Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 69308
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.


 



WARNING:



- This chapter contains an explicit torture scene. You have been warned.



– –



Harry set his bag down gently on the hard stone floor and bent down to rummage inside it for his bound notebook and the book on containment wards he'd taken from his trunk. He made sure that the glass jar was still wrapped up I the black robes at the bottom of the bag.



He opened his notebook and flipped through the pages to the section where he had made notes on the some of the spells he intended to make use of. The first one was the Homorphus charm that would force dear Rita back into her human form and prevent her from turning back for about an hour as long as he put enough power and intent into the spell.



He set the notebook, still open, to the side and then turned to the wards book. He had marked the page with the spell he wanted to use, so he was able to get to it right away. It would create a solid magical field around a space he designated, and no one would be able to leave or enter it until he canceled the spell. He didn't think that it was terribly likely that Rita would be getting away from him, but he figured the added precaution was wise, and it took very little effort to cast and maintain, so he saw no reason not to.



He reread the passage quickly and then began walking around the chamber, swishing his wand in the shape of the described runes as he went and muttering a chant under his breath.



Once he had walked the perimeter – which only took a minute since he wasn't warding a very large space – he returned to the center and forced out a focused wave of his magic to complete the spell.



He could feel the magical walls that now surrounded him, as they resonated with his magic. He had no idea how talented Rita was with detecting magical auras or signatures, so he wouldn't know if she would be able to sense the barriers or not. He supposed he would find out if and when she was unfortunate enough to walk into one.



He snickered.



Satisfied that the cell was now in place, he set the warding book back into his bag and picked his notebook back up.



He read over the list of spells that he had been itching to try. He wanted to see what they were really like. What it felt like to really cast them. His heart was racing in sick anticipation and he was possessed with a sadistic glee at the prospect of finally having a living human target to try them out on.



A giant snake corpse was fine and dandy for target practice and absorbing some of the magical impact, but it didn't provide nearly as satisfying a target. Nor did it actually work for a large number of spells.



He ran his fingers over the surface of the bound parchment with a strange reverence as a giddy urge to giggle began to bubble up from his stomach. He was getting excited. So very excited.



A small voice in the back of his mind was protesting weakly. It was one thing to attack the corpse of a snake, but he was about to use these spells on a real, live, human being. A person.



A person who would not be leaving this room alive.



That was a fact that he needed to come to terms with, for sure, before starting. Because once he began, there was no going back. No changing his mind. He didn't intend to use the instantly lethal spells simply because he wanted to draw this out and practice as much as he could manage on the woman before she could no longer take any more. But in the end, he would kill her.



It wasn't even really anything personal. She was just convenient. Sure, he hated her. But he wasn't going to kill her because she had written those articles about him. He was going to kill her because she was there, and no one would be able to link her death to him.



He looked at the list one more time and felt his magic flaring up with eager anticipation.



He was set. There was no going back. He... he wanted this. Needed it. His skin was crawling with the raw need to feel her life slipping away by his hands. He wanted to see if he could really do it. He could feel himself being consumed with the intense hunger for death and pain that the dark magic left in him. He felt starved for it.



Being so close to actually committing the act was like standing in the middle of an desert, facing an oasis after depriving himself of water for a lifetime. He couldn't stop now. He wanted it too badly.



He set the book down beside his book and pulled out the jar, still wrapped in the black cloak.



He walked to the center of the room, not too far from the basilisk's corpse and set it down while slowly removing the cloth.



The beetle within instantly began flitting around the inside of the jar with mad desperation.



He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the jar. A silent incantation and a simple wand movement later and the glass melted away as if it were wax before dissolving into a cloud of wispy smoke. The beetle instantly bolted, but she was obviously confused as to her whereabouts or how to properly leave because she circled the space wildly for a moment.



Harry tracked her with his wand for a second before casting the homorphus charm and hitting her on the first try. The spell sent her suddenly increasing in size and then falling heavily to the ground in a sputtering heap.



She gasped and turned her head from side to side in obvious panic before spinning around in her place on the dirty stone floor to face him.



Her eyes were wide and consumed with desperation for a moment before she tried to take on an air of innocence.



"Harry," she said in a simpering voice as she tried to smile and began to try and pull herself to her feet.



He pointed his wand at her lazily and said "Adstringo,"



Her eyes bugged out as she her arms and legs were suddenly bound to her side by an invisible force. Next he flicked his wand and incanted "ponere" although it didn't seem to have any visible effect.



"Do you know what that was?" he asked with a smirk as he began to slowly stroll around her prone form on the floor. "The Ponere charm is a dark spell that allows me to put you into any position I wish, and you will be unable to move. Adstringo is sort of a mix between a binding spell, and a petrifying spell. Can't move. Can't talk. It's better than some lesser binding spells since it binds the person with magic, instead of conjuring a rope or a chain or something that could be cut through or banished. Of course, to maintain the binding, I have to continue to focus my magic. But... since I've now set the posable curse on you, I don't need you bound anymore so..."



He drawled off as he flicked his wand and released the thread of magic that had been holding her bound and released it.



Suddenly her face switched form frozen surprise, to pure panic and fear. "Harry... Harry please. Think about what you're doing. We're both mature, rational people here. It was never anything personal, I was just doing my –"



"Silentium!" Harry drawled lazily along with a flick of his wand. Her mouth continued to move, but there was no longer any sound coming out. Her panicked expression became rather indignant for an instant before returning to fear and caution.



