“I hear you’re the new Seeker?” Draco appears at her elbow as Harry’s walking to Defense Against the Dark Arts. “Congratulations,” he says, not quite sounding like he means it.
Harry turns his way slightly. “Don’t sound too excited,” she says, grinning when his eyes widen as he catches sight of her face.
“What happened?” He hisses, sitting next to her once they reach the classroom. He gestures towards her eye, actions void of tact as usual.
Harry shrugs, prodding at her skin gently, and trying not to wince. “Got hit in the face,” she explains. “Still held on, and proceeded to catch the Snitch before their previous joke of a Seeker.” She doesn’t mention the way Flint leveraged the position with a promise to not go to the Hospital Wing. Tom was not pleased, but seemed to have a grudging respect for Flint all the same.
“Harry!” Hermione exclaims, moving to sit on her other side. “What in Merlin’s name happened to your face?” She hisses, hand reaching up to touch the skin under her eye gingerly. “Why don’t you go to Madame Pomfrey?”
“I hate to agree with Granger,” Draco chimed in, “but that does seem like the best plan of action.”
“I’m fine,” Harry says, shrugging them off. She determinedly shoves the flash of warmth in her chest at Hermione’s touch down. Her cheeks still feel warm, but she doesn’t think anyone notices.
Tom, from his position sitting on a desk two rows in front of her, looks disgusted. “You’re helpless,” he sneers.”How could I have ever been defeated by you?”
I know that’s a rhetorical question Harry answers.
“I still think you should go to Madame Pomfrey,” Hermione says, breaking Harry’s concentration. Before she can continue the discussion, or change the subject more likely, Remus Lupin walks in.
Harry thinks he makes a strange figure for a professor. He certainly strikes a different mood from Lockhart the previous year. His robes are clearly worn and patched up in places and he looks pale and sickly. There are dark circles under his eyes and his skin is a waxy yellow color. He drops his beaten brown briefcase on the desk and brushes off his hands before turning to face the class. His eyes do a long sweep of the students, pausing on Harry. There’s an expression akin to pain as he looks at her and Harry sits up straighter under his gaze.
Draco snorts beside her. “You think they’d give him a new wardrobe,” he sneers under his breath. “Honestly.”
“What are you going to do about it, Malfoy?” Hermione snaps from across Harry. “Run and tell your daddy?” Draco flushes a brilliant red, but before he can retort, Lupin addresses the class.
“Welcome, all,” he says, voice gentler than Harry would have expected. “My name is Remus Lupin, Professor Lupin to you, and I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts professor this year. Hopefully I make it further than your past two professors and I’ll do my best to not lose my memory in the middle of the year.” His speech rouses a few laughs from the class. Draco fumes next to Harry.
Lupin claps his hands together. “Today, I thought we’d start with something a little different than what you may have done in the past.” Hermione’s hand is poised above her parchment, ready to scribble notes. “What can anyone tell me about boggarts?” Hermione’s free hand shoots up into the air and Draco scoffs.
“Ah, Miss... Granger, was it?” Hermione nods, smiling brilliantly. “What can you tell us?”
“Well, Professor Lupin, sir, they take on the viewer’s deepest fear,” she starts, like she’s memorized the textbook. Which, Harry considers as she doodles a snitch on her parchment, might very well be the case.
“Excellent,” Lupin gives Hermione a warm smile. “Ten points to Gryffindor, Miss Granger. Can anyone tell me which spell is used to banish the boggart?” Hermione’s hand shoots up into the air again. Lupin’s eyes fall on her and he smiles slightly.
“It’s Riddikulus,” Tom says dully, leaning against a wall next to Harry’s desk. “Boggarts lose their power through laughter.”
Harry tentatively raises her hand, drawing shocked looks from both Hermione and Draco. Lupin gives her a strange look before he nods at her to answer. “The spell to defeat a boggart is Riddikulus, sir,” she says. “It causes the boggart to transform into something funny, because laughter is the only thing to get rid of one.”
“Very good, Miss Potter,” Lupin says, his voice warm but his eyes still assessing her. “Now, for our first class, I thought we might try our hand at defeating a boggart of our very own. Everyone, up!” The class rose to their feet, grumbling.
“This class is ridiculous,” Draco mutters, standing behind Harry in line where they’re waiting to face the rickety cupboard Lupin has pulled out into the middle of the classroom. Harry snorts, earning a sly smile from Draco and a disapproving glare from Hermione. Again, Harry feels a hot flush rise to her cheeks at eye-contact with Hermione. She determinedly squashes the feeling.
Even though Harry is partially in agreement with Draco about the class, she can’t help but enjoy the activity. Somehow, timid Neville Longbottom is at the front of the line, and when Lupin opens the cupboard, a menacing looking Snape steps into the classroom. Harry watches with bemusement as Neville’s wand hand shakes as he points his wand at the Snape-boggart. He mouths the spell, stuttering over the word. “Ri-riddik...” his voice trails off as Snape advances on him.
“You can do it,” Lupin encourages warmly. Harry sees Neville cast him a tremulous gaze.
“Riddikulus!” Neville finally cries, the spell hitting the Snape-boggart square in the chest. Its shape twists forms until he’s wearing the ridiculous clothes of an older woman. Neville, and the rest of the class, burst into laughter, and the boggart is forced back into the cupboard.
The class eventually quiets down. “Well done, Neville,” Lupin says. “Ten points to Gryffindor for being our first volunteer. Who’s next?”
Slowly the line progresses, each transformation of the boggart somehow becoming more ridiculous than the last. Harry can’t help but wonder what her greatest fear will be, looking at the banshees and clowns and spiders of her classmates. Before she can think too long on the topic, it’s her turn in front of the cupboard. Lupin gives her a guarded look but opens it, nonetheless.
The boggart seems to hesitate in front of her, twisting shapes, until Harry’s standing in front of a familiar door. The door to the cupboard under the stairs swings open, the inside dark. Harry reaches for her wand, fighting down the claustrophobia that rises up in her at the sight. Flames start to lick up at the sides of the walls, and there’s a high-pitched screaming noise in her ears. Before she can cast the spell, the boggart flickers in front of her. Harry takes a step back in confusion and the boggart becomes something else entirely.
She’s now staring at an unmarked grave. Harry blinks in confusion. It doesn’t mean anything to her. Harry looks to Lupin for confusion, wondering if boggarts can break. He’s already staring at her with confusion. “Get rid of it,” Tom says unexpectedly from next to her.
His face is pale and he’s staring at the grave with something akin to dread, darkness twisting in his eyes. Harry didn’t even notice him move to stand next to her, but she does as he bids, raising her wand once more. Before she can cast the spell, Lupin steps in front of her, breaking Harry’s confusion. The grave flickers once and turns into a floating image of the full moon. Lupin banishes the boggart, fingers tightly gripping his wand.
“I think that will be all for today,” he says hurriedly, seeming to Harry like he’s avoiding her gaze. “To everyone who didn’t get a chance to face the boggart, we will be continuing our lesson next class. Make sure to do your reading, and I want a foot on boggarts’ powers next week. Dismissed.” He quickly turns away from the class and is almost out the door before any of them.
