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: Still don't own Harry Potter. It belongs to JKRowling. Beta pass by Clemex.



– –



The rest of the school treated him... oddly after that.



Everyone was still staring at him, but the looks were wary and hesitant. The Slytherins, especially, were all giving him strange looks. They weren't taunting him nearly as much though, and for that he was grateful. The Hufflepuffs still glared angrily at him. He figured it was a mixture of them not trusting someone with such a blatantly dark talent, combined with the fact that his near-perfect performance only put Cedric's performance that much more into the shadows of obscurity.



The fact that every time one of them scowled at him, he responded by smirking smugly at them, probably didn't help much either, but he liked goading a reaction out of them. Anytime one of them actually got the guts to try and say something obnoxious to him, or show off one of those idiotic Potter Stinks badges, he'd hiss at them, and they'd practically wet their pants trying to get away.



Harry laughed at how ridiculously terrified the children at school seemed to be of parseltongue. He also delighted in his new discovery of the parseltongue magics he had access to.



It was a wonder to him that he'd never realized he could do it before. But he acknowledged to himself that before very recently, he had tried to pretend with all his might that he didn't possess the strange dark skill at all. He had wanted so badly to just be normal that he had completely ignored the powerful skill.



But he no longer feared it. It was a dead useful ability. The most remarkable thing he discovered about calling on his magic using parseltongue was that he had no need to use a wand when he did it. A quiet hiss and a little wiggle of his fingers and he could direct the ebb and flow of his magic in dozens of different ways.



Harry realized that his new knowledge and awareness of the parselmagic had undoubtedly come from the dark presence in his mind, and it got him wondering. Was the dark presence the source of his ability to use parseltongue?



If it were, he realized that the prospects were mildly concerning. The headmaster had told him at the end of his second year, that Harry had gained some of Voldemort's powers the night the man had given him his scar. Was the dark presence those powers that he had gotten from Voldemort?



It would certainly explain why he might have been afraid of the power when he was younger. If the dark presence was associated with his parent's murder. But there didn't seem to be anything about it to fear now. It was his power now. He didn't care where it had come from originally. He wasn't going to be afraid of it any longer. He wasn't going to hide from it, or exert all his energy fighting against it when it wasn't even a threat.



Embracing it was so much easier and it made him so much stronger. He felt better. Happier. More confident. His magic came to him with incredible ease, and it was so much more powerful. His mind worked better and he understood things so much faster.



He refused to give that up just because the power might have originally come from Voldemort. So what. It was his power now. It was his and he wasn't going to give it up. He liked it too much. It felt too good.



Still, when Harry went to bed that night and wrapped himself in the presence, he told it of his concerns. His theory on where it had come from. His assumption that the power had once been Voldemort's before it became Harry's. The presence didn't respond much. It seemed hesitant, and Harry almost got the impression that it was worried.



The presence didn't want to be separated from Harry again. It was afraid that Harry would build the walls back up and it would be left alone again. Harry could just sense that this was true and quickly assured the presence that he had no intention of rebuilding the wall.



His assurances seemed to calm the presence's worries because it embraced him with even greater warmth. It almost seemed that the presence was thanking him. It didn't want to be abandoned. It didn't want to be alone again, and neither did Harry.



– –



The next day the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws had joint DADA and Harry trudged out of bed and dragged himself to class, after skipping breakfast. He wasn't really avoiding breakfast because he felt he needed to hide from all the hushed whispering and questioning eyes. All self-conscious hesitancy in him was greatly over-ruled by a powerful irritation and anger at anyone stupid enough to confront him on his use of 'dark' magic, or anyone idiotic enough to publicly mock him. So no - he wasn't avoiding breakfast to hide; he was avoiding it to keep himself from hexing someone and ending up with a detention.



But now he was sitting in Defense class, surrounded by curious, questioning, and even fearful eyes. He sighed in frustration and refocused on Professor Moody's lecture.



"In our world there are three magical affiliations. The light. The dark. And the neutrals. Most magic is neutral, and can be used easily by just about anyone. Most wizards are neutral-focused wizards, but some wizards feel a powerful tug, pulling on their magic and calling them to one of the two outer sides. These wizards will have a natural affinity for the magic of their chosen side and will find performing spells of that nature easier.



"Anyone can cast any type of magic if they're powerful enough and bother to learn it. But a wizard's affinity for certain casts of magic will make it easier or harder for them to learn and perform certain spells.



"A dark wizard finds the casting of dark magic natural to them. It feels right to them, and the spells come to them with great ease. This means that they can cast dark spells faster and without exerting a lot of energy. Their magical energy reserves last the longest when they're casting dark magic.



"A neutral wizard will have a much harder time casting specifically dark or light spells. when a neutral wizard casts dark spells, those spells will cause a much greater drain on that wizard's magical reserves and will take longer to cast.



"So if you're a neutral or a light wizard, dueling against a dark wizard, and he's throwing dark hexes and curses at you, even if you know those same dark spells, he will be much better and faster at casting those spells than you. You're much better off sticking to neutral spells, if you have an affinity for neutral magic, or light spells if you're affinity is for light magic. You'll be able to cast faster, and it won't drain your magic nearly as fast.



