Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 69307
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



– –



It was May 24th; precisely one month before the third task, and that evening at 9pm the champions were supposed to gather to be informed of the details of the task. Of course, Harry already had a vague understanding of what the task would involve, mostly thanks to Barty.



Harry was instructed by Professor McGonagall to go to the Quidditch Pitch at 9pm, and he came across Cedric as he made his way out there.



"Hey, Potter," Cedric said, dipping his chin in greeting as he caught up to Harry. Harry nodded his head back and kept on walking. "Any idea what's coming up this time?" Cedric asked. Apparently the older boy was in the mood for small-talk.



Harry shrugged. "Nope. Not a clue," he lied.



They reached the large stands of the pitch and made their way through, past the locker rooms and out onto the field. Instead of the smooth pristine lawn that was usually there, rows upon rows of small hedges appeared to have been planted. Harry had been expecting this, but he still grimaced at the sight. Cedric looked affronted.



"What the ruddy hell have they done to the pitch!" he gasped.



The two were spotted by Ludo Bagman who was standing a bit further ahead with Fleur and Krum beside him.



"Ah! There you two are! Come on now, let's get this show on the road! Now don't you worry, your pitch will be returned to its original condition when the tournament is over. What you see here now is what will soon become a magical maze!" the man said excitedly. "In one months time these hedges will be more than two meters tall, and will form a maze that will be filled with all manner of dangerous magical creatures and challenges. It will be the task of you four young wizards and witch to make your way through the maze to the center! Whoever reaches the center first gets full points! Each subsequent champion will be scored based on the time it took them to complete the task, as well as the magical techniques they used to defeat the challenges they met along the way! Now, do we have any questions?"





Harry was making his way away from the pitch some twenty minutes later. Bagman was an overeager windbag and he had spent far too long describing something that was fairly simple. They weren't going to tell the champions anything specific about the task, just that there was a maze and that there would be scary dangerous shit inside it. How that had taken more than twenty minutes to explain was beyond him.



Harry didn't usually visit the manor this late at night simply because he usually didn't have any good excuses to slip out of the castle this late, but since he was already outside the castle wards he didn't see any reason not to take advantage of the opportunity that had been provided to him and was now making his way towards the edge of the forest so he could disappear from sight before 'disappearing' from the school.



He was just about to activate the portkey when he heard some strange muttering coming from a bit further within the tree line. He pulled out his cypress wand and began cautiously making his way inside the forest.



He came up short when he saw an extremely ragged and ill looking Mr. Crouch standing there and muttering incoherently to a tree.



Harry blinked at the man, wondering if he were imagining things. How the hell did the man get there? He was supposed to be locked up in one of the holding cells in the basement of the manor!



Harry walked forward slowly, keeping his wand to his side.



"Mr. Crouch?" Harry asked cautiously.



Crouch continued to speak to the tree as if he were talking to someone else. It appeared that he thought the tree was someone named Weatherby, and Harry vaguely remembered Crouch Sr. getting Percy's name wrong and calling him Weatherby a few times, so at first he assumed that Crouch was somehow under the delusion that he was speaking to Percy.



He stood there, listening in, trying to make sense of the ramblings for a moment longer. Crouch seemed to be under the illusion that he was speaking to someone about his son, but in his mind, Barty had only just graduated from Hogwarts. He was telling the man about all the NEWTs that Barty had scored.



"Mr. Crouch!" Harry said a little louder. This time it seemed to jerk Crouch Sr. out of his haze and he suddenly began to quiver and cower.



"You? You have to g-get Dumbledore... I have to warn him. Have to tell him. It's all my fault. I never should have... never should have... all my fault... have to warn them!"



"How did you get here, Mr. Crouch?" Harry asked a little louder now.



"Have to w-warn D-dumbledore. H-have to –"



Harry rolled his eyes in annoyance. "How did you escape? How did you get to Hogwarts? Did you apparate here?"



"Had to escape... had to get away. It's all my f-fault. Had to warn th-them. Fat little man... I st-stole his port-key. I have to w-warn Dumbledore!"



"Wormtail," Harry growled angrily.



Harry refocused on the sniveling Mr. Crouch and leveled his wand on the man. Crouch's eyes went cross-eyed as he gaped in surprise at the wand that now resided only inches from his nose.



"Stupify!" Harry said, sending a red stunner right at the man's head and knocking him out cold.



Harry knelt down to his side and grabbed Crouch's hand. He held it against the leather cuff against his arm and whispered Morsmordre; activating the port-key and disappearing with a soft pop.