“What was that all about?” Draco grumbles, shoving his books back into his bag. He seems distinctly put-out that he didn’t get a chance to go through the exercise.
Harry looks at Tom out of the corner of his eye, where he’s standing staring at the cupboard housing the boggart unblinkingly. “No idea,” she says, honestly, walking out of the classroom with Hermione.
“You could at least ask him to sign your form,” Hermione urges, tucking her scarf under her cloak. “You don’t know, maybe he’ll say yes.” Harry stares moodily out of the window, watching as students flood down the path towards Hogsmeade.
Draco sniffs from where he’s bouncing on the balls of his feet impatiently. “Why would Harry want to ask Dumbledore for anything? The old coot hates her,” he sneers, glaring at Hermione with distaste.
Hermione sputters with outrage. “Thanks, Draco,” Harry says gloomily. She actually agrees with his assessment however, and the thought only depresses her more. Turning back to her friends, she gives them a forced smile. “It’s okay.”
“Great!” Draco exclaims, already breaking away from them, tossing Harry a wave over his shoulder. “I’ll bring you back a book on Quidditch.” He rounds the corner of the corridor and is out of sight in seconds.
Hermione turns an assessing stare on Harry. “You’re sure you don’t want me to stay?”
Harry waves her off. “It’s the first Hogsmeade weekend,” she says. “Enjoy it.” Hermione beams, hugs her loosely, and rushes off to join the masses. Harry drops her head and lets it thud dully against the window. She knows she’s being stupid, but all Harry wanted was something that would let her be like everyone else even if just for one day.
Tom leans against the wall next to her, an ever present specter. “It could be worse,” he says, clearly sounding like he doesn’t give a damn.
“Would you, please,” Harry says, closing her eyes, “shut up. For just a minute.”
Because luck has never been on Harry’s side, she runs into Lupin on her way to the library. Literally. His books drop to the ground with a loud thud and Harry stumbles back, clutching a hand to her scar as Tom’s anger flares.
“Oh. God. Sorry,” she mutters, stooping down to help him pick up his things.
Lupin stares at her, considering, before smiling. “It’s no matter,” he says. His voice sounds nice enough but he’s guarded behind the eyes, and Harry can’t figure out why. “Walk with me for a moment?”
Harry really does not want to, but she also doesn’t know how to say that without coming off as rude. “Who cares?” Tom asks, bored. “May as well get it over with now.”
While Harry doesn’t appreciate his tone, she agrees with the general sentiment. “Sure,” she says, giving Lupin a bland smile.
They walk in silence for several minutes, until they reach his office. Lupin holds the door open for her, moving to the window once she’s in the classroom. Harry does the same, swinging it open. The weather has just started to change, summer collapsing into autumn, and she enjoys the feel of the air on her skin.
“I knew your parents,” Lupin says abruptly. A jolt of shock runs through Harry but she does her best to maintain her composure. “Quite well, actually. Has anyone told you that you look like your father?”
“Frequently,” Harry sighs.
“But you have your mother’s eyes.” Lupin sounds pensive. “I think they would be proud of you.”
Harry frowns. “How would you know?” she snaps, harsher than she intends. “They’re dead, and you don’t know anything about me.” Harry can feel Tom warning her to slow down, to keep her masks on, but she disregards him.
Lupin moves away from the window. “I’m sorry, Harry.” He sounds genuine and Harry thinks she hates him a little bit.
“I don’t need your sympathy,” she says coldly. She turns on her heel to flee the room, missing the bewildered look that crosses Lupin’s face.
“Wonderful,” Tom says dryly, trailing behind her. “He definitely doesn’t think you’re crazy now.”
Harry is bent over a book in the library, half asleep, letting Tom read through her eyes when Ron Weasley finally decides to approach her. It takes her a moment to notice him standing in front of her, face almost as red as his hair. Tom is still fully curled up in her mind, like a cat lazing in front of the fire. She feels a pang of resentment from him at the comparison, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Hullo,” Weasley says dully, eyes darting around like he’s not quite sure what he’s doing here.
“‘Lo,” Harry says in response, leaning her chin in her palm. Her braid is tickling the back of her neck, and Tom’s full presence in her head is making her drowsier than she’d like. “What can I do you for, Weasley?”
He blinks, face turning even more red than Harry would’ve thought possible. “I...” he starts, before his voice gives out on him. “I never got a chance to thank you.”
Harry shakes her head slightly. “For what?” Tom has perked up slightly in her mind, but still says nothing.
Ron shuffles his feet. “For Ginny. I mean. What you did in the Chamber. For my sister.”
Harry’s mouth opens slightly as she catches onto his train of thought. She honestly hasn’t thought much of the youngest Weasley. Since the train ride, Ginny had mostly been surrounded by her own year-mates, not that Harry had minded. She already had an odd assortment of friends, and didn’t particularly feel like adding another one into the mix. Tom makes a disgusted, scoffing sort of sound and makes to look back down at the book.
“It really isn’t anything,” Harry says, attempting to wave off his apology before this becomes more awkward than it already is.
Ron stares back at her, a hard edge in his eye. “No,” he says firmly. “I thought you were a rotten snake,” he blurts out, talking fast like he’s going to lose whatever courage he’d mustered up to say this to her. “That because you were in Slytherin, you were going to become the new Dark Lord like everyone said you would.”
“Everyone said what?”
Ron ignores her outburst. “But an evil Dark Lord wouldn’t have rescued my sister. I’m sorry. And thank you.” Before Harry can say anything else, he turns and hurries away, the tips of his ears still red.
“Can you believe that?” Harry asks Tom, speaking to empty air. “Dark Lord, honestly.”
If you’re quite finished, I’d like to get back to where we were Tom says, ignoring her previous comments. Harry slumps back down over the book, yawning.
“Wake me up when you’re finished,” she murmurs.
The first Quidditch match of the year is on Harry before she knows what’s happening. She stares down at her toast, a sick feeling in her stomach. “This was a terrible idea,” she says, turning wide eyes onto Hermione. “How could you let me do this? I have terrible decision making skills, just look at what I did this summer.”
Hermione rolls her eyes from where she’s sitting next to Harry at the Slytherin table. “Harry, you also are the most stubborn person I know. Even if I did try to stop you, would you have listened?” Tom makes a noise of agreement from where he’s sitting next to Hermione, reading the Daily Prophet over her shoulder.
While Tom hadn’t exactly grown fond of Hermione, in fact he still referred to her as a mudblood when he thought he could get away with it, he had grown a grudging respect for her. A fact that never ceased to irritate him when Harry brought it up.
“You’re right,” she says, looking back down at her toast, like staring it into submission would help her eat.
Draco sighs heavily, across the table from her. “For Merlin’s sake, would you just eat already?” Flint’s sending you death glares from down the table.” Harry looks up from her toast long enough to confirm, yes, Flint is giving her a menacing stare from where he’s surrounded by the rest of the Slytherin Quidditch team.
“I think I’ve lost my appetite,” Harry says, miserably pushing her plate away.
“Harry,” Hermione starts, delicately flipping the page of the Daily Prophet. “You’ve faced down You-Know-Who twice and won, I don’t think a little Quidditch is going to kill you.”