"Certain shields and defensive spells are specifically light in nature. If you're natural magic state is neutral, you'll have more trouble with these light spells than neutral shield charms. The Patronus is a prime example. It is a very powerful light affinity spell. It's one of the reasons that it's considered so hard to learn. Some people's magic simply doesn't want to cooperate with the spell." Moody said as he stood at the head of the classroom, leaning slightly against his desk to better support his wooden leg.



"Does that mean that most dark wizards can't defend themselves against dark creatures like dementors?" one Ravenclaw girl asked with a surprised tone.



"Not necessarily. The spell is harder for a dark wizard to learn and perform than a light wizard, but like I said, any wizard can learn any spell if they're powerful enough, and dedicated to mastering it. And having to spend any extended time around dementors is a great incentive to master the spell," Moody said giving them all a rather pointed look.



Another Ravenclaw girl towards the back rose her hand and Moody nodded and called to her.



"How does a person's magic get aligned with light, dark, or neutral?"



"Good question," he said in his gruff voice. "As young as you all are right now, chances are you're all still pretty neutral in your magics. You're magical affinity is developed over time due to a combination of different factors. First is your birth. Everyone is born more likely to go one way or another based on the affinity of their parents, but this can be overpowered by the other factors. One of those factors is the way your raised, and the other is free will. You consciously choose what type of magics you use and practice more often than others, and the more you work on spells that lean towards one side or the other, your affinity for that side will increase."



Hermione raised her hand and Moody nodded towards her.



"So... it's a battle between nature versus nurture?" she said, and the old wizard raised a single eyebrow and motioning for her to continue. "Well... it's like, if a wizard was born to a dark family – everyone in their family before them had always been dark, but say, this wizard was raised differently, or personally chose go light, they still could."



Hermione's comment made Harry instantly think of his godfather Sirius and he sighed. Harry hadn't heard from Sirius since the interrupted firecall several weeks earlier.



"Correct, Miss Granger. Five points to Gryffindor. The truth could be said for someone who comes from a light family, but is raised by someone else. Say, for example, an orphan. It may be in his blood to be light, but if he's raised a certain way, or simply chooses a certain path, he could easily end up with an affinity for dark magic. In any case, at your current stage in your magical education, it's unlikely that many of you have much of an affinity for either light or dark."



"I bet some of the Slytherin's already have an affinity for the dark," Ron muttered quietly to Seamus who was sitting beside him. Harry rolled his eyes at the redhead's comment and sighed. He felt the prickling sensation on the back of his neck that suggested someone was staring at him. He glanced around and saw that there were several sets of eyes looking at him in varying degrees of wary concern. He realized suddenly how they were interpreting Moody's comments as a direct relationship to him and scowled at them.



He didn't exactly appreciate his Defense teacher fueling the already blazing fire of speculation on his potential status as a dark wizard.



However, most odd was the realization that being accused of being dark didn't nearly horrify him as much as it once did. People were just ignorant sheep. Let them think what they wanted. It didn't matter to him. He had survived the first task, and came out of it with the best time and the highest score. What business was it of there's how he chose to do it?



The same Ravenclaw from earlier rose her hand again and Moody jerked his chin towards her.



"Um... is there a way to tell what a person's affinity is? A spell or something?"



"There is, but its difficult to cast. Takes a lot of focus. If cast properly, a colored aura will appear around the person. White for neutral. Blue for light, and red for dark. The color can be a light-blue or pink-ish color if the person's magic is more neutral than not, and the slight coloration will denote the strength with which their magics lean towards one direction or another."



– –



"Harry, we want to talk," Hermione said as she came up behind him just after he came in through the portrait hole that evening after dinner.



Harry scowled but quickly mastered his expression into a blank mask and turned to face Hermione, and Ron behind her.



"What?" Harry asked sharply. Ron and Hermione both flinched at his harsh tone.



"Um, maybe we could talk somewhere more private?" Hermione asked timidly as she glanced around at all of the sets of curious eyes, currently trained on the once-golden-trio. Harry huffed in annoyance but did a quick sweep of the room, spotting Dean, Seamus, and Neville in various spots around them.



"Sure," Harry said with a jerk of his chin towards the stairs. He hurried his way up the stairs, not bothering to look back and make sure they were following. He could tell they were without looking. Their magical auras pushed against his own, telling him exactly where they were in relation to himself.



Harry walked straight towards his bed, but sat down in the desk chair beside it. He casually relaxed back in the chair and crossed his left leg over his right knee, waiting with false patience as the other two scrambled in behind him.



Ron sat down on top of his own bed, which was directly opposite Harry's, while Hermione pulled out Ron's desk chair and sat down in it. Neither of his once-friends could meet his eyes. He wondered if they had finally caught on.



"You wanted something?" Harry asked with an air of annoyed impatience.



Ron and Hermione exchanged looks, and neither seemed to quite know what to say, or which one of them should say it. Finally Ron spoke. Harry was honestly surprised. He had expected Hermione to have to be the one to drag Ron in.



"You didn't really put your name in that cup, did you?" Ron mumbled as he kept his eyes down.



"Finally wised up, have you?" Harry bit out in a harsh voice. "What brought on the change of heart?"



"Well, I just figure, no one in their right mind would really want to go up against a dragon like that," Ron mumbled.



"You wanted to," Harry pointed out instantly, and Ron's ears went pink. "You wanted the fame and glory. You wanted it so bad that you forgot that I didn't want it."



"I know, Harry. I'm sorry!"