He began to stroll over to her and her wide eyes tracked his every moment. He came up beside her and used his foot to roll her onto her back.



"You see, Rita... that's where you're wrong. I may be mature, but I don't honestly think I'm being particularly rational. And while I would argue that it was personal, this little encounter that we're having here has almost nothing at all to do with your idiotic little scribblings in the paper."



He crouched down and reached out, cupping the side of her head with his hand and moved her head so that he could look directly into her eyes. "Now before we go any further, I need to ask you a few... questions. And you will be answering them. How about a little... obedience," he said with a smirk and he brought his wand up to her temple. "Pareo!"



Her eyes glazed over and Harry felt the glee course through him. It was working and it was so easy.



Tingling precursors to the euphoria of dark magic began to dance through his belly and his head lulled back for a second as he let himself enjoy the curiously enjoyable tickling sensation just under the surface of his skin.



He refocused on his task and released the silencing spell he had cast over her a moment ago.



"Now Rita, I want you to tell me something. Does anyone else know about your animagus form?"



She blinked groggily and her head turned slowly. "Nn...noo," she said in a strangely tired voice. He grinned.



"And does anyone know that you've been sneaking into Hogwarts?"



"N...noo..."



"So... no one has any idea where you are?"



"No one," she said in a weak breathy voice before she squeezed her eyes shut and whimpered.



He ceased his support of her head with his hand and it ended up falling down on to the cold stone floor with a thunk.



"Good," he said with a grin as he stood back up and flicked his wand, releasing the obedience spell.



She blinked owlishly in confusion for a moment before looking back up at him with fear in her eyes.



"What was that?" she gasped. He could tell from the way she was moving her head and neck – the only parts of her body she currently had any control over – that she was trying to struggle away from him, but couldn't. It made him want to cackle with delight at how utterly under his control she was.



"That, was an obedience spell. Fairly tricky bit of magic. I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I've never had an actual subject to test it on. But... that is why you're down here, after all," he ended with a wicked grin.



Her eyes widened and she began to dart them around the room. He watched as she began to fully register that she had absolutely no idea where she was. The moment she caught sight of the basilisk was so entertaining to watch, he almost burst out laughing.



She screamed. Of course she screamed. But what really surprised Harry was how much the sound sent a thrill coursing through his entire being. The pure terror that filled that voice was like honey on his tongue.



"Wha-! What! What is that! Is that...? Where am I!"



Harry began to giggle but stifled the sound and started slowly strolling towards the basilisk.



"This is a basilisk, obviously. I mean, honestly Rita... how many magical serpents are capable of growing to over sixty feet in size? Not many."



"Wh.. how... where did it..."



"I killed it. In my second year, actually. It's remarkably well preserved, isn't it? Although I have been bringing about quite a significant amount of damage to it lately with all my practicing. It's sort of been my target dummy. It's been incredibly convenient in that regard, but it's just so unsatisfyingthrowing curses at something that's already dead."



He turned to face her, still sprawled across the floor and looking up at him with dawning horror behind her wide eyes.



"You... you killed that thing?" she said in a stuttered whisper.



"Oh yes. This is the Chamber of Secrets, by the way. Just in case you hadn't figured that out yet."



She gasped and her eyes darted around the large room again and landing on the enormous carved stone statue of Salazar Slytherin's head.



"The chamber..." she said in a whisper.



"It's been quite handy for me. It's beyond the normal wards of the school, and the room is unplottable. Nothing I do here can be detected by anyone else. The headmaster is completely blind to any goings on down here. And no one else can even get down here since only a parseltongue can open the door," he paused and smirked down at her. "That goes both ways, by the way. The doors are all closed and the only way to get out is for me to open them. Not that you could get away, anyway."



"P-please, Harry... we c-can work something out. I realize I was harsh... I was... I was so focused on the story that I didn't consider how it would effect you. But I.. I, see the error of my ways. I'll never write another thing about you, I swear it! We.. we can just put all of this behind us. We –"



Harry sighed in a bored tone and rolled his eyes while flicking his wand at her and casting another silencing charm.



"You have such an annoying voice," he drawled.



He walked over to her prone figure and crouched down, grinning evilly down at her. "You're missing a rather important detail here, Rita. You see... I'm not doing this because you wrote those nasty things about me in the Prophet. I'm doing this because I have been just dying to try out some of these really fascinating spells I found, but the darnn basilisk corpse over there just isn't any good at all for testing them out on.



"I need a living, conscious, human. The basilisk works as target practice, but I can't see if the spell is actually doing what it's supposed to be doing, unless the person has the proper organs to melt, or the ability to feel the pain in just the right way. So you see... you coming along was just so convenient that I simply couldn't pass it up," he said all this in a calm soft tone, as if he were trying to explain something complicated to a young child. The whole time, Rita's face grew more and more horrified and he could see her mouth moving with silent words of protest.



He chuckled darkly and placed his hand on her cheek and gave her a condescending pat. "You see, Rita. It's nothing personal."



He stood up and walked over to his notebook, still open on the floor.