Tom makes another noise of agreement, which Harry thinks is a little unfair of him, and leans closer to the paper without looking at her. “You’ve gone and jinxed me,” Harry moans, dropping her head onto the table with a dull thud.
“Harry’s right,” Draco sniffs. “She’s going to fall off her broom and it’ll be all your fault, Granger.”
Harry stands abruptly. “Both of you need lessons in tact,” she snaps, and makes her exit.
Harry didn’t think she realized how difficult it was to fly in the rain. She’s circling high above the Quidditch Pitch, eyes peeled for any sign of the snitch, and although she’s braided her hair tightly, it still whips around her face. She’s scanning the ground, when she catches sight of a large shadow by the Forbidden Forest.
Craning her neck for a better look, and if she didn’t know any better, she’d think it was the dog from Little Whinging, Harry drifts closer to the edge of the pitch. Her fingers are growing numb, and Harry thinks the air is actually getting colder. She can see her breath now, and her hair is starting to freeze where the rain has drenched her.
Before she can concentrate more on the dog, she sees a flash of gold. Darting after the snitch, Harry urges her broom to go faster, neck and neck with the Hufflepuff seeker, Cedric Diggory. Her hand is outstretched, inches away from the snitch, when out of nowhere, a cloaked thing surges from under her.
Harry pulls back abruptly, staring in horror at whatever is in front of her. There’s a loud ringing in her ears, a screaming noise, and everything is turning dark. Not Harry! a voice screams, as if right next to her, and the last thing Harry sees is a flash of green before her numb fingers are sliding off the handle of her broom and she plummets to the ground in a free fall.
“It’s not like I bloody well pushed her off the broom now, is it?”
“‘I don’t think a little Quidditch will kill you.’ Honestly, Granger.”
The first thing Harry sees when she wakes up is Tom staring intently at her. There’s a pounding in her head, and Harry has to blink a few times before he comes into focus. There’s a dark fire burning in his eyes and Harry can feel the anger radiating off him and through her head. When he sees her awake, he frowns, but continues to stare at her. “What’s wrong?” She slurs the question, her whole body throbbing.
Tom’s eyes flick to somewhere over her head before returning to her. Before she can ask him anything else, someone is leaning over her, and her sight of Tom is cut off. “Harry! You’re awake,” Hermione cries, looking exhausted.
Draco leans over from the other side of the bed, paler than usual. Harry comes to the gradual realization that she’s in the Hospital Wing. “What happened?” She asks, struggling to push herself into a sitting position. Tom places a firm hand on her shoulder, keeping her down.
Hermione flushes, angrily, sitting back down next to Harry. “Dementors,” she says shortly.
“I don’t understand.” Harry shakes her head. The pain shooting through her scar only seems to increase, and Harry resists the urge to clap a hand to her head.
Draco is bristling with anger as well. “Apparently, the Ministry has sent dementors to Hogwarts for protection against Sirius Black. They weren’t supposed to be at the Quidditch match, but all those high emotions attracted them.”
“I fell of my broom,” Harry remembers. “How embarrassing.” Tom laughs darkly from behind her and Harry can tell if he wasn’t tethered to her, he would be out wreaking havoc.
“And Diggory caught the snitch before he realized you had fallen,” Draco says miserably.
“Honestly,” Hermione says, “can you two think about anything other than Quidditch for five minutes? Harry could have died.”
Thinking about Flint’s probable reaction to them having lost the match as a direct result of Harry’s actions makes her wonder if that would have been the better outcome. A flash of pain lances through her scar at that thought. Tom’s anger only seems to have increased since she woke up, rather than abating.
“How come I didn't? Die, I mean.” Hermione frowns at her question.
Draco seems similarly disgruntled. “Dumbledore cast some sort of spell,” he says. “A floating charm, caught you just before you hit the ground.”
“Great,” Harry says, wishing she could just sink into her pillows. “Dumbledore saved me.” The words sit dirty in her mouth, and she just wants to go to sleep and forget the whole day. Tom shifts closer to her, tension in every line of his body, but he stays silent.
Draco and Hermione exchange glances over her head. “We’ll let you rest,” Hermione says gently, giving her hand a squeeze. Harry’s hand burns where they make contact and she hopes desperately she’s not blushing.
“Oi! Potter!” Harry comes to a slow halt in the corridor. To her terrible luck, the hallways is deserted. A large hand comes down on her shoulder, and Harry wriggles out from under it, turning around in the process. A very large, very angry Marcus Flint stands in front of her, the look in his eyes promising pain.
Harry can’t say she’s particularly scared.
“You’ve been hiding from me,” Flint growls, taking a menacing step towards her. Harry purposefully doesn’t move backwards at all. She’s grown tired of this game.
Tom, if you would be so kind... She smiles up at Flint like she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “I just got out of the Hospital Wing, Flint, how could I possibly be avoiding you?”
Flint’s face darkens and he takes another step towards her. “If you really think I’ll buy that, you’re dumber than you look.”
Harry just tilts her head. She knows her eyes are bleeding red and she grins sharply at Flint. He’s got at least a foot on her, but he pales anyway, taking a step backwards. “What are you playing at, Potter?” Flint asks, trying to retain a veneer of bravado.
“Listen up,” Harry says, stepping closer to Flint. She makes no move to raise to his level, just tilts her head back. “I’m not someone you want to mess with. Understand?”
Flint’s eyes widen even further, almost comically. “Your eyes,” he stammers, instead of answering her question.
“If you ever try to threaten me again,” Harry murmurs, her hands coming to grip his hands loosely, “I’ll curse you until you can’t walk again.”
Flint stares up at her, defiance flickering in his eyes, like he hadn’t been trembling before her moments earlier. “Do you think I’m scared of you? You would never have the stomach for it.”
Harry smiles, and she knows it’s a twisted version, cruel. It’s Tom’s smile. “I set my own aunt on fire over the summer,” she confides in him. “What makes you think you’d mean any more to me than she did?” Before she can say anything else, Lupin and Dumbledore round the corner of the corridor, deep in conversation.
Harry takes a quick step back, letting go of Flint’s hands. Once released, Flint scrambles away from her, shooting her a deadly look, although he still looks rather pale. “Oh, dear,” Dumbledore says, when he catches sight of them. “Is everything quite alright here?”
Harry studiously doesn’t make eye contact, still unsure about the state of her eyes. “No problem at all, Headmaster,” she says, sweetly.
“Where could she be?”
“Maybe,” Tom sighs, “you should consider the fact she doesn’t want to be found?” He’s fully corporeal next to her, so as to help Harry with his full concentration. They’ve been traipsing through the Forbidden Forest for the past hour, searching for Basil.
Harry finally comes to a halt, leaning against a tree. “It’s getting too cold out here for her. I don’t care what Dumbledore says, I’m not leaving my familiar to freeze to death in the Forbidden Forest. I won’t do it.”
Tom seems awfully close to rolling his eyes. “The last time the two of you talked, she seemed perfectly happy terrorizing the Forbidden Forest. Plus, is she not too large for the Slytherin common room?”
“I just need another way to terrorize Marcus Flint into submission,” Harry says stubbornly.
