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.


 



Disclaimer: Don't own Harry Potter. JKRowling does.



First Beta Pass by Clemex



– –



Harry easily slipped into his new routine. Every day after lunch he would slip away to Voldemort's manor house and keep the Dark Lord 'company' while he performed his meditation exercise. Harry would read while he sat there; some days Voldemort would supply him with a specific book, but other days Harry would just read his text books or work on homework for some class.



He was spending almost all of his evenings with Ron and Hermione again, but he still tended to spend at least a half hour a day as he continued working on copying the book down in the chamber. By Wednesday night he had almost finished copying it. He left the chamber with only five more pages left to copy, and a hand cramp. He and Hermione were spending a lot of time in the evenings working on translating it, and their efforts had gained the curiosity of Ginny, who had started 'helping' them – which really meant that she was sitting at the table with them and asking questions that were slowing down their progress.



Ron was clearly very annoyed at their boring little side project and was spending more and more time with Seamus and Dean.



Thursday morning arrived and Harry had Transfiguration during first block and then a free period. Once the class had begun to clear out, Harry turned to Ron and Hermione and told them to go on ahead. When they looked at him with curious confusion, he told them he was going to speak with McGonagall about his classes for next year and they both understood quickly.



Harry stood up from his desk and packed away the last of his books just as the last of the other students left the room. Professor McGonagall looked up to see him still standing there and rose a single questioning eyebrow in his direction.



"Was there something you needed, Mr. Potter?" she asked.



"Actually, yes. I was hoping to speak with you about my elective courses and my options for next year."



She looked mildly surprised by this but quickly stood to her feet and began to walk towards the door to the class room. "Alright, Mr. Potter. Shall we continue this conversation in my office then?"



"That would be great," Harry said with a grin as he began to walk beside her and out of the classroom.



After a brief journey down the corridor, the two of them reached the deputy headmistress's office and sat down on opposite sides of her desk. Harry quickly began to explain to her what he was hoping to do with his classes for the following year.



"This is a very unusual request, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said after he had finished explaining everything.



"I really don't see why it's not done more often. I mean, how many people really know what they're going to be interested in later on in life, when they're only twelve years old? Besides, worse case scenario, I end up in the class with the third year's and take my Ancient Runes and Arithmancy OWLs in my seventh year."



McGonagall nodded her head slowly, but from the thin-lipped frown on her face, he could tell she wasn't convinced.



"I'm also thinking about looking into some private tutoring this summer in both subjects. At least the theory and all the reading. If I can pass competency tests in August, I was hoping that maybe I could get placed with the forth years."



"Private tutoring?" McGonagall echoed with surprise.



"Yes. I've already spoken with someone who is willing to help me. Do you think it would be possible to arrange for a test in both Ancient Runes and Arithmancy?"



"Well, I..." she began hesitantly before huffing a bit and then giving a somewhat resigned sigh. "I'll have to speak with Professors Septima and Babbling to see what they think of all of this. There will also be the issue of making sure that the classes work with your normal fifth year class schedule. There may be timing conflicts."



"If that does become an issue, perhaps I could apply to the Ministry for a time-turner?" Harry asked with big, innocent, puppy-dog eyes.



McGonagall narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him, which only made Harry grin.



Harry ducked his head and then took on a more serious expression. "All fun aside, Professor, I really am serious about this. It's important to me. I made a mistake at the end of second year. I chose the wrong classes. Pure and simple. And I chose them for the worst reasons."



"And what reasons would those be?"



"I chose them because everyone said they were easy. But now I realize that I'm just wasting a precious, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Arithmancy and Ancient Runes are really valuable subjects, and I'm really interested in learning both of them. Now that I've realized what a stupid mistake I've made, I'm trying to fix it. Surely it isn't too late?" he finished, with a pleading tone.



McGonagall gave another resigned sigh. "I will admit that I would normally tell you no in this situation. However the tremendous improvement in your classwork over the year, and the fact that your other professors have given similar reports during staff meetings leads me to give your request more consideration than I usually would."



Harry blinked. "Staff meetings?" The teachers had been talking about him in the staff meetings? Somehow this didn't exactly sit well with him.



"Yes, your classwork improvement over the last year has come up several times in our meetings. Even Professor Snape has had no choice but to admit that your work has improved," she said with the faintest hint of a smile on her lips.