"Now lets see... which to try first... Oo... this one sounds fun. And it won't leave any lasting physical damage. Best to start small first. Don't want to use you all up with the first few spells, after all. It's called Formidilio. Ever heard of it?It puts a person into a fit of terrifying visions until the spell is canceled. It's supposed to fill your mind with your worst fears... wonder what your worst fears are, Rita? Shall we find out?" he grinned down at her and leveled his wand.



Her mouth was working furiously, and tears were beginning to stream down her cheeks, but not a single sound was heard.



Harry made a lazy little shape with his wand and said "Formidilio!" in an equally lazy tone before taking a step back as if it watch a show.



At first her eyes just darted around in panic. The tears began to flow more and more readily and her face quickly contorted in a horrifying scream. Again and again she screamed and bellowed, but no sound was made.



Harry's grin was growing wider and wider and his eyes were on fire with sick delight. He bounced a few times on the balls of his feet before pulling out his wand. "Oh, I've just got to hear this!" he said in a strangely gleeful eagerness. He canceled the silencing charm and the cavernous room was instantly filled the Rita's terrified shrieking and howling.



She blathered nonsense and wailed in horror. The longer Harry held the curse on her, and more and more powerful the dark magic coursed through his insides. It was like a dull roar, slowly growing more and more powerful. He began to cackle madly with a sick, twisted delight as the addictive feelings coursed through him. His cackles grew so loud, that it began to drown out her own terrified screams.



Finally Harry saw the signs that she might pass out soon, and instantly released the curse.



"Can't have you passing out on me so soon," he said with a giggle, as he fought to regain a semblance of control. "I still have so much planned for you. Let's see... next up on my list isss... Ah. Tussio Praefoco. A spell that causes a fit of suffocating coughs. Good for rendering an enemy unable to properly aim or fight, without having to leave any lasting damage, or kill them. Pretty mild curse, really, but it could come in handy," he continued in a mild, analytical voice, and a disinterested look to him. However the second he trained his wand on her, the wicked glee returned to his eyes and Rita flinched and began to whimper again through her stifled sobs.



Five minutes of horrifically violent coughing and wheezing, that went so far as to result in coughing up quite a bit of blood, and Rita passed out from lack of oxygen. Harry released the Tussio Praefoco curse and Rennervated her back to consciousness.



"That one wasn't so bad..." he said through his smirk and he walked in a slow circle around her. Her tired, fear-filled eyes tracked his every movement as she sniffed and hiccoughed.



"Next one is quick and simple. Lets see how easy this one is to cast..." he said as he pointed his wand. She stiffened and her muffled cries were horse from the coughing.



"Eructo Cruor!" he shouted with blazing green eyes, alight with sick joy. Harry keened out and his head fell back as a rush of dark delicious magic shot through his body and out his wand, straight at Rita in a cork-screw shaped red jolt.



The second it hit her, she began to violently vomit blood, everywhere. Her body heaved involuntarily and she shook and cried out. It lasted only a moment, but the magical rush was so intense and Harry contemplated for a moment, doing it again.



He closed his eyes and took a calming breath, trying to recenter himself. He had to maintain some bit of control if he was going to get through all the spells he wanted to try before killing her. No fun in ending it all prematurely in a fit of madness.



And there were so many he had been just dying to try...



The next hour was spent going through all of the lesser curses he'd been curious about, but had never been able to really apply before now. Twisting and bending the magic to his will and reveling in the euphoric haze it put him in. Every nerve in his body was on fire with exquisite delight. He felt utterly intoxicated with it.



He cast viscus expello on her, which caused her to instantly expel the contents of her bowels. He cleaned her up more as a service to himself than to her. He cast vormica morsus, which caused horribly painful boils to appear all over her skin, and begin to erupt and burn. Her screams of agony only seemed to enhance the perverse pleasure he was taking in watching her suffer and writhe. Some part of him knew it was sick, but he just didn't care. He was too high from the magic coursing through him. It was all too amazing. Too euphoric to stop.



He cast exustio morsus next, which did no actual physical harm, but caused the illusion in her mind that she was burning alive. The pain was enough that she actually passed out after only a minute, and it took him a solid three minutes afterwords of throwing rennervates at her to get her to wake. When she finally did, he kicked her in the head to sooth his own irritated frustration at it having taken so long.



She was a blathering mess of tears, snot, and blood at this point, but Harry didn't seem to notice or care. He was getting excited again. He was drawing upon the nastier spells now and his eagerness was growing substantially.



The next thing he cast was actually a spell that would prevent her from falling unconscious. It was apparently a very commonly used spell when dishing out torture. When you're intention is to dish out punishment, it does no good at all for the person to simply pass out and escape the pain.



And constantly pausing in your curses to cast rennervates was too bothersome to keep dealing with.



The spell put a mild drain on his magic, since it would remain linked to him until he finally allowed her the respite of unconsciousness... or death. But it was minimal, and since it was a particularly dark bit of magic, the gentle tug on his magic was like a constant, dull, tingly warmth. He found he quite liked it, and it was a reminder that he was prolonging her suffering.



He knew that shouldn't please him. On some level, he still had some ability to acknowledge the moral base that 'normal' people lived their lives by... but he just couldn't find it in himself to actually agree with those ideas anymore.



That thought made him frown for the briefest moment before he shoved it away to refocus on his task.