Before Tom can reply, most likely to reprimand her, a twig snaps in the forest. They exchange glances. Tom hovers over her shoulder as Harry moves forward. “Hello?” she calls out.
“Wonderful idea, Harry, truly. Announce to the whole world your presence,” Tom says scathingly.
“They would have already heard us talking, it’s not like we’ve been quiet,” Harry retorts.
All conversation is cut off when a large, black dog prowls out of the underbrush. Tom stiffens behind her. “Harry...” he says, warning in his voice. The dog’s eyes are pinned on Tom as it circles them.
“That’s the dog from Little Whinging,” Harry says, surprised. “I think it’s following me,” she confides over her shoulder, as she takes a step towards the dog.
“Don’t touch it,” Tom hisses. “That’s a grim.”
Harry’s hand pauses outstretched. “A what?” She gives the dog a dubious look. “It just looks like a regular dog to me. Aren’t you?” She addresses it, and it gives her the equivalent of what Harry would consider a smile. “He likes me.”
“An omen of death,” Tom says, sounding more hysterical than Harry’s heard before. “What did I just say about touching it?”
Harry scratches the dog behind the ears. “Don’t listen to mean ol’ Tom,” she cooes, ignoring the lance of pain that shoots through her scar. “He’s just jealous you like me more than him.”
Speaker there’s a hissing noise, as Basil slides out of the bushes. Harry looks over her shoulder, attention drawn, and before she knows what’s happening, the dog bounds away. You have come to bring me back into the stone?
She turns fully towards Basil, now the length of Harry’s wingspan. Yes she answers, distracted. You will be warm there.
Basil slithers up her offered arm, wrapping around her torso, under her cloak. Harry heads back to the castle, Tom back in his slot in her mind, thoughts still on the dog which seemed to be following her.
Harry decides the smell of tea leaves make her sick.
She’s got a throbbing headache and can feel a twitch starting in her eyes. She thinks Divination is the stupidest subject Hogwarts offers. Tom agrees with her. The first time she walked into the classroom, Tom took one look at the beaded walls and bean bag chairs, with a haze of smoke over the room and walked right back out. He hasn’t since been back to the class, choosing instead to do his own thing, haunting the halls of Hogwarts, Harry assumes.
Draco starts snoring next to her, and Harry kicks him in the shin viciously. He jerks awake, and sends her a wicked look. “Drink your tea,” Harry tells him, swirling her own dregs. He’s still glaring at her, but does as told.
“Okay,” he says, staring at his book and then at his cup. “So, this blob here means... you’ll face an early death? Or, wait... if you turn it this way it could mean you’ll lose a great fortune.”
“Goody,” Harry says drily. “Can’t wait.” She peers into her own cup. “You’re going to... have a bad hair day?” Draco snorts into his cup.
Before they can say anything else, Trelawny swoops towards them, her glasses magnifying her eyes to a terrifying extent. “Let me see that,” she snaps, holding out her hand. Harry hands over her cup and Trelawny peers into her.
Through the smoke obscuring the room, Harry sees Trelawny's eyes widen behind her glasses. The professor pales, glancing up at Harry. “My dear,” she says gravely. “You have the mark of the grim in your cup.”
Harry frowns. This is old news. The classroom, previously noisy with her classmates chatter, falls silent. Draco looks paler than usual, and Trelawny hands Harry her teacup back with a tragic expression. “Dark things are headed your way, Miss Potter.”
Harry didn’t think the dog in the forest was all that big of a deal, and she didn’t quite understand wizards and their superstition. Harry was familiar with death omens, she practically had one living in her head, although no one knew that. She didn’t see why this would be any different.
“I had an uncle who saw a grim once, and he died on the spot,” Draco hisses on their way out of class. Harry raises her eyebrows and gives him a strange look. “It’s true. The grim is a sign of death. No good comes out of seeing one.”
Tugging her bag higher, Harry tosses her braid over her shoulder. “Have you, and the rest of the wizarding world, considered that maybe people die from the grim out of fear, rather than any magical power of the grim itself?” Draco gives her a confused look as they make their way down the spiral staircase that leads up to Trelawny’s tower. “After all, if it is said to be an omen of death, wouldn’t people be a little scared to see it? What exactly was the cause of death for your uncle?”
Draco frowns. “I think they said his heart stopped.”
Harry hums. “My point exactly. I’ve gotta go to the Great Hall, promised I’d meet ‘mione. I swear not to pet any large, black dogs.”
Harry watches dejectedly as a stream of students makes their way to Hogsmeade. The weather has finally changed for the worse, and the ground is covered in snow. She’s given up on sending Draco and Hermione off, deciding her depressed mood wasn’t what they wanted on their days of Hogsmeade fun.
She thinks maybe she’ll go to the library, or maybe she’ll just go back to the common room. She’s come to the realization that spending her days with a bunch of first and second years when the rest of the school is gone is her idea of hell. Tom, who cares very little about going to Hogsmeade, agrees with her.
I’ll show you where the kitchens are he whispers in her mind and Harry shrugs. Better than standing here and feeling sad for herself. She can do that on a normal day.
Before she can get further than the end of the corridor, there’s the sound of running footsteps behind her. “Oi! Potter!” Before she can turn around, two sets of arms are linking through hers and dragging her down a side corridor.
The Weasley twins grin at her, identical in every way, down to the untied laces on their left shoe.
“Gred. Forge.” Harry inclines her head to Fred and George in turn. She’s always been able to tell them apart, much to their chagrin. They exchange a glance.
“Why the glum face?” George asks.
“Must be the weather,” Fred says. George makes a noise of enlightenment. They’ve cornered Harry against the wall, one on either side of her, blocking her way out.
Tom leans against the wall next to the trio. “They certainly are irritating.”
“As much as I love the pleasure of your company is there something in particular I can help you with?” Harry asks, ignoring Tom per usual.
George throws his head back, clasping a hand against his heart in mock despair. “My heart! You’ve wounded me deeply.” Fred tsks sympathetically. “Isn’t the pleasure of our company enough?” George asks, fixing her with a serious look.
Harry crosses her arms and moves to leave. In unison, Fred and George hold an arm out, barricading her back against the wall. They exchange meaningful looks over her head. “Now, hear us out,” Fred says. “We heard about the little... fiasco with your family this summer.”
“From who?” Harry demands. The only people she told were Hermione and Draco and Harry was positive neither of them would ever willingly talk to one of the Weasleys.
George just taps the side of his nose knowingly, while Fred clears his throat. “We have Ministry connections,” he says vaguely.
“Great,” Harry says, slumping against the wall. “So your whole family knows I set my relatives on fire because your dad can’t keep his mouth shut.” She vaguely remembers Draco mentioning that Arthur Weasley worked in a department in the Ministry that was completely outdated, in his words.
Fred shrugs, looking shameless. George takes over from him. “What my good brother means to say is we’re pretty sure you didn’t get your Hogsmeade form signed. Seeing as you’re here, and not there.”
“And, by normal standards, setting a house on fire is a pretty bad way to earn good will,” Fred chimes in. He leans closer to Harry, a conspiratorial look on his face. “We happen to like a little chaos.” He winks, and Harry feels the bottom of her stomach drop out from under her. She flushes, a twisting feeling in her chest, similar to the one she gets when Hermione smiles at her a certain way.