Harry choked out a bit of a laugh that he tried to morph into a cough. "Is that so?" he asked innocently. "That must have been quite painful for him."



McGonagall snorted. She would deny it till her dying day, but Harry had heard it and he would never forget it. He had made McGonagall snort.



"Yes, well... Mr. Potter... Taking into consideration your improved worth ethics and study habits, and your sincere desire to learn the subjects, I will do my best to help you with this. I cannot guarantee anything, but I will try."



Harry gave her a huge smile and thanked her profusely before bidding her farewell and heading off to find Ron.



– –



By Thursday night Harry had finished copying the last few pages of the ancient elven book and returned to the common room to help Hermione with translating it. The book seemed to be made up of several ancient legends, and the further they translated, the more and more interesting they were becoming. However translating the texts was still extremely slow-going, and Harry found he rarely had the energy at the end of the days to dedicate a lot of his focus towards the task. In contrast, Hermione was becoming down-right dedicated to it, and Ginny was acting as her personal cheerleader.



During the last week, Harry hadn't felt nearly as strong a need or deep seeded desire to spend an hour each day practicing the dark arts as he once did. The anxious, antsy, tension that had eaten away at his mind each day up until he was finally able to get down into the chamber, had dulled significantly now that he was spending several hours a day in the company of the Dark Lord.



Harry had absolutely no explanation for why spending time with Voldemort every day would have any effect on that irrational itch he'd been experiencing for months now. Despite not having an explanation for it, the fact that it clearly had an effect was obvious. Harry decided that he needed to try speaking to Voldemort about it and see if the Dark Lord had any insight into the matter.



The more time he'd spent in the man's company, the more comfortable he felt with actually asking questions, so the idea of trying to explain his experience to Voldemort and asking the man's opinion wasn't nearly as scary or intimidating as it might have once been. But this would also mean openly broaching the subject of how he was affected so strangely by Voldemort's presence, and that still made him feel a little hesitant. Despite the fact that they had acknowledged that the two of them were interacting in a way that was probably a bit odd for both of them, they hadn't actuallydiscussed it.



Unless it was normal for the Dark Lord to spend large amounts of time with individual followers and pet their hair if they sat within reach.



But somehow Harry seriously doubted that was the case. It really didn't seem like the sort of thing Voldemort would normally do.



Saturday arrived and Harry portkeyed to the manor as soon as he was finished with lunch. Voldemort was already in his usual meditative position on the floor and Harry took up his usual spot a few feet away.



After an hour, and the most powerful spike in Voldemort's parselmagic that Harry had thus far sensed from the man, Voldemort stood, stretched and sat heavily in his chair. He read a couple muggle newspapers and then went through the Daily Prophet – Harry had learned that the house-elf, Mixey, was going out daily to acquire a copy of the magical paper for her master – Voldemort sighed, set the papers aside and stood up.



Harry turned and watched the man, curiously for a moment without saying anything. Voldemort took a few steps towards the door before turning back and looking at Harry expectantly.



"Coming?"



Harry blinked, but then quickly scrambled to his feet. He followed Voldemort as his long fast strides quickly took them down the stairs and through the corridors towards the ballroom where they had performed the resurrection ritual.



"So what are we doing?" Harry finally asked as he managed to make his strides match Voldemort's and walked beside him.



"I am going to begin teaching you a few important skills during your visits here. The first one is apparition."



Harry's foot caught on the rug and he almost stumbled in surprise at this, but he collected himself and caught back up.



"Apparition? You're going to teach me to apparate?" Harry asked.



"Yes, Potter. I'm going to teach you to apparate," Voldemort echoed while rolling his eyes.



"Can the Ministry detect that? As I understand it, you need a license to apparate, and you can't even take the test until you're seventeen."



"The Ministry cannot detect it from you because your trace is gone."



"Oh, well that's brilliant," Harry mused as a grin spread across his lips and the pair of them entered the ballroom.



Voldemort quickly began to explain the theory behind it, and then apparated from one side of the ballroom to the other, and back again, so that Harry could feel his magic during the act. Once he learned that Harry had never experienced apparition at all, he did a side-along apparition just to make sure Harry would know what to expect.



Harry spent the next two minutes crouching on the floor trying to make sure he didn't lose his lunch.



"I thought portkeying was bad..." Harry grumbled as he finally felt stable enough to stand up straight. "What is with all forms of magical transport being horrifically disorienting? I can't use a floo without falling on my ass, I've only just barely begun to land from portkey travel without stumbling, and now this. Ugh..."