The next spell he cast was far more hands-on than the previous batches. It was called skyrdda excorio, and it pealed back sections of skin, and shriveled the flesh beneath it. Slowly he shaved off layer after layer of skin from her legs, arms, and belly. Her screams were ear piercing, and yet they were also frighteningly lovely.



He got so lost in the moment that he realized if he didn't stop soon, she was likely to bleed to death, so he stopped and threw a few episci healing spells at some of the deeper gouges.



Fervefacio was a curse that literally melted flesh, and he began applying that to her fingers and hands. He watched with an perverse fascination as the skin, and muscle melted off her fingers, exposing tendons and bones. He couldn't help but think to himself that this would be an incredibly interesting way to learn human anatomy.



Rita's voice was hoarse by now, but her screams still came.



Next, just for the hell of it, he decided that he would try throwing a crucio at her. It was a foundation of the dark arts repertoire, after all, and it would be embarrassing if he could cast a exustio, but not pull of a crucio.



The moment he had cast the first one at her, he knew exactly why it was so bloody popular.



It certainly wasn't an easy spell to cast, but the way the dark magic utterly consumed him, and coursed through every vein of his body with the most powerful, dark, raw magic he had ever felt, left him breathless and panting on the floor. The greater the pain he threw upon his victim, the greater his bliss.



He was utterly stunned at how powerful it was. It had been weeks since a dark spell had sent him to his knees. Rita was still screaming and he realized through his haze that the spell was still active. His head was buzzing with noise and a whirlwind of pleasure and feelings that were too complex for him to make sense of at the moment. He realized that his breath was still coming in heavy pants and his back was arched off the ground. He forced himself to regain enough of his senses to cancel the spell, and both he and Rita collapsed.



Rita was crying and her body was twitching in pain-induced muscles spasms. Harry felt as if he had melted into a puddle of warm goo from the overload of feelings on his already raw senses. It was.. indescribable. It was so bloody amazing. How could anyone do any other kind of magic? But he supposed that's why they didn't teach the dark arts in schools. If people were exposed to this, they would never want to let it go.



Instead, they ban the teaching of it. And the Ministry bans the practice of it! To deny people from this delicious form of ecstasy was what should be criminal!



He recovered and looked over at the shaking, horrifically mutilated woman laying several feet from him in a puddle of her own blood and bodily fluids.



A giggle bubbled up in him, and he tried to stifle it, but it only turned into a snort, and then a chuckle.



Merlin, she was so weak. So pathetic. Not once could she even try to fight back. She had never stood a chance. She was nothing to him. Nothing at all.



He stood to his feet and stared down at her for a long moment. Watching her twitches. Observing the blood as it continued to pool and congeal. Examining the bits of skin that were pealed back and all shriveled looking.



So pathetic.



So easy.



He rose his wand and her eyes managed to catch the movement. Her cries and sobs renewed ten fold.



"Oh, dear sweet Rita. No worries, love. I think I'm done with you now. Would you like that? Shall I put you out of your misery?"



She continued to cry and closed her eyes, pitifully.



"I wonder if I can pull this off... they say its an incredibly difficult spell to actually perform. It is unblockable, after all. They say that very few wizards succeed in casting it their first time. Or even their second or third. If it doesn't work out, I suppose I can just keep trying though, hmm? You're not going anywhere, after all. They do say that even if it fails at it's intended purpose, the spell is still quite painful... I guess we'll only find out if I try, hmm?"



His eyes began to glow and the magic began to swirl around him. He called it to him, pulling it from the deepest recesses of his soul and relishing in the indescribably delicious, inebriating quality that it filled him with. He leveled his wand, straight at her head and incanted...



"Aveda kadavra."



– – –



Hermione Jean Granger was not stupid, or blind. She prided herself on being a very clever and very observant young woman.



Her strengths had always been with book knowledge, and she would be the first to admit that her social skills were still somewhat lacking in some areas. She didn't always understand other people, but she had improved a lot over the years. She was a fast learner, after all, and once she had friends, she made it a point to learn how they operated, so as best to be their friend.



Her friendships were incredibly important to her, since up until Hogwarts, she had never really had any good friends.



She would also be the first to admit that at the start of this school year, she had mad a egregious mistake, in regards to her best friend, Harry Potter.



She had believed, just like everyone else, that Harry had done something reckless and stupid, to get his name into that Goblet, and enter the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Even when Harry denied it, she didn't believe him.



Harry rarely had much regard for rules, and had very little respect for authority figures, especially when whatever they dictated didn't suit Harry's needs at the time. All of the other boys in Gryffindor had been absolutely obsessed with that ridiculous tournament. Every one of them had desperately wished they could enter. They all wanted eternal glory. They all wanted the prize money. They wanted the challenge, and the opportunity to prove themselves brave and strong.



So she had simply assumed that Harry would be the same as all of his dorm mates and have wanted the very same thing. Only Harry was Harry, and if anyone would find a way to get around the rules, Harry would.



But she realized just how stupid her assumptions had been. Once she got over her fury at Harry doing another stupid thing that would put his life in danger, she woke up enough to realize that Harry would never put his life in danger for something as petty as fame or money. Harry already hadfame and money, and he hated it. It was his modest, unassuming side that impressed her most about him sometimes.



Harry was humble. He was famous all throughout the magical world, but he never acted like it. In fact, any reminders of his fame only made him shy away from something.