Tom sighs loudly, reminding Harry of his presence. “Completely insufferable,” he says, sounding put out.
George is whipping out a piece of paper, though, which draws both Harry and Tom’s attention. “Because of our shared love of chaos,” he says, less intense than Fred, but sounding like a bad salesman on TV, “we thought it was about time we handed this off to the next generation of Hogwarts troublemakers.”
Harry wants to grimace at the idea of being considered a Hogwarts troublemaker, but figures this is the wrong time and place for that. “What is it?” There’s a burning curiosity rising up in her.
“Ah,” Fred says, knowingly. “Now, you’re interested.” George unfolds the parchment, which on closer inspection, looks to be completely blank. “Watch and learn, Miss Potter.” Fred whips out his wand and taps on the parchment. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Both Harry and Tom watch with bated breath as ink seems to drench the parchment, transforming it into what looks like a map. “Is that a...”
“Map?” George offers. “Why indeed it is.”
“This little beauty’s taught us more than all the teachers in this school,” Fred says, watching Harry’s reaction with a keen glint in his eye.
Tom’s moved closer to peer at the parchment, tracing over the lines with a finger. “Fascinating,” he says, sounding captivated in a way he rarely does. His actions cause Harry to catch something something else. There seem to be hundreds of names on the parchment, moving in various motions across the map.
“So this map shows – everyone?” Harry asks, stunned.
Fred and George exchange another look. “Everyone. Where they are, what they’re doing, every minute, every day.” They speak in unison, and Harry’s almost positive they’ve planned this.
Harry grins wickedly, finally buying into their conspiratorial air, leaning forward. “Brilliant. Where did you get it?”
“You’re almost as bad as them,” Tom says, offhand, finally stepping away from the map. “Have a little decorum.”
Harry ignores him. “Got it from Filch’s office, of course,” Fred says, proudly.
“Our first year,” George adds. “It’s about time we start planting the seeds for our legacy. This will show you all the ins and outs of the castle as well,” he adds. “If you’re near a secret passage, the map will show you the password.”
Harry takes the map from them. “How do I turn it back?” She asks.
“Just tap it and say ‘Mischief Managed,’” Fred instructs. He steps away from her, eyes still boring intensely on the side of her face. “If anyone asks where you got it, we don’t know you.”
Harry mock salutes them as they take off down the hallway together. Tom watches them leave, an inscrutable expression on his face. He turns back to her and catches her staring. “What?” He asks, raising an eyebrow.
“You really don’t like them, do you?” Harry says finally, realization dawning.
Tom arches an eyebrow, face carved out of marble. “Whyever would you think that?” His voice betrays no emotion, and there seems to be a wall between his mind and hers, but Harry can still sense a roiling disquiet underneath his iron facade.
“No reason,” she says finally, turning back to the map. “I guess we will be going to Hogsmeade after all.”
“Oh, good,” Tom says drily. “I can barely contain my excitement.”
Harry narrows her eyes at him. “Who taught you sarcasm?”
Harry steps out of Honeydukes into what looks like what she would have imagined a winter wonderland to look like. “Don’t exaggerate,” Tom sighs, reading her thoughts. “I thought Hogsmeade was overrated when I was a student, it certainly hasn’t improved in the time since I was last here.”
If you don’t want to be here, then leave Harry retorts, tossing her head back. I’m going to find Draco. Or Hermione. Tom looks like he desperately wants to roll his eyes, but he stays silent and obediently follows behind her as she walks further through the town.
Finally, she spots Draco’s platinum hair towards the outskirts of town, by a rundown shack. His two minions are with him, not that Harry had ever really bothered to learn their names. He says something to them that Harry can’t catch and they lumber off. He spins around, sharp eyes searching the surrounding area. “Who’s there?” He demands.
Harry steps forward, revealing herself, and Malfoy flushes. “Harry,” he says, a hair too loud. “I thought you weren’t allowed to go to Hogsmeade?”
She shrugs, a secretive grin playing at her lips. “I have my ways. What are you doing out here all by yourself?” He turns back around and looks at the dilapidated shack.
“Just wanted some time to clear my head.” They’re interrupted by a herd of Gryffindor third year boys crashing through the underbrush before he can say anything further.
Harry spins around, eyes narrowing at the sight of Ron Weasley, surrounded by Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan, while Neville Longbottom hangs a half step behind the other three. “Can we help you?” She asks coldly.
Ron seems hesitant, but Seamus Finnegan balls his fists, a smirk cutting across his face. “What’s the matter, Potter? Did we interrupt your alone time with your boyfriend?”
Draco turns sharply, a flush rising high on his cheeks. “You shut your mouth, Finnegan.”
“Are you going to make me?” Finnegan sneers, a muscle flexing in his jaw. He takes a half-step forward, and Malfoy whips his wand out in response. Ron takes a step forward with the other Gryffindor, holding his hands out placatingly.
“We don’t want a fight,” he says slowly.
Draco turns his attention to Ron with a jerk of his chin. “No?” He asks. “My apologies, you must have just come to get a good look at one of the few real estate locations your family could afford,” he jeers, gesturing back towards the shack.
Ron flushes, the tops of his ears turning a tomato red. He glances towards Harry, like he’s expecting her to step in and hold Malfoy back, but she stays silent, hanging back from the confrontation. This isn’t her fight, and she really doesn’t feel like making it her fight. Tom is hovering behind her, dark eyes catching everything with a muted interest.
He sputters on a retort for a few moments, flushing darker the longer it becomes.
“That’s what I thought,” Draco says smugly. “If you’ll excuse us, Weasel. Finnegan.” He ignores Dean Thomas and Longbottom and tugs on Harry’s arm. “We wouldn’t want to be seen associating with the riffraff.”
Harry lets Draco pull her away from the Gryffindor boys, all of whom had been fuming, before she stops him. “What was that?” She asks, once they’re out of earshot.
“What was what?”
Harry jerks her head back towards where they’d come. “Was humiliating him like that really necessary?”
Draco flushes again, this time with anger instead of humiliation. “What’s it to you? I thought you hated the Weasleys, anyway.”
Harry Tom cautions, but she plows on ahead regardless. “Are you jealous?” She asks, incredulous. “Think I might start spending all my time with Weasley now? Is that it?”
Draco reels back, like she’s physically struck him. He blinks once, twice, and then anger twists his face. “No,” he spits. “Everyone can see the way the Weasley girl watches you. How the twins stalk you. How he,” he jabs a finger back towards the shack, “wants to be your friend so bad, it’s pathetic.” His chest is heaving as he struggles for breath, normally pale features alight. “The whole family is obsessed with you. They’re using you. I’m just trying to protect you.”
Harry doesn’t know what to say against this tirade. She opens her mouth, reconsiders, closes it.
Draco scoffs. “Maybe I won’t try anymore. Since it’s clearly not appreciated.” He pushes past her, shoulder knocking against hers. Harry just blinks, still staring at where he had been standing.
Maybe she starts I misread the situation.
She can’t see Tom, but gets the distinct impression he’s rolling his eyes at her. Really, now he asks. I couldn’t tell.