Voldemort chuckled in amusement. "You'll get used to it."



"So... I'm curious, when you apparate, I hardly hear a sound from you. It's almost as quiet as a house-elf's pop. Everyone else I've seen apparate always makes a loud crack."



"Again, it just takes practice and power. I'm sure with some work you will also be more than capable of near-silent apparition. You certainly have the power reserves for it."



Harry nodded his head thoughtfully. "You know, I had another question I've been meaning to ask since we started this."



"Yes?" Voldemort said dryly with a sigh of impatience.



"We're apparating inside the manor, but I thought that the manor had anti-apparition wards all around it?"



"I am keyed into the wards, and I have keyed you in as well. So we will be able to apparate in and out of the manor, as well as aparate within it's boundaries. No one else will be capable of the same thing, however, unless I key them in as well."



Harry blinked. "You've keyed me into your apparition wards?"



Voldemort rose a single challenging eyebrow, and Harry ducked his head to try and conceal the huge grin that was spreading across his face.



"Are you're curiosities sufficiently satisfied now? I would appreciate getting on with the lesson."



Harry chuckled and smiled up at the man. "Yeah, I'm good. Let's get on with it."



Voldemort rolled his eyes at Harry, but quickly slipped into what Harry had deemed his 'teacher mode'. Harry didn't manage to apparate that evening, but Voldemort said he was convinced Harry would get it within a few more lessons with relative ease.



When the lesson had come to a close, Harry casually thanked Voldemort and said 'bye' before heading out to the time-turner room and then returning to Hogwarts.



– –



It was Sunday at lunch, and Harry, Hermione, and Ron were all sitting in the great hall eating. Or rather, Ron was eating, Hermione was working on translating some more passages from the ancient elven book, and Harry was thumbing through a book on occlumency he'd found down in Slytherin's study. He had disguised the book's cover to look like his charms text book, while also casting a mild notice-me-not charm on it, and so far, no one had noticed it.



"Harry, are you sure you copied this part down, right?" Hermione's voice cut into his focus suddenly and he looked up at her with a blank face.



"Hmm?"



Her face was buried in her copy of the bound notebook that he had given her, while the Old Aldric language book sat on the table beside her.



"This part here... I can't find this word anywhere... I almost think you may have copied it down wrong," she said with her brows furrowed as she continued to look back and forth between the two books intently.



"Hm... I suppose it's certainly possible. I've tried to recheck my work pretty thoroughly."



She huffed in frustration and set the notebook on the table with a thwap!, causing Ron's cup of pumpkin juice to wobble precariously for a moment. Hermione's eyes widened as she watched it in horror for a second before it became clear that it was not about to spill on the notebook. She sighed in relief before returning her attention to Harry.



"Are you sure you can't just bring me the original book?" she asked in a pleading voice.



Harry shook his head. "Nope. Sorry Hermione, but I'm not willing to remove it from the room where it's kept. It has to stay there."



She narrowed her eyes and gave him a hard look. "Could I just go to the room then?" she asked after a second in an innocent tone.



Harry gave her a hard look for a long moment. It had been a while since their last spat about Harry's mysterious secrets. He supposed he was due for another. "Sorry 'Mione. I'm not telling."



She huffed, folded her arms across her chest and scowled at him. For a long minute she fumed quietly. Harry assumed she was just going to let it go, but this time, she didn't. "Why!" she cried in a sudden explosion of pent up frustration.



"Why what?" Harry said, taken aback by the intensity of her burst.



"Why won't you tell me where it is you're going! What are you doing! Where are you going? Are you breaking a school rule? Are you leaving the grounds?"



"I'm not breaking any rules, and no, I am not leaving the grounds. Where I go is still within the school," Harry lied easily.



"Then why can't you tell me where it is! Why don't you trust me! You talk about us earning your trust back, but you know trust is a two-way street, Harry James Potter! If you keep pushing us away like this, how are we supposed to trust you!"



Harry had to fight the urge to roll his eyes. He was getting fed up with making excuses to them and realized that he was going to have to give her something to hold her off a while. "Maybe I like having a secret place that only I can go to, and no one else can bother me at, did that ever occur to you?" Harry asked with a rather pointed look and raised eyebrows.



Hermione came up short, frowned, and looked legitimately hurt. "So you go there to get away from us, then?"