Harry and the unconscious Mr. Crouch appeared in the entry hall of the manor. Harry dropped the man's hand and sneered down at him. Harry reached out with his senses and quickly determined that Tom was in his study. He raced up the stairs and pushed the door open.



Tom was in the middle of writing something and didn't immediately look up when Harry poked his head through.



"Tom we have a problem," Harry said and the other man's head jerked up and he frowned.



"Problem?"



"You should see this," Harry jerked his head over his shoulder and Tom quickly got to his feet.



Harry quickly turned and headed back to the stairs and began to race down them two at a time. Tom followed with equal speed, but considerably more grace. By the time he had reached the center of the stairs he could see the crumpled, unconscious form of Bartemius Crouch Sr. on the floor at the base and his eyes narrowed and anger began to build in him.



"How did this happen?"



"I found him at Hogwarts," Harry said, folding his arms over his chest and raising an eyebrow.



"Hogwarts!" Tom hissed angrily.



"He was talking nonsense at first. Rambling to a tree like he thought he was at a dinner party or something. I yelled at him a few times before he seemed to snap out of it and started sniveling and whimpering about needing to warn Dumbledore."



Harry watched as the absolute fury in Tom began to grow exponentially.



"I managed to get him to say something about how he got to Hogwarts. He mentioned stealing a port-key from a short fat man."



Tom roared. "WORMTAIL!"





Harry was having considerable trouble getting to sleep that night. His whole body was on fire. The good kind of fire. The excited, energetic, 'I'm way too awake to sleep' sort of fire. Harry had been given the honor and immense pleasure of holding Wormtail under the cruciatus for nearly two whole minutes minutes. It had been far too long since the last time he'd gotten to use that curse on an actual living human, and he had almost forgotten how utterly fucking amazing it felt. How inexplicably exhilarating it was to hold someone under his power so completely. Listening to the man's tortured screams sent a sick perverse glee through him and left him light-headed.



His very nerve endings were alight with dark magical power. Every time he thought back to how incredible it had felt, he caught himself giggling quietly under his breath. It was a challenge to hold it in.



The hardest challenge, however, had been leaving the manor that night without accosting Tom. He'd been filled with the strongest desire he'd ever felt, to jump the man and grind against him relentlessly until the two were writhing and moaning against each other. He'd been so aroused by watching Tom punish the stupid little man, and also undeniably high from the powerful dark curses. Watching Tom throw curses at the screaming, sniveling, pathetic little man had been a real laugh, but it was the pure power and control the man held that left him utterly awestruck, and inexplicably aroused. He'd latched onto the older wizard's mouth as soon as Wormtail had been violently kicked out of the room, and Tom had responded by pressing him against the wall for a hot, passionate, minute. But then Tom had abruptly broken it off and told Harry he needed to go back to the castle so Tom could re-secure the cells and get Crouch Sr. back under 'lock and key'.



To say that Harry 'pouted' would be an understatement. And now he was left, laying in bed, practically vibrating from a powerful dark magic high, and an annoyingly extreme arousal.



Huffing out in frustration, Harry reached under his pillow and pulled out his holly wand to cast a privacy charm around his bed. He slipped the loose cotton pants and his boxers down over his hips and began to tentatively run his thumb and palm along his straining arousal. A moan escaped his lips as images of Tom's lips, eyes, and long-fingered hands drifted through his mind.



His completion was almost embarrassingly fast. He was so sensitive, and he was already wound so tight. He lay in his bed, panting slightly and still basking in the glow of all the events and insanity of his late evening. He grabbed his wand and spelled the wet mess on his stomach away before collapsing into a restless sleep.



– –



It was now three weeks until the third task, and four weeks until the end of term. Harry had been waiting until now to send the charmed letter to the Dursleys 'persuading them' to allow him to stay with a friend over the holidays. He knew they would love the opportunity to be rid of him, but he also knew that they'd miss his services around the house and yard. Not to mention the fact that Vernon would enjoy any opportunity to make Harry's life miserable, and if refusing to allow Harry to go somewhere would make him miserable, Vernon would do it.



The Post Office in Hogsmeade not only rented out owls and post boxes, it also offered access to the muggle post and Harry planned to make use of that service in sending his letter to the Dursley's. Sending them an owl would be disastrous, so he wouldn't even bother trying that.



It was Saturday and Harry had every intention of heading down to Hogsmeade as soon as he was done with his breakfast. However half way through the meal McGonagall came up behind him and asked him if he would come join her in Professor Dumbledore's office.