Again Harry says, turning to head back to the castle, her appetite for Hogsmeade extinguished with the fight, I ask, who taught you sarcasm?
The day doesn’t get any better, later, to Harry’s great dismay. Draco’s avoiding her, to the point of switching seats with Blaise Zabini at dinner so he doesn’t have to sit next to her. Harry pokes moodily at her food, thinking about what he told her earlier.
Do you really think the Weasleys are trying to use me? She asks Tom, glancing up at the Gryffindor table. Ginny Weasley is sitting with her twin brothers tonight, laughing brightly at something they said. She looks happy, and Harry has a brief moment of doubt as she considers what her life would be like had she been sorted into Gryffindor instead.
Tom doesn’t answer right away, contemplative. They might be he says eventually. Ronald would make sense, but I couldn’t see the twins or the girl using you in that way. The parents could be influencing them, of course.
His answer doesn’t make Harry feel any better, and she pushes her plate away, deciding she’s not hungry anymore. She gets up to leave the Great Hall.
“Potter!” Pansy Parkinson’s voice calls out, and Harry pauses. She turns around, catches a glimpse of Pansy’s hand on Draco’s, before the other girl is out of her seat and moving towards her.
Harry sighs. She really isn’t in the mood to play politics right now. “What do you want, Parkinson?” she asks, once Pansy’s close enough to hear her.
The other girl grins, all teeth, clearly threatening. “I just wanted to say thank you.” She’s fake sweetness, cold behind the eyes.
“Thank me for what?” Harry’s nonplussed. She doesn’t remember doing anything to help her.
Pansy grins wider, taking a small step forward. Harry can’t help but feel like the actions are distinctly predatory. “For sending him right into my arms.”
She turns at that, and waves at Draco, who had been watching them intently. He ducks his head when he sees both of them looking at him. “I don’t know what you mean,” Harry says innocently, although she thinks she knows where Pansy’s going with this.
“Well, Draco was so distraught, earlier,” Pansy says sweetly. “So upset. He wouldn’t tell us why, but when we saw him at dinner, it was obvious.” She takes another baby step towards Harry. “Now that Draco’s no longer protecting you, I think you’ll find Slytherin a lot less forgiving of outsiders.”
With that, the other girl turns on her heel and walks back to the table, purpose in her steps. Harry watches her go, shock spreading through her. She notices the way her yearmates are watching her, with cool eyes and impassive faces.
Flushing, Harry turns around and hurries out of the Great Hall. She doesn’t have time to deal with Pansy’s attempted coup right now. This is just the beginning Tom warns her. He seems resigned, like he knew this was inevitable.
The beginning of what? Harry’s heading up towards the library now, certain she’ll be alone now that everyone’s at dinner.
They’re going to test you he answers cryptically. Before, you were marked by Draco not to be messed with. The Malfoy name carries a lot of weight in Slytherin, especially after the war. They couldn’t go after you without going after him, indirectly.
We fought last year and there was no power struggle Harry points out. They hadn’t spoken for weeks last year and while the other Slytherins hadn’t treated her well, they hadn’t outright declared war either.
Tom seems annoyed, like he thinks she should be understanding quicker than she is. Last year was nothing compared to this. What Malfoy did tonight, switching seats, was a direct snub. He’s saying you’re below him in the hierarchy, you’re not even worth sitting next to. Did he ever shun you last year?
Harry thinks back to their fight last year, over Hermione and blood status. Draco had glared at her, but he still sat next to her, even if his reception was frosty. He mostly just ignored me she answers. We duelled at Lockheart’s club and then I apologized and everything was fine.
Tom’s silence seems to radiate smugness. Harry didn’t even know that was possible, but she knows he’s laughing at her silently. So... what does that mean for me?
There’s a beat of silence before he answers. I’m not sure. Nothing good. Slytherin political battles are complex on their own, without throwing your complicated background into the mix.
My background? Harry knows she sounds skeptical, but she can’t help herself. You mean, how I was a baby and then you tried to kill me, only it didn’t work and you were reduced to half a spirit and a soul particle inside a baby’s head, but everyone thought I killed you? That background?
Tom seems distinctly offended by her summarization of his downfall. Wait a second... There’s a different voice, like Tom’s but colder, and Harry guesses it’s the diary, finally speaking up. She wasn’t aware they had split into two, but maybe her Tom had difficulty managing the diary. That’s how we die? At the hands of a child? An infant, no less?
Harry’s Tom sighs, and Harry feels disgruntled, but she knows it’s his emotion. That’s not how I would put it, but yes. Essentially. And, back to the matter at hand, your Slytherin yearmates will not be so quick to forget the person who made their parents’ lives hell.
Harry’s nearly at the library now, and she scowls at that. It’s not my fault their parents decided to follow a maniac. There’s a sharp stabbing pain in her scar after that comment. Harry winces, but refuses to apologize. The Tom who’s been living in her head for the past ten years might not be the same person he was when he tried to kill her, but she guesses he still takes offence all the same.
Either way she says I don’t have time right now to deal with a Slytherin power play.
Tom’s laughing in her head, high and cold and cruel, and the sound sends chills down her spine. I don’t think you exactly have a choice. If you want, I can show you some pointers on good curses that are undetectable. Best way is to go on the offensive before they can. That’s the Tom from the diary, Harry guesses, just based on his eagerness to inflict violence.
I’d rather not Harry says, politely. She catches sight of Hermione, bent over her books, and sighs in relief. Finally, someone who’ll leave her in peace.
“Hermione!” The call earns her a nasty glare from Madam Pince, but Harry ignores her. “Thank god, today has been the worst day.”
Hermione looks up from her studies at the sound of her name, but seems to pale at the sight of Harry. That worries Harry, but she figures it’s something else. “Harry,” she says, faintly. “Good... I wanted to talk to you. Sit.”
She does as she’s told, anxiety crawling up her stomach. “What’s wrong?”
Hermione shuts her books, a grave expression on her face. She twists her hands together, frowns, shakes her hair out. “It’s about... Sirius Black.”
Harry’s Tom has gone deadly silent in her head, but she can hear the diary asking him something that’s indecipherable to her. “What about him?”
Hermione clears her throat. “Well, I was at Hogsmeade today, and I accidentally overheard Professor McGonnagal talking with Madam Rosmerta. About him. Black, that is.”
There’s a sinking feeling in Harry’s stomach, but she just nods. “Well, you know how you said the Minister personally came to see you at the Leaky Cauldron? And how he was just worried that you were alone?”
Harry nods again, staying silent.
Hermione’s wringing her hands even harder now, pulling the skin taut. “Apparently,” she lowers her voice, “Black was best friends with your father when they were both at Hogwarts. Inseparable, McGonagall said. And...” her voice breaks, “he’s your godfather, Harry.”
“What?” Harry heard Hermione, knows what it means, but she’s having difficulty connecting the pieces. “My godfather?”
“Yes.” Hermione looks miserable. “And there’s more. Apparently, he was Lily and James’s Secret Keeper. He was, y’know, protecting their location.”
“But Voldemort knew where they were.” Harry’s lips are numb. “So, that means...” She trails off, the picture finally forming in front of her eyes. “They all say he’s Voldemort’s most loyal supporter.”