No... when Harry stuck his neck out and put his life on the line, it was always for something that was worth it. He was always going out on a limb to save someone, even when it was almost guaranteed that the limb would snap out from beneath him and send him to his death along with whoever he was trying to save.



Harry didn't mind. Because any chance that he might save that person was worth to risk of personal injury.



But fame and glory? No... Harry wouldn't consider that worth the risk.



How had she been so blind? How could she abandon her first real friend over something so stupid and petty, when he was in such dire need of a friend?



She had realized her mistake after a month, but Harry wouldn't even look at her by then. She had tried on a few occasions to talk with him, but could never manage to get alone with him.



She had tried talking sense into Ron, but he had been stubborn and pig-headed. He wasn't angry with Harry for putting breaking the rules or himself in danger, like she had been; no Ron was angry because Harry hadn't shared whatever trick or spell he had used to enter the tournament with Ron. No matter what Hermione said to Ron, she couldn't convince him that just maybe, Harry really hadn't done anything, and someone else had rigged it so Harry was forced to participate.



Hermione kept herself distracted by throwing herself headlong into her latest passion – fighting for house elf rights, but that only took her mind off of her troubles with Harry when she kept herself busy. And Ron did nothing but openly mock her efforts with S.P.E.W.



During the time between Halloween, and the first task, Harry kept to himself, all the time. He seemed to avoid contact with anyone else, at all costs. He went to classes, and rushed through his meals in the Great Hall, and then quickly disappeared to his dorm room, or the library. He avoided everyone like the plague, and no matter what she did, she couldn't find a way to apologize.



The events of the first task had been a considerable shock. She hadn't known what to make of the fact that Harry had used parseltongue of all things, to survive. She had never heard that dragons spoke parseltongue before. She even looked it up in a large number of books afterwards and found absolutely no references to it anywhere.



She wondered where Harry had figured it out from.



The task with the dragons had made Ron finally realize that the tournament wasn't all glory and fame. It was danger, and horrific burns, and complex spells that, as forth years, they couldn't hope to be familiar enough with to survive.



But despite his realization that Harry just may not have entered the tournament after all, his overall freaked-out-ness over Harry's use of parseltongue had kept him from going to Harry right away.



Hermione was actually surprised when Ron came to her, asking if she would go with him to try and corner Harry so they could apologize. Harry hadn't wanted to accept it. He was angry. He was so angry, and betrayed and Hermione was consumed with the most horrifying fear that she might have completely screwed things up, forever. That she had lost her first, best, friend.



She cried herself to sleep so many times as her mind was consumed with what-if's and if-only's.



Therefore the day that Harry told her that they were 'alright', she had been so incredibly elated and happy that she had finally been forgiven, and things could finally begin to go back to the way they were before.



But they didn't.



Not really. Harry was... different. During their time apart, she had noticed several changes, but attributed it mostly to him being alone. He was more studious, and got all of his homework done alone, and without anyone else's assistance. He had also begun to perform considerably better in classes.



This trend remained the same. It was as if Harry had suddenly rediscovered his magic. He had always been so easily distracted before. It would take him many many times, practicing repeatedly, to accomplish any spell introduced in class. Now he was able to get them with only a few attempts. He answered questions in class easily, and actually seemed interested in the subject matter.



She had actually been rather excited in the beginning. She finally had someone who could hold an intelligent conversation with about magical theory! And it was Harry! She was elated to have this new thing to share with her friend.



Despite him having taken her and Ron back as friends, and despite their new connection on an intellectual level, Harry remained distant. He was quiet and contemplative. He would still join in on conversations at meals, and in the common room, but it always seemed so forced.



He acted like he was paying attention to them, but she suspected that he was just humoring them. She doubted Harry was even legitimately aware of all the work she had done lately towards spreading word on the house elf enslavement! When she did speak to him about it, and he spoke with her on it, it was as if he wasn't even listening. When he did respond, any sign that he actually cared about it seemed entirely faked.



At least Ron's open disregard for the house elves was honest. Harry's faked care bordered on insulting! How could he not care?



And he was spending so much time alone, working on preparations for the next task! It was also strange that he refused to tell her anything about it. Now that they were friends again, she had expected him to ask for her assistance with spells and research, but he insisted on doing everything alone.



She dismissed it at first, since he had had to do all of his preparation for the first task alone, so he probably felt comfortable doing the second task alone too. But they were there for him now! Why couldn't he just ask them for assistance? And why wouldn't he tell them what he was doing?



She just couldn't understand it.



Since they were all going to be staying behind for the holidays, she thought it would give her a chance to spend more time with Harry, but the opposite had been true. Harry was gone so much during their winter break. And she had absolutely no idea where he was going.



He kept telling them that he was going to the dungeons to work on a potion he was brewing, but several time she had gone down to offer her assistance, only to find the room empty.



The fact that Harry was clearly hiding some things from her concerned her, so she was considerably relieved when he trusted her enough to reveal what was probably an enormous secret. An utterly shocking secret at that.



Harry... her Harry... was gay.



She really had not seen it coming, and she had to admit that a tiny piece deep inside her was a bit disappointed by it. When Harry had first saved her from the troll, all those years ago in their first year, she had developed a bit of a crush on the raven-haired boy with piercing green eyes.