Harry felt ice run through his veins, and only just barely managed to keep his expression neutral.



He had to keep reminding himself that this could be about any number of things, and to not panic. It was also important not to say or do anything that could give away anything until they had spoken first and he had some idea what this was about.



"Of course professor," Harry said, stuffing one last bite of his breakfast into his mouth and standing to his feet. He followed her in silence all the way up to the seventh floor to stand in front of the gargoyle that blocked the entrance to Dumbledore's office.



"Fizzing Wizbee," McGonagall said to the gargoyle and it jumped away revealing the entrance and the spinning spiral staircase.



Harry could feel his whole body stiff with nerves as he climbed up with McGonagall and entered through the two large doors. When he stepped inside, he found that Hermione was there, sitting in one of two, overstuffed chairs, opposite Professor Dumbledore and looking rather awkward and clearly cowed by the powerful authority figure she was sitting before. Dumbledore was smiling calmly and looked up at Harry and McGonagall with that frustratingly irritating twinkle. Harry forced himself not to sneer. Sneering would be bad. Very, very bad.



Harry was motioned to sit in the other available chair while McGonagall went to stand beside Dumbledore behind his desk.



"So glad you could come join us, Harry," Dumbledore said with that grandfatherly smile of his. "Lemon drop?"



"Er... no thank you sir. Can I ask what this is about?" Harry asked, hesitantly.



"Yes, of course. Mrs. Granger has come to your head of house, expressing concern for your summer living arrangements. I was hoping that we could get this whole misunderstanding sorted out."



Harry felt himself relax considerably. He finally understood what was going on. All he could do at this point was hope that Hermione had taken his warning to heart and hadn't mentioned his intentions to go somewhere else for the summer.



"Misunderstanding, sir?"



"Yes," Dumbledore said, nodding his head. "She seems to be under the impression that your relatives are not very fond of you, and do not treat you very well."



Harry deadpanned. "That would be an accurate assessment. If not, perhaps, a bit generous to the Dursleys."



"Whatever do you mean, Harry? I know that you and your relatives do not have the warmest of relationships, but they are still your family. Surely –"



"Professor, this is pointless," Harry cut him off rather curtly. "You and I both know how they treat me. We both also know that you're not going to let me go anywhere else."



"How do they treat you, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked, glancing down at Dumbledore with accusing eyes for a moment.



"They fundamentally despise me. They both hate and are terrified of magic and everything associated with it, and of course me for being the thing that has forced them to interact with magic. Growing up, they made it their goal to try and 'beat the freakishness out of me'. They spew obscenities at me; calling me worthless and insinuating that I'm less than human and that I don't deserve to live. They call me a freeloader and a slacker, and then they force me to clean their house from top-to-bottom, mow their lawn, paint their house, clean out the eaves, and do all the gardening.



"I have to cook their meals for them, and then they refuse to let me eat any of it. Up until I got my letter for Hogwarts they made me live inside a cupboard underneath their stairs and would lock me in there. Now for punishment, they lock me into the smallest actual room in the house. Despite being an actual bedroom, it still has bars on the windows, numerous deadbolts on the door, and a cat-flap on the door as the only access to the outside world. They feed me stale bread and cold tea through the flap, and let me out once a day to use the loo and an extremely fast, cold shower. The only other time I'm allowed out of the room is to clean their house or fix their food.



"And if that's not enough, growing up my cousin Dudley made an official sport out of beating the shit out of me, and Aunt Petunia used to hit me with the frying pans whenever I screwed up their meals. If that is not an abusive environment, then I don't know what is."



McGonagall's face had gone pale and her mouth was hanging open a bit. She looked utterly horrified. Dumbledore was still smiling, although the twinkle was less prominent than usual.



"Now Harry, surely you can admit to exaggerating things just a bit," Dumbledore said, leaning forward, folding his hands, and speaking in a tone one would use when humoring a young child.



"Sadly enough, no, Sir, I am not exaggerating one bit. But surely you can admit that you were already well aware of the exact nature of my summer living arrangements."



"Albus!" McGonagall said, turning and looking down at him accusingly. "You cannot simply dismiss a claim such as this! If even half of what Harry says is true, you cannot seriously consider sending him back to those people!"



"Now Minerva, you know how important it is that Harry return to the protection that his mother's sacrifice has provided him with. The wards that exist around the Dursley's house are unsurpassed. There is no where else where Harry will be safer."



