me to like them still.”

Tom’s hooded head turned to him, and he reached a bony hand to stroke the boy's hair. “ Your friends are privileged ,” He told the boy. “ With good homes and happy families - they have no need for make-believe. But they also have no right to dictate what you like, or what you believe in, because if it makes you a happier person, then why should anyone deprive you of that? You believe in prince charming's, and of castles far far away, and of happy endings for your own personal reason. Escapism is healthy if it helps you cope with the harsh reality of life, though loathe I am to admit it.

Harry smiled, “Did you have something that helped you escape?”

Yes ,” Tom admitted. “ Death is hard to elude, but I’ve managed so far .”

“Believing in fairy tales let me meet you,” Harry said, leaning against the cloaked figure. “So I want to keep believing, so I can keep you.”

Harry didn’t think of the Weasley twins and Ron as his prince charming's, but being broken out of his bedroom through his barred window made him feel very much like an imprisoned princess finally escaping her cursed tower.

He looked back at Number Four from the backseat of the flying car and was relieved to see Tom nod in the distance before disappearing back into the shadows. Hopefully his friend didn’t cause a neighborhood-wide panic while they were apart far sooner than either of them would have liked.

Idly, Harry wondered if there was any way Tom could come to Hogwarts with him next time.

Because it was frustrating to have to leave him there! And come to think of it, Tom hadn’t been able to leave Little Whinging since he settled there. Was he stuck? Was Tom tethered to something in Privet Drive, making him unable to leave it? If he was, it certainly wasn’t to Harry, considering Harry would be more than happy to have Tom follow him all around the world.

His musings stopped once he and the Weasley brothers arrived at Ottery St. Catchpole, and their house was simply brilliant! It definitely looked the part of a witch’s house, only less sinister and incredibly welcoming. Mrs. Weasley was very nice to him and he was able to thank her for the jumper she had sent him last Christmas, to which he received a very warm hug. (It was a nice hug, but he would always prefer the press of Tom’s cold, thin body over anyone else.) Mr. Weasley was a laugh too, with the man’s enthusiastic curiosity of muggle technology. Ron’s little sister, Ginny, wouldn’t talk to him much, or make eye contact at all, even if she stared at him when she thought he wasn’t paying attention which was kind of weird.

But all in all, Harry could say that his stay at the Burrow was one of the best times he’d ever had. Only Gilderoy Lockhart and the lack of Tom prevented that summer from being his favorite summer so far, the latter weighing far more heavily than that pompous peacock.

Finding out that said pompous peacock was their new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor definitely started his second year on the wrong foot. And it felt like things only went downhill from there, especially once Halloween rolled around and the Chamber of Secrets was declared to be opened by the ominous bloody writing on the wall.

People just wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t the heir of Slytherin! At least Ron and Hermione stuck to him, even after he bollocksed up the Duelling Club demonstration and revealed to everyone that he was a Parselmouth - something he didn’t even know he was until now. Being ostracized for something he had no control over drove him crazy, and he spent most of his days locked up in the Gryffindor tower or in the library. It was his only respite against the distrustful glares and the harsh whispers that followed him around Hogwarts.

Then he found the diary.

Something about the unassuming journal called to him when he found it in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, and no wonder, when its owner was a boy named Tom Riddle. Tom was an incredibly common name, and there was a higher chance that it was a coincidence that the diary owner had the same name as Harry’s friend, but something in him said that they were one and the same.

And when he got sucked into the diary to view a memory, Harry couldn’t help but stare at Tom Riddle’s visage. The older teenager was fascinating - all sharp angles, lush flowy hair, and incredibly beautiful eyes - he looked straight out of Harry’s dreams.

Tom Riddle was a breath of fresh air. It was stupid, in hindsight, to keep writing to the diary, but Tom Riddle was sympathetic . He understood what Harry was going through. Harry hadn’t met anyone like that in a long, long time and with his Tom being so far away, he poured his heart out to the diary. In the short time Harry had the diary in his possession, Tom Riddle became one of the truly bright spots of his second year.

Which was why it was a stab to the heart to find Tom Riddle to be the one petrifying the students and slowly killing Ginny Weasley in the Chamber of Secrets.

( “You and I are alike,” temptation whispered into his ears as Harry kneeled, powerless. Tom Riddle - Lord Voldemort - grinned viciously, “Together, we can rule the world .”

“I’m sorry,” Harry later sobbed, as he stabbed the basilisk fang into the diary and watched it bleed with ink, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

When Tom Riddle screamed in rage and pain, he reminded Harry of his Tom. And that hurt . )

His scar stung and his head felt almost full the weeks between leaving the Chamber of Secrets with an alive Ginny and finally taking the train back home. An overwhelming depression had come over him, and Harry didn’t understand it. In the end, Tom Riddle was Voldemort. He had probably been playing Harry for a fool the entire time, with his honeyed words laced with lies. And so why regret killing the diary Voldemort? That was the right thing to do, wasn’t it?

And what of his Tom? He still didn’t know what he was, not really, even after two years in the magical world. Not that he actually ever tried to find out. A part of him wished that Tom would just extend some trust, and tell Harry himself what kind of creature his friend really was.