"No Ron! No. I'm sorry just isn't enough this time! Your were supposed to be my best mate. You're supposed to know me. How could you possibly believe that I would put fame, glory, and money over our friendship!"



Harry paused then and turned on Hermione. "And you! I know I have an 'unhealthy disregard for the rules' and tend to ignore them and put myself in danger because of it, but when have I ever done that for some sort of 'so-called' personal gain like this stupid tournament?



"Every time I put myself in danger and ignored the rules, it was to save someone else who was in trouble! The fact that either of you could honestly believe that I would put my name in that cup and put my life on the line just for fame" he sneered the word with loathing, "just proves that neither of you know me, or trust me!"



"Harry! I'm so, so, sorry!" Hermione said, jumping to her feet.



"No! You two abandoned me when I needed you more than ever! Do you realize why I probably got entered in this stupid tournament? Someone wants me dead! Someone is hoping that I'll end up getting killed during one of the tasks and they'll be rid of me and it'll look like an accident! Give me one good reason why I should forgive either of you?"



"I'm so sorry, Harry! We weren't thinking!" Hermione said and there were tears coming down her cheeks now.



"Yeah, that much is obvious," Harry said with a hard glare.



Ron and Hermione shared a desperate look before turning back to Harry beseechingly.



"What can we do, Harry?" Hermione said in a small desperate voice. "What can I say to make this up to you?"



Harry crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a long hard look. "I don't know." he said in a cold voice. "I really don't know."



"I'm really, really sorry mate!" Ron said ducking his head and shaking it sadly. "I was a real git and an idiot. I should have believed you when you told me you didn't do it. I was just... I was stupid. I was so angry that you got one more thing to be famous over while..."



"While you just sit in my shadow?" Harry finished for him. His voice was strangely cold. It wasn't something that either Ron or Hermione were used to hearing in Harry's voice. Ron looked up, startled, but eventually he nodded his head.



"You know I don't want my 'fame' right?" Harry bit out rhetorically. His voice was still flat and cold. It was... wrong, somehow. "The only reason I'm famous is because I didn't die. How stupid is that? Every time I hear the phrase 'boy-who-lived' all it does it serve to remind me that I'm alive, and my parents are dead. I'm famous for something I don't even remember, and I despise every minute of it." he ended with a frightfully hard hiss.



He sat back and let his leg lay relaxed, crossed across the other. "If you really knew me like my best friends should, you would have realized that. You should have known that I don't revel in fame. I already have so bloody much of it, and I hate it. Why the hell would I go seeking more of it? No one I care about is in danger because of this tournament. I don't need to save anyone, or protect anything, or stop anyone from doing something. I could have just sat back and had a boring, simple school year for once, but no! No, someone stuck my name in that damned cup, and instead of being there for me, you two DITCHED ME!" he ended with a harsh raised voice that made them both flinch.



Harry closed his eyes and locked his jaw. He let out a slow breath, trying to release the anger that was boiling just under the surface. He could feel his magic swirling menacingly and he suddenly became aware of there being something more to it. It wasn't just his magic that was angry.



His eyes popped open and he felt his heart racing slightly as he became aware of just how familiar the extra presence he felt was. It was the dark presence that existed deep inside his mind. But it wasn't deep inside anything at that moment. It was out on the surface and swirling angrily around him. He got a protective vibe from it. It was defensive and angry.



He was stunned. Had the dark presence come out to try and protect him? Defend him from whatever it was that was making Harry so angry?



Harry started to forcefully calm down and he felt the dark presence retreating immediately. This was something he was going to have to examine in more depth, and soon.



He stood up and the movement was so sudden that both Hermione and Ron jumped slightly.



"Go," Harry said, shortly as he turned away from the pair of them.



"But Harry!" Hermione began to plead but he held his hand up and finally met her eyes. Instinctively, he skimmed through her surface thoughts and found that she truly was repentant. She felt horrible for how she had treated him and truly felt like she had abandoned him. But she was also worried about his recent behavior and wanted to confront him about his use of parseltongue in the tournament. Harry scowled.



"I'll think about it. I need time. Leave me alone for a while, alright?" he said, trying to mask the anger that had flared up at her thoughts.



Sadly, Hermione nodded her head and turned to go. Ron hesitated for a moment before sighing and following behind Hermione.



Once the pair of them were gone Harry walked over to the side of his bed and sat down. He was conflicted. He knew deep down that he would probably never trust the two of them ever again. He just didn't think he could. He couldn't trust that they wouldn't find some other reason to abandon him when he needed them most. He couldn't rely on them. If he did, he would only be disappointed and left high and dry when most desperate. It wasn't a risk he was willing to take.



His mind wandered to the strange flare up of the dark presence's magic. Had he somehow called upon the magic? That thought almost excited him a bit. If it really was a bit of Voldemort's power, deep inside him, and he could control and wield it...



He paused. He shouldn't be excited about that. He knew he shouldn't. It should disturb him. Scare or confuse him. This was something he should be cautious about, not excited! This was a bit of Voldemort's power! Voldemort was evil! He was a psychotic lunatic murderer! Right?



Yes! He murdered Harry's parents. He killed and tortured hundreds, maybe even thousands of people! He started a bloody war for Merlin's sake! Didn't it used to scare Harry when he worried that he might have anything in common with Voldemort? The idea that he and Voldemort might be alike in any way had horrified Harry, and now he was excited at the prospect of being able to wield some of the Dark Lord's power?