"Safe! Harry just told you that his cousin beats him up and his aunt hits him with frying pans! That they lock him in his room and starve him!" Hermione gasped.



"Now surely, Harry, it's not that bad," Dumbledore said in that tone that Harry now recognized as being insultingly condescending.



"Sir!" Hermione gasped and Minerva looked down at him with stunned disbelief.



"I will send a letter to Harry's family expressing my desire that they treat him with respect and treat him as a member of their family, but I simply must insist that Harry has to return to his relatives home."



Harry snorted. Hermione looked horrified and looked over at Harry. He responded by raising a single brow and giving her a rather obvious 'I told you so' sort of look.



"Albus..." McGonagall said in a warning tone, but Dumbledore held up a single hand that seemed to indicate that they would speak later.



"Now, Harry, I will consider allowing you to go visit your friend, Mr. Weasley, after you have been with your family for at least several weeks. It's necessary that you spend a certain amount of time each year with them in order to guarantee the continuation of the wards there. Once I feel that the wards have been secured, and believe that an adequately safe place can be established for you to stay, we can consider relocating you."



Harry kept his face blank while he listened to Dumbledore speak. He refused to allow any of his emotions show on his face, because even the slightest hint of his true anger would surely give him away. He was too close to the end of the year to risk anything now.



"Now, Harry, I need you to promise me that you'll stay at your relatives' house until I can arrange for a safe place for you to go instead," Dumbledore said, leveling Harry with a strong gaze. Harry met his eyes for the briefest moment and felt something beginning to press against his mind. With a tremendous force of will, he instantly wrenched his eyes away and ducked his head, looking down at his hands, clenched in his lap.



He could only hope that Dumbledore wouldn't think into it too much. Most people would have found in difficult to break that eye contact. Harry could feel the strong compulsion to retain eye contact and not blink. If it weren't for Tom's lessons, he probably wouldn't have been able to break away as easily as he had.



Harry's occlumency was proceeding well enough, but he didn't think he could stand up to a full assault from Dumbledore. And even if Dumbledore wouldn't have been willing to do that with two witnesses in the room, the shields that Harry did have in place would only call attention to him and make Dumbledore start to wonder about him.



It took a considerably higher skill level than what Harry possessed to trick someone doing a legilimense attack into thinking that they were undetected, while diverting them to your 'safe' thoughts and memories, and keeping them away from the more sensitive ones.



Harry was scowling angrily, but was letting his lengthy fringe fall over his face to hide it from view. He started to fiddle with the hem of his robes in an attempt to look nervous instead of furious.



"I promise, sir," Harry mumbled out. Again, trying his best to sound cowed by his headmaster instead of the raging inferno of anger. The fact that the man had been trying to read his mind... would he have even tried to manipulate his thoughts? He knew from his own experience, as well as his reading, and Tom's lessons that it was possible to implant thoughts and ideas into a person's mind.



Had Dumbledore implanted thoughts into his head before?



The fury was becoming harder to hold back. He knew he needed to get out of there, and soon.



"Harry..." Dumbledore said again, and Harry felt another wave of compulsion hit him to look up into the man's eyes. But he knew it for what it was and he wasn't going to let it work. In fact, all it did was serve to enrage him further. He clenched his jaw gnashed his teeth, trying to reign himself in. Blowing up in the headmaster's office would destroy his plans. He had to control his temper. He felt his companion in the back of his mind, pulling forward memories of his sessions with Tom, instructing him of the importance of concealing his true emotions and controlling the anger within him.



He pulled up his most powerful occlumency shields and tried to push all of his emotions behind a strong, impenetrable wall. He was extra thankful when he felt his companion joining in and strengthening the wall around both his thoughts, memories, and his emotions. He felt himself go completely numb and cold and let out a quiet shuddering breath at the sudden relief from the thundering anger.



"I really should go, sir," Harry said flatly, still staring resolutely down at his hands in his lap. "It's a Hogsmeade weekend and I had some errands I intended to run today."



He could feel the slightest indication of tension and curiosity in the older wizard's magic, and was greatly relieved when he heard Dumbledore shifting his his chair and finally allowing Harry and Hermione to leave.



The two were down the spiral staircase and halfway down the seventh floor corridor before Hermione exploded.



"I just... I can't believe it!" she yelled, in exasperation. Harry came to a jerky stop. The numbness was melting away and the fury was threatening to explode again. He needed to destroy something.