"I go there to get away from everyone, Hermione. You see, during first term, there was this thing where every bloody student in the school suddenly hated the very air I breathed, and all I wanted to do was get away from all the glares, snickers, and snide remarks. I found someplace that I could to to be alone and I got used to it. I found that I honestly enjoyed the alone time, and that it allowed me to think clearer and get more accomplished. So even after people decided to do another flip-flop and stopped hating my guts, the fact that I enjoyed the alone time didn't change. I got used to it.



"Did it ever occur to you that maybe I'm not actually hiding anything big? Maybe I just found a secret room in this big crazy castle filled with old forgotten secrets, and that room has some books in it, and I like to go there to read and get my work done? That's it. No big crazy conspiracy. No rule breaking, or devious ulterior motives. I did go there for my animagus practice, but now I just go there to be alone and read in peace."



Hermione still looked rather crushed at this point, and not as convinced as he was hoping, so Harry huffed an annoyed breath and pressed on.



"Maybe you aren't entirely clear on some of my personal history, Hermione, but before Hogwarts, I was always alone. I went to school, came home, did my chores, and then I got locked away in my cupboard and spent all my time alone in a dark little space with absolutely no company. When I got to Hogwarts I thought 'This is my chance to finally make friends without them being chased away by Dudley, and to try and be outgoing, and spend my time with people.' But it's always been forced for me. I've been forcing myself to be outgoing. Forcing myself to be social. I've realized that I'm not a naturally social person. It's just the way I grew up. I've come to realize that I enjoy being able to go someplace and just be alone. It's like I can breath again. I spend some time alone to recoup, and then I feel the ability to be around people again.



"And it's not like I'm not trying here. I mean, you have to acknowledge that I'm spending less time there then I used to! I've been with you guys every evening for the last two weeks! I'm even including you in this project with my book! So come on! Give me a break, will you?"



Ron and Hermione sat there, looking at him with rather stunned expressions for a long, thick minute before Hermione's jaw began to move a bit.



"They locked you in a cupboard?" she asked in a weak voice.



Harry blinked. "I've mentioned my cupboard before, haven't I?" he asked, mildly surprised and confused by her response. Hadn't he mentioned it before? He did suppose he had glazed over it a lot in the past. He didn't want their pity. Plus, he recalled having actually been rather ashamed of it. Like it was somehow his fault how his relatives had treated him. He no longer held those delusions though. It wasn't his fault at all. His shitty muggle relatives were just monstrous assholes. For them, it was all about fear of what they couldn't understand or control. Magic scared them, and Harry had personified it. Harry had realized that it was simply human nature to instantly try to destroy anything that scared or confused them. His relatives were scared and confused by him, so they tried to break him. And someday, he would repay them for their sacrifice and kindness. Harry remarked, sarcastically, internally.



"What kind of cupboard?" Hermione asked, her voice getting harder and a bit cold.



Harry sighed and let his head fall into his hand. "Uh... a boot cupboard, I guess. Under the stairs. They put a little cot in there for me. I lived there till I turned eleven and got my Hogwarts letter. The Dursley's panicked when they saw that my acceptance letter was addressed to 'Mr. H. Potter, The Cupboard under the Stairs'. They thought they were being watched and finally moved me into the extra bedroom."



"They had an extra bedroom, but they kept you in a cupboard!" Hermione all but shrieked.



Harry's eyes widened as he glanced around the great hall for a second before he glared back at her, hard.



"Would you keep it down!" he hissed angrily. Harry pulled out his wand and did a few quick movements with it while silently incanting the proper spell in his mind. The sounds of the great hall suddenly muffled into a distant buzzing noise, as the three of them were enclosed in a small privacy ward. "Look... how the hell did we even get on this? Weren't we arguing about me sneaking off to a secret room or something?"



"How could they do that!" Hermione said in a horrified, sad voice, apparently not listening to Harry. "They still treat you terribly, don't they? Oh, Merlin! The bars! The bars on your window!" She turned her gaze to Ron, who was suddenly looking rather pale. "Before second year when Ron and the twins rescued you... oh Harry! How could they treat you like that?"



"Yeah, well I've got a better question for you. How could Dumbledore leave me there as a baby and not once check up on me? Or better still – how can he know about it now and still make me go back? Says it's the only place I'm safe," Harry sneered sarcastically while rolling his eyes.