You’ve been rather subdued lately and not of my doing, ” Tom idly commented one day as they sat by a nearby pond. “ Something about you has felt different since you returned too.

“It’s nothing,” Harry said, throwing pebbles into the water. “Hormones, probably.”

A bony hand stroked his head carefully. “ If that’s what you say, my little prince.

“I’ll be alright,” Harry breathed in the smell of frost, ash, and decay from his companion, “I’ll have to be.”

Things come to a head when Aunt Marge finally decided to visit, despite her brother and sister-in-law’s attempts to discourage such a thing.

“You’re still keeping the runt, I see,” Aunt Marge had sneered at the sight of him, and all Harry could do was stand still and nod in agreement. And that’s what he did the next few days. Attending to his family and keeping his mouth shut.

It was unfortunate that Aunt Marge couldn’t do the same.

“Nothing but a no good tramp !” Aunt Marge roared, sloshing her fifth glass of wine. “I bet your sister spread her legs for the first man with a pretty face and a fat wallet - “

Harry’s lips pressed into a thin line, feeling a surge of fury at her rambling words, words that he’d had to listen to all week. ‘How dare she!’ A harsh voice screamed inside of him. ‘She had no idea, no right to - ‘

Aunt Marge’s glass shattered in her hand. Aunt Petunia turned to her nephew no doubt to give a warning look at the boy, only to freeze at the look of pure loathing on the child’s face.

“Vernon,” Petunia hissed to her husband, paling when her glass of water started to frost over. “Vernon, stop her!”

“Mum,” Dudley whimpered as the lights suddenly flickered off, “I’m c-cold…”

“Really, you should’ve left the runt out in the streets the moment you got him!” Aunt Marge continued, too drunk to notice the incoming danger. “Not even God can save his kind!”

And God has no mercy for yours, ” Tom hissed from behind Harry, just as the young boy’s magic flared and inflated the horrid woman.

Harry swirled around, surprised at Tom’s sudden appearance. His friend had never looked more terrifying that he did now, the shadows of the house seemingly extending from behind his looming body and the chill of the air making it harder and harder to breathe. Suddenly Tom’s jokes about killing his relatives didn’t seem like jokes anymore.

“You can’t hurt them!” Harry panicked, coming to his senses. He looked around the room as Aunt Marge floated dangerously against the ceiling and the Dursley’s turned near catatonic at Tom’s presence. He just did magic outside of school, Harry realized, and he harmed a muggle. He was going to get expelled at best, imprisoned at worst.

These muggle filth have hurt you more than enough, little Harry ,” Tom snarled. “ Didn’t I swear to protect you?

“You can’t protect me if I get sent to jail for letting you kill them!” Harry yelled, trying to blink back the sudden tears threatening to spill over. The anger he felt just moments before had disappeared as abruptly as it came, and Harry didn’t understand, didn’t know what to do-

“I have to get out of here,” He said, scrambling towards the cupboard under the stairs. He pulled his wand out of jeans to cast an Alohomora - he’d already done magic, what was one more spell at this point - and quickly grabbed his school things as Tom watched impassively across the hallway. “You shouldn’t have come here, Tom!”

Are you too good for me now, is that it? ” Tom whispered coldly. “ Am I not your knight in shining armor anymore, my little prince?

Harry, about to leave through the back door, faltered. “I’m not little anymore, Tom.” He said weakly. “And I never wanted a knight to protect me. I wanted someone, anyone , to take me far, far away!

He stopped running at Magnolia Crescent Drive, just outside of Tom’s reach. Exhausted, Harry sat down on the sidewalk and finally, finally let himself cry.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he whispered, wishing he was writing to a certain diary instead - Voldemort or not. “I really mucked things up, didn’t I?”

He managed to find transportation in the form of the Knight Bus, and while the ride was not pleasant at all, at least the conductor didn’t say anything about the tear tracks on Harry’s cheeks. His arrival at the Leaky Cauldron and meeting with Minister Fudge were a blur to Harry, and so was the rest of his stay at Diagon Alley. Was he relieved that he wasn’t expelled after all? Incredibly. It was the news that his relatives and Aunt Marge had come out of it unharmed that made him strangely uneasy. Harry realized that it hadn’t occurred to him that wizards could very possibly discover Tom, especially if he really was magical. But Minister Fudge hadn’t mentioned anything about an ominous presence at Privet Drive and neither did Mr. Weasley, so Harry counted that as a positive.

Harry was then told about Sirius Black, as if his life wasn’t complicated enough. Determined not to invite trouble this time, especially with a mass murderer involved, Harry didn’t push Mr. Weasley for more info.

Tom remained in the back of his mind every day, their last encounter still a fresh, stinging memory. Harry regretted his words, as true as they were, because Tom didn’t really deserve them, not really. Harry just hadn’t been feeling himself since the Chamber, since Tom Riddle. Or maybe it really was the hormones, he thought humorously.

Regardless of his inner turmoil, by September first Harry had finally felt sort of more normal than he had been all summer. The presence of Ron and Hermione the last few days certainly helped, and while they looked at him with concern more often than not, Harry didn’t swirl into the same depression he fell into at the beginning of break.