He glanced down the hallway and saw the turn that would lead to the Room of Requirement. Tom had told him more about the room in the past weeks. Tom had been unable to frequently visit the Chamber after Myrtle's death, and had had to rely on the Room of Requirement for his Dark Arts practice. It was lacking Slytherin's books, but it was still an unplottable room, and was shielded from the wards the notified the headmaster about illicit, questionable, and illegal magical use. He could blow off some steam there.



"How can he treat it as if it were nothing!" she continued to rant on, her own anger growing as she was entirely blind to Harry's current mood. "It was as if he thought you were lying! How can he call himself a teacher! How can he ignore such accusations! It's, it's... unethical! Would he do this to any child to came to him, with claims of child abuse! How many wizarding children have been sent back to abusive homes because that – that man had the nerve to-to-to... URGH!"



Harry found himself being pulling slightly out of his growing insanity by the shock of Hermione having so blatantly disrespected Dumbledore. 'That man' huh? Harry thought, 'perhaps there was still hope for her yet...'



"And you!" Hermione continued, "I cannot believe you didn't try harder, Harry! Why did you just let him insist that you had to go back? How could you just sit there and let him insinuate that you were lying about something so important!"



"It's easier this way, Hermione," Harry said simply and looking straight forward. "If I had stood up to him, he would be worried that I might stand up against him. He'd be suspicious that I might do something, and he would have been watching me more carefully then. He might have even given me an escort or something – for my own protection, of course," he sneered sarcastically. "But now that I've promised to play nice and go back to the Dursley's he'll leave me be and I'll be able to get away easier."



"But... but what about all that stuff you said about him not having any legal grounds to control where you go? You're right about that, he really doesn't! He has absolutely no right to tell you that you have to keep going back to those awful people! You could go to Ministry about this! What your relatives are doing is criminal! Neglect and abuse of a minor is a serious crime, and they could be facing jail time! I mean, you could go to the muggle police even, but if not them, then surely there's some department in the Ministry for child services. It's just so... so... ARGH! I hate this! It's just infuriating! I cannot believe that he would allow this to go on happening! It just makes me so angry!"



An idea suddenly came to Harry and a tiny grin slid onto his face. It could be a good idea...



"Want to go blow off some steam, with me?" Harry asked suddenly, pulling Hermione out of her angry ranting.



She stopped and looked at him in confusion. "What?"



Harry jerked his head towards the corridor and said, "Come on," before quickly striding away, without waiting to see if she'd follow.



She did, of course, and within a minute they were standing in front of the wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabus the Barmy – the crazy old wizard who tried to teach trolls to dance ballet.



"Harry, what are we doing here–"



Harry held up his hand to cut her off as he began to pace back and forth before the blank wall. Tom had told him exactly what to request of the room to guarantee that it would hid any dark arts use. He didn't exactly plan on using any while Hermione was in there with him, but he still figured it would be a good precaution to take, anyway.



Hermione gasped as a door materialized in the wall out of nowhere. He reached forward and opened it up; looking back over his shoulder and smirking devilishly at her.



"Harry, what is this?"



"This," he paused for dramatic effect, "is the Room of Requirement. It can become whatever you ask of it. You just walk back and forth in front of the wall, three times, and concentrate on exactly what you want, and the room will appear."



She gasped. "Is this where you've been coming all year?"



"Yup," Harry lied easily. Honestly, it was a perfect cover. And not nearly as worthy of concern as him sneaking down into Salazar Slytherin's secret chamber.



He led her inside and the room was a very large, open space with practice dummies, and large clay pots placed every few feet. He wanted to destroy some stuff, and the clay pots would help with venting some of his frustration. The dummies were something he had yet to actually try out, but Tom had told him about how much he had appreciated them when he was a student at Hogwarts and used the Room of Requirement for his own training.



Apparently, if you specified it, the training dummies could even simulate the effects the spells would have on actual people. If it was a spell that would rend the flesh from a person, it would tear the cloth skin off the dummy. They could even bleed, although it was supposed to be black like ink. He hadn't requested those specifications this time though because he suspected Hermione would have found that a bit disturbing.



"Harry, what is this place... I mean... what's with the pots and..." Hermione trailed off, looking about the large open space with obvious confusion.



"I'm angry, Hermione. I'm trying to keep it bottled in, but I need to let it out, and the safest place to do that is in here. If I keep it bottled up in me, I'll just end up exploding at one of the students," Harry said in a monotone voice causing her to gape at him with surprise.



"What exactly are you planning to do...?" she asked, slowly, as Harry took a few quick strides into the room and pulled out his holly wand. He wouldn't be doing anything dark in there with Hermione about, and he wasn't willing to risk her seeing his cypress wand and asking questions.