She had gotten over it quickly, but there had always been a lingering feel in her. She knew it was especially silly now that she was beginning to develop surprisingly strong feelings for Viktor.



She had never expected that to happen... but it had. The Bulgarian quidditch star had sought her out in the library frequently since first term, and she never quite understood why he bothered.



But he did. And while it was shocking, it was also flattering. And Viktor was quite good looking, even if he wasn't much of a conversationalist. His English was improving though...



And Harry. Sweet Harry. Gay. While she was surprised, she certainly had nothing against it. She was surprised with how easily he spoke of it, she was most impressed with how he handled being unwittingly outed, after the holiday break was over.



But during the actual holidays, when Hermione had hoped that she would finally get to spend some time reacquainting herself with her friend, Harry had remained distant. Hermione ended up spending her holidays working on S.P.E.W. and nagging Ron to be responsible for once in his life and actually get his homework done before the last day of their break.



Christmas arrived and the gifts were predictably thoughtful. The dance was that evening, and it was absolutely lovely. Hermione was utterly stunned to watch Harry with Fleur.



Where had that shy little boy gone? He had been replaced with a roguish young man who was brimming with confidence. He had a cocky swagger to his step, and a devilish grin on his lips almost the whole night.



And the way he moved! How had Harry learned to dance like that? She had been impressed with his leading at the dancing lesson, but that had only covered the traditional waltz. Harry caught on to more modern dancing with surprising ease and a fluid grace she had never seen in her friend. The way he and Fleur moved together on the dance floor sent flutters through her stomach a few times, and she had been forced to divert her eyes and turn her head to hid her blush.



If she hadn't known that Harry fancied boys, she would have seriously wondered about the way he and Fleur were dancing.



Fleur was clearly enjoying herself tremendously, and Hermione actually wished, for the briefest of moments, that she could have been Harry's date for the night. But she was still undeniably enjoying herself with Viktor, so she quickly pushed that thought away quickly.



The night would have been perfect if not for Ron being... well, Ron. He wasted the dance acting like a pig-headed idiot, who was too embarrassed and stubborn to actually enjoy the dance himself, but was then bitter and angry that his friends had enjoyed themselves despite him. He was also clearly jealous and upset that Hermione had gone to the dance with Viktor. What exactly that meant, was debatable.



If Ron fancied Hermione, he was too thick to realize it. And too stubborn to do anything about it. Hermione was certainly not going to stand around and wait for her emotionally stunted friend to realize what his feelings meant.



Following the winter holidays things with Harry began to get even more strange. He continued to disappear for long periods of time and no one could find him. He was even more withdrawn than before, and she often caught him scowling or glaring at someone when he thought no one was looking.



He snickered and chuckled under his breath at things that he never would have found humorous before. He had even chuckled when Malfoy had thrown something into Seamus's cauldron one day in potions and it had gone and exploded on him.



Hermione just didn't know what to make of the changes. On one hand, Harry was doing better in his classes than ever before, and was dedicated to his studies. But his personality seemed to be fundamentally shifting.



Ron was far from pleased by the changes in their friend. Harry no longer seemed to care about going flying or talking about Quidditch. He almost never agreed to play exploding snap, and even less often agreed to play chess. As far as Ron was concerned, it was as if he had lost his friend all over again.



But Hermione was worried about a lot more than just Harry suddenly not caring about Quidditch. In recently months, she had taken to worrying a lot about some strange ticks that Harry had picked up.



As the afternoon would draw nearer, Harry would begin twitching as if he was eager for something. He would sit through his last block of the afternoon with his knee bouncing up and down rapidly, and gnawing away at his fingernails. He would shift his position in his chair, over and over again, never able to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.



He would scowl at the professors. Scowl at his classmates when they asked questions that caused things to drag on. Scowl at the clock on the wall. But the moment someone actually spoke to him, he would throw up a calm, genial mask. He would smile, and joke and act as if nothing was wrong at all.



He always rushed through his dinner, and those anxious ticks would quickly make another appearance. Whenever something came up that prevented him from running off and disappearing to wherever it was that he disappeared to, he would get a tight pinched look to his face, and his eyes would take on a sharp glare.



She saw him lose his temper only a few times, and it usually only happened when he didn't think that there was anyone nearby to witness it. Someone – usually a Slytherin, but it had occasionally been someone from one of the other houses – would say something to push Harry's buttons and he would lash out... violently. Hermione had only born witness to this three times, but each subsequent event had been more intense then the last and it made her stomach clench uncomfortably to see her nice, sweet, Harry, react so angrily.



She could only assume that there had been more instances than the ones she had witnessed. One thing she was sure of was that something had happened between Harry and Draco Malfoy, because the blond, egotistical pure-blood had been avoiding Harry like the plague for two months now.



Hermione kept telling herself that the stress from the tournament had to be effecting Harry. The pressure, and the fear of the danger it posed. The fact that someone had to be out to get him. That this someone had placed his name in the cup for a reason, and that reason was most likely to get Harry killed.



She hoped that once the task was over with, some of the secrecy would leave with it. She had believed her hopes granted when Harry finally told her and Ron about him having become an animagus, the day after the 2nd task.



She was hurt that he hadn't told them before then. Shocked that he had managed to keep such a huge thing secret for more than a year! But she finally thought she understood why Harry was always running off and disappearing. He had been training to become an animagus. Finally things made sense.