Hermione nods again, reaching out to put her hand on top of Harry’s. “I’m sorry,” she says, hushed. “I just thought you should know.”
In a daze, Harry thanks her. Pushes back from the table. Stands up. Somehow walks back to the Slytherin dorms. Collapses in her bed.
There’s a ringing in her ears as she tries to piece together what she’s feeling. Black... betrayed her parents. Her godfather, the last key to her family, is the reason they’re dead. Part of the reason. She’s never met this man, never even heard of him before this year, but she still feels like she’s mourning him and the role he never got to play in her life.
Did you know about this? She manages to ask Tom, before she falls asleep. She can’t hear his answer, already half-asleep.
“Is it true?”
A pause. “I don’t know. Or... I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember? Wouldn’t you remember if he was our, your, servant?” This voice is closer, and there’s a hand on her back, warm and protective.
A rustling noise. “I should. You’re clouding my memories.”
Harry stirs, and the voices fall silent.
Pansy Parkinson’s coup starts with a cold war. Harry versus the third year girls of Slytherin. The other houses must be aware of what’s going on, must see how Harry’s being effectively shunned out of Slytherin social life.
Tom leans his head on his fist and watches as she butters her toast. It’s the diary today, her own Tom tucked away in the back of her mind. His eyes are dark and hooded, and he watches her like she’s a mouse and he’s a starving cat.
“You’re terrible at this game,” he informs her. “We don’t have any allies, and our only friend is a Mudblood. Not going to win you any favors in this war.”
Harry bites into her toast and looks around her. She’s sitting at the end of the Slytherin table, two seats separating her from the rest of her house. She smiles conspiratorially at Tom. The first step to winning the cold war Tom, is to not show that it’s affecting you.
He hums thoughtfully. “I’m not sure that’s true. You know, I had to fight my own war when I started at Hogwarts. I could help you.”
Harry narrows her eyes at Pansy, who’s sitting next to Draco and laughing loudly. That’s nice she says, distracted. Basil she hisses under her breath. The snake unwinds from around Harry’s torso and slithers onto the table. Now.
Her familiar moves down the table, almost triple the size she was last year at this time. The first student to notice her, a blonde first year, blanches, stands up, and then screams. Harry smirks into her cup of tea.
The scream draws the attention of the Great Hall, and Pansy still only has eyes for Draco. Tom is watching the chaos intently. “You truly are inventive,” he says, sounding surprised. Basil is now half-way down the table from where she started.
Onto phase two Harry tells Tom. Basil proceeds to slither straight off the table and into Pansy’s lap. The girl starts, looks down, pales, and then screams. She’s pushing back from the table, trying to detangle Basil from her torso, becoming more hysterical by the second. With that, the Professors are now paying attention from their table and Harry decides it’s time to intervene.
“Oops!” She says loudly, cutting through the hysteria surrounding her House table. “Basil, how ever did you get in here?”
The Hall falls silent, and Harry schools her face into something serious. “Here, girl,” she hisses in Parseltongue. Basil is greatly amused, loving the attention, and Harry holds out her arms to the snake.
Pansy is shaking like a leaf, but once Harry’s snake detangles from her, she starts to become angry. “Potter!” She shrieks. “You did that on purpose.”
Harry assumes her best innocent look. “Did what?” Basil is wrapping around her arms and shoulders, and Harry hopes she looks intimidating.
“You do,” Tom assures her.
Harry throws her curls over her shoulder. She fixes Pansy with a hard glare. “Besides,” she says, offhand. “I thought Slytherins were supposed to like snakes.”
Pansy flushes with fury, but before Harry can enjoy her victory, the Professors descend. Harry’s dragged off to the Headmaster’s office, lectured about how improper it is to unleash beasts upon students, if she does that again, expelled she’ll be. But Harry doesn’t care.
As an additional bonus, Harry gets to watch Snape take fifty points from Slytherin. He looks sick to his stomach while doing so, and it makes Harry’s week. She’s also assigned a month of detention, but she doesn’t care.
“That was impressive,” Tom says, when they’re alone in her dorm room. Basil had to be let out into the Forbidden Forest under the watchful gaze of Dumbledore, but Harry’ll sneak her back in later. “Make them pay attention to you, break the cold war.”
Harry shrugs, slightly mollified. “Seeing as I just lost fifty points and set a snake on my classmates, I might need you to teach me some of those curses now.”
Tom just laughs.
The next stage of Pansy’s coup seems to be intimidation and suppression. Harry’s not stupid, and she knows when people are targeting her. It starts simple enough, just people running into her in the halls, things going missing from her dorm room, being tripped in the Great Hall, drinks spilled on her.
Harry just grits her teeth and holds her head up. She lived with the Dursleys for eleven years, she can survive a little bit of bullying.
Tom watches it all with a mixture of amusement and pride. The diary is the one tackling this problem with her, and he takes to it with a vengeance. Harry figures after fifty years stuck in a diary, he’s probably thankful for the excitement. Plus, when he ended up in the diary in the first place, he was a fifth year, and no stranger to the power struggles of Slytherin.
“I think part of the problem,” he says one day during their strategizing session, “is your lack of response.”
Harry frowns. They’re sitting up in one of the towers, far from prying eyes and ears. “You think I should let them see it’s affecting me?”
“No, I think you should start striking back.” This Tom looks younger than the one she’s used to. He’s still a little gangly, less lean and angular, and more starved for food in the hollows of his cheeks. He’s the same age as Fred and George, and his face still holds the shadow of youth.
“What did you do, when they tested you?” Tom grins at her, sharp and pleased. He probably would have never guess she’d show interest in his life.
Harry’s found that she actually prefers this version of Tom to the one who’s been living in her head, not that she’d tell him that. He’s easier to talk to, actually likes discussing things with her and giving her advice. Sometimes, Harry thinks her Tom is only using her to get what he wants. At least with the one from the diary, her questions are answered.
“They all thought I was a mudblood, at first,” he says, sounding thoughtful and far-away at the same time. “Riddle, after all, is a Muggle name. No one knew, not even me, that I was descended from the Gaunts or that I have the blood of Slytherin running through me.”
His eyes narrow on her. “Things haven’t changed much in the fifty years since I was at Hogwarts. A Muggleborn in Slytherin has no friends. Rejected from other houses because they’re in Slytherin and looked down on in their own house for not being pure enough.”
“That’s terrible,” Harry says softly. She thinks about what would have happened if someone like Hermione had been sorted into Slytherin, only the picture never fully forms because she can’t imagine her friend with any sort of cunning at all.
Tom shrugs elegantly. Even younger and less handsome, he still manages to have an effortless grace to everything he does. “It’s the way the world runs,” he says plainly. “To change the ways Hogwarts works, you have to change it from the Ministry. It’s the only way.” His voice has taken on a fevered tone, his eyes burning, focused on something only he can see.
“Is that what you wanted to do?” Harry’s curious about what this Tom wanted from the world.
He’s broken out of his own imagination and turns those burning eyes onto her. “That’s what I want to do. Fifty years is a long time, Harry. I’ve had time to think through every possible path through the Ministry, every way to change our magical landscape. Whatever my future self decided to do, I have no input on.”