He took up a powerful duelers stance that Tom had been drilling into his head, drew his wand and continued straight into a smooth slashing motion and sent a powerful severing curse at one of the clay pots. It shattered along the large cut he'd made across its surface and clattered loudly to the ground.



Hermione gasped, but Harry didn't waste anytime. He quickly sent a blasting hex at another pot, causing it to explode, and then a diffindo at one of the dummies. The feel of the spell impacting the dummy was far more satisfying than the hollow clay pot. No 'blood' came out, but the slashes did leave a puff of cottony stuffing sticking out.



He began to lose himself in the familiar motions, and the anger came to the surface, fueling the more explosive and damaging of the curses and hexes. Despite the powerful raging inferno of hate and disgust he felt pulsing through him for his one-time mentor, and ruiner of his whole life; he still managed to maintain enough of his mind to keep to school-approved spells – although most of them were NEWTs level. He was startled when he heard the sounds of a pot being smashed apart from behind him and turned to find that Hermione had sent a hex of her own at one of them. She ducked her head and grinned shyly at him. He smiled widely and gave her an encouraging nod.



He stayed mostly focused on his own emotional release, but he did pay Hermione enough attention to see that she was getting more and more into it the longer they continued. She even started to get a bit more creative as she went. Her offensive spell repertoire was considerably smaller than his, but he'd been working a lot on expanding the number of offensive neutral-affinity spells he knew, to use during the 3rd task. Barty had already warned him that the headmasters had a way to monitor all spells used inside the maze, so they could more adequately judge the champions spellwork and grade them appropriately.



Finally, Harry heard Hermione's attacks die away and he paused to turn and look at her. She was hunched over with her hands on her knees and panting lightly. He realized suddenly that she had hit a wall from magical exhaustion. She had used up all of her magic reserves. She just wasn't used to casting such destructive spells.



Harry knew that he wasn't even a fraction of the way through his magical reserves, but Tom had already told him that he and Tom were both anomalies among wizards. Few possessed the raw power that they did. He'd wondered what his own power level was in comparison to Tom's, but it had seemed rude to ask such a question when they were actually having that conversation. Besides he knew that even if they were somehow close in magical energy capacity, there was still a mountain of a gap between their spell repertoires and practical experience. Tom was simply in a league of his own. But he was the Dark Lord.



"You alright, 'Mione?" Harry asked with a small grin.



She nodded her head and continued to catch her breath. Finally she stood up and gave him a scrutinizing look. "You're not even tired!" she accused in annoyance.



Harry chuckled and shrugged. "Practice helps some. Your magical core is a lot like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the better, faster, and stronger it will respond to you."



It was true – but it could really only take you so far. Even if she practiced 24/7 she could never build her core up to Harry's level.



"Have you been coming in here to practice often then?" she asked, surprised. In truth, Harry had spent very little of his time in Hogwarts away from Hermione, Ron, or Ginny, lately. He almost always had an alibi for his trips outside the school. Since he was using the time turner whenever he was at the manor, he had plenty of time for all of his extracurricular activities, without having to disappear from his 'friends' like he used to to go down to the chamber. He might have to start leaving an hour or two of time where he actually wasn't anywhere obvious just to make room for time that he was away 'training'. The task was coming up, after all. It would only make sense.



Harry shrugged. "I try to. Sometimes I get up early in the mornings to do it, sometimes I do it during one of my free periods when Ron is busy with some of the other guys. I actually really need to start doing it more regularly again, since the task is coming up in three weeks."



"Your spellwork was incredible," she said. "I've never even heard of half of the spells you were using."



"I've been trying to expand the number of offensive and defensive spells I know," Harry said dismissively with a wave of his hand. "With this stupid tournament, it's been rather important."



She nodded hear head and then looked around the mostly decimated room.



"This room can become anything you want?" she asked.



Harry nodded. "Yup. You can even make changes after already being inside it," he said before focusing his mind and requesting a different room. It instantly began to shift and change around them and Hermione gasped in surprise. What had, moments earlier, been a large open room filled with crumbled clay pots and tattered training dummies was now a comfortable looking library-lounge. The walls were bookshelves filled with books, and in the center was a collection of couches and small tables.



"Merlin!" Hermione gasped as she raced over to the nearest bookshelf. "What books are these?"



"I can bring copies of any book that exists within the school's library into here. Including the restricted section. If the book exists in the school's library, it can exist here. But they can't be removed from the room. Slip it into your bag and walk out, and it will just vanish from your bag."