Maybe there was something wrong with him.



Had he changed so much? It had only been a month, but Hermione's thoughts showed that she had noticed a difference in his behavior.



Of course he was acting differently! He wasn't nearly as self-conscious or miserable as he used to be, and he had stopped letting what other people thought dictate his actions! A little confidence can go a long way in changing a person's outward behavior. And just because he wasn't afraid of his own shadow, or cowering from his own power didn't mean he was going to end up an evil megalomaniac like Voldemort!



It didn't matter where the power had come from. It was Harry's now. If he could learn to wield it, then he should!



He nodded his head in determination. He wanted to lay down and escape into his mind right then and there to go investigate the dark presence, but held off. It was still early in the evening, and he tended to lose track of time when he went into his mindscape at night, and he usually fell asleep that way. He had homework to do so he sighed heavily and got back up off the bed and grabbed his bag. He'd get his work done and out of the way with plans of doing his investigation as soon as it was all done.



– –



Harry was frustrated by how long it had taken him to finally get to bed that night. Seamus had needed to borrow his notes from Charms, and then Neville had actually asked him for help on his Defense essay. It wasn't very often that Nevile actually asked for help. The quiet boy was obviously stressed that he had been having so much trouble with the spells they were covering and had seen how Harry had performed them with such ease in the class practicals.



Despite the temptation to blow the other boy off, Neville had always been generally kind to Harry and even when the whole school was in the process of shunning him, Neville had still been nice to him, and partnered with him in classes, so he sat down and helped Neville as much as he could.



Finally he escaped all of his dorm mates, drew back the hangings around his bed and sunk down into the mountain of overstuffed pillows and comforters. He closed his eyes, regulated his breathing, and instantly slipped into the depths of his mindscape.



It felt warmer and more welcoming there than it used to. It had been slowly growing more and more comfortable as time had progressed. He liked it there. The small dark mass wasn't quite so formless anymore. It had once been blurry and vague. Now it was more like a mist surrounding something more tangible. Small strands of darkness stretched out from the base of it like vines climbing along the ground.



Harry cocked his head to the side and examined the changes curiously. Some part of him thought he should probably be disturbed by this new development and he was honestly a little unsettled on how very non-disturbed he was. He didn't mind that it had changed. He wasn't even bothered by the very obvious growth it had sustained. Rather, instead he was curious about it. He made his way closer and examined it more in depth.



It still had aspects of the formless 'cushion' that he had relaxed in for the last month, but there was more to it now, and it was larger; more spread out.



He knelt down and reached out, caressing against it in an oddly affectionate gesture. It felt so... nice. Comfortable. It felt like home... whatever that felt like.



Harry used to think that Hogwarts felt like home, but he wasn't so sure anymore. The Dursley's house had certainly never felt like home. He knew that for sure. But here... he felt like he belonged here. Of course, here wasn't really a physical place, so it couldn't really be home, but it felt more like home than anything else ever had.



Harry leaned back into the dark mass and relaxed. He felt all of the tension of the day melt away instantly and he sighed happily. He stretched his hand out along the 'ground' and ran his fingers along one of the dark tendrils that had extended out from the mass and spread across the white, ambiguous, floor plane.



It twitched slightly as he touched it. A surge of warm glee shot through him at the contact. The tendril inched closer to him and he wrapped it around his finger. Bursts of electric tingles shot through him and his breath caught in startled surprise at the pleasing sensation. The presence was pleased as well, and they reveled in the shockingly glorious joint experience. He felt whole with it in that moment. Connecting with it in this more direct way filled him with such a strong and wonderful feeling.



He reached out his other hand and found one of the other tendrils. He wrapped his hand around it and was filled with another powerful jolt of pleasant tingles. He released a slow, shuttering breath as the warmth surged pleasantly through his gut.



Merlin, it feels so good! He mentally gasped.



He sank back into the presence and pulled the tendrils up with his hands, crossing his arms across his chest and wrapping himself up in the dark inky form. He gasped and moaned out at how glorious it felt as he literally wrapped himself with the dark presence.



He never wanted the sensation to end. He never wanted to let go... He melted into the wonderful feeling and slowly slipped into unconsciousness.



– –



"My lord, if we could simply do it without the boy –"



"No!" he hissed angrily. Insolent fools! How dare they question him? "I want the boy! Barty, Report!"



"Yes my lord," the man ran forward and knelt down, bowing his head and then looking up through his eyelashes reverently. "The boy survived the first task and our plans are moving along."



"Good, good. What did you have to do to guarantee the boy's survival? It was dragons, was it not?"



"I did nothing sir. Actually, something quite surprising was revealed during the first task."



His curiosity was peaked. He hadn't expected the boy to make it past the first task without some sort of intervention. But then again, the damned Potter brat did seem to have Felix Felicis running through his veins.



"What, exactly, was revealed?" he sneered curiously.



"The boy... he is a parseltongue."



He blinked in shock and disbelief.



"What!" he hissed.



"He... he made it passed the dragon without so much as a single scratch on him. It was as if he commanded the beast to stand down. He hissed at it in parseltongue, and walked right past it, grabbed the golden egg, and walked right back to the exit."



A parseltongue?