“Why do you think he did it?”
Harry shrugs, struggling to put her thoughts into words. “Kept killing. Split his soul more.” The two Toms gave Harry a crash course on what exactly a Horcrux was. It was a very uncomfortable conversation.
Tom hums in consideration. “Power, probably. I don’t remember what it felt like after I was created. I just remember pain, and then the boredom of being stuck in an inanimate object. Sometimes, he would write to me, when he was still at Hogwarts. I’m not sure when it stopped.”
“Maybe I’ll go into politics,” Harry says. “Make people understand that blood doesn’t matter. It’s about your power.”
Tom stares at her, the corner of his mouth twitching like he wants to smile. “I’d like that, Harry. Very much.” He pauses. “I’m not sure about the other one.”
“Who? My Tom?” Harry’s speaking before she realizes it, and winces at her word choice.
To her surprise, Tom just laughs. It sounds normal. Human. “Your Tom? Is that how you think of us? What am I, Diary?”
Harry shrugs, grinning. She’s a little giddy, with something like happiness. She likes talking to Tom, thinks it’s like talking to a long-lost friend. “Maybe,” she says secretive. “It’s changing, though,” she admits.
“How so?” He looks genuinely interested, and even though Harry knows he’s excellent at hiding his true feelings, she’d believe him.
Harry shrugs, unable to explain how she’s begun to differentiate them. “You’re different people,” she says. “I didn’t realize it at first, not when it was all too jumbled up in my head, and you were like a monster to me. You looked the same, talked almost the same. I could tell the difference because he’s been with me for my whole life, but now it’s just... different.
“You look younger and you’re more... open. Not as guarded. He watches me like I’m a treasure of some sort, one he’s going to hoard away. You look at me like I’m a puzzle you’re going to solve, but like you want to know me for me.”
Harry wants to blush at her outburst, but Tom looks like he’s seriously considering her words. “You know he thinks of himself as Voldemort,” he tells her, finally. “Don’t trust him. Don’t trust us.” He smiles at her sharply.
Rolling her eyes, Harry tries to shift away without drawing his attention. His eyes narrow in on the movement, and he grins knowingly, but doesn’t say anything. “Anyway... they thought you were a Muggle-born.”
He nods. “They did. So, I showed them through my prowess in class and my dominance through magic that they could never look down on me and get away with it. I made them fear me, and in return, I earned their respect.”
“That seems like an odd way to go about things,” Harry says honestly. “You really do think you can solve any problem by cursing it into submission.”
Tom just winks at her, the action looking ridiculous instead of alluring.
Harry decides to take Tom’s advice more literally than he obviously expected her to. The next time someone from her House tries to curse her, Harry grinds her teeth, steps neatly out of the way of the curse, and stuns him. She’d been practicing her spells with Tom and feels confident in her ability to use force in order to get the rest of Slytherin to fall in line.
She drags his limp body back to the common room, thanking whatever gods exist that she had already been in the dungeons, and therefore escaped notice by the professors. Harry looks down at his slack face, recognizing Blaise Zabini, and tosses him into the common room ahead of her.
“Alright!” Harry claps her hands loudly as she enters the common room. It’s about seven at night, so everyone is milling about working on homework or talking to friends. Harry spots Pansy in the corner, gossiping with Daphne Greengrass, Draco sitting next to her, looking miserable.
At the sound of her voice, the common room gradually grows quiet. Harry levitates Blaise Zabini’s body, to finally prove her point. “See this?” She asks loudly and rhetorically. “This is what happens if you continue to attack me, unprovoked.”
“Potter, what on earth–” Harry flicks her wand, casting a Silencing charm on Pansy who had clambered to her feet.
“Please, for once in your life, be quiet,” Harry snaps. The more she speaks, the more angry she becomes. The people in her house have never treated her with anything approaching friendliness and she’s sick of it. Even if they don’t like her, they can at least be civil and have her back in front of the rest of the school, same as they do for everyone else.
“Next time one of you tries to curse me, I won’t be as kind to just stun you. Understood?” The common room is so quiet, a pin could drop and sound like thunder. “I am Harry James Potter. I defeated the Dark Lord when I was an infant. I’m rumored to be the next Dark Lord. I can speak to snakes. It’s never been disproved that I am the Heir of Slytherin. I’ve faced down the Grim three times and lived.”
Her chest is heaving by the time she pauses. Harry presses on. She points a finger at Marcus Flint, sitting in an armchair by the fire and surrounded by members of the Quidditch team. “What did I do to my Muggle relatives over the summer, Flint?”
He pales, clearly still remembering their last encounter. “She set them on fire.”
“Exactly! Ten points to Slytherin. I set them. On. Fire.” Harry glares at the assembled students. “I am your beloved Seeker. I earn you house points when I try. This war, ends now.”
She glances back at Pansy who’s flushed and fuming. Her eyes slide onto Draco, who’s cowering in his seat. “And you!” She exclaims, brandishing her wand his way. She preens internally as more than one person flinches at the action. “Get over it. It was a misunderstanding, and you’re overreacting.”
Taking one long look around, Harry releases the spell on Zabini and watches with pleasure as his head bangs on the ground. “Goodnight, then.”
The next morning, Pansy sends a cutting hex at Harry on her way out of the common room. Harry deflects it, her heart racing, and sends a nasty little jinx at Pansy. When the spell hits her, Pansy’s face bursts into large, painful-looking boils.
“Oh, dear,” Harry says sweetly. “You might want to go to Madam Pomfrey for that.”
Thanks for teaching me that one Harry says on her way to the Great Hall for breakfast.
Tom seems to be glowing with approval at her recent actions. It was my pleasure he purrs.
When she reaches the Great Hall and sits down to eat, the rest of her table falls silent. Harry glances up to the table housing the Professors, and notices that Headmaster Dumbledore is watching her with sharp eyes. She lathers a piece of toast with butter aggressively, startled when someone sits next to her for the first time in weeks.
Draco looks ashamed, his face paler than normal and hair in disarray. “I’m sorry,” he says to her lowly. “I didn’t mean for it to go so far. I was just... upset.”
Harry considers him for a moment. If she’s being honest with herself, she’s missed him. “I understand,” she says finally. “Apology accepted.”
Her words seem to lift a weight off Malfoy’s shoulders, and he smiles at her brightly. “Watching you put Pansy in her place was pretty impressive,” he says gleefully, reaching over her for the eggs. “Wasn’t it, Blaise?”
Harry jolts at the other name, looking over her shoulder. Zabini is hovering there, looking uncertain. “Mind if I sit here?” He points at the seat on Harry’s other side. She’s confused, but nods anyways.
“Sorry about yesterday,” she says. “I needed to make an example of someone and you were the easiest target.”
He shrugs, not looking upset. “I understand. And I’m with Draco. Pansy needed to be shown her place.”
A warm feeling blossoms in Harry’s chest, as she digs into her food. Maybe the rest of the year wouldn’t be so bad, after all. Tom, the one from the diary, is proud of her. Strangely, she can’t get a read on what her Tom feels. He’s like a brick wall, which frightens Harry more than she’d like to admit.