Hermione paused and then turned to look at him. "That's why you weren't able to bring out the old elf book? You could only access it from in here and whenever you tried to leave with it, it would just disappear?"



Harry blinked. It was a reasonable explanation, but now that she was in the room she would be expecting to see the actual book, and he still couldn't do that.



"Um... sort of –" Harry said slowly and in a hesitant voice. "But I don't think that book actually exists in the school's library either. Restricted section or not. It's sort of complicated. It will only appear for me. I don't think I could make it show up in here if anyone else was in here with me."



"What do you mean it will only appear for you? What sense does that make?"



"Hermione, how does this room make sense?"



Hermione huffed and put her hands on her hips with clear annoyance on her face.



"Look," Harry began, "I can't really explain why, but I know that I can't make that book show up in here for you, alright? Please just drop it." Harry's eyes silently pleaded with Hermione to give it up. She looked annoyed and huffed but didn't say anything else.



"Anyway," Harry said quickly to change the subject, "I have some things I need to do real fast, but then I really need to get down to Hogsmeade. I'm gonna run up to my dorm to grab and prepare a few things. Um..." he paused and looked around the room. "If you want you can stay in here. Any book you want you can just think it and it'll appear for you. It's brilliant."



Hermione's face brightened intensely with the sudden realization of just how useful the room had the potential to be. She bit her bottom lip as if she were torn between staying in the room and pursuing Harry with questions.



Her desire to learn won out and Harry was able to escape the Room of Requirement while Hermione stayed behind.



He raced up to his dorm room, but not because he had left anything there that he needed. Instead, what he needed was to modify the spells he had placed on the letters he intended to send to the Dursley's. Dumbledore had said he would be sending a letter to them as well, and Harry suspected that Dumbledore would be including some compulsion charms of his own. Harry had to work fast.



An hour later he was strolling down main street in Hogsmeade, walking away from the post office. He had sent off his letter, and was fairly certain it would serve its purpose. While standing in line in the Hogsmeade Post Office, Harry had gotten an idea that he would bring up with Tom later that afternoon when he went to visit.



The manor had powerful anti-owl wards around it. Tom didn't want anything to do with owl post because it left his defenses too easily exposed to 'idiotically stupid, simple attacks'. But he would still appreciate the ability to receive letters during his summer hols. Especially if he was going to keep Hermione and Ron convinced that he was safe and alive.



The idea was pretty simple. He would rent a post office box. He could do it at the Post Office in Diagon Alley, but perhaps some other random wizarding village would be a good alternative. Hogsmeade's Post Office offered a screening service for an extra fee. They would make sure that every letter received and placed inside your PO Box was free of all traces, curses, compulsion, etc. charms. Tom might still insist on additional precautions because he was Tom, and Tom was extremely paranoid, but Harry certainly couldn't fault him for that. Harry realized that he could also send Mixey to collect his post every few days so he wouldn't even have to go out into the open on his own.



It would be a great plan. Of course, Tom would have to approve of it first. Harry would also have to figure out what wizarding village's post to use. Perhaps Tom would have a suggestion or two...



– –



"France," Tom said with a dismissive wave of his hand.



"Huh?"



"If you're going to go to the trouble of using a post box to receive your mail, you should use one in another country."



"Er... why?"



"France has no laws against practicing underaged magic during summer holidays. Neither do Spain, Germany, or Bulgaria, for that matter, but I have some dealings in France anyway and will be sending Mixey there periodically, so she can make the trips there to acquire your mail at the same time."



"What difference does it make if France has no laws against practicing underaged magic?"



"You can claim that wherever it is that you're staying is in France. Therefore you are in a country where it is legal for you to be practicing magic," Tom said in an exasperated tone.



Harry's eyes brightened and he grinned. "That's not bad," he said.



Tom rolled his eyes but the corner of his mouth turned up slightly.



"I could also make it seem like I met one of the Beauxbatons students and that's how I ended up running off to France. It would be a perfect explanation, and a great diversion. Send Dumbledore off to France searching for me when I'm actually here."



Tom smirked. "Precisely. And a love-struck teen running off to another country is far less suspicious than a brooding, secretive teen, who vanishes without any explanation or link to his friends."



"Do you know of any good candidates? I mean, any magical villages in France that I could go get a post box from?"