But they didn't. Not really. And most confusing of all, he was still running off to Merlin knows where every single evening, even though it was now a week and a half since the second task. Harry no longer had to train for that task, and he wouldn't have any idea what the third task was for more than two months. He had also mastered his animagus transformation, so that wasn't the reason for his absence either.



So if Harry wasn't training his animagus ability, and wasn't training for the third task. What was Harry doing?



What other huge secret was he keeping from them? Having become an animagus seemed huge to Hermione, and it only made her wonder... what else was Harry working on? Was it just as monumental as his other secret? Would it be just as shocking?



And why did he still refuse to share it with her or Ron? Why was he lying and making up lame excuses for his disappearances?



And for that matter... where on earth was he going!



She had tried to follow him a number of times over the past two months, but had never had any luck. He would always lose her right away. It was obvious that Harry was using his invisibility cloak to sneak around, which really only brought up more questions.



Hermione had feared that she had lost her first and best friend after her terrible mistake on Halloween night. She had hoped that Harry had forgiven her, just before the winter holidays, and had been optimistic that things would finally go back to normal. But now she wasn't so sure. She wasn't sure if things would ever go back to normal.



And she had a sinking suspicion that Harry would never truly trust her again. Would he ever openly share his secrets with her again? Would she ever regain his trust, or had she truly blown it?



These were the thoughts going through Hermione's mind as she watched Harry enter the Great Hall for lunch that day. Harry never skived off classes, so the fact that he had missed History of Magic and Charms that morning was decidedly odd.



She watched him speculatively as he walked with a strange, fluid grace towards the table. His head was bowed low but as he approached she caught a glimpse of his face, and his eyes were bright and wild.



He seemed to be fighting off an almost crazed grin that sent a shiver down her spine. As soon as he sat down and rose his head to the others, the expression was gone and replaced with a look of fatigue.



Had she imagined it?



She had never thought of Harry as a particularly good actor in previous years. He always wore his emotions on his sleeve. He often brooded quietly to himself, but Hermione prided herself on being able to read him pretty well. But that had all changed his year. Now she wasn't sure if she could read him at all.



"Are you feeling better, Harry?" she asked, hesitantly.



He looked over at her and gave her a soft, kind smile and nodded his head. "Yeah... loads, actually. The nap really did me good."



She smiled back, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. She was worried... really worried. But for once in her life, she had absolutely no answers. She didn't know how to fix this. All she could do was keep watching him and try to find out what it was that was going on with Harry. What was bothering him... and what he was hiding.



– –



Harry laid down in bed that night still feeling the rush from his earlier activities. He was practically jumping out of his skin, and seriously doubted that he would be sleeping anytime soon. He needed to calm down and relax. He knew the best way to do that was to slip into his mindscape and relax in his companion's arms, but he was anxious and hesitant to do just that because he knew that as soon as he went in there, he would have to face his realization earlier that morning that his companion was probably a lot more than just some of Voldemort's power.



Finally accepting that he couldn't hide from the truth any longer, Harry pulled his bed hangings closed, lay back into his bed covers and mountain of pillows and slipped into his mindscape.



It was dark there now and the mist stretched far and wide. It wasn't pitch black, but more like the mild illumination one would find during twilight. The 'sky' or 'ceiling' gradually faded into blackness. The corner where the once-small 'dark spot' resided, was a void of blackness, but there was nothing scary or unsettling about the area. It was comforting, if anything.



Harry made his way to where the black silhouetted form of his companion was standing, facing away from him. As Harry drew closer his companion turned slowly.



Hello... Harry, the breathy voice echoed through the expansive space and Harry had to suppress a shudder that the voice sent through his spine. His companion stretched his arms out, becoming Harry forward and he quickly made his way over.



His companion pulled him down into the couch-like area that they spent most of their time, whenever Harry was inside his own mindscape. His companion was sitting back first, and Harry lay back into him, his back to the solid black silhouetted body of his companion. Black arms wrapped around Harry's middle and pulled him back into the other being chest.



The gesture was intimate, calming, and instantly relaxed Harry's frazzled nerves.



No matter what came of this discussion, it wouldn't change anything. Not really. Harry knew he would not give this up for anything.



You are... troubled...



Harry sighed and nodded his head.



"I... what are you? Exactly?" Harry asked after a long silent moment.



Do you truly... not know?



Harry pulled his lip between his teeth and looked off into the dark distance.



"I don't know... maybe. Can you just answer the question?" Harry said with a pouty scowl.



I suppose. I am... a sliver... of Voldemort's... soul.



Harry blinked. His soul? Harry frowned. "How did you end up in me?" he asked.



When... he tried... to kill you. I broke off... The act... of murder... it can shatter the soul... if you so desire it. You can take those pieces... and magically bind them... to an object... or... person.



"But why would he do that?" Harry asked, in bewilderment.



As long... as some portion... of the soul... is bound to this world... none of it can leave. Even if... the body has... been destroyed.



Harry leaned back and processed this latest revelation. Honestly rather stunned. "That's why he didn't die. Because you were in me."



Yes... But I don't think... that he... realizes this. My binding... to you... it was unintentional.