Hermione looked horrified. "He couldn't possibly know! Harry, you have to tell Professor Dumbledore! If he knew the truth, he would never make you go back!"



"He does know, Hermione," Harry said through clenched teeth. "He knows perfectly well, how they've treated me my whole life. My aunt has written him letters over the years, begging him to take me back and leave me with someone else. He knows how much they hate me. How much they wish to be rid of me. And I've told him how they treat me. That they don't feed me and that they work me like a bloody house elf each summer. He knows Hermione. Honestly, I thought you knew. Or at least, I thought you would have figured it out from all the clues."



"No..." Hermione said in a weak little whisper as she began shaking her head back and forth. "No... I never knew... Oh Merlin Harry... I'm sorry... I never realized... I..."



"Hermione," Harry said in a hard tone, "Just stop. There's nothing for you to apologize for –"



"Yes there is!" she insisted. "There is, Harry! I should have realized! I can't believe I was so stupid that I never listened! You have mentioned the cupboard before, but it was always in passing and you acted so dismissive about it that it never stuck. I wasn't listening. I should have... I should have..."



"Should have, what, Hermione? What could you have done?" Harry said, leaning back on his seat and crossing his arms over his chest.



"Well I should have done something! Told a professor, or something!"



"I've told teachers. Back in primary school I tried telling people and it just got me in trouble. The only times my uncle has ever really hit me were after I told people at the school and they visited the Dursley's or called them. All the rest of my life they just neglected me. Dudders made a sport of beating the shit out of me, but I got pretty good at running from him and his friends, and he's let up since he found out I'm magical. And I've told Dumbledore about all of this and he doesn't give a damn. Telling McGonagall won't do any good because in the end – for some unfathomable reason – Dumbledore thinks hehas say over where I go for the bloody holidays. Well, fine. Whatever. Asking to go somewhere else won't work. So I just won't ask."



"But you can't go back there! They can't treat you like that! It's criminal!"



"Yeah, I'm aware of that now."



"Professor Dumbledore must just not realize how bad it is. Harry, you've got to just tell them!"



"No."



"But you don't want to go back to the Dursley's right?"



"Correct. And I'm not going to be going back."



Hermione opened her mouth to speak but then stopped, coming up short with a confused look on her face. "Wait... what?"



"I'm not going back. But I'm not asking Dumbledore for permission first, either. In what way is it his business what I do over the summer? Legally, it isn't. If I get permission from the Dursley's to go somewhere else for the summer, that's all that matters because they are my legal guardians. Dumbledore has no say over my life while I'm not in school. So I'm going somewhere else, and I'm not telling him."



"What! But... where? Harry, that's dangerous! You're not thinking of running off with Sirius are you? That's just not safe! You saw how Sirius has to live, Harry –"



"I'm not going to stay with Sirius," Harry broke in.



"But where are you going then? What if someone comes after you! There was that Death Eater attack at the World Cup, and we all know that someone wants you dead, because they orchestrated this whole tournament thing. Harry, it's just not safe to run off without telling Dumbledore where you're going."



"If no one knows where I go, then no one can find me. That's why I'm not telling anyone. And I'm sorry, but that includes you two. If you don't know where I am, no one can force you to tell them. Nice and simple. And by the way, Hermione – if you run off to the headmaster before the end of the school year, and tell him that I'm planning to run off this summer, I swear I will never speak to you, ever again. Do you understand me? You can feel free to go off and tell him that I've been abused and neglected by my relatives and just see for yourself how seriously he takes it, but mention that I'm running off, and we're through. I will never trust you with a secret, ever again. Do you get it?"



Hermione jerked back as if she had just been slapped.



"Harry... I..."



"I want you to understand something here. I'm trusting you with this info. Do you see? You know the whole 'trust is a two way street' bit from a few minutes ago? Well, here I am, trusting you. I've just told you something that no one else knows, and I have no intention of telling anyone else. Ifyou tell someone else, then you're betraying my trust. You've already seriously betrayed my trust once this year Hermione, and in my game, it's two strikes and you're out, not three."



"Harry! Come on, give her a break!" Ron said, speaking up for the first time in ages. Up until this point, he had sat there with a shocked and utterly dumbfounded expression on his face.



"This goes for you too Ron. I don't see you running off to the Headmaster like I see Hermione doing it, but the warning goes for you too."



"Why do you think that I would run off and snitch!" Hermione asked indignantly.