"I'll arrange one for you. Mixey can go set it up," Tom said dismissively. "With the proper charms placed on the box, all owls sent to 'Harry Potter' will automatically be diverted to the post box. You won't even have to give people your address, although on the last day of term it would probably be beneficial if you gave it to your two friends. The Granger girl and that Weasley fellow. Dumbledore is sure to question them before anyone else.



"Alright, I'll do that," Harry said smiling up at Tom. He shifted up from his position where he had been laying down on the chaise with his head in Tom's lap. Harry pulled himself up into a sitting position and leaned over, brushing his lips against Tom's. The other man grinned and returned the kiss, bring his hand up and fisting it into Harry's hair.



Harry's nerves around Tom had been decreasing drastically over the last week. Tom was forceful and impatient. He saw no point in dancing around things if he wanted them, so he had never hesitated to pull Harry into a kiss or an embrace when he wanted it. Because of this, Harry's own confidence had increased and he was rarely as cautious anymore. As long as they were already in established territory. When it came to going further than they had gone, it was always Tom who initiated.



Harry didn't mind. He wasn't in a rush, per se. His libido was certainly curious about going further, but part of him was also anxious. He was slowly realizing exactly what it was that two men did together, and he had to admit he was rather nervous about the prospect of things being done to his bum.



In an uncharacteristic display of concern for someone else, Tom had been taking things slowly with them. Harry had a feeling that the older wizard was occasionally frustrated with the pace, but he rarely allowed that frustration to shine through. More often than not they just snogged. Heavy snogging with grinding hips, grabbing hands, and heated kisses, but rarely anything further. In fact, Harry rarely saw Tom without his shirt anymore. The older wizard had taken to wearing one during his morning training again. He had said he needed to get things accomplished each morning and having Harry's hormones going crazy would only impede that.



Harry had still pouted and mumbled something defensively about being able to control himself. Tom had snorted and rolled his eyes.



Their kiss was growing more and more heated and Harry felt Tom's hands wrapping around him and forcefully grip his hips. Tom began to guide Harry onto his lap and Harry eagerly slipped into the position, straddling the other man. He moaned out as his pelvis brushed up against the straining proof of Tom's arousal, and Tom growled back into his mouth as he returned his hand to Harry's hair and fisted it.



Harry gasped out a loud groan at the painful tug. He was quickly growing to find the painful pull of his hair insanely arousing, which was probably good since Tom so clearly liked doing it. He ground against Tom again once more before his mouth sought out Toms again. Things were just getting really interesting when a little tinkling alarm sounded. The pair ignored it for a few minutes as they continued their heated snogging, but the alarm only got louder until Tom pulled back, panting and scowling in annoyance.



"What is that?" Harry gasped in obvious irritation.



"Severus is bringing Igor tonight. They will be here in twenty minutes," Tom growled.



"Karkaroff?" Harry asked in surprise. "He seemed absolutely terrified of coming back!"



"He is," Tom said with a smirk. "And he should be. Especially with Barty around."



"I don't follow you."



"It was Igor who testified that Barty was one of my Death Eaters. Igor gave away numerous names in an attempt to get himself out of Azkaban."



"Oh, ouch. I see why he's so scared."



"Yes." Tom drawled. "However, despite his traitorous cowardices, he has managed to get himself into a very useful position."



"Control the schools and you control the future," Harry said, echoing something that Tom had said to him a number of times over the last few weeks.



"Exactly. And Durmstrang has a very impressive Dark Arts curriculum. The graduating classes would be perfect for recruiting new Death Eaters. Beauxbatons teaches magical theory for both light and dark in equal measures, but does not have any dark magic classes. Beauxbatons has always opted to teach only neutral magics and allow more specific light or dark affinity magic to be taught by private tutors over the summer holidays."



"While Hogwarts," Harry continued for him, "teaches neutral and light magic, while denouncing the dark arts as if it were evil."



Tom sneered. "Yesss."



"If it weren't so important that I stay at Hogwarts, I'd consider transferring," Harry grumbled and Tom chuckled. "Well that and I don't speak Bulgarian or French."



"Are you suggesting that your dark arts education from me isn't sufficient?" Tom asked in mock shock.



Harry laughed. "Hardly. I have trouble imagining anyone else in the world getting a better dark arts education than what I'm getting from you." Harry leaned in and placed his lips lightly against Toms and hummed in pleasure as Tom returned it.



The alarm started chirping again and they both groaned in annoyance.



"You had better leave, Harry. I am not yet ready to risk Igor knowing of your alliances."



Harry sighed and shifted off of Tom's lap.



"Alright."



– –




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