How was that possible? How could the boy, possibly, be a parseltongue? He was positive he knew of all the lines that had retained any trace of old naga blood, and the Potters most certainly weren't one. He had a Black as an ancestor, but the last of the Black line to show any signs of it died over 300 years ago. The boy's mother was a muggleborn, so it wasn't from her...



"Apparently the boy has always had the talent – or at least he has had it as long as he can remember. He even used the skill to gain access to the Chamber of Secrets in his second year."



Stunned shock consumed him. The boy discovered the chamber? And in his second year! He hadn't discovered it until his fifth, and that was after years of dedicated searching. But... surely the boy couldn't have gained control over the basilisk?



"The Chamber! Did you hear any word of a basilisk?" he hissed out angrily.



"Dead. The boy killed it."



"WHAT!" he screamed. Fury raged within him. How could all of this happened and he had heard nothing of it? The Chamber had been discovered? The basilisk, destroyed? "The boy did this in his second year?" he said with stunned disbelief. Surely it wasn't possible. A mere boy of twelve could never hope to defeat Salazar's great basilisk. That creature was more fearsome than...



He growled in frustration and anger.



He was so weak right now! He hated how weak he felt. How helpless he was. How much time he had wasted. He had things to do! Important tasks that only he could accomplish, and instead he had to waste his time and efforts on a child! To make matter worse, was reduced to depending on the likes of Wormtail. It was disgusting!



Barty was better, at least, but he was often gone.



This pathetic vessel he had created contained him, but his connection to his magic was still so weak, and erratic at best. The simplest of spells would leave him exhausted. He needed the boy's blood!



If he could just get the boy he could be restored to his former glory and resume his work.



Harry blinked his eyes and squinted against the bright sunlight pouring in through the small part in his bed hangings. He felt oddly... tingly. Sort of... giddy. It was weird. At first he didn't remember anything odd, but then the images flitted through his mind and he remembered the dream.



He went over the images and frowned. On one hand, he was almost positive he'd had a vision... what he had dreamed about was the same as the visions he had had at the end of the summer. It was in the same house. The same room. And it had Wormtail and that other man who he didn't recognize. What had Voldemort called him?



And yet the feel of the vision was entirely different too.



Harry had never had a vision that he didn't wake from in agonizing pain. His scar would always hurt horribly after a vision. He would always wake up from one with his head on fire and pounding horribly, and he'd feel sick in every way possible.



But right now he felt fine. Great, even. Well rested and energized.



He reached his hand up and brushed his fingers gently over his scar. It tingled pleasantly.



That was... weird.



He couldn't ever remember his scar feeling like that. It had burned and itched and throbbed, but it had never felt good.



The skin around the scar felt warm to the touch, but it didn't feel inflamed like it usually did after a vision.



Perhaps it hadn't been a real vision? Was it just a dream? Just his subconscious putting together familiar things and piecing it into something new?



Harry didn't know.



– –



Another week came and went. Harry had opened the egg that he had gotten from the first task several times, but had no idea what to make of it. It screeched horribly when opened, and the noise was entirely unintelligible.



During the first week after the task he had considered visiting Hagrid at some point, but the half-giant had been a bit skittish around him in class since his performance with the parseltongue. He hid it well and still made friendly conversation with Harry when he approached the large man in class, but Harry could see the change in Hagrid's posture. Harry saw the way Hagrid looked at him out of the corner of his eyes sometimes with concern and worry.



Harry wanted to believe he was just being paranoid and reading too much into things, but he couldn't entirely convince himself of that.



He wasn't getting on any better with Ron or Hermione either. They had both tried to speak with him from time to time, but he just wasn't ready to let either of them back in yet. He wasn't sure if he ever would feel ready. Harry was sure that if he had actually been feeling as alone as he actually was, that he probably would have gone running back to them by now, but he just didn't feel the need. He didn't feel alone. He spent every night wrapped up tight in his shadowy companion. And it's presence in his day to day life was growing. Literally.



The shape and size of the dark presence in his mind had increased slowly in size each passing day. The tendrils reached out for him now when he sunk down into his mindscape each night. They wrapped around him on their own and he felt... he felt wanted. He felt... needed. And being in it's embrace felt so... good.



As the days passed, he began to feel it's presence even when awake. He didn't have to sink into his mind to reach out to it, he could call it it even when conscious. And he did.



It was small at first. Tiny pin pricks of awareness in the back of his mind during classes or meals; but it was enough that he didn't feel alone. He felt like there was always someone there with him, keeping him company in the back of his mind.



In the beginning, he would only get tiny inklings of it's feelings. Impressions of it's thoughts. It's support of him. It's encouragement. The frequency and duration of it's presence grew as the days passed, and so did his perception of it's thoughts and feelings. It's awareness was increasing and he could feel it. By the end of the second week since the first task, it was keeping him company during the majority of his classes.



It gave him hints when he struggled with things in class. It empathized with his anger when his fellow students would confront him or openly mock him. It agreed with his anger. At times, it even stoked it, and it would snicker at his snide mental remarks. He had developed a running commentary of dry sarcasm, fueled by his own bitter resentment that festered inside him, and his companion reveled in his snide sense of humor.



The interactions between Harry and his dark companion had not been verbal in any literal sense. The presence merely communicated through ideas, emotions, and impressions. Or at least, they had been up until this point.