"Because you would convince yourself that you were doing it to help me. To protect me. To keep me from making a mistake or something. You'd convince yourself that you were being a good friend by betraying me, but I will never see it like that. As far as I'm concerned, it's just betrayal."



Ron nodded his head a bit and looked thoughtful. "He's got you there, Hermione. You probably would run off and tell. It's just like the thing with the Firebolt, last year."



"Ron!" Hermione cried out. She looked back and forth between Ron and Harry with hurt in her eyes before she sunk a bit in her seat and looked down into her lap.



"I won't tell anyone," she said weakly. She paused for a moment and then appeared to make up her mind about something. "But I still want to try speaking to Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster about your relatives! I just can not believe that they would know about how they treat you, and still make you go back there!"



Harry rolled his eyes and sighed. "Suit yourself."



Hermione sat there gnawing on her bottom lip with a look of deep concentration for a few minutes before she looked up at Harry with legitimate worry in her eyes. "You really can't tell us where you're going?"



"Nope," Harry said simply as he returned his focus to his book.



"But how do you know it'll be safe?"



"You can never know these things Hermione, but I do know I'll be safer there than I am at the Dursley's."



"But I thought that your relatives house had some super fancy wards or something?" Ron pitched in.



"The blood wards are worthless against everyone except for Voldemort himself," Harry began, and then silently added, and they're probably worthless against him now too, since he's got my blood in his veins... "I think Dumbledore threw up a whole bunch of wards on his own on top of them to keep out Death Eaters, but they only work so long as I'm in the actual house. If I leave the house to go to the park, or just down the street, then I'm out of their so-called 'perfect protection'. So to stay 'safe' I have to, literally, be a prisoner in my own home.



"And while the wards protect me from Death Eaters, they don't protect me from Vernon, or Dudley, or any of Dudder's shitty friends. I've had a lot more bruises and broken bones at the hands of those arses than I've ever had from Death Eaters. Personally? I'll take my chances with the Death Eaters."



Ron looked pale and Hermione seemed shocked to the brink of tears.



"Broken bones!" Hermione gasped. "Are you serious?"



Harry huffed and looked up from his book in annoyance. "Yes, Hermione. Broken bones. My left arm, and my right wrist, to be specific. Ages five and seven. Probably got some fractures over the years too, but they went untreated. Vernon was too cheap to let me see a proper doctor unless there was a bone practically protruding from the skin. I suspect I've got a bit of a magical healing factor because without it I doubt I'd still be alive with all the beatings Dudders and his buddies put me through. In any case, all the more reason for me to stay the bloody hell away from those people. I'm Not Going Back."



"Alright, Harry. I totally agree that you definitely should not ever have to go back to those horrible people, but are you sure that where you're going is really going to be safe?"



"Yes, Hermione. I really am sure. I mean, technically, I've got two different ideas in mind for what I could do this summer, but I'm definitely leaning more towards one than the other, and that option would actually put me behind wards even more powerful than the 'super fancy wards' that Dumbledore put on the Dursley's."



"No way!" Ron gaped.



Harry chuckled. "Yeah, well it's a new residence and the wards are being constructed right now, but it's some seriously high level security. For that matter, I'm not totally sure I'll even be able to receive owls there, because I'm pretty sure that he's adding anti-owl wards in the mix, but I'll make sure to send you guys letters so you know I'm still safe."



Hermione's jaw floundered, helplessly for a few minutes. "I... but... Harry, how did you... I mean... this place that you're going to go to, how did this all come about? How long have you been planning this!"



Harry could see the hurt in her eyes at realizing that he had once again been hiding something that she probably deemed as 'a big deal' from them.



Harry sighed, closed his book, and gave Ron and Hermione a long, hard look.



"Have you ever heard of legilimency?"



"Legililiwhuh?" Ron said. He turned and looked over to Hermione, expectantly but she just shrugged, helplessly.



"Wow, really?" Harry said, looking at Hermione with legitimate surprise. "You've never heard of it, Hermione? Really?"



"No! What is it?"



"It's a mind magic. Really high level magic and very few people can learn it. It lets you read other people's minds. You can sift through their memories and their thoughts, and they'll never even know that you're doing it, unless they know the counter magic called occlumency. The only thing that a legilimense needs to read your every private thought and memory, is eye contact."



"Blimey!" Ron whispered, looking horrified.



Hermione looked disgusted by this new information, but then she looked very thoughtful. "Harry..." she began hesitantly, looking up at him, "why are you telling us this?"