Harry spent most of the train ride half-dozing, gazing at the passing scenery with half-lidded eyes. He must have fallen asleep for a bit though, because the next thing he knew, he was hearing the screeching of the train’s wheels against the tracks as the Hogwarts Express slowly rolled into a stop.

“What’s going on?” Hermione frowned, looking out at the window still showing the Scottish countryside. “Why did we stop?”

The hairs on the back of Harry’s neck tingled as a sudden chill swept through the compartment. A very, very familiar kind of cold.

“Blimey, I’m freezing,” he heard Ron mutter, but Harry only had eyes for the frost forming on the windows and the skeletal hand carefully sliding their door open.

His insides felt like lead, weighing him down in place at the edge of their compartment as his mind struggled to comprehend the creature pulling its hood down, revealing a blackened head with nothing more than a circular mouth on its face. Harry vaguely registered his friends whimpering in fright with their eyes shut as the creature turned to him, almost curiously, and stretched its bony hand towards him.

Expecto Patronum!

The creature screeched inhumanly as a bright light charged at him, fleeing from their compartment as the bright light chased it out of the train. The same bright light then made its way through the stretch of the train, more screeches echoing through the hall.

“What was that?” Harry asked surprisingly steady despite the trembling of his hands.

The spellcaster, his new professor - R. J. Lupin as his suitcase had proclaimed - eyed Harry carefully before breaking off and handing him and his friends a piece of a chocolate bar.

“That was a Dementor,” Lupin said gently, “One of the foulest, darkest magical creatures to walk this earth.”

‘So that ,’ Harry thought hysterically as he swallowed his piece of chocolate, ‘is what’s under Tom’s hood. Good to know.’

He’ll have his breakdown in the privacy of his bed later.

“They feed on happiness and cause feelings of depression and despair! I can’t believe they’re letting it come close to children !” Hermione ranted furiously the following day. Harry stared at his lunch, poking his carrots half-heartedly as his friend’s words flew past his head. It wasn’t like she was saying anything that Harry didn’t find out already. He hadn’t been able to sleep for long after his subsequent mini-panic attack last night, and so he had sneaked into the library under his invisibility cloak at 4 a.m. to read more about the dementors.

“Mate, you’ve barely eaten anything,” Ron said, staring a glance with Hermione that Harry pretended not to see. “You alright?”

“I’m just not feeling hungry,” he simply muttered.

Since then, Harry continued to feel disjointed. He spent the following days going through his classes listlessly, not even rising to Malfoy’s baits or Snape’s barbs. He barely spoke and he barely ate, to his friends and professors’ increasing concern. Not even Quidditch could stir him up, nor did Professor Trelawney predicting his very gruesome death. It was like someone else was controlling his body and did the motions, while Harry was a passenger in his own mind.

The break in the motions came one Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. Professor Lupin had been teaching them about boggarts, a magical creature that transformed to the image of your greatest fear. The third-year Gryffindor-Slytherin class had been abuzz with equal parts nervousness and excitement ever since Lupin had told them that they’d be actually facing one.

Harry watched quietly as one by one, his classmates turned their fears into jokes, though some struggled more than others. Lupin kept a close eye on all of them, coaching the harder ones with gentle instruction but never actually interfering. So when Lupin took a noticeable step forward just when it was Harry’s turn, Harry moved forward and stared challengingly at his professor. The first sign of the old Harry anyone had seen since school started.

The closet creaked as a black, skeletal hand peaked out, grasping the edge of the door and slowly swinging it open to reveal a familiar dark and hooded cloak. The dementor loomed over Harry, its chill making its way through the room as the other students barely breathed in familiar fear.

You and I are alike, my little prince ,” it hissed in a mockery of Tom Riddle’s voice. Harry had a feeling that if it had teeth, it would be grinning the same way Riddle had while standing over Ginny’s body. “ Together, we can rule the world.

“Ridikulus,” Harry said, wand pointed steadily at the image of his friend. The boggart flailed as it turned into a floating gray bedsheet with two eye holes. “Hahaha.”

He’d worn that costume as a child one Halloween, to pretend to be like Tom.

( “Dementors don’t hiss,” Hermione said warily later as they did their homework that afternoon. Harry’s quill paused in place.

By dinnertime, everyone in the castle knew Harry Potter’s boggart was a dementor that spoke Parseltongue. )

“You’re not affected by them the same way everyone else is, are you?” Professor Lupin asked, when Harry finally approached him to learn the Patronus Charm.

Harry, who didn’t even falter when the dementors had interrupted Gryffindor’s Quidditch game against Hufflepuff, pressed his lips thinly. “It’s complicated.”

Lupin stared at him contemplatively,  “You know, the reason why I was going to stop you was because I thought your boggart would turn into Voldemort.” When Harry didn’t answer right away, he sighed. “The Patronus charm is an advanced spell. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to learn it within the year, so don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out, alright?”

Harry gave his professor a bitter smile in response. “Don’t worry, Professor. I’m motivated.”