Harry paused, going over in his mind the different questions he now had, swirling around in it. He was a little surprised at how little it bothered him to realize that a portion of the Dark Lord's soul was inside him. Rationally, he knew this should really be freaking him out and yet... it wasn't.



"Do you have his memories? His knowledge?"



I... possessss ssome... fragments... and only from before.. I was split off.



"Are you really a separate person from him? You say 'him' like he's not you, but you're a piece of his soul."



He and I... are one... in some ways... and are two, in others. I only represent certain... fragments of who... he is... the parts... he considers... weak. He tried to cast those pieces out... to become stronger... I have also spent... the last thirteen yearsss... with you. I have seen through your eyesss... even when... I was kept behind... walls. Kept separate... I was still with you. I have exsssisted separate from him... for many yearsss... so I am not... entirely him.



Harry nodded his head and began to lazily trace his fingers along one of the black arms, wrapped around his middle. "That makes sense..." Harry mused quietly. "So... do you know what his task is? What this thing is that he has to do?"



He is the Dark Lord...



Harry waited, expecting for there to be more, but when it became clear that there wasn't, he pressed on. "Is that supposed to mean something to me?"



Magic herself deemed him so. He mussst work towards the task... that the Lord of Dark Magic is always tasked with.



This, Harry had not expected. He had never realized that Voldemort being called the 'Dark Lord' had more meaning than him just being a very powerful, and arguably overly egotistical dark wizard. He had always figured that Voldemort had simply claimed the title of 'Lord' because he thought himself worthy of it because of his greater magical power level and desire to lead. Harry had never realized that the title actually meant something.



"And what task, exactly, is that?" Harry pressed on, getting more eager and curious by the minute.



Maintain... balance... Control... and restrain... the Light. Keep magic... out of the hands... of those not deemed worthy... when they steal the magics... from us... the End will come...



"I... don't think I quite get it..." Harry said, slowly.



It is.. old. Old ways... old magics... old laws... laws that wizards have forgotten... that the Light has forgotten... they have lossst their way. Lost sight of where... our magics come from... the deal that was struck... the agreement our ancestors agreed to... Their ignorance... will cost us the power... to save ourselves. They will bring the End upon us all...



Harry nodded his head very slowly, although admittedly, this really hadn't cleared up much of anything. He was still greatly confused, and knew he was missing a lot of the context necessary for any of it to ever make sense. He also doubted that his companion could ever effectively clear it up for him. He was good company, but a conversationalist, he was not.



"Alright... er... thank you. Can you tell me the prophecy?"



Unfortunately... the precise wording of it... did not completely stay... with me.



"But there was a prophecy, right? And it was about me?"



Yesss...



"It said I would defeat Voldemort?" Harry prodded, disbelievingly.



It said... you would have... the power to do it...



"But it didn't say that I would?"



I... do not know... The full prophecy... was kept hidden from usss... Voldemort never... learned the entire... thing... only half...



Harry scowled lightly.



"Well, who knows the whole thing?"



Dumbledore...



Harry's scowl morphed, instantly, into a deathly glare. Of course it would be the old man. Harry wondered if Dumbledore was the only one who knew. If he was, that would make it exceedingly difficult for Harry to find out any details about it.



Harry sighed and let his head fall back onto his companion's shoulder.



"Is there anywhere I can look to find more information on this old magic? The stuff about the Dark Lord's task, or the er... agreement or whatever else you mentioned?"



His companion remained silent, and Harry wondered if he would get an answer at all.



The chamber... there is a book...



Harry perked up instantly. "Really? Which book?"



It is... hidden.



...I will show you how... to find it...



Harry's excitement and curiosity was peaked. He began making plans for spending Saturday down in the chamber reading this new hidden book, when he suddenly remembered that he was supposed to meet Sirius down in Hogsmeade the next day. He almost growled in annoyance, but managed to hold it in.



He hadn't seen Sirius since the firecall the week after Halloween, and he hadn't seen his godfather in person since the previous spring when Harry had helped him escape on Buckbeak. If he really was going to get to see Sirius in person, he should be excited about it. And he was... really. He just had a lot of other things going on in his life.



Harry huffed out another sigh and let himself sink back into his companion's arms, willing himself to relax. He needed to sleep. He was still a bit wound up from his session with Rita that morning, and if he didn't start focusing on clearing his mind and calming down, he wouldn't get to sleep for hours.



Merlin it had been an insane day... He had had a vision where Voldemort spoke with Nagini and Harry began to discover and make sense of the man's motives in a way he never had before.



He had discovered that Sirius was going to sneak into Hogsmeade somehow the following day. He had come to understand a bit more, the extent to which Dumbledore had fucked with his life and had a moment of insane rage at the damned old fool. And then... bloody hell... he had killed Rita.



He had murdered someone today.



It was strange how blasé the sentence was uttered in his mind. How little effect it had on him to think the words. How little meaning it had.



There really was something wrong with him... wasn't there?



"Is this because of you? Because I've... I don't know... accepted or... embraced you?"



Is what... because... of me?



"The way that I've changed... the... it was so easy for me to kill Rita today. I don't even feel the slightest bit bad about it. I'd do it again without any hesitation. It was easy."



That may... be the influence... of Voldemort... of Me...



Harry nodded his head again in a strangely calm and accepting manor.



"Okay."



Does that... upset you?



"Oddly enough? No."



– –




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