"I've been teaching myself occlumency, so no one can read my mind. Neither of you have that protection in place. If I had told either of you what I'd been up to, then certain people in the school, could have taken that knowledge from your heads without you ever even knowing it."



"Who! Are you saying that there's someone at Hogwarts who can perform legilimency?"



"I know of at least two people in the school who can," Harry said dismissively.



"Who?" Ron and Hermione asked in the same whispered hush.



"Snape and Dumbledore."



Hermione gasped.



"SNAPE!" Ron roared, looking a mixture of horror, anger, and disgust. "Snape can read our minds!" Ron paused, grimacing in thought for a moment before he gasped again. "But Snape's a Death Eater!"



"We don't know that Ron!" Hermione instantly reprimanded. "And it's Professor Snape!"



Harry then sat back and watched as the two of them began to bicker about Snape and what it could mean that he was able to read their minds, and all Harry wanted to do was point out that he hardly gave a damn about Snape, and was far more ticked about Dumbledore doing it.



Now that Harry knew the signs to look for, in retrospect, there were a number of instances where he had been sitting with the headmaster and he was sure the man had used legilimency on him. First year, second year, even third year. If Dumbledore had read his mind, in the instances when he suspected the man did, it would mean that Dumbledore knew about Harry and his friends investigating the stone, and that Dumbledore knew about Harry having found the diary, long before Ginny took it back... hell, Harry had known that the diary belonged to Tom Riddle, and if Dumbledore read his mind when he suspected the man had, he undoubtedly saw that.



It all just led more and more credence to his theories that Dumbledore wanted Harry to keep having run-ins with Voldemort, and Death Eaters, and near-death experiences. The real question, was why?



Harry refocused on Hermione and Ron, just as Ron was getting all red-faced with his own frustrated insistence that Snape was pure evil and couldn't be trusted, against Hermione's arguments that Dumbledore would never let the man teach if he hadn't earned the headmaster's trust. It was an old argument and Harry rolled his eyes.



"But anyway!" Harry said interrupting them. "The point is that if I tell you guys too much, then someone can pluck the knowledge out of your minds, even without you realizing that they've done it. If you two knew how I came across this place I plan to go, you could figure out what the place was. Anyone who knows legilimency could read your minds and pluck the knowledge right out of your heads and you couldn't do a thing about it. When people realize I haven't got back to the Dursley's like I'm supposed to, and they can't find me, you two are sure to be the first ones that they go to. Any clues I give you two are just going to be clues used by other people when they go trying to find me. The best way for me to stay safe is if no one knows where I am. And that means absolutely no one."



"But what if a Death Eater or someone out to get you finds out, and then none of us know where you are and can't come help?"



"You really really don't have to worry about it. I'm not a fool Hermione. You know – Constant Vigilance, and all that? I'm taking Moody's advice to heart. Remember him? Mr. 'You're-not-being-paranoid-if-people-are-really-out-to-get-you'? Trust me when I say that I'm taking loads of precautions."



Hermione heaved a heavy, defeated sigh and nodded hear head. "Alright, Harry. But please be careful! And you have to promise to write to us at least several times a week so we know you're alright."



Harry grimaced a little, realizing that that would be rather annoying, but it was a fairly simple step to secure their cooperation.



"Fine, but I'm probably going to by cycling owls. Hedwig is too obvious and easy to spot."



"Harry... you mentioned a 'he' earlier, so you're staying with someone specific?" Hermione began to ask hesitantly.



"Yeah?"



"Well, I mean... how can you be sure you can trust this person? I understand that you can't tell us who it is or anything about him, but what do you know about him? What makes you think you can trust him?"



"I know a lot about him, actually. And I really, honestly do trust him. I trust him with my life. I know he can, and will make sure I'm safe. I'll be okay. Don't worry. I really have got this covered."



Hermione frowned sadly and her shoulders sagged somewhat but she nodded her head.



Harry went back to his reading, but paused as he realized that out of everything he had just said to his friends, it was the last statement he made that had the most truth to it.



He trusted Voldemort with his life. He'd already placed his life in the man's hands several times, in fact.



He trusted the most dangerous and deadly Dark Lord in half a millennium with his life, and he felt safer and more secure in that trust than he ever had in placing his trust in anyone else.



He cracked a smile and chuckled to himself at the insanity of it.



– –




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