It was now December 9th and Harry had Potions. Harry's performance had improved drastically in all of his classes since he had taken down the barrier that had been holding back his dark companion, but his practical performance in Potions had still been rather abysmal.



A better connection to, and increased understanding of his magic had helped him in most of his other classes, but it did not aid him in brewing potions. His mental clarity and his increased capacity to read, understand, and retain his textbook information had helped with the theory, and at least his written work had been better. But since Harry had continued to avoid Ron, he had been partnering with Neville the last six weeks, and any advantage Harry's improved understanding of potions was destroyed by Neville's nerves.



Because of this, Snape had banished most of their in-class work during the past month, and they'd gotten no credit for it. It was something that Harry found entirely infuriating. He was sick of the greasy git always singling him out.



He arrived to class alone and took the seat beside Neville that he had taken every class for the last 6 weeks. Ron shot him a sad look and sighed before he started to dig into his bag for some of his supplies.



The chimes sounded and Snape strode quickly into the room, black robes billowing behind him and came to stand at the front of the class.



"Exams are just around the corner," he began in a quiet, deadly, voice. "I dare say I doubt many of you dunderheads are even remotely prepared for them."



His hard black eyes trailed across the class, piercing each of them with their icy glare. He sneered disdainfully before taking a few steps forward. "Shall we see just how prepared you are?"



The class sat in utter silence waiting for it to begin. It was never a good thing when Snape spontaneously decided to 'test' them.



"Goyle! What is the antidote to the swelling solution?"



Goyle jumped in his seat and looked utterly lost. Snape sneered in frustration as the large boy sputtered and glanced desperately at Malfoy who was sitting beside him, looking mortified.



"Bulstrode, can you help him?" Snape drawled.



"The deflating draught, sir."



"Correct."



"Finnegan! Name one potion armadillo bile is used in."



Seamus's jaw dropped and floundered. You could see his mind desperately searching for something, anything, but he just sat there stunned. Hermione's hand was in the air, of course, but Snape ignored her.



"Pathetic. Close your mouth, Finnegan. Malfoy, answer the question."



"The wit-sharpening potion, sir," Malfoy said with a smug grin on his face.



"Good. Name two other ingredients used in the potion."



Malfoy's brow furrowed for a moment but he seemed to find an answer in his memories. "Ginger root and ground scarab beetles."



"Good. Ten points to Slytherin," Snape said and Malfoy's smirk widened.



"Potter!" Harry sighed internally but held it in and sat up straighter, trying to prepare for what was to come. "Name one use of ashwinder eggs."



Harry's lips parted as he tried to search his memory for any mention of ashwinder eggs from his text book, but honestly couldn't recall. He was about to sigh and admit that he just didn't know when the presence whispered to him.



At first he wasn't sure what it was. He felt like he heard words in his head, but they were so quiet and soft that he almost instantly convinced himself he had imagined it. But then he heard it again.



Eaten whole... cure ague...



"Um, if they're eaten whole they can cure ague," Harry responded quickly, having already sensed the potion master's impatience.



Snape's brow rose minutely and you could see some surprise grace his features for a moment before it was quickly masked.



"Correct. Name three ingredients in the Befuddlement Draught," Snape said an instant later.



Harry almost scowled. He knew for a fact that the Befuddlement Draught wasn't something they had covered yet that year. He opened his mouth to say something – what, he didn't now yet, and if he had in fact let it come out, it probably would have warranted a detention, but instead the words were cut off by more whispers.



Sneezewort...



.Scurvy-grass...



..lovage...



The voice sent shivers down his spine and he had to hold back a gasp. He quickly collected himself and resumed eye contact with his professor. "Um, sneezewort, scurvy-grass, and lovage?"



"Are you asking me Potter, or telling me?" Snape drawled sarcastically, but Harry could still see the surprise on the man's face.



"Telling, sir."



Snape eyed him for a long moment before nodding his head. "Correct. What are the effects of eating Alihosty leaves and what is the antidote?"



Ah! I know that one! er... well, I know half of it. Harry thought.



"Alihosty leaves cause hysteria when ingested," Harry said but his voice slowed at the end of the sentence since he couldn't quite recall what the antidote for it was. He had read up on Alihosty at the very start of term, and hadn't revisited that chapter of the text book since his mind cleared up.



Glumbumble... causes melancholy...



Harry blinked and bit his lip as the voice slithered through his mind again and he had to hold back another shudder. The words were breathy and brief, but it was enough to trigger his memory. He grinned.



"The fluid secreted by the glumbumble is used to make the antidote. It usually causes melancholy, but it counters the hysteria caused by the alihosty when properly brewed."



Snape was looking at him with narrow suspicious eyes now and Harry quickly pulled on a mask of calm innocence.



"Name two potions that jobberknoll parts are used in." Snape said sharply.



Harry was starting to get irritated that he was still being questioned and considered suggesting to his professor that he ought to let the other students take a turn, but he wasn't stupid or suicidal so he didn't.



Truth serums... Memories...



The corner of Harry's lips turned up a fraction as the sweet breathy voice spoke in his mind.



"Veritaserum, and several memory potions," Harry answered easily. Veritaserum was not on the forth year curriculum. In fact, it wasn't even mentioned until 7th year. Jobberknoll parts were used in a few simpler, weaker truth serums, one of which they had covered earlier that term. Harry knew the ingredients to Veritaserum because he had specifically looked it up.



Snape's suspicious eyes were boring holes into Harry now and he was sneering in obvious annoyance at the fact that Harry had actually answered the damned questions.



His expression suddenly shifted and he smirked rather evilly. Harry frowned slightly, not liking what was likely to come of that expression.



"What is another name for the 'false pennyroyal' plant, and name one potion it is used in," Snape ordered.



Harry wanted to sneer right back at the man. The 'false pennroyal' plant? What the hell is that?



The presence smirked and Harry felt a grin spread across his lips. He may not have had any idea what it was, but his companion did. The whispers came quickly and he repeated the words right back to his teacher.



"Isanthus brachiatus, or fluxweed. It's used in the Polyjuice potion, but it has to be picked when the moon is full," Harry replied easily and grinning rather cockily. He couldn't help it. He was enjoying this far more than he would have expected to.



Snape's eyes flashed with fury for a moment before he squashed the reaction. "Correct," he growled and looked out over the stunned class. "Well, why aren't you taking notes!" he spat angrily and everyone began to quickly scratch away on their parchments.



Harry had to fight to hold back the giggle that tried to bubble up from his chest. It was like his first day of potions class, all over again. Except this time he had the answers.



And Snape was furious.



Harry was stunned he didn't get deducted points for his 'cheek'.



– –



Harry was disappointed that he didn't hear the voice again for the rest of the afternoon. The presence only lingered in his awareness for a few short spans of time during lunch and then later in charms, and it's emotional and imagery commentary had been limited. Harry almost got the impression that it was tired, and he worried about it briefly. Harry was eager to slip into his mindscape that night to check on it so he rushed through his homework and quickly left the common room.



Ron had been looking at him funny every time he ran off to bed early, but he didn't give a damn what Ron thought and ignored it. He raced up the stairs, stowed his bag and supplies in his trunk, quickly disrobed down to his boxers and climbed into bed.



With a flick of his wrist and a hissed §close§ the hangings around his bed were drawn closed. He felt the magic curling around him deliciously and he smiled. He was really beginning to adore parselmagic. It was just so easy and it obeyed him without any effort. He also loved the idea that it gave him such an incredible advantage over those around him. With it, he didn't even have to rely on his wand. He still used his wand for normal magic, of course, but thanks to his parselmagic Harry wouldn't be defenseless without it, like every other simpering weakling in the school was, when disarmed.



He lay back in the mountain of pillows, enjoying the luxurious comfort of them, and the fine quality of the comforter and sheets. He couldn't even fathom going back to the stiff mattress, worn sheets, and thin blanket he was left with at the Dursley's when summer would come. He would have to buy himself some decent bedding and find a way to stop the bloody muggles from stealing it from him. He would have to find some time when he could get to Diagon Alley so he could have some of his wizard gold exchanged for pounds. Maybe he could finally buy himself some decent clothing too...



He didn't want to wait till summer for that though. He was growing more and more disgusted by Dudley's castoffs. He'd transfigured a few of his shirts and pants into something presentable, but he needed to buy some clothing. Perhaps he would do that at the next Hogsmeade weekend...



Harry sighed and cleared his mind. He was wasting time.



With practiced ease, he sunk into his mindscape and went directly to the dark spot where his companion resided in his mind.



Harry came up short when he saw the dark spot he spent so much time in. It had changed form again. The large dark amorphous mist was still there – although it was covering more ground – but that had been happening slowly for a while now. The dark tendrils were still shooting out from it in all directions, crawling further and further outwards, and the white nondescript ground plane was tinged gray and speckled lightly. Again, this change had been happening gradually, so it's growth wasn't much of a surprise. What was a surprise was that there appeared to be a figure sitting in the spot where Harry always rested.



The figure wasn't entirely solid, and it was merely a black silhouette, but it was undeniably a figure.



Harry approached slowly. His heart was racing with excitement. He knew that this should seriously concern him. He really did. There truly was a rational voice in the back of his mind screaming that this was bad, but the part of him that was strangely ecstatic was so much stronger.



Harry came to stand directly before the silhouetted black figure. He was holding his breath in anticipation. He was excited, but he didn't know what to do. The figure's head was ducked, but as Harry came to a stop it raised his head and looked at him. Harry could feel a thrilled sense of eagerness rolling off his companion and he smiled back.



The figure was male, and it was not just a copy of Harry. He could tell that much. His companion was notably taller. Thin and lanky, but with broad shoulders and a powerful stance. The figure was nothing but slightly translucent blackness, but Harry could still tell that he was grinning at him.



Hesitantly, Harry reached out to his companion. His hand came to the figure's shoulder and came against solid mass. Harry's smile spread even wider. Touching the figure sent wonderful tingles through his fingers and hand. His stomach felt like it was full of eager butterflies. He let his whole palm rest upon the figures shoulder and gasped as the figure's opposite hand came up and clasped gently atop Harry's hand.



His stomach did wonderful flip flops and his knees felt weak with the force of the sudden sensation.



He heard an echo of a gasp and looked up to see a faintly surprised expression gracing the dark, translucent features of his companion.



His eyes met the black abyss of his companion. Most of the figure was sort of misty and was lacking solid form, but the irises of his eyes were solid black and shiny. Harry's eyes locked on those black-onyx orbs and he felt as if he could get lost in their depths.



"Beautiful..." Harry breathed out the words, without even meaning to.



The figure smirked, cockily and Harry felt a tinge of embarrassment for a moment before he, himself smiled, and chuckled at his own words.



The figure's free arm rose up slowly. A black shadow trailed the movements, like a time-lapsed echo. Harry watched in wonder as the hand rose up and the knuckles brushed gently over his cheek. He gasped and his head fell back slightly as his eyes closed of their own will.



It was such a surprisingly intimate gesture. It was so small and simple, and yet the feelings it filled him with were so profound. He almost felt like he would cry from the force of it.



He pulled himself back together and opened his eyes once again to find those deep black abysses staring back at him and smiling.



Harry...



The whispered echo of a voice vibrated through the vast open space of his mindscape and it sent chills down Harry's very soul. It was such a beautiful voice. He wanted to hear more. He wanted it to be louder, and more clear.



"You spoke to me today," Harry said in a whisper as if he were afraid if he spoke too loudly, it would break some sort of spell.



The figure nodded and smiled. He could feel it's amusement. Harry grinned.



"Thanks for that, by the way," Harry said with a chuckle. "It looked like Snape was about to have a coronary, he was so offended I was able to answer his questions."



Laughter echoed through the space and filled Harry with glee and made him feel lightheaded.



When it calmed down the pair of them stood there, touching each other and looking into each other's eyes. Harry realized he lost track of time at some point and blinked. He ducked his head, feeling slightly embarrassed at how easily he had let himself be mesmerized by those eyes.



"You... you have a form now. How?" he asked, finally.



...because... you wish it. You... want me.



It was your... desire.



...you power me. Give me strength.



You share yourself with me. ….allow me access to... you.



Access to your magic.



You have such... wonderful magic, Harry. So beautiful. So powerful...



I take just a little bit of it, and it... fuels me... so much. I must adjust... I need time... I will grow... accustomed. You have so much.



...so surprising.



Harry blinked in surprise at his companion while the words echoed through the space around him.



"So..." Harry began hesitantly as he thought over the words. "You've tapped into my magic and it's given you the power? That's how you have form now? And why you can talk?"



Yes...



but only because... you wish it. Only because... you allow it.



The magic is yours... Harry. I cannot touch it... without you.



Without your permission.



Harry nodded his head and looked down, thoughtfully. He hadn't explicitly given permission, since he honestly had no idea any of this was even possible, but he had to admit that he really had wished that his companion was more than an amorphous misty cloud. He had loved having it's tendrils wrapped around him and had wished, on more than one occasion, that they were arms that were wrapped around him.



He had also greatly enjoyed it when his companion had begun to communicate with him, and had wished that he could communicate with more than just ambiguous emotions and images.



Now he could speak to Harry using words.



He.



Harry had to admit that even before this point, he had thought of his dark companion as male, but he had generally avoided labeling him as such in his thoughts. The time he spent wrapped up in his companion sometimes felt exceedingly... intimate, and now that there was no denying the fact that his companion was a man, he was afraid that he might somehow feel awkward.



As if he had read Harry's mind, the figure stepped back, releasing his hand from Harry's, that had remained on his shoulder this entire time, and stretched his arms wide, as if offering himself to Harry.



Harry's breath caught slightly. He felt mildly self-conscious. It was harder to allow himself to do this when there was no denying that it was a person he was with. It wasn't just some portion or representation of himself either. But he had already known that for a long time. He knew that his dark companion wasn't just some other portion of his own psyche. His companion was a foreign presence, inside Harry's mind.



Harry pulled in a deep breath, mustering his courage. He wanted this. He wasn't going to let some stupid, unwarranted embarrassment stop him from doing it. His companion had gained a form because Harry had wanted this so badly.



He stepped forward and slowly wrapped his arms around the figure's waist while it wrapped it's long arms around his shoulder. He held Harry close and their chests pressed together. A startled whimper escaped Harry's lips at the surge of acceptance and need that he felt reverberate through his whole body at the glorious contact.



A long, content moan slipped through his lips and he wrapped his arms around his companions waist, tighter.



He had never hugged someone before. Not really. Hermione had hugged him, but Harry had always stiffened up and simply stood there uncomfortably until she let go. He had worried that he would have no idea how to properly hug someone, but now that he was wrapped up in his companions arms, it was as if everything was alright. Everything was just as it should be.



His companion tiled his head down and rested his chin atop Harry's head. His hands began to slowly rub soothingly along Harry's back and Harry felt himself melting into the gentle touches. It felt so good. He felt so complete and content. One of his companions hands slid up and made it's way into Harry's messy black hair. His long, slender finger's combed through the disheveled locks and massaged Harry's scalp in calming circles.



Harry almost felt as if he would cry, it felt so amazing. His hands fisted in the transparent misty-black robes that wrapped his companion's silhouetted form, and he buried his face into his companion's shoulder, pulling in a deep breath.



He was surprised to find that he could smell the other man. He wondered about that. Considering that everything he was experiencing was all just in his mind, it was a little odd that his external senses registered anything here. But he could feel and hear his companion, so he supposed it made sense that he could smell him too.



The two stood there amongst the black mist that filled the dark spot in the back of Harry's mind, holding each other in quiet contentment for a very long time. The longer they embraced, the further and further the black mist began to spread, and the more mottled and gray the ground became. Eventually, Harry slipped into unconsciousness with a content smile gracing his features.